Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Ravine

Got in two good, tense games this past weekend. On Saturday I played Jim in Operation Watchtower's The Ravine, a scenario that's been on my list for quite a while. Monday, I played JR in a large LFT scenario he chose titled Tangled at Tsangkou. More on that in a future post.

  The Ravine takes place on Guadalcanal in November 1942. 24 Marine squads (including reinforcements) are tasked with taking at least 6 level 2 hill hexes from half as many well-fortified Japanese squads, without suffering 20CVP or more. The Americans also have a 100+ artillery module that uses a subset of the NOBA rules.

  There are two level two hill hexes on the eastern side of the battlefield, and a large hill mass on the western side with fourteen of them. The first tactical decision for each side happens before the first die roll: What do you do with the two hexes in the east?  As a Japanese defender, I was tempted to abandon them, and concentrate my forces on holding the bigger prize. In the end, I decided to put a token on-board force plus a few HIP squads on that side to try to cause a few casualties should Jim decide that it looked too easy to pass up.

  Jim decided not to tempt fate on that side. He concentrated his entire force on the big hill. I would pull 2 squads off the western hill to help defend the east, but keep my HIP squads in place until his turn three reinforcements entered, just in case. I think that little poker game worked to Jim's advantage.

  Turn two, the Marines have dropped smoke on the hill, and are pushing through the jungle.

     The western approach to the hill, where the path cuts the jungle, appeared to me the most logical approach. That's where I put three of my six Panji hex sides, and the MMG crew (with an escape tunnel back the pillbox on the rear of the hill.) This was fairly a effective defense, as the troops trying move up this side made only a little progress.

   I also made a blunder here. I had one of my large mortars set up in the bamboo of R1, just waiting for some Americans to move into X1. When I revealed it and went fire Jim objected, pointing out that Bamboo is treated like Dense Jungle, and you can not fire a mortar from Dense Jungle. ARRG! So, I packed it up and moved it one hex. It would get a lucky rate run and kill a USMC squad, but otherwise had no impact on the game.

    What I didn't count on was a large force squeezing through from the other side. I had one Panji trap in the jungle on the board edge which served only to slow down the attack. Pretty soon, I had a large force pushing up the eastern slope, and a squad or two getting all the way around to the rear.

   By this point the Marines had lost about 8CVP, mostly to long range mortar fire and close combat. It was starting to look like the Japanese would have to get the CVP cap if they were going to win.

    Soon, I was rolling up a mild breeze which caused some major smoke density on the hill top. Now, there were almost no shots to be taken, as the lines of sight became few in the drifting smoke. I attempted a half-hearted and somewhat pathetic Banzai charge with a leader and a half squad up the rear slope. It was short lived.

  Late in the game, I managed to kill the 2nd radio man with long range mortar fire, and the smoke eventually cleared. Now the marines were consolidating their position, with little to no cover. My mortar on the opposite hill was now able to bring fire on the marines on the hill top and the CVP was getting very close. Jim chose to voluntarily break some of the troops on the western approach, rather that risk a CC that might win me the game.

  As the last half of the final turn came, the Marines held 7 victory hexes. One of those was undefended, and would be taken back easily. The others were stacked waist deep with Leathernecks. However, the Marines stood at 19CVP. Just one more would wrap it up. When a rally attempt came up boxcars, it would give the game to the Japanese. An anti-climactic ending to be sure, but I'll take it.

   Jim and I both agreed that is a very strong scenario. Both sides face tough choices. Also: Panjis!. We both gave it a '7' on the ROAR 1-9 scale.

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