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Wizards Internal Release Event -- 3 Conflicts, 3 Hours, No Waiting.
by Robert Mull

When a new product is released at Wizards, we usually have a release tournament. Last night, the Axis & Allies Miniatures tournament had approximately 30 people fighting it out over three rounds of play. Players were given a starter set and two booster packs to make a 100 pt. Axis or Allied army. Being the web producer for Axis & Allies Miniatures, I could not wait to test my skills on my coworkers.

The Draw

After opening my starter and boosters, I found I had drawn the following:

M4A1 Sherman x2 (21 pts. each)
M4A3E8 Sherman “Easy Eight” (54 pts.)
“Red Devil” Captain x2 (7 pts. each)
Bazooka x2 (4 pts. each)
M-1 Garand Rifle x3 (4 pts. each)
Inspiring Lieutenant (10 pts.)
6-pounder Antitank Gun (9 pts.)
Royal Engineers (10 pts.)
Vickers Machine-Gun Team x2 (8 pts. each)
Churchill Crocodile (35 pts.)
MAS 7.5mm Rifle (3 pts.)
Renault R-35 (9 pts.)

SS-Panzergrenadier x2 (5 pts. each)
PAK 38 Antitank Gun (10 pts.)
MG-42 Machine-Gun Team (10 pts.)
Mauser Kar 98k x2 (3 pts. each)
Panzer IV Ausf. G (30 pts.)
SS-Hauptstürmfuhrer (7 pts.)
Sd Kfz 222 (8 pts.)
Sd Kfz 251 (14 pts.)
Fucile Modello 1891 (3 pts.)
Type 89 Mortar (9 pts.)

A quick look at my draw showed that I had only one Axis tank, the Panzer IV. While I am a great fan of this tank, I wanted more than one tank in my build. Placing my Axis units to the side, I focused on my Allied units. The “Easy Eight” immediately drew my eye. It’s hard hitting, has armor piercing rounds and good armor, but at 54 points, it would be a substantial part of my army. Having one single high point unit also meant that if my opponent destroyed the unit, they would not only easily lead me on points, but they would have eliminated half my army. I considered fielding the “Easy Eight” along with a M4A1 Sherman and then spending the other 25 points on infantry. Another possible build was the “Easy Eight” and two M4A1s. This would have been a powerful force, but I would have lacked a good anti-infantry response and only having three units seemed unwise to me. I did not go with either of these builds because I wanted a more flexible and balanced force. In the end, my army looked like this:

Allies 99 pts.
Churchill Crocodile (35 pts.)
M4A1 Sherman(21 pts.)
Renault R-35 (9 pts.)
Inspiring Lieutenant (10 pts.)
M1 Garand Rifle x3 (12 pts.)
Vickers Machine-Gun Team (8 pts.)
Bazooka (4 pts.)

I picked the Churchill as my heavy tank because it is relatively inexpensive, has the same anti-armor stats as a M4A1 with better defenses, superior armor and the flamethrower ability. The Churchill, with its speed of 2, is dreadfully slow and this would be a factor in my battles. The M4A1 is just a good average tank while the Renault gave me some anti-armor abilities and functioned somewhat like a armored machine-gun against infantry. I rounded out my army with a balanced assortment of infantry and an Inspiring Lieutenant to give my infantry the ability to close rapidly with the enemy and keep pace with my vehicles.

Round One

In the first round I played Devin Low from R&D using map configuration 5: Hill 107. Devin’s army gave me a bit of a shock:

Devin Low: Allies 100 pts.
KV-1 (32 pts.)
M4A3E8 Sherman “Easy Eight” (54 pts.)
SMLE No. 4 Rifle (3 pts.)
MAS 7.5mm Rifle (3 pts.)
Bazooka x2 (8 pts.)

While the Crocodile and KV-1 were roughly equal, the “Easy Eight” and M4A1 were decidedly not. The transport ability of Devin’s tanks allowed him to carry both his bazooka units with the tanks. His two heavy tanks with bazooka sidekicks gave me some cause for concern.

I won the setup roll, so I had Devin setup first. He chose to setup his units as far north on map Baker – 2 as he could. I setup my Crocodile and Sherman on the large hill on Charlie – 2 and the rest of my units were on Dog – 2 screened behind the small hill. Devin initially tried to move both his tanks into forest hexes and failed his rolls to move into the hex. Seizing the opportunity, I moved my tanks forward along the road, attempting to use the forest to screen both my tanks from his “Easy Eight” while allowing me to fire on his KV-1 using both of mine. My infantry moved forward to the objective.

Unfortunately, in my eagerness, I failed to check line of sight (LOS) and left my Sherman where Devin’s “Easy Eight” could shoot at it. The “Easy Eight” used its armor piercing rounds and destroyed my Sherman in one shot. In a return volley, my two tanks were able to disrupt the KV-1, but the Hulking Mass ability saved the KV-1 from being damaged. I was now prepared to lose the match.

As play progressed, my infantry and Renault were able to seize the objective in force and keep his infantry at a distance. The battle now revolved solely around my remaining Churchill, which I envisioned would now be picked apart at range. Instead, the “Easy Eight” moved up to close range, then the following round the KV-1 followed suit moving into position to shoot at my rear, dumping a bazooka next to me as well. Unable to maneuver and disrupted, I did have initiative, which allowed me to shoot first. Since my opponent was obliging enough to move within range of my flamethrower, I was able to destroy the KV-1 using its ability. Poor rolls by my opponent allowed the Churchill to survive until the next round, when the “Easy Eight” perished to the flamethrower as well. While poor dice rolling played a small factor, closing with the Crocodile was my enemy's undoing. I advanced victorious to the next round.

Round Two

In round two I faced Stephen Schubert of R&D using map configuration 1: Half and Half. Stephen’s army was nicely balanced and I envisioned a prolonged battle:

Stephen Schubert: Allies 100 pts.
M4A1 Sherman x2 (42 pts.)
M18 Hellcat (20 pts.)
6-Pounder Antitank Gun (9 pts.)
M1 Garand Rifle (4 pts.)
Mortar M-2 (6 pts.)
“Red Devil” Captain (7 pts.)
Vickers Machine-Gun Team (8 pts.)
Bazooka (4 pts.)

Stephen setup first and split his forces, putting a Sherman, Mortar, Vickers MG and “Red Devil” Captain near the hill hexes on map Able – 1. His other units, in particular his other Sherman and the Hellcat, were fairly far south on map Baker - 1. I concentrated all my forces on Charlie – 2 as far south as possible, planning on rushing the objective and forcing Stephen to bring the battle to me.

As play progressed, I moved a Sherman into the city hexes on Baker – 1 in order to keep Stephen’s forces on Able – 1 pinned down. The rest of the battle became a slow long range duel as Stephen tried to use his superior tank numbers to wear down my armor. The slow speed of my Churchill did not allow me to close with his units as he strove to keep me at range. My Renault proved to be fairly ineffective in the battle. The tide seemed to be slowly turning for me as I had damaged both of his Shermans when time was called. Stephen had taken out my Vickers in exchange for hes M1 Garand and a Bazooka. Tied for points, I won as I had sole control of the objective. I was disappointed that I did not get to play this out fully as it was an interesting and thoughtful battle.

Round Three

In the third and final round I faced Travis Petkovits of Direct Sales who had fielded a force balanced very much like mine. I have played Travis before so I knew there would be no easy victory here. We played using map configuration 5: Hill 107:

Travis Petkovits: Allies 100 pts.
KV-1 (32 pts.)
M4A1 Sherman (21 pts.)
“Red Devil” Captain (7 pts.)
Vickers Machine-Gun Team (8 pts.)
Bazooka (4 pts.)
SMLE No. 4 Rifle (3 pts.)
M1 Garand Rifle x2 (8 pts.)
6-Pounder Antitank Gun (9 pts.)
MAS 7.5mm Rifle (3 pts.)
Marines M2-2 Flamethrower (5 pts.)

Travis chose to setup first, putting his units as close to the objective on map Able – 2 as possible. I followed suit, placing my units as far south as possible on map Dog – 2. The battle quickly devolved into medium range combat between the two hilltops. Cover played a large role in this battle as the KV-1 proved to be almost invincible and I was only ever to disrupt it. Travis used both his tanks and his AT-Gun to keep my Churchill disrupted and unable to move a mere 2 hexes away from his KV-1, denying me the ability to use my flamethrower. As long as he had my Churchill disrupted, he was able to devote the remainder of his firepower at my Sherman. Once my Sherman had fallen, he was able to flank my Churchill and finally destroy it. While my dice rolling in this battle was fairly dismal, Travis won because of better tactics. The AT-Gun was crucial in keeping my tanks disrupted and unable to maneuver and he was able to bring more infantry to bear at one time then I was able to respond with. The combination of the two decimated my forces and I conceded at the end of turn 6.

Lessons Learned

First, this game play reinforced my belief that balanced armies work well when facing unknown opponents and map configurations. I had something for any situation and the trick was in applying it in the most effective way to the given battle. Second, while the Churchill is formidable at close range, a smart opponent will never allow you to reach that range. While destroying the Churchill is a difficult task, keeping it disrupted, especially once it has become disrupted, is not. Finally, while dice rolling may influence a battle, its your tactics, or lack of, that accounts for whether you win or lose.

My congratulations to the two people who made it through all three rounds undefeated, Travis Petkovits and Ian Richards.

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