|Field Report: Minneapolis|
Background: Three weeks before the event, a group of area Axis & Allies Miniatures judges got together and voted from a selection of eleven configurations that were custom designed from the available standard maps (Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, and Easy), using a 3 map by 2 map configuration, in order to arrive on a final decision of six configurations that would be dedicated for use at a 200 point Tournament scheduled at the Monster Den in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the same location that won the Axis & Allies Retailer's Display Contest. Each round of the Tournament, a die roll will determine the battlefield to be played on, no repeats were allowed. The six configurations that were chosen are as follows:
- Nashorn Haven
- Pickle in the Middle
- Hedgerow Hell
- A Hill Too Far
- Le Mans
- 3-Layered Cakewalk
Terrain Analysis: Since the last couple of tournaments have had an over-abundance of Axis players, I elected to play Allies to add some variety to the tournament. Now watch, everyone will show up with Allied forces. With this decision in mind at first glance at the maps I made the following three observations:
- Five of the six maps have town hexes in proximity to objective hex locations that make them a significant factor to consider for army building. I should expect urban combat so MAS 7.5mm Rifles may be a good idea.
- Five of the six maps have open field avenues of fire that will make German extended ranges and vehicle mobility a consideration. This means I’ll need transports, primarily Jeeps, M5 Halftracks, M4A3E8 Sherman, KV1, and T34/76 Tanks, or Paratroopers.
- Two of the six maps have firing lanes that allow for covering an objective hex from another objective hex making them preferable take-and-hold locations and nightmares against the German Nashorn. Mobility via high vehicle speeds will be a must. Therefore, Cromwell IV and/or Crusader II will be preferable and I should throw out the Churchill Crocodile and any other speed 2 vehicles.
After some further review of the maps, I feel more confident that some of my other predictions will hold true. Heavy tanks are going to be the preferred mainstay unit of any force under these conditions. Tons of infantry, especially Bazookas and Antitank Rifles, will most likely get cut down quickly in lieu of the sparseness of terrain in a number of the map configurations.
Opposition Analysis: This tournament will be the first event to be held since the release of Axis and Allies Miniatures Set II, in the Minneapolis area and therefore the expectation was to see a number of highly anticipated units from Set II being used rather liberally. I personally would be surprised if every German Force didn’t have either a King Tiger or a Nashorn. Knowing fully well that in addition to the “shiny new unit” players, there will be a couple of hard-core strategists who will be looking at some of the other units in the Axis & Allies arsenal as being the tide turners. So at the same time I could expect to see a Panzer III or two with their smoke screens leading a column of Panzer IV’s or maybe a Panther.
Force Selection: Since the tournament format is 200 points, the emphasis on vehicle/tank units should be heavy. With this in mind, I want to show up with a force that is capable of contending with the most powerful tanks and, at the same time, not being overly vulnerable to soldier attacks. After much debate and numerous re-assessments, the force I finally decided on is as follows:
- Crusader II x2
- Cromwell IV
- KV-1 x2
- Jeep x2
- Fanatical Sniper
- "Screaming Eagle" Captain
- "Screaming Eagle" Paratroopers x2
- "Red Devil" Captain
- Vickers Machine-Gun Team
With a little luck, good strategy, and some solid battlefield reactionary tactics I think this force should at least put me in the top three. The idea is fairly self evident after examination of the force. The Cromwell IV and the Crusader II’s are going to take advantage of their Vanguard special ability to get them in position on top of the objectives early. Cover saves are a good thing and I would be relying on them. The Fanatical Sniper and the “Red Devil” Captain are going to pair up in Jeeps and go SS Hunting. The “Screaming Eagles” are going to hold until they are needed and then do what they do best. The Bazooka and the Vickers Machine-Gun Team will hitch a ride on KV1’s and follow with them and the T34/76 for Anti-Infantry support. I guess we will have to see what the combat fates will allow.
My first opponent ended up being Allies and as I expected was sporting mostly the new units from Set II: IS-2, T34/85, T70, M5 Halftrack, Fanatical Sniper, Cavalry x 2, “Screaming Eagle” Captain, “Screaming Eagle” Paratrooper, and a BAR Gunner. He rounded out his force with some of the ‘oldies but goodies’: Humber Scout Car x 2, Vickers Machine-Gun Team, Marines M2-2 Flamethrower, and a Jeep. The first battle map was A Hill Too Far. Not my first choice of battlefield locations but with a couple of die rolls that go my way I shouldn’t have too much difficulty holding a pair of objectives.
I won the die roll for choice of sides and elected to set up on the side with the center objective hex close to my side. I set up with the KV-1s in line with the center objective as per my plan and had the remaining forces set up to the right flank of the KV-1s. The Crusaders and the Cromwell used their Vanguard special ability to press forward to just outside the objective hex on the southernmost side of the battlefield. I lost the first initiative and my opponent elected to move first.
He pressed his IS-2 right up the center to take on my KV-1s. The majority of his forces pressed southwest toward the southernmost objective hex. His M5 Halftrack and a Humber moved and positioned adjacent to the northernmost objective. Finally the Paratroopers dropped on the northernmost objective hex. I ran the KV-1’s up onto the center objective hex and immediately behind it. The lead KV-1 dropped off the Bazooka and the Vickers stayed onboard the rear KV-1. The Cromwell took up position on the hill next to the southern objective while the Crusaders rolled toward the town.
After all was said and done, the KV-1 on the center objective never left its position and never received incoming fire. The second KV-1 moved up to take on the IS-2 and went toe-to-toe with it the entire time. Between the two KV-1s and a Bazooka, the IS-2 never received more than a Disrupted and Damaged token, however, it never moved beyond where it ended up in the initial move. The Vickers Team managed to force the Screaming Eagles off the northern most objective hex as they couldn’t continue to receive the long range fire. That was the key decision by my opponent that gave me the victory. At the end with each of us only controlling one Objective hex it was my KV-1’s 32 points parked on the Objective that gave me a point victory over my opponent’s 9 points between a Cavalrymen and an M2-2 Flamethrower.
It was a truly slight victory, and only by the narrowest of margins. Neither one of us rolled statistically nominal die rolls. It was definitively not a victory to be either proud of, nor one of which to brag, but certainly one to learn from.
Check back next week for the final two battles in this field report and the after-action review!