I played S10 Paper Army (from Starter Kit #2) several months ago by email, but never wrote an
AAR for it. It doesn’t need much of an AAR, to be honest, but I wanted to write a little bit about it. S10 is a Starter Kit scenario which I actually first played two years ago, as the Italians. When I first played it, I lost, and thought that it seemed impossible for the Italians to win at all. Reports on ROAR show that they certainly don’t often win: perhaps this is a dog. (It is 36-12 in favour of the Greeks.) But when I looked at the scenario card again, I thought that perhaps winning simply requires careful attention to the CX rules, or that the Italians just have a difficult problem to solve. So I decided to try it again. And I won.
So what is up with this scenario? Well, the Italians are on the run from the Greeks. The setup is an empty board: the Italians enter on their first turn, carrying a broken MMG. The Greeks also enter on the first turn, already having spent 2 MF. So they are certainly close by. And at a certain turn (dr ≤ turn number), a Greek “flanking force” enters the map, essentially in front of the Italians.
The Italians, then, need to run like hell, while keeping a small force back. And this is what I did on my first move.
This is certainly a scenario in which the Italian player must violate the prescription that one must never move in stacks. The leader movement bonus really is necessary. I built two large stacks and ran them past the first line of woods. These two stacks, if they made it off, would win me the game. My delaying force was four half-squads, two squads, a 7-0, and a malfed MMG. Not a whole lot of firepower, and probably too much firepower: the Greeks have to enter on open ground for the most part, so even a 1FP attack can be pretty intimidating.
I inadvertently made a very good move by positioning half squads in the two half hexes at the top and bottom of the board, which were woods hexes. The other difficulty of the Greeks in turn one is that they have no rout destinations! And as luck would have it, I was able to eliminate a squad for failure to rout in the beginning. This is due to some of the gameyness of the rout rules, for sure, because they were up against the board edge. Board edges are the bogeyman of wargames, for sure. To my knowledge, only naval wargames acknowledge the artificiality of the boardedge and allow players to reposition their ships if they drift off the edge: everything is just one big open sea anyway.
Well, the Greeks moved onto the board fairly cautiously. They came on in force at the top of the board, through the grain patch. What happened? Well, Markus (my opponent) tried assaulting the two squads I left behind with the MMG. Unfortunately, he was firing through the grain and couldn’t pull off breaking my units until about turn 3. I think this was his one mistake: he should have bypassed that, and chased me on the bottom of the board, I think, or been more aggressive with capturing those rout destinations.
However, one thing which did hurt the Allies was the reinforcement dr. The very first time I played this scenario, the reinforcements came on the first possible turn. This meant that by the time my Italians were approaching the board edge, there was a force of Greeks waiting for them, and my fragile Italians broke under the pressure. But this time, they came on the last possible turn. The pursuing Greeks were delayed long enough that pursuit was impossible, and the flanking force came in just as I was poised to exit the board edge. Not only that, but I was primarily moving two large stacks, each sporting 11FP, which I suppose is a kill-stack for the Italians.
A lot of this scenario does depend on the reinforcement dr, I think. The other is the Italian player’s ability to set up a good delaying force to hold up the Greeks for two turns, and also making good use of going CX and searching out the best path to run along to get off the map. Maybe that is why the scenario looks so unbalanced on ROAR: what we have is a puzzle for the IT player to solve, not a battle for them to fight. New SK players might just not have the tactical acumen to figure this one out. I know the first time I played this, I left too many troops behind, and tried to fight it out with the Greeks. That won’t work. This scenario can’t be played that way.
All in all, I think this is a fine scenario—not a great one, but one good for thinking about victory conditions and what you need to do, rather than thinking about shooting the enemy and fighting him. This is a very important step in thinking about ASL.