A39 Showdown at Tug Argan Pass



Have I mentioned that VASL hates me?  One day the program is going to stop and realize that it has punished me enough.  That I have done nothing to it to warrant the treatment I have received at it’s hands over the last couple of years.  Yes, I know, we only remember the bad stuff and never acknowledge the good and there are moments…..yes moments when I think “thank you VASL”, finally a break.  Unfortunately, my moments on VASL tend to come when I roll wind, or task checks or any of the other really fairly non critical rolls.  The crap hits me when I roll for morale checks, or fire attacks of 16fp or higher or………..OBA.

My sorry luck with OBA is the stuff of legends.  Broken radios, lousy accuracy resulting in spotting rounds I can’t see or in this case, chit draws.

As noted previously, Jeff Buser is playing Desert scenarios with me Sunday afternoons on VASL.  Next on the chronological list was A39 Showdown at Tug Argan Pass.  August of 1940 in Somaliland, 22.5 Italian squads with some armor support must dig 13 squads of 2nd line Punjabs out of the nasty board 25 hills.  Two hills in particular.  Jeff’s Italians are required to remove the Punjabs from my right hand hill and get the majority of level 4 hill hexes on my left.  My Punjabs get some foxholes and sangars and we both get OBA.  80mm with scarce ammo for me and 100mm with plentiful ammo and an offboard observer for Jeff’s Italians.




As far as I’m concerned, the Punjabs simply have to get at least one module of artillery down, preferably as harassing fire.  Just making the Italians have to dance around out on the flat terrain will aid my effort to hold the hill.  If they can make a straight bee-line to the hills with vehicle dust as a shield, these inferior Commonwealth troops are in trouble.

My first radio contact:



That’s right, let’s see if we can just remove all drama by breaking the damn thing.  One more pip and I don’t even have to pull chits…..

Jeff has had very few desert games but he has picked up on all the little things that help him on the attack.  Using vehicle dust is one of them.  Other than my heavy machine gun and mortar, my ranged weapons are lacking so everything is either out of range or long range.  I do manage to get some shots on the Italian infantry and get some breaks, but without the OBA, I can’t do much.  Jeff gets his OBA and his spotting round down, and continues the slog forward.


Italian approach


My next attempt at OBA gets the radio working, but can’t get the access.


1st draw


And my turn 2 defensive fire puts it completely out of action.


2nd draw



Thank you sir!  May I have another!?.  The single most important part of my defense is gone.  VASL, why oh why do you hate me so?  Jeff even said “yeah, you do have crappy luck with OBA”.

I posted a question on the ASL Forums asking what folks thought about using some of the popular house rules for OBA.  Seems like most players are A-Ok with losing your OBA at the beginning of a game.  This boggles my mind.  Sit down to play 6 or 8 hours of a game, and a critical part of one person’s game which was included for a reason is out just after you start.

On with the now quick game.  Jeff has 8.5 turns to get the job done. With his path to the hills virtually unhindered now, he has plenty of time.  My shots are mostly ineffective and he gets his 100mm rain of death down on the mandatory victory hill.

If you get enough 20fp shots down, concentrated on the same 6 hexes, no amount of +4 foxholes and +2 sangers are going to be enough to save your cardboard.  Jeff hit it over and over and over leaving nothing but fortification counters when all was said and done, with nothing but the academic task of cleaning up the other hill.  I had fewer units left than available victory hexes, so it was all but a done deal now.  The tanks made their slow slog up the hill followed closely by the Italian infantry.  With the demise of my HMG on the other hill, Jeff’s HMG was cleaning up from out in the open out of range of anything I had left.  Forced to rout off the back of the hill, there was no returning as the gray pieces were pushing me back.  Concession was all that was left.


Italian arty


left hill



Folks, I won’t say that this scenario can’t be won by the Punjabs without it’s artillery…… I am not a good enough player to make that judgement, But everyone I asked about this event in this scenario said the same thing, the Allied OBA is critical, you have to get the harassing fire down.

I will be asking my opponents from now on if they would kindly consider one of the OBA house rules.  They don’t guarantee that you will immediately get the module down when you want it, but do guarantee that you will never completely lose it.  Often it is the threat of the artillery, or just an SR that is important to make your opponent re-think what he is doing.  80mm harassing fire in the desert is 4fp flat over 19 hexes.  That’ll get him dancing.  The designer gave you that tool for a reason and losing it immediately can ruin a scenario.  This is an older scenario, nowadays designers are giving the players an automatic black chit to ensure that he will get at least one use out of an important asset like artillery.

Anyway, Jeff took those hills without much of an effort.  I managed to kill his flame throwing tank with an LMG for my lone highlight of the game, and VASL continues to dump on my head.

Thanks for reading.



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