Thursday, September 21, 2017

Grumble Jones 2017 Halloween Scenario " The Heroes of Hollis" Background Story Part 1 (all fictional)

Following the disaster at Kasserine Pass, US Army Intelligence conducted extensive interviews among the surviving US troops. Again and again, individual soldiers admitted to falling back under he initial German attack and finding themselves unable to re-enter the fight. Entire squads simply melted away from the point of contact and surrendered all initiative to the Germans. When investigated further, it was found that American first line leadership was not only lacking, but is some cases entirely absent from the front. 

In short, squad level commanders failed their men in the heat of battle. As a result, the American troops at Kasserine Pass were unable to rally and re-engage with the enemy. This in turn allowed the Germans to fully exploit their victory and rout the Americans from the battlefield. 

Since, the American Civil War, the need for officers to rally men to hold, advance or charge was universally understood. But somehow, the US Army of the 1930's and early 1940's was missing this key battlefield understanding. Jr. Officers were proving to be woefully unprepared to lead and keep their men in the fight after first contact with the enemy.

Following Kasserine, General Eisenhower tasked Omar Bradley with finding a solution. Bradley, in turn, looked to US Army Intelligence for ideas. US Army Intelligence suggested that Bradley confer with their premier expert on military games simulations....a man known simply as Professor Rollright.

Professor Rollright had long advocated the use of highly detailed wargames to stimulate and promote sound leadership principles for Jr. Officers prior to their first experience of combat. Bradley met with the Professor at secret military installation on the outskirts of Kansas City, Missouri. Nestled in a secluded valley surrounded on all sides by wooded hills, the area known simply as "Hollis" was the location for the US Army's newest Combat Leadership training facility.  

Professor Rollright, working together with the head of Army Game Simulations, Lt. General Hill, completed a comprehensive training program that introduced Jr. Officers to wargaming as a means of honing their battlefield leadership skills.

The Advanced Squad Leadership course was initially derided by long time US Officers and West Point Professors as a cardboard based folly. Generals like Patton felt only battlefield experience could achieve results. But Bradley trusted Professor Rollright and recognized that officers learning on the job often did so as the expense of their men's lives. Bradley embraced the idea that the bloodless losses of the sand table were preferable to the bloody losses of the sandy passes of Kasserine.

So, with Eisenhower's approval, Bradley gave Professor Rollright the greenlight to begin training all squad level US Officers using the Advanced Squad Leadership program. The results would be spectacular.

Young Officers funneled from Forts Riley, Benning and Leavenworth to be processed through the games simulation program at Hollis. The young officers first impressions were that they were going to have a bit of R n R in the secluded woods of Hollis. But the intensity of the games simulation were beyond anything they had imagined. Professor Rollright's program proved highly successful in two key areas of squad level leadership. The first of these was quick decisive action. Officers were programmed to quickly take in a tactical situation and act decisively as quickly as possible. Secondly, the officers learned the need to lead by example and to ensure the morale of the men under their command and ensure that they were engaged and kept engaged with the enemy. 

Bradley's instincts had been right. And in the Sicily and Italy Campaigns, the squad level leadership of American troops in combat was not only markedly improved, but so much so that the Germans had begun to take note.

The secret of Hollis had reached the eyes and ears of the Abwehr.

Admiral Canaris, head of the German Abwehr realizes that the Germans must find some way to counter the Hollis Program. With American units in the field already exhibiting more resilience in combat, something had to be done. But first, the Germans had to find the location of the Hollis Program.

Canaris gave the assignment to a special unit of the Wehrmacht. Over the course of several weeks, they successfully identified the location of the Hollis Program. Unfortunately, the Germans quickly realized that Kansas might as well have been on the moon. They had no assets capable of taking out the center.  Given this reality, Canaris squashed any further discussion and closed the Abwehr's file on any future operations against the Hollis Center.

At this stage of the war, Canaris had decided to work towards ending the Third Reich and saw no need to pursue anything against the Hollis Center. He gave strict orders that all documents related to the Hollis Center be destroyed, lest they fall into the hands of other German Intelligence Agencies.

But Canaris had made a grave error. The Wehrmacht staff, which he had entrusted to find the Hollis Center were perplexed by Abwehr Chief's stand down order. They therefore decided to find another sponsor for action against the Hollis Center. Within days, they would find themselves in the office of the Reichsfuehrer SS. And the Reichsfuehrer knew exactly what action to be taken to eliminate the Americans secret program at Hollis.

Meanwhile, the Allies continued to enjoy the successes of their new Squad Leadership training. On June 5th, 1944...General Eisenhower shares his dice rolling method for use in the Advanced Squad Leadership training simulations. "Always roll snake eyes boys...that's the way to ensure success!"

As the summer progressed, the best German spy in America, code-named "Büffel" was already in position.. Unknown, even to the Abwehr, Büffel had already penetrated the Hollis Center and simply awaited receipt of  his codeword for action: "Tot kommen". 

So it was as Fall 1944 began...a German Agent..code-named "Büffel" was already the Officer of Communications, Markus DeVries at the Hollis Center...and the fate of the Hollis Program would soon be determined. 

Stay tuned for Part II of the annual Halloween Scenario backstory...

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Our Saturday Game - ASL Scenario B - THE TRACTOR WORKS

For our Saturday game, Dan Best and I turned once more to the Classics and selected ASL Scenario B - The Tractor Works. The last time I had played this scenario was in 1992, when I lost as the Russians. Historically, I have never won this scenario as either side. From ROAR and past experiences, the Russians really have an edge. But having lost as the Russians, I knew full well that it is very possible for the Germans to win this one. 

Now, the previous two Classic Scenarios...Hill 621 and The Hedgehog of Piepsk had been ass-whippings on a pretty rough scale for me. You have those kinds of games in ASL. It's like losing 60-0 as Arkansas Central Academy in a football game against the Oklahoma Sooners.  And defeats like that can cause self-doubt to creep into your game. I have had similar periods in my ASL playing, where a certain fatalism entered my game play, because after so many back to back defeats, I just pretty much surrendered myself to whatever fate might bring. At one point in 1992, I lost 9 straight and again more recently in 2013-15 against Big Kansas, I only managed three victories to his 20 wins. And in two of my three wins, I very nearly lost them in the final turn. So suffice to say a crisis in ASL self-confidence is not an entirely new occurrence for me.

Like Wyatt Earp contemplating facing Johnny Ringo, sometimes you know you aren't the faster draw. 

ASL can be like that too at times. There are clearly those opponents that you know, you can't cope with. On the plus side, you learn from those games and you improve. For years, I played tennis on summer evenings with my next door neighbor in St. Louis. I sucked at tennis and he was a competent player. And he regularly beat me up and down the court each of those summer nights. But I got better and developed a decent game and I still have fond memories of our nightly games at Barnicle Park in Webster Groves, Missouri.

So going into our Saturday game, I was feeling a little unsure of myself. And let's us just say, that three hours later, I wouldn't feel any better!!!  So, the AAR which follows will be another of those that are cautionary tales of how not to play this scenario as the Germans. 

But hey it was Saturday afternoon and time to march into battle!

The Tractor Works is another of those scenarios that we all have fond memories of from both Squad Leader and Advanced Squad Leader days. The struggle to take the X3 Factory on Board 1 would train many a player on the nuances of urban fighting in ASL. Some of us would become better masters of this, than others.

The scenario is 8 turns long, which I have always thought a bit too long. I have rarely seen this scenario in SL or ASL go the distance. It is a bloody, toe to toe brawl with great leadership and lots of firepower. One of the SSR's requires that both sides roll to see who goes first. I would win and would become the Scenario Attacker. I was very fortunate to win, as I had gambled and set up to attack the X3 Factory on Turn 1. I had only Dummies facing Dan's horde of Soviets on the west side of the battlefield.

My force would consist of men of the German 389th Infantry Division. Overall, I would have 6 x 8-3-8's, 13 x 4-6-7's with an HMG, 3 x MMG's, 4 x LMG's, 2 Flamethrowers, 4 x DC's led by a 10-3, 10-2, 9-2, 9-1, 8-1 and 8-0. A very respectable force, although heavily outnumbered by the opposing Russians.

As the scenario Defender, Dan would command elements of the Russian 308th and 295th Rifle Divisions.  His force would consist of 12 x 4-4-7's, 26 x 5-2-7's with an HMG, 2 x MMG's, 7 x LMG's led by a 9-2, 9-1,  9-0 Commissar and an 8-0. Dan is an Ostfront Fanatic and loves to play the Russians and is extremely dangerous when he commands them. 

Dan's 4-4-7's would be in the X3 Factory, while the 26 x 5-2-7's would be coming to the rescue from the west.

Dan would have only 1 leader in the X3 Factory. Taking out the 9-2 would be critical. But by game end...he would be smiling and wearing two new medals!

Now a quick note about my Board 1. My Board 1 has been in continuous action since 1978 and long ago split down the middle. My restoration techniques were not quite adequate, so I have developed a nice hump down the middle of Row you will notice counter clinging desperately to the sides of their Q locations. Dan prefers the hardboards, so when playing Cardboard via SKYPE, it's important for both players to use the same boards. The cardstock versions of Board 1 are different and what is an open shot on the hardboard is not on the cardstock board and vice versa. 

 The Star indicates the Scenario objective...the Tractor Factory. The white lines show my Turn 1 projected attacks. What I didn't realize was that only one of the stacks facing me on the east side of the factory was real. I would lose one Flamethrower on a roll of 10 trying to burn out a stack of Dummy Counters. That was my first Prep-Fire of the game and a portend of the future.

C'mon many times have I told you not to waste the flammenwerfer stuff...!?!

Turn 1 - I Prepped my flame-throwers and my 10-3 Kill stack. I eliminated to stacks of Dummy Counters. Meanwhile I launched my other boys in a direct assault on the X3 factory. Two 3-3-8 Half-squads with DC's led the way. Neither one would make it. And once inside the factory, Dan's 9-2 (36 factor) Kill Stack erupted in a fire so intense that no one survived my initial entry into the factory.

36 Factor kill stack with 9-2 and then he keeps Rate...UGH!!!

 The residual fire marks the places where my boys fell...

I had made two colossal mistakes...just massive errors. My 10-3 was on upper-level. I forgot all about the couldn't relocate in Advance Phase. And then my 10-2 Kill Stack had been marked with Opportunity Fire so I could take down the Russians I expected to be in Hex Y5...but they were Dummies. So my two most important stacks were rendered mission killed for Turn 1 support.

 So my phase of Turn 1 ended. I had eliminated some Dummy stacks...but at a cost of a few squads and a flamethrower. And I now had to prepare myself to receive Dan's friends from the west.

 As Dan prepared to move, I was able to lay down a critical fire lane, which did help slow down Dan's efforts in the center of the line.

 But Dan's boys did manage to move around the north and south flanks. My boys in T7 had done a good job...but would soon be eliminated after I went for a Final Protective Fire and promptly broke them.

 At the end of Turn 1, Dan was firmly in control of  the X3 Factory and was moving forward from the west.

 Turn 2...I was determined to keep trying to take the factory. Only my 10-2 stack didn't go for the factory. Instead I sent them to Y8 to defend against the oncoming horde of 5-2-7's.

 The SAN For both sides was 6, so snipers were plentiful. The German sniper would succeed in wounding the Russian 8-0. It was also at this time, that a 3-3-8 with a DC rolled snakes and went Fanatic and created a Hero. The Hero would go onto place a DC on the Russians in Y4.

Sadly, I would roll a 10 and do absolutely nothing to the Russians.

10's aren't always a good thing Billy Bob...

 The end of my part of Turn 2. I was in the Tractor Works...but Dan's Russians were going to put a serious hurting on me.

"Hans...where are the tractors???"

My Flamethrower boys knew they were going to get lit up...

 And so they Dan's Prep Fire will notice their hex is now empty.

 Dan' made great progress on Turn 2 and had effectively trapped my boys on the first floor of the U2 Building. Meanwhile the Russian Sniper KIA'd my Hero.

Yep...insult to injury!!!

 Turn 3...hmmm...doesn't this scenario have 8 turns...oh yeah we already talked bout that. on Turn 3, I doubled down on poor decisions and sent my 10-3 and 8-0 charging into the factory!!!

With predictably bad results...

 Russian firepower about to be unleashed...

"I just wanted you to let me in!!!"

At the end of the firing, only the 10-2 was left standing and he was pinned. 

So at that point, I offered the concession and congratulate Dan on another great win and a sweep of the Classics Trilogy. 

I had gone 0-3 and whiffed big time in our Classic Scenarios.

But as always, just playing ASL is a joy unto itself, win or lose.

and besides...there's always ice cream....

That's a wrap on the Tractor Factory. For our next game, Dan and I will break out some Lone Canuck goodness and wage war for the Casa Berardi!!!

See you next week!