For our Saturday game, Dan Best and I went back in time yet again to experience a reboot of a 1979 scenario released in the Series 100 Pack. The scenario we selected was ASL Scenario 136 - The Agony of Doom. Back in the day, it was originally scenario 110 from the Series 100 Pack. The 100 Pack was released as a pack of additional scenarios for Cross of Iron. And at the time, it was a thing of beauty!!! With so few published scenarios available, I can remember how eager we were to grab a copy of this pack It contained a bunch of great scenarios and a few of these were rebalanced and found their way into other ASL releases.
ROAR has the scenario with 5 Russian Wins and 19 German Wins. he ASL Archive shows it as 2 Russian Wins and 8 German Wins. This does lead one to believe that the scenario suffers from an imbalance situation. I had not played the ASL version and really loved the original. It was one of the only scenarios that included the Jagdtiger, so it was always a favorite of my gaming group at the time.
As for the balance, the old SL armor rules were very different from the ASL armor rules and fighting the big tanks seemed a bit easier. In ASL, a hit from an 88LL is pretty much an auto-kill barring a roll of "12". So as Dan and I would play out this scenario, we would find the armor battle to be the most unbalanced aspect of the scenario.
Balance can be difficult to achieve from time to time. And there have been some definite changes between CoI 110 and ASL 136. The Jadgtiger is gone from the German OOB and the 4-6-7's are replaced with 4-4-7's. The Germans also have an ELR of 2, which was not a thing back in the SL days. But losing the Jagdtiger and adding a Jagdpanther is really just semantics...cause facing two Jagdpanthers is every bit as bad as a Jagdpanther and Jagdtiger. So we'll let you follow this AAR and come to you own conclusions about this scenario balance or lack thereof and whether or not it would deter you from playing this scenario.
I mean...we all react differently the first time we face our first pair of Jagdpanthers...am I right!?!
Now the key moment in any scenario is rolling for sides. If you roll the wrong side...well then the balance of a scenario takes on a bit more importance. I would be lucky this time and roll the Germans...balance...I see no problem mit zee balanze mein Herr.
So yes, I'll admit, I knew that based on the evidence, that my Germans had a more than good chance of winning this scenario. It would definitely be a challenge for Dan. But to his credit, Dan had no qualms about being the Russians and even worked out an unorthodox attack plan to try and overcome the odds.
As the German player, I would be the scenario defender. My force would consist of remnants of the German LVI Panzer Korps. At this stage of the war (April 19th, 1945), the Wehrmacht was a shadow of the force of 1939-1942. Hardened veterans were thrown together with inexperienced Volksturm and sent forward to confront an unstoppable Soviet juggernaut.
My force would consist of 4 x 4-4-7's, 7 x 4-3-6's, led by an 8-1, 8-0, and 7-0 with 2 x LMG's. For support they would have a Tiger 1 and 75L AT Gun. On Turn 1, I would receive 3 x -4-6-7's, led by a 9-2 with 2 x LMG's and Panzerschreck. They would travel in style with 2 x Half-tracks and a Truck. And then on Turn 2 I would get 2 x Jagdpanthers.
As the Russians, Dan would be the scenario attacker. His force would be made up of elements of the 242nd and 82nd Rifle Divisions. These troops would be highly motivated men intent on finishing the war and getting some payback for the previous four years of the war. Dan's force would consist of 4 x 4-5-8's, 4 x 6-2-8's, and 5 x 4-4-7's led by 2 x 9-1's, and an 8-0 with 2 x MMG's and 3 x LMG's for support. Their armor would consist of 1 x SU-152, 2 x ISU-122's, 2 x T-34/85's and 2 x Trucks. At first glance, this seems like a decent size force. But 13 Russian squads would face 14 German squads armed with 28 Panzerfausts. And 5 Russian Tanks would face 3 German Tanks and an AT Gun. And the German Tanks are extremely tough. So things look a little bit rough for the Soviets right out of the gate.
The scenario utilizes Boards 3 and 5. Oh yes, my old friends. I still love Boards 1-5...you'd think after 40 years of running around on these, I'd be tired of them. Not so. They were such well done maps that they have remained viable for decades. The scenario itself is focused with the events of the Germans to slow down the Russian advance towards Berlin. At Muncheberg, the Germans would delay the Russians, but ultimately be forced to fall back. Interestingly, Muncheberg would live on in the campaign as the German units thrown together there, would fall back to Berlin and operate as the Muncheberg Division.
This adhoc division would be commanded by Werner Mummert and would figure prominently in the Battle of Berlin. Their final Tiger 1 would be abandoned near the Brandenburg Gate as the remnants of this division attempted to break out and reach American lines. They would ultimately be unsuccessful and capitulate to the Soviets.
The Soviet 142nd Rife Division would distinguish itself with the capture of the city of Graudenz on March 6, 1945 and finish the war in the Baltics. For the Graudenz action it would receive the Order of the Red Banner.
The German defense. I set the Tiger 1 on the hill and successfully made it hull down. It was now ready to receive the Russians. I left the main building unoccupied. I was satisfied that I could drive my Turn 1 reinforcements there before the Russians could get there.
I left my Tiger 1 CE...which is not something I do very often...but I knew I needed every advantage as Dan's armor entered the game.
It would be slow going with both of the MMG's.
Dan's forces would suffer two disastrous blows on Turn 1. One of his trucks would be destroyed by a 4-3-6. His second 9-1, a 4-5-8 and an LMG would all be lost.
The second hard blow would be to the SU-152 as it topped the far eastern hill. Both my 75L AT gun and my Tiger 1 would fire at it. My Tiger 1 would hit and destroy it.
In the German phase of Turn 1, my reinforcements charged into position. I also shifted some infantry towards the open gap to the north, which is where I assumed Dan's armor was moving.
Dan did catch me by surprise with his dual trail break attempt. It was a risky move, but both ISU-122's were successful.
Oh boy...these things are scary!!!
Back on the east side, Dan would rush his infantry at me and force my Panzerfaust screen to react and all would be marked First Fire. Then his first T-34/85 zipped down the road to hit my Tiger 1 from the rear. He would miss me in Bounding Fire and I would miss him in Defensive Fire. A great move by Dan.
Despite the T-34/85 breaking through my lines, my infantry were still holding their main line of resistance as Dan's infantry came forward.
Going into Turn 3, Dan was poised to hit me all along the front.
In my part of Turn 2 - my Jagdpanthers came on and moved to close the middle gap and prepare to receive Dan's ISU-122's and his remaining T-34/85. My Tiger 1 had managed to destroy the other T-34/85 in Prep Fire. Just like that it was 3 on 3 for the tank fight to come.
My Tiger 1 had knocked out two tanks and would destroy one more tank and eliminate some infantry before it was all over. The Tiger 1 would be the heroic German unit of the battle.
Both Jagdpanthers were in position.
Turn 3 and Dan came at me with everything he had. My Jagdpanthers both fired...both hit and both ISU-122's were burning wrecks.
My Jagdpanther commanders would both get a kill ring on their barrels.
Dan's infantry in the southeast would be successful in attacking my AT Gun. Back at the center gap, Dan's final tank, a T-34/85 gunned its engine and hurtled towards my Jagdpanthers. The Tiger 1 waited until it was right next door and destroyed it.
A look at the situation as the last of the Russian tanks was eliminated. Dan was threatening on both the southeast and northwest flanks, but the Germans were still in control of all the victory building locations.
Undeterred by his armor losses, Dan kept pushing his infantry forward. They would jump into close combat at every opportunity.
With my armor free to move about the battlefield, my Tiger 1 went to shore up the line on the east. He would get a critical hit on the Russian infantry in Hex Y1 and rubble the building. There would be no survivors.
Back in the west, Dan's 6-2-8 had managed to get into the building and had created a Hero with a snake eyes morale check roll. They jumped into the main building and quickly took control of the stairwell. This would encircle my 9-2 on the 2nd level. I would send both Jagdpanthers to deal with this threat.
It was a heroic effort to say the least. The highlight of the Russian effort in this lopsided battle would be the brave actions of this single Russian Hero.
But, it would end with the Russian Hero ambushed and then killed in Close Combat. With his death, Dan conceded and my Germans had held Muncheberg and had the victory.
Despite the victory...all knew the end was on the horizon as the next Soviet attack prepared.
A final look at the battle. In post game wrap up, both Dan and I came away feeling like the scenario definitely was tough on the Russians. We also both agreed that using the Russian balance would be a must for anyone thinking of playing this scenario. The early arrival of the Jagdpanthers essentially spells doom for any Russian assault. Their later arrival would definitely put a strain on the brittle German infantry and give the Russians a real chance to get into the village and make a real fight of it.
Dan's Russians would also suffer tremendously in this night's gaming from missed morale checks. Dan's infantry broke early and often and this sapped the strength of his attack and allowed my weak 4-3-6's to hold the line. In the end, The Agony of Doom had lived up to its name and to its ROAR statistics. While we enjoyed this scenario, we both recognize that it was not an equal contest. But for those looking for a challenging scenario...take the Russian side in this one and find a way to win The Agony of Doom!
Dan and I will be back next Saturday for a playing of ASL Scenario 130 - Debacle at Korosten…yep..keeping it old school for another week!