For our Saturday game, Dan and I selected Le Franc Tireur's Scenario FT79 First Blood. I have always been interested in the Spanish Blue Division and their exploits on the Leningrad Front. This particular scenario takes place in October 1941, just as the Spaniards are moving into the line along the Volchov River. And they arrive in the deep woods just in time to encounter a battalion of Soviet Infantry crossing the Volchov River in force.
Dan would draw the Spaniards and have the defense. He would have 4 x 2-4-8 half-squads with an 8-1 and an MMG and an LMG HIP'd just along the river's edge on Board 40. Meanwhile in the deep woods of Board 52, 9 x 4-6-8 with 2 x 9-1's, and 8-0 and 3 x LMG's lay in wait to ambush my peaceful Soviets and ruin their walk in the woods.
Dan's Spaniards would also have some SSR's. They would receive a -2 drm for Leader Creation and a -1 DRM on the heat of battle table.
As the Russians, I would have the task of crossing the Volhov River in boats. Then I would have to either eliminate all good order Spanish MMC's on board 52 or successfully exit 10 or more VP's off the west edge.
To accomplish this arduous task, I would have 2 x 5-2-7's, 8 x 4-4-7's, and 6 x 4-2-6's with only 4 x LMG's. Not so much an assault force as a probing force...if you ask me...of course no one did. Suffice to say, I wasn't too excited about my odds in this scenario. And checking it on ROAR confirmed my fears.
Apparently the Spaniards also checked ROAR and found it more amusing than I did.
Nevertheless, I was stoked to play a scenario with boats and Spaniards. It was going to be a wild and crazy game which seesawed unbelievable all the way up to the end. Like all of our games, Dan and I would just hang on and enjoy the ride.
Not knowing where Dan had placed his HIP MMG caused me to keep it to one squad per boat. I couldn't afford to lose guys at this stage of the game.
My fears were quickly realized as Dan's hidden Spaniards opened up and sank two of my boats..
In a blink of an eye 2 x 4-4-7's and 8-0 went beneath the surface of the Volkhov to find their way to the Baltic Sea and eternity. A quarter of my 4-4-7's and LMG's were gone right at the start.
I had gambled on Dan's MMG being positioned on the hill to the south were it would have had the greatest field of fire. There would be Spaniards there as I found out in the next turn, but the MMG in the middle caught my best troops. I had sent the 4-2-6's into the section of the river where I thought the MMG would do the most damage.
Gambling and ASL so rarely go together...
Dan, ever the wily fox that he is...self-broke his MMG and LMG groups to allow them to escape death by Close Combat. DRATS!
Living to fight another turn...never a bad idea...especially when you have 8 morale and you're in the woods.
But even as Dan's Spaniards fell back from the river...the remainder of his force moved forward through the dark Russian woods. It was my turn to be scared.
As indicated before, I had expected Dan's MMG to be on the C2 hill...but instead I found a 2-4-8 there. I quickly surrounded it and would spend the next three turns trying to kill them in Melee...oh good grief....
After two turns, my boys were well on their way...but Dan had a strong defensive line with no gaps.
Dan's Spaniards continued to bring the fight to my Russians. In one movement, Dan split my forces in the middle. I was totally unhappy with this, as I had hope to draw Dan's forces to both the north and south board edges and create a gap in the middle. Looks like my plan had worked in reverse.
Dan's Spaniards closed in for the kill in the north. You think you're doing fine...and then whamo...you find yourself in a life or death struggle...
I tried to not let Dan's movements in my backfield distract me. I had to keep moving forward.
And so I did...
Often bold is code for stupid...
During the course of the fighting in the south, Dan's Spaniards went Fanatic and created a Hero.
Finding myself in a trap in the south...I just lowered my head and rammed straight ahead...my Commissar led the way in a mad dash for the woods. And he would make it...
Oh yeah...Commissar in the house...er...the woods...yeah the woods...
Back in the north, I swung my concealed squads back to allow them to fire into the Melee. I wasn't sure if that move would pay off.
I fired and managed to break both the Russians and the Spaniards.
With the crisis in the north momentarily handled...I moved into CC with D7 in the south. I was determined to open up a gap and head for the west edge.
Both Dan and I struggled to win the close combats as Melees persisted for a bit longer than either of us wanted them to.
Dan's Hero in the south would continue to cause me pain and ultimately keep valuable VP from exiting the board.
Throughout the game, Dan made aggressive moves and one of his 2-4-8's with Prisoners no less went on a charge towards the river. I never asked Dan why that half-squad went on that charge, but it would lead to some wild moments. I managed to break the 2-4-8, but in Final Protective Fire also broke my squad. The 2-2-6 Russian POW's would go on to revolt against their broken guards and spend the next two turns in various melees. Incredibly, this weaponless 2-2-6 Squad would help keep Dan's forces behind me from moving in from behind. Just one of the bizarre outcomes of this day's gaming.
In the North, my bold gambit had only slowed down the inevitable demise of my forces. Dan's Spaniards closed in for the kill.
In the South I would get very lucky as Dan's 9-1 with the MMG attempted to move forward from the rear. My boys managed to KIA him and that would lead to a break for the squad, and a berserk 2-4-8. One crazy turn to say the least.
At this stage of the scenario...the opening in the woods was wide open. If could get moving...the way was open.
My 2-2-6 Pow squad continued to wage their own private war with Dan's Spaniards.
In the south, the end play was finally launched. I sent everyone forward. Dan only had the Hero between me and possible victory.
My POW's still in the game...very strange part of this night's gaming.
In the south, Dan and I sent our last big stacks into a titanic melee. The battle in the south would be decided here...
My Russians would prevail and the last Spanish 9-1 officer and his men would fall. The way was open...two turns earlier, neither Dan or I would have believed it possible.
As my men sprinted for the board edge...so too did Dan's boys...and like any great ASL finish...they would arrive just in time to force my boys to run the gauntlet. My 8-1 officer had three 4-4-7's with him. 8 VP had a chance to exit. But in the backfield Dan was tying up 2 more of precious VP's.
With the game essentially over and a Spanish Victory, Dan and I decided to play it out and see just how many VP I managed to exit.
He fired and the result was a Pin Check. All but one 4-4-7 would make their rolls. So at game end I would only exit 6 total Victory Points. It was game over and a great win for Dan.
A look at our respective forces at game end. My Russians had been bloodied badly with a number of men falling prisoner to Dan's Spaniards.
Dan's Spaniards won the day, but had also suffered some heavy losses.
Another great night of ASL. My thanks to Mr. Best for a great game!