Sunday, August 14, 2016

Grumble Jones August Scenario GJ035 "At the Don's Edge"




Please remember to open link in a new window to maximize the view. 

The PDF for this scenario can be downloaded from the The ASL Scenario Archive. 

(simply search on Grumble Jones or At the Don's Edge).

 

And always remember, these scenarios are presented for fun only and as a thank you to the readers of my blog.
Design note - this scenario is based on a hypothetical occurrence during the August 1942 advance of the Croatian 369th Regiment towards the Don River...Stalingrad...and history.









Friday, August 12, 2016

August visit to the Grumble Jones Library


Well, it's a quiet Friday night. My regular STL opponent has a habit of cancelling on me. Tonight, he chose to help someone with their plumbing issues. Hmmm...plumbing...ASL...plumbing...ASL...how will I ever decide!?! I know..it's so hard to choose...they are both so much fun...(ok enough sarcasm for one post...eh).

So instead of playing the world's greatest WWII tactical board game, I decided to go ahead with this month's visit to the Grumble Jones Library. It's a bit timely, as I finally received a book that I ordered on July 5th. I honestly didn't think it would ever arrive. It will be the only book I talk about tonight. Now, I know I hinted at talking about some Pacific books...but tonight's volume will be focused on my favorite campaign...the Normandy Campaign. 






It is my favorite you know!




I would hazard to guess that most of you are aware of the After the Battle magazine series and the various books they have put out over the years. They are generally the first and last word on the topics which they cover. I haven't actually purchased any of their publications until this one about Villers Bocage. I have had a huge fascination for the fighting at Villers Bocage for many years. Most of us are familiar with the myth telling about Michael Wittman's charging lone Tiger I that stopped an entire British offensive. And like many of you, I really...really wanted to understand what actually went down and how  Wittman and his fellow German tankers were able to accomplish their successes that day. 

Daniel Taylor's Villers-Bocage Through the Lens is a relatively small book with about 88 pages or so. But those 88 pages are packed with text, maps and outstanding photographs, which were all taken by the Germans following the action. So, that fact alone seems to confirm that indeed, this initial round of fighting at Villers Bocage was a German victory in so much as they controlled the field at the end. The author does point out that some of the surviving British tankers were still in hiding as the German photographers snapped these pictures of the battle's remains.
 For the ASL player, this book is an invaluable tool in walking the reader through the action and providing very detailed maps indicating individual tank and AT Gun locations.  Wittmann's actions that day have often been the subject of a scenario creation attempt, but I could never come to grips with the limits of ASL to allow a single Tiger I to do the sort of carnage attributed to Wittmann's single Tiger. It just seemed that this wold be impossible to replicate
in ASL. And really, I just found the entire episode to be hard to believe. Fortunately, Taylor tackles that issue head on. And one of the key eyewitnesses to support an accurate account of the day's actions comes directly from Wittmann himself. That was one of the best aspects of this book for me. Taylor does an outstanding job of deconstructing the mythology of this battle and yet, still manages to show that Wittmann was indeed one of history's greatest
tankers. Did he actually stop the British by himself. No, he didn't, but together with the other participating units, Wittmann and his Tiger blunted a major British operation that had it been successful, might have opened the door to taking Caen much sooner. 

Another terrific aspect of Taylor's book is that we get to see the Allied participants of this battle. Far too often, these brave men are forgotten
as the focus falls on Wittmann and the Tiger Tanks. History is a funny thing. We often decry that the winners get to tell the history and in a strange way, Taylor points out, that the British themselves helped to fuel the mythology of the battle. Failures of adequate planning and reconnaissance are replaced with a rampaging, unstoppable Tiger and its Panzer Ace. Coupled with the German propaganda, it's no surprise that Wittmann's legend grew and has been sustained through so many years. The Crow Indians of the American West, often measured their tribe's prominence by the strength of its enemies. Villers-Bocage is a classic example of explaining a defeat, by showing the power and prowess of your foe. In Wittmann, both the Germans and the British had their hero and arch-nemesis that rode into battle like some Black Knight. In the end, Taylor brings Wittmann back down to earth and shows that was not the cardboard caricature of Nazi or British propaganda, but instead a dedicated, military man, who would fall in battle on August 8th, 1944 like so many of his foes who similarly fell at Villers-Bocage.

Lastly, Taylor's book brings into focus men like John Cloudsley-Thompson who faced Wittmann at Villers-Bocage, survived the
encounter and went on to lives of post-war fame and adventure, which would forever be accented by the day they faced Germany's greatest tank ace at Villers-Bocage.

In closing, I highly recommend this book for the ASL player interested in the key battles associated with the Normandy Campaign and in particular, the fighting to secure Caen. Taylor's book is spot on in bringing the battle to life and will certainly be invaluable in helping you create a scenario to be replayed on the cardboard fields of Advanced Squad Leader. 


Thanks for visiting us this month. We will check out some new books in September!





In remembrance of the 15 men of 1st and 2nd Kompanie, schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101 who fell at Villers-Bocage.











In remembrance of the men of Allied Units, who fell at Villers-Bocage:

4th County of London Yeomanry (12 men)
8th Hussars (7 men)
1st Royal Tank Regiment (10 men)
11th Hussars (1 man)
5th Royal Horse Artillery (4 men)
1/7th Queen's Regiment (13 men)
5th Royal Tank Regiment (4 men)
1/5th Queen's Regiment (8 men)
1st Rifle Brigade (16 men)
65th Anti-Tank Regiment (2 men)



Saturday, August 6, 2016

Our Friday Game - ASL OA19 The Queen's Prequel

At the end of every work week...I look forward to my 6:00 PM Cardboard via Skype ASL game with my regular STL opponent. I can't think of a better way to end the week and start the weekend. Game night Friday's are nearly always followed up by Blog Day Saturdays. My wife of course isn't always so thrilled with my Blog Day Saturdays.

Our game this night would be ASL OA19 The Queen's Prequel. Having already played Gunter Strikes Back, we were both familiar with the boards and the objective building Hex of 14H9. We thought this game would play fast and furious and be done in a single night's play. We were far more correct than we could have anticipated. Our game would indeed play fast and furious through three turns and then abruptly end with a concession. So today, we will evaluate what led to the concession. 


Joining me for today's AAR will be Professor Rollwright from the ASL Academy of Tactical and Strategic Studies in Salisbury, MD. 

A few of you may remember a previous guest appearance by Prof. Rollwright a few years ago.

Since our game ended with a bit of time left last night, the good Professor was only too kind to do a post-game wrap up with me.




 


For OA19, I would be the German defenders with 5 squads of the Panzergrenadier Regiment 10. 1 x 5-4-8, 2x 4-6-7 and 2 x 4-4-7 with an LMG and a mortar. Not much to play with...but it would prove to be sufficient.

And of course, as you all know...I'm always happy to be fielding the boys of the Wehrmacht in any scenario. Leading this small group would be a 9-1 and an 8-0. 

I would also have 2 x 20L AA guns at the airstrip, but these would not come into play during the game.



My opponent drew the British 2nd/6th Queen's Royal Regiment, 169th Brigade and would be the attacker. The men of this storied unit would consist of 2 x 4-5-8's, 6 x 4-5-7's and be led by  9-1, 8-1 and 8-0 officers.  For support, they would have 1 x MMG and 2 x 51 Mortars. As with the German OOB...not a whole lot to play with.



 The British actions in the Salerno campaign have always interested me, so I was excited to see how this scenario would play out.





A member of the Grumble Jones Kriegsberichter unit would be capturing the action.










 The black line denotes the setup line for both sides. The Germans are north of the road and the British are south of it. On the right flank, I placed two 2-3-7 Half-Squads as I expected a British Kill Stack to setup in the O6 House and blast anyone on that side of the board. Surprisingly, my opponent concentrated in the middle of the board and was exactly where my Mortar in I5 and my 9-1 with LMG in J2 could range in on the British in the J7 woods hex.

The arrows indicate where I expected my opponent to hit me. His center concentration surprised me...but then I remembered that my regular STL opponent is a big Prep Fire guy. He was essentially setting up just to fire at me. Keep in mind that my guys were all under concealment (5 concealment counters in the German OOB). And in most cases, my boys were outside the British 5 Hex range. So my opponent would only have about a quarter of his firepower available in a given shot. 

 

During our post game wrap, Professor Rollwright was surprised that the British mortars didn't immediately smoke the German positions. 

 No smoke was fired, instead my opponent went right into full Prep Fire and had nearly all of his units fire.




The mortars were actually successful in removing concealment on my I5 and J2 positions. But otherwise had now effect.
 Having lost my concealment, I went ahead and traded fire in my Defensive Fire Phase.


I had a good chance of damaging the stacked up British in the J7 woods. My mortar with it's tree burst -1 would offer me the best chance to do some real damage.
 And that is exactly what happened as I rolled a 2 for effect. 1 x4-5-7 was KIA'd outright, a broken 4-5-7 was reduced to the a broken 2-4-7 and the 8-1 officer was broken. BAM...my first Defensive Fire effort of the game had just been huge. 1-1/2 of my opponents 8 squads were KIA. And worse, his center position was pretty much rendered ineffective for the next turn.
 
 I often read posts where folks decry the value of the small mortars in ASL...but I must say my experience is that they can be a game changing asset on the ASL battlefield and shouldn't be underestimated.


 Having seen where my opponent was attacking, I moved my 5-4-8 out f the woods on the left flank and sent them to occupy the 14H9 building objective. I left a 4-4-7 to watch the flank...but felt pretty confident that my opponent would not be moving in that direction.







 My 4-4-7 on the left would pretty much play Skat for the remainder of the battle.
 It wouldn't be all sunshine and unicorns for me as the my opponent succeeded in breaking my 4-6-7 mortar boys in I5 and then I rolled a 12 for my 9-1 on an NMC. Not very normal in my opinion!!!




My 9-1 would be wounded and rout towards the medical station to get some help from the Sani. The game would be over by the time his wounds were dressed.

 Going into Turn 3, my opponent's boys were rallied and making some tentative moves forward. My I5 position in the orchard was empty and I had been pushed out of the building on the right flank as well. With the clock ticking...I was convinced that my opponent had to start moving...but he didn't.





Perplexed by the British tactics, Professor Rollwright read up on some basic fire and movement concepts.  

I explained to him that my regular STL opponent is not fond of risking movements in the open and is very concerned about losses.
 From my perspective, I felt like my opponent was missing a great opportunity to smoke my J2 LMG and then just go forward. My boys in F3 were blocked by the orchard to get any good shots and all I had left on the right flank was a concealed 2-3-7. 

The moment seemed right for a risky move...especially with only 2 turns left in the game.


 
 But the British pretty much stayed in place and once again went full out in Prep Fire.



 The British in J7 managed to DM my 4-6-7 with the LMG in J2. So things were looking good for a strong move. But...he rolled a couple of threes...which activated the German Sniper.



 As we will see, this would lead to tragic consequences for the Queen's Royal Regiment.
 I was feeling the heat at this point in the game. My defense was shattered...there was nothing to stop a strong British move up the center.





Professor Rollwright concurred...this was the best opportunity for a risky move up the middle.
 But just as my opponent was finishing up his Prep Fire phase...he activated the German sniper for a second time. Once again it landed on his boys in P8. It was a "1"...so he rolled to see which unit was impacted....he rolled the dice one at a time...8-0 Officer..."a 3"....4-5-7..."a 3"...the 4-5-7 with mortar.."a 3"...we both just gasped...we could not remember a time where a Sniper had hit every unit in a stack. The 8-0 crumpled to the ground KIA'd, both 4-5-7's went broken and DM.

(BLOG note: a reader pointed out that the other two units would by rule receive a separate Sniper Roll. For clarification, this was done and both received a "1", which I believe is what really sent my opponent over the edge. At any rate, I don't always walk through the rules process as I do my AAR's, but this was a rare situation and as our reader pointed out, could be beneficial to other players to see how that went down.)


 I was pretty shocked myself...but of course...I had to be happy with the result. My Sniper had just won the game for me.


 On the other end of the Skype line...I could hear the resignation, frustration and yes...anger in my opponent's voice. He cleared his throat and said..."That's it...I concede."







Professor Rollwright did a little checking and gave me some historical examples of Snipers impacting a given battle.

I must say, the Sniper mechanic is one of those things in ASL that is completely unpredictable. You can't build it into your attack or defense planning...and yet you can't ignore it either.
 So...there we were with less than a hour of game time elapsed and the scenario was over. My regular STL opponent and I picked out our scenario for next week...diced for sides and talked about work, family, and the vagaries of ASL.



Recently, there was an active thread about when to give a concession during a game on the GS Forum. That thread was running through my head as my opponent conceded this game.  I couldn't blame him, as with only two turns of movement left and with very little opportunity for movement in Turn 3...it just looked like he couldn't get the win. But you never know...and that's the kicker. His forces were on the verge of a breakout when the Sniper took out the 8-0 and two squads...but those two squads had Prepped...so they weren't going to move anyway. His 9-1 and troops on the right flank were still ready to advance.

 But none of that mattered at the time to my opponent. He had ELR'd and disrupted. For him, the losses he had suffered were more than he wanted to lose. And that's a key element to my opponent's ASL psychology. Of course that can be limiting in a game...where pieces will be lost and will have to be lost if victory is to be achieved.

In ASL...it's the Nick Nolte's will to win driving the Cardboard Staros to take the hill...no matter the cost. That's the math in a game about war. I have to admit that I respect my regular STL opponent's grasp of the human cost inherent in the game. 







 On that aspect of war, both Professor Rollwright and I were in earnest agreement.

I thanked the good Professor for joining us on this AAR and look forward to our future collaborations!








Until next week...good night!