For our next weekend ASL adventure, Dan Best and I selected ASL Scenario 129 Slamming of the Door. Grognards form the days of Cross of Iron may remember this as Scenario 102 and was one of the first scenarios to utilize Battlefield Integrity. As for myself, I had not played this one since 1981 or 1982. So when Dan suggested it as our next game, I was onboard. Some part of me always likes to remember the early days of Squad Leader and the pure joy the game had in those early days.
There are some changes in the SL and ASL versions. The ASL version removes a German 9-1, adds an HMG and mortar and for the Russians, a mortar and additional tank are added.
There are some important SSR's for this scenario. The most important is that there are no grain fields. For a summer 1941 Russian Front scenario this is a little unique. But of course this scenario takes place in the more wooded areas southeast of Leningrad. German Army Group North would not enjoy the sweeping panzer drives experienced by Army Groups Center and South across the Ukraine. No...their war would be very different.
Slamming of the Door depicts a Soviet Counter-Attack launched on the German 409th Infantry Regiment near the Panikovo Forest. The hard charging Germans had pushed too far without adequate anti-tank support and would have to hunker down in defensive positions and hope to weather the storm until help arrives. By SSR, the German help would come in the form of 3 x Stugs, but the German player would have to roll one die beginning on Turn 2 to see if they would arrive that turn. I would miss the rolls until Turn 4, when they automatically come on board. This would be a good news/bad news kind of a deal. Yes, they were late to the party, but the longer they took to arrive, the more CVP the Russians had to obtain to win the scenario. The Russians would win the game if at the end of any turn, they had the necessary CVP. For this game, Dan would need 22 CVP to get the victory.
After rolling for sides, Dan would be the Russians and the scenario attacker. He would command elements of the Soviet 11th Army. The 11th Army would fight hard to defend the approaches to Leningrad throughout the summer of 1941 and winter of 1942. Following heavy losses in the fighting against Demyansk and later at Kursk, this army would disbanded in 1943.
Dan's force would consist of 16 x 4-4-7's, a 2-3-7 led by an 8-1, 8-0 and 9-0 Commissar with an MMG, 2 x LMG's and a 50 Mortar for support. On the armor side, Dan would field 6 x T-26's. Not a stellar force, but for 1941, pretty capable of getting the job done.
By SSR, Dan's boys would have MOL capability. The old Scenario 102 included the Molotov counters. It's interesting to see how ASL managed to remove counters like Panzerfausts, ATM's and Molotovs from the game. It certainly helps on the management of counter stacks, but the uncertainty of whether you will have a given item sometimes leaves a lot to be desired.
As the Germans, I would be the scenario defender and be tasked with keeping as many of my Grenadiers alive by game end as possible. By SSR, I would have to setup in a narrow band of ground across board 4 and then with only 1 MMC per hex. I would not have any kill stacks on the map. I would command elements of the German 409th Infantry Regiment, 122nd Infantry Division.
This division would fight at Leningrad, Demyansk, Narva and ultimately fall in the Courland Pocket. My force would consist of 10 x 4-6-7's and a 2-4-7 led by a 9-1, 8-1 and 8-0 with an HMG, 2 x LMG's, an ATR, and 50 Mortar for support. I would also receive 80mm OBA. And at some point during the game, I would get 3 x Stug 75*'s with a 9-1 Armor Leader.
My lack of AT capability certainly worried me. I couldn't afford to lose the ATR early in the battle. So that would be one of my concealed units and await just the right moment to reveal.
The Grumble Jones staff photographer would be embedded with the Russians. His footage was found after the battle...as his whereabouts are unknown...he is presumed KIA'd on the field with many of the other Russian 4-4-7's.
A look at the start of the scenario. We both set up on board with the Soviet Armor in motion and ready to enter on Turn 1. Dan's initial setup really took me by surprise. I have gotten used to his Schwerpunkts and had expected that he would hit me hard either on one end or right down the middle. Instead, he would come at me in a solid, board length wave, which would test my defense to the limit.
Dan's first roll of the game was a Snakes. It would break my9-1, but I would roll snakes for the squad and create a Hero. Dan and I would trade snakes and boxcars all night along in yet another wild night of ASL. I hesitate to tell you this...but this game would be every bit as fun as the last two we had played. Which honestly I didn't think lightning would strike twice let alone three times. But yes, this night's ASL would be in the epic range.
Dan and I would go on to create three Heroes by the end of this scenario.
Dan would come at me with everything he had on Turn 1. He began on my left flank and incredibly, my 4-6-7's KIA'd or broke every squad that came at us. By the end of the movement phase, Dan's Russians had been bloodily repulsed. My 6 hex range and lucky dice managed to throw the first Russian assault back with heavy loss.
Dan's armor came on and made for my left flank.
At the end of Dan's part of Turn, the Russians had made some progress, but the German positions were unscathed.
Fortunately for Dan, he was able to rout nearly all of his men to either the 8-1 or 9-0 Commissar.
Dan's Commissar would do a great job of rallying the bulk of Dan's boys. He would reduce a couple 4-4-7's to 4-2-6's and he did shoot about 5 guys, but he would lead a successful destruction of the German left flank.
In my Prep Fire, I tired to dig in and entrench. I would get one foxhole.
I'm a big believer in digging in when you can.
Turn 2 - Dan's boys came at me just as hard. Again, I was able to repulse the infantry as they tried to cross the open ground.
Stopping Dan's tanks was another issue entirely. I fired my MG's at them with no effect. Meanwhile Dan's mortar would break three times in a row. He would fix it twice and then destroy it. It never fired an actual round the entire game.
I would get my first Spotting round but it was totally off and my 7-0 with the Radio would break and lose contact before that one could be corrected.
The situation after two turns was considerably worse for my Germans. I was broken all over the field, my 4-6-7 with the mortar had been KIA'd and my positions on the left flank were cut off from the rest of my force. Despite Dan's early losses, his armor was doing a good job of turning things around.
Keeping their heads down was all my boys could do.
On the right flank, I managed to hold my ground and even take some prisoners.
With both flanks heavily engaged, Dan next moved on to hit my center. Two tanks rumbled adjacent along with as many infantry as he could get across the open ground. My ATR barked and managed to Shock one of the T-26'. It would go on to Unconfirmed Kill and then to confirmed Kill.
On of Dan's T-26's would be immobilized as well. Just like that Dan was down to 4 tanks.
Over on the left, my boys were barely hanging on with infantry and tanks swarming them.
In his Turn 3 Defensive Fire, Dan would break my 8-1 and the Landsers with him. That would be all she wrote in that sector.
My 7-0 would finally get my arty in the battle.
Finally on Turn 4, my Stugs would race on to the battlefield.
My OBA would also begin falling. It would do little damage, but would set a house on fire. So...that's something right...??
At this point in the game, Dan was at nearly 15 CVP. He still needed 7 for the win. And that's when it hit me...why was I sending my Stugs into harm's way?? Oh good grief, if I lost one, it could be disastrous.
The last two T-26's would target one of my Stug's.
A look at the armor situation. Dan's immobilized tank had malf'd its MA and three other tanks were knocked out. The Germans had all three Stug's in an operational state.
On Turn 5, I would drop smoke dischargers and move my Stug's out of danger.
Dan would send his last tanks and infantry crashing into my center. I would KO another T-26 and the other would malf' its MA. The armor battle was over. Dan and I would trade Close Combat wins and that would be the end of the game.
A final look at the game. We had played through 6 full turns. Dan would lose 12-1/2 squads. I would lose 6 squads. It had been a bloody fight all the way around. And while I managed to secure the victory, it certainly felt like a tie. Dan had staged an amazing come back following his heavy losses of turns 1 and 2. At one point in the game, I was down to only 2-1/2 unbroken squads. It had been a very near thing. But my Germans had held the line.
As always, my thanks to Dan for another epic nights ASL. So far April has been an awesome month of ASL. While I know every game can't be as exciting...I sure have enjoyed these last three.
Dan and I will return next Saturday from the ruins of Stalingrad as we both play our first Valor of the Guards battle with Scenario VotG Eviction Notice.
I can't wait...
See you next week!