Sunday, June 16, 2019

Our Friday Game - Scenario MM52 Riverfront Property

Generally as a rule, I don't blog my Friday Games with my best friend from St. Louis. In the early days of my blog, my games against Scott in St. Louis were the primary staple of all my ASL and of my blog posts. Scott and I grew up together in St. Louis and began playing ASL on a regular basis in 1989 after finally putting Squad Leader away. Up until 2013, Scott had been my only opponent for nearly all of my ASL life. And after attending the 2013 Texas Tournament...I realized how badly I had learned the rules and how badly I was playing the game. It was an awakening. And it was at that time and place that we headed down different paths. I wanted to keep learning and improve my game and squeeze all the juice out of ASL that I could. My friend in St. Louis didn't share that interest. For him, a game of ASL once or twice a month was all he wanted. Now I was able to get our understanding of the rules moved forward and we play way better games than we did back in the day. To some extent it does make me sad to be moving on a different ASL track than the guy I shared so many ASL adventures with, but time moves on and I have been very fortunate to add new players to my opponents and in so many ways, I am living in a Golden Age of ASL. Naturally, Scott and I will continue to play ASL and I'll always be grateful that we have shared this ASL connection for 30 years now. That's a pretty amazing thing. 


Now, I will admit, since Dan Best and I are not playing this Saturday or next...I was sorta looking forward to a nice long break from blogging. I love to blog, but the average AAR takes 4-6 hours to complete...so sometimes a little time off is welcome. 

But the scenario, which Scott and I elected to play this Friday night would be MM52 Riverfront Property from the Kansas City Club's, 2019 March Madness Close Combat Pack.  And this particular scenario is designed by Keven Adams, who I am lucky enough to consider a friend. Keven's Stalingrad designs in the various March Madness Packs are very good. So, I really wanted the opportunity to do an AAR on this scenario.

The scenario is set in Stalingrad on 18th, November, 1942. The action depicts the efforts of the German 546th Regiment to dislodge the remaining Russians of the 241st Rifle Regiment on the west bank of the Volga River. 




German 546th Regiment of 389th Infantry Division versus Russian 241st Rifle Regiment of the 95th  Rifle Division.


November 1942 would be the time-frame for the German Operation Hurbertus, which would embody the last efforts by the Germans to clear all Russian forces out of Stalingrad. Success would elude the Germans and this scenario accurately depicts the desperation of the Germans to finish the battle and that of the Russians to hold their last footholds west of the Volga. 






My primary source material for this AAR...noooo….just kidding. Island of Fire by Jason D. Mark is what I was actually looking at!!


Ground snow would be in effect during this scenario.


After rolling for sides, I would be the defending Russians. I would command the hard bitten fighters of the 241st Rifle Regiment of the 95th Rifle Division. These men would hold their positions and the Germans would be encircled three days later. My force would consist of 9 x 4-4-7's, 2 x 2-4-8's led by a 9-1 and 8-0 with an MMG, LMG, and 2 x ATR's. 

The entire battlefield would be covered in debris. In fact, I would run out of debris counters to place on the map. I would have two trench locations in 40Y4 and 40Y5. The Germans would win if they had control of both locations at game end.


As the attacking Germans, Scott would command the grenadiers of the 546th Infantry Regiment of the 389th Infantry Division. By November 18th, this regiment would be closer to battalion strength and nearing the end of its combat effectiveness. The attrition of the fighting in October had severely reduced the German units in Stalingrad. Scott' force would consist of 8 x 4-6-7's, 4 x 4-4-7's, led by a 9-2, 8-1, and 2 x 8-0's with 3 x LMG's, 2 x DC's and armor support consisting of a PZ MKIII G and SPW 250/9 Halftrack.

I set up a defense with 4-4-7's thrown out to cover my flanks, while I put my ATR's and MMG with both leaders and squads in the trench victory locations hexes. With all the debris on the battlefield, I knew I would not be able to fight a long range fight.



For the most part, Scott practiced his usual caution as he moved. But then inexplicably he moved a stack right out in the open. I hit them from a 4-4-7 at ranged and managed to break Scott's boys. And the Russian Sniper would be incredibly active. I would roll at least 4 "1's" and for the first half of the game, my snipers would deal the most damage to Scott's Grenadiers. Here the first of the 8-0's is KIA'd by a sniper. The second 8-0 would follow shortly.

It definitely seemed to my opponent that I had more than 1 sniper in action!!!

My snipers would change the course of this battle. 

Scott would miss his 8-0's as his Grenadiers would break and have no one available to rally them.

Scott sent his grenadiers on a broad front with his armor assets headed down the middle. Keep in mind the anti-tank ditch counters actually represent a gully that runs the length of the road.


I had not set up too far in the front. So Scott's boys made good progress from their start line. I would hold my fire and let the Germans get closer.

Scott's 9-2 would scan the area trying to find where the Russians were  hiding.


Scott would succeed in revealing three of my  units as Pin Checks and Normal MC's forced me to reveal my units.

Scott's  9-2 would focus on my 8-0 with the LMG. He would succeed in breaking them.




After probing along the entire front, Scott shifted his effort towards my left flank. This made sense. There was good cover and it was closer to the trench victory locations. But Scott would leave too many squads hung out on the right flank.



Scott would do a good job of clearing the left flank, but my 9-1 would hit his grenadiers hard with the MMG..



In the center, Scott would send his armor to knock out my trench positions. My ATR's would both open up and get hits, but no penetrations.




Scott had extended his line to my trenches. But his infantry strength was strongest on the flanks and his 9-2 with two of the LMG's was busy firing on my units.



Now the game would take an interesting turn. I had a broken 4-4-7 on the right, which would snake an MC and then go berserk. They would survive all the fire directed at them and jump onto a hapless 4-6-7.

Go get 'em boys!!!


My berserkers would take down the German 4-6-7 and distract the 9-2 from it's mission. but...my boys were breaking and dying by the half-squad across the battlefield. My 9-1 and his group were hanging tough though!




Going into Turn 5, my boys still held both trench locations, but everywhere else my boys were dead or broken. The Germans had the strength to win...but were too far out of position to make a run on my trench locations.

The final German movement phase would show a strong move from the left flank...but my MMG laid down the long planned for Fire Lane and stop the final attack. Game over....Russian Victory!!!

It had been hard fought game with losses on both sides. In the end, the Germans spent too much time firing and not enough moving. With only five turns, the German Player definitely needs to move fast and be willing to take some losses. My thanks to Scott for another great game to add to our long gaming history. Scott and I are planning to play MM 55 Johnny 1 next.


Happy Fathers' Day to all you Dad's out there!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Our Saturday Game - Scenario MM09 Old Child Harbor (and Grumble Jones 600th Post)

Well...another Saturday and another great "Our Saturday Game". I have to say that I really enjoyed our scenario this night...all the way to the last Rally Phase...hold that thought...we'll get there....and it will be as funny as it is shocking. Probably more funny...

Our scenario choice for this night's gaming was inspired by the most recent 2 Half-Squads Pod cast (http://www.the2halfsquads.com/ ).  Episode 222 has an excellent interview of Oliver Gray. Dave and Jeff, perhaps ASL's best ambassadors conducted a really interesting interview of Oliver, who in the course of the interview mentioned the 1945 Mutiny on Texel Island. Furthermore, he mentioned that the Kansas City ASL Club had done an entire scenario pack on the mutiny. 

This particular pack has been out of print for quite some time, so is difficult to find. However, four of the scenarios were reprinted in "The Very Best of March Madness (Vol. 1) Pack, which is still available at  (http://www.kansascityasl.com/html/publications.html). 




The pack contains 16 scenarios which include the Texel Island ones as well Partisan-based scenarios and miscellaneous other actions. A great pack for the price.

So the scenario we picked was MM09 Old Child Harbor (designed by Dan Best...who?) . It's always fun to play against the designer of a scenario. They know all the tricks to winning. Now a word of caution..."read the SSR's....closely". I had read them and then forgotten that Dan's boys would have Panzerfausts. Let's just say, I didn't set up my defense with that understanding. It didn't cost me...but could have. So READ them SSR's. Don't be like Grumble Jones. 






The Texel Island Mutiny occurred in April of 1945. Members of the 822nd Georgian Battalion had been garrisoned on the island alongside mixed Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine units. Long story short, the Georgians knew the war was rapidly ending and they did not desire to be taken prisoner as collaborators with the Germans. They understood all too well that Stalin would not welcome them home. So in the middle of the night, they murdered their German comrades as they slept. Roughly 400 Germans were knifed or bayoneted as they slept. I have always found this part of the mutiny to be particularly disturbing. And it would cause the Germans to pursue the mutineers to their deaths with a ferocious vengeance...which honestly isn't hard to understand. Dutch Civilians on the island would also assist the Georgians. It was a desperate gamble and the Georgians had convinced themselves that the Allies would come to their rescue. It wasn't to be and the Georgians would be destroyed, except for the few who managed to hide until the war ended.

Monument to the Texel Island Mutiny.

Texel Island


The site of the scenario MM09 Old Child Harbor.







There's a lot of good information on the Mutiny that can be found with a simple Google Search. I first read about the mutiny as kid from a copy of Charles Whiting's "The End of the War". I really struggled at that age to understand what was happening. I just wasn't well read enough at that time to make sense of Georgians and Germans fighting on a Dutch Island. Adulthood does have its advantages!!!

Charles Whiting was one of the more prolific authors whose books I read every chance I could. I was particularly fond of Whiting's book on Arnhem. I lent it to an SL buddy back in 1983...and sadly haven't seen it since.





After rolling for sides, Dan would be the attacking Georgians and Dutch Partisans. His force would consist of 2 x 5-3-7's, 12 x 4-4-7's, led by a 9-1, 8-1, and 8-0 with 4 x LMG's, 2 x MMG's, 3 x DC's and a 50 MTR. The Dutch Partisans would consist of 5 x 3-3-7's led by a 7-0 and 6+1 with 2 x ATR's.

Now, this force is represented by Minor Axis - Romanian (solid green) counters. And they would have 1945 Panzerfausts. Did I say they had Panzerfausts...just don't want anyone to forget that....like I did.









As the German defender, I would be doing my best to hold off the Georgians with a mixed group of Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine boys. My force would consist of 2 x 4-4-7's, 2 x 4-3-6's, a 2-3-7, a 2-3-6 and 2 x 2-2-8's, led by an 8-1 and 7-0 with an HMG, an Armored Cupola (coax MG and 37L MA), 2 x 37L AA guns, 2 x 1+5+7 Pillboxes, 4 x Wires, 5 x Fortified Buildings, and 3 x Trench. Not a very strong force to resist the Georgian onslaught. The good news...they would be reinforced on Turn 4 by 7 x 4-4-7's, 9 x 4-3-6's, led by an 8-1, 8-0, and 7-0 with 3 x LMG's and 2 x MMG's. Oh and a sweet bonus of a Module of 120mm OBA with off-board observer. Nice...



Ok as you shall see by the end of this AAR...I am Gilligan... I don't want to spoil it for you...so you'll just have to wait to see how this great game ends!!!

ROAR and the ASL Archive both have this scenario with 1 Georgian Win and 0 German Wins.


And now for Dan's Pre-Game Commentary:

"The Georgians advantage in this scenario is initially outnumbering the Germans 19 squads to 6 squads.  And having two assault engineer squads to attack the fortifications.  The disadvantage in this scenario is having to divide your force to attack separate victory objectives.  The victory conditions require getting two of three German gun positions, the armored cupola and two AA guns.  Each sets up on a separate board and the Germans can use the fortifications to make it very difficult.  So the Georgians may have to divide their attack force and attack two areas.  Also the terrain can be very constricting when crossing the stream or canal.  The plan for the Georgians is to attack the area with the most fortifications and use the Partisans to search the other areas for the hidden AA guns.  Hopefully the assault will be able to crack the fortifications before the German reinforcements arrive.  Also the Partisans can find and take out the other gun.  During play test of this scenario, one of the three victory guns always seems to sit out the battle. "


OKAY game time..."So just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...A tale of a fateful scenario...that starts now!!!



Ok game fans...here's my defensive plan. Dan would win immediately by destroying 2 of my 3 assets..the 2 x 37L AA Guns and the Armored Cupola. By SSR the Cupola has to set up Board 8 with an LOS to Hex 23EE5. One AA Gun must setup on Board 23 and the other on Board 22. With a total of 5 squads...you really can't spread your defense...so I would try to simply hide the Board 23 AA Gun. I placed the Cupola to help my defense along the harbor and the Board 22 AA Gun was hidden behind buildings with an LOS to the ford. It's mission was to protect my Pillbox. I anchored both ends of my line with a pillbox and wired the approaches to the bridge. The stream can only be crossed at the bridge or the ford. I fortified ground and Level 1 of two separate buildings. The bridge Pillbox would house a 4-4-7 with the 8-1 and the Ford Pillbox would have 2-3-7 with the MMG.  Yeah...this was going to stop 14 squads....I'd probably have a better chance of being hit by lightning!!!



Dan's Georgians set up on Board 46 and are ready to rapidly move across the harbor village and wipe me out.



 
The Dutch Partisans would set up to search Board 23 for my hidden 37L AA Gun. Again...one of the great things about playing Cardboard via SKYPE is that you can set up all your HIP stuff and your opponent can't see it!!


Turn 1 - the Georgians and Dutch Partisans move forward. 



Unbelievably...Dan moved precisely to where my hidden 37L AA Gun was on Board 23. I had placed the gun so that it cover the foot bridge and couldn't be attacked from its rear. The 7-0 and Squad with the ATR would be obliterated when the gun opened up. But now...my gun was discovered...



While my AA Gun on Board 23 fought off Partisans, Dan's Georgians began moving on my Harbor Defense. I would hold my fire for as long as possible. 


Back on 23...Dan's Dutch Partisans were converging on my AA Gun. At this point, I was thinking..."man this will be a short game". 


Dan's Georgians continued to press towards my harbor defense. My pillbox by the harbor would take down some of Dan's boys, while his mortar and a Partisan ATR (11 hexes away) plinked away at my Armored Cupola.

My Armored Cupola would contribute greatly to my defense and survive multiple hits from the ATR. It would not be as lucky in surviving the mortar. That dang mortar!


Dan's boys searched the entire western edge of the board while searching for my second 37L AA Gun. It would reveal itself soon enough.


 Back on 23, my AA Gun was holding it's own.



 My Armored Cupola would MALF it's MA...but I immediately fixed it in the next Rally Phase. Meanwhile my MMG in the ford pillbox would knock down Dan's MMG kill stack. 





As Turn 4 neared its end...Dan's Georgians took up position to defend against my reinforcements. 





In other news, Dan would successfully enter the ford Pillbox and kill my half-squad in close combat. This squad would destroy my MMG and then exit the pillbox to move up the road towards the harbor. At that point, my second AA Gun opened and KIA's them on top of the pillbox. Dan now knew where everything was located.



 Back on 23, the Dutch Partisans kept coming!!

 Turn 4 - my reinforcements storm into the battle. 



 My boys would move quickly towards the harbor to push Dan's Georgians away from the ford.

On 23, my AA Gun had repulsed every attack. And in a classic Grumble Jones move, I decided to Intensive Fire my gun to see if I could KIA the stack of brokies with the 6+1.  And yep....I MALF'd the gun. This was to have devastating consequences. 




Back on 22 - my boys were getting the upper hand, but my Armored Cupola was getting battered by the mortar. It would Shock me and I would recover in the next Rally Phase. But things were getting dicey.


 Despite MALF'ing my AA gun on 23, the Partisans had to rout and rally before coming at me again.


I would regret taunting Dan's broken Partisans.


 Turn 5 - This was my turn for sure. I made great progress and had Dan's boys on the run. But Dan had managed to DEMO the wire blocking the bridge. He was ready to attempt a crossing. 



 A look at our positions at the end of Turn 5. My Armored Cupola had been Shocked again by the mortar and was now Unconfirmed Kill.  That mortar was causing me sooooo much pain. (Dan had a 7 shot ROF at one point.)


 My 120mm ARTY also showed up with a spotting round to scare the Dutch Partisans.




OKAY..Turn 6 Rally Phase...I would roll to see if my Armored Cupola would survive its Unconfirmed Kill status. It did not and was eliminated. Dan had the first of the two assets he needed for the immediate win.

Next up for my Rally Phase was my MALF'd AA Gun on Board 23. Dan's Partisans were all rallied. So I knew...they would be coming for me. I had to have the gun...so I decided to try and repair it. I rolled the die..."6"...gun eliminated...and immediate victory for Dan's  Georgians. I've never lost a game during the Rally Phase before....but there it was. Dan had the 2 of the three assets he needed for the immediate win and I  had given him both in Rally Phase of Turn 6. 

I can't lie...I was devastated. My defense was holding and Dan only had one more movement turn. Victory was in my grasp...and then it was gone...because I MALF'd my gun. Ohhhh...the bitterness...

But...I made the decision to go for Intensive Fire despite the lessons I should have learned from last week's scenario. I didn't have to do it...and I paid a heavy price for it. 

"It's true...his memory has been erased...he's forgotten how dangerous Intensive Fire can be..."



A final look at what was a really fun game. I enjoyed every minute of it. It's a unique scenario covering a very unusual WW2 battle and has so many moving parts that make it just super fun. Congrats to Dan on a great win. His constant battering of my Armored Cupola was his biggest success. That makes 4 in a  Row for Dan...so he is on a great win streak. I'll do my best to end it!!!

Here's hoping the ASL dice gods stop smacking me around!!!



And now for Dan's Post-Game Commentary:

"The plan worked, more by luck than by skill.  The Georgians assaulted board 22 which had the fortifications while the Partisans swept board 23 to find the other AA gun.  The Partisans found the AA gun fairly fast but were taking serious losses in attacking the gun.  The German fortifications were very difficult to assault and the Georgians were taking losses.  To add to the mix the arrival of the German reinforcements was ending the attack when a lucky hit with the MTR on the cupola got a second unconfirmed kill and simultaneously the AA gun had malfunctioned shooting at attacking Partisans.  Both were lost in the rally of Georgian turn 6.  It was very close, both attacks were nearly out of options and had little left to make a strong assault.  Especially the Partisans.  In play test many people did not like the idea of the Germans losing because of malfunctioned guns.  It seems more bad dice and less player skill for a VC.  And this game confirmed it with a rally phase loss.  The luck of the die rolls was very anti-climatic in this game, bringing an abrupt end to the fun.  The Germans defense was very good and was holding.  My thanks to Grumble Jones for another great game!"



Dan and I will be off the next two Saturdays due to family obligations and Dan is headed to Texas for the Texas Tournament in two weeks. So...I'll be suffering some ASL withdrawal by the time Dan and I reconvene on June 29th for a playing of ASL Scenario AP94 Show of Force. Can't wait!!!

I wish Dan the best of luck as he and Dave Mareske make the pilgrimage to the Texas Team Tournament...which is always a hoot! And Dave and Jeff at the 2 Half-Squads...if you're reading this...Dan and Dave will be listening to 2 Half-Squad Podcasts all the way to Texas. They  have not been regular listeners....so you will gain two more FANS!!



And lastly....this POST is Number 600 for the Grumble Jones Blog. It's hard to believe it's been that many. Thanks to all of you for spending your valuable time at Grumble Jones. I really appreciate it. With any luck...600 more posts will be in the que!




See you again on the 29th of June!