For our Thursday game, I welcomed a new opponent to the Skype Line for what would be a classic Cardboard via Skype battle. Tom Abromaitis and I had talked about getting a game together nearly a year ago and on Thursday night we met upon the fabled ASL Cardboard Field of Battle!
For our first contest (the first of many to come I hope) we selected the Yanks 2 version of T3 Ranger Stronghold now numbered ASL Scenario 179. The most significant difference would be the replacement of key officers. The Germans would lose a 9-2 and the Americans would gain a 10-3. And as you will see, the performance of Tom's 10-3 would be the highlight of our game!
After all...it's not called Squad Leader for nothing!
Ranger Stronghold takes place in the Lattari Mountains which are NW of Salerno. There the American Rangers would earn their first Italian Battle honors against the German counterattacks against the Allied beachhead. ROAR shows the scenario to favor the Germans with 116 German Wins to only 70 American. Tom would dice for sides and as luck would have it...he drew the Americans and would be the scenario defender.
Tom would command elements of the First Ranger Battalion. He would have 5 x 7-4-7's, a 3-3-7 with 2 x MMG's, 4 x Bazookas and ably led by a 10-3 and 8-0.
Tom would have to hold out for 6 turns and maintain a least one unbroken MMC on or between hexrows H-P in hexes less than or equal to 5. Not an easy task to be sure.
As the scenario attacker, I would command a Kampgruppe from the 16th Panzer Division I would have 6 x 4-6-7's, 6 x 4-4-7's, an MMG, 5 x LMG's and all led by a 9-1, 8-1, 8-0 and 7-0...with two Panzer MKIV's in support. A very capable force to say the least. In this particular scenario my Germans would setup and move first. This setup would give Tom's defenders a heads up as to where my grenadiers would be heading.
The Grumble Jones staff photographer would be embedded with Tom's Rangers and document the evening cardboard carnage!
The blue line shows the German starting position. 10 Hexes is a fairly narrow front to attack along, so I was pretty well stacked up in the available cover. I had squads prepared to armor assault with each of the MKIV's. The white arrows show my planned objectives. I intended for both tanks to swing around the flanks and into the rear with as many infantry as could make it. In the center, I was aiming for the wooded gap between the cliffs, which would give me secure access onto the hill.
My boys were ready to go! Angreif!
Tom had elected to establish an "up in my grill" defense. I had setup with a mind for movement, but seeing the danger posed by Tom's boys on the hills, I went ahead and Prep-Fired several units. The German fire was very effective as a 7-4-7 was eliminated on the north center cliff and the 3-3-7 with the MMG on the hill summit would break and be forced to rout.
With the firing complete, ti was time to move forward into Tom's waiting GI's.
Tom's 10-3 on the south edge presented a serious concern for me. I couldn't risk any unsafe moves in front of his MMG. Certain death would be the result. So I limited my moves in the south. Fortunately, I was able to use the cliff hex sides for cover and some of my boys crossed the road and into the wooded draw. In the north, my boys moved ahead to confront the two 7-4-7's holding that flank.
With the heights cleared, I could focus my tanks on the other available Ranger targets. My tanks would be somewhat ineffective in the early turns, but would make up for by the end of the scenario.
Meanwhile in the north, Tom would use spraying fire to repulse my grenadiers.
My Panzers would ultimately help decide the game's outcome.
In Tom's phase of Turn 1, his 10-3 would make an epic run for the hills and right in front of my 9-1 with an LMG controlling the road.
I thought..."no way's he's really going to do that"...is he???
It was a ballsy move and Tom's 10-3 successfully led his boys across the road into the hills.
With the south flank open, in Turn 2, I sent a MKIV and some infantry to swing around. I had to be careful as Tom's 10-3 was in a commanding position once again.
Throughout the scenario, Tom would make good use of elevation.
Both MKIV's had moved into position to fire on the Rangers. In the south, the bazooka threat was minimal...but in the north bazooka shots were taken. Fortunately, they would bounce off the turret of the northern MKIV. Tom's 10-3 would have more success and eliminate a 4-6-7 in Close Combat. I forgot to keep my distance from the 10-3 and paid for it ...hard.
Turn 3 would see the biggest German movement of the scenario up to that point. I thought, I had done a good envelopment...but Tom would prove me wrong.
As my part of Turn 3 wound down, there were only three pockets of Rangers left to deal with.
But 7-4-7's never go down easy...
The Rangers in the center knew they would soon be surrounded by my Landsers.
Despite the 10-3 stack going down, Tom's other boys continued to try and escape my trap. The 3-3-7 with the MMG made a great run along the ridge. M armor pursued them as my grenadiers went into mopping up mode.
His escape would lead to tragedy...
As the game neared it's conclusion, Tom still had three Ranger elements on the field.
Tom's Rangers weren't going down easily.
The 10-3 stack would be DM'd once again and with that, the Germans would be able to close in for the kill.
In the north, the 8-0's tragedy would be complete as he rolled a 12 during Rally Phase. And in Salerno, a local woman, Malena would never see her American Soldier again...
The final Ranger unit still standing on Turn 6 was the 3-3-7 with the MMG. They had escaped trap and trap and even an overrun attempt by one of the Mark IV's.
If they could survive this turn, the Americans would pull our a miracle win.
German MG-42's barked once more and the 3-3-7 broke. And with that the Germans had the victory.
The fiver German LMG's were definitely a strong element of the German's success in this scenario.
Tom had managed to hold out until the very end and was a half turn from potential victory. Despite some early setbacks, Tom's Rangers had made a tough fight of it for the Germans. And had the 10-3 not been wounded...it's scary to imagine how many more of my grenadiers may have been eliminated trying to take him down.
My thanks to Tom for a great first game together. I look forward to many more.