Sunday, August 6, 2017

Our Saturday Game - ASL Scenario E HILL 621 - Slaughter in the Steppes

Hill 621...the very name of this scenario evokes memories of the first days of Squad Leader, when storming this hill was the baptism of gaming for so many of us. What other scenario has an entire battalion of Soviet Infantry outside of Red Barricades or Valor of the Guards?This is the granddaddy of all scenarios and perhaps the game's greatest!!

As a teenager with my spanking, brand new copy of Squad Leader, there was no scenario that jumped out at me and my gaming group, more than Hill 621. In those early days, we couldn't have too many squads. Bigger was always better.

One of the downsides of the early days of Squad Leader and ASL, was that I never bothered to record my games or keep any sort of track. I had not matured into the kind of player I am today. In those early days, Squad Leader was treated like Panzer Blitz or Midway or Wooden Ships and Iron Men. We played it, put it away and went on to the next game, until we once again pulled Squad Leader off the shelf.

Another thing, which made Hill 621 so appealing was the lack of scenarios in those early days. DYO of course was big, but I cannot remember how often we would return to Hill 621 to play king of the hill. In the Squad Leader days, the game played much more quickly as men died much more easily. There were no Snipers, no ELR, and no Half-Squads. Miss your morale checks and you were gone. Of course, Defensive Fire did not exist as it does today in ASL. There were no Fire Lanes, no residual Fire, and no Subsequent Fire. So crossing the wide open Steppes with 48 squads had a good chance of being successful. Not so in ASL...and not so in our Saturday game as Dan Best and I played the King of ASL Scenarios...the one, the only....HILL 621.

Dan and I would roll for sides and I would draw the Russians. My record as a Russian is dismal. I rarely win as the Russians.But with 56 could I lose. Surely, I would roll over my completely outnumbered German foe like a Sharknado!!!

Unfortunately for assaulting Russians would run smack into a buzz saw of German machine guns.

Hill 621 depicts the events of the fateful summer of 1944, in the days following Operation Bagration. This Soviet assault was designed to shatter the German Army Group Centre. It would be an unqualified success and lead to the ultimate defeat of the Germans in Soviet Russia.

The Germans in this scenario would be tasked with holding back the Soviet horde with a mere 8 squads. There may be no other scenario where one look at the OOB causes your fingers to twitch and you immediately wish you were the other side. But as this AAR will show, 8 German squads, well deployed with a little luck are more than enough to stop a Battalion of Russians moving in the open.

Before we continue, we should note that this scenario and the other Classic Squad Leader Scenarios are available for free download from MMP.

Dan's German OOB:

8 x 4-6-7's with an HMG, MMG, 3 x LMG's led by a 9-2 and 8-1 would start the game as the sole German defenders. They would also have 80mm OBA.  This group of Germans would also have to roll morale checks prior to the start of the scenario. Dan would roll horribly and break fully half of his force. 2 of his broken 4-6-7's would stay broken for the entirely of our game.

On Turn 1 Dan would receive a half-track and a 75L AT Gun. On Turn 2, he would receive 4 x MKIV's with 75L guns. On Turn 4, he would get 4 half-tracks with 4 x 8-3-8's with a radio, HMG, MMG and led by a 10-3 and 8-0. These are the boys who have the reverse slopes of Hill 621 for almost 40 years of game play. On Turn 5, the Germans receive a MKIV, 3 x STUGS, 2 Half-Tracks and a 50L AT Gun. But wait...there's more! On Turn 8, they receive a 105 STUG.

All in all , the Germans have a respectable force, well designed to repel a much larger force.

It should be noted that the Germans receive two separate OBA's. I can't think of too many scenarios where this is the case. And I can't think of too many scenarios where OBA can be used so effectively.

My Russian OOB:

Oh yeah...this an OOB!!!  24 x 4-4-7's, 24 x 5-2-7's led by a 9-1 and 2 x8-0's with 2 x MMG's and 4 x LMG's would have the task of crossing the death zone known as Board 4 and scale the slopes of Hill 621. But hey...there are only 8 German squads. Easy peezy right!?!  For reinforcements, my Russians would receive 6 x T-34/76's on Turn 2 and then on Turn 5, 6 x 6-2-8's with an HMG led by a 9-2 and supported by 2 x SU-152's and 3 x SU-122's. These boys would be used to tangle with the 8-3-8's waiting for them on the reverse slopes of Hill 621. There are few if any scenarios where you have so many Russian squads. And it's one of the few times that the Russians don't have a single ATR...and you will miss these intensely.

 "Now heard that Board 4 is certain death to cross....but don't believe that propaganda. The Germans have maybe 8 squads over there and heck...most of them are broken. So just go forward comrades and take that Hill. Mother Russia is counting on you!"

 Dan elected to go with an upfront defense. It would either work brilliantly or leave his forces perilously exposed as my forces swept across the steppes.

 I placed my 2 x MMG's in the 2nd level of the famed Board 3 building. A single 4-4-7and the 9-1 would man this post. (Placing only 1 squad here would prove disastrous.)
 The Germans got to move first and Dan's first shot would hit my 9-2 with the two MMG's. 

I had met Dan's 9-2...he would be the source of my pain for 4 Turns.
 First long range and my 9-1 breaks...he would never contribute again. So before my men even set off from the start line, I was down to only 2 officers for 48 squads...not good...
 My boys jump off and head off in stacks towards Hill 621. I expected to take losses, but moved forward on turn 1 relatively unscathed. Only made one critical error and 3 of my 5-2-7's were cut down by the 9-2. The first of Dan's many KIA, 4 MC's, 3 MC's, and 2 MC's that he would inflict on my Battalion.

 The first spotting round crashed into the center of my boys. The first of many shell bursts to come.

Dan's spotters would keep the arty accurate.
 Turn 2 German reinforcements rumbled in onto my left flank. My boys were in a world of hurt on that flank with no AT weapons to be found.

 Then came the artillery...

 Dan's 8-1 would keep the hurt on me with the Arty.

 Turn 2 - a look at Dan's defense. He had two squads still broken from the beginning of the scenario. So literally 6 squads were facing my squads.

6 x 4-6-7's were waiting on my advancing Russians. It almost seemed unfair...until Dan's MG's really opened up...then seemed so unfair!!!
 Dan's AT Gun had come on during Turn 1. Dan went for the ESB roll to attempt to stop and ended up immobilizing the half-track. 

Dan's AT Gun would get into position and actually do more harm to my infantry than to my armor.
 One of my "12's" in the upper right corner. This one resulted in the KIA of an entire squad.  

Yep...this is what rolling the dice felt like for much of the night...

 Then one of my successful morale checks ends up activating the sniper. It naturally landed on my top officer. I would roll doubles so my 9-1 was KIA'd and my squad was broken and then on the leader loss morale check became a broken 2-2-6. Good grief...once again the sniper makes a huge impact on the game. 

Helluva shot...helluva shot...
 Turn 2, my six T-34/76's roll into the battle. 

 The arty continued to rain down as I tried to pressure Dan's 9-2. He simply smoked my units and my attack evaporated.

 Lacking an AT response to Dan's MKIV's, I launched my 5-2-7's in a swarm to try and take down the tanks in CC. Dan would stop all but two of the squads. And then in CC neither one would pass the PAATC. I was exasperated at that point.

 Dan's 9-2 continued to rain death on me. He was positioned perfectly.

 On the right flank...the fire lanes tell the story. I was simply unable to move and with casualties mounting...I couldn't bring myself to move into the fire lanes.

 My armor came on and my plan was for them to move directly to the hill as fast as possible. 

 Turn 2 look at my positions. Not much progress was made.
 Dan's MKIV's did an awesome job of fending off my infantry.

 The white circles show Dan's MG nests, which were holding the line against a Battalion of Russians...did  mention I had 48...I mean 33 squads...or was it 30 at this point...I forget...

 After wiping out my 5-2-7 swarm attack...Dan's Panzers did me a solid by Malf'ing an this point in the game even Dan was starting to feel sorry for me...

 My left flank had been crushed.

 In the center, Dan's arty had set my rally point on fire. 

 Dan's 9-2 continued to thwart my best efforts to put pressure on him. And every broken Russian squad was practically mission killed. I had no way to rally them.

 Having crushed me on the left, Dan's Panzers moved to towards the hill and the center to face my T-34's.

 Dan's MKIV with the malf'd MA went on to destroy it and was promptly recalled.

 Turn 4...yes we made it to Turn 4. I was still under the illusion that I could continue the fight. Dan's reinforcements...the 8-3-8's and their 10-3 were on the way to secure the Hill.

 At this point in the game...I was a bit of a wounded a Bull with all the barbs in it's back...I was slashing at the matador...trying to hook him with a horn. Not a good frame of mind for an ASL player. I sent my tanks to try and get kills instead of continuing on to the hill. One went towards the center in an attempt to take out one of the MKIV's. I would miss in Bounding fire and be destroyed in Dan's Prep Fire.
 Dan's 9-2 took out another T-34 with a Panzerfaust and everyone survived the backblast. And yet another tank would Malf' it's MA in a bounding fire shot at Dan's 9-2. Dan's 9-2 was smacking me around relentlessly.

 Three of my tanks continued on towards the Hill and an uncertain fate.

 The remaining pockets of Russians.

 Dan's reinforcements stream onto Hill 621 and prepare a strong defense.

 Turn 4 would be our last. After 6 hours of game play and a butt spanking of epic proportions...I felt the time was right for a concession. I literally was down to 13 good order squads facing Dan's 12 total squads. Dan's 9-2 was still in place and making forward movement nearly impossible. The addition of strong force on the hill spelled doom for me. 

Yes...I could only reflect on the failure of my gallant charge across the steppes of Board 4.  ROAR will forever record my attempt as another victory for the Germans. Hill 621 had defeated me yet again.

But we will meet again...oh most certainly...we will meet again.
 Game end...I had lost in the neighborhood of 20-25 squads, 2 tanks and what was left of my honor. My congrats to Dan on a solid victory. He would lose a mere half-squad at my hands. The pain of this loss will certainly linger a while. 

My disappointed commanders...I would have to explain my failure to take Hill 621...

Meanwhile Dan's 9-2 would receive the Knight's Cross for the destruction of a Russian Battalion and for restoring the line at a critical moment.

 A little celebration for Dan's Germans. 

Dan and I will be taking a two week break as I have family affairs to tend to and Dan has a Kansas City ASL Club Games Day to help manage. 

So we will see you again in two weeks.

1 comment:

  1. Your accounting brought back fantastic memories of ASL conquests with old friends from so very long ago. We would also come back to Hill 621 to be re-baptized in it's epic fury. Thank you for that well rendered accounting that gave me back some great memories!!