Sunday, February 11, 2018

Our Saturday Game - ASL Scenario AP72 - Guns for St. Barbara

Once again, Dan Best and I met on the hexagonal grid iron of ASL for another fierce battle between cardboard platoons. Our Saturday games have come to define my weeks. I run all my errands Saturday morning...try to ignore work emails coming in on my smart phone and then rush home in time to turn on the Skype feed and start rolling dice. And of course my Sundays are spent writing the blog AAR's for our games. Truth be told, the blog takes longer than playing the actual game!! It is currently 1:30 PM as I begin writing, but I have been researching since 10:30 AM this morning. And I don't expect to finish this until nearly late afternoon...which is a bummer since I have some actual work related things to do before tomorrow. Oh well...ASL comes first!

On this occasion, it was my choice of scenarios. While Dan is an Eastern Front Fanatic, I tend to be more of a Western Front Fanatic. So my choice for our Saturday Games would be ASL Scenario AP72 Guns for St. Barbara (designed by Chris Olden). This particular scenario covers the advance of Patton's forces into the Lorraine region of France and across the Saar River into Germany. The fighting in this region would be some of the fiercest faced by Patton as he drove relentless into the heart of Nazi Germany. The fortress city of Metz would be the scene of the most difficult fighting. But once the city had been taken the Germans were quick to retreat to blocking positions in front of the Saar River, while their main elements crossed the river and set up defenses in depth.

Set on Board 60, this scenario would depict German blocking actions in the town of St. Barbara as the 95th moved towards the Saar River. 

After rolling sides, I would end up commanding the Americans of the 377th Infantry Regiment, 95th Infantry Division, "The Iron Men of Metz". For support, I would have some Sherman Tanks from the 718th Tank Battalion. 

 Some links to check out for more information on this battle and the exploits of the 95th Infantry Division.

The men of the 95th would see training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and Camp Swift, Texas. They would arrive in Europe in August 1944, and see their first action in the Moselle Bridgehead in October. They would then drive on to Metz and the Saar River bridgeheads. The Division would end the war in the Ruhr Pocket fighting. This division continues to exist today as a Training Division in the US Southwest.

For the St. Barbara fight, I would have the following forces: 5 x 6-6-7's, 7 x 6-6-6's, led by a 9-2, 9-1, 8-1 and 2 x 7-0's with 3 x MMG's, 3 x Bazookas, 4 x Sherman M4A3's, and two Half-tracks with 2 x 3-4-7's, 2 x 2-2-7's and 2 x 57L AT Guns. Pretty sweet force overall.

Facing my boys across Board 60 would be the Germans of the 21st Panzer Division. This veteran formation would find itself in many different theaters of the German war effort from North Africa to Normand to Lorraine to the Easter Front and ultimate destruction at Halbe. 

The Division would gain its first fame in North Africa, but would be lost with the fall of Tunisia.

The division would be reconstituted and situated in Normandy under Rommel's command once more to prepare for the expected Allied Invasion of France.

They would be primary unit to counter-attack on June 6th against the Allied landings.

As the Scenario Defender, Dan would command elements of Kampfgruppe Muehlen and the 21st Panzer Division. In order to win, Dan would have to ensure that there were not more than 2 unbroken squads or one MMC and a non-recalled Tank on a second level location or east of hex row N.

Kampgruppe Muehlen would consist of 4 x 4-4-7's, 2 x 2-4-7's, lead by an 8-1 and 7-0 with an MMG, LMG, and 2 x Panzerschrecks. The Panzerschreck half-squads would begin the scenario HIP.

The 21st Panzer Division force would enter on Turn 2 and consist of 7 x 4-6-7's, 5 x 4-4-7's led by a 9-2, 9-1, 8-1 and 8-0 with 2 x MMG's, 3 x LMG's, a Panzerschreck, 2 x MK IV's and a Panther Tank.

YIKES...Dan's relief force was a strong or stronger than my entire force. 

Despite the odds and facing off against a Panther Tank, I knew I was in good hands with the Iron Men of Metz!!!

 My attack plan would be to push hard to the south board edge and move towards Row N as rapidly as possible before the 21st Panzer Division boys came into the fight. I had no idea how best to use the 57L AT Guns.

 On Turn 1, I went ahead and deployed one of the 57L AT Guns to watch my rear in the event that Dan's panzers made a move to come from behind. (It was very unlikely, but you never know.) The rest of my boys swept forward and Dan held his fire.

"Ja...hier kommt die Ami...Sie haben vier Panzer and viele Soldaten."
 The white circles indicate where Dan's HIP Panzerknackers were. I would of course find them the hard way. Dan's first Panzerknacker would fire from inside of a building at my lead Sherman. He would hit and destroy it. Right out of the gates I was down a Sherman Tank. But Dan's boys would end up breaking from the back blast. This pattern would repeat throughout the battle as Dan's boys would pin, break or be eliminated on every shot he took in the game...every shot. By the end of the game I was feeling pretty bad for Dan's luck in this regard.

First burning wreck of the game.

On Turn 2, I made my big moves and sent my first Sherman into the victory location zone to hold the horseshoe shaped plaza which would become the American Alamo position in this game.

 An overview of positions following the end of the American phase of Turn 2. I was not quite in the victory zone, but very close.

Time to get ready for the hammer fist of the 21st Panzer Division.

 Dan elected to come in along the Northeast edge.

 My Sherman on the south fired away as the MKIV's roared up the hill and into the town. I missed with first shot and my intensive fire shot. Not good as the German Panther tank rolled right at me. Time was up for my second Sherman Tank.

 Dan's Panther was incredibly luck in getting hits in Advancing Fire Phase. He would knock out two of my Shermans in that phase.

 Undaunted by my armor losses, I pressed ahead and put tow Shermans and as many infantry as I could into the Horseshoe shaped Alamo. Both Shermans were in the narrow streets with guns trained towards the building on their right and left sides respectively and the main road to the Northeast. I was ready...or so I thought.

I was really pleased with my position. I needed more infantry in the location, but otherwise felt like I was in good shape.

I also deployed my second 57LAT Gun to cover the north flank. The half-track carried on to put pressure on Dan's broken boys to the north and promptly found the other Panzerknacker team. They would destroy the half-track, but then themselves be broken by the back blast. Dan's woes continued.

Unfortunately, the urban environment for this scenario forced Dan to fire from inside buildings.

 Dan's boys came on hard in their part of Turn 3. Both MKIV's would enter the Horseshoe Plaza and both would be destroyed by my waiting Sherman Tanks. I couldn't believe my good luck and started to feel a bit guilty. was the luck that I had to have if I was going to have any chance of stopping Dan's oncoming Panzers and Grenadiers.

"Best luck I ever had!!"

 Turn 4...the fight raged on. I had to push more men into the victory location!

A look at the situation as my part of Turn 4 ended. I was strengthening my Alamo position and getting ready for Dan's next assault.

I knew Dan's next attack would be led by the Panther.

 Sure enough the Panther charge forward as Grenadiers swarmed the square. My first Sherman would miss on the first and then MALF the MA on the intensive fire shot. My second Sherman would have no better luck and would be destroyed by the Panther.

I would lose my third Sherman tank, but it would be a burning wreck and the smoke it created would ultimately save my 9-2 stack and help me win the game! (shh...did I give it away...)

 As we started Turn 5, my Sherman would be recalled and pull out of the battle. UGH!!! 

It was tough losing my last Sherman tank. I probably should not have tried to fix my MA...but I felt I needed that 75 Gun to shore up my flank as Dan's Grenadiers began moving in the adjacent buildings.

Turn 5, Dan's next big push comes. I managed to survive it.

Dan is a relentless attacker. He never stops storming your positons. By Turn 5, both of us had headaches and were becoming exhausted by this very challenging scenario. Even my normal good humor was challenged as I lost a bunch of DM'd boys to surrender after they had been encircled. Both of us knew that we had to keep our forces in the fight. Every lost opportunity jeopardized a win.

Turn 6...the final turn and my last chance to make anything happen. I sent my half-track to the east and had it come back into the town behind Dan's boys. Melees raged on as both Dan I failed to get the killing rolls we needed.

 Dan's sniper would activate on four occasions and the last time would DM a 6-6-6 squad with a bazooka at a time that I could ill afford to lose any squads. Meanwhile I had established my final positions. I could only wait see what Dan's final assault would achieve.

 My recalled Sherman had reached the edge of the map. His war was over.

 Bottom of Turn 6...the last phase of the game....Dan's Germans come at me with everything they have.

Dan would send everyone into Close Combat. I would have to survive this last onslaught or lose the game.

 My luck would hold out. Dan's 9-2would rush into the smoke filled hex where my 9-2 was still concealed with 2 squads. I would win the ambush roll and move out of the close combat and that it was complete. I had had 4 squads in the victory zone and had the scenario victory.

Dan's Grenadiers had fought their hearts out...but came up short.

A final look at what ended up being a great scenario. It was exciting from start to finish and both sides were in it to the very end. Had Dan won or locked me in melee with those final Close Combats, his Germans would have had the victory. 

Another great night of ASL and a game that I won't soon forget. My thanks to Dan as always for bringing his A Game and making you earn any victory you get!

This AAR is dedicated to the veterans of the 95th Infantry Division..."The Iron Men of Metz".

Dan and I will take a week off from "Our Saturday Game". I'm spending time with family and Dan will be busy playtesting with the fine ASL Grognards of the Kansas City ASL Club. We'll be back in two weeks to climb the hills of Korea in ASL Scenario 208 - The Grist Mill.

See you again in two weeks!

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