After last Saturday's epic playing of MM 47 The Brickworks, it would have been hard to imagine that this Saturday's game would match the intensity and sheer fun of that scenario. Well...it did and was ASL on a high scale. HOLY COW...what a freak'n awesome game of ASL we played this Saturday. I know...I know...you're thinking..."Oh sure Grumble Jones...another one of your over the top game descriptions." But trust me kind readers...this game we played last night was the kind of ASL you dream about...full of Snakes and Boxcars...DC's, Molotov's, hard charging tanks and infantry...and close combat ambushes gone amuck!! Critical hits combined with duds...and not the tasty milk dud kind...no that kind that gives you lasting and extreme butt hurt...yeah...that what's I'm talking about!
Yeah...like this...only BETTER!!!
For our epic game, Dan Best and I would select ASL Scenario J154 - Cradle to Grave (designed by Pete Shelling). Cradle to Grave covers the actions of September 1st, 1944 in Meximieux, France as the French Maquis and US 179th, Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division work together to halt a counter-attack by the German 11th Panzer Division. This sharp engagement would cost the Germans more casualties, but would temporarily delay the 179th's participation in the 45th Division's planned attacks towards Lyon on the 2nd. So both sides came away with some value from the battle. That would also be true for Dan and I as we played this scenario to the bitter end and completed all 6-1/2 turns in one of our longest game nights in years. We started at 5:00 PM and finished at 12:00 AM. What a game!
The fighting in the south of France from August through September is an often forgotten sideshow of the war on the Western Front. The actions in Normandy and later in Holland would reduce the media coverage of this part of the war. Despite the lack of coverage, the fighting here would be every bit as desperate as that in the aforementioned campaigns. The Germans and Americans facing off in the south of France were veteran formations and would fight like it.
I'm a huge fan of the south of France (and France as a whole). As a student in 1985, I had a chance to drive from Reutlingen, Germany to Paris and back. I loved Paris and hope to get back to it one of these days.
In 2007, while on business, I flew from Rome to Paris and took the train to Valence to work with Crouzet on some switches. The week I spent there was wonderful. Great food, great people and a beautiful part of the world.
Really enjoyed my time working with the French team. Some really super guys!
Valence was a great place to visit, but it was a bit chilly as I recall.
After rolling for sides...which was itself a precursor to how great this scenario was going to be. At the conclusion of The Brickworks, Dan and I agreed on the scenario and then we rolled for sides. High roll is always the attacker, which in Cradle to Grave would be the Germans. Well Dan rolled an 11 and promptly challenged me to beat that roll. Well...boxcars and I go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly...so yeah....I rolled a 12 and would be the Germans and the scenario attacker.
I would command elements of the 11th Panzer Division - the famed "Ghost Division". The Ghost Division would serve in Yugoslavia and then in Russia during the drive on Moscow and then later towards Stalingrad and then at Cherkassy, before being redeployed to the West. In the west it would defend the south of France, participate in the Bulge and in the Ruhr before surrendering to the US 90th Infantry Division at Passau.
The Ghost Division would fight ably in the late summer of 1944, but would be a shadow of the division that had fought so capably in Russia.
My force would consist of 4 x 4-6-8's, 10 x 4-6-7's, led by a 9-1, 2 x 8-1's, an 8-0 and 7-0 with 2 x MMG's, 3 x LMG's and a Panzerschreck. My armor force would be comprised of 2 x Panthers, 2 x MKIV's, 2 x Hummels, and an 81mm Mortar Half-track and a CMG Half-track. Not too shabby for an attacking force. But...the scenario SSR required that I split my force in equal halves and one group would enter from the North and the other would enter from the East. Oh man...that was far from ideal, especially given that my objectives were on Board 10 in the Southwest corner of play. In order to win this scenario, my Germans would have to control more stone building HEXES than the number of remaining Partisan CVP equivalents at the game end. A very tough assignment...if I do say so myself.
As the scenario defender, Dan would command the men of the 179th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division. The famed Thunderbirds would be one of the greatest infantry division which served in the Second World War. Naturally, having lived a time in Oklahoma, I'm a bit partial to this division. But their combat record speaks for itself as they fought across Sicily , Italy, France and Germany. The Thunderbirds would survive the landings at Salerno, Anzio and the south of France. It would be difficult to identify another US Infantry Division in the west that made so many beach landings.
The 45th would also be the US formation to liberate Dachau.
In 2010, I had the chance to visit the 45th Infantry Division Museum in Oklahoma City. It's a fantastic museum and if you are ever in Oklahoma City, make a point to stop in and have a look around.
Dan's force would consist of 3 x 6-6-6's, 3 x 5-4-6's, and 2 x 2-3-6's led by an 8-1, and 2 x 8-0s' with an MMG, 2 x Bazookas with support form 2 x M-10's with a 9-1 Armor Leader and 2 x 81mm Mortars.
On Turn 3, Dan would get reinforcements from the 117th Cavalry Regiment consisting of 4 x 6-6-6's led by an 8-1 and 7-0 with an MMG, a Bazooka and 2 x Stuart Tanks. They would enter from the North edge and come in from my rear. YIKES!!!
In addition to his US forces, Dan would also command forces of the Françaises de l'Intérieur (FFI). The French Resistance was very active in the south of France and would participate in some joint actions with the Allied Forces. The Maquis would be the key force in this game. They would consist of 2 x 5-2-7's, 6 x 3-3-7's led by a 9-2 and 8-1.
The battlefield for this night's ASL combat. The top of the map is the west board edge. The stone buildings of Board 10 would be the objectives.
For this night's ASL, I would be using my new ASL map table. These great map tables with plexiglass covers are made by Dave Mareske. I'm not sure if this a regular thing for him, but he sold a bunch of these to players at this years Kansas City March Madness Tournament. I was gifted this one by a good friend and am really looking forward to using it on a regular basis.
The Grumble Jones staff photographer would be embedded with the Thunderbirds and be very busy this night.
A little note about these AAR's. I generally do these on Sundays as many readers look forward to reading them on Mondays. So I make a serious effort to have these available by Monday. They do take some time though. The AAR's are a process. First step is cropping and editing the photos, which then go to Tactical for the Mark-ups detailing key moments. Pictures that don't add to the AAR narrative are discarded. An average of 50 photos are taken for each AAR.
After that I do Google research on the battle to bring in pictures, maps, unit data, etc. And then the last step is to scour Google for Gifs, Meme's, pictures which speak to the emotional aspects of the AAR. All of this a averages about 6 hours.
The German entry points. My strategy...eliminate any Partisans in the woods and drive into the town from the east edge as quickly as possible. Clearing the hills was my first objective.
I sent both Panthers and MK IV's with supporting grenadiers to clear the hills
One MKIV and a 4-6-7 were inserted in the very back of the map to test the defenses back there. I quickly discovered an M-10 and paid the price.
On the north edge, I sent my strongest infantry force and supported them with both Hummels. I really expected to be fighting "real" FFI units. But Dan had nothing but Dummys in front of me. I would waste three turns of movement with these Dummys...make me the "real" Dummy!!!
My Turn 1 effort on the first occupied hill went very well. I managed to get into position and take care of business.
My walk in the woods went ok...but I would cause my Hummel to go Low Ammo firing at a Dummy stack...ain't that just peachy...
The fun really started when Dan's twin 81mm Mortars decided to join the party. They were scaring me bad!
I hate mortars especially when they are shooting at me with ROF of 3....
At the end of Turn 1 - I was still a looong way from the town.
After finally realizing that I should get my backside in gear...I sent my Landsers forward. I needed to cover some ground and quickly.
Turn 2 would see the fight for the hill get down and dirty. I needed to silence the mortars and begin my assault on the town.
The dice would play havoc with Dan and I both throughout the scenario. Good rolls would be followed by bad rolls and on and on. It was just that kind of game. And honestly...that's not so bad. It wasn't like either one of us benefitted or suffered any differently than our opponent. So that was nice and made it a wild and fun game!
The dice would go on to hurt me bad though as one of my Panthers would MALF and then destroy it's MA...can you say RECALL???
Total Recall...never a good thing...
Oh and one of my Hummels would also go total RECALL on me. UGH!!!!
Back on the hill things were getting intense!
Dan's boys made a lot of moves to get into position to hold the town.
After Dan's M-10 moved back towards town,...I sent my mortar half-track and MKIV to hull down positions behind the wall to take it out. But Dan would MALF the MA as his dice smacked him around as well.
Going into Turn 3, I had silenced the mortars and was moving to my staging area for assaulting the town. Sounds like I had a plan doesn't it...
The three battle zones were taking shape.
Turn 3 - Dan's cavalry arrives!
My Mortar half-track would take care of the M-10 by the hill. I would immobilize it and the crew would bail out. Later, I would get a crit hit on that location and destroy the abandoned M-10.
But then...just as I thought the hilltop battle was won...Dan's takes it back....
Dan just wouldn't let go of that hill!!
Dan's first Stuart charged directly at my 2-4-7 with a Panzerschreck. My grenadiers waited until the Stuart was right on top of them and then fired and destroyed it.
The rest of Dan's cavalry moved towards the rear of my northern force.
Dan retook the hill...oh man...well played Sir...well played...
My remaining Hummel was covering the rear and got a hit on the Stuart and eliminated it.
My final MKIV moved towards the edge of town and Dan's Maquis rushed it with two 5-2-7's each with a DC. And my luck held as I broke both squads...
In the north, I would strand two invaluable 4-6-7's, whose only mission was to stop Dan's reinforcements. They would fail...
Turn 4 -- I went hard into the town...Dan would break up most of my attacks.
The Germans were slowly surrounding the town.
My 9-1 kept my boys moving forward.
As Turn 4 neared its end...I wasn't sure if I was going to get it done. I was staying positive...but the issue was very much in doubt.
Turn 5 would cause me some pain. Dan's Maquis 0-2 still had a 5-2-7 with a DC. I tried to do an end around with my last MKIV.
I would quickly regret that decision...
As I tried to pass around the end...Dan's 5-2-7 tossed a DC onto my MKIV.
BAM...scratch my last MKIV...but the collateral roll would cause Dan's 9-2 to go Berserk and the 5-2-7 would go Berserk also.
Back in the north, I had to shift my Panther into position to hold off the advancing Americans. Dan was looking to take back my hard won victory locations.
Back to the east, I continued to try and get into the town.
I double-down on bad decisions and set my Mortar Half-track on the same route as my destroyed MKIV. Dan's 5-2-7 would go for a Molotov and miss it...but then the 9-2 went for one...got it and then proceeded to destroy my half-track. UGH!!!
"Uncle Rene...tell us again about that time when you took out a German Tank and Half-track in the same Defensive Fire Phase!"
A look at the situation...it was getting late into the evening...and both Dan and I were wiped out. This battle had taken a lot out of us both. Neither of us was convinced that my Germans had a chance of winning...but I wasn't ready to concede and Dan was gracious enough to agree to keep playing.
Despite losing my tank and half-track...Dan's 9-2 and 5-2-7 Maquis squad going Berserk was a really good development. I moved my CMG Half-track into position to fire down the street when the Berserkers showed up. I would end up rolling snakes on the shot to take them down. It would be a huge moment in the game as it removed valuable Partisan CVP from the game.
The game's craziness continued as the German sniper finally showed up and stunned the last M-10 crew. This saved my boys W5 from being wiped out a critical moment in the game.
Dan sent two squads to try and get past my Panther and into a cluster of my victory locations. The Panther did the math and went for the squad that had enough movement to enter the area and managed to DM it. He then intensive fired and rolled snakes on the 8-1 and 6-6-6 adjacent to him. 32 down -2 shot. But then I rolled boxcars. It would be the second time during the game that I would roll a crit hit and then boxcars. Talk about a bummer...
Dan would also leap onto my 2-4-7. But I would win the ambush the infiltrate next door.
Dan's 8-1 and 6-6-6 would jump onto my Panther...whose dud shell had sealed its fate.
Dan's boys would destroy my Panther...but didn't have any more movement turns left to take the three Victory Locations next to them. My Panther had done its job.
In my final turn, I would jump into three close combats with Dan's boys. I would win ambush nearly every time and then infiltrate into a victory location. Only one of the CC's ended up as a Melee. At the end of turn, Dan and I did the math. 10 Partisan CVP's were still in play...but my Germans had 12 victory locations. Unbelievably my Germans had gained the win on the final turn close combats by winning the two ambushes and infiltrating. What an incredible game...
My grenadiers celebrate the win...
It took a few minutes to sink in that I had actually won this game. On Turns 4 and 5, both Dan and I didn't see a path to victory...and then a series of dominoes fell over and created that same path...and just like that we were playing ASL...the world's best WW2 Tactical Game and a game whose outcomes cannot be predicted. Never give up...never give up...keep rolling those dice...
You always have a chance to win...a shot a glory...a moment to make greatness happen...(yes...I'm a proud VALPO Grad.)
This AAR is dedicated to the men of the 179th Infantry Regiment for their devotion and sacrifice.
My thanks to my opponent, Mr. Dan Best, whose sportsmanship and love of the game are unrivaled.
Dan and I will return next Saturday for ASL Scenario 129 Slamming of the Door. See you then!