Sunday, May 19, 2019

Our Saturday Game - ASL Classic Scenario F - The Paw of the Tiger

The Paw of the Tiger...who doesn't remember this classic scenario that first appeared in the Cross of Iron as Scenario 14....yeah this is one of the great scenarios from the days when SL was young. Dan had the choice of scenarios for this week's game, and Paw of the Tiger would be his selection from the Archive Juke Box!! Now, you have heard me gush about the old COI scenarios before. They do bring back so many great memories. Cross of Iron was something very new back in the late 1970's. Avalon Hill referred to it as a gamette and it would be the singular moment when Squad Leader jumped the board game shark. Panzer Blitz, Panzer Leader, Tobruk, Third Reich, Bismarck...these were all pretty much stand alone "Book Shelf" games. Squad Leader could have stayed simply Squad Leader and eventually, it would have stayed on the "Book Shelf" like the other aforementioned games. 

With the release of Cross of Iron, Squad Leader leaped ahead with new armor rules, new counters and Board 5. 5 BOARDS WOOHOOO!!! There was a time when 5 boards was awesome! Of course there were new rules as well, but the game was evolving, which was something new. It was the beginning of what continued this very day as I opened my Starter Kit 4 - The Pacific Theater. 

Cross of Iron also introduced the Finns, the SS, the 4-6-8's for German elite formations such as the Grossdeutschland Division. Stuka and Sturmovik counters were introduced and remain the best looking of all Avalon Hill's aircraft counters. We even had Nebelwerfers and oh yes..the -4 Sniper Counter. That's right...try moving in the open against  that dude!  

So yeah, Cross of Iron was something special and moved Squad Leader into something more than just another "Bookshelf Game". With Cross of Iron the future of ASL was laid.

Now the old SL version of this scenario is a bit different than its ASL counterpart. For starters, the Germans and Russians both have one additional tank. The Russians also have some KV-1's. And a big difference, the Germans get to set up HIP. The victory conditions are also slightly different. In the SL version, the Russian player would win immediately upon exiting 4 tanks with no mobile German tanks on board 2. In the ASL version this is reduced to 1 tank and additionally, the Russians can win by exiting 7 tanks regardless of any German tanks on board 2. 

ROAR has the scenario with 28 Russian wins and 14 German wins. The ASL Archive has it with 2 Russian wins and 0 German wins. I might be going out on limb here...but I'd say it's pretty Pro-Russian....just a hunch.

To prepare for this scenario I turned to my copy of the Avalon Hill General - 
March-April 1979 Volume 15, Number 6 
Despite the magazine covering the SL version of the scenario, the basics of the scenario are pretty much unchanged. The lines of sight are certainly the same and the recommended German start positions are equally as valid. So I went with the General's recommended setup. So we'll see how that works out for me!

This scenario takes place in the winter of 1943 on the Leningrad Front. It covers the attempts of the Soviets to break the siege of Leningrad. While the scenario appears to be pro-Russian, the actual event was decidedly a pro-German encounter. The German Panzer men of Tiger Battalion 502 were some of the finest in the Wehrmacht. Men such as Otto Carius and Hans Bolter would serve with the 502nd. In this particular scenario, it would be Hans Bolter, who would add numerous kill rings to the 88mm gun barrel of his Tiger 1.

And unfortunately for the suffering people in Leningrad the siege would continue.

After rolling for sides, Dan would be the attacking Russians. This would be our third scenario with a ton of Russian tanks trying to exit the board against a small German force. And in each case, Dan was the Russian and I the German player. And so far the Germans are perhaps this scenario would be "third time a charm" for Dan?

As the attacker, Dan would command the men of the 122nd Tank Brigade. His force would consist of 6 x T-43's, and 12 x T-34's. 18 tanks...and you only need to get 1 off  the west board I concede now or later??? Yikes...this force is going to be tough to stop.

As the defending Germans, I would command elements of Tiger Battalion 502. The 502nd would spend the entire war on the Russian Front and most of that time on the Leningrad sector. My force would consist of 3 x 4-6-7's and a 2-2-8 led by a 9-2 and 8-1 with an MMG and 37L AT Gun. My armor would be led by 9-2 Armor Leader Hans Bolter with 2 x Tiger I's and 2 x Panzer MK III N's.  I would also have 150mm OBA. Would this force stop 18 Russian Tanks making a bee line for the exit?? Guess we'll find out!!

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Russian strengths in this scenario are the excellent T-34 and T-43 tanks.  They are fast and well armored.  Also numbers, with 18 tanks.  Their weakness is red movement numbers, 12 of the tanks having red movement.  The Russians will have to enter from 5Y10 and 5Q10 since moving through woods in ground snow is a significant bog chance.  This will create a big traffic jam.   My plan is to enter and move across the board 5 and 4 and try to exit on the side of board 2 that is not covered by a Tiger tank.  The AT gun is sure to be in the middle of board 2 guarding the gap between hills.  The Pz IIIs can be engaged and destroyed but the secret to fighting Tigers is to move away and make them come off the hills and then swarm them.  The T-34 M43s will stop to shoot since they have the black movement numbers and the T43s will screen closest to the enemy with the higher armor factor.  But for the most part only 3-4 tanks will be stopped on any turn.  The majority will keep moving for the west board edge.  Hopefully the Germans will shoot too much and break a MA or two.  If not, hopefully the Russians can exit 7 tanks for the win."

As I stated earlier, I set up pretty much as the old issue of the General recommended. With only four tanks, I would have to make every shot count.

Soon enough, my Landsers would see 18 Soviet Tanks headed towards them.

I had set up to defend against a north edge race to the west. Dan would do the opposite and head for the south.

I managed to get radio contact and battery access. I put a spotting round in anticipation of Dan's armor moving through the center gap.

This would be the last time my boys ever spoke with the 150mm Battery.

My 9-1 armor leader, Hans Bolter would begin his kill streak. By game end, Bolter would destroy 5 x T-34's and immobilize another. He was outstanding in this game, but could not do it alone. My second Tiger I would MALF it's MA and never fire again the rest of the game. It would be the game changing moment for the Germans. The loss of this Tiger I would cripple my defense.

"Wir sind allein…"

I would break my radio in the next turn and lose my OBA without firing a single salvo. The way through the gap was open for Dan's boys to move through at their leisure.

While Bolter's Tiger was taking down T-34's in the north, my infantry began moving to engage the Russian Tanks.

"Boys...Panzerfausts aren't available let's make those PAATC's and take out these T-34's....whose with me!?!"

None of my attempts to take down T-34-'s with infantry would be successful.

Bolter's Tiger 1 would take down the T-34, while my boys were broken, when the 8-1 rolled a 12 on an MC and wounded himself. Awesome....not....

Dan had found my weak spot and was rushing as many T-34's as possible to the south. I had next to nothing to stop him.

I moved my Tiger I with the MALF'd MA to hold the south...but I would have to fix my gun...meanwhile the crack of Bolter's 88 pierced the crisp winter air as he fought desperately to stem the Soviet tide by himself.

As Turn 3 ended, I was down to one functional tank...Bolter's Tiger I. And he was too far from the site of the Russian breakthrough...

In the north, I would prevail and stop Dan's forces, but in the was not looking good at all.

Two more close combats against Dan's tanks ended up in melee. I just couldn't get it done....

By the end of Turn 4, it was time for Bolter to move south, but it was already too late.

Once more I failed to fix the MALF'd gun on my second Tiger I and so Dan's T-34's were free to run off the board. Dan would exit 8 x T-34's and get the win. Two other T-34's were immobilized and 8 other T-34's were destroyed.

Dan's boys had won the day! It had been a frustrating day for my Germans. My OBA never got a shot and I lost a Tiger early in the fight. And Dan never went anywhere near my AT-Gun. And yet...with Bolter's efforts, I very nearly stopped enough tanks to deny Dan the victory. So I am satisfied that this scenario, while at first glance seems very pro-Russian, can certainly be won by the Germans. Congrats to Dan on a great win.

And now for Dan's Post-Game Comments:

"The Germans set up made the Russian cross boards 4 and 5 diagonally and take the long run.  Despite this the plan worked with the Russians exiting 8 tanks for a win.  Mostly due to one Tiger breaking it's MA and not able to shoot most of the game.  Russians lost 8 tanks and had one immobilized and another with a broken MA.  In tank battles the Russians were able to destroy both  Pz IIIs with the loss of only three Russian tanks.  But the Tiger hit 6 Russian tanks and knocked out 5 and immobilized another.  If the second Tiger had kept its MA and had even a couple more kills the Russians would have lost.  A very close victory for the Russians.  The scenarios is fun and a classic East Front armored battle.  A must play for those wanting to learn armor rules in ASL.  My thanks to Grumble Jones for another great game!"

Well...that's a wrap on another "Our Saturday Game". Dan and I will take a break next weekend to celebrate the Memorial Day Weekend.  We'll be back Saturday June 1st for a playing of ASL Scenario J186 - Castles on the Horizons.

On this Memorial Day, may we never forget those men and women who have served our nation.

Happy Memorial Day to you one and all.


  1. Great AAR, I could the sound of the 88 firing on the Russians. But with the loss of one tiger being able not to fire was just bad luck. Thanks for posting..

    1. Gary, thanks for spending time at Grumble Jones!