Sunday, November 22, 2020

Our Saturday Game - Scenario MLR09 - Overrun we are again for another "Our Saturday Game". Tonight's game would be a fast playing and bloody affair as Dan and I battled for control of Authie. Dan and I had attempted to play a Friday evening game, but both of us were just too tired from the week to do more than talk about ASL and of course the stresses of COVID-19 that are plaguing (pun intended) both of our work lives. Yep,,,I had hoped to start tonight's AAR COVID free...but life had different plans. My company experienced yet another mass infection this week as nearly twenty workers either tested positive or were quarantined due to direct exposure to those who were infected. In response, my own department emptied again as folks headed to the house to work from there. Having an office, I spent the week working on site and feeling a loneliness that I have almost never experienced at work. Having moved so often in my work life, I often find myself with no friends or family where I live. Therefore, my co-workers become my "family" if you will. So sitting in silence in an empty department day after day has certainly weighed on me. And in worse news...the rising tide of infections here has filled every ICU bed. Ain't no more room at the they will start sending folks to other area hospitals.  Suffice to say...trying to relax your mind and play some ASL isn't always easy these days.

I blog it often enough...but it bears repeating...that we are living in momentous times. COVID-19 is going to leave in indelible mark on human society. We will emerge from this darkness eventually, but for now the journey to a safer place and time continues...

Our game tonight would come from Jim McLeod's Elite Canadians pack. I had not played anything directly from this pack, so was glad to have the opportunity. 

Overrun covers relatively familiar ground with the fighting in Normandy. Specifically, this scenario involves the June 7th actions at Authie as the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade dug in and found themselves the focus of the 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Jugend's" first action of the campaign. With almost reckless ferocity, the Panzer Grenadiers surged through the grain fields and went toe to toe with the tough Canadians. 

The bloody fighting at Authie would only be a precursor to the bitter fighting that would follow for the next two months.

This scenario (designed by Jim McLeod) shows 11 SS and 3 Canadian wins on ROAR and the ASL Archive shows it with 5 SS and 2 Canadian wins. Sooo....the prevailing thought would be that this scenario is fairly pro-German. One of the running jokes between Dan and I is that the most important roll in any game is for sides. Get the wrong side in a scenario and it goes a long way to determining who wins and who loses. Lately, Dan has been getting the "wrong" side in many of our games. Tonight would be no exception.

As the defending Canadians, Dan would command the men of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and Sherbrooke Fusiliers. This force would consist of 9 x 4-5-8's, and 2 x 2-4-8's led by a 9-1, 8-1 and 2 x 8-0's with 2 x MMG's, 3 x LMG's, 2 x Piats, 2 x 51 MTR's, 3 x Sherman, and a Sherman Firefly.

To win the game Dan would have to have an unbroken MMC/Mobile AFV with functioning MA within 2 hexes of N10.

As the attacking Germans, I would command the men of the 25th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment, 12th SS "Hitler Jugend" Division. This force would consist of 12 x 5-4-8's, and 2 x 2-3-8's led by a 9-2, 2 x 9-1's, and an 8-1 with 2 x MMG's, and 6 x LMG's with 8 x MK IV's. My boys would also be fanatic...fanatic SS...FREAKING AWESOME!!!

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Canadians are outnumbered by 30% in squads and two to one in tanks.  The plan will be to form a tight defensive perimeter to defend the village.  The firefly will set up hull down and bore site the board edge.  Another tank will be in a mutually supporting hull down position.  The other tanks will cover the right flank and be in position to contest the German tanks entering the village.  The two MTR will be one on each flan and bore site the paths through the woods.  The MMGs, each with a -1 leader will set up to cover the roads entering the village. The PIATs will be in the second line.  Hopefully the German tanks will try to move in to cut route paths and allow for PIAT tank hunting.  Hopefully Canadians can inflict some attrition on the Germans outside the village making the Germans low on firepower inside the village for the street fight."

Dan's defense was concentrated as expected. I correctly deduced the location of the Sherman Firefly and one of the MMG's...but honestly that was no big feat as they were the obvious best placements for those things. The one thing I continually forget is Bore Sighting...and Dan would use it effectively against me.

"Hey Eddie...what are you writing down there in your journal?" "Oh this...this is where I'm bore sighting some stuff to give Grumble Jones some serious butt hurt!!! Ha ha ha ha...

I attacked towards the southwest. Since I figured the Firefly was watching all the open ground to the north...I thought it best to avoid that area. I did sent one MKIV up there to position itself to lay smoke in support of my assault on the village. Just one problem...the only woods hex in that area effectively blocked my shot...AIEAIEEIEIEIE....

"Fritz...why did Uwe park his MKIV where it can't see anything...I mean really that guy is just a clown...even in Russia...he was always in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Dan's mortar would go on a rate tear and break two squads. And his first Sherman would send some shells towards me.

Turn 1 movement phase went ok for the Germans.

Turn 2 - things were a little less rosy for me as I began my part of Turn 2. Dan's dice had been hot and back to back snake eyes had seen a MKIV brewed up and a 5-4-8 KIA'd. Dan had also sent a Sherman out to enfilade my center schwerpunkt. I would lose another MKIV to that excellent move.

I would successfully make some smoke in two locations and my grenadiers would move swiftly into the edge of the village.  I had also knocked out the first of Dan's Shermans and the mortar crew had to abandon the position due to the smoke.

My dice woes in the early part of the game were many. Dan's dice had been hot with snakes, rates of fire and he was doing great with Intensive Fire. I sent three squads and an -1 officer into melee with Dan's 9-1 and a 4-5-8. Slam dunk right....nope...I rolled boxcars...Dan would use that opportunity to move out of the melee. 

"Wow...that was a close one boys..."

Turn 3 - I continued to press the attack. Things started to go my way as we entered this turn. Dan would MALF a Sherman that intensive fired and his boys were starting to miss morale checks. My fanatic SS Grenadiers were difficult to stop.

A look at the German penetration into the village. 

Dan's Turn 3 would see a lot of movement. I had managed to destroy the last two Shermans, which forced the Firefly to relocate. I had pushed the Canadians away from victory location. In fact, at this point in the game only one good order Canadian MMC or tank was within two hexes of the victory location.

At this time, I still had 5 of my MKIV's left, but one was in Melee and would be destroyed when it started up to move.

The Firefly would take down his third tank. But I would send three tanks and a panzerfaust team to try and take it down.

As my grenadiers secured control of the village, my boys sent rounds at the Sherman Firefly...but to no avail. I had decided to take prisoners in this game and that would be a huge factor in my win as I would capture 7 squads and one officer.

As Turn 4 ended, I had lost another MKIV to the Firefly but another MKIV had shocked it and then the Panzerfaust team took it out. The circled Canadians had broken and would soon be prisoners. With that Dan gave the concession and my Grenadiers had the win. Dan had destroyed 6 of my 8 MKIV's, but all the Canadian tanks were gone and the Canadian infantry were all but eliminated. Very tough fight for the Canadians. Fanatic SS are never easy to stop and the combination of good cover and high firepower really gave the Germans an unstoppable edge. My thanks to Dan for a fun game. Our dice rolls would give Dan 3 snake eyes and no boxcars and I would roll 3 snakes and 4 boxcars.

And now for Dan's Post-Game comments:

"The plan did not work.  The German approach through the grain and orchards allowed for village entry with minimal casualties.  Good use of smoke and taking of prisoners allowed the Germans to clear the village.  With high firepower in the village the Canadians were breaking and with route paths cut by tanks, they surrendered.  By turn 5 the Germans had lost six tanks and one squad and one leader.  But had 7 squads of prisoners.  The Germans being fanatic gives them a serious morale advantage when in the street fight.  Well played by Grumble Jones in using smoke and cutting route to take prisoners.  Congrats on the win!"

It was a solid win for the SS Panzergrenadiers, but it would seem that this scenario is just a bit too hard on the Canadians. Dan and I both believe this scenario might be better if the Germans are not fanatic. This one advantage kept my boys from pinning and breaking. With all the available cover, it was tough for Dan to get effective hits on my advancing SS.

Dan and I will return next week for a Friday-Saturday double-header playing of ASL Scenarios 201 and 202 Hunters from the Sky and Hitdorf on the Rhine. Looking forward to both games and relaxing during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I sincerely wish each of you and your families the best Thanksgiving celebration that is possible this year. We are learning this year how much we value our time with family and friends. Many of us will not be spending this Thanksgiving with family members in the hope that this year's sacrifice ensures future Thanksgiving gatherings. I know this is not easy and it will be bit lonelier for my own family as we stay home this year and dont' go to Alabama for the first time in over a decade. So my wish for all of us is a safe holiday and the hope that this time next year...we'll be sitting together around the table.

Have a safe and happy holiday season...and if you get bored with Turkey or football...well there's always a Grumble Jones AAR to fill that void.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Our Saturday Game - ASL Scenario 90 Pride and Joy

Our Saturday game took Dan Best and I to 1940 Greece for a playing of ASL Scenario 90 Pride and Joy. Tonight's game would be my 80th game in 2020. What an amazing fact...I never imagined playing so much ASL. COVID-19 has certainly upended my world much as it has for so many of you all over the world. We are living a moment in history that will be as significant a hundred years from now as the Spanish Flu. To say that living through this moment in history is painful would be totally insufficient to accurately define the awfulness of  these days. 2020 sucks...and sucks hard. My community is reeling with over a hundred cases daily...over 40 dead...1000 active cases with 60 people in the hospital and 8 of those in ICU. There are 40,000 people in our community...we are headed for a catastrophic overwhelming of our hospital here in Western Illinois. On a positive note, 4 of my co-workers who were down with COVID returned to the office this past week and are all on the mend. That said...everyone of them doesn't want to confront the virus again. So let's all continue to do our part to stay virus free. We old ASL'rs still have a lot of ASL to play...and I don't know about you...but I want to be around in 5 years when MMP finally releases Manila.

Now, I would like to tell you that next week's AAR will be COVID-Free...but don't count on it. It does weigh on my mind...more than I would like it to. As I a reflect on this time last year, I was preparing to head to Alabama for Thanksgiving with family. That won't happen this year. But thank goodness there will be football to watch. In these times...a little normalcy goes a looong way. 

ASL Scenario 90 Pride and Joy is set during the Greco-Italian War. This is yet another major campaign area about which I am woefully undereducated. And this is yet another reminder of the breadth of World War II as well as the amazing ability of ASL to take us into every campaign of this world war. It's quite amazing really. This scenario was designed by Scott Holst and ROAR has the original version of this scenario with 16 Greek and 12 Italian wins. The current, 3rd edition version has it with 3 Greek and 2 Italian wins. This scenario is certainly balanced. It is also large with three maps and nearly 40 squads. And at 10 turns, it's a long game. Dan and I would play it for six hours straight tonight and complete five full turns. The initial turns are the most time-consuming, because of the large number of pieces to be moved. Ground snow and hilly terrain add to the grind in the early turns. 

I would have the defending Italians for tonight's game. I would command the men of the 8th Aplini Regiment and 47th Infantry Division. My force would consist of 8 x 4-4-7's, 8 x 3-4-7's and 7 x 3-4-6's led by 2 x 8-1's, 8-0, 2 x 7-0's, and a 6+1 with an HMG, 2 x MMG's, 5 x LMG's, 2 x ATR's, 2 x 45 MTR's, and 1 x 65* INF Gun. I would also start the game with 8 foxholes.

As the attacking Greeks, Dan would command the men of the 1st Cavalry Regiment and 10th Reconnaissance Battalion. This force would consist of 16 x 4-5-8's, 8 x 4-5-7's, 24 x Horses and 3 x 2-2-8's, led by a 9-1, 8-1, 8-0, and 2 x 7-0's with an HMG, 2 x MMG's, 3 x LMG's, an ATR and in support 3 x 75* ART pulled by wagons and finally 3 x L3/35 Tankettes.

Weather is ground snow with wet EC and Orchards are Olive Groves. Greek AFV crews are inexperienced. The Greeks would win at game end by controlling more building hexes than the Italians and provided there are no good order Italians on or adjacent to the 43Q1-43R3-43M6-43Q10 Road.

And mow for Dan's pre-Game Comments:

"The Greeks must attack and capture more building hexes than the Italians control.  There are 14 building hexes on board 2 and another 14 on Board 17.   Board 43 has 10 hexes.  The Greeks must also clear the road across Board 43.  This will require a great deal of movement.  The plan will be for the Greeks to enter on one side of board 2 and Schwerpunkt the Italians.   The Greeks will take prisoners and try to cut the Italian route paths.  Hopefully the Greeks can break the line fast and get into the board 43 building complex before the Italian reinforcements. "

I elected to go with a very strong upfront defense. I placed all my machine guns and mortar up front as well. My 65* INF Gun was also on the level 3 hill top. I placed it where I expected Dan's tankettes to enter the game. I would guess correctly. Additionally, the gun could turn to fire to the north once Dan had broken through.

I knew my plan was a little bit risky. I could expect Dan to Schwerpunkt me and clobber one flank. I did put a small blocking force with an ATR in the building cluster on Board 17. My reinforcements would not arrive until Turn my defense would have to hold. 

The victory condition road on Board 43 is highlighted in white. And you can clearly see Dan's schwerpunkt on the southwest edge. But the tankettes were coming down the road right under the sights of my 65* INF Gun.

The tankettes were under platoon movement and trundled down the snow covered road as my gun waited patiently to take the first shot. First shot would be a hit and a kill. The tankettes would continue down the road. I would intensive fire and knock out the second tank. My HMG would take a shot at destroying the third tankette, but couldn't get the kill.

My dice rolls for the first turn were quite good with a lot of 4's, which unfortunately for me was Dan's sniper. For the game I would roll 3 snake eyes and 4 boxcars. Dan would roll 7 snake eyes and 3 boxcars. 11's would be my undoing as I would break my mortar, two LMG's and my 65* INF Gun in the course of the battle.

The tankettes are an important component of the Greek attack. They have the ability to cut rout paths and secure the road on Board 43 before the Italian reinforcements arrive. 

Dan's sniper would get his first kill by eliminating my sniper. So those 7 snake eyes that Dan rolled did not result in a single sniper for me....cause...well..."General Lee...I have no sniper..."

Dan's schwerpunkt came at me hard. I put down a wall of residual fire and staggered the attack a bit, but the sheer number of Greeks made it tough to completely stall their assault. 

The ground snow was particularly helpful in slowing down the Greeks as they moved uphill.

The blue circles show where my boys were still resisting as the Greek wave receded.

Turn 1 Greek took an hour and 15 minutes to complete...UGH...that's too long to complete half a turn of game play. And Dan and I are fast players. We don't sit and agonize over moves. That said, Dan had to coordinate his moves in order to trigger my defensive fire in response to threats that would open up advance routes for the follow on units. So it took time to do that correctly. For my part, I moved my guys on the east edge back towards the middle of the battle. I also sent two squads to attempt to to destroy Dan's last tankette in close combat.

Both of my 3-4-7's would pass their PAATC's and go into close combat with the tankette. But I would not be successful in taking down the tankette.

Turn 2 - Dan swarms the west flank and gets through. 

Dan's turn 2 assault would take prisoners, clear the west flank and put three of my center positions into close combats.

My positions were falling fast.

For the most part, close combats were not going my way, but I managed to keep a couple of them in Melee. And every turn that Dan's boys were tied up was to my advantage.

Turn 3 - Dan busts out around my west flank. I would MALF my gun as Dan's boys began to sweep up over the hill.

Dan's wagons struggled in the ground snow to make any headway up to the level 3 hill. They would get there eventually, but it was definitely slow going.

Turn 4 - a look at just how wide open Dan had ripped my front. His boys completely owned the west side of the battlefield. 

Turn 5 - I was a bit remiss in my photographic duties for this game. I was tired during this game for some reason and as the clock passed 10:00 PM...I really started to lose steam. Dan's attack had netted him 11 building hexes and he had moved units onto Board 43. But back on Board 2, I was hanging on and messing up the Greek timetable. 

Interestingly, Dan's control of the western half of the battlefield remained intact, but Dan was not able to extend that further to the east.

As we played Turn 5 - it was clear to both Dan and I that we had both suffered pretty heavy losses. Our forces were seriously degraded. The blue circles show all that the Italians had left. 

Turn 5 - Italian phase. My reinforcements arrive and I place them adjacent to the victory location road and then another force further east to cover the approaches. This 7 squad force concealed and in place to hold the road.

As Turn 5 ended, a look at Dan's penetration to that point.

So the clock struck 11:00 PM and both Dan and I wearily decided to call the game. We had been playing 6 hours straight. With my reinforcement group securely in control of the victory location road, Dan decided to concede and call it a night. It was clear to us both that Dan would have no trouble getting the 20 building hexes, but the big problem confronting him was gaining control of the road. With his forces still battling my boys on Boards 2 and 17, his force would take several more turns to reform and make a credible assault on my boys on the north board edge. And a successful attack would eat up more turns. So we both agreed that the odds favored an ultimate Italian victory. My thanks to Dan for another great game in our 2020 year of ASL. This was an interesting scenario and I think it is well-designed. This scenario is a game that needs time thought, so it's not a good candidate for starting at 5:00 PM. This is one that you start at 10:00 AM and play into the evening.

My Italians would have the win, and it was largely due to the upfront defense, which forced Dan's cavalry to dismount early and fight for five turns to secure the board 2 hill mass. That impacted the Greek timetable enough to all but guarantee Italian control of the victory location road.

And now for Dan's Post-Game Comments:

"The plan did not work.  The Italians had an up front defense and held board 2 in strength.  The Italian infantry gun was able to knock out two tanks and the last fell to a MG.  The Greeks had to dismount early and could not use the horse to move large numbers of troops into the Italian rear areas.  While they got to the board 43 complex ahead of the Italians they did not have enough troops to stop the Italian reinforcements from setting up a block on the road.  Well played by Grumble Jones with a strong up front defense setting the Greek attack back.  This scenario is a fun study of movement under fire with mounted troops.  It is also big and long so give yourself plenty of time if you are going to play it.  Congrats to Grumble Jones on the win!"

Dan and I will return next Saturday for a playing 
of Scenario MLR09 Overrun by Jim McLeod.

We will see you then!