Sunday, January 17, 2021

Our Games - Fun in the Snow


Well 2021 is hobbling along...I think 2020 is hanging on to its legs and won't let go. Dan and I would play two games (both with Ground Snow and Deep Snow). Our first game was on Wednesday, which was a rough day. Since December 6th, I'd been in talks and interviews with a medical company in Memphis. Well...about mid-day on Wednesday, the HR rep called and let me know, I was no longer being considered. This after having great interviews with the hiring manager and his VP boss. My final interview was a panel interview conducted the week prior with three directors from the company that is currently acquiring the Memphis company. Apparently, they didn't like me...which sucks of course since, I wouldn't have even been working directly with any of them. Suffice to hit me hard and was like snuffing out a candle as my hope blinked out. 

So playing some ASL that evening was really a good thing for me. If nothing else I needed the distraction from rising feelings of hopelessness. Many of you out there have experienced this, so I know you can relate. I'm doing my best to keep my job search on track and to keep a positive outlook. And of course a big thank you to those of you out there who have reached out to me with positive messages. Thanks so much.

Our Wednesday game would be my choice and I would pick BoF11 Second Thoughts (designed by Mattias Roennblom). The location of this scenario is Wingen-Sur-Moder, France and was the scene of bitter fighting between the US 45th Infantry Division and the 6th SS Mountain Division NORD. 

I had just finished reading the book Seven Days in January which covers this fight in detail. In fact, much of this scenario can be found in the book, especially regarding the use of a captured M8 by two members of the 6th SS. 

ROAR has this scenario with 16 German and 11 US wins. the ASL Archive has it with 5 German and 4 US wins. Overall, that suggest a bit of balance. But...when you first set this one up as the Americans you will not feel like you have a chance in hell of winning it. But take can...

Seven Days in January is written primarily from the German perspective and is really interesting. The book covers the division in the last days of it's time Finland and then being moved directly into supporting Operation Nordwind. I found this book to be engaging and definitely would recommend it. 

One of the interesting aspects of the book is to hear the differences in fighting Russians as opposed to Americans, which would often perplex the Germans, who had grown accustomed to the no quarter world of the Russian Front.

The interaction of captured American medical personnel working alongside the Germans was also a completely new experience for the grenadiers of the 6th SS.

Another excellent book is Alex Kershaw's the Liberator. This book deals exclusively with the 45th Infantry Division and specifically, the experiences of Captain Felix Sparks. This book covers the entirety of the 45th's nearly 500 days in combat in Europe. It's an extraordinary story and the passages related to the Operation Nordwind give a good glimpse of that fight from the American perspective.

You can't go wrong reading either of these. And I would also note that the most powerful part of the Liberator concerns the divisions horrendous time at Anzio. We always knew Anzio was horrible...but man...worse than we knew.

Netflix has done a "rotoscoped" miniseries based on the Liberator. Not sure it's out yet or not...but look for it. It should be worth your time.

Wingen-Sur-Moder, France during the battle. 

Operation Nordwind is considered the final German offensive on the Western Front. Coming on the heels of the failing Wacht am Rhein, it's honestly amazing that the Germans could launch these kinds of counter-offensives at this stage of the war. In spite of Allied air superiority, a relentless bombing campaign, the Germans were still able coordinate major attacks and bring forces from Finland to southern France. Pretty amazing, despite the ultimate futility of these final assaults. 

After rolling for sides, I would get to lead the Thunderbirds of the 45th Infantry Division. My force would consist initially of 1 x 6-6-6, 2 x 5-4-6's, and a 5-3-6 lead by an 8-0 with an MMG and BAZ 44. and my ELR would 0...yeah..ZERO. Won't that be fun!! (on Turn 4 my ELR would go back up to 4.)

On Turn 2, I would get reinforcements of a Sherman Firefly and 2 x Shermans. On Turn 4, I would get 2 x 6-6-6's, and 7 x 5-4-6's led by an 8-1 and 7-0 with 2 x MMG's and a BAZ 44. 

The Germans would win the scenario if they controlled one multi-hex building at Game End and provided the Americans didn't successfully exit two tanks off the south edge. 

As the attacking Germans, Dan would command the men of the 6th SS Mountain Division "NORD". This force would consist of 4 x 8-3-8's and 3 x 5-4-8's led by a 9-2, 8-1 and 8-0 with 2 x LMG's and a DC. ON Turn 5, the Germans would get to drive a captured M8 onto the battlefield.

Second Thoughts is a 7 turn scenario, but the force sizes and battlespace allow this game to played fairly quickly.

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Germans must capture the a multi-hex building and hold until the end of the game.  Plus have a screen of PF toting infantry that can prevent two tanks from exiting off the south edge.  The plan will be to capture the southern most multi-hex buildings and conceal.  The American reinforcement have a great deal of firepower.  Hopefully the PF rolls are good and two tanks can be stopped.  Then everyone will move to the multi-hex building for the end game."

Here's my defense...I had no freaking idea what to do. I needed to keep Dan away from the bridges...away from the multi-hex building and away from the north edge road  hexes, where my armor would have to enter on Turn 2. Because remember...Panzerfausts are not your friend...

The ASL..."just don't roll a 12" tank killing king!!!

Dan's Schwerpunkt arrives. I can't remember the last time I faced SS 8-3-8's...maybe NEVER....

SS 8-3-8's be like...

The attack begins. I managed to put down some fire and break a squad, but overall the Germans got in my grill pretty early. And I would MALF the bazooka on the first shot...this doesn't even phase me's so freaking predictable. 

Dan's first turn penetration was pretty good. But I was surprised that the hadn't come down the rail line and occupied the trees beside the bridge. And surprisingly my boys were surviving due to poor rolls by Dan and lucky morale check rolls on my part. I really thought Dan would crush him on the first turn. So I was enjoying some good luck.

And man did I need some luck...

Turn 2 - Dan would really go for the gold. I would manage to get some lucky breaks on the attack, but the German 9-2 and two squads would get into the village and occupy two multi-hex buildings.

At the end of two turns...I had held in the center, but Dan had successfully swung the gate and gotten control of the bridges and two multi-hex buildings. But I had kept Dan away from my tank entry hexes. 

My green half-squad had held on in the open...but death came for it in close combat.

Turn 2 - comes the cavalry. And talk about being a knucklehead. Sometimes I wonder if I've ever played this game. I focused my tanks on eliminating broken Germans instead of racing for the bridge and exiting. There were no Germans stopping me...but nooo...I went after brokies...

I might be...but that's my secret...

Turn 3 - I kinda just move all over the place...but now there are Germans with Panzefausts.

A look at the German positions.

Dan would knock out a Sherman and then go after my Sherman heading to the exit.

I would manage to pin Dan's squad that went after my fleeing Sherman, but the officer would jump onto my tank in Close Combat. He would fail to knock it out and I would succeed in KIA'ing him. Man was that close...

Turn 4 my reinforcements come on as my first Sherman tank exits successfully. Turn 5  Dan's captured M8 trundles into the battle and goes head to head with my Sherman Firefly. The Firefly wins that contest. My boys retake most of the battlefield while Dan consolidates in his multi-hex location.

A look at the US line as I move towards the bridges.

Turn 5 American, I succeed in exiting the Firefly. I managed to run the gauntlet and Dan wasn't able to bale hay with his panzerfausts. With that Dan offered the concession. My Americans had won the day and my first win of 2021...and my 200th win all-time. 

And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:

"The plan did not work.  The Americans inflicted significant casualties and although two building were captured the Americans exited two tanks.  This scenario is very dicey with both sides needing good rolls.  The German failure to get significant PF rolls or hits dashing their hopes for victory on turn 6.  Well played by Grumble Jones.  My thanks for an exciting game."

And now for our second game!

Our Saturday game would be Dan's choice and once again would involve snow and SS...hmmm....a bit of a trend. Personally, I am not a huge fan of snow...night...wind...dust...sun blindness....yeah...I like summer in Normandy of Russia!!!! I guess that makes me a bit of a lazy player. I tend to enjoy fewer rules. But I would learn something in this game about deep snow...I didn't know it gives you a +1 TEM against that's pretty cool..

Dan would choose ASL Scenario TOT 36 Balkan Barbecue. This scenario from Kinetic Energy would take place in Yugoslavia in the winter of 1943. This would deal with an action between the 7th SS Mountain Division "Prinz Eugen" and Partisans of the Banija Division.

ROAR has this scenario with 16 German and 13 Partisan wins. The ASL Archive has it with 3 German and 0 Partisan wins. 

This scenario depicts the Germans as Minor Axis with  none of the values associated with either the Germans or SS. This includes no capability to form fire groups. I found this odd and not in keeping with my own study of the division. The division was formed form ethnic Germans, primarily from the Banat region of Croatia. These men received German equipment, training and in many cases had leadership from other core SS divisions. Lone Canuck did an entire pack devoted to the 7th SS Gebirgs Division and George Kelln depicted these men as 4-6-8's going to 4-4-7's and then to 4-3-6's. In my opinion this is a more accurate assessment of this unit. Tito's Partisans avoided straight up fights with the Prinz  Eugen because it was the considered one of the best German units in Yugoslavia. Unlike the 6th SS Mountain Division, the Prinz Eugen also had a reputation for atrocities. Certainly, the Partisan War in Yugoslavia was often one big atrocity fest on all sides. At the end of the war, many of the Prinz Eugen's surviving men were executed en masse. 

A favorite volume from my own library is the Munin Verlag photo history of the division. It's very good collection of photos and maps. Like all Munin Verlag publications,  it is sympathetic to the men of the division, but discerning readers can see beyond that to appreciate the quality of the photos and one of the better divisional treatments that I have seen for any of the Waffen SS divisions.

Having said all of that, this scenario is already pretty tough on the Partisans so dealing with a stronger Prinz Eugen Division would make it even more difficult. 

Dan would once again be the attacking Germans for the second game of our double-header. First the 6th SS Mountain and now the 7th SS Mountain Division. This is sort of strange and was in no way planned by either of us. Dan's force would consist of 14 x 3-4-7's led by an 8-1, 8-0, 7-0 and 6+1 with an MMG and LMG. For support Dan would have 5 of which would have 30 factor flame-thrower. Now we understand the barbecue in the name. Too bad...I would be the one on the grill. Word to the wise...if barbecue is in the scenario might want to be the attacker...just say'n....

As the defending Partisans I would command the men and women of the 7th Banija and 4th Shock Divisions. This force would consist of 17 x 3-3-7's, and 5 x 3-2-8's led by an 8-1, 3 x 8-0's and a 7-0 with 5 x LMG's an ATR, 2 x DC's and 2 x 50 MTR's. 

Deep snow would be in effect and make movement a bear. The player with the most VP wins the game. The Germans get 3 points for each hut and the Partisans get 2. The Partisans also get exit VP for units that exit off the south edge of board 37 after turn 4. 

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Axis Minors (Germans) must get move VP than the Partisans.  Axis gets CVP and 3 VP per hut controlled at game end.  The Partisans get CVP and EVP for exited Partisans off the south edge of board 37.  The Axis plan will be to enter in armored assault with the tanks, move to huts and capture them then have the tanks move out to prevent exit.  With low firepower and low ELR the Axis troops will be difficult to keep in the fight.  Hopefully the deep snow keeps the Partisans from exiting fast and the tanks can engage to cut rout and delay Partisan movement."

The Partisans have to set up by SSR, which puts the bulk of their force on the three hills on Board 36. As you can see Dan's Schwerpunkt is going directly for the huts. Armor is really the decisive factor in this game. 

Prinz Eugen would not have access to German quality AFV's. They would rely on captured French and other minor allied armored vehicles. But given the campaign, such tanks would be sufficient. My ATR would have little to no chance of destroying any of the the 5 tanks in this scenario. In fact, I would have been better off with molotov capability.

Dan's armored assault came right up on me. I would get good early results. I would break and ELR two squads and a fire lane would stop his MMG team moving up the road. This early success would be a bad thing as it would alter my tactical plans. I had planned to move towards the exit from my hill top positions. But seeing this early success, I decided to fight for the village. MISTAKE....

Despite early breaks, Dan had made some forward progress.

The breaks took some pressure off my boys, but on the east side, two tanks managed to break one of my squads. I also moved a squad behind a  hut to get out of the flame thrower tank's range.

My boys on the hills began moving to the fight. But the deep snow was maddening...

"Ok...who forgot the skis!?!"

Turn 2 - Dan came on strong again with the armor leading the way.  My fire lane did it's job for a second D-Fire, but I was not doing well on the west side. My 8-1 had a great shot and rolled Boxcars...which broke his LMG on its first shot.

Ok...Warning...Rant ahead...yeah...rolling boxcars would be so frequent in this game, that it really was almost predictable. Dan had problems with early in the game and I had it throughout the game. I would MALF both mortars, two LMG's and casualty reduce as boxcars plagued me. For both games, Dan would roll 6 snake eyes and 8 boxcars. I would roll 4 snake eyes and 11 boxcars. It's really not a joke that rolling too many boxcars will impact your game. It does. Personally, I'm tired of the dice hurting me. From cowering to MALF'ing to rolling your opponent's sniper...the dice often become your second opponent. Oh well...

Dan made a bit more progress on Turn 2, but it was still a bit slow going.

Dan still struggled with broken squads and a MALF'd coax MG that would be destroyed. Poor luck afflicted us both and made the early turns of this game just drag. Like two bad boxers...we just couldn't land a punch.

Turn 3 - the game finally began to open up . The flame thrower tank was wiping me out in the huts and his other tanks were knocking me off balance in the center.

I would move my boys into the fight, while my mortars finally started lobbing rounds.  My Hero would successfully place a DC on one of Dan's tanks and destroy it.

One tank down...but that would be all I would get.

Turn 4 - Dan's armor swings around the southwest flank and moves to close the exit on Board 37. I wasn't planning to make the attempt...but Dan made sure it wasn't even an option.

The German flame thrower tank was absolutely killing me. I couldn't get close enough to place a DC on it and it was taking down everything in its path.

A great look at the German line into the village. Dan had won the battle of the huts and was now working to get more points by killing Partisans. I would MALF my mortar for the third time and that was it for me. I had had enough and gave the concession.

A final look at the battle. My concession came on Turn 5 and it was clear that Dan would gain complete control of the village and put a beating on my boys in the center woods. So conceding was in order. Hats off to Dan for a great second half of this game. It was a good win and good example of armor/infantry coordination. The Partisans really can't hang in this fight with the armor. So if I play it again as the Partisans...I will be running for the exit right away.

Dan's boys would get a good win (even as "fake" Germans). This is an interesting scenario, but I do think the depiction of the 7th SS is inaccurate, but again, given this scenario, the weakening of the Germans helps give the Partisans a bit more of a chance to win. This is also a good scenario to learn deep snow.

And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:

"The plan worked.  The Partisans chose an aggressive counter attack to bring the fight to the Axis over the huts.  The tanks proved their worth by breaking the Partisan defense and cutting the rout paths, then breaking up the counter attacks.  At the end of turn 5 the Partisans had taken too many losses and could not retake the huts.  This scenario gives the impression the Axis can be defeated in a stand up fight with their low ELR causing many units to reduce but the tanks are too powerful.  The scenario also has a unique take on the 7th SS Gebirgsjager Division as Axis Minor troops.  My thanks to Grumble Jones for giving it a try and for keeping it unpredictable with counter attack.  Classic ASL from the 1990s."

Ok that's a wrap on this week's AAR's. Dan and I will be back at it tomorrow night and then again on Saturday for another double header. I watched the movie "In Good Company" again today and realized how much I relate to Dennis Quaid's character in this movie. I'm the "old guy" now and as I continue my search for employment...I am reminded that I'm closer to the end of my career than the beginning. Thankfully, ASL only gets better as time goes on. 

Oh...I almost forgot to tell you...that's For King & Country arrived yesterday...33 days after being dispatched. I'll take that as omen of good things to come!!!

See you again next week!