Tonight's game would be a personal milestone for me. This game would be my 500th recorded scenario. 500 is of course just a number, but much like a mile marker it tells you where you are and in this case it tells me how far I've come in the world of ASL. Reaching 500 "recorded" games is a big deal. It's certainly not the sum total of games that I have played. The 500 I have recorded on ROAR and in the ASL Archive do not include the hundreds of Squad Leader games and a great many ASL games that just never were recorded in the early years of my playing. But the 500 represents the best period of my ASL gaming experience. Reaching 500 would of course not have been possible without having a reliable opponent. So many thanks go out to Dan Best for providing the weekly games that have given me a life somewhat centered on playing ASL.
The journey to 500 has been a long one and began in 1978 with Squad Leader. I picked up my copy at the local Hobby Shop in Webster Groves, MO known as Rivendell. $12 was all I needed to begin my ASL career. But upon opening my copy...I discovered that my infantry counters were printed on the reverse side of the counter. Still bothers to this very day...
So now for the memorable events leading to the present. In 1981, I was in Kansas City the week after the terrible sky bridge collapse. The city was reeling from that disaster. My best friend Bill was visiting from Bristol, TN and we were staying at the Holiday Inn just down the road from Worlds of Fun. And of course we had a game of Squad Leader going. At one point, we had to change rooms due to malfunctioning AC. I can still remember the Holiday Inn dude's bemused expression as he helped Bill and I carry our boards to the new room. I knocked out my first T-34 with a Panzerfaust during that game. Still remember that moment fondly.
The Cross of Iron Gamette would take it the next level and in those days, I had lots of opportunities to play with my various Hight School buddies. And it was during this period that we began making our own scenarios. This would culminate with a massive mapping of the Cherkassy Pocket and our first mini-CG. Keep in mind that there were no CG's in 1982.
In the fall of 1983, my buddy Brandt came over every day after school for 2-3 hours of SL action. We had a blast...but then Brandt got a girlfriend and a Mustang...and I never got to play him again. Some dudes just don't have the right priorities...
So off to college I went and introduced SL to a whole new set of people. We also played a lot of Avalon Hill's Midway...which is my favorite stand alone AH product. So my Freshman year, I would fall hard for a fellow St. Louisan, Sarah, who was in my German class. She was an awesome girl, but already being courted by another dude. While we got along great, she ultimately chose the other guy. His name was Sean. And yep... in my Sophomore Year, Sean and his roommate would be in the room across from mine. So...I thought the gods were punishing me as I now got to see Sarah all the time....but then something funny happened. Sean happened to see me playing SL and joined in the action. Before you know it, Sean has all the modules and is gaming regularly with me...to Sarah's ultimate surprise. Sean's roommate one mentioned to me that there had been another dude vying for Sarah's affection. He couldn't stop laughing when I told him that other dude had been me. And we never told Sean. Good times!
So after college, my buddies and I migrated finally to Advanced Squad Leader and very quickly were playing through the modules and even some Red Barricades. The guy standing, Pat just retired last year after a long career as a Kansas State Trooper. Scott and Mike both work for the Federal Government in St. Louis. And of course, Scott is my regular STL opponent. These years from 1989 to 1997 were golden. ASL, Bismarck, Luftwaffe, Midway, Wooden Ship and Iron Men and Dungeon & Dragons dominated our lives.
But the golden age couldn't last...family and work would soon take priority for us all. For the first time, ASL would vanish from my life.
1997 would usher in the beginning of my long...dark ASL drought. My work would take me away from St. Louis and my gaming buddies. This would last 13 years...13 years....without a single game of ASL. I stopped buying stuff and packed away my ASL kit. I honestly thought that ASL was over for good.
And then in 2010...I convinced my buddies to play ASL Cardboard via SKYPE.
And just like that ASL was risen from the ashes!!!
And I began to change. Gone were the zip lock bags of counters. I was fully embracing the ASL lifestyle. And it was good!!!
2011 would see the birth of the Grumble Jones ASL Blog. My pride and joy. And it would lead me to connecting with the greater ASL Community. (Tactical patch courtesy of Redheaded T-Shirts.com.)
Following the tournament, I would become more comfortable with playing ASL with new people. And in 2014, my opponent Chris Brackney, aka Big Kansas and I would embark on an epic playing of the Pegasus Bridge Campaign Game. We started playing in February and finished it in September. And it was all played Cardboard via SKYPE. It remains one of the greatest ASL experiences of my life. Pegasus Bridge showed me the incredible depth that ASL was capable of. And it was during this period that my blog voice was born and continues to this very day.
My ASL world would grow and expand as I attended more tournaments and made the lasting friendships that make my life pretty damn fantastic!
And then I found myself sitting across the table from David Ginnard in St. Louis. David is a link to the early days of ASL. My ASL journey had taken me further than I had ever imagined.
So here we are at 500 games of ASL played and recorded against numerous opponents and include some great tournament play from St. Louis, Kansas City, Texas and Sioux City. Too say that my journey 500 has been amazing is not enough...because it's been Awesome...(how many times did I say awesome in my 2 Half-Squads interview...a lot...enough for a drinking game no doubt). Ok that's a wrap on the journey down ASL Memory Lane...let's get on to the Saturday game!!!
I would get to choose the night's action and I selected BFP Scenario BtB14 Swatting a Hornet. Designed by Chas Smith, this is a great scenario set in Normandy and centered around the fighting near Hill 192, Cloville, and Purple Heart Draw. I never tire of Normandy scenarios. ROAR has this scenario with 24 German and 8 American wins. The ASL Archive has it with 7 German and 1 American win. Now at first glance you couldn't be faulted for thinking this scenario is pro-German and maybe too much so.
There are certainly some serious challenges, especially around the stone rubble hexes which give the Germans excellent protection and allow them to fire their Panzerfausts. For the Americans, the Bocage is a great way to gain concealment each turn.
Now having played the scenario, I never felt it was pro-German. It wasn't an easy scenario for me as the Americans, but at no point in the game did I feel that it was unbalanced against me. So don't let the ROAR stats keep you from trying this scenario. Play smart and I think you'll find it gives both sides ample opportunities to win the game.
I also consulted with Dr. Rollwright and he too believes this to be a good scenario and well worth your time to play. And honestly, once you have the seal of approval from Professor Rollwright...what else you do you need!?! (As an aside...Google is a strange place...because you can no look up Professor Rollwright on Google and FIND him. What a strange world we live in.}
When looking for source materials for the blog, it's only great to find maps and/or pictures that are actually tied to the date and place that is depicted in the scenario. Such is the case with this awesome map.
As the attacking Americans I would command the men of Company E, 2-38th Infantry Regiment and 741st Tank Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. My force would consist of 6 x 6-6-6's and 3 x 5-4-6's led by a 9-1, 8-1 and 8-0 with 2 x MMG's, 2 x BAZ 44's and 3 x M4 Shermans with a 9-1 Armor Leader.
BFP's maps are excellent...in case you have not had the opportunity to play on them.
And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:
"The Germans must hold their ground in this scenario against the Americans. I set up the hornet in O7 hiding in the rubble and bocage. The Pz IV will set up in the graveyard hull down. The 9-1 will set up with a 5-4-8 and MMG in hex L3. The 7-0 will set up with a 5-4-8 and LMG in M7 and the other 5-4-8 LMG will be in N5. The 4-4-7 will set up in M2, Q4 (foxhole) and K8 (foxhole). Mainly as a PF screen. Also the 2-3-7 will set up in the J2 rubble to PF any aggressive tanks. Dummies will be in L5 rubble and O4 foxhole. While the last foxhole will be in O8 as a place to retreat to. Hopefully the American tanks can get knocked out before they swarm the hornet."
By SSR, the Americans can enter Turn 1 or Later on the North and/or West edges. I felt the safest route for the tanks was from the west, while the bulk of my infantry would come down from the north.
Turn 1 - American - I sent two half-squads to draw fire. One is broken and other is eventually KIA'd. But otherwise my first moves are ok.
I would also manage to break a 4-4-7 and open the way to advance from the north edge.
In Rally Phase, my broken 2-3-6 would roll snakes and create a 6+1 officer. Dan's boys would faust my Sherman and then break the 2-3-6 for a second time...but the 6+1 would continue on. Meanwhile my Sniper would reveal and Pin another German 4-4-7. I would succeed in hitting Dan's MKIV from the side and destroying it. The crew would escape.
Dan's 2-3-7 would prove to be the best performing German unit. They would hold me in check after destroying the Sherman in their area. Dan's 9-1 with a 5-4-8 and MMG would break my 9-1 stack advancing down the road with a Sherman. One squad would die and everyone else would break. Dan is a very dangerous opponent, because he has a penchant for rolling three's and snakes at the most inopportune times. And I was moving in a stack with a third of my force...stupid...I know.
My Shermans would help knock down the German 9-1 with a 5-4-8 and MMG. The 5-4-8 would die and the 9-1 would move away from the acquired hex.
Dan's 9-1 would not have a great game.
Dan continued to give gut punch me as his Sniper killed my 8-0 and subsequently broke the squad. On the east edge, I got tagged again as my 8-1 moved as a stack. I wasn't learning my lessons very well. I was bleeding infantry and starting to think that victory was moving out of my grasp.
The German 5-4-8 with an LMG is not to be taken lightly.
One of the key elements of ASL is not beating yourself before you are beaten. Manage your resources and press home the attack. Dan would attempt to move the Hornet and I would get a lucky side hit with a bazooka and destroy it. This was a game changing moment.
My bazookas would be my top performers as I used them successfully against armor and infantry alike.
Turn 6 American and my last movement phase. I had to break or eliminate good order Germans units that were still 4 hexes from L4. A German Hero and a 4-4-7 were all that stood between me and victory. Dan's 4-4-7 would knock out one Sherman with a Panzerfaust, but his second shot would miss when he rolled a 12. Sometimes...a game does come down to a single roll.
"We just have to hang on for one more Phase boys!!!"
Dan's Hero would be eliminated in close combat after my last Sherman VBM freezed him. The 4-4-7 would be broken in Advancing Fire and rout away...but he was still only 4 hexes away. If Dan could rally him in his part of Turn 6...He would probably win the game. The only unit adjacent was my CX'd 8-1 Officer. Dan would roll and fail to rally. That was it...game over and an American win. What a great game for my 500th Game!!! It literally came down to the wire and was a great slugging match between Dan and I. It was exactly the kind of game you would have hoped to have for such an occasion.
My thanks to Dan for yet another great game. It probably gets old to read this congrats...but they are definitely in order. Having the opportunity to play ASL every weekend is an amazing thing. I'm extremely fortunate.
And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:
"The plan did not work. Both tanks were knocked out without firing a shot. And while PFs killed two tanks the other got in shots to disrupt the infantry. The Americans came out on top of the infantry exchanges and cleared the village area. Well played by Grumble Jones. This scenario is fun and you should not be scared away by the record in ROAR. My thanks to Grumble Jones for a great game and congrats on a well deserved win!"
That's it for my 500th game and tonight's AAR.
I would remiss if I didn't extend my thanks to YOU...my readers...
this blog only exists because someone reads it.
So my thanks for indulging my ramblings about life and ASL.
Dan and I will return next week for another edge of your seat game of ASL!!!
We will see you then!