Sunday, October 10, 2021

A Weekend in Stalingrad

Stalingrad...the name evokes so many emotions among ASL players. Our ASL journey began in its rubble strewn sheets. The exploits of Dubovich and Corporal Uhl fill our collective memories. There is no other battlefield that feels quite the same. The tragedy of Stalingrad infuses every game and makes us mindful of both the horrible costs and absolute futility of war. Stalingrad is the starkest evidence of war's horror. Of course in ASL...the horror is inflicted on cardboard tiles, but the message from history is not lost. Dan Best and I would play three scenarios from Red Barricades on the original maps. These battles would be desperate, brutal affairs with high losses on both sides. At one point in our first scenario, I was shocked that my opponent had already lost 4 of 7 squads to my Russian defenders...and I was equally decimated.  ASL does a fine job of showcasing how difficult combat was in Stalingrad. The rate of attrition is unlike any other environment. The fighting is truly up close and personal. It's classic urban ASL combat at its best.

Now for an admission...I had only played one Red Barricades scenario before this weekend. I have had it for a loooong time. I last played a scenario in 1992. After that it languished unplayed as I entered my 13 year hiatus from ASL. And when I emerged from those dark non-ASL years, I was too busy playing anything else. Because well...I'm not a big fan of Stalingrad scenarios. Heresy I'm sure, but I just was never a big fan of the heavy urban environment of Red Barricades. I much prefer the open boards with a village, some woods, some orchards...a lovely hedge and a nice hill top from time to time. Those are my personal favorite environments. 

Successfully fighting in a ruined city takes some skill. Between the two of us, Dan is the better player in the urban settings. It really suits his "in your face" attack style. I have never played another opponent that is as aggressive as Dan. Dan is relentless in his attacks and sometimes to a fault as he pushes the boundaries and makes moves that you can't believe. And then you roll badly...or you cower and now Dan's crazy attack is pure genius and wastes your guys in the process. I have never played a dull game with Dan, because he keeps the game exciting.

Our first scenario would be RB6 Turned Away. Charles Kibler, Eric Baker, Michael A. Balis are all credited as the designers of this scenario. ROAR has this one with 98 German and 122 Russian wins. 

At 6-12/ turns, this is a very manageable scenario for Red Barricades and excellent introduction if you have yet to play a scenario of this HASL. The squad count is low for both sides and reflects a bit of the attrition that affected both sides by November of 1942. This scenario depicts the efforts of a German 70 man assault detachment that attempted to eliminate the survivors of the Russian 138th Rifle Division. The Germans would penetrate to the Russian HQ only to be turned back after brutal hand to hand fighting. Our playing of this scenario would reflect the historical outcome...and a credit to the scenario designers.

I would be the defending Russians and command the men of the 650th and 344th Rifle Regiments as well as the survivors of the 179th Independent Engineer Company and 138th Division HQ Guard Company. My force would consist of 1 x 4-5-8, 1 x 6-2-8, 1 x 3-2-8, 1 x 5-2-7 and 3 x 4-4-7's led by a 9-2, 8-1 and 7-0 with an HMG and 2 x LMG's with three fortified locations. 

My HQ and Engineer Companies would set up HIP in one of three building locations, which would be designated the Divisional HQ and the German victory location. I would choose the two level wooden building in the center. This one choice would win me the scenario.

As the attacking Germans, Dan would command the men of Sturmgruppe of Infanterie Division 79. This force would consist of 7 x 5-4-8's led by a 9-2, 9-1 and 8-0 with an MMG, 4 x LMG's and a DC.

They would begin the game in gully hexes which led around the flanks of the Russian position and with their MMG dismantled, which Dan does not like.

The scenario utilizes a small section of the RB map. Dan and I would stay with the original RB map instead of using the updated Red Factories map. 

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Germans must find and capture one of three locations that could be the Russian HQ.  They will attack on abroad front moving through the rubble and engage the Russian line where they can find it.  They will then use the DC to assault the HQ building.  Hopefully the Russians will open fire early and reveal the hidden HQ."

Dan would set up only in the northern gully. At game end he told me that he had missed the opportunity to set up in the south gully as well. It does seem advantageous for the Germans to go down both gullies as each one lead to one of the three possible HQ locations. So this move would help the German player quickly identify which building was being used for the HQ. The Russian force is very weak, so staying concealed and/or HIP is crucial to surviving this scenario.

Moving in the gullies allow the German to move unseen and retain concealment until they are into the rear of the Russian position.

Dan would exit the gully early and move a flanking force towards the south. I had adjusted my positions to meet the main attack from the north.

My HMG and the 8-1 would move to a position where they could cover the northern road.

I would pin a DC toting squad in the street, but Dan's other boys would get into their positions. In the south, Dan went right into CC with one of my 4-4-7's.

I would snake the Close Combat and successfully eliminate the Germans and infiltrate to the north. Dan's attack would move to the center and Dan's DC toting Squad would force me to make an unwanted decision. As I say often, I have never played anyone has aggressive as Dan. This attack was directed at my HQ...even though Dan had no idea my HIPSTERS were there. He was guessing and he guessed right. I was forced to fire my 1st floor and 2nd floor HIP units...because my first roll was bad. But the second would eliminate the Germans. But the cost was high. Now Dan knew where I was hiding...and much earlier than I would have liked.

My 9-2 was not pleased...

My 4-4-7 close combat champions would successfully escape to my other fortified location. 

Dan would press home the assault. I would MALF my HMG...because that's just what happens to me these days. I won't's really sapping my joy for the game. The 12 would also turn my 4-4-7 into a 4-2-6 due to Ammo Shortage...yeah...that's just great.

Georgi had been told many times to quit taking pot shots at passing Stukas....cause we were under Ammo Shortage...but he did he listen...noooo....perhaps young Georgi will listen better in the Penal Battalion...finding mines with your feet can be tricky business...good luck Georgi....

With my force all but eliminated, Dan moved in for the kill.

I had a lot of firepower inside my Alamo...but I kept rolling 10's and 11's...which was doing nothing to Dan's boys. It was really getting to me...because I would keep on rolling high with the best fire shots I was just killing me inside...In the north, my office would rally and even the 4-2-6 would rally. The 8-0 would die, but the 4-2-6 would become an irritant to the German 9-2.

I was encircled in the upper location, but doing ok on the ground floor. My 4-2-6 had distracted the German 9-2, which was buying me precious time to hang on. The Germans were down to three squads themselves. I just had to survive inside the Alamo and keep from pinning.

Dan's boys were preparing for the final assault.

As Dan surrounded me, I would again roll terribly and do nothing to him...but his boys would break and or pin all the guys on Level 1. They would then go in for some close combat action and kill everyone...3 squads and the 9-2 were dead. Upstairs a broken 7-0 and a good order 3-2-8 remained alive and would therefore give my Russians the victory. With RB rules, I probably could have used the cellar as well, but didn't think of it. But having the two levels and both fortified saved me and allowed me to win the game, despite losing nearly everything.

It had been a tough fight for our first scenario in Stalingrad. My Russians would win the day...but only just barely. 

And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:

"The plan did not work.  The Germans setting up in the gully take much too long to move and have little time.  A Russian squad killed one German in CC and then killed the 9-1 and squad in a H-t-H exchange.  These CC losses combined with the loss of the DC in the street slowed the German attack.  While able to get into the victory building on the last turn a HS survived in the upper level to retain control.  Well played by Grumble Jones who chose the multi-level building as the HQ and held out for the win.  Congrats to Grumble Jones on a well deserved win."

Our second scenario would be RB7 The Red House.  This 6 turn scenario covers the attempts by the Russians to retake the Red House in a night attack. This scenario has ground snow, an NVR of 2 and of course stealthy Russians. I'm not a fan of night scenarios and even less so when my opponent can simply creep up on me and stay concealed and then jump in CC with me ambush and wipe me o out and then do it attack in the next CC. I've experienced scenarios like this before and I won't lie...there's nothing fun about watching your boys go down without even a chance to fight back. It straight up sucks.

So one of the confusing things about this scenario is it's name...The Red House. There is a house denoted as the Red House and it on the map for this battle, but the scenario text refers to the Red House as the Commissar's House. The ASL Archive shows a picture of Pavlov's House, which is not correct. Ii is clear from the RB map and the setup, that this fight is centered on a Russian attempt to retake the Commissar's House. The Red House a block over and is shown in Hex BB15. The actual Red House is the Administration Building of the Barrikady Factory and was the Germans referred to it as the Red House. And this should not be confused with the Rote Haus which is another block or so north of the Red House and served as Lyudnikov's OP during the battle. Dan also reminded me that the Russians and Germans had different names for the buildings and that the Russians referred to the Commissar's House as the Red House. So I learned something!!

ROAR has this scenario with 35 German and 33 Russian wins. 

As the defending Germans, I would command the men of the 476th Infantry Regiment of the 305th Infantry Division. This force would consist of 8 x 4-6-7's and 3 x 4-4-7's led by a 9-2, 8-1 and 8-0 with an HMG, 2 x MMG's, 2 x LMG's and 5 trenches. On any turn after the Russians reveal themselves by firing or engaging in close combat, the Germans would get reinforcements of 2 x 4-6-7's and a 4-4-7 led by a 9-1 with an LMG.

As the scenario attacker, Dan would command the men of the 768th Rifle Regiment. This force would consist of 5 x 6-2-8's and 10 x 5-2-7's led by a 9-1, 8-1 and 8-0 with 2 x MMG's, 4 x LMG's and 2 x DC's.

The battle space with the Volga in sight!

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Russians must take 4 buildings or the Commissars House (aka The Red House) for the win in this winter night attack.  The plan is for the forces to avoid Commissars House and attack around into the backfield and grab four buildings.  The 8-1 with two 5-2-7 squads each with a MMG will attack south of the house to threaten the flank.  While the rest move north of the house.  The will approach and try to get into CC with German squads.  With both sides having ammo shortage there will be no fire lanes.  Hopefully the H-t-H CC goes in favor of the stealthy Russians."

This is a night scenario with 2 NVR and plenty of cloaking counters. The Russian player has to take control of the Commissar House or 4 other buildings in the German setup zone. The Russians are stealthy, so I expected Dan to creep up in the dark and then wipe me out in Close Combat, which would be Hand to Hand.

Dan came at me in full strength. I would put down as much Resid as possible. I would DM a couple squads, but nothing too severe. 

The close combat phase would be bloody...oh good grief. Dan would win most of the ambushes and kill 4 of my squads. I only had 11 on the board. It was a slaughter in the dark.

After one flanks were nearly turned.

But since Dan had initiated combat, my reserves were able to come on right away. Dan already had one of the 4 buildings he needed for victory. I only had one good order squad in a fortified building left to hold my left flank. So I was going to lose two more houses in that area. My reinforcements had to try and hold the buildings in the immediate area. The NO MOVE group were all dummys so that building was at risk as well. Dan's initial assault had been highly successful.

I would light up the right flank after rushing my 9-2 with the HMG to hold that flank. My 8-0 was by himself with a stack of Dummy's.

Dan made great progress and prepared to assault my fortified location. He was pressing me on the right and I was still irritating him with a pesky squad in melee in the center.

My 8-1 would rush to the NO MOVE building to hold it, but that left only two squads in the backfield to try and hold their buildings. Dan only needed two more for the win.

I would hold Dan off on the right and he made no serious moves towards the Commissar House, where four of my squads were hunkered down. Dan saw the opportunity to go for the lightly defended buildings in the rear and went for it.

Dan managed to get a break in my fortified building with a DC. And in they came for some CC ACTION!!!

It was no contest and Dan had his third victory building.

Dan would succeed in wiping me out on the left side and take another building with four more lined up for the taking. So at the end of four turns, I gave the concession and Dan had the victory! My congrats to Dan on a great first turn execution. Killing four of my squads in that first Close Combat really sealed the victory.

And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:

"The plan worked.  The Russians moved in and eliminated 4 German squads with the loss of one and a half squads on turn 1.  Then pushed into the backfield and took buildings.  Using a DC to breach one fortified location.  The Germans evened up the odds with both sides losing 7 squads by turn 4 but the Russians were in all four buildings with a 6-2-8 LMG unit each.  The Germans and Russians had no more attack strength but the Germans would need to counter attack and had critically lost half the leaders and MGs.  It was a very bloody affair.  My thanks to Grumble Jones for a second Red Barricades scenario!"

So our third and Final Red Barricades game would complete our Stalingrad Trifecta weekend! Dan and I had one win a piece. The third game would be the rubber match! Our final choice would be RB 3 Bread Factory# 3. I had played this scenario one time before on New Year's Day 1992. My St. Louis group got together and we played it as a four player game. ROAR has this one with 161 German  and 144 Russian wins. And for the third time, Dan would be the attacker and I the defender. Thankfully...this scenario would not be at night and ammo shortage would not be a factor.

A look at the map. This would basically the same area as Turned Away but further to the east. All three of these games were mentally exhausting and bloody....losses would be heavy in all of these games.

As the attacking Germans, Dan would command the men of Kradschuetzenbataillon 64, Panzergrenadier Regiments 013 and Panzer Division 14. This force would consist of 1 x 5-4-8, 11 x 4-6-7's and 2 x 4-6-8's led by a 9-2, 9-1 8-1, and 7-0 with an HMG, 4 x LMG's, and a DC.

As the defending Russians, I would command the men of the 62nd Army and 768th Rifle Regiment. This force would consist of 4 x 4-5-8's, 9 x 4-4-7's, a 5-2-7, and 3 x 4-2-6's led by a 9-1, 8-1 and 8-0 with an HMG, 2 x MMG's, 3 x LMG's, a 45L AT Gun and a Trench.

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Germans must attack and capture two single hex multi-level buildings.  The 9-1 (who goes berserk by SSR) will stack with two 4-6-7 squads and the 5-4-8 will have the LMG and DC The 9-2 two 4-6-8 squads (one with HMG and one with LMG) and  HS will take the firing position.  The other HS will move along the gully while a squad and dummy stack will attack the norther buildings.  The rest will attack toward the G41 building.  Once that building is taken and the victory buildings are isolated, the Germans will try reduce the Russians and then assault for CC.  Hopefully the Germans can get into the victory buildings before the Russian reinforcements arrive."

A look at the setup as we began our final Red Barricades match.

My boys were ready...

Dan's 9-2 Death Star with the HMG unleashed and went on a Rate of Fire least 4 shots as I recall...but I managed to survive. I would DM the 9-2 stack in my Defensive Fire.

By SSR, the German 9-1 may go berserk. Dan had a broken squad and a half in the hex when the 9-1 went Berserk and immediately took the brokies with him. I would waste the infantry, but the 9-1 would get into my hex despite all my fire. Dan's sniper would hit the squad upstairs and break them. They would be eliminated for failure to rout with the dang 8-1 downstairs. I lost a 4-5-8 to the sniper. I would kill the 8-1, but he would make my 4-5-8 a half-squad. His berserk charge had cost me a squad and a half and in my Alamo location.

Dan continued to press me and I was forced to reveal my AT Gun, which fired and didn't really do much.

My boys in the trench would stay concealed as the Germans came in for close combat. Even with a -3 for Ambush...I would miss it and the Germans would get it and waste my 4-4-7. it's so hard to lose units in these situations. I purposely stayed concealed in order to gain the ambush...and then I didn't get that just bites....

In the north, my isolated 4-4-7 with the LMG was holding his own and would end the game as my best performing unit.

The battle continued to rage as my reinforcements ran into the battlefield. Dan was up in my grill and I was feeling the pain!

Dan would suffer from a plethora of 12's...a veritable trainload of boxcars...he would MALF his HMG and 3 of his 4 LMG's. And he would destroy the HMG and an LMG in the repair attempts. This was significant and Dan would sorely miss that firepower as he pushed into the victory locations.

With my reinforcements I managed to reestablish a bit of a defensive perimeter. Dan would hold onto my trench location and had eliminated my AT Gun. But he was losing squads to breaks and without his MG's wasn't getting any rate of fire opportunities.

What a fight...this thing was just both of us trading body blows....

As Turn 5 ended, Dan was in control of one victory building. I was trying to rush my boys up to prepare to retake the second location if it fell.

Dan had me on the ropes....

Dan's 9-2 cleared out the bottom floor of the second building and then raked the upper floor with massive fire. My boys would die as the bullets ripped through the floor and walls...but my 9-1 would roll snakes and battle harden to a 9-2. He was Pinned...but ALIVE!!!! As Turn 6 boys had won the game in a repeat of what happened in our first game...Turned Away. 

It was just dice had been pretty cold off and on for much of these past three games...and then I roll the game winning can't make this stuff up....

Dan and I had played three epic games from Red Barricades and it was more fun than either of us had anticipated. What a weekend of ASL!!! My thanks to Dan for an absolutely fantastic three games of ASL. We both gave it everything we had.

And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:

"The plan did not work.  The flanking units were driven off and the Germans broke 4 MGs (including the HMG) and lost two to repair attempts (including the HMG).  While the berserk charge did eliminate a squad and a half.  The Germans lost the 9-1 and two squads.  The attrition of the next 5 turns led the Germans capturing one victory building and on the last turn getting into the lower level of the second.  The final fire phase the Germans broke all units in the upper level but the Russian 9-1 who battle hardened to a 9-2.  He survived to deny control of the building to the Germans.  Great defense by Grumble Jones.  My congrats to Grumble Jones for a well deserved victory and to winning 2 of 3 in the Red Barricades play off!  ASL at it finest."

It doesn't get better than this...

That's it for our Stalingrad Weekend!!!

Dan and I will return next Saturday!!!


1 comment:

  1. Great AARs, as usual! A funny note - I've played Bread Factory 3 different times (both sides), and have never won. It is my ASL Kryptonite, I guess.

    This coming Saturday, Don and I will be playing RB4 - To the Rescue. Looks like an interesting scenario!