There's nothing like a weekend of Eastern Front ASL to refresh you after a long work week. It was also just a great change of pace from recent ASL games. It was good for me to reconnect with just the basic roots of ASL. Eastern Front games are right in my wheelhouse of fun...especially when I get play the Germans. There are few nationalities I enjoy playing more than the Germans when defending. Good range, firepower, Machine guns and decent morale and leadership give the Germans a real edge in ASL.
Dan and I would play back to back East Front scenarios on Friday and Saturday evening. Both would also be form third party producers....Rally Point and Encircled Productions. Prior to attending my first tournament in 2013, I had never even heard of either one. In fact, Critical Hit was the only third party producer that I was familiar with and I owned only the third CH Magazine put out years before. Up until that time, Avalon Hill/MMP were the only source of scenarios that my opponent and I would play. Tournament play really broadened my horizons and exposed me to the world of scenario designs that existed outside of MMP. Like a Muggle discovering Diagon Alley, I wss seeing a brand new world of ASL products. Today, I play third party products with as much enthusiasm as I do MMP scenarios. And I make no distinction between Critical Hit or any other 3rd party producers. I am open to all scenarios.
The first of our two scenarios would be Rally Point RPT108 Catching the Bear. Designed by Mike Augustine, this scenario takes place in the Crimea in 1943. It includes two heroes, Major Erich Baerenfaenger and the Soviet Sniper Heroine, Mladshiy Serzhant Kostyrin. There are some interesting SSR's that allow the Soviet Player to (once during the game) to replace a lost leader with a 10-2 and reduce the SAN from 4 to 2. As you will see the Soviet Sniper Heroine would be heard from and exact a heavy toll on the invading Germans.
Mark Pitcavage's Desperation Morale has an interesting review of this Rally Point pack and this scenario in particular. Worth your time.
As the defending Germans, I would command the men of the 123rd Grenadier Regiment, 50th Infantry Division. My force would consist of 9 x 4-6-8's , a 2-4-8, and a 2-2-8 led by a 10-2, 9-1, and 8-0 with an MMG, 2 x LMG's, 3 x DC's and a Pak 40.
The German 10-2 represents Major Erich Baerenfaenger. A highly decorated Wehrmacht officer. Baerenfaenger would see action in Poland, France, the Balkans, Crimea, Taman Peninsula and the Kuban.
He would end his military career during the Battle of Berlin. Promoted to Major General on April 22nd, he would be given command of defending the A & B sectors. He would last be seen with Tiger tanks near one of the giant Flak Towers.
With Hitler dead, and the city rapidly falling to the Soviets, Baerenfaenger and his wife would commit suicide in a Berlin alley.
Sadly, Baerenfaenger's devotion to Nazism would cause him to choose it over his own life and that of his wife.
As the attacking Russians, Dan would command the men of the 691st Rifle Regiment, 38th Rifle Division and 85th Tank Regiment and 2nd Guards Rifle Division. This force would consist of 12 x 4-4-7's, 3 x 6-2-8's and a 2-2-8 led by a 9-1, 8-0 and 7-0 with an MMG, 2 x LMG's, 2 x ATR's, an 82 MTR and 5 x T-34's.
A female sniper named Tatyana Kostyrina, would also be present and is represented by the Russian SAN of 4. By SSR, should a Russian leader be eliminated, then on the next turn, the Russian player could place a 10-2 on the board by reducing the SAN to 2. The 10-2 would then represent Tatiana as she historically led the final assault against the German positions. Tatiana would die in the attack. During this engagement, she would kill 15 Germans and over 100 during her brief service.
Tatiana would be heard from during our playing of this scenario.
And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:
"The Russians must assault and capture the buildings on board 63. The MTR will set up to fire smoke on the Germans. The Rest of the troops will set up to do a board edge creep on the south side. While the tanks enter with riders behind them. We will use the small level 1 hill as a screen and attack through the woods to the rest of the buildings. While two tanks go into the building to pin down the Germans. hopefully the AT gun does not get rate."
At 5-1/2 turns, this is a fast-playing scenario. Most of the Rally Point scenarios are quick playing, which makes them a great choice for an evening game. I would set up with an effort to minimize the effect of Dan's smoke making 82 MTR. Unfortunately, my initial setup was so poor that Dan would literally walk right up on me.
My 9-1 would express his dismay at being posted all the way in the back. He would go on to perform well in the battle.
Dan's mortar would smoke my Baerenfaenger and the MMG. I had anticipated that, so was not overly troubled. I had not anticipated Dan's Schwerpunkt in the south. I was woefully unprepared, and Dan did in fact literally walk up to the back of the first hill. I could only watch as stacks moved completely in the open. Oh, good grief...do I even know how to play this game...I wonder sometimes....
"Harry...excuse me..."Baerenfaenger"....how many times are you going to mess up the setups!?!"
Having put myself in deep doodoo...I would move my forces to deal with the current situation. Smoke was on the hill, two T-34's were on the north flank and a horde of Russians with 3 more tanks was by the first hill. My AT Gun would keep missing...which is such a joy. My only significant action was to send a half-squad racing towards Dan's unprotected 82 MTR.
"Fritz...you know this is suicide...right!?!" "Duh...what part of being deployed don't you understand?"
Turn 2 Russian - Dan's attack from behind the hill consumes my southern flank. In the north, I would knock out my first T-34 with my poorly crewed PAK 40. My race to Dan's MTR would be answered by by the Russian 8-0 who would take a 6-2-8 to deal with the threat. I was good that, as I was taking men away from the main effort in the center.
The Russian mortar team was not amused by my antics.
Major Baerenfaenger could only watch in frustration as Dan's Russians gained their first building location and turned his flank.
"Now you see Hans...those fellas in the brown uniforms are the enemy...we are supposed to stop them...Versteh!?!"
My AT Gun was just busy making noise, but not much else. My intrepid 2-4-8 was still bothering Dan's mortar...but time was running on their escapades. I would not do much of anything else as Turn 2 ended.
Turn 3 Russian - My 2-4-8 would be eliminated, which would free Dan to send the 8-0 to rally boys in the center. Meanwhile the Mortar would resume firing. Dan would complete his envelopment of my southern flank. In the north, his T-34 up there would get a critical hit and KIA my 4-6-8 in that victory location. I would knock out a second tank with my Panzerschreck. I would MALF my PAK 40 and that was it for that gun as the crew would break under fire.
Tatiana would show up as well and begin making life miserable fo rme.
Turn 4 Russian - the battle was rapidly getting beyond my control. Dan's Russians would press me from all sides. But my Panzerschreck would take out a third T-34.
Dan would launch two Close Combats and the Germans would get lucky and win both.
Despite winning those close combats, Dan would now have two of the victory locations. He would have to control all the building locations in order to win.
At the end of four turns, I was holding out in two pockets. Four victory buildings were still in play. But Dan's boys would start picking them up soon enough. The German sniper would break the Russian MTR crew. The mortar would be mission killed for the remainder of the game.
Turn 5 Russian - Dan's attack would hammer my two pockets. I was hanging on by my nails at this point. Something I had not foreseen was that a surviving T-34 crew would race into the north to collect victory locations.
Note to self..shoot the crews as they bail out...don't forget...
At the halfway mark of Turn 5, things were a bit strange. My Panzerschreck squad would be eliminated in close combat. On the far west, I would create a Hero. My PAK 40 crew had routed to the board edge. Baerenfaenger was holding the hill pretty well despite the chaos.
At this point, Dan's 9-1 had been lost in close combat, so Dan brought Tatiana in as a 10-2 and reduced his SAN to 2. Tatiana would have to pick up the slack and drive home the Russian attack.
On my part of Turn 5, my Hero would knock out another T-34, but the backblast would break the squad with him. Not good. I was rolling a few snakes now and it was now the new Russian SAN and just like that my PAK 40 crew would be shot dead. The Russian Sniper would take out an officer, remove concealment/break a squad and KIA at least 10 of my boys.
It was a really fun part of this scenario to see the Russian Sniper affect the battle as she did historically. I just love to see that happen and kudos to the scenario designer!
Turn 6 Russian and the finale of a great game! Dan would launch his final attack to take the three victory buildings he still needed for the win. His intrepid T-34 crew would secure one, while Tatiana led an assault to take the building held only by my hero. My 10-2 would rally the squad, but they were not in the building. My 4-6-8 with the MMG would have to hold the line without Baerenfaenger's assistance....DON'T COWER and spray away Lads!!!
It was a helleva last effort by Dan's boys. They would take heavy losses but manage to get adjacent to the final two German held buildings. Close Combat would have to decide this game.
WOW...what a finish. This game had come down to two final close combats. If Dan could win both, he would win the scenario. Tatiana would come through against my lone hero. But what would happen in the far east building...who would win???
Farewell Hero...you took down a T-34 and fought to the last.
The final picture of an epic game. Dan and I would fail to win the close combat in the center and end the game in MELEE...which would give my Germans the victory. What fight...
My Landsers had survived and managed to steal a win from the Russians. My thanks to Dan for one of our great contests. This really was a fun game...and this is definitely a scenario that needs to be played. It's a blast to play.
And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:
"The plan did not work. While we were able to get to all buildings. The Germans held out in the last CC for the win. This scenario is hard on the Russians but can definitely be done in the time provided. My thanks to Grumble Jones for an excellent game. Congrats on the win!"
For a second AAR?? You bet I am!!!
Our second game, played on Saturday would be MM74 Haenert's Line. Back to back Russian Front scenarios with the Russians attacking in both of them. But this time, I would command the Russians against Dan's hardened Grossdeutschland Veterans.
MM74 Haenert's line is one of my designs that was first released as a Grumble Jones blog scenario GJ061 in September of 2018. That version of the scenario would have no Russian tanks. After a year's worth of playtesting in 2021, the scenario would receive 2 x T-28's to the Russian OOB.
To date, I don't know of any playings of either version beyond the initial playtests. This playing by Dan and I would constitute the first official recorded scenario in ROAR and the ASL Archive.
The inspiration for this scenario is found in outstanding Osprey Combat Series book: Germany Infantryman vs. Soviet Rifleman. Historically, Oberleutnant Karl Haenaert of the Grossdeutschland Regiment (1941) would hold off a large Russian assault with a line of 12 x MG 34's. The Russians would be mowed down in the open in a July day on the Russian steppe.
Designing a scenario that gives the Russians a chance to wins such a situation is a real challenge. It's easy enough to model a massacre, but to tweek enough that both sides can win the game is the trick. The March Madness crew in Kansas City managed to do just that.
This is also a scenario that will be psychologically tough on the Russian Player. He will lose a tremendous number of squads trying to get to contact with the Germans. Prepare yourself...
Cardboard warriors know the score...but death leads back to the PLANO's...the RAACO's and a chance to fight again!!!
As the defending Germans, Dan would command the men of the Grossdeutschland Infantry Regiment. His force would consist of 8 x 4-6-8's and 2 x 2-2-8's led by a 9-2, 8-1, and 7-0 with 2 x MMG's, 3 x LMG's, 10 x foxholes, and 2 x 75 INF* Guns.
As the attacking Russians, I would command the men of the 729th Rifle Regiment, 145th Rifle Division. My force would consist of 25 x 4-4-7's, led by a 10-0, 8-1, 8+1, 7-0 and 6+1 with 4 x LMG's, 2 x ATR's, 2 x DC's, 2 x T-28 Tanks and a radio with 80mm Battalion Mortar OBA.
My 6+1, 10-0 and 8+1 get a final group photo. Only the 6+1 would survive after being disrupted...and eventually being sent to a Penal Battalion on the Leningrad front...but that is another tale...
And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:
"The Germans must defend two of three key positions. The key to the defense will be the 9-2 in the center. He will be stacked with two squads and a MMG LMG combo. Each 75mm INF gun will be on each flank. Hopefully getting a side or rear shot on tanks. And possibly a deliberate immobilization. The 8-1 with a squad and MMG will defend the most forward victory location. Hopefully the Germans can get rate on the MGs and ELR the attacking Russians so they do not rally."
The order to attack has been received. 250 men of the 729th Regiment would prepare to attack the entrenched Grossdeutschlanders.
I assigned myself 4 objectives. Objective 1 would be the hill on the left flank. Two 4-4-7's with the ATR's would hold that post and interdict any attempts by the Germans to move reinforcements to the point of my primary attack. The 12 range of the ATR's is very valuable even if it's just a 1 down 2 shot. Objective 2 would be the first German outpost on my right. Objective 3 would be the first Victory Location and Objective 4 would be the final Victory Location for the win.
Turn 1 Russian - I sweep forward in a flood. Single squads only each hex with the officers with squads in the second line. My ARTY drops the first spotting round beside Objective 4. It was game on...but oh good grief...Dan's 9-2 with 2 squads, an MMG and LMG would place the fire lane of death, which would halt my primary assault. My ATR boys would take their objective 1 with no problem. I sent boys up the middle to draw fire. They did...they broke...they died.
Despite some tough losses, my force was still largely intact and on the move!
Turn 1 German - My OBA would land and start a fire...I guess that's something. My tanks would duel with a 75* on the right flank. Dan's 7-0 would try to move forward with a 4-6-8 and an LMG. My ATR strategy would pay off by pinning the 7-0...but unfortunately, I couldn't affect the squad.
"Comrade Dubovich...mine is bigger than yours."
"Comrade Dushkin...in the Soviet Union we are all equal!!!"
At the end of Turn 2 - my Russians were in CC in the center and had drawn fire from the German 75* on the right. Dan would get a critical hit and obliterate my boys...but also start a fire...which would be just want Dr. Zhivago ordered!! My OBA had also started a fire that would consume the entire field by game end. I would not place smoke counters as there was no wind and I like the flame counters.
A look at my remaining force after two turns. On the right, I had stacked my boys to get ready for the Turn 3 Human Wave assault to take Ojbective 3.
That's the objective boys!
Turn 3 Russian - My OBA switches to the left flank hill to harasss the Germans on that victory location. Everybody else was moving. I had to draw fire away from my human wave assault. I did everything I could stop Dan's 9-2 from placing the expected fire lane. I would also send my ATR squads to draw fire and I would send boys to pressure the 75* Inf Gun on the right.
My 10-0 would be killed and both his squads ELR'd and broken into half-squads. But the 8-1 and his group would sweep onto Objective 3!!!
Dan's grenadiers at Objective 3 would be eliminated in close combat.
A 4-4-7 that had sacrificed itself to draw the attention of Dan's 9-2 had been broken. In Final Fire, Dan would try to kill it. I would roll snakes and go Berserk!!!
My 8-1 points out the final Objective 4 to my boys!
The circles show what I had left to keep up the fight. Dan had savaged my force.
Haenert exhorts his grenadiers to hold the line!
Turn 4 Russian - I pressure Haenert's position where the MMG squad is broken. And my tank finally moves forward after successfully making the Task Check to break out of Platoon Movement. I was moving my boys into position for the final assault on Objective 4.
The game was riding on my T-28.
A look at Haenert's line as the game neared its climax.
The Germans made ready to stop the final assault.
My last OBA would land near the victory location. I wanted to use the OBA to create a +1 hindrance for Haenert's MMG position. I was down to a tank and 2 infantry groups. Everyone else was dead on the field or broken.
My 7-0 logs the final OBA fire mission.
Turn 5 Russian - This was it...Objective 4 was all that was left to take for a Russian victory. But was it even possible??? The Germans were ready to sweep the steppes with MG 34 fire. It would take a miracle. My T-28 would roll up onto and stop on Objective 4 and wait for Advancing Fire. My other boys would race towards the objective and be mowed down by the German fire...but wait a minute...a CX 4-4-7 with a DC ran the gauntlet and made it adjacent to the Objective...WHAT!?!
"For Mother Russia and GLORY!!!"
So...would there a miracle...YES...in Advancing Fire, my T-28 would fire it's MA...SNAKES...an improbale hit...I roll a dr and 1...CRITICAL HIT. The German 4-6-8 breaks under a 4 check and the Russians have won the game...
HOLY COW!!! What a game! Dan and I had battled all night and my force had been nearly decimated on the field. Dan had killed 13 squads of Russians and all but 4 others were broken. I had a Tank, 4 squads and an 8-1 (7-0 with the radio). And despite all the odds...the dice gods would show me mercy after so many 12's this weekend...and grant me the SNAKE EYES of VICTORY!!!
My thanks to Dan for a fantastic weekend of ASL. Pure...Russian Front ASL...the true homeland of all that is glorious in ASL!!! Dan had given two amazing performances of his own and only the luck of the dice deprived him of two victories. These were two of the most fun games I've played this year. Both came down to the very last turn. You cannot ask for more from ASL. And Dan and I were both victors of great ASL. Just amazing. These are the ASL memories that stay with you...through all the years that will follow.
And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:
"The plan did not work. The Russians were able to get the tank into the second victory location and break the defending squad with an advancing fire improbable hit. Also get the last squad adjacent to take the location. Literally the Russians were down to four good order squads on the board. Well played by Grumble Jones for the win. He had to stay in the fight despite some terrible losses to get the win. My congrats to Grumble Jones for is perseverance!"
That's a wrap on this week's East Front Doubleheader.
Dan and I will return next week for more hard hitting ASL!!!
We will see you then!