Sunday, March 26, 2023

Our Games - MM88 A Medal for G Company & ASL 276 Winter of their Discontent

On our first weekend back since the March Madness Tournament, Dan and I settled back into our routine and played a Friday night game and a Saturday night game. We would play one from the new March Madness 10th Mountain Division Pack and one from Hollow Legions. Both scenarios would be based in Italy. 

Our selected scenario for the Friday night game would be MM88 A Medal for G Company.  This would be one of my two scenario designs submitted for consideration in this pack. This is the one that made it through play test.

The KC play testers made changes to my original submission. Squad counts were lowered on both sides, trenches were added and most significantly, the German 3 x 50 MTR's were changed to 2 x 81 MTR's. I would feel the effects of that change very dramatically.

Dan selected this scenario as we wanted an official playing of it. (He had already played it 3 times in playtest.) And additionally, it's a fast playing scenario. Dan and I finish four turns of its six in about two hours. Perfect for an evening game.

I even had time to go grocery shopping with my wife and grouse about my dice rolls. She loves that...

Now my wife has had to listen to the ASL reel for 36 years now. So, I'm sure she's had more than enough of it. Her favorite thing to say to me is "Why do you keep playing this game that makes you so unhappy!?!" I'm quite certain that I don't have explain that to you my kind know what I know...ASL is the greatest tactical wargame in the world. 

As the Americans, I would command the men of Company G, 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division. My force would consist of 9 x 6-6-7's led by a 9-1, 8-1, and 7-0 with 2 X MMG's, 3 X BAZ 45's and 3 X DC's. And lastly a Hero Counter representing PFC John Magrath. McGrath's actions during the fighting at Monte della Spe would win him the Medal of Honor. Sadly, a mortar round would take his life later that day. 

Today's Blogpost is dedicated to the memory of PFC John Magrath.

As the defending Germans, Dan would command the men of the 90th Panzergrenadier Division. His force would consist of 4 x 4-6-7's, 2 x 2-4-7's, & 2 x 2-2-8's led by a 9-1, and 8-0 with 2 x MMG's, an LMG, 18 Mine Factors, 2 x 81MTR's, 3 x Trenches, 4 x Wire and 2 x Pillboxes.

The scenario is played on Bounding Fire Production Boards DW-5a and DW-5b. These are great boards that match up for some good Italian style terrain. The Americans win this scenario immediately upon controlling Hexes DW-5a BB10, W11 and X15.

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The German must defend the three hill crests on DW5b.  The defense will use the 81mm MTRs to break up the attack.   The wire will set up in W14, V17, V18 and V20.  With mines in V19, V16 and W10.  Trenches will be in W11 and W12 each with a squad.  The other in AA12 with a HS.  The pillboxes will be in W16 with the 9-1, squad and MMG and AA11 with the 8-0, squad and MMG.  the last HS will be in the steeple in U7 with a LMG.  The Americans must move fast and this position might get some good attack while they move in the open.  The MTRs will be in CC3 to cover the right flank and Y14 to break up the attack in the center.  Hopefully they get rate and some hits."

My plan...such as it was had the 9-1 with two squads and the MMG's to be the base of fire as the rest of my boys went after the first two hills. Plans are so much fun...never &^$%$%$% work...but they're fun...

Turn 1 American - I assault move and stay concealed...

Well...let's just say I'm terrified of my dice...

Dan's mortars of DOOM would begin their reign of terror...I would suffer accordingly..PFC Magrath would be killed when I rolled a 12 on the morale check. Being Heroic has its downside...the first of 4 boxcars that would fairly wipe me out during the game.

Dan's mortars would hurt me bad throughout the game, more than anything else. Rate of fire with 8 factors while in the open is a bad combination.

I would manage to take two of the three objectives. In the center, I managed to get control, but then Dan's remaining 4-6-7 would battle harden twice and keep me tied up in Melee for the remainder of the game...but he never took control of the hex away from me. So if I could get to the final hex, I could win the game in spite of my heavy losses. Magrath was KIA'd rolling boxcars, the German sniper would KIA my 8-1 and then the squad would roll boxcars on the LLMC. 

I could see the objective, but could I get to it??? as Turn 4 ended, I had two movements left to reach the final objective for the immediate win. My 9-1 and both squads had rushed to flank the position. The 81 MTR crew was broken and DM'd. My biggest fear was Dan rallying in my face and then wiping me out...and of course that is exactly what  happened. With my 9-1 KIA'd, and both squads broken...that was game. So I conceded and Dan had the win. My attack had simply run into a buzzsaw the entire game. Murphy's Law was at work and what could go wrong did go wrong. Great win for Dan as his small force held the line.

And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:

"The plan worked.  The MTRs and sniper won the game for the Germans with the sniper killing the 8-1 leader and MTR getting the 9-1.  The American attack ran out of steam after capturing two of the three hills.  My thanks to Grumble Jones for a great scenario design and fun game of ASL!"

The glum look on these Italian troops in Russia reflected my on look as I stared at playing another scenario with Italian troops. Low Italian morale, range, breakdown numbers, and firepower make for an unsatisfactory experience in ASL. In short, playing the Italian side can be challenging. But an interesting fact for my play as lifetime record playing as the Italians is 16 wins and 6 losses. It's such a head scratcher!!! How in the world have I had more success with Italians than German SS!?! And I have to admit...winning as the Italians brings a little bit of pride. You have to have a fair grasp of this game to succeed when your troops have so many limitations placed on their capabilities. I also think the scenarios that the Italians find themselves in largely dictate their chances. 

Our selected Italian based scenario would be ASL 276 Winter of their Discontent from Hollow Legions. Set in Russia, January 1943, this scenario (designed by Mark Pitcavage) depicts retreating Italians trying to escape the Stalingrad debacle. The Italian-German player finds himself trying to hold a perimeter as a strong Russian force tries to eliminate them.

The Victory Conditions are based on CVP as well as building hex control. There are a lot of buildings...a lot. Mark has a very unique reinforcement schedule that requires payment of VP's to your opponent based on your choices of reinforcement and if you bring them on early. The Italian player must purchase at least 15 and not more than 25 VP from an assortment of Italian and German choices. Word to the it all. You will need it and it will more than make up for the 25 VP you hand over the Russian Player. The Russian player has setup options...he can set up on board and/or enter some or all on Turn 1 from the north. But...any units that enter from the North cost the Russian player 1 VP given to the Italians. Word to the wise...attack from the North and from the west. The VP costs will more than offset by your Italian opponent's reinforcement VP's. The Italians are extremely brittle on Turn 1. The ROAR record for this scenario is 33 Russian Wins to 40 Italian Wins. 

Interestingly, I played the AP 19 version of this scenario in January of 2013. So ten years later, I would revisit this classic scenario. AP 19 is Mark Pitcavage's tour de force pack depicting the hell experienced by the Italian 8th Army in the Stalingrad Campaign. Few scenario packs are so focused and bring you the awful reality of that situation. I tried playing all of these scenarios straight through, but only completed four of them, before I needed to change the venue from the hopeless of the Italians in that horrible period. 

I would lose my first playing of this scenario as the Russians. I have always thought this scenario pack is one of the best out there for it's accurate look at the experience of the Italians in the Stalingrad campaign. Few returned indeed...

The large wooden and stone building are factories by SSR. Building Hex Control is in play for the control VP. The Italians of course begin the game with control of most all of the buildings. But the Russians will gobble these up Pac Man style in the early turns of the game. As the Italian Player, just roll with it. Conserve your force and bring your reinforcements on with an eye to your eventual counterattack. 

As the Italian(German) Player, I would command elements of the Chertkovo Garrisan and Montebello and Tagliamento CCNN Battalions. My force would consist of 5 x 4-4-7's, 4 x 3-4-6's, 3 x 3-3-6's, and a 1-2-7 and 2 x 2-2-8's led by a 9-1 and 2 x 8-0's with an HMG, 2 x LMG's, 2 x Russian ATR's, 2 x 50L AT Guns and a 75L AA Gun. I would bring the following reinforcements on between Turns 1 and 3: a 7-0, an 8-1, a German 8-1, 3 x 3-4-6's with an LMG, 3 x German 4-4-7's with an LMG, 3 x German 4-6-7's with an MMG and 2 x MKIV's  25 VP handed to my Russian opponent. But the absolute difference in the game. I elected not to take the German Armored Cars. Were I to play this again, I would take everything including the armored cars.

As the attacking Russians, Dan would command elements of the 1st Guards Army. His force would consist of 4 x 4-5-8's, and 11 x 4-4-7's led by a 9-2, and 2 x 8-0's with 2 x MMG's, 3 x LMG's, 2 x ATR's, a DC, 3 x T-34's, and 2 x T-70's. 15 squads total against 21 Italian/German squads. 

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Russians must attack and get more CVP and building hexes than the Axis.  The plan will be to attack from board 49 into the village with the main force on the right flank.  We will not spend any VP points to enter from the north.  The 4-5-8 squads each with a LMG or DC will attack on the far right, supported by the 9-2 with three squad and two MMG.  While the 8-0 with three squads and two ATRs attack in the center and the 8-0 with three squads attack on the left flank.  Two squads will attack in the center.  The three T-34s will attack on the right while the two T-70s will attack on the left.  Hopefully the tanks can get into the Axis rear area and stop the reinforcements."

Dan would choose to set up all of his force and push across the width of the battlefield taking as many building hexes as possible. His armor would support the infantry assaults. I set up thinking he would attack from the north as well. But he didn' my HIP HMG position would be wasted. I pulled back from his setup area to reduce PREP Fire losses and to give my weak force time to wait for reinforcements.

Turn 1 Russian - Dans's force moves forward and collects all the available real-estate. I didn't have much of a response but did gets some PINS..wooohoooo!!!

Dan made great progress on Turn 1, but mostly gained the territory that I had ceded at the beginning. Turn 2 Dan would put pressure on my first line of resistance.

Turn 2 would prove the weakness and strength of my first line of resistance. In the south, Dan easily passed through, but in the north, his force would be stalled and this would be a crucial moment for the Italians. holding my northern shoulder would give me the springboard for the game ending counterattack.

Every game of ASL has those moments, which slowly stack up to add to or detract from your momentum, which is crucial in this game. For Dan, a stalled close combat in the south and two Tank MA MALF's would give the Italians breathing room. The Italian 75L AA Gun and a German 50L AT Gun would form the future "PIVOT" point for my Main Line of Resistance. Both guns would give a good account of themselves...but both crews would die from Boxcars on Morale Checks. 

My reinforcements begin to arrive and most importantly my two MKIV's. Dan had gotten a lucky hit on one of them and immobilized it. 

But in return that tank would destroy a T-34 and my PAK 38 would get a CRIT hit and a burning T-34. The remaining T-34 would go after my Italian reserve force on the other side of the stream. They were easy VP for Dan's Russians.

With all my reinforcements in place I would establish my "Joshua Chamberlain" swinging gate strategy.  My 50L AT Gun would form the Pivot point. My boys in the factory would be the HOLD line, while my boys on the north would swing around and retake as many locations as possible. 

My remaining mobile MKIV would be crucial to this plan. But Dan had other ideas and moved his remaining T-70 and T-34 to take it out. His other T-70 had been Recalled when he failed to repair his MA. I tried to stop the T-34, but my PAK 38 just bounced off it and then I would MALF the MA on my immobile MKIV and watch helpless as it took up position behind it and turned its turret...fired and missed.

What followed next was just a pure adrenaline ASL moment! My MKIV would destroy the T-34, turn its turret and destroy the T-70. WOW. My MKIV had won the day. Dan's armor loss CVP would net out the 26 VP I gave the Russians for my reinforcements. 

With the Russian armor eliminated, it was time to start swinging the gate and take back lost locations.

Ok...a little bit too dramatic, but this was my vision as I started to try and take back territory. 

So now we talk about going the distance in a scenario. Those of you who have followed the games played by Dan and I know that we don't try to force a game after the reasonable chance for a victory has gone. This scenario had been a grueling 10:00 PM after 5 hours, we were both mentally and physically worn out. Dan asked if I was ready to concede. At this point, Dan had the lead with 87 VP to my 69. I had lost a lot of the building locations. So, I could have given the concession. But...this scenario was designed for 7 complete turns and the designer did so for a reason. The fight was meant to go to 15 rounds. The final turns of this scenario were there to allow for the Italian/German counterattack. I could see a path to victory and therefore kept the game going. I felt bad, because I knew Dan was exhausted by this scenario. Long scenarios like this one can devolve into just a grind and lose a great bit of the fun factor. But for me, this was the moment in the game that I had been waiting for and I had to see it through.

The stream was frigid, which meant ELR'ing jus to cross it. so I wasn't going to lose any of that territory. My force there would also be mission killed. Dan's attack had penetrated deeply into the town, but that very penetration gave my counterattack a chance, especially as his forces there began to break and rout back. 

Dan's 9-2 would break and my full counterattack would press forward along the entire front. 

Turn 7 Italian - I send everyone forward to take as much territory as possible. Close Combats tended to go Dan's way. 

Dan would win the final Close Combat killing my 9-1 and a full squad with a SNAKES which would give him an 8-1 leader and allow him to infiltrate and take back yet another building hex. But as the game ended, it wouldn't be enough. The final VP count would 100 for the Italians and 80 for the Russians. My counterattack had succeeded. 

Our game has taken six hours to complete all 7 turns. The estimated play time is about 8 hours. Dan and I continue to have a very good pace of play. My thanks to Dan for a great weekend of ASL and for allowing me to play out the game. Despite the grind, it was an epic game with a lot of back-and-forth action. 

And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:

"The plan did not work.  The German tanks destroyed the Russian tanks with one being recalled.  While the Russians initially were able to capture the buildings and take a commanding lead in VP, the Axis were able to break the Russians and take back many buildings.  In the end the Axis had 100 VP to the Russian 80.  With the three T-34 tanks worth 21 CVP the loss of the tanks was the key for the Axis victory.  Well played by Grumble Jones, who passed his PMC to hang in for the win.  This scenario is a wild melee of a battle."

That's all for this week's games! 

Dan and I will back next week for more ASL action.

We will see you then!

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