Saturday, September 23, 2023

Our Friday Game - GJ117 Bridgehead at Merekula

After last week's game, I had some time to think about ASL in general. Dan Best and I are now 10 games away from our 500th contest. I let my thoughts wander to the many great games that Dan and I have played since our first meeting in Texas ten years ago. So many great games were played, that it would be impossible to choose only one as the greatest of them all. Of course, there were the grinding games set in the dust choked deserts and the brutal, panjii filled nightmares of the Pacific Jungles, and the grueling frozen madness of the Finnish swamps filled with bunkers. Alas, there have been a few forgettable, unfun and profoundly disappointing games to go with the many great ones played. Thankfully, those unfun games were few and far between.

99% of the time...yes, it was a blast!

True enough!

But of course, not every time. I can recall a few too many games, where I just decided that the juice wasn't worth the squeeze. Concession would be my safe word and allow me to the leave the sadomasochism of the ASL game gone bad.... where the mistress of humiliation dwells in all of her dice tower glory. 

So, my thoughts in this post are centered on those games, where our hearts fail us and we fail our Personal ELR. And in swift order, we toss aside the dice and throw in the towel...Concession and game over. But what drives us to fold and give up the fight? And in doing so, have we missed out on the potential to change the momentum of defeat and snatch a victory? Or are we so certain that defeat is inevitable? 

Many times, in ASL, I have won a game that only two turns earlier, I knew I could never win...and yet I did. And alternately, I have watched a certain victory slip through my hands as the whims of my dice and the valor of my opponent strip me of the illusions I once had.

Our game is unlike any other game. Nothing...absolutely nothing is guaranteed. And similarly, nothing is pre-ordained. Dan and I are both guilty of tagging out of a match as the stack up of missed dice rolls, tactical blunders and the unnatural luck enjoyed by our opponents becomes too much. 

But what if...what if you keep rally your boys and keep rolling the dice. Sometimes you win despite the odds and inspite of your own loss of confidence. That's not to say that conceding isn't the right choice. Many times, concession is a courtesy to your opponent, when it becomes clear to all that there is no path to victory. But on those occasions, where weight of bad rolls and poor decisions starts to take you down concession avenue...but your opponent hasn't achieved the victory conditions...just maybe that's the time to keep your head in the game. A lesson for myself as much as anyone.

"So, remember, when the dice have got you like Kirk...and try to win!!!"

cause you never might...

Our Friday Game would be GJ117 Bridgehead at Merekula. This scenario comes from the pages of SS-Panzer-Aufklaerungs Abteilung 11 "Nordland". 

Chapter 2:2:2 covers the Soviet attempts to land at Merekula. Merekula is located north of Narva on the Finnish Gulf. The Russians were attempting to land behind the Narva defenses. 

The effort would end in utter disaster with nearly the entirety of the Russian force annihilated. In short the Germans had prepared to repel the exact attack launched by the Russians. Those that survived the pummeling at the land attempted to escape inland and continue the fight. But the quick response off the Nordland reconnaissance battalion completed the destruction of the Russian force.

This scenario picks up the action with the Russians fleeing inland from the disaster at the landing sites. The Russians are the scenario attacker and enter the board before the arrival of the Germans. To win the scenario, the Russians must control at least 11 of the 18 available buildings at game end. The Germans enter on Turns 1 and 2 as the Nordland arrives to corral and defeat the Russians moving inland. 

During our playing of the scenario, Dan asked if beach landing rules were in effect. In this instance, he was curious if the Russians would be fanatic while on the beach. The answer is no. The actual landing area is not represented on the playing area. 

 Ground snow is in effect and the church on Board 85 has a two-level steeple. The German Player will have no problem reaching it before the Russians and of course should consider it a priority.

As the attacking Russians, I would command elements of the 260th Independent Naval Brigade. My force would consist of 4 x 6-2-8's and 10 x 5-2-7's led by a 9-1, 8-1 and 8-0 with 4 x LMG's, 2 x ATR's and 2 x DC's.

As the defending Germans, Dan would command elements of SS-Panzer-Aufklaerungs-Abteilung 11 "Nordland". His force would consist of 8 x 6-5-8's, and 3 x 3-4-8's led by 2 x 9-1's, and an 8-0 with 3 x LMG's, 3 x Schwimmwagens and 5 x Half-tracks.

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The SS thugs must stop the Russians from taking 11 buildings.  The plan is to use the three Volkswagens to get in front of the Russians and protect the board 85 buildings.  Half the turn 2 reinforcements will attack to take back buildings on board 4 and the other half will use the halftracks to move into the Russian back field.  Hopefully the can break the Russians and cut route paths to eliminate units."

As the scenario designer, I had a fairly good notion of what I needed to do as the Russians. I would have to secure as many buildings as possible before the German main effort arrived on Turn 2.  

Turn 1 Russian - I race to collect buildings and move towards the Board 85 group of building near the beach. 

My Turn 1 movement set me up to defend the east edge and set my boys on road to the victory building bonanza on Board 85.

Fun and worthless fact, Bonanza was the number one show in Germany, when I was in school there in 1985. Followed by the Der Fall times...

Turn 1 German - Dan's three Schwimmwagens enter and spread out quickly.

Dan made great moves and quickly had his three half-squads into the right positions to contest my movement onto Board 5. The 8-0 and LMG would head for the level 2 steeple.

Turn 2 Russian - I grab a couple more buildings and move onto Board 85.

Turn 2 German - Dan's main force takes up their start positions on the east edge.

Looking back on the game, this Turn 2 movement by Dan's Nordland Grenadiers would be decisive towards securing a German victory. From this point forward, Dan would dictate where the fights took place. His greater mobility and range would be decisive.

Dan would go into Close Combat immediately. Close combats would generally wreck both parties in this scenario. Dan was rolling high, which resulted in MELEE. In one instance, he would roll an 11 after getting ambush on a Pinned Squad. My 6-2-8 would survive. These close combats would end up in German wins, but at the cost of several half-squads.

I would attempt to use a DC on Dan's boys and it wouldn't do anything. As usual...


A look at the Russian high-water mark. I had 8 buildings under control and was looking at a bunch near the beach. But my force was scattered and in nearly every area checked by the Nordland Grenadiers.

Turn 3 German - the battle would begin to go to the German's favor...hard...

Close combat was grinding me down and even Melee results were reducing my available manpower to take additional buildings.

Dan was utilizing his half-tracks to deny rout paths and ensure the destruction of my units.

My ATR's had some limited success. Early in the game I would snake a hit on one and turn one of the 75 Halftracks into a burning wreck. Getting a burning wreck with an ATR in 1944...OH YEAH!!!

I would shock another Halftrack with an ATR, but Dan would roll out of it right away. 

A look at the fight would show that Dan had effectively checkmated my forces. I was battered and just trying to hold onto the few buildings that I did control. At this point in the game, I needed to kill German squads if I was going to have any chance.

I was down to just three pockets and edge of them was under German attack. Dan had really grokk'd this scenario and was using German capabilities to best advantage.

One of Dan's halftracks would be recalled after six'ing the REPAIR dr on a Malf'd AA MG. It would trundle down the beach and back to the repair shop. The rest of Dan's boys moved to engage my remaining Russians. I could have conceded at this point, because I had absolutely no path to victory, but I was enjoying the game too much tonight to check out early.

I knew I was beaten, but the joy of the game was why I was playing in the first place. Winning was immaterial to the fun that I had playing this scenario.

Neither Dan nor I were able to close out the Close Combats. Lots of MELEE results.

As we wrapped up Turn 5, I gave the concession. The hour was late and my boys were toast. The Nordland Grenadiers had wrapped things up. Congrats to Dan on a very well played game. I really felt like Dan grokked the game and how best to use his smaller force to leverage a decisive victory. Well played.

And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:

"The plan worked.  The SS thugs must watch out for the ATRs but have high mobility with the half tracks.  Once the Russians break it is easy to cut route paths and mop them up.  The terrain is good for combined arms tactics and the SS thugs have range advantage to bring their firepower to play.  Excellent scenario design with fluid movement and options for attack by both sides.  My thanks to Grumble Jones for an outstanding ASL scenario."

That's a wrap on another great ASL Weekend!

We will see you next time!

Happy Fall Y'all!!!

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