Sunday, December 10, 2023

Our Games SP43 Deadeye Smoyer and GJ127 Grenadier Grind

As 2023 slides to its finish, Dan Best and I continue to play weekend after weekend of great ASL games. Last weekend we would play SP 31The Hills Lagonovo and SP28 Clearing Qualberg. Dan would win Lagaonovo and I would win Qualberg. Both ended with early concessions, so we elected not to blog them last week.

In SP28 Clearing Qualberg, Dan was the attacking British. Mud would hinder the movement of his force and my OBA caught his troops in the open and decimated them early. With his infantry shattered or struggling to move up, his even slower moving Churchills were moving towards my ambush positions. But before I could reveal that, Dan called it game over and a German victory. The game just wasn't fun. The mud was the culprit and played a large role in making the game less than fun. Sometimes fighting the terrain can sap your ELR. So, this game ended early. 

In SP 31The Hills Lagonovo, I would be the defending Russians trying to hold on to a hill with a butt load of German MKII's supported by 8-3-8's and two modules of Nebelwerfer OBA. Oh and my AT Guns were out in the open ground on the other of the hill...where they were pretty much worthless. Dan's attack just completely rolled over me. His dice were super hot and my were stone cold. So things spiraled out of control for me very early on. By Turn 2, I had lost the hill and my force was shattered. My reinforcements were caught in the open by the Nebelwerfers and let's just say that didn't end well. With the hill lost, I threw in the towel and Dan's Germans had the victory. 

So last weekend's games were over pretty quickly. That happens sometimes.

Dan and I had some good post-game discussions about both games. We concluded that both of these games would play out better a second time. Qualberg's muddy terrain has to be considered when attacking. This constrains the Brits to the roads, but the struggle through the mud is not the way to go. 

In Lagonovo, the Russian player needs to consolidate and get into wooded locations...and dig in. I tried to dig in on the backside of the hill and failed to get the my boys were hanging out in the open and got slaughtered by the MKII's. 

So, there's always a better way to play a scenario.

Our first game this weekend would be a pretty exciting little battle as we played SP43 Deadeye Smoyer. This scenario covers the famous tank duel in front of Cologne Cathedral (the impressive Koelner Dom). I had the opportunity to stand in the exact location of the destroyed Panther in 1985. My college buddy, Peter (from Fresno, CA) and I were on a trip to Bastogne. We traveled from Ulm all the way up to Cologne. We walked around Cologne Cathedral and spent some great time exploring the German-Roman Museum next door to the cathedral. From there, we went on to Aachen and spent the night before heading to Bastogne the next day.

Stain glass from inside the Cathedral.

A dude playing a bagpipe outside the Cathedral seemed a bit odd to me at the I took a picture.

A recent best-seller covers the events of that tank duel, which is also well documented by film taken during the action. A quick Google search will bring up many different videos of the action. They are well worth your time. A couple of them spend a bit of time going frame by frame and show the impact of the Panther's shells on a supporting Sherman tank and the destructive shots of the Pershing as it sets the Panther ablaze. The escaping German and American tank crews show the horror and terror of close tank combat.

I have not had the opportunity to read Spearhead yet, but understand it be a very good read.

The scenario (designed by Evan Sherry) captures the event very well. Our playing would model the actual events pretty faithfully.

SP43 Deadeye Smoyer can be found in Schwerpunkt Volume 4. With so many new scenarios out there, don't let this one fall off your play list radar. It's a bit pro-American, but fun nonetheless.

Clarence Smoyer passed away last year at the age of 99. Clarence earned fame as an expert tank gunner in the 3rd Armored Division. Smoyer and his crew would be given one of the new Pershing Tanks distributed in the ETO. 

During the battle for Cologne, Smoyer's performance during the duel with the Panther and other actions would earn him the sobriquet the "Hero of Cologne". Smoyer was a genuine American hero of the Second World War.

As the defending Germans, Dan would command remnants of Battalion 2, Panzer Regiment 33, Panzer Division 9. This force would consist of 3 x 4-4-7's, and 3 x 4-3-6's led by an 8-1 and 7-0 with an MMG, LMG, Panzerschreck and a Panther Tank. Commanding the Panther was 1st Lt. Wilhelm Barthelborth, chief of 2./PzAbt 2106 of Panzerbrigade 106 Feldherrenhalle (2nd company, 2106nd Armored Btl., Armored Brigade 106). 

As the attacking Americans, I would command elements of CCB, 3rd Armored Division. My force would consist of 7 x 6-6-7's and a 3-4-7 led by a 9-1 and 8-1 with an MMG, A Sherman Tank, a Half-track and a Pershing Tank with 9-1 Armor Leader (Mr. Deadeye Smoyer).

Make sure to understand the victory conditions in this scenario. At one point in our game, Dan realized that he had misidentified the victory building. 

The K2 building represents the Cologne Cathedral.

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Germans must defend the P4 building or have the Panther survive with LOS to K4 or M5.  The plan is to have the Panther survive.  The Panther will set up HIP in K6 with a German kill stack or the 8-1, 4-4-7 MMG and 4-4-7 LMG at level 1 in J5.  The other 4-4-7 will deploy with one HS in M2 with the PSK the other in M7.  One 4-3-6 will set up to defend the victory building with dummys.  And the other two in the J4 building with the 7-0.  The Panther will bore sight L9.  Hopefully the first shot gets a kill on the hull down Americans."

The Americans can enter on any board edge south of R. Dan, having misidentified the victory building would place the bulk of infantry in the K2 building. 

Turn 1 American - I move cautiously and out of sight of the Germans as much as possible. 

At the end of Turn 1, I had moved to my first identified phase line without any breaks or losses. My first objective was to secure the P4 building. Once that was under control, I would search out for the HIP Panther.

Turn 2 American - I hold my Sherman back and left it in motion. I wanted both tanks to move together on Turn 3 towards the suspected locations of the Panther. Meanwhile my infantry worked to gain control of the P4 Building. Smoyer would enter the battle and push along the east side. My Half-track would live a charmed life. Dan's first Panzerschreck shot was a 12 and then later the German squad would pin itself on the Panzerfaust check. The Half-track would be the only surviving AFV at game end.

By the end of Turn 2, I had control of the victory building. At this point, Dan still hadn't realized that P4 was the victory building.

Turn 3 American - I advance across the battlefield. German machine gun fire breaks some of my boys, but Dan would MALF the MMG. With the Germans out front all marked with First Fires, I would send my Half-track on end around to come back up the middle. And then my tanks fired up and moved ahead. BINGO...Panther spotted. My Sherman would move right into the Panther's bore-sighted hex. Dan would roll a 3 with a 1 on the colored dice. A hit and a knocked out Sherman, my crew would leap out and be broken by the Panther's machine guns. 

My Sherman had done its job and given the Pershing the opportunity to move right up on the Panther.

Smoyer with his gyrostabilizer would win the gun duel, fire, turret hit from the side and a burning Panther.

Up to this point, our game reflected the historical event...but then Dan would fire a Panzerfaust from inside the Cathedral. A hit and Smoyer and his crew would be KIA's in a burning Pershing. The German squad would casualty reduce with a broken half-squad from the backblast.

Turn 4 German - Dan, now aware that the Americans had achieved their victory conditions, would move a 4-3-6 to move towards the P4 building. The lucky Half-track would break them. And with that Dan would give the concession. There was no path forward for the Germans to get to the and take control of the P4 building. 

Dan and I both enjoyed the scenario, but once Dan lost the Panzerschreck, he didn't have an effective anti-tank capability on the east side, which is where my Pershing approached the Panther. The Panther was focused on the west side and successfully knocked out the Sherman. Fun scenario and great fun to recreate a well-known moment from the Battle for Cologne. My thanks to Dan for an exciting game.

And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:

"The plan did not work.  The Panther got the kill in the bore sight location but the Pershing got the kill on the move with the gyrostabilized gun.  The Americans then had the victory building.  Well played by Grumble Jones for the win!  This scenario has many options for both sides and is a great game for replay.  My thanks to Grumble Jones for a great game!"

Our final game of the weekend would be a playing of GJ127 Grenadier Grind. Grenadier Grind was released in November. Of course, my designs are unleashed upon an unsuspecting world without playtesting. So, many of my designs are like an undercooked potato...not all that satisfying. I find that particularly true of my larger designs. Dan and I would play about three full turns before calling it good and spending the next hour revising it. 

Above is the original scenario design. While many elements worked quite well, the victory conditions and map needed to be changed. We'll cover the change discussion at the end. 

Grenadier Grind was intended to live up to its name and evolve into a grinding urban fight as Soviet strongpoints and roadblocks are overcome in a face-to-face brawl. My scenario as designed did not provide that kind of battle. As you will see, it became a Schwerpunkt steamrolling across one end of the battlespace as stretched Soviets could do little more than act as speed bumps.

Dan would command the defending Russians, while I would command the slightly overwhelming and attacking Germans.

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Russians must keep the Germans from exiting 40 CVP.  The key is the enemy armor.  With 46 CVP in infantry armor exits will add up much faster than infantry.  The plan is to use the roadblocks to channel the armor into kill zones on each board edge.  Likely the Germans will attack heavy on one side of the board.  Hopefully the AT and AA guns can get some kills."

My attack plan was to Schwerpunkt up the east side through the wooden buildings. I felt these would be lightly defended. I would place a covering force on the west side of Row Q to hold off Dan's reinforcing squads as they adjusted to the point of my attack.

Turn 1 German - off my boys went to engage the upfront Russian squads. My flamethrower wouldn't break on the first shot!!! Woohooo....but didn't do anything either. That same Russian 4-4-7 would pass all morale checks including against my 10-2 with a snake eyes. It would battle harden to a 4-5-8 and take two full turns to eliminate in Close Combat, after my 10-2 went after him with three squads.

I wasn't taking any chances!

As Turn 1 ended, I had achieved my phase line objectives...except the pesky 4-5-8 that would soon be no more. I had also revealed the two 37L AA Guns and successfully overrun the one in the hedge hexagon. 

Turn 1 Russian - Dan's boys in the west begin racing towards the left. My grenadiers would be waiting for them.

Turn 2 German - lady luck thus far had smiled on the Germans and she would continue to favor my boys with her affection as we moved forward with one MK III already covering the exit hex.

As we neared completion of the Russian Phase of Turn 2 - Dan would first MALF his second 37L AA Gun and the I would break the crew and target and hit the gun destroying it. With his last AT asset in this part of the board eliminated, Dan gave threw in the towel. There was nothing to stop my armor from exiting en masse.  It was clear to both of us that the wide-open victory condition of north board edge was a bad call. It forced the Russians to cover too broad a front and the Germans would simply be able to ovewhelm a given board edge as I in fact did. 

The German force is very powerful in this scenario and some changes were definitely necessary to improve the scenario's playability. 

And now for Dan's Post Game Comments:

"The plan did not work.  The Germans attacked on the east side and quickly got past the guns.  Mostly because of the guns not getting rate or hits.  Well played by Grumble Jones with a nice, combined arms attack.  Congrats on a great win!"

Above is the updated scenario card that captures the following changes:
  • Russians are equipped with Molotovs. This will help prevent the German Halftracks from doing VBM freezes as I did during the game. 
  • Russians receive an extra DC and 45L AT Gun.
  • Russians receive 4 Roadblocks and 3 Fortified Locations.
  • Russians are Fanatic when inside a Fortified Location.
    • Dan and I originally thought about turning the 6-2-8's into NKVD and allowing for the creation of Strongpoints as in Valor of the Guards.
    • I elected to limit it to Fanatic inside of the Fortified Locations. 
  • The Germans receive two additional Half-tracks.
  • The exit zone is reduced and centered to prevent board edge creeps and allow the Russians to have a more focus and effective defense.
  • An additional Board (k) is added. This works better with a 7 Turn Game and allows for some defense in depth.
Another Balance suggestion is to change the German MKIII's from L's to J's. This will eliminate the superior turret, which will give the Russian 45L AT Guns a little better chance of getting a kill.

That's all for this week's AAR. 

Dan and I will return next week!

We will see you then!

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