Crossfire

The ASL Israel club had another meeting and my ASL learning continued with the Crossfire scenario (AP78). This features a force of Panzer Grenadiers defending a village in Italy in 1943. Josh played the defending Germans. Ran and I split the attackers. He took a mixed force of US infantry, tanks, and supporting mortars, heading in from the west. I was in charge of the US force, infantry only, coming in from the southeast. To win, we had to take a number of stone buildings equal to five times the turn number. (5 on Turn 1, 10 on Turn 2, and so on.)

caption

The view from the east, before the action.

caption

A view from the west, with Ran’s forces on the hill, ready to advance. Josh’s Panzer Grenadiers lie in wait.

Ran and I discussed our approach. My avenue of attack was very open, so his mortars were tasked with firing smoke in support. Unfortunately, Ran forgot the need (per the rules) to fire smoke first in the Prep Fire Phase, so there was no smoke… Ran makes very few mistakes, and I knew I would make far more during the game, so I certainly did not give him a hard time about it. It was the friction of war.

caption

And in the distance, my US forces are lined up ready to advance. Unbeknownst to me, in that first line of German defenders, there was a hidden infantry gun. That was an unwelcome, nasty surprise.

My troops advanced and did the best they could given the lack of cover. The first turn was OK, but Josh’s hidden 75mm infantry gun duly appeared to bring the advance to a juddering halt in the second turn.

At this point, Ran’s offensive action began to bear fruit. Josh’s defense seemed to rely, at least in part, on a misunderstanding about the height of the steeple. That gave Ran a less dangerous advance than he otherwise might have had.

Also, as Ran pointed out, he was focusing on the board where the majority of stone buildings were. Josh, however, had tried to defend everything and thus left himself a bit short of cover. Indeed, some of his forces – though they may have been dummies – never got in to the fight.

My guys were getting hammered. To add insult to injury, they were slow at rallying. Then, to really pile on the pressure, Josh sent his halftracks into my rear area, attempting several overruns. How we escaped from that lot, I will never know. But after the Rally Phase of Turn Three I had managed to reinstate a couple of squads and a half squad as a viable threat. They broke through the stretched line of defenders to claim control of a couple of buildings.

We needed fifteen buildings under our control for the win in this turn, and Ran produced the remainder with an efficient operation against the hardy defenders. Clearly, Ran was responsible for the bulk of the win, but at least I had contributed something.

Josh’s defense was probably too good for me, but perhaps I kept troops tied up who might otherwise have interfered with Ran’s progress.

Lessons

Once again I learned the importance of the setup. Josh later described doing ASL setups at home as playing the game solitaire. I better understand now what that means.

I also learned the thin dividing line between caution and foolishness. It’s easy to stay put and try and win by weight of firepower. But that will rarely work. The trick – or rather, the skill – is knowing when to give up the fire position and when to advance, and how. You have to pay attention to line of sight, because even a low firepower shot can kill. You have to know the effect of tanks on the enemy. You have to know the importance of getting your moves in the right sequence. Ran very kindly coached me in this or I would probably have contributed nothing to the win. We might even have lost!

Thanks to Ran, I also learned the importance of firing smoke first!  I never did get any smoke cover. (Part of me wants to try the scenario again, just to see how it would turn out with both sides learning from their mistakes in the first run through.)

Closing

As usual with ASL, it was intense, draining, thoroughly engrossing and hugely entertaining. If it wasn’t the snipers, it was the malfunctioning weapons, or the heat of battle arrival of the hero (which Josh got, too late), or the amazing survival of my overrun infantry, and so on. Just bags of fun. Thanks to Ran and Josh for making it so.