My continuing ASL education…
Recently, I had the opportunity to play scenario AP41, The Meat Grinder, against Ran then Josh.
This two board scenario is set in Lutsk in 1941, with the Russians defending. Their forces include eight squads, two leaders, an anti-tank rifle, an LMG, and a HMG. In support, they have a couple of KV-2 tanks, a GAZ truck with a 20mm AAMG on it, and a 76LL anti-tank gun. First turn reinforcements are three lightly armed tanks: a BT-7A, and two BT-7s. The Germans have ten squads, three leaders, an anti-tank rifle, two LMGs, and a MMG. Their starting support takes the form of three Panzer IV E tanks. Their turn two reinforcements are three Panzer III tanks (and a 9-1 armor leader).
Victory is determined by casualties, with control of multi-hex buildings contributing victory points.
The Russians do not have the forces to defend everything. Generally, a forward defense is a recipe for disaster, so the trick is to defend what is likely to hold out. Then, there is a need to find a good location for the anti-tank gun, the truck borne AAMG, and a safe place to hide the weaker tanks. I was the Russian defender in both games.
The Germans have the right tools for everything but the KV-2s. However, their main enemy is time. So, they either have to get lucky by immobilizing the KV-2s, or avoid them. At the same time, they need to keep their infantry advance moving forward, while hunting down and eliminating the weaker Russian vehicles.
First off, Ran made his main effort on my left flank. That was the weakest portion of my defense, and I made a bad mistake by not shuttling more defenders towards that threat. By the time Ran told me what was going on, and I belatedly did something about it, I had lost all my tanks, and half the buildings. One KV-2 had been immobilized by fire, and one had suffered mechanical breakdown. My anti-tank gun and AAMG between them did nothing. Game over.
That experience helped me a lot in my game with Josh. I used a similar setup, but balanced the flanks so one did not look worse than the other. I also hid my anti-tank gun on one flank, and put the truck borne AAMG in a more prominent position. This time, Josh made his main effort on my right flank (of course my hidden anti-tank gun was on the other flank…) and very quickly overran the first building. However, this time I did react better, and so rushed defenders towards that main threat.
Josh did steamroller the infantry defenses, but it took time. As he fell behind in his timetable, he became more daring (aka “reckless”) with his tanks. So, by the end of the game there were almost no German tanks left. I had a KV-2 left, securing part of the field. And my two BT-7s survived, albeit one had a broken down main armament.
I was very surprised to have won, with the Germans taking 7 out of 13 victory point buildings, and inflicting way more casualties. However, Josh’s tank losses were worse. The bloody toll my infantry took was awful, but had done its job by (just) holding on to the key buildings.
This was a challenging scenario. When I look at it from the Russian perspectvie, I want to be the German player – look at all those leaders and semi decent tanks. When I look at it form the German player, I want to be the Russian – look at those KV-2s, and how do you capture all those buildings in so short a time? This would suggest the scenario is quite balanced. However, if (as happened to me) one of the Russian KV-2s breaks down, that is likely to be crucial. It’s tricky for those tanks to avoid deliberate immobilization shots, but if they can do that and avoid breaking down, the German player has his hands full. That having been said, there are plenty of weaker Russian targets that provide the necessary victory points. As I said, a challenging scenario, and one that is fun to play. The ASL experience remains among the best in the world of games, even when I get crushed. Well, sometimes…
Thanks to both Ran and Josh for the continuing education.