The title is of ASLSK scenario S24 which I played at last week’s ASL Israel event. [See here.]
This scenario is set in 1944 in Beylorussia, with elements of the Soviet 3rd Guards Tank Corps tasked with taking a village held by elements of the German Army Group Center Security Forces, with reinforcements due from 5th Panzer Division’s Pioneer battalion, a Tiger tank, and a Panzer III.
I was the Soviets and Josh was the Germans.
Josh set up first. This was the first shock: he didn’t just collect his forces and plop them down anywhere on the map. No, he took his time. And then some more time. And he asked for time with me away from the board so he could work his magic without me watching. This was a revelation to me. It dawned on me that this was another reason I had lost my games against Ran: I was not taking enough care about setup. OK. Another lesson learned.
For my attacks, I would like to think I had learned something from my earlier games, and put the experience into practice. I decided on a narrow point of attack. I didn’t fuss unduly about where his hidden anti-tank gun might be, but tried to have infantry up in support, and avoid the more obvious danger spots.
Here’s a picture from around the end of turn 1.
The red circle shows where the victory point buildings are. On the left of the picture are my two swarms of Sherman tanks, keeping one another company. The left hand swarm is about to face the Tiger.
Just outside the circle on the right is a troublesome machine gun post. More than once it interfered with my assault.
Josh suffered a bad stroke of luck on turn 2. His Tiger, facing off one of my Sherman swarms, got clobbered by a critical hit. Bye bye Tiger! That freed up one half of my task force which promptly went into an infantry support role, shooting up the village.
My other Sherman swarm got hit by Josh’s anti-tank gun. (It had been hidden in the woods above the troublesome machine gun.) But it only immobilized one Sherman and that plucky chappie retaliated by knocking out the anti-tank crew, and being a permanent pain in the tonsils to the defending force.
Josh’s remaining tank was proving problematic. For example, at the start of turn 3 or 4, I had set things up nicely for a coordinated run into the village. That blasted tank hit me with smoke of all things, and – if you’ll pardon the pun – bang went some of my best shots.
Worse than that was the German machine gun. It was slowing down my assault. I did not handle that aspect well and need to work on it.
One of the (many) new experiences for me was feeling the pressure of so much decision making. For example, at one point I had a tank fire on a new infantry threat. But I promptly lost an acquired target marker on a more enduring threat. I had simply forgotten in the heat of battle. Another time, after overrunning an enemy position and having the opportunity to recover a machine gun, I forgot to do so.
I was too used to – in other games – flying by the seat of my pants. I needed to take more care and thought before acting.
After my first lucky break against the Tiger, I got another when I finally managed to outflank the remaining German tank and kill it off. That meant my tanks were OK so long as they kept out of Panzerfaust range. Later on, Ran told me I had been too cautious with my tanks. I thought they did a good job shooting up the village in support, but he says I could have done more.
Hex by hex
Josh was not giving up terrain lightly, and I was made to fight for all of it. Suddenly, I was racing against the clock.
Slowly, but surely, and just in time, I winkled out the defenders from all the victory hexes. But Josh had a turn to try and take one back and deny me the win. In the end it came down to me pinning his last active squad and denying him the chance for a glorious close assault and shot at victory. I had won, but by the narrowest of margins.
Josh was new to ASLSK, so I had to act as gatekeeper and prevent him from doing his no doubt usual magic involving bypass movement, machine gun lanes, crispy crews, and so on. [To me, it was impressive restraint; after all, Josh and the other guys playing here knew the combat results table by heart, without looking at it!] But he was a perfect gent about it, was patient and helpful. Once more, I had a great gaming experience and learned a lot.
I am certainly looking forward to the next time. And I’m now sure I’ll be having a crack at ASL sometime. I have started reading the big rulebook!