INTRO & SET-UP
It was a brisk day on the 6th of September, 1939, when the leading elements of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Regiment threatened to cross the Warta River and encircle the elite Polish 10th Infantry Division in the opening battles of what would become WWII.
Likewise it was a crisp winter day a couple of weeks back when Andy and I hooked up once again at TABSCon to play ASL scenario U15 - Battle for the Warta Line and reenact this interesting firefight. I had been out of ASL for a few months since my last VASLeague game, busy with real life and was raring for some action.
Jonesing for a go with Allied Minors, Andy picked this scenario from the recent Turning the Tide pack from MMP. It's a pack that updates 20 old school Squad Leader-era scenarios to the ASL system and are ostensibly "classics". Long story short: it was F-U-N.
As mentioned U15 pits the fledgling Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Regiment against the dug-in bits of the Polish elite 10th Infantry Division. I was the latter and within minutes of getting out of car, putting together a sick defensive set-up that would have the nascent SS goosesteppers twisting on barbed wire... or so I hoped. It was just my second full ASL game ever and I think I acquitted myself well.Above is a VASL screenshot of the boards. Right is NORTH, down is the Polish (EAST) side which I had to prevent 16VPs of Germans from exiting. VPs were standard 1 per half-squad equivalent, 1 per leader +1 per negative mod, but no VPs for vehicles and crews. Upon a quick survey of the board it seemed like the best way, in my mind, to slow down the Germans and give them the roughest time was to funnel them into the "village" on the eastern board, anchoring the flanks with oodles of barbed wire and foxhole fortifications I was given on the OB. On top of that, I had a few interesting toys to set-up too: an artillery phone (OBA!), and a 1+3+5 pillbox.
What's that you say? Second game and the scrub is already dabbling in the arcane arts of OBA? It's easy, when you have your more experienced opponent do all the work! Hehe.
So, given a few minutes to figure out what foxholes and barbed wire were (and finding a notebook to write down HIP stuff -- the leader with phone especially) I came up with this layout, again, recreated from my crappy blurry photo in VASL:
The dark brown squares are the foxhole locations which would be HIP. The pillbox I placed on the extreme right behind barbed wire (white squares) with overwatch over a quarter of the boardspace. No doubt some more experienced player is choking in laughter at me now -- and after the game Andy suggested that the pillbox should have gone on a hill with CA of even more area. My thinking at the time was that the pillbox would threaten the easiest approaches of the German vehicles -- TWO Panzer IBs (oooh scary) -- and I would actually distribute the majority of my ATRs amongst the other infantry scattering the map. I chose a modified reverse slope defense. Most of my men would be in smaller half-squads delaying the enemy and trying to run back to the first line of defense on the eastern board.
Much of the barbed wire was meant to prevent end runs by Andy's infantry and funnel them into a more concentrated bunch where I could inflict grievous harm with my OBA. I had no illusions though; no plan survives contact with the enemy, or the dice in ASL!
Below is a VASL recreation of the set-up from the blurry photo I took. I blame the insufficient pre-game coffee!
Below is a detail of the set-up on the left flank. Of note is point A where I threw my best leader, a 9-2 with an MMG and full squad in a foxhole behind barbed wire and on high ground. Note that most of my squads were dispersed as an anti-OBA measure. I also reasoned that should Andy choose a flank to hit, this would have been the side as the opposite flank had the more menacing pillbox.
I think I put two ? counters with a half-squad in the uppermost middle stack -- my one really diversionary stack. Andy couldn't discount there being two squads or a squad and a nasty SW in it. Did it work? I'll let Andy answer that one...
At point B I put the HIPed 8-0 leader with the arty phone. Note my inexperience here in forgetting/not knowing about the second floor placement of the squad. Stacked with him was a single squad and ATR. Again, I was hinting at an MMG here but wanted to surprise Andy with an ATR, which I felt he would lead with.
On the right flank you can see point C, where I placed my main point of defense in the middle front of the village. In a foxhole was my second best leader (9-1) and two squads (one?) and an MMG under a concealment counter.
Point D was the pillbox. There I put two squads, my last leader and another ATR. (Yes, early in the game Andy told me that was illegal and one squad popped out!)
The very earliest turns were a bit slow, as most scenarios are, as we sorted out how to OBA and Andy contemplated my bizarre defense. HA! On the left flank, I saw some of the SS infantry try to flush out and determine what exactly they were facing under the ? markers. (? are basically concealment markers, one of the key differences in full ASL from ASLSK, bypass and SAN being the other two.)
My plan here was to hold up the German hordes for a turn or more (if I was lucky) and retreat anything I could to another defensive line. For the left side, I was hoping to delay and harrass in the midst of the woods, especially under concealment.
Luck did favour me greatly in the beginning... Andy's first OBA roll was a 12DR, essentially he broke the radio and his repair dr was a 6. So much for artillery raining down on the Polish. It appeared that the German war machine was still a bit creaky at the start of WWII. What was more, Andy malf'd his PzI's MA (an MG) and that repair dr was also a 6.
Now if you know anything about a game like ASL, being so damned lucky in the beginning usually spelled a severe dicing later on. I won't lie to you, I was very happy about the dice but I knew I was in for it later...
Well, for now, the DRs were Polish-friendly. A German half-squad was vapourised in their MPh on the left making the early boxcar count for the bad guys something like 3 in two half-turns.
In more good news, my OBA hit a small concentration of German squads on the centre-right, on the edge of the open ground. I rolled a 3DR for a 2KIA and it seemed I could do no wrong.
By turn 2-3, the Germans were pushing hard on the middle towards point B and my OBA phone (I am amazed at how much I had to keep secret from Andy -- but here I flat out asked him what I could do with the second floor observer...). As he kept some of the advanced Polish half-squads locked in CC, large stacks and his other PzI were advancing steadily.
I may have surprised Andy with the ATR in the building and his PzI was vulnerable for a crucial turn but my men were unable to find the range and their shots were wide... You may scoff at a lowly PzI, but to quote a famous axiom, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king". The PzI was that one-eyed man, jumping the line and causing havoc with my troops shifting from the right flank to try and stop the flood in the middle.
It would NOT be pretty...