Tuesday, 21 February 2017

ASL Replay: ASL 126 Commando Schenke

Early in the German invasion of the USSR, German forces ran into some dogged Soviet resistance at Liepaja, Latvian SSR.  German Kriegsmarine assault troops, along with some elements of the German Heer launched a final assault on 28 June, a mere 6 days after the invasion began
Getting ready for some street fighting
This battle is represented in the Advanced Squad Leader scenario "Commando Schenke".  It first appeared in the ASL Annual '95 Winter.  It was updated and released with the 3rd version of the ASL module "Beyond Valor".  It was this updated version that I played recently against one of my first-ever ASL opponents, Andrew Luden.
Andrew and I first met on the ASL battlefield in Stalingrad.  My Germans held off his attacking Soviets in that early battle.  This time, however, it would be my attacking Germans against his defending Soviets.
Battling in the ruins
For those familiar with ASL, the following will make perfect sense.  Those who aren't, well, just try to follow along.
My forces were a mix of first line and elite Germans.  The Germans elite units are assault engineers, which means that I had plenty of smoke to mask my movement.  The first line units are great for rooting out the Russians and helping the engineers get to where they needed to be: the objective building.
Facing me were a number of Soviet first line units, some SMG equipped troops.  With only 3 machine guns, the Soviets would be hard pressed to put down plenty of defensive fire.  Also compounding this was his almost complete lack of leadership.  Not very good facing Germans equipped with demo charges and flamethrowers, all necessary to bust my way into his fortified building.
Russian Flambeau?  Coming up!
So, the forces were set.  In the words of Caesar, Alea Iacta Est!  Away we went.
His forces were set up concealed and my initial goal was to strip away his concealment as early as possible, and then to manoeuvre to his right (my left) flank.  From there I would have a base from which I could (hopefully) bust my way into the building, using my DCs to breach, if necessary and thereby gain entry into his fortified building
My initial plan worked. I found one of his 5-2-7 SMG squads and entered into close combat with him, in spite of him being concealed.  This gave him a great initial advantage, but I figured that my 3 squads would prevail.  They didn't.  I needed to augment this building (he did as well) and in the end I took out 2 of his squads for 3 of my own.  Not good.  But I pressed on!
That's not what I meant by "we need some smoke!"
I was able to use some infantry smoke to get around to his right flank with my assault engineers and soon I was in my position ready to assault his fortress.  Due to some fairly effective defensive fire, a sole 8-0 leader rushed into close combat in the fortress, finding his way in due to my pinning of his defenders. (Note: in ASL, if a building is fortified, one can only enter an enemy-occupied hex if that defender is pinned or otherwise not in good order).  I survived the first round of close combat, but Andrew was able to finish off my leader before I could reinforce.  My second attempt to enter was delayed somewhat by my assault engineers all failing to place smoke successfully (Note: in ASL, German Assault Engineers typically need 5 or less on 1 six-sided die.). 
Waiting for the signal to go!
Finally, I busted into the building on the second-to-last turn and starting reinforcing it.  I was able to push his forces into a far corner of the building, but to win, I needed to take all hexes from him.  Andrew cleverly (and treacherously!  Ha!) maneuvered his forces around such that I needed to break or at least pin all of his men prior to getting into close combat with him.  Doing so would give me the win, but it was a tall order.  It turned out that in spite of my using demo charges and flamethrowers, I was unable to get those last few hexes from him.  In the end, Soviet win.
As the initial notes on this scenario state, success depends on "...an adroit German player skilled in the use of assault fire, dash, smoke grenades and maneuver."  Try as I might, it came down to Andrew's skilled defense holding out just long enough to keep me from getting the win.
In the end, German losses were heavy, as were Soviet.  This result reflects what happened there back in 1941; the Germans needed 2 days and heavy artillery support to finally clear Liepaja. What was supposed to be a quick battle needed six days' effort by the Germans.  Setbacks such as this may very well have been key in ensuring an eventual Soviet victory on the Eastern Front.
In conclusion, though playing games such as ASL may seem rather silly to some, it has, for me, been a way to better understand the finer details of the Second World War, especially that which happened on the Eastern Front.  I have been able to gain a better understanding of why the Soviets were able to battle the Germans toe-to-toe in the cities, but crumbled against them in the open fighting of the Steppe.  Even large-scale Soviet victories, such as those in the summer of 1944, were at a terrible cost in human life lost.  In playing ASL, I often see how a Tiger tank, for example, can kill 10 enemy tanks in a single battle.  The problem  is, however, that there almost always is that 11th tank that is able to get the kill on that Tiger. 
So, onwards to my next battle!  Next time, I'm going to be taking the side of the defending Kiwis of the New Zealand Army as they defend against the German invasion of Crete in 1941.  Huzzah!
The Scene of the fighting

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