We’re back with the Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kits, and Michael and I were playing S17 A Ridge Too Far this time around. Set on the 8th of June, 1944, it takes inspiration from Lt John Alderson of the 1st Special Service Brigade’s 6 Troop, whose men ran into a lot of Germans as they defended a road junction. Historically, they routed the German troops – how would this scenario play out?
The special scenario rules (SSRs) for this game are quite unusual and really alter what you think you’re looking at: the woods are all actually treated as non-inherent orchards, meaning they give very little cover to fire and can be seen through. This gave my Germans a lot of problems setting up – there are very few buildings to use as defensive points. I chose to have some troops defending in forward positions, a few more about halfway back, and then the remainder of my troops in buildings towards the eastern edge of the map (north is towards the top). Michael set up second, placing a lot of kill-stacks with which to attack my men.
Michael is controlling the British troops to the west (left) of the map. Grain is in season, and his big mortar can only see a handful of my troops.
The initial turn saw a lot of Prep firing and precious little effect, but Michael’s second turn was far more productive – he broke a lot of my forward defensive troops, and began to move forward. His mortar also broke the unit in the southern orchards – I had small success with my return fire, and not enough to stop the rest of his troops from getting closer.
The biggest problem I had was a lack of places to rout to and properly rally. Michael moved his mortar on to peppering the units in the far eastern building with high explosives, but that wasn’t having much effect.
However, his fire groups were working far more effectively than mine. Once he broke all my forward units, it was time to move up. My men in the orchards weren’t really sure what to do – fall back? Move forward? Stand and shoot? It didn’t seem to matter what they were doing, it wasn’t really stopping Michael’s advance. My broken southern unit ran away to the safety of the far-away eastern building.
My effective troops were now rather reduced in number. I began to send one squad around the north of the grainfield, hoping to disrupt Michael’s march as I flanked him from behind. It didn’t really work – it was too far to the north and couldn’t fire effectively through all the hindrance. Michael moved up through the grainfield, using the hindrance to reduce the effects of my fire, though I was lucky enough to cause some of his troops to rout back towards the western side of the map, where they holed up in a building, well out of range of my fire. His leader wasn’t quite able to get back to them this turn.
One piece of luck – his medium machine gun broke! Michael attempted to fire smoke to cover his advance, but neither of the mortars had smoke cannisters available. Instead, he happily moved his men forward; my return firing was quite ineffective. Now he was getting in range with his weapons of my defenders. I didn’t like that much, but what can you do when you don’t have enough firepower?
You don’t do much, that’s the answer!
I did finally have some troops rallying, but too little, too late. My final rounds of firing were mostly useless affairs; Michael had advanced too far with too many soldiers. All I could do was hope for some lucky rolls, but nothing that lucky was being permitted to occur. The eight morale and good leaders of the English were enough to stop most of my only-adequate attacks.
What could I do? Did I try rushing up to his troops for more effective attacks? I tried that, only to discover it would be my troop that got broken and not Michael’s. The troop I’d sent west was too far out of position. All I could do was hope that my units fired really well. They didn’t, and so Michael was easily able to advance his troops onto kexrow K – far enough forward and with way too many men – to win the game. He only needed 9 VPs; he was far past that!
This then ended the scenario, with Michael winning by a long way.
I’m really not sure how to win this scenario as the Germans – rolling better wouldn’t hurt, but mostly it’s a very unusual scenario with really challenges someone like me, who’s used to having a succession of hide-outs to recover in. Without that luxury, my Germans ended up doing really badly.