Advanced Squad Leader report: S21 Clash at Borisovka

Michael and I have finally reached the first of the scenarios involving tanks in the ASL Starter Kits. And, just to get us into the hang of using them, the scenario has nothing but tanks in it! The Russians have ten tanks, the Germans have six, with two of the German tanks being the famed Tigers. The setting is Borisovka in Russia on the 14th March 1943, where the T-34s of the Tank Corps were involved with many running battles against the panzers of the Grossdeutschland Division.

I made one mistake during the set-up of this scenario: map t is reversed (left to right) from how it should be. However, as we’re in March, the grain is out-of-season and it is mostly a featureless board as a result. If I was going to make a mistake, this was the board to do it with! The scenario played fine even with the wrong map set-up.

The basic tank rules are fairly simple: each tank has a certain number of movement points, which it spends moving into hexes and turning. It costs one movement point to start a tank moving, and another movement point to stop them moving; if a tank ends its movement phase without stopping, an “Motion” counter is used to remind everyone about that fact. Michael chose to play the Russians this scenario, and drove in with his many, many tanks. I then brought my tanks on, one of them taking a shot at a tank far away on a hill. I missed. Three of my tanks (the blue ones to the upper-right) stopped and took up firing positions. My other three tanks (lower right) continued moving.

There are various complexities involved with tank combat in ASL. They build off the Gun rules, which we’ve become quite familiar with over the last couple of months. Tank Guns need to make a roll to see if they hit first, as with all other Guns. However, if they hit the opposing tank doesn’t have to make morale checks. Instead, the type and size of ammunition that hits it provides a “To Kill” number, from which is subtracted the armour rating of the opposing tank. If you can roll less than that number on 2d6, the tank is destroyed and flipped to its wreck side. If you roll more, you (generally) have no effect. A tie, depending on exactly where you hit the tank – turret or hull – may immobilize or shock it; the last meaning that it could be killed or only stunned, but you’ll have to wait a few turns to find out.

Another factor is this: if you fire with a moving tank, you’re very unlikely to hit anything. You’re almost certain not to hit another moving tank, which is why my tanks were beginning to stop and take up firing positions. The winner of this game would be the player to destroy more tanks, but with each escaping Russian tank counting as a killed German tank – so Michael could win simply by moving his entire force off the far edge.

Michael moved some of his tanks into defensive positions where we couldn’t see each other, and moved others so that they could attack in force any of my tanks that moved out from behind the cover. Along the way, one of his tanks came within line-of-sight of my Panzer IVF2 on the hill. I rolled well, hit, and confirmed the kill.

The big question for me was what I needed to do with my tanks that were still moving – the ones on the hill and defending the escape route for Michael were well set. I decided that my best bet was to sent my two Panzer IVF2s around to see if they could get behind Michael’s tanks, whilst my Tiger stopped and took up a defensive position.

One Panzer achieved a dubious vantage point on the hill, the other was destroyed by the Russian tanks – it wasn’t a very good move.

You’ll notice that a lot of turret counters have now been placed on Michael’s tanks. When a tank is shooting straight ahead, there’s no need for the counter, but once you want to shoot something to the side, the turret counters come into play. They’re double-sided, with the other side being used to denote that the crew of the tank have an observer looking around – “Crew Exposed” as opposed to “Buttoned Up”. CE tanks move faster and are better at hitting things, but are vulnerable to small-arms fire. A lot of the tank combats I’ve played, the tanks are buttoned up. In this case, Michael’s tanks can’t actually fire their main guns unless they’re BU, so little choice there!

I’m fairly terrible at remembering to remove target acquisition counters when they’re no longer being used, so you’ll see a few misplaced counters around. Tank guns, like other ordnance, get more accurate as they get better sightings of other pieces, and the Acquisition counters represent that. A moving tank can’t have acquisition, which is why my Panzer IVF2 stopped before firing at Michael’s tank in U6.

However, because I had been moving earlier in the turn, I took large negatives to the roll. As you might expect, I missed!

When we got to Michael’s turn, he had four tanks that could fire at my Panzer before it could fire back. It took three attacks, but the third one hit and destroyed it. At this point, Michael was actually winning the scenario: He’d destroyed more tanks than I had of his!

Michael wasn’t content to sit still, however. This was fair enough – some of his tanks were still in my line-of-sight, and thus vulnerable. (One became immobilized as my Tiger hit it as it cowered near the trees). At long ranges, the German tanks are far more effective at hitting than the Russian ones. He drove one tank around the building to engage my Tiger, and swiftly discovered what a bad idea that was – it was easily destroyed by the Tiger’s massive 88 gun. However, this distracted my Tiger enough so that his other tanks could run around behind it. My other Tiger, lurking behind the woods, took a pot-shot at his tanks as they drove past, but missed.

Much better for Michael was what happened with my tanks on the hill as they fired down at his moving tanks – both tanks jammed their main guns! Things weren’t looking good for me!

My Tigers moved in to flank Michael’s forces. Michael got a hit in on one of the Tigers, but only managed to immobilize it. And, worse for Michael, one of my malfunctioned tanks cleared the gun malfunction, whilst Michael suffered a Gun malfunction of his own!

At this point, Michael had only one thought: escape! However, I wasn’t going to allow his tanks to get out so easily. Michael was annoyed at himself for the way he moved his tanks, as it was right through the main arcs of my Tigers. In fact, he didn’t have an option: they were trapped, and my Tigers weren’t letting them go easily. Two of his tanks were destroyed, leaving only one free.

That tank scurried off an escaped off the right-hand edge of the map, giving him a victory point. Michael had now committed his reserves, but they proved too far back to move to escape. Instead, he attacked my hill-top tanks, hoping to score some points in that manner. It was not to be: I was accurate, and he was not.

The final scores were Russians: 2 kills and 1 escape against the Germans: 7 kills – an emphatic win for the Germans.

We’d met the tank rules and survived! The next scenario pits German tanks against American infantry – and we hit a new level of rules complexity.

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