Advanced Squad Leader report: S22 Another Summer’s Day

The third scenario of ASL Starter Kit #3 is an engagement between American Paratroopers and Germans in Sicily, 1943. The set-up for the scenario is moderately involved. First, the American player splits his paratroopers into two groups and selects target hexes for each group to be dropped into. The first group is then “dropper” – basically, you roll two dice, one die giving direction and the other distance, and place each squad that many hexes away from the target. In the worst case, two squads can each end up 6 hexes away from the target and at 180 degrees from each other – so 13 hexes apart!

Once the first squad is dropped, the Germans select the forces they’ll be using in the battle. The default is that they get three groups of defenders (there are six to choose from). However, if they wish to spend time gathering reinforcements, they can have additional groups enter the game – but not until turn 3. So, they could have two groups beginning on the map and two more appearing on Turn 3, or one group on the map and four additional group in Turn 3. This is all secretly recorded, because their units don’t enter the map until after the Americans move.

Then the American “drops” their second force, and takes the first turn of the game.

The objective of the scenario is that the Americans have to have enough units left within range of the road – I’ve marked the road in red in this first photo. Here’s how my troops arrived on the board!

I sent the troops scurrying for cover as my first turn in the game, then discovered that Michael had selected only one group – a large infantry force – to enter the battlefield on Turn 1. Four more groups would be arriving on Turn 3!

His troops entered from the top edge, and cautiously made their way into the grain fields. At this stage, we weren’t able to fire at each other much with much effect, but that didn’t stop us from trying. And, in the way that fortune favours the brave, Michael managed to roll exceptionally well, breaking two of my squads and sending them hurrying back towards cover and the possibility of rallying. Mortar fire was a real threat this game – especially with its high Rate of Fire.

What should I do in such a situation? The fact was that – with the exception of my mortar and machine gun – the Germans had superior range with their 4-6-7 troops. I had few numbers and they were scattered over the board. Setting up in that two-hex wooden building in the centre of the map looked like a good idea, but Michael would be able to combine fire and do a lot more damage to me than I could to him. So I decided to stay back. My mortar was doing some good – it finally got a good hit on Michael’s mortar, sending half of its stack scurrying backwards.

One word on portage: It’s a rule that Michael doesn’t know well at the moment, and he’ll tend to forget it. The stack carrying the 5 Portage Point mortar occasionally moves a hex more than it should – and it didn’t get abandoned when its squad fled! We noticed a couple of turns later and restored it to its proper hex, but it does highlight how it’s easy to forget a rule here and there when playing ASL. I’m pretty good with rules – there have been weeks when I’ve run four different editions of D&D – but it becomes a lot trickier to remember rules that don’t come into play that often. When I’m also trying to track another player’s play as well, things will sometimes be missed. And then there’s the rules I just don’t remember, have the wrong interpretation of, or just don’t know in the first place. I expect you’ll see a lot more of that if Michael and I get to play full ASL together.

(Yes, I intend to, but there’s still a lot of Starter Kit scenarios to play through, as well as Decision at Elst. We’re getting pretty close to actually tackling that module, but we need to play a bit more with tanks first!)

My mortar concentrated on firing at the broken units, seeking to keep them under Desperation Morale, not that successfully, I’m afraid. It was then time for Michael’s reinforcements to enter the battlefield, and everything changed!

Two armoured cars. A Tiger tank. A large group of assault engineers. And more elite troops. All approaching on my positions.

The Armoured Cars came from the top-left road, coming straight down towards my 7-4-7 paratrooper in the building there. They stopped a couple of hexes away and opened fire with their guns. Even at half fire-power, that was still an attack on the 4 FP column. Michael rolled really well, and my paratroopers broke.

His original squads also reached the two-hex building (tO4) and managed to use Advancing Fire to break my mortar-carrying squad in the trees. This was not good!

His Tiger took up position on a tree-lined road and concentrated on my MMG squad in a small wooden building at vP7, which had managed to break one of the elite units approaching from the bottom board edge. I considered the possibility of the MMG performing a miracle and taking out the Tiger, then discarded it. I had a bazooka nearby, but even it would have a tough time of getting through the armour… if I could even get into a position to use it.

Michael’s assault engineers double-timed over the hill towards my positions. At least they’d take some time to reach me.

The board position? Fascinating!

The two units in the woods near the Tiger decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and faded back into the trees. I did have one bit of luck, as the Tiger’s coaxial machine-gun malfunctioned, but that still left the awesome power of its main gun: the 88!

My biggest problem now was a real lack of good firepower. Most of my effective squads were on the left-hand side of the map, and they were quite ineffective against the Tiger. Michael’s fire from his units was keeping me scurrying for cover.

My situation then got even worse as the Tiger scored a critical hit on my MMG squad and leader – the squad, leader and MMG were all eliminated! There went a large part of my firepower. I was heartened only in that I didn’t really need all that many units to survive to actually win the scenario, and there weren’t very many turns to go. Still, with Michael’s Armoured Cars now coming down to take on my remaining troops, I was at a large disadvantage.

I attempted to recover my mortar, but it just meant that the troops I sent in there were attacked and broken for their pains. My two squads in the woods and their leaders rendezvoused in vS8, out of the way of everyone – they’d move out later.

And yes, I’ve mistakenly used a ¾” rather than a ½” target acquisition marker for the Tiger’s gun. It’s one of those details I notice later – when we’re playing, we know what’s going on, and it doesn’t even strike us that it’s the wrong size!

There wasn’t really any good places to hide from Michael’s troops. In most scenarios, the 7 firepower of the Paratroopers is incredibly good, but not this time – their range was actually proving to be a huge factor, especially as, by now, my numerical disadvantage was quite clear.

Michael’s elite troops appeared at the top of the hills overlooking my bazooka units as the Armoured Cars moved in. I had thoughts of trying to blow up the cars with the bazookas, but that required them to be unbroken – Michael’s fire continued to be very effective.

Meanwhile, I discovered that the safety of the woods at vS8 was an illusion… the line of fire from the Tiger was just unobstructed… oh, dear! I scurried back out of the way.

I had a plan: it involved getting my 7-0 leader and squad one hex to the right so they could see the road. Michael didn’t have a plan, he had an opportunity. He’d fire at those units with the assault engineers. Yes, it was through the brush. Yes, it was at the extreme edge of their range. Did he break them? No, he pinned them! That was really not good for my position.

In the buildings to the centre-right, my squads and half-squads were breaking. Continual fire was making their rallying not work too well, either. The 8-1 leader could only scream at his men impotently.

Michael fired at my 8-1 leader in the woods with his troops in the building – and broke them. It was the final turn, and I was still in a potentially winning situation. I had two 7-4-7 troops and a bazooka left, or a total of 22 fire power. I needed greater or equal to 15 firepower to win the game, so if my 7-4-7 and bazooka could survive, I’d win the game. Michael did try to reach my other paratrooper, but was unable to do so; in any case, it was irrelevant to the outcome.

The question was this: could a 7-4-7 hold out against six squads all running into point-blank range and attacking it (and then advancing into Close Combat? It was time to find out!

It survived fine against the first four squads. One was eliminated, three more were broken.

The fifth squad survived the Final Protective Fire, but I rolled low enough not to break.

The six squad arrived… and my paratroopers finally broke in Final Protective Fire. The game was over, and Michael had won!

This was a tremendously entertaining scenario. Despite Michael’s superior numbers, I was in it until the last turn.

Michael noted how scary the AFVs were for the infantry, especially the Tiger. I’d hoped to show him how infantry can take on AFVs and live, but this was not the case this time around!

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