Advanced Squad Leader report: S24 Sherman Marches West

It’s been a few weeks since Michael and I have been able to get together to continue our playing of Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit scenarios, but we were finally able to play S24 on Friday.

The scenario is set in Krupki, Byelorussia on 28th June 1944. At this stage, the German invasion of Russia, started three years ago, had failed, and the Soviets were counterattacking as part of Operation Bagration. Krupki was held by the German Heavy Tank Battalion 505, and was protecting the rail lines that were so important for their supply chain. The numbers were not in the Germans’ favour, with the 505th only possessing 29 tanks, but at least they were mostly Tigers! Historically, all the German tanks were wiped out, but they destroyed 128 Russian tanks in return!

ASL SK scenarios are not quite of the scale to properly deal with the entire battle. Instead, we get a more modest engagement, where two German tanks, one Anti-Tank gun and some infantry have to hold off six Russian tanks and a lot of infantry. Compared to certain full ASL games, this one has a fairly small scale. It is pretty large for a Starter Kit scenario, however, and it took us three hours to play through.

Michael chose to play the Germans, and set up his initial infantry as shown. His AT Gun was set up using Hidden Initial Placement, so it was marked on a side-record and not placed on the map. Where was it hidden?

My objective as the Russians was to capture the four buildings in the centre-top of the map. As I had a number of Sherman tanks, acquired by the Russians as part of the Lend-Lease deal, I was eager to use them as my primary offensive weapon while I maintained my infantry for manoeuvring in the early battle, with the possibility of a greater commitment if necessary. The main problem was getting them over the fields to the target area, although Michael’s deployment of his defenders meant that he had a couple of double-squads in buildings that were quite vulnerable. So, I moved the tanks up, trying to keep mostly out of Panzerfaust range, and kept the infantry back for the initial assault.

Michael brought his tanks onto the board, and became extremely worried about the vulnerability of his two squads in the right-hand building on the nearer board (to me); he decided to move them out into the open and run them away from my tanks.

It proved a costly mistake, with both units suffering KIA attacks from my tanks main guns. His other double-stack broke under my fire, and began to retreat. I was now able to bring up my infantry without much fear of losing them to random small-arms fire, and I was also able to bring up one of my tanks behind Michael’s two tanks – something Michael was very unhappy to see!

My worst problem was losing the bow Machine-Gun on one of my tanks – hardly a big problem.

Michael was expecting reinforcements, but waiting until the third turn was proving an agonising wait for him. He finally revealed his Anti-Tank gun, and used it to eliminate one of my tanks, the Rate-of-Fire of the gun allowing it to quickly home in on the tank until one of the shells impacted for maximum effect. His tanks sped away from mine and approached the main battlefield, making my advance on the buildings a lot more problematic.

However, a good shot from one of my Sherman tanks took out his lesser tanks and allowed my infantry to further advance on the buildings. I gathered a large number of troops in the woods near Michael’s Anti-Tank gun, and attempted to neutralise it.

Michael also found that his placement of the heavy-machine gun on the hill was rather suboptimal, although every so often it got off an effective (and surprising) shot!

And then Michael’s reinforcements arrived – a lot of engineers, with excellent smoke-grenades, a flamethrower, a PanzerSchrek and the obligatories PanzerFausts (probably). I wasn’t in the best position to stop them coming up the centre, either. This wasn’t so good.

I moved up onto the hill overlooking the targets, only to lose one of my Shermans to Michael’s Tiger, but that was it for the Tiger – another of my Shermans was finally able to destroy it. The Anti-Tank gun was also finally neutralised. I was losing infantry as I manoeuvred into better positions, but so was Michael.

In such a target-rich environment, always shooting at the right targets could be difficult… and I foolishly ignored Michael’s PSK unit as it came up beside my tank…

This led to a moment of pure stupidity on my part: I moved my other Sherman up adjacent to the PSK unit. I’ve no idea what I was thinking – some sort of overrun attack, perhaps? What I do know is that it allowed Michael to happily destroy the tank using the PSK.

Oops.

We then managed to get a rule wrong, allowing the PSK to fire again at my other tank, destroying it. For some reason, the lack of a ROF on the PSK counter meant nothing… obviously, the gap in playing ASL had loosened our grip on the rules.

From this really big map area, we’d now concentrated our forces and the rest of the game was dependent on a small area with quite a few units.

However, I still did have tanks, and whilst Michael tried to move his units around to defend the last building: L7-M7, I kept up heavy fire, breaking units that attempted to hold his MMG position.

He moved his PSK unit around, hoping for a shot on my Shermans. It got a chance to shoot as I moved one Sherman into point-blank range to the building, but it was finally out of ammunition and discarded. His check for using a PanzerFaust was a 6, and the tanks stood there unopposed.

I rushed in my infantry to surround the building. Michael got some KIA results as my units ran over the open ground, but numbers were telling. Barely! Most of my units didn’t survive the trip! Those that remained took L7 and went into melee with a lone leader in M7 – the other defenders having broken and run.

I fired into the melee, and everyone broke. Michael’s engineers moved in to vehicular close combat, and were successful in taking down a fifth Sherman! However, what he needed to do was get his leader into M7… and a pin result made that impossible.

The scenario was over, and the Russians had been victorious – just!

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