Squad Leader, scenario 7 Buchholz Station AAR

Scenario 7 of the original Squad Leader game adds the Americans to the game. Low of Morale (but good at rallying), I’ve used them a lot in the later Advanced Squad Leader, but this is the first time I’ve played them in their original incarnation. As with most of my Squad Leader games, this one was played solitaire.

There are a few victory conditions for this scenario. If either side loses 10 squads, leaders or AFVs it loses. Otherwise, the Germans can win by advancing 7 troops off the southern (bottom) edge of the board. The scenario gives a generous 10 turns for this scenario to play out, although there are only 12 squads on the German side and 12 on the American side, with a number of them being crews. The Americans also have a Jeep, a Half-Track and a couple of Trucks. I’m really not sure what to do with the trucks in this scenario…

The set-up is fixed, so there’s no choice of where individual units set up. The Germans are to the north on a road leading into the town of Buchholz, while the Americans are completely unprepared for the German attack – they’re on the road lined up for a meal! This was part of the opening of the Battle of the Bulge, and took place on December 16, 1944.

I’m afraid the green American counters don’t show up very well on this picture – I’ll try and give some close-ups as the battle continues.

I moved the Germans down the road towards the American positions, keeping them mostly out-of-sight until the eventually advanced into firing positions in the trees just to the north of the Americans. (As it was winter, the lighter fields were all considered as open ground). A small detachment of Germans moved due east, planning to make a flanking manoeuvre around the village. In response, the Americans dived for cover. It is not, perhaps, the smartest move to stay out in the open during an attack! They gave up their chance of firing first thereby, and unfortunately it gave the Germans a chance to break an important stack of machine-gunners in the building 3Y8, cutting off a key part of the American defence.

Meanwhile, the American officers, who were having a staff meeting in the centre of the town, scrambled to get onto the trucks, liberate the heavy weaponry there, and move to better defensive positions where they could aid their men.

The German flanking force decided that they didn’t need to go any further east, and began to come down south – it wasn’t like the American defenders were strong in that part of the town. The Germans also managed to move some troops into the woods on the right of the main road, although a squad was broken in the process.

One of the major challenges facing the Americans was an inability to retreat well. Their positions were surrounded by open ground, meaning that if they were broken and forced to retreat, they’d be eliminated – in Squad Leader, there’s no Low Crawl: you just can’t retreat through Open Ground in range and LOS of an enemy squad… and that would happen a lot later.

The American vehicles began to move out – but their movement was interrupted by the unloading of the HMG by two leaders into the building at 3S8, where they would be able to fire at the Germans in the forest to the north-west.

The problem here was that the Germans were able to get most of their weaponry to bear on the Americans, while the Americans could only get a small portion of their guns aimed at the Germans… I’d been keeping American troops back to attack the Germans if they tried to go for the alternative victory condition, but they really needed more firepower up front. The building 3Y6 actually had two American squads stacked in it with a MMG, which gave a pleasing 16 FP on the wood hexes to the north-west, and that did a significant amount of damage to the German position. However, the Germans were able to withdraw their troops and rally them; the Americans didn’t have that luxury.

The Germans moved up again, causing a lot of consternation amongst the American ranks.

At this point, I moved the half-track to a position where it could fire on the German 10-2 leader and his men. Who replied by throwing a Panzerfaust at it from range 3. This is an unlikely shot – normally a 3 or less on 2d6. I rolled a 3. Then I rolled again for the Kill number, and rolled low again. It was destroyed, just like that! This was not the American’s day! Their fire at the Germans continued to break the odd unit, but the Germans retreated and rallied, and continued to press forward.

I was actually rolling low for attacks for much of the game. Being able to attack a stack twice is very effective if it has to make morale checks twice: more than one American unit was being eliminated that way. About the only good moment for the Americans was when the units in 3Y6 managed to break the German troops who had moved adjacent to the broken Americans in 3AA7. They were saved… for now!

However, at this point the Germans finally managed to break the units in 3Y6, and the main source of American defense was gone. 3Y8 also broke, and the Germans were very close to victory.

From here, it was mainly just a case of the Germans manoeuvring to cut off the possibility of American retreats, and moving adjacent to the broken units to force their surrender. The crew in 3S8 that were manning the HMG with the leader broke, and with the Germans flanking them there was nowhere to run. The trucks and jeeps stood abandoned on the road – what were they going to do? There’s possibly a good use for them in this scenario, but I don’t know what it is!

A few of the American units survived the battle unscathed and never getting into combat… which shows you how poorly I used them!

And that was that – the end of scenario 7 of the original Squad Leader!

It’s a fascinating game. There’s no doubt that I appreciate the way that Advanced Squad Leader implemented Defensive Fire more, as in large scenarios, the Squad Leader defensive fire can be a pain to keep track of (especially in larger scenarios), but the elegance and simplicity of the OK-broken-eliminated scheme makes this a much more approachable game than ASL (even in the SK form).

It’s odd seeing how fast the squads can move on roads (0.5 MF per road hex-side) compared to ASL, as units can really speed across the map. Also, I gather I play these scenarios far more aggressively than players did back in the day: to finish this scenario took 4 turns, compared to the 10 turns it was allotted!

At some point I’ll return to the game and attempt Scenario 8! Until then, may you roll low!

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