Got a game up on VASL pbem with Tom Lavan of Colorado. He was looking for someone to play J19 Merzenhauzen Zoo. He told me that he had found an opponent but was interested in getting another game of it playing the other side. That would give me the German in this nice, meaty German / American slugfest. So I took him up on it.
The Zoo is an 8 turn nasty tank swirling, infantry crunching melee set in November of ’44. The American juggernaut is attempting to wrest the city of Merzenhauzen from some tough, well equipped German infantry.
The American side is strong: 18 mostly first line squads with 4 bazookas, the typical MG assortment and a nasty .50 cal. The big machine gun is the least of the German’s problems however. The GI’s bring 12 tanks to the fight. Shermans, Stuarts, and most intimidating above all, 3 fire breathing British Crocodiles. The Amis have to take 38 stone building locations in 8 full turns, so they definitely have the crew for the job.
The boys in feldgrau are no slouches themselves however. 13 squads of varying quality toting the usual compliment of support weapons, lmg, mmg, Panzerschreck and 2 (count ’em!) heavy machine guns. This force isn’t short on armor themselves. While not the tank bounty the Americans enjoy, 2 StuG IIIG, a JgpzIV 70 and a Nashorn are nothing to sneeze at and if the German can keep the GI’s at bay, they get reinforced by 6 more infantry squads and two lovely King Tigers looking for a fight on turn 5.
My set up looked alright from the beginning, eyes looking everywhere to strip concealment and I tried to give myself the ability to respond to the American attack by keeping some units back further in the town. It was going to take Tom a couple of turns to close with my foremost units which I figured would allow me to move to trouble.
I wrestled with where to put the second StuG. I ended up putting it in the walled complex on board 43. It turned out not to be optimal as Tom was able to approach it with no trouble. The 50L anti-tank gun was a gamble on my part. I had it in the brush, facing parallel to my own forces. I was hoping to get a side shot or two on American armor. In the first turn, I actually passed on a good shot on a Stuart looking for a bigger, better target.
The two PSK I had, I put with the extra crews which allowed me to HIP both of them with 8 morale units. One would make a difference, and the other would end up being totally ineffective.
When I got a first look at Tom’s entry set up I was kind of licking my chops. It looked like I was going to get that side shot with the Gun, and it might be a shot at one of the Crocs.
I was required to take some pin checks before the start of play and was unfortunate on a couple of them, but that is the purpose of them.
We were off and Tom raced a Stuart up from the south. I had a nice side shot if I wanted it, but passed. The chance of getting that side shot on the Croc was just too tempting. It didn’t work out for me. Tom ran a half squad and leader into the brush, my mmg fire was only effective enough to stop the HS, the leader kept right on going. The first time I had ever seen someone use a leader as a bump scout on the first couple moves of the game. I was unable to stop him and had to bump him, revealing my gun. To add insult to injury, I was to find out that not only would I have had the side of a Croc, but with a little luck I would have had the side of the Sherman Jumbo……. woulda, shoulda, coulda……
The route of Tom’s attack into the town was apparent from the start. The largest force would use the brush cover to get to the board 43 compound and the 9 victory locations there. My meager screening force there did minimal damage. The now revealed gun got smoked and the crew eliminated. I managed to extricate the StuG through some nifty reverse movement and a little luck. There were American and British tanks everywhere, but that was soon to change.
Another force of GI’s were entering from the west side of the map, making their way through the trees and a pair of Crocs were entering from the west edge of board 10.
Tom took the compound with relative ease. His troops were fully committed to an attack through that area. One thing he had plenty of was smoke. Between the Shermans and the Churchills, there was going to be a lot of smoke on the board. I managed to break a fair amount of American units, but he had deployed a lot, so there were half squads running amok. With all of the vehicles, Tom was rolling the dice a bunch, and when you roll the dice a bunch, some bad stuff is bound to happen. On turn 2, Tom disabled the main armaments of a Churchill and a Sherman. Before we would get to turn 4, he had lost 5 tanks to disabled MA recall including a Croc, and ……….
…………….I got one of the ambushes I had set up. My southern HIP hs/psk passed on a shot at the Stuart to wait for bigger fish, and a bigger fish he got. The Sherman jumbo rumbled up and I took the shot in defensive first fire, but missed. My crew survived and in my turn 2 prep, knocked him out. Tom got a crew out of it, but that was a big tank to bag. The Stuart got away, and I’m sure will cause me no end of headaches.
Tom spent most of turn 3 consolidating his troops and getting set up for the push into town. Both of my leader led HMG’s were holed up in a board 10 southern stone multihex building. It was worth another 6 points and I didn’t want to surrender it too easy, but it also wasn’t worth sacrificing two of my most important pieces to keep it, so I backed up and surrendered the building before my guys got a face full of canister.
Up north, it didn’t look like the Crocs were interested in challenging the StuG and Jagdpanzer, so I moved the StuG over to help the center, and promptly broke it’s mg.
Tom had moved some units to the center of the map to take 3 stone buildings in the middle of nowhere on board 10, then sent a half squad over to the woods north of them. I held the fire of the HIP crew/psk, thinking that maybe the second Croc would come down during that movement phase, after all, the GI half squad was in a smoke hex and a 4+2 wasn’t terribly enticing to me. Better to take advantage of the concealment when he moved in and try to get the ambush.
Didn’t work. Tom got in, and eliminated my HS in CC. Now he had a PSK. Quite the upgrade from the Bazooka.
I managed to get my MG line out of the (former) rowhouse and into the large building. Pretty proud of that actually. That building would be where I make my stand. I moved the StuG back to his original corner and brought the Jagdpanzer up to the front line. Tom’s GI halfsquads moved into my former building like a bad infestation. He drove a Sherman into the center hex of the building. The things I need to learn are many, that is one of them.
I need to get some troops to the top of the map, as those buildings were wide open and would be easy points for him if I failed to occupy them. I am running low on troops and the reinforcements will be welcome.
Tom moves his tanks up, The Sherman into the building. A Croc with a disabled FT moves up face to face with my StuG. but the 14 frontal armor was too tough to crack with a 17 to kill. Two of his three Crocs would end up immobile from ESB attempts.
My reinforcements came on, and Tom took some pops at them from sneaky LOS’s. Broke a squad and immobilized a King Tiger with a DI shot. Very frustrating. I always forget about DI. But I managed to get some troopers into the northern buildings. Tom got break results on both of my HMG squads. More frustrations but the ultimate frustration was still to come.
A look at the tank setup after turn 6
At this point, it is turn 7 and Tom is seriously considering the fact that he will come up a few locations short. He has wormed his way into the big building, but even with all of those locations he will be a couple under the magic number. I am feeling pretty good, Tom has suffered some terrible luck in this game, and I have played fairly solid for a change. Little did either of us know that after 100 some logfiles, 7 full turns, and a lot of time spent, that it would come down to a single 4fp shot +3.
My troops in the (former) rowhouse building at the top of the board were holding at least 6 building locations, and there wasn’t much of a threat to speak of. Tom, who takes every shot, no matter how inconsequential, takes a long desperate 4fp +3 shot at them.
Two 8 morale units, and a 9 morale unit. The 4fp+3 shot results in an nmc. My rolls were 8 (pin leader), 9, 10. Yep, the 467/mmg fell after that and the scenario is essentially over. I am unable to stop him from gaining access to those buildings and surrender.
It started a low point in ASL for me. I went through a stretch after that roll, where nothing went right for a number of games. I was getting to where I didn’t want to play anymore. It’s happened to all of us. I took two weeks off from my games and regrouped.
Things have started working better for me, and my luck, while not quite turning around has improved.
My game with Tom was very instructive. He is a very good player, much better than I am. Except for the disastrous shot of J19, he had the worst luck I have ever seen especially with his vehicles. Five tanks recalled with disabled MA. Two Crocs immobilized from ESB, one Sherman driven into a building and bogged (and bagged. Yep, got that sucker).
He took every shot possible. He needed building locations and with plenty of units, he deployed at every opportunity. He maneuvered his tanks through difficult terrain to get to the spot he wanted them. He used his smoke at every opportunity. And he never gave up, resulting in a crappy 4fp+3 shot essentially winning the game for him. I learned a ton from our game.
I enjoyed our game, but was disappointed in the result. With his misfortune, and me finally playing fairly well, I would have liked to get the win. But this is why he’s a good player and I am average.
Thanks to Tom for the game, I won’t be playing J19 live with anyone. The counter clutter was over the top in a VASL game, I can’t imagine the counter disaster in a FtF game. If Tom had been able to keep even half his tanks on the board, it wouldn’t have been close.
Thanks for reading.