So, Pierce Mason and I are currently playing the TAC scenarios in order by pbem, it was inevitable that he and I would be matched up in the VASLeague tournament that is put on annually by Enrico Catanzaro. Difference here being that we have to play live over VASL. Not a problem
We chose VOTG 14: Pavlov’s House. Pavlov’s House has been a favorite subject of Squad Leaders and other game designers for a long time and why not? A Russian Sgt named Jakob Pavlov is ordered to take a building overlooking 9th January Square in Stalingrad and hold it. . After taking it and being reinforced to platoon level, he and his troops fortify and hold it for 58 days, essentially blocking the German advance to the Volga river…….. Well, that kind of thing becomes legend and is well deserved pickings for scenario and game design. Just off the top of my head (and I am not particularly well versed in all the games out there) there are at least four ASL Pavlov’s House scenarios and a new solitaire wargame by Dan Verssen Games
This scenario comes from the Valor of the Guards historical module and my history with VotG is not a pretty one. Mike and I played VotG 12: Siberian Shockwave when the module first came out and really didn’t enjoy it much. Then, as recounted here, I got my ass handed to me on a silver platter in VotG 9: Eviction Notice so I was hoping for a better experience from this selection and it did not disappoint.
I drew the Germans for the attack and Pierce got set up in and around the house. We both have an assortment of different quality units and my notables were two 838 combat engineers, 4 short barrel StuGs, a flamethrower and one of my favorite units, the 9-2 infantry leader. Unfortunately for me, these StuGs are not the wonders that you usually get. The scenario restricts these vehicles with an inability to fire SMOKE, a serious downer and after the first one gets eliminated or immobilized, the rest have to make task checks to stay on board with the TC getting worse as each one leaves. As you might expect, Pierce’s troops, holed up in a fortified building have a number of tools to work with including a heavy and medium machine guns, mines, wire and a somewhat capable 45L Anti Tank gun. The house itself is a fortified Russian strongpoint. A tough nut. Fortunately, the Victory Conditions aren’t steep. I have to have a single location in Pavlov’s house at game end which is 5.5 turns.
I am required to maintain control of all stone locations in my setup area, which is basically the perimeter around the square, so as much as I would like to form up as a single schwerepunkt and just grind forward, I have to spread out and make sure to prevent the last turn bolt for one of my buildings. My engineers and the other 8 morale units will attack from the top, attempting to make their way through the shellholes to poke a hole in the house. I hope to support these troops with the StuGs, bringing them in behind the rubble to get shots on the upper locations where the heavy weapons are likely to be lurking. I have a firebase set up on level one across the square to get some suppressing fire on the front door.
I kick off my attack, rolling the StuGs on the board and moving the groundpounders up to begin the assault. Things go awry at the start. Pierce’s rooftop mortars get some quick lucky shots on my north end attack and my 8 morale troops have no appetite for the job, breaking and running. Mr. 9-2 heads back and does his job, rallying the troops quickly to get back in the fight. I boldly drive a StuG into the square hoping to avoid the hidden gun and provide some close in support. Driving them in the open isn’t normally wise, but this is a short scenario and I need to use the tools given to me. Pierce reveals the gun on level 1 (yes, ground level fortified) and immobilizes it in the square. Honestly, it’s not a bad spot to be stuck, but now the other three have to start taking task checks to remain in the game. By the start of turn 3, I have lost one to a check already. The Russian sniper number is 6, so it was expected that it was going to have an effect on the game and wounds my 8-1 leader in the suppression stack. I find a minefield in the south with a unit and he spends the rest of the game fighting to get out of it. The rest of the southern force begins the flanking move to try to get behind the house, but this route is going to be a tough go.
This is a good spot for me to fail my PMC (personal morale check for those unfamiliar with ASL slang), but I am determined to make a game of this, buckle up like my 9-2 and get back in the game. The suppression group and the immobilized StuG continue to pour fire in to the ground level location, getting some results and softening up the defense. My assault engineers make another attempt through the shellholes and find their spines this time, managing to get adjacent to the house but finding the minefields in the process. Finally a few strokes of good fortune for my Landsers. A couple of my 8 morale units undergo heat of battle results, one going berserk and the other, an 838 becoming fanatic and possessing the flamethrower……. in the minefield adjacent to the House. Normally I’m not overjoyed by one of my units going berserk, but in this case the charge soaked up some fire that was going to be heading towards my other assaulting units. The fanatic 838 (stacked with the 9-2 who suffers a wound in his valorous attempt to get his troops into the house but survives), cleans out the ground level with the flamethrower and the door is open……….if……..I…….can……just…..get…….in……..there…
The southern attack is turned back. I sort of expected it, they are not the elite troops of my main assault in the north, but they do the job they are assigned, forcing Pierce to watch the back door of the house and tying up troops that might have been better used at the front door.
Pavlov earns his legendary status in our game. No matter what I did to him, he stood tall, manning the machine guns abandoned by his troops. All I had to do was get a 9 morale unit out of the minefield and into the front building hex but it failed. With two moves left, I get the suppression group out into the square to enter from the west. One squad pins and the other squad gets to the doorstep and pins in the last turn, unable to advance.
Three critical pin checks failed (not on the fanatic) become my undoing and I come up short. Standing on the doorstep but unable to enter.
What a great game. Pierce did just enough to keep me out. After the initial problems I encountered, my guys really stepped up to the plate. Slow and steady was the name of the game. I was going to get at the most, two cracks at it. I would have loved to get more out of the Assault Guns, but that first immobilization really hurt, I lost a vehicle per turn after that. However, Pierce spent the whole game trying to kill that immobilized StuG and never got the job done and it, in combination with the German flamethrower in the mines kept the door open for me to have an opportunity for victory.
Finally a good experience for me out of Valor of the Guards. I can highly recommend this scenario. The job for the German player appears daunting, but it can be done.
I am maturing in my ability to overcome disastrous results to stay in the game and make the best of a bad situation. In the past, my early troubles would have had an effect on my intestinal fortitude, causing me to snowball my problems with increasingly poor play. I’m pretty happy with the results here even though I can’t seem to get over the hump with Pierce. I’ll get him eventually.
Thanks for reading.