It’s no secret to the people I play regularly that if I can choose, I would rather play big ASL. By which I mean big, meaty scenarios, lots of units and lots of stuff going on, perhaps not completable in a single day. These kind of games have a different feel to them. No one event will decide the outcome and there is time to correct a setup mistake or an early attack that goes awry. I hadn’t played a truly big scenario in a while and Mike wanted to get back to playing ASL and he wanted to play the Festung Budapest CG. Yes please, I am all in. We are halfway through our first CG date and it is indeed glorious. Well, that just whet my appetite. There is so much ASL and so little time, I decided to see if I could find an intrepid soul to start a Valor of the Guards CG with me. I had originally asked for CG II or III just to get my feet wet, but Ed Barnes dangled CG IV out there just close enough for me to grasp it, so I did. This one is truly epic and we will be doing it via VASL pbem. There is a strong possibility we may never finish it before I die of old age (I’m 51), but who cares, the journey promises to inject a regular dose of big ASL straight into my veins.
This then will be my introductory comments on my two campaigns.
FB CG III City of Eternal Heroes
Mike has had Festung Budapest sitting on his shelf for a while now. He had played a scenario or two out of it (one with me) a long while back. I recently found my copy on line at a great price because of a damaged box (yeah, the box had a crease, it was 40 bucks off). He had been hinting at someday playing a campaign out of it for a while. Campaigns for both of us have been few and far between, and oddly enough, I think I have more under my belt than he does. I had started a campaign of Red Barricades CG III with Bud and we played for a very long time, a few hours a night, a couple of nights a week. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing, and the game stalemated right in the middle of the map for weeks and we put it up. He and I also played the Kampfgruppe Peiper CG, and we played that one to completion. Mike and I played the Berlin: Red Vengeance campaign from HOB when it first came out, the difference in skill levels between us was glaringly obvious as his Germans stopped my Russians cold.
Mike loves to play the “feebs” as he calls them. The non-elite Italians, the conscripts, the green troops…….the Hungarians in Budapest. He loves the challenge they present. So when he offered to take the Axis troops, I gladly let him have them. The Russians have everything, including the kitchen sink, but they have a tall task. Yes, Mike has a large pile of “feebs”, but they have quite the spine in their German allies. The 658 German squad is, in my opinion, the best unit in the game, especially in 1945. I’m sure many would disagree, but that’s what I think and these units are the backbone to the Hungarian defense. My expectations are that I won’t be seeing too many of the quality German units for a while, mostly running in to the Hungarian cannon fodder while Mike tries to save the quality for later. I can also see him using the German units as firemen. Getting them to plug a hole in the damaged dike. Naturally, the ammo shortage rules and eventually the food shortage rules will play their part, we are just over 3 turns in and the ammo rules have already taken their toll, eliminating a German HMG after two measly shots.
I bought infantry and a SAN (sniper activation number, for those not familiar with ASL) increase. Ground pounders are how you take and keep territory in ASL, and that’s the name of the game here. I have to take around 80% of the map (an estimate of course) and keep it. My biggest problem is not knowing what kind of pace I have to maintain. The defense will get stingier the smaller the perimeter gets. My really good tanks (T-34-85) get recalled after each scenario, so I would have to spend points on them again to have them for the next round, and with all the German / Hungarian units on board, the Panzerfausts will be thick, so while I intend to have an armor presence, they will be support units, not on the front line.
My goals for this CG are: 1. To get a victory against a guy I almost never beat. 2. To give a good account of myself against a very good player. 3. To have fun (should be in everyone’s list of squad leader goals).
Report on the initial scenario soon.
VotG CG IV The Savage Streets of Stalingrad
So, I decided to play a Valor of the Guards campaign. This will be a true test for me. First and foremost, it will be the first time I have ever defended in a campaign game. Second, I have never shown any skill in scenarios set in Stalingrad. I have done my research, assessed the situation and have begun making my purchases. I have no idea if Ed has played VotG before. I have no idea what kind of skill level he plays at. I don’t know if he is typically a more aggressive or less aggressive attacker. Unlike my game with Mike, from whom I have a fairly good idea of what to expect, that is not the case here.
I do know however, that the Russians get their asses handed to them the first couple of daytime scenarios. I have read Mike McGrath’s article on VotG CG IV in Journal 11 twice and re-read certain parts of it even more. What a coup for me to be able to get an inside look at a massive undertaking such as this from the perspective of one of the best players the game has ever had. It seemed that every paragraph had me saying “yeah, I wouldn’t have thought of that”. Although he gives his initial purchases and setup for the Russians, I don’t want to simply copy what he does. This is my game and I want to put my stamp on it for good or bad. I will take some of the things he has come up with and try to use them, but discard others and apply my own thoughts. After the second scenario though, I would be on my own anyway.
Having just finished my setup, I can say I have never had an experience putting all of my stuff on a map like this before. Will it stand up to the beating Ed is sure to give it? I am determined to pass the initial gut check (IGC) that apparently comes with the first scenario beat down. I didn’t have enough stuff to do or cover all that I wanted. Welcome to ASL. My goals for this CG are only one: Make Ed pay for every inch of Stalingrad taken.
More to come………