Like virtually everyone else who plays Advanced Squad Leader, I pre-ordered Hatten in Flames when the opportunity arose. When I had it my grubby hands, I was astonished. Two campaigns, a single beautiful map, and one double sided page of rules. No new terrain and no new unit types. Just down and dirty ASL. Start with American GIs and German Panzergrenadiers, throw in a generous portion of really fun armor, toss, garnish with ground snow and serve. And the price was outstanding to boot. Seven of the eight scenarios appear to be well balanced and both CGs also seem to play out evenly and are eminently playable at five dates and three dates.
As I stated on the Gamesquad forums: Thank you Andy Rogers and MMP. Please deliver into my hands more products like this one.
Just because it is straight forward ASL doesn’t mean that Andy didn’t come up with a few new ways of doing things. The reinforcement group purchasing is different, allowing the players to purchase what they want as long as they are allowed on or after the date in play. Other than bombardments and fortifications, once you have purchased a reinforcement group, it is used up, not available for purchase again. But my favorite change is victory hex domination. Basically, certain hexes have red stars in them. In order to control one, you must dominate the terrain surrounding them. Hexes that count for control are buildings, rubble and hexes with three hexsides enclosed by walls or hedges. Each victory hex has it’s own personality and each has it’s own number of hexes that must be controlled. Some require more effort than others……… Genius. Another alteration is the OBA access cards. Each side gets four cards, three black and one red. If you draw a red, it goes back into the pile, but two reds in a row does not cause you to lose the module. Three rounds of access is all you get, and it really makes you think about not putting the AR close to an unknown unit, prompting the extra draw.
Bud Garding is my opponent. He and I play in the summer on late Monday afternoons. In the fall and winter we bowl on the same team on Mondays so we don’t normally play during that time. The last few years we have played scenarios, but over the years we have also played the Red Barricades and Kampfgruppe Peiper campaigns.
Bud is also currently playing Hatten with another friend of ours as the American side. When we were discussing sides, he said he had no preference, so we drew cards while bowling and I drew the Germans.
There are nine victory hexes:
My German troops will enter from the East, or, the bottom of the map with a small entry area on the south not far from the graveyard. In order for me to score a victory in the initial scenario (9 Jan), I must dominate 3 of 4 victory hexes. Those 4 include the three closest to my board edge and the one furthest to the north (or right) in this image.
It would seem that the three closest to me would be the low hanging fruit, but the one on the right starts out of the American setup area, and can be reached on turn 1 with infantry in halftracks. I imagined that Bud would have the graveyard defended with all the open terrain in front of it, plus when I saw his setup, there were a couple of Hellcats overlooking the open area surrounding it to prevent my armor from making an early play there. So my plan shook out to grab the other three.
I bought PzIV Mk Js and JgPzIV (L)s, receiving three each. I also purchased 80mm OBA, and 548 infantry to go along with 548 and 467 elite and first line ground pounders I start with in my OB.
I must note that for these first two dates, we failed to play with the ground snow road rates, it is an error that we have corrected for the third date. If this had been done correctly, I would not have been able to unload my halftrack infantry on turn 1, nor would Bud have been able to move his Shermans up to the battle so quickly. You’d think that the WHITE board would have been a dead giveaway………..
9 Jan, 1945.
I will admit now that I am very happy with my initial scenario attack. On the German right, the halftracks took the road to the unoccupied victory location and unloaded, they had armored car support. I don’t believe the lack of road rate would have prevented them from securing the hex and surrounding terrain as I would have sent a MkIV as protection to keep the M18 riff-raff at bay.
In the center, the ground pounders had to leg it without the halftrack luxury, using armored assault for cover on my left/center and a JgPzIV in the ‘center’. The other JgPzIV moved up to get into a hull down position inside a walled hex.
Bud had units in the graveyard as expected. And had two of my targeted victory hexes defended. He has grown very fond of spotted fire for his mortars and I received a few shots from those with minimal damage.
The other campaigns I have played have made the initial scenario victory conditions pretty much a ‘gimme’. Hatten is a bit different. The Americans are fairly weak at start but they can be reinforced. And rooting the six firepower GIs out of stone buildings is never an easy task as they can hit your troops with big shots and out-range all units on the board except the German 467…… still not a good match for the Axis. So the German player must be aggressive and take the fight to the GIs, get the required victory locations with domination and prepare for an onslaught of infantry and tanks.
Bud was somewhat surprised that I made no play for the graveyard. It seemed like a risk to me when I had the free victory hex on the right and the two right in front of me. The one in the center took some doing using infantry and MkIVjs in a combined arms attack, but we managed to get the job done. Then I took a chance and moved up the center to a very forward group of buildings. It will take an effort to defend them, but he can’t ignore them and will need to use resources to root them out.
Just before the end of the scenario, Bud took a hail Mary shot at a hull down JgPzIV and got a critical hit. That one hurt and it wouldn’t be the last time it would happen, he would get another crit on a hull down JgPzIV on day two.
Overall, casualties were fairly light for the German, while the American starting force was damaged pretty good. Day two would be different.
I failed to get a picture of the perimeter between days 1 and 2, but here is an approximation: My Perimeter-
I’ve never really fully understood the drawing of the perimeter, so we always just do the best we can, it’s not like we’re playing for money.
I chose a day assault for day 2.
10 Jan, 1945
At the start of each CG day, the retained German AFV get to set up on map but must be six hexes behind the front line. For the American, the Hellcats may set up on board, but all other vehicles must re-enter from the board edge. My purchases included more MkIVJs, a couple of PSW armored cars, a company of infantry, a Heavy Machine Gun team and the Assault Engineers. I had big plans for my AE units, but they had other plans, having apparently just graduated from clown school.
In order to win the second day I would need to dominate one more Victory hex than I started with. I intended to make an attempt at two.
This day, the graveyard had to be taken. I was not going to allow Bud to remain as a thorn in my side. It would fulfill my obligation for scenario victory and give me security on my left flank. My other play would be up the gut. This would be difficult as Bud was built up in the stone buildings there. I intended to get my AE units across the street and into the stone, creating a morale mis-match between my 8 morale AE and his 6 morale GIs. One of the PSW that I purchased had a nice smoke number, but also had a low ammo chance. Depleted the smoke and got the low ammo marker on the first shot. Yay!
Neither of us had any luck with our OBA in the first scenario. But Bud bought a bombardment in the second. He had used them before in his other game. I didn’t realize what they could do. He elected to drop it on my units in my far right victory building complex and considering what they had to endure (a bit different from a standard ASL bombardment) I think I came out of it in fairly good shape. I still had some good order units there and was able to defend the location to the end of the scenario.
The graveyard assault went well. We rooted out the defenders and took our objective without much personal damage. My attack in the center was a circus and my AE units were the clowns in the Volkswagen. I was unable to get my smoke down, so I parked three 251/1 halftracks in the road and dared Bud to kill them. I intended to use them for cover with a flamethrower half-squad to keep the American heads down while I crossed the street. No smoke from the AE, no morale checks passed and no pin checks passed. By the time my attempted assault was over, I only had a squad and a half of AE remaining. Plus all of the halftracks were knocked out without any of them burning. A costly attempt.
We started having actual tank engagements on day 2. Bud knocked out two MkIVs, the three halftracks and another hull down JgPzIV with a critical hit. I punched the ticket on a 75 Sherman, a Panzerfaust killed a 76L Sherman and we got a recall on an M18. Bud had a real problem with my sniper finding Hellcats. And it has continued into day 3.
At the end of day 2, I had taken 52 points of casualties, mostly halftracks and tanks, but a significant number. Importantly though, I dominated another victory location, giving me a scenario victory.
CG day 2 is now in the books. Day 3 is underway, so I can spill the beans here.
I have chosen idle for day 3, but after skimping on my purchases the first two days and being seemingly short on armor, I spent the bank this time. The Panthers are in the field of play along with the always fun to play StuG IIIGs. I have a plan to surprise Bud. He has chosen the attack. But what is cool in a CG is that you have options you don’t get in a scenario. Just because you pick the idle chit doesn’t mean you can’t attack and I have my eyes on another victory hex. Typical tactics of the Wehrmacht in WWII……. counterattack!
Thanks for reading