This was originally posted to my LiveJournal blog while the game was ongoing; I then posted the rest of it in replies to that post. I’ve reconstructed it here.

Pointe-du-Hoc, France, 6 June 1944: Confusion had brought only nine of the LCAs carrying the 2nd Ranger Battalion to shore at the base of the cliffs protecting a fortified coastal battery supposedly capable of bringing fire onto the approaches to Omaha and Utah beaches. The Rangers’ mission was to take it out. Despite difficulties, three companies under Colonel Rudder scaled the cliffs and overran the position against sporadic and unorganized resistance, only to find the guns had long since been removed from their casemates. But once atop the cliff, there was no returning to the sea. The Rangers set up a perimeter to await their relief at the hands of the 116th Infantry and 5th Rangers. German reaction to the lodgement, given all that was happening around them, was understandably slow and limited to sniper fire until 1600, when the Germans mounted their first serious push against the isolated Americans on the cliff edge.

As a needed change of pace, Wednesday’s on-line session between me and Patch Bunny was Advanced Squad Leader scenario 19 “Backs to the Sea”. This game is what the Vassal program was originally written for, but I haven’t done much ASL since about 2000, and none at all for the last year-and-a-half. Never being the greatest master of the intricate rules, I was more than a bit rusty on the particulars.

We decided by die-roll to give Patch the defending Americans. As the Germans, I have a large, but poor and brittle force, and I need to get about half of it pretty much on the cliff line in seven turns, in good shape. Doable (actually, quite doable, the win-loss record on this scenario shows the Germans are favored, we’ve given the Americans the balance option to compensate). He sent me his setup Monday.

Most of the terrain is open, and covered with shellholes (the artifact of much naval and aerial bombardment, to be sure). Patch’s setup obviously concentrated most of his forces on the side where there’s at least some cover to advance through. So, I put mine on the other end. There’s still a few things to take advantage of (the lack of any hills or buildings to get a commanding view helps here), but it is much more open.

Things went… okay at first. One leader broke and went down in quality, and later got himself wounded. Otherwise I generally got where I wanted to be. Another squad broke to a sniper. Patch started rearranging his forces to get at me. And then I got some hot dice and we made a couple mistakes that benefited me. I eliminated a squad on my flank, and ended up eliminating two dummy stacks of his on mistakes. (To be sure, I was already pretty sure about one, and starting to wonder about the other, but it’s still not at all fair to him.)

So now I’m attempting to press into the open middle area without getting too shot up. And I figure Patch deserves full choice on the next game/scenario/sides.

Patch has been quite aggressive with e-mailing responses, and we had a long session on line last night, which got us into Turn 4.

I’ve had my share of problems, but my lead troops are pretty much on schedule, and Patch is having more than his fair share of problems, culminating with back-to-back breaks of his two mortars.

Of course, one of mine is lagging behind, and is effectively out of action until it can find a good vantage point again (darn things are heavy), and he eliminated the half-squad that was using the other. So out of four light mortars in the scenario, all are out of action right now.

I should win at this rate, but I’m still a little nervous about getting the required eight squads over to board 7 in time. Three? No problem. Five? Looks doable. After that, I’m a little thin on guys far forward enough to crawl in. With current luck, though, I may very well get a good chance to walk through the open to a win….

I am starting to remember the nuances of the game again. I’m probably at about 70% of where I was at my best to understand the ASL rules, which is a nice feeling. Another game or two with Patch and I should start getting further down the road to mastery.

…And we finished last night [Jul 5]. I managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It ended up close. I had a chance at it until halfway through my final movement phase. Not a great chance, but I could have forced play of the final American turn.

Die luck was all over the place, as usual. Got some nice rolls. Some were even ones I needed to get. Thanks to low ELR and poor dice, several of my second-line squads turned into conscript mobs. Thanks to some good dice, many of them came back to try again.

Patch’s post-game analysis was that I’d been too cautious moving up around turn 4-5. I’ll have to go look at the logs to see what I did.

Hmm. A decade and more ago, my besetting SFB sin was timidity. I’ve done pretty well with that. Now I’m battling that with ASL. Not too unexpected, I’m still trying to get a feel for just how risky various actions are. I think the end game, where I was forced to really try screening moves and various tricks like that will help me play a better maneuver game in the future.

Still got a long ways to go before being worth more than a 6+1….