The Barrikady, Stalingrad, November 9, 1942: the Sixth Army was being bled white admist the ruins. The rifle strength of whole companies was often reduced to little more than a squad in an attempt to take a single house. The battle lines were now drawn through the hallways of individual buildings rather than by streets or city blocks. The Germans decided to bring in fresh specialized units for the final assault: five battalions of elite pioneers specially trained in street fighting and vetrans of the bitter street battles of Voronezh were summoned to take the last stubborn outposts between the machine ships of the Barrikady Gun Factory and the Volga. However, the pioneers of Major Rettenmaier had never seen a battle the equal of that for the “Red House”.

Patch and I just finished playing the ASL scenario “The Commissar’s House” last Wednesday. Or a rewrite of it. The original appeared in the initial ASL module, Beyond Valor; this version appeared in ASL Annual ’92 and uses the historical Red Barricades map, as the action actually happened there.

It’s a relatively big scenario, with about two dozen squads on each side. I had the defending Russians, and Patch the Germans (who are favored). The Germans have 8 1/2 turns to get to and take two large buildings that are a little distance apart from each other.

Setup was something of a disaster. I didn’t think a few things through, and made bad rules assumptions. Then I made bad assumptions about where the attack would come. I was thinking almost purely in terms of a center thrust between the two victory buildings, so I was surprised when Patch set up with heavy concentrations at the North and South extremes. Worse, I suddenly realized my HMG was in a really vulnerable location. Compounding this, German fire broke most of the defenders in the less-important of the two buildings right off the bat. Actually, the Russians spent a fair amount of time breaking all during the first turn.

The first building fell quickly and hard, with me losing a fair number of units to Failure to Rout while trapped in the cellar. The next couple of turns went somewhat better for me. I had a scattered amount of perimeter guards out who did their job fairly well. The noose slowly drew tighter as I kept trying to reshuffle my squads in the Commissar’s House. The problem was that he had a couple of ‘kill stacks’ in the south with two good leaders. Even the +4 fortified building and fanaticism (Russian balance) couldn’t keep him from breaking a decent number of squads. It took quite a while to turn my opening setup into something that could actually manage fair amounts of dispersed firepower.

By turn four, I had two places away from the victory building still resisting, and the bigger kill stack equipped for the assault was starting to move in under cover of the 9-2 and a lot of machine guns. The final pickets were taken care of during turn 5, with almost none of them ever managing to fall back into the Commissar’s House, which left it undermanned from my point of view for the final showdown.

Russian turn 5 Prep Fire wasn’t too bad, breaking some of the Germans, including the 838 holding one of the FT (sadly, I had forgotten about the other one). The other FT managed to cause casualty reduction on two squads, one of which was my last concealed one (a 628 I’d been hoping to have CC fun with); the remaining HSes promptly broke. More annoying is the fact that I should have moved the 628, and didn’t because of a likely FFMO Snap Snot from what I thought was an 838 (nope, only a 338 HS). He then promptly broke a leader and another two squads. DFPh saw me down to three GO squads (one pinned). And more FtR losses.

In German 6 I got a leader back, but not the squad with him. Patch passed over some rally attempts in favor of the 9-1 leader taking over the cursed FT. He promptly showed why as he tosted a 458 with it. The remaining 9-2 kill stack promptly broke another one, and CRed the last GO squad. The HS, looking around, and seeing that there was no one left to keep the Germans out, defiantly brandished their rifles back. So the second FT cooked them. FtR claimed another 2 1/2 squads, while the rest took cover upstairs.

Russian 6 saw the GO leader rally the squad with the MMG. It was tempting to try and skulk. But with the amount of German FP ranged around the building, my only real hope was to try and reduce the amount of incoming lead. And I did, somewhat. Got a leader and a squad. Patch, in turn, re-broke everyone. It was going into the German turn again, with three turns left, and I decided to conceed gracefully at that point. It was *barely* possible that I might do a little more damage, but I was more than likely to lose everything to FtR in the next rout phase.

I can say that my grasp of the main rules is starting to come back to me. The two things that hurt the most were losing the North building so quickly, and the mis-placement of the HMG. If the other building could have held him off for an extra turn, I think it would have really caused Patch some time worries. Actually using the HMG might have helped. With some of my rolling during this game, it’s hard to tell. Next up is another stand-alone scenario on another portion of the same map: “Fire on the Volga”.