Two SS gebirgsjager were talking to a war correspondent who had come to document the heroics of these northernmost bearers of the standard of National Socialism.
"Is it hard being a gebirgsjager?" asked the correspondent.
"Not really, they're easy to identify and they don't move very quickly," replied one of the gebirgsjager.
"It's a bugger mounting them on your wall though," added the second.
"What about the Finns?" asked the correspondent, greatly daring. The "awkwardness" with Finland was strictly off limits as a topic.
"Mountains don't have fins, they have outcrops," said the first.
"Yeah," said the second gebirgsjager, "we're just about to be surrounded by outcrops."
"Really," the correspondent looked around in alarm but the mountains didn't seem any closer.
"Yep there are outcrops all over the place. I'd stay close to the flakwagen if I were you."
The correspondent thanked them and hurried off. The first gebirgsjager turned to his comrade,
"That damned flakwagen is a rolling target. Why did you send him there?"
"He's the bastard who writes the crosswords for Signal. Have you seen some of the clues he's come up with lately?"
After a series of heartbreaking defeats I ventured north in an attempt to revive my ASL fortunes. This time we would play Scenario J192 - Taking Some Flak. Here a group of elite German SS mountain troops (commanded by me) are attempting to discreetly exit their no longer ally Finland while a force of Finns commanded by Dave are trying to curry favour with their distinctly impatient Soviet neighbour by stopping them.
A single road winds through a northern Finnish forest. Said forest is occupied by SS gebirgsjager, hastily rebadged as waldjager for the occasion. The Finns can win at the end of turn three by controlling the road. Otherwise its by gaining 5CVP more than the Germans. This can be done by the standard killing Germans method but on the last turn there is the opportunity for exit VP as well.
My Germans are essentially trying to stay alive and fight off a Finnish encirclement attempt. I command seven and a half elite SS troops commanded by a pair of reasonably competent officers. They have one medium and two light machine guns and a 50mm mortar. Providing an unreasonable amount of firepower in support is an Sdkz 7 flak halftrack with a quad 20mm AA mount which can generate 20FP on the IFT by itself. This vehicle will henceforth be known as the rolling disappointment.
Dave commanding the Finns has nine squads, five first line and four second commanded by a pair of leaders. They have a couple of light machine guns and an 81mm mortar in support. Given a choice of two Dave went for the bespoke smoke mortar. On or after turn one Dave receives reinforcements in the shape of three more first line squads, a leader, an lmg and a few concealment counters. These can turn up in the German rear.
Above is the at start set up. I've pushed a couple of half squads forward to act as speed bumps while the rest of my force hangs on the edges of the forest to hopefully punish the oncoming Finns. In the rear is my best leader with a squad and the mmg to try and hold off his reinforcements. The rolling disappointment controls the road.
Dave struck in two directions, a flanking attack directed at my lonely halfsquad at the top of the board and the other, protected by smoke pushing towards the centre (while trying to avoid the rolling disappointment). His reinforcements slunk onto the board cringing under concealment counters rather than bravely charging the guns.
|End of Finnish turn 1|
My speed bump halfsquad down the bottom fled under fire and swarms of Finns occupied the forest and gully facing my main position. At the top it was a different story however. My halfsquad survived all advancing fire and began to write a story of heroism and sacrifice that would last for as long as reindeer survive to tell it.
For the most part I held my fire. If the Finns wanted to strip my concealment they would have to give me better targets than they had so far. My halfsquad fled to the rear and I moved an officer back to rally him. For the rest I kept proud and silent.
|End of Finnish turn 2|
So as you can see from the above the entire "proud and silent" thing didn't last for long. Dave decided to brave the bullets and I was more than happy to provide them. My mortar crew didn't last long and soon a grey swarm was headed towards my positions at the bottom of the map. At the top though his attack had been if not shattered then distinctly cracked. Finnish troops had fled well placed German fire and his surviving squad jumped into CC with my half squad who defied the odds by surviving. In my rear his reinforcements were menacing and I edged another rearward squad in their direction. For the moment though I was hoping to break the frontal assault and then turn my attention to the rear.
|End of German turn 2|
Well break the frontal assault I did. Dave's Finns were crucified trying to cross the open ground in front of my defences. At the top of the board my gallant halfsquad casualty reduced his opponent in CC and the melee ground on while the rest of his flanking force hid in the trees and attempted self rally. Yep it's fair to say that I was on top of the world. Unfortunately I would discover that I suffer from vertigo.
In the next Finnish turn Dave would rally his flankers, reinforce the melee and send the rest circling around the forest. The flanking move was on albeit a little delayed. Down the bottom of the board it was true the remnants of his force were just grateful to be alive but in the rear my 9-1 led mmg stack proved utterly inept and wound up broken and in CC with battle hungry Finns. As it turned out the battle hungry Finns turned out to be a little inept at close combat, my broken squad managed to withdraw (leaving the 9-1 alone to face the wrath of their opponents while my hero halfsquad killed another halfsquad and carried the melee forward to another turn.
|OK, not quite so good.|
So my rear was suddenly collapsing (insert your own tasteless joke here) but things weren't too bad. I had seen off a portion of his attack and I could now start pulling back troops to deal with the upstart Finns who had snuck round behind me. Besides I still had the rolling disappointment (yet to earn its title), surely victory would still be mine. After all, due to the carnage I had inflicted in the early turns I had a comfortable CVP buffer or so I thought.
|Yes, all is not lost|
The rolling disappointment rolled towards the rear and its date with impotence while I shuttled such troops as not absolutely essential to keep his forces away back to deal with the impudent flankers. My gallant halfsquad finally went down in CC but the moral victory was theirs. A squad killed and two others tied up for the best part of three turns. It was up to me to capitalise on their courage and skill.
OK so I didn't capitalise on their courage and skill. The rolling disappointment's sole contribution to the game over several fire phases would be a single pin result which the Finns passed. Despite that and the inevitable loss of my 9-1 in CC I was still in a good position. Dave had taken such heavy casualties early that he would need to exit troops off the board and score some spectacular CVP to win the game.
|Despite inevitable defeat Dave persists|
As the final turns rolled around I was nervous but hopeful. Dave on the other hand was desperate, he pushed troops through my fire to approach the exit location. All his troops survived, I was sanguine he would still need something more impressive than that if he wanted to win. Then his flankers who had so far been conspicuous by their absence from the battle stepped forward, advanced into CC with one of my squads, rolled snake eyes and killed it. The next turn they did exactly the same thing again.
Weeping in desperation I raced such of my troops as remained alive towards the exit locations but most of them didn't make it. Those that did couldn't hit a barn from the inside. The rolling disappointment sprayed the area with minable quantities of metal without achieving anything. Heart stricken and with the CVP cap now firmly against me I conceded, hot tears flowing down my cheeks.
|Yep defeat was indeed inevitable|
This was actually a tight and exciting game. For the first three turns I was all over Dave and held serious hopes of victory. Unfortunately it was the last couple of turns that are important. I can't even complain about the back to back snake eyes since my halfsquad had all the CC luck in the early stages.
Next time Dave has agreed to play Cautious Crusaders which is a scenario I've always wanted to play (because I like quixotic scenarios with Axis Minors, Italians and the like). I'm playing the Slovakians so tune in to what will no doubt be more self pitying whining in the next entry.
A wild eyed gebirgsjager threw himself into a hastily dug foxhole as Finnish troops carved up what was left of their unit and the flakwagen threw metal seemingly at random into the atmosphere. His comrade was taking a little down time and was peering at the army's propaganda sheet in annoyance.
"Hey, what's a nine letter word for 'big lumbering mammal'?"
"I don't know, how many letters in Reichsmarschall?"