Tuesday, 24 April 2018

A Study of my Insanity: how I fell in love with the Advanced Squad Leader system

Back in 1983, my friend Gary Olson came over to my place and brought with him a game.  That game?  Squad Leader.  "Welcome to Stalingrad!" was the cry as he and I took on the roles of the Soviets and the Germans in a little scenario called "The Guards Counterattack".  I think I was German and I don't know who won.  It doesn't matter.  That game was all it took for me to be hooked on war gaming in general and Squad Leader in particular.
How we saw ourselves as we rolled the dice!
Gary had Squad Leader and its follow-on components, known as "gamettes".  All were necessary for the full experience, and Gary had them all: Cross of Iron, Crescendo of Doom and GI: Anvil of Victory.  Each one of the gamettes added rules progressively.  In fact, Squad Leader as a system was known for its so-called "Programmed Instruction" approach. So, you would get a set of rules, then you would go play a scenario, get more rules, another scenario and so on.  The system worked!


Well, it did work, but stopped working once you got to the next gamette.  Invariably, each new gamette would add new rules that made previous rules obsolete.  As an example, Squad Leader had rules for tanks and ordnance.  The very first rules in Cross of Iron gave completely new rules.  But all through Crescendo of Doom, the index, page numbering and all else was in sequence. 
GI: End of the Line
This all changed with GI: Anvil of Victory.  The game designers had by the time Crescendo of Doom was released in 1981 realized that the system was growing in leaps and bounds and was spurred on by its popularity.  They decided to go back to the drawing board and remake the system from ground up, incorporating all the elements developed thus far.  As such, the effort into GI: Anvil of Victory, though extensive, was not comprehensive.  Its index failed to refer back to Squad Leader and led to all sorts of confusion.  The new system, Advanced Squad Leader, would fix all that anyway, or so the designers had hoped.

DAWN OF A NEW ERA

By 1985, the rules and initial module for Advanced Squad Leader was ready to go.  Almost.  The first module was released in the autumn of that year, but the rules went back for some refining and then were finally issued in early 1986.  The initial module was set on the Eastern Front and contained maps, scenario cards and the game counters for the system, as well as the entire order of battle for the Germans and the Russians, as well as some for the Finns. "Beyond Valor" became the first of many modules. 
The first of it all
Gary bought Beyond Valor and the Rule book and I think we both just gasped.  Here was a monster of a game and neither of us really had the impetus to crack the code, as it were.  Besides, we were of legal drinking age and girls were really interesting, so we both sort of drifted away from such nonsense.  Well, sort of.  We kept gaming, but we stuck to other games, such as Assault by Game Designers Work Shop and of course the original Squad Leader.

Passing through time now
Flash forward from 1986 or so to 2013 or so.  I was in at work one day and my pal Quentin noted that I had some literature on Squad Leader.  He noted that he had a friend who played, so he was going to put us together.  Alas, turned out he played Advanced Squad Leader.  I related that I had never gotten into it, nobody to mentor me, etc.  "Well, he plays the Starter Kit".  The what?  I had no idea!  I went online and quickly found that there were not one, not two, but THREE starter kits.  ASL Starter Kit 3 was available for purchase for around 30 bucks or so, so I made the leap and bought it.  I tried it, and I liked it!
Where have you been all my life?
I got a hold of Gary and asked if he had the ASL still.  He did, and I bought what he had (Rule Book, Beyond Valor and Paratrooper).  I joined a Facebook community and on the suggestion of the masses purchased For King and Country, a module containing the UK and Commonwealth forces.  But my real luck came a few weeks later.  I met a fellow online who told me of a tournament in "nearby" Portland Maine (6 hours by car...).  I took the leap and went.  And wow!  What a weekend!  Chuck ran a low-key tournament and the players were all great and especially patient with me.  I actually won one game out of 4!

Two or three weeks later, I ran into a fellow who was selling his gear.  And by "gear" I mean the entire collection that was available up to that time.  I bought it, which included both official and third party gear. 

So, I've since played in tournaments and local.  I've played online and I've played solo.  And the best part is the fun I have playing people *and* the relationships I've made over the past few years.  I log my games and I have played over 200 matches in my 3 or so years of serious play.  I realize that this game is not for all, but I do find it both engaging *and* time consuming.  But in a good way. 

So, if you see me with some dice and a happy look in my eyes, fear not!  I am probably just on my way to play some ASL.  See you at the tournament!









Sunday, 31 December 2017

A Year of Advanced Squad Leader: a resolution kept and a new one made

What a year it's been for me.  I started the year wondering how to make a realistic resolution.  Years ago I made one to stop using margarine and switch to butter.  Big deal!  Anyway, as we were starting to slip into 2017, I realized that I had completed 58 matches of ASL.  That's a lot!  Over one a week!  So, I decided to up the ante, as it were.  I decided to resolve to play 104, or, as you maths wizards would realize, 2 games per week.

It all started out at Winter Offensive across the Potomac in Maryland.  I did get some games in, but the most memorable was losing to Jim Stahler.  Yes, *that* Jim Stahler.

Jim Stahler and I after our match in which he taught me a thing. Or two.
Now, for those of you who play ASL, you know exactly who he is.  For the other 99.9% of you, Jim was a playtester for the original Squad Leader and contributor to the development of Advanced Squad Leader.  There is a leader counter with his name in both Squad Leader and Advanced Squad Leader, he designed many scenarios and wrote several articles on the game. He was a gracious winner and I really enjoyed the honor of playing against him.

The year went on and I continued to play as often as I could.  I went to tournaments (Nor'Easter, Tussle in the Tundra, Oktoberfest and the New York State Championship) and of course played games as part of the DC Conscripts ASL club.  I also played online (using a freeware program called "VASL", short for "Virtual Advanced Squad Leader") and so the year went. 
Sean Deller and Dave Ginnard at Tussle, back in August
I met many people playing this game, from locals such as Jamie "Monty" Montgomery to the two gentlemen pictured above, Sean Deller and Dave Ginnard.  Both have been playing this game for years, some from the very beginning back in the mid-80s.  I had a chance to do so, but without more experienced players to guide us, my friend Gary and I resorted to other games, such as "Assault" by the Game Designers' Workshop (GDW). 

So, the year ends and now the moment of truth.  My goal was 104 matches completed.  As of today, the 31st of December, I have completed 120 matches!  I won 55 and lost 65 and had a blast in every single one of them.  My best performance was up at Nor'Easter where I actually won my first two tournament matches (and a warm up game prior).  But winning 46% of my matches was much better than I expected.

So, what about next year?  My resolution is quite simple: Play every scenario issued with the first eleven modules.  Why this?  Well, as I was going over my scenarios played, I realized that there were many scenarios from these modules (all of which I own) that I had yet to play.  So, for those who don't know, this means I will have to play many of those 90 scenarios I have yet to touch.  As of today, I have completed 29 of those 90.  By this time next year, I expect to have completed 90 of 90.  In fact, since making this resolution, I have already started into these, completing two already, including a first for me, a desert scenario!

OK, so that's it for me.  I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas (it's still Christmas, doncha know!) and all the best for you and yours in 2018. 

David



Monday, 4 September 2017

Advanced Squad Leader Tournament: Why bother organizing one?

So, I've gone insane.  It's official.  You see, I recently decided, on my own, to organize a tournament for my favorite game, Advanced Squad Leader.  Why would I do that?  Well, for one, I love to play the game.  Not only is it fun, it's a great way to socialize with some of my great friends from both near and far.

Kedge (Left) and Carl (Right). Two great reasons to play ASL
So, I decided, pretty much on my own, to set up a local tournament, advertised around the world via the internet on the site I got.  The site can be found here.  My aim?  I'm hoping to get 16 players for the main tournament, 8 for the mini tournament and 4 for a Marathon Match.  That may be a tall order, but given the number of local players, I'm confident we can get at least 20.  That would put me just barely in the red as far as finances go, but not by much.  Given how much I spend on this hobby every year, well, I'm probably saving money!

So, as with most things, this is just a quick teaser.  I'm sure I'll post updates to this as the date gets closer.  So, hope to see you at the Human Wave 2018!  

Monday, 14 August 2017

Tussle at the Tundra


This past weekend, from 10 to 13 August, I participated in another Advanced Squad Leader tournament in New England.  This one was the Tussle in the Tundra, run by Chuck Tewksbury.  He had asked my help in coming up with a scenario list and I jumped at the challenge.
Chuck guided me and gave me some pointers and in the end, this is the list decided upon:

MAIN TOURNAMENT
Round 1:

ASL 188 Zon with the Wind
A 104 In Front of the Storm
J 106 Marders not Martyrs (Challenge)
FrF 72 The Mubo Decision (PTO)
J 193Raff's Rules (New Blood)

Round 2:

ASL 195 Rocket’s Red Glare
J 103 Lenin's Sons
AP 8 A Bloody Harvest (challenge)
AP 86 Milling About (PTO)
J 183 A Real Barn Burner (New Blood)

Round 3 (Western Front):

ASL 77 le hérisson
ASL 11 Defiance on Hill 30
ASL 27 The Liberation of Tulle (Challenge)
ASL 89 Rescue Attempt
J 182 Belgian Blitzkrieg (New Blood)

Round 4 (Eastern Front):

ASL 1 Fighting Withdrawal
ASL 126 Commando Schenke
J 157 Rage Against the Machine
AP 41 The Meat Grinder (Challenge)
J 188 Grab and Go (New Blood)

Round 5 (Italian Front):

WP 6 Ils ne passeront pas
A 19 Cat and Mouse
A 89 First Day of Diadem
ASL 178 The Niscemi-Biscari Highway (Challenge)
J 190 Trial Run (New Blood)

As you maybe could tell, there was a bit of a theme.  Each round had a "challenge" scenario that was around 60 to 65% rates in favor of one side, according to the Remote On-Line Automated Record, or ROAR.  Each round also had a "New Blood" scenario out of the latest ASL Journal.  Finally, Rounds 3, 4 and 5 rotated from the Western to the Eastern and then finally the Italian Fronts, where the previous 2 also had at least one PTO scenario in the mix.  Most of the scenarios were official products, going all the way back to ASL 1 (Fighting Withdrawal) to a few third Party Products.
ASL 01 Fighting Withdrawal.  Golden oldie!
So, I got to Manchester around noon or so on Thursday before the tournament started, and already Chuck and Brian were into a warm up match.  Hill 621!
Chuck and Brian cleaning up.  Brian's Soviets cleared the hill of Chuck's Germans
I too was able to get a game in:  Rocket's Red Glare vs Jeff.  I was going to play a match against Carl, but unfortunately he and his lovely wife were stuck in traffic from Boston.  So Jeff and I faced off in a match that I won thanks to some very hot dice on my part.   Key moment was knocking out his Wirbelwind with a very good shot during bounding fire.  In spite of this, Jeff put up a very spirited defense and made me work for my win.

Blast from the Past - Updated for the new Yanks
A side note about Jeff.  He's in his early 20s and a very new player.  Just last year was his first tournament.  In spite of his youth and his experience, he's a very good player and it was a treat to play him.  He's embraced the hobby and I'm sure he's going to have years of enjoyment in it.

My Round 1

For Round 1, I was matched up against Michael, who is also from Canada.  We were to play "In front of the Storm", with me as the hapless French.  Michael is a great player and a gentleman.  His defense was well laid-out and after about 4 turns, it was clear that I was not going to cause any damage.

In Front of the Storm.  Attacking with French Tanks

Michael's defenses laid out for me
 My Round 2

For round 2, I was up against Mark in Lenin's Sons.  This was a to and fro affair that saw my Russians pull off an almost perfect fighting withdrawal to the main defensive area.  Then he broke my back with a great attack (I was probably asking for it.  Ha!), and in the end got to my objective area.  The key attack?  Him firing into a melee where his odds were low to win.  He broke my two elite engineer squads as his own elite squad shrugged off the 1 Morale Check, guaranteeing the win.  

Mid way in the game and my fall back defense is working

My Round 3

So, 0-2 I headed into Saturday.  This time I was to play my old pal Mark in the classic Defiance on Hill 30.  I had won and lost this previously as Germans, so I had a go as the Americans.  Turns out that I needed more sleep or something.  My attack never really got off the ground and I never got close to the objective area.  My casualties stacked up and Mark really did well with his allotment of forces.  So, I went into Round 4 at 0-3

My Round 4

Now I was up against Gary in Rage against the Machine.  
My initial defense against his initial layout

Plenty of residual fire, showing the intensity of the combat.
This was an epic battle and probably my favorite match of the weekend.  This scenario saw it all, I think.  My HIP PAK 40 was able to pop one of his ISU 152s, but then promptly malfunctioned after going on a rate tear.  I fixed it, but then was torn apart by his return fire.  I had a great shot on a T 34/85 that blundered into my field of view of my Panzerschreck, setting it ablaze.  But then my Panzerfausts failed to do any damage to his forces at all.  I shocked a crew of his with MG fire, then saw a breaking unit go berserk and die in close combat to Gary's attacking forces.  In the end, Gary won, but it was a nail-biter that saw both of our armored forces end up as so much scrap.

My Round 5

For round 5 I was matched up against Jeff.  He and I decided to go with something off the official list (since we were both out of the contention).  We ended up going back in the archives to ASL 93 Tavronitis Bridge, formerly known as A 01.  That's right, the first scenario published in the ASL Annual way back in 1989.  It was Jeff's first go at using gliders, so a small tutorial later we were off to battle!

The Scenario


My Initial Set up.
Poor Jeff.  My initial AA fire actually, by happenstance, hit the glider with his 9-2.  This would hurt him, as in the end I was able to finally get a win in the main tournament.  It was close, though. As I said, Jeff may be a new player, but he has skill and he's learning.  Fast!

Why I play

I'm often asked why I bother playing this game and why I go to such lengths to play it.  These photos help explain a big part of it: the people.  These guys are all great players and I learn so much from them.

Carl (left) and Frank (right).  Frank lives in Colombia, but came all the way from his hometown in Germany.

Eventual Champions! Rob (left) would go on to win the main tournament, and Keith (right) would win the mini!

Mark (left) plays Jeff (right).  Jeff was betrayed by his malfunctioning 88s!

Kedge (left) up against Carl (right)

Sean (left) playing the role of spoiler against Dave (right), who was in from the Cleveland area

The legend himself: Wild Bill up against Keith.
There are so many reasons to play this game, but one thing must be said again and again: Chuck runs a great tournament and it's always a great time.  This paired with the Nor'Easter hosted by Carl make New England the place for me to play my ASL tournaments.  Thanks again, everyone!

The Trophy




Monday, 3 April 2017

My time at the Nor'Easter ASL Tournament

Well, I have just returned from the Nor'Easter, an Advanced Squad Leader tournament that was held in Boxborough, Massachusetts.  I had a wonderful time and I must at first credit the organizers for hosting a great tournament.
Nor'Easter at Nor'Easter
I arrived on Wednesday evening and settled in for some rest.  The next day, Thursday, was open gaming.  It was a chance for all players to warm up their dice and to get some games in.  Heeding some advice from an old ASL Annual article on how to win a tournament, I ensured that I wouldn't burn myself out, especially in the open gaming.
Pace yourself, lads
I first played my old friend John Wood in a game from Bounding Fire Productions.  "The Commissar's Folly" is a match set in Poland in 1939.  The army of the USSR invaded Poland a few weeks after the Germans did and this represents one of those battles.  For this match I drew the Poles.
Poles ready to Defend
I defended well against John and ended up winning the match.  For the weekend I started on a positive note!
Not this time, Commie rats!
Next in my schedule was for me to heed advice from the article.  I decided to eat well and then up to my room for a nap.  Playing is mentally taxing and I confirmed this once I got to the room: I was asleep within minutes!
Artist's Rendition: me napping between matches
I returned to the playing room later and John wanted a rematch!  This time it was "Among the Dead", a scenario from Journal 11.  This scenario represents a battle between German paratroopers and soldiers from New Zealand.  Set in Crete, the Germans are set to attack the defending New Zealanders, with some Greek troops in the village.  I was able to withstand attacks by German Stukas and in the end emerged with the win.  Not a bad start: 2 and 0 in open gaming and my dice were indeed warmed up!
Ready for the attack!
Next was the Main Tournament.  My plan was to lose in the first round and then enter the mini tournament on Saturday.  That was not to be!  I played Chuck Tewksbury in a match set in 1940 with the Germans attacking the French.  "Go Big or Go Home!" was the title, and in a tight match, I was able to hold off the Germans for the win, actually knocking out one of his attacking tanks and immobilizing the other!  So, 1-0 in the tournament and 3-0 overall!  I had completely shattered my expectations!
I went big and Chuck stayed home.  Ha!
Now I was on to round 2.  So, from 32 who started, I was in the "Sweet 16".  My opponent was Vic Rosso.  We both wanted to play the defending Americans, but he rolled for them, thus giving me the balance for the scenario.  The year for the scenario was 1944, and as the German, I had to flee past French Maquis and US forces.  Also, the bulk of my forces were in horse drawn wagons.  And to add a bit of color, the US had air support to help them in their efforts!
"I'll call you 'human shield'
I started out cautiously with my wagons following my meagre armored force.  With the armored cars racing for the exit, my wagons followed behind in their pathetic column.  Some French resistance fighters did engage, but with little effect.  In an effort to help them out, the US Army Air Force came in and strafed many of my men, sending them scattered into the ditches.  Alas, my armored cars raced off for a total of 15 out of my required 25 Victory Points.
The Escape underway
The US forces were soon on board in force and a duel of sorts rang out.  One of my Marders scored a lucky hit on a US Armored Car, destroying it.  I was now 5 points away from victory!  A failed critical hit by a bazooka later (the dreaded boxcars following the snake eyes!), I was able to force my way past his defenders with a Marder for the win.
The one that got away!
So, after the second round, I was 2-0 in the tournament and 4-0 over all!  I had now completely shattered my expectations.  Now was time for rest and to get ready for round 3.  I was in the final eight!

The next match pitted me up against Ron Duenskie.  For this one, I was set back in Poland in 1939. Not many realize this, but Poland was attacked by Slovakia in conjunction with the Germans.  This scenario, "The Winter City" represents a battle between these two belligerents.  I drew the Poles and by the end of the first turn I had no doubts as to the outcome: his 81mm mortar was on a rate tear and cut my force in half.  The blood bath was over soon and I fell.  This of course knocked me out of the tournament for top 3 (it's a single-elimination style tournament), but still, after starting 4-1, I was quite happy.
Those trenches didn't help...
Fate would see me battling John Wood again. This time we chose Panzer Spirit, a battle set on the Eastern Front in July 1943.  He would be the attacking Soviets and I the defending Waffen SS in a battle near Kursk.  His eight (8!) T 34s were up against my four meagre Marders.  My men were tough, but few in number. And my only AT Gun was a puny PAK 38. I didn't like my chances.
"I can't believe they called us 'puny'"
As the battle progressed, it turned out to be a see saw affair.  I started out hot by knocking out 2 of his tanks as they approached the town.  But then things got messy.  My men started falling and his got closer and closer to town.  The one high point for me was that his tanks avoided my hidden Anti Tank gun.  I unveiled it, knocking out an enemy tank at point blank range.  John made sure the crew paid for it with their lives, over running them, not once, but twice!
URRRAH!
In the end, I needed to mount a counter attack to win the game, but that I did.  My men held out and with all but one of my Marders destroyed, I sent the Russians back from whence they came!  I improved to 3 and 1 for the tournament and 5-1 overall.
Victory Smoke
For the last day, I was up against Mike Allexenberg for Zon with the Wind.  I drew the defending Germans against the attacking Americans.  This scenario represented one of the many battles in Operation Market Garden.  The US Paratroopers are trying to take a bridge as the Germans defend it with some 88s.
Defending 88
In the end, I lost, but the key part was near the end when my 88 fired point blank on some US troops. They actually all passed their MC.  I fired again, needing an 11 to hit. Naturally I rolled 12 and that allowed his forces to swarm past me for the win.  I ended up 3 and 2 in the tournament and finished probably 6th or 7th (some of the other participants left early and didn't finish the fifth round).
That bridge is MINE
So, home I went.  I won more games than I lost.  I expected to win a game.  Maybe two.  But to come home with five, I was extremely happy.  Tired, but happy.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

ASL Replay: LASSH 12 Contact!

Today I got to play another game of Advanced Squad Leader.  This tactical war game is considered the gold standard of such games.  It is rather complex, but in its complexity one will find its genius. As I stated previously, it is by playing ASL that I have gained a better understanding of the events of the Second World War.  

So, today I set out to my friend Monty's place for a match that pitted members of the SS-Division (mot.) Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler against defenders from the Soviet 51st Army. Crimea would be the setting for the battle as the elements of II. Battalion.  This was the ASL Scenario "Contact!" by Lone Canuck Publishing, part of a series of scenarios focused on this Waffen SS division.

The Scenario

As the Soviet, it was up to me to defend.  With my meagre force of ten first line squads, augmented by four machine guns, I was hoping to hold off a total of 11 elite SS squads augmented by a variety of support weapons, including eight machine guns. My leader to squad ratio was to be 1:5, while Monty had 1:2.4.  Quite an advantage!

I had a plan, fairly simple. I would develop a forward force that would conduct a delay to buy time and then fight the main defensive battle on the objective hills on the near side of my board.  I would face an initial force of 7 squads and then a reinforcing group of 4 squads with 4 (!) machine guns!

Monty's SS about to enter the playing area

So, we had our sides set and away we went.  As he moved up, I had a machine gun open up at long range with good effect.  I broke a squad and then another and the initial feeling was that I was going to be able to keep Monty's forces at arm's length for a few precious turns.  

Inevitably, however, Monty was able to get enough forces up in order to get the massed firepower to start to chip away at my troops.  With a paltry morale level of 7 with an ELR of only 2, it was inevitable that my troops would break.  And often.  As such, I had plenty of space for routing back; however, Monty played his SS troops quite aggressively and was able to close the gap quickly and by the end of the game had captured 3 of my ten squads.

Waffen SS gain the base of fire

As the game progressed into turn 2, I was soon to realize that I would be unable to stand toe to toe with the Waffen SS.  Their base morale of 8 proved to be just too tough to crack as the game went on.  My machine guns had the range, but failed to achieve any rate tears. The closest I came was in one turn when a forward-positioned MMG (with a rate of fire of 2) was able to get 4 shots in against the enemy in one phase. My HMG was sited with my 9-1 way at the back and was able to bring effective fire to bear; however, not once was it able to get its rate of fire (his rate is 3).  Conversely, Monty was able to fire back at long range into the machine gun nest and break the manning squad.  

Typical sight: my troops unable to withstand low IFT +2 TEM attacks

On turn 6, the bubble burst from my defense.  I had the HMG manned with fresh troops and my commissar was rallying the broken troops, hoping to hold back the Waffen SS troops for one more turn.  That was all I would need to keep the enemy at bay.  It was not to be. Monty's forces were just too much for me.  The final nail in the coffin was two-fold.  First he broke my HMG squad with long range fire (again) and then, to add insult to injury, an IFT 2 DRM +2 shot against a concealed squad ended up with a 1 MC and broke my lads.

With that, it was all over. I had one good order squad left, leaving Monty to rush me at double time speed and take the objectives unopposed.  Had I even had a chance to conduct a miracle rally, I would not have been able to even challenge his control of the hills.

"This way, lads.  For you, the war is over."

In the end, a great game. Once again I was able to see why the Germans were able to dominate the Soviets early in the war.  They had superior leadership at the company level and below, they had much better and more mobile support weapons and their troops were better trained.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

ASL Replay: ASL 126 Commando Schenke

Early in the German invasion of the USSR, German forces ran into some dogged Soviet resistance at Liepaja, Latvian SSR.  German Kriegsmarine assault troops, along with some elements of the German Heer launched a final assault on 28 June, a mere 6 days after the invasion began
Getting ready for some street fighting
This battle is represented in the Advanced Squad Leader scenario "Commando Schenke".  It first appeared in the ASL Annual '95 Winter.  It was updated and released with the 3rd version of the ASL module "Beyond Valor".  It was this updated version that I played recently against one of my first-ever ASL opponents, Andrew Luden.
Andrew and I first met on the ASL battlefield in Stalingrad.  My Germans held off his attacking Soviets in that early battle.  This time, however, it would be my attacking Germans against his defending Soviets.
Battling in the ruins
For those familiar with ASL, the following will make perfect sense.  Those who aren't, well, just try to follow along.
My forces were a mix of first line and elite Germans.  The Germans elite units are assault engineers, which means that I had plenty of smoke to mask my movement.  The first line units are great for rooting out the Russians and helping the engineers get to where they needed to be: the objective building.
Facing me were a number of Soviet first line units, some SMG equipped troops.  With only 3 machine guns, the Soviets would be hard pressed to put down plenty of defensive fire.  Also compounding this was his almost complete lack of leadership.  Not very good facing Germans equipped with demo charges and flamethrowers, all necessary to bust my way into his fortified building.
Russian Flambeau?  Coming up!
So, the forces were set.  In the words of Caesar, Alea Iacta Est!  Away we went.
His forces were set up concealed and my initial goal was to strip away his concealment as early as possible, and then to manoeuvre to his right (my left) flank.  From there I would have a base from which I could (hopefully) bust my way into the building, using my DCs to breach, if necessary and thereby gain entry into his fortified building
My initial plan worked. I found one of his 5-2-7 SMG squads and entered into close combat with him, in spite of him being concealed.  This gave him a great initial advantage, but I figured that my 3 squads would prevail.  They didn't.  I needed to augment this building (he did as well) and in the end I took out 2 of his squads for 3 of my own.  Not good.  But I pressed on!
That's not what I meant by "we need some smoke!"
I was able to use some infantry smoke to get around to his right flank with my assault engineers and soon I was in my position ready to assault his fortress.  Due to some fairly effective defensive fire, a sole 8-0 leader rushed into close combat in the fortress, finding his way in due to my pinning of his defenders. (Note: in ASL, if a building is fortified, one can only enter an enemy-occupied hex if that defender is pinned or otherwise not in good order).  I survived the first round of close combat, but Andrew was able to finish off my leader before I could reinforce.  My second attempt to enter was delayed somewhat by my assault engineers all failing to place smoke successfully (Note: in ASL, German Assault Engineers typically need 5 or less on 1 six-sided die.). 
Waiting for the signal to go!
Finally, I busted into the building on the second-to-last turn and starting reinforcing it.  I was able to push his forces into a far corner of the building, but to win, I needed to take all hexes from him.  Andrew cleverly (and treacherously!  Ha!) maneuvered his forces around such that I needed to break or at least pin all of his men prior to getting into close combat with him.  Doing so would give me the win, but it was a tall order.  It turned out that in spite of my using demo charges and flamethrowers, I was unable to get those last few hexes from him.  In the end, Soviet win.
As the initial notes on this scenario state, success depends on "...an adroit German player skilled in the use of assault fire, dash, smoke grenades and maneuver."  Try as I might, it came down to Andrew's skilled defense holding out just long enough to keep me from getting the win.
DAS TUT WEH!
In the end, German losses were heavy, as were Soviet.  This result reflects what happened there back in 1941; the Germans needed 2 days and heavy artillery support to finally clear Liepaja. What was supposed to be a quick battle needed six days' effort by the Germans.  Setbacks such as this may very well have been key in ensuring an eventual Soviet victory on the Eastern Front.
In conclusion, though playing games such as ASL may seem rather silly to some, it has, for me, been a way to better understand the finer details of the Second World War, especially that which happened on the Eastern Front.  I have been able to gain a better understanding of why the Soviets were able to battle the Germans toe-to-toe in the cities, but crumbled against them in the open fighting of the Steppe.  Even large-scale Soviet victories, such as those in the summer of 1944, were at a terrible cost in human life lost.  In playing ASL, I often see how a Tiger tank, for example, can kill 10 enemy tanks in a single battle.  The problem  is, however, that there almost always is that 11th tank that is able to get the kill on that Tiger. 
So, onwards to my next battle!  Next time, I'm going to be taking the side of the defending Kiwis of the New Zealand Army as they defend against the German invasion of Crete in 1941.  Huzzah!
The Scene of the fighting