Deep Dive: The Guards Counterattack (Take #2 PBEM Special)

The Guards Counterattack

6th October 1942, Stalingrad, Soviet Union


Outrageous!!! The same scenario again! Ah, this time it was with a twist. A PBEM first for me, a different opponent and I play as the Soviets this time.

Malorum (a fellow Aussie getting back into it playing) agreed to fight to the death in a PBEM match. Had an awesome game, grinning ear to ear the whole time. Thanks Malorum.

I was on the offensive as the Soviets and Malorum was defending as the Germans.

In this deep dive for a first time we will be alternating between the attackers and defenders viewpoint.

WARNING: This Deep Dive is written for newly returned players to ASL or other Noob style players who are out to git gud. Remember a well written AAR by a subpar player isn’t going to teach you what to do, but it may just be helpful to teach you what not to do. (If you believe we are good players you are badly deceived).

Remember to also check out:

Lets Get At It!

Pre Game

Introducing my antagonist, Malorum. Well, I will let him speak for himself.

I’ve been enjoying wargaming since the seventies. I played various Avalon Hill games, starting out with Panzer Blitz and the original Squad Leader. Then work and family came along.

I only recently returned to ASL. I count myself as a complete newcomer, especially since I’ve realized that all those years ago I had been playing many rules wrong. I joined a discord group and soon discovered my long lost brother who was going under the name of six-plus-one. We seemed to get along, and he quickly ensnared me in a PBEM VASL game of ASL.

Our playing brought me more fun, laughter and excitement than any game I’ve played for years. This is due not only to my brother’s great humour and in-game-banter, but the ASL game itself which is capable of taking your best laid plains and violating them in ways sometimes infuriating and always astonishing.


A.O.O.B. (RB)

The German View from Malorum

Victory Conditions & SSR

I’m the defender, and need to stop the Soviets from

  • gaining two stone buildings in the final count
  • avoid them ending up with a 3:1 ratio of unbroken squad equivalents

Basically: make them pay dearly for one building, under no circumstances lose a second building.

I have more leaders – they have more firepower. They have more men, but must come into the open to get to us.

The Terrain & Weather

I don’t see weather being an issue.

The terrain favours me: it’s urban. Attackers should write letters to their family before turn one. Plenty of cover for me, and while they also start off in cover, the only way to get “my” buildings involves the chance of taking huge casualties.

The Soviet View from 6Plus1

Victory Conditions & SSR

So 5 Turns long. I kickoff. The Soviets (me) need to …

  • push the Germans out of 2 stone buildings, and don’t let them take any off me.
  • or wipe out 2/3’s of the force to have a 3:1 attacker ratio.

So simply, I need to take 2 buildings or kill lots of them.

With no limitation on what it costs me in manpower. A true fight to the death Comrade.

The Terrain & Weather

Nothing fancy with the weather, we can burn these buildings to the ground if we want.

It’s all or nothing. +3TEM or -1FFMO. These roads are just bullet funnels. Getting across the roads intact without smoke is my biggest challenge. I guess that’s what hordes were made for.

OB Analysis

Germans (Defense)

  • Firelanes right up those streets
  • Good inherent FP range up those streets
  • Some good modified leaders
  • Strong positions for HMG, MMG
  • Multi-Level
  • Spraying Fire

Soviets (Attack)

  • 6-2-8 Enmasse. Monster Firegroup. High Morale
  • Good leaders for Russians
  • Assault Fire
  • Human Wave
  • Motivational boost. Commissar!

Opposing Plans

The German Plan

  • I can afford to give up one building, no more.
  • My left flank building F5 is most likely going to fall: four platoons of Guards are a lot to handle.
  • My plan is to initially resist for a turn or two and inflict some losses on the Guards before falling back and ceding building F5.
  • The men I pull back will be fed into the area facing most pressure, which I imagine would next be the rearward left flank building I7. There won’t be room for them all there, so some will go to the central building J5.
  • In the mean-time, the men in the rearward buildings will act as a reserve, rotating in to replace any who rout back there, to be rallied.
  • I’m not clear what to do in the centre – I’m setting up to try to cover all directions of attack.
  • On the right flank building L6 I’ve broken the “don’t stack” rule. It’s the young ASL player in me, and a semi-kill-stack, I hope, can scare off any Soviet intentions for that building initially.
  • The rearward squads on the right are also being treated as reserve forces, to be sent where I feel they’re needed.
  • In this scenario there’s not much freedom during setup, so I think both sides will be doing a bit of movement in the first turn. Luckily I will be able to react to the Soviets when they reveal their hand.

The Soviet Plan

Plan A for the Soviets
  • Group A
    • Take building F5.
    • Provide support to the assault on building J5.
    • Fix in place units in building I7.
  • Group B
    • Provide support to the assault on building F5.
    • Interdict anything coming across the road to get into building J5.
    • Take building J5.
  • Group C
    • Defend building N5.
    • Provide reinforcements to Group B for assault on building J5.
    • Interdict anything coming across the road to get into building J5.
    • Fix in place units in building L6.
Plan B for the Soviets
  • Kill anything that moves.
The Plan

A Short Guide to Tactical Mission Graphics

Game On!

Walkthrough using VASL

Get the VASL log file to walkthrough here: The Guards Counterattack PBEM Special

Situation at the start Russian Turn 1

The Soviet Attack

Amassed and ready, let the Guard’s counterattack! The flanks open up to suppress the Germans in F5 and L6 , with little success.

In their responding fire the Germans manage to break two of their MG’s. But their response on my right flank is solid, as my troops suffer from the killer stack in L6.

<6 Plus 1> - "You need to discuss your weapons cleaning drills with your team. Most tardy and disappointing".

This battle will not be won by prep fire alone, so we move forward out into the street to begin the assault on F5.

“Welcome To Stalingrad” What could possibly go wrong?

Soviets instructing Germans on how to operate machine guns without malfunction

Situation at the end of Russian Turn 1

The inevitable left flank assault begins.

Situation at the end of German Turn 1

The German Defence

My original plan was that building F5 would hold up the Guards for a while. Masha the sniper has put a spanner in that plan, breaking one rearward squad and also executing my central building leader and therefore making that building really vulnerable.

Instead of putting up any resistance for the F5 building, I’ll withdraw from it, perhaps leaving a token squad as a rear guard. Shorten my lines and strengthen my defence elsewhere.

In the F5 building my 9-1 leader, unhinged by the action and imminent storming of the building by so many Guards, goes BERSERK! and convinces a squad to join him. That wasn’t in the plan!

Yet I get a good result over on the right flank, with my semi kill-stack scaring off the Soviets and sending them back to rally.

<Malorum> - CC Phase - no actual combat, although our berserk guys are shaking their fists at you and calling you names in words you don't understand
<6 Plus 1> - They keep calling out for a … for a … Reinemachefrau??
<6 Plus 1> - Something about the carpets?!??

The Soviet Attack

We prepare to bide our time waiting for my next movement phase.

My Commissar takes his job seriously and starts to shoot our own men in the first squad for failure to show the correct level of revolutionary vigor. Inspired by his leadership, the next squad with him rally and battle harden!

<6 Plus 1> - Let me show you what commitment to the cause IS comrade!

The Germans initiate alot of prep fire but to very little effect. As my Russian sniper Masha kicks off the start of many shots.

The next German movement phase will be interesting with his BERSERK leader and squad in tow. A charge in the face of the Guards.

The Germans then start redeploying reserves on the left and right flanks in preparation for what is to come.

Situation at the end of Russian Turn 2

The Soviet Attack

We start moving forward into F5. But the first squad in suffers in order to allow the rest of Guards to mass in preparation to advance in.

Another heat of battle result now makes one of my squads go BERSERK! We now have two opposing beserk units across the road from one another. My sniper Masha picks off his 8-0 leader in J5. Hopefully fatefully weakening that position. Let’s hope it makes it ripe for the taking. Forward comrades!

<Malorum> - "Unser Anführer ist tot" 

His units now start falling back from F5 and J5. Maybe I can get in there sooner than I thought??

I manage to advance my guards into F5, we are into our first objective.

<6 Plus 1> - Think that is a no. Can't find the rule. :-)
<6 Plus 1> - Bah, enough of this excessive complexity. Men must die! I will push on

“Hey you beserk guys, come over here, it’s fine, REALLY.”

The reserves are deployed!

Situation at the end of German Turn 2 of 5

The German Defence

My BERSERK! leader dies in a hail of bullets with wound severity and half of his berserk squad dies.

The remaining guys burst through and get a spectacular result by surviving the withering triple point blank fire against them, cause the guards to panic and all break. I would rather have kept my men in good order for bolstering the central building. A half squad of German lunatics might be scary but I don’t think they will hold the entire building.

My sniper kills a Soviet leader! That will sting, they’re short of leaders from the start. The victim wasn’t anywhere crucial, but hopefully it will remove a bit of pressure.

<Malorum> So - my sniper better git gud or he's being sent to the eastern front. Oh, that's right…

Over on the right flank: I decide I don’t want to spend the entire game passively defending – and the Commissar’s building N5 looks a bit vulnerable. So I dash in with a couple squads, but my leader is wounded and breaks. The Soviets remain untroubled by my Advancing Fire, so there’s not much point in staying around. We came, we saw, we ‘advanced to the rear’. I probably should have dashed my leader separately. My attack was just a lack of patience and discipline, but on the other hand the goal of our game is to learn and have fun.

The Soviet Attack

OK, it’s BERSERK! phase now. In a screaming charge his 9-1 and squad charge and are partially destroyed. Then his plucky half squad survivor causes my 3 guards to panic and all break! My plans now put back by this turn of events.

To add to my misfortune, his sniper now kills my 9-1 manning my MMG. My main supporting unit for the attack on J5. He follows this up by pushing his reserves in there. His leaderless squads now have their leader, he stablises his centre.

<Malourm> - I don't think I've seen Commisar actually eliminate an entire squad before. Impressive!
<6 Plus 1> - He is the best man we've got.
<6 Plus 1> - "When one squad reduces it is a tragedy, when a whole squad is eliminated it is a statistic, comrade.

The Germans now also push into N5, attempting to seize it, but their leader wounds and they become pinned in the attempt. In advance phase they choose to withdraw, with my units left to run back to their commissar for support and increased “motivation”.

On the right flank, two of my interdicted guards squads turn fanatic in their retreat across the road to safety. At least I got something from their skitishness.

<6 Plus 1> - "But comrade commissar, they are coming for us. Shouldn't we be pulling back?"
<6 Plus 1> - He cocks the slide on his Tokarev pistol. "Nyet, comrade I will tell you once and only once what to do."

Situation at the end of Russian Turn 3 of 5

The Soviet Attack

Now it is my time for some BERSERK! behaviour. My guardsman storm across the road in building J5. They weather the storm of fire to remain adjacent to the two German squads that have been firing at them. They then jump into their location to survive triple point blank fire.

In the final assault on F5, all the remaining guards units encircle the pesky half squad that caused so much trouble, and eliminate it during advance phase. One turn behind the plan.

We also start dashing troops across the street to bolster up forces for an attack on the J5 building. Where our berserk troops hold their own in melee against the pinned germans.

F5 finally falls. One down, one to go.

The German Defence

Unsurprisingly my remaining half squad of German berserkers die in a massive close combat Guards pile-on, and the loss of F5 building is complete.

The Soviets have a BERSERK! squad all of their own, and those guys come like a wrecking ball into the central building, surviving hails of bullets untouched. The Soviets get the better of an equal close combat against two of my squads. It feels like that has just shortened the game by one turn.

Now J5 will fall if I don’t reinforce it, failure to bulk up that building will mean game over on turn 4. So I must send at least one more squad in.

Situation at the end of German Turn 3 of 5

The German Defence

I need to get some Prep fire results to make it safe for reinforcements to dash across the street to the central building. I’m starting with the most crucial prep fires, figuring that if one round from a hex didn’t work, there’s always another.
Well, all Prep Fire failed. Note to self: If your plan relies on Prep Fire, you plan is no good.

I could hold back for one more turn and hope for better PFPh, but I’m pretty certain there are enough Soviet squads nearby to swarm J5 in turn 4, so this is an “all or nothing” situation. The game basically hinges now on me being incredibly lucky, with a squad or two surviving a suicidal dash, so we’ll see.

DOH! Dash rule not possible of course, so my squad runs wildly across the street anyway and survives. Lucky! But their advancing fire is ineffective – you can’t have it all. I have updated my notes to: If your plan relies upon shooting, your plan sucks.

So next I will inject one more squad into the existing melee, along with a leader. I figure that the leader will probably be targeted and killed, but I need him to give me better odds.

Reinforcing the melee turns out to be a good decision because my leader makes the difference, the BERSERK! Soviet squad is killed – I think this is my first actual kill result in the whole game, not counting the earlier sniper success.

The Soviet Attack

Once again we wait. I am unsure if the Germans will counter attack F5 or will be back in N5. But whichever way their prep fire has very little effect. But he does manage to reinforce his troops by dashing into J5 with a newly battle hardened leader, who survives two attacks to make it into the building with his squad and HMG.

Both of our snipers break and pin squads as the action intensifies. In J5 the German reinforced close combat see the end to my berserk squad. We have a toe hold in the building but with no leaders in support. Tenuous at best.

Situation at the end of Russian Turn 4 of 5

The Soviet Attack

Time is now short.

I throw 3 guards units across the road to assist with assaulting J5 from the north.

Whilst in the meantime try to maintain pressure inside by engaging the German leader, HMG and squad in close combat with my guard.

<6 Plus 1> - Not much time left. Bold initiatives required.
<Malorum> - I know, and you realize: this is the Guards Counterattack of the counter attack of the Guards Counterattack.

I mass my guards on in F5 to apply pressure to I7 to pin them in place, lest they get any ideas of getting across the road into buildings. I prepare my units in N5, so they can exploit the potential success of any close combat in J5.

There is much hinging on a some unlikely close combat situations now, not the best way to have your plan work. And with the loss of that close combat, with his forces staying in place it makes it harder still.

The German Defence

The lone soviet squad lodged in J5 pins my two squads there, which ends my hopes of eliminating them on the next DFPh. And sure enough, completely ineffective fire at them with my adjacent HMG, LMG and two squads. That Soviet squad should get MVP award in this scenario. I’ve not been able to do anything to them, they’ve got balls of steel and are basically untouchable!

Elsewhere I break another LMG, the only ray of light is managing to reduce and break one squad among the many that are gathering for a massive storming attempt.

My DFPh this turn is when I realize the game’s up. The pin result on my two central building MG equipped squads is crushing. My bet is the MVP Soviet squad in J5 will take on my leader and HMG and the building will get swarmed on turn 5.

Also: my right side rear M9 building is just begging for a last turn Soviet double-time end-run to capture it. I send some guys back to it, which means I won’t be able to bolster the J5 as I would prefer.

Situation at the end of German Turn 4 of 5

The German Defence

In this turn I need to make the Soviets pay a lot more. My men must really step up for the rest of the game, but I think it’s too late. However, this game has shown that things can get turned on their head in an instant, so there’s always hope. This game is going down to the last turn so that’s good for both of us.

BASIC MISTAKE: forgetting to declare ASSAULT movement. Sheesh.

Over on the left, a seemingly endless procession of sniper activations climaxes with the Soviet Sniper breaking my squad in H7. This makes it much easier for the left side rear I7 building to fall now.

My German defense is really looking like “butter spead too thinly“, I can see perhaps two or even three buildings falling in the final turn. All the Soviets need to do now is “kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will fall down“. Sound familiar??

The Soviet Attack

A lot is dependent upon how aggressive the Germans are now. I feel I have a number of units in precarious positions, if we can weather the storm it will give us one last chance.

Masha does her work and does it well. She breaks a squad next to I7, opening up the way for a possible 3rd front. I will try for a final assault on I7 next turn, with a lucky (oh, there is that word) close combat, it could change everything.

In the meantime I rout a unit upstairs in J5 to deny the possibility of the Germans totally controlling the building. We may not take it alone, but neither will they hold it alone. Damn you!

The Guards prepare for their final push. Hand grenades at the ready for close combat.

Masha the sniper was a crack shot but her camouflage technique left a lot to be desired.

Situation at the end of Russian Turn 5 of 5

The Soviet Attack

OK, Here we are now at the Gotterdam … Bah, whatever. I am Russian not German. The FINAL WAVE!

With all units possible north of J5 we attempt the last minute storming of the building with the remote chance of some successful close combat to eliminate the Germans inside.

In I7 that same decision is made, all units will proceed to final assault positions! The victory conditions care not if no units survive, and neither does comrade Stalin.

My 10-2 leader backs the charge. Some survive, some are eliminated outright in a storm of bullets crossing the street, some break at the last minute. Some suffer from heat of battle results. Could they?? Will they??

No! but instead they go to surrender. Cowards! Until no quarter is invoked.

<6 Plus 1> - Oh Lord, please, please make them BERSERK!
<6 Plus 1> - Even if it doesn't effect the outcome of the game, just so they can die in a charge of patriotic glory!
<Malorum> - So sorry, but in the spirit of the Kransky Circle of Death, we're declaring No Quarter (A20.3)
<6 Plus 1> - My commissar would demand nothing less, nor expect it from you brutal carpet cleaning barbarians!

Meanwhile in N5, troops are thrown with abandon across the road to assist in the final glorious conquest of J5. Their commissar runs back upstairs in N5, to deny the Germans the ability to control the building. Hiding in a room, his pistol drawn and at the ready.

At I7. In the return fire from the Germans and with a sniper shot, the 2 guards units poised for closed combat become pinned. Denying them the chance close combat and final glory for the motherland. I7 is safe from the final ordeal of close combat. I am left with the bitter, bitter taste of a stolen honourable end.

<6 Plus 1> - Surprise!
<6 Plus 1> - Feel free to shoot at my commissar anytime …
<Malorum> - Noooo don't suicide him. Thinks…
<Malorum> - DOH
<Malorum> - WTH is up?
<6 Plus 1> - Huzzah!
<Malorum> - You and your upstairs trickery!
<Malorum> - ( but secretly, I love you, Commissar )
<6 Plus 1> - Secretly, but he can't speak of forbidden love …
<6 Plus 1> - less Comrade Stalin hears.

Close combat is initiated by all those troops left in J5. A lucky die roll here could change everything for us…

One close combat is disastrous. The other leaves my squad with the chance to extract themselves with infiltration, but commited to the cause they choose to remain locked in melee.

We are spent. There is no more to give for the motherland.

The German Defence

With a minimal prep fire phase, looks like the Storm of Soviets is about to unleash.

As the Soviets charge into the face of a HMG and an LMG they laugh at 36+ point blank gunfire (same hex that is magically immune to any and all point blank gunfire in the past) and my personal morale check rolls a fail. The ASL bus is rolling and I’m a passenger, curiously observing the view.

I manage to get our first KIA by shooting in this whole show: First Fire with a single squad against an Assault Moving Soviet squad. Give every man in that squad a medal! I really can’t remember how hard it was (or not) to get this kind of result when I last played ASL, but it feels special.

The Soviets are a swarm of relentless attacks. They concentrate almost entirely upon J5. I’m carefully working out when to hold fire or when to First fire, when to Final fire, or leave something for DFPh? Should I fire at them in the open or wait until they get close? Is that unit just trying to draw my fire? Is that other unit really a threat? I don’t think I’ve sweated this much during a wargame for a long time. At one point I realized I was suffering from paralysis by analysis. Had to just let go (a bit) and you know, que sera sera.

My troops are firing every round of ammo they can during this turn. An absolutely furious scene. My men realized this time they really do need to shoot straight. No more cowering or firing over their heads for us. As the moves and fire results are resolved, I feel like… maybe I just might survive this. But I dare not hope. ASL laughs at our hope!

Most of the swarming Soviets are either eliminated (one squad) broken (many) or pinned (two). The pin result on those two squads is probably really galling for them. The Pinned squads can’t advance into close combat.

The two squads that did advance into combat end up being locked into Melee – and then I roll boxcars. Momentarily I panic thinking that means we’ve lost everything – but that means ‘infiltration’ – the Soviets can withdraw from close combat, but they decide not to.

Situation at the end of German Turn 5 of 5

The German Defence

The Soviets are a spent force. Now all I need to do is not do anything to risk Masha the Sniper or weird Heat of Battle results. I wasn’t able to Self Rally one squad that would have seen me have a go at actually capturing the Guards’ now abandoned starting building.

However I did re-capture my own F5, since all Soviet forces had left it to try to capture the central building. Although there was a broken Soviet squad left in the F5, they had to rout away thus giving me the capture. So in the end – although one building was unresolved with an ongoing close combat, technically we each still control the buildings we started with.

The Soviet Attack

My men exhausted still refuse the enemy any easy victory. They use their MMG to stop a last minute attack on F5. (Edit – Six-plus-one’s dream was interrupted by the nightmare of that nasty malorum shaking him awake, calling a LOS check: the MMG fire harmlessly splatters into blocking terrain) But the Germans remain passive in their hard fought over positions, unwilling to take any unnecessary risks. Masha still awaits.

The final melee remains unresolved to the end, locked in mortal combat. It seems a fitting ending for such a great game.

Result: German Win at 5 Turns.



Before And Aftermath

Game Over Man! Game Over!

Germans (Defense)

If I were to play this again what would I do different?

  • Use the boresighted hexes I forgot to take advantage of.
    (edit – I couldn’t use boresighting anyway because we both set-up on the board. Thanks Matthew)
  • Remember your ASOP! Broken LMGs don’t repair themselves
  • Deploy. I should have deployed at least once.

Did I enjoy this scenario?


Would I tell other people to play it?

  • Veterans already know this one. Beginners start here!
  • Simple line of sight for newcomers
  • Straight-forward setup and action galore

What would I rate it?

Rating: 4 out of 6.

If I had to give this scenario an alternative title based on this playing I would call it?

“Don’t Bring your Dirty Boots in here”


Rating: 6 out of 6.

Learnings Taken Away

Rating: 6 out of 6.

Final Word

Great game six-plus-one, this one came down to the final turn and it could have easily gone the other way. For me that’s the definition of a good game. Thank you for teaching me the VASL ropes, and for being a patient, considerate and graceful opponent. We laughed a lot, our banter never stopped and I think our playing styles match. I have six-plus-one booked in for another game already.

Soviets (Attack)

If I were to play this again what would I do different?

  • Think I would give up on attacking the centre building J5. Getting across those firelanes is a killer.
  • Would push on the right flank with mass I7 to take.
  • Would give human wave a try. Didn’t use it because I just wanted to be familiar with the bare basics.

Did I enjoy this scenario?


Would I tell other people to play it?

  • Noobs, yes, lots of action in this one.
  • Veterans as I have said before for nostalgia mainly.

What would I rate the scenario?

Rating: 4.5 out of 6.

If I had to give this scenario an alternative title based on this playing I would call it?

Carpets Need Cleaning? Special offer 2 rooms done for the price of 1. Offer ends Saturday. Buy Now!


Rating: 6 out of 6.

Learnings Taken Away

Rating: 5 out of 6.

Final Word

This was an awesome game. Reminded me why I love playing this game so much. The sheer volume of ludicrous Heat of Battle results made this game sooo spicy 🙂
Thanks Malorum. Your good humor and flexible easy going style made our inane stumbling through the Rules, VASL and our first PBEM a blast.
That was a great game. Looking forward to more.
PS: You wait till we get Red Barricades cranked up!

[Deep Dive Complete]

PS: If you are a Noob and want to get more insight into some of the stuff going through my head then check:
Progress Report: The Guards Counterattack (Take #2 PBEM Special)


5 thoughts on “Deep Dive: The Guards Counterattack (Take #2 PBEM Special)

  1. Unless specifically allowed by SSR, you cannot boresight in this scenario because both sides set up on board.

    1. Great spotting Matthew. I think that is the first time ever I have had to look to the index of the rules to understand the rules. Thanks for feedback.

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