Ra-ta-tat-tat ... and other assorted
combat sound effects optional
The Squad Leader event for this year's WBC drew 20
players which appears to be the norm for this event, yet many
players each year are new to the event. There is a core of the
die-hard players who seem to make it here every year, yet it
is good to see new ones making it to the convention. The number
of returning players seems to remain around 50%; this at least
tells us that many players still enjoy this classic game.
The event's new format, instead of only having Squad Leader
level scenarios, provided opportunities for players to choose
from any level of the series. Though most of the scenarios chosen
were at the Squad Leader level of play, a few enjoyed
playing at the Cross of Iron level. The format to select
the scenarios differed from last year. This year, one scenario
was available from each level of play for each round. The opponents
would agree upon the level of play, then roll dice to see who
would play what side (example: even to play as the German, odd
to play as the Allies). This streamlined the process to allow
for more gaming time. The scenarios selected were relatively
short and each round was completed on time (a definite improvement
over previous years).
27 games were played, 21 at the Squad Leader level
and the remainder at the Cross of Iron level with Allies
winning 14. The most balanced scenario in the tourney was Alan
Yngve's Delta Zero "Back to the Sea" with an even record
games played. The least balanced scenarios were the Squad
Leader scenario "Stalingrad, 20 October 1941" and
the Cross of Iron scenario "Pavlov's House".
Both are from the same design and had a 3 to 1 record, however,
"Stalingrad" favored the Germans and "Pavlov's
House" favored the Russians.
The following is the list of the scenarios available during
Round One "The Banks"
Squad Leader: On All Fronts Scenario 36.1 "Stalingrad
October 20, 1942"
Cross of Iron: Scenario TS2: "Pavlov's House"
Crescendo of Doom: Scenario TS2: "Pavlov's House"
GI: Scenario 308: "Han-Sur-Neid"
Round Two "The Ranks"
Squad Leader: On All Fronts Scenario 35.1 "Russia
Cross of Iron: On All Fronts Scenario 62.2: "Mogilev"
Crescendo of Doom: Scenario 23: "Silent Death"
GI: ASL Annual Scenario A6: "A Meeting of Patrols"
Round Three "The Tanks"
Squad Leader: On All Fronts Scenario 46.3 "Winter
Cross of Iron: Scenario 101: "Blocking Action at
Crescendo of Doom: Scenario TS1: "First Crisis of
Army Group North"
GI: Scenario 300: "Trial by Combat"
Round Four "The Yanks"
Squad Leader: Alan Yngve's "Delta Zero - Back
to the Sea"
Cross of Iron: Scenario E: "The Niscemi-Biscari Highway"
Crescendo of Doom: Rogue Scenario R217: "The Whirlwind"
GI: General Scenario O: "Strayer's Strays"
Along with the flexibility of choosing various levels of play
for each game, the competition included a Personal Leader Counter
(PLC) competition. Each participant was provided a leader that
continued his progression of advancement, or demotion, throughout
the tournament. This PLC usually was substituted for an 8-1 leader
in the scenario force, so that the overall force strength was
minimally changed. Many of the PLC's were given a 21-gun salute
as they joined their fallen comrades in the storage box. However,
a few shining stars were recognized for their bravery as they
attacked the enemy with ferocity. A special plaque was developed
by the Wargame Academy for the PLC competition.
this year's competition was Mike Hennessey, whose leader rallied
his troops and directed their fire better than his opposition.
Mike's PLC was more like 'Sgt. Rock' during the first round.
His leader was instrumental in repelling the German assault on
Pavlov's House. After the smoke cleared, Mike's PLC was left
standing in an otherwise vacant building. His heroism in the
first round carried the lead throughout the tournament, at least,
until the last game. There. he took the better part of valor
and congratulated his opponent on a game well played. Though
he lost the last game, his leader took the plaque for the PLC
Also in this PLC competition, Bill Thomson, of the Wargame
Academy, included a plaque for anyone who killed the reigning
PLC from the previous year. This award is named "The Pollard
Memorial" plaque and the artwork depicts a squad leader
centered in a sniper scope. This was named after Pete Pollard,
whose PLC had dominated the PLC competitions in previous years.
Unfortunately for this year's competition, Paul Risner, who won
the PLC competition last year, dropped out of the event early
in order to play another event. Therefore, no one had 'removed'
Paul's PLC from the competition, so the plaque will return next
year, challenging a future marksman to the task. Next year's
sniper challenge will be to knock off Mike Hennessey's PLC. As
a side note, Pete Pollard's PLC was held to second place for
the PLC competition so perhaps the "bounty" achieved
its purpose after all.
Round 1 "The Banks"
The first round scenario selection was chosen to depict street
fighting. As it was, three of the scenarios dealt with fighting
on the banks of the Volga and the fourth on the Normandy coastline
in "Han-Sur-Neid". The fighting remained in Stalingrad.
Combining the results from Squad Leader and Cross
of Iron play, the day brought a stalemate since neither force
could claim victory. The fighting was quite bloody, in two games
only a handful of men were left standing and one game was concluded
with a mutually destructive close combat.
In one game, Bruce Young's Germans stormed the Russian defenses
led by Chuck Morford. Bruce's armor support malfunctioned its
machineguns from the start and never recovered them. However,
it didn't seem like he needed them. After the Russians showed
that they had some bite to that bark, the Germans returned the
favor. First, the Germans lost a stack of squads due to a leader
breaking. Then in successive fire two well-placed shots eliminated
two stacks of Russian defenders (something they could not afford
in a small scenario like this). Chuck also lost his PLC in the
second KIA result. I guess Bruce was enjoying the power and
accuracy of his 9-2 leader stack!
The PLC competition had an auspicious start with four PLC's
dead and one leader on the road toward demotion for cowardice.
Michael Day's PLC joined the ranks of the fallen while in close
combat, however, he did take out a Russian squad in the process!
Larry Felton's Russian leader went berserk and was finally eliminated
in close combat. Mike Hennessey's PLC smoked his opponent and
received a promotion before the second round.
Round 2 "The Ranks"
Round 2 saw primarily Squad Leader level games played
except for one Cross of Iron game. This round saw the
Russians on the defensive. In the "Russia 1941", the
Russians were defending the village on board 3. The German attack
group was supported by a few half tracks and must take control
of the majority of the stone buildings in the village. This round's
fighting was again a split decision with the Russians winning
four of seven games. On the winning side for the Russians, Eric
Filipkowski kept Eric Stranger's Germans from victory, just as
David Van Bronkhorst prevented Allen Kaplan from taking the day.
Francis Spencer's Russians were pushed out of the village
by Michael Day's Germans. Francis' PLC also joined the dead
pile when the Germans overran his position. Chuck Morford's Russians
saw a similar fate as Warren Day's (yes, Michael's brother -
a tag team of Squad Leader players!) Germans removed the
Russians from the field of battle. Chuck's PLC lived, but his
highlights were not to be recorded into the annuls of heroism,
his leader broke causing his squads to rout from the fight.
Included in Chuck's PLC action was that he broke while two of
his squads went berserk. Needless to say, the PLC was happy to
be cowering in the house while the two squads ran out in the
streets to get mauled by German fire.
In the only Cross of Iron game, Bruce Young's Germans
were repulsed from the hill on board 2 in On All Fronts "Mogilev".
Bruce never expected such a stalwart defense from Russian conscripts
(nor did Pete Pollard, the Russian player!). The conscripts held
up the mobile German force from breaking through and taking the
hill before reinforcements could arrive. The dice were certainly
on Pete's side for the game. One example was when Bruce was trying
to destroy the center of the conscripts' thin line; the Russians
stunned both an armed half track and forced Bruce's only self-propelled
gun to button up. This effectively removed Bruce's firepower
from the start of the game.
Round 3 "The Tanks"
Only five games were played, since some of the participants
left for other events or simply only hung around to watch the
rest of the action. All of the fighting for round 3 was found
on the steppes of Russia as the Russians tried to break through
the thin German defensive line in On All Fronts "Winter
War". Snow had covered the battlefield, slowing the Russian
infantry advance, but the T-34's plowed through to quickly overwhelm
some of the defenses.
David Van Bronkhorst's Russian tanks and squads moved quickly
up the road to take a central and dominating position. Bryan
Van Nortwick's squads in their entrenchments took a beating,
but left one Russian tank in flames after an immobilization.
This first victory wasn't enough to keep the Russians at bay.
Bryan's PLC (using a SS counter from the Cross of Iron
tray - which had "Van Nortwick" on it! Bryan was one
of the original playtesters for Cross of Iron, so his
name will always be in the game.) toting a light machinegun was
the last German defender on the board. His PLC passed countless
morale checks, but this lone defender could not keep the Russians
from their victory conditions and David took the victory.
Michael Day's Russians saw a similar fate, but his forces
were stopped by a lone German squad entrenched in the road to
his exit area. The one squad immobilized a T-34 and removed
three Russian assault squads from the fight before Michael's
concentrated attack removed them from play. The Cross of Iron
was awarded to everyone in the squad for that valiant defense.
It had become quickly obvious that this round would find the
last two undefeated players for the tournament. There were still
many who were in the running for the plaque, but at the end of
the round only Pete Pollard and Mike Hennessey remained undefeated.
However, many games were played in round 4 in order to help determine
the remaining contestants standing for the tourney.
Round 4 "The Yanks"
All of the games in this round were played in Alan Yngve's
"Delta Zero - Back to the Sea" scenario. Here, the
Germans had to infiltrate the American lines on board 2, but
must cross board 4 to get there. The results of these games were
similar to the scenario's record, a 50 -50 split in victories
for both sides.
Chuck Morford, whose record will remain a secret, takes away
the "Most Diligent" award from the Game Master. Chuck's
forces didn't fair too well for the day, but he kept up a good
demeanor throughout the event. Good luck next year Chuck,, it
can only get better. Chuck met Michael Day in the fourth round.
His Americans were going toe-to-toe with the Germans, keeping
them from their victory until turn 4. Mustering up his courage,
Michael's 10-2 leader grabbed a light machinegun and sprayed
fire into the American heavy machinegun nest. Rolling snake eyes,
Michael decimated the core of the U.S. lines and opened the way
The deciding game of the tournament was between Pete Pollard
(as the Germans) against Mike Hennessey (as the Americans). Mike's
forces were spread across the possible lines of advance, covering
the broad front. Pete decided to use a 'schwerpunkt' style of
attack and hit up the middle, using the large wheatfield in the
middle of board 4 for cover. With a little luck, the artillery
dropped exactly where Pete needed it and before Mike knew what
hit him, his troops were in the middle of a smoke barrage.
Using the smoke for cover, Pete raced his troops around Mike's
left flank and onto board 2. Then, when the smoke cleared, Mike's
troops were hit hard with heavy crossfire. The remaining German
force advanced to complete the encirclement. Mike saw that the
end was near and called it a game.