Squad Leader celebrates twenty-five
The Squad Leader event this year saw the best attendance
in the history of our conventions. 22 players fought it out
streets of Stalingrad to the sleepy hamlet of Hitdorf. Many
of this year's players were returning veterans of the event,
but a few, including one surprise from England, added Squad
Leader to the events they played at the WBC.
The event's format provided opportunities for players to choose
from any level of the series. 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
time, however, some games did go past their allotted time schedule
and were adjudicated. This will, hopefully, be rectified for
next year's event. The majority of the games played were on
the Squad Leader level of play. However, one game was
played at Cross of Iron level and another at GI: Anvil
of Victory level.
The following is the list of the scenarios available during
Round One "BRICK"
Squad Leader: Scenario 2 "The Tractor Works"
Cross of Iron: Scenario 108: "Block Busting at Bokruisk"
Crescendo of Doom: Scenario TS2: "Pavlov's House"
GI: Scenario 308: "Han-Sur-Neid"
Round Two "WOOD"
Squad Leader: Scenario 7 "Buchholz Station"
Cross of Iron: Scenario I: "Attempt to Relieve Peiper"
Crescendo of Doom: Scenario 22: "The Borders are Burning"
GI: Scenario 300: "Trial by Combat"
Round Three "STRAW"
Squad Leader: On All Fronts Scenario 35.1 "Russia 1941"
Cross of Iron: On All Fronts Scenario 62.2: "Mogilev"
Crescendo of Doom: Scenario TS3: "Land Leviathans"
GI: ASL Annual Scenario A6: "A Meeting of Patrols"
Round Four "WIND"
Squad Leader: Scenario 10 "Hitdorf on the Rhine"
Cross of Iron: Scenario H: "Hunters from the Sky"
Crescendo of Doom: Rogue Scenario R217: "The Whirlwind"
GI: General Scenario O: "Strayer's Stray"
Concurrent with the games played was a Personal Leader Counter
(PLC) competition. Each player would receive a First Sergeant
(8-1) from the start of the event and could advance him through
the ranks commensurate with valorous deeds performed. The best
PLC would receive a special plaque from the Wargame Academy (WGA)
for this achievement.
As a side event, the WGA also provided a special plaque for
anyone who retired the previous year's PLC winner during the
competition. This plaque is called the "Pollard Memorial"
plaque, named in honor of Pete Pollard who regularly won the
earlier PLC competitions.
Many of the entrants saw their PLC join the ranks of the fallen
early in the competition. One of the first to go was Mike Hennessey's
PLC, the winner of the PLC competition last year. Since David
VanBronkhorst was successful in eliminating Mike's PLC, David
was awarded the "Pollard Memorial" plaque. Mike was
kind enough to autograph the plaque to add a personal touch to
the passing of the torch.
The PLC competition, as before, saw many of the players lose
their leaders in gallant acts of bravery. One of the best performing
leaders was Andrew Cummins' PLC. However, Andrew's leader didn't
survive his wounds inflicted during the battle for Hitdorf in
the fourth round.
The next leader in line was Pete Pollard's who sat out in
the first round due to a bye. Nevertheless, Pete kept his officer
in the battle long enough and, more importantly, survived to
claim the title this year. Now, the Pollard Memorial plaque
will truly live up to its name if someone 'removes' the Pollard
PLC in 2003.
The first round took place in Stalingrad, as the Germans tried
to push the Russians out of the "Tractor Works". As
usual for this scenario, the games ended in bloody battles for
the factory. The pitched battle has the Germans trying to enter
the factory on one side while holding off a large Russian force
attempting to reinforce from the other.
David VanBronkhorst's fanatic Russian defenders of the factory
held off the German assault teams and opened the door for their
relief to arrive. Of course, Mike Hennessey's Germans tried
their best to break into the factory. However, after both flamethrowers
flamed out, two ineffectual demo charges, and the loss of his
PLC, his demoralized troops receded into the ruins of Stalingrad
realizing that their objective would not be taken today.
In another game, Jonathan Miller's Russians finally thought
they had broken through in order to bolster the waning force
in the factory. However, as the Russians entered the building
through one hex, well-aimed machine gun fire from Robert Sohn's
senior officer, obliterated any Russian hopes for relief. When
the smoke cleared one leader and nine Soviet squads had
In an example of the back-and-forth dramatic action of the
Tractor Works, Thomas Shaw (German) and Mike Pacheco (Russian)
saw both of their forces reduced quickly in fierce fighting for
only one building. Thomas obliterated Mike's defenders on one
side of the building and rushed into the building, only to be
repulsed by devastating point blank fire. Meanwhile, Mike's
relief force could not penetrate the German screening force to
reinforce the factory.
The Pacheco - Shaw game ended with both side's strengths diminished
so much that no further fighting could take place. Thomas resigned
after realizing his assault force could not try another attack
on the factory. Similar to life, this scenario adequately portrayed
the brutal fighting that was seen in Stalingrad.
The deadly battle in Stalingrad placed the event pace on a
rocky start. Fortunately, the second round made up for some
of that when all the players picked "Buchholz Station"
as their scenario of choice. Starting with a canned set up,
the players jumped straight into a fight.
"Buchholz Station" pits the Germans against the
American GIs during the Battle of the Bulge. To win, either
force may force a withdrawal of forces or the Germans also can
win by exiting a sufficient force. In many instances, the former
option - the withdrawal of forces, was the means of securing
One match up pitted Mike Day (German) against Mike Pacheco
(American). Mike Pacheco's American GIs moved quickly to set
up interlocking fire lanes to delay the German advance. However,
the Germans abandoned their cautious first turn advance and plunged
into the streets, determined to achieve their victory conditions.
A combination of smoke and bad dice allowed the Germans to get
through with only two broken units. After that the Americans
were hard pressed, but managed to delay the Germans for quite
a while. Unfortunately, the American squads, when broken, seemed
to refuse to rally. This made holding their positions a hopeless
task. The Germans forced an American withdrawal, but took considerable
casualties in the process.
The majority of the games played in Round 3 were the On All
Fronts scenario "Russia 1941" Squad Leader level of
play. However, Bill Thomson (German) defeated Chuck Leonard
(American) in the GI: Anvil of Victory scenario "A Meeting
of Patrols" and Pete Pollard (German) defeated Jonathan
Miller (Russian) in the Cross of Iron level On All Fronts scenario
In the "A Meeting of Patrols" game, a special commendation
goes to Sergeant Leonard, Chuck's PLC, for holding off the superior
German advance force for four turns. Although most of the American
squads evaporated under withering
German fire, SGT Leonard and two squads resisted bitterly, breaking
up several German rushes to force victory. Only after being
nearly surrounded and taking pointblank fire by two companies
of SS assault troops, did the GIs falter when SGT Leonard was
wounded. This delay gave the Americans a chance for victory,
which did not materialize due to last minute heroics of the German
In the "Russia 1941" games, the Germans overwhelmed
the Russian defenders to take the village. One such game was
Allen Kaplan (Russian) against Mike Pacheco (German). Allen's
Russians set up in the village to cover all the stone buildings
and used long-range fire (especially from the only 2nd level
building in the village) to harass Mike Pacheco's German advance.
The German combination of extensive Prep Fire and careful advance
drew taunts from Allen. After some maneuvering, Mike's assault
force was finally in position in a couple of turns.
His subsequent Prep Fire finally chiseled a hole in the Russian
defense, into which he threw a couple squads. These units survived
Allen's Defensive Fire to establish a toehold in the village.
With the Red defenses weakened, Mike gave the signal for the
general rush to begin. Germans hit the village center from every
direction, overwhelming the Bolshevik defense and
eliminating eight squads in one turn. Commissar Kaplan quickly
saw the handwriting on the wall and removed himself from the
The final round and the championship match found the opponents
fighting in the streets of Hitdorf. This Squad Leader level
game, "Hitdorf on the Rhine" pits the US paratroopers
against a small German screening force with minefields. Both
forces receive reinforcements during the game. The Germans get
the majority of their forces in Turn 1 with armor support arriving
Turn 6. The Americans receive artillery support and receive
the remainder of the troops on Turn 3. The Americans must gain
control of at least three of the stone buildings while losing
six squads or less.
The championship game found the two remaining undefeated players,
Andrew Cummins playing the Germans vs Bill Thomson's Americans.
Bill has been involved with running the Squad Leader
event for many years. Andrew, who came over to get into the
fight from Cambridge, England, played in this event for the first
Andrew's initial setup slowed down the US advance and allowed
his reinforcing company to get a good hold on the core of the
village. An initial meeting engagement firefight was a disaster
for the Germans. Andrew lost both of his best officers and over
half his troops while Bill ended the first contact with no losses.
Not only did Andrew lose his senior officer, but also his PLC,
who had achieved a rank of First Lieutenant (9-2).
Well-aimed German fire kept the US radio, and thus the American
artillery support, unavailable until turn 7. This allowed the
German forces to regroup from their initial casualties. The
unsung hero of the game was German Sergeant (8-0), who disrupted
the central US advance with effective artillery placement. The
German artillery rained down salvos from the offboard 81mm Mortar
Company. The mortar fire caused some American losses as the
disorganized ranks fled into minefields.
The mortar fire and the establishment of a firebase in the
village center kept the Americans at bay until the German armor
platoon arrived. The tanks were used to strengthen the defenses
by covering the roads from the surrounding hills.
Now, with opportunities reducing as the game progressed, the
American paratroopers had to reassess their options and capture
another stone building in order to win. Andrew believed that
his defense would require Bill to make a deadly rush in the open
with his paratroopers. However Bill had another trick up his
Finally recovering his radio, the Americans called their artillery
into action. Instead of firing for effect, the 105mm howitzers
brought down a huge smoke barrage over the center of the village
and its access road. In the final turn, Bill rushed his paratroops
across the road under cover of smoke.
Andrew did eliminate one US squad from his defensive fire,
but the paratroopers brushed aside most of his remaining defenders.
All that was left in the German center was a lone crew. At
the end of Bill's US Turn 10, the crew was locked in close combat
with a paratrooper squad.
In the German turn, the panzers advanced in the maelstrom
centered on the melee hex with the German crew. At point blank
range, the German armor fired on the Americans who were trying
to hold on to their last gains. All the shots proved ineffectual
save the last. In a desperate effort, the last shot was fired
at the melee hex. Andrew knew he wouldn't be so lucky on a second
close combat attack against the paratrooper. This shot had to
give some results. The point blank shot in the melee hex broke
the US squad while leaving the German crew unfazed.
Andrew Cummins won with the last roll of the last turn. It
was quite an effort to come from behind, after losing so many
of his troops and officers at the start. A special thanks goes
out to Bill, who not only helped in running the event (he did
practically all of the administrative functions), but routinely
helped his opponent in understanding the rules and his options.