The Allies had their share of good weather and will now have to pace up the battle for France. Its time for them to capture CHERBOURGH and to go for a breakthrough.
When I play wargames I regularly read books on the subject, view movies, and do some background research. For Dark Summer only the first few turns are well covered by the many publications on D-Day. One interesting source I came across recently is the Imperial War Museum’s website with several articles on D-Day and Normandy. The German Response to D-Day, What Happened After D-Day, and Tactics and the Cost of Victory in Normandy are but a few such articles that will give you more insight into this campaign.
Another book I read some time ago and that I much recommend is If You Survive (George Wilson) written from the perspective of a junior infantry officer that took part from the Saint-Lô breakthrough July 1944 to the assault on the Siegfriedlinie February 1945.
Dark Summer is the latest addition to my wargames library. I consider it one of the COSIMs for casual gaming as the rules are few with little crome and thus fairly easy to learn. Moreover the extended example of play is an excellent starter to understand the rules mechanics. Therefore I am confident that face to face it should produce an outcome in a few hours of enjoyable game time. The chit pull system off course makes it most suitable for solo play.
So off I go and replay the Battle for Normandy from D-Day to the Allied breakout towards Brittany and the final exploytation phase over the Saine river and to the East of France.
A short vacation on Walcheren island has brought me into contact with a countryside similar to the polder land we encounter in the ASLSK historical module Decision at Elst. This low-lying land is comparable to the area south of Arnhem that was fought over during the Market-Garden opertion in Sept 1944. When you travel between towns the first you get to know about the settlement ahead is its church. The towers are clearly visible from kilometres away and its easy to understand their importance as observation posts.
Having played the first introductory scenario I wanted to find out how the game plays solo. Would it be interesting and tense? How much would the game support solo-play? Would the result be a forgone conclusion with the Germans standing no chance to fend of the mighty US forces?
Planning for the Battle of Aachen
With the preset VPs it is quite obvious that the Americans need to attack with their point of main effort south of the Aachen Forest. The 3rd Armored Division is to attack on an axis from RAEREN towards KORNELIMÜNSTER. 1st Infantry Division will support this attack by covering the left flank of the 3rd Armored by attacking the enemy in the Westwall positions south-west of AACHEN. 9th will support the attack by advancing towards Vennwegen to cover the right flank of the 3rd Armored.
When I got notice of this game I ordered it right away. Why, you ask? Well, first its one of the first wargames from a German publisher. I was curious to learn what design idea the developers might follow. Second Aachen 1944 offers an interesting subject seldom treated in wargames. The only other campaign game that I know of addressing the Stolberg Sector comes with the Command Decision miniature rules. Last and by no means least I live in Aachen.
Historical wargames on historical maps are much of my liking. Therefore I always am interested to obtain a copy when a new HASL gets published. One exception might be the HASLs that feature on island hopping in the Pacific. European, Russian, and North African fronts oriented HASL in contrast will most likely make it into my ASL collection.
Playing this scenario solo is probably not the the optimal way to tackle this tactical situation. On the other hand I want to try a variant of the SASL rules. I use red counters to mark possible hotspots. When German units come close I check for units and draw from a pile of counters from the US order of battle. Once US units are placed on the board I will use them at my discretion.
Living at Aachen I have ready access to some of the most famous battle grounds of WW2. One is the Hürtgen Forest only 45 minutes from here by car. Thus BFP’s publication OBJECTIVE: SCHMIDT is a must for the ASL gamer in me. Here I will start off with a solo-play of the first scenario, a small all infantry scenario that will introduce me to the SSR and the terrain.
CONSCRIPT COUNTER [OS-1]
Looking for a manageable campaign game we came along this mini HASL published by MMP in Operations Special Issue #1. It looks interesting and has a fine map to play over, a single large play area of 31 hexes width (west – east) and 18 hexes depth (north – south). As the opposing forces are elements of two armored divisions the game offers a fair amount of AFV to work with on both sides.