Say what you want about Critical Hit (much of the criticism is warranted), but they make some of the prettiest and most epic historical maps in Advanced Squad Leader. Do they exercise some artistic freedom and liberties on some of their maps? Yes. Do they overuse slopes? Without a doubt!! Sometimes they outdo themselves and everything seems to click. Further proof? Check out the combined Omaha East/West maps. Historically accurate, geographically accurate (as accurate as ASL terrain and a hex grid probably allows), and not a damn slope in sight.
But what about their combined Objective Schmidt/Huertgen Hell maps? Slopes are prevalent as that area of Germany was hilly and rugged. There have been some liberties taken with the terrain, but that’s to be expected any time said terrain is extremely complex as it was in the Huertgen Forest. A quick side-by-side comparison (see below) to a historical map shows the scale to be relatively accurate, as well as the general terrain contours and streams. Despite the combined maps being an incredibly designed piece of wargaming cartography, the real question remains: Is it enjoyable to play on? I don’t know the answer because I’ve not played any ASL on these maps. But after studying them a bit I’ve come to the conclusion they may be more complicated than they need to be.
LOS looks to be a nightmare, rendering a massive playing area really only compatible for a bunch of individual engagements (scenarios), and not really conducive to an actual large-scale campaign game, for which this type of map exists. This may be why these modules from Critical Hit do not have campaign games and just a bunch of individual scenarios.
Sometimes simpler ASL maps are better …
Hüertgen Hell + Objective Schmidt Maps
This monster map is combined from two Critical Hit modules. The left half is from Objective Schmidt (2015), and the right half is from Huertgen Hell (2015). Combined they make this epic, beautiful, and somewhat intimidating playing area.
Let’s look closer at how the map compares to history.
Here’s a summary of the battle that raged across this terrain.
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest was a series of battles fought from 19 September to 16 December 1944, between American and German forces on the Western Front during World War II, in the Hürtgen Forest, a 140 km^2 (54 sq mi) area about 5 km (3.1 mi) east of the Belgian–German border. It was the longest battle on German ground during World War II and the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought.
The U.S. commanders’ initial goal was to pin down German forces in the area to keep them from reinforcing the front lines farther north in the Battle of Aachen, where the U.S. forces were fighting against the Siegfried Line network of fortified industrial towns and villages speckled with pillboxes, tank traps, and minefields. The Americans’ initial tactical objectives were to take the village of Schmidt and clear Monschau. In a second phase the Allies wanted to advance to the Rur River as part of Operation Queen.
The German commander, Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model, intended to bring the Allied thrust to a standstill. While he interfered less in the day-to-day movements of units than at the Battle of Arnhem, he still kept himself fully informed on the situation, slowing the Allies’ progress, inflicting heavy casualties, and taking full advantage of the fortifications the Germans called the Westwall, better known to the Allies as the Siegfried Line.
The Germans fiercely defended the area because it served as a staging area for the 1944 winter offensive Wacht am Rhein (known in English-speaking countries as the Battle of the Bulge), and because the mountains commanded access to the Rur Dam at the head of the Rur Reservoir (Rurstausee). The Allies failed to capture the area after several heavy setbacks, and the Germans successfully held the region until they launched their last-ditch offensive into the Ardennes.
The battle was fought in a densely wooded and rugged terrain, where the weather was often cold, wet, and foggy. The forest reduced the effectiveness of Allied air support, artillery, and tanks, while providing cover and concealment for the German defenders. The terrain also hampered the movement and supply of the Allied troops, who had to rely on narrow and muddy roads that were vulnerable to ambushes and mines. The forest also created a sense of isolation and confusion among the Allied soldiers, who often could not see more than a few meters ahead.
The battle was divided into several phases, each involving different units and objectives. The first phase, from 19 September to 15 October, involved the U.S. 9th Infantry Division and the 3rd Armored Division, supported by elements of the 28th Infantry Division and the 2nd Ranger Battalion. Their mission was to secure a foothold in the forest and capture the village of Schmidt, which overlooked the Rur Dam. However, they faced stiff resistance from the German 275th and 353rd Infantry Divisions, and were unable to take Schmidt or the dam. The Americans suffered about 4,500 casualties in this phase, while the Germans lost about 3,000.
The second phase, from 16 October to 9 November, involved the U.S. 28th Infantry Division, which relieved the 9th Infantry Division and continued the attack toward Schmidt. The division faced the German 89th Infantry Division, which had been reinforced by elements of the 116th Panzer Division and the 12th Volks Grenadier Division. The Americans managed to capture the village of Vossenack, but were repulsed at Schmidt after a fierce counterattack by the Germans. The 28th Infantry Division suffered about 6,184 casualties in this phase, while the Germans lost about 4,000.
The third phase, from 10 to 16 November, involved the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, which was assigned to clear the forest north of Vossenack and secure the town of Huertgen. The division faced the German 344th Infantry Division, which had been reinforced by elements of the 3rd Parachute Division and the 116th Panzer Division. The Americans encountered heavy resistance and minefields, and were unable to achieve their objectives. The 4th Infantry Division suffered about 7,000 casualties in this phase, while the Germans lost about 3,000.
The fourth phase, from 16 November to 12 December, involved the U.S. 8th Infantry Division, which relieved the 4th Infantry Division and resumed the attack toward Huertgen. The division faced the German 3rd Parachute Division, which had been reinforced by elements of the 47th Volks Grenadier Division and the 12th SS Panzer Division. The Americans faced fierce opposition and harsh weather, and were unable to break through the German defenses. The 8th Infantry Division suffered about 4,500 casualties in this phase, while the Germans lost about 3,000.
The fifth and final phase, from 13 to 16 December, involved the U.S. 83rd Infantry Division, which relieved the 8th Infantry Division and launched the final assault on Huertgen. The division faced the German 47th Volks Grenadier Division, which had been weakened by previous fighting and lacked adequate supplies and reinforcements. The Americans finally captured Huertgen on 15 December, and reached the Rur River on 16 December, ending the battle. The 83rd Infantry Division suffered about 1,281 casualties in this phase, while the Germans lost about 1,500.
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest was a costly and controversial campaign for the Allies, who failed to achieve their strategic objectives and suffered heavy losses. The battle has been described as an Allied “defeat of the first magnitude,” with specific credit given to Model. ¹²³ The Hürtgen Forest cost the U.S. First Army at least 33,000 killed and wounded, including both combat and non-combat losses, with upper estimates at 55,000. ¹² German casualties were 28,000. ¹ The battle also delayed the Allied advance to the Rhine and allowed the Germans to launch their surprise offensive in the Ardennes, which prolonged the war in Europe.
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest was a brutal and bloody struggle that tested the endurance and courage of both sides. It was also a lesson in the importance of terrain, weather, and logistics in warfare, and the need for clear objectives and coordination among the Allied command. The battle remains one of the most controversial and debated episodes of World War II.
.END OF BRIEFING.
ASL Map Spotlights are meant to be quick history lessons on available historical Advanced Squad Leader actions. These short articles are meant to highlight both a short history of the battle portrayed for players unfamiliar with the setting, as well as show the ASL map on which it plays out.
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