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.
Prelude to Battle
By mid-September 1944, the Allied pursuit of the German army after the landings at Normandy was slowing down due to extended supply lines and increasing German resistance. The next strategic objective was to move up to the Rhine River along its entire length and prepare to cross it. Courtney Hodges′ First Army experienced hard resistance pushing through the Aachen Gap and perceived a potential threat from enemy forces using the Hürtgen Forest as a base.
The U.S. 1st Infantry Division arrived in early October, joining elements of the XIX Corps and VII Corps, which had encircled Aachen. Although the 1st Infantry Division called for the surrender of the German garrison in the city, German commander Oberst Gerhard Wilck refused to capitulate until 21 October.
The Allies also thought it was necessary to remove the threat posed by the Rur Dam. The stored water could be released by the Germans, swamping any forces operating downstream. In the view of the American commanders, Bradley, Hodges, and Collins, the direct route to the dam was through the forest.
Some military historians are no longer convinced by these arguments. Charles B. MacDonald—a U.S. Army historian and former company commander who served in the Hürtgen battle—has described it as “…a misconceived and basically fruitless battle that should have been avoided.”
Battle of the Hürtgen Forest
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 km2 (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 is 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 US 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.
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 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; German casualties were 28,000. The city of Aachen in the north eventually fell on 22 October at high cost to the U.S. Ninth Army, but they failed to cross the Rur river or wrest control of its dams from the Germans. The battle was so costly that it has been described as an Allied “defeat of the first magnitude,” with specific credit given to Model.
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. This was launched on 16 December and ended the Hürtgen offensive. The Battle of the Bulge gained widespread press and public attention, leaving the battle of Hürtgen Forest less well remembered.
The overall cost of the Siegfried Line Campaign in American personnel was close to 140,000.
The battle of the Hurtgen ended in a German defensive victory and the whole offensive was a dismal failure for the Allies. The Americans suffered 33,000 casualties during the course of the battle which ranged up to 55,000 casualties, included 9,000 non-combat losses and represented a 25 percent casualty rate. The Germans had also suffered heavy losses with 28,000 casualties — many of these were non-combat and prisoners of war.
The surprise German Ardennes offensive caught Allied forces off guard. The Germans attacked with nearly 30 divisions; including the elite 1st SS, 2nd SS, and the 12th SS Panzer Divisions, with the northernmost point of the battlefront centered on Monschau. They forced a large salient in the American lines almost sixty miles (100 km) deep at its maximum extent. However, the Germans never came close to their primary objective, the capture of Antwerp. The Ardennes Offensive came to a complete halt in early January, when German forces in the northern shoulder of the bulge were blocked by a strong American defense, the destruction of bridges by American engineers, and a lack of fuel.
In early February, American forces attacked through the Hürtgen Forest for the final time. On 10 February 1945, the Rur Dam was taken by American forces and the Forest itself was not cleared until the 17th when the 82nd Airborne Division reached the Roer River.
.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.Citation:
“Battle of Hürtgen Forest.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Jan. 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_H%C3%BCrtgen_Forest.
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