Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Panzers March to the Sea!

The intrepid film team of the Propaganda Ministry was there to record the glorious triumph of German arms over the puny attempts by the Allies to invade Fortress Europe. With our new wonder weapons and the indomitable will of our finest young soldiers, the Allies will be thrown back into the English Channel from whence they came.

A kampfgruppe from the 101. Schwere SS Panzerabteilung is attacking a British force from the 7th Armored Division somewhere west of Caen.

Germans: All Fearless Veterans per the units in the Villers-Bocage book.

The kampfgruppe consists of the following units:

Company HQ with 1 Tiger I E
2 Panzer zugs each with 2 Tiger 1 Es
1 Armored SS Scout zug with 4 squads; platoon commander is a command SMG with panzerfaust.

Total: 1495 points.

This is a very powerful and very small force. I have been painting up tanks and figures to do the Villers-Bocage scenarios in the book of the same name, but with my opposition home from college, I decided it was best to have a go with the forces at hand.

British: A battlegroup from the 1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade, 22nd Armored Brigade, 7th Armored Division. All Reluctant Veterans using the “Cautious, Not Stupid” special rule.

HQ with mortar section
3 Motor Platoons
1 MG platoon with PIAT team
1 Anti-Tank platoon with Tom Stanley
1 Scout patrol (2 Bren gun carriers with extra .50 caliber MG, 1 with PIAT)
1 Anti-Tank platoon (SP) Royal Artillery with 4 Achilles
1 Battery (SP) Royal Artillery with 8 Sexton and FOs in Shermans

Total: 1455 points. This is a little off, but it was all we had painted. Cromwells are next on the painting list.

The playing area with the objectives.

We played the Hold the Line game with the Germans as the attackers. The British chose to defend on the village side of the table, which required both sides to move their forces to the other side of the table. The British chose to deploy the 1st Motor platoon and the MG platoon as well as the Sexton Battery on the board, with the Anti-Tank platoon in ambush. All platoons start the game in foxholes and gone to ground.

Initial British setup. The anti-tank platoon with six pounders is in ambush.

Turn 1:

Tigers on the march.

Germans: The Germans roll for their Tiger Ace skills and get Schnell! (+2 for Stormtrooper move) for the company commander and 2nd Tiger zug and Clever Hans (+2 to free bogged down tanks) for the 1st zug. Nothing too exciting, though I thought it might help for bocage terrain. Given the objective locations, my lack of infantry, and the bocage, I massed all the Tigers on one flank and moved forward to the bocage directly ahead to take the objective near the farmhouse where the MG platoon is dug in. The SS armored platoon stayed in their halftracks and motored down the road, thinking they would stop far enough away from any of the Brits to be safe. With the bocage and only one road, there options are limited if I keep them mounted. This is a mistake that will soon be recognized.

SS scouts move up the only available road.

British: The Desert Rats roll for reserves and get nothing. On the other had, the SS Armored Scout platoon is in view of one Sexton, who brings down a murder on the helpless SS. The artillery ranges in and hits three of the halftracks, destroying two and baling out another. The MG stand in one of the destroyed halftracks is likewise incinerated, while the other escapes in time. First blood to the Brits!

Germans start to learn not to tempt British artillery.

Turn 2:

Germans: Well, losing 20% of my infantry is not a good thing. The SS Armored Scouts dismount and try to find cover in the buildings near the halftrack. They shoot at a stand of the 1st Motor platoon and achieve nothing. The bailed out halftrack stays bailed out, while the surviving ones run away back down the road where they had come. With two burning 251/1cs blocking the road, there is little else they can do. The Tigers attempt to cross the hedgerow and move to the next one. One Tiger gets bogged down and can’t get out despite wide tracks and remains stuck. The others make it to the bocage next to the road and shoot at the British MG platoon but cause no damage.

SS scouts search for cover while their halftracks burn.

British reserves shore up the front.

British: The Achilles platoon shows up as the Brits get their first reserves. They move up the road towards the intersection. The 1st Motor platoon shoots at the debussed SS scouts and kills a stand. The FO with the MG platoon calls a murder down on the Tigers and kills the 2nd zug platoon commander, which is not a good sign for the Germans but jolly good for the British.

Tigers learn that British artillery is not to be triffled with.

Turn 3:

Germans: This is another bad turn and just goes to show that small elite platoons are not good candidates for attritional warfare, especially when the enemy has an eight gun battery and I have nothing. The SS scouts (now without any semblance of armored status) bug out of the village and move to support the Tiger attack on the other side of the village, conducting a stormtrooper move on the way to get out of everyone’s LOS. The bailed out 251/1c bails in and bugs out joining the other halftracks far to the rear. The bogged Tiger stays stuck. Thinking that the Sextons were just lucky, the three other Tigers shoot at the MGs across the road in the hedgerow and kill one stand. Yea!

British: More reserves arrive! The carrier patrol and 2nd Motor platoon become available and move towards the objective near the farmhouse that the Germans are threatening. The 1st Motor platoon leaves the comfort of its foxholes and moves out to threaten the German left flank. The MG platoon’s FO calls another murder on the Tigers, only to miss all targets, much to the comfort of Herr Haupsturmfuhrer. The MG platoon’s PIAT fires and misses as well. The Achilles cautiously move up, not wanting to mess with four Tigers on anything like even terms.

The 1st Motor platoon moves up to threaten the Hun.

Turn 4:

German: The bogged down Tiger finally makes it out of the mess he drove into and joins his comrades at the firing line. They all fire at the MG platoon and kill another team, which just goes to show that point blank fire from 88s and machine guns isn’t that deadly if you are dug in. The SS scouts doubletime up to the hedgerow and hope the Tigers attract any fire.

British: The 3rd Motor platoon arrives from the reserves, and now everyone is moving toward the objective near the farm. The Germans simply do not have sufficient forces to threaten more than one objective, so the infantry moves to the sound of the guns. Another murder from the Sextons misses the Tigers as does the MG platoon PIAT team.

British Sextons pound the stuffing out of Jerry. He deserves nothing less!

The 2nd motor platoon moves in while the 3rd peeks over the hedgerow.

Turn 5:

Germans do some of that Blitzkrieg stuff.

German: The initiative is slowing slipping away, so with my remaining forces it is time to go for broke. The Tigers attempt to cross the hedgerow at the road in order to assault the MG platoon if required, while one positions itself to shoot down the road at the Achilles who have been waiting for this assault. The company commander of course bogs down and can’t get out. The remaining Tiger fires at the Achilles and misses. Go figure. The SS scouts also vault over the hedgerow to assault the MG platoon. Two Tigers fire at the MG platoon and kill the platoon commander and the SS scouts kill another stand, which causes the MG platoon to rout as they are less than 50% surviving and the platoon commander is dead. The MG platoon survivors disappear taking the FO with them. The scouts move into the objective and prepare for the worst.

Germans expect the worst after taking the objective.

British: The German attack was nasty, but there are still seven British platoons left on the board and none has taken any casualties, so things are hopeless. The carriers move up to contest the objective and kill a SS scout stand while missing a Tiger with a PIAT. The SS scouts pass a morale check (Fearless Vets are nice!). The Achilles fire at the Tiger in the road and miss. The anti-tank platoon now reveals its ambush, shooting at the Tiger hung up in the bocage. Tom Stanley and his boys don’t need to reroll any misses as they shred the company commander’s tank, which goes up in flames, and Herr Haupsturmfuhrer. Ugh. The Germans can’t afford a morale check with their company commander in flames. The Motor platoons move up to surround the Jerries at the objective, thinking that numbers can overcome any elite force.

AMBUSH! Tom Stanley and his mates fire at a hung up Tiger.

Even wide tracks aren't a panacea.

Scratch one Tiger! Why do the bloody tankers say these guys are so tough?

Turn 6:

German: The Tigers move into the farm area where the SS scouts are. The 1str zug Tiger fires at the Achilles and misses. The SS scouts shoot at the carrier patrol and bails out one. The 2nd zug Tigers shoot at the approaching 2nd Motor platoon and kill a MG stand and the 2” mortar. The 1st zug Tiger now decides that a shootout with 4 Achilles isn’t the smartest of moves, and does a stormtrooper move into the farm area to join the other Tigers.

Everyone converges on the objective.
British: Everyone continues to move in, but not too close or too fast. No need to risk too much; there’s a lot of war left to fight. The company commander moves up to call in artillery fire and the Motor platoons close up. The carrier patrol shoots at the scouts and Tigers with MGs and PIAT respectively and does nothing. The Sextons drop a murder on the Jerries and kill another Tiger, ending the 1st Tiger zug’s less than illustrious first game. The 1st platoon fires its PIAT at a Tiger and misses.

Another Tiger buys the farm.

Turn 7:

German: Ach, there are too many Indians! The Tigers and scouts exchange fire with the carrier patrol and destroy a carrier. A Tiger shoots at the 2nd Motor platoon but does no damage. Things are looking grim here.

British: Things are looking better and better. So much for the vaunted uber weapons Herr Goebbels had threatened us with! So much propaganda! The Achilles move in to take a shot at the exposed rear of a Tiger and miss, The Motor platoons shoot at the scouts and Tigers with MGs and PIATs and miss. With all the infantry and carriers in the area, the company commander does not call down artillery fire on the Germans, not wanting to hit his own forces. There is plenty of time next turn to wipe out the Jerries.

Bren gun carriers contest the objective.
Turn 8:

German: Time and forces are running out. The Germans are down to their last 2 SS scout teams and the two Tigers of the 2nd zug. With the company commander dead and numerous enemies closing in, there is only one thing left to do. Attack! The Tigers and scouts exchange fire with the Motor platoons and carrier patrol but manage to miss completely. The SS scouts assault the carrier patrol and kills one in close assault. The carriers are now down to less than 50% and fail their morale check. The SS scouts now have uncontested hold of the objective and worse, due to British deployment, the Rats are too far away to take it back. It looks like the company commander may have made a fatal error if (and this is a big “if”) the Germans can hold on.

Fighting at the objective, the SS scouts and carrier patrol exchange machine gun fire and PIAT and panzerfaust rounds.

British: Hmmm, it looks like the bloody SS are tougher than expected. With slightly out of position forces that can’t get within 4 inches to contest the objective, the British have to kill some Germans and cause some morale checks. The 3rd Motor platoon kills a SS scout team but they pass their morale check. The Achilles finally kill a Tiger, but that is not enough. The last gasp of the British is to assault the remaining Tiger with the 2nd Motor platoon, but those reluctant vets fail their tank terror test and decide to retire to the rear for the time being.

Achilles get a Tiger from the rear.

The 3rd Motor platoon thinks that assaulting a Tiger isn't the smartest of moves.

Unable to contest the objective, the British honorably concede. The Germans declare victory with their two surviving units, the SS scout platoon commander and a Tiger tanks.

The SS scout platoon commander holds the objective. Give that man an Iron cross!

Lessons Learned:

It has been a while since we played, so we made some mistakes on initial morale checks and killing dug in forces. I think these tended to cancel out.

- Eight gun batteries should not be taken lightly. They can kill Tigers, especially when you cannot move very far due to the bocage.

- Tigers in the bocage may not be a good idea. I think infantry with a lot of artillery is a better idea. Tigers are better in the open where their long range gun can be effective. That being said, none of my Tigers hit a single tank even at close range. Go figure.

- Don’t’ forget the mortars in the company command section. Even smoking the Tigers could have limited their effectiveness. In this case just about everything got to kill a Tiger so it didn’t matter much. Next game may be different.

These pictures will look good in Der Signal!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Operational Pause

After a VERY long time, new reinforcements, straight off the painting table have been detected moving toward the front.

On the British side, transport for the battalion antitank gun platoon, in the form of Lloyd carriers, are finally available to keep the douty six pounders up with poor bloody infantry.

The pioneer platoon also got its truck, although the jeeps seem to be lost on some transport stuck in Portsmouth.

To add a little punch, the battalion mortar platoon is also available. The gunners are complaining that their transport is also missing, but the battalion commander said to stop whining.

Elements of the 7th Armored, the famed "Desert Rats" have also made their appearance near the front, and just in time, as the bloody Jerry Panzers are showing up in force. Photo recon in the RAF sighted these moving north towards the front from either the 21st Panzer Division or the Panzer Lehr Division. As usual, the intelligence chaps are never quite sure . . .

There are also reports that elements of the 1 SS Panzer Corps are heading to the front, including some of the fabled Tiger Tanks. The Jerry panzers are bad enough without having Fearless Veterans crews and some fanatical SS Panzergrenadiers in support.

It is a good thing that our gunners are eager and raring to go at the Hun! They may be tough to handle, but we have a lot more ammunition than they have troops.