Friday, January 29, 2010

Extra Innings for Desert Rats and Hitler Youth

Elements of the 22 Armored Brigade of the 7th Armored Division continue to look for a way out of the bocage and into Jerry’s flank. At the same time, elements of the 12. SS Panzer Division have been thrown into the breach in a desperate attempt to plug the gap. It’s Rats vs. Hitler Youth in an encounter battle somewhere west of Caen.

Another town in Normandy that wishes the belligerents would go somewhere else.

Germans: All Fearless Veterans per the units in the “Cobra” book.

The Panzer Abteilung consists of the following units:

Panzer HQ with 2 Panzer Mark IV H panzers
1st Panzer zug with 4 Panzer Mark IV H panzers
2nd Panzer zug with 3 Panzer Mark IV H panzers
Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier platoon with three squads, Platoon leader is command SMG stand with panzerfaust
Heavy Panzer platoon with 1 Tiger
Scout platoon with 3 scout teams in Kubelwagens
Rocket launcher battery with one section (3 Nebelwerfers)

Total: 1745 points

I have never run Fearless Veteran Panzers before with this many tanks. They are only Panzer Mark IV Hs, but 9 of them (plus a Tiger!) should be enough to show the Reluctant Rats the door. I would normally have used two platoons of 4 Panzer Mark IV Hs apiece, but I hadn’t gotten them painted at the time of the game. Still, 9 Fearless Veteran Panzers should be enough, ja? I left the sdkfz 251s back at base as halftracks aren’t that useful in the bocage.
British: A battle group 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 in carriers
1 Anti-Tank platoon with 4 6 pdr AT guns and Lloyd Carriers
1 Scout patrol with 3 Bren Gun Carriers
1 Anti-Tank platoon (SP) Royal Artillery with 4 Achilles
1 Tank platoon (4CLY) with 3 Cromwells and 1 Sherman Firefly
1 Battery (SP) Royal Artillery with 8 Sexton and FOs in Shermans

Total: 1750 points

We played the Encounter scenario as each side consisted of mobile forces and it was different from the normal Hold the Line mission. The Brits won the initial dice roll and selected the side to defend on.
The Brits deployed their Sexton Battery (of course!), a Motor platoon, the MG platoon, the AT gun platoon and their HQ. The other two Motor platoons, the Cromwell and Achilles platoons with the carriers remained in reserve.

Elements of the 7th Armoured Division deploy to repel the Hun.

The Germans deployed the 1st Panzer zug, the Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier platoon, the Nebelwerfer section and the HQ. The other panzer zug, the Tiger and the scouts remained in reserve.

German panzers gun their engines as they prepare to engage the British.

The Germans won the die roll and got to move first. As this was an encounter battle, all teams are considered moving at the beginning of the game.

Turn 1:

German: Panzer Marsch! Not much to do but move toward the enemy, of which there are a lot. I need to keep my Nebelwerfer FO insight of the enemy, but I can’t really afford to lose him. I deployed him with the Panzergrenadiers (I left their halftracks back in the short term maintenance pool as I don’t think they do much for you in hedgerow terrain and I lost too many of them last game) which move toward the center of the board. Not quite knowing what objective to attack, the panzers move to the hedgerow along the main road going into town.

The hedgerow makes good cover for the panzers.

Brits: Tea time is over. All forces move toward the Jerry and look for good fields of fire. No reinforcements for a few turns so they will have to hold on against the bloody panzers until ours show up, which, knowing our tanks, might be a while. At least it’s the 4th County of London Yeomanry in support, old desert hands, and not those confused 13/18th Hussars.

The 1st Motor platoon and six pounders deploy to defend an objective on the British right flank. Did someone say "Snipe?"

British Sextons prepare to support the gallant riflemen.

Machine guns and the Company Commander guard the center objective.

Turn 2:

Germans: Every one moves toward the town as it seems like a good thing to do, and no one has a better idea. Everyone tries to stay spread out as they remember the last game with an 8 gun Sexton battery. Ugh. The 1st zug shoots at the Sexton FO Sherman and misses. The rearmost panzer of the 1st zug shoots at the 1st Motor platoon and misses as well. Not a good sign.

The 1st Motor platoon attracts attention from the 1st panzer zug while the 2ic notes their inability to actually hit anything.
Brits: The MG platoon digs in at the hedgerow, while the 1st Motor platoon and the 6 pdrs try as well but fail. Various Sexton sections shoot barrages at German panzers but fail to hit, much to the chagrin of the FO and company commander but to the relief of the panzer abteilung commander.
The MG platoon digs in. Deep.
Turn 3:

Germans: The first turn for reserves! Apparently mine are lost somewhere in the accursed French road system, which is not surprising. Everyone moves into town with the panzergrenadiers occupying some of the houses while the nebelwerfer FO tries to get a decent LOS to the British HQ. The 1st panzer zug tries to repay the Sexton FO for the last turn by turning his Sherman into a flaming hulk but manage to miss. Other panzers in the 1st zug shoot at the British HQ platoon and kill the 2ic stand. The Nebelwerfer FO calls down a barrage that kills a mortar stand, pinning the rest of the HQ platoon. Not a bad turn, even without reserves.
Panzers and panzergrenadiers mill about smartly in the town, trying to keep spread out and survive.
Brits: No reserves. Not surprising, but I had better give the Brigadier a call. The HQ unpins and digs in, and the 1st Motor platoon and the six pounders try again and fail again. Attempts to call in artillery support result in misses or failures to range in. The gunners must have been restocking their supplies. There ARE a lot of Jerry tanks out there, aren’t there?

Turn 4:

Germans: No reserves! Herr Hauptsturmfurhrer is not happy. On the other hand, since he can’t figure out which objective to attack, it may not matter. The 1st zug splits its fire again and this time smokes the Sexton FO Sherman, which is the only thing the Germans manage to kill all turn. The Panzers mill about in the town shooting at the British MGs and HQ platoon but do not achieve anything. The nebelwerfers are also looking for some spare ammo or schnapps as they fail to range in.
The Sexton FO pays for his crimes as the 1st panzer zug scores.
Brits: The tanks are still lost somewhere. Even the Brigadier is unsure of where they are this time. The 1st Motor platoon and the six pounders finally dig in around the objective. The MG platoon PIAT team shoots at a panzer in the town and hits it, only to have the panzer roll a schurzen save, which almost makes painting the side skirts worth it. The Sextons fail to hit any panzers while the other section fails to range in.

Targets everywhere but British gunners fail to hit any of them.
Turn 5:

Germans: Achtung! The reserves have shown up! The Tiger, the scouts and the 2nd panzer zug all show up! It now appears that the center objective is the least well defended. Plus, no British reserves have shown up, so my force has the preponderance of combat power. The reserves move up as fast as they can (at the double) though the Tiger gets stopped by an inconvenient hedgerow.

German reinforcements add weight to the attack.
The 1st panzer zug moves down the road while leaving a section behind in town. The platoon commander and his trusty sidekick shoot over the hedgerow and kill a Sexton, which makes the British commander start to sweat. The detached 1st zug section shoots and kills a MG team. The panzergrenadiers move forward in the town houses, trying not to bunch up and get slaughtered by the British guns. The FO, now in a poor position, cannot get a clear LOS to the British stands. The panzer abteilung commander tries to contact the nebelwerfers but cannot get them on the radio. I am starting to put pressure on the British and may be able to get them to snap if I can force the MG platoon to break as my reserves move up.
The 1st panzer zug moves down the road to attack the Sextons.
Brits: The bloody tanks are still missing. And not in action either! No reserves show up which causes some consternation as the Jerries have all of their forces on the table. Not much to do but sit tight and shoot. The Sextons shoot a murder at the 1st panzer zug which kills the platoon commander’s panzer. The platoon commander then switches to the forward tank. The MG platoon PIAT team fires again and misses this time.
The 1st panzer zug commander loses his first panzer of the day.
Turn 6:

Germans: The reserves move to the sounds of the guns. I am somewhat concerned about assaulting the MG platoon in the hedgerows with just my panzers. The Panzergrenadiers are still in the town, and the progress of the battle has resulted in the FO no longer having a valid LOS to the enemy. Hesitation here is not good. I am loathe to lose my only FO to enemy fire, but he isn’t in position to do much good. Risk vs. gain is not maximized here. The 1st panzer zug moves up to shoot up the Sexton battery. Their fire is poorly coordinated (the Germans failed to prioritize their fire) and only manage to destroy a truck and a jeep for their efforts. The 2nd panzer zug now in range blasts away at the MG platoon and achieves nothing. The panzer abteilung commander fails again to contact the nebelwerfers as they fail to range in. I guess the supply situation is a lot worse than I thought. The panzer zugs both conduct a stormtrooper move to spread out in anticipation of the Brits shooting back with their artillery.

British gunners remain unperturbable despite fire from the 1st panzer zug.

A Tiger lags as the panzer scouts push ahead to assist the attack.

Brits: Hurrah! The cavalry arrives. Or rather, the 4CLY and other members of the previously geographically challenged 22nd Armored Brigade finally arrive. The Achilles and 2nd Motor platoons arrive in the Sexton battery location, while the Cromwell and 3rd Motor platoons arrive just to the rear of the center objective. The 3rd Motor platoon moves up to reinforce the Company commander while the Cromwells and Firefly move toward the hedgerow to shoot at the 1st panzer zug. The Achilles and 2nd Motor platoon also converge on the panzers, which are now in a sticky wicket to say the least. The Achilles shoot and destroy the 1st zug platoon commander’s new tank, which doesn’t do much for his morale anyway. A murder from the Sextons bails out another of the 1st zug’s panzers while the Cromwells miss. With two destroyed and one bailed out panzer, the 1st zug must take a morale check which, being Fearless vets, they easily pass. The MG platoon fires away at the panzergrenadiers in the houses but fail to kill anything.

British reinforcements arrive after being lost and confused.

The 1st panzer zug commander loses his next panzer.

Turn 7:

Germans: The 1st zug platoon commander goes to the bailed out tank and gets him to mount up again. Now on his third tank, the untersturmfuhrer decides to reposition substantially to the rear. The panzer abteilung commander finally gets through to the nebelwerfers and calls down a barrage on the British company commander and MG platoon. The barrage destroys two MG teams and a bren gun carrier, pinning the MG platoon. The panzergrenadiers joined by the 2nd panzer zug also fire away at the MG platoon and fail to hit a thing other than the hedgerow. The Tiger, a slow tank, moves up to support the 2nd panzer zug near the town. It would have been a good turn to assault the British MG platoon, but the panzergrenadiers are still in various houses in the town, defending against a nonexistent British attack instead of being where they need to be. The scouts at the hedgerow dismount and vault over the brush, hoping that the 1st Motor platoon doesn’t shred them.

The 1st panzer zug repostions to better ground.

The scouts move forward over very open ground.
Brits: No reserves again, but all that is left is the carrier patrol With the 1st panzer zug running away, the British armor tries to move up and cut the panzers before they can get away. With 3 Cromwells, a Firefly and 4 Achilles, they should be able to destroy the Germans. What the bocage gives it takes away and the Brits have a hard time concentrating their combat power. The Achilles move up but can’t get in position to get a shot off. The Cromwells hit and destroy another panzer, but the pesky SS pass another morale check even though they are down to one tank. Twenty five pounder fire from the Sextons is sporadic. The FO with the 3rd Motor platoon calls down a barrage that bails out a panzer from the 2nd zug, while the company commander can’t get through to make a trunk line call. The 1st Motor platoon PIAT team fires and misses.

The Achilles platoon and 2nd Motor platoon move around the German flank.

Cromwells of the 4th CLY pursue the retreating panzers.

Turn 8:

Germans: Ahhh . . . a plan might be nice, especially seeing as to how the British reinforcements have massed on my right flank. My opportunistic attempt to blast the Sextons has proved to be a waste of panzers and TIME! Instead of concentrating on either objective and blasting my way to victory while the Desert Rats were lost on some French road, I let them recoup and bring up a LOT of combat power on my weakest flank. Time to develop a schwerpunkt and go after an objective. The one on my right flank, currently guarded by the 1st Motor platoon and the six pounders is the farthest away from the massed British armor. My remaining panzers occupy a central position in the town. If I can concentrate on the relatively isolated British force there, I may be able to eke out a victory. Maybe.

As such, the brave scouts need to move up and fast as I have little available infantry. They double-time across the fields toward the hedgerow occupied by the 1st Motor platoon. The nebelwerfers again fail to range in. The 2nd panzer zug remounts its bailed panzer and blasts away, killing a PIAT and MG team while pinning the Brits, much to the joy of the double timing scouts. The panzer abteilung commander fails to hit anything but the Tiger kills another MG stand. The panzergrenadiers in the town shoot and kill the platoon commander, causing the 1st Motor platoon to route along with its attached FO. The panzergrenadiers also shoot at the British company commander but miss. So far, so good. Next turn, the six pounders!

The British antitank guns are surrounded by German panzers and scouts! Their days are numbered!
The 1st zug falls back to the town road and tries to hold the flank as the German objective there is undefended otherwise.

British: Losing the 1st Motor platoon was NOT part of the plan. The plucky six pounders will have to hold by themselves. But up against 5 panzer mark IV Hs and a Tiger, the odds don’t look good. The Bren gun carrier patrol arrives as the last reserve, but the carriers are on the other side of the board with the Sextons, pretty much where they are needed the least. The company commander finally unpins after being stuck in his foxhole for a few turns. The armor moves up the road (or at least tries to as the Firefly bogs down while trying to cross the hedgerow) and the Cromwells shoot at the panzer HQ, bailing out the 2ic. The Achilles and the 2nd Motor platoon move around the large farm complex toward the tempting objective. It is far away though, and the panzers are close to a British objective. The Achilles fire on the 1st panzer zug and miss. Artillery and MG fire on the German forces in the town are ineffective.
It is up to the antitank gunners dug in at the objective. Despite being harried by fire from 6 panzers and the scouts, they are not harried. Twelve shots from the six pounders destroy 2 panzer mark IV Hs, much to the German commander’s chagrin. The 2nd panzer zug passes a morale check, but it has been seriously reduced in power.

Six pounders are more than a match for Panzer Mark IV Hs. Give the platoon commander the Military Cross!
Turn 9:

Germans: Losing 3 panzers is not a good thing especially as British armor is on the scene. Still, I can mass the remaining panzers to overmatch the six pounders. The Tiger repositions to shoot at the Cromwells moving toward the town and promptly misses. The panzer Mark IV Hs all fire on the British antitank guns and miss. The nebelwerfers are busy scrounging rockets again and don’t range in. The panzergrenadiers and scouts fire at the dug in guns but also fail to kill anything. Even worse, the guns aren’t pinned. Still, the scouts go over the top of the hedgerow to assault the guns. This turns out poorly. Defensive fire from the guns kills two MG stands though the scouts pass their morale check. They then assault and kill a gun, but cannot enjoy their moment of glory as the antitank gunners counterattack and destroy the remaining scout stand. Ouch again. This really has been a bad turn.
Last known picture of the soon to be eliminated panzer scouts.
The Tiger stares down the advancing Cromwells.
Brits: Righto! The Company commander is very happy! The Achilles and 2nd Motor platoon move up towards the open German objective, though the Achilles platoon commander manages to get stuck in a hedgerow, stopping forward movement. The 3rd Motor platoon moves across the field to the hedgerow near the moribund 2nd panzer zug. The Cromwells, somewhat apprehensive with a Tiger shooting at them, zip through the town and destroy the last 1st panzer zug mark IV on the way. The German objective is wide open now. The Company commander, in his euphoria, calls down a murder on the remaining 2nd zug panzer, failing to get out of the blast template. The murder is VERY effective, killing the last panzer of the 2nd zug. Unfortunately it also kills the company commander as well. He started the turn very happy and ended it very dead.

Perhaps the last sight of the British Company Commander: the last panzer in the 2nd panzer zug burns.

4th CLY Cromwells find Panzer mark IV Hs an easier targer than Tigers.

Turn 10:

German: Things are really awful, and it is all my fault. I am down to the 2 panzer Mark IV Hs of the HQ zug, a Tiger, and the panzergrenadiers scattered about in the houses of the town. And the nebelwerfers, who have not been exactly a sterling unit this game. The six pounders are just too nasty to deal with, even if they have lost one gun. With time running out, the panzergrenadiers move out of their positions toward the hedgerow where the British MG platoon has been since the game began. If I can assault the MG platoon and then take the objective, I may be able to still win. Even if I don’t deserve to.

The panzergrenadiers are going to take a turn to get into position to assault, so the panzer HQ zug uses its turn to blast away at the six pounders, killing another gun and pinning the platoon, about a turn too late. The Tiger moves to engage the Cromwells from the rear and destroys one, proving that his Tiger ace skill was not wasted. The nebelwerfers again fail to range in, even though the FO is up in a tall house and can see most of the battlefield. Sigh . . .

A Tiger blasts away at Cromwells and manages to kill one.

Brits: The six pounders unpin though there are now only two left to guard the objective. It doesn’t matter as the Germans have learned not to mess with AT guns with a 3 ROF and an anti-tank value of 10. They bang away at the panzer abteilung commander but miss. The Firefly unpins and runs after his platoon commander. In town the Firefly stops to get a shot off at the Tiger, but misses as do its platoon mates. The MG platoon fails to unpin or cause any damage to the rapidly closing panzergrenadiers. With the loss of both FOs and the company commander, the Sextons need to move up or lose all relevance, which is not a good idea. Both British objectives are lightly guarded, but the German center objective is essentially open. All the Brits need to do is get there and survive any Tiger attack. Easy.

The Firefly approaches the Tiger with some apprehension.

Turn 11:

German: The Tiger takes a shot at the Cromwells and misses, taking a stormtrooper move to present its frontal armor to the Firefly. The nebelwerfers range in on the Cromwells and bail one out, which is mildly encouraging. The panzergrenadiers move up to assault the pinned British MG platoon across the hedgerow. This turns out to be anticlimactic, as the 2ic moves his Panzer Mark IV H over to take a shot and kills the MG platoon commander, routing the Brits. The panzergrenadiers leap over the hedgerow and appear to be in sole possession of the British objective. Gott in Himmel! I may win after all!
Panzergrenadiers prepare to assault the remnants of the British MG platoon.

Brits: Not so fast Hans. The 3rd Motor platoon makes a quick about face and runs toward the objective but cannot get close enough to contest it. They fire on the panzergrenadiers but cannot kill any teams. The remaining independent mortar team from the British company HQ can get within range, even if he can’t do much. The team enters the damaged house near the objective and vows to defend to the last casting

In the town, the Firefly hits the Tiger and bails it out, which is also good. It is now a race to see who can hold an undefended objective first. The 2nd Motor platoon moves toward the objective with of the Achilles while the other 2 are left behind still bogged in the hedgerows. Ugh. The Cromwell remounts and with the platoon commander hammer away at the Tiger, but it is futile.

The British are hanging on by a very thin thread. The mortar team in the house can only contest the objective, but against an SS panzergrenadier platoon it is not going to last long. The German objective is essentially open, if the Brits can get there and keep the Tiger away.

British force approach the undefended German objective.
Turn 12:

Germans: The panzergrenadiers move toward the objective, ready to assault the brave mortar team. One MG team that had been left behind to provide covering fire opens up on the British 3rd Motor platoon and kill the 2” mortar team. The panzer abteilung commander and his 2ic try to get over the bocage to join the panzergrenadiers and both promptly bog down. The Tiger remounts and fires and misses at the Firefly (a recurring theme in this game). The nebelwerfer score though, dropping a tight barrage that destroys the 2 Achilles and pins the 2nd Motor platoon. Great shooting, but it has to keep them pinned for a while so the Brits cannot reach the objective in time. The panzergrenadiers assault the brave independent mortar team and kill it. The Germans have an objective! But can they hold? The Tiger, getting annoyed with the pesky Firefly, conducts a stormtrooper move into cover.
Fanatical panzergrenadiers flush the British out of the white house near the objective, but the British 3rd Motor platoon moves up to contest the objective.

Brits: Another sticky wicket to be sure, but things are not hopeless. Yet. The 2nd Motor platoon leaves the smoking Achilles behind and go over the hedgerow, moving within 4’ of the undefended German objective. The objective is theirs, but can they hold it long enough? The Cromwells and Firefly shoot at the Tiger and miss. A Sexton shoots across the hedgerow and blast a panzergrenadier MG team to oblivion and the 3rd Motor platoon moves to assault the Germans on the objective. Initial fire is ineffective. German defensive fire only kills the 3rd Motor platoon’s 2’ mortar team, and the remaining riflemen pitch into the German lines, killing 2 MG teams in close assault. This shouldn’t be too hard to counterattack, but the Germans fail their morale check and break off, much to the German player’s annoyance. The British now contest this objective and have the German one free and clear.

Brave riflemen of the 3rd Motor platoon attack towards the contested objective and throw back the Germans.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Motor platoon holds its ground at the German objective (the bunker).

Turn 13:

German: This doesn’t look good, and it won’t get any better. There is little to do except attack everywhere and hope that Gott really IS mitt uns. The panzergrenadiers unpin and the panzer abteilung commander and 2ic unbog. The panzers stay across the hedgerow and fire at the 3rd Motor platoon but miss. No matter. The panzergrenadiers open fire and shred the British riflemen, killing 3 MG teams including the platoon commander. With the 3rd Motor platoon gone, the Germans have uncontested control of the objective.

It is for naught if they can’t rid the other objective of the pesky 2nd Motor platoon. The Germans need to kill everyone there in order to win, and that is a tall order, even for the Germans. The Tiger shoots and kills the 2’ mortar team which is a good start. The nebelwerfers, the German’s last gasp, ranges in but doesn’t kill anything, leaving the British in full control of the objective! The British claim a hard fought victory from the Germans. With forces and ammo running out, the Germans can only look bewildered wondering how they had managed to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.

British troops cheer for their hard won victory in the light of the 1st panzer zug's commanders burning tank. The recently deceased company commander will certainly be mentioned in dispatches.

Despite eliminating the 3rd Motor platoon, the panzergrenadier platoon commander has to deal with the agony of defeat.

Lessons Learned:

At the end of game turn 13 (whew!) I was somewhat nonplussed at how I had managed to lose. Writing this report, I am even more annoyed at my poor performance. The Germans deserved to lose. The Germans failed to concentrate on any objective, going right to attack the Sextons (which, while neat, was counterproductive), then left to attack the six pounders, and then finally up the middle. If there was any plan to the German attack it sure beats me. Opportunistic attacks are no substitute for a well thought out and violently executed plan. Maybe I should have kept the sdkfz 251s halftracks back at the other objective . . .
I also failed to use the special rules regarding the SS from the Cobra book. I am not sure if the panzer abteilung commander's panzer ace skill would have mattered, or if the panzergrenadiers would have won the last assault if I had used the "One way trip to heaven" rule, but it might have helped.

On the ohter hand, the Brits had to react to the German attacks, and while they made some mistakes, they made fewer ones. They massed their forces and overran the weak German flank. Their artillery fire was annoying as always. They always had some reserves to counterattack.

Nebelwerfers are great IF they can range in. I should have been a little more aggressive with the FOs, as the panzer abteilung commander did not do well calling in fire.

German losses included 2 full panzer zugs (7 Panzer Mark IV Hs) and half of a panzergrenadier platoon. The Brits lost 2 full Motor platoons, a HQ platoon, a MG platoon, a Sexton and 2 Sherman FOs, and a Cromwell. The British took more casualties here than in any other game. On the other hand, there are a LOT more spare Shermans available than Panzer Mark IV Hs. Monty would be proud.

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