Friday, July 29, 2011

Infantry Aces in Normandy part deux - Counterattack!

Following the somewhat demoralizing defeat in the first go around at the Douves River bridges, I wanted to reengage the Americans using some sort of counterattack mission. There is one of these on the nonofficial mission page so I decided to have a go with that using the 700 point forces from the second Infantry Aces turn. This mission may not have been a great choice. While it did allow me to use the same terrain set up with the Americans holding roughly the same terrain, it is pretty limiting in that all the defenders needed to do was to hold their ground and let the attackers bash their heads against fearless veterans behind hedgerows. This is not a good recipe for victory even on a good day. On the other hand, it is not too far off as the German counterattacks on D-Day weren't either determined or successful, even against scratch forces of paratroopers. And with the brave soldiers of the 91. Luftlande Division, perhaps success was possible.

Anyway, with only 200 more points to generate a force, I took the same company as before with an attached MG platoon. Then I added a 75mm infantry gun platoon, two 81mm mortars in the command platoon and two snipers. I hoped to use the MGs, mortars and 75mm infantry guns to pin the paratroopers and then overwhelm them with the infantry platoons. Since the mission uses scattered deployment, I couldn't be sure just where these forces would arrive, but since the defenders are really boxed in I didn't think it mattered much.

The cunning American player beefed his two infantry platoons up to two squads apiece plus 60mm mortar and bazooka teams, as well as adding a weak 81mm mortar platoon with two tubes plus a bazooka team and a sniper team for his command platoon. Not a great deal of change here, but when you have a Fearless Veteran force, its not necessary. Based on his previous performance, the company commander took the recon scout skill, though it didn't seem to help him much this game.

German forces regroup after the previous minor setback while Herr Hauptman harangues the assembled soldiers on the need to throw the invaders back into the sea.

Another view of the battlefield. The defenders will be massing around the bridge in the upper center of the picture.

US Paratroopers dig in around the objectives, the bridge over the Douve River and a destroyed Marder III objective, partially hidden by the foliage.

German troops surround the Allied bridgehead. The random deployment didn't seem to matter that much as the paras were basically holed up in a very small area and the Germans had the rest of the table. On the other hand, this made many of the American choices easy as all they had to do was stand and hold.

German infantry guns move up to support the attack. Their total contribution to the attack will be the expenditure of a fair amount of valuable ammunition without killing a single US team.

The MG platoon deploys in open ground to use their immense firepower to advantage. With a range advantage as well, these teams should be able to pin the US paras as the infantry zugs move up to assault.

German infantry peer over the hedgerows awaiting orders to assault the Americans. What is this about assaulting US Fearless Veterans?

Angriff! The Germans move out on turn 1, which is about the only turn where things go reasonably well. The MGs stay outside American range, but at a range where their ability to do much more than expend bullets and chew up the French countryside is limited.

Every zug moves forward to pinch off the American bridgehead.

Another view of the German initial assault. The 1st infantry zug and the infantry guns deploy. Herr Hauptman will spot for the 81mm mortars.

With this much combat power the Americans will be thrown back to the beaches! The 2nd and 3rd infantry zugs approach the objective.

Or maybe not. The 2nd US para platoon arrives in the road, somewhat overloading the area, and the US sniper is placed on the German flank. The 81mm mortar platoon also shows up, though it only has two tubes after a pretty miserable drop the night before. The Germans begin a desultory firefight with all of their teams and manage to pin the 1st para platoon and even kill a rifle team! Rolling 24 dice with a full German heavy MG platoon and not getting a kill is annoying.

US fire now pins the two infantry zugs nearest the bridge, halting their advance. On the German turn, the first sniper is deployed, but American troop density prevent the second one from entering in. This limits the German ability to pin the Americans, which is pretty important given that the German firepower advantage is not pronounced. Here the German sniper gets a few rounds off and accomplishes as much as the MG zug, that is, nothing.

The next four game turns are very frustrating for the Germans. The small area the defenders occupy and the difficult terrain make it difficult to make use of the available firepower. Plus, American snipers and mortars pin the infantry zugs and prevent forward movement. The US sniper kills a rifle/MG team in the 1st infantry zug, while the German sniper repays the complement by killing the company commander's bazooka team. Otherwise, a total of one other German team is killed. No one can make much progress without the added advantage of heavier artillery. By turn seven the Germans are still within range of the objectives, but are making no progress. Finally able to unpin the 2nd and 3rd infantry zugs, they move up to assault the American 2nd para platoon on the bridge.

Reminiscent of Burnsides' bridge the Germans swarm across the span and assault the Americans. This does not go well. The assault rushes back and forth for a few rounds as there isn't room on the bridge to get many teams to attack. In the end, the German assault is routed though the Americans also lose 4 rifle/MG teams. Fearless Veterans don't route though, which is more than the Confident Veterans of the 91. Luftlande Division can say.

The Americans move over the bridge to consolidate their victory.

The next turn the Americans continue their advance and assault into the remaining German infantry zug near the bridge. This is also bloody (for the Germans anyway). The Germans rapidly lose half their strength and rout, leaving no one near the objectives to contest them. The 1st infantry zug won't unpin and the MGs are too far away. The Americans win again.

Another defeat for my forces. Fearless Veterans are just miserable to dislodge in hedgerows. I could have moved my MGs up a bit closer to lose the greater than 16" firing penalty and I should have maneuvered my forces a bit better to make room for the sniper, but the main problem was just not being able to make firepower checks to kill anything I hit. Herr Hauptman may have earned an Infantry Ace skill, but he probably doesn't deserve it. The US commander will get another skill, which he probably doesn't need given his opponent.

The last game will feature another round of reinforcements up to 900 points on each side. I am going to shift the terrain a bit to give the Germans a little more room to maneuver. I even hear the resolute men of the 100. Panzer Ausbildungs und Ersatz Abteilung may make an appearance as the Germans shift their schwerpunkt. If they can get their Panzers running, which is always a good question.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Infantry Aces Visits Normandy

There is nothing like a major wargame convention to motivate you. The great sights and shopping at Historicon this year did that once again, and I came home fully intending to paint more houses and Germans to do the Villers Bocage scenario. The houses are moving along (mass producing seven French row houses isn't for the unmotivated) but until then its back to Normandy with my usual cast of characters in the much less than elite 91. Luftlande Division. These confident trained troopers are called upon once again to resist the never ending Allied invasion.

We used the Infantry Aces construct from the latest Battlefront missive, Cassino, as the forcing function for the size of the scenarios. This method has one start out with 500 point forces, then escalates to 700 and then 900 points. This increase allows one to replicate the initial US paratrooper invasion as the paratroopers were spread to hither and yon and took some time to mass their forces to attack their objectives. As time went on, more "lost" soldiers found their way back to their units. On the German side, the initial response was confused as senior leaders were away on wargaming business (how ironic!) or killed in the early hours of D-Day, limiting the command and control of the available units.

Our first game (500 points) thus had a US Paratrooper force with one full strength platoon and one reduced strength (with 2 squads) up against a full company of Germans with 3 infantry platoons and a MG platoon under the always intrepid Hauptman Cothen. We played the Seize and Hold mission from D-1 as a suitable scenario to show the early attempts of the American paras to take some of the bridges over the Douve River to protect the flank of the invasion.

The peaceful French countryside.

A closer view of the bridges over the Douve River.

Looking north. Infantry Aces only uses a 4' x 4' area for the first scenario, but I wanted to make the area larger for incorporation in the next scenarios where you go back to the standard 6' x 4'.

The Germans put the 1st infantry zug and the MG zug around the main bridge. The P-47 has made a crash landing as an objective, only to lose that status before the game begins. The other bridge is unguarded which is going to hurt really soon. The Company commander and 2IC also mass at the bridge and have a large draught of schnapps. Invasion? What me worry?

German units begin the game pinned for the mission. It is also night as the game begins.

US paras arrive and rapidly move at the double through the hedgerows towards the undefended bridge.

The German Command teams stay pinned as the schnapps takes a while to wear off.

Its a race for the bridge as the 1st infantry zug leaves the warm cover in the bombed out houses and moves to contest the rapidly moving US paras. The German MGs did in around the bridge. Herr Hauptman Cothen remains pinned despite his orderly's frantic attempts to wake him up.

More US Paras arrive and move towards the first bridge.

The 1st para platoon takes cover in the hedgerows prior to contesting the undefended bridge.

German reinforcements arrive as daylight breaks. Herr Hauptman is still trying to find his boots and remains pinned.

The 2nd para platoon leaps over the hedgerow and moves down the road.

Germans and US paratroopers begin to contest the bridge with a drawn out firefight. The Americans score a lot of hits but the Germans save rolls are amazing.

The 2nd para platoon figures out that attacking the bridge against a German MG platoon may be costly and moves across the hedgerow to support the 1st para platoon.

The firefight at the bridge continues.

Achtung! More German reinforcements arrive. The 3rd infantry zug moves in to surround the Americans.

Meanwhile the 2nd infantry zug pushes in to attack the 2nd para platoon.

The firefight continues. The 1st infantry zug loses a stand and is pinned.

The 2nd US para platoon gets fire from the MG platoon, the now functioning (barely) German SMG command teams and even the 1st infantry zug at the contested bridge.

The 2nd para platoon loses 5 stands, takes a morale check, fails and routes. The Germans at this time have lost only 1 stand. Visions of victory (somewhat hazy to be sure, as Herr Hauptman is still moving slowly and has his boots on the wrong feet) dance through the German commander's head.

The firefight continues and the 1st Zug loses another stand.

The US commander encourages his soldiers to fight on even as it looks like the bridge is becoming an 'Alamo' type engagement and he isn't a Mexican.

Things are looking good for the Germans. All three infantry zugs are firing at the Americans or moving up to contest the objective. The MG platoon fires at the paras from the other bridge.

. . . and then, things begin to go wrong. The 1st infantry zug loses another stand and has to make a morale check which they fail and rout off the table, leaving no one to contest the objective. The Americans, having lost only three stands are now starting to even up the fight. The 3rd infantry zug bounds across the fields to get close enough to assault. Its desultory fire manages to pin the paras as it bounds up to the hedgerows.

The confident grenadiers go over the top and promptly fail to kill a single para stand, which is really unfair.

The Americans counter attack and kill all three German stands. Gott in himmel!

The 3rd zug is now down to one stand but amazingly enough does not break.

The zug commander feels a bit alone as this zug evaporates in the assault.

Failing their stormtrooper movement, the 2nd infantry zug cannot contest the objective. The Americans win!

This loss was distinctly annoying in that having rolled so well for 7 turns, when I really needed a good roll in the final German assault I failed miserably. The Americans then made a great roll and killed half of my platoon. Leaving one objective uncontested was a risk, but one I thought was manageable given the small size of the US force. Poor decision once again.

Based on their perfomrnace, the US commander will get an upgrade for the second scenario. The German commander gets nothing.