26 July 44

“If You Survive…”

This game is based on George Wilson’s first day of combat as a new 2nd Lieutenant in the 22nd Regiment as told in his book of the above title. On the second day of Operation Cobra, his platoon (with a tank platoon of the 3rd Armored Division) is ordered to enter/secure the town of St.Gilles from the west side after the main column is held up on the north. The German forces in defense consist of elements of the Panzer Lehr and 275th Divisions scrambling to stem the tide of the American penetration. The rules used are “Chain of Command” by TFL with 15mm miniatures. The table is 5.5′ x 7′ and is a rough attempt to represent the terrain to the west of the town.

The scenario is ‘Hasty Defense’ from the ‘Blitzkrieg 1940’ supplement (modified slightly), with the Americans tasked with clearing two of the three town zones (north, center, south) and exiting a unit off one of the respective paved roads. A morning visit by P-47 fighter-bombers made some dents in the town and surrounding countryside (‘Stuka’ rules applied from supplement).

The U.S. deployed a squad and tank to the right and moved down towards the stream, while an M20 scout car raced up the road in the hopes of capitalizing on the bomb-shaken nature of the Germans as the 76mm-gunned Sherman kept watch on things ahead. A MkIV saw the scout car and thought a burning hulk might help squelch American morale and took the risk of nosing out to take a shot.

Unfortunately for the German, the shot only scared the crap out of the M20 commander, while the return overwatch fire from the Sherman made short work of the panzer…

On the right, the Americans made slow, steady progress down to the stream…

The Germans -having failed in the tank fire exchange on the road- gambled on hitting the Americans here and opened fire with a MMG dug into the corner of the hedgerow, along with a supporting section with two LMG teams and -while they’re at it- a panzerfaust round at the Sherman.

The MG fire caused some casualties, but was not as decisive as the German hoped, and while the tank driver was killed and the crew shaken the Sherman was still in the fight.

The reaction by the Americans on the exposed Germans was brutal: A fresh squad up the hill, the tank platoon leader’s M4, and the M20 (who, after recovering from its brush with the MkIV, turned off the road to the protection of the smithy) all added their fire to that of the squad and tank at the stream. The poor Germans got in a bit more fire, but soon broke for the rear, carrying their knocked-out leader and leaving behind four of their comrades. Morale fell hard.

Back up on the road, the Sherman moved forward slowly while the commander kept a close watch on the town ahead. A pak40 opened fire from the corner of a garden on his left, but caused only a glancing blow. The tank’s return fire was much more deadly, killing three of the gun crew. There was no time for celebrating a win, though, as a second MkIV (which had deployed out of sight to the north of his burning comrade) crept out to take a shot.

The American was quicker on the draw and fired first (player used a CoC die to interrupt) but missed. The German shot hit but didn’t penetrate. The duel wasn’t over, though, as the German interrupted the American in the subsequent phase and scored a solid hit, brewing up the Sherman.

No celebration for the Germans, though, as the turn ended and the subsequent loss of morale from the routing of the MG team and the section (with the wounded leader) meant the game was over.

situation at the end of the game

I intend to give the scenario another go and see if the Germans can hold out a bit longer – if for no other reason than to justify the time spent building the table! ; )

Once more unto the breach…

The Jump-off Points set for the second game. The Americans shifted slightly to their right, with a JOP down at the stream. The Germans have one forward in the center again, but have pulled back on the flanks a bit.

spoiler alert! Yes, that thing on the road looks suspiciously like an M20 on its side…oops

The Americans begin with each platoon (infantry and armor) rolling a double phase. The green Lieutenant comes on across the stream with a squad, while the scout car races up the road (like last time: hoping to shut down the forward JOP, but fell short by 1″). The tank platoon takes the opportunity granted by the dice to deploy everything, hoping to take advantage of the P-47’s disruptive effects and get well in before the Germans have a chance to react.

The Germans had been planning to keep their powder dry this time and not stick their noses out to get shot, but… A MkIV commander noticed that the M20 had come far enough up the hill to block the LOS of the Sherman on protective overwatch* and couldn’t resist the temptation. No explosion resulted, but a satisfying wreck that blocked the road was a good enough outcome…especially when the 4-point drop in American morale is considered!

The German infantry chose to play along after rolling a double phase themselves. Noticing that none of the tanks had LOS (yet) to the JOP at the wall on their left, the U.S. squad at the stream was on their own for the moment. A section of two LMG teams deployed at the wall and opened fire. Four consecutive phases later (the result of three double-phase rolls!) the U.S. squad was on the verge of being pinned and the squad leader was wounded. Not the decisive result hoped for by the Germans (no kills and no effect on morale), but not bad.

A couple game notes: 1) Per the ‘Stuka’ rule (which I forgot to mention in game one) the Germans deployed with 3 points of shock which the leader was able to remove over the course of the phases. 2) I know allowing multiple, consecutive phases of firing such as this has been debated. I view/interpret such occasions as representing the equivalent of a single, very effective round of fire, the great impact of which (ie: shock and KIAs) reflecting the severity/success of the attack and not representing the target taking multiple phases of fire.

The U.S. Lieutenant and wounded Sergeant of the 1st squad rally a bit of the shock, and the 3rd squad deploys into the stream to help share the trouble. It’s a good thing they do. The Dice Gods then double down on my ‘this is how I view consecutive phases of fire’ as the Germans pour four more rounds of fire into the area. The troops in the stream are out of LOS so the three kills fall on the rifle team of the 1st squad as well as knock out the Lieutenant, but sharing out the shock keeps the original squad from breaking. Still, it’s not a fun time in the stream and morale falls to 4.

After rallying off some shock, the 3rd squad moves slowly up the stream out of sight of the deadly MG fire.

Up in the center, the 76mm-gunned Sherman moved over a titch to line up the MkIV and got revenge for the M20. No explosion, but the Germans bailed out in a hurry, so ‘Good enough’, and the German morale fell to 6. The platoon leader then ordered the two tanks on the road to join him in a steady advance while the #1 tank continued down the hill in the hopes of getting line-of-sight past the trees to the Germans at the wall, but no joy.

The Germans had thought to pull back from the wall, end the turn (and the deployment hindrance/shock of the Stuka rule), and prepare for a last-ditch stand in the town. Instead, sensing the opportunity the wavering American morale presented, chose to stay put and pour more fire onto the first U.S. squad and use their CoC die to ambush the first Sherman with the Panzerschreck team from behind the smithy.

The MG fire from the wall managed to pin the U.S. squad down by the stream, but the ambush failed miserably (the German team rolled snake eyes…”I thought you loaded it!” “No, you told me You did!”). Undaunted, the Germans decided to deploy a second MkIV on the road, taking advantage of the fact that the American tank commanders were busy with not driving into each other and not watching out for trouble as well as the M20 wreck which blocked LOS for the 76mm-gunned Sherman.

The shot was on target, but bounced. In their phase, the U.S. infantry platoon sergeant came on to sort the mess in the stream while the tank platoon leader got on the radio to do the same up on the road, and it looked as though they would emerge from the flurry of attacks during the German phase relatively unscathed, but… the Germans weren’t done, yet. The MkIV used a newly obtained CoC die to interrupt the orders being given by the American tank platoon leader and send a second round down range on the same target: result = boom-goes-the-Sherman, and the morale of the U.S. forces dropped to zero.

So the score for the scenario is now tied at one win each. For all the rules mistakes and poor tactics/decisions made it was a fun game. Dunno…I may give it another go… ; ) Here’s a shot of the end this time:

What If? -the difference table size makes

I enjoy the luxury of being able to game on a table that is larger than the ‘standard’ 4×6-foot. The 5.5 x 7 layout I have provides more than half again the surface area for a given scenario and – along with the use of ground-scale-figures – does a good job of presenting a picture of what sort of space is being represented. Besides the aesthetics, though, is the impact table size has on the game itself. I know this is very much stating the obvious, but I thought it of interest to post a photo of the same scenario if it were to be played as illustrated in the ‘Blitzkrieg’ supplement’ on a 4×6 table with the attackers entering on a long edge.

By moving the attacking edge up to the hedgerow on the west side of the orchard, the resulting Patrol Phase allowed the Americans to get a JOP right in the edge of town. The narrative this presents is, IMO, completely reasonable, and would result in a completely different game. Again: I know this is obvious, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to show/say so. ; )