Tuesday, April 25, 2017

BATREP: Somewhere in Normandy 1944

It's been just over a year since I played my last miniatures wargame - so my gaming life is barely registering a pulse. To top matters off, I am extremely likely to be getting posted to the Pacific in five weeks for a period of not less than two years so the pressure was on to get a game in so I can still call myself a wargamer. So, it was my great mate Grant's choice and he opted for Rapid Fire WWII Northern Europe in 20mm. Who could argue?
Shot taken from Church side - what became the German entry point.
A panic set it when I realised I had thrown all my old-fashioned chip board terrain tiles away without yet having replaced them. So as I was hosting, it was off to Spotlight haberdashery: cloth bought, pieces sewn together and then sprayed four different colours care of my trusty compressor and spray-gun. The rest of the features had been made and slowly accumulated over the years and before I knew it, I was ready to rock'n'roll.
Thunderbolt strafes deploying infantry company, taking some casualties.
We determined to play with potential forces up to supported battlegroup size but as usual, randomised if and when elements came on per turn.

The Scenario
The town was ostensibly held by US Paratroopers (up to battalion strength) who had dropped in overnight and the Germans were scrambling together a response force to eject them before sufficient Allied elements crossed the battlefield and pushed further on to the next strong-point. Each turn both sides rolled 4-6 (d6) to get an element on table - if failing, the odds increased in subsequent rounds until successful, then the odds commenced over for the subsequent elements and so on. Only one element could arrive per turn. Each element (company usually) had a arrival number which was also diced for - if one of us diced for a unit already arrived - too bad, we lucked out. We also randomised entry points across the table edges divided into eighths - once secured for the first time that player owned that entry point and the opposition must roll for another. So, we didn't know if or when we would be reinforced, by what (exactly) and from where they would arrive.

Grant diced for the Allied cause and he achieved first blood swiftly with a successful strafing run over my first arriving motorised infantry company.
Glider born jeeps with infantry following up race to the bank (left).
We both succeeded in a semi-regular dribble of reinforcements. My Germans came in initially on the table edges at the church and the adjacent fields whilst Grant's glider born supports came burning up the main road right into the centre of town - gutsy play but it paid off as he beat me to his respective cover and opened up a covering fire from the roof-top of the bank (grey building).
That bloody dive-domber again!
I determined to concentrate my forces when they arrived about the church and worked my way to the other side of the road. My Kampfgruppe HQ arrived early and tore up the road, came screeching to a halt and decamped immediately into the blue building. The total Allied air-superiority made itself felt but was shot down by my Flakpanzer 38t thanks to what prove to be some consistently heroic dice rolling by this otherwise famously Unlucky General.
Innocent looking Hotel and an invitingly open flank.
I was starting to enjoy the upper hand in reinforcements with a company of infantry arriving at the church which I crossed right over the road to flank wide. An MG company arrived at the field to the right of the main road on what had become my side of the table edge. I off-roaded my HQ armoured cars past the CO taking cover and observation from the blue building, hooking the cars right ahead of my flanking infantry toward the above hotel.
Nasty surprises is what recce unit are for - I suppose.
 At the start of the game Grant had up to four US Paratrooper companies assigned to this location with orders to hold it. His consistently appalling dice rolling saw to it; however, that he commenced the game with only one - the rest being mis-dropped - but the company that was here was concealed. Who knew they be at that damned pub? ... well not me, obviously. A sharp engagement ensued when contacting with my recce car and a missed bazooka round caused me to throw into reverse rapidly. I withdrew to a safer distance and engaged in sustain machine gun fire on his occupying paras. Over the next three to four turns adequate casualties were inflicted to thin down the para company, his survivors escaping out the back. So, the flank was finally mine after all.
Achtung Panzers!
Or so I thought. To my shock and utter horror, a troop of Cromwell tanks including a close support variant appeared - a drastic game-changer. I had virtually nothing on the right to stop them. The only assets available to me were my artillery which had arrived by this time on my far left - a 105mm howitzer and a 150mm SIG 33 SPG.
A shaky flank prepared for infantry assault - not tanks!
Prior to starting the game we agreed the hedge-rows would be randomly breechable or impenetrable bocage - to be determined on contact. Wouldn't you know it but fate was with the Allied armour as they were able to crash through the single obstacle between them and my vulnerable infantry with only a 1d6 movement penalty.  Things were getting desperate quickly. The only thing holding my forces together was my dice rolling and I managed to lay down smoke from my 81mm mortar which saved my now retreating armoured cars from annihilation.
A mighty and timely brew-up
Just after the Cromwells started clearing the hill of my troops, my HQ company from their vantage of the blue building called in some IDF from my two guns and one of them hit it and then KO'd it on a d6 roll. A subsequent and abominable morale roll by Grant sent them packing two full moves to the rear leaving the way open for me to cross the open ground and push onto advanced cover. This episode also reminded me I need to revisit my effects markers - I can do a lot better than that!
Field of death
Meanwhile the left flank was active also. I had an armoured infantry company arrive on my far left so pushed it to the end of a large and long crop. Covering their advance, the Hanomag took up an over-watch whist my infantry moved cautiously forward. In no time the second third of the British relief force arrived in the form of two armoured infantry companies, further supported by a company of US paras who revealed themselves at point blank from behind the hedge. A fierce firefight ensued, I even lopped a stick grenade or two but not a single German reached the end of that field or made it back to the vehicle.
Before I knew it, the surviving tanks were back but by than time my extreme right was secured by my support company and a PAK75 ATG now nestled in good cover. Splitting their advance, the CS Cromwell went to breach a standard hedge row lining the central road when contrary to my wildest expectations, I repeated the same IDF trick, laying down a cripplingly effective barrage and knocked it to a burnish stand-still. I didn't know my dice even had it in them.
Fight-back
Having relocated his glider infantry toward the hotel, my advance there was checked. This time Grant's bazooka found it's mark on my other car. Small arms through the field to their front and from the other car to their flank saw the glider infantry suffering heavy casualties.
Although now suffering two vehicles lost, Grant's remaining Cromwell did not break but at least he withdrew it to regroup in the rear ... thank heaven for small mercies. So, I was taking the ground but paying a price for it. Little did I know the game was about to be decided on the other flank.
The final and decisive play.
After the massacre in the left flank field, Grant's realised (not immediately) that the had an open run hard down my extreme left flank for his British armoured infantry. Carried in half-tracks with mounted .50 caliber machine guns they only had a single, unsupported 105mm gun before them - my mistake. Realising what was up, I desperately deployed my Flakpanzer and turned my SIG33. If Grant was to get just one element of the Brits off the opposite table edge to their entry points, they would link up to the next zone and game-over. I had one turn before they were off so I opened up with everything I could muster. Well, my luck finally took a turn for the worse and I missed with everything. Even a blocking manouvre by a Hanomag would hold him up. He easily eliminated the opposing gun crew and pushed on - so the battle was both won and lost.
We played a second game the next day (Anzac Day) which I also lost very badly indeed. I lost so badly in fact that I capitulated by about turn 10. It came down to a very poor choice on my part for an order of reinforcements - tragically poor in fact, but it made for a couple of nice photos of which the following is one.