CoC: Villers-Bocage Campaign Encounter 5
Attack and Defend (wherein we play cat and mouse):
Pulling back quickly after overstretching previously, the Sergeant Hardball decided to retire to the most defensible position available; the outskirts of Villers-Bocage itself. With the defenders set, all eyes were on the roads and fields waiting for the inevitable German advance. The town lay still…
Very much a manoeuvre and positional game this time around. With the table being split between light buildings and open fields it was going to be interesting to see who could get the positional jump on the other first…
Rolling support a 10 came up (I kid not, we were both present to witness these rolls). That gave the British 12 support points (half the 10 rolled as the defender plus the 7 difference between force ratings) and the Germans 10 support points. As defender I needed to protect my JOP’s as well as inflict cause some morale problems for the Germans. Tickling the back of my mind was the possibility of German armour, they needed to start showing up soon. As usual, we kept our support choices secret beforehand.
My main concern as the British player was tanks. In particular the German ‘big cats’. 10 support option offers a Tiger. The Germans also have a wildcard granting use of a Tiger. That could potentially be two Tigers on the table. I needed to at least consider that possibility. Knowing I outnumber Panzer Lehr I decided the men on the ground should be mostly sufficient, that left dealing with armour. In the end I selected a ‘Firefly’ from List 7 (unfortunately as this was June 1944 the Firefly had no HE rounds. Combined with no hull MG this made it very dedicated AT option), a Universal Carrier with a Bren Gun from List 3 to support the troops and a PIAT team (List 2) as backup AT duties (or given the chance, to ambush any armour)
Alex decided to use brute force and place all his eggs in one basket. The rumbling of a Tiger (List 10)could be heard in the distance..
Our game plans were simple. We were both using as much cover as possible. The British staying hidden where they can, the Germans tactically maneuvering to the British JOP’s.
Force Morale was again lopsided but really reflected the current state of the overall campaign. The Germans rolling a 6, not including the +1 for Elite status, gave a flat out 11 Force Morale. The Germans were here to capture that town and they firmly believed they would do so. The British rolled up a 1, giving them the lowest Moral of 8, which I have to admit would accurately reflect their experiences so far. (This time I did remember to determine the Force Morale correctly.)
I will say we did forget to use the Scenario Modifications for the campaign, but that is due to us both being a little rushed before the battle.
In this game, we were calling the road edges light cover as we envisaged them providing enough height to hide behind.
The game became very cat and mouse, even before the Tiger arrived. Lots of probing and chance attacks all filled with some bold moves…
The German force had initiative due to being the attacker and even though the patrol phase saw them pinned in the back quarter of the board, Lt Zuern knew that gave him a lot of cover to move protected through the town. Deploying Squad One into the centre of town to allow backup to either flank, Squad Two was sent to the Germans right flank to make their way towards the closest British JOP.
The British responded by deploying One Section into the building to get a good vantage point of the area, and Two Section to their right flank to control the open fields.
Light fire opened up across the fields and building corners. No real damage was done but there was enough for everyone to keep their heads down and send the German squads into cover.
The British mortar tried to send some smoke downfield to cover a British advance but were woefully off target and only served to cover the German advance instead.
With quick phase changes and the initial jostling for position underway, a fortuitous run of momentum saw the Second German Squad sprint to be within 4” of the JOP on the British left flank, rendering it unusable. Further activations saw the Squad move up to investigate the containers left behind. The universal carrier was called forward to help deal with this problem however as the little carrier rolled down the road, the German Panzerschreck team appeared from the hedge and destroyed it with one smoky trailed rocket.
The first game turn ended with the Germans clearly in command of the situation and the British losing their first JOP, being unable to rescue it (thankfully this was outside of the initial 18” deployment area otherwise it would have been game over!). The advance on Villers-Bocage was unfolding just as the Leutnant planned.
With the initial round of smoke now cleared, and Second Squad picking the British container clean, the distant rumbling came close as reinforcements arrived for the Germans. Lt Zuern smiled, a Tiger from Schwere SS‐Panzer Abteilung 101 had arrived. Victory was all but assured now. Nothing the British had would really pose a threat.
Announcing its arrival, the building One Section was hunkered down in suddenly filled with fire, dust and deafening noise as a shell from the Tiger impacted into its side. A quick head count saw no casualties but One Section were now extremely worried.
Unable to leave their post, having excellent fields of fire on the German advance, One Section stoically held their post in the building as shell after shell from the Tiger smashed into them, slowly whittling them down.
Three Section and Sergeant Hardball arrived to provide backup for One Section and head of a potential charge on the building by the German Second Squad who had raced down the left flank using the church as cover.
Seeing a potential weak spot, Two Section moved at the double down the right flank, seeing and open and somewhat exposed German jump off point. It was a long way, but if they could threaten the JOP it might force the Germans to break off some of the attack force to deal with the threat.
Seeing the Tiger creeping forward, Sergeant Hardball decided now was the time to bring on his specialists. Calling the Firefly, he commanded it to move down the lane parallel to the main crossroad. This would give the Firefly some cover as it found an advantageous firing position.
Recognising the threat, moving at high speed down the lane, Lt Zuern quickly barked orders to the Panzerschreck team and Third Squad to cover the flank of the Tiger. Taking up position at the building corner, the Firefly was subject to a barrage of fire. When the smoke had cleared, the crew looked around, and apart from ringing in the ears the tank was fine. No Damage! As the turret turned to find its target, the Tiger lay waiting, the crew could see the smoke puff, their hearts in their mouths. waiting for the inevitable. Collectively they breathed a sigh of relief, there was no impact. In its haste, the Tiger had missed!
This was their moment, an exposed Tiger and a 17 pdr pointed at it. The crew fired, direct hit! Even better, a weak spot was struck. Even with a solid impact to a weak spot, the Tiger armour was still strong and it held firm. Zero net hits meant the Tiger was now focusing exclusively on the Firefly.
After seeing One Section pinned in the building and reduced to zero combat effectiveness by the Tiger, Corporal Redfern scarpered from the building after doing everything he could to hold up the German advance in the centre of town. This gave the German First Squad an open path to the JOP in the house. Three Section and Sergeant Hardball had moved across the lane to cover their left flank from attack. This now left them too far away from the centre JOP to protect it properly.
A foot race began. Three Section was running for the far right German JOP and First Squad was racing down the centre of the town for the British JOP. They both arrived at the same time. Seeing that Villers-Bocage had been overrun by Panzer Lehr, Sergeant Hardball gathered up as many men as he could and sounded the retreat.
One of the longer games we have played, it was engaging from beginning to end. A quick start from Panzer Lehr knocked the British Force Morale around sufficiently to cause problems. By the time the British maneuvered to a superior position, it turned out they were too late and had lost too much.
Campaign Wrap Up
A much more even battle, it was only in the last few phases that the British position was completely compromised. It shows that even being under pressure and suffering setbacks, Chain of Command is still a game that does not give a foregone conclusion. With multiple ways to win a battle and the friction built in to the game system, you really are able to try a number of methods to achieve victory and claw back from the brink. Now granted, that didn’t happen this game, but I really did not feel out of the game until the last couple phases when I was reduced to 2 Force Morale.
The game lasted about 30 phases, completed in two turns.
The British were no match for the Tiger and played a poor counter game, not really learning from previous experience. They have surrendered the town to the Germans, lost some good men and have others scattered to the winds. All up there were 8 casualties (4 dead, 2 injured and 2 men able to get back to duty) and another 8 soldiers missing after over extending and having the lines of retreat cut off in this mission (2 soldiers died, and another 6 will miss the next game as they find their way back to base). This leaves the British in a very untenable position as they would be 14 men down for the next battle. Sergeant Hardball was called up to HQ for an interview without coffee. Both his performance, and the next move were being discussed…
British HQ were again not happy, the rating dropping by a further 1, down to a total of 0 (no additional effect). The men are extremely weary and beaten, a couple lads went to the CO directly. Their rating was reduced by 3 again to a total of -8 (a -2 to Force Morale rolls). They now consider Sergeant Hardball to be dangerous and as such his command range has been reduced to 6”
After the battle Sergeant Hardball was still a little cheerful, thinking it could have been much worse after having faced a Tiger. Even after his interview with no coffee, he is still content, feeling he minimised casualties.
Lt Zuern never doubted. He never doubted his country, he never doubted his Fuhrer and he never doubted the cause. He also never doubted German ingenuity, hard work and determination. Above all else, the one thing he absolutely never doubted was German tanks.
Both HQ and the troops are in a good mood. The campaign to liberate Villers-Bocage after the initial occupation by the British is well under control. His scouts can see the British force fleeing for the hills in the distance. Lt Zuern and HQ are devising plans even now on how to deal with that.
HQ is happy. CO rating has gone up 1, to an overall -1. The troops are also happy, retaking the town was hard work, but in the end a casualty free endeavour. The men’s opinion has increased by 2, moving from 2, to 4 (+1 to the Force Moral Roll).
The Leutnant is downright merry. After claiming a cellar of wine and spirits he has been seen drinking long into the night with his NCO’s.
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