CoC: Villers-Bocage Campaign Encounter 6
Attack on an Objective (here we make our stand):
It was times like these Sgt Hardball missed his friend the most. Lt Falgard, had been lost since the beginning of the campaign and, now more than ever, he missed Uriah’s calmness and keen eye of the battlefield. Not all had gone well, many good men had been lost, but the German’s had felt their sting at times. Sgt Hardball could see Villers-Bocage, in the distance, from the cottage on the hill which was now being used as HQ. So many lives lost for a town. He knew the value, he just hoped it was worth the price. They were coming, that he knew. The Germans had them on the run but it was here they would take the stand. They would make their enemy pay for ever foot of land they wanted to claim, and above all, they would succeed.
Momentum was the key here, along with how to handle it. Move too quick and you risk over extension, move too slow and you miss your opportunity. Opportunity, then, it would come down to and who could make the most of it.
We decided that as this was a major assault, it would make sense for the German’s to bring everything they had, to try and inflict a major strategic defeat on the British. To this end we decided to use 10 support points. This gave the British 12 support points (half the 10 as the defender plus the 7 difference between force ratings) and the Germans 10 support points. We had also decided to both use our wildcards. This meant I was assured of facing at least one Tiger from Schwere SS‐Panzer Abteilung 101. Our support choices were kept secret as usual.
Once again, my main concern as the British player was tanks. In particular the German ‘big cats’. 10 support option offers a Tiger and I knew the wildcard was in effect potentially allowing two Tigers on the table. I needed to at least consider that possibility. With my replacements arriving I once again outnumbered the troops of Panzer Lehr and was able to make three large-ish Sections. I decided the men on the ground should be enough, and focussed on dealing with armour and area denial. I selected a reinforcement in the form of a 17pdr Anti Tank gun. This should at least make the German force wary and with its HE rounds could help out against infantry if needed. A Vickers MMG team, with an emplacement would allow me to set up the MMG in a prominent position on the hill. I had the addition of a free defensive fieldworks and decided on a minefield. Amazingly, in all the excitement and setup, I forgot to deploy it.
Alex went with more motorised options, a selection of fast moving support options anchored by a near immovable rock. The Tiger which helped cause the rout in Villers-Bocage was still rumbling on…
In addition a Pioneer Flamethrower team was granted the use of an SdKfz 251, this was backed up by SdKfz 250 with four man Recon Team. Finally an Adjutant was brought in to control the organisation so Leutnant Zuern could be in a better place to control the operation. This was, after all, his time.
I think the mission dictated the game plans. The British would try and hold the Germans back as much as possible, stopping them at all cost from over running HQ.
Force Morale somehow ended up lopsided once more. Again, it reflected the current situation of both sides. The Germans rolled a 5, adding the +1 for Elite status, gave a maximum 11 Force Morale. The Germans could sense victory, this was their right! The British rolled up 1, subtracting one for the opinions of the troops, gave a lowly Moral of 7. The British may be tired and beaten, but they knew their job. They began to dig in.
The German advance was a thing of speed and fury. Momentum was well and truly with them. The British has a little trick up their sleeve though, and the naval bombardment that was readied was called on by Sgt Hardball, striking the German forces as they began marshalling for the final advance. Hardball was hoping this would hamper and stagger the arrival of the German forces, and it looked like it was working, as only one SdKfz arrived. Hardball brought out two sections to cover the advance. The bombardment was giving him an excellent chance to put his men in the correct places and hopefully pick off the Germans in a piecemeal fashion.
Lt Zuern was a canny commander however. As the shells began landing, he could see the discord among his troops. Calling for cool heads, he positioned his troops in safe areas and waited for the bombardment to stop, although it was too late for the Pioneer team, they were already on their way (three 6’s were rolled on the second German activation, ending the turn and naval bombardment).
Having the Ace up the sleeve being taken out of play so early was a problem, but nothing Sgt Hardball couldn’t recover from. A challenge is what he liked…
Picking up from where they left off, prior to the naval bombardment, the Germans continued to have all the momentum (at this point there were on average 3 German phases per single British phase, this would last until the end of the second turn, about midway through the game).
Caught off guard, Sgt Harball made sure One Section, deployed forward on the right flank, and Two Section, deployed on the left flank in the bocage, both knew their lines of fire. Just as the Sections were in place, serious communications breakdowns began to occur within ‘O’ Group needing Sgt Hardball’s direct involvement to sort out. This was seriously affecting the support of One and Two Section (even when the British did receive a phase of play, command dice were rolled in such a way as to not allow any remaining sections or support groups to arrive).
The always aware Lt Zuern was surprised by the lack of British support elements, and that the HQ cottage was so lightly defended. Was this a trap? His intelligence officers indicated it wasn’t, still… what were the British doing.
Taking the opportunity, Lt Zuern rapidly brought up his troops. Squad 1 deploying, unnoticed, into the building in the centre of the board, took up careful position on the second and third stories and began plunging fire onto One Section. As One Section took cover, and Two Section tried to return fire on the German Squad, Lt Zuern called up his Recon team to back up the Pioneer team. He sent them both on a rapid advance down the British right flank. Squad Two was also brought up into a relatively open position next to the building, and Squad One.
The two German squads punished One Section who, without support, were quickly pinned in position and losing men rapidly. Corporal Redfern, who could see no other option, tried to save the remaining men and called for a hasty withdrawal. One Section quickly broke and ran from the front lines.
Seeing One Section break and two German transports encroaching their now undefended right flank, Corporal Jacobs refocussed Two Sections Bren Gun on the lead transport. As the German SdKfz crashed through a low hedge (parking on a JOP), the gunner opened fire. Unsure and worried by the fire, the German transport fell back slightly to try and break line of fire, then thinking better of it, moved behind bocage and out of sight completely (the LMG was successful on Zero Net hits twice, forcing the SdKfz back). By this time Jacobs could see Corporal Echs and Three Section moving up, maybe the communications issues were finally sorted.
Over the course of the next few phases, the British were able to bring up the remainder of the platoon, Three Section and the Mortar Team. The Vicker’s MMG gun team were having problems with their gun however, and it was taking time to get them into position and functioning. Sgt Hardball couldn’t wait any longer though, his men needed him out there, especially with One Section already routed. The Vickers Team would just have to sort it out by themselves.
As Hardball began issuing orders, a familiar rumble could be heard, the Germans had called up their Tiger. Surveying the field, Hardball sighed. Along with the Tiger, he was facing two SdKfz’s on his flank, and two German squads in good fire position. He allowed himself a small grin…
Lt Zuern, allowed himself to appreciate his success so far. As the Tiger from Schwere SS‐Panzer Abteilung 101 arrived, he knew it was all but over now. With two half tracks completely exposing the British right flank (sitting on a British JOP, denying it’s use and waiting to capture it at turns end), and his two squads in superior fire position, it was just a matter of time. That was when an ear shattering boom brought him out of his reverie
With the Pioneer squad in cover behind bocage, Sgt Hardball waited for the Recon SdKfz to roll just a fraction closer, calling for some smoke to cover the German firing lanes from the building. As it took the previous location of the Pioneer squad (on the British JOP), he pointed at the transport and yelled, “FIRE!”. The concealed 17pdr exploded to life, smashing into the side of the halftrack, completely destroying it. The surviving two members of the ambushed Recon squad prised themselves free from the wreckage, took one look around at the situation and broke, running from the field.
Allowing themselves a small cheer, the gun crew then reloaded.
Watching from the distance of the house, Lt Zuern saw it all unfold in slow motion. He was powerless to stop it. From behind the wreckage of the Recon SdKfz, the Pioneer transport emerged, intent on taking it’s objective. As it swung around the bocage, Zuearn could see the smoke from the firing gun and watched as the round penetrated the second transport, sending the vehicle up in a fireball, the remaining Pioneer team also running from the field. Anger crossed his face as he turned and headed downstairs.
Two down, the biggest one to go. Sgt Hardball, caught his breath. The 17pdr had saved his flank, and maybe, just maybe, put his force at an advantage. Seeing the German right flank was undefended, he sent Three Section forward, hoping to secure it.
Lt Zuern knew he had to retake control and slow the situation down. The Pioneer and Recon teams were taken by surprise. He wouldn’t let that happen again. Sending Squad Two forward, he then instructed them to wait behind a hedge and be patient. The smoke started to clear. As it did he spied the British Section making for his own right flank. This is it, he though. End game.
As both leaders played their cards, Zuern shouted Squad Two forward double time. They were not to stop until they were at the control point of the British right flank. At the same time Squad one was to provide cover fire on the remaining British Section, allowing the Tiger to get into better position.
Hardball meanwhile put on a great display of firepower, hoping to distract the Germans enough to allow Three Section to slip out undetected. All the while he was screaming for the Vickers team to get up here. As Three Section moved out, they came under intense firepower half way to their objective. MG-42’s and the Tiger’s HE rounds punished the squad. At the same time, the elite forces of Panzer Lehr were becoming hard targets for the remaining British forces. They had secured their objective, and moved out of sight behind the hill, just in time for Three Section to break from the field.
With both their flanks in tatters, and a busted Vickers MMG (it was never able to be called up), the falling British morale finally failed. Hardball could do no more than again signal the withdrawal.
There would be no taking of Villers-Bocage, but the war would go on.
A very intense game. A nice length in game turns, it was not long in real time, 2 1/2 hours. Completely engaging with some huge swings of fortune, all caused by rash moves and over extension of forces. The British right flank was hard fought, and changed hands a number of times. In the end, the Germans forces just did enough.
Game Wrap Up
A wildly swinging battle that saw the British morale drop from 7 to 0, and the German moral drop from 11 to 7. Even with the sort of swings we saw and the large German momentum in the early/ mid game, Chain of Command showed its balance, neither of us ever felt out of the game and while we keenly felt our losses, were always able to take advantage of the situations given to us, and reverse the situation.
The game lasted about 45 phases, completed in four turns.
The British were hobbled by their communication problems, with the Vickers MMG squad never arriving. The ambushing 17 pdr AT gun showed it’s worth, and while not hitting the Tiger (it missed one shot) it saved the flank.
The remainder of the British force have left the area of Villers-Bocage and are making their way back north towards Tilly‐sur‐Seulles.
Lt Zuern was happy. His troops were the best in the field and they showed it. The tanks he was able to call up were the best around, and they showed it also. In the end he was surrounded by the best, and he expected the best. It is exactly what he got. That, he knew, had won him the day.
Villers-Bocage was now in German hands again and he would make sure it proved a thorn in the side of any future allied advances.
A further post will be made in the near future giving the campaign wrap up.
More game pictures below: