CoC: Villers-Bocage Campaign Mission 3
Delaying Action (where catastrophe occurs):
After beating back the British probe the German forces felt a little under strength. Deciding to move back to Villers-Bocage itself, and resetting the defensive line, the Germans took control of the outskirts of town and waited…
Chain of Command, for me, just keeps going from strength to strength. The flow of the game, and the opportunities the rules present to the players, really make every game different. After the previous two games, one with massive casualties and the second with very few, Alex and I both expected a game somewhere in the middle. We were confident we in our knowledge and our forces. All that remained was to let the dice roll…
The support roll came up a 7, giving the British a whopping 14 support points and the Germans a measly 3. I really needed to make the most of these this time around. Again, even though we talked about the match beforehand, we kept our support choices secret.
I made the most of my support options and went for an M5 Stuart (played on the night by my Tetrach), Universal Carrier with Bren Gun, a Forward Observer (determined to get some use from them tonight) and a second 2″ mortar. I have found the amount of smoke that two mortars can deploy is amazing for blocking line of sight.
Alex, armed with a cunning plan, had decided on a flamethrower team.
Alex’s game plan was to secure a corner of the table and stay in cover to hold it, using the flamethrower team as either an emergency response team, a deterrent or in an ambush.
My cunning plan was to show the German forces how Forward Observers really work…
We both rolled well for Force Morale. The Germans with an 11, getting a boost due to his elite status. The British rolled up a 9, losing 1 for the status penalty due to his men’s outlook, for a total of 8.
(I just realised we have been determining force moral incorrectly, I thought the Elite bonus was added to the Force Moral result, instead it is added to the dice roll. I’ll remember that)
This gave the German forces the initiative with regards to Patrol Phase moves and jump of point placements. The British would have first phase based on the mission.
This was a game of the sorts I have never experienced before. It was so tense, where every decision was double checked. The game swung amazingly back and forth and we really did experience the sense of running with the momentum and using initiative to try and swing the balance of the game into our own favour.
The British really were pinned down to the centre and right flank, definitely not making the most of the patrol phase. I was concerned that I would have little option but to try and race across open ground if I wanted to move anywhere but in the forest. Starting the game with cautious deployment the British placed two section in the woods, out of sight and began the attempt to secure their left flank.
With the early momentum (three consecutive phases) the German’s slowly deployed their squads into a strong defensive position. Each LMG team set to overwatch, just waiting for the British to erupt out of the forest and bocage.
(I’ll mention at this time that the rules we decided to use for bocage on the night were similar to advanced rules for buildings. If you were behind them you could not be seen, if you used them for firing positions you couldn’t be seen until you opened fire or an enemy team saw you take up place there. We have since re-thought out our usage and will treat them like a hedge that blocks line of sight. If you are in contact with the hedge you can be seen, if you are further back you cannot. This means if you plan to cross bocage or use it as a firing position you run the risk of being spotted)
After regaining the command dice, the British found themselves in somewhat of a jam. The German forces were all set in bocage, their officers assigning fields of fire for overwatch, while the British were unable to bring forward the units needed to break the standoff, settling with deploying smoke to cover the planned advance down the left. A triple 6 was rolled by the Germans ending the turn and blowing away all the smoke and breaking the German concentration enough to remove the overwatch markers. Was this the break the British needed (this has been the first triple 6 we have witnessed so far oddly enough)?
After the lull, the German forces could see shadows moving through the first and reset their lines of overwatch. Finally the British support units made their way forward, first the Forward Observer (FO), then the M5 followed by the Universal Carrier. Due to the German setup, the British plan changed, the armour would push down the right flank, the infantry the left hopefully making the Germans choose between splitting and weakening their forces or leaving one side open.
At this time the momentum of the battle changed. The British, bolstered by the arrival of their support, started an aggressive push to try and force the Germans to reveal their positions (the British had 5 consecutive turns!). The Stuart and Carriers raced down the right flank, wary of the German panzerfausts but making a big push for the German jump off point hoping to reduce their morale a sizable amount. At the same time Sgt Hardball called up the FO with him and joined the Three Section concealed behind some bocage. The armour moved to within threatening distance of the German jump off point, making it unusable for the moment. In response the LMG team panzerfausts roared to life but the hasty shots missed their marks leaving the M5 to lock on to their positions behind the bocage. The Grenadier squads, seeing the threat pulled back. This saw the British make a mistake, they were extremely lucky to get away with it, it very well could have cost them the battle. The FO, spotting a nice looking patch of grass, called in the 3″ mortars. Understanding the urgency of the situation, needing to keep the momentum going, he called in the full barrage, forgoing the ranging shots. Unfortunately he called it short, the barrage moving 14″ closer to the British lines and falling on Three Section with the attached FO and Sergeant. In a lucky break, the section only accrued 2 shock, but were pinned.
This was the chance the beleaguered German forces needed (with three consecutive phases). Accruing three complete Chain of Command dice, the Germans used the ace up their sleeve, using two Chain of Command dice to consecutively ambush both British vehicles with their flamethrower team. This turned out to be a brilliant move and was disastrous for the British. Both ambushed posed enough of a threat for the crew of the M5 and the Carrier to bail out and run for it. No one wanted to be part of a roast that day. The Germans, in a bold move, managed to regain their jump of point and secure their left flank.
As the phases evened out again, a number of events occurred to set the final phases of the battle in motion. The FO, urgently calling the mortar teams to reposition the fire zone started marching the barrage back towards the German defensive positions. The German squads which had fallen back, decided to re-occupy the bocage just as the FO marched the barrage another 6″ closer to the German positions. The end result was the entire Germans force was caught under the 3″ mortar barrage.
Being pinned and surrounded by the smoke of the explosions, Leutnant Zuern had to make the worst sort of decision. Remain pinned and under heavy fire, allowing the British almost free feign of the table or withdraw, knowing many men may not make it back to the jump off point.
It was with great reluctance Lt Zuern called the withdrawal, hoping his men would come out ok. As the FO watched the Germans retreating, he called an end to the barrage. The British quickly moved in, capturing the Germans who were too shell shocked to escape and claiming Villers-Bocage.
Wow, how the initiative and momentum can change in CoC. In the entire game neither force fired with their squads. The only shots were from mortars, tank guns, flamethrowers and panzerfausts. Yet still we had an engaging, tight game that many times had one of us thinking victory was in our grasp only to have it taken from us. I never thought I would get to play a game where maneuvering would be the top priority, and where a result could be obtained with minimal to no firefights. Bravo, this game completely re-affirmed why I play Chain of Command.
The game lasted 2 turns, with about 10 phases in Turn One and 25 in Turn Two.
Alex and I both acknowledged our mistakes. I had of poor placement of Patrol Markers and a too risky (but lucky) barrage. Alex realised there was no real need or benefit to deploy all those squads in the beginning of the game, it was more done out of habit, and this directly contributed to clumping up and then allowing his force to be pinned and unable to see as the mortars hit them.
Great game. Fun and tense, where every command decision was hard and thought out.
Campaign Wrap Up
The German force took a major hit and are in a state of shock. After pushing the Germans out, the British have opted to go straight on the offensive again. The next mission will be Encounter 5, Flank Attack as the British attempt to outflank and disrupt the Germans from reaching Point 213.
The British played a patient game and were rewarded with light casualties, two in total (1 dead, 1 injured and missing the next game). That is the result HQ were after and the CO rating was increased by 1, back to 2 (with no additional effect). The men were also happy to come through with a major victory and little casualties. The rating of the men was also increased by 1 moving the total from -5 to -4. Sergeant Hardball still has some ways to go, but the first steps have been taken.
Since this was the 3rd game, the Platoon Leader outlook was rolled for, and after the modifier for one victory was added, Sergeant Hardball is ‘Secure’ in his position, finally feeling like he is gaining a measure of control.
The heart of the zug has been ripped out, Leutnant Zuern now needs to rebuild after a disasterous encounter. All that is left is the Leutnant and 8 men (including Obergefreiters Kohlhaas and Keipp). 5 men escaped and are making their way back to the German lines after escaping capture, they will miss the next game, as will the one injured soldier. The British managed to capture 7 soldiers and Obergefreiter Renschler (who is looking for a way to escape). One casualty was also sustained.
Seeing his tattered forces trickle back to the German lines and knowing he doesn’t have the strength to hold off the next British advance, Leutnant Zuern has called HQ for replacements. 14 fresh faces were waiting back for him when he arrived.
HQ is not happy, failures such as these will not be tolerated. The CO rating was -2 changing the overall rating from -1, to -3. As punishment there will be one fewer support option available next mission.
The troops who escaped, while disheartened also, supported the Lt’s decision to withdraw, giving +1 to the men’s rating, mving from -1, to 0.
Lt Zuern has ice running through his veins, after a decisive loss and a chastising by HQ, Zuern’s outlook remains ‘Relaxed’. Perhaps it is his quiet confidence.
More game pictures below: