Holding the Line:
Chain of Command: Villers-Bocage Campaign. Mission 2: Probe
Bruised and battered but encouraged after defeating the Panzer Lehr troops on the way to Livry, the British force expected the German’s to be more prepared now. Holding a defensible position is not something to be given away lightly, the British would just need to find a way through.
We learned a lot last game and were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. This led to a very different game, almost of cat and mouse.
Probe saw a 5 rolled for the Support List options. This gave Alex’s German Force a Support Rating of 2 as the defender and my British a Support Rating of a massive 12! (5 for the roll, as attacker, plus 7 for the force rating difference). I was rubbing my hands with glee. We decided to not tell each other the support options until the night.
Alex spent those 2 points on a Panzerknacker team, to give him a well rounded team with anti-tank abilities and a LMG. He also received two free entrenchments as per the ‘At the Sharp End’ mission recommendations.
Sorting out my game plan I decided to field a Forward Observer (with 3” mortar off field), an engineer team with a flamethrower, a universal carrier with a Bren gun and a second 2” mortar team.
My plan was simple, use the FO to pin the bulk of the German force, apply copious amounts of smoke from the two 2” mortar teams to block vision to the carrier, which I can send racing down the flank to reach the enemies table edge. Sounded good to me.
Alex also went for a simple plan (they were the best to use with our reduced forces), and deployed his drop off points evenly across the board to cover all avenues.
The Germans would have first activations as a nice 11 was rolled up for Morale, dropping by one to 10 due to the effects of the losses last game. The British were still feeling the beating with a force morale of just 8, dropping to 7 due to the effects of last game.
As I said, this game was much different affair, caution was the message of the day with the German’s forgoing their entire first phase in order to react to the British deployment.
Taking it to the German’s and eager to get the mission completed, the British troops started deploying. The mortar teams were first, setting up in cover ready to fire off their smoke rounds, with Corporal Echs leading Three Section on a thrust down the left flank, which was denied by a Panzergrenadier squad forcing them back into cover.
The Germans, seeing the British arriving, came on in force. Set up in their entrenchments across the open fields, their Obergefreiter putting both MG42 teams on overwatch, and deploying another squad on the British left flank. All avenues of advance was now covered, the way across was going to be difficult for the British.
Needing eyes for the mortar teams, Corporal Jacobs and the two Bren teams of Two Section deployed into a small copse of trees, using them for cover. Opening fire they injured a couple of German soldiers and caused some shock. This was enough for the squads on overwatch to return fire at the British section, amazingly only causing a small amount of shock.
Sensing the advantage, (the German’s had two phases in a row), Leutnant Zuern stepped forward, bringing up his panzerknacker team and his last squad. Issuing orders he poured fire into Two Section causing them to first become pinned, then rout altogether under the weight of fire. Dragging their two injured mates, they left the field of battle.
With one plan of action left, Platoon Sergeant Hardball called up the forward observer, if he could drop those 3” mortars on the German left flank, he could race the Universal Carrier across the field while they were pinned. The best laid plans though, the FO came up and with some poor positioning, was cut down by MG42 overwatch fire as he was sending the call through.
The German’s, sensing victory, consolidated their position and waited to see what the British would do next.
With very little options, and a force moral of 4 (losing the most forward jump off point due to low morale), Sergeant Hardball threw the last of his dice. He called on the Universal Carrier to come forward and make for the enemy lines down the British right flank, using the woods as cover. He would try to make sure as much smoke as possible was deployed to provide a screen.
As the carrier went roaring down the right flank (gee the little things can fly! Amazing how much ground they can cover at full speed), the German force reacted by racing across in an attempt to cut the carrier off from its objective. Landing some lucky smoke rounds, the mortars helped provide cover as the carrier had the objective in sight. About 8” from the edge of the table, the universal carrier broke cover of the forest. The German forces threw everything they had at it, knowing this is where the mission would be won or lost.
In an amazing sequence, the little Universal Carrier (being small and fast and moving flat out), managed to avoid three panzerfausts aimed at it. The panzerknacker team was not accurate enough with their satchel charge placements to deal damage, however they did force the carrier to a halt, forcing it to engage them next phase. This gave the last panzerfaust the break it needed and after lining up the shot, it hit centre mass. A fireball erupted where the brave carrier last was.
Sergeant Hardball shook his head, he knew he had no more tricks and had let his men and CO’s down. He called the retreat and the British force started to withdraw.
Another close game due to the victory conditions. Final Force Moral told a different story though. British 2, German 10.
Again the game lasted 1 turn of about 20 phases.
The elite status and MG42’s again were my bane, they are so very tough to shift in hard cover. I made a mistake firing the Bren Teams of Two Section, they should have been used to provide covering fire, making it just all the more difficult for the Panzergrenadiers to hit. I also completely misunderstood the Forward Observer rules until I went back and reread them. I can now see how it is almost essential to place them with a section to prove support, as opposed to placing them independently.
Looking at it in hindsight, deploying Two Section in the woods, providing covering fire and placing the FO with them would have giving a strong, well positioned group able to really help the universal carrier get across the board.
Alex summed up the flow of the game well. It had a very cinematic feel, and I agree with his statements. We were really drawn in to the unfolding story.
“The first round of fire wounded the Junior Leader of Two Section, making him unable to issue any orders. I can just imagine him getting shot and hitting the deck. In the ensuing confusion, because they have no orders, the hail of fire drops another man and everyone bunkers down. A few more minutes of taking heavy fire and they book it. Add to that the last dash of the universal carrier and the German ambush from the woods to stop it.”
All so cool!
Campaign Wrap Up
The German’s have decided to shore up defences at Livry and are not pursuing the British. This has handed initiative back to the Brits and they will once again be attackers in a Probe for the next mission.
In a huge turn around, the British suffered 3 casualties, with all leaders surviving unscathed. HQ were not impressed at the inability to break through. CO Rating was -1, taking the total from 2, down to 1, giving no net effect.
Sergeant Hardball is still gaining the trust of his men however. They are still hurting from the first encounter, and now have more casualties. Their rating was -2, taking the total to -5, still providing a -1 on the Force Moral chart.
On a good note, Corporal Redfern has been accepted by his section and no longer has any command penalties.
This give the British 16 men for the next game, 1 of the three casualties being killed, the other two not suitable for duty for the next mission.
Again, playing a much more cautious game, there were 2 German casualties. As the Germans won and had higher Force Morale at the end of the game (by 8), all the casualties were able to be recovered, patched up and fit for duty next mission.
A good victory for Leutnant Zuern, his CO is happy gaining a +1 rating. This takes the total from -2, back to -1. No change.
The troops also have much more confidence in their Leutnant. Their views increased the rating of the men by +2, from -3, to -1. They get to remove the -1 Force Morale penalty now.
Both Obergefreiter Keipp and Renshler have been accepted by their men and have their command penalties removed.
The British are looking at an uphill battle from here. Hopefully they can regroup and find a way through Livry.
A few more game pictures below: