The Arnhem campaign hotted up this week, our second game turned out to be a nail-biter that went right down to the wire!

In this game Phil’s boys from 3 Para were pushing on down the road towards Arnhem, and having pushed back the German patrols in the last game were now probing the German blocking force to see if they could find a way through. And if they couldn’t find one, they were going to make one!

Forces

Both sides took casualties in the last game. The British platoon was three riflemen short in one of their sections, and a lance corporal was filling in as section leader (reduced command ability). The Germans also had one squad slightly short, but kept it in reserve throughout so it played no part in the game. Effectively they were at
full strength.

The huge difference in force quality means that the British generally have to use their core force all the time, while the Germans always have enough support points to get a spare section in to make up numbers.

Phil rolled the maximum six for force support, giving his paras six points of toys to buy, while I had 13. I opted for a regular squad, a tripod MG42, a senior leader and three entrenchments. My plan was to build a static strong point around a squad and the MG, with the other two squads as a mobile reaction force.  Phil was obviously enjoying having a bit of support for a change and pocketed himself a flamethrower to beef up his offence. Clearly the paras felt that orders to “probe the defences” meant barbecuing every German that stood in the way…

The Ground

The table this week was still dominated by the dual carriageway running through the centre, but as the Paras near the city the number of buildings is increasing. Woods still line the south side of the road, but longer vistas are opening, providing tempting fields of fire for machine gun teams.

End of the patrol phase showing British (blue) and German (red) jump-off points

End of the patrol phase showing British (blue) and German (red) jump-off points. The British must reach the table edge towards the bottom of shot

Deployment

The patrol phase was going pretty much as expected, with both sides fanning out and meeting around the main crossroads, until I suddenly realised that Phil was going to sneak around the southern edge of my patrol markers. This was potentially a disaster, as his objective was simply to get a team off the eastern edge of the board.

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With jump off points well forward in the woods by the road and none of mine to oppose them he’d be able to deploy into the woods and scoot through out of sight to claim victory. I was worried I’d made a game-losing mistake, and had to put a JoP in the open right on the table edge to stand any chance of getting  units into the woods to block him.

Overall, most of my deployment area was on the north side of the road, with his on the south. Not a very good effort from me when I’m supposed to be stopping the Brits from moving eastwards!

The Plan

The British had two maneuver sections and a weapons section. Phil’s aim seemed to be to set the weapons section up to dominate the road and pin my boys on the northern side of it, while his rifle sections worked cautiously through the woods.

As mentioned above, I planned to deploy a squad reinforced with an MMG and a senior leader to act as my main blocking force, then counter Phil’s moves with my other two (and a half) squads as his attack developed.

The Game

The Paras kicked off and deployed fairly quickly over the first few phases. Their understrength rifle section took position at short range across from the German positions, I countered with a dug in rifle squad and bullets began to fly both ways across the road. Phil’s weapon section had set up further back along the road with his 2″ mortar, and they joined in putting some fire onto the Germans in their foxholes. It wasn’t long before the dug in MG42 deployed concentrating fire on the nearest Brits.

Phil brought up his second (full-strength) rifle section and was now fully committed. With accurate fire coming from the dug in Germans over the road this unit was forced to use slow tactical moves to cross the small side road into the next block of woods. Mercifully I then rolled a double six for my command dice and used my double phase to deploy a section onto the road, then run them into the woods out of view where they could block the paratroopers from waltzing unopposed through the woods to victory. I breathed a massive sigh of relief, the game could have been lost before it got going!

Fire is traded across the road, and the paras slowly push forwards into the woods.

Fire is traded across the road, and the paras slowly push forwards into the woods.

Around this point a small British rifle team (only two men) was wiped out, triggering the game’s first roll on the force morale table. Why does that matter you ask? Because that’s the signal for the game’s random event to turn up: General Kussin in his staff car!

This Citroen is in for a world of hurt…

 

Would the foolish General expire messily like his real life counterpart, or would history be rewritten?

Meanwhile in more tactically significant parts of the board the firefight raged on. The German entrenchments proved their worth, with huge volumes of British fire causing relatively light damage. When the German platoon CO deployed to support the position and started rallying their accumulate shock off, they started to look pretty secure. Their British friends over the road were faring less well however, and constant concentrated fire was whittling them down to nothing. Before long the overwhelmed L/Cpl commanding the section had lost all five of his men and staggered back into the woods out of sight (miraculously unscathed). There he met his CO, Lt Cleminson who gave him a good bollocking.

A para rifle section is all but wiped out, but their other one in the woods is in contact with the German blocking force.

A para rifle section is all but wiped out, but their other one in the woods is in contact with the German blocking force.

At around this point I played a CoC dice to end the turn and clear the large amount of smoke that the pesky 2″ mortar had been lobbing into the road, obscuring my machine guns’ fields of fire. As General Kussin’s staff car zoomed up to the crossroads where he’d be most vulnerable my helpful landsers lobbed some smoke grenades into the road to screen him. Phil clearly wasn’t up for that kind of fiddling about and played his CoC dice too. His was much nastier than mine.

Out of the hedges and bushes leapt an ambushing flamethrower team and aimed squarely at General Kussin, one squeeze of the trigger and the commandant of Arnhem would be served up very well done. The jet of flame reached out…and fell short! The car was out of range!

The General's car right in the middle of the battle. The white smoke is from friendly smoke grenades, the black is from where a British flamethrower incinerated a hedge.

The General’s car right in the middle of the battle. The white smoke is from friendly smoke grenades, the black is from where a British flamethrower incinerated a hedge.

Clearly this was Friedrich Kussin’s lucky day as he also survived hits from a point blank sniper shot as his car veered around the corner and as it sped off down the road back to Arnhem two Bren guns also emptied their mags into the back of his Citroen, but failed to stop it. The fluky staff car flew through the German lines at top speed and buggered off the edge of the board.

Almost home free!

Almost home free! Now we just have to win the actual battle.

So that was one small moral victory for the Germans. Even in the face of heroically bad route planning superior German swerving and blind luck had won though.

The real battle was still anybody’s though. As you can see at the bottom of the above picture I’d brought on my third section and a senior leader to reinforce my blocking unit in the woods, who had by now engaged the single British rifle section in trading fire.

Mindful that time was ticking and we needed a result I decided to use my 2:1 advantage in the woods to force the issue. The German SNCO sounded the charge and his men followed him into the waiting Paras with fixed bayonets, hurling grenades. I knew this close assault would go badly for me, but the plan was to go in with the second squad after wearing the Brits down with the first one (it’s since been pointed out to me that the rules do allow both sections to charge in and fight together, d’oh!)  What I didn’t know was quite how badly it would go. Lets just say charging an unsuppressed elite squad with a senior leader and lots of Sten guns is not really a smart move. The Germans killed three paras and knocked the section leader unconscious, but in reply the British rolled an unholy 14 kills, wiping the charging German unit out entirely.

Until this point German force morale had been untouched, but losing a whole squad and an SL gave it a good thump, putting the two sides on level pegging at five.

I declined to follow up with the next rifle squad as I had planned and they instead formed a firing line and elected to whittle the Brits down with fire. I had a good numerical advantage, and this was Phil’s only unit that could claim his victory condition of reaching my table edge, so if I could wipe it out the game would be mine.

Back out on the road the dug in troops were now trading fire with the Para weapon section and causing light casualties either side. Unfortunately for me some accurate fire on my tripod MG position put enough shock on the remaining two men to break them, and they scarpered off the board. German force morale dropped to four, meaning only four command dice. This should be plenty to keep the squad in the woods firing into the remains of the British section, so I was starting to think I might have done enough.

Phil however had other plans and popped a CoC dice to bring his flamethrower back on for another ambush. Germans went up in flames, much shock was inflicted, and the German squad leader got singed enough for another roll on the Bad Things Happen table. German force morale drops to three, now only three command dice!

Things were looking desperate, but there was only a three-man Bren team between me and victory, so I fired at them, then before Phil could return fire in his phase I threw in my last CoC dice to interrupt his phase and sound a charge. A stick grenade flew and killed a paratrooper, now only two left! But the amount of shock on the Germans was too great and their charge move came up miserably short! Clearly feeling that things were getting silly Phil deployed his portable boxhead cooker for real this time, and fired their last shot into the enemy. Casualties weren’t severe, but the Germans were still carrying some hefty shock from the last flamethrower shot and this one piled on too much more. The squad broke and fled the table, causing the German force morale to crash to rock bottom. The Germans routed, it was a British victory!

The Butcher’s Bill

This was a bloody one. The Germans lost a whopping 17 men, but 11 of those were from supports so aren’t carried over. The British lost 11, which was enough to take the edge off 5 Platoon as a fighting force.  Phil declared they’d done enough and that 4 Platoon would be leading the advance from now on.

None of the remaining German forces were pinned or beyond 12″ from a JoP when their force morale crashed, so they all slipped away safely while the paras mopped up.

Campaign post-match stuff

The CO’s opinion on the German side understandably dropped, putting the tally at -2. Still not terrible, but heading the wrong way. The men’s opinion of the platoon leader also swung  from 1 to -1, due to the high number of casualties. The man himself though suffered no change to his outlook (still “Secure”). Clearly these SS officers aren’t too bothered about carnage amongst the lower ranks.

On the British side the CO was delighted and bumped Lt Cleminson’s approval to +3.  The men were less pleased, boosting their opinion by +1 due to high casualties on the Germans, and then taking it away again dues to high casualties on their own side. Cleminson’s personal attitude moved from “Secure” to “Assured”, although the rest of the fighting would be done by Lt James’ 4 Platoon.

Platoons for next game:

The British will be rolling out a fresh full-strength platoon, but the Germans are at:

Germans

Strength: 24
In hospital: 2 men
Senior Leaders: 1
1 Section:
JL: 1
Gun team: 3
Rifle team: 0
2 Section:
JL: 1
Gun team: 4
Rifle team: 5
3 Section:
JL: 1
Gun team: 4
Rifle team: 5

Lessons learned:

  • On Probe missions it’s vital to prevent the enemy getting round you in the patrol phase. You can’t afford to let them place JoPs half way up the table on your flank.
  • If the enemy do get a JoP parallel with your forward ones, pull one or more of yours back so that you can deploy troops to block a run at your baseline. Put your own JoP on your own table edge if you have to.
  • Dug in troops with an SL in support can absorb a lot of hurt. Without an SL rallying shock they can be broken eventually.
  • Flamethrower ambushes are evil and can break relatively fresh troops with a couple of shots.
  • Never, never charge unsupressed paratroopers in cover from the front.
  • No seriously, even if you have loads of men to spare; don’t even think  about it.
  • You can have manoeuvred yourself into the best position in the world, but what wins a game of Chain of Command are those force morale hits. Lose a couple of sections with their leaders and it’s curtains.
  • It ain’t over till the fat lady sings! A few different dice rolls on the last couple of phases and this could have easily gone the German way.