Something had to be done, so far Kampfgruppe Krafft had been unable to stop the British of 3 Para advancing down the Utrechtseweg route into Arnhem. Now that the British had located the main line of resistance some of their units were trying to move laterally along the line and slip around the thinly-spread blocking force. In true German style the only way to stop this was to muster a sturm zug for an immediate counter-attack!

German infantry with supporting halftracks attack the British lines

German infantry with supporting halftracks attack the British lines

This game represented the German side (me) playing their wild card and switching to the offensive. The Germans can do this once during the campaign, and get an extra six points of support from the higher ups to try and make a mess of the British plans.

Forces

The British player (Phil) had switched his lead platoon after the last game, so I would be facing a fresh full-strength Para platoon for this game, backed up by four points of support. Phil opted for a roadblock and a second PIAT, clearly expecting armour trundling down the main road!

The German platoon was still in reasonable shape even after the battering it took in the last game, largely due to being able to throw support sections into the dicey combats and protecting the core elements of the platoon. For this game I’d be bringing a lot of hurt, 25 points of support!

I opted for the obligatory second senior leader, mortars, a sniper, two extra squads, a 20mm-armed recce Hanomag (SdKfz 250/9), and a standard SdKfz 251 Hanomag. Unfortunately Kampfgruppe Krafft’s support list doesn’t include any tanks, or I would definitely have brought some seriously heavy metal to tear up the lightly armed Paras with.

The Ground

On road into Arnhem the woods are starting to give way to the outer  suburbs. The western British edge of the table was the edge of a wood, with houses, hedges and small roads towards the east where the German attack would come from.

German patrols starting from the red, British from the blue

German patrols starting from the red, British from the blue

Aerial view, with the Germans fighting from right to left towards the British positions in the woods.

Aerial view, with the Germans fighting from right to left towards the British positions in the woods.

Deployment

Nothing funky happened in the patrol phase this time, both sides roughly cancelling each other out in a broad front in the centre of the table. The British opted to put their JoPs fairly deep, defending along the edge of the woods, while the Germans were keen to get forward as soon as possible. The two houses in the German sector were both earmarked as good OPs for the mortar observer and sniper, and the third JoP was put on the dirt road that was intended to be the main axis of the attack.

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Final position of patrol markers, and JoPs in red for Germans, blue for Brits.

Final position of patrol markers, and JoPs in red for Germans, blue for Brits.

The Plan

The idea was to force some Brits to deploy with a quick mounted feint from the two halftracks and use the mortars to neutralise anything that deployed in response, then switch the attack to the other sector and try to overwhelm them with numbers. If I could pin one British section under the barrage I could hopefully gang up 2:1 on the others. If I could catch two sections under the barrage, even better! This plan would rely on the mortar observer getting on-table early and getting the barrage down asap. And him not getting tagged by a sniper.  And the Brits not ending the turn before I had a CoC dice in hand. Risky, but if it worked it would be fun, so what the hell!

The Game

The Germans kicked off by sending a section with the platoon NCO and the mortar observer to take up position in the southernmost house. To bait the mortar trap the two halftracks zoomed up the road, the troop carrier tucking in behind the farmhouse in the centre, and the 20mm vehicle occupying the road to try and draw some fire. The British responded by deploying a section in the woods (out of LOS) and sending a sniper and a PIAT up to the edge.

 

The first PIAT shot whistled past the recce halftrack, and the 20mm reply was equally ineffective. Phil sent his second PIAT team forward and to get a better shot off they set up right out in the open in the middle of the road and blatted off a round, which also sailed by. The 20mm found the range first and obliterated the number two on the PIAT. Meanwhile the Brits had a funny feeling the Germans in the house were calling in mortars and their 2″ mortar deployed and (for once) dropped smoke right on target to block the observer’s LOS. When the barrage did arrive (no ranging shots) it was wide enough to be only just on table, and the German unit piled out of the house with the observer to try and get eyes on the fall of shot and correct.

Still suicidally standing his ground and reloading his PIAT single-handed the man in the road took another shot at the SdKfz 250/9 and got a hit, buggering the engine. The recce vehicle decided they’d done the job they were asked to do and began backing up as fast as they could (which was about half as fast as they’d have liked, and accompanied by horrible gear grinding sounds).

The German observer began correcting his barrage and it crept onto the British position over several phases, catching a rifle section, the platoon CO, 2″ mortar, a PIAT, and a sniper under the barrage. On cue the SdKfz 251 carrying the infantry tore off down the dirt road to spearhead the infantry attack that would be developing there. The recce 20mm was supposed to join this attack, but their engine trouble and desire to get out of the line of fire of the brave PIAT gunner in the road held them up.

The brave PIAT team finally decides to find some cover as mortar bombs rain down nearby.

The brave PIAT team finally decides to find some cover as mortar bombs rain down nearby.

The PIAT man meanwhile had decided that cover was probably a good idea after all and nipped over to hunker down behind the destroyed Hanomag acting as a roadblock. Unfortunately for him the German sniper spotted him and  a near miss put two shock on him, which was enough to send him home for the day.

The mortar barrage began to do its thing, and the PIAT team and sniper in the treeline were killed. The rifle section under the barrage was taking lighter casualties, but were out of the fight for the moment. This left the British with their weapons section (which had deployed in the centre of the treeline) and a rifle section in reserve. The British tried ending the turn with a CoC dice, but I had one spare myself so kept the mortars firing.  It was time for the main thrust of the German attack to go in, and over the next few phases infantry sections began to deploy  along the dirt road and advance cautiously up it.

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About this point I rolled a ridiculous set of command dice: five 6’s. This ended the turn again, but gave me a nice boost of force morale when the lads uncovered a hidden cache of booze! I considered retiring at this point with my spoils, but it would have been difficult to explain to the CO…

Proving that command dice really are like buses...

Proving that command dice really are like buses…

The southern flank of the battle then settled into a stalemate where the Germans would keep requesting their mortars and periodically get them firing again, with the British rifle section in the woods largely content to go tactical and await a bombing. All the action would be happening along the dirt road to the north.

The Hanomag by now had reached the end of the road, where the Para weapons section held the treeline with a dangerous patch of open ground that the Germans would have to cross. I’ve learnt my lesson about trading shots against elites in cover at range and knew that I’d have to get in close to dig them out. The Hanomag gunner started clattering away and the Bren guns replied at the German dismounts working their way up the lane.

At about this point things were looking good for the Germans, They were actually on higher morale than they’d started, while the Brits had taken a couple of hits and lost all their AT support. With halftrack support and superior numbers I felt I’d be able to develop the attack into something that should worry Phil’s wee men. What I didn’t count on was the intervention of the third player in every game: the dice gods.

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Over the last 20 or so phases of the game I probably had about 5. The rest was all Phil rolling several incredibly jammy series of double and triple 6’s, giving him phase after phase for his twin Brens to pour fire onto the lead German sections. When I could activate my troops I put covering fire onto both Brens and moved up tactically, but he kept rolling triple 6’s which cleared off my tactical stance and left men in the open facing machine guns, with the covering fire only working for the first of each string of British phases. The attack quickly stalled, shock and casualties began to mount. There weren’t enough command dice to keep everybody activated and rally off the acumulating shock. To make things worse the 20mm still hadn’t made it up the road and a British sniper tagged the gunner on the Hanomag. Getting both halftracks firing would take several 3’s that I just didn’t have or couldn’t spare.

In desperation the German CO ordered the troop-carrying Hanomag to gun it across the open ground and into the treeline, intending to debus a section onto the flank of the weapons section at short range and distract them enough to take some of the heat off the main attacking force. Phil reacted by deploying his last rifle section and used their Bren to blaze away at the Hanomag. This rattled the crew enough to force them to bail out, which actually wasn’t a bad result for me as they would have done that in their own phase anyway, and now I’d be able to to fire at full effect next phase.

Totally outgunned by the Paras, the remnants of the German squad in the Hanomag takes shelter behind their vehicle.

Totally outgunned by the Paras, the suvivors of the German squad in the Hanomag take shelter behind their vehicle.

Of course, that assumes I got another phase. Phil’s good luck held out and in a point blank gun battle his rifle section got no fewer than five phases of activation, while my lads only got one. This went as badly as you would expect (see pic above) and meanwhile the Bren guns had been using all those activations to make things worse for the infantry coming up the dirt road. Leaders were starting to go down, squads were getting pinned and the stalwart Bren guns kept firing. Their platoon sergeant kept them clear of shock, although kills had reduced them to two men on one Bren and one on the other. German morale by now had tumbled, mostly through leader hits (JL wounded, SL wounded, and a JL killed) and a squad breaking then routing when one of the triple 6’s ended a turn. German morale was now at 1 to the British 5. My platoon was in no way looking like crossing that open ground against a British force that was still at strength and under effective command. The retreat was sounded! A pair of Bren guns had managed to almost single-handedly defeat an attack from 3 German sections with a senior leader and two vehicles.

I had lost my nearest JoP and many of my men were pinned, resulting in a shambolic disengagement. Most of the men that had assaulted in the Hanomag surrendered (luckily they were a support choice). Four men are still AWOL after the debacle, including one of the squad leaders. I suspect he may have been the man who found the cache of booze, and will be giving him a good sniff if he creeps back into our lines at some point.  I think the platoon will need reinforcements before the next fight. Which leads us on to:

The Butcher’s Bill

Another bloody affair. The British took 12 casualties (though one was from a supporting unit). They wrapped up with a four point lead in morale, which made their final casualties 7 men. 3 dead, 2 in hospital, and 2 returning to duty next game.

German losses were 17 dead (10 from the core platoon; so 5 dead, 3 in hospital, 2 back next game), a Junior Leader dead, 2 captured, 4 AWOL (including a JL). Two men would be returning from the hospital, making the platoon down a further 13 men for the next game. Ouch.

Campaign post-match stuff

The British CO was pleased with Lt James’ rebuffing of the counter-attack and boosted his opinion of him to +1, but his men were less than happy with their part. Even though they dished out a lot of hurt to the jerries the boys have dropped their opinion of their rupert to -1. Not that Lt James notices, his mood bumps up to “Sociable”, meaning that he’ll be rolling with an extra +1 to Force Morale next game (on top of the +1 for being elite).

Things are going less well for the German commander, his CO’s opinion of him dipping to -3. That will rob him of one support point next game. The hefty casualties have also dropped the men’s opinion of him from a relatively benign -1 down to -4, so that’s a -1 to Force Morale rolls. Somewhat incredulously his attitude remains steady on “Secure”. The man is either oblivious or a psychopath.

Having had the guts ripped out of the platoon it’s time for the Germans to roll for replacements, and 8 new men will be reporting for duty for the final defence of the crossroads.

Platoons for next game

The Paras are now one victory away from a clean sweep in the campaign, and can field a full platoon minus 5 men for their final attack on the crossroads objective. We’ll have to see how Phil allocates his men when we play again.

The Germans are looking somewhat worse for wear. They can only muster one relatively full squad, the other two are reduced to inexperienced leaders running machine gun teams.

Germans

Strength: 20
In hospital: 3 men
Missing: 3 men, 1 JL
Senior Leaders: 1
1 Section:
JL: Replacement JL
Gun team: 4
Rifle team: 0
2 Section:
JL: Replacement JL
Gun team: 4
Rifle team: 0
3 Section:
JL: 1
Gun team: 4
Rifle team: 4

 

Lessons Learned

  • It’s good to have a plan, but it’s also good to have a plan B. When my attack faltered in the face of unexpectedly stiff resistance I didn’t change my approach. Should I have switched my mortars to support the main attack, pin the Brits and get into the woods on their flank?
  • Against an enemy with 6 command dice (and therefore a 34% better chance of rolling double and triple 6s) the ability of troops to use covering fire from small arms and tactical movement to cross open ground is reduced.
  • You can’t fight lady luck. Phil handled his troops well, I really can’t fault his play, but his dice rolling gave them an edge that really crushed me. This time.