In the last game the Germans tangled with the British outposts on the outskirts of the Normandy village of Ranville, and pushed their way through. Now they’ve hit the main line of resistance in the village itself.

If the British lose here the Germans will have a good foothold in the town and can threaten the glider landing zones and the bridges over the Orne. But the terrain favours the defence, and after two defeats they’ll be looking to get their revenge on the attacking Germans of 21st Panzer Division.

Forces

This was turn 3 of the campaign, so the Germans lined up their unbloodied third platoon for the attack. The Brits knew this was coming, so phoned up the Royal Navy and had a massive pasting of naval gunfire laid down onto the German forming up area. The rules of the campaign don’t inflict any casualties for this, but it does cause the attacker to postpone their attack into the next campaign turn, so suddenly it was turn 4 and the Germans had to swap their lead platoon again. This time 1st platoon that fought the Patrol on the Ring Contour would be back in action, with 32 men, only lacking one member of the Panzerschreck team.

German support was 19 points, made up of:

  • Extra Panzergrenadier squad
  • 15cm sFH 13 Lorraine Schlepper SP Howitzer
  • Reihenwerfer pre-game barrage
  • Extra senior leader
  • Medic

The British platoon was looking a bit more ragged:

HQ

  • Platoon CO and 2ic
  • PIAT team (2 men)
  • 2″ mortar team (2 men)
  • Sniper

1 Section

  • Junior Leader
  • Bren team (3 men)
  • 2 riflemen

2 Section

  • Junior Leader
  • Bren team (3 men)
  • 1 rifleman

3 Section

  • Junior Leader
  • Bren team (3 men)
  • 1 man with Sten

Making a total of 23 men. To bolster this they spent their 7 support points on:

  • A rent-a-section (a bargain at four points in this campaign)
  • Roadblock
  • Adjutant

The Ground

This is the view today of the road into Ranville from the south:
ranville corridor of death
No worries lads, just advance up this dead straight road with high walls lining it! From the look of it this is pretty much exactly what the Germans would have seen when they came up the road in June 1944. There’s a reason this scenario talks about the “corridor of death”. The British have a lot of hard cover available, but they’ve also got reduced fields of fire. The Germans have to get off that main road and into the houses and gardens either side, clearing as they go. Lots of short-range work with SMGs, grenades and bayonets. This one has meat-grinder written all over it…

To make things more difficult for the Germans the British blocked access up the main road from the crossroads, limiting the ability of the Germans to bring up their SP howitzer to fire at anything in the fields at the top of the picture below . The two-storey buildings up the road would still be fair game though, as we shall see…

The British (blue) are already camped out in the village, while the Germans (red) are advancing up the road from the right.

The British (blue) are already camped out in the village, while the Germans (red) are advancing up the road from the right.

Deployment

The British get to start their patrol phase well up the table in this scenario, and things didn’t go well for the Germans when I threw a 1 for the free moves. As a result I wasn’t able to get my markers beyond the big wall on the German right, but did manage to get one reasonably far up in the houses on the left.

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British JoPs ended up around the garage, with one up in the fields on the right. Germans are near the crossroads with one up in the houses on the left.

British JoPs ended up around the garage, with one up in the fields on the right. Germans are near the crossroads with one up in the houses on the left. Effects of the British naval bombardment on the houses in the foreground, clearly…

The Plan

To be honest I didn’t have much of a plan pre-game. The terrain was so complex that I figured I’d have to see what opportunities the patrol phase presented and improvise. I knew I’d be able to bring the howitzer up to the crossroads, so wanted to get the Brits to deploy into a house within sight of the main road and make themselves a target. My plan was basically to get into the village and skirmish at point-blank, and was happy to assault buildings and do it with bayonets and bad breath if required. Casualties could be high, but we’re far enough through the campaign that it was time to jump in with both feet, and the close range was an opportunity to put some hurt on the Paras as they’re infuriatingly hard to kill at long range.

Phil’s plan seemed to be to lurk in the buildings with his understrength sections and try to catch my boys in the open sneaking through somebody’s back garden, keeping his strong support section in reserve to throw in at the decisive moment.

The Game

RWS307f

Another one of 21st Pz Div’s crazy frankenvehicles, the fearsome Reihenwerfer or “rack mortar”. It may look like what happens when a tractor has sex with a church organ, but it can really ruin your day.

The battle commenced with a ferocious barrage by the Germans’ Reihenwerfer multi-barrel mortar battery, which would hugely disrupt British deployment in the first turn. I was hoping to get up quickly and grab a JoP before they could react. Unfortunately my first roll of command dice wasn’t great but I had enough to deploy a squad led by the platoon CO and medic (clearly expecting trouble) into the houses on the left.

Predictably, Phil then rolled triple 6s for his first command dice, ending the turn and neutralising the effect of the werfer barrage. Argh! Four support points down the drain! Clearly the fireworks show had been great for German morale though, as the boys were on the maximum 11 this game against the British 9.

The Paras responded by putting Bren guns into a building and a barn on the German left, somewhat blocking the advance of the panzergrenadiers there. The Germans moved carefully, using the high walls and limited fire arcs of the British positions in the windows to avoid fire, and snuck up to a house containing a British section. A second German section took up a base of fire position near their baseline and went on overwatch to cover their comrades. The platoon CO then took one of his MG42 teams over the wall into the back garden of the house and threw two hand grenades into the upstairs window as a sort of “Hello!” to the Paras lurking there. Luckily both went in and exploded, but poor rolling resulted in only 2 shock from six hits. Were those hand grenades or water bombs?

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The British decided to join the fun and moved up to the window, letting loose with their Bren and a grenade at the unlucky Germans below the window, inflicting a kill and shock. Another British section which had been covering the lane in front of the house doubled inside and added their fire (the Brits rolled a double phase, increasing the effect massively) and before long the four man German team had all been hit leaving only the officer, who had managed to dance around all the bullets and sensibly leapt back over the wall in his next activation.  So that was a team wiped out (and -1 morale) for zero effect on the defenders.

By now however the familiar rumbling of the ludicrously overstrained Lorraine Schlepper engine could be heard coming up the Rue du Colonel Fabien. No targets were in sight, but it wouldn’t be long. Time for the Para PIAT team to earn their pay, and they set up in cover by a wall on the main road and punched off a shot at the flimsily-armoured SP howitzer. The cover from the roadblock and the long range (36″) made this a tricky shot at the small vehicle (requiring a 10 on 2d6), and it zipped past the armoured gun exploding harmlessly (but anachronistically) in the midst of the ACW game on the table next to ours. The reply was more effective, with a 150mm HE shell killing one man in the PIAT team and putting enough shock on the survivor to break him. The British platoon sergeant cursed loudly at the remaining PIAT gunner as he legged it down the road past the garage with his hair on fire, and got two fingers in reply.

Feeling a little more secure the howitzer advanced up the road, while the British resorted to lobbing smoke from their 2″ mortar at it and try to limit its fields of fire in the narrow lanes. Meanwhile the British Bren in the upstairs window of the white house and an MG42 on the German baseline engaged in a long range duel. The MG42 has slightly more firepower, but the British troops elite status gave them the edge in the exchange and they managed to inflict some shock and a kill for only a little shock on themselves.

Meanwhile, with the infiltration on the German left stalled the Germans switched their focus to the right flank, and started to deploy two full squads behind the pale yellow stone walls. There was a British JoP in the fields beyond and all three of the British core sections were already on table, so the most they could defend that JoP with would be a single support section, which I felt was worth trying to bounce with two of the well-armed Panzergrenadier sections.

The command dice didn’t let me get both German sections over the wall as one, so I decided to risk sending them over one at a time. Sure enough, as soon as the first German section piled over (this takes a full phase of movement) the Paras materialised at extremely close range beyond. Phil opted to deploy them at 6″ range from the Germans, going for maximum firepower from their Sten guns over the protection of the hedge a little further back. This was a section bought off the support list, so he could afford to be much more aggressive, as the casualties would matter less.

At such short range against a target in the open the results were predictably bloody, no less than five kills and about the same shock on the Germans. This meant there was a very good chance that the German junior leader would be hit, but he managed to roll a six and thus survived unscathed. Jammy.

The Germans hammered back on full auto with MGs and SMGs in their next phase and hit a couple of paras and added shock, while the other section and a senior leader clambered over the wall on their flank to form a long line at the base of the wall. This meant the British return fire was now split between the four teams facing them, and while they did some more damage it was diluted across both sections. The Germans now had the numbers and were in range to use them; the original banged-up section poured fire into the Paras, hitting three more men and wounding the section commander (knocked out, unable to activate this turn). This left only four Paras standing, and with a cry of “Handgranaten!” the German SNCO led his men into their flank with bayonets and bursts of full auto. The British were wiped out except for their unconscious NCO who we decided was taken prisoner. British force morale took a dive down to five as a result of this firefight, with the Germans still on ten.

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Meanwhile, the SP howitzer had come up to the roadblock at the crossroads, and was punching HE rounds into the white house containing two Para sections, piling on some shock while an MG42 joined in the fun. The 150mm howitzer on that vehicle is a devastating gun when it gets into action, and a good roll for damage saw four sixes come up. This causes the building to collapse, and the defenders have to evacuate with any miniatures rolling 5+ being casualties due to falling rubble (nasty!). The upstairs team that had been the direct target were in bad shape anyway; taking more casualties from the HE round and lumps of house and more shock that meant they were now “broken”. The downstairs section also suffered casualties and wounded leaders, and the force morale rolls from all this took the British down to two, causing the JoP nearest to that house to vanish, along with lots of command dice.

That was enough for the Paras, and the Phil sounded the retreat. Losing the nearby JoP meant some men were beyond the 12″ safe distance, while some were pinned/broken. In the confusion a Junior leader was captured by the Germans, while the platoon commander and two O/Rs got separated and would be MIA for the next game.

The Butcher’s Bill

Pretty violent action in this game. I took fifteen men off the table from the German side, and the British lost 20 killed or captured. Both sides used support sections heavily though, and so on the British side the final tally was 4 dead, 3 wounded, 1 Junior Leader POW, and 3 men MIA including the platoon CO and one of the Bren guns. The Germans had finished the game with an eight point force morale difference, which cut their casualties right down to only 1 dead, 2 wounded. I’d been lucky with no hits on leaders during the game, which kept my high starting morale up throughout.

So lots of blood shed, and we’d also both used bombardments (a heavy-calibre naval one from the Brits) as well as my SP howitzer demolishing buildings with direct fire, so it’s safe to say this little corner of Normandy probably looks a bit like Stalingrad at the end of this game.

Campaign post-match stuff

Major von Luck continues to be pleased, buffing his opinion of the German CO to +3, which will grant +1 support in the next game. The men were happy that their casualties ended up being light and granted another +2 points, making the German officer an extremely popular +7 (giving him a  12″ command radius and +2 FM rolls). The man himself maintained his “Affable” outlook, and why wouldn’t he? He was pushing the British back and had managed to display an almost supernatural ability to dodge bullets while personally leading an attack on a house. Clearly his men thought he had an angel on his shoulder, so why not be affable?

Platoons for next game

The British platoon had one of their straggler Bren teams turn up, but all the casualties, MIAs and such mean they’re down to 22 men and I’m not expecting that we’ll see them again in this campaign. Next game the Germans actually bump into men from the next battalion so will be facing a fresh British platoon, and the game after that Phil can call in another fresh platoon, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be back to full-strength airborne platoons throughout the second half of the campaign. That should stiffen British resistance plenty. We may see a German attack bounce off for the first time in the campaign pretty soon.

Facing this fresh enemy force in the next game will be the German 3rd platoon, who are still fresh themselves having been scared off by the naval bombardment earlier. German forces are in overall good shape, but have to win twice in the next four games to finish the campaign, so it’s all looking pretty even from here.

Lessons Learned

  • The masses of tall walls in this scenario are an intimidating barrier to movement for the attacker, but they also restrict the defender’s fields of fire, allowing the Germans to get much closer to the Paras than they normally can. The trick is surviving the phase of movement where you climb over the wall and end up in the open on the far side. Easier said than done, I lost about 10 men hit doing exactly that.
  • Large calibre guns like the 15cm howitzer eat buildings for breakfast. Well worth bringing to an urban fight. The defender can either take a pounding or pull his men out of the buildings, which allows the attacker to advance through them, or at least stops the defender using upstairs windows to cover bits of open ground.
  • The roadblock is a good ploy for the Brits in this scenario; it’s a more reliable way of hampering the howitzer than the PIAT. The Germans don’t have engineering support so can’t demolish it.
  • 2″ mortars are also your friend if you’re playing the British side. There are plenty of lanes with high walls, if the Germans are shooting down them they’re not hard to screen with smoke, and you’ve always got the option to end the turn if they use that smoke to move up the “corridors of death”.
  • Don’t rely on pre-game bombardments because you know your opponent will roll that triple six on his first turn! Have a plan B.