This was it: D-Day! The war was going well for the Allies, North Africa was secure and from Russia to Italy the Third Reich was retreating. Now in Normandy the new front would be opened, and the boots of the British Airborne were some of the first on the ground.
12 Para had landed overnight and pushed some surprised Germans out of Le Bas de Ranville. But now a strong fighting patrol from 125th Panzergrenadier Regiment were creeping through the fields of wheat in the last of the dawn shadows. Their mission: find the British, fix their positions and drive them back towards Pegasus Bridge.
The Germans start the campaign with three full platoons. I knew the British were likely short on men, so I spent my five support points on an extra squad, figuring that you should play to your strengths.
The British manpower situation isn’t so rosy. Fresh from their jump into Normandy they have to roll to see how much of their platoon has managed to concentrate before the Germans turn up.
Phil roll about average for this and his force was pretty understrength. His platoon consisted of:
- Platoon CO (Senior Leader)
- 2″ Mortar
- All present (10 men incl JL)
- Bren team missing
- Rifle team and JL present (7 men)
- All missing
That gave Phil a total of 22 men to face 43 Germans, and crucially he only had one Bren gun, which would really limit his firepower in a long-range fight. The Germans would be bringing eight MG42s to the party.
It’s early June 1944 and the wheat stands about waist-high in the fields south of Ranville. A British patrol are blocking a dirt road about 1km from the village as the first rays of dawn spread over the fields.
A really simple table for this game: the whole table is wheat fields that give light cover to stationary troops, but anybody caught moving (by enemy on overwatch or an interruption) would suffer from being in the open.
The British patrol markers started a way up the table and Phil rushed one forward to make sure he got at least one JoP into the hedgerow. In KvL hedges aren’t insane bocage-style ones, but do block line of sight unless you’re right up against them, so this gave Phil the option of moving his boys if he needed to. No such finesse on the German side, my main consideration was just getting up the table and into enough width to deploy a strong firing line to create my base of fire.
The only thing expected of the Paras was to try to delay the German advance as much as they could and inflict some casualties.
I knew I had the Brits outnumbered so the plan was simply to get all four squads on table early and throw everything at them. Two squads would suppress any Paras that popped up, and two more would push up the fields and if need be assault the British positions with bayonets and angry shouting in German.
Phil played his hand straight away, putting his main section into a blocking position along the hedgerow. I rolled good enough command dice to put three Panzergrenadier sections on the table and open up at them, killing a para straight away, while on the right flank some of the Germans began to pepperpot through the wheat.
Serious lead started to fly, and it wasn’t long before both sides committed their Senior Leaders to manage the shock that was building up, although at this stage casualties were light.
I didn’t actually know how much of a Para platoon I was facing at this stage, but after a few phases it became clear that Phil wasn’t bringing on more guys to build up his side of the firefight. I got my fourth squad on and it joined the other squad in advancing up the right flank.
They were starting to work their way closer to the British section in the hedgerow, so Phil played a very bold move to stop them.
Suddenly from about 40m in front of the lead Germans a Para team of rifles and Sten guns opened up from their hidden position in the wheat field. The German advance briefly ground to a halt and the platoon CO ordered the supporting fire concentrated on this new threat. Intense fire hammered the small British team and some deadly dice rolling saw four of the seven men cut down, with enough shock on the survivors to convince them to push off. I can see why Phil played them the way he did, that team had five rifles and two SMGs so they were a lot more effective at short range, but I rolled pretty well and the volume of German return fire was too much for the small team to handle on their own.
In all the action Phil managed to roll a quadruple six in his command dice, and rolling on the random events table we saw that somebody’s tracers had set fire to the fields right in the centre of the table, with smoke drifting right across the front of the advancing Germans. Handy little impromptu smokescreen! Phil was happy to pocket his free CoC dice from the random event, and quickly spent it to yank his now-exposed left JoP back out of range. He was somewhat less happy that the compulsory turn end meant his broken fire team now routed.
Under cover of the smoke from the fire the Germans continued to push up on the right, while the British 2″ mortar turned up and neatly popped some smoke right in front of a German MG, forcing it to move before the next time it fired.
The Germans were now getting into close range on the flank of the Paras in the hedgerow, which would double the effect of their fire. Until now the platoon CO and the section leader had managed to keep the shock count down, but they’d taken a few casualties. Suddenly their luck turned very wonky, when both British leaders were hit and knocked out in a single phase. With no leadership, Germans closing in and no friendlies to help the Paras decided that was game over and pulled out, carrying their wounded leaders to safety.
Game 1 to the Germans, who would push on into the hedgerows of Ranville!
The Butcher’s Bill
British force morale had remained pretty resilient, only dropping from 11 to 8 during the game, but the Germans were still on their starting 10. That meant the German casualties of five were reduced to 3, which works out at 1 dead and 2 wounded. This platoon would be rested for the next scenario, so they’d have their wounded men back next time they fought
The picture on the British sides was grimmer, they suffered 7 casualties so would start the next game 5 men down (3 KIA, 2 wounded).
Campaign post-match stuff
Obviously Phil was pretty keen to see how much of his platoon straggled in before the next game, and he rolled reasonably well. His platoon sergeant showed up, as did a Bren gun team, and a sniper. Unfortunately two Bren guns and the other sniper (effectively his whole 3 Section) were still lost somewhere in Normandy.
The British CO obviously wasn’t chuffed that his pickets had been driven in, and docked a point of his opinion, taking it down to zero. The men weren’t happy about the casualties taken, and their opinion of their platoon leader dropped from +2 to +1. None of this bothered the man himself though, who is no longer “happy” but is still “content”. Pretty blase considering he was wounded in the firefight and one of the lads had to carry him out when they fell back.
The CO’s opinion of the German performance was positive, bumping it to +1, and the commander’s own outlook progressed from “content” to “happy”. The men were also happy, boosting their opinion from +1 to +2 due to the higher casualties they inflicted, although they failed to be impressed by their own light casualties. All positive stuff, but not enough to have any effect on force morale or support yet.
Platoons for next game
The Germans have to rest their lead platoon after each game, so it’ll be a fresh mob fighting in game two.
The British stragglers made up for the men lost and the platoon strength stays steady at 22 men, including 2 senior leaders, 2 Junior Leaders, 2 Bren guns, a PIAT, a 2″ mortar and a sniper.
They’ve also got 7 stragglers still to report for duty, and 2 men in hospital, fresh bodies are available to replace losses. The platoon can’t be replaced by a fresh one until game three though, so they need to look after their manpower in the early stages of this campaign.
- This is a tough game for the Brits. Unless they roll really well for their missing troops they’ll be outnumbered, and there’s no terrain to hide behind and play cat-and-mouse. The Germans can pile on from the first phase.
- Once more we found units in cover can withstand tons of small arms fire for a long time if they’ve got a senior leader on the spot to rally their shock. Eventually your SL will get hit though, and that changes the game.
- In a campaign it’s better to withdraw if you’re not winning and preserve your Force Morale. Losing FM points just hands men back to your opponent.