After their brief clash in the fields outside Ranville the Paras knew it wouldn’t be long before the Germans attacked again. The British had orders to hold Ranville and the vital bridges and glider landing grounds nearby, but they were short on men and had fallen back in the face of superior German numbers.
But now the open fields had given way to sunken lanes and thick hedges on the outskirts of the town, and the Red Devils were preparing to make the Germans pay for every inch of Normandy they took back. Meanwhile, the grumble of engines and the clatter of tracks could be heard from the south…
The German platoon was a fresh one, the platoon from the last game having been rested. I had a nice 13 points of support to beef them up with so went mad on vehicles: two Unic P107 half tracks, a car, and the slightly mental 15cm Lorraine Schlepper SP howitzer. I chucked in an adjutant to make up the 13 points. The actual models for these strange French/German frankenvehicles are pretty hard to find so I’d be proxying Hanomags and a Wespe to represent, but at least I had a Citroen for the car.
The British platoon was:
- Platoon CO (Senior Leader)
- Platoon Sergeant (Senior Leader)
- All present (10 men incl JL)
- Bren team (3 men)
- Rifle team and JL present (6 men)
- All missing
- 10 men including JL and Bren gun
Phil had 22 men, which after taking out four leaders, a PIAT crew, a sniper and 2 Bren gun crews only left 9 men. He has a 2″ mortar but opted to field those men as extra riflemen in 2 Section for this game. Feeling the pinch somewhat he asked his higher ups for an extra section, which obviously was at full strength.
The Germans have pushed up the road and reached the outskirts of the town. The main road into Ranville leads north, while a sunken lane leads past some farm buildings. The large trees by the sunken lane are an orchard with no undergrowth, while the triangular patch by the fork is a small wood.
The Germans got a good roll and took four free moves with their markers. They quickly pushed up into the wood in the centre and got across the open fields on their right flank. I’d expected Phil to try and stop me getting up to the hedgerow across the fields on the right, but instead he focussed on grabbing the farm buildings and swinging around onto the German left flank.
I was happy to get a JoP onto that hedge line and into the woods, but with hindsight shouldn’t have put one so deep in the woods. The British JoPs ended up blocking both roads and in a barn, but only one of them was in a position to cover the open fields.
Phil’s plan was simple: inflict some hurt on the Germans and pull out if it got too hot. There are five scenarios and up to eight games in this campaign, Phil clearly feels this isn’t the point to make a stand yet.
On my part the Panzergrenadiers would be mounting up for a mechanised attack. The plan was to deploy one squad on foot as a base of fire, then send in a half track with a 2-man crew to tempt out the British PIAT. The squad (on overwatch?) and the SP howitzer would then kill the PIAT, leaving the other half track (and if that didn’t work, the car) to pick whatever road looked best and zoom over to the British base line for a win. I went for the car because wheeled vehicles can deploy anywhere from 12″ to 42″ down a road on the phase they arrive, so could be across the board in a couple of phases. Risky, but a cheap trick to keep in reserve.
The position of my right flank JoP meant I could theoretically deploy troops into the field beyond and dash across the field pretty easily. That would be a win, but wouldn’t be much fun for anybody, and it was also to my advantage to “stay and play” and inflict some casualties on the Paras. I’d spent 7 support on a big nasty howitzer, and wanted to see paratroopers go flying through the air, not to mention that bringing on lots of vehicles would be a bit of fun.
The Germans kicked off by deploying a squad along the most forward hedgerow and putting them on overwatch, as the first half track grumbled up the lane looking for trouble. It didn’t have long to wait, as a PIAT team half way up the lane popped up and took aim. BOING! went the PIAT and KABOOM went the PIAT bomb smacking straight into the half track. Phil rolled an excellent five strikes from his 7 AP dice, more than the little armour 2 vehicle could cope with, and it promptly died. Phil expected a bunch of singed and shocked Germans to spill out, but none did. The vehicle’s skeleton crew of two men never made it out, but they’d done their job of flushing out the British AT team.
Meanwhile a Para section deployed blocking the other road, with their Bren gun dug in, but decided not to open fire on the Germans in the hedgerow and go on overwatch too. In the German phase the panzergrenadiers kicked off the fight, and fire was exchanged. The PIAT also received some attention, as the SP howitzer rolled onto the table and barked a 150mm HE round down the lane. Frankly I was expecting the PIAT team to be a red smear, and was disappointed when the result was just two shock from 13 HE dice. Meh.The PIAT still had two rounds left and that howitzer was pretty flimsy. I was bricking it that Phil would knock out the big gun before it could do much, especially when he rolled triple 6’s for his command dice, so would be able to get two shots off if he wanted.
Phil being a sneaky git however had different plans, and spotted that a German JoP was very close to the PIAT team. He deployed his platoon commander, who legged it across the lane in full view of the Germans, rallied some shock off the PIAT and sent them off to sit on the German JoP. Since it was a triple 6 the turn then ended and the JoP went poof! Argh! The Germans had now lost a team, a support unit and a JoP. Force morale sunk to 6 before they’d even got going. The Brits’ good luck held and Phil rolled another three phases in a row after this. The Bren gun blocking the road and the fields continued to clatter away (fairly ineffectively) at the Germans in the hedgerow, while the support section blocking the other road started working their way tactically towards the orchards with half a mind to lob some grenades into the open-topped howitzer at the fork in the road.
Once Phil had finished rolling double six’s for command dice I got to have a go, and threw a squad into the hedges at the road fork to protect the JoP there and the howitzer. They immediately opened up on the isolated PIAT team, shooting one man dead and bumping the other bloke’s shock up to four, sending him scurrying. The howitzer trundled around the burning half track and drew a bead on the dug in Bren gun, and combined with small arms fire from the squad in the hedgerow put some real hurt on it.
The British decided the presence of the new squad at the fork rendered their attempt to flank the howitzer a bit risky, and instead they bellied up to the hedge and began a short range firefight across the sunken lane where they had a definite firepower advantage. Half of the German squad was stuck on the wrong side of a hedge in the open road, leaving only one MG42 team to face the full British squad who were packing several SMGs.
The Germans knew they would eventually lose that fight, but with the help of the howitzer could probably win the fight along the other road before that happened. The howitzer continued firing up the road to Ranville and managed to kill the last of the Bren team. Meanwhile another half track with the third section of panzergrenadiers turned up and started to cross the open field by their entry point. A German team at the forks took up an overwatch stance covering the Bren gun pit, and when that section’s rifle team moved up to occupy the trench they opened up.
The firefight at the forks raged on, and the Germans deployed their own platoon commander to match the British one and keep their squad in the fight. Bullets flew everywhere but casualties so far were light. In the chaos Phil decided to use some of his huge pile of CoC dice to send his only off-table team (a sniper) in to ambush, but he missed. Undeterred Phil did it again in his next phase and managed a couple of shock.
The other firefight got a more decisive result for the Germans. By now their force morale had dropped further to five due to a couple of light wounds on leaders, so they were in dangerous territory. Lose any more and command dice would be disappearing and the whole attack might go wobbly. But the howitzer was starting to show its class and was crushing the rifle team in the entrenchment, shock and kills piling up to the point where they went pinned, and broke in the next phase. I’d rolled a double six and sent the squad in the nearby hedgerow over the hedge and into the field, then in the next phase dashed a team across the field and off the British table edge. A win for the Germans!
The Butcher’s Bill
British casualties were 6 figures lost from their core platoon, while the Germans lost 4. British force morale ended higher so the Germans wouldn’t get any bonus for the win.
That translates to 3 dead, 2 wounded for the Brits, and 2 dead, one wounded for the Germans.
Campaign post-match stuff
The British CO wasn’t overly pleased and his opinion dropped from 0 to -1. The men weren’t happy that they’d taken more casualties than the Germans, and lowered their opinion from +1 to zero. The British platoon commander allowed himself to slip from a “content” frame of mind to a more “thoughtful” one. None of the above would yet cause any penalties to the British force.
In happier news for the British, a Bren gun team from the missing 3 Section wandered in with their section commander. With the return of one man from the aid station this would serve to replace all the British losses from this fight.
The German CO was satisfied with progress, buffing his opinion a point to +2. The men were pleased to have hurt the Brits, and chuffed about their light casualties, netting a three point boost to a total of +5. Obviously enjoying his new-found popularity the platoon’s officer switched from “happy” to “affable” mode, and with the men’s opinion this would mean a +2 boost to morale rolls next game. They’re a cheery lot, these panzergrenadiers.
The Germans had lost one of their Unic P107 half tracks in the battle though, leaving only two more in the campaign.
Platoons for next game
The Germans will be able to field either the fresh 3rd platoon or the 1st platoon, which is down one man.
The British force is up slightly to 23 men, with 2 off getting patched up. They’ve got available 2 senior leaders, 3 junior leaders, a PIAT, a 2″ mortar, a sniper, and thirteen other men to split three Bren guns, 3 Stens and the balance in rifles. We’re also allowing weapons crews to be fielded as riflemen instead, as Phil did in this game with his 2″ mortar.
- Seems so obvious it’s embarrassing: don’t put a JoP within spitting distance of an enemy one unless you intend to deploy to it right away. I gave away a JoP to his cheeky PIAT team and it hurt morale badly.
- This scenario is dominated by the two roads that give the Germans routes across the table. If the Germans can clear either one of them they can use vehicles to rapidly push through.
- Getting into the right place in the patrol phase makes all the difference to a Probe scenario. I was never worried that my position on the table would stop me from winning, just that I would run out of force morale first!