Friday evening saw a play-test game from BGO, with a chance to test out a few of the US forces special rules in a 600 pts platoon-action as the US advanced to capture the crossroads at le Croix Vert, an important objective on the route south towards the town of La Haye-du-Puit.
I would be commanding a US Infantry Division battlegroup, whilst rapidly moving to block my route south and deny the US the crossroads (and thus use of the local roads in this dense bocage country) would be a mobile battlegroup of 2nd SS Panzer Division.
I selected my battlegroup to consist of a Forward HQ in a jeep and a radio truck with an improved radio communications upgrade. A single infantry platoon on foot, supported by a .30cal MMG team, a bazooka team and a 57mm AT and Beep tow. My armour was a platoon of 3 Shermans and 2 M10 Wolverines. Artillery was a FAO team in a jeep and two towed 105mm guns, which would be on-table. Finally, I was led by a single recce jeep and had a forward aid post, just for the big BR boost. Final BR total was 39.
Over the years I’ve lost a lot of Sherman tanks in this sort of close country, so I decided that this time the infantry would lead my advance, directly supported by the 2 M10s, whilst the tanks would come on last, even after the artillery, and try to divert the German armour away from my main objective in a cat-mouse game in the hedgerows. Hopefully they could shoot and scoot about, and keep the German armour occupied (trying to shoot holes in them) whilst I won the battle elsewhere with my infantry and tank destroyers.
The 2nd SS battlegroup composed of a veteran panzer grenadier platoon in trucks (and this would be a important feature in the game), supported by a HMG-42 team and a panzerschreck team. A squadron of 3 Panzer IVs and a single Panther, made up their armour. They also had a forward headquarters (in a halftrack), a Wirbelwind for AA defence, a 222 armoured car for recce, an off-table battery of 120mm mortars on call, and a registered target point for them to hit (on the farm itself). As well as the mortars they also had a single timed 150mm artillery strike. Final BR total was 32 (I think).
There were 4 objectives on the table. The main farm building, a gap into the field to the left of the farm (my left, German right), a second field entrance (marked by a wrecked Panther) and the edge of the woods (marked by an abandoned cart). With AFV ammo distributed and time barrages noted for turn and location, it was game on.
Deployment didn’t take long, with me placing my recce jeep on the road by the farm, and the Germans responding by placing their 222 on the opposite road, a bit too close for comfort given how out matched my jeep was.
First turn went to the US, and my first action was to quickly withdraw my jeep, otherwise it would be meeting the business end of the 222’s 20mm cannon in a fight it couldn’t win. So, hearing the approaching heavy engine, the jeep crew spun round in the lane and swung in behind the farm to hide. The Germans responded immediately, I had parked 2” from their pre-registered target, and brought a barrage of 120mm mortar bombs. When the smoke and dust cleared, the Jeep and 3 man crew where a smoking memory... first blood to the Germans. The 222 raced to claim an objectives, so that was 2 counters in turn 1. Bad start.
I can’t say things got much better either. I rolled a 1 for units arriving and decided, radically, to send my forwrad HQ first. He wasn’t in any immediate danger and his ability to re-roll that arrivals dice would be very handy if I kept this rolling up. The Germans where faster off the mark (they always are in my games), with the panzer grenadiers arriving in trucks and racing 48” up the road. Erm, problem, my enemy would be on top me in turn 3 or 4 if he kept coming at this speed, and my foot-sloggers would be trapped in my corner.
As planned, my infantry arrived next, four units scurry off into the hedgerows, one going left, one going up the centre directly towards the farm, although given the accuracy of mortar fire now hitting it, it didn’t seem a healthy objective to claim.
222 heading up the road to check out the farm.
US recce jeep caught in mortar barrage.
First to battle, US HQ in deep discussion around their jeep.
Approaching German infantry transports.
First US infantry heading into the hedges.
The Germans followed up over the next few turns with their Panzer IVs , HQ and Wirbelwind, which seemed intent on making it to the front lines, as I prayed for some air cover. The 222 then made a pain of itself again, racing to the farm and claiming the objective (another counter), and with panzer grenadiers now holding another, and a Panzer IV on another and the HQ on the fourth, suddenly I had none and the enemy had all four. Disaster loomed, I was about to lose! But the rules clearly say he has to have them at the end of the enemy’s turn (that’s mine). I had one turn to shift him. My only hope was to get the 222. By now my two 105mm guns had deployed on my board edge, and the Forward HQ senior officer did the spotting, calling down a barrage on the farm. I needed a direct hit from my 4 dice or it was game over (after about 30 minutes!). I rolled, and scored 2 direct hits (aided by the US Time on Target barrage rule). The 222 was instantly wrecked, and thankfully the game could continue. But I knew that next turn he could advance again and re-claim the objective, and I would be in the same position. My hand was being forced, and I raced towards the farm as fast as I could. The infantry sprinting across the fields couldn’t get close enough, and the two M10s with them (one left, one right), had hedges to cross and couldn’t get close enough. I was already in a bad way, my hand was being forced by such an aggressive enemy, damn those Opel Blitz trucks! (which had now scooted away to the back table edge).
The next few turns saw me trying to push forwards towards the farm, but the Germans had occupied it again, with a grenadier squad, and despite them being pinned I could not shift them with MG fire, and HE fire from one of my M10s. My platoon HQ, being inexperienced infantry then repeatedly refused to close assault the farm and drive the SS soldiers out. Also, the German timed 150mm barrage hit, right in the middle of my lines and wiped out a squad, pinning the M10 and several other squads – good shot!
In the lane, my M10, which had been on ambush fire against the advance of one of the Panzer IVs. It now took a chance to get up and help the infantry, breaking its overwatch to roll up the lane. Of course, the Panzer IV then rolled up to the hedge that had previously been covered and took a shot. In an exchange of fire the M10 lost, and a 75mm AP round left it burning in the lane.
On my right the Shermans pushed forwards, two advancing with one on ambush fire against the arrival of enemy armour which was approaching across the field. The Shermans laced the hedges opposite with HE and MG fire, pinning an MG team, but failed to knock out a sneaky panzerschreck team which had infiltrated into the chapel, and then narrowly missed the lead Sherman.
This brought an immediate artillery response, which went wild! It was not my day. I was already up 10 counters and 30+ BR lost (and no air support), and had inflicted almost no damage.
105mm artillery fire destroys the 222 and saves the game.
US hurriedly advancing on the farm.
German panzer grenadiers, out of the trucks and running into position.
Bringing up the rear, the Panther. It never fired a shot!
M10 covering the farm lane on ambush fire.
Pinned grenadiers in the farm, they stoically held on dispite being hammered by US fire.
The M10 loses its fight with the Panzer IV, lurking in the hedge.
German armour approaches the chapel. It was very cautious, and never really got into the fight.
Looking along the German front line.
US infantry blasting the farm, and refusing to get any closer.
The final straw came when on my left, trying to oppose the Germans at the objective and prevent another embarrassing seizure of all the objectives, the Wirbelwind opened fire, its quad 20mm cannons making short work of an entire infantry squad, despite their bocage cover. That was almost enough, my break point was just 3 away. Then a 120mm mortar barrage smashed my forward HQs jeep, leaving the officer and his aides cowering in a ditch pinned, and then destroyed the 57mm gun whilst still being towed across the rear field, seeing the surviving crew flee. That was the end, my battle rating was used up. Defeat, and a very heavy one at that.
It had been a bloody disaster! I had taken 15 counters and inflicted, erm 3... for a grand total of 40 BR lost to 4 inflicted! That is a hammering in any terms. My losses where 32 infantry, three jeeps, a 57mm gun and an M10. The Germans losses were just 6 men and a 222 armoured car. Big factors had been the German trucks, the ability to get into position first had left me racing to catch up from turn 2, and my foot-sloggers found the Germans well prepared with all those MGs in position in the hedges when we final got in position to fight, and took a pasting because of it. The trucks, used right (ie to quickly drop off troops – on a road, and withdraw out of danger) looked like a must for a meeting engagement like this. Also, my artillery support, usually an ace card of the US, had not been effective enough. I had been out shot by just two 120mm mortars and 1 timed barrage. I needed a few cheap arty request to thicken the barrages, and but the fear of god into the Germans with some 155mm pain.
The sum of German infantry casualties,very light...
The US advance had been given a very bloody nose, and the La Croix Vert crossroads was firmly in SS hands. Many more attacks would now be needed to shift them.
On the plus side (a very small column), the US special rules worked well, the Time on Target barrage was nice tweak to US artillery, and the wireless communications, to represent their wider use of radios and walkie-talkies for improved command and control was a welcome aid, not that it helped much, but it had the German’s moaning, so it must be OK!