Well, it’s just been another Ireland BG ‘Big Game’ weekend over in Kildare, organised by Piers Brand and played at the Hobby Den. I’ve played in four of these games now, and had a hoot each time. I am a lover a big spectacle though, lots of nice toys and superb terrain, I just can’t see how wargaming gets much better (beats small skirmish game any day). This year we had a well researched scenario (by TomG, thx), set during 47th Infantry Regiment’s operation to clear the German town of Langerwehe from 12th Volksgrenadier Division. I was given the task of playing 3rd Armoured Division’s limited aid to the infantry attack, screen off its divisional flank from Langerwehe and avoiding becoming dragged into any street-fighting, whilst assisting with supporting fire. With seven players a-side, the other six US players all had infantry-based forces, footsloggers but with some armoured support. Day one (Saturday), we had instructions to push forwards to the railway line and establish positions here (dig-in) for an attack into town on day 2. Two previous infantry attacks had failed, we were informed. It was clue to go ‘armour first’ that we missed, and didn't!
The six German players each had their own troops and a few AT guns, as well as a few bunkers with MG42s etc. Not much armour, but 116th Panzer’s support could be called on if things got dicey, so the panzers were in reserve.
In such a big game, with so much going on, you can’t really see everything that’s happening on the board, and obviously you have your own sector to worry about first. At the extreme left flank of the US attack, my view of the battle mostly saw this action. On the other flank, well, I had only rough reports but no clear view (most of the time it didn’t seem to be going well though!).
The defended farm at Merebich stood in my way, and not wanting to get dragged into a fight with the elite 9th Fallschirmjager holding it, I delegated the task of clearing Merebich to two other commanders with infantry forces. I would swing wide of the farm and press on fast for the railway line with my armoured infantry (assuming it didn’t bog down, as a scenario special rule had off-road travel in danger of bogging in the autumnal rains and quagmire).
To help the attack we had a lot of timed barrages from 105s and 155s (and a Calliope), but after these, the artillery would be short on shells and might run out at anytime. Also, with very low cloud, all air support was cancelled (oh good!). We had a preliminary bombing strike from two P-47s, after that, zippo. So, into the attack against a fortified position, lacking sustained artillery support and air support and with tanks likely to bog off-road - it did not bode well.
So it proved…
Despite our timed barrages knocking out a couple of AT guns and causing pinning, even though one P-47 was driven off by 20mm AA fire, our infantry set off from their foxholes across the fields. Six infantry platoons were on the move. One found itself in a minefield (despite us having a mineroller, which for unknown reasons- probably forgetfulness - hadn’t deployed yet to clear the way).
On the left flank Merebich Farm was subjected to some heavy 155s shelling and .50cal HMG area fire that had the Germans well suppressed. The armour slowly arrived, and found the srrounding fields a swamp, 4 vehicles (2 M10s and 2 M4s) had become immobile with no ARV in sight to pull them clear. The infantry assault on Merebich was overwhelming, despite a steadfast defence against the odds. The FJ pioneers gained some revenge for the merciless shelling with a last gasp flamethrower attack, which hurt, but then the buildings were cleared and the GIs moved in in force.
My own armoured column arrived via the road, only to find it mined and the lead Jumbo Sherman was KO’d. My armour became stuck behind it and had to swing off the road, one took a Panzerschreck hit from a suicidal attack which saw its two man team wiped out by returning HE fire, but cost me a second Sherman (of 6). As planned I swung left off the road and got the M3 troop carriers to the fore, racing for the railway line, whilst the tanks kept up rapid HE fire to suppress the 88 watching the road. It kept using Tactical Co-ordination to recover and destroyed one half track before heavy MG fire saw the gunners cut down or running. I had men on the railway embankment and digging in soon after, and tanks behind firing HE over their heads into the town. My platoon’s 60mm mortar even neutralised a German MG team in the church - a first for me! Mission accomplished for day one, except a column of Pz IVs was approaching through Langerwehe. The lead panzer traded fire with my Shermans, and the panzer column stalled, faced by a lot of bazooka’s on ambush fire. They didn’t threaten too hard and pulled back as the game ran to its end on Saturday.
Not so good for the US elsewhere, with darkness approaching the US attack was called off. Only the extreme left and right commanders (George and myself) had men on the railway embankment. We had 20 minutes to redeploy units for day 2 and re-arm tanks etc, so everything was in place for Sunday’s resumption. The day was declared a marginal victory for the Germans.
Sunday morning, with many players slightly the worse for wear after Saturday night. The US had orders to break into town, except me, who had orders not to break into town. My aid would mostly come in the form of M7 Priest barrages into the town and some long range HE fire from my tanks (we did get one little duel with a StuG that poked its nose out, but neither side scored the decisive blow).
The battle was being decided on the right, which was a blood bath. German armour had arrived, including a Jagdtiger (!), and their fire kept the US troops well off the railway line. Sunday saw no progress from the US forces on the right or in the centre, although the continued attack through Merebich did get over the railway and into town, shot in by M10s and M4s now freed from yesterday’s mud. It was our only slight gain.
So, at midday, with the US’ BR rating for the day already exceeded, we called it a wrap. The US attack was called off and withdrew. Langerwehe was too tough a nut for these forces, time to waste it with heavy arty or maybe a B17 strike! It was a solid German win, well done to them, but it's not the winning, its having a cracking game, and we all had, so we all won (ahh!), its just the US players won a bit less!
Here are my photos of the game in progress; dice, tapes, hands etc in shot. Most are from my end of the table. I did make a few little photo-recon trips around the board, but its was pretty crowded and time was pressing, better to just crack on with the action.
Thanks all that played in the right spirit… and thanks to Piers for the organisational leg-work. Good times, good company, some beer (and a lot for a few) and loads of toy soldiers, life is good! Enjoy...
US infantry start in their foxholes south of Langerwehe, well out of range.
German players deploying into the town before turn 1.
Firs shots fired (OK, bombs dropped). USAAF's only appearance.
Waiting for my forces, the FJ 88 and loader team, dug-in on the edge of Langerwehe.
Behind it, troops in the ruins. All to be cleared by Sunday afternoon.
Up, out of their foxholes and advancing, with no sign of their armoured support from reserve (why?).
Arty battery in place. 3 M7 Priests, before one caught a direct hit from a wild 120mm mortar shell. Still, they proved invaluable support.
The far (right) flank. Shermans have arrived to shell the town.
More 47th Infantry advance on Merebich farm, beyond those trees (mercifully blocking LoS).
Still a long way to go to the railway line.
First squad reaches the graveyard (handy!). Railway line just beyond, but the area is under heavy MG fire. Hug those walls.
The only armoured support in the centre, M5s.
Half of Iowa is descending on Merebich farm. That Sherman is in a very swampy field (we are told). Roofs removed from farm so we can see what is lurking and firing at us, for targeting.
My 3rd Armoured troops yet to arrive (down that road).
A lone mysterious dispatch rider racing ahead of my troops deployment. What was his role, the umpire would not say! But he raced off into town.
The spearhead division arrives. Jumbo leading the column and kaboom! Hits a mine.
Column to halt, exposed to 88 fire and FJ in that farm (guns right!).
Panzerschreck team claims a second tank, then dies, many times!!
Sherman ARV tries to repair the damage, to no avail.
The Merebich attack pauses whilst supporting MG fire does its work. The Sherman is bogged down and will be no help.
Support fire group flaying Merebich with MG and mortar fire.
M10s arrive to help, and 2 of them bogged down too. The dog-faces would have to go in alone.
Go, go, go! They rush the farm.
My boys are off the road and crossing the wet fields to my left. Objective the railway not far ahead (if you have an M3 to drive in).
Dispatch rider passes on his message 'the yanks are coming!' Yes, we can see that thanks Hans!
My M3s take the lead whilst the Shermans try to keep the 88 quiet.
My M10s lend some HE support too, now that Merebich is safely in US hands.
Mopping up in Merebich. Final building to be cleared.
On the right, an M10 fires from the hill down into town.
They would at least get some men on the objective.
M3 firing its .50cal at the 88 crew, before they got off a return shot (tactical co-ordination? - who wrote these rules?) and ruined its day!
My arty support rolls on, but not enough orders to use it really. That half track bogged down (can you see the pattern forming?).
My support teams cross the railway line and get ready for the counter-attack. 88s still going, somehow!
First German reinforcements, heading my way, until a breakdown in the lead Panzer resulted in a blockage, then cleared by the Berghetzer.
and more... Langerwehe is suddenly full of 116th Panzer's tanks.
So my guys dig-in and get the bazookas forward. '88' now gone in a fusillade of MG fire.
But there are still a few survivors in the church, including the HQ senior officer (with no troops left to command).
Lead Pz IV has few shots at my distant Shermans, no hits from either side.
Merebich is now secured. The jump-off point for tomorrow's renewed effort to get to the railway and into town.
The Aunty Jemima mineroller to clear the road, moments before being wasted by the Jagdtiger waiting for it.
The beast lurking, so much AT fire it's not worth even trying. PaK43, Jagdpanzer, HMG in bunker. Find another way!
Armour in the centre arrives in force.
Day two's attack begins in the centre, the Shermans get rolling down hill.
That's more like it... serious Detriot steel.
Shermans lurk everywhere, shelling Langerwehe. 75mm rounds don't cut it against fortified buildings or bunkers.
Day two's attack from our left, the armoured column deployed the night before.
Now un-bogged, the M10s can support the Sherman advance with long range fire, and proves as useless as ever!
The road to Langerwehe, is, well, messy!
Suspiciously empty half tracks in Langerwehe, the panzer grenadiers all now in buildings and dealing out machine-gun-death.
But a few have made the railway line on the right.
More German armour arrives. Eee Gods!
Panzer IVs firing position in the centre until it was hit and KO'd by an M5! Get in! (small victories, we'll take them).