Monday, 1 January 2018

Encounter at Wadoud Oasis

First AAR for 2018, so happy new year all. This AAR is part of the play-testing for BG:Torch and this game was a chance to give the US Armoured army lists a first run-out, to face the Germans in an encounter at the desert settlement of Wadoud Oasis (somewhere near El Guettar, in southern Tunisia).

My US armoured task force’s mission was to capture the village as part of the wider operation to clear the El Guettar area. The Germans, well, they obviously had the same objective. Take and hold Wadoud. Time to get the little tanks rollin’!!

It was a straight attack/counter-attack scenario for 600 pts aside (Platoon game).
My force was rather hastily thrown to together for the coming fight (not much time over Xmas). Consisting of my CO ‘the Major’ in his M20 armoured car, an armoured infantry platoon in four M3s supported by an M8 ‘Scott’ HMC, an M3 Lee platoon, an M4 Sherman platoon, an FO with 2 x 105mm guns off-table to call on and a timed P-38 airstrike (for turn 5). 595 points, 5 officers, 33 BR  and 0 scouts (slight oversight, but I rationalised it as my inexperienced yanks just bulldozing into battle without stopping to take a look first).

Jerry was coming the other way with approximately: a regular grenadier platoon in a few trucks and tank riding, on a Pz III platoon, with a single Pz IVG and a Tiger (eek!). No artillery support, beyond one 80mm mortar, but 2 recce - 8-rad and sniper team. They also had a towed 88, a towed old Russian anti-tank gun and a timed Stuka strike. 602 pts, 3 officers, 40 BR and 2 scouts.

Being out-scouted and having no US scouts at all meant the Germans recce could deploy anywhere on the table and on ambush fire. He stole an early objective with his 8-rad. 2 chits already for me then, both low thankfully.

The Germans went first and first on was the 88 on its Sdkfz 7 tow to get set-up as the welcoming committee, ready for my arrival. A Pz III and the Pz IV also arrived. My response, 1 unit! See how this going already? My first M3 Lee, taking 20mm cannon area fire from the armoured car but shrugging it off. It returned fire and hit and killed the 8-rad with a 37mm shell (useful for something!).

Things started to escalate, his panzers and infantry moving up and into the village. My major arrived and got on the horn to his arty. They banged away and got that 88 pinned… good stuff, but my reserves rolls had been 1, 1 and 2 (with the re-roll for the senior officer). 4 units so far. The Germans had (I countered - 11!). Fritz was already almost in place and his units were getting onto to ambush fire to wait for me. Swift action for the Jerries, tardy stuff by 1st Armoured.

When my Shermans rolled in and moved to secure the 1 objective I could get to (the enemy now had 3). The Sherman’s first shells did little, but one HE shell pinned the Tiger - great work. Not before its first 88 shot wrecked my M3 Lee though, first Tiger kill!! Here we go again!

My arty kept up the steady pinning, no direct hits though, as the major bellowed his instructions and the half-track infantry rolled in. Time to get those ‘purple-heart wagons’ on the move, at top speed, swinging hard right and racing around the town, planning to attack via the rocks and the cactus patch (cover) - things could get spikey!

My P-38 swooped in, and pinned some towing vehicles with its bomb-run - not so good, but I was one turn late to get a good drop right on his tanks. In response the Luftwaffe also swooped in, the Stuka’s pre-chosen target was the objective my Shermans were on. A choice target and as it dived in three of its bombs scored direct hits (with a dive bomber re-roll). Err, that would the three closest targets, all my tanks!

It was carnage as all three Shermans where destroyed in a blink of the eye, costing me 4 counters. Which resulted in my own luck, an aircraft, one 1 and 2 twos. 5 BR in all, phew. The awesome dive-bombing wouldn’t break me… but it had all but shattered my main attack.

Seeing their chance the Pv IV and Tiger boldly pushed forwards, rolling at the last objective, currently un-held. I had no choice, I had to try and hold it, so I used my last two M3 Lees and the senior officer’s M20 to push back, facing off the panzers, but holding the objective (the major himself had dismounted from the M20 and was calling in arty fire from the rocks). It was a one-sided fight, my pinning HE fire did worry the Tiger crew, but they used tactical co-ordination to unpin (veterans) and then between it and the Pz IV ‘special’ they quickly worked over my Lees, destroying them - no tanks left.

Meanwhile, as my armour was destroyed in detail, my armoured infantry pressed their attack as per the plan… their support weapons had been first in the race and got to the rocks for cover, deployed the weapons and opened fire, .30 cal MGs raked the village and got some of the German grenadiers pinned as the others moved up behind (Note here, in the past I have left my support weapon at the rear and thus, they aren't deployed when the infantry go in - a mistake. This time they led and were in place first as the squads de-bussed to push into town, under their fire). The platoon command squad circled round further right, in place to rush the blue-dome mosque. This was an objective held by the grenadier Platoon HQ, if I could steal it back I’d at least have 1 and not be defeated when the Tiger moved up next turn to take the fourth one (currently held by a single M20 blazing away with its .50 cal to try and pin the Tiger - uneven fight!).

One infantry squad moved up and de-bussed into the rocks and cactus patch. The last M3 tried to follow but was hit by the Russian anti-tank gun’s ambush fire and knocked out, leaving the men out, but pinned behind the wreck. The armoured infantry, with all those pintle-mounted MGs pack a lot of firepower, and used well, to pin the German infantry down I felt I could get into town and take that objective. It helped when a Panzer III rolled up, forgot about bazookas (what in 1943? - oh yes!) and was knocked out by a lurking GI in the cactus’ (cactii?). The Russian anti-tank crew were gunned down by MG fire and the grenadier platoon HQ pinned. Next turn I’d be storming in. I boldly (given the BR situation) unpinned (I wanted that infantry squad back) and luckily drew another aircraft, this one hopefully would arrive, another bomb-armed P-38 buzzing in low. Maybe I could just steal it.

Erm, no… it was a rather desperate hope and the Tiger killed the M20 with a single point blank 88 shell. The 5 BR counter I drew pushed me over my BR total, time to withdraw (just a bit!). Defeat at Wadoud Oasis… but the Germans had been, to my surprise, reduced to just 7 BR remaining (mostly unpinning from my artillery fire). Their losses were slight: an armoured car, a Pz III, an old AT gun and about 4 men. The US had been 6 tanks, 2 armoured cars and about 12 men.

Good game… but never again will I fight without: a. some form of AA defence in place, that Stuka strike was just too painful. b. at least 1 scout unit - rookie errors, but hey, if nothing else characterful of the US forces in Tunisia.

A few tweaks to make to the army lists, but nothing major. What to do about that single allowed Tiger? Obviously, the Germans had them in Tunisia, but they are (just like BG Kursk) going to be my nemesis, I just cannot knock one out - never have! This one rolled right up the centre of board, took some pinning, but scored 3 kills and never felt in any danger.

Here are the snaps of the afternoon’s action at Wadoud. 

Wadoud Oasis, Germans arriving via top right, US attack from the bottom left. 
The stream was just difficult ground - a narrow trickle.

 Cactus patch

 88 arrives and is set-up in the centre, sniper team in the rocks. 

First Germans into the village, seizing it before any of the Yanks had really arrived.

German defensive position starting to thicken, ominous.

Er, yeah, very ominous now the Tiger is in place to dominate the centre of the table.

Shermans move up the objective, the stand of trees.

 Fork-tailed devil's bombing run (at high sped obviously).

Troops at last, armoured infantry on the way right around the village.

'The Major' is on the horn... dropping in 105 shells, about the only thing doing any damage atm. 

Stuka!... nooo!.... multiple 6s with its bombs.

Err, no more Shermans, carnage. 

Runningthe gauntlet of ambush fire at high speed, M3s about to de-buss the infantry.

The Tiger and his running buddy push forwards through my arty fire, after the 'Sherman Incident'.

Infantry support weapons out, in place and in cover, opening up on the village over the cactus patch. 

Last reserves, my arrive and M3s try to hold up the panzers, mismatch this...

 Efficient return fire. End of my tanks.

 Final bit of revenge, bazooka in the cactii gets a tank kill... too little too late to save what had become a doomed attack.