Monday 3 February 2014

XantenstraBe Counter-Attack. The Day of Battle.

 German attacks, Fallshirmjager on foot on the right, Panthers and grenadiers on the left.

British defence. Flying column up the cente to the woods. Reinforcements along road and to the farm. 
17 pdr covering fire behind.

Sunday, and the players and forces had gathered (those that could make it).  I ended up switching back to being a German commander, which was fine, as I picked the Fallschirmajger forces anyway, and using my other German models to create the third German players forces as well.

We two German players gathered in the scout-hall kitchen to discuss the plan. It didn’t take long. Firstly, we needed to get to an objective fast, but the Fallschirmjager forces was footbound. If they were in reserve they’d be walking to battle all day and not get there, as well as using up a lot of orders in doing so. They just had to deploy first, and any chance of quickly bouncing an objective was gone with them.  Converesly, the Brits had 7 (!) scout units, and would be taking first turn (we had 2 scouts). They’d be there first anyway, even if we used a different force to lead the attack. A tactical defeat before we’d even placed any models... but we’d just have to except that we’d have to fight our way onto an objective.

The Fallschirmjager would lead and attack the farm from out right flank. The main assault would be against the woods, then the crossroads, using the Panthers and tank riding Volksgrenadier (but upgraded and carrying MG42s and extra panzerfausts – which all turned out to be dud!). The third force would be split, half to support the Panthers, including the Jagdpanther and Hetzer, the other half to back up the FJ, with StuG and Ostwind. They too would be carrying grenadiers, this time with MG42s, extra MGs and panzerfausts. I counted 14 MG42s in our forces... 

Conversely, the Brits had the speed to easily bounce the objectives. They started with their Cromwells in column on the road and motor infantry with them, followed by a veteran carrier section, all to take the woods, by using their speed on the road.

The farm would be the task of the following reserve platoon, with its support in more carriers, and a few of the Shermans. The 17pdr Shermans and Achilles would be hanging back to use their range to cover the two forward thrusts.

It was game on...
S Force (Sean). Shermans and too many Fireflies (4?). Sexton battery. 2 supply OYDs, recce armoured cars, 4.2" mortar and loader team in funny-looking Windsor carrier, infantry platoon - tank riding. HQ in M5 HT and radio van. Air observer in jeep.

KR Force (Ken and Russ): Cromwells, motorised infantry platoon with support MG and 3" morat in carriers. Vet carrier section (not war weary), 2 Achilles, sniper, 2 Daimlers, plus change...

German FJ Force. Vet FJ platoon, Jgpanzer IV (panzer ace), 20mm AA, 120mm mortar, sniper, HMG-42 team, wire team, OP team in kubelwagen for off-table 88 artillery... good infantry but slow.

 Strike Force W (Warwick). Panther platoon (1 panzer ace), regular Volksgrenadier platoon, HMG42 with loader team. 80mm moratr team, Famo, supply truck, no artillery.

 Strike Force F (Fuzz). Jagdpanther, Hetzer, StuG, Ostwind, grenadier platoon with extra MG-42s, Pak 40 with loader team and Maultier tow. Again, no artillery! Panhard AC converted to stand-in armoured supply carrier.
Fallschirmjager trudge across the soggy fields. Platoon HQ in place to call in 120mm mortar fire. 20mm AA on ambush against the arrival of the RAF. Jagdpanzer IV lurking in woods on ambush too, against inevitable arrival of enemy armour.

 British deployment, the flying column. German pre-registered target point right in the middle! But they all moved before we got the chance to shoot.The Brits got first turn and raced off down the road at the double quick. Those Cromwells shift.

 Brave Cromwells approach the woods (after 1 move!). Officer in the lead... foolhardy.

 M5s cut-off the road behind.

OP directed off-table 88 artillery pins the leading tank, stalling the column.

 Achilles covers the farm with its potent gun and long fields of fire. No tanks to shoot at though! Sniper also lurking in hedge to pick off FJ.

Light armour racing for the farm. The Daimler made itself useful by spoting for mortar fire. The two carriers later ran into an 88 barrage and direct hits that wiped them out!

 Senior officer tactically co-ordinating from the woods, with radio van.

 Vickers team sets-up in the farm, only for well directed MG-42 fire to pin them down, then wipe them out!

 Second Achilles at the back on the Brit's right, doing the same job as the first, lots of tanks to shoot at over here.

 Sextons arrive from reserve and are in place in the orchard. They then fired every turn of the game.

Cromwells move up to occupy the woods as ordered.

 PaK-40 and loaders deployed with long field of fire in the centre. It supporting fire with AP, then HE against the farm, proved very handy, and it survived the game untouched. 

German reinforcements, and the main attack on our left. Panthers and tank riders, Jagdpanther giving the pinned Cromwell crew a heart-attack by appearing on the road ahead. Hetzer creeping forward (unfortunately to too close to the Brits pre-registered target point - marked by small yellow bush). It then copt 25 pdr fire and was often pinned.

Brits occupy the farm in force under mortar and 88 fire. Unlucky carriers going up in smoke!

StuG arriving and getting a bit stuck in the Hohe-Ley ditch.

 Point of the attack, on-coming Panthers. Panzer ace just pinned by glancing long-range 17pdr shot (1 of 4 which glanced off through the game - good MAN steel that!). My Panthers have never been any good in any game I've fielded them, but things were going to change this time!

Facing the three Panthers, two Cromwells in the woods - good luck!

 and there infantry support arriving behind to de-buss into the woods.

Oh dear, a stray 88 arty shot smashed the Brit's FHQ M5, and he is the lucky to be the sole survivor. Radio van then scarpered off to safer cover.

 Firsts FJ squad probe the farm edge and start shooting away at the occupying Brits. Return fire later wiped them out... ouch!
Grenadiers creep up to the woods, to find their panzerfausts are duds! Oops, MG fire wiped them out too, but not before a Panther scored a first kill on the Cromwell.

 Ostwind finally shows up, following the StuG through the marshy ground.

 Youch! British armour and infantry reinforcements for the farm.  Erm, the FJ's slow attack is in trouble when this all arrives.

Up closer... it doesn't look any better.

 First British infantry double into the farm yard, under ineffective area fire from FJ. Lack of orders meant that attack had all but stalled, whilst the Panthers got moving on the left.

Hetzer, finally unpinned. It nailed a Sherman at maximum range... good shooting from the little guy! Its only real contribution to the war effort.

Panther attack presses on, having debussed their riders, who scattered and opened a wither MG42 fire into the woods, as 75mm rounds whipped through, that wood became very bad for the Brit's health. 4.2" mortar fire failed the stop the big cats.

Fireflys and Achilles take up station to engage the Panthers at long range, it would be a very long gun duel between the two.

 The British occupied woods, not for long!

British armour using the road to move up fast, behind the farm, and safe from long range German AT fire.

 Sextons and OYD supply truck, in permanent proximity to resupply them.

Oh hell... the Brits pull an air attack chit, and a Typhoon shows ups. Panthhers become target number one for its rockets. 

 Or not, ambush firing Ostwind lays the flak down! Two hits, both causing damage, tear the Tiffy from the skies... crash and burn...woo-hoo! Flukey dice rolls though... but hey, we all need some.

Panthers reach the woods, both Cromwells now smoking wrecks, MGs blazing away at the infantry deeper within. Note, sneaky PIAT team with a side shot. It hit, and glanced off again! Then he died in a hail of tank MG fire.

Off the back of a lorry, Achilles and HQ Cromwell resupply ammo bins from the second OYD.

 At the back of woods, carrier teams move up and prepare to face the onslaught, 2" mortar at the ready!

Meanwhile, back on the farm, I think its pretty secure... if still under occasional mortar fire.

 More infantry in the field around the farm.

The big bug-out! M5s and carriers flee the deadly woods and stream back over the main road to escape destruction. Only 1 carrier didn't make it, picked off as it fled by a 75mm HE shell. Such a fast retreat saved about 5 or 6 easy counters. But the woods were now firmly in German hands.

 Mortar and 25 pdr fire tries to stop the panzer assault. We tactical co-ordinated the Panthers 5 times, and as veteran or elite crews, they never wavered once. Veteran crews rock!

Disaster strikes, a flukey direct hit and penetration by a 4.2" mortar ends the Jagdpanther's battle, it was rubbish anyway and missed with every shot, despite being another panzer ace. Still, call up the FAMO to fix it or tow it away.

Resupplying the gunnery battle as Fireflies and Panthers continue to duke it out. Occasional hits then resulted in glances, and so it went on... and on... ammunition bins being emptied and restocked on both sides.

 M5 recce jalopy, lurking and calling in 4.2" mortar fire on the German woods. Here it's been pinned by some deviating off-table 88 fire. It didn't get unpinned before a 75mm AP rounded turned it into scrap metal. Sean was not happy...

 Ostwind and StuG move to the hedge and take the farm under a withering fire. Too late to help the FJ, who were now pullng back, to save the chits on their battered squads. There was much complaining about the veteran FJ willingness to fight. But the armour had arrived to late to aid them, well that was my excuse!

 MG-42 team joins the fire fight at the farm (the second of the battle)

The smoking ruins of the British armour after two turns of good shooting from the Panthers, a decisive win in that gunnery duel to the Hun. Score 3 kills to the panzer ace.

 But, on the right, FJ pulling back to the Hohe-Ley ditch, a weary retreat, half their starting numbers gone.

 The long view from the German table edge.

Re-armed (for the second time) the panzer ace Panther presses on into open ground, no 17pdrs left to stop him, and some Volksgrenadier are still keeping up. Next stop, the Sextons! 

But it had reached 5.30pm, and it time to stop. 6 hours of gaming had resulted in a close fought battle. German BR total of 76, with a bonus Endkampf chit at the end (when we just 7 points from breaking) raising that to 84. We had lost 70 BR. 14 away from the breaking.

The Brits started with 92 BR, and had lost 74. 18 from breaking. They held 2 objectives (the farm and crossorads), the Germans held 1 (the woods). So, by any measure, a hard fougth and very close win to the Brits... although we had actually inflicted more losses on them. The Germans hadn't lost a single AFV to enemy gunnery, only the Jagdpanther to an unlucky mortar hit, and the Famo towed it away off the table anyway (to regain us 3 BR). As tank battles go, it was a German win, but it hadn't been enough to sever the important road to Xanten.

Given the time, energy, etc, I think the re-armed Panthers would have caused even more havoc. The British armour was down to the bare bones of 75mm armed Shermans, and the three big cats could have pressed on for the crossroads. But that's a big IF...

Brilliant game, great fun for a sunday afternoon, and a tough struggle between two well matched forces. The Brits did pull about 8 special counters (3 aircraft but only 1 showed up), which helped there end score too. Thanks to the Brit players, Sean, Ken and Russ, and Fuzz for the Germans - one day that Ostwind will die... it lives a remarkable charmed life, the Brits missed very shot at it. I even hate it, and it was on my side.

 My ME-262 didn't show up though... no big surprise there then. One day!