Monday, 13 June 2022

First assault on Hougoumont, with Soldiers of Napoleon

This would be historical refight, a pre-written scenario (by me) set during the first hour or two of the attack on Hougoumont at the Battle of Waterloo (in case anybody didn’t know where it was!). One of the most famous feats of arms of the British army (conducted largely by the Guards and, ahem, German units). I did the research, made a sketch map of the battlefield and got the units and strengths sorted into playable army lists for both sides, each with their break points. It made for an interesting match-up of a small, tough force for the allies, of excellent infantry, dug-in behind good cover and with the fortified building of the gardener’s house (part of the far larger chateau complex) to defend. The French attacked with, well, lots of infantry, mostly regulars and some battalions downgraded to reserves, but hugely outnumbering the defenders. Neither side had any cavalry and the guns were mostly off-table (except a single howitzer the French pulled up in close support).

I was keen to see if the rules would reflect the actual battle well, would it be ‘game-able’ and still have any sense or feel of the reality? Could the allies replicate their heroic feat of arms or would they just get crushed by weight of numbers?

We didn’t have the perfect models to play the game, lots of French infantry was fine (got that), but for the allies, no Nassau troops (the green jackets of the rifles would stand-in for green Nassaus) and the Hannoverians/Luneberg/Grubenhagen contingents would be made-up of more red jacketed Brits, as were the Guards (which is at least right, bar fancy epaulettes).

We set-up the tabletop and sorted our forces, rolled for the reserve brigade’s arrival and noted it down, rolled command points  and did the pre-battle prep, so were ready to go. At around 11.30 am, General Rielle’s Corps (the vanguard of it, 1st and 2nd Leger)) were advancing through the woods south of the chateau.

This is popular subject for Napoleonic wargamers (naturally, it’s a very famous action), and I thought it work well (as an idea). SoN recreates a part a larger battle and this what this is, the first assault (there were several) for an hour or two over just part of the wider Waterloo battlefield. It is what the game already recreates.  Second, I didn’t want the entire chateau complex on the tabletop, it’s huge and breaks the ground scale by its size, with many buildings (which few gamers have). Instead I went for the middle of the action, focused on the attack on the formal garden with its tall walls. Could the French overcome this obstacle? (on the day they couldn’t). 

Rough map of the tabletop battlefield. Gardener's house, walled garden, great orchard, the woods and hedged paddocks.

Turn 1, and the allies started with the initiative, German skirmishers in the woods and firing at the French columns for the first few points of Disruption. The French advanced en-masse, through the difficult terrain of the woods (slowing them down), getting their own Voltiguers forward to engage those skirmishers and shoot back at the Germans. Behind the screening light infantry, the Guards and Nassua troops held the gardener’s house and deployed along the formal gardens walls (it was well loopholed and had ad hoc fire platforms of barrels and doors/planks behind it). The French advance was slowed, fighting the underbrush or, for the flanks, the big hedges of the farm’s paddocks. The French held the ‘grand assault’ battlefield objective and I felt confident I could complete it (for once). The allies held the ‘Hold the Line’ objective, which we decided only counted for the formal garden and house, they had to keep the French out of their strongpoint to claim it.

Little action but skirmishing fire and French moving up in turn 1, a quiet one, with no artillery fire at all. Turn 2, and things heated up, the Guards detachments sent forwards their skirmishers into the woods too, as did the Nassua battalion and the place was thick with allied skirmishers, all firing away and starting to hurt the French. My own fired back, doing the first Disruption to the German light troops. Behind, along the wood’s track, I brought up the limbered howitzer, set it up and started the lob shoot onto the gardener’s house - but with no hits yet. At the end of turn 2, the French suffered the first set-back, the last card play saw ‘skirmishers harass’ special event and the guards and Nassau skirmishers opened a galling fire through the trees, scoring hits that broke the 1st battalion of the 1st Leger… drat… skirmishers hitting on 2+ hurts, and multiple hits ended the turn with 6 disruption on the 1st battalion’s 5 stands (1 deployed out as voltiguers, so thy don’t count). They fell back, broken, the first loss. Nice special event to get.

Turn 3, and the French columns pressed on, to the edge of the woods, deploying into lines at the hedgerow and opening up with volleys at the garden wall beyond. On the flanks, 2 battalions, one left, one right, closed in on the gardener’s house and into the great orchard (unoccupied) to get in and stop his objective being completed. The 3rd battalion, 1st Leger then suffered the same fate, another skirmishers harass card scored 4 hits as the French tried to scale the walls and, with no card to rally them (militia quality), that battalion also broke. Those guards were showing their excellent mettle. The 1st Leger was down to 1 battalion and its howitzer (still missing). To aid the French General Rielle did arrive to oversee General Baudin’s floundering attack. On the down side, Guard reinforcements arrived in the formal gardens. It was beginning to look very tough.

Turn 4, and the French assault, well the first wave, was approaching it’s peak. Volley smashed between the hedge line and wall and the howitzer scored its first hits on the guards in the gardener’s house. As French battalions close in for the coming ‘grand assault’, both sides needed to rally too.  Trading fire, with much skirmishing, but those walls were absorbing most of my firepower. The French had now moved all their battalions up and three were in place to charge next turn. One more was needed though to fulfill the Grand Assault, the early loss of two battalions was being felt.

Turn 5, and the French reinforcements had arrived, Soye’s brigade of 6 more infantry battalions, advancing up through the woods again (as quick as they could, taking the enforced Disruption for the full move). In went those charges, the first into German light infantry, winning and destroying the small unit that broke. At the gardener’s house only 1 of the reserve battalions charged, the other refused and volley fired instead (even with a command point re-roll). The single battalion were then in trouble, as the defending guards within re-rolled all their failed attacks, and the attackers re-rolled all their successful ones. Hammered, the guards drove the French off with 8(eek!) disruption, which had to be rallied with the loss of half the battalion as casualties. I still needed 2 more charges, and couldn’t get them. The battalions lining the hedge (base of volley fire) were just too far away to get to the wall. The grand assault hadn’t been completed.

By now, the VPs had stacked up, with the allies just ahead. But if I could somehow complete my objective, I’d be at the allied break point and win. So, to turn 6, and last chance to do it. The guards on the walls were being reinforced by more elite infantry and so, getting over that wall was looking impossible, until Soye’s many battalions took over. I did draw a new objective card, ‘advance through enemy lines’. I could go round, so did, and sent 1 battalion off past the gardener’s house, to seek another way in. But I couldn’t get the needed second battalion to them quickly enough. I failed that objective too, and the D3 penalty VPs for not completing the ‘grand assault’ pushed the French to their break point (just, rolled a max 3, of course). Drat, the allies had hung on and seen off the French first assault (just like on the day).

It felt close throughout, the allies horribly outnumbered and desperately rallying, trying not to lose some small battalions (3 stands detachments of guardsmen). The garden’s wall had been a fortress and the late (sneaky) use of the ‘skirmishers harass’ cards had been good play, breaking 2 battalions. Very happy with how it played out, a very historical result. French could have won it, but the guardsmen were just too tough in the melee and with excellent skirmishing skills. I’m thinking now to write a second scenario, for the afternoon’s main assault on the chateau, to re-jig the forces, fresh French troops (and some stragglers) and go again, over the same tabletop - Hougoumont, 2-4 pm?

From this, I can see a whole series of this re-fight scenarios, maybe 8-9 to cover the entire of the Waterloo battlefield, play them out in chronological order and you have re-fought the ‘crisis points’ of the battle. An idea of a supplement maybe, historical scenarios for Napoleon’s great battles (that can be the working title). 

Photos of the day's action...

Gardiner's house and walled garden beyond, from the 'kitchen garden' field. 

south of Hougoumont

General Baudin's columns, 1st and 2nd Leger, begin the advance. 

The single 5.5" howitzer towed up the track through the woods, just behind the infantry attack.

A battalion of the 2nd Leger cross the hedge into the kitchen garden paddock, heading for the gardener's house.

Skirmishers heavily engaged in the woods

Guardsmen and Nassua troops line the tall walls of the formal garden.

Hannoverian skirmishers at the hedge, as the French reach the edge of the woods and deploy into line.

Approaching the gardener's house, with guard skirmishers in the lane.

More guard skirmishers face the oncoming column of 3rd battalion, 1st Leger. It reached the wall, then broke under heavy, accurate, fire.

The French close in for the 'grand assault'.

Charge! the French smash the small German light infantry unit, but take heavy fire from the Nassau troops behind the wall, and fall back to rally. 

Soye's brigade arrive and begin to follow the first attack in, another struggle through the woods. Another turn and they could have taken over the assault with fresh columns.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Battle of Daravish, with 'Soldiers of God'

The second game as a way of introducing a new player to the rules.  After this one, I think they have got it! 

The Crusaders launched a echelon left attack, massing their knights on the left and sending them in an all or nothing charge. Unfortunately, the Saracen right was its weakest flank, with light cavalry screened by militia infantry (a screen only to slow the enemy down and buy time for more archery). In the centre was the desert village of Daravish whilst on the Saracen's left they would be attacking the Crusaders defensive line, with crossbows and men at arms backed up by archers, with horse archers and their own Ghulam and Al-Halqa.

By the end of turn 1 it was clear the Saracens had a problem. Firstly, 2 March cards had seen the knights storm across the table and then, using their gallop, Charge! directly into those militia and mangle them under lances and hooves. The Saracens here hadn't yet been able to advance at all, and no table space going forward meant none to retreat into for the light cavalry. That side would become condensed, and horse archers like space to gallop around in (and run off). Plus, the Saracens archery was already loosing into combat! 

On the other flank the Saracen advance had been slow, the horse archers galloped out and traded archery, but the Ghulam and Al-Halqa guard cavalry hadn't got very far (no move cards).

The fight was on, and the knights were already fully engaged, with their Charge card and then a few Melee cards too, the Saracens were casting away cards to just not rapidly lose units. The archery was hurting back, but then, a Rally card, the Crusaders had what they needed and the flank was already in big trouble. The arab camelry were the next to be charged and they stood no chance in a stand-up fight. 

As the combats continued, the Saracens center infantry had to manoeuvre to face to the threat from their right, the horse archers kept shooting but were on their own table edge now, nowhere left to run! The slow Saracen cavalry attack had moved off, but still had a long way to go to get stuck in. They needed to hurry up!

This they did and the Al-Halqa and Ghulam galloped and charged, meanwhile the horse archers had also charged a unit of archers only to find them standing firm. Back on the messy right flank, more carnage, arab cavalry were defeated and broke, the knights ploughed on, into the centre's infantry. I kept shooting into the melees, which mean the knights were never safe, even though the Templars were now joining the fray too, but they again had a Rally card, or discarded to keep those knights safe. 

By turn 4 it was looking all over, the knights pounded into the horse archers and killed the right flanks command stand as well, despite his heroic efforts as a 'bold leader'. The flank's 5 units had all been routed from the field and the lost 'battle' meant a lost battle. A decisive victory for the Crusaders as their knights just hammered my flank as an unstoppable force (well, with those units facing them). Sometimes, the 'KISS' plan works and the big all-out charge had here. Tbf, my hand wasn't very kind. I rarely had any way to move, March and Charge! cards were dominated by the Crusaders, and when I did have him in trouble, he had the Rally required in hand. Such are the vagaries of war...

OK, lessons in game rules are over, the gloves are off!

Saracen centre, most of the infantry, facing the village. The plan was to just move up and hold it. That didn't happen!

The far right, horse archers move up to engage his defensive line and trade shots with his archers and crossbowmen. They held out well.

Knights rush in, and charge the militia in turn 1. Ot-oh!

Mopping up the left flank, all three knight units crush their opponents and charge on!

Too little, too late, the Saracen cavalry attacks, but can't defeat the Crusaders line before the right flank is annihilated.

Monday, 23 May 2022

The Battle of Casa Amarillo, with Soldiers of Napoleon

This was a game of SoN, set at 850 points, 4 brigades each, using play-test army lists for the French Army in Spain vs the Spanish.  Here are both side’s force lists, In the end, both picked similar forces: 2 infantry brigades, one strong, one weaker, a light cavalry brigade and, in reserve, dragoons. Both chose the use them very differently though.

Guivarch’s French Division

Deschamps’ Infantry Brigade (centre)
Light Infantry Battalion - 6 stands
Veteran Line Infantry Battalion - 6 stands
Line Infantry Battalion- 6 stands
Line Infantry Battalion- 6 stands
Foot Battery

Lizarazu’s Light Cavalry Brigade (right)
Hussars Regiment- 5 stands
Line Lancers Regiment- 5 stands
Chasseurs Regiment- 3 stands
Horse Battery

Maldini’s Neapolitan Brigade (left)
Line Infantry Battalion- 6 stands
Reserve Infantry Battalion- 6 stands
Reserve Infantry Battalion- 6 stands
Reserve Infantry Battalion- 5 stands
Foot Battery

Barthez’s Dragoon Brigade (reserve, in centre, Turn 2)
Dragoons Regiment - 5 stands
Dragoons Regiment- 5 stands

Zorrozaretta’s Spanish Division

Morientes’ Light Cavalry Brigade (forward screen)
Hussars Regiment- 5 stands
Light Horse Regiment- 4 stands
Lancers Regiment- 5 stands
Horse Battery

Abelardo’s Infantry Brigade (left)
Light Infantry Battalion - 6 stands
Grenadiers Battalion - 6 stands
Fusiliers Battalion - 6 stands
Militia Battalion - 6 stands
Militia Battalion - 3 stands
Foot Battery

Campo’s Militia Brigade
Militia Battalion - 6 stands
Militia Battalion- 6 stands
Militia Battalion - 6 stands
Militia Battalion- 6 stands
Fusiliers Battalion- 6 stands
attached Partisan band - 5 stands
Foot Battery

Nadal’s Dragoon Brigade (reserve, centre Turn 3)
Del Rey Dragoon Regiment- 5 stands
Dragoon Regiment- 5 stands
Horse Battery

My (French) plan was for a attack up the centre, with the French infantry supported by the dragoons. Timing would count, as I’d have to wait for the dragoons to arrive. In the meantime, my light cavalry on the left would demonstrate and harass, drive in skirmishers and, importantly, draw his cavalry to them, thus clearing them from the centre for the main event. Hopefully, my light cavalry could match or hold up anything they threw at them, and if it was weak, beat it as well. On the right, the Neapolitan brigade would again demonstrate, come forwards, threaten, draw Spanish troops to them and skirmish at the village. I had no intention of pressing hard, but I wanted the attack to be large enough that he had to react. Any Spanish units draw to the flanks would help when the punch up the centre hit. So harass and harry on the flanks, only attack if they looked too weak, draw in enemy reserves. Then, go! Up the centre with the good French infantry, with a light infantry screen in front of the attack columns that I would drive on and break his centre, with the dragoons pitching in as well. (Pity there is no heavy cavalry in Spain, they would have been perfect for this mission, but dragoons would suffice).

Using the scenario ‘Special Circumstances’, we generated that this battle (part of a battle) was actually only a demonstration attack by the larger Spanish force. Captain-General Zorozaretta would gain extra VPs for drawing in French reserves and keeping Guivarch busy.

The Spanish plan, I think, was to hold on their left with the militia brigade and attack on the right with the regular infantry and dragoons, whilst the light cavalry supported with harassing, spread out in a screen, one unit on the left (light horse), one in the centre (lancers) and one on the right (hussars). 

French line lancers and hussars lead on the right.
Deschamps' strike force in the centre, light infantry screening the columns.
Maldini's Neapolitans, working through the rocky ground.

The Spanish Line, with the village at the far end.

 Once deployed, we were ready for the action.

It began with the light cavalry, the French advancing and the Spanish hussars coming forward to meet them and, in a complete surprise, using a ‘fierce cavalry charge’ to attack the enemy hussars. The first early melee saw the French hussars counter-charge, meet the Spaniards and drive them back. Meanwhile, my line lancers moved quickly (at the gallop) up the far left flank, where a militia battalion quickly formed square. Too late, I also had a ‘fierce cavalry charge’ card and used it so the lancers ploughed in. The militia’s square was not solid and it shattered under the lancer’s impact and the battalion routed… hurrah! It hadn’t gone so well for my hussars though, they had pursued the Spanish hussar and charged again, only to be defeated and driven off (5 attacks, all rolled 1s and 2s!), then hit by cannon crossfire as well, my hussars were in a mess, withdrawing fast and had to rally, losses were heavy. That ended their battle. As they did, the chasseurs came forwards too and used ‘Harass’ order to drive-in Spanish militia and partisan skirmishers - that was their job today - anti- skirmisher duty. Whilst all this early cavalry action had been going on, the Italians on the right had moved out, but were slowed by the rocky ground over there, it would take a while to get the columns forward and get their skirmishers deployed.

End of Turn 1, and the French had the early lead.

Turn 2, and more of the same. The Neapolitans got forwards and into position, skirmish companies out and closed on the village, where Spanish militia were now occupying the buildings (and claiming them for the ‘Take a Strong Point’ objective they had taken).

I pondered hard at the prospect of turning the Spanish right flank with my triumphant lancers, but they were now over 20+ paces from their command stand, so lots of orders required, they no longer had their lances (one-use in the charge) and would have to negotiate a wood and an area of rocky ground (it would not be quick). I decided instead to pullback, job done, regroup and threaten any Spanish that tried to advance through the woods (one militia battalion was in there, but I wasn’t going in to get them out). The cannons roared back and forth, and the Italian gunners (having a very ‘on form’ day) broke his light horse with repeated accurate firing, they withdrew from the field. End of Turn 2 and it was going well, the French had increased their lead on VPs and their dragoon’s brigade arrived, in columns of march, ready to speedy ride up on the left centre and join the main attack.

Turn 3, time for the main attack to begin. Beating the Pas d’Charge the French infantry marched as the dragoons rode up along side. The Italians started skirmish firing into the village (not much effect) and their line unit deployed into line to face his light infantry, deployed in extended line, we were almost in volley range. The cannons thundered again, doing disruption to my dragoons, as did Spanish skirmish fire. His grenadiers advanced to meet the French advance head-on, the best of his infantry in a melee, as other Spanish battalions formed from line of march into attack columns. Then, his dragoons arrived as well, behind his centre. It was all poised for the main event on Turn 4. It looked ominous for the Spanish though. The French VP lead wasn’t any bigger though, he had claimed two battlefield objectives now.

Now the full fury was unleashed, and the French started with a ‘whithering volley’, which smashed into his grenadiers (from the French light infantry line screening the columns) and then the Neapolitans into his light infantry. That forced rallying, but it wasn’t over, I had another ‘whither volleys’ card and did it again! It was carnage. More skirmish fire, more cannon fire and the French dragoons moved up again, but still needed to change formation for an attack. Both sides rallied and then, things started to change as the tide turned. First, the Spanish played 'senior officer arrives' and his Army commander came to check on the field and make sure the line held here. Also, divisional commander Guivarch was wounded (me) and removed from the field (perhaps a cannonball had killed his horse and he was trapped under it). Anyway, I lost an Orders card, the Spanish had gained 1 and now would draw 8 cards to my 6… a big advantage. They needed it. Seeing his left centre in big trouble under the raking volley fire, the Spanish dragoons moved up behind them and deployed their small horse battery (1 gun only). The French were still ahead on VPs, but the Spanish had claimed 2 battlefield objectives (the village and the special circumstance, French reserves deployed) and those VPs were keeping them in it as we got to the crunch!

Turn 5 and the Spanish had lots of cards to play, I needed to be careful, but still press. His grenadiers, rallied now and having taken losses, made a surprise counter-charge (enraged by the accurate volleys) and defeated my light infantry screen sending it running. In reply the French veteran column charged back and defeated the grenadiers and drove them back. Then, another disaster, ‘command confusion’, and I lost 2 cards from my smaller hand, I was down to just 1 and he still had about 6! The Spanish got busy, returning fire, his lancers tried to charge and refused (militia cavalry are not reliable). His guns hammered my dragoons with round shot, and forced me to rally them. Ahh! the attack was going wrong. I could not rally and save my light infantry or one of the Neapolitan battalions, both broke! And suddenly the Spanish were in the lead on VPs. Terrible Turn 5, just when I was pressing to win it. My dragoons had done nothing this turn but get shot.

It seemed, given both sides were close to breaking, this would be it. The Spanish, now with the initiative, sent in the dragoons, led by the Del Rey regiment, then played an ‘at the gallop’ move card to race up then straight away charged, leaving no time to respond for my Italians and they took the brunt of the Del Rey regiment’s sabres… a battalion cut to ribbons by them, and running. The other Italians charged into the village and drove his militia out of the first buildings, a small win though. He had the cards and could afford to rally, often, and did. More fire into my stalled dragoons from cannons and skirmishers meant I had to rally here again, dooming the Italians, who were charged again by dragoons and driven back or ridden down. In return, fire from my veteran’s skirmishers broke his lancers and he couldn’t save them. The French final charge saw the veteran column overrun his guns. But again, I couldn’t get my dragoons in (too much Disruption now and in disorder)… and the Italians on the right had been badly smashed by his cavalry.

We added up VPs and both sides had broken. The Spanish by -2 VPs, the French by -6… so a marginal victory to the Spanish, they somehow had saved the day, his dragoon’s swift action had edged him the win, glory to the Del Rey!. My dragoons, well… just hadn’t been able to get going, I always need just 1 more card I didn’t have.

So, a narrow win to Spain, with General Guivarch carried wounded from the field and his Neapolitan brigade almost destroyed. But so had theSpanish centre been, his light, fusilier and grenadier battalions were all down to 2-3 stands and retreating fast in disorder, I had punched a hole, if only my dragoons could have helped and ridden through it

Great game, furious action at the end, no holes barred and it was tense and great fun. For most of the battle the French were bossing it, but the Spanish had a dramatic comeback in Turns 5 and 6. Playing with less action cards it is a real uphill struggle. Beware of that.

Here are some more shots of the action at Casa Amarillo. 

Lancers attack and break a Spanish militia square - a rare event. 
The Spanish attack, trying to get started. Never got far.
The militia on the right, advance to form their line and hold.
Neapolitan's skirmish with the militia in the village on the French far right.
Deschamps' brigade's assault closes in.
The Dragoons arrive and speed along to catch-up.
The crux of the battle, the infantry clash in the left centre, the French with overwhelming firepower, the Spanish, a gritty resolve to weather the storm. The grenadiers took a brutal battering, but did not break!
French columns' fire break the Spanish lancers, Disruption (green dice) is building for all.

Dragoons final deploy into line, but it is too late.

The saviors of the day, the Spanish Dragoons and the Del Rey (what remains) after clearing the Neapolitans from the edge of the village. The French retreat...

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Engagement at La Bechevaux, a BG:Westwall play-test

A chance to put the WIP book’s Panzer Brigade army list through its paces in a meeting engagement, set in the Lorriane in Sept ’44, as the Germans advance to seize a road junction and main road at La Bechevaux. The Lorraine is open farm land, rolling hills and woods/plantations, which felt (to me) a bit more like eastern front tank battles than Europe. No big hedgerows here.

My taskforce was from a US Armoured Division sent to intercept the German advance facing the raw Panzer Brigade troops, my army list was for 700 points in an Attack/Counter-Attack scenario. It was raining, so no air attack could be used (they counted as 1 instead). Drat, I had hoped on getting some USAAF support, that FAO I included was useless now… oh well…  the timed air strike was not effected.

We started off with the recce troops and a few extras, the M8 moving up the road the objective junction, mounted armoured infantry just behind to seize the hill top objective just off the road. Off-table, remained the bulk of both forces’ armour and support weapons.

The M8, unpinned from the mortar fire, moved on up the road the junction at the ‘forester’s cottage’ and, pinning the German MG team here with suppressing 37mm HE fire, claimed the objective. Not for long, when German infantry later moved on the cottage, panzerfausts in hand, the M8, sensibly waiting on reserve move, withdrew (scarpered fast), conceding the objective back to the Germans.

The real fight would escalate in the centre, as the US armoured infantry squad dismounted and moved throught the scrub wooded valley between to low hillocks (it’ll become known as ‘bloody draw’), they targeted an incoming, fully loaded 251 with their bazooka, hit, and glanced off (double 1!). The German infantry jumped over the sides and, opening fire, MGs cutting down the US infantry. The fight for bloody draw was on and would intensify throughout the battle.

Meanwhile, more accurate German mortars were falling, one hit the FHQ’s M3 and destroyed it, the FHQ team lucky to survive with only 1 casualty as they jumped clear. German tanks were also advancing now, as well their StuG.

The Americans, slower to arrive, got a couple of Shermans into play and opened long range fire on the Pz IV, missing. Its return fire scored a double hit (double 6!) and KO’d the first Sherman.

Meanwhile, in the only good news for the US forces so far, a German armoured car had set-off for a distant uncontested objective wide right (the flank guard position). It hit a random mine counter and blew up!

More troops arrived, the US deploying their potent M7 battery asset, but as yet no spotters were in place (the FHQ was pinned down by that mortar fire). The Infantry platoon HQ arrived, dismounted and started to do the job instead, only to find their radio didn’t work (for 3 turns!). The rain storm was interfering with comms (and no comms team for either side).

In bloody draw, the US had lost a full infantry squad and the second squad deployed to replace them, only to be pinned down again. A Pz-IV rolled up, but the arrival of a Sherman saw it KO’d by a short range AP shell… first German tank loss. In the open fields, a Pz-IV had scored another Sherman kill and long range. The US tankers were losing that dual. Behind the panzers, his FHQ was also on the radio, trying to request artillery support and being turned down. Panzer brigades are weak in artillery, mortars is pretty much it. He needed a 5+…

Both sides were fully deployed by turn 6… as the USAF P-47 zoomed in and dropped its bomb’s, hitting nothing but the ground but pinning a Pz-IV before turning for home. Still, one BR counter for ‘under air attack’ and his AA tank wasn’t on ambush fire. Along the main road to La Bechevaux my infantry support teams deployed, but incoming MG fire pinned them and later, wiped them out without getting a shot off in return. Instead, the M16 opened up on the German infantry firing from the forester’s cottage, hammering it with those four .50 cals and wiping out the squad. I do not like using AA assets for ground fire, but in the rain with no air threat, needs must – I see your three MG-42s and raise you four Ma Deuces!

By now the counters had, of course, built up, I had taken more and was at 33 from 46 BR, so still some fight in me. As yet, the US artillery hadn’t fired, due to terrible comms (three 1s in one turn on comms rolls, good grief!). Now they spoke. Finally, the radio crackled to life and the first fire mission got, err, fired.

The M7s opened up and when the 105mm shrapnel and dust settled both German supply trucks had been destroyed, his forward observer was pinned as was his Jagdpanzer IV, lurking at the back sniping from 60”+ away at Shermans. Those counters levelled the playing field somewhat. Germans fear US artillery.

Back in bloody draw the Germans faced being overwhelmed, mostly by the Sherman tank, even his stretcher team had opened fire (no mercy for them then). The German infantry were pinned down by 60mm mortar bombs and couldn’t use their ‘faust. Now, waiting on reserve move from earlier, a second 251 sped up the road, veered off right and headed for the draw. In their turn, the final move and more grenadiers jumped out: squad, MG team and panzerschreck team - eek! The ‘screck wasted an M3 half-track and was unlucky to miss another. The MG team wiped out my 60mm mortar team. More counters, I was close to withdrawing now. Then, the final coup-de-grace. The German commander finally got his 5+ priority request accepted and used a cunning wire-team to call through to Army-level support. Two 280mm Nebelwerfers were on standby. I had no counter-battery, and so the screamin’ meemies came crashing in, the barrage deviating to land by… my M7 Priest battery. The nebelwerfer strike scored 3 direct hits. 2 M7s were KO’d and their supply truck as well, the other M7 was pinned, as was the M16 and the FHQ again… awesome firepower, and 3 BR counters… that broke the US taskforce for today. Time to pullback, the Germans had taken La Bechevaux and had forced access to the main road now. The German BR total, 37, of 37! He had no BR left… so close! Oh, 1 more counter would have done it.

Great game, nice to have some tank action in open fields, but the battle was actually won/lost by the infantry fight (with various tanks and half-track support) in bloody draw. (Oh and that horrid shock of the ‘werfer strike at the end, which marmalized my artillery with on-table counter-battery fire). The weather didn’t help much either…

Here are some shots of the action at La Bechevaux…

M8 reaches the forester's cottage, chased my 80mm mortar bombs.

Main road, along which the US are moving, Germans coming from top left.

More mortaring, spotted by a lurking recce foot patrol, impacts and pins the M8 again.

Following behind, the first armoured infantry, ahead is the wooded 'bloody draw'.

First enemy armour en route, pausing only to smash a Sherman at long range.

Fight for bloody draw begins, with a bazooka round that glanced off a half-track!

First Sherman deploys and rolls up, opening fire (and missing).

Next, using the hillock as hull-down cover, Germans mortaring it.
The FHQ's M3 is a smoke wreck now after a direct hit.

Germans deploying, a Pz IV is wrecked by another minestrike counter... only for a FAMO to arrive and fix it!

Shermans smoking after the tank duel, as the Platoon HQ deploy and get on the horn to the artillery, or try to. 'LT, I think is radio is busted!'.

M7s roll on in firing line, awaiting a fire mission, and waiting, and still waiting...

Jabo arrived...

US armoured infantry continue to push up the road, whilst the M16 covers them.

The Pz-IVs continue the duel, but have mercifully stopped rolling 6s To-hit. When their supply trucks were destroyed in the first M7 stonk, they were suddenly in trouble and pulled back, low on AP rounds.

The Priest's 105s hit the German rear echelon...

Fighting it out in bloody draw, getting the upper hand now.

At La Bechevaux, German infantry secure the road junction objective and the onward route through the Bois de Bechevaux

P-47 pilot's eye-view

Screamin' Meemies blast the M7 battery to pieces - ouch, that was enough for the US today...