Marvin chewed the end of his cigar irritably. Behind him a Sherman crew were busy pulling twigs, branches and assorted greenery out of the treads of their tank. What was it with the damned French and their damned hedges? He was supposed to be taking these greenhorns up to join the main offensive, but this was hampered when they had to stop every few kilometres so the crews could stop their machines getting clogged up by the scenery. A small, abandoned farmhouse lay ahead which would make for a good place to camp for the night. Airforce recon had reported German troops in the area, but so far they'd seen squat. Although with all these damn hedgerows the krauts could be in the next field and they'd still not notice
This was my second time playing, and my opponent's first (though he is a seasoned gamer & wargamer). I'd just got the US and German army boxes today so thought I'd give them a spin.
450 point open scenario. Four terrain tile map with a road down one side (my right flank) and an open field in the middle. We placed a little farm complex here - the large four tile square building and the smaller one tile building as a shed. A small pond nearby and a bunker near both our deployment areas (mine overlooking the road, my opponent's protecting the farm) completed the map setup.
We decided to ignore the open scenario goal types in favour of a quick setup using the table in the scenario book. To that end we each had our main objective as the centre of our opponent's deployment zone. The three minor objectives comprised the main farmhouse, the outhouse and the centre of the road. The advanced tactic counters were likewise equally distributed across the middle of the battlefield.
I was fielding Hans with artillery support, a storm pioneer group with an assault squad and PAK anti-tank gun and a Panzer group with accompanying motorbike. Ludwig and Fritz rounded out my selection.
The US likewise had Marvin with air support, a Sherman group with M1-A, Greyhound and HE shells and a weapons team with attached bazooka squad and an additional mortar.
Hans lowered his field glasses. He knew there were American forces roaming through this sector, and his forward elements had radio'd in this afternoon to say they'd finally found them near the old farm. The sharpshooter Ludwig, technically on a break from the Eastern front, was already leading some of his scouts into positions around the farm. He smiled as he watched them vanish into the greenery; Americans for dinner, and a fine red wine to go with dessert
Most of the US deployment zone was shielded by a bocage, so he set his artillery up in a central position behind this row. A small opening on the left flank gave him room to maneuver his M1 and a Sherman through, while his remaining tanks took the road supported by the Greyhound.
Similarly on the German side of the line there was plenty of cover, albeit the left flank was fairly open. Ludwig and the recon teams infiltrated ahead, almost to the farmhouse and set up in concealment. The command Panzer covered the left flank, supported by a machine gun and fireteam while the motorbike set up on the far left flank, ready to whiz around the outhouse and take advantage of any infantry making a run on the buildings. On the right my other Panzer guarded the road exit, while the PAK setup in concealment covering the road. The main body of my infantry deployed to the centre where the buildings and smattering of greenery would hopefully shield them from the US forces.
Turn 1 - US Initiative
"Contact!". The alert came in from one of the Bazooka crew who'd disappeared behind the hedge to answer a call of nature. Marvin clapped his hands, action at last. Grabbing the radio from his operator he bellowed into the mic "Listen up you damn rookies, looks like Fritz has decided he'd rather spend the night in this nice little farmhouse too. Now I don't know about you greenhorns, but personally I ain't about to share my bed with some sausage-eating sonofabitch. So get out there and show them that Uncle Sam means business, lock and load people!". The roar from his boys was echoed by the revving up of the tank engines as his troops advanced towards the enemy
The Americans opened the engagement by crashing through a small gap in their bocage screen with the M1A, skirting the pond. A Sherman moved up behind in close support. In their centre the mortar teams set up behind the hedgerow while the bazookas got into position near the road on the right. On the road itself a Greyhound and two Shermans cautiously advanced, being careful to halt just around the corner from the waiting Panzer and concealed gun position.
The Germans likewise spent the time getting into position. Ludwig and his supporting recon squad managed to grab one of the order tokens providing me with a permanent +1 order, taking me up to seven orders compared to my opponent's meagre five. The other recon teams made a dash for the main farmhouse closely followed by my flamethrower squad, while the machine guns set up; one in the bunker overlooking the road while the other two each flanked the farmhouse. The machine gun squad of the pioneer group ran forward towards the outhouse, using it's wall to shield them from view of the rampaging M1A.
Turn 2 - German Initiative
Henrik watched the American tank crash through a gap between the hedgerows. It's back end slid a little as it turned and began tracking for targets. His loader had already chambered their armour piercing ammo, and he licked his lips nervously as their main gun traversed to bear on the target. The muddy ground around the pond should slow down the beast as it passed between it and the hedge; perfect time to put a round through the flank
The Panzer guarding the left flank loaded an AP shell and took a shot at the vulnerable side armour of the M1A. It penetrated the weaker side armour with ease, although failing to destroy the US machine it did take out the tracks, leaving it immobilised between the pond and the hedgerow. This blocked in the trailing Sherman which unable to move forward and unwilling to reverse decided to stay where it was. The first of the three mortars opened up from behind the hedge at the machine gun covering the left of the farm, although failing to wound the gunners themselves the explosion did catch a few members of the fire team who were advancing next to them. Ludwig was spotted by one of the Bazooka teams as he ran toward another advanced tactic marker, although as they'd already moved the sniper was safe from fire and made it to the marker (once again getting lucky and netting me +1 hand size). A second shell landed on the unlucky machine gun on the left flank, wiping out the fire team and almost killing the machine gunners (who were saved thanks to their helmets).
Turn 3 - US Initiative
Marvin swore loudly as the report of the immobilisation of the M1A came in. With it's fat butt blocking the only way around the pond the advance on that flank was stymied before it had really begun. On the other flank the advance was cagey, neither his Sherman crew nor the Greyhound seemed to be eager to get to grips with their foe. "Tell those yellow bellied drivers to get off their sweet asses and get moving dammit" he shouted at the radio operator. "Sure thing sir, um, message come in from the flyboys - one of them is in the area, he's going to do a flyby to 'drag our asses out of the fire'
A P1 Mustang appeared in the sky and came in for a strafing run. I suspect my opponent was a little over-enthusiastic to bring the plane into play at this point, as the only area it's three square run would hit multiple targets would likely bounce (a machine gun in the bunker and the Panzer next to them, of which the first would require a six and the second a seven to do any damage). Instead he targetted the now exposed Ludwig, however planes make for poor assassins and the Mustang pilot couldn't quite get a bead on the lone soldier. Thanks to a special order pre-empting the US movement Ludwig immediately ran back for cover and concealment before any of the US ground forces could put a bullet through him.
This heralded a somewhat bad turn of luck for my opponent. His first order was to return fire from the stricken M1A at the Panzer, however the big gun failed to penetrate the armour despite only requiring a 2+. My advance forces had managed to enter the buildings now, and a careless US machine gun slowly advancing through the brocage was suppressed by my machinegun squad hiding in the outhouse. On the right things started to liven up a little as the Sherman rounded the corner and fired at the waiting Panzer, but the shot simply bounced off it's armour. All three of the mortars once again fired at the machine gun on the left flank they'd managed to successfully hit the previous turn, however all three shots went wide.
Turn 4 - German initiative
Fritz glanced around cautiously. The American tank had rounded the corner and from the sound of it was having some fun with the Panzer. Fritz had seen the PAK anti-tank gun being wheeled into position to cover the road, so expected the foolish Americans would not be coming back. With the coast clear he dashed across the road, but was halted dead in his tracks as a strange looking vehicle came tearing down the road after the tank
Things finally went my way somewhat this turn. On the right flank the exposed Sherman was rapidly reduced to smoldering ruins thanks to the PAK anti-tank gun, utilising sneaky shot so it could fire without being revealed. The machine gun team once again suppressed their US counterparts as the scout bike finally rounded the outhouse, revealed and finished off the group with it's own mounted machine gun. In the farmhouse itself my recon teams and flamethrower had finally gained entry and were busy pinning the US Bazooka teams who were slowly advancing through the bocage on that side of the board; several of whom attempted to take out the building itself though thankfully to little effect. One did get a lucky grenade throw in through the doorway, but the quick thinking of the recon team sent the grenade tumbling back towards the throwers. Unfortunately they'd been focused on speed rather than accuracy and the grenade harmlessly exploded without any casualties.
Meanwhile Fritz had made a foolhardy dash onto the road objective right under the nose of the US Greyhound, however my opponent had placed his bluff token on the Greyhound this round, so it was simply left frustrated as the plucky German secured the third minor objective for the fatherland.
At the end of the turn is a victory check requiring 20 points to declare a winner. I'd secured the three minor objectives, however having failed to inflict enough damage to score any points from my opponent this left me five short of the twenty needed, so play continued.
Turn 5 - US Initiative
Sgt Appleby took careful aim with the bazooka and let the shot fly, straight up at the ancient and rickety looking farmhouse. The shot connected just above the lintel with a mighty explosion and the sergeant grinned. As the smoke cleared the grin was quickly wiped away; although some of the facade had fallen with a slew of roof tiles the venerable building showed no signs of serious damage. "Well I'll be damned, this things tougher than the bunkers at Omaha. Load me up boys, looks like we're in this for the long haul"
The M1A loaded a HE shell and attempted to make the outhouse an early entry into the space program, however the shot went wide and harmlessly blew a few feet of mud and grass into the air. In the meantime over on the road the second Sherman had finally managed to negotiate the wreckage of it's fallen comrade, while Fritz scattered once more for the safety of Normandy hedgerows before the Greyhound could turn him into mince. With the target gone the Greyhound slewed around off the road to reappear flanking the Panzer, which unfortunately was right in front of the PAK. Meanwhile another volley of bazooka fire utterly failed to impress the farmhouse (it had taken one damage from a stray mortar shell, and this was the only damage inflicted upon it the entire game. Despite a HE round eventually finding it), this was returned with interest from inside the farmhouse, with one of the recon teams finally managing to find their mark and eliminating one of the bazooka teams.
The Panzer on the road fired off the last AP shell and scored a track in the armour of the remaining road-bound Sherman. Although this panicked the crew inside the vehicle remained fully functional, although it did prevent them from causing any serious damage in return. With the centre now covered only by an immobilised M1A Ludwig and one of the remaining recon teams began advancing towards my main objective in the US deployment zone (heavy vehicles can't reveal concealed units).
Turn 6 - US Initiative
"Achtung!, eins, zwei, drei, feuer!" the PAK crew calmly ran through their firing routine as the US Greyhound skidded around the corner. A mighty shot rang out and soon all that could be seen was burning wreckage where the vehicle once stood. Celebration soon turned to cursing and Hans was puzzled for a moment before he realised what was wrong; with the burning, billowing wreck directly in front of them the crew couldn't actually see to shoot.
The Greyhound opened up, although rather than target the immediate threat of the PAK they instead eliminated the machine gun in the bunker next to the road. The gun had somewhat optimistically fired on the Greyhound as it rounded the corner, but for most of the game the position had been somewhat useless as the only targets of opportunity they seemed to find were too heavily armoured to make much of a dent. In return the PAK demolished the Greyhound.
In a wonderful display of tit for tat the Sherman fired on the Panzer and inflicted the same hull damaged it had suffered from the German tank last turn. Unfortunately line of sight to the now revealed PAK was blocked by the smoking ruins of the Greyhound.
In the centre was yet more drama as the flamethrower team, thanks to handy card play, dashed out of the farmhouse, up to the brocage and incinerated one of the bazooka teams crawling through the hedge. In a stroke of luck the same template also managed to hit two of the mortars cowering behind and flash fried them for good measure, which irritatingly was still not enough to score me any points! The flamethrower team immediately became priority target for the immobilised M1A,which would have slaughtered them if it wasn't for another useful card which instead saw the team fleeing back to cower in the farmhouse.
Ludwig managed to get a clear shot at Marvin, which had he managed to eliminate him would have pretty much paralysed the US force. Unfortunately the sniper failed to make a kill, although he did suppress his target.
In the last action of the turn one of the recon teams managed to wipe out another Bazooka with a handily placed grenade, finally letting me score against my opponent, albeit only for the upgrade.
This is the second victory check in the game, this time requiring 40 points to determine a winner. Unfortunately the road objective was back in US hands at this point so as we stood I had 14 points to my opponent's 5, but this was all about to change.
Turn 7 - German Initiative
Ludwig steadied his breathing and sighted down his scope. The fat American was busy shouting into his radio, too busy to notice the sniper taking aim. Ludwig squeezed off the shot, unfortunately the yankee had chosen that exact moment to stoop to light up his cigar, and the shot merely grazed his cap. Ludwig tutted to himself in reproach, slid another bullet into the rifle and waited for his target to poke his head up once more
Due to time constraints this was to be the last turn. Things finally fell apart on the right as the Sherman opened up and reduced my remaining Panzer to scrap, scoring my opponent for the tile. Hemmed in and blocked by the wreckage this put my PAK pretty much out of action. In the centre Ludwig attempted once again to snipe the US commander, however an opportune card saw the commander instead shooting Ludwig and killing the unfortunate sniper.
Fritz began running towards the US lines in the hope he might manage to claim the main objective, however he was thwarted by my opponent moving one of his remaining mortar teams back to contest it. The flamethrower meanwhile was reduced to a thin, burning red paste by the machine gun of the M1A, having popped out of the farmhouse to try a last, desperate shot at nailing the US commander. In an act of complete overkill, the still stuck Sherman also wiped out the motorcycle with a HE shot from it's main gun.
At this point we had to finish the game due to time constraints. I suspected a defeat - my opponent had managed to flip my most expensive tile while I'd scored a mere six points worth of his unit options. In the final reckoning however it was a draw at sixteen points each, thanks in part to the stubborn defence of the buildings and their precious secondary objectives.
Final analysis - I'd let myself down with the army selection. My opponent had went tank and support weapon heavy, while I'd primarily geared for anti-infantry work. By the end of the game I had slaughtered most of his infantry, however the Sherman's proved too tough for my two Panzers to take out, and lacking anti-tank equipment it was a struggle to finish them off. Unfortunately I didn't draw an artillery strike (though checking the deck it would have turned up for the last turn) and as I'd skimped on any transports his mortars got to sit for most of the game dropping shells on my forces with impunity. Probably I should have dropped the commander in favour of a tank hunter or Panzershrecks, as I found by turn five or so I had more orders than units I wished to actually give them to (my opponent conversely had the opposite problem - too many troops and not enough orders).
All in all it was a fun game which at several points could have went either way. The game lived up to it's cinematic inspiration, with some truly epic moments (Marvin vs Ludwig being a highlight - since Ludwig was moving through cover he needed a six to hit, and low and behold managed to pull it off. The image of the tough American commander standing firm under sniper fire, calmly pulling out his pistol and shooting the sniper dead certainly fits the action movie trope). The stubborn defence of the farmhouse by a handful of German scouts and a flamethrower, seeing the entire US advance down my left flank splutter out due to a tank throwing a tread ...
Then of course Fritz, a man who's usual role would be to get garroted/stabbed/shot by the good guys after giving some minor plot exposition managing to secure an objective and making a suicidally heroic run on another was quite hilarious. Given he survived the entire game I'm declaring it a moral victory!
Hoping next time to actually have enough time to finish, and potentially trying out a larger game at the 500+ mark.
Salt Lake City
uh...whose turn is it?
I spent 100gg for this?!?!
Was it really an M1-A?
That seems odd to me, I thought that all of them were used for training after the Spanish civil war.
Combat Commander, Up Front, Fields of Fire, Cats were once worshipped as gods and they haven't forgotten this, The Raven King (game publisher) ... that's me!
Slywester Janik, awarded the Krzyż Walecznych (Polish Cross of Valour), August 1944
Nice AAR. Looking forward to the iPad version.
Was it really an M1-A?
That seems odd to me, I thought that all of them were used for training after the Spanish civil war.
M10 tank hunter, my shorthand is almost illegible