Hell on Wheels in the Hedgerows
The scenarios that come with this expansion start out quite symmetric, and I like learning how to use the different historical components of different force types, instead. I also like smaller formations - platoons rather than companies - and asymmetric situations to explore combined arms match ups. With that in mind, I have designed a small scenario for D2theR that features a US armor formation force attacking a German infantry formation force.
The scenario uses board 13 and board 15, with board 13 toward the German side of the field with the village on the right. The Germans set up on board 13. The Americans enter over the first few turns from the 15GG5 to 15BB10 corner, upper left of the overall map. The Germans get some reinforcements later (detailed below), which enter in the 13I1 to 13A5 lower right corner of the map. That should help orient the two maps correctly.
Some scenario special rules on terrain - all roads are "paths" (dirt); all buildings are light / wooden, except the stone building in the center of the village at hex 13I6, which is stone. All rocky / rough is brush, and all woods are light. Treat the pond on board 13 as additional brush at elevation -1 (a little local depression with low vegetation).
Both sides know the composition of each other's force and turns of arrival, but the German initial infantry force can set up using hidden placement in the form of 20 numbered counters. 12 of those will be real positions, 8 will be dummies. If they stack units, reduce their number of counters / positions - they only get 8 dummies regardless.
Both sides are Seasoned with command range 1 etc.
The initial German infantry force is as follows -
2 75mm PAK
2 Rifle Squads with Panzerfaust, special FO ability (see below)
2 Rifle Squads with Panzerschreck
2 infantry half squads with machinegun
2 teams with 81mm mortars
2 medium trucks
The HQ rifle squads can spot for the on-map 81mm mortars, only, as though they were company HQ units and the 81mm are dedicated. They may do so using an Overwatch order and still fire their other weapons normally, as Overwatch (not Fire phase) fire.
The Germans get the following reinforcement on turn 8 in the lower right corner, location as detailed above -
3 StuG IIIG
The US force has a cavalry recon section first, a Sherman platoon split between closely supporting that cavalry and leading the main body, and an armored infantry platoon in M3A1 halftracks. Their detailed units and arrival are as follows -
Turn 1 arrival -
1 M8 armored car
1 infantry half squad with bazooka
1 infantry half squad with 60mm mortar
Turn 2 arrival -
2 Shermans, M4A3 75W model
Turn 4 arrival -
3 Shermans, M4A3 75W model
Turn 5 arrival -
4 M3A1 halftracks
3 Rifle squads, each with a bazooka
1 Infantry half squad (HQ) with FO ability.
The HQ is treated as a company HQ with dedicated support from a medium artillery battery, off map (105mm). The HQ can only spot for the 105s, not for the cavalry's on-map 60mm (that mortar is strictly direct fire).
There is only one victory location, the stone building in 13I6. If one side controls that hex at the end of the game and there are no enemy units within the wood building hexes immediately around it, award that side 100 points. If there are enemy units in those immediately adjacent wooden buildings (any number and any state of suppression etc), then award the side holding 13I6 only 50 points.
Both sides also earn full points for knocking out enemy units.
Either side may exit any unwanted transport or infantry units by any board edge at any point, just to avoid them being knocked out, etc.
The Germans do not start with any hasty improved positions and neither side may "dig in" with such improved positions during the scenario. Vehicles may seek partial or full hull down as normal.
Game length is 20 turns.
I hope this is fun...
So I got to playtest this scenario vs 2 opponents taking the Americans, who were relatively new to the system and certainly to the scenario. The Germans won handily, enough so that I want to tweak the forces for play balance purposes. Basically, the attacking stance proved harder for them to handle in the confining hedgerow terrain, for them, than it had for me in my previous run throughs.
So here are the force revisions...
US - turn 1 cavalry force as before.
turn 2, 2 M5 Stuart light tanks, part of the cavalry formation.
turn 3, all 5 Sherman M4A3 75(W) as an armor platoon formation.
turn 4, the armored infantry as before.
So the only force addition is 2 extra light tanks.
Germans - only the on-map formation is changed, the StuGs arrive turn 8 as before etc. But the starting German force gets
2 PAK 40 as before
2 HMGs manned by infantry 1/2 squads, as before
1 81mm mortar with team (down from 2).
1 HQ full Rifle squad with FO and panzerfaust, can spot for mortar as before
1 full Rifle squad with panzerschreck (down from 2 before)
1 full Rifle squad with panzerfaust (isn't a second FO).
2 medium truck as before.
So the on map German force has 2 fewer units - only 1 squad with panzerschreck, and only 1 81mm mortar. Only 1 of the non-schreck squads is an HQ that can spot for the (single) mortar.
Give the Germans 6 dummies as well, set up with hidden placement as before.
The time limit is fine. If the US goes through the center they might only need need 15 turns, but 20 allows some flanking moves, rally time from suppression, etc.
One last tweek is more general than this scenario, so I will elaborate in a separate post. Basically the idea is to allow "area fire" with GP weapons at "previously known positions", with a -20 modifier (equal to the "suppressed firer" modifier). Even if there is no *current* spot, as long as there was one before.
The issue is how readily leg units can break LOS by going prone (full cover), without moving away. They should be able to stop *aimed* fire at them that way, as well as enhancing their defense. But with allowed "area fire" at previously known positions, vehicles and mortars and FOs who "lose the spot" because the target goes prone can still try to "hose down the area".
The implementation is simply - in any spotting phase, if a unit that was spotted last turn no longer is, mark the location with one of the "objective control" markers from that side (grey cross for Germans, red star for Russians, etc). That location can be targeted by area fire in any subsequent fire phase, even if no one is spotted there. The -20 penalty applies to that fire. If attempting an indirect fire mission, the -2 DRM for battery access applies - area fire is exactly like "firing unit is suppressed", in other words.
Tactical points on the game effect of this rule... hiding infantry can still skulk away from fire if they crawl off after going prone. But if they just "gopher" up and down in the same location, they cannot stop all incoming fire just by hitting the deck. Guns also find it harder to "break contact" once they have opened fire and been spotted.
Note, you cannot just area fire at a location without having first actually spotted an enemy there. But once the location is marked as having had enemy present, the marker stays, and you can area fire there any time afterward. Even if the enemy moves off and comes back later.
I will cover the area fire variant in a separate post with some examples to show its relevance. That is the one additional tweak we think the game needs in these "mixed arms, with cover" situations.
So we've played this again with the revised forces, and it was a much closer fight this time. I would now call it balanced, at least for relatively new players - with experienced ones the edge might go to the Americans but that is fine.
This time my American opponents went for a heavy left approach. One PAK unveiled to shoot at a Stuart moving along a hedge lined road at medium range, and that as a lesson in the modifiers to AP fire - the hit chance only worked out to about 25%, after -2 for moving, -1 for overwatch fire, -1 for light cover, and -1 for target size. The PAK then wheeled back from its hedgerow position, though, and its truck picked it up to relocate it - I wanted to see whether such tactics were feasible and they worked fine.
The second PAK and both HMGs dueled with the cavalry vehicles next, the cavalry teams having already dismounted. The HMGs killed the half squad and one of the jeeps, one of the HMGs was lost rapidly to Stuart fire in return. When the 2nd PAK unmasked it hit a Stuart but only got a track hit, immobilizing it and leaving the gun to duel all 3 cavalry vehicles plus their mortar. But it did OK, hitting the second Stuart, only getting a "damaged" result but the crew bailed out. The second jeep then did an end run and suppressed the PAK from behind its hedgerow, and closed to range 1 afterward (it used a short halt order to spray them, then when it got a suppression result it advanced instead of pulling back).
The PAK turned at the end of that game turn to face the jeep, since full cover and suppressed it couldn't even see very far, and a hit vs the light armor would have been a wild stroke of luck (suppression is -5 on to AP fire). Instead it fired GP at the jeep and managed to destroy it, but the mortar and Greyhound finished it off. All told that PAK traded for a Stuart, a jeep, and the second Stuart being immobilized, which wound up being about as good as killed for the rest of the battle, once it moved on.
Meanwhile the US Shermans had arrived and took a long route to the back hedgerow then east, taking advantage of the work the cavalry had done locating all the PAK and silencing the nearer one, while forcing the other to displace back to the wooded area just west of the village. The back field route of approach would let them get as close as they liked to that second PAK before pulling up to the hedge to fire at it. The downside was it took longer and it left the rest of the US force without heavy armor support in the meantime.
Not that it looked like they needed it, at that point. The US armored infantry went east on the US side of the field then turned up the center road, moving very fast in their halftracks, and exploiting the fact that the German infantry defense had pretty much reoriented to face west rather than north by that point. They caught 2 German squads on that hedgelined center road, right near the map middle, using it at cover westward. The Germans just went prone though, and the US only had some light MG fire from the tracks as the men dismounted (2 GP shots vs 4 GP defense); still the Germans had to crawl clear, buying the US time to get their infantry into action in the center.
The second German HMG wound up in a bad spot at that point, near those center crossroads but on the wrong side of them. US armor already had view of the middle field they were in, though from a long range, so the HMG was OK as long as they stayed down (full cover) to avoid spots. But an HMG can't crawl, so it was stay put and fire as they could, or try to run for it through the fire of a whole Sherman platoon, albeit at long range. They decided to stay put, and wound up lasting quite a while, getting suppression shots on various vehicles around them whenever they got within short range (4 hexes). The US never put infantry in their line of fire, though, and eventually the Greyhound finished them off at range 1 (across a hedge).
The fight between the two infantries in the center got hot at that point, with the US Shermans just moving along the back field. The Germans were getting the better of it, winning initiative a lot and suppressing most of the US ground guys. A German squad even managed to close assault a halftrack that got too close (always trying to get spots) and was suppressed. But the US was maneuvering to get their 105mm FO into range to bring the boom.
Meanwhile the StuGs arrived, and sent 1 to the road through the center woods to confront the Greyhound, while 2 went to the front field to attack the US armored infantry and their halftracks. They avoided the US Shermans, just letting the 2nd PAK and a panzerscreck cover that flank for the time being. I consider sending them wide right, but that would have put them in view of the US FO, and a 105mm barrage can hurt a StuG if it doesn't keep moving, so I went for a spot that could see halftracks and US infantry instead.
As the US FO got into range - prone at 7 hexes from a lined hedge of German infantry, in view of the German 81mm mortar and 1 squad - tension about the initiative roll spiked. If the Germans could suppress that FO half squad, they would likely win the center battle, with the help of their StuGs. The Germans did win initiative but they missed on the shots that mattered. The StuGs took out one halftrack and suppressed some US infantry. Then the US missed their battery access roll and the same tension repeated for the following turn. They had managed to suppress the German 81mm in the meantime, though.
Germans won init again, but missed again, and this time after all the direct fire was done, the US got battery access and brought done the 105mm barrage. It covered 2 German squads and the 81mm mortar. The Germans did not really have a chance to move to get clear, not if they wanted to shoot the FO instead - it was gamble on hitting him first *or* run, not both, and they picked the former and lost. The barrage cut the two squads in half over two turns and suppressed them all, and forced them to use "move" orders to get clear. The US checked fire after they all pulled off the front hedgerow, to let their own infantry advance while the Germans were all moving and suppressed etc.
Meanwhile the Shermans fought the German PAK, which managed to miss for very easy to hit rolls and got lousy damage ones. Where in expectation, the way things went on initiative and movements etc, it should have KOed 2 Shermans, it actually only damaged 1 and was then KOed by the platoon's replies. There was still a panzerscreck on that flank preventing any easy run into the village from the back, but the Germans were now hurting in the backfield and the center.
The Greyhound in the meantime had run from the German StuG sent to the forest road, and rapidly repositioned to the far northeastern field. The Germans used a won initiative roll to target it with 2 StuGs at short range, getting 49% hit chances after all modifiers (moving, small). One hit it but got a 1 damage result - no damage, 10% chance of bailout, passed. The Greyhound could then have used its move to run, but instead decided to exploit the fact that (1) the StuGs had already fire and (2) they are turretless. It charged instead of running, to a spot 1 hex away and on the StuGs' flank, so they would have to turn to target it.
The next turn the little Greyhound was able to immobilize one of the StuGs with a track hit, leaving it facing the northeast field with no turret to turn to face new targets - effectively a kill. The Greyhound then took an 81mm round, however - the Germans rallied quite quickly from the artillery barrage once they managed to break contact.
On the Sherman front, the German's forest road StuG had initiative on a turn when one Sherman had punched through the hedgerow, which 3 others hadn't tried because they were firing, and the 5th didn't make it (failed bog roll to get through the hedge). The StuG had a move order going second, and reversed up the road one hex, then forward one hex into woods to "bear" on the front Sherman at 4 hexes range.
That was a 90% shot, with the Sherman in bad shape to reply (it was suppressed by HMG fire), and its friends needing to Move for a turn to get angle on the German StuG to help. But the StuG rolled 91 vs the 90 needed and just missed. The Sherman even rallied off suppression under pressure, while his friends moved closer, to 3 hexes with LOS across the hedge. The US won initiative the following turn and smoked the StuG with the 2nd shot - brew up. So instead of 3 dead Shermans to date, there was 1 damaged and a PAK and StuGs scalps taken by the platoon.
At this point the German force is down to remnants - one StuG function, one M-killed facing the wrong way, the panzerschreck squad relocated to the objective building for a last stand, one half squad plus the mortar team in the northeast corner of the woods, in the same hex, both prone but unsuppressed.
The US waded it a bit too aggressively at that point, instead of waiting to pound them with the Shermans or finish off the last StuG first with a 5 to 1 many on few. Instead they had their last halftrack drive down the forest road to point blank, to draw fire and let their infantry close. The Germans obliged, smoking the halftrack with a panzerfaust shot from the half squad even with -4 modifiers (moving, overwatch, light cover). The US close assault with infantry didn't go so well, with the tiny mortar team firing as a team at range 1 (2 GP) to suppress one of the attackers, and the other just missing. The US repeated the mistake the next turn, sending a single Sherman in along with the infantry. That time the panzerfaust missed, but the US infantry was still getting suppressed - including taking GP fire from the last StuG - while the US only managed to finish off the mortar.
At this point we had been playing for 6 hours (counting some teaching time for a new player, to be sure), and called it. The US was going to finish off most of the German force, but not the last squad in the objective building, since the rushing approach hadn't worked, their infantry needed time to rally after finishing off that last stubborn half squad with its panzerfausts in the woods, etc. We called it, and agreed that the play balance was now good.
I hope this is interesting.
You have to, at least from a distance, look as if you know what you're doing, and I can manage that.
Thanks for the article.