I had the chance to play Scenario 34 "Grapes of Wrath" with a friend. He does not play BoB often, so I opted for this small scenario to refresh the rules and review some basic tactics. I took the German side and gave him the G.I.Joe's: attacking is more fun.
The scenario set-up assigns three foxholes to the American side, maybe to host American WTs. This seems to suggest that the German player might deploy his units in LOS of American troops, probably for the purpose of opening fire against American initial positions or on the American squad advancing in the open on the flat ground. In my opinion, this would be a very bad mistake. Deploying German units in LOS of Americans would expose them to the fire of American artillery, mortar and machine guns, plus infantry squad themselves. This can severely damage German squads and WTs, especially if they fire early and give away their concealment.
What I did was to place German foxholes behind the slope crests, so that no units were in LOS of the enemy, spreading them around in such a way that artillery could never hit more than two foxholes at a time. I deployed MG to cover the flanks of the hill and filled the central positions with grenadiers and dummies. I also paid attention to have the higher foxholes at movement distance from the lower foxholes so that the German troops have a nice retreat path toward the top of the hill.
Having no German units in LOS, the first turn was a steady advance of American troops toward the feet of the hill. As I said, my opponent is rather new to the game and he did some placement mistakes. Thus, in the end, American units moved forward slower than expected. The American artillery hit a couple of German units, causing light suppression and removing their conceal markers. But since those units were out of LOS, they regained their conceal marker just by going OP (opportunity fire).
To see why artillery was so ineffective, notice that artillery fire has -5 against concealed units in a foxhole. The 100mm American artillery has a base FP of 9, this means that it hits concealed units in foxholes with 4 or less. Since the German units have a casualty rating of 4, the better (or worst) result a single artillery attack can achieve on German troops concealed in a foxhole is a light suppression. Thus, the only way the American artillery can inflict a reduction on German units is by hitting them twice in the same activation and rolling a 1 in the second roll. All in all, Germans are pretty safe in their out-of-LOS foxholes
The situation at the end of Turn 1
Turn 2 and 3
My opponent continued to move American troops forward but he also tried some combined artillery-infantry assault on the right German flank, with dramatic results. The first American unit that passes the first level crest is mowed down by a German MG OP fire. It's a 14 FP attack, which means 90% probability of being reduced. The second unit is only light suppressed by a German squad OP fire. Now that they are in LOS, the Americans can call down artillery on the German MG and the nearby squad. The bombshells inflict a light suppression on the MG but since they have no other troops at assault distance, the thing ends there.
Having learned the lesson the hard way, the next turn my opponent used smoke to protect units that were crossing the hill crests. This is a better strategy but the nasty German MG in OP fire has an FP of 8 and also without the moving in the open bonus, it can wipe away an American squad with a roll of 1. This is what happened. Lucky roll. Anyway, the Americans managed to inflict a reduction on one German squad.
Summing up, the casualties situation at the end of the 3rd turn is the following: the Americans have lost two squads, one elite and one 1st line, while the Germans have got one Panzergranadier squad reduced. Not a big deal, to say the truth. And the American artillery support is over.
The situation at the end of Turn 3
Turn 4 and 5
The scarce American results in the previous turns can be attributed to my good rolls and the relative inexperience of my opponent. He tried to engage the Germans across all the board instead of focusing on one single attack line. So at the beginning of Turn 4, we tried together to elaborate a more effective plan for the American assault. We decided that the German left flank was the most promising option for an assault. Thus MGs and mortars are re-positioned and just a couple of squads are left on the German right flank to force the Germans to keep units there. But the plan incurred in a serious issue: once the American artillery fire is exhausted, the Germans can leave their foxholes and use the hill crests as protection. An uphill concealed unit has the same defense benefit, -2, than a unit in a foxhole. This allows the German player to safely achieve a high concentration of troops where it is most needed.
Despite the proper positioning of support weapons, because of poor dice rolls, the American fire was ineffective and my opponent did not dear an assault toward the unsuppressed left German MG, even if supported by smoke grenades. In fact, moving adjacent to an unsuppressed German MG means incurring in a terrific 11 FP OP roll (base FP is 8, +3 for being adjacent) plus a solid 9 FP (8+3-2) for any successive Final OP. Due to the "American reluctance" rule, this means possibly losing one squad and still not being able to close combat the German MG.
The two turns passed with the Germans moving to cover their left flank, where the attack seems more likely to develop, and the Americans trying to fully suppress the defenders and prepare the assault.
The situation at the end of Turn 5
At the very end of turn 5 the German MG covering the left flank is fully suppressed, so it begins turn 6 with a yellow marker. It takes the American the fire of an MG and the mortar to place the red marker but finally, they have got it. The most advanced American squad tries to push through. It places smoke in the hex adjacent to the fully suppressed German MG and starts moving. Sadly for the G.I.'s, there is now another MG covering the left flank, positioned directly upon them. The German MG fires from the hilltop with an 8 FP (7 base +1 for height advantage) and I roll a 2. The American squad is reduced, fully suppressed and forced to a halt. But more importantly, dinner time is approaching. Game Over.
The situation in the middle of Turn 6
When I first inspected the scenario sheet, I thought the American would have had a relatively easy time capturing the hilltop. The force ratio is more than 2:1 in their favor, they start pretty near to the objective, they have powerful artillery on their side for the first three turns and they have three CP compared with the German one. But after more careful consideration, one realizes that these advantages are only apparent.
First, as discussed before, if the German player deploys his troops in foxholes out of American LOS and sufficiently spread out, the American bombardment is likely to be almost completely ineffective.
Second, due to the "American reluctance" rule, with the exception of the two elite, the American player cannot spend CP to re-roll morale check when his units are suppressed while moving. It is true that these CP can be handy once the American squads manage to close combat the German units. But the difficult part of this scenario, for the American side, is precisely to arrive in CC and the abundance of CP does not seem to contribute a lot in this respect.
All considered I have the impression that this scenario is definitely unbalanced in favor of the German. I'm rather skeptical about the American initial foxholes' endowment. If the German deploys and plays wisely, they are totally useless.
Anyhow, after playing the game, my opponent claimed he might have a strategy to knock the Germans out of the hill. I'm looking forward to seeing it in our replay of the scenario next week. But I'm seriously considering a downgrade of the Germans troops from Panzergranadier to first line to make the scenario fairer.
- Last edited Tue Oct 22, 2019 9:23 am (Total Number of Edits: 5)
- Posted Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:33 am
Good write up!
This is a favorite scenario of mine. I agree with your German "reverse slope" defense and spreading out to (mostly) negate the American artillery. But I still usually get very close games
And it's short and fun! Good on your new opponent already thinking how to do it better next time