28mm Annihilation on a Thursday
This Thursday we venture into future from El Cid, to the countryside, towns and city's of central France.
This was the Club’s first real foray into Bolt Action, so with that in mind and the fact that we had very little experience of the rule set we jumped straight into a game with infantry, support weapons, armorued transports and lots of tanks; in fact the only thing that was missing from the order of battle was air support. We like to keep things simple!
The scenario was an ad hoc affair, but with an idea that it could represent a small part of the allied effort in September 1944 to relieve the British 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem; so a bit of “Garden” from Operation Market Garden.
The scenario would take the format of the “Envelopment” mission from the Bolt Action rule set, so the Allies were charged as being the attackers with the objective of getting as many units as possible off the enemy side of the field.
The allied line up, as elements from the Guards Armoured Division, was a mixture Sherman and Churchill (okay, probably a bit out of place) tanks supported by some mechanized infantry and a couple of MMGs from the 43rd Wessex Division. All troops were played as steely eyed veterans.
Allied commanders on the night were:
Captain Mike “it’s a ridge” Baldwin
Lieutenant Ian “can I shoot something yet” Jones
Sergeant Darryl “pass me the smoke, this tank’s gonna need it” Morton
Sergeant Ken “I have chemical weapons” Butt (really?)
Sergeant Pete “we need more tanks” Fisher
The German forces blocking the way were some of those nasty SS boys from the 9th; they were well motivated, well led and ready for the fight! In accordance with German tactical doctrine, their forces had been concentrated in the area to ensure the allied advance could be significantly delayed. Heavy tanks in the shape of some Tiger I’s, a couple of Panthers and a single Hetzer (okay, again maybe not so historically accurate, but we wanted to use our new toys!). In support of the armour the Germans also lined up some panzer grenadiers and a couple of panzerschreck teams.
The German commanders on the night were:
Hauptsturmfuhrer Jac “I’ve got Tigers” Scrapy (on loan from the courageous Italians)
Obersturmfuhrer Dai “not one step back” ?? Smith
Oberscharfuhrer Mike “those building look suspicious” Edwards
Oberscharfuhrer Rob “I never said I knew the rules” James
The Germans deployed first, in line with the scenario, putting out all of the infantry, support weapons and a single Tiger; leaving the remaining armour in reserve with the logic being that they deploy to could counter the main allied armoured thrust wherever it materialised. The single Tiger was deployed in the centre of the table, in a concealed position. All of the Infantry was either “hidden” in terrain or hiding behind buildings!
This done the allies commenced with their preparatory bombardment, which was moderately successful, putting pinned markers on most German units.
The first wave of British armour moved on to the table at a steady pace, and on the same axis as the Tiger. The German high command looked confused, was this the British being crazy like a fox, or just plain crazy; only time would tell!
The rest of the allied forces moved on to the battlefield at a cautious pace and took up fire positions….but with nothing too much to shoot at. The one exception to this rule was the three lead Sherman’s having a bead on a single Hanomag; three shoots rang out, but laughably (to the Axis side anyway) all three shots were ineffective, the luckiest halftrack on the table!
The German forces kept their powder dry for the most part, wishing to maintain the advantage of concealment over taking long-range pot shots with small arms. Of course the Tiger commander had different ideas and duly rolled out of concealment, the gunner quickly acquired a Sherman in his sights and the 88mm gun did the rest; one dead Sherman.
The British command immediately recoiled at the impact of the Tiger and froze in position; this is not a good tactic for dealing with big cats! Round two saw the arrival of more German heavy armour, and by the end of the turn the first wave of British tanks were pretty much accounted for; the only exception being a single Sherman that had been wise enough to try and sneak up the opposite flank. It was now involved in an exchange of fire with the Hetzer, with neither tank scoring a hit.
Meantime, in the centre the bulk of the British infantry was rooted to the spot and rather than trying to force their way through the blocking German infantry with the use of cold steel, were instead laying down MMG fire at targets that were well hunkered down; no dice Tommy!
Another wave of British tanks arrived next turn and bravely took up over-watch positions facing the opposing heavy armour; and the next couple of turns comprised of much the same as the first couple; brief exchanges of tank fire resulting in the destruction of the British armour. However, one skilled Churchill tank commander, positioning himself expertly, helped to account for the destruction of the two Panthers. The rate of attrition of the British armoured assets had been heavy, but at least now their bravery had been rewarded with some enemy kills.
The gunfight between the lone Hetzer and the lone Sherman continued….as did the fruitless machinegun barrage in the centre.
Realising that time was running out, the British command shifted the main axis of their attack and the last two Churchills moved onto the field in support of the lone Sherman, still slogging it out with the Hetzer…Hans the Hetzer commander started to feel a little lonely, but held is ground.
Emboldened by the destruction of the Panthers and the pressing time constraint the allies started to force their troops forward. With motivational shouts of “I’m right behind you” (or more precisely, I’m right behind this building, that is right behind you) from Captain Baldwin, two squads of infantry broke cover in the centre. The squad led by the courageous Lieutenant Jones was immediately met with a burst of fire from an enemy squad sat waiting in ambush; a couple of squaddies went down, but the remaining hardened veterans held their ground. The other squad, led by Sergeant Morton, fixed bayonets; their intention was clear.
At the same time an Allied M3 halftrack broke cover and decided to make a dash for it; hoping to punch through the enemy infantry screen using the many machine guns at its disposal, the commander had forgotten about the panzerschreck team sat in cover at the other end of the road. The vehicle moved into the open at double speed and was met with the briefest of flash to bang times of the AT weapon being fired and finding its mark. The M3 careened off the road a burning hulk.
The glory of the ‘schrek team was short lived though as the Allied MMG teams drew a bead a blasted the SS storm troopers; Sergeant Butt’s patience had paid off!
The duel between the Hans in his Hetzer and the three British tanks continued; the Hetzer eventually getting the better of the Sherman and generally leading a charmed life in avoiding its own destruction by the remaining two Churchills.
With time just about out the game closed with a “death or glory” infantry charge down the middle, led by Sergeant Morton against Hauptsturmfuhrer Scarano’s crack SS infantry squad. True to form the Bosch didn’t like it “up em” and were well sorted in the ensuing melee. The road to Arnhem was open, for the moment at least, but it was a case of too little too late and the German force claimed a victory.
The game was played in the good spirit that is required of members of the Tendence Historique sect belonging to the club. Little consideration was given to the respective points values of the two companies, with the Germans clearly having an advantage, but to the credit of the allied players they battled on manfully and picked up a couple of Panthers as a reward.
Well played all