Before I launch into last Friday's battle report, my DBA army turned up which was quite exciting. The Essex figures seem a little skinner than the Magister Militum, but they are roughly the same height, so should mix in as long as they're based separately.
And so, onto Friday's Flames of War battle. This was the first time I've played as the Germans and my brother as the Americans, and it was the first time that James has played FoW, period! Carl had pre-prepared the terrain ahead of the game with no knowledge of the sides or scenario, which I decided without seeing the table. We decided that the Americans would be a good fit for James due to the size and robustness of the 9 base squads, so he and Carl split the company between them and faced up against the SS under me. As it turned out, due to the terrain, the battle devolved into a slugfest across the main road across the board with very little maneouver going on, but that was actually OK as it let us concentrate on teaching James the core of the rules (i.e shooting, close assault, etc). Admittedly, we forgot some of the 'flavour' rules, like the Stormtrooper move, but again, I think that was no bad thing.
So what happened? We set up a defensive battle with a US Rifle company defending against a counterattack at an important road junction. The Germans had a little more in the way of points to offset the defensive battle rules (dugin, ambush, etc). As mentioned there was a road running lengthways across the table with a trunk road heading off into the German territory. On the German left was a hill with a wee crown of trees and on the right a medium sized wood. At the crossroads was a small hamlet. The Americans had a wood on their right and a farmhouse in the centre. In and around all this was some bocage (ok...hedges, but we played it as bocage). The Americans split their forces quite evenly with a platoon on either flank supported by attachments from the weapons platoon and the center being held by their armour, a platoon of 4 Shermans and a platoon of 1 section of M10s. The mortars and artillery were kept to the rear. The Germans set up pretty much the same, although the platoon of PzIV were placed in direct support of the left and a lone Tiger sent up the middle :-
The battle progressed as the Germans pushed on to the hamlet on the right and got into the buildings. The American left flank decided to react a little too late and attempted to also get into the buildings, but they were punished quite severely in a close assault which they attempted without pinning the veteran SS platoon. The brave GIs charged into a storm of MG fire and were forced to retire after taking some losses. On the German left, the Panzergrenadiers and Panzers pushed up to the road and engaged the dug-in troops, but due to the intervention of the Shermans it took a little longer to get the Panzers into action against the infantry, so a heavy small arms fire exchange began. Which brings me to the centre! Before attempting to engage 5 PzIV, the 75mm Shermans decided to sacrifice one of their number against the Tiger to slow it down! I can only assume that the platoon commander who ordered such a suicide faced a war crimes tribunal if he survived the encounter!!! Needless to say, the Sherman was vapourised, but only after...quite stunningly...forcoing the Tiger to bail. Perhaps they mistook it for a Firefly!
As the infantry meatgrinder continued the Tiger got stuck on the bocage for a while (perhaps there was method in the madness) and the rest of the Shermans were destroyed...a lesson was learnt that infantry support tanks should not be used in a tank-killer role! A turn or two later the American left flank buckled under the growing pressure from the Panzergrenadiers and they left the field in panic and disarray. The M10s were deployed to provide a last line of defence which halted the infantry until the Tiger could be brought up. Alas, in accordance with the whole of the rest of the night saw some terrible dice roles only bail out one M10 after 2 rounds of shooting. It duly remounted and the combined fire destroyed the Tiger. All the while the German right was under constant air attack which was taking it's toll.
But it was all too late. The Panzers on the German left finally brought their HE to bear and managed to dig out enough of the GI teams to allow the tattered remains of the Panzergrenadier platoon to close assault and clear the bocage once and for all. Directly behind this position was one of the objectives which was unable to be defended and so the American position was lost.
Overall, it was a fun battle despite the lack of movement. The dice were absolutely terrible which led to some comedy moments! James was rolling 1's all night; at one point he rolled 4 dice for a result of 4 1's. My favourite moment was a critical roll to save an infantry team that pushed his platoon into a morale test. Carl piped up "don't roll a
1!". So James rolled a 2! Naturally the platoon failed it's subsequent morale test...!