Thursday, 8 June 2017

Von Luck Campaign Scenario 3 Corridor of Death (round two)

For the fifth campaign turn we are back at Scenario 3 The Corridor of Death.  This will be the third time we play this scenario. The first game never really happened in the sense that the Paras managed to successfully call in a naval bombardment and disrupt German plans.  So the second playing was the first time the Paras and Von Luck's men traded shots in anger in Ranville and you can follow the action here Corridor of Death (Round one).

That game was a resounding victory for the Para platoon, effectively writing off the German #1 platoon for the campaign.  The Paras themselves suffered no permanent losses and remained in good shape. On that basis I saw no reason to replace them with a fresh platoon just yet.

This third scenario was make or break for the Germans.  They have eight campaign games to gain a victory. This was about to be campaign game five, which meant if they don't win this one they would have to win every subsequent scenario to achieve victory.  Losing didn't mean victory was impossible, but it would certainly make it a tall order.  With that in mind I planned to try and do as much damage as I could to this next German platoon. This was the last time I intended to use my original platoon, so I felt I could take some casualties in the process without the risk of carrying those losses into the following games (although that cavalier attitude to the men's lives might not boost their opinion of me).

Annoyingly, the final missing team from the parachute drop, the PIAT team, still failed to show up.  I really didn't want to have to spend support points on bringing in what I felt I should already have. I had seven support points, so decided on a Roadblock instead of a PIAT team.  The terrain is very restricted for the available German vehicles, none of which are sturdy enough to drive through the tall stone walls.  I knew a roadblock would absolutely guarantee a limited range of movement for any AFV, while the PIAT could end up a one-shot wonder or die trying to get a shot off.  Remaining support points went on a section of Paras and an Adjutant.  I wanted to be able to get both senior leaders on the table and try to make full use of 'concentrated fire' with the bren teams to inflict casualties.

The Germans had five free moves of their patrol markers, but at the end of the phase our Jump Off Point placement varied very little from the previous playing.

German Force Morale was eight and the British was nine.

The Paras waited to see what the Germans had in mind and it was soon clear that Dave was following a similar pattern to last week.  He deployed two sections to his right flank with a senior leader.  All very familiar, so what did he have in mind that was going to be different?  Firstly there was no Werfer pre-game barrage, so I knew I would have no issue deploying, but clearly he had another plan.

He was already aware that I was taking a different approach with the appearance of the roadblock at the end of the patrol phase:

The roadblock prevents vehicle access into Ranville.

I also thought I would approach this differently by trying to inflict casualties whenever I had a good opportunity.  With the German right flank facing a move across fairly open ground I really thought I should take full advantage to hurt him before pulling back.  Once the two German sections appeared on the table I decided to make a concerted and quick effort to take these out before pulling over to the other flank to deal with what I was sure would be his other avenue of approach.

My command dice allowed me a lot of flexibility and so I deployed a senior leader and the support section, with its two bren teams, to the upper level of the farmhouse.  A rifle section went into the ground level.  In the upper level of the barn behind the farmhouse I placed the Bren team from my one depleted section. The barn has only one window facing the Germans but the line of sight over the high wall into the fields was a good one.  That gave me four bren teams that could fire, plus a number of riflemen.

British deployment to hit the first two German sections in the fields

Using the CI of the Senior Leader and the Junior leaders I used 'concentrated fire' to try to take out individual MG42 teams.  I was aiming for a hit and run result before too much fire could be returned my way.  Regrettably the Paras were not on form today and the unerring accuracy they demonstrated last week deserted them.  The Germans took only two casualties and a few points of shock, but were otherwise unscathed.  That wasn't supposed to happen.  The German section on Overwatch returned fire to the upper level and immediately killed two Paras.  With elite troops in hard cover at effective range I was hoping I could me more resilient, but not so.

When the German phase arrives I sense I might be in a world of hurt.  I am right.  Hello, the Lorraine Schlepper.

The roadblock is impassable but there is a line of sight to the farmhouse.

A 150mm HE round comes crashing into the upper level of the farmhouse.  I'm lucky to get away with only two casualties and some shock but what it does do, is make the building unstable.  The Junior Leader takes one of the hits and wounds taking British FM down to 8.  With two sections in there and a senior leader I will need to get out quick before the turn ends.

The German sections return fire and there are more casualties. The wounded junior leader is hit again and dies taking FM down to 7. The other casualties mean one of the bren teams is wiped out and that takes FM down to 6.  I am sensing I may have been far too over confident here.  Plan A hasn't worked and I don't really have a great Plan B.  Then I discover Dave has opted for a Mortar Barrage in preference to the pre-game barrage and on comes a forward observer.

An order is being placed for some 80mm mortar.....
Well, with an unstable building, the Lorraine Schlepper, the MG42s and the prospect of a mortar barrage it really is time to get the Paras out of that building and quickly.  I deploy the 2" mortar and we drop some smoke.

Then the process of emptying the building begins.

It can't happen fast enough and before long a ranging shot comes crashing through the roof.

By the next phase I've got one section clear but when the barrage comes down it catches what is left of the bren section in the open.

I begin to feel this is all going horribly wrong and I'm paying the price for that rather rash decision to try to take out his squads in the fields.  Last week I was very cautious and waited for him to come to me, now I feel I've offered myself up on a plate.  Not smart play.

The senior leader and remains of the section pinned under the barrage.

With the barrage coming down and most line of sight blocked the Germans advance on both flanks.

Skirting the barrage two sections advance on the German left

The Paras pull back and reform a defensive position in the rear buildings.  Everything is a bit disjointed and I only have one section still to deploy.  Meanwhile the barrage continues to hammer my pinned section, finally wiping out the remaining bren team and taking British FM down to five.  The senior leader has clearly found some good cover because he's surviving all they can throw at him but that's a small mercy, things are not going well here.

A senior leader, the sole survivor of a once potent force.....

As the German left flank approaches the wall I deploy my final section.  I want to cover a possible flank move and the line of sight from the buildings won't let me, so I go into the street in Overwatch.  It's dangerous, but I'm getting desperate.

How's that for a stand off?

The Germans decide there's no rush and bide their time, bringing up some additional men.

No one wants to jump the wall. How about grenades?

So what follows is almost comical, as both sides start lobbing grenades over the wall, but neither of us are very successful.  Things grind to a halt on this front for a while, but I'm feeling under pressure now.

On the other flank the Germans have got into the large orchard and begin swinging around to the flank.  Pressure is building from both sides now.

Back to the other flank and finally a German grenade has an effect, wounding the Para's section leader and incapacitating him for the remainder of the turn.  British FM holds steady.  I fall back into the building and the German senior leader puts a smoke grenade over the wall and sends one section into the road.  I'm being enveloped on both flanks.

I have a CoC dice I could use to end the turn, but it would be a mixed blessing. For now the barrage is giving me as much protection as it is hurting me.  It would enable me to get my section leader back on his feet and my senior leader out from under the barrage, except for one thing, Dave has a CoC dice as well, which he could well use to keep the barrage going.

Dave decides he can afford to lift the barrage anyway as he's now ready to close with me.  On his right he moves up to the orchard wall and neutralises my JoP.  I decide to use my CoC dice to move it and he uses his CoC dice to interrupt.  He activates the section behind the wall and comes over it onto the JoP and into close combat range of my lone senior leader.  The odds are not good and although my leader goes down valiantly, it's another blow to force morale and it drops to three.

Dave now ends the turn and captures my JoP at which point it's very clear which way this game has swung.  After last week's success the Paras are a chastened force.  I made the fatal mistake of putting too much store on a single event.  To succeed my initial deployment really needed to have two phases of devastating effect on his sections in the field.  I didn't even come close and instead was on the receiving end of devastating firepower myself.

Unlike last week, Dave took his time and worked his way around me.  He was patient and waited for the right moments and he used his support well.  I was the complete opposite and paid the price.

This puts the Germans back in the game, but it's still all there to fight for.  We have the potential for three more games across two more scenarios.  The next scenario happens to the east of Ranville where a fresh platoon from 13 Para will be available.  If they can't stop the Germans then the final scenario will allow me to play a fresh platoon from 12 Para.  The Germans have two full platoons plus the remnants of #1 platoon to feed in as replacements, so we go into the end phase with strong forces available.  With any luck this one will come down to the wire.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Wounded leaders for Chain of Command Part 2

I've been working on some figures to represent wounded leaders and you can go here to see my wounded leader figures.  Those figures were to represent a wound that the leader would carry for the remainder of the scenario and so I could keep a track of those leaders whose Command Initiative was reduced (unless a medical orderly was on hand to patch him up, of course).  Next up I was trying to come up with something to represent a wounded leader who is incapacitated for the turn.  Laying a figure on its side is an easy and practical option, but I wanted something else and so thought about a small vignette using a converted Plastic Soldier Company British medic and a casualty figure like this:

I thought that could work well so made up a simple base:

That would do for British figures, but what would I do for German?  Then I remembered that the old ESCI 1/72 plastic British Infantry set included a figure helping an injured man (more details at the Plastic Soldier Review site).  See the figures on the left (photo is courtesy of Plastic Soldier Review)

I had a couple of these figures lurking in amongst a bunch of plastic figures I had acquired years ago. So I dug them out and mounted them on bases:

So this then got me to thinking it wouldn't be too difficult to try a conversion to make one pair German.  I rummaged through the spares box for heads, weapons and personal equipment and had what I needed.  After stripping off the British personal equipment I then tried my hand at sculpting some uniforms using Miliput (I know green stuff is the thing, but I didn't have any and I had plenty of  Miliput.  Just call me old school).  Here was the result:

I wasn't totally convinced this would work, but I was hoping a paint job would forgive many sins and on the table, from a distance, they would look close enough to being Germans to be passable.  The end result works quite well I think. The two pairs share a very similar pose, but given they will never be seen together on the table that doesn't really matter.

No conversion or changes to the British figures, these are as they come out of the box:

Enough of distractions!  Now back to all the other figures that need painting......

Friday, 2 June 2017

Von Luck campaign Scenario 3 'Attacking the Corridor of Death'

The Von Luck campaign continued this week with Scenario 3.  This is where my British Airborne platoon really needed to start consolidating its defence. So far things have all gone the Germans' way.  In both Scenario 1 Patrol along the Ring Contour and Scenario 2 Probe among the Hedgerows the Germans had pushed aggressively and in force.  The Paras were weak, with many men still missing, dispersed after the parachute drop.  As a result, there was little option but to offer some token resistance and then fall back.

The Germans had suffered only a single man wounded and he had since returned to join his platoon.   That meant my opponent Dave still had three full strength panzer grenadier platoons to call upon.  The paras, on the other hand, have lost four men killed and three wounded from the single platoon available to them.

At the end of the last scenario I had the opportunity to roll once more for my missing teams.  With much better luck this time around I saw the Platoon Sergeant rejoin Platoon HQ and a large chunk of #3 section finally make an appearance.  That was a section that, until now, had been missing in its entirety.  Things were looking a little brighter.  That said, the British have the option from this new scenario to bring in a fresh platoon.  It's tempting, but that platoon must then fight for the remainder of the campaign.  It seemed a touch premature to bring them in now, so my preference was to try to stall the Germans and see if I can gather in the remainder of the original platoon.  I was still missing a bren team and a PIAT team, plus the dead and wounded from the previous two scenarios.  The dead would never return, but the wounded would.  A wounded man from Scenario 1 had returned to duty, but there were another two wounded men from the previous scenario who would have to miss the next game.

That made my planning pretty clear.  I decided to use five support points and attempt to call on a naval bombardment to disrupt the Germans for this turn and advance to the next game turn.  There is however, a one in six chance the radio contact fails. I was already down one support point, having displeased the CO with my performance to date, so I would draw on five of the meagre six available support points in the attempt.  Should radio contact fail I ran the risk of facing the Germans with only one support to spend.

I rolled a 2 for radio contact, so the bombardment was successful and the German attack was postponed to the next game.  This allowed me to roll once more for the missing teams and to get back the two wounded men from Scenario 2.  The good news was the other bren team from #3 section showed up, but the PIAT team remained astray.  Overall then, I was down four men killed from one section and missing the PIAT team, otherwise I had a full platoon.  On that basis I felt I would hold off bringing in the fresh platoon.

With six support points for the new game turn I brought in a section of Paras to provide extra boots on the ground and a PIAT team, as I suspected we might see the Lorraine Schlepper turn up for this one.

I would be defending stone buildings in difficult terrain for the attacker and so felt a bit more confident I could put up stiffer resistance.  My Force Morale roll was good and I started on 10.  The Germans less so, with only 8.  This gave a much needed edge to the Paras.

Before I start, just a quick note on the photographs.  For this game I used my Cigar Box Mat 'Open Grassland' which gets a lot of use.  For some reason, whether it's the dyes that have been used or the fabric it is made from (or both) it always photographs a pale, washed out brown colour, when to the naked eye it's a mix of pale greens.  I've tried with and without flash; in different light and with different cameras, but it makes no difference.

An aerial view of the table. Germans would be coming from the right.

Start of the patrol phase from the German point of view

.....and from the British point of view

The Germans had three patrol moves before the Paras.  The phase saw us both move to cover either side of the main road into the village, with final jump off points as shown:

Dave had called in a Werfer pre-game barrage as one of his supports, which meant my deployment on turn one was going to be something of a gamble.  From that perspective I felt pleased I had set my Jump Off Points (JoP) reasonably far back.

The Germans wasted no time deploying, intent on taking full advantage of the Werfer barrage.  Two sections emerged on his right, behind the hedgerow, and then another two sections on his left, behind the high wall.  He had a second senior leader as support, so each flank had two sections and a senior leader.  That fourth section was also a support choice, which meant there wasn't too much else he could surprise me with (not that four sections of panzer grenadiers had me feeling complacent, you understand).  The Werfer barrage was giving the Paras problems deploying and only a sniper turned up to keep a watchful eye on the German right flank.  Dave used textbook squad tactics to move forward. On each flank a section on Overwatch kept an eye out while the other section advanced and so, using classic bounding moves, he worked his way towards the village.

This effective tactic was made all the more so with the presence of a senior leader on each flank, giving him great flexibility as to how he could use his command dice.  With the Werfer barrage causing uncertainty to the Paras' deployment any rash attempt to show myself could prove fatal.  The odds were I might inflict some token casualties, but end up on the receiving end of as many as four MG42s, possibly more.  Those were odds I didn't fancy, so decided to keep low and wait to engage him at closer range.

The German right flank, one squad on Overwatch while the other waits to advance.

The German left flank, a squad on Overwatch covers before a squad (behind the tree) prepares to advance.
Then, just to ensure there was sufficient force to keep the Paras from deploying unwisely or prematurely, a Lorraine Schlepper showed up to cover the upper levels of some key buildings.  Gulp. The PIAT looked like a good support choice.

There's a 150mm HE round in that breach, just waiting to hurt some Paras.
Dave had wasted no time revealing his full hand and moving aggressively to take advantage of the disruption the Werfer barrage was causing the Paras' deployment.

The view from the British right flank
To add to the Paras' woes the Germans enjoyed two double phases in fairly quick succession.  He couldn't roll enough sixes and I didn't seem to be able to roll any. I began to have a sinking feeling that this might be over rather quickly.  That said, luck has a way of evening itself out, I just needed to be patient.

German right flank makes steady progress 
As the Germans right flank came forward across the open field they made a very tempting target, but my best vantage point was upstairs in one of the buildings.  Not a great option with the Lorraine Schlepper ready to blast away.  I did finally manage to deploy on that flank, but decided to put a bren team on the ground level with the rifle team behind the building with the option to go over the wall if necessary.

Safe from harm but unable to hurt anyone.....
On my right I deployed the support section and put them on Overwatch in the forward house at ground level, ready for any Germans who came over the wall.  That plan looked like it might unravel when, with yet another double phase, Dave closed in on both flanks.  On his left he decided to risk going over the wall and facing the Overwatch fire, but at least he was doing it with the confidence of knowing he would have a subsequent phase to return fire.

Taking advantage of a double phase the two German sections jump the wall

How it looked from the German perspective

The Paras in the house opened fire from the ground floor, rolling ten dice yet only managing three hits.  That was disappointing, but finally some of the luck turned my way.  Every hit was a kill and a Senior Leader took one of those, wounding him for the remainder of the turn and taking German force morale down by one.  With their second phase the Germans returned fire, but the Norman farmhouse was made of solid stone and the Paras survived with only some shock.

On the other flank the German sections moved towards the hedgerow and engaged in a fire fight with the bren team on the ground floor.  Once again the number of British hits was relatively low, but it seemed every hit counted.  A junior leader was killed and slowly German casualties began to mount as force morale went down.  I might not be getting any double phases, or many CoC points, but I was inflicting losses.

Meanwhile on the German left the Paras continued to hold out in the house and return effective fire, but with the odds stacked against them it was clear how this would end up.  To ease their plight the 2" mortar attempted to drop some smoke in front of the house, but without a good line of sight it fell wide. the wrong place
The Germans edged forwards and had a team able to fling grenades in through the windows.

MG42s and stick grenades make it very hot in that building....
And so, no surprise, the inevitable happens. First the Paras accumulate enough shock to pin, then finally enough to break as it all gets too much.  They fall back in disarray having taken five casualties.

There's only so much combat men can take.
All was not lost, at least they were out of German line of sight and near a jump off point.  I planned to bring in my Platoon Leader to rally them and hopefully get them back into action ready for the end game.  But it was not to be.  The only double phase I roll all game is a triple 6, so the turn ends, but so does any further participation by the broken section who rout off the table.  British FM drops to 8.  The German senior leader gathers his senses and gets to his feet, but at least the Werfer barrage has gone.

Time to call on the #3 section and their bren teams and make use of the double phase.

What follows now and in subsequent phases is a furious fire fight across the street.  To my left (and just out of the picture above) I have also deployed a section of Paras and their bren team is targeted on the same building.  With my platoon leader up in the front and all junior leaders present I made full use of 'Concentrated Fire' the British national characteristic that allows the bren teams to direct their fire at a single team.  It was a very effective way of taking out the MG42 teams, particularly given the German section had already lost men assaulting the house.  The Paras' fire proved very effective, and finally in a single phase they killed a junior leader, wiped out an MG42 team and saw the remaining MG42 team (a single, shocked gunner) break.  That's a lot of force morale rolls and Dave used up one of his CoC dice to avoid the roll for the loss of the JL, but by this stage his FM has dropped to four.

A single broken MG42 gunner, the only survivor of the panzer grenadier squad flees the scene.

While all this was going on his other squad had moved upstairs in the same building, where they now became the new target and began to suffer a similar fate. Despite returning the Paras' fire the Germans were finding the elite unit much harder to hit.

On the other flank the German pressure leads to the bren team being ordered to withdraw out of the building as the Germans are getting very close.  The two front line buildings in the Paras defensive line have both fallen, but at some cost to the Germans.  The Paras' elite status is paying off here, they are harder to hit and benefit from defending in good cover.  Nonetheless, they are slowly being pushed back.

From the German viewpoint.

It really began to feel the game was on a knife edge.  The German force morale was getting low, but they still had plenty of firepower.  The Paras were dishing out punishment, but their defensive line was starting to fall apart.  It could swing either way.

On the German right a squad advanced into the empty house to be met by a flurry of grenades from the Paras who were outside the window.  In the excitement one grenade was fumbled and went off at the feet of the Paras, but harmlessly to no effect.  Maybe luck was on my side after all? The Germans continued to lose casualties and in an attempt to swing the balance the Lorraine Schlepper came racing down the main road.

Before it could intervene the decisive moment came on the German left when the Paras, with sten guns and brens blazing, poured another phase of devastating fire into the building across the street.  This caused the death of the senior leader and saw another MG42 team wiped out, as a result German force morale plummeted to zero and their force was routed.

A really good, tense game with a lot of action.  The Paras finally put up a serious fight and gave the Germans quite a bloody nose.  The Germans took 17 casualties, 15 of them from the core platoon and among them fell the Leutnant (Senior Leader) and two Obergefreiters (Junior Leaders).  The British took 10 casualties, but only 5 from the core platoon.  With a British victory and a difference in FM of +8 in the British favour all of those casualties from the core platoon would return.

To add to German woes, all their remaining men on the table are more than 24" from a friendly JoP. On a roll of 1 they will be captured and added to the list of permanently lost.  As we finished very late in the evening we will make those rolls in the coming days.  If that sees the Germans lose a few more men captured then I feel confident I have managed to render one German platoon ineffective for the remainder of the campaign.

Luck is a funny thing.  Dave had three or four double phases and one triple phase and while it felt my luck had deserted me at times, I had several fire phases where a very high percentage of my hits translated into casualties.  The reverse was true for Dave, who conducted one 36 dice fire attack from two sections that only resulted in three hits.  Like I said earlier, the luck has a way of evening itself out.

So Von Luck's men must regroup and try again and with that we head into the next game with a sense of deja vu.