Thursday, 10 August 2017

Von Luck Campaign Scenario 5 'Delaying Action at the Chateau' (round two)

We reach the final game in the Von Luck campaign. The Germans have eight games to achieve victory and this will be their eighth.  In the best possible way, this has come right down to the wire.  We have battled over this terrain once already (Von Luck Campaign Scenario 5 'Delaying Action at the Chateau') and the ground bears the scars of recent battle. A key building has collapsed under the impact of a 150mm HE round from a German Lorraine Schlepper.  That very same vehicle, victim of a PIAT round, now sits as a smoking hulk blocking one of the narrow, wall-lined lanes that lead to the chateau.  All the while the clock is ticking.  The Paras know relief is on its way and Von Luck's men know that time is not their friend.

German view of the table

As the Paras see it

The wreck limits vehicle access to the chateau

With the wreck blocking the road Dave's options for his vehicles are a little more limited.  That said, I don't think this is a real problem for him, as the alternatives are all viable.  Based on the last scenario my gut feeling is that he will try a flanking move through the ploughed field and over the wall.  He made good progress on that flank last time and was only brought short when his attack on the other flank suffered considerable loss.  So, my thinking is, he will set up a strong firebase behind the hedge, most likely including a forward observer and this will cover a main thrust across the fields and around the flank.  A diversion on my left flank will have less ambition and simply try to pin me in place.

How I think the Germans will advance
So, how do I plan to counter this?  My thoughts are that I will need to have at least one section, if not more, dug in ready to counter the main thrust across the ploughed field. This small force won't be quite enough knowing the strength of German firepower, so for the first time in the campaign (and with the luxury of enough support points), I plan to call on a mortar battery and have the FO on that flank if needed.  With the FO attached to the squads and with everyone entrenched we will present any Germans behind the hedgerow with elite troops, in hard cover, at effective range.  That's about as good as it's going to get.  Unfortunately, the Para battery is only two mortars, so we won't cover off as much area as a full battery, but I'm hoping it will prohibit movement through the field and block line of sight.

The Paras defence plan
I will aim to place jump off points so that I can defend the field from Area 1 and then form a base around the ruined building in Area 2. If the defenders in Area 1 are overcome, then it will be up to those in Area 2 to defend the victory JoP.  So that's the plan, but will it survive first contact?

I have nine support points to use and so use them to bring in the mortar battery, an additional section and an entrenchment for a team.  I also receive three entrenchments at no cost as part of the campaign.  Dave has four less support points for this scenario replay, but that still leaves sixteen points, which gives him several options.  I'm expecting to see a FO, a Lorraine Schlepper, an additional squad and a second Senior Leader in the mix.

The Force Morale rolls see the Paras start on 10 and the Germans on 9.  The Patrol Phase is not much different from the previous game, except this time I have a JoP in the ploughed field.

Para JoP in red, German in blue.
The command phase starts off with the Paras rolling a double phase.  Deja vu, that's nothing new.  Good news is, I also roll a few 5s in both rolls and while I don't deploy anything yet, it means I have a few CoC points amassed.

Dave's first deployment is on his right flank in the chateau grounds, where a squad deploys in front of the gatehouse.  This I suspect will be part of his diversionary force, but then he surprises me a little by driving on the S307 Pak40 on the same flank.  I take the opportunity to deploy a sniper into the ruins and begin taking shots at the squad in the open.  No kills, but some shock.

The Para sniper takes a shot

No kills, but a bit of shock.  
I've had trouble from one of these before....
The next deployment sees a squad turn up on my right flank near the hedgerow.  This is where I expect to see the main German force appear, so no surprise.

The first Germans appear on my right flank.
A German senior leader also turns up on this flank which inclines me to think my hunch may be correct.  It's still too early to see what Dave has planned, so I'm cautious with my deployment until I see more.  Dave moves the squad on my left to the hedgerow so that he has a line of sight to the ruined building.  I decide to make the most of this before more Germans deploy and bring on my FO into the ruined building (yes, I know, he is supposed to be covering the other flank, but he does have a line of sight to there from the upper level of the ruins).

The FO team joins the sniper

The Germans fire at the FO, but to no effect.  The Pak40 rumbles closer.  Surprisingly and somewhat rashly the German squad on my right decides to advance over the hedge into the ploughed field.  No more Germans deploy, which has me a bit confused, as Dave normally builds up a very solid fire base before advancing.  So, what has he got planned here then?  Regardless, I need to use my next phase to get some other teams on the table so the FO is not a lone target.

A bold move into the open for the German squad

I then have a stroke of good fortune with a double phase.  I really feel I may have an opportunity here, for the Germans don't seem as well coordinated as usual.  I'd like to try and catch them while they can't bring their full force to bear.  For my first phase I deploy a section on the ground level of the building and the 2" mortar, while the FO calls in a ranging shot.

The 2" mortar and a section deploy

My hope is to inflict some hurt on that German squad on my left. The 2" mortar is there to blind them with smoke if my fire is ineffective.  The FO's first ranging shot was a little wide of the mark, but not much and the section's fire inflicts casualties and shock on the German section.  The 2" mortar pops some smoke, but it's also off target.

Ranging shot and smoke both wide of the mark

I roll for the second phase and lucky me, this turns into a triple phase.  Luck is on my side and I need to take full advantage.  There is a German squad in the open in the ploughed field, it's not on overwatch and there are no other units to provide covering fire.  That's a good target and I've got two phases, so I deploy the Para Bren section, entrenched into the ploughed field.  Dave has a CoC dice which he could use for an interrupt (if only to get the squad in the field back into cover behind the hedgerow).  He decides not to use it.

Two bren teams deploy

The fire from the two bren teams is very effective and causes three casualties and some shock. The German Senior Leader is hit and is lightly wounded.  German FM drops by two.

The squad takes two casualties and the SL is wounded.

Meanwhile on the other flank the Para section fires into the squad behind the hedge, inflicting further casualties and shock, while the FO adjusts the barrage and brings it down.  With the German squad's cover reduced the barrage inflicts further shock.  That would be enough to pin the squad were it not pinned already by the barrage.

The next phase is mine, so it's simply a case of repeating what I've done.  The barrage continues to take a toll on the German squad and the Para Bren section inflict further casualties on the exposed squad.  The combination of triple phase and the fact the German deployment is unsupported means I've really been able to inflict some loss on these two squads, with none in return.

The squad is down to three men and the JL.

The Bren section's fire sweeps the ploughed field

The barrage pounds the other squad

When Dave finally gets a phase he moves the Pak40 closer into the chateau grounds.  Meanwhile the Junior Leader on the other flank frantically throws smoke grenades to mask his squad from the bren teams.

The S307 edges carefully around the barrage
Smoke grenades provide respite from the brens

At this point Dave plans to retaliate with a barrage of his own and his FO team position themselves carefully behind the wrecked Lorraine Schlepper.

German FO ready to call in a barrage
With both German squads out of my line of sight (one behind his own smoke grenade, the other in the barrage) I fire on the FO team, but they are tough to hit and I have no effect.  At this stage I'm beginning to wonder where the rest of Dave's platoon is.  He has at least one more squad from the core platoon and most likely a support squad as well.

Dave calls in a ranging shot for the barrage which lands on target in the ruined building, but doesn't cause any casualties.  Dave and I both have a CoC die and clearly we are both thinking of how we can use them to end each other's barrage.  Dave brings the Pak40 around on the flank and turns it to target the ruined building.  In my phase I activate the FO and we adjust the barrage, if I move it the full 6" it can just get the Pak40 while still hitting one of the LMG teams in the squad.  So I adjust the barrage and it comes crashing down, destroying the Pak40.  That brings German FM down once again.

A mortar round does its work!

This is just in time, as it's now Dave's turn to have some luck and he rolls a quadruple 6.  The random event is a wine cache which brings his flagging force morale up one level.  That does mean my barrage could end, but I can't complain, it's done some good work, however I use my CoC dice to keep it going.  The quadruple four is a mixed blessing as it limits his command options.  Next phase the FO can't be activated so the German barrage is delayed.  However he takes the opportunity to extract his reduced squad from the ploughed field and get it back behind the hedgerow and out of harm's way.  With his FM sinking fast there's no point leaving them to be sacrificed.  Meanwhile, I try to take out his FO but he's found some good cover behind the wreck and it comes to no effect.

Dave decides to use his CoC dice to end the turn at the end of the following phase, which removes my barrage and frees himself up for his barrage.  The German squad that was under my barrage is in bad shape, the seven surviving men have 11 points of shock and they are close to breaking.  I make this my priority as his force morale is now only five.  In my next phase the Para section in the ruined house fires on the squad, inflicting two casualties and more shock.  They break and fall back, and German FM goes down further.  That's two squads of panzer grenadiers effectively written off for this game and the Paras have hardly been scratched.

15 points of shock on five men - they are gone for now.

Dave is not about to give up though and brings his barrage down onto the ruined house  The Paras take two casualties, including a wound to the junior leader.

81mm mortar rounds shower down

German FO eyes his handywork

A third German squad deploys on my left behind the wreck of the Pak40 and a fourth on my right flank.

German squad deploys on my left

Things are not looking good for the Germans.  FM is down to 4 and the Paras are all in good shape and they still have units to deploy.  Up until now Dave has coordinated his German attacks very well, but I feel something has gone awry this time.  In this case I think it's a combination of my good fortune with the triple phase and that lack of coordination in the German deployment.

I have a CoC die with 5 points and my next phase command roll includes a 5.  Given I'm under the barrage there's nothing I can really do, so with my newly acquired CoC die I end the turn.  This removes the German barrage and causes the broken German squad to rout off the table taking the junior leader with them.  German FM goes down to 3.  Things are looking desperate for the Germans.  In Dave's next phase he activates the FO and rolls to see if he can connect with the mortar battery, but things have definitely taken a turn for the worst, he rolls a 1 which means he's lost the battery completely.  That was the last straw and what has been inevitable for the last few phases occurs when Dave admits defeat.

That was shorter and a lot more one-sided than I think either of us were expecting.  Dave quite rightly pointed out that with every German defeat the root cause has always been the same - moving too hastily, in an uncoordinated fashion, before a solid firebase had been established.  Whenever Dave has taken his time to deploy and cover all forward movement with a number of fire options the Paras have been unable to stop them.  As with the previous playing of this scenario my Paras were able to capitalise on this by concentrating their fire on individual sections that were isolated from other German units.  Having consecutive phases certainly helped the Para's cause, but I don't think they would have been quite as successful had the Germans been better supported.

The lesson then, is that a platoon must fight as a platoon.  Units should provide mutual support and by doing so, bring maximum fire to bear to suppress the enemy and allow for manoeuvre.  The best way for a defender to counter this is to find a way to isolate individual units and write them down.  And, if you are lucky enough to get a moment of good fortune, then make the most of it while you can.  Those opportunities are fleeting, but they can tip the balance.

So ends the Von Luck campaign. The Paras finally triumph, but it was a close run thing.  A gripping campaign that went the full distance, you can't ask for more.

You can follow all the earlier scenarios here:

Kampfgruppe Von Luck Campaign Scenario 1 'Patrol on the Ring Contour'

Kampfgruppe Von Luck Campaign Scenario 3 'Corridor of Death' (round one)

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

Kampfgruppe Von Luck Campaign Scenario 4 'Church on the Flank'

Kampfgruppe Von Luck Campaign Scenario 5 'Delaying Action at the Chateau'

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Doing the First World War.....slowly

I've never understood why so many people with an interest in the Second World War have little to no interest in the First World War.  Frankly I find it incomprehensible, as to my mind, it is impossible to understand the second war without understanding what happened in the first.  I mean this at almost every level - from the grand strategic to the tactical.

Until I delved into the First World War I had that common view that it was four plus years of stalemate and unremitting loss of life for little result.  While I enjoyed Blackadder and I admire the war poets, I've since discovered that neither will actually teach you much about the First World War.  Blackadder is a fictional comedy that relies for its laughs on common myths about how the British fought the war.  History it isn't.  The war poets reflect the impact of war on individuals but it could be any war really.  "I died in hell, they called it Passchendaale", or they called it Stalingrad or Iwo Jima or Shanghai.....

I also had a personal interest.  The man in the picture below is my grandfather, the young child he is cradling is my father.  My grandfather volunteered in 1914 and joined the Scots Guards (the family has no known Scottish ancestry, so don't ask why).  In March 1915 he went to France and served there until July 1916 when he was discharged medically unfit due to shell shock.  He recovered, married and had four children and worked at his trade as a Master Painter.  When the Second World War came along he volunteered again and served in an anti-aircraft unit.  As an aside, the two boys digging in the sand behind my grandfather are his two eldest sons, my uncles.  The eldest Frank would serve in the RAF and was killed when his Wellington bomber was shot down over Benghazi in 1941.  The second eldest Jack also served in the RAF but survived, he was the pilot of a Mitchell B25.

From a tactical and operational level, there are now a significant number of revisionist historians from John Terraine through to Gary Sheffield who have sought to take a more objective look at how warfare progressed during that period.  The battlefields of 1914 were vastly different to those of 1918 and in that short time frame modern warfare and tactics as we now come to understand them were created.  You can see a great deal of the Battle of Amiens in 1918 in the way Montgomery planned and executed the Battle of Alamein in 1942.

So, to cut a long story short, I've always liked the idea of gaming the First World War at a tactical level, but I've never found a boardgame or set of rules that appeared to have the right feel.  When I discovered Chain of Command (the WWII tactical skirmish game from Too Fat Lardies) had a First World War variant I was immediately interested.  That said, this project has been a slow burner.  About a year ago I invested in enough 28mm Great War Miniatures Germans and British to field a platoon apiece and so the familiar story begins.  They sat in a box for six months, untouched, but not forgotten.  Then I got out the British, cleaned them up, based them and primed them.  Then they went back into the box, untouched, but not forgotten.  Then last month I finally got the urge to put some paint on them when I was in between WWII 20mm projects and so the first British figures finally came to life.

Based, primed and a coat of flesh paint.
I decided to trial paint colours with a few figures first.  I did a fair bit of surfing the web to see what others had done and settled on a colour scheme that looked about right. So here are the first six, a mix of bombers, Lewis gun team and rifle grenadiers.

The first six, ready for the table.

Just don't hold your breathe for the next instalment........

Friday, 28 July 2017

Von Luck campaign Scenario 5 'Delaying Action at the Chateau'

The last scenario Scenario 4 'Church on the Flank' ended up being a very close run thing that was finally decided by a crucial double phase for the Germans during a desperate fire fight in the churchyard.  It was beginning to feel like the panzer grenadier steam roller was unstoppable.  Yet if you pause to reflect, for this to be a viable and enjoyable campaign for both sides, the German player must have a reasonable chance of winning or at least getting down to the wire.  So I think it says much for Rich Clarke's design of the campaign that we've come this far.

The German weakness is the fact they receive no replacements.  Three platoons must do the job.  Had I managed to play the first and second scenarios a little better, it is quite likely Dave would be struggling to find a full platoon for the final scenario.  While all of his platoons are depleted, he is able to disband some to bring others up to strength.  This means he will be able to field a full platoon for this final scenario.  That said, this is not necessarily the deciding game of the campaign.  Should the Paras win (and that's a big 'should' given the track record) then the Germans have one more attempt at victory, as the campaign allows them eight games and this will be the seventh.

So, here at the Chateau I bring in a fresh Para platoon.  If we go to a second play of this scenario I will have to fight with whoever survives this game.  Whatever happens to this German platoon, Dave will probably have enough survivors from the other two platoons to field a full platoon if a final game is required.  Lots to play for then!

This is challenging terrain, particularly because the high wall that surrounds the chateau very neatly divides the table.  It makes it hard for a defender to cover all possible approaches, but at the same time it's a major obstacle for an attacker, particularly if there are enemy units waiting on the other side.  All that German firepower comes to no avail if it can't suppress the enemy first, so the wall is a mixed blessing.  My fear is that I end up squeezed into the woods behind the chateau and subject to the usual hail of panzer grenadier firepower.  Somehow I need to present him with few targets and try to pick off his units one by one and so break up his attack.  Dave is well aware of this and so far has shown that he will slowly work his units forward, each providing cover for the other.  Consequently, I won't be expecting him to be gifting me any targets or taking unnecessary risks.   There is a lot of open ground for him to cross, but at the same time it offers him plenty of opportunity to establish a powerful fire base to cover any advance.  A quick look at the AAR for Scenario 4 'Church on the Flank' demonstrates how he did this very effectively to cross a large amount of open ground.

So, what do I need for supports?  I only have 7 points (I'm down one for this scenario because the CO is not impressed with my performance to date).  Dave has brought in a mortar barrage for every scenario so far and I see no reason why he won't do this again. I can't afford to be caught out with sections bunched too close together and yet the only hard cover is in one or two buildings.  The alternative is to create my own hard cover and that's what I plan to do.  I have two 'free' entrenchments as a result of the campaign to date and so I plan to add to these.  I did consider the Vickers MMG, but I think a full section at only 4 support points is really what I need.  It's hard to beat boots on the ground and if nothing else these can absorb some of the casualties and hopefully keep my platoon intact if we go to a second game.  The 6 pounder is attractive.  I'm sure with 21 support points to use I will be seeing the Lorraine Schlepper (heaven forbid, maybe two!), but I think it's a luxury I can't afford, the PIAT will have to do the anti-tank work.  With that, I decide on a full section and three entrenchments.  I can only imagine what horrors Dave has in store.

Despite a -2 to my FM roll due to the men's opinion I roll a 6, but with the +2 for elite cancelling out the -2, I'm good to start with 11.  Dave has a -1 modifier and also rolls a 6, so that puts him on 10.  High FM for both of us.

In the Patrol Phase I push towards the Chateau and the flanks and Dave does something very similar from his side and so Jump off Points ended up like this:

Unfortunately the light was not great for taking pictures, so apologies if these are a bit mirky, but hopefully you can follow the action.  Also a quick word on the table - I didn't bother using any of my roads, some of the shapes were difficult to recreate and as they have no real effect on play for this game we have lived without them.  The perfectionist in me would have liked to see the roads there, but so be it.

From the British point of view

From the German point of view
Just before I rolled the first command dice my Paras could hear the evil whine of a Werfer barrage screaming overhead.  Dave was planning on making this difficult for me right from the start.  What followed was almost a repeat of the last game with several successive double phases rolled.  Very frustrating for me, as I didn't want to deploy just yet and even more annoying I wasn't rolling any 5s to compensate.

Dave began his initial deployment with a Senior Leader who placed an MMG on Overwatch in the upper level of the gatehouse.  Meanwhile on his left flank the first German section made an appearance.

A SL and MMG deploy to the upper level

A slightly fuzzy German squad make an appearance.
The German squad leader on his left orders a man to go ahead as a scout.  While a scout team can be a very useful way to flush out defenders, a single man team is very vulnerable.  The scout climbs over the hedge and into the open ground.
Para sniper keeps the flank covered.
I order one of my snipers to find a good spot in the ploughed fields and keep an eye on the scout.  The sniper is made of sterling stuff, ignores the Werfer barrage and takes up his position.  He takes a shot at the scout, misses but inflicts two shock which is enough to break the scout and send him running to the rear, the sight of which unnerves his comrades and German force morale drops by one.  Note to self: never form a one man scout team.

That's one less German to worry about.....

Meanwhile in the German centre another squad deploys in front of the gatehouse and a Lorraine Schlepper rumbles onto the table.  Never mind the scout teams, this is what I've really got to worry about. Things are not all bad, as I then throw a triple 6.  That's the Werfer barrage about to go and the Overwatch coming off the MMG team when the turn ends.  I take the opportunity to try to bring on my Sergeant and the 2" mortar team behind the chateau, which I do successfully.  As I have the next phase I plan to bring on a section to the ground level of the Chateau and to fire at the MMG, I'll follow that with some smoke from the mortar so that hopefully I've caused him some pain and then blocked his line of sight for the following phases.

End of the turn sees the Overwatch come off the MMG
I roll the next phase and get a double 6.  This is great, but a bit too early in the game, I don't have enough deployed yet or enough targets, but I'm not complaining, I can use it.  A Para section is deployed to the ground level of the Chateau and fires at the MMG.  A crew member is a casualty and they take some shock.  In the following phase I repeat the fire and the crew takes another casualty and some shock (a German SL is there, but he manages to dodge the bullets).  As the MMG is the only weapon that can return fire I decide not to drop smoke just yet.  I have elite troops in hard cover at effective range to the MMG, which is carrying some shock, and I'd like to see if I can either cause more casualties or make them move to the lower level.

The next German phase sees another section deploy to my left and the MMG returns fire at the Para section causing one casualty.

Germans appear and the Lorraine Schlepper can target the upper level of the Chateau
I'm beginning to get a handle on Dave's support choices - so far I've seen a Werfer Barrage, a MMG and a Lorraine Schlepper.  I know, it's a bit gamey to do the maths, but that's 15 support points.  A Forward Observer could still appear, so I want to remain cautious about how I deploy.  I continue to shoot it out with the MMG, which takes another casualty and more shock, enough to Pin the team which is now reduced to two men and an attached SL.  However the German pressure is building.  Dave has added an additional section as a support and they now appear opposite the gate into the chateau grounds.

Four German squads, MMG and Lorraine Schlepper......
With all those Germans in the open it's tempting to consider deploying to the first level of the chateau, except the Lorraine Schlepper has a line of sight to that level and it's not worth the risk.

With the MMG temporarily silenced, I use my next phase to have the Section Leader use Concentrated Fire from the bren team to target one of the LMG teams opposite the gate.  We inflict two casualties and a shock.  The German Section Leader is one of those hit and the wound is fatal. German Force Morale takes a drop at the sight of a leader dying.

Dave now brings on a second Senior leader on his left flank.  He can take over command of the section that just lost its leader and get more happening on that flank.  The real threat though is the Lorraine Schlepper which rumbles down the road and immediately sends a round of 150mm HE into the Chateau.  The Para section takes a casualty and some shock, but they won't be able to stand too much of this.

Here comes trouble

I respond by dropping a smoke round into the road, but I need to think about getting those Paras out of the building.

Smoke gives the Paras temporary respite
One of the German sections on my left moves up to the hedge and can now target the chateau.  My section really need to get out of that building, but this also gives me an opportunity.  I deploy the Para bren section, entrenched and in a good blind spot where they can hit the hedgerow, but they are not exposed to fire from any other German sections.  Both Para sections fire and inflict four casualties on the German section and one shock.  That was a good start.

I've caught the Germans a bit off balance here.  The Lorraine Schlepper and one section are blinded by smoke; the MMG doesn't have a line of sight to the entrenched Para team; the section on the German left flank is still behind the wall and the other section on the German right flank has its line of sight blocked by the hedge.  Dave needs to spend much of his next phase getting himself organised.  I need to capitalise on this and try to take out the squad behind the hedge.

I deploy my support squad entrenched to the left of the chateau, it fires to little effect, but this now enables me to bring the fire of three sections to bear.

Dug in Paras wait for the Germans

But then, just when I'm feeling like I've got things under control, my next command roll sees the turn end and off comes my smoke.  On the up side, the broken German scout team routs off the table and that's another hit to German FM, plus I have another phase.  I need to try to get that smoke in front of the Lorraine Schlepper again, but I really want to see what damage I can do to the German section behind the hedge.  The result is a mixed blessing.  The smoke drifts to the left, but it does block the MMG's line of sight.  My sections all pour fire into the hedgerow and one LMG team is wiped out and the remainder of the section pinned.  German FM drops again.

German retribution is on hand however.  The Lorraine Schlepper plants a shot into the chateau and makes the building unstable, while putting further shock on the section. Now they really are in trouble.  Meanwhile, the squad opposite the gates fires ineffectually into the chateau, but nonetheless the other German sections are on the move and edging forward.  I feel as though I have the upper hand, but only just and it could so easily slip away.

My support squad is exposed to more German units than any other and make the most appealing target.  Dave hits them with the fire of two sections and the MMG and manages to get 22 hits!  This is where the entrenchments prove their value, the hard cover means I get away with two casualties and some shock.  The section leader is wounded and the Paras FM takes a drop, but overall I'm lucky to survive that many hits, even if I am in hard cover.

Of course the Lorraine Schlepper is no respecter of hard cover and with the Chateau now clearly targeted and in danger of collapse it really is time to pull out.  Meanwhile the other German sections edge cautiously forward.

German fire continues to take its toll on the support squad but they stand firm.  It's the inevitable building collapse that I'm getting concerned about.

The burning smoke marker signifies the unstable building, so we don't forget

Sensing the moment may be close when the Para defence will unravel, Dave shifts his emphasis to his left flank. The section that was opposite the gate and another section move around the Paras right flank.  To Dave's frustration a roll of 3 proves elusive for the Lorraine Schlepper and so I'm spared another 150mm HE round.  I use my next phase to try to exit the building, but to my horror I roll a 3 and with all the shock the section goes nowhere.

The German SL behind the wall shifts the emphasis around the flank

However Dave has other plans and selects this point to use his CoC dice to end the turn and cause the chateau to collapse.  I roll for the occupants and I'm fortunate to have only one man killed, but naturally Dave chooses the evacuees to exit the front door and present themselves as targets.

Collapsed building and pinned survivors.....

I feel we have reached a critical point in the game.  The flank move is threatening, but the German FM has dropped to 5 and I decide to concentrate on hitting him where I can inflict the most damage.  I try to place smoke on the Lorraine Schlepper again, but once again it drifts to the left and blocks the MMG.  I feel I now have to take a risk. I deploy the PIAT team in the open to take on the Lorraine Schlepper.  He has a pinned German LMG team nearby, but I think it's worth the risk.

The PIAT gets off a shot, but only scores two hits and the net result is one hit. The subsequent roll of 4 means 1 shock and restricted movement.  Not quite what I wanted.

Next German phase and Dave doesn't have a 3 for the Lorraine Schlepper and can't bring any effective fire to bear on the PIAT team.  He seems resigned to losing the AFV and so focuses on moving around both my flanks.  My next phase the PIAT team take better aim and this time the Lorraine Schlepper is knocked out.  German FM goes down again.

No more 150mm rounds from that gun.....

While that threat is eliminated things are not looking so good on my right flank, Dave has a German senior leader and two sections working their way around my flank and casually flinging grenades over the wall as they do.  I throw a few back and a Junior Leader is wounded.  German FM drops down to 4 and I begin to feel if I keep on pushing I can force him off the table.

I can't ignore the flank however and so deploy my last section to keep an eye on the JoP.

Dave is not about to give up.  My support section is weak and on the verge of breaking and so he moves towards them using single dice and half firepower and if it wasn't for the Sergeant within 4" they would have broken.  If I can bring fire to bear on that section in the open I could do some damage, but unfortunately the PIAT team and the survivors from the collapsing chateau are in the way of the bren section.

While all this is going on the Germans continue to move around my right flank.  If I can just deliver a few more blows to German FM then this move will come to nothing.  If I can't, then the outcome of the flank move will be the decisive moment.  I order what remains of the support squad and the chateau survivors to fire on the section in the open, it's not much but we're at close range now and they are in the open so they take another two casualties and more shock.  The bren section focuses on the pinned LMG team behind the hedge and inflicts two casualties and that's enough for the team to break.  German FM goes down to three.

Broken remnants of the German section fall back in disarray
Despite having less command dice Dave is fortunate to have some useful rolls that allow him to continue driving on both flanks.  My support section finally takes enough shock to break and they fall back.  The German move on my right flank continues to drive forward and now becomes the German's' only hope of winning the game.

German flank move closes in
At this point the Para Sergeant takes control around the chateau, he moves forward into the rubble and orders the PIAT team to move on the double and out of the way of the brens and they high tail it towards the wall.  With that done he orders the bren team to edge out of their entrenchments so they can target the squad in the open.  This they do and in their next phase their fire is very effective.  The German Junior Leader is wounded and there's enough shock to break the squad and that brings German FM down to 0.

Last straw for German force morale

The threatening German flanking move will come to nought and the Paras can claim a hard won victory.  Phew, well, that was tense and extremely enjoyable.  I was lucky to roll the turn end early on and remove the threat of the Werfer barrage, that allowed me to deploy effectively, but overall the luck was fairly evenly distributed.  If there's one thing I've learnt in all my time gaming, it is that luck tends to average itself out.  Every once in a while there are wild swings, but generally things balance out.

There's an old military maxim that can be summarised as something like 'things are never as bad as they seem, and things are never as good as they seem'.  If you are in an intense firefight and taking casualties it's easy to think that things are going badly for you, but chances are, if you are taking a lot of casualties then you are probably dishing them out too and so things are also going badly for the other guy.  The same applies when things are going well. Another maxim I like is, 'if you report you are moving ahead rapidly with little opposition, it generally means you are about to get ambushed'.  I think playing a campaign allows for luck to average itself out and at the end of the day it is not about how lucky you are, but how you play your luck (the good and the bad).  Backgammon is a game driven solely by the luck of the dice, but a player who is good at Backgammon isn't so because he or she is lucky, but rather because they know how best to play the luck the dice present.

The Paras ended with FM at 6 which means the casualties the core platoon suffered will all be returned, that will be really important for the next and final scenario.  Dave has enough remnants of his two other platoons to form a full platoon, so we will come back at this with full strength platoons. The Germans will have four less support points to use and the Paras an extra two, but wait, that's not all - with the differential between this being the 8th game and the 5th scenario, the Paras will benefit from an additional three team entrenchments.

We are all set up for the all important final battle.  Von Luck's men have come so close, will one final push give them victory, or will the Paras gather around the grounds of the collapsed chateau for a final, determined stand?

You can follow the previous games here:

Kampfgruppe Von Luck Campaign Scenario 1 'Patrol on the Ring Contour'

Kampfgruppe Von Luck Campaign Scenario 3 'Corridor of Death' (round one)

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

Kampfgruppe Von Luck Campaign Scenario 4 'Church on the Flank'