Monday, 14 October 2019

Promoted leader markers for Chain of Command campaigns

Early into the Gembloux Gap campaign I had one of my squad leaders killed. In the past we've always had trouble tracking the men promoted from the ranks to lead those squads in subsequent games and in the heat of the moment we've often forgotten their limited command initiatives and command range. With that in mind I wanted to find an easy way to mark the figure on the table.





I had some single sabot bases left over from my project for identifying leaders in Sharp Practice and I had used those to create wounded leaders markers for those who were wounded in the course of a game of Chain of Command.

Sharp Practice leader bases

Chain of Command wounded leader bases

I realised it wouldn't take much to adapt some of these to record junior leaders promoted from the ranks in the course of a campaign. Unlike regular junior leaders these newly promoted NCOs are learning on the job and so are restricted to one command initiative and a command radius of 3" until they are accepted by the men. Rather than mark those attributes in words or numbers I decided to be more thematic and used three rocks to represent the 3" command range and a single shrub the single command initiative. The bases are only required until the leaders are accepted by the squad and so don't need to be permanently attached to the figure which is what makes a sabot style base ideal. These are simple enough and should do the trick.





Saturday, 5 October 2019

Gembloux Gap Scenario 1 Palm-off at Perbais (round four)

Deja vu. If you've been following the campaign to date then you, like me, must be getting sick of the sight of this table. So far it's been very tough for the Germans who've not only faced a dogged French defence but have suffered from some bad fortune. C'est la guerre, as my enemy would say.


Each attempt on the village sees the Germans benefit from greater amounts of support, while the French suffer the opposite. In theory this should be making quite a difference and tipping the odds toward the Germans. However the French have consistently won the scenarios with a significant difference in force morale which has enabled them to recover many of their casualties, patch them up and have them back in action for the next game. So that despite inflicting numerous casualties I'm facing a French platoon that has suffered no net losses from the last two games. They start this scenario only three men short of a full platoon.



I cannot say the same for the Germans and it has reached the point where if I'm serious about taking this table I need to call on one of my two available fresh platoons. I was hoping that wouldn't be necessary so early on in the campaign but if I don't do something drastic I can't see how I can push the French out of the village. So I will bring in a full, fresh platoon and benefit from 15 support points. Surely this will be enough to do the job?

One of my main concerns is my force morale, with both the Men and CO's opinion low and the platoon commander's outlook a bit bleak I have a net -3 modifier to my FM roll, which means I expect to start the scenario with FM of 8, maybe 9 if I'm lucky. That is going to be tough as the attacker as I must press hard and accept I will be taking losses.

For support I plan to bring in an additional Schutzen squad and two MG34 teams. This I'm hoping will give me the numbers and the firepower I need. I could opt for a red dice but with two senior leaders I decide I will just take an Adjutant which should allow me to have both the Leutnant and the Feldwebel on the table directing the action. My problem has been closing with the French and crossing the open fields and so I will call on a pre-game barrage to try to interfere with French deployment and use a 5th columnist (shabby Nazi trick) to do the same.

My plan is fairly simple - build up superior firepower before the French can deploy properly and use that advantage to move squads into the village.

The French have five support points but also receive three entrenchments for their teams for having held the table for that many games. In the past Dave has called on an Escouade de Fusiliers Motocyliste team and I expect him to do something similar this time around.

The patrol phase plays out much as before although the French congregate two of the JoPs very close to each other in one of the farmhouses.


We start off with German force morale at 9 and French at 11. That's better than I expected, so hopefully an encouraging start.

I announce the pre-game barrage and then the game begins. The French have the initiative and get off to a flying start with a double phase. This is ominous. In previous games the French have made a quick deployment and I have had to deploy into the face of massed French fire. I could do without that happening again.

While that is certainly in Dave's mind he has the added concern of the pre-game barrage and so decides to start deploying at the first opportunity. The pre-game barrage pays off when two French Groupes fail to deploy. That goes some way to counter the impact of the double phase. In the subsequent phase the same Groupes and the platoon sergeant all fail to deploy yet again. I'm already beginning to feel the barrage was a good support choice, that's five consecutive failed attempts at deployment for the French.

On the other hand I'm able to deploy my Germans quickly and two squads set up on overwatch in the large wheat field on my left where they are joined by the platoon second in command, the Feldwebel.




The French fail to deploy one Groupe but are more fortunate with a second unit. However, this is the weaker of his Groupes and one that is effectively a large LMG team. Nonetheless they appear dug in on the opposite flank by the railway and open fire on the nearest German squad.




The Germans suffer a point of shock on each team, but nothing worse. There is no further French deployment.




A third German squad deploys opposite the French and opens fire. For one of the first times in the campaign the Germans have superior numbers deployed before the French. 



The French lose a casualty and suffer two points of shock. First blood goes to the Germans.




The nearest German squad on the other flank also fires at the same target.




This adds to the shock on the French team.




With no enemy units facing me on my left one of my squads in the wheat field moves forward and makes good progress covering 11" in the phase. This is better progress than I've made in some of the earlier games and I feel I have the French under a bit of pressure quite early on.



The Feldwebel and other squad are joined by one of the MG34 teams, giving me a good base of fire to support the advancing squad.





The MG34 also opens fire at the entrenched French team.




This adds a further two points of shock bringing the French close to pinning. This is a good start and for once I'm able to concentrate my firepower and make it effective.




The French have better luck bringing a Groupe through the barrage and they are just about to deploy on my left flank when the commander is interrupted by an unfamiliar looking officer who has other orders. Little does he know the unfamiliar man is a 5th columnist and he has been fooled by a shabby nazi trick. As a result the Groupe fail to appear.



This prevents the French from covering the wheat field and hopefully between the pre-game barrage and the 5th columnist I will have enough time to rush through the grain and break into the edge of Perbais.



The French have no further luck trying to deploy and both the platoon sergeant and another team fail to make it through the barrage. Given the 50/50 chance of preventing deployment the barrage is certainly performing against the odds. I have no complaints.

The last act of the phase sees the French on my right fire at the squad opposite, but it has no effect. So far things are going better than I could have hoped for and I think I have a chance to break into the village before the French are able to deploy effectively.

If I can further reduce the French team that has deployed I hope to be able to advance on both flanks and keep the enemy off balance. The Feldwebel orders the squad and MG34 in the wheat field to fire.



They manage nine hits and despite the hard cover Dave rolls four kills and two shock.




The Groupe sergeant is lucky to escape unscathed but the loss of four men is enough to see the team break and they fall back abandoning their entrenchment.




With that French morale drops down to ten.




This gives me exactly the freedom I was hoping for and the squad on the right moves forward alongside the railway.




They have some distance to cover, but for now they don't face any opposition.



On the opposite flank the lead German squad makes another quick move through the wheat to reach the hedgerow. They are very close to the French JoP but not quite close enough to shut it down.




The second MG34 team deploys so it can cover more of the outskirts of the village near the remaining French jump off points.








The French command roll of 66541 gives them another double phase, but as is so often the case, not many activation options, however the platoon sergeant makes it through the barrage successfully and deploys near the broken LMG team.



He can't deploy close enough to be attached to them but I'm in no doubt he is aiming to move towards them.



With the remaining command dice (1) a sniper team deploys into one of the barns and takes a shot at the leading German squad, but fails to have any effect.




The following French command roll is 66531. Dave may not be having much luck trying to deploy through the barrage but he's enjoying better fortune with the command rolls. This is no more apparent than when he tries to deploy a Groupe through the barrage and they are unsuccessful. He has no more luck with his sniper who can't seem to find his aim at the moment.



The command roll for the subsequent phase is 64221, so no more double phases but it will give the French an opportunity to try to deploy more units. Firstly the platoon sergeant attaches himself to the broken LMG team and remove a point of shock.



The sniper fires at one of the LMG teams in the large field, but once again he fails to hit.



More fortunate for the Germans the French fail to bring two Groupes through the barrage. I really can have no complaints about the French run of phases when fortune has been particular kind with the pre-game barrage which is proving an excellent use of two support points.

I have an opportunity to capitalise on this when my next command roll is 66421. I want to make the very most of this and so think carefully how best to assign the rolls to ensure maximum activity. I use the 1 to have the most forward rifle team clamber over the hedge row and close down the French jump off point.





Next the Feldwebel orders the nearest squad and the two MG34 teams forward.








Meanwhile on the right the squad continues to move slowly through the wheat towards the abandoned French entrenchments.





The next German command roll is 66621. This is a mixed blessing as the turn end will mean an end to the pre-game barrage, but really I can have no complaints it has worked very well. There are not many activation options but the LMG team climbs over the hedgerow and joins the rifle team at the French jump off point.




On the opposite flank the squad continues to make its way forward.



Unfortunately in my haste to push forward and reach the village I miss a golden opportunity to inflict damage on French morale. What I don't notice is that the presence of the French platoon sergeant will be enough to prevent the broken LMG team from routing. Had I elected to fire at them instead of moving all I would have needed was to inflict two points of shock (or a casualty) and that would have resulted in both the Groupe sergeant and the platoon sergeant routing at turn end. I hope I don't come to rue that decision.




With that completed the turn ends. The pre-game barrage is no longer in effect but the French JoP has now been captured and that brings their FM down to nine. As noted earlier the presence of the platoon sergeant is enough to prevent the LMG team from routing and so they are now pinned.




The next German command roll sees an end to the run of phases, but the roll of 63311 leaves plenty of options open. Having broken into the outskirts of Perbais and captured a jump off point I am now very close to closing down the remaining two French jump off points. This becomes my priority. The Obergefrieter orders the rifle team to move at the double towards the farmhouse across the road, but they only manage a 5" move and don't even make it across the road.


They have come close to the first JoP but not enough to close it down. They could find themselves in a bit of trouble if a French unit deploys into that building.



In the centre the Feldwebel has the squad put covering fire on the hedge row in front of the farmhouse and then puts both MG34s on overwatch.





By the railway line the squad's rifle team makes its way forward and occupies the French entrenchments. Despite my failure to close down the jump off points I feel I'm closing a ring around the key buildings.



In the following French phase the platoon sergeant rallies more shock off the pinned LMG and they fire, but being pinned down and having accumulated shock the fire has little effect.


More alarming is the sudden deployment of an entrenched Groupe directly opposite the rifle team. The French ignore the German rifle team and concentrate their fire on the LMG team in the lighter cover of the wheat field.



The Germans suffer three points of shock. They cannot fire through their own rifle team so they are poorly positioned to deal with this new threat.



Dave decides to use a CoC die for an ambush so that he can deploy an additional team and he brings on an LMG team into the farmhouse. They open fire at the German rifle team that failed to move fast enough across the road.




They are caught in open ground and suffer two casualties, one of whom is the Obergefreiter who is wounded and stunned. A roll of 6 on the force morale check means German morale drops two points down to seven.



The wounding of the Oberfreiter is a real blow as I was hoping he would be able to direct the rifle team to get across the road and post some grenades through the farmhouse window. Until I can bring another leader up to command them their attempt to assault the house has stalled. For the first time I feel the Germans have lost some of their momentum and just at the moment things appeared to be going so well.

I see no option but to pull the remaining riflemen back behind cover, there seems little point exposing them to more fire and I still haven't seen all of the French supports yet, so that warrants a bit of caution.



Over by the railway the squad Obergefrieter rallies off a point of shock and then brings the LMG team over the railway line to benefit from the cover offered by the small embankment.





The sudden pause in German activity allows the French to deploy the Groupe sergeant and rifle team to join the LMG team that carried out the earlier ambush. With no targets the sergeant puts both teams on overwatch covering all the windows.




Meanwhile towards the rear, the platoon sergeant continues to rally shock off the pinned LMG team.





The platoon Lieutenant deploys to join the entrenched Groupe by the railway. He orders them to fire on the LMG team and he hands out grenades for them to throw at the entrenched rifle team.



The French fire is very effective, hitting two men in the LMG team, one of which is the Obergefreiter who is wounded and stunned. As if that's not unfortunate enough I manage to roll 6 for the force morale check and see my morale drop two points down to five. The grenades are far less effective and inflict a single point of shock on the rifle team.




The Germans still have the Leutnant, a squad and the 50mm mortar team to deploy, so I feel I have the force necessary to do the job, my main concern is my low force morale. Regardless the mission today is to push aggressively as time is not on our side. I have a full CoC die and I use it to move a JoP forward so that I can deploy the remainder of my force as close as possible to the enemy.

I move the JoP in the large wheatfield the full 18" permitted which puts it very close to the edge of the village.




The final German squad deploys and takes up tactical positions across the road into the village.



The Feldwebel orders both MG34s and the other squad in the wheat field to advance.






The squad on the other flank is in a precarious position. The LMG is pinned and the Obergefreiter is out of action for the remainder of the turn. While the rifle team may be in hard cover they are now outnumbered. They could risk moving but if they don't manage to escape the sight of the French they will be exposed to a lot of fire. I decide to have them stay put and return fire, but it is ineffective.



In the French phase they continue to target the pinned LMG team by the railway.


Once again their fire is very effective. The team suffers two points of shock and two casualties, one of whom is the stunned Oberefrieter who now receives a light wound. Not only that, the shock causes the team to break. Another high force morale roll for the broken team sees German morale drop a further two points down to three. Fortunately the wounding of the leader has no further impact on German morale, but that's a fairly catastrophic drop that will have implications for how the Germans conduct the rest of the action.




The platoon sergeant continues to rally shock off the pinned LMG team.



The French sniper targets the MG34 team but misses. With the Lieutenant now deployed the VB team tries to roll to enter the table but fails.



The Germans are reduced to three command dice but a roll of 544 will allow the two senior leaders to activate. I outnumber the French and if it were not for the low force morale I'd be feeling fairly confident about succeeding in driving the defenders out of the village. The Feldwebel orders the recently deployed squad to move to the hedgerow in front of the farm.







Four French riflemen are on overwatch defending the rear of the farmhouse and they react immediately but their fire has no effect.



The Feldwebel then orders the squad on the far left to move over the hedgerow and work their way around the flank. 




He then moves the MG34 up to to the hedgerow to where it can target the farmhouse. The defenders at the front windows react and fire back, but it too has no effect.



Despite the drop in force morale I feel fairly confident that the Germans are still in a good position to try to take the farmhouse and the two French JoPs.



Now that I have a JoP nearer the village the Leutnant is able to deploy right into the front line where he rallies shock and prepares to take command of the squad whose leader is out of action.



With that I feel I'm now poised to attempt to assault the farmhouse. As far as I can work out the French must still have three points worth of support that have yet to deploy or be revealed, so I need to be a little cautious that I'm not caught in the open.

The Leutnant orders the LMG team to cross over the hedge from where they will be able to exert some fire on the farmhouse.




He then orders the rifle team to move at the double and get across the road. I want them in a position by the farmhouse that will allow them to lob hand grenades through the windows. They don't have far to go, but I want to make sure they cover the distance and think it's worth the point of shock they will receive for moving at the double. What I didn't expect was to roll 1,1,1 on the movement roll. That's a very tardy move by those riflemen, who not only don't get across the road but leave themselves exposed to return fire while simultaneously obstructing the line of sight of the MG34. That's the second time they've failed to move as ordered at a critical stage of the action. What a mess.




They look set to be punished for their tardiness when the French roll 66422 in their next command phase. First however, the French attend to their left flank where the Sergeant rallies off the last remaining shock before moving to cover behind one of the houses.





Having dealt with the German LMG team the Groupe in the wheat field now turn their attention to the rifle team opposite.



The Germans take eleven hits which results in two casualties and two points of shock. Things have not gone well for this squad.





The French fire out from the rear of the farmhouse at the squad behind the hedge and inflict a further two point of shock on the Germans.




The French now turn their attention to the rifle team that failed to make it across the road, inflicting a casualty and three points of shock.




They also fire at the LMG team in the open.



The LMG crew lose a man and now look very exposed. Not only that, they must deal with the prospect of having to face another French phase.



The subsequent French command roll provides options to activate all units. Those at the rear of the farmhouse continue to fire at the Germans behind the hedge and kill one of the rifle team.



The exposed rifle team by the road receive another burst of fire from the LMG in the farmhouse.



The fire results in three kills but as only two men are visible that's how many men are lost. Fortunately neither the Oberderfrieter or Leutnant are hit, but that has reduced the team to two riflemen and completely stalled the attack from that side of the road.



The riflemen fire from the farmhouse at the German LMG team and inflict a point of shock.



On the other flank the French Lieutenant orders the Groupe to continue targeting the Germans opposite.



The Germans lose another man and are close to pinning. In attempt to finish them off the Lieutenant orders them to throw a grenade but it misses the target.


Once again the VB team have no luck deploying.

Despite only three command dice I'm determined to keep on pushing. The Obergefrieter with the squad at the hedge rallies off a point of shock and orders the squad to fire into house. The French lose one man and take a point of shock.


Across the road the Leutnant pulls the remaining men from the rifle team back behind the house so as not to be within 2" of the MG34. He then orders the MMG to open fire and it inflicts two points of shock on the French in the farmhouse.


Lastly he orders the LMG team to fire into the house and the French lose another man. This is starting to hang in the balance, if I can weaken the defenders of that farmhouse there's a good chance I can take both JoPs.




In the French phase the Groupe sergeant in the farmhouse rallies off a point of shock and orders the men to open fire. The riflemen at the rear target the squad behind the hedge once again.




There's a slow trade off of casualties here and this time the Germans lose a man from the LMG team.


The French LMG targets the MG34 team.



They continue to pour out some very effective fire, this time killing two of the MG team.




The riflemen are less successful and their fire at the German LMG team has no effect.



On the other flank the Lieutenant order the men in the farmhouse to throw their grenades at the Germans behind the hedge.



One misses but the other hits the target and kills one of the men in the LMG team.




The Groupe in the wheat field fires at the riflemen opposite at half effect before moving. The French are feeling confident and plan a very aggressive defence.



The fire kills one of the Germans which result in the two remaining men in the team pinning.



With that the French rush at the Germans from their entrenchment.




This is all too much for the two Germans who face odds well in excess of 4:1 and they turn and flee. In the process they incur eight points of shock which is enough to break them. Fortunately German morale holds steady.




As a result of breaking they fall back even further and end up joining their broken LMG team and Obergefreiter. Having driven off the initial French defenders the Germans now find themselves driven off in turn.



The VB team tries to deploy but once again it fails to appear. Meanwhile the French sniper targets the Germans at the hedge.




This time his aim is true and he kills the last surviving member of the LMG team. That's another team wiped out. Fortunately German morale remains steady but my losses are now accumulating and my force morale is looking very shaky. I've come so close, but I feel as though my chance of victory might be slipping away.




In the German phase the Obergefreiter at the hedge rallies off some of the shock.




He then orders the rifle team over the hedge. We may yet be able to take the farmhouse.



To stretch the French defence the Germans try to work around the left flank but the squad moves slowly and doesn't manage to reach the hedge and get over it.





Well if things were looking a bit dicey they now take a decided turn for the worse in the shape of another French double phase. These always seem to come when I've made a move that put my men in a vulnerable position. No surprise the French fire out from the rear of the farmyard but given the casualties I've caused there is not a great volume of fire yet it's enough to inflict a point of shock.





The LMG fires out of the farmhouse at the MG34 team and inflicts three points of shock.



The LMG team is also targeted.



This inflicts another point of shock making the small team now very vulnerable to pinning or breaking.




The French in the wheat field can sense a kill and the Lieutenant orders the rifle team to fire at the broken Germans opposite.





The sole survivor of the LMG team is killed and so the team is wiped out and this drags German FM down to 2.



This requires a German team to move back to a friendly jump off point. Given how vulnerable my LMG team has become I decide to pull them back to the nearest JoP.





The French Lieutenant then orders the LMG team to leave the entrenchment and move to the hedge where they can target the Germans in the farmyard.




I now have to face another French phase and it's very much more of the same. The defenders of the farmhouse have turned it into a veritable fortress. Those at the rear fire into the farmyard killing one of the Germans and inflicting two points of shock brining them close to pinning.




The LMG continues firing at the MG34 team.




They suffer two more points of shock which would pin them were it not for the presence of the two senior leaders.



From the wheat field the Lieutenant orders the LMG team to fire into the farm yard.



The Germans are lucky to suffer only a single point of shock but it is enough to pin them.



The Lieutenant then has the rifle team get into the trench and fire at the broken Germans, but this time the fire has no effect.




The French sniper seems to have rediscovered his aim and when he fires on the MG34 team he adds two points of shock which is now enough to pin them. The German assault is grinding to a halt.




At long last the VB team finally deploys along the railway line covering the French flank.




The German command dice only enable the Leutnant to activate and he rallies shock off the MG34 team.


He then orders the squad on the left flank over the hedge from where they can target the farmhouse.




The French phase sees the Groupe in the farmhouse continue to engage all targets. The LMG team targets the MG34 killing another one of the crew and inflicting a further three points of shock.



That's enough to break the team and they and the Leutnant fall back taking German morale down to one in the process.




Fire from the farmhouse into the farmyard kills another of the German rifle team.




They are also targeted by the French LMG by the railway, but the fire has no effect.




The sniper continues to rove around looking for targets. This time he fires on the LMG team at the German JoP and inflicts two points of shock. That's enough to see them break, however not enough to take German morale any lower.





The VB team can target the German squad on the left flank and do so with their rifles. They cause a casualty and hit the Obergerfrieter. He is wounded and that's enough to bring German morale down to zero.




Well, that was quite a game and for some time I really felt the Germans were going to win this. The pre-game barrage did far more than I expected and that really allowed the Germans to close on the village. I think the moment things turned against them was the failure of the rifle team to move across the road to the farmhouse. This didn't happen just once, but twice. Had they moved the distance required it might have been a very different story, but their caution or inertia had dire consequences for the rest of the attack. Of course it didn't help that at those moments when my men were hung out to dry like that the French then benefited from a double phase allowing them to inflict maximum punishment.

Once again we end a game with a large difference in force morale. The French were on nine and the Germans on zero. This means the seven French casualties can be patched up and returned to the platoon and as a result this is the third scenario with no net loss to French strength. The same cannot be said for the Germans. Things have gone disastrously for the new platoon who suffered 17 casualties, not only that they had three men dispersed and one surrender. They lose nine men permanently and with wounded and dispersed it means they will be short 17 men for the next game. That won't be sufficient to do the job required. Time is now running out and if Perbais doesn't fall in the next game then campaign victory will have eluded the Germans.

The German Men's Opinion slumps a further two points to -9, while the CO's Opinion does similar dropping to -6. The platoon leader's outlook goes from In Shock to In Shame. It's hard to imagine things being much worse.

Little surprise things are a lot rosier in the French camp. The Men's Opinion rises to +8, while the CO's Opinion is up to +6. The platoon leader's outlook remains unchanged at Affable.

What to do?