Thursday, 12 September 2019

Gembloux Gap (game three) Scenario 1 Palm-off at Perbais

The campaign has hardly hit its stride but the Germans have been finding the going tough. The French have put up a very resolute and aggressive defence of Perbais and both the first and the second assault failed to dislodge them. This was always intended to be a tough scenario for the Germans and I was not expecting to take the village quickly, but a combination of poor decision making and bad fortune on my part and aggressive defence on the part of the French have made it particularly difficult.



Ideally I push the French aside today and we move on to map two. Having tried a few different approaches, this time I'm going to try to blast my way in with a mortar barrage. The aim will be to suppress elements of the French platoon and allow space for manoeuvre. German casualties mean that the platoon will be down nine men for this game, with seven men killed and two recovering from wounds. As a result I will form the remaining men of the platoon into two squads, one of which will have two LMG teams.



This leaves me short of men and so I will call on the support of another squad to give me the numbers I need. The Germans should have fourteen support points for this game, but I will lose one as the result of a low CO's opinion. So with this in mind I plan to call on a mortar barrage and the additional squad as the bulk of my support. One of the remaining points will be used for an adjutant to allow me to deploy both senior leaders and maximise my opportunities for activations and rallying. Lastly, to try to disrupt French activations, I will use the final point for a Shabby Nazi Trick in the form of a fifth columnist. 

The French are in much better shape having lost only three men killed and have two absent with wounds. They can draw on only five support points for the scenario but will benefit from an extra point for their CO's opinion and two entrenchments as a result of having time to consolidate their hold on the village.



My plan is fairly simple. I will deploy and hope the French respond as they have in the past by showing their hand early, this will then allow me to call on the mortar barrage and hopefully neutralise elements of their platoon so that my squads can close with the remaining French units.

The patrol phase starts with three German moves and then unfolds much like it has in previous games. From a German perspective I think it's important to have the options provided by jump off points on both flanks and to keep the French from concentrating their defence.


The first command roll for the Germans is an encouraging sign with a roll of 66631. I had considered using two support points for a pre-game barrage, so I'm relieved I opted for something different as the forthcoming turn end would have put a premature stop to that support. 



The first Germans deploy on the left in the wheat field. This is not as rash as it may appear as the wheat fields in this campaign can provide light cover. This is clarified in the campaign notes which state: 'Wheat is around 3’ high at this time. Stationary troops in a wheat field count as being in light cover, due to their location being masked. Moving troops count as being in the open. Where a unit moved in the previous phase they will count as moving when fired at, but in subsequent phases they are assumed to be stationary'. 

As the turn will end there is no point putting them on overwatch or tactical, nor is it worth laying down any covering fire as I have the next phase.




With that the turn ends and we move to the next German phase. This time the command roll is limiting with 65441 but it allows me to deploy the FO close to the squad in the wheat field. The FO immediately contacts the mortar battery.




I want to be sure I can bring the mortar barrage down quickly and so the Feldwebel deploys to coordinate action on this flank. He puts the two LMG teams on overwatch, covering the hedgerow ahead.





I'm hoping this deployment allows me to react to any French deployment and most importantly to bring the barrage down as soon after the defenders make an appearance.

This all seems like a reasonable plan until the French command roll of 66422 promises a swift and violent response. No surprise Dave intends to take full advantage of the opportunity and two dug-in Groupes deploy behind the hedgerow and open fire. 





The German squad receives twenty hits, which does not bode well. One team loses a man and takes two points of shock, while the other team takes six points of shock. Not great, but it could have been worse.




At least the teams are on overwatch and so they return the fire.




The French lose one man in the LMG team and another in the rifle team which also suffers a point of shock. That's not a bad result given they are in hard cover, it is just unfortunate that I will have to face another phase of fire before I can fire back again.





Seeing the opportunity to hurt the Germans the French Lieutenant joins both Groupes to take a grip of  the unfolding action on this flank.





Events take another nasty turn when the next French command roll is 66541. The French Lieutenant orders both squads to fire again and in the heat of the moment I forget entirely that I have a fifth columnist I could deploy to disrupt this activation. I'm certain I'll pay for this lapse. 




Despite fourteen hits the Germans come away relatively unscathed. Only one man is hit, however the shock has built up rapidly and it's enough to pin the squad. 




The French VB team deploy in the farmyard on the opposite flank and send over their first volley of grenades.





It is not particularly effective and only adds a point of shock to one of the LMG teams, however it does bring the squad very close to breaking.




It's a relief that the next French command roll is 55411 and so the run of phases will end. When the Lieutenant is activated I continue to forget about using the fifth columnist and so, once again, the platoon commander is able to order both Groupes to target the wheat field. 




The French pour out more fire and we calculate that in the three consecutive phases the Germans have had to face 86 fire dice. This time there are fourteen hits and these result in three German casualties plus enough shock to break the squad. 




They fall back 10" taking the Feldwebel with them and bring German morale down to six. 





Not only that, they have left the FO isolated in the wheat field with only casualties for company.  Nonetheless there is a good chance the mortar barrage may be called down and in anticipation the French Lieutenant beats a hasty retreat to put himself out of harm's way.




The lone FO is a very inviting target for the VB team who proceed to send over a full volley of grenades. 




They come crashing down on target and the FO is hit and killed. That's a disaster that brings German morale down to five and more significantly means there will be no mortar barrage. It really does look like this is over before it has even begun. The French Lieutenant might be feeling a bit sheepish having shown to the men his lack of willingness to share their danger but that is nothing compared to the catastrophic loss of the mortar barrage.




Now I'm not one to give in easily but I do need to evaluate if I have any real chance of victory without the barrage. My LMG squad is broken, but that said I do have the leadership to enable them to rally. Nonetheless it would mean that weakened squad and two other squads must take on a larger number of French defenders who are entrenched in a solid defensive position. It doesn't take much to work out that those are poor odds.

I use the next German phase to rally off five points of shock from the LMG squad while trying to decide if I can salvage anything from this fiasco. 



In the French phase the Lieutenant activates to move back to join the men. However a little late to make a big impact he is accosted by an unfamiliar officer who tells him he has new orders. Unbeknownst to him he has been distracted by a fifth columnist who consumes his attention for this phase. 




The French Groupes behind the hedge don't require the Lieutenant's direction to continue firing at the broken German squad. Despite the range they manage to hit the Feldwebel who is lightly wounded. German morale drops to four and the broken squad continues to fall back.




Well, I think that's my signal to call a withdrawal. I can see no benefit to this other than further German casualties, so it is time to regroup (again!) and plan a new assault. That was quick and ugly. While it's easy to point to the impact of the French triple phase I am very annoyed at myself for not using the fifth columnist earlier, that could have gone some way to mitigating what just happened. It may not have changed the overall outcome but it was a wasted opportunity at a time when every little action was going to count. It's very easy when the luck appears to be going against you to not think clearly, that was one such occasion.

So, if you're not sick of looking at this table or watching the French hand the Germans a beating, we will be back again for more action at Perbais in the next game.

The Germans took five casualties which means another two men are lost permanently and there are two wounded who miss the next game.  The French had two men hit but as they hold the table with higher morale both will be patched up and return immediately.

The German CO's opinion continues to drop and is now -4 meaning one less support point in the next game. The Men's opinion remains the same at -5 which will impact the force morale roll with a -1 modifier. The platoon commander's outlook goes from Confusion to In Shock and that will add a further -1 to the FM roll. The French CO's opinion rises to +4 and the Men's opinion increases to +6, while the platoon leader's outlook moves from Happy to Affable. In all a complete contrast to that of the Germans.

The critical thing going forward is not to panic and try anything too rash. Exactly what to do is not clear but I have a week to mull it over. Onwards and upwards.

You can follow what happens in the next game in this post.

20 comments:

  1. Nice write-up. You really aren't having much luck at the moment - hopefully things will improve for your next attempt.

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    1. Indeed, the dice haven't been very kind lately but I've been gaming long enough to know my luck will turn eventually. Just need to pick up my game play as well though!

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  2. When I started reading I though the French would get a trashing today but the dice gods willed it in their favor. I thought it was a good move going with the mortar barrage and putting the 2 LMG teams together although you played them to soon resulting in the French coming on to aggressively.

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    1. Something has to deploy first. Last game I took it slowly with an LMG team and the 50mm mortar, but that didn't work out too well. This time I went with the LMGs on overwatch and the FO ready to call down the mortars. What I hadn't factored in was a triple phase from the French for which the Germans were totally unprepared. One of those games you just have to shrug off and laugh about. Sh*t happens. I'd just like it to stop for a while!

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  3. Really enjoying this series of AARs, thanks for posting! Seems like you had a pretty sound plan, but the Frenchers got lucky. How does the shabby Nazi trick work? I haven't got the 1940 handbook (yet!).
    Cheers
    Matt

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    1. There are a number of Shabby Tricks to choose from but in this instance I chose the Fifth Columnist. In this instance he can either interrupt when a senior leader activates and distract him sufficiently that his activation is wasted. On subsequent attempts to activate he has a 50/50 chance of seeing the 5th Columnist for who he/she is and they are removed from play. Alternatively the 5th Columnist can disrupt deployment from a jump off point in a similar fashion.

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  4. Well it is a very nice looking table! Really damnably bad luck. I am happy to hear that I am not the only one who forgets to use assets at critical times. Playing the 5th turn in Von Luck camapign this weekend and have yet to win a round but I suppose at least for me the table changes each turn.

    Anyway good luck in the next round.

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    1. Thanks John. This will be the first campaign where we had to have over the same table so many times, but as always it's about playing the long game, I just hope I can make it that far!

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  5. Thought it would be third time lucky when I saw your plan, Lady Luck thought otherwise. As you say onwards and upwards, fortune favours the brave eventually.

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    1. Yes, a case of good plan meeting bad luck and certainly not surviving first contact with the enemy. Frustrating but not the end of the world.

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  6. Bugger!

    If it makes you feel better, I've lost a CoC campaign game quicker and more bloodily!

    Still enjoying these AAR's though.

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    1. It happens. I recall one of our Malaya campaign games where my Japanese beat the Australians before they had deployed a single team or section, so I really can't complain when the luck runs against me occasionally.

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  7. I would choose the same: FO mortars + extra squad. I wonder if screening with smoke grenades at the start till building firebase would work?

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    1. I think the plan was sound enough, it was just that events moved far faster than anyone could have predicted. C'est la guerre!

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  8. I am really enjoying and look forward to each of your reports Mark. Is the wheat-field that you deployed into classed as in the open or light cover?
    Cheers,
    Pat.

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    1. Hi Pat, thanks. Yes Rich says in the campaign notes that the wheat is approx 3 feet high and so provides light cover to stationary units. Moving units, or those that moved in the previous phase don't get that benefit. So in this case deploying into the wheat field was as good as deploying behind the hedge.

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  9. I was rooting for you up to the point where you said 84 fire dice... then I knew it was over. Too bad there is no Mercy Rule in war. 😀
    At this point I’m assuming that y’all are just leaving the game table set up permanently. 😀

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    1. Unfortunately we can't leave the table set up permanently, however we now know it so well we can set it up in record time. I'm not saying that like it's a good thing, in fact it's profoundly depressing from a German player's perspective, but such are the fortunes of war!

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  10. Mightily enjoyed this one! Always interesting to read your conclusions as it's often rather revealing as to the mistakes I make myself in CoC.

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    1. Thanks. I look forward to the day I can write a conclusion reflecting on how my tactics were successful. I'm beginning to doubt whether that day is ever going to come LOL.

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