Saturday, 19 October 2019

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

If you've been following this campaign then you no doubt enjoyed watching Groundhog Day, because there's something ominously familiar about the look of this table. Like I said prior to the previous game ....deja vu. So here we are, back again peering across the fields at Perbais and wondering if this is the attack that will finally push the French out of the village.

My Germans have to face the brutal truth that if this attempt fails then the campaign is lost, we have simply run out of time. So, what to do differently this time around?

Unfortunately the French platoon opposing me is still in good shape, having lost only three men permanently across the previous four games. By holding the battlefield and keeping their own force morale high they have been able to recover most of their casualties and return them to action.

The same cannot be said for the Germans. They have seen the backs of two platoons broken in the attempts to push the French aside. As a result I see no option but to call on the last available fresh reinforcement platoon, because if I can't win this scenario the campaign is lost for the Germans. In addition the fresh platoon will be able to draw from a very generous pool of 17 support points, surely this will be enough to tip the balance?

With the German CO and Men's opinions so low the negative modifiers for force morale mean it is no surprise to see the Germans start at eight and the French at ten. Not an encouraging start.

I've decided to call on similar support to the previous game and use the additional two support points for this scenario to add a red command dice. This will give the Germans an extra squad, two MMG teams, a pre-game barrage, a red dice, an adjutant and a Shabby Nazi Trick (in the form of a 5th columnist). The main difference to the previous game is my approach. The right flank, where the narrow strip of wheat field runs alongside the railway, has been something of a death trap, so I don't intend attacking in this direction unless an unforeseen opportunity arises. The weight of my attack will fall on my left where there is more room for movement.

During the patrol phase my emphasis on the left flank results in two jump off points in the wheat field, with one much further forward than I've managed previously. The only risk with focussing on a single flank is that it does allow the defender to concentrate against it.

The French have the initiative and therefore the first phase. Despite rolling 54411 Dave elects to stay concealed and no French units deploy. This he quickly regrets when the first German command roll is 66543(6) (note: when I show the German command rolls the red die number will be in parentheses). I plan to take full advantage of this opportunity and deploy the support squad and the Feldwebel (SL) into the wheat field.

This encouraging start continues with a subsequent command roll of 66111(2) which allows me to push forward aggressively and the support squad leads the way through the wheat field towards the hedge row.

Meanwhile a second squad and one of the MMG teams deploy on the right of the wheat field ready to cover the movement of the support squad.

There are no more double phases but the final German phase sees the support squad reach the hedge row.

The Feldwebel makes his way over to the other squad and puts the LMG team and the MMG team onto overwatch, ready for the inevitable French response.

Hopefully this means any deploying French units have much to consider. This is a good start.

The French command roll of 55442 limits Dave's options. He attempts to deploy a Groupe through the barrage and they come through successfully. The Groupe LMG team are dug in around one of the houses, but back from the hedge line, while the rifle team occupy the house itself. The platoon sergeant tries to join them, but is unable to make his way through the barrage.

The German phase see the Feldwebel order the squad and MMG team forward and he follows them through the wheat field.

The support squad edges its way cautiously along the hedge row using tactical movement. 

The French try to deploy another Groupe through the barrage but this time the unit fails and the platoon sergeant continues to have the same problem. Once again a pre-game barrage is proving useful to the Germans. All that remains in the French phase is for the entrenched LMG team to target the squad at the hedge.

The Germans have made skilful use of the available cover and the French fire only manages to inflict a point of shock on the LMG team.

In the German phase the squad drops its tactical status and returns fire. 

The hail of German bullets causes two French casualties. The Obergefrieter then orders one of the men to lob a grenade into the entrenchment, but it falls short.

I need to bring as much fire to bear as I can and so the Feldwebel orders the other squad forward to support the squad at the hedge row. He then moves to join the MMG team and places them on overwatch.

Just when I feel the Germans are making some decent progress the French command roll is 66631. Not only a double phase it heralds the end of the turn and the lifting of the pre-game barrage. The first French action is to have the entrenched LMG team continue to target the men at the hedge and the Germans lose one of the men from the rifle team. 

With the pre-game barrage still in effect an attempt to deploy by a team of Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste fails. With that the phase ends as does the turn and so the pre-game barrage is no longer active. It's disappointing to see it go so soon but at least it has managed to hamper some of the French deployment in these initial phases. 

The subsequent French command roll is 66553 and so now it's their turn to enjoy a run of phases. However, as is so often the case, the options for activation are limited. The activation that does occur takes me quite by surprise - the appearance of a Panhard armoured car.

It can move fast on the road and comes racing through the village. I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with that.

Despite the arrival of the armoured car Dave is feeling under a bit of pressure. With no more command dice left for activation he decides to use the CoC die he has accumulated for an ambush by the Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste. They plan to deploy from the jump off point in the house by the entrenched LMG team.

I announce the presence of a 5th columnist at which point we discuss whether this is a legal use of this support given the French unit is ambushing rather than conducting a regular deployment. We decide it is a legal use given the ambush must originate from a specific jump off point, however we make a compromise and decide that should the Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste fail to deploy into ambush because of the 5th columnist no ambush actually takes place and so the CoC die is not used. All of this becomes academic when Dave rolls a 6 and the Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste see the 5th columnist for who he is and despatch him.

The ambushing men open fire at the German squad in the wheat field and hit one of the LMG team.

In the following French phase the Panhard drives slowly up the road. The moment it has a line of sight to the MMG team in the wheat field it opens fire with its co-axial machine gun.

The burst of fire results in a single point of shock, but the presence of the Panhard creates some headaches for the Germans who have no dedicated anti-tank weapons.

The French platoon sergeant is no longer held back by the barrage and joins the entrenched LMG team ordering them to maintain their fire at the squad behind the hedge.

Another German rifleman becomes a casualty and the LMG team suffers some shock.

The sergeant then commands the Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste to open fire on the squad in the wheat field.

This kills a second member of the LMG crew and inflicts more shock on the squad.

Meanwhile on the other flank the VB team deploys behind the railway embankment and targets the German MMG.

The first volley of grenades is not particularly effective, only inflicting a point of shock, but now the VB team has them in their sights the MMG team could find itself under a hail of rifle grenades in the near future. The French have responded quickly and violently with that run of phases and are in danger of seizing the initiative.

With exquisite timing a German command roll of 66311(4) delivers a double phase. This gives me the opportunity for some house keeping as the LMG team in the wheat field is down to one man.

The Obergefreiter takes a point of shock off the rifle team and then assigns one of those men to join the LMG crew. 

The Feldwebel takes a point of shock off the MMG team and then orders both them and the squad to fire at the Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste.

Between them they bring a lot of fire to bear and it results in two casualties and five points of shock, enough to pin the French team.

The squad at the hedge continues to trade fire with the entrenched LMG team, but it has no effect.

The following German command roll is 32222(3), which gives considerable options for activation. I am tempted to bring on another squad but decide for now to use the phase to maintain pressure on the French with the units I have. I also need to keep in mind that all the French are yet to appear and I want to be able to respond effectively to their deployment.

The Obergefreiter rallies shock off the squad at the hedge and then directs their fire back at the French LMG team.

They manage seven hits which results in a single kill, however it's the platoon sergeant who is hit. He is wounded and stunned for the remainder of the turn which is enough to bring French force morale down two points to eight.

There's a danger my men are caught in the wheat field like they have been in previous games and are slowly whittled down by French fire. I feel the need to force the issue by seizing an opportunity and so decide to be very aggressive. The Feldwebel moves up and rallies shock off the squad in the wheat field.

With the men's morale boosted by the presence of the Feldwebel the squad Obergefreiter gives the "Handgranaten!" command. With that the squad hurl a couple of grenades at the Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste prior to moving into close combat.

The grenades cause two casualties. One of those hit is the leader, who is lightly wounded and this brings French morale down to six.

The Obergefreiter then leads the German squad in a charge through the wheat towards the hedge row. The assault brings them into close combat with both the entrenched LMG team and the Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste. While that makes for a bigger fight than I had planned the angle of the German approach has brought them around the flank of the entrenched team, which will nullify the effects of the defender's LMG and reduce the effectiveness of the team. This could prove a decisive moment for the attack.

The odds in the combat are fairly even, with the Germans rolling eleven dice and the French rolling ten. The French however are determined to make a stand and I'm stunned when they inflict six casualties on the Germans who can only inflict one in return. That's a disaster given how even the odds were. So much for a decisive moment for the attack, more like a decisive moment for the defence! The French lose a solitary rifleman from the entrenched team while the Germans see the Obergefreiter wounded and the rifle team wiped out.

That was not the outcome I was hoping for, nor the one I would have predicted from the odds. The survivors of the squad fall back 18" and the whole sorry affair drags German morale down to six.

The only remnants of the German assault are the casualties left behind. Somehow I have the feeling I'm never meant to capture Perbais.

Nonetheless I'm not going to let this set me back, I still have two squads, another MMG team and the platoon Leutnant to deploy and with French morale down to six there is still much to play for. With that I deploy the Leutnant to rally the LMG team and return them to the fight. With an Adjutant off-table I can afford to bring on both my senior leaders before the full platoon has deployed.

The MMG team move forward through the wheat and join the Feldwebel.

With that done it means I can still bring a fair bit of fire to bear from both the support squad and the MMG team, all under the watchful eye of the Feldwebel.

In the French phase the Panhard moves forward slowly to the edge of the wheat field and once again the co-axial machine gun opens fire at the MMG team inflicting some shock. I'm not sure how I am going to deal with that armoured car, but for now I want to keep my focus on hitting the French infantry.

The firefight between the entrenched LMG team and the Germans behind the hedge continues unabated.

Unfortunately this time the French fire is very effective, causing a casualty and a point of shock on each team.

From behind the railway lines the French VB team let loose a volley of rifle grenades, targeting the German MMG team in the wheat field. I was wise to move the team before the VB team could fire off a full volley at them.

The rifle grenades come crashing down and kill one of the crew and add to the team's shock.

Just when it looks as though the pendulum might be swinging against me the German command roll delivers another double phase. Hopefully this gives me time to galvanise my units and maintain pressure on the French. The Obergefreiter at the hedge spends the phase rallying shock off his men.

The Feldwebel also takes a point of shock off the MMG team. He then orders them to open fire on the Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste at the hedge.

The fire inflicts two points of shock and that's enough to break the French team.

The Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste are finally driven back and they retreat 16” towards the rear of the village.

Dave rolls a six on the force morale check and this sees French morale slump from six to four. Despite repulsing the recent German assault this drop in morale makes the French position quite fragile and I hope I can take advantage of it in the following phase.

The Felbwebel uses his last CI to order the squad at the hedge to return fire at the entrenched LMG team.

This time the fire proves more effective and the French lose a man and accumulate shock.

The LMG team from the failed close combat and the Leutnant return to the fray ready to add their firepower to the attack.

Fortune continues to favour the Germans when the next command roll is 66653(4). This looks promising, as the turn end will see the Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste rout off the table taking their leader with them and that will hurt French morale further. Can I break the entrenched team and force them from the table too? They are very close.

The squad at the hedge opens fire. They inflict another point of shock and in an attempt to break the French team the Obergefreiter orders one of the men to throw a grenade, but it falls short.

I cannot ignore the Panhard completely and so the Leutnant takes shock off the MMG before ordering the team to fire at the armoured car, but it has no effect.

The Leutnant then orders the LMG team to follow him and make their way toward the hedgerow.

With that the phase ends, as does the turn. The Escouade de Fusiliers Motocycliste rout off table taking their leader with them which drags French morale down to two. For the first time in the campaign I really feel I'm close to victory. With their morale at two the French are required to move a unit back to a jump off point and so the VB team moves to the nearest JoP which is in one of the barns.

The run of phases ends for the Germans, but they are still able to maintain pressure on the French for one more phase. The Leutnant orders the squad at the hedge to continue firing.

Once again their fire is very effective, causing another casualty and a further two points of shock.

That's enough to see the French team break and retreat, bringing their force morale down to one. I think we have them!

With that the Germans have managed to throw back the French front line while driving down their force morale in the process.

The Leutnant orders the LMG team to follow him over the hedge.

The Panhard still represents a threat that could snatch a French victory from the jaws of defeat and so the Leutnant orders the MMG to continue firing. The machine gun fire rattles the crew of the armoured car who are forced to halt and engage the MMG in the next phase.

With that I have no more activations in the phase, however I do have a full CoC die and so use it to deliver the coup de grace and end the turn. This will force the broken LMG team to rout from the table, taking both the platoon sergeant and the squad sergeant with them. That shocking sight is enough for French force morale to crash to zero (if not well below), finally giving the Germans their long desired scenario victory.

The difference in force morale was six in my favour, which sees all of the casualties from the core platoon returned. This is very welcome as I can ill afford to lose too many men now that I have called on all my reinforcements. The opinion of my men takes a modest turn for the better and is now at -8. Similarly the CO's opinion has gone up to -5. Unfortunately the platoon leader's outlook remains 'In Shame'.

The reverse applies for the French who see the men's opinion drop to +7 and the CO's opinion drop to +5. The platoon leader's outlook drops from Affable to Happy. Having said that, the French platoon put up a very gallant and determined fight, causing considerable delay. The French can only be pleased with what was achieved and so Dave insists we salute those brave defenders by knocking back some Eau-de-Vie in their honour!

In the end that German victory was reasonably straightforward, why couldn't that have happened a bit earlier in the campaign? In hindsight I can see that I even managed this victory with only two squads and an MMG team, something that could have been done with the survivors of the squad from the last game and without the need to draw on a fresh platoon.

I started this game prepared to face the prospect of failing yet again and with the knowledge that defeat would see any chance of a campaign victory slip away. Yet while the win has been a boost to my personal morale, my prospects for a victory in the campaign as a whole remain very slim - I must win all of the next five games at the first attempt and do all that with a single platoon. While that will be tough it does remain possible and so we move on to scenario two where I trust you, like me, will be relieved to see a change of terrain in the next AAR.

You can find out what happens next in the report on Scenario 2 The Culverts at Noirmont.


  1. A salute indeed to the brave defenders of Perbais. But also to the Germans for not giving up, but coming back to try again and again. /Mattias

    1. Thanks. Always worth continuing while a chance remains, no matter how slim the chance, if it's a possibility then who knows what might happen?

  2. Another great game and read, I really believed that it was going to take all your force to break the french after previous games. Looking forward to the next installment I'm glad it was the end.

    1. Yes, it ended up being fairly painless, certainly not what I was expecting, but I'll happily take it.

  3. Bad spelling , 'wasnt the end'

  4. Superb account, thanks for doing all te work that went into that.

    1. Thanks. While it is a bit of work I really enjoy putting these together, it's a bit like refighting the battle all over again.

  5. A great report and proof that persistence can pay off :)

    "With their morale at two the French are required to move a unit back to a jump off point" is that a rule specific to the PSC? I thought that a drop to FM=2 results in the loss of a JOP.

    1. Thank you. The rule appears in the Blitzkrieg 1940 handbook and gives certain units additional fine tuning on the FM chart. For example the Germans lose their red dice if FM drops to four, similarly certain units have to retreat a unit to a JoP on a two. No major changes, just a few extra nuances for more flavour.

    2. Cheers - thought it must be something like that.

  6. Phew! This continues to be riveting reading. Well done for keeping your personal morale up. I think I’d have given up by now.

    1. Ah well, never say die and all that. It ain't over until it's over, although I have to admit I was close to throwing in the towel with this one!

  7. Hooray! Really enjoyed this AAR, I was almost holding my breath as I read it :o)
    Look forward to the next installment.

    1. Yes, I shouldn't get too elated, the odds are still heavily stacked against me but at least we are heading in the right direction now.

  8. A gripping read and a well earned success. Await the next instalment with baited breath.

    1. Hopefully my Germans can get a bit more blitz into their blitzkrieg now that we've pushed the French aside (he says wistfully....).

  9. Great report, I infrequently read them from the beginning to the end but this one kept me going through every line, bit unlucky with the assault but all things ended well, now we will see a different table!

    1. Thanks. Yes when the assault went badly wrong I thought the luck was just going to go against me, but I also felt I had the French under pressure - which is why I assaulted in the first place. All good in the end, as you say.

  10. Ha! At last. Still, it was another damn close run thing until the French morale started plummeting. I'm looking forward to the next scenario.

    1. At last indeed! A bit of luck always helps and I feel as though I was due a bit after some of the earlier games. No margin for error now though I'm going to have plan each of the next few games very carefully.

  11. Well done on finally breaking through the french lines! As always an engaging read and I‘m pleased there‘s still some fighting ahead for your Germans in this campaign.

    1. Thanks. I have to say the thought of having this campaign end without ever leaving the first table was a depressing, especially as my shame is recorded for posterity in the AARs. I'm only hanging on by the thinnest margin but at least I'm still in the fight.

  12. Some brilliant play on your side. I can't think of anything I would have done different, except maybe worse. Sometimes it's better to just attack with limited forces and keep them moving.

    1. I think most scenarios are decided by a few critical decisions during the course of the game. While luck can help, it's how well you use those opportunities (or manage the misfortune) that can be critical. Prior to the game I really thought I would need maximum force but as things turned out pushing hard with a smaller force got me there in the end.

  13. These AARs are as good as any YouTube play through, if not better. Congrats on your well earned victory. I was rooting for you the whole time. Never a doubt. 😀

    1. Thanks Stew. I find it hard to watch the YouTube play throughs as I like to follow a game at my own pace. And after 20 years in the film industry the quality of production (bad camera angles, too much camera movement, poor editing etc) often drives me to distraction. Then again, maybe I'm just getting old. Anyhow onwards and upwards with this campaign, if nothing else it will be refreshing to have a different table to play on.

  14. Finally a new map coming up! Well done Mark. Now if only your lads could practice their grenade throwing and bayonet skills it will be easier next time :)

    1. I do seem to recall it was your earlier advice that I should call in a mortar barrage and then send the men in with a Handranaten command. I didn't bother with the mortars in this one but I did have your advice ringing in my ears as that sad group of survivors fell back in defeat. All good in the end though and yes, a new map will be most welcome.

  15. Ahh yes I forgot to add in my tactical advice you are supposed to win the combat.😀
    But to be fair you did get caught out by the sneaky French trick of having another team within 4" of the target!

  16. Well done Mark, a very tough nut to crack and I think we were all willing you on. Looking forward to the next instalment.