The first of these takes place on Map 1 Skyline Drive, the second will take place on Map 3 Holzthum Village (see previous campaign post for where these are on the campaign map). Skyline Drive presents an attacker with a tough assignment, not least of which is crossing a great deal of open ground to reach and clear the crossroads. This is a task that would be made easier with armour, but German pioneers will not have bridged the River Our until campaign turn 4 or later. Until then, and with time working against them, the Germans must conduct their assault with the assistance of only light supports.
The crossroads are defended by 1st Platoon under the command of Lieutenant Brynner. I think this is a location where the Americans can cause the Germans considerable delay and I have assigned eleven of the 48 available support points here. The platoon's firepower will be strengthened by equipping all the squads with an additional BAR. More significantly they will be backed up with a 50cal HMG team. The benefit of the HMG is that it reduces cover by one level and I fully expect the Germans to try to establish a base of fire from the wooded area. The 50cal should make that position a little less tenable.
There is hard cover in the farm house at the crossroads, however it can only accomodate one squad to fire effectively. Which means the remainder of the platoon will need to hold the ground from more exposed positions and for that reason I will have five entrenchments as support. Those entrenchments will allow two squads and the 50cal to be deployed in hard cover and with a much wider field of fire than that offered from the house. My plan is simple. I will wait for the Germans to advance across the open ground and then aim to deploy in force. I want to apply as much firepower as I can and rely on the hard cover to handle the return fire.
At this stage I'm uncertain whether I face a Volksgrenadier Sturm platoon or a Rifle platoon, but in either case I know the platoon will be rated Green. My intention is to take advantage of this by engaging them at effective range where I will be able to hit on a 4, 5 or 6. Well, that's the theory, let's see how it holds up in practice.
The Germans announce they will field one of the Volksgrenadier Rifle platoons. These have a force rating of -2 and so, with the American platoon rated at +1, they will receive an additional three support points to add to the twelve provided by the scenario, giving them a total of fifteen.
Dave shares his thoughts for how the Germans intend to conduct this attack - 'for the attack on the crossroads, my plan is to move forward on the flanks with the cover of a central firebase and the support of a pre-game bombardment to disrupt American deployment. If I can get lucky I may even be able to shut down a jump-off-point, at the least perhaps I can force one American squad to deploy in isolation and focus my firepower on it'.
This is an Attack & Defend scenario and the Germans start the patrol phase with five free moves. There are not many options for placement of jump-off-points but they do manage to have one in a fairly advanced position on their left flank at the table edge. Otherwise this is much as I had expected.
The Germans begin with their force morale at eleven while the Americans are at nine. With that we are ready to start and just before play begins Dave announces that the Germans have a pre-game barrage. That could make a coordinated American deployment a bit tricky.
A German squad deploys from the forward jump-off-point on their left flank and takes up tactical positions.
An LMG squad has been called upon to support the platoon and they deploy into the fir trees, also taking up tactical positions. As expected it looks like they will try to set up a base of fire from the tree line (by the way, you may note a panzerschreck team in amongst this squad, it is standing in as a substitute for an LMG team, as I didn't bring enough with me for this game).
The LMG squad are then joined by a tripod mounted MG42 MMG team and they also take up tactical positions. This makes for a powerful base of fire.
A sniper team make an appearance, lurking in an exposed position in the fields in front of the farmhouse.
I can see little advantage in deploying any of my platoon and so the phase passes back to the Germans. An Unterfeldwebel, a second senior leader brought in as support for the platoon, joins the LMG squad and the MG42 MMG team in the woods.
He establishes a strong base of fire by putting all three teams on overwatch.
That's twenty seven fire dice trained on the farmhouse and American deployment will need to be timed carefully to avoid taking too much punishment.
With a base of fire established, the squad on the German left flank begins to move forward cautiously.
The time is soon approaching for the Americans to make a response but a command roll of 65531 is not optimum. With the pre-game barrage there's the possibility only a single unit deploys which would mean facing all that overwatch firepower alone. I decide to risk the potential delays that could come about due to the barrage and hold off deployment until the Germans have committed themselves to a more general advance.
In the German phase two squads deploy from the jump-off-point on their right. They are in open ground and face the farmhouse. The teams in both squads are placed on overwatch and while they might be in an exposed position there is a strong force now arrayed on overwatch ready to take on any Americans that might reveal themselves.
They are joined by the platoon commander, another Unterfeldwebel, and his accompanying team of three rifle grenadiers.
With no Americans in sight the Germans decide to advance and the Unterfeldwebel in the woods orders the MMG team to move out into the open.
While there is a benefit to advancing to close range where the MMG can be more effective, it seems a risk to move out into the open this early.
The American command roll is 66441 but my initial elation at the prospect of a double phase recedes once I realise how limited are the activation options. I could try to deploy the 50cal, but even if successful I could expose the small five man team to a considerable amount of return overwatch fire, followed by more fire in the following German phase. Not an attractive prospect.
I consider an option to deploy to the rear of the farmhouse out of the line of sight of the German teams in the woods but with a line of sight down my left flank. While it gives me targets without exposing my team to the full might of German firepower it will leave the HMG team in a poor tactical position for what may be a small gain. So reluctantly I do nothing this phase.
The subsequent command roll of 54441 is no better and regrettably I let a double phase pass without taking any action. It's a case of not letting the command dice dictate my plan. My aim is to deploy in force and hopefully when the Germans have presented me with several inviting targets. Hard as it is to let a double phase pass, I will wait for the right moment.
This turns out to be a rather wise decision. The next German command roll is 66654. It may herald a double phase but crucially for my deployment plans the turn end will see the lifting of the pre-game barrage.
The Unterfeldwebel in the woods orders the LMG team to follow him and move forward. Then, forgetting the turn is about to end, Dave has the Unterfeldwebel put the MMG team on overwatch (I've been guilty of doing the same myself and neither of us realised the wasted activation until we carried out the turn end activities).
With that the turn ends and I'm relieved to see the lifting of the pre-game barrage. With all the overwatch markers removed it means the German leaders will have to use some of their future activations focussing their men's attention back on watching for enemy activity if they want to return those team to overwatch.
The subsequent command roll of 63211 certainly assists in making that possible. The LMG squad by the woods is placed on overwatch. On the opposite flank the Unterfeldwebel puts one squad on overwatch and sends the one to his right dashing forward at the double. They move briskly and cover 13".
This is the sort of gamble the Germans must take if they are to clear the crossroads, except now they don't have the benefit of a pre-game barrage to hamper a swift American response.
The next American command roll of 65321 means I can make just the response I was planning on. A squad deploys entrenched by the farmhouse and immediately opens fire on the advancing German squad.
They lose a man in the rifle team and accumulate four points of shock. These small German squads will need to be careful, if casualties and shock mount it won't take much to have them pinned down or break.
However, the bullets are not all flying in the one direction and the German squad on overwatch returns fire.
Despite the protection of the entrenchment one of the American rifle team is hit.
It is very tempting to fire for effect on one of the exposed German squads. However the MMG team and LMG squad represent a very real threat that cannot be eliminated in a single phase of fire. I decide it would be better to have the squad suppress them by laying down covering fire.
The German LMG squad are on overwatch and respond by returning fire, but the combination of covering fire and the hard cover of the entrenchment results in a single point of shock on the rifle team. Lastly, the 50 cal HMG team deploy in front of the farmhouse next to the squad. They open fire on the German squad that is advancing opposite them.
The next German command roll is a very useful 63321. With the squad on the right pinned down it's time for the squad on the left flank to move forward, but given what has just happened on that other flank they decide to be cautious and creep forward tactically.
The squad in the centre opens fire on the Americans at the farmhouse.
Firing at effective range at a target in hard cover results in a single point of shock inflicted on the squad's rifle team.
Back near the woods the LMG squad engages the Americans opposite them. Thanks in large part to the covering fire the German LMGs have absolutely no effect (they rolled six 5s and no 6s, with the covering firer negating all of those 5s).
Meanwhile the sniper takes aim at the farmhouse.
His aim is good and he hits one of the men, fortunately it's not the squad leader, nonetheless one of the BAR team is killed.
The American command roll of 64441 limits action but does allow the platoon sergeant to join the squad across the road from the farmhouse. He rallies shock and orders them to maintain their covering fire on the German LMG squad and MMG team.
With one German squads pinned down and effectively out of action, the 50 cal team turn their attention to the squad and rifle grenadiers in the centre of the table, killing one of the grenadiers and inflicting shock on the LMG team.
In the German phase the Unterfeldwebel orders the squad and rifle grenadiers to return fire in the direction of the farmhouse.
Despite the covering fire, the Unterfeldwebel orders the LMG squad and the MG42 MMG to return fire at the squad opposite.
This time their fire proves much more effective. Two men are hit, one of whom is the platoon sergeant who is wounded. That proves a blow to US morale which drops two points down to seven.
This inspires the squad on the left to hurry forward at the double and close towards one of the US jump-off-points.
Once at the road the squad's Obergefreiter hurls a smoke grenade toward the jump-off-point in the hope of providing a degree of cover should Americans suddenly appear from there.
I'm beginning to sense the German attack is running out of steam already. There are so many targets in open ground I want to try and bring all my fire to bear and drive them off. In the American phase the platoon's last squad deploys into the upper levels of the farmhouse. There they are joined by the platoon lieutenant who orders both squads at the house to open fire on the German LMG squad and MMG team.
A large amount of firepower comes their way and with no cover it's hardly surprising that six men are hit. One of those is the LMG squad Obergefreiter who is wounded. While it has no negative impact on German morale the sudden loss of five men and the wounding of a leader is quite a blow. The losses are spread across all teams and so while they can still operate their weapons at full effect the small number of survivors and the growing amount of shock means they cannot hope to hold their ground for much longer.
The platoon lieutenant orders the 50 cal team to turn their attention onto the same target.
While the fire inflicts no more casualties the shock builds up to the point where the LMG squad becomes pinned.
The squad in the open fires at the Germans that have advanced to the road.
They suffer the loss of a man from each team and their Obergefreiter is wounded. This time German morale takes a hit and drops two points to nine. With six men and six points of shock this squad is very close to becoming pinned.
I think at this point it's pretty clear which way things are going and it comes as no surprise that when the German phase arrives Dave announces his intention to withdraw. However it won't be straightforward as two of the squads are beyond 12" of a friendly jump-off-point. To make matters worse one of them is also pinned. The squad on the left at the road manages to withdraw all the men safely, but things do not go so well on the right flank. The Obergefreiter and two of the men are dispersed, although they will eventually find their way back to the platoon. Not so for three other men, who are captured and will not be seen again in this campaign.
A fairly comfortable victory for the Americans. Unfortunately I wasn't able to drive German morale low enough that I could recover some of my casualties, nonetheless these are light with one man lost permanently and two wounded who will miss the next game. The same cannot be said for the Germans who add two men killed to the three men who were captured, for the loss of five men permanently. They have two wounded men to add to those who were dispersed and they will all miss the next game. That's a total of ten men who won't be fit or available for action.
As the Americans still hold the table they are entitled to strengthen their defence and so I will add a minefield. With the prospect of German armour it might be wise to find a way to slow them down and keep them off the road.
This was always going to be a tough game for the attacker and I think Dave's plan to assist his squads cross the open ground by relying on the suppressive effect of a powerful fire base at the woods backed up with a pre-game barrage to disrupt American deployment was sound enough. The early arrival of a turn end scuppered one half of the plan and American firepower did the rest. These were pretty much Dave's thoughts after the game:
'Alas, the early turn end saw me with my force caught in the open and no more barrage. I continued the attack for a few phases in an attempt to at least inflict some permanent casualties on the US, but against men entrenched at long range even that proved futile, so I withdrew the platoon before it was destroyed. At least I now know what the defending force is.'
While this battle was being fought another German platoon was making an attack on Map 3 Holzthum Village. You can find out what happened there in this game report.
You find reports for all the games in this campaign and many other campaigns on the Chain of Command Campaign AAR page here.