Tuesday 31 May 2022

Many Rivers to Cross Scenario 7: The River Bridge

We have reached the final map in our Chain of Command campaign Many Rivers to Cross set in the Netherlands during May 1940. The Germans are drawing close to an important road bridge, their objective for the campaign, but first they must dislodge the Dutch defending the town and do so before their engineers can demolish the bridge. 

The Germans have arrived in good time and ahead of the engineers who have been delayed. The defending Dutch infantry must try to buy time and repulse the attack. If they fail, then the bridge is lost. 

Despite the speed of their advance I don't think this will be easy for the Germans. The town is made up of sturdy buildings and the only approach is across open fields. That’s a daunting prospect, so perhaps this calls for an audacious coup de main directly down the road with armoured vehicles? It’s a nice idea but I think the chances of succeeding are fairly slim. A Dutch anti-tank gun could cause havoc and the narrow streets provide plenty of opportunities for roadblocks. Given all the hard cover I intend to take a fairly methodical approach and rely on firepower rather than audacity.

This is an attack on an objective scenario with the road bridge as the objective. We start with force morale at nine for both sides and the Germans win the initiative die roll. 

The Germans use only three patrol markers and with three free moves at the start of the patrol phase I push forward as fast as possible trying to gain a forward jump-off-point and prevent the Dutch from doing the same. The final jump-off-points are probably fairly predictable for both sides, the only slight advantage the Germans manage is to have one reasonably far advanced on the right flank. 

The Germans assign the attack to their 1st platoon which is in good shape having lost only three men. In addition they receive 3D6+2 support. I roll ten, giving them a total of twelve, which will be used primarily for weapons that can deal with all the hard cover. With that in mind they call on a leIG18 infantry gun and a PzIV. A pregame barrage will aim to hinder Dutch deployment and a pioneer demolition team will be on hand to try and clear any wire or roadblocks.

The Dutch receive 2D6+2 support and Dave rolls six, bringing his total to fifteen including the seven additional points the Dutch have for the difference in force ratings. This is done secretly and unbeknownst to me he selects AA MGs (he’s expecting Stukas), an Adjutant, a Schwarzlose M.08 MMG team and a Bohler 47mm anti-tank gun. He will also make use of a roadblock and two sections of barbed wire. 

Before we begin the Dutch place the two sections of barbed wire and the roadblock.

The roadblock is wisely placed to prevent German vehicles rushing down the road to the bridge. While a gambit like that did cross my mind, this rather straightforward placement of the roadblock shows how easily that can be foiled.

The Germans quickly go about establishing a base of fire to cover the attack. A squad deploys on overwatch along one of the hedgerows. 

They are joined by the platoon's Feldwebel and the 50mm mortar team, who are also placed on overwatch.

The Dutch decide to wait and do nothing during their phase, so the German build up continues. A leIG18 infantry gun joins the firing line at the hedgerow. It too is placed on overwatch. 

Hopefully that gives the Dutch defenders something to consider.

With the base of fire established a second squad deploys tactically near the road. 

They will be the first to push forward towards the town.

Fearful of the delays a pregame barrage can impose Dave decides he will begin deployment now. He does so with caution - the first mitrailleursgroepen deploys successfully through the barrage into the upper levels of the terrace houses by the road block. To avoid becoming potential targets once Germans come within close range they are positioned back from the windows. 

A second mitrailleursgroepen fails to make it through the barrage but a third one succeeds and deploys in the upper levels of a shop that covers the German right flank. They too are positioned away from the windows.

The Dutch platoon Luitenant deploys behind one of the terrace houses. 

From there he can issue commands to both of the mitrailleursgroepen. 

In the German phase the squad at the garage moves forward cautiously, so cautious in fact they barely move at all. 

The Dutch opt to wait and watch. In the German phase the squad at the garage moves forward cautiously once again.

Given the slow German progress the Dutch continue to watch and wait. The following German command roll is 66221 and the double phase will be an opportunity to push the attack with more urgency. The squad in the road move towards the barn. 

The Germans have a fleeting opportunity to try to make a move on the town. I decide to take a risk and the platoon's third squad deploys from the jump-off-point on the right flank. They are in open ground and need to keep moving, but just in case they can’t they take up tactical positions.

I’m hoping they can make a dash to the cover of the nearest buildings.

The following command roll is 55431. It’s not ideal as there is so much I’d like to do, but it does allow the Obergefreiter on the right flank to have the squad move at the double towards the walled garden. They don't quite get there, but it brings them close and he rallies a point of shock from one of the teams. Unfortunately it does mean that if the Dutch above the shop move to the window to fire they will catch the schützen in open ground.

I want to keep the platoon moving forward and so the Leutnant deploys into the garage. 

From there he orders the squad in the road to move forward tactically. 

I'm hoping the units behind the hedge can provide enough fire support to cover the forward advance. I don't want to commit the PzIV just yet, I'll wait to see where it can be the most useful.

The engineer demolition team deploy tactically at the garage, they could come in useful clearing the wire or the roadblock. 

In the Dutch phase a Schwarzlowe M.08 MMG team deploys into the ground level of the shop.

They fire across the low garden walls at the German squad. 

Despite the light cover from the walls the fire inflicts two casualties, one of whom is the squad Obergefreiter who is wounded and out of action for the remainder of the turn. That's a blow and enough to take German morale down to eight. 

The Luitenant orders the mitrailleursgroepen on the upper level of the shop into action. 

He commands them to take up firing positions at the windows and engage the same squad. They won't generate a great deal of firepower but my squad will be caught in the open. Given what they have just suffered I decide to use a CoC die to interrupt. 

The men move quickly up to the cover of the wall dragging their stunned Obergefreiter along with them. 

When the mitrailleursgroepen move to the window and fire it has no effect. 

The Luitenant then has the mitrailleursgroepen in the terrace houses move to the windows. They too open fire. 

A few of them can see only the schützen in the road. 

Their fire has no effect. 

The remainder fire at the Germans behind the hedge. 

They only manage to inflict a single point of shock on one of the LMG teams. 

I think Dave knows exactly what's coming next. All the Germans at the hedge are on overwatch and they send a barrage of fire back at the Dutch. The schützen squad fires first and despite the hard cover the Dutch immediately lose two men and suffer a point of shock. 

The 50mm mortar fires next. 

The rounds are on target and the Dutch suffer a further point of shock. 

Finally the leIG18 infantry gun fires. The result is perhaps the most disappointing with only one hit inflicting a single point of shock. 

Not a bad start, but hopefully I can inflict more damage in the next German phase - except I roll.... 65552 and so another withering round of fire won't be forthcoming. The squad at the hedge is the only unit to fire and despite nine hits the mitrailleursgroepen suffers only one point of shock. Well, I can't help thinking they escaped lightly there.

Luck continues to favour the Dutch when their next command roll is 66633. Not only a double phase but the impending turn end will see the effects of the German pregame barrage lift. 

The mitrailleursgroepen on the upper level of the shop fire once again. 

There are only two windows but that's enough for the Lewis gun and two rifles to fire.

The Germans suffer a point of shock. 

The Dutch throw out a hand grenade but it has some distance to travel and falls short, exploding harmlessly in the garden. 

The mitrailleursgroepen in the terrace house continue to fire at the schützen squad behind the hedge. 

They suffer a further point of shock.

With that the turn ends. The pregame barrage is no longer in effect but at least the wounded Obergefreiter behind the wall is back on his feet and able to take command of his men again. They immediately become the target of the Dutch MMG in the shop and lose one man and acquire two more points of shock.

The Luitenant then begins issuing commands to the mitrailleursgroepen. 

He has those in the upper level of the shop continue firing at the Germans behind the wall. 

The squad suffers more shock and the Obergefreiter has the misfortune to be hit again. This time he suffers a light wound and will be reduced to a single command initiative for the remainder of the game. Fortunately German morale holds steady, but things are not going well on this flank at the moment. 

The Luitenant then commands the men in the terrace houses to fire. 

He has them split their fire. Some of the riflemen target the squad in the road. 

They lose a man and suffer a point of shock.

The remaining men and the Lewis gun target the German squad at the hedge, killing one man and adding more shock.  

The platoon's third mitrailleursgroepen then deploys into the town hall. 

They target the crew of the leIG18 infantry gun, but the fire has no effect.

This is turning into a protracted firefight that is slowly wearing down the Germans. I need to find a way to break the deadlock and press forward, but with so much Dutch fire I can't see how I can think about doing that until it can be suppressed. In the German phase the Feldwebel issues a flurry of commands to all the units at the hedge to target the terrace houses. 

The leIG18 sends in a round of HE which causes a casualty. 

The 50mm mortar continues to prove very effective and the Dutch lose another man. 

Lastly, the squad engages the same target.

Their fire inflicts a third casualty and wounds the sergeant. Dutch morale remains unchanged but I'm beginning to feel that if I can break the men in those houses I might be able to make some progress in the middle.

One of the LMG teams in the road also fires and the Dutch sergeant is hit again. He's wounded but this time he is knocked off his feet and will be out of action for the remainder of the turn. Dutch morale drops to seven. 

Just as my hopes begin to rise the Dutch command roll is 66443 giving them another double phase. The Luitenant has the mitrailleursgroepen and MMG in the shop pour more fire on the hapless German squad behind the wall. 

They suffer a further two points of shock and that's enough to see them pinned. That squad has had a really difficult time and at no point has it been able to really bring its fire to bear. With a wounded leader reduced to 1CI I see little chance of rallying them quickly. In hindsight I should have moved them out of line of sight of the shop behind the house and waited for more support, but it's too late to do that now.

The Luitenant orders the men in the terrace houses to fire at the squad behind the hedge row and they are joined by the mitrailleursgroepen in the town hall. 

That fire is very effective, hitting two of the men in one of the LMG teams. 

The Germans are stalled on their right flank and I don't want to risk moving the squad in the road while the Dutch can target them from the terrace houses. My units are not offering each other as much mutual support as I would like and the attack is starting to feel very disjointed. Things are not going well and I'm not sure I have a solution.

The subsequent Dutch command roll is 55544, not the most useful but enough for the Luitenant to maintain the ferocity of the defence. 

There's a chance to drive off the Germans at the wall and he has the mitrailleursgroepen and MMG fire at them once again.

Pinned down behind the wall gives them hard cover and so they suffer only a single point of shock.

The Luitenant has the men in the terrace houses maintain their long range firefight with the schützen squad at the hedge. 

Despite the fact that mitrailleursgroepen has suffered several casualties they continue to maintain a very effective fire and the Germans lose another two men and suffer further shock. 

In the German phase the Obergefreiter at the hedge rallies a point of shock and assigns a man to join the other LMG team. 

The Feldwebel then issues orders to maintain the barrage of fire on the terrace houses. 

The leIG18 infantry gun fires. 

The Dutch lose another man. 

Once again the mortar hits but this time the small HE rounds have no effect. 

Lastly, the squad fires.

The Dutch suffer two points of shock but they are proving remarkably resilient and capable of inflicting considerable casualties themselves. 

The Leutnant has one of the LMG teams in the road fire at the terrace houses. 

Their fire has no effect. 

He then orders the other team to move forward tactically. 

Next he directs the engineer demolition team to follow them.

In the Dutch phase the wounded sergeant in the terrace houses rallies off a point of shock. The Luitenant doesn't order them to do any more, his attention is focussed elsewhere.

He has the mitrailleursgroepen above the shop fire once more. 

The schützen Obergefreiter is hit yet again, this time his wound leaves him out of action for the remainder of the turn. That's the third wound he's taken - he's been stunned twice and had one light wound that reduced his command initiative. I doubt his luck will hold out for much longer and it's enough to see German morale drop to six. 

The Dutch Luitenant then has one of the men throw a grenade. This one hits the target and inflicts a further point of shock on the squad, who are now very close to breaking.

Finally the Luitenant orders the MMG to fire and that's enough to inflict another casualty. 

The mitrailleursgroepen in the town hall continue to concentrate their fire on the squad at the hedgerow.

The schützen squad suffers another two points of shock. It's only the presence of the nearby Feldwebel that stops them from becoming pinned down.

In the German phase the Feldwebel directs the crew of the leIG18 to fire once again into the terraced houses. 

This time the HE round explodes to deadly effect and kills two men.  

With the danger the schützen squad might break and rout from the table taking the Feldwebel with them he uses his remaining two command initiatives to rally off two points of shock. 

The Germans may be close to overcoming the resistance from the terraced houses, but they've had little success elsewhere and suffered a number of casualties. I think now is a good time to call up the PzIV and add the weight of its firepower to the infantry gun to eliminate the Dutch resistance. 

The PzIV deploys and fires a round at the terrace houses but completely misses the target and has no effect. Not the opening round of fire that I had in mind!

The last action of the German phase is to have one of the LMG teams at the hedgerow fire. 

The Dutch sergeant is hit again and wounded. He's already out of action for the turn and so there are no further consequences and no negative impact on Dutch morale. They are not going down without a fight!

In the Dutch phase the Luitenant has the mitrailleursgroepen and MMG in the shop fire once again to try to break the squad. 

The fire kills the last surviving crew member of one of the LMG teams. With the loss of a team German morale drops to five. The only consolation, if you can call it that, is the wiped out team takes its shock with them and that prevents the remainder of the squad from breaking.  

The men in the terrace houses continue to fire despite the fact they are now reduced to the solitary Lewis gun team. 

They generate enough firepower to add a point of shock to the squad at the hedge. 

The men in the town hall also fire at the same target. 

Once again it inflicts a further point of shock and once again it's only the presence of the Feldwebel that prevents the squad from pinning down. 

For all the fire that's been exchanged I feel the Germans are no closer to the town and no closer to breaking Dutch resistance.

To make matters worse a Bohler 47mm anti-tank gun appears in the grounds of the town hall and fires off a round of AP at the recently arrived PzIV. 

Their line of sight is partly obscured and the gun commander uses his command initiatives to help the crew target the tank. It's just enough to ensure their first round strikes the target. 

It's an excellent shot that hits with an AP strike of five. The PzIV's armour fails to resist the shot and the tank is knocked out. It doesn't explode and the crew bail out, but that is scant consolation for the loss. To make matters worse it's enough to see German morale drop to four.

I think I've seen more than enough to know this attack has completely stalled. It feels like it never really started. The Germans became bogged down in a protracted firefight and were never able to reduce Dutch resistance to the point an advance on the town was going to be feasible. They were stopped in their tracks by a very comprehensive Dutch resistance that took everything the Germans could throw at them and dished out considerable punishment in return. Time for the Germans to pull back, lick their wounds and rethink their plan of attack.

They make a voluntary withdrawal but that proves complicated for the pinned schützen squad at the wall. Two men pull back safely but another man and the Obergefreiter are captured. An awful end to a truly miserable day for that NCO.

That brought total German casualties to a total of ten men. This is another blow to the men's opinion which was already at -7 prior to this game. The loss of many more men and an NCO sees a drastic drop in their opinion to -13. The mood becomes very dark in this platoon. It's discovered soon after that the Leutnant has died in mysterious circumstances and it seems none of the men in the platoon appear to mourn the loss. The CO's opinion is brighter given the overall success of the campaign so far and this defeat sees his opinion drop to -1.

The Dutch end the game with their morale higher than the Germans so two of their six casualties are recovered immediately. The light casualties and victory have done much to boost the opinions of the men and CO. The men's opinion rises to +1 and the CO's opinion to +2.

All that remains is to check if the Dutch engineers have reached the bridge, but it appears they are still on their way and have not yet arrived. Should the Dutch consider a counter attack to buy more time, or are they better off holding the ground they have? Whatever they decide they need to find a way to hold off the Germans for at least another campaign turn. You can follow what happens next in this post.