Captain “Hardcore” Bouldermeir jabbed at the map with his cigar.
“That’s it youse guys, the Quatre Bras it says here, but you’ll know it better as Amen Corner” he leered as he took a long drag on his cigar. They knew it alright, and he knew they knew it. The crossroads with the roadside shrine had changed hands three times in the last few days. “Well, the good news is you’re going to be seeing it again, and this time we intend to keep it. Okayse?”
He looked across to Sergeant Guano.
“Okay Bat, you bring your recon platoon and head up onto the high ground. I need you Cocoa” he nodded to the Lieutenant in a tankers' uniform “to follow Bat up there and dominate the German positions which I believe are running along this road here. Watch out, we ran into Kraut tanks here two days ago. Sergeant Colcannon is covering our right with his anti-tank guns and a platoon of infantry, I want Lieutenant Gonads to head up the road with his platoon and Gravellini’s platoon to make for that orchard up on the left. They can then move up once we have the Germans on the hedgeline pinned down. Any questions?”
“Goddamit, Krauts!” Sergeant Bat Guano cursed as a 75mm shell passed just inches from his head. The greyhound had crossed the ridge just moments before, they had clearly been waiting for him. He yelled to the driver “Get down by that wood, they can’t hit us there”, but his words were lost as the jeep just off to his left exploded in a ball of flame.
Lieutenant “Cocoa” Cobanna spoke into the microphone. “I want us to cross that ridge and hunt for those German tanks. They can’t deal with all of us at once.” The Shermans rolled forward, seeing out a hull down position from which to fire down towards the road.
“Dreihundert meter. Feur!” Feldwebel Willi Kaiser watched as the Sherman visibly shuddered as the 75mm shell penetrated the front of the turret and smiled. Another ring to paint on the barrel of his StuG III; That made 32 kills. Hopefully before the day was through he would add several more. Already the driver was using his tracks to line up the next shot.
“Where in Hell did that come from!” Lieutenant Cobanna ducked his head down into the turret. The first two had been easy. The 76mm Sherman had torn the StuG by the farm apart with its first round, and then his own gunner had crippled the next one and the crew had been seen bailing out. Now it seemed that the Germans were fighting back.
“Links! links zwanzig meter. Ein andere Ami”. Feldwebel Kaiser was working well. The low profile of his StuG tucked in behind the bank of the bocage was in a perfect position to kill the American tanks as they crossed the horizon. Now smoke was pouring from a second Sheman and Willi could see it now reversing frantically for the safety of the reverse slope.
“Sarge, more of them in the trees!” The driver of the Greyhound was frantically braking as up ahead grey-clad infantry were moving in the wood. A compound charge bundle of grenades came dangerously close to the armoured car as if to reinforce the danger.
“I’ll cover them with the 0.50cal. You just get us out of here” Bat Guano sent a stream of half inch rounds tearing into the wood. Visibly the German defenders recoiled as though the life was being sucked out of their defensive position. With much crashing of gears the Greyhound reversed back towards the crest of the hill.
“Get the Hell outta here! Reverse!” Lieutenant Cobanna had had enough. The Shell from the StuG had clearly done some serious damage to his running gear, but the tank was still moving. He wasn’t about to sit on the crest of the hill and be used as target practice by what was clearly an accomplished opponent. Off to his right the platoon’s 76mm Sherman was doing the same.
“Panzer marsch!” Hauptmann Rudi Fleischessen stood tall in the cupola of his Panzer IV. Ahead he could hear the exchange of fire but he was confident that the Pakfront formed by the StuGs would hold. Now was the time for his attack to the left of the road. He would spearhead the attack across the field and the infantry would follow on and seize the orchard.
Buck Colcannon walked through the orchard where his anti-tank guns were dug in among the defending infantry. So far the action had been taking place off to his left, but his quiet day was about to come to an end.
“Holy Mary and all the Saints!” the big Sergeant from Chicago ducked down as the first of the Panzers moved up to the hedge across the field. He could see the German commander’s black uniform and the glint of his field glasses. Moments later the first anti-tank gun fired.
“Sheisse! Kanone in der Apfelgarten. Einhundertsiebzig meter, Füllpulver” Seconds later High Explosive rounds were crashing into the orchard, tearing branches free and splinters of timber adding to the already terrifying effect.
“Hail Mary, full of grace”. Buck pulled the lanyard and was already reloading as the shell penetrated the frontal armour of the lead Panzer. “Our Lord is with thee”. He adjusted the aim and focussed on the next tank. “Blessed art thou among women”. The lanyard jerked back again and reached for another shell. Around him his men were dying in the inferno of that Norman orchard. One gun had been destroyed by a direct hit, all of its crew dead, but the other guns were still in action, albeit firing more slowly as their crews were much reduced.
“Rückseite!” Hauptmann Fleischessen had had enough. Two of his tanks were burning and a third had withdrawn damaged moments ago. The orchard ahead was ablaze, but still the Amis fired their Paks. To throw his men and their tanks away needlessly would not help the Reich. A final round flew overhead as the Panzer IV reversed back towards the road. The battle for Amen Corner was over.
So, another demonstration of the new version of I Ain’t Been Shot Mum for the chaps on Lard Island. This game was very armour heavy, with me wanting to show off the platoon order system, the Ace option for Big Men, the arc of fire rules as well as the new direct fire system for HE. Fortunately the lads did the right thing and pressed all of the right buttons without me interfering.
On the US left the recon platoon found the StuG IIIs and the German infantry in the wood. This allowed the US tank platoon under Lt. Cobanna to form up on a Hunt order. This allows them to advance with one Action in a turn and fire with the other two. They get a +1 to hit in this mode which certainly helps when trying to deal with low-profile AFVs like the StuG when it is sheltering behind a large earth bank and thick hedges. It also allowed them to advance taking advantage of the curve of the slope, giving them a hull-down position in the first instance.
What they hadn’t counted on was Willi Kaiser, veteran of the Eastern Front and StuG Ace. Willi is a Big Man who commands a platoon, however as an Ace he can also function as a very efficient tank killer. However, and this is a BIG HOWEVER, if he wants to do that he cannot use his Command Initiative in that turn. As a result Aces tend to be somewhat selfish individuals who are struggling with the natural desire to increase their own kills and their duty to do their real job as a platoon commander. In this instance Willi chose the latter after two of his StuGs were KO’d fairly early on by the hunting Shermans. Then single-handedly the Ace drove off the rest of the Shermans thanks to a combination of his sharp shooting and their lousy dice rolling.
The next phase of the battle was Fleischessen’s tanks attempting to take on Buck Colcannon’s anti-tank guns. The anti-tank process is somewhat streamlined in the new edition, the firing mechanism is the same but the hit effect is less granular and looks at effect rather than cause. So, damage tends to now either affect movement, slowing you down and, ultimately, causing your tank to break down, or gunnery where your shooting becomes less effective. This is MUCH easier to track than the old rules, and we have some rather posh tokens lined up using a “traffic lights” approach. If you have a red spanner marker next to the tank you are completely immobile (red means you can’t go), whereas a green spanner means that your movement is reduced by one pip per Action used for movement (green means you can go).
These changes are combined with the affects of Shock on armour which adds another dimension to the game. Shocked crews are less effective and will ultimately bail out when they have had enough. As a tank commander you’ll need to really focus on keeping shock down or ultimately you’ll be forced to withdraw to rally your forces before forming up for another attack.
What is different is the process for firing HE at infantry. As with Charlie Don’t Surf you’ll get a bonus for firing at a dense target, but casualty distribution is much improved. Rather than the old system of divvying up the casualties in a fair manner the firer will not be looking to focus as much damage as possible on his prime target, whilst the defender will be looking to protect his valuable assets. For example, if you have a 57mm anti-tank gun supported by a squad of infantry my Panzer IV will want to take out the AT gun. However as your infantry are within 2” of the AT gun I have to fire at the target as a whole. I’ll get a +2 on the Fire Table as it’s a dense target but when it comes down to allocating kills and Shock to a unit we will take it in turns to place these. So I’ll clearly be focussing on the AT gun whilst you’ll be looking to disperse the damage among the infantry. What results is a rather fun little mini-game within a game. More importantly it gets you thinking about how you deploy your force. In a nutshell you want to protect your valuables and deploy accordingly.
Next week will be interesting as Fat Nick will be umpiring a game with the new rules for the first time, so hopefully he can give us a run-down of his experiences.