Playtesting IABSM III:
Shell after shell bounced off the armour of the Tiger tank that sat in the small field near the entrance of the small Belgian town, and yet still the large 88mm gun did not reply. Even so, each Sherman commander was convinced that he was about to meet his end.
The past weeks were a blur of movement interspersed with brief flashes of unpleasant action. In moments a tank would fall victim to a panzerfaust as another small party of German infantry decided that death and glory were preferable to a POW camp and tedium. France was days behind them now and the people of Belgium now lined the roads as the "Swan" northwards continued.
Leutnant Dietmar Schortz checked his watch; it was nearly 17.55, yet it would be hours before darkness fell and the August sun was still strong enough to warm the interior of the StuGIII to be slightly uncomfortable. He knew that his gunner, Gunther, would be rubbing his hands as he checked the sighting once again.
It had been a good plan. The British had been bound to advance across the low ridge and see the Tiger stood there. Of course they wouldn't know that it was abandoned due to electrical failure, and it was bound to attract their attention. Schortz's had deployed his platoon of tank hunters in the thick line of trees that, twenty years previously, had been planted by a Belgian town architect to hide the new gas works. Now it provided the perfect cover for a miniature Pak-front.
"Feur!" Two guns announced their presence and instantly two Shermans burst into flame. The British infantry that could be seen scuttling down the slope towards the Tiger were a clear sign that the subterfuge was at an end, but the fresh shock, just as the British tanks were rumbling forward was sufficient to throw the two Sherman troops into chaos.
"Prost hier" the Captain with the red waffenfarbe of the artillery spoke carefully into the mouthpiece of the field telephone that connected him with the battery of 105mm guns on the north side of the river. There were not so many shells, but with the British concentrated on the rise, infantry stuck in the hedge while the tanks began to trade shots with the StuGs, it was a target that Hauptmann Prost could not ignore. If the British could be disuaded from pressing home their attack tonight it was likely that more stragglers would get through and the the impromptu positions that the pioneers were frantically working on to the north of the river may just yet allow a crust of defence to harden. God knows, if it didn't they be back in the Reich in weeks!
"For God's sake Binky, move your bally tanks, my Firefly can't get a look in!" Captain Dirk "Baggy" Sackville had positioned his troops with some care, indeed the line of connifers had been worrying him for some minutes, and Lieutenant Beaumont's wild charge across his front was the last thing he'd expected. The fact that two of Beaumont's Shermans were now in flames was a testament to the foolishness of the move. "Damned whippersnapper!"
Another Tommy tank was on fire now, Gunther was plying the trade that he had turned to a craft on the eastern front, but Dietmar Schortz could feel the tide turning. Outnumbered as he was the skill was to hit hard and get away. He gave the order and the two StuGs reversed away into the grimy industrial area.
There could be no doubt now that the Tiger was abandoned, the Typhoon's rockets had both hit the rear decking and literally tossed the huge beast onto its back, as if in throes of death. Captain Roger Roughshaft was more than a little pleased by the accuracy of the Typhoon, he had been but twenty yards away when the attack was made and was still checking himself for any holes or missing parts. It seemed that his luck was holding. "Forward the Loamshires!"
"Bollocks!" Corporal Knocker Dawes breathed his last as the bullets from the MG42 tore through his platoon. The dense hedge of trees had proved no obstacle and the unit had pressed on, running past the town incinerator and towards the gas works, however the retiring StuG had intercepted them as they crossed the open ground. The platoon Sergeant who had led his men since Normandy had died the day before when checking a bridge for mines, and the Lieutenant was a teenager who had only arrived a few days ago and was of little use in a fight. With Knocker gone the platoon went to ground.
From the gardens of the workers cottages Captain Roughshaft directed the fire of his first platoon. There were Germans in the council offices and they had to be shifted. The arrival of Captain Sackvilles tanks now made that possible. Round after round of HE was sent flying into the large office building.
Dietmar Schortz's StuG exploded as a 17 pounder shell literally tore though the fighting compartment and into the ammunition that Gunter was attempting to send back the other way. Dietmar was flung from the commander's hatch by the force of the blast, but was killed instantly by the shock. A second StuG retired in the face of an audacious attack by a PIAT team was destroyed by "Binky" Beaumont's gunner.
In the town square the four Panzer IVs readied themselves for the counter attack. But it was not to be, we had run out of time...
Another IABSMIII playtest, August 1944 this time, and a very large armour heavy game once again as we sought to test armour shock, artillery against armour, aircraft, anti-aircraft and some other bits. We had a most enjoyable time, I really need to get my head around how to allocate Big Men to give the right balance. Another step on the road.