Finally got around to playing IABSM3 today and played a modified version of the Le Bas de Ranville secenario from the Summer Special 2006. This details the 12th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment's defence of the south eastern approaches to the Orne River and Canal bridges. The only change was to shift the map southwards since John Sim's forward position is not shown since it has been misidentified in the battlefield tours books. Neil Barber has pinpointed the correct hedge in his magnificent book "The Pegasus and Orne Bridges". It has an unusual step out in its southern face which allowed a 6 pounder to be sited able to fire east towards the cross roads on the edge of the ring contour and west towards the Orne whilst denying the German armour access to the ring contour as any advance over the crest would leave them skylined and an easy shot.
The airborne deployed much as their historical counterparts did with one 6 pounder with Capt Sim in the advanced position and the other on the east side of the village able to engage and vehicle on the ring contour and the vale out to the east falling away towards St Honorine. Sim had two sections, Sgt Milburn and the sniper with him whilst two more sections occupied the field immediately south of the village and the CO held the reserve platoon and the sole PIAT in a barn and orchard further north.
The new card deck obviously needed breaking in as the first 2 shuffles produced the tea break as first card out. After this delay we had British blinds followed by Axis blinds. The 21st Panzer's grenadiers advanced under five blinds with a screen of four dummy blinds hoping to trip the concealed Brits. Of course, since Brit blinds had already been drawn they were able to spot at will and removed two of the dummies: scouting parties identified two German platoons to their front backed up by some MMG teams but significantly failed to identify the 3rd platoon on their right flank and the SPs on the road. The real joy of blinds was that the two Brit Big Men were able to direct the fire of the two sections with their remaining command initiatives and having fired from concealment they doubled the shock. Both platoons of panzergrenadiers suffered casualties and went to ground in the long grass. Having been fairly bunched up they also suffered from suppression since the large target improved the fire results for the Paras.
This was the point at which the experienced German commanders started earning their corn. The suppression markers had been switched for pinned markers on the tea break so the attack could have bogged down before it really started but two German Big Men cards came up and they used the command initiatives to remove the pinned markers and rally off some shock. Meanwhile the British sniper made a nuisance of himself and the two assault guns were spotted. Exactly as Sim suffered on the day, his 6 pounder crew found that their gun was inoperable and the defenders would have felt a chill despite the morning sunshine. The German HQ came up and Sgt Milburn's section was engaged by three MG42s which racked up six shock points and hit two troopers. The heroic Axis leader card saw the Leutnant from the 1st German zug lead one of his freshly rallied sections in a death or glory charge on Milburn's end of the hedge and a staggeringly good bit of dice throwing saw the paras wiped out although the panzer grenadiers would take no further part as the dazed survivors were left to nurse their comrades.
Axis blinds came out and the unspotted platoon turned the now undefended flank whilst the SPs began saturating Sim's section with HE and one of the remaining scouts chucked double six and spotted the second 6 pounder. The German FOO also started calling for mortar fire with the only good news for the Brits being the arrival of reinforcements from the north.
Realising that he was being flanked and not wanting to give up his position, Sim sent Milburn back to bring up some reinforcements and then led his section into the revetment abandoned by the 6 pounder crew and engaged the flanking platoon. The SP guns and MG42s whittled them down to five men and shock rose to seven leading to a hasty retreat down the eastern hedgerow.
This was the moment of crisis; if the Germans followed up swiftly they could brush the survivors aside and flood into the village and onto the bridge. It was British blinds that came up and the CO sent one section forward under a blind whilst more reinforcements arrived in the nick of time. Allied dynamic leader saw Sgt Milburn reach the first section of late arrivals whilst one German zug broke through the hedgerow and another attempted to swing round onto the path by the river.
The German Big Men had by now removed all shock from their troops and had got the MG42s on the move again. Sim managed to rally his section who were massively heartened to see Milburn lead his section in alongside them. Stens and Brens rattled and the Germans started to suffer from the accumulated casualties which began to blunt their attack. The grenadiers were trying to leap-frog through the wheatfield from cover to cover but the British fire was devastating and when Milburn's lads wiped out one section who got too close with a shower of grenades the pendulum had well and truly swung the other way.
The German commander attempted one last push down the river bank but more Paras switched positions to cover the move and Sim and Milburn ignored the demonstration of strength from the SPs on the road and poured more fire into the Germans in the wheat who finally took to their heels. Major Stephens sent the PIAT team up through the orchard whilst another section of Paras opened up on the Germans on the riverpath and the attack turned into retreat. The Germans had inflicted some 20 casualties on the lightly armed airborne but had taken 40% losses and were recalled to try a different tack. As they licked their wounds they can have had no idea how lucky they were that Lt Dean's MG platoon had only recovered two of their four Vickers and so not been covering the river bank, nor that the 6 pounder's breech block had been damaged during the glider landing, the 17 pounder had failed to arrive and the FOB had found that the cruiser he contacted for defensive fire was busy engaging a priority target elsewhere; as it was, it was a damned close thing.
I thoroughly enjoyed this game and found the rule changes quite brilliant. Big Men adding command initiatives to directed fire has quite rightly reduced them from unbalancing fights with well led forces to one where troops are just more likely to do what you want. In version 2 they would not only be more likely to act but would also be much better when they did which could be a double-whammy for the other side. The positive modifiers when engaging a dense target was also a major improvement and the loss of bottle rules mean that a badly shaken force no longer finds itself glued in place but is instead positively encouraged to bugger off. I particularly liked the fact that I had 2 highly competent sets of opponents which meant that they still had some degree of savvy about how far and in what direction they chose to scarper. Well done Lardies, a veritable triumph.