Finally! After several weeks of preparation, I get to wargame the first scenario of Blenneville or Bust that offers a detailed matrix campaign for IABSM players. This scenario book weighs in at a massive 300 pages, but it should have its own blog post, so I’m not going to dwell on it here.
Let’s look at the scenario.
The first scenario of Blenneville or Bust is set in the summer of 1944, shortly after the D-Day landings as the US and British forces attempt to break out and push forwards, while the Germans hang on stubbornly. The scenarios within the campaign pack are all fictional – as are the locations. However, they are so well written, they feel pretty real to me! Most importantly, they offer a huge variety of tactical situations, and that is what I am really after – a tactical challenge in my wargaming. After all, I want to be a better wargamer, and what better way to do that then constantly challenge myself?
The Allies are moving up the Ribeaux Valley, while the Germans want to stop them. Both sides throw out their reconnaissance forces to locate the enemy and scout out the best routes forward. The Allies want to hook round Pierrecourt to the west, but need to cross the Moire River. There’s a major bridge at Belle Maison, but Belle Maison is apparently full of Germans, so it would be good to find somewhere else to cross. Aerial assets have spotted a small bridge west of Pierrecourt, and the reconnaissance elements of the US 107th Infantry Division (nicknamed the Coyotes) have been sent forward to check it out.
The Germans, meanwhile, are keenly aware that the troops in Pierrecourt are relying on the Moire to protect their wider left flank. As the Allied advance begins, the German commanders send out 30th Panzer Division’s reconnaissance units to cover as many river crossings as they can.
This scenario covers the first clash between the opposing scouts.
The Map & Objectives
The scenario map shows the stretch of the Moire River about half way between Pierrecourt and Belle Maison. The river can only be crossed at the bridge at the southern end of the map.
The road that runs alongside the bank of the river is more of a track. Vehicles can use it, but gain no benefit to movement. The other north-south road is a reasonable quality, tarmacked surface, so does give the usual road movement bonus.
The fields shown (the green patches) are bordered by bocage. This bocage is impenetrable to any wheeled vehicle, and is only penetrable by tracked vehicles weighing the same or more than a medium tank. Infantry take three dice of movement to cross bocage.
There are, however, numerous gates between the fields, all marked on the map. These ‘gates’ are either wooden or iron gates, or just gaps in the bocage. There is no penalty to either vehicles or infantry moving between fields through these gates/gaps. The fields themselves count as broken terrain.
The hill to the west is grass covered and dotted with small copses. There is no additional penalty for moving up and down the hill, although wheeled vehicles will not move if they roll more 1’s than 6’s on any dice rolled for movement i.e. they have become temporarily bogged down and lose any Actions that they wanted to use for movement. The copses themselves are impenetrable to vehicles and count as heavy ground for infantry.
The farm to the north of the map consists of two main buildings: a two-storey farmhouse made of stone, and a long, low wooden barn. The building by the bridge is the house where the man who used to collect the tolls used to live. It’s now a bit of a ruin.
The American objective is to find out the strength of the bridge at the southern end of the table i.e. whether it can take armour, just lighter vehicles, or is only safe for infantry. They therefore win the game if they manage to get at least one Big Man, M8 armoured car or squad of infantry (whether in jeeps or not) onto the bridge.
The German objective is to keep the capacity of the bridge secret from the enemy. So they win if they prevent the Americans from succeeding.
The Americans have a strong reconnaissance force composed of two recon platoons, each comprising three M8 Greyhounds and three jeeps-worth of recon troops with 60mm mortars and a bazooka, and the Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon from 425th Regiment's HQ: another four jeeps carrying three squads of infantry. These are supported by a pair of M8 half-track mounted howitzers, and there's the promise of some Stuart light tanks as reinforcements if things go wrong.
The defending Germans were the Aufklarungskompanie from 30th Panzer Division. Two ugs of infantry supported by two half-tracks with anti-tank guns and four light armoured cars.
The Americans could also expect help from air support, the Germans had intermittent access to off-table artillery.
Right, that’s more than enough laying out the scenario. Let’s get on with playing it!
I am going to play this scenario solo. Firstly, because I want to test how I have set it up in BGE, and secondly because I want to test the balance of the scenario. Once I kn9ow all is good on both those counts, I’ll find a human opponent.
This is also the fist game I am going to play with support and armour troops. So I’ll be referencing the rules a fair bit too.
First we need to deploy the Germans.
The Germans can deploy anywhere on the map and get three dummy blinds. I deploy the dummy blinds (numbered 6, 7 and 8) at the northern end to scout out advancing US blinds. I then position Zug 1 (Blind 1) in one of the copses on the hill in the west. Zug 2 (Blind 2) is positioned in the field in the east to stop any troops coming down the eastern track. Kompanie HQ (Blind 5) is positioned in the ruin to use its panzerschecks and MMG to stop any jeeps running for the bridge. Finally, the AT and Armoured Car Zugs (Blinds 3 and 4) are positioned south by the river on the track so they can act as an armoured reserve and rush wherever they are needed.
I am hoping to use my off table mortars to break up any US attacks. What I need to do is inflict enough casualties that they will not manage to reach the bridge. If my infantry zugs take losses, I’ll pull back to the bridge. I also want those dummy blinds to spot and retreat, hopefully remaining hidden, while spotting the enemy. As the US troops are all in vehicles, it should be easier to spot them.
The first cards out are Axis Deployment Bonus (which is of no use as with no Allied Blinds on the board there is no reason to move), Allied Deployment Bonus (again no use as no Allied Blinds are on the table to get a bonus), Axis Blinds (again no use), and finally Allied Blinds.
The Allies are allowed to bring three cards on to the table. The blinds move on to the table slowly, attempting to spot German blinds, but failing.
The Allied Blinds card is first out the deck. So the Allies move and spot as much as they can.
Knowing where the enemy is is essential to winning the game, so spotting enemy units before they spot you is vital. The US blind rolls a 10, and spots German blind 7 in the house. The German blind is a dummy and is removed.
US Blind 3 also moves and spots, but fails. US Blind 2 moves, but can’t get in to a position to spot.The German Blinds card is next. German Blind 8 uses one action to spot US Blind 1, and does so easily. I randomly determine if the blind is a dummy or a unit, and it is US Recon Platoon 2. I deploy the vehicles, with the troops in the Jeeps. German Blind 8 then spots US Blind 3, which also turns out to be a Recon Platoon. Now that’s Recon in Force!
Meanwhile, on the East side of the map, German Blind 6 spots US Blind 2, and that is revealed as being the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon. 7 jeeps are deployed in column. They take up a bit more room than the blind would normally allow, but it’s not easy fitting all those vehicles on the space of one blind.
As the German Aufklärungskompanie is on the radio net, The Kompanie HQ knows what is coming and immediately radios his mortar halftracks that are off table. I add the Axis Support One Card to the deck, ready to start the process of getting some mortar shells to land amongst those jeeps. That would put a cat amongst the pigeons!
Next out is the Allied Rapid Deployment card, but the US player no longer has blinds. The German Rapid Deployment Card sees German Blind 4 accelerate. I’d like to get them in the field to ambush the approaching US Recon platoons.
The Allied Support Card is out next, which means a possible air attack, but the skies remain clear. Then the Tea Break ends the turn.
The US Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon activates first and splits up. I can see the wisdom in advancing half down the road and half through the field. We don’t have a time limit, so taking it easy is a wise decisions, and that will allow the troops to catch Germans in the flank. Obviously, as the fields are broken ground, it will be harder to move, but the Americans are not in a hurry to die. The first platoon attempt to spot German Blind 6 but fails.
The German Blinds card emerges next. I retreat my dummy blinds, so I can lure the US troops in to my guns. German Blinds 3 and 4 move up to ambush the approaching American armour.
The Tea Break card ends the turn.
US Recon Platoon 2 acts first and begins cautiously moving with just one dice. Half of the platoon will head up the hill and attempt to spot from higher ground.
Captain Martin Minnesota, commander of Recon Platoon 1 acts next. He activates his platoon with a “Hunt” order, allowing them to move with 1 dice and gain an extra +1 to spotting attempts. Captain Will Winnipeg of the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon activates next. He activates his platoon and they continue their flanking manoeuvre. The lead platoon spreads out as they are too bunched up.
Captain Steve Seattle comes out next, but does nothing.
The Tea Break Card then ends the turn.
Not having the Germans move is going to be tricky. The US are advancing slowly – they know something is out there and until they figure out what, they are not going to commit.
The US Recon Platoon 2 activates first. The troops begin to advance, but are still unable to spot any Germans, despite being very close to the blinds.
The Allied air support card is drawn next, but again the skies remain clear.
US Recon Platoon 1 activates next, but I decide not to move them to avoid bunching up. Captain Winnipeg of the Intelligence and Reconnaissance (I&R) Platoon activates next and he continues with his flanking mission.
The German support card emerges, but as it is the first one the Germans don’t get a chance to roll for availability. We are still trying to get through.
The Allied Blinds card allows the US to bring on another 3 blinds – which they most certainly do.
The Allied Recce Bonus allows a Recon Platoon to move or spot with a bonus action. I choose Recon Platoon 2 but they STILL fail to spot German Blind 8.
The Axis Deployment Bonus lets me give a blind a bonus move. German Blind 3 gets in to position read to fire through the bocage at the approaching US Recon elements. The German Blinds card comes next and the German Blinds use it to get in to good firing positions. Turn 6 is going to be a bloody one.
Well the first card out is the Axis support card. That means I need to roll a 5 upwards to get in touch with my mortar platoon and have them start firing. Well I roll a 5. I target Jeep 2 of Recon Platoon 1, but the fire scatters off table. I mark the target point on the map with a big red map pin.
First Recon Platoon are next, but they are jammed in. They could move maximum rate, which would get them clear of the mortars, or else, hang tight and wait for the traffic to clear. I think I’ll roll for it. First, let’s see what type of a commander Captain Minnesota is. A dice roll tells me he is aggressive (Note: I am using a chart I devised to determine tactical stance of leader), but a second dice roll tells me he is going to be cautious. So they hang tight.
Captain Seattle is next and orders his men to keep up the flanking move. But both of his Greyhounds can’t get traction on the hill and stay locked in place. That creates a jam with the jeep on the hill. The rest of the platoon shoot down the road as I suddenly remember the road bonus for wheeled vehicles. However, they still fail to spot any German blinds.
The I&R Platoon activate next and edge forwards, the road section slowing to keep pace with those in the field. Still no German Blinds spotted.
The Allied Blinds are next, but they don’t move. Those blinds are likely to contain the Company HQ and we don’t want that roaring ahead.
The Axis Bonus Deployment allows German Blind 8 to re-deploy, while the Allied Air Support makes an appearance. I will use the Air Attack rules in the Battle for Liberation supplement. The US sweep in to attack Blind 8 which is holding up the US attack, but a roll of 1 means the aircraft instead attack a friendly unit of the German player’s choice! Disaster for the US troops. Being as the aircraft are MG armed, I target the jeep 3 of the I&R Platoon, and hit it. The MGs rattle and the jeep is immobilized, with all occupants killed. That means Section 1 of the I&R Platoon just lost their LMG.
Not good for the US. Especially as that jeep now blocks the gate to the field and will force the platoon to dismount.
The Allied Recce Bonus allows Recon Platoon 2 to successfully spot German Blind 8 and reveal it as a dummy. That means they know where most of the units are now and will act accordingly.
The Tea Break then ends the turn. I really wanted the German Blinds Card!
First out is the Air Support turn, and the US pilots come back around for some more. It swoops in and inflicts two shock on German Blind 6 (which I randomly determine). Allied Platoon 2 is next. The vehicles on the road are not going to move any further and leave German blinds behind them, so they spot and reveal German Blind 6 as the dummy blind. That means they know all remaining blinds are troops. The vehicles on the hill advance rapidly, while Greyhound 2 remains stuck.
Recon Platoon 1 also moves up. The US war machine is on the move. And a Recon Bonus card allows them to have a go at spotting German Blind 1, but they fail.
All the US blinds then advance.
The I&R Platoon also continues its advance.
Then the Tea Break Card ends the turn.
The I&R Platoon begins the game. They move up cautiously, getting an LMG in to a firing position as well. They will soon make their assault to clear away German Blind 2.
Recon Platoon 1 are next, but they hold off, waiting for Platoon 2 to clear. They can always activate later on the Big Man’s card.
More US Air Support – and once again a 1 says that this will attack a friendly target. I am beside myself with glee! This time I pick the jeep holding the commander of the I&R Platoon and the attack scores a hit. Two men are killed, the occupants are pinned and they also suffer a point of shock. Unfortunately, I don’t kill the platoon commander, but I’ll settle for weakening them.
A US Recce Bonus card fails to spot any units, and after several useless cards Captain Winnipeg of the I&R Platoon is activated and rallies the point of shock on his men.
The Axis support card allows the mortars to fire again, this time with reduced scatter. It hits, catching a jeep and an M8 Greyhound in its blast. But the shelling causes no effect at all. Dud rounds I reckon.
Then Recon Platoon 2 activates. German Blind 1 is spotted and is placed on the map. We are going to struggle against M8 Greyhounds! The Greyhounds open fire, killing 5 German infantry and causing shock. This is not a fight we can win! One of the Jeeps rushes forwards, but still fails to spot anything.
The Tea Break card comes next. At this point I need to deploy and fire. So I will take that option.
Section 1 of Zug 1 unleashes a torrent of firepower at the closest jeep. They butcher the occupants and destroy the jeep.
Next comes the Armoured Car Zug which uncloaks from Blind 4. One SdKfz 231 fires at point blank in to the jeep, destroying the jeep and making the lone survivor flee in to the woods. Another destroys an M8 Greyhound with a flank shot, then swivels its turret and destroys another jeep. The command SdKfz 231 finishes off the survivors of the abandoned jeep with its MG.
At this point the Americans have almost had Recon Platoon 2 destroyed (all the infantry in the platoon and jeeps are destroyed, as is one of the M8 Greyhounds). The I&R Platoon has also taken 4 casualties. The Germans have lost 5 men.
The next turn will be crucial.
The first card out is the Tea Break Card! However, units within 9″ can still fire at each other.
On the western hill the infantry and M8 Greyhound duel it out, with the infantry trying to drive off the vehicle by weight of small arms fire. They force it to halt and engage them next turn, while the infantry only take a point of shock in return.
I also deploy my infantry in the eastern field, firing on the jeep as it is within 9″. The occupants are killed to a man.
The Axis Recce Bonus card comes out first and the Germans spot US Blind 6, revealing at the US Company HQ. Next one US Blind gets a bonus move and the eastern blind moves up in to the field.
US Recon Platoon 2 is next. The M8 fires at the German infantry as it is required to do, and causes another casualty. Captain Seattle’s M8 fires at one of the SdKfz’s, misses and reverses.
The US Blinds are next. The M8 with the Company HQ gets stuck on the hill, so that leaves US Blind 5 to scoot forwards in the hope it is the HMC. Major Bob Boston calls for the light tanks to move up. They will appear the next time the US Blinds card is drawn.
Leutnant Spaten of the Armoured Car Zug activates next. He issues an Engage order to his platoon and they blaze away. When the dust clears, another M8 Greyhound is destroyed, abandoned by its crew.
Luetnant Eirliekor of 2nd Zug is next and he activates two squads, getting them to open fire and spot that pesky US Blind 5. That does indeed turn out to be the M8 HMC and it appears in close assault range for my troops, who immediately assault it and temporarily immobilize it, also causing a point of shock on it. The other German squad drives back the infantry LMG that was setting up in the small clump of trees. An Axis Rally Bonus then allows us to remove a point of shock from our western troops.
The I&R Platoon is next and they move up, trying to get good firing positions so they can maximize the benefit the firepower of the HMC’s will give them.
I use the Axis Dynamic Leader card to move up Leutnant Spaten to provide fire support for Zug 2. The next card out activates 2nd Zug. I use the reserve squad to rush forward and engage the M8 HMC in a close assault, and with luck destroy the main gun and get the crew to abandon it.
Captain Seattle is next and he rallies a point of shock from his vehicle.
Then the Tea Break ends the turn.
NB Some of you eagle eyed readers will notice that I have removed a German Blind in the east. It was because I moved it there to be out of the way and then forgot it for several turns. It should not have been there.
The first card drawn is Oberstleutnant Apelwein of Zug 1. His men have taken a pounding in the woods, and I want to pull them back to safety so they can help defend the bridge (and prevent them taking more casualties). The woods will give them cover until they get across. I leave the untouched 1st Section there to offer cover fire and to stop vehicles rushing after them. The Platoon’s card comes out next and so I put the inactive section on overwatch, just in case some jeep shoots up the hill.
Lieutenant Chicago in the M8 HMC has just watched his buddies blow up for getting too close to the hedgerow. He has a 75mm shell loaded and lets rip at the hedgerow, but misses. The I&R Platoon opens fire on the Germans and cause casualties, while the section with Captain Winnipeg struggle to get over the bocage.
The US blinds are next, and two more are brought on. One of them will be the Stuart Light tanks. That could change the game…
Captain Seattle fires next at the Sdkfz 231 hiding behind the bocage, but misses.
Leutnant Spaten and his armoured cars are next. They open fire, destroying one M8 Greyhound, immobilizing Captain Seattle’s, damaging the gunsight of the remaining M8 HMC, and damaging the engine of another Greyhound.
The Axis Rally card allows me to remove a point of shock from an infantry team.
Zug 2 activates next, firing a vast amount of lead in to the I&R troops advancing through the field. Four US troops are killed and the unit gains enough shock to send it scurrying back across the field. The Dynamic Leader card allows me to pull OberstLeutnant back to his men so he can start rallying their shock. Leutnant Eirliekor moves up to his men on his card.
Next comes Captain Minnesota of Recon Platoon 1. He’s in a dilemma. If he advances his jeeps will be shot to pieces, and his M8′s are faring little better. If he stays where he is, he could take mortar fire. He holds for now (as mortars will do less damage).
Sure enough, the mortars land immediately and cause no damage.
Next is Major Bob Boston. US losses so far are 3 M8′s destroyed, 3 Jeeps gone, one M8 HMC destroyed, 3 other AFVs damaged, almost all of 2nd Recon Platoon’s infantry dead, and most of the I&R Platoon’s infantry dead. He knows that he no longer has the strength to push forward, and to try do so will cost him the rest of the company. He orders the retreat.
Sure enough, the next card out is the Tea Break card to oblige him.
So what happened?
Firstly, using dummy blinds to lead your troops is a really good idea. Yes, they get spotted quickly, but they do also find the enemy quickly. And finding the enemy is vital in order for you to subsequently kill him. Effective use of dummy blinds is important in IABSM. Fail to take advantage of them and you will suffer.
The German blinds, concealed behind bocage or in the woods are very hard to spot until you get close. And then you are dead.
The US do not have it very easy in this scenario. While they do have a lot of armour, they can get ambushed easily. I think it might be safer for the armour to advance through the fields by using the gates. Still, no matter how you go about advancing, you are going to lose men. It gives you a lot of respect for fighting in bocage country.
Get in to good matchups when you fight. The German infantry have 4 actions and an extra LMG. They roll a massive 5 dice when they shoot. That is lethal and will gun down sections in short order. They lose firepower quickly. Soften them up!
The German AFVs are actually quite weak, but having four actions lets them get off two aimed shots every time they activate. Respect aimed shots as they hit often. Eventually, they will cause damage to lightly armoured Greyhounds. Have a healthy respect for the SDKfz 231.
The US player can’t get bogged down, he needs to maintain momentum. By splitting the US forces, I didn’t given them enough power to push through the German defences. That left me unable to break through on both sides.
The US here attempted to steamroller through the inferior Germans and were taught a sharp lesson. As the defender, I felt I used cover well, fired and moved well, overlapped my fields of fire well, and had good support. I should have gotten the Panzerschrecks further forward, perhaps cascading them down to the infantry Zugs. I think that gives the footsloggers some excellent AT capability. Also, having an MMG in the bocage would be good too as it will make short work of jeeps.
This was another fun game, played much faster as I am getting to grips with the IABSM rules now.
I suppose it is on to Scenario 2, following a German win...but that's a tale for another day.
The Wargaming Addict