Desperate for a game, and with my usual opponent unavailable, I reached out to another friend of mine: someone who hasn't gamed for four or five years but had expressed an interest in picking up the dice again.
Easter Saturday provided the time, chez moi provided the venue and, even better, I got to break out my complete 8½ foot by 5 foot gaming area for the first time: three trestle tables rescued from various domestic tasks and returned to their original function as a wargaming surface.
Next decision was what scenario to play. Couldn't be anything too involved: I wanted to ease my opponent back into the swing of things. Well, there's a scenario in the Blenneville or Bust!pack that I've been wanting to play for some time: #2B Near Belle Maison. The plot is simple: having failed to find a bridge over the river Moire in scenario #1, the Americans bring forward engineers to build a bridge of their own. Unfortunately, the Germans are counter-attacking: and a small kampfgruppe led by Hauptmann Kurt Kirshwasser comes across the engineer column as it moves up to the front line. My opponent would play the attacking Germans, I would play the Amis. Key to this decision was the knowledge that all I had to do to win the scenario was exit my 'engineering expert' (who would start the game in a jeep in the middle of the engineer column) off the opposite end of the table.
As with most I Ain't Been Shot, Mum! games, we began by placing Blinds on the table: markers that indicate where enemy troops might be, but don't reveal if they are either really there or, if they are, exactly what they are. The photographs below show the table set up just before the start. Note the American column stretched out on the road; the three groups of German Blinds, one for each side road on top of the hill; and the single German Blind blocking the road in front of the enemy column.
One thing to note before I continue. All hedges are actually bocage: banks of earth surmounted by heavy vegetation that are impossible for wheeled vehicles and infantry to cross, but could be conquered by tracked vehicles of medium tank size or more. My apologies, but I don't have any bocage scenery (donations gratefully received!) so had to use an assortment of lower hedges, lichen and even barbed wire to mark where the bocage was.
The game began with everybody trying to spot everyone else. At the rear of the column, the Germans spotted three engineer trucks and the jeep containing the engineering expert (not that they knew about him) and a couple of tank destroyers. The Americans also spotted, and managed to de-cloak a couple of Panthers, although the thick bocage prevented seeing what was under the other Blind. Trained to react instantly, the engineer trucks were quickly abandoned; and the tank destroyers, wary of going head-to-head with what were obviously Tigers in disguise (although Panthers are bad enough!) fled into a nearby field and attempted to become one with the scenery.
The two Blinds in the centre of the column remained unspotted, and also found a gap in the bocage and took cover. At the front of the column, however, the column HQ was revealed as a couple of Jeeps, each carrying a Big Man and a bazooka team. Knowing that the Blind up ahead was a tank (it's in the game briefing so I wasn't using insider knowledge!), the Americans sent one Big Man and both bazooka teams into a small patch of woods at the junction just ahead of them, planning to make their way forward and see if they could clear the way forward. If they could, then maybe my engineering expert could whip down the road at top speed whilst the main force held off the enemy. Meanwhile, the German Blinds moved closer:
Back at the rear of the column, the other German Blind had now been revealed as a two-squad infantry platoon: my new Gebirgsjaeger figures taking to the table for the first time, even if not under my command. They were proxy-ing for the 30th Panzergrenadier Regiment as, again, I don't have any late war standard German infantry.
The two centre-column American Blinds were now revealed as a couple of platoons of infantry: one regular, one engineer. If I could just keep th Panthers occupied by the tank destroyers, then maybe the infantry could take out the enemy infantry.
Actually, this was going to be easier said than done, because what the photo above doesn't really show are the distances involved (big table!) and the fact that the engineer platoon didn't have any Big Men to get them moving: these are not front line combat troops. The photo below gives a bit more perspective.
Meanwhile, at the front of the column, one of the many German Blinds had revealed itself as another platoon of infantry. This quickly advanced down the road, under cover of the bocage, and prepared to stop the enemy bazooka teams from getting past the junction.
Back to the rear of the column. There the tank destroyers had opened up on the one Panther that they could still see, the other having taken cover behind a small copse. Shells whistled backwards and forwards: resulting in a couple of small scratches on the Panther's paint work and one blown up tank destroyer! The chap you can see running out of the back of the smoking M10 is Big Man Lt. Micky Miami, wjho survived having his tank destroyer shot out from underneath him, and would soon mount the other and take command there.
The second Panther was happy to keep the rest of the Americans pinned down: blowing up a truck (presumably just to show it could) and then starting a fairly leisurely HE bombardment on the engineer infantry.
Things were not going too well for the Americans at the rear of the column, but perhaps things were better at the front.
One bazooka team was shot down, with the Big Man accompanying it (2iC Captain Alan Albuqueque, just to the right of the tree in the photo below) stuck on his own in a field on the wrong side of a line of bocage. He spent the rest of the game shouting morale-boosting slogans through the thick hedge as the German infantry moved forward and started a firefight with one squad of US regulars (just visible to the left of the tree in the photo below).
Meanwhile, at the back of the column, things were going even worse. The other tank destroyer had also been destroyed, and this time brave Lt. Miami had failed to escape the resultant explosion. In return, one Panther had slight damage to its gun sights, but nothing major.
At the same time, the engineer infantry were trying to put an attack together, but kept being pinned by a hail of HE rounds that did no damage, as they were behind the bocage, but kept their heads firmly down.
With the front of the column firmly blocked - the American platoon had by this time lost a squad of infantry and were having equal difficulty avoiding HE fire - the German tanks at the rear of the column moved in for the kill. The Panther that had been hiding behind the copse drove down the hill and swung onto the road, flanking the engineers who had moved forward in preparation for an attack on the rear-most German infantry. A round of machine gun fire did heavy casualties, and the morale of the Americans broke: I surrendered to what had been a text book attack on an enemy transport column.
Admittedly, this is a difficult scenario for the Americans to win, and their off-table artillery had yet to zero in on target, and their air support had failed to make an appearance, and...and...well, let's let nothing, especially my abysmal dice rolling, take away from my opponent's well-earned victory. Using the tanks and infantry in concert together and sticking to a 'horns of the buffalo' plan had reaped its reward.!