Shortly after my defeat playing the Americans in scenario #2B from the Blenneville or Bust! scenario pack, I received a text suggesting another game. The text wasn't signed, and my new 'phone didn't recognise the number, but I assumed it was Dave, my opponent from #2B wanting to follow up on his success and play the next game in the series.
I duly set up scenario #3D: Saint Melotte, but was somewhat surprised when Neil, my other regular opponent, turned up instead of Dave. Ooops! Why you should make sure all the numbers from your old 'phone actually have been transferred across to your new one!
No matter: the table was ready, the dice were hot...game on!
Saint Melotte is a small village in Normandy. Surrounded by fields lined with bocage, it consists of a small square, a Church and a handful of houses. Just to the north is a manor house surrounded by orchards.
Neil and I diced for sides, and I would play the Germans. My force consisted of a strong infantry company of three platoons of three squads each, with another two squads and two MMGs in the Company HQ. The only support units available were four Tiger I tanks (I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but it fits within the whole campaign/scenario pack context) and some off-table 155mm howitzers.
I would enter the table from the fields end, and my objectives were to deny the village to the Allies by taking two out of three of the manor house, the church and the village square.
The view from the ground: the approach across the fields.
Note the road running between the fields in the centre of the photo. One of my infantry units could enter there if I wanted. I did, but decided to commit just the Company HQ squads to doing so: that would be enough to deny the bocage as a defensive line to the Allies, but not so much that I couldn't afford to lose them if I ran into trouble.
The British consisted of two small platoons of infantry, each two squads; an anti-tank platoon of two 6-pdrs; a MG platoon of two MMGs; and three Sherman tanks, two standard and one Firefly.
As I have no late war British infantry, I decided to proxy them with Paras. Not unrealistic, actually, as rename the village Ranville or similar, and you have the same situation.
Shown in the photo opposite is the British FOO in position at the top of the church tower.
I decided to concentrate my attack on the left flank: seeking to take the manor house first, and then assess my next move dependent on enemy dispositions. Accordingly, my Blinds advanced forward through the fields.
The British FOO, and other Blinds positioned somewhere elevated in the village, began spotting, and all three of my infantry platoons were quickly revealed. Still under Blinds are the Tigers (far side) and the Company HQ.
My tactic of forcing the British back from the first line of bocage worked. Shown here are the two squads of the Company HQ, led by Hauptman Siggi Starkbier, moving right to left along the road at the top of the field.
Their next move was to attempt to move into the nearest small house, and one squad duly rushed forward to do that. Unfortunately the house was full of enemy troops (well, a section and an MMG) and the squad were easily repulsed and would play no further part in the game!
BTW the yellow markers are Overwatch tokens, showing the squads using three of their four dice to move forwards, saving one for emergencies!
The British troops occupying the house.
Despite the fact that you can take the roof off the houses, it seemed like too much like hard work to put the figures in and out, so here they are in the garden!
Meanwhile, on the left side of the battlefield, the Tigers were now deployed, with the one top right about to swing its turret round to target the house with the British in it.
On the far left, 3rd Platoon's first squad had just worked its way through the gap in the bocage where the small stream was, and was about to run into an ambush (see below).
The same moment, but seen from a different angle. In the foreground, 1st Platoon are hugging the line of bocage, looking to join the remaining Company HQ squad in the road.
As the Germans tramped through the gap in the bocage, a British MMG opened up, killing two men and driving the rest to ground.
The picture is a bit blurred...chalk it up to the photographer being surprised!
Now began a long period when it seemed that there were no German cards in the pack.
The British were able to bring on their tanks, which had been lurking off-table to avoid the German pre-game stonk, and set up not only the anti-tank gun shown in the foreground, but the other infantry platoon, which would line the hedgerow opposite the road where the surviving German Company HQ squad was about to be joined by German 1st Platoon.
As my troops were obviously holding back, nervous about confronting the enemy, I had time for some more photography. Here's the same situation as above shot from a different angle.
The British 6-pdr, unable to see any Tigers, is about to start firing HE at the German infantry mentioned above. We couldn't remember if 6-pdrs carried or were capable of firing HE, but diced for it and decided that these particular anti-tank guns did!
I really was twiddling my thumbs now, as card after card came out for the British. My infantry in the road were pinned down and were being whittled away by HE fire, which really was very annoying!
The only good thing was that they were keeping most of the British occupied (Neil even moved his two non-Firefly Shermans over in support) giving me the opportunity I wanted to strike round the left flank. Once that pesky ambushing MMG was dealt with!
Here's a shot of the British CinC, Captain George Grimsby, in his White scout car.
Finally the German cards started to appear again, and my troops staggered into action. My main effort was on the left, and I got rid of the ambushing MMG by sending one of my Tigers straight for it. Quite sensibly, the British MMG bugged out, but not before losing a man to the Tiger's claws!
The Tiger was now in a Mexican stand-off with the Firefly, neither side wanting to poke their nose out first. You can see another Tiger on its way through the gap to break the deadlock!
In the foreground, a third Tiger has just blasted the building full of British infantry: no casualties, but the building would soon fall down, forcing the Tommies to evacuate.
Here is a rather blurry photograph of the fourth Tiger. Not only did it bog down as it was trying to drive up the muddy stream, but it then got caught in the blast radius of the British off-table artillery. And again. And again!
Bogged down, two points of shock, four off any movement...this tank wasn't going anywhere without assistance!
You may have been wondering why the British had been concentrating on the right side of the battlefield so much when my Tigers and two infantry platoons were so obviously curling around their right flank.
That's because I had saved my Dummy Blinds up, and brought them on not as scouts up front, but as unknown threats at the back. Here you can see the line of three Dummy Blinds advancing across the fields on the right, each one potentially a platoon of infantry or tanks, all on their way to support the rapidly diminishing 1st Platoon.
In the centre, two squads from 2nd Platoon occupied the manor house: one down, two to go!
The third squad entered into a prolonged period of close combat with one of the British Shermans around the corner of the hedge around the orchard.
Here you can see that the squad has been reduced to five men, but has forced the Sherman to retreat, shocked.
Behind the Sherman are the remains of ambushing MMG team.
Victory was within my grasp. Two Tigers verses one Firefly, half my victory conditions fulfilled. Surely nothing could stop me now!
Suddenly the drone of aircraft engines filled the skies. Allied Air Support! Typhoons! My lead Tiger, containing Big Man Leutnant Eberhard Eisbein, was critically hit and exploded, killing all inside. The other Tiger was caught within the blast radius, and loss a point of movement and, as it frantically tried to manoeuvre away from its burning comrade, bogged down in that bloody stream!
My whole attack stymied by the Rare as Fairies!
In the end, however, it made no difference. Neil was on a time limit and, as the clock ticked towards zero hour, I sent the infantry squad you can see near the Tigers in the photo above, forward to the church. They arrived unmolested, captured the British FOO, and then barricaded themselves in.
As the game ended, and Neil stretched out his hand to shake on a draw, wryly commenting that I would probably have won despite the long desert of my cards in the middle of the game if the two Tigers hadn't been destroyed/bogged down, I took great pleasure in revealing that actually I had won, as two of my three objectives were in my hands!
A great game, nonetheless, and I'm looking forward to the next in the series, #4H, whoever I happen to be playing!