Unusually, both my usual wargaming opponents were available in the same week. Last night, Dave and I fought to an epic draw, tonight was Neil's turn. As I didn't have time to set up anything new, we'd fight the same battle as before. Not only that, but I would play the Germans again, and decided to set up in almost exactly the same way as before, looking forward to seeing how the two games would differ.
So, here's the introduction again:
It's the Blenneville or Bust! scenario pack for I Ain't Been Shot, Mum!, scenario #4B: Near Avaux. Normandy 1944, and the Allies are trying to push south from the beaches.
Half a squadron of British Shermans from 101st Royal Tank Regiment, under Captain Miles Manchester, supported by a company of infantry from 1st Battalion, the Windsor Foresters under Captain George Grimsby, attempts to secure a vital road junction. Note that for this game I decided to use my Cromwell models rather than the Shermans: it would be nice to get some new kit onto the table, and their stats are close enough to make no difference.
Holding the junction are four squads of elite Fallschirmjaegers under Major Sascha Sauerbrauten supported by two PaK 40 anti-tank guns and, the ace in the hole, a Jagdpanther commanded by Feldwebel Siegfried Spatzen.
The tabletop represents the (fictional) area around the road junction on the Avaux to Vartres road just south of the Petit-Ribeaux. The three main roads are reasonable quality, tarmacked surfaces giving the usual road movement bonus. They are just wide enough for two tanks/large trucks to pass each other, but sometimes a moving vehicle that tries to pass another will have to pull up short and reposition for the manoeuvre. The main north-south road is the Avaux-Vartres road, the turn off leads to Pierrecourt. The junction itself sits on top of a hill that slopes evenly and gently down on each side. The fields are bordered by bocage that is impenetrable to any wheeled vehicle, and is only penetrable by tracked vehicles weighing the same or more than a medium tank. Infantry and those vehicles that can cross the bocage take their entire turn to do so. There are, however, numerous gates between the fields, all shown as gaps. There are also two large wooded copses.
The Herr Major positioned his troops as follows. The two Pak 40s would be nestled in the bocage to the right of the house: one up close, one at the far eastern end of the table. In between them was a squad of infantry. Another squad of infantry was dug in behind the northern wall of the houses, with an MMG and FOO in the house itself.
The Jagdpanther covered the other side of the table, hiding behind the bocage just by the two trees flanking the gap in the most northernmost line of hedges. Two squads of infantry and another MMG were dug in to the next line of bocage, with their right flank touching the main road.
Finally, a lone MMG provided a backstop and rally point just by the gap in front of the most southerly copse of trees. Next to that copse were the two 81mm mortars that provided on-table fire support.
Neil adopted entirely different tactics than Dave. Rather than heading up the eastern side of the road, over the open ground, Neil chose to advance up the western side: aiming to move from hedgerow to hedgerow. He later confessed that he didn't think I would have anything so far forward!
One troop of Cromwells deployed from Blinds immediately, with one tank spotting the Jagdpanther as it lurked behind the first row of bocage. In order to prevent me shooting his Firefly, Neil moved two Cromwell's forward to mask it, also hoping perhaps to overwhelm or by-pass the tank-hunter before it could do much.
Sadly, Leutnant Spatzen was unfazed by the Cromwell's rapid approach, and quickly blew two of them away!
He then stuck to the plan and reversed away from the bocage, looking to take up his next hull-down position behind the hedgerow behind. Unfortunately, the early Jagdpanthers suffered from reliability problems, so the pack included a Vehicle Breakdown card that applied only to the big cat. It duly came up, and Spatzen permanently broke down only one move back from his original position!
Fortunately, his gun still covered the gap in the bocage in front of him, so still somewhat restricted the movement of enemy armour, but the words "sitting duck" had never been more apt!
As the tank-hunter was still operational, Neil decided to outflank the beast using fast movement down the road to do so. A Blind leapt forward, just about reaching the house at the junction, then revealed itself as another troop of Cromwells: two in front to shield the Firefly, which turned its turret ready to flank-shot the Jagdpanther next activation.
Unfortunately there wasn't going to be a next activation!
So eager were the tanks to take out the Jagdpanther that they had totally forgotten that I might have other units on the field. From the corner of the bocage behind the three lead tanks, a Panzerschrek team popped up and promptly put a rocket up the backside of one Cromwell and the Firefly. Boom, boom! Then another popped up from its position hiding behind a tree at the junction and put a couple of rockets into the lead Cromwell! Three tanks up in flames and, worse, the road blocked with burning armour.
The red circles show the positions of the panzerschrek teams:
To add insult to injury, the Jagdpanther then blew another Cromwell to pieces as it crossed its field of fire, unaware that the big cat still had teeth that could bite!
Neil then threw a couple of infantry platoons forward. One stuck close to the road but, unfortunately, had only just taken up a position behind the bocage when the German mortars positioned at the back of the table, a Big Man directing them to make sure that they got to fire as often as possible, found their range and began shelling them remorselessly.
The second platoon rushed through the gap in the bocage and close assaulted the Jagdpanther. Three of the brave infantrymen were killed by a burst from the beast's machine gun, and all the sticky bombs from all three sections just bounced off its armour. Could nothing stop the thing!
Up stepped the platoon's PIAT operator, putting a round into the Jagdpanther's side armour. We rolled for penetration, and the PIAT scored brilliantly, Spatzen very badly indeed. Neil exhalted, arms in the air, as I announced that the tank-hunter had exploded.
I then reminded him what exploded meant to the three sections of infantry clustered around the beast!
The explosion actually did more damage to the platoon than the Jagdpanther's machine gun had. Even in death Spatzen had his revenge!
The remaining three British tanks pushed forward past the burning vehicle but, as they did so, a two-squad platoon of Fallschirmjaeger (the first infantry I'd actually deployed on to the table) popped up from behind the bocage in front of them and absolutely mullered the British infantry in front of them. Two sections were annihilated immediately, and despite one squad of Fallschirmjaegers being pinned by off-table artillery, the carnage continued next turn.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the road, one British MMG carrier had been destroyed and another rendered just about immobile by a Pak 40. That, unfortunately, was then hit by a rocket-strike from jabos, being instantly blown to bits. An MMG had also been firing from the top storey of the house and, under the personal direction of Major Sauerbrauten, had been adding to the British woes.
Seeing, however, that all the action was on the western side of the road, the German forces protecting the eastern side now began to move back and across the battlefield, intending to set up a new line of defence behind the zug inflicting so much pain on the British infantry. Although bothered by British off-table artillery, they didn't stay in one place for long enough for any serious damage to be done.
At this point Neil conceded the game. His objective was to render the German force incapable of shooting at vehicles passing up and down the main north-south road, and he felt that his remaining force no longer had the capacity to do that. He had only three tanks left out of ten; supported by one complete and two badly battered infantry platoons. Facing him were two almost unscathed, elite Fallschirmjaeger zugs supported by three MMGs, a PaK 40 and a panzerschrek team, not to mention the mortars. He had also lost half his infantry Big Men.
A great game that was entirely different to the first one: with all the action happening on the opposite side of the field. Once again, however, the German panzerschreks proved to be game-changingly significant, and the Jagdpanther a really awesome behemoth both in terms of what it actually achieved and the effect it had on Neil's thinking.