Today Neil, my regular gaming opponent, and I played Scenario 12 from the Sicilian Weekend scenario pack: The Biazza Ridge. A German kampfgruppe is heading for the Operation Husky landing site when it is hit in the rear by a small number of marauding paratroops led by the indefatigable Colonel James M. Gavin. Some of the Germans turn back to deal with this menace...but the Airborne troops prove such a pain that eventually the whole German column has to turn around to deal with them. This scenario covers the German assault on where the paratroopers are dug in: the Biazza Ridge.
The tabletop was largely empty, with only a narrow trip of dense wood on the left, and a thin salient of light wood in the middle interrupting what would prove to be a very open field of fire. A road and railway track ran up the right of the battlefield. The ridge itself was surmounted by two farmhouses. The initial force of US troops [a platoon of Airborne infantry with two pack howitzers] was lightly dug in on the ridge's crest, the Germans would advance from the opposite end of the table. The Americans could expect reinforcements, the Germans had a company of average infantry, two Tiger tanks and a single Hummel SP 150mm gun.
The Germans entered the table under Blinds but were soon spotted by the Americans, who enjoyed the advantage of high ground. The Tigers and one platoon of infantry were advancing down the road on the US left; the Company HQ on the right; with the other two platoons of infantry coming up the centre.
On the German right, the lead Tiger was struck by shells from the US 75mm howitzers, and was shaken, but not stirred. The panzers advanced slowly up the road, pausing to fire HE back, killing one crewman. The infantry advanced along with the tanks.
On the German left, the Company HQ fought its way through the dense woods, with its two squads bursting from the woods and up the final stretch of slope leaving two MMGs behind as fire support. They took some casualties from the Airborne troops who popped up from behind the ridge to fire at them, but the concentrated fire from the MMGs kept the US infantry from doing too much damage.
In the centre, the two infantry platoons also reached the end of the woods and headed up the slope, also taking a couple of casualties, this time from the howitzers who had decided to pretend the Tigers weren't really there!
The Germans kept creeping their men forward, but crossing the open ground and equally open lower slopes of the ridge was proving very difficult and time-consuming. The six foot tables seemed very long indeed! Meanwhile, on the right, the Americans had received reinforcements in the shape of an anti-tank gun, which promptly slammed several shots into the lead Tiger, eventually forcing its crew to bail out after its main gun was destroyed. The anti-tank gun then became the target for every German that could shoot at it (1st Platoon, the other Tiger, the Hummel) and was eventually knocked out, along with one of the pack howitzers that had been doing sterling service hammering the German 1st Platoon. Colonel Gavin had unfortunately been killed shortly before: he was manning the .50 cal on the half-track that had pulled the anti-tank gun into position when it was critically hit by one of the Tigers and blown to atoms!
American reinforcements were now arriving thick and fast. Next up were two FOO teams: one from a battery of four 105s, and a naval liaison party in touch with the cruiser Boise and its six-inch guns. The Boise had almost single handed stopped a major German panzer attack on the beachhead in a previous scenario from the same supplement, so I was very wary of its firepower! The FOO teams and US Big Men quickly called in the off-table assets available, and the German advance slowed even more as squads became pinned under the blasts.
Two Shermans arrived next. Rather than challenging the Tiger to a stand up fight, they headed up onto the ridge to support the infantry there. Finally, two trucks arrived with another two platoons of US paratroopers. These set up shop opposite where the Tiger was still crawling forward, and started exchanging fire with the German 1st Platoon.
Meanwhile, the German Company HQ squads, protected by the suppressing fire of the MMGs and other two platoons had crept up to ridge line and given the Airborne troops there a taste of their own medicine: popping up to blast them before popping back down under cover. Several turns went by with either one side or the other popping up to shoot, but the other two German platoons were still creeping ever closer, even if they were still losing men to artillery fire.
The battle continued in the same vein right up to when we had to call time because the 'real world' beckoned! At the end of the game, the Germans still hadn't quite taken the ridge, but were still moving forwards despite the tender ministrations of the US off-table guns. The Tiger was now seriously threatening the US left flank, and although both Shermans were now in position to support the infantry, they had taken several barrages from the Hummel, whose 150mm shells had managed to knock out the alignment of both tanks' main guns. The final position is shown below:
We called the battle as a draw: the game was still balanced on a knife edge. Although the Germans hadn't achieved their victory conditions yet, with a bit of luck they could have done so. Historically, Gavin and his men fought their enemy to a standstill and, likewise, could have done so here. A really good game, despite the (relatively!) small number of men deployed.
What was really good was the way that IABSM 3rd edition played on this, our second game. Big Men were rushing here and there on the battlefield, using their command initiatives in a much more "command-y" way than the more rudimentary system of 1st and 2nd editions. The modified artillery rules worked brilliantly (far too brilliantly if you happened to be German!) and, once again, everything just seemed a bit tidier, more logical, and neater. We are already planning our next game: perhaps a return to the Far East and Bloody Burma...