I went over to Lard HQ last night for the final game of the year, billed as a Chain of Command re-fight of the climactic battle from the film The Eagle Has Landed.
For those of you who have missed out on this cinematic masterpiece, Michael Caine leads a bunch of Fallschirmjaegers on a mission to assassinate Winston Churchill as he visits a small village in rural England. All is going well for the Fall-ies, who are disguised as Polish Paratroopers, until one of their number saves a local girl from going under the wheel of a water mill but is killed in the process, with his paratrooper uniform being ripped to reveal his German uniform underneath. Now discovered, Caine's men fight a battle to hold the village against an assault by nearby-based American troops whilst Caine himself (Steiner IIRC) goes off to kill Churchill.
The game, therefore, featured me leading three squads of US infantry supported by a Staghound armoured car into the village to firstly find out what was going on; secondly to identify any disguised Germans; and, thirdly, if any were found, to kill them!
The Germans, meanwhile, who were already occupying the village, had some convoluted mission requirements that seemed to involve tracking down a local woman who was actually one of their spies in order to be told where the secret tunnel was that led to the mansion house where Winnie was staying. I say convoluted because everything for the Germans seemed to get more and more confusing as the game went on: surely nothing to do with the immense amount of champagne that Mr Clarke, who was allegedly running the game, consumed as the evening went on.
After my last Lard HQ Chain of Command debacle (which no-one seemed to have forgotten unfortunately) I was determined to redeem myself. Rather than following the course of action from the film (where the Yanks charge into the village and get shot to bits before retreating for a more cautious second approach), we arrived at the edge of the village and cautiously moved forward towards the first house in order to try and find out what was going on.
There (well in the outside privy to be exact) we met a section of British infantry who confirmed that the Germans did indeed have men in the village, disguised as Polish paratroopers. That was all they could tell us...hardly surprising as they turned out to be more Germans on a mission to stop the main German mission for political infighting reasons.
Confused? Not as much as we were when Rich revealed that he'd brought the wrong box of figures with him so we would have to be portrayed using German figures. So we have Germans using British Paratrooper figures pretending to be Polish; more Germans using British infantry figures pretending to be British, and being played by a Scotsman; and Americans using German figures pretending to be...oh, no, sorry: actually being Americans!
Anyway, having sussed out what was going on, the Americans went forward cautiously: one squad hanging back as a base of support, one moving towards the church, and one moving up to the Whippet Inn (also somewhat confusingly portrayed by a German beer hall).
The squad advancing towards the church took fire from the steeple and lost a man, but our return fire was incredibly accurate and wiped out the German Bren team that were doing the shooting. The squad then started cautiously moving into the church itself. Meanwhile the Staghound moved into a position near the first house from where it could cover the village main street with its .50 cal.
The other two squads then leapfrogged forward until one was in the inn providing a base of support whilst the other was pressed against the back wall of the first house in the village, covering both the main street and the gardens to the rear.
Stalemate then ensued until the Germans realised that firstly all we had to do was keep them occupied until the end of the game and secondly that they needed to get back into the church to find the woman to find the secret passage to find the Churchill...you get the picture.
As false-Polish paras hit the high street, heading for the church, we opened up with everything we had: the Staghound's .50 cal, chewing up scenery as the two squads covering the high street actually did the damage. The first German squad was effectively rendered hors d combat (no, no French on the table...at least I don't think so...but at this stage, a bottle and half in, who knew) but another moved up and threw grenades into the church in an attempt to clear it.
This was not as effective as it should have been (one dead American), and the Germans soon suffered as a hail of grenades and small arms fire came right back at them. That squad was soon pinned and then wiped out as well.
The game then drew to a close. We occupied the church and commanded the main route through the town; the Germans needed to control both in order to fulfil their mission, but were now down two full squads against our losses of four men (three killed by a demented local high on home brew).
All in all, a great game of Chain of Command, if somewhat chaotic. I was quite rightly accused of taking the game far too seriously (it was the Lardy Christmas game, after all) and have no excuse except to say that after last time I had no choice lest my reputation be damaged beyond repair!
My thanks to Rich, Nick, Panda, Trevor, Dougray McScot, Al, Noddy, Mark, Harpers, Panda, Elton etc for a most entertaining evening, with mince pies and booze thrown in for good measure. Just make sure you save me an After Eight when the packet is eventually opened!