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I played a game of IABSM at the club yesterday against a potential new member, Steve who contacted me via the IABSM Facebook group. I created a scenario based upon Scenario Generator No. 5"Breakthrough" in the IABSM rulebook.

Background & Set Up

The British need to advance along the only road towards the village of Ste Madeleine-sur-Fleuve. To do this, the main force has sent a relatively strong mobile scouting group down the road to probe the German defences and hopefully force a breakthrough. This forces consists of two troops of tanks (each with 3 x Cromwells and 1 x Sherman Vc and L2 BM), one section of carriers equipped with Vickers MMGs (L3 BM) and two rifle platoons (one in four half-tracks and one carried as tank riders, L2 BM). The HQ (L3 BM, L2 BM) for this force has an attached platoon of 4 x 3” mortars carried in 4 Loyd carriers and is carried in a half-track. Each rifle platoon has one member designated as a sniper.

Chips

  • British Armour 1 
  • British Armour 2
  • British Platoon 1
  • British Platoon 2
  • British Support 1 (MG carriers)
  • British Support 2 (mortars)
  • British Sniper
  • British Big Men 1-7
  • Armoured Bonus

There is a German defence screen ahead of the village which has been ordered to stop the British advance, to allow time for the Germans to complete their withdrawal towards to major town of Falaise to the south.

The German force consists of two Zugs of Panzergrenadiers (each with L2 BM), supported by two SdKfz 251 Stummel half-tracks with short 75mm howitzers (L2 BM) and two Marder III Ausf. M with 75mm Pak 40 a/t guns (L2BM) and a Zug of three Panther tanks (L2 BM). The HQ(L3 BM) for this force has a section of three Panzerschrecks and two MG42 teams. The Germans are dug-in behind some hastily-built field defences.

Chips

  • German Armour 1
  • German Platoon 1
  • German Platoon 2
  • German Anti-tank 1 (Marder IIIs)
  • German Support 1 (short 75mm halftracks)
  • German Support 2 (Panzerschrecks)
  • German Support 3 (separate MG42s)
  • German Big Men 1-6

Note that neither side has a chip for the HQ. This is because any HQ-attached elements have their own chips. In addition to the Tea Break chip, the bag contains two blank chips which act as a countdown. Once the blank has been drawn 12 times, the game ends.

We rolled a D6 to see who would be the British and who would be the Germans. I rolled higher and chose to play as the German commander.

The terrain is relatively flat with some hedges breaking up the ground, a couple of lines of bocage (marking the German deployment area) and a small wooded area from which the British troops will emerge. There is a small reservoir by the road and a walled potager at the German end of the table. The ploughed fields on the side of the road are designated as soft going (-1" on each movement dice). The temporary German field defences can be seen to the left of the reservoir and the right of the road.

The Game

The British advanced under blinds but two units were soon spotted by the defenders. These were one of the tank troops and the carriers armed with Vickers MMGs. These could fire on the move.

Most of the German defenders were hidden in the deployment area but there were a few units under blinds. One was spotted by the carriers and was exposed as a pair of Marders.

The British tanks opened fire, and one Marder was immediately knocked out by the troop Sherman Vc with the 17-pdr gun. 

The second Marder would soon follow, leaving the road almost open for the British to drive hell-for-leather towards Ste Madeleine-sur-Fleuve.

The Germans began to emerge from under their blinds, with the main threat being the weakened Zug of three Panthers. 

The Panthers were soon in action and two Cromwells were hit, causing them to brew up. One was the tank with the troop commander.

One Panther was knocked out by the Sherman Vc in the tank troop as the 2" mortar with the platoon which had been riding on the tanks laying down smoke to obscure the British advance.

Realising the the British intended to use speed to get past the German defences, which had been across the table in the bocage, the first Panzergrenadier Zug began to advance across the open ground, secure in the knowledge that the British infantry in the ploughed field were pinned by 75mm howitzer fire from the Stummels. Elsewhere, the Panzerschrecks had destroyed two of the carriers, and damaged a third as the British continued their thrust along the road. There were two British units still under blinds. The Armour Bonus chip was helping the British move quickly.

The rear tank troop engaged with the Panthers at short range, but without any luck. The Germans were more accurate and the remaining two British tanks were soon taken out by the long 75mm guns on the Panthers.

The Panzergrenadiers advanced on the British platoon pinned in the field and wiped them out. A Panzerfaust managed to damage one of the Cromwells in the other troop but couldn't prevent the Rifle platoon in the half-tracks (under a blind), the remaining two carriers and the tank troop from getting off the table, with the Panzerfaust and MG42 teams being wiped out by Vickers fire. However, the victory conditions were that four units with at least 50% of their original strength remaining should exit the table and this was no longer possible, so this game ended up as a victory for the German defenders.

Aftermath

This was an interesting game, not least because I had expected the British to advance on a wide front and deployed my two infantry Zugs in a line across the table. Steve, however had other ideas and went for a mad dash along the road. The only unit held back was the mortar platoon, who stayed unused under a blind at the back of the table. Steve was never able to use the firepower of the 3" mortars to suppress the German defence. 

What really mattered here was whose firepower was best and it turned out that the three Panthers were more than a match for the British tanks, excepting the destructive power of the 17-pdrs on the Shermans.

A couple of notes about the way I planned the scenario. 

First, I rolled a dice to see who would be attacking and who would defend. 1,2 or 3 was a German defence and 4,5 or 6 was a British defence. I rolled a 2, so the Germans were the defenders.

Then, I used a dice to select which tanks would be available for the Germans.

  • 1-3 Panzer IV
  • 4-5 Panther
  • 6 Tiger I

Then I rolled again to see how strong the Zug would be. A full-strength Zug is five vehicles. The roll would be as follows;

  • 1 or 2 - full strength
  • 3 or 4 - one vehicle under strength
  • 5 or 6 - two vehicles under strength

I then rolled a D6 to see if the anti-tank unit would be Stug IIIs, Marders or Pak 40-equipped SdKfz 251 half-tracks. I'd already decided that only two would be available. Clearly, Stugs would be the best choice here, but it wasn't to be.

Carole Flint