It's 0715 on 15 May 1940, and KG Klink, attached to the 7th Panzer Division, is on the move. The 7th Panzer Division has broken through the French front line and is on the road to Flavion, with reconnaissance elements pushing both north and south of the city in search of a way to by-pass the city, or at least find an undefended back door.
North of Flavion, recce elements of KG Klink have discovered a ford over the River Moiste near a small farming hamlet; led by KG Klink's Reconnaissance Company Commander, 1st Lieutenant Wehner, the Germans quickly push across the river and secure a small bridgehead on the western bank, before sending for reinforcements. Colonel Klink, the Kampfgruppe Commander, immediately broke off a detachment of infantry and armor to reinforce Lt Wehner at the ford. But time is of the essence; French forces under Captain Cognac have spied the German bridgehead and are already forming up for a counterattack.
I am playing this game, the sixth of KG Klink's campaign during the Fall of France in 1940, with my eight-year old son, with me commanding the Germans and the boy commanding the French. We are playing the games in 10mm, a mix of Pendraken and Minifigs UK troops and equipment, on a 6' x 4' table, using Too Fat Lardies' "I Ain't Been Shot Mum," modified a bit to suit our tastes.
The scenario is "Cognac and Moiste Cabbage," written by Robert Avery and published in the Lardies' Christmas 2005 Special. On a side note, Mr. Avery is now pasting my IABSM battle reports on the Vis Lardica website (https://www.vislardica.com/); I am happy for the extra exposure, and proud to be considered a contributor.
Overview, north is up, with the German baseline at right (east) and the French at left (west). The River Moiste is at center, running north to south, and the key ford is at center right, where the dirt road intersects with the river. The ground is flat, rolling fields, with heavy stands of trees at far right, bottom center, left, top left, and far left.
Cabbage fields abound, providing no significant cover or concealment nor real impediment to movement, but there is a stone wall (the sideways 'V' at center left/bottom) that halts movement and is only barely passable to tracked vehicles; similarly, there is a wooden fence running along the northern side of the main, east-west running road. The fence itself is not the problem, it's the drainage ditch running just below, invisible to the naked eye ;) , the fence.
At top left is The Farm, consisting of a residence, an outbuilding, and a barn. At center is the tollkeeper's house, and at top center right is Mademoiselle Chevelle's home.
The objective of the game is possession of the ford, with possession being defined as having troops on the enemy's side of the river at the conclusion of the fight. The Germans start the game in defensive positions, with guidance being to set up a significant amount of their forces on the western (French) side of the river. The French begin the game at The Farm, in the northwest (top left), which is their marshalling area for the counterattack.
The Forces Involved
Looking at the picture of the initial German force, top right:
- At bottom center is the onsite commander, 1st Lt Wehner, Recon Company Commander and holder of the Iron Cross, 2nd Class.
- At top right is Lt Wehner's 1st Motorcycle Platoon (already dismounted). They are led by SSgt Gradl, holder of the Iron Cross 2nd Class. He has three squads:
1st Squad - SSgt Sachs
2nd Squad - Cpl Rein, a replacement squad leader.
3rd Squad - Cpl Wilhelm
- At top center are two squads of the Assault Engineer Platoon:
1st Squad - Sgt Barkstrom
2nd Squad - Sgt Hafl
- And center left is a Schwerer Platoon consisting of:
an MG-34 team under LCpl Steinkamp
and two Pak-36 37mm anti-tank guns under Sgt Kallenbach
On the fourth draw of the "Turn Card" the Germans will receive reinforcements from the KG's Panzer Company, specifically, two Pz IVCs from 4th Panzer Platoon:
Sgt Graebner's tank, holder of the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class, with four tank kills
Sgt Kapp's tank
And on turn 10 the infantry arrive, the Schutzen Company's 2nd Grenadier Platoon under 1st Lieutenant Ost, with three squads:
1st Squad - Sgt Lutz
2nd Squad - Lipniki
3rd Squad - Sgt Axthelm
They are riding in trucks and accompanied by a section of two 80mm mortars under LCpl Vigerte, seeing his first action of the war.
Here are the French, under Captain Cognac:
This monstrosity is the force the French start the fight with on the table. I must admit I'm a bit nervous, looking at the force arrayed against me.
At top centre right is Capt Cognac's command stand.
At top left are two platoons of infantry, each consisting of a platoon commander and three squads.
At bottom left is a weapons platoon of two machine guns and an 81mm mortar (the scenario says it's supposed to be a 60mm mortar; I don't have a 60mm mortar for the French, so I resolved to use an 81mm mortar but treat it like a 60mm mortar, but, in the event, I forgot, and ended up treating like an 81mm mortar).
At centre are two Somua S35s, with a single H39 to their right. At bottom centre/right is a 75mm field gun being towed by a horse team; it's supposed to be towed by a truck in the scenario, but I've got horses so they're using horses (no difference in capability on the table, and wouldn't matter anyway as they came straight off Blinds into firing position during the game).
At turn 8 the French receive this beast as reinforcement. Please note this is a different Char B than I used in the last fight. Why am I telling you this? Just pointing out how goof I am; I actually have three Char Bs, but only two S35s and three H-35/39s. And my British early war tanks are even more limited. To be honest, I never really thought I'd be playing early WWII games, it was something that hadn't really interested me before I started the KG Klink saga.
And in Turn 12 the French receive another platoon of infantry as reinforcements.
The Game Begins
Below is an overview of the map, north is up, this time with Blinds on the table. The German Blinds are at centre bottom and top centre, while the French Blinds are all at top left, in and around the farm and intersection.
Yes, the playing cards as Blinds are ugly, but I'm having a hard time coming up with an alternative as these are so simple, cheap, and effective (for play purposes, not aesthetics), and there are so many variations as to make a prettier solution tough. What I mean is, each game is different and has different forces. I'm playing with an 8-year old, so I'm trying to keep things as straightforward as possible. So I can buy pack after pack of playing cards and write directly on them what the card is: i.e., 1st Rifle Platoon (PC and 3 Squads), Weapons Plt (2 MGs and 1 Mortar), Field Gun, Char B, etc... But I can't see doing that with something that is better looking but much more expensive.
I know a lot of guys make pretty Blinds and just label them as "Blind #1," then they have a roster on the side to show what troops Blind #1 is. Again, I'm trying to keep things simple for the boy, I don't want any confusion as to where he puts the Blinds, what he does with them (because he thinks it's a certain unit), or what troops go on the table when the Blind gets lifted. And printing off new blinds each game doesn't work either; I'm a cheapskate, and printer ink gets damn expensive! So, I apologize for the ugliness of the playing cards, but I don't see another way right now.
I am all ears if someone out there has an idea for prettier Blinds that I can write the exact unit on AND change to meet the unique needs of every single game.
And the game is afoot! The French Blinds start pushing east towards the ford (top center), approaching the unseen German forces at top left and top right. I would later verbally and physically abuse the boy for being so timid with his Blinds and not pushing forward stronger to seize the river crossing. We both have seen everything about each other's forces, the only secret is their location, so he knows exactly how little I have and how much he has, and he knows what to do (you'll see him establish a base of fire and begin pushing his manoeuvre elements forward, just not as aggressively as I expected).
The French Blind at the Farm's residence (bottom centre), quite unbelievably, have spotted movement across the river, in the treeline to the northeast (top centre left). Whatever could it be?
It's my damn Weapons Platoon, dammit! Two ATGs (the infamous "doorknockers," at top left and centre), and the MG-34 (bottom right). Sorry for the blurry photo, I'm just aggravated that he spotted these guys, immobile in the treeline, so quickly. This is not good at all...
Wow, what a fight!!! At the same time, I feel terrible, my boy is shellshocked! Just kidding; he was a bit on Sunday, when we played, but's it's Monday and he's already over it. But man, that was rough! We talked about him being a bit more aggressive; his comment was 'being the attacker is kind of hard.' I couldn't help but laugh; he gets it. It's not fun having to move up and expose yourself to enemy fire in order to accomplish your mission, but it's gotta be done, and he's showing a pretty good grasp of fire and maneuver between elements.
We also talked about small unit leadership, working to make sure your leaders are in the right spot at the right time to help your attack or defense succeed. I really didn't like his positioning of his CO on his far right, for a supporting effort (we talked about unity of effort and focus of effort, too), and late getting to the main effort (Somua, H39, and 2nd Platoon pushing up the road). I thought he did a good job with his supporting fires; I wouldn't have fired the mortars on the German tanks, I would have kept them on the north treeline and pounded the German Weapons Platoon into oblivion, then shifted fire to the south treeline to pound the Motorcycle Platoon. Having said that, what he did worked; the MGs, mortar (for a moment), and field gun did a good job overall in keeping the German Weapons Platoon in check, until the shifted the field gun to firing at the German tanks, too. Shifting the mortar and the field gun to the German tanks kept them out of the fight, but was probably too much, and let the German MG and one ATG back into the fight, as well.
Having said all that, I should have just kept my damn Company commander up there with the Weapons Platoon, and I had some bad luck with the tanks not activating much, and then one running away. And I would have been in more trouble if the boy would have pushed sooner in the center; we talked about the art of trying to time up the assault with appropriate suppression by supporting fires. It turns out he had the idea down, he just didn't foresee how long it was going to take his assault troops to get to the objective once the Germans were sufficiently beat up.
But it still all came down to that crazy close combat at the toll keeper's house; I was certain I was going to lose that fight, and by all accounts, I should have. I figured I was going to have to throw in the towel; my tanks cover the withdrawal, holding the French at the ford while Weapons Platoon falls back in the north and the Motorcycle Platoon has to drop all its gear and swim the river to escape. But somehow I won; the French moved up with a PC and three squads in good order. I had a PC, a suppressed squad (-2 in close combat), and a 'men down' squad (-3 in close combat). The first round of combat was atrocious for the boy, and it didn't get any better.
In the first round he had a squad match up against each of mine, and then the PCs faced off. I went -2 and -3 but managed to tie both squad vs squad fights, and then my PC beat his PC in a straight up roll! The two French squads fell back, suppressed, and their PC went down. Their 3rd Squad charged my PC and put him out, but then I beat a suppressed French squad in an even-up roll off, and I beat his fresh squad despite being -2. Then I finished off his last squad in an even-up roll off (both sides were suppressed). Incredible!
German: ~25 casualties, one PaK-36 ATG destroyed
French: ~60 casualties, one 75mm field piece destroyed, two Somua S35 tanks destroyed
- Cpl Rein, 2nd Squad, 1st Motorcycle Platoon, Recon Company, KIA
- SSgt Gradle, Commander, 1st Motorcycle Platoon, Recon Company, WIA - out for campaign
- Sgt Hafl, 2nd Squad, Engineer Platoon, Recon Company, WIA - out for campaign
- Sgt Kallenbach, ATG Section, Schwere Platoon, Schutzen Company, WIA - ambulatory
- Sgt Barkstrom, 1st Squad, Engineer Platoon, Recon Company, WIA - ambulatory
- SSgt Gradle, Commander, 1st Motorcycle Platoon, Recon Company, was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class, for leading the defense of the Toll Keeper's House at the ford of the River Moiste.
- Sgt Hafl, 2nd Squad, Engineer Platoon, Recon Company, was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, for the defense of the Toll Keeper's House at the ford of the River Moiste.
- Sgt Barkstrom, 1st Squad, Engineer Platoon, Recon Company, was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, for the defense of the Toll Keeper's House at the ford of the River Moiste.
- Sgt Kallenbach, ATG Section, Schwere Platoon, Schutzen Company, was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, for destroying two enemy tanks in the defense at the ford of the River Moiste.
*Lt Wehner did not report Sgt Kapp for withdrawing his tank from the fight; Sgt Graebner told the Lieutenant he would take care of the matter.
The rules are working like a champ; the boy finally complained about the Tea Break card ("maybe we ought to take out the Tea Break card..."), but I talked to him about friction, not being able to do everything you want, when you want, and he was okay. Our 'blinds move at end of turn' house rule worked; my only complaint there, as I mentioned above, is the ugliness of my blinds, and my only answer so far is to move to get the blinds off the table as quickly as possible.
My only other complaint is how long the games take; I don't want to sound like a whiner, but you have to keep in mind I play a LOT of skirmish games and small, platoon-level games where I can play three games in as many hours. Our game last week took about 3 1/2 hours and this one took about 4 1/2 hours. So I'm not complaining that they are inordinately long games, it's just that I can only take playing so many long games in a row before I get aggravated and move back to playing my small, quick games for awhile.
Having said that, we're having a lot of fun and I really want to keep this going so I can close out KG Klink's "Fall of France" episode and move on to whatever is next.
Anyway, hopefully we've given you an entertaining battle report to enjoy, some food for thought regarding the rules, and some food for thought regarding the future of KG Klink (and go ahead and toss your thoughts my way, please). Thanks for reading, hope you liked it.