Thursday, January 19, 2012

Battle of the Bulge Club Game.

Our game club, Army Group York (York Pennsylvania) played the following scenario on January 7th. The game was a platoon level game using the Disposable Heroes: Point Blank rules. Each player controlled a squad and/or platoon command and support assets. The following scenario is what was handed out to players before the game.

January 3rd, 1945, Neffe Belgium.

The great German surprise offensive has been stalled. After driving for the Meuse River and towards Antwerp, the Germans were stopped cold around the now famous town of Bastogne. Now that the "siege" has been lifted and the U.S. is back on the offensive, it falls to you to spearhead the attack or to hold onto ground already bled for. Despite running out of steam and never coming close to their objective of Antwerp, the Germans have still managed to launch a new offensive in Alsace and Lorraine (Operation Nordwind). While most of the German units in the immediate Bastogne area are short of men and supplies and are now on the defensive, they are still able to mount counterattacks and many of the units are experienced veterans. U.S. forces are tired and battered, but they are once again on the attack with clear weather and ample air support.

Historical Situation: (Meeting Engagement, U.S. slight defensive posture).

Neffe was one of the first towns the Germans captured on the way to Bastogne. American armored units from Team Cherry and some 101st Airborne engineers held out as long as possible, but eventually it was captured and they were driven back into Bastogne itself. The initial counterattacks out of Bastogne in January had been successful, but the situation was very fluid. Probes and attacks were met with counterattacks. On the way out of Bastogne, units of the 101st had captured Foy and several other towns on the northern shoulder of the city, but now it was time to start the drive East.

The Battle

January 3rd: U.S. forces have sent in a forward platoon into the Western portion of the village and discovered it to be empty of Germans. However, the sound of engines can be heard from the East. The Americans will have little time to dig in and for the Germans it is a race to capture any vital ground possible to delay or hold the Americans.

Historical note: This is a semi-fictional scenario but is based on a known village (Neffe), and involves actual units operating in the area. I could not find reference to a specific action taking place in the town at this exact time, but the units are correct and the town layout is based on photos and maps of the area. The setting and time frame was chosen because I liked the look of the town, and I wanted to be able to have both sides on the attack. Plus, I think the post Offensive phase of the Bulge is a neglected gaming period. Both sides were tired, stretched thin, and were required to take part in a chaotic operational situation.

The Forces:

U.S. Airborne platoon of the 101st Division, 506th PIR. No support except possible reinforcement by unknown U.S. armored units.

Germans: Elements of 26th Volksgrenadier Division Division, Grenadier-Regiment 77. Supported by tanks of the 130th Panzer Regiment of the Panzer Lehr Division.

Objectives:

Both sides must consolidate their hold on the town by driving out enemy forces and capturing and cutting off routes of approach as well as taking as many tactically valuable locations as possible.

U.S. Airborne Briefing

Lieutenant,

We are on the move. Fritz has put his head in a noose by attacking into the Ardennes Forest. Now it is up to us to hang him. Your platoon is the vanguard of our counteroffensive designed to hurl his forces back on all fronts. We have reports that a new German offensive has opened in the Alsace and Lorraine region, but it appears to be a bit of last minute desperation. Regardless, it does not change our objective here.

The Germans have left a minimal blocking force around Bastogne as they attempt to withdraw. We are pushing on Foy, Noville, and Bizory, but we must now begin to push East. Your objective is the village of Neffe. German counterattacks are possible, but we expect minimal opposition by tired and dispirited enemy troops.

There is only one main road into Neffe, and it has a view of the valley beyond, but there are several large hills facing the town the enemy could use to spot for harassing artillery. Those hills and any roads or exit points beyond the main village must be taken. Establish a platoon CP within the village as a base for further advances. There should be at least a few buildings standing that will provide some good cover and observation. Keep an eye on the stream and some of the trails leading off the main road as it might offer a covered approach to the enemy. We can expect no air cover for this push as all of our air groups are shooting down the Luftwaffe somewhere else. Artillery support is limited to your platoon 60s. Our artillery is still getting organized in Bastogne and has not been able to keep up. If confronted by a large German counterattack with armor, call for support from HQ and we will try to dispatch some tanks from the remains of Team Cherry. However, it is possible no help will be forthcoming as they will be needed everywhere at once across this sector.

Objectives (select two capture, one hold):

Capture:

Main road exit
Eastern road exit
Bridge over creek
Hill 210

Hold:

Establish Platoon CP in village and hold (Platoon HQ)
Main road and trail crossroad
Creek bridge
Southern farm

German Briefing

Herr Leutnant,

Our great offensive has been temporarily halted. While some of our units withdraw to reorganize, we have been tasked with holding the line outside Bastogne in the hopes of a future counteroffensive. The Americans have broken out of our ring of steel at Bastogne, but they are already bogging down in our stubborn defense and the poor roads. Thanks to a Luftwaffe air offensive and our offensive in Alsace and Lorraine, it has drawn off most of the prowling American air support. Time is of the essence here. We must hold long enough and as far forward enough to buy time for our forces to regroup.

The town of Neffe is our first objective. It is one of the key roads out of Bastogne heading east. If we can stall the Americans here, we can help our forces fighting north of Foy. Our grenadiers must bear the brunt of the work as the panzers withdraw. However, a company from the Panzer Lehr division has been allocated to support this sector. There are not many of them, but since American armor is not expected in the immediate area, this should not be a problem. We have reports of only a platoon of American airborne troops in the town. If we strike fast, we can catch them before they are prepared.

Neffe has only one main road into the village. However, there are three other possible entry points: a valley stream, a small trail connecting the main road, and a small road that crosses the stream and links up with the main road behind the village. Use your scouts to locate and guide your squads in. Taking the secondary road that links up behind the village would be an ideal flanking mission. The stream will be little use to vehicles, but might be a way for infantry to sneak into the village. The main road is probably the most dangerous, as it will surely be covered by fire unless you act swiftly and get into town before the Americans. The trail is probably the most limited as it is merely a covered approach alternative to the main road.

Objectives (select 3 Capture):

Capture:

Village
Bridge over creek
Secondary road exit
Main road exit
Destroy or capture American troops
Destroy any American armor

The Table: 6'x8' (Deployment zones along 8' edge)

The Forces:

U.S. Airborne
ACC: 5
CC: 6
Gut: Lt. (10), Platoon Sgt. (9), Sgt. (8), Corporal (7), Private (6)
T&E: Elite +2

1x Platoon HQ (Player 1):

1 Lt. w/ M1 Carbine
1 Platoon Sgt. w/ Thompson SMG
1 Medic
1 Radioman w/ Thompson SMG
2 Privates (Runners) w/ M1 Carbine

2x Rifle Squad (Players 2 & 3):

Rifle Team:

1 Sgt. w/ Thompson SMG
7 Privates w/ M1 Garand

LMG Team:

1 Corporal w/ M1 Garand
1 Private (LMG Gunner) w/ M1919A6 LMG
1 Private (Assistant) w/ M1 Carbine
1 Private (Assistant) w/ M1 Garand

1x 60mm Mortar Squad (Player 4):

1 Sgt. w/ M1 Carbine
1 Gunner w/ 60mm Mortar
2 Privates (Assistants) w/M1 Carbine
4 Privates (Ammo bearers) w/ M1 Garand

1x MMG Team (Player 1):

1 Sgt. w/ M1 Carbine
1 Private (Gunner) w/ M1919A4 HMG
1 Private (Assistant) w/ M1 Garand

2x Bazooka Teams (Player 1):

1 Private w/ Bazooka
1 Private w/ M1 Carbine/Thompson SMG

2x M4A3 Shermans (Player 1)

Note: The MMG, Bazooka Teams, and Shermans can be controlled by Player 1 or given to any other player in the U.S. Force.

Germans

ACC: 5
CC: 6
Gut: Lt. (9), Platoon Sgt. (8), Sgt. (7), Corporal (6), Private (5)
T&E: Veteran +1

1x Platoon HQ (Player 1):

1 Lt. w/ MP-40 SMG
1 Platoon Sgt. w/ MP-40
1 Radioman
2 Privates (Runners) w/ Kar-98k

3x Rifle Squads (Players 2, 3, & 4):

Rifle Team:

1 Sgt. w/ MP-40 SMG
6 Privates w/ Kar-98k

LMG Team:

1 Corporal w/ MP-40 SMG
1 Private (Gunner) w/ MG-42 LMG
1 Private (Assistant) w/ Kar-98k

1x Panzerschreck Team (Player 1):
1 Private w/ Panzerschreck
1 Private w/ Kar 98k

1x HMG Team (Player 1):
1 Corporal w/ MP-40 SMG
1 Private (Gunner) w/ MG-42 HMG
1 Private (Assistant) w/ Kar-98k

2x Panzer IV H (Player 1)

Note: The Panzerschreck Team, HMG, and Panzer IVs can be controlled by Player 1 or given to any other player in the German Force.

This game uses the rules system Disposable Heroes: Point Blank. In addition, we used some special rules for platoon sized games. These include rules for runners, ranging mortars and ammunition, as well as some of the special rules from Point Blank (add T&E to wound score).

The scenario also involved pre-game recon. Each platoon HQ player (Player 1) was allowed to make 3 recon attempts from a scout in each of his squads. We used the recon chart in the optional section of Disposable Heroes & Coffin for Seven Brothers (using the infantry entry). Failed recon rolls can mean the loss of the scout. Each scout may make multiple attempts to recon, but the chances of getting killed or captured go up (follow the rules for recon in DHC7B) except that instead of discovering hidden units there are different outcomes for each side:

For the U.S., recon attempts allow German units to be discovered and placed on the table before the U.S. deploys.

For the Germans, each of several locations on the German deployment side can be rolled for:

The Secondary Road
The Frozen Creek
The Trail

If a location is discovered, the Germans may bring troops onto the table at those locations within their deployment zone. If none of them are discovered, the Germans must come in on the main road and within 6" of either side.

Reinforcements: On turn three, the Germans may bring the third squad onto the table. The German platoon commander may make 2 last recon attempts to discover an entry location, or may use a location physically controlled by the German force. The U.S. Player may attempt to call for armored support by making a Skill Check (easy -1) by the radioman (considered specialist).

Each side is allowed one pre-game meeting to allow platoon commander's to give their initial orders and describe a battle plan. How they do this and what they decide is up to them, but their objectives are established by the scenario. This important because during the game, platoon commanders are not allowed to communicate instructions to their squads without sending runners. Runners can be sent to a squad. To do so, the player must measure to the squad leader he wishes to talk to, then he must measure the distance and spend the correct amount of Activations to send the runner (using the Command and Control rules from Point Blank). The runner is placed next to the squad leader for that Activation, and while there, the platoon commander may actually talk to the squad leader. After this Activation, the runner is automatically returned to the platoon HQ.

We also used rules for limited mortar ammo. The 60mm mortar squad arrives on the table with only 3 of each kind of round (smoke and HE). The mortar player must then send ammo bearers back to get more ammo during the game. This works by allowing an ammo bearer to go get ammo within a certain distance of the table edge during his Activation, and then return with 3 rounds. It is generally pretty easy to keep the tube supplied, but the ammo is not unlimited for the game.

The last special rules we used was ranging mortars. This allowed a mortar team to establish bonuses for firing on the same targets during the game. This was recorded on a special range card. This allowed the mortar team to dial in on a target and land more accurate rounds as the game went on...unless the target moved. Because the mortar team mostly fired smoke during the game and then got wiped out...this didn't seem to come into play!

Finally, we allowed platoon commanders to "give away" up to their T&E bonus in Activations to other players under their command at the beginning of each turn. This came in very handy at certain points in the game!

Once recon is complete, both sides rolled for Initiative. The winner decides whether his force deploys or the opponent.

The Game:

The pre-game recon went horribly for the Germans. And by horribly, I mean that there was not a single location successfully discovered AND all three scouts were lost.

The Germans also lost initiative to start.

The game began with the Germans piling their squads along the main road. Thankfully the U.S. were not in good positions to cover them with fire yet, so there was some room to shake out into better terrain.
Neffe,
The Germans began their assault by sending a rifle squad over a hill and towards a gully with the trail, where hopefully they would be able to stay out of sight of U.S. troops moving into town until close enough to assault.
Skirmish line.
Both Panzer IVs advanced down the road but turned off to the left side of the road and down into the depression towards the creek. There they tried to acquire U.S. units coming into town. With another round of bad rolling, they failed miserably to find their targets.
Germans use a Panzer IV to advance.
The Panzer IVs were being used by an infantry squad as cover as they advanced. The HMG team deployed along the road and began to pound away at U.S. infantry moving into town. This would prove to be one of the more effective units on the German side.

The U.S. quickly moved their troops into the town of Neffe and sent a squad towards the bridge. The push towards the bridge is assisted by the smoke from the 60mm mortars which put down a nicely targeted and dense smoke screen.
U.S. advance on the bridge using smokescreen from the 60mm mortar.
As the turns progressed, the Germans attempted to push over the hill and towards the town using the trail valley and the woods as cover. However, several U.S. riflemen in the two story building in Neffe  pounded the German squad with heavy, accurate, and deadly Garand fire. The German squad leader went down followed by two more German riflemen. They had barely even had a chance to return fire. Had the advance been coordinated better, the German LMG team might have been better placed to put fire on the U.S. riflemen. As it was, the German rifle team went into action unsupported due to the timing and the lay of the terrain.

The German squad in the middle along the main road started to put pressure on the U.S. troops in the town, but also began to take casualties of its own.

Meanwhile, one of the Panzer IVs came to life and started blazing away at U.S. targets, first in the barn of the middle farm, then in the village. To deal with this armored threat, a U.S. bazooka team fired at the Panzer IV and knocked a track off, immobilizing it for the game.
Immobilized Panzer IV.
The U.S. have been busy as well, bringing heavy rifle and LMG fire onto the German advance. By now, the third turn has arrived and the Germans managed to recon a new entry and then brought their third rifle squad onto the table as reserve. They would need it. The U.S. attempted to call for armored support, but could not get through. They tried again right away next turn and American Shermans arrived in the nick of time. However, before the U.S. players knew what happened, one of the Shermans was destroyed by the German Panzerschreck team. A duel between the remaining Sherman and the two Panzer IVs began.
Brew up! A Sherman goes up in flames.
On the right of the German side, a brave LMG gunner stepped out behind a wrecked U.S. ambulance and began blazing away at U.S. riflemen in the village. He is pinned by return fire, but not before he was able to cover the advance of a lone German riflemen who ran up to a building housing a U.S. bazooka team and put a grenade into the window. The blast killed the assistant and the gunner ducked out the back. German HMG and LMG fire has begun to have an affect on the U.S. troops in the town, but they are still in a solid position and the Germans are losing the steam needed to take the town.
 On the German left, the recently arrived rifle squad tried to push towards the bridge only to be pushed back into the woods by the U.S. troops that had made it to the bridge under the smokescreen.

For some unknown reason, the U.S. moved up their 60mm mortar team to the farm in the middle. From here they were greeted by the immobilized Panzer IV with several HE rounds from the main gun and withering hull MG fire. The 60mm mortar squad is all but wiped out.

In the tank duel, the Panzer IV landed a killing blow on the second Sherman and sent the turret skyward in a ball of fire.
"Hey sarge, what are we doing here? Isn't that a German tank over there?"
With the German advance checked on both sides, the battle starts to die down. The U.S. took some casualties but were able to hold the village (though their platoon HQ never set up a CP, but that was because of a miscommunication on my part in describing the U.S. objectives to the players). They did take and hold the bridge. The Germans were unable to kill enough U.S. troops, but they did destroy both Shermans. However, they failed to take any other objective.

The end of the game saw the U.S. in a better position than the Germans.

All in all, it was a very fun and intense game, with some very heroic moments as well as some tough fighting. The players generally didn't use the platoon runner communication rules.

Thanks to the guys at the club for playing. Chalfant, Tony, Greg, Dieter, Rob, and I had a good time. We could have used an extra 2 players, but made do with what we had.

I look forward to the next big platoon level game with Disposable Heroes: Point Blank. The rules play fast with each player controlling a squad, and with a large table, the ground scale looks pretty good in 28mm.

7 comments:

  1. Now that's how you do a batrep, excellent stuff......

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  2. Now that's what I call a great report! Table looks super as well!

    Christopher

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  3. Great write up and great looking game. Where did you pick up the ambulance?

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  4. Lots of enjoyment for you and for me! Thanks.

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  5. Thanks guys! The ambulance is Corgi. I'm not sure if it is WWII or Korean War era (or if there is a difference), but it does manage to make it onto my tables from time to time as scenery.

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