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.
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.
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.
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.
|The Table: 6'x8' (Deployment zones along 8' edge)|
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
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 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.
|Germans use a Panzer IV to advance.|
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.|
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.|
|Brew up! A Sherman goes up in flames.|
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?"|
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.