British Cromwell hunts Whittman!

British Cromwell hunts Whittman!
A pic from a Fireball game at Fall In 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Latest game and new thoughts on Machine Guns

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to run Fireball for a great group of guys that unfortunately I can only game with on rare occasions. Rick Wynn and his crew are a very creative bunch that play a wide spectrum of periods and are always open to new and interesting rules. We played the scenario 'Holding On' from the Panther mini-campaign of the St Lo book. It features two platoons of GIs with some M10s trying to hold off a full company of Panzer Grenadiers supported by a Panther. I am not going to give a blow-by-blow account and suffice to say that everyone had fun and the Germans were not able to breakdown the American defense. One of the primary reasons for this was a flank attack by the M10s. Steve Wynn (Rick's brother) maneuvered them through hedgerows on the flank of the German assault and although he lost one tank destroyer he essentially caused the general German attack to bog-down.

There was one big issue that he raised during his battle with the German infantry. His remaining M10 was alone in the middle of a field that was bordered by hedgerows. Since the Germans had an entire platoon of infantry facing him they decided to charge the entire platoon into the field to bombard the tank destroyer with panzerfausts. Since the M10 can only take one opportunity fire that means that two squads could move in a frontal assault against the M10 with impunity. This does not seem right. The vehicle has machine guns and a frontal assault is not the correct tactic and in fact seems like a 'gamey' move. Since the rules philosophy is to encourage correct tactics we need to address this.

Steve has a good suggestion that I am going to try. Tanks, AFVs and machine gun teams can fire multiple opportunity shots if the infantry target ends its move in the open. Simple, elegant and I think right on. This encourages infantry to move from cover to cover while making machine guns significantly different from regular small arms. Machine gun teams will have the option of either doing the 'grazing fire' rule -OR- take multiple opportunity shots at targets that finish their move in the open.

Thanks to all the guys at 'Wednesday Night at the Fights.'


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

'Hold on, boys!' After Action Report

Last night we played a second playtest of 'Hold on, Boys' the first scenario in a 3 or 4 scenario mini-campaign covering the counterattack of Panzer Lehr's 901st Panzergrenadier Regiment north of Haut Vents on July 10th. Overall this is part of my scenario book about Panzer Lehr's counterattack during that period.

This scenario depicts the 901's attempt to breakthrough the American front lines and penetrate into the US rear areas with Mark IVs. The Americans have a company of infantry and a battalion HQ group while the Germans have two platoons of Panzergrenadiers, five Mark IVs, one Mark III Flammpanzer and a Puma Armored car with a 20mm Autocannon. The Americans were played by Sean Barnett and the Germans by Curt Daniels. The Germans have one permanent initiative chip while the US has two one-time use chips that can only be used on the Battalion HQ. The game is played a night with 12-inch maximum visibility.

The game started with a short German artillery barrage that hit one of the forward deployed US platoons. The dogfaces hunkered down and managed to avoid taking many casualties but the fire did keep their heads down. The Germans then came at them out of the darkness and hit the GIs, quickly overwhelming 2nd Squad. The platoon commander decided that the best defense was good offense and ordered 1st squad to manuever in an adjacent hedgerow and hit the Germans in the flank. Sgt. Riley had is men crawl along the base of the hedgerow and popping his head over saw the an entire German platoon. They opened fire and several Germans fell back screaming and hollering. Just as Riley was about to give his squad the order to fall back another German platoon appeared on his flank and ripped into him. He fell dead instantly and his men ran for their lives. They were caught in a deathtrap and several men were killed with the rest wounded. The war was over for 1st squad.

Hearing the firing Major Barnett ordered every available man towards the front as he personally led his battalion HQ group forward. The Major was concerned that the Germans would push through the lead platoon and infiltrate an orchard that screened the front of the battalion HQ. Meanwhile Hauptmann Daniels was determined to push through the orchard helping to clear that way for the Panzer to roll on. Setting up an MG42 he laid down a base of fire on a group of farm houses on the edge of the orchard. A fierce firefight erupted and the Germans made a rush for the houses only to be turned back by Browning MachineGun fire. The German Luetnant leading the platoon rallied his men, directed more covering fire and had them try again. This time they knocked out the US machine gun and cleared the buildings.

Just as the farm was falling German tanks and armoured cars began to appear and engage the GIs. 75mm shells began to hammer 1st Platoon holding the orchard and 20mm fire from a Puma raked their left flank. Across the road on the US extreme left 3rd platoon held their part of the line nervously listening to the increasing volume of fire to their right. Then out of the darkness they spotted movement in the field to their front. The Lt. ordered his MGs to open up and the mysterious figures disappeared. A few minutes later the opposite hedgerow erupted in rifle and machine gun fire and more Germans made a rush. Lt. Smith hollered above the din of battle to 'Let 'em have it!' and the entire platoon opened up. Germans fell in droves and the attack was stopped cold. The German platoon was in disarray with the platoon Lt. dead and the field littered with dead and wounded grenadiers.

Meanwhile, Major Barnett and his men were taking an awful beating in the orchard. 2nd Platoon was holding but just barely and 1st had fallen back. Hauptmann Daniels sensed that the orchard was ready to fall and fearing that he was losing valuable time until daylight, ordered his tanks to roll through the orchard and up the main road. As a Mark IV lumbered between two hedgerows a bazooka rocket screamed out and punched a hole in the side skirt armor but failed to stop the tank. Desperately trying to reload the bazooka T/5 Balkowski was horrified as another German tank rolled over the hedgerow to his right and headed straight at him firing its machine-guns. His loader was already running away when he realized he was in a bad spot. The orchard was now in German hands and the tanks on the road began to move out. No sooner had they moved another 15 yards then bazooka rockets flew at them from both sides of the road. The lead Mark IV blew up in a fireball that lit up the night.

In an attempt to drive the US back 3rd platoons bazooka team a Flammpanzer broke into the field and hosed down the GIs with burning gasoline jelly. They quickly hightailed it back to their foxholes.

3rd Platoon which had stopped the Germans to their front now moved to try and flank the German column. Although German infantry kept them at bay the bazooka teams took out the Puma further blocking the road. With the orchard cleared Hauptman Daniels tried top make one last armored push through the orchard and breakout. Mark IVs crashed through the farside of the hedgerow and made a run for the rear areas. But T/5 Balkowski was ready for them. He had grabbed his loader and steadied the boy. Taking up a position between two farmhouses he waited patiently for a Mark IV to roll by.

Balkowski heard and saw the giant tank roll into view and after saying a quick Hail Mary he squeezed the trigger of his bazooka. The explosion nearly knocked him off of his feet as the German panzer exploded and came to a halt. With the road blocked the German attack subsided. Clearly they would need to find another way through the lines. Company K was just too tough.

This second playtest was a clear US victory. The first playtest was a clear German victory.