Welcome to the After-Action Report of our second game of ’29, Let’s Go!’ pint-sized campaign for Chain of Command.
The US forces’ initial attempt at breaking into La Cambe in the early hours of 8th June 1944 was beaten back soundly by Unterfeldwebel Zausel’s men. Living through their baptism of fire mostly unscathed led to a slightly better mood among their ranks. But the Americans are dead set on breaking through to take Isigniy bridge and meet up with their pals from Utah beach. They gather another platoon, more support, and give it another go.
Nothing changed about the platoon structure or how it is put together.
The US side got a fresh platoon and six extra support points for their next breakthrough attempt.
Map 1 – Probe At La Cambe
“8.Juni 1944 (continued)
Reports from frontline sections I didn’t even know existed indicate that the Americans and English scramble in-land. Our tank divisons are yet to fully hit them. I haven’t seen any of our own planes in the sky. Since the Flak batteries flanking our position here in La Cambe have been handed over to our divison they mostly keep still, scan for enemy armour and hope they don’t get attacked by enemy raiders or partisans.
For now the enemy is repelled, but our recon suggests that there’s a whole enemy division lining up along the road through here. Evacuation of our troops and materiel across Isigny bridge has commenced, but it will take a good while until-“
It’s about 9:00 in the morning as once US troops move up the road to La Cambe in force.
…unsurpringly hasn’t changed much either. Two things happened though – a sneaky American team of engineers snuck up to the minefield and found out that it was a dummy. The barbed wire at the other end of the table still is very real and in place. Just like the burning carcass of a Sherman tank. The crew bailed out, but the burning vehicle’s still blocking the road.
The entrenchment at the German Jump-Off Point in the top right still is intact, the one by the hedges proved to be basically unusable (Obergefreiter Stanischewski blames the lacklustre fieldcraft of Grenadier Habich) and plays no further role in this game.
By the building in the lower left lie about one and a half US infantry squads who were killed or gravely wounded in the prior engagement. So far US troops didn’t dare to recover them and they make for a pretty gruesome sight. Any US section or team passing this point takes a point of shock.
This time we placed our Jump-Off Points a little differently – Col.Bourne placed one JOP in the tall building overlooking the ploughed fields and another one further back behind the hedges. I placed my JOPs mostly the same, but instead of placing one very much forward I placed it way back in the orchards for some depth.
The objective for the US troops still is to pass the German table edge with any section or team (including vehicles), the German objective is to keep them from doing just that.
This new US platoon seems more dedicated than the prior one to break though.
US Force Morale: 12
German Force Morale: 9
Around 9:00 in the morning the German scouts register movement across the open field. US troops are on the move again. They set up a .50 cal HMG in the upper floor of the house overlooking the open field. The thick smoke from the burning tank hinders their field of vision to one side a little.
It wouldn’t be a US advance without the backing of several tonnes of Sherman battle tanks.
This time the enthusiastic americans can the idea of sending a small scout team and have a full squad run down the open field towards the German line of defence.
Despite their great enthusiasm, they aren’t entirely unaffected by the bodies of their comrades. Each team takes a point of shock.
Given how Obergefreiter Stanischewski’s section seemed a bit shaken up after the first attack, Unterfeldwebel Zausel decided to deploy Obergefreiter Willi Rauch’s section to defend the orchard. Stanischewski – out of pride – and Rauch – out of common sense – protested, but Unterfeldweben Zausel would have none of it.
Not to have the enemy advance too far Rauch’s section open fire and immediately pull back as to not suffer return fire*.
*) Here’s what I did in rule terms: I got a double-six on the command dice, which prompted me (after looooooong deliberation, because in general I don’t like deploying so early on) to deploy Rauch’s section, lining the hedges. Along with the deployment, they fired to full effect. In my second phase right thereafter they fired to half effect (if at all, I’m not sure) and moved back 1d6″ behind the hedges, getting them out of line of sight. Relatively shortly thereafter I got a double-six again, so I moved them up one by one d6, they lined the hedges again, fired to half effect (move&fire) and in the subsequent phase they moved back again.
More and more enemy troops pour in: another infantry section, a senior leader, and even a flamethrower team! Not to mention those tanks.
The frontmost US section have their advanced stifled by Rauch’s section taking shots at them and as soon as the enemy would react dive back into the cover of the orchard. That proves to be effective to some extent, but the enemy’s numerical superiority is pretty clear.
Obergefreiter Rauch is one of the few men in this platoon who fought in Russia and the tactics the enemy employs reminds him of the endless retreating battles they fought there against overwhelming numbers.
As soon as the frontmost enemy section gets into range Obergefreiter Rauch has his men lob all the grenades they have over the hedge. This finally stops them in their tracks (and at the very last second!). General shouts of confusion indicate that they may have lost their Sergeant.
Despite that though, the remains of the enemy section don’t turn tail, they just dig in! Maybe they also have political officers like the Russians and fear them more than German MGs? Maybe they are just crazy, who knows.
Still, there’s plenty of enemy troops moving in to back them up.
Suddenly the American tank is torn apart by a big explosion. Finally it moved up far enough that one of the 8.8 Flak batteries got a clear line of sight at it and blows it up.
Then all of a sudden Unterfeldwebel Zausel’s designated field headquarters erupt in a series of explosions! Mortar barrage! Luckily he’s just on his way to Rauch’s section in the orchard to get some first-hand information on enemy movement.
Good thing I don’t have any troops deployed there right now, but it’s a godsent for the US section moving across the ploughed fields as my own guys have to keep their heads down and remain in the wine cellar for a bit longer…
As if there wasn’t enough exploding going on the second Sherman tank decides to advance the same way his former comrades did and immediately catches a 8,8cm Panzergranate. The second tank lights up as well.
However, these Americans are different to the ones in the prior attack. They just don’t seem to care that their NCOs and their tanks blow up. They steadily advance under their senior leader yelling and cursing at them and the world in general.
At the other flank the mortar fire finally seizes. That’s the moment for Obergefreite Stanischewski’s and Lohse’s sections (the latter in the building) to deploy and open fire at the US troops in the field. Their NCO is knocked out immediately and their BAR gunners team flee.
This means though that I have barely any other troops to deploy to back up the men in the orchard. Right in front of them that crazy American 2nd Lieutenant drives his men on. Right now he’s pushing an engineer with a flamethrower forward.
The fire isn’t fully effective, but bad enough. Obergefreiter Rauch’s section is starting to suffer some serious losses. Even Unterfeldwebel Zausel sitting with them in their position doesn’t help. These Americans are sitting right there in the open in front of them, taking awesome amounts of fire, but won’t give in. Quite on the contrary, they even advance centimeter by centimeter!
At least some concentrated MG fire sends the remainder of the flamethrower team running.
Despite huge losses, the US 2nd Lieutenant keeps his handful of men fighting. Rauch’s squad has shrunken down as well, and the only thing to back them up I still have in reserve is the Pak40.
This is not how it’s supposed to be used, but it’s a few more men and some firepower. Gefreiter Zéman, commander of the gun crew is visibly unhappy with this situation, being called to a knife-fight with enemy infantry. As if he’d known he immediately gets wounded. The thing is that Zéman isn’t particularly well liked by his peers, so it had no bearing on the force morale.
This is all less than perfect. At the other flank the third US section has fully dissolved. For lack of other targets (and knowing that the US troops seemingly just don’t care about regular soldiers getting taken out) Staischewski’s and Lohse’s sections fire at US leaders who run around on their own now. They knock out the other US senior leader, reducing him to command initniative 1 after a while.
I invest my last Chain of Command die to end the turn, so Zéman gets up again.
This also means that three(!) broken US teams rout off the table and the last US NCO gets up again as well, probably wondering where all his men have gone and why they left him back in a soggy field. It ALSO means that the smoke from the Sherman which got knocked out in the first game seizes and the .05 cal HMG starts bellowing from its window and at poor Zausel’s (and Rauch’s and Zéman’s) position behind the hedge. Rauch’s section takes more losses and shock, as does the gun crew.
Unterfeldwebel Zausel’s had it. The remaining few unharmed men of Rauch’s sections are pulled back into the safety of the Orchards and Zausel joins the gun crew in their struggle to keep the enemy attack at bay. All of a sudden, the horrible HMG fire seizes and the US infantry – crazy as they may be – finally give in and retreat.
Under the pretense of ammunition conservation Unterfeldwebel Zausel orders his men to seize fire. The enemy’s had enough. They suffered horrifying losses in their second attempt to break through at La Cambe, and they got horrifyingly close this time, but once more their attack as been thrown back.
German Force Morale: 9
American Force Morale: 2
That one was close. The thing with this campaign is that I’m really not keen on taking losses, and that I’m thrice as inclined to just pack up and leave if losses mount up that my opponent, who gets a fresh platoon for each game. Of course him starting with a Force Morale of 12 and the fact that they had an iron morale this time didn’t help much either. A mass of enemy troops is just scary. As much as Rauch’s section did a splendid job at slowing down the advance of two enemy sections, backed up by a senior leader and a flamethrower team, they were very lucky the HMG didn’t come into play more. HMGs are scary.
The Flak8.8 worked a treat. With this Probe scenario my first thought was “get a tank, zip through”. The thing is that the German side has a ton of rather potent Anti-Tank stuff at their disposal, so it’s not that easy, and probably explains why Col.Bourne opted for an attack on foot, relying on overwhelming numbers and punchy guns to back it up.
Towards the end the whole thing got a bit weird. At my left flank Rauch’s section were held together by a thread before they were forced to vanish back into the orchard. meanwhile on my right flank I had two infantry sections try to beat down the US force morale firing like crazy at stray US leader and troopers running across the ploughed fields. The American’s just wouldn’t stop fighting. On top of the excellent startingForce Morale of 12 Col.Bourne made heavy use of Chain of Command Dice to avert having to roll for things which would have lowered Force Morale. This led to the US platoon fighting (especially on the left flank) on despite those horrendous losses. US sections also can pour out rather impressive amounts of firepower.
Placing Unterfeldwebel Zausel in the thick of it was a gamble, but necessary for holding it all together.
It was a long, hard-fought game in which both sides threw everything they had at each other.
Campaign Phase and Aftermath
This time we rolled for campaign admin stuff right away. The American 2nd Lieutenant who led (and lateron held together) the attack down my left flank was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery. Colonel Goode, the US commander in charge got Worried about the US attack being stuck for now. The German campaign goal is to hold the enemy back so their own forces can retreat over Isigny bridge and blow it up (preferrably after Unterfeldwebel Zausel’s platoon crossed as well) and reduce Colonel Goode’s opinion so much that the US attack stops and waits for further troops to arrive.
On the German side of things all the casualties they suffered during the game can be made battle-ready again for the next game. Phew. The commanding officer’s opinion of Unterfeldwebel Zausel’s performance so far increases to +3, which means that from now on I will get a bonus point/level of support each game. Yay! The men under Zausel’s command had to suffer a fair bit more this time (a total of 7 casualties in the core platoon) than on the first attack, but so did the enemy (34 losses in total), so their opinion of the platoon commander improves to a total of +2. Zausel’s own outlook remains Relaxed.
Now the question is whether Unterfeldwebel Zausel pulls back to the next map or tries to hold La Cambe for a third time. However, the enemy would get another +6 support on their next attack (for a staggering total of 31 points/levels I think).
8.Juni 1944 (continued)
-we get all the heavy equipment across the bridge and blow it up.
The Americans just rode another attack and they were death-defyingly dedicated this time. Maybe they have been given stimulant drugs or are promised extra pay or something. They were throwing their infantry against our lines like berserkers. A line from Karl May’s “From Bagdad to Stambul” comes to mind: A wild, unbridled Bravery is like the rage of the buffalo that runs blindly to its death.” Surely May is read in America as well, with so many of his great works taking place there.
Obergefreiter Rauch did a splendid job of delaying the advance; his experiences in the East come in handy here. I was with him at the forefront, which helped calm the men a bit. I’m glad it’s over for now.
I hope that you enjoyed this battle report, make sure to have a look at Col.Bourne’s take on the events on his blog.
The next game is set to take place in just a few days, so stay tuned!