Hot on the heels of game#2, here’s the third attempt of 175th Infantry to break through at La Cambe. Will third time be a charm?
This is an After-Action Report / Battle Report of the third game in our play of the ’29, Let’s Go!’ pint-sized campaign, published by Too Fat Lardies for their excellent WW2 platoon-level skirmish game Chain of Command.
So far the US army, with an overwhelming numerical advantage, but short on time, tried twice to break through at La Cambe. Their goal is to seize Isigny bridge before German forces are able to withdraw over it and blow up the bridge. This is pivotal in their plan of linking up with Allied forces from Utah beach.
So far, Unterfeldwebel Claus Zausel’s infantry platoon, part of 252nd Infantry Division, held their position strongpoint at La Cambe and repelled American attacks. The latest attack got very close to breaking through. Will Zausel’s men manage to hold back the enemy once more?
This AAR will deal with things from a German perspective (since I play the Germans in this campaign). You can find the AARs from the US point of view over on Col.Bourne’s blog Lead Poets Society.
Nothing changed about the platoon structure or how it is put together. As per the scenario I’m allowed 12 levels of support, plus one more this time due to the positive impression Unterfeldwebel Zausel’s performance left on his commanding officer. For this, and after reports of heavy fighting at La Cambe, battalion HQ sent over a Medical Orderly, Dr. van Nostrand, a Dutch doctor who joined the German army in 1940.
The US side got a fresh platoon and six extra support points for their next breakthrough attempt. This time they’ll bring a total of 31 support points.
Map 1 – Probe at La Cambe
“8. Juni 1944 (Continued)
Despite the verve of the second attempt, the Americans got quiet now. Surely the worst is yet to come, but our resolve is strengthened by recent events. The Americans retrieved some of their wounded, led by the crazy Lieutenant who had led the fiercest attack so far. He just walked out from behind one of the buildings, waving a flag with a red cross. I had to reign in Obergefreiter Stanischewski. That hot-head personally grabbed for the MG to shoot the American right then and there. Sometimes I wonder what they taught these boys at Hitlerjugend. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. “
A few hours later, there’s activity across the fields once more and Zausel’s men prepare for another attack.
…unsurpringly hasn’t changed much either.
The Jump-Off Points (through which our troops are brought onto the table) changed little. Col.Bourne moved his one JOP from the hedges in the centre back to my right flank. I spread my flanking JOPs out a bit, out of fear of mortar barrages, and moved the centre one a little bit to the front.
The little yellow Death Triangle lies where the worst of the slaughter happened last game. US troops moving within 4″ of this point suffer one point of shock.
The scenario is Probe, as in the rulebook. The US player has to move one section or team (including vehicles) across the German table edge. The German player has to keep them from doing that.
Again, the US forces are extremely keen on getting into the fight.
US Force Morale: 12
German Force Morale: 9
The .50cal heavy MG team got comfortable in their position and scan the German lines for targets again. However, there’s new arrivals, by the looks of it. US officers with binoculars. Maybe Forward Observers?
Instinctively Obergefreiter Rauch pulls his helmet deeper down his brow, as Unterfeldwebel Zausel makes his musings on this matter heard in the command post.
The American attack commences with a section approaching the German left flank, moving right across no man’s land. At this point it almost becomes grotesque tradition.
Right on time, the first Sherman rolls down the road. The Americans are nothing if not reliable in their appoach.
The Americans are proceeding swiftly and mostly undeterred by the remains of their comrades along their way. As they get too close to German positions, Obergefreiter Lohse’s section reveal their (well-prepared) position and open fire at the enemy once more.
After the second attack Lohse demanded to be put in the position along the orchard hedges. Unterfeldwebel Zausel considered that a good idea, to keep the sections rotating between positions. Immediately Lohse had his men fortify the position according to the latest special issue of Wehrmacht magazine (“Schweiß spart Blut!”).
Despite the admittedly solid entrenchments, the American marching fire is more than impressive.
They’re also backed up by the .50cal HMG…
… and Obergefreiter Lohse’s section have to dive back out of sight after taking 50% losses. Scary!
The hammer of the attack seems to come down on the right flank this time. The Americans got their solid firebase over there, along with several Sherman tanks and an infantry section, along with one of those nasty flame thrower teams. The tanks wisely avoid the main road and the centre approach this time. Last time the US tankers had the terrible revelation that those ways are well-covered by 8,8cm guns, so now they do their best to avoid being seen by them.
Egged on by their platoon leader, the men jump the hedges and advance down the ploughed field.
Things could get hairs. Especially so after Unterfeldwebel Zausel is forced to send Stanischewski’s section to the left flank to assist keeping the enemy at bay there.
The Americans brought up another infantry section and their platoon sergeant over there. Once more, they attempt an all-out infantry attack, albeit with a stronger fire base than before. At least one of the BAR teams is reduced and sent packing.
In rule terms I’m doing my best to practice the same thing I’ve been doing the past game – hope for double-6s and use that to move up to the hedge, fire, and get back out of line of sight again. It works nicely once, I get another double-6, and I have Stanischewski’s section boldly fire to full effect, knowing that I’ll get another go immedidately and that allows me to move right ba-
Unterfeldwebel Zausel has no choice but to deploy at the hedge in the orchard again. This time he’s got doctor van Nostrand with him though, so what could go wrong? Zausel orders Stanischewski’s boys back into cover and demands a report.
Meanwhile the GIs throw smoke grenades to blind the static German position. A minute later a single mortar shell hits right in front of the position!
German and US soldiers alike throw themselves to the ground, anticipating all hell to break loose. Three breathless seconds pass, ten seconds, …nothing.
The ranging shot is the only thing we see or hear of the US mortar battery for the rest of the game. In rules terms, Col.Bourne called in a mortar barrage, had a ranging shot fired, right thereafter I rolled three 6s on my command roll, ending the turn. The whole off-table mortar barrage sequence is cancelled, the battery seems to have been called off to a more important spot.
The US forward observers do their best to call in for fire support, but are put off again and again.
The turn end also means that the smoke grenade also seizes doing its job. Stanischewski’s section step up again and continue firing at the startled US infantry. They are in trouble now, and the flank seems secure for now, unless the HMG starts doing serious damage again.
Meanwhile at the other flank…
US infantry advance along with a Sherman. The Germans deploy everything they have left – Obergefreiter Rauch’s infantry section (in the building with the orange roof) and Gefreiter Zéman’s Pak40, to deal with the Sherman.
They manage to hit the machine twice, but to very little actual effect, it seems. It opens fire as it slowly rumbles closer.
Zéman’s gun crew suffer serious casualties, as Rauch has his section LMG team hammer at the enemy infantry approaching.
By this point the American attack seems to stall, but they still have this tank threatening to break through. The anti-tank gun is caught in a bizarre knife-fight with the Sherman and only holds on by a thread.
Meanwhile the left flank is secure after Stanischewski’s section take out the last US NCO at the flank. In a last ditch effort the US platoon sergeant grabs an NCO and the last few men from a rifle team and dash for the main road to maybe break through on foot.
At the same time, maybe by keen anticipation, maybe by not knowing what else to do, Unterfeldwebsel Zausel had taken the remains of Lohse’s section for a run towards the other flank, parallel to the US platoon sergeant’s little group.
Either way, Zausel and his men (with doctor van Nostrand in tow) end up being in a perfect position to intercept the US group’s attempt. Zausel instructs his men to throw any hand grenades they have at the enemy across the hedge.
Some even land on target and take out everybody except the platoon sergeant and an NCO.
Driven by wild enthusiasm or pure adenaline the NCO dashes down the road. He runs like a devil, maybe he’s an American footballer.
He won’t get far. Just down the road he comes to his senses and has to surrender to a German armoured recon patrol, led by Lt. Gruber in his little tank, who happened to pass by..
Untergefreiter Zausel has bigger fish to fry anyway. With a howl he leads Lohse’s men over the hedge to take the US platoon sergeant prisoner.
That does is. The US attack falters once more.
German Force Morale: 9
American Force Morale: 0
Once more, the end result may not suggest it, but this very much felt like a back and forth. I really felt those initial losses on Lohse’s infantry section, which essentially took them out of the game. That forced me to send in Stanischewski’s section at the orchard flank as well, leaving me with just one section to deploy on the right front.
The point at which things felt like they’re going bad for the US side was when I by sheer dumb luck rolled a Turn End after the mortar barrage’s ranging shot and the mortar battery being unwilling to provide their services for the rest of the game. First they wouldn’t be available for the rest of the turn, so Col.Bourne expended his last Chain of Command die to end the turn. Then they said they’d be busy for another phase a few times.
The game, like the last, also illustrated that having Senior Leaders lead from the front with the infantry can be very handy to keep shock down. Again, the initial attack down the left flank not only caused me lots of casualties, but at the same time the platoon sergeant removed most of the shock within two phases. On the other hand, it’s good to have one senior leader hang back and handle things there, like activating support if required. The two Shermans in the back barely got to do anything due to command dice being eaten up elsewhere by frontline units.
That shows a rather interesting thing: the return of a ton of support points, as the US side gets by now for this scenario, diminishes at some point, since there’s always just up to five command dice to go around between them. All the more important to have the activation job delegated to a senior leader.
Lots of double-6s, one lucky triple-6 for me. Also of course, the initial phase of the game at which the US side moves up I can sit there, do nothing, and acquire Chain of Command points with my rolls. Which later on comes in handy. I think it would be very interesting to see how this scenario plays with the roles switched.
Anyway, Col.Bourne and I both learn a lot of about the Chain of Command rules, so playing this scenario over and over really is an interesting experience. Neither of us is a great fan of the Forward Observer. In fact that’s the main reason he hasn’t shown up earlier on the US side, I learned during this game. And now he didn’t work that well. It’s a bit of an all-or-nothing choice. Surely it’s just a matter of routine and being used to using this mighty tool.
Campaign Phase and Aftermath
In the end the Germans suffered 5 losses on their core platoon and three or four on the anti-tank gun crew, the US infantry suffered 28 losses. Due to the difference in Force Morale in the end my five casualties get proper treatment right away and will be back in action by the next game. That is a factor neither of us took into account. The thing I fear the most in this campaign is losses. Which is why I admittedly play rather ruthlessly – because I feel responsible for the little plastic and metal men who live in my army case.
As far as campaign book-keeping goes, Unterfeldwebel Zausel’s calls in at battalion HQ in Isigny to transmit his report of the action. The wire is dead. Right then, a sentry reports heavy explosions and smoke pillars over Isigny. All communication to battalion HQ is cut off. The commanding officer’s opinion will not be adjusted for now.
The men’s opinion improves as well and sits at 3 now (meaning a +1 bonus on Force Morale rolls from now on). After this encounter and the successful capture of a US platoon sergeant and an NCO Unterfeldwebel Zausel’s general outlook improves to Cheerful.
“8. Juni 1944 (Continued)
The Americans have been beaten once more. Guess what, Gudi, I led the final attack and took an American Unteroffizier and his runner prisoner. They are in the wine cellar right now, Untergefreiter Rauch is with them, having an eye on them. I ordered Stanischewski and Lohse to inspect the fox holes to keep them busy elsewhere. When our prisoners will be picked up I have no idea. The usual institutions of the Heer seem to be overwhelmed now. Let’s hope it’s due to all the American and English prisoners of war!
The Americans are starting to adapt their approach. Their leaders seem to be keen not to reinforce failure. Their tanks avoid the firing lanes of our 8,8cm guns and they might have gotten some fire support in place now. Understandable, as La Cambe surely is a tougher nut to crack than they thought it would be. The men may be young and more on the latrines than anywhere else, but when when fighting starts they are reliable.
It seems like for now we are holding our position.”
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. Until then, thanks for reading and see you soon!