Sunday, April 6, 2014

U.S. 4th Armored vs. 1Fallschirmjaeger, Flames of War style

Friday April 4, 2014

Kevin Serafini and I met at Legions Games for a 1750 point Flames of War dust-up (donnybrook, brouhaha, barnburner) featuring his American 4th Armored Division Motorized Rifle Company vs. my Fallschirmjaegerkompanie from 1Fallschirmjaeger somewhere in central Italy, circa 1943.

My force consisted of 2 FJ platoons with MG attachments, a mortar platoon, 2 PaK40’s, a battery of 105’s with a staff team, and two allied platoons, one of Heer motorized grenadiers and the other being 4 MkIV’s, both of lesser morale quality. I made a Kampfgruppe from the FJ platoons and added a 81mm mortar to each from the HQ company. I also added a Panzershreck to one of the FJ platoons. The list definitely lacked in some areas (AA, Anti-tank for the FJ) but I will discuss this later with some of the tweaks I have since made. Still, with the MG and mortar attachments adding bulk to the platoons and assuming (correctly) that they would start dug-in, I knew these Fearless Veterans would be a tough nut to crack. The fact that their special rule states they only fail Platoon and Company MC’s on a ‘1’ added to my confidence that they would have some staying power. But, the fact that I’m pretty much a total nube made the whole proposition pretty iffy. However, I knew there would be fun to be had so it was up and at ‘em.

I am not sure of Kevin’s exact force but he had 2 armored rifle platoons in half-tracks, a Sherman platoon with a Jumbo, a Hellcat platoon, some AA Half-tracks and a Cessna spotting for some Priests to bring on the bombardments. There may be more but that’s about what I remember.

We diced for scenario and ended up with ‘Hold the Line’. Predictably, I was the dug in defender against his mobile force, with Delayed reserves and two Ambushes. The board was 4x6 with our set-up areas being on the short ends. The terrain was a wooded village with a railroad line bisecting it short-wise. There were plenty of woods, some open and enclosed fields, a factory and rail station, which would turn out to be a key building. Kevin set his objective as far forward as possible outside the rail station and I set mine up as far back as possible behind some woods. The VC were that Kevin needed to take one objective uncontested by game end or I could clear the defenders side of the board of all attackers.

 Here you see my forward set-up. With only 4 of 8 platoons on board at start I had a lot of ground to cover. I chose the 2 FJ platoons, the PaK40’s in Ambush and my 105’s. I was able to start the game with 2 units in Ambush but was so excited I deployed the first three without thinking. The building in the right center is the railway station. The FJ platoons are on either side. The ones closest are 1st platoon and beyond, 2nd. Just beyond the rail station you can see Kevin’s objective of a fuel depot. My guys are dug in. The team on the left in the street; the forward one in the center pine woods and on the far side, behind the wall, are my three on-board HMG’s. The 4th will arrive with my KG. I also forgot to take pictures of Kevin’s set-up. This is after he moved on Turn 1. You can see his armored rifle platoon on the left and in the center and the scouts for his Hellcats lurking in the center. In my Turn 1, my HMG in the woods took out that jeep observer who thought he was behind a building! The two teams behind the rail embankment are both 81mm mortars. I bought them specifically for the Smoke capability. Spoiler alert: neither one got off a single round of Smoke the entire game.

 The 105 battery, command team and staff team dug in behind the factory. (Note there is terrain behind them (the cliff) but they were on the playable board edge because we played a 6 foot game on an 8 foot table.) In the foreground is that goddamn spotter plane that you will see in just about every picture of this game as it flew with impunity over my Paratroopers. Ironic, isn’t it? This showed me what a gaping hole in my list I had with no AA support. Luckily, Kevin started a trend this first turn that would run pretty much through the whole game: his artillery failed to range in on my guns in three tries! It’s always better to be lucky than good.

 A close up of my 105 battery.

 Kevin’s left flank featuring the Sherman platoon and armored rifle platoon number 2. You can also see his OP tank and Hellcat spotters in the background. And, of course, there’s the Jumbo. I had nothing that could penetrate it’s front armor, even my PaK40’s have a AT rating of 12, the same as his front armor. I learned to really hate that thing. (And immediately planned to get one for my American force.) BTW, the dice in the halftracks are the mnemonic device for Kevin to remember what teams are in what vehicle.

 The view from my right flank looking down the railway. Here you can clearly see the American objective and if you look in the upper left corner you can also see the German objective. My lone Panzershrek team is actually located *in* the building in the center. They will quickly learn the value of why they should have stayed there. Unfortunately it was posthumously. You can also make out the HMG team in front of the same building.

 As Kevin attempts to come down the west road, I reveal my PaK40 Ambush much to the detriment of a halftrack and its two teams that were passengers. Were. Unfortunately the terrain really prevented me from putting both guns in the battery in good position. I placed the other one toward the center to make the U.S. think twice about a center drive but in the end the thing never fired a shot. I guess it’s possible that it was in a good spot after all.

Another shot from behind the burning HT. The gun is down the road up against the railway embankment, hidden further by tall bushes. This is a cool shot, I think

But the determined and brave Americans soldier on as they swing into position and dismount in preparation to give the stalwart Germans the pointy end. You will notice a ‘Ranged In’ marker under the lead team. Due to my forward observer (not pictured) and the Staff team back with the 105’s we will automatically range in next turn. I hope it isn’t too late. At this point Kevin was really pushing me on both flanks and it would be at least another turn before I even had a 1 in 3 chance of getting a reinforcing platoon. I was thinking this was going to be a short game.

The same thing was happening on the east flank as the rifle company dismounted and entered the woods where the Schreck had decided to go. Supported by the Shermans and Mr. Jumbo, I had the collywobbles regarding this end of the battlefield as well. Note how my HMG has been deftly and expertly made useless by Kevin’s crafty use of the terrain.

 That goddamn plane! This time he does his job and the U.S. Priest battery rains hell on the good guys. While only one team is taken out, the platoon is Pinned for the upcoming Assault. Kevin perfectly executed a textbook combined arms attack this turn to Pin, then Assault my Dug-In troops. My Defensive Fire was halved and I’m pretty sure we were firing cocktail weenies at the enemy anyway. Clearly this sector is in bad shape as the U.S. can see the objective.

 Hey! That guy looks familiar.

 Back in the west sector, the results from the U.S. successful assault on my front line positions. My HMG team in the pine woods is gone, as well as several others, including the HMG team in the road, taken out by AA halftracks in a (very) brief exchange of gunfire. Kevin has turned my flank for all intents and purposes. The only other platoon in the area is the Pak40’s and they aren’t exactly easy to move. The rest of my platoon is Pinned by the Assault and, like the east sector, essentially hoping for relief. Unfortunately, the max reinforcements I can get next turn is 1 and that’s a 33% chance!

 Yay! My ranged in artillery takes out another halftrack and its remaining team. What’s worse for the Americans is that the loss forces a platoon MC, which they fail! So, the gains they made into our lines are for naught as the remaining teams feel the battle is lost and flee the field or scatter under the bombardment to the point to make them useless as a viable fighting unit. A really tough break for the U.S. forces but I’m not crying for them as my right flank in the east sector is still crumbling rapidly.

 More good luck. On my first attempt I successfully roll for a reinforcement platoon. It was a tough decision but I opt for the Heer grenadiers over the MkIV’s because they are mounted MG teams and can move at the double to quickly get into the fray. They must enter on my board end and I double move them to get to the U.S. objective as fast as possible. If you look through the trees in the upper left, you can see the objective.

That goddamn plane! Once again, he comes through and my grenadiers are pinned by the Priest bombardment. I have *got* to get some AA! (FoW players note: the trucks are in the picture for visual effect. In reality, they have been withdrawn to the rear.)

 Great shot of the action. To the right you can see my Pinned grenadiers. So close and yet so far! The previous turn, the U.S. had nearly wiped out FJ 2nd platoon. There is only one team left plus command. (Thank goodness for the pass MC’s on anything but a ‘1’ rule for these guys.) The moved near the objective and dug in. You can see them against the railway embankment. I also moved my CinC into the rail station with the ides he would be more centrally located and be able to bolster numerous platoons from that vantage point. Uh, he died. You can also see my MkIV’s east of the factory heading up the board edge. My reinforcement rolls were better than I deserved all night. Right now I am holding the objective with one team! You can see the halftrack still burning in the west sector and in the enclosed field I have brought up one of the artillery observers, possibly to lay a Smoke Barrage and force Kevin to move instead of shoot. The other observer team is in the woods next to the center pine woods. As useless as teats on a he-dog, they will soon be in Valhalla.

 MkIv’s know they’re cool.

Another shot of the lone team holding the objective from hordes of U.S. armor. I really don’t like the Jumbo.

Finally, the grenadiers get into the action! I have pulled the last FJ team back into the woods to keep that platoon intact. We’re not Dug-In but how much damage can a few vehicle do, really? We have the embankment to conceal us after all. Also note, the remnants of the 1st FJ platoon moving down the railway to support the inevitable armored tidal wave.

 Yikes! Shermans aren’t so easy as they told us in tank school!

 Gone? GONE? The whole goddamn grenadier platoon is gone! Six MG teams and they never fired a single shot! They were blown off the objective like so much sawdust! Holy Shnikes, in case you’re keeping score, we just got our asses kicked. The Shermans manage to Bail another MkIV who in return fire do nothing. Man, I can’t complain about my dice in any way, I just really wanted to kill something with a tank! You can see the last team from 2FJ hiding in the woods. They're para troopers, not stupid! Look at that goddamn plane. The Americans didn’t even need it.

Turn 6 and I sleaze a win. The remnants of FJ1 occupy the rail station and deny the U.S control of the objective. Maybe. The VC are pretty ambiguous. The U.S. definitely did not have control but we didn’t set a time limit before we started. We generally play 6 turns but never really specified beforehand. In a 6 turn game it ends up being a 5-2 German victory as Kevin lost one motorized platoon and I lost the Heer grenadiers but contested the objective. If we continued it could have been a 5-2 U.S. victory or maybe a 4-3 as I has a bead on the remaining AA halftrack with a Pak40. I also had the Kampfgruppe and the mortar platoon just entering. The latter would have been little help but the former is bad news and no mistake. Who knows? It doesn’t matter to either of us, it was the most fun I have had playing a game in quite some time. In fact, writing this up was almost as much fun as playing. I’m just amazed at the quality of pictures one can take with their phone. My list needs definite tweaking. The mortar platoon is gone for good, I can replace them with an 88 with improved crew for less points or two 88’s with inferior crews! Ba-bye mortars. I am toying with exchanging the Pak40’s for Marder II’s. Same AT rating but a 3 ROF AA MG for that goddamn plane. Dunno. Had a blast.


Hank Swager said...

Despite being new to the game you did really well. Hold the Line is really tough for the defender. I believe you made the right decision only holding one platoon in ambush. Leaving too many stands in ambush usually results in ambushing in worse positions. You did not have great shots with your pak 40s in ambush imagine trying to place 4 more guns!

Nia Parillo said...

Thanks for the kind words. Stay tuned for more reports.