Saturday, 22 February 2014

Chain of Command Campaign turn 2 - Bloody Maltot indeed!

Mission 2 represented the attempt by 12 Platoon to push through the German Forward Defence Line, and takes place early next the morning following the previous patrol action. Victory conditions are simple, to win the British have to get a squad to the German base line, which will make the position untenable and force the Germans to withdraw to their main defence positions in the village itself.

The terrain was pretty daunting, with a lot of cornfields to cover before reaching the road which formed the outpost line.

The British problem was mainly the total lack of cover between their starting positions and the hedgeline. Luckily Gilchrist had a plan.  He would push the main part of the platoon forward quickly to flank the left hedgeline under Sgt Taylor, while he lead the remaining squad to keep the Germans busy.  (Tip - Plans are actually really important in CoC, just running around trying to react to circumstances doesn't work very well as you can never be sure when your next activation will be, so make a plan and either stick to it or fall back and come back another day)

Gilchrist had in support a pre arranged barrage, a extra 2" mortar team, and the Bttn Adjutant helping the Platoon to the Start Line. On the other side Platzer and his understrength platoon are holding the hedge line near the road to Maltot, and have some prepared positions and wire, plus some sporadic long range support fire from Tigers on the crest of Hill 112 to the rear of Maltot.

It started very well, with Gilchrist pushing his patrol \ jump off markers forward so he had an entry point near the hedge - in fact he only had about 15 inches of ground to cover to claim the win.

Meanwhile the young Lt moved forward cautiously a little ahead of his troops to recce the line of advance (I rolled too many 4s and wasnt going to waste them!)

The lead squads pushed forward under cover of the barrage, and it looked like this could be another bloodless victory, then it went all wrong. The barrage ended (Bloody Germans threw three sixes on their five dice!), and the lead squad walked into a German defensive position.

Caught in the open at close range they were cut to ribbons by deadly MG42 fire, and more German positions opened up across 12 Platoon's front. Gilchrist called forward a squad and tried to help by giving some support fire, but all his squad managed was to wound the already injured Unteroffizer Bub - who was carried to the rear. This left Platzer with a problem as his left flank squad (British right) now had no-one to direct them, so he spent the rest of the battle sprinting between them and the central position trying to keep them in order. On the British left there was chaos, with the few survivors os one squad retreating and a second in disorder.
Gilchrist was seriously considering calling a voluntary withdrawal (which would have meant returning to the Patrol Action stage) when he was  struck by an MG42 bullet scything through the corn, and died instantly (lump in throat).

Sgt Taylor was forward and managed to stabilise the situation at the hedge row, rallying the shaken survivors and bringing the platoon 2" mortars into action to blind the nearest MG42. He them had the two corporals direct the remaining Bren guns to carefully target the nearest German Infantry. Out in the field the remaining squad tried to give support around where Gilchrist had fallen, but the weight of fire was too much and they were driven back with more casualties. Platzer was getting very concerned about his squad facing the British at the hedge. Although they had caused grievous casualties they were still outnumbered, and they were themselves now taking casualties from very accurate Bren fire (The Brits have a special rule that allows the Bren team to concentrate fire if directed by an NCO, and with both Corporals stood over the guns this was really starting to hurt) The German sections MG42 was still unable to fire as it was blinded by smoke. The accumulation of shock and casualties caused the remaining infantry on that flank to withdraw, leaving the way to the baseline open. Taylor rallied his troops and pushed them forward, snatching a hard won and expensive victory from the jaws of defeat.

As they stopped to reorganise 12 Platoon is looking very battered. Six KIA and three seriously wounded in addition to their dead leader. Sgt Taylor has taken command of the Platoon, but there is no-one to replace him  as senior NCO. The Battalion CO is pleased with Taylor's performance in rallying the platoon and pushing on to their objective, and Taylor has been recommended to be  Mention in Dispatches - in fact the Colonel is so impressed he has decided to push for an MM!, however it is too early to tell if anything will actually be granted.

Platzer has again been forced out of his position, and his standing with the CO is deteriorating a little more. The men are however very pleased, knowing that they gave the Tommies a good beating and only suffering a couple of dead themselves, plus Bub now sent back to the Regimental Aid Post. Platzer remains content with his performance.

So the next game is 12 Platoon fighting at the main defence line. They have some more support (7 points) while Platzer has only 3, and now the fight has moved into the village the Tigers can no longer pick out targets. On the plus side he will have more defensive positions OR a Chain Of Command dice at his disposal, and his troops are now confident enough in his ability to get a bonus on Force Morale. Both sides are short an NCO, and there will need to be some reorganisation before the next attack goes in. Platzer will have to do without Bub for one mission, and 12 Platoon now have lost the luxury of the platoon Sergeant, plus a third of their riflemen.

Both sides have reinforcements available, but as both are one time events neither side is willing to call on them yet. On the British side the campaign allows 12 Platoon to be taken out of the line (taking no further part) and 16 Platoon put in fresh in their place. On the German side there are some replacements available from 12th SS, but their numbers are few. With at least three more battles to fight both sides are trying to get along without calling on their reserves.  

Sunday, 16 February 2014

We have started to play a Chain of Command Campaign, taken straight from the "At the Sharp End" Campaign book just published by TFL. The campaign covers a British infantry attack on the village of Maltot, at the foot of the much contested Hill 112 over the period 21-22 July 1944.

Our first scenario was a really interesting game, with me playing the rather concerned Lt Gilchrist, and his opponent Feldwebel Platzer by Paul. All the figures are Valiant Miniatures in their much debated 1:72 \ 25mm scale, terrain is from Hartlepool Wargames Club's collection, plus some of our own 

Lt Gilchrist and 12 Platoon fought a patrol action against Willi Platzer and his platoon as the light faded in the cornfields between Eterville and Maltot. As the whole table was covered in corn up to waist high we decided to treat this as light cover, which was handy as the only other cover was a few low hedges and fences that marked field boundaries. Sadly we were devoid of suitable terrain to represent cornfields - so the table looks a bit bare. Memo to self - need cornfields
Gilchrist brought 12 Plt and an extra 2" mortar team,
Platzer had a sniper allocated to him.

Gilchrist got the better of the patrol \ deployment phase and set up a pretty good ambush \ crossfire,

Only to have this cancelled by a very timely "turn end" result - damn, must be the fading light! This allowed the Germans to deploy and advance unmolested
Foiled in the initial plan, the Brits did manage however to combine the fire of several Bren guns onto the leading German Squad, which suffered some casualties.
Sgt Taylor and his squad were manoeuvring to try and flank the German position using copious amounts of 2" smoke.
Feldwebel Platzer made the decision to withdraw his patrol before he suffered more serious casualties.

Final result was a British win.12 Platoon suffered no casualties, which has slightly improved Gilchrist's standing with both his men and his CO, and as he settles down to sleep tonight his own personal outlook has moved from "Thoughtful" to "Content"

Back in Maltot, Platzer is counting the cost. Two men dead, plus four wounded, mainly from 3rd Squad, who got caught in the corn by a crossfire of Bren guns, although two, including Unteroffizer Bub from 2nd squad will be back in action in the morning, The others have been sent to the Aid Post further back in the village. Bub is sitting in his dugout telling tall stories to his mates with a bandaged arm - he will be sore in the morning but a couple of inches to the right....

There is also a Landser from 3rd Squad unaccounted for, lost in the confusion as the Platoon fell back. As for Platzer himself, the Bttn CO is not as yet worried, although Wili knows this could change, His standing with his troops has improved slightly because they value an officer with the common sense to quit when things are starting to go wrong, so on the whole he remains "Content" in his outlook too. 

Turn Two has yet to be arranged, but it will be Gilchrist and 12 Platoon probing the outpost line held by Platzer and his men at Lieu de la France, a walled farm.Gilchrist has some good support options, Platzer has less but has the advantage of defending and some prepared positions.

The campaign format is really interesting. Paul (Platzer) withdrew before his platoon took too many casualties, where in a "normal" game we would have ground on and the game may have been different, I think this was a very good decision as he gets very few replacements and heavy losses early in the campaign will seriously damage his chances.