The Last Ditch at Osmanville – Campaign Turn Eight
So, six games in and the Germans, as we saw in our last resort, had held Cardonville for a second time, despite the odds against them. Of course, with the 175th having overwhelming strength in the campaign and the Germans having no source of reinforcements open to them (at least none they wished to take), this left the valiant defenders facing even greater odds for the next game. In the end common sense prevailed and the German players decided that they would use the option of a planned withdrawal which At the Sharp End, the campaign handbook, allow. That meant they didn’t have to fight the next game, but the US player still took one campaign turn to occupy the ground. This also saved the Germans from any unpleasant campaign morale effects if they lost the game.
All of which meant we moved on to Turn 8 in the campaign and the final battleground at Osmanville. This location, just a mile from the bridge at Isigny, was the last ditch German defences with the site being the former headquarters of their Regiment. This would allow them a decent amount of support to reflect whatever kit being left in the area being assembled there. From a campaign perspective this was a VERY interesting point to be at. If the US player won the game tonight he would capture the bridge at Isigny and win a narrow victory; the Germans having held out for long enough to withdraw the bulk of their forces in the area to behind the Aure. However, the Regimental commander, “Pop” Goode, was not happy. He was insisting that there be a delay to allow the artillery to come up from the beach to support the attack. If that happened the Germans would be handed victory on a plate. Fortunately the US player got on the radio to “Dutch” Cota, the Divisional 2iC, and he arrived to tear “Pop” off a strip and get things moving. Nearly a campaign loss without a fight!
On the German side things had taken a turn for the better, with contact regained with their HQ, now in Carentan. The platoon commander, recommended for an Iron Cross 1st Class received notification that this award had been increased to the German Cross in Gold (thanks to some VRY jammy dice rolling on the awards table). More importantly, they had also been givin the updated withdrawal schedule for German forces crossing the Aure to safety. They now knew that, if they won tonight, their little force would be the only Germans this side of the river and they could elect to blow the bridge and claim a victory, albeit one which saw them go into captivity. If they won this game and the next, they too could withdraw to safety, blowing the bridge behind them. They were set firmly on a win for the Fatherland and then laying down their arms to spend the rest of the war in a POW camp. So, tonight’s game would see a winner, one way or the other.
I must apologise here that the photos have not been tidied up as I normally do; I am heading off for a few days away from the office, so this was done in a degree of haste.
The table shows the environs of Osmanville. As we had done previously with the campaign games, the players had pre-selected their supports so we turned up ready to play. The game began with the patrol phase as usual. The US players pushed aggressively forward with just three patrol markers and got a good initial roll, which allowed them to eat up some ground.
Probing forward with Scouts, intent on clearing the minefield and dragging a jump-off point forward, the Yanks began to work their way up in a methodical fashion. Chain of Command is all about constructing your attack by playing through the phases and incrementally placing yourself in a strong position before launching the attack. Placing all your toys on the table and charging forward is a sure route to disaster. The US player handled this stage very well, although tormented by a German sniper who obliged them to advance with caution using dead ground.
The US player very successfully deployed his men forward, a team at a time, a tank coming on to provide a base of fire and covering the Engineers as they advanced towards the minefield.
The US player then advanced a jump-off point into the house itself and brought up the 0.50 calibre HMG to form a base of fire.
Despite an ambush by a German LMG team, the Engineers succeeded in immediately clearing the minefield (possibly just upturned dinner plates deployed to trick the Americans), opening a route forward. The German sniper team had worked its way round to try to take out the Engineers, but the speed of their work and a hail of bullets put an end to their plans.
With the house secured and crammed with troops, the US player began probing ahead again. The Germans deployed into the orchard to protect their jump-off point, but the yanks looked to outflank them.
Appearing on the flank, a dug in German LMG team wounded the US Sergeant and drove back the squad into the garden of the Mairie. Casualties were high, but they should have been worse. Ambushing a target in the open with an MG42 at close quarters should have been a major blow, but some terrible dice (a theme for the evening for the Germans) saw them clearly jam the MG. As it was just six men were left from the full squad, so bad enough, but not a disaster and not sufficient to hit the force morale.
The Sherman manoeuvered to get a shot at the ambushers…
…but the arrival of a Panzerschreck team saw it crash into reverse and head for safety. However, a round of HE on the German dug in position and the attentions of the O.50 cal in the house were just enough to rout the ambushers off the table with their Leader. Morale fell in the German camp.
Now the US player brought in a barrage onto the German HQ. Remarkably, the only unit in there was the platoon commander. He died as an 81mm shell exploded outside the French windows and a hail of shrapnel and broken glass cut him down. The Germans were, again, suffering from some very unlucky dice and their force morale tumbled further.
The US commander was aware that the Germans, now down to three Command Dice, probably still had troops not yet deployed to the fight. But clearly their numbers would be limited. As a result the plan was t put pressure on the Germans at all points. They could, he reasoned, halt the advance at one point, but not everywhere.
In the centre and on the left, the US forces advanced, leaning on a creeping barrage provided by their mortars. (Funnily enough, I am just working on a Great War version of the rules for the Christmas Special and watching this advance was very reminiscent of that).
On the right, the Americans rushed forward to seize the only jump-off point outside the barrage. If they could shut that down they could then capture it at their leisure.
The Germans were obliged to respond, deploying a tripod mounted MG42 to that area and ambushing with a Chain of Command dice. The yanks loct a few men before they were into close combat, but that went badly for them and the defeated men were reduced to a huddle on the road.
But, again, the US player had done his spade work. The 0.50 cal was on Overwatch to cover the attack and it thumped out its response. The German MMG was reduced to two me, with four points of Shock. They broke, as did German Force Morale, and the tanks rolled down the road into Isigny to seize the bridge. At the end of the day it had been a narrow victory for the yanks, but still a victory.
So ends the campaign. Both sides fought a good fight and to get eight turns in, seven games in total, and have a situation where both sides could still win made it all the more fun. Again, the rules proved that it isn’t about killing your enemy, but reducing his will to fight by destroying his morale. The German players made the key error of not bringing their own mortar FOO with them, as the Yanks crammed into the house could have been very badly mauled by that. Sadly Oscar never got to receive his German Cross in Gold as he died in the old HQ building. What remained of his platoon went into the bag. I was surprised that the Germans didn’t make use of the Hiwis to bulk out their ranks in this, the final game, impressing these former Soviet POWs into their ranks would have dented their force morale slightly, but they’d have got a more robust force out of it. Small teams may well have reasonable firepower, but they are also very brittle. Equally, I have been surprised that the Yanks didn’t make more use of tanks throughout the campaign. I think the early experience with 88mm guns and Marders on the flank taught them to keep those elements protected by the infantry and to use their mortars to shoot in a traditional infantry attack. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
All in all, we had a fun seven weeks of gaming. The duration of the Pint Sized campaigns is designed to keep everyone interested and aware that the end is not too far away. At worst, the campaign could have lasted one more week. What I do know is that I shall miss 29 Let’s Go! Its been great fun.