Last week’s game proved to be a spanner in the works for the US juggernaut which thus far had largely ridden rough-shod over the German defenders. Winning at Cardonville was giving the Jerries a bit of hope, but the fact remains that they are still without any communication from battalion HQ whose whereabouts is unknown, and to their rear they can see a column of smoke from Isigny, although the bombardment has not recommenced.
At the start of this, the sixth game in the campaign, the German platoon defending Cardonville has been reduced by ten men. The Germans have decided to deploy their force as five teams; three with MG42s, one rifle team and one Panzershcreck team. This keeps them relatively strong in terms of firepower, but their ability to do anything aggressive, such a localised counter attack, is almost reduced to zero. As a result they have chosen to spend their six points of support on two minefields, three sections of wire and an Adjutant, thus allowing their Senior Leader to command one of the teams.
The US on the other hand have an embarrassment of riches. They have no shortage of support, having 19 points of it, selecting one Sherman, one 0.50 HMG team, one Engineer wire cutting team, one Engineer mine clearance team, a mortar Forward Observer. additional BARs for the rifle squads (a great option which gives the US squads some real punch) and a medical orderly.
An interesting point raises its head here, one that I think we should address before we cast an eye over the battle. The 29th Division are a pretty Green formation, despite being well trained. They are in their first few days of combat and historically were on a very steep learning curve. As part of the campaign design, we rejected the idea of rating these men as Green troops or reducing the number of Command Dice they roll in each phase, but at the same time we did not allow them to increase their command capability in order to deal with the additional support they were able to select. The result has been interesting to watch as the US player may well be armed to the teeth, to the point where he could be fielding forces more appropriate for “Big Chain of Command” games, but without the command capability to really capitalise on that. On the other hand, the Germans, paupers by comparison, have almost as much in the way of command capability. This makes the inexperienced US force somewhat ponderous and jerky to command, whereas the Germans are very nimble. This really is reflecting very nicely the experiences of both sides in Normandy. More on that later.
The sixth game was fought on the same “pitch” as the last, Cardonville was still the objective, but the addition of the German engineering works after the Patrol Phase made for a very different game. Early US attempts to clear the minefields was met with lots of German firepower which persuaded the Engineers that there was still some important clearance to do on Omaha beach and the covering rifle squad that they’d be better off not standing in the open.
The US player used his mortars to try to hit the brittle Germans hard, but they had ensured that their jump-off points were dispersed across a broad front in order to minimise the impact in the case of mortars being used. As it was, the yanks shot long and it took time to adjust that to become effective.
Always a good base of fire, the tank is held deep so as to protect it from any enemy Panzerschrecks. Wisely; over-exposed tanks do not fare well in Chain of Command where 12″ is just 40 yards. Their relationship with infantry is all about mutual support.
Cleverly, the US player cut off a German team with the mortar barrage and the FO was hunting this down. Moving tactically, the Germans attempted to extricate themselves…
But the appearance of the 0.50 cal saw them decide that the cover of the farmhouse might be welcome.
In the end, they were caught in the orchard, but a warning shout of “Take cover!” from the NCO saw them go tactical and avoid the worst of the bombardment.
With Scotland losing 3:1 in the Wendy Roundball match, The Traitor McKipper was running up the black flag of “No quarter”.
Now the US forces began to push up at all points. The German player was repeatedly being hit, but withdrawing into the orchards to reform, rally and then come back fighting. It was a tactic which did allow the Americans to push up, but the wire, dominating the centre of the battlefield was still holding them back. A second Engineer trying to break through the wire was routed by a re-appearing MG42 team and more men from the US squad covering them went down.
THE US tank was providing valuable support in the centre, but a Panzerschreck took out its main gun, really reducing the US ability to crush the orchards with H.E.
In the end it was the Sherman which crushed the wire and allowed the supporting squad to breakthrough. Their Sergeant was already killed, but the men ran forward to avenge him, seizing a German jump-off point.
A fresh mortar bombardment covered the US advance on the left whilst on the right a cautious advance was making ground with help from the Sherman’s MGs. Under pressure the Germans again fell back into the orchard.
With their infantry on the right poised to launch the killer blow, the US player decided to throw in the leaderless sqaud to clear the farmhouse. They were met with a hail of bullets from the OberGefreiter’s MP40 and, with the remains of the squad routing, the US force morale crashed and, on the verge of victory, the yanks withdrew.
So, a stunning victory for the Germans in a game I thought they couldn’t win in a month of Sundays. Their tactics of using the orchards as a rallying point and keeping their response mobile served them well until the wire was breached.
The US player found that the term I used at the top of this piece, “embarrassment of riches” was entirely accurate. He may we have them, but he didn’t have the command capability to use them, although if his Lieutenant had been on the table that may have been easier. This was not a game particularly lost, the US player went through the phases and built up his attacks in a considered manner; it was a game won by clever use of limited assets by the Germans and a good selection of supports which served to hold up the US advance for long enough and in a costly enough manner for their Force Morale to be reduced fairly rapidly. For the final half to third of the game the US player was coping with only four command dice, something which hampered his ability to use what resources he had in an effective manner.
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I LOVE infantry fire and movement tactics and I tend to play my games accordingly. But in this situation, with long fields of fire for the Germans to exploit, I do think there is an argument for simply rolling up the massed Shermans and, combined with the mortar battery, just shelling the Germans to oblivion.
But that is all for next time. The key success which the US player had was to cause ten casualties on the Germans. Unlike the yanks, who can recycle their platoons, the Germans are feeling the loss of men keenly. What sort of resistance they can mount in the next game with less then twenty men in total is questionable. For now, this was a bit of German last-ditch heroics for their players to enjoy.
It’s all hands to the proverbials here on Lard Island, as we are working hard on the layout for the second edition of Sharp Practice. We thought you might like to have a quick peak at what we have been up to and what the rules will look like. Here’s a quick low-res glimpse of