There are many aspects of the new version of I Ain’t Been Shot Mum that I am still in the process of showing the lads on Lard Island, not least of which is the new Ace ability. In our latest game I was keen to create an opportunity to see how a single tank Ace would fare in the face of some pretty hefty opposition, namely a Squadron of British Shermans. I really wanted to create a bit of a Barkmann’s Corner type game but with the British Fireflys giving them some kind of response.
The scenario was pretty simple. A Company of British infantry had advanced into the hamlet of St Colonne and had been isolated and surrounded by German Panzergrenadiers infiltrating around their position and beating off an attempt to relieve them with tanks. The British were now holed up waiting for a fresh attempt which was to come from a different direction.
Facing this new threat was Unterscharführer Gunter Mensch and his lone Panther along with Scharführer Helmut Käze and two squads of grenadiers. The latter were poorly equipped to take on tanks, having only one panzerfaust 30 with each squad, so something of a one shot weapon in this situation, unless they wanted to start strapping grenades together and really getting down and dirty!
Meanwhile a weak company of the 320 Schutzen battalion was pinning down Captain “Topper” Harris and his men of the Green Howards in St Colonne.
What made the scenario interesting was that the Shermans had to first negotiate a section of road which ran through a small ravine before they could deploy off the road.
The game began with the British advancing down the road to the point where their lead tank could be seen by Mensch in his Panther. His first round ricocheted off the turret and the lead tank crashed into reverse and withdrew. The British were now in little doubt about what they faced, but equally were aware that they had to negotiate the ravine and get into more open country before they could bring their firepower to bear in a concerted fashion. This was no time for clever tactics and Captain Beaumont ordered his Troops forward. They advanced with some style thanks to a British Armoured Bonus card but this was not enough to save them from Mensch who with two shots despatched the lead two tanks.
An Ace is rated from 1 to 3 in the rules, and this indicates how many pips he can adjust in the attack process. Mensch was a grade III Ace, the top of the tree, so he got three pips which he could add to the dice. He has three opportunities to do this, when rolling to hit, to penetrate and then for effect, but may only use three pips in the whole process. So, if he needs to add two pips to hit because he rolls badly at that stage he will only have one pip left to use in the next two stages. This makes Aces very efficient killers but, sadly for them, it doesn’t make their own tank any harder to kill, so they can’t feel invincible. This had been made VERY clear by a shot from the lead Firefly before it was brewed up with its round only just failing to penetrate and Mensch taking some Shock (think “automatic morale”) in the process.
With two Shermans burning on the road Mensch had hoped to kill a third as it attempted to pass them, thereby blocking the road. As it was he had actually assisted the British by creating a screen of black smoke that they now used to work their way into the field on their left. Mensch reacted by advancing to the bocage to engage his enemy. The British players were clearly shocked by the efficiency of this killing machine, but they were no perturbed. Lieutenant Sandy St Clair burst through a farm gate to manoeuvre onto the flank of Mensch’s Panther.
It was now that Scharführer Käze chose to reveal himself. One of the key elements of IABSM is the use of Blinds to allow for some hidden movement. If a unit is moving we place a Blind on the table, but if it is just sitting tight in terrain that provides come cover then it is not shown at all until it decides to act. And act Käze did. The single Panzerfaust 30 was sufficient to save Mensch from a flank shot on his weaker armour and only Lieutenant St Clair survived from his crew. The grenadiers now took up their positions along the bocage in a show of strength that, with only one Panzerfaust left, was more bravado than real.
The British were now really rattled. To buy time for their second troops to deploy one Sherman attempted to ram Mensch, ploughing into the bocage where the high bank stopped their progress. One German grenadier ran forward with a concentrated charge but was shot down in the process. Thus far six Shermans had fallen to Mensch and a further one to the panzerfaust. But it was not to last. A Sherman Firefly with poor visibility took a chancy shot along the angle of the hedge, but not only hit the target rolled a double 6, hitting a weak point of shell trap in the Panther’s armour. The additional strike dice rolled were sufficient to take out the German tank, with three of the crew escaping including Mensch.
Now the British got their own back. Along the bocage the SS platoon were decimated by H.E. fire from the Shermans. They missed with their final Panzerfaust and the Sergeant’s attempts to rally them and retire back into the orchard across the road came to nothing. Around him his men were simply too shocked to be able to move and died accordingly.
However it was not to be one-sided. The Wehrmacht Company that were pinning down the Green Howards in St Colonne had sent back the few Panzerfaust teams they had, and they used them to great effect. The crew of the Firefly that had taken out Mensch had their celebrations rudely interrupted when their tank was literally torn apart by a panzerfaust strike from behind. A Sherman that was attempting to break through into St Colonne was destroyed by another Panzerfaust attack made from such close quarters that the German AT team was killed in the blast. It was a bitter and gritty fight that typified the campaign around Caen.
The arrival of a platoon of StuG IIIs saw a brief exchange of fire before the British, reduced to two Shermans, retired on St Colonne. The Germans were too weak to do anything other than bottle them up there, the British too weak to break out. It was actually a great opportunity for a follow-on scenario so we left the game there, declaring a marginal German victory.
The Ace was something of a revelation to the players, what had been interesting to watch was the German players gritting their teeth whenever a Firefly got involved. Mensch’s Panther must have taken twenty hits from the normal 75mm guns and four or five from the Fireflys before it succumbed. As a result it was an incredibly tense game played with hearts in mouths. Looking at this from an historical perspective, I can really see how Barkmann managed to do what he did. Add a sprinkle of Ace magic to an already tough Panther up against Shermans that don’t have the 17 pounder and you can see how the scores were so uneven.
Not long to go now to the arrival of the rules on the 25th. We’re getting ready for our big launch game at Crisis in November so up to our ears in terrain and some rather cold looking troops. We have all of the infantry done and 90% of the armour and other stuff. Just a couple more tanks coming in the post this week but we’ll be painting them up after the launch.
As readers of Lard Island News will know, there is nothing I like more than a game with narrative; apart, that is, from a game with really good tactics AND narrative. A good story can often be heroic, sometimes amusing, sometimes poignant, but a display of good tactics when combined with a good leadership narrative