Tuesday, November 1, 2011

AAR FOW Desert Rats vs Grenadierkompanie

Location:  Essington Catholic Church
Players:    Phil Gardocki, British 7th Armor (Desert Rats)
                    Bruce Barlow (Grenadierkompanie)
Games: Flames of War 1750 points

This was an impromptu game as I was set up for an Early War, and Bruce only had Late War.  So we hurriedly drew up lists from scratch.  I created a 7th Armor list as Bruce had all the Cromwells required for the list.  Bruce drew up a German List.
                Desert Rats
                                Command group of 3 Cromwells
                                3 Tank Platoons of 3 Cromwells, and 1 Firefly
                                1 Recon Platoon of Stuarts
                                2 Batteries of 25 pounders
                                Infantry Command
                                3 Infantry Platoons
                                1 Battery of 105mm howitzers
                                1 Battery of 4 Sturmgeschutz’s
                                1 Platoon of PAK 40’s (75mm guns)
                                1 Platoon of FLAK 38’s on trucks
                                2 MG Platoons ??

The Board:
                5 by 8 feet, with 6 hills, and 2 woods.  Pieces were evenly distributed, the larger pieces were about 6” by 12”, the smaller about 4” by 8”.  No piece was closer than 8 inches from any edge of the board. 
                On the British Side, just forward of the deployment zone, from Left to Right.  Small hill, 8” gap, Small Hill, 8” gap, small Woods.
                From the German, just forward of the deployment zone,  side Right to Left, Large Woods, 8” gap, small Hill, 12” gap Large Hill. 
                2 Small hills were positioned about a foot apart, just right and left of the center of the board. 

Mission was “Free For All.”  Each side placed 2 objective markers about 20” from the center line.  Victory would be determined by who could take and hold one of their opponent’s objective.

British: British was deployed weighted left, having started with 2 Tank and the Recon Platoons left of center.  The third Platoon on the centerline, and the command teams just right of center.  Both 25 pounder batteries were placed behind one hill, left of center, but were large enough to spill out into the gap.

German:  The German deployment was somewhat more balanced.  With several infantry platoons around both objectives, the STG Battery supported the left objective, and the PAK Platoon supporting the right.  A platoon of Quad 20mm guns on trucks was placed centerline as a mobile reserve.  The battery of 105’s were behind a hill to the far right, but with a 72” bombardment range, could support efforts anywhere on the board.

Opening moves:
Being more mobile, I started shifting my units from a weighted left, to 100% Left.  I set my first task to take out the STG’s, focusing the full weight of my armor upon them.  My opponent spent his first turn digging in most of his troops.

This is where I made my first NOOB mistake.  I was prepared (somewhat) for an Early War game, where the tank weapons had a range 24”, not realizing that the range for all the major weapons in Late War was 32”.  I would pay the price for this, as my opponent scored first blood by nailing a Cromwell with long range shots from his PAK 40’s.  But I would take advantage of this new found range and focused all my tanks upon his STG Battery.

---Several rounds later---

“Why am I losing this exchange?”  I outnumbered the STG’s 3-1 and have artillery support, but now one of my Platoons has left the field, another was at half strength, and a third had a tank popped.  Meanwhile his 4 STG’s were smugly still defending their objective, through cannon, shot, and smoke.  Occasionally one of the crew would get out, touch up the paint, and get back in.

Bruce replied, “I have better armor.”
“By one!”, I retorted.
“And I have better firepower.”
“Also by one, and my Fireflys that are better still.”

While this was going on, my opponent was working a couple of Infantry Squads through the large woods on my left flank, and started double timing another Infantry Squad on the far right.  The force in the woods created some breathing room for his company, by forcing my tanks away from the woods edge, and thus present a more concentrated force for his 105’s to pummel.  The right flank squad was trying to take possession of objective which I abandoned. 

My artillery was raining steady fire on the German leftmost objective, slowly attriting the infantry there.  I was learning the advantages of being dug in.  As a NOOB, I thought “Dug In” was just another + 1 on the to-hit table, taking the Veterans there from 4, to a 5, with another + for “Gone to Ground.”  But “Dug In” also means an additional firepower check must be made as well to kill a squad.  And since my 25 Pounders have a Firepower of 5, that means only 1/3 of my hits that didn’t save, generate a kill*. 

With this in mind, I brought up my last uncommitted unit, the Recon Platoon of Stuarts.  12 more machineguns on the objective couldn’t hurt**.  It was a bonus that they were nearly flank to flank with the STG’s, and gave Bruce a difficult choice.  If he shoots at the Stuarts, then he might lose the impetus he had against my Cromwells.  If he doesn’t shoot them, their additional firepower may actually pop the defenders around the objective.

In the end, he decided to split the difference, and split his shots verses the Stuarts and Cromwells.  As a Recon unit, the Stuarts could make a skill check to Retire during the shooting phase, which they failed.  Then they must make a motivation check after they are hit, or make a forced withdrawal and reorganization losing a turn.  This they passed. And thus stood in place with one bailed tank.

On the right, I peeled off 3 Cromwells, the Commander, the 2IC, plus one other  to shoot up the flanking German Infantry Squad.  While I was doing this, he brought up his remaining mobile reserve, the FLAK 38’s.  I found a sweet spot where I could shoot them but still be 33 inches from the PAK 40’s.  Another NOOB mistake.  The PAK 40’s could move 2 inches, forcing a trade of a Cromwell for the FLAK 38 battery.  The British Command Tank then traded shots, and called in the 25 pounders onto the PAK’s, killing one.  Then retired from the zone, leaving the PAK’s pointing at empty space. 

Having taken enough pounding from my 25 pounders, the German 105’s decided to give the British a lesson in counterbattery, and in two turns destroyed half of the British Artillery.  The 25 pounders decided to stay on target, and picked off another PAK 40, which failed morale and retired. 

It was here I looked at my Arsenal list and noted that Cromwells were listed as “Light Tank” and “Semi Indirect Fire.”  Another NOOB mistake, not knowing the capabilities of my troops.  Suddenly my Cromwells were moving 16”, and when firing at ranges of 16-32”, rerolling misses!  I managed to knock out one STG, then two more.  The remaining STG was tripled bailed, but still refused to leave the field.  My Stuarts repositioned to the woods and generously hosed the German Infantry squads down with MG fire.  The Infantry pulled back out of sight, only to have the Stuarts run around the woods, and MG them some more. 

Like any good fight, this one looked dire to the end.  One of the Cromwell platoons was run off, a battery of 25 pounders destroyed, and the remaining platoons all damaged to some degree.  But many German Platoons were wrecked as well.  The German Company was only 1 platoon away from company morale check.  I closed in on the objective defended by that dug in Veteran Infantry Squad and called on the Recon “Eyes and Ears” rule, which lifted the “Gone to Ground” state of the defenders, which will effectively double the number of hits on them, at that point Bruce surrendered. 

Lessons Learned:
                I suddenly love Cromwells.  Yes they don’t match the Germans in firepower or armor, but make up for it with long range fire and movement.  This allows them to concentrate their fire easily. 
                I keep forgetting “Double Time”  There were many times it would have been useful.  Especially when the Cromwells could have moved 32” in a turn.
                Being Dug In matters.  Forcing another die roll to be killed can reduce your casualties by 50-83%.  Certainly worth more than getting that first shot in.

*It seems like the odds of an actual kill is 1/6 x 2/6 x 2/6, or 1 in 54. I’m surprised I killed as much as I did to that platoon.

** But in retrospect, with odds of 1 in 108, 1/6 x 2/6 x 1/6, this was not a good risk.


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