Sunday, August 18, 2013

Another Go at Skirmish, this time with Armor

    I managed to get another game in this morning.  I was eager to do this as I feel I've got the infantry rules right and I wanted to test the armor rules.  Bottom line up front, I think it was a success, though limited in scope by the scenario. So I plan on at least two more test games.  In this one the Germans had armor and walked into an anti-tank ambush.  Next I plan on me having armor as the Brits attack a prepared position, and then I'd like to do a game with armor vs armor.  That's my plan.

    So, once again we find British infantry fighting Germans in the Caen-area circa summer 1944.  This time the Brits have been tipped by aerial reconnaissance that a small column of German armor is probing up the road, and the Brits have prepared accordingly.
    Here is the setup and forces:
 Overall view, with Brits on the left and Germans on the right.  In the center at top is a Brit Rifle Group (RG, NCO, Sten, 2 riflemen) w/PIAT team attached.  In the center just below the road is a Brit  Bren Group (BG, NCO, Bren team, 2 riflemen).  On the far left, atop the wooded hills, is a 6-pdr anti-tank gun (ATG) w/4 man crew, a Platoon Sergeant, a two-man Vickers MG team, and a 2" mortar.  To the right, on the road, you can see our unsuspecting foe in three vehicles.  A Sdkfz 222 armored car is in the lead, followed by a PzMk V "Panther," with a Sdkfz 251 half-track carrying two crew and eight infantry.  The infantry are broken into an Assault Group (NCO, MP40, 2 riflemen) and a Fire Group (NCO, MG-42 LMG team, 1 rifleman).
 View from behind British positions.  BG on left, ATG, Vickers, Plt Sgt, and 2" mortar in rear, and RG on right.  German vehicles on the road.
 RG w/attached PIAT team (first two figures on right).
 ATG front left, Plt Sgt in middle with 2" mortar behind him, two-man Vickers on right.
 Bren Group.
 German armored car (A/C), Panther, and half-track (H/T).  The Panther is a Takara prepaint w/a Pendraken vehicle commander, while the A/C and H/T are Pendraken (with my poor paintjobs...).
 German AG (left) and FG (right).

Turn 1: I started wiht all forces on the table and all cards on the deck (even the German infantry as I planned for them to dismount automatically as soon as the shooting started).  I figured a Brit card would come out first, and I would initiate the ambush with the ATG right were everything was set up, but instead a German card came out.  I counted it as the A/C's activation, moving it and the other two vehicles up, but not counting the other two vehicles as having been activated.  In my mind this simply represented the stalwart Brits as being even more patient than I expected.
    Next up was a Brit card, and so the game is on.  The 6-pdr activated and promptly bounced an armor piercing round right off the Panther's front glacis.  All three vehicles screech to a stop, and the Panzer Grenadiers immediately dismounted (AG to the right, FG to the left).  I tested to see if the Germans saw where the AT round came from and, of course, they did.  Of course, next card out is German so the Panther sends a high-velocity 75mm round the ATGs way, but only pinned two crewmen.
    A Brit card came out and my plan was to move the PIAT up slightly to get a flank-shot on the Panther; I was little scared at how easily the round was bounced by the Panther.  If that sounds funny, please keep in mind that the ATG couldn't be more than 75 yards away from the tank.  In any case, my PIAT's going to be the hero; got the NCO right there to make sure he's properly motivated and, of course, he felt that order wasn't the proper course of action at this particular juncture...  A German card comes out and the H/T rushes up to the left of the Panther and sprays the ATG position to no effect (2 hits, 2 saves).  The Vickers promptly lays into the H/T, and manages a mobility kill.  The crew promptly bails to the left.
    The AG MP-40 and a rifleman moved into the treeline to the right, pinning the RG Sten, while the PIAT asst fails, and the rest of the RG rifles fire, pinning the AG MP-40.  Then the 2" mortar tries to drop a high-explosive (HE) round on the German FG (still behind the disabled H/T), but misses right.  One of the BG rifles tosses a grenade at the A/C, but it's not even close.  So then the RG NCO gets a wild hair up his butt and decides he's going to mount the A/C, try to pry the hatch open, and drop a grenade inside, tactically a terrible idea to split the NCO off for such a mission, leaving the RG leaderless.  But two things were on my mind: 1) I wanted to try out the mechanic to 'close assault' a vehicle 'Hollywood' style (I'm starting to fancy these games as a recreation of the "Sergeant Rock" comic book), and 2) in 'real life' when you read about these types of heroics, it's usually an NCO or officer that did it, i.e., leading by example as opposed to ordering one of his men to go up there.  The RG NCO managed to pass the command roll and successfully mount the A/C, but couldn't get the damned hatch open!  Now I'm feeling pretty foolish because 1) he's dreadfully exposed on top of that A/C, which means 2) the RG is likely about to become permanently leaderless.  To make matters worse, the German LMG team, seeing an opportunity, sprints right to the treeline in order to assist in the building up of forces opposite the leaderless RG.  The last AG rifleman took a shot at the RG NCO, somehow missing, then darted into the treeline to the right.
    The two H/T crewman move up on the left and pin the Bren A-gunner, followed by the FG NCO and FG rifleman.  The Bren comes alive and kills one of the H/T crewmen, while BG NCO and rifleman fail their command rolls.  Turn's over, and I'm not happy.  The ambush was sprung, but only knocked out the H/T, I've got my left side losing an apparent arms rice, my ATG has a couple pins, and one of my three NCOs is mounted like the Statue of Liberty atop the armored car, just daring someone to shoot him...
 Situation from behind Brit lines.
 The situation from behind the German lines.  The red bead behind the H/T denotes the mobility kill.  You can see BG A-gunner (top left) pinned, and RG Sten (top right) pinned, while the AG MP-40 across from him (bottom right) is pinned.  The AG and LMG (I know, the LMG should be on the left with their NCO, but the Germans are exercising their tactical initiative and flexibility in order to maximize their best use of firepower at the appropriate point) are on the right, while the FG NCO and 1 rifle is on the left with the remaining H/T crewman.
 Alright, who wants first shot at the RG NCO?

Turn 2: Germans up first, so the Panther decides to sit tight, allowing it to use its bow MG to spray the RG NCO (1 hit, 1 save, no effect!) and pop another main gun round at the ATG (1 pin, 1 kill).  On the left the German LMG pins the PIAT assistant, and then a Brit card comes out. Surely the RG NCO will get the hatch open this turn (needs a 3+ on 1D6); wrong!  And so he's stuck up there for another whole turn.  Fire is exchanged between the BG and German FG with H/T crewman (FG from here on out), resulting in death of the Bren A-gunner and the FG NCO being pinned.
    I'm pretty worried about my left side, with the RG NCO still stuck atop the A/C.  I decide to give the 2" mortar another try with HE, this time on the treeline opposite the RG, and whammo, did he come through for me!  The mortar round (which is really pretty small) pinned both members of the LMG team and killed a rifleman next to them.  I get a string of cards that allows me to walk right down the line of RG (w/PIAT team), and some excellent command rolling gets everyone activated (including unpinning the Sten and PIAT asst, without the help of the NCO).  Not everyone; I held back the PIAT gunner as the Panther was still sitting there.  Despite the good command rolling, all their shooting was crappy until the Sten kills the LMG gunner.  Then the Vickers rakes the treeline, killing the AG MP-40 and pinning the AG NCO, though he unpins himself.
    Here's my favorite part: the ATG, with the help of the Plt Sgt, unpins and blasts the Panther again, registering four hits on six dice, of which the Panther was only able to save two.  I roll up the damage chart and, KABOOM!  The surviving crew bail and head for the hills.  With the Panther done in, I activated the PIAT and he shot the LMG A-gunner, putting him out of the fight.  One of the German riflemen took another shot at the RG NCO, still atop the A/C, one hit, one save, no effect.  Clearly leading a charmed life.
    On the right not much else happens other than the FG NCO unpins himself and pins the Bren gunner.
 Situation at end of Turn 2.  The Panther is aflame, the H/T is immobilized, RG NCO is still riding the A/C, and the German right has been decimated by British fire.
 The Brit left, with RG NCO playing rodeo (still).
 The Brit AT/MG position.  That 2" mortar really did me a solid in Turn 2.
 From the Bren Group's position.

Turn 3: Brits up first, and I'm going for it with RG NCO.  I'll be damned if he didn't get that hatch open, drop in a grenade, and sit on the hatch smoking a pipe.  BAM! One crewman dead, one pinned (I need to check real life, but I only gave the A/C two crew).  With that, the Germans collectively took a hard swallow, looked around, and all it took was for one of them to stand up before the whole group was on its feet with their hands raised.
The aftermath.  A/C put out of commission by the daring actions of a young Sergeant, the Panther smoked by the 6-pdr, and the H/T ventilated by .303 machine gun slugs from a water-cooled Vickers.

    It was a quick game (about 20 minutes to devise the scenario and set up, and an hour and ten minutes to play, with a couple breaks to help the wife/kids), and a lot of gun.  I realize it probably looks pretty lop-sided, but it certainly didn't feel that way, at least until the mortar and machine gun tore a new a$$ in the German force in the treeline.  That feeling of dread even includes the Panther being popped; as strong as the Germans were in that treeline, I was worried that, even with the Panther KO'ed, the fight would devolve into a stalemate.

    I was happy with this very limited usage of the vehicle rules.  As I stated previously, I need at least a couple more tests of the vehicle rules, but this was a good start to look at varying AT capability vs. armor saves, and I was satisfied.  For those wondering, I gave the German A/C crew a very small chance (5+) to eject the RG NCO from their vehicle, though I did't allow them to move or shoot while he was up there, which might not have been fair.  I need to think a bit on if there might be a better way to handle that.


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