Sunday, July 13, 2014

All Americans, Part 10 (Near Naples, 4 October 1943)

All,

I'm back, albeit in a limited capacity.  Three weeks into this, wife and baby are doing well, but we're all tired and there's not much time for wargaming.  Having said that, I've been on the lookout for something to do small, quick games, and I may have found an answer in the new skirmish rules "Five Men in Normandy."  I've had them for a couple weeks now, and last night I resolved to wake up early (whilst the wife and three kids were hopefully still sleeping) and sneak upstairs to get in a game or three, which is exactly what I did.

I played the rules twice as written, then tweaked a couple things: one to speed the game up a bit, and another to make the morale system act a little more to my liking.  The first two games were okay, and the third not only went great (a sound trouncing of the Germans!), but felt right.  So, what was I doing?

I resurrected my "All Americans" campaign; not a full-blown deal, but something I already had lying around, ready to go, in order to allow me to playtest the rules.  After the three playtest games today I've decided I'd like to playtest three more games.  Today was nothing but pure infantry vs. infantry, and for my next three I'd like to go US armor vs. German infantry, German armor vs US infantry, and US armor vs German armor.  These are skirmish rules, so I'm not looking for massive, armor slugfests, I'm just taking about one vehicle against none or one vehicle.  I hope to get to that next weekend.  So, let's get back to the story.

Following the fight in Sicily, the 499th PIR readied itself again for combat, and on 14 Sept 1943 it jumped near Paestum in Italy, in support of the floundering invasion beaches at Salerno.  The regiment had a great drop, and was able to quickly form up and move into the line.  What followed was much boredom, preparing for German counterattacks that didn't materialize.  After much digging in, marching, counter-marching, and digging in again, the invasion beaches were secure enough for the 499th to begin its move on Naples.  The regiment moved out on foot, encountering very limited resistance on its way to Naples, which it entered on 1 Oct 1943.  Several days later the regiment began pushing further inland, which is where this batrep picks up.

It's 4 October 1943 and the regiment has been on the move for a couple days.  They found themselves near the town of Villa Literno, searching for river crossing over the nearby river of the same name, when they ran into German forces in strength.  German infantry and anti-tank weapons occupied nearby (fictional) Hill 113.  1st Battalion drew up plans to clear the hill, with Able and Baker companies in the assault, HQ Company (with its machine guns and mortars) in support, and Charlie Company in reserve.  Able was on the right, with Baker tacking the hill head-on and Able working its right flank, where the German position was anchored on a bombed out house.

The assault kicked off with a massive artillery barrage provided by nearby British 25-pounders, and the attack kicked off with 1st Platoon in the assault, 2nd Platoon in support, and 3rd Platoon in reserve.  3rd Platoon layed about in a defile, reading letters, smoking cigarettes, and eating C-rations, while 2nd Platoon poured fire into the house from dug-in positions.  1st Platoon left its jump-off positions at 0615, right on schedule, in a platoon wedge formation, with 1st Squad on the left, 2nd Squad leading in the center, and 3rd Squad on the right.  About 200 yards from the objective the platoon began receiving heavy fire from a machine gun in the enemy-held house, and everyone went to ground.  Lt Shepherd, SSgt Ford, and the squad leaders immediately set about kicking the troopers' asses into getting back into the fight, and squad fire and maneuver was begun.

2nd and 3rd Squads, as well as 2nd Platoon and the company machine guns and mortars, laid down fire on the house as 1st Squad bolted forward.  They hit the ground and began firing as 3rd Squad made its bound, then 2nd, as the platoon slowly worked its way forward under heavy fire.  Along the way, one of the 60mm mortars scored a perfect hit, silencing the enemy machine gun, though a handful of enemy riflemen remained.
The squad rushed continued, drawing the platoon ever closer to the objective.  Both enemy troops and paratroopers continued to fall as the fighting neared its climax; one more bound and the objective would be theirs!  As luck would have it, 2nd Squad, led by Corporal Keepers, found itself in the final assault position, and with a bellow of "Follow me!" Keepers led several members of his squad to their feet and at the enemy position.  What he didn't know was that the German platoon commander had noticed his faltering left flank and was leading a small group of men to aid their comrades in the house.

Overview of the field.  As normal, I will be playing this in 10mm (all Pendraken), and the board  is 2' x 2'.  The objective house is at center top, surrounded by craters from the arty barrage, and 2nd Squad will be entering from the bottom baseline.

The opposing forces: top, from right to left, Corporal Keepers, Cpl Everson, PFC Alston, PFC Girardo, PFC Cahill, PFC India, and Pvt Longwood.  The Germans, right to left: platoon commander (a Lieutenant), a Sergeant with an MP-40, another SMG, and three riflemen (the MG in the house is already destroyed).

Starting positions, with Everson and two riflemen at bottom right, Keepers, Alston (SMG), and two riflemen on a 'left-hook' at bottom left, three Germans near the house, and the German Lt and two more troops entering at top left.

Germans near the house (two at wall, one at top right).  The game has a mechanic called 'displacement,' so that when these guys are spotted by the Yanks a die will be rolled to determine where they really are, i.e., the current placement is only sort of a placeholder.  I placed several German casualty figures on the board to represent casualties sustained during the fighting that's occurred so far.

The German Lt (center), flanked by a SMG gunner and a rifleman.

At bottom right corner, Cpl Everson flanked by Cahill and India.

Cpl Keepers, the squad leader (silver base), with Alston (sand colored base), Girardo, and Longwood.

The game is afoot!  Right out the gate I rolled a 6 for 'firefight,' but no one has LOS to the enemy, so it's treated as a 'scurry,' where everyone gets to move without attracting reactive fire (plus there's no reactive fire on the first turn anyway).  Keepers and Alston dart left, while Longwood and Girardo move up into the woods, getting a look at the German house.

Meanwhile, Cpl Everson, Cahill, and India move into the trees in the SE (bottom right) corner, also getting a look at the German house (top center).

I roll up their displacement, no big change.  They were both behind the wall, now the rifleman is in a hole at far left and the German Sergeant is behind some bushes at far right.

Then things start to go to shit...  The Kraut Sergeant darts across the road (no reaction fire because my three guys in the woods moved last turn) and sprays the woods: he doesn't hit anyone, but he pins Cpl Everson (yellow bead), and PFC India runs!  Yes, that's why there are only two Americans in the woods...

Meanwhile, the German rifleman (far right) fires at Girardo (far left in woods), missing, then crouches down in the shellhole to hide (green bead for going prone out of LOS).

Cpl Everson (top right) is able to unpin himself, and fires at the German Sgt, driving him off, though, because he was so far across the board, his 12" flee doesn't cause him to leave the board, so he's suppressed (called 'hunker' in the rules) at top left.  It's a big deal that my guy ran off board while the German NCO is still here, able to rally and get back in the fight...

On the left, Girardo (bottom left) dashes forward out of the woods and heaves a grenade straight into the shellhole the German rifleman is cowering in.  But he's able to chuck it out, and hit explodes harmlessly (top right).

The Germans roll a 'scurry' (a 1), so the rifleman that just kicked the grenade falls back to another shellhole, while his Lt brings up help (top left).

The German Sgt (top left) recovers his suppression.  There was a German rifleman on the little knoll next to the Sgt; he darts forward into the trees at top right

Then the damned Americans roll a 'scurry' (another 1).  Cpl Everson (far right) rallies, while Cahill mounts the knoll at center, just opposite the German rifleman that moved into the woods at top left.  I'm not getting any reactive fire in the game because only guys that didn't activate during their turn can fire ("guard fire"), but I keep rolling 1's ('scurry'), so everyone is activating...

Keepers and Alston move up on far left (bottom left), while Girardo and Longwood move up as well (bottom center right).

Then the Germans roll another scurry!  This is certainly a lot more maneuver than fire, but hey, it's not the rules' fault, it's my terrible dice-rolling!

The German rifleman in the woods in the east sits tight, staring at Cahill, whilst the German Sgt is able to mov up and join him.

And the Germans on the left re-position slightly to get better angles of fire.

Finally my activation dice is something other than a '1'!  Alston (bottom center left) opens up with his Tommy Gun and hits nothing, so Keepers fires at the same target and gets a knockdown (black bead).  The knockdown will likely recover on his next activation if I can't get someone up there to touch him, which puts him out of the fight.  Most of the time you can only activate a couple guys, so it's a tough call whether to activate a man that's been knocked down (to try to make him recover), or use a guy that's in good health.

The German Sgt moves up and sprays his MP-40 in Cahill's general direction, which is good enough to make him decide to head for the hills!  That's twice the German Sgt has pulled off that little feat...

This is followed by the German Sgt's buddy moving up to Cahill's recently abandoned position and taking a shot at Cpl Everson, still in the woods.  Everson goes down like a sack of potatoes...  The Americans now have ZERO men on the right flank.

Longwood tosses a grenade at the German in the shellhole, and gets it close enough to score a knockdown.  Then Cpl Keepers decides to charge forward into the woods and finish off the other German rifleman that had suffered a knockdown.  As he's moving up the German Lt fires his pistol at Keepers, but misses.  The German rifleman is kaput (top center, with Keepers standing over the body, German Lt just to his right; Longwood is at bottom left, and you can see the white puff from his grenade).

Thing are starting to look up, right?  Negative...

This photo is looking from east to west (right to left).  With the US right flank open, the German Sgt and his rifleman move west (rifleman at bottom center, Sgt just across road behind bushes in shadow from telephone pole).  They both open up on Longwood and Girardo, trading fire with them to no effect (top center, with German Lt at top right).

Then the US rolls a '6,' for firefight.  No one can move, but all US troops with LOS to the enemy will be able to fire.  However, all enemy that survive in good order will be able to return fire.  Cpl Keepers (center) opens up first, pinning the German Lt (far right, with yellow bead).  Then Alston (far left) opens up and forces the German Lt to run!

Longwood (far left) and Girardo (to his right) both open up on the German Sgt (top right in the road), but miss.  The German Sgt and his rifleman (far bottom right behind bushes) both return fire, but both miss.

The remaining German that was knocked down gets up (top left), and the German Sgt (far right) fires at Girardo (bottom center left behind bushes), making him run!  The only good news is that Girardo was far enough 'inland' to not leave the board...

Then the US rolls another firefight, which sucks, because I needed a move to get Alston (off camera at bottom left) into LOS of the bad guys, and only Keepers (far left) and Longwood are in position to shoot (Girardo is cowering, remember?).  Keepers fires at the German rifleman in the shellhole (at right), but misses, as does the German's return fire.

Then Longwood (far left center) fires at the German Sgt again, and misses again (third time).  The German Sgt (on road) and his rifleman (bottom right) have done this twice before and missed both times, but this time their return fire puts Longwood down...

As I previously stated, a lot of times you can only activate two guys.  Well, the Germans had an SMG gunner in the house that hadn't acted in awhile, but now he decided to join the party.  He moved up (top right) next to the rifleman that just recovered from the knockdown (in the shellhole) and fired at Cpl Keepers, putting him out of the fight!

Then PFC Alston rushed up to Keepers (far left) and sprayed, causing the German rifleman (bottom right in shellhole) to run.  Girardo is the only other able-bodied American still on the table, but he's suppressed ('hunker).  I activate him and roll to rally, and he runs off.  You've got to be kidding me...

Then some strangeness occurred that I wasn't sure how to handle with the rules.  The German SMG gunner at top center opened up and got a hit on Alston (far left), achieving a knock down.  Then the German Sgt moved up (bottom right) and fired at Alston (the only American left); he achieved another knock down and got a 'flee' result.  Well, if he's knocked down, he can't rightly flee, and I'm not sure what happens is a guy with a knockdown gets another knock down.  I probably should have played him as out of the fight as well, but instead I rolled on him; he got up, and so I had him grab Cpl Keepers and high-tail it out of there.

So, the attack failed...  1st Platoon fell back under harassing fire, while the HQ Company's mortars and machine guns pounded the house.  Forty-five minutes later 3rd Platoon mounted up and took the hill, which was occupied only by two wounded Germans left behind to cover the withdrawal of their comrades.

The boys didn't do so well.  Three perfectly healthy men ran for their lives, while Keepers, Everson, and Longwood went down.  I played it that Keepers was dragged off by Alston, and that Everson managed to drag himself off, but Longwood was wounded and captured by the Germans.  I rolled on the 'out of action' table: Cpl Keepers was lightly wounded, out for 8 days.  However, for Cpl Everson the war is over; he was hit bad enough to be evacuated back to the States.  PFC Alston was recommended for another Bronze Star for saving Keepers' ass!

The Germans suffered one KIA (I didn't roll, I just count downed bad guys as KIA), and their Lieutenant that run was caught and executed (that is from a roll on a table in the rules).

I was pretty happy with the rules, though not perfectly happy.  The big problem I have is with the 'morale' system, and it's not really a problem with the rules, just a problem with the small scale of the game and table I'm using.  In the rules there's a decent chance your guy will get scared and run 12" in fear.  Well, my table is only 24 inches by 24 inches, so not  a lot of leeway.  Additionally, I feel like there should be more of a lead up to running, rather than just running away the first time a guy is shot at.  I favor a more incremental approach, i.e., hit the deck-pin-suppress-fall back, with a small but possible chance to progress through them very quickly.

Hope you liked it, I did.  What you saw in this write-up, with the lead-in explanation of the surrounding events is my intent for a campaign with these rules.  As I don't have much time, I want to play short, sharp fights with a handful of guys per side, maybe a vehicle on one of them, but representing much larger fights.  I'm not 'bath-tubbing' them, I'm simply on playing the final 50 yards of the assault, where a handful of men face off in close combat.  I'm a little concerned that it may become repetitive, but I'm hoping that I can have a suitable campaign background where I get familiar with and attached to the characters (as I've done with All Americans and In Country) so that it doesn't matter.  That brings up the other feature of the campaign: I'm not going to follow one squad through the campaign, I'm going to follow a whole rifle company.  I'm not going to follow every single soldier, only the (as the Lardies call them) "Big Men," i.e., the leadership.  So we'd be following a British rifle company, with the named characters being: 1 Company Commander, 1 Sergeant Major, 3-4 Lieutenants, 3-4 Platoon Sergeants, and 9-12 Corporals (squad leaders).  One or two of them will lead each fight, with a number of 'unnamed' rifleman (Lance Corporals and Privates).  So, as an example, the above fight could have had a Platoon Leader (leading from the front), a Squad Leader, and five 'unnamed' privates, and the next fight could have the Company Commander,  a Squad Leader, and six 'unnamed' privates.  Again, the idea being that a company assault is taking place, but we're picking up the action in the last 50 yards, after all the supporting fires and large-scale maneuvering has already occurred.  I'd really like to call it "At the Sharp End," but the Lardies already used it!  I suppose I'll go with, "The Last Fifty Yards."

Whaddaya think?

V/R,
Jack

12 comments:

  1. Welcome back Jack! It is a good writeup! I have seen the rules you are using but have resisted as I know I will only be doing skirmish gaming for a little bit before going back to larger battles and ancients.

    On your last idea, I have something similar going but slightly different. I have a British company with all the main leaders already named (down to corporal) I did back in May. What I was then going to do is follow the company through 6-8 battles likely using my own rules.. If there was something of interest that came up in the game with a section, I was going to play this out using NUTS! or similar. But then I thought "hey, never having done skirmish, maybe I should try out skirmish first." which lead to the comic NUTS! stuff. I still have the company already written down and the first battle planned but it may have to wait.

    So my short answer to you last question is to go for it, sounds like a great idea!

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  2. Very enjoyable Jack...I was very interested in what you thought of the rules as I bought them too when they came out first. Haven't tried them myself yet (goes without saying though)

    Sounds like a good idea, looking forward to whats comes next.

    Great to hear your family are doing well :)

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  3. Shaun,

    That's awesome, something about 'great minds think alike, eh? Regarding how long the games are taking, each one got quicker, with the last one taking only about 30 minutes for set up and play, so I'm really liking that.

    Panda,

    I think the rules are cool; I'm always a sucker for new/different activation mechanisms. You know, if you play small games in small places relatively quickly, I heard you might actually get some games in ;)

    V/R,
    Jack

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  4. LoL...well my 18 year old niece has arrived from Eire and she's into sci-fi (hey...don't judge Just Jack, I just know you're judging right now ;) )
    So I bought Attack Wing (Star Trek Ship Battle Gamey Thingy...its kind of intellectual ...you probably won't understand :o

    Mainly life consists of lots and lots of camping i.e. getting sun burnt, eating half cooked meat being bitten constantly by evil mosquitos and sampling the most hellish toilet facilities this planet has to offer. Repeat until completely insane and disillusioned with life. No you should try it Jack...it really works.

    Some gaming with the afore mentioned Trekie game (I never actually watched Star Trek but I'm tempted after playing this game...its actually really really good game

    I'll have to check out the rules and inspect that activation mech you mentioned.

    All the best
    John

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  5. John,

    No thanks man, I had enough of 'camping' in the Marine Corps. Though I'm sure I'll end up doing it as my kids get older. Where are you camping? You mentioned mosquitoes; I lived in Alaska for 7 years, and mosquitoes were horrendous during the summertime.

    Regarding the Star Trek/Judge Dredd, I'm not gonna make fun of ya buddy. It's not my thing, whatever floats your boat *cough*DORK!*cough* Just kidding; I can remember watching Star Trek every week as a kid with my Old Man. And my older boy loves Star Wars, so that Star Wars X-Wing game seems like something I should look into at some point.

    Anyway, don't let the bears get ya!

    V/R,
    Jack

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    1. when I was on the cruise last year, We got in 3 games of X-Wing. I nearly bought it as soon as I got back. It is a great game. A friend recently gave me his Wings of War (the WW1 game that X-Wing/Attack Wing derives from) so I may use that rather than buy more stuff. My son (6 yesterday) wanders around the house singing the Star Wars theme all the time (from watching Lego Stars Wars and New Hope); me, I am more of a Star Trek original series guy. Tempted to pick up Attack Wing just cause it is Trek except I am not *that* much into it. I think X wing would be great with the kids.

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    2. Shaun,

      So it sounds like X-Wing is something I definitely need to look into. The older of my boys will be 5 next month, and sounds just like your boy regarding humming Star Wars' theme songs and playing Lego Star Wars.

      I've also been buying him these "Mega Block Call of Duty" figures, which are sort of like Legos, but they're these little military figures that are kind of cool. He plays with them quite a bit, and I think I can add some simple rules (guys move 6", roll a dice to shoot, hitting on 4+) and work on getting him hooked. It won't be hard, he loves military stuff, says he's going to be a Marine!

      V/R,
      Jack

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    3. I have done the odd simple game every now and then with my 5 year old son (now 6 as of Friday) and 7 year old daughter. Mostly simple Warhammer Quest (that I was given recently) and something similar. So while it has die based with modifiers, I find playing with rolling a few dice and 5,6s are hits seems to be grasped better. I am going to try out my daughter with Songs of Blades and Heroes soon (I have some Mage Knight figures a friend game me) - I think she shoudl get it. They are happy to play games and we normally get in 30 minutes of so most nights but with my "new" job, I have not really felt like it for the last 5-6 weeks. But I am less stressed and so should be getting back into it. Simple is fun and I tend to just make it up as I go and we all seem to have a good time! I may even writeup one of the WarHammerQuest games - the narrative it generates is fantastic.

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    4. I haven't really tried any gaming with my daughter, she hasn't really seemed interested, though she did like the look of some 28mm Pulp Figures we were looking at on the internet once.

      Simple is indeed best, especially these days, and I'd love to see you write up some of the games with your kids.

      V/R,
      Jack

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  6. Well we're camping all across Alberta's various lake/beach areas (I don't have a pool like you posh rich Texans) Buffalo Lake last weekend and moving into BC and the mountains soon. Yes bear country!

    I'm actually more of a Star Wars guy myself and I have x-wing but I've really found the Star Trek one has a lot more tactical dimensions to it. Same base rules as X-Wing but some extra rules that really make a difference. I also came across some house rules that IMO are absolutely genius and make the game far more tactical.

    Being a huge Patrick O'Brien fan I also bought the Sails of Glory Napoleonic age of sails game but just played it once with a pal but found it very slow and finicky (lots of counters and book keeping)

    If you're lad likes x-wing then you should invest in it some time...it is enjoyable; quick to pick up...

    Dork? If that's an Americanism for never having grown up then that's certainly me :) My wife gave birth to only four but she certainly has five kids to look after

    Bears? ... bring em on...I'm still faster than anyone of my kids :)

    Take care Jack

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  7. Cheers! Five Men author here.

    Looks like a pretty intense game!

    For a very small table, you might amend the "Bail" result to be "Find cover at least 6" away, up to 12".

    That might prevent your dudes from legging it straight off the table a bit :).


    As far as knock downs go, I'll update the rules but being knocked down will over ride any Shock results. repeat knock downs have no impact either.
    This means the only real benefit of firing on the guy is to try and get a 6, which means you're generally better off trying something else.

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  8. Panda, I've only been across the far northwest portion of Canada, beautiful country, but I'll pass on the winters. I'll have to check out X-wing at some point, and that's interesting regarding Age of Sails, because I thought it looked kinda cool. I've always wanted to do some gaming with wooden, sailing ships.

    Ivan, That's what I figured regarding knockdowns, thanks.

    V/R,
    Jack

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