It's 0715 on 15 May 1940, and KG Klink, attached to the 7th Panzer Division, is on the move. The 7th Panzer Division has broken through the French front line and is on the road to Flavion, with reconnaissance elements pushing both north and south of the city in search of a way to by-pass the city, or at least find an undefended back door. North of Flavion, recce elements of KG Klink have discovered a ford over the River Moiste near a small farming hamlet; led by KG Klink's Reconnaissance Company Commander, 1st Lieutenant Wehner, the Germans quickly push across the river and secure a small bridgehead on the western bank, before sending for reinforcements. Colonel Klink, the Kampfgruppe Commander, immediately broke off a detachment of infantry and armor to reinforce Lt Wehner at the ford. But time is of the essence; French forces under Captain Cognac have spied the German bridgehead and are already forming up for a counterattack.
I am playing this game, the sixth of KG Klink's campaign during the Fall of France in 1940, with my eight-year old son, with me commanding the Germans and the boy commanding the French. We are playing the games in 10mm, a mix of Pendraken and Minifigs UK troops and equipment, on a 6' x 4' table, using Too Fat Lardies' "I Ain't Been Shot Mum," modified a bit to suit our tastes. The scenario is "Cognac and Moiste Cabbage," written by Robert Avery and published in the Lardies' Christmas 2005 Special. On a side note, Mr. Avery is now pasting my IABSM battle reports on the Vis Lardica website (https://www.vislardica.com/); I am happy for the extra exposure, and proud to be considered a contributor.
The objective of the game is possession of the ford, with possession being defined as having troops on the enemy's side of the river at the conclusion of the fight. The Germans start the game in defensive positions, with guidance being to set up a significant amount of their forces on the western (French) side of the river. The French begin the game at The Farm, in the northwest (top left), which is their marshalling area for the counterattack.
At bottom center is the onsite commander, 1st Lt Wehner, Recon Company Commander and holder of the Iron Cross, 2nd Class.
At top right is Lt Wehner's 1st Motorcycle Platoon (already dismounted). They are led by SSgt Gradl, holder of the Iron Cross 2nd Class. He has three squads:
1st Squad - SSgt Sachs
2nd Squad - Cpl Rein, a replacement squad leader.
3rd Squad - Cpl Wilhelm
At top center are two squads of the Assault Engineer Platoon:
1st Squad - Sgt Barkstrom
2nd Squad - Sgt Hafl
And center left is a Schwere Platoon consisting of:
-an MG-34 team under LCpl Steinkamp
-and two Pak-36 37mm anti-tank guns under Sgt Kallenbach
-Sgt Graebner's tank, holder of the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class, with four tank kills
-Sgt Kapp's tank
1st Squad - Sgt Lutz
2nd Squad - Lipniki
3rd Squad - Sgt Axthelm
They are riding in trucks and accompanies by a section of two 80mm mortars under LCpl Vigerte, seeing his first action of the war.
Yes, the playing cards as blinds are ugly, but I'm having a hard time coming up with an alternative as these are so simple, cheap, and effective (for play purposes, not aesthetics), and there are so many variations as to make a prettier solution tough. What I mean is, each game is different and has different forces. I'm playing with an 8-year old, so I'm trying to keep things as straightforward as possible. So I can buy pack after pack of playing cards and write directly on them what the card is: i.e., 1st Rifle Platoon (PC and 3 Squads), Weapons Plt (2 MGs and 1 Mortar), Field Gun, Char B, etc... But I can't see doing that with something that is better looking but much more expensive.
I know a lot of guys make pretty blinds and just label them as "Blind #1," then they have a roster on the side to show what troops Blind #1 is. Again, I'm trying to keep things simple for the boy, I don't want any confusion as to where he puts the blinds, what he does with them (because he thinks it's a certain unit), or what troops go on the table when the blind gets lifted. And printing off new blinds each game doesn't work either; I'm a cheapskate, and printer ink gets damn expensive! So, I apologize for the ugliness of the playing cards, but I don't see another way right now.
I am all ears if someone out there has an idea for prettier blinds that I can write the exact unit on AND change to meet the unique needs of every single game.
And now is the time to fight!
With all French blinds spotted I remove the German blinds as well, which were all dummies and serve no further purpose, which means the table should look a little prettier now that no nasty playing cards are lying around.
I spoke to the boy about this; I don't think this was the right place to put his CO, kinda isolated in the south, with a stone wall and then 75 yards of open ground ahead of them, this was not going to be the location of the decisive push, and the pin of a single squad was something the platoon's Lieutenant could easily have handled himself. The boy was worried about the platoon getting caught in the open and chewed up, so he figured that, with the platoon's card, the PC's card, and the CO's card, he was more likely to get them up to the stone wall, into hard cover, then get his CO over to another hotspot.
If they fail again they will drop their weapons and swim for it, escaping to fight another day, but hoping Colonel Klink doesn't find out about it, lest their be some summary executions for cowardice in the face of the enemy...
That was pretty damn lucky, actually, I was expecting a lot worse. Maybe the French 81mm mortar remembered it's supposed to be a 60mm mortar ;)
Very interesting. Looks like the boy was correct in getting his company commander down there to help, as they sure need it, but even so, he hasn't been able to get anything done! I can't believe I'm pretty much fighting the French to a standstill with just my infantry (the tanks just got here and haven't done anything useful yet).
With the German Weapons Platoon in the north suppressed, the boy decided to change targets for his mortar team. He knows the mortars can't hurt the tanks, but he also knows they can have a suppressive effect on them. He has belatedly come to the conclusion he needs to be a bit more aggressive in pushing east to the ford; he feels like he's got my infantry and engineers handled with his MGs, the two tanks in the center, and the field gun, plus he just got 1st Platoon back into the fight, so his plan is push forward in the center with 2nd Platoon while moving his tanks up, leapfrogging in the center and charging in the north, so his main concern right now is my tanks. He wants to keep them pinned/suppressed/confused while he pushes forward with his tanks to take them on.
Not a bad idea, we'll see how it shakes out.
All this shooting, but so far all that's been lost is one German ATG and one French rifle squad.
Which was probably a mistake, now Weapons Platoon, always a popular target of French MGs, mortars, field guns, and tanks, has no leader available to assist in rallying them back into the fight should/when they get hit again...
I've been thinking about this: I give the 37mm ATGs ZERO per cent chance of knocking out the enemy Somuas and Char Bs from the front. From 5Core, I've been letting them fire with only 1S dice each time they fire, so no chance whatever to hurt (destroy or damage) the tank, and only a 33% of pinning/suppressing it. Between the two German ATGs, they've fired probably five times at the French tank. If guns are going to get that many shots in I need to figure out some mechanism to give them a possibility of knocking the tank out. Maybe ever third of fourth round of fire I give them 1K 1S to represent those freak shots, or the aiming at vision blocks, or knocking off a track, or injuring a crewman and making it combat ineffective.
The boy is making his play, stuff is about to get interesting...
The Good Captain hasn't been particularly useful this fight, n'est pas?
That is a significant development, the pin meaning Sgt Graebner can move his vehicle out to engage the French tanks on main street, but will more than likely not get the first shot off.
Nice shooting Sgt Kallenbach! We'll count that as a kill, his second of the day!
The momentum is beginning to swing back; I've got a big challenge in the center still, even with the Somua being knocked out (he still has an entire platoon of infantry, his CO, and an H39 light tank on the road). He desperately wants to eliminate my engineers at the tollkeeper's house, then chew up my Motorcycle Platoon to their south, and I desperately need to get my tanks back into action.
And with that, Sgt Kapp's Pz IV departed the field of battle...
Holy @#$%, they can't do that!!! One round of fire at point-blank range and the German engineers are in very big trouble!!!
Sgt Graebner enthusiastically acknowledged his commander's orders, then turned and gave his own orders to the his driver. The driver pivoted the vehicle south, threw the tank into gear, and began lurching forward...
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the beauty of dice-for variable movement! I couldn't help but burst out laughing; surely my goose is cooked!
And then it happens: the boy makes his push, and the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen on a wargaming table occurs.
Rifles are fired at point blank range, then turned around and used as clubs; hand grenades are thrown, then picked up and tossed back. Knives, bayonets, pistols, brass knuckles, entrenching tools, anything to give advantage, are brandished. The NCOs and lone officer lead their men into the melee, screaming at the top of their lungs...
Capitan Cognac's scout approached the tank commander and asked about the situation. The French tank commander responded, "they are dead, all dead." "Who?" responded the Private. "The 2nd Platoon, they fell, all of them, right there," replied the tank commander. "I think we have lost. We should go, before those savages eat us, too," the tank commander said, pointing at the German engineers, battered and bloodied but still holding the tollkeeper's house.
The French private jumped onto the back deck of the little tank as it reverse course and began treading west, back to French lines, approaching Capitan Cognac. "Halt!" the French commander shrilly screamed. "Halt, we are not yet done fighting! We still have two squads from 1st Platoon, and our machine guns, and our mortar, and... you."
The H39's tank commander pointed to the southwest (top left), a shape growing larger on the horizon: "Capitan, what is that?" "It's a tank! TANKS!!! Tanks to our rear!!! RETREAT!!!" And with that, the French commander turned his vehicle north and began fleeing, away from the Germans and their tanks appearing to the southwest.
Wow, what a fight!!! At the same time, I feel terrible, my boy is shellshocked! Just kidding; he was a bit on Sunday, when we played, but's it's Monday and he's already over it. But man, that was rough! We talked about him being a bit more aggressive; his comment was 'being the attacker is kind of hard.' I couldn't help but laugh; he gets it. It's not fun having to move up and expose yourself to enemy fire in order to accomplish your mission, but it's gotta be done, and he's showing a pretty good grasp of fire and maneuver between elements. We also talked about small unit leadership, working to make sure your leaders are in the right spot at the right time to help your attack or defense succeed. I really didn't like his positioning of his CO on his far right, for a supporting effort (we talked about unity of effort and focus of effort, too), and late getting to the main effort (Somua, H39, and 2nd Platoon pushing up the road). I thought he did a good job with his supporting fires; I wouldn't have fired the mortars on the German tanks, I would have kept them on the north treeline and pounded the German Weapons Platoon into oblivion, then shifted fire to the south treeline to pound the Motorcycle Platoon. Having said that, what he did worked; the MGs, mortar (for a moment), and field gun did a good job overall in keeping the German Weapons Platoon in check, until the shifted the field gun to firing at the German tanks, too. Shifting the mortar and the field gun to the German tanks kept them out of the fight, but was probably too much, and let the German MG and one ATG back into the fight, as well.
Having said all that, I should have just kept my damn Company commander up there with the Weapons Platoon, and I had some bad luck with the tanks not activating much, and then one running away. And I would have been in more trouble if the boy would have pushed sooner in the center; we talked about the art of trying to time up the assault with appropriate suppression by supporting fires. It turns out he had the idea down, he just didn't foresee how long it was going to take his assault troops to get to the objective once the Germans were sufficiently beat up.
But it still all came down to that crazy close combat at the toll keeper's house; I was certain I was going to lose that fight, and by all accounts, I should have. I figured I was going to have to throw in the towel; my tanks cover the withdrawal, holding the French at the ford while Weapons Platoon falls back in the north and the Motorcycle Platoon has to drop all its gear and swim the river to escape. But somehow I won; the French moved up with a PC and three squads in good order. I had a PC, a suppressed squad (-2 in close combat), and a 'men down' squad (-3 in close combat). The first round of combat was atrocious for the boy, and it didn't get any better.
In the first round he had a squad match up against each of mine, and then the PCs faced off. I went -2 and -3 but managed to tie both squad vs squad fights, and then my PC beat his PC in a straight up roll! The two French squads fell back, suppressed, and their PC went down. Their 3rd Squad charged my PC and put him out, but then I beat a suppressed French squad in an even-up roll off, and I beat his fresh squad despite being -2. Then I finished off his last squad in an even-up roll off (both sides were suppressed). Incredible!
German: ~25 casualties, one PaK-36 ATG destroyed
French: ~60 casualties, one 75mm field piece destroyed, two Somua S35 tanks destroyed
Cpl Rein, 2nd Squad, 1st Motorcycle Platoon, Recon Company, KIA
SSgt Gradle, Commander, 1st Motorcycle Platoon, Recon Company, WIA - out for campaign
Sgt Hafl, 2nd Squad, Engineer Platoon, Recon Company, WIA - out for campaign
Sgt Kallenbach, ATG Section, Schwere Platoon, Schutzen Company, WIA - ambulatory
Sgt Barkstrom, 1st Squad, Engineer Platoon, Recon Company, WIA - ambulatory
-SSgt Gradle, Commander, 1st Motorcycle Platoon, Recon Company, was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class, for leading the defense of the Toll Keeper's House at the ford of the River Moiste.
-Sgt Barkstrom, 1st Squad, Engineer Platoon, Recon Company, was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, for the defense of the Toll Keeper's House at the ford of the River Moiste.
-Sgt Kallenbach, ATG Section, Schwere Platoon, Schutzen Company, was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, for destroying two enemy tanks in the defense at the ford of the River Moiste.
*Lt Wehner did not report Sgt Kapp for withdrawing his tank from the fight; Sgt Graebner told the Lieutenant he would take care of the matter.
The rules are working like a champ; the boy finally complained about the Tea Break card ("maybe we ought to take out the Tea Break card..."), but I talked to him about friction, not being able to do everything you want, when you want, and he was okay. Our 'blinds move at end of turn' house rule worked; my only complaint there, as I mentioned above, is the ugliness of my blinds, and my only answer so far is to move to get the blinds off the table as quickly as possible. My only other complaint is how long the games take; I don't want to sound like a whiner, but you have to keep in mind I play a LOT of skirmish games and small, platoon-level games where I can play three games in as many hours. Our game last week took about 3 1/2 hours and this one took about 4 1/2 hours. So I'm not complaining that they are inordinately long games, it's just that I can only take playing so many long games in a row before I get aggravated and move back to playing my small, quick games for awhile.
Having said that, we're having a lot of fun and I really want to keep this going so I can close out KG Klink's "Fall of France" episode and move on to whatever is next. I have a campaign plan, and it says next up is North Africa, but now I'm not sure. One, I never finished off my 10mm desert stuff and ended up selling it off, so I actually don't have any forces for it (I keep looking at hitting up Ros Heroics for some 6mm North Africa stuff). Two, KG Klink is largely an infantry task force, and I just don't know how to do infantry fighting in North Africa. What I've actually pondered is splitting KG Klink in two, with the tanks going to North Africa and the infantry going to Greece and then Barbarossa. Either they stay separate for the rest of the war, or maybe they meet back up at some point after North Africa; like the infantry are beat up on the Eastern Front and are pulled out for some R&R, and North Africa falls so the armor is pulled out, too, then they meet back up while refitting in France, then get rushed to Italy in response to the Allied invasion in 1943. What do you think? My issues are: 1) like I said, I don't know what to do with infantry in North Africa, and I don't want them just sitting idly by. But, 2) I also don't want KG Klink to simply go to the Eastern Front and never come out, I want them getting to a lot of different theaters, plus 3) I do want to play some games in the deserts of North Africa, I figure they'll just be armor heavy, maybe even armor exclusive.*
*As I so often do, just play a portion of a larger fight. I've thought of playing pure tank vs tank fights in the desert, actually using 3mm from Picoarmor mounted on pennies, with tanks clashing and shooting each other to pieces, racking up lots of kills, sort of like fighter pilots. Gotta get the Knight's Cross and swords and oak leaves and diamonds and stuff somehow ;)
Anyway, hopefully we've given you an entertaining battle report to enjoy, some food for thought regarding the rules, and some food for thought regarding the future of KG Klink (and go ahead and toss your thoughts my way, please). Thanks for reading, hope you liked it.