Saturday, May 19, 2018

Blood & Guts, Tunisia, Fight #1


It's 0930 on 28 March 1943 and action is imminent.  Having landed in Morocco back in November, the GIs of 1st Squad are rearin' for action.  Or they were, at least, until their platoon leader, Lt Pelluer, came by with orders that almost assured the squad would finally see the elephant.  Now in Tunisia, chasing an as-yet unbeaten German army on the run.  The Germans were running north, for Tunis, but had already turned back several times to viciously swat the combined British and American armies in the west.  The GIs huddled up, most of them nervously staring at the dirt, as the Lieutenant briefed their squad leader, SGT Cherry:

"Men, we're halted because our lead elements suspect trouble.  The vehicles have pulled back but are keeping an eye on things, and we need you to scout up ahead and see what's what.  There's a bombed out A-rab village up there, which the armored cars say has some Krauts a-runnin' around.  If ya move quick, they'll probably haul ass back outta there.  That's what they've mostly been doin' every time we've spotted them.  Mostly."

Overview, north is up, US troops will enter from the west (left), Germans in the east (right).  There's a gravel road running east-west across the bottom-center of the field, a canal running north-south at center, above the road, and a few bombed out buildings in the east.  Other than that, it's dunes, some scattered brush, and a few trees.  The American goal is to evict the Germans from the field of battle, the Germans are looking to either stop the Yanks cold, or at least put some casualties on them and fall back, largely intact.

The opposing forces, US on right and Germans on left.  All troops are 15mm from Battlefront.

The Americans, the entire 12-man squad up to bat.  The squad leader and assistant squad leader have Thompson submachine guns, there is a single BAR man, and the other nine guys have rifles (though one is designated the grenadier, with rifle grenades).

The Germans, with an MG-42 machine gun team (gunner and assistant), a Corporal with an MP-40, and four riflemen.

A lay the Americans out at left, with a base of fire element at far left center, and a double-envelopment (top center left and bottom center left).  I lay the Germans out with blinds and hidden locations, then flip them over.  The Germans are in three elements, and wouldn't you know it, but they somehow all ended up in buildings...  The German MG team is at top right, a pair of riflemen is at center right, and the last two riflemen and their Corporal are at bottom right.

Looking west to east at the US deployment: at left, Cpl Hackett leads Privates Jones, McGovern, and Graham.  At center is the BAR man, PFC Burress, flanked by his assistant, Pvt Baldinger, and the grenadier, Pvt Porter.  At right, Sgt Cherry is ushering forward Privates Lowery, Saxon, Eatman, and Petry.

A closer look at the base of fire element (bottom center) and Cpl Hackett's left hook (top left).

And then the right hook, led by Sgt Cherry.

In the southeast, on the German far left, are two riflemen and the German Corporal.

And the German center (bottom center), occupied by two riflemen, and the German right (top right), held down by their MG-42.  It really sucks that all the Germans ended up emplaced, I was really hoping some of them would have been caught moving in the open.

In any case, the Yanks have crossed the line of departure and have jumped off into the attack...

SGT Cherry's right hook (top left) has immediately been identified by the German MG team (bottom right) as the most dangerous part of the American attack, and so the gun roars to life, spitting 1200 rounds per minute at the green GIs.

The fire immediately pins SGT Cherry (center right) and PVT Petry (bottom left).

As soon as the machine gun (off camera to right) opens up on SGT Cherry and his boys (top left) the German left flank (bottom center) adds their rifles to the fight as well.

PVT Saxon dives for cover, suppressed (red bead), as Lowery goes down!

Eatman, the only Yank on the right not hit, pinned, or suppressed (bottom center left, no beads) raises up and bangs away with his Garand...

Forcing one of the German riflemen down (white bead at bottom center), while the enemy Corporal and the other riflemen shift fire, opening up on Cpl Hackett's left hook (top left).

Cpl Hackett and his men (bottom left) halt and return fire, forcing the German Corporal down.

The German center adds their rifles to the fire on Cpl Hackett's left hook, forcing Pvt Graham down (white bead).

The German center (bottom center) and US center (top center, with Cpl Hackett's guys at top right) exchange fire fairly harmlessly...

Until Pvt Porter decides to fire a rifle grenade at the German MG position.

The grenade slams into the ruined wall, suppressing the gunner and pinning the assistant!

PFC Burress gets his BAR going in the US center...

With the BAR going (bottom left), Cpl Hackett is able to get the left hook moving again, though they end up leaving behind Graham  (white bead at far left), unsure of whether he's hit or just cowering in fear.

Speaking of cowering in fear: over on the US right, one would expect Sgt Cherry to get up and display some leadership, get the right hook rallied and back in the fight.  But even though the grenadier has got the German MG team hunkered down, the good Sergeant is unable to find his marbles, so he curls up next to Saxon, suppressed (two red beads), while German fire from the southeast continues to pour in, forcing Eatman down (white bead, with Petry pinned right behind him).

The German assistant gunner (bottom center), though pinned, spots Cpl Hackett (top right) and his men moving up their right flank.  He opens fire, suppressing the American Corporal.  The American BAR team (off camera to top center) continues to engage the German center (far left), suppressing them and forcing them to fall back.

On the American right, Pvt Petry (bottom center) is pinned down, but pissed!  He pops up and unloads a clip on the German house on the right (top right)...

Dropping a German rifleman!  The German left flank is now in serious trouble as one rifleman is down, and the other two men have been forced down, so are unable to get back into the fight until a comrade moves into base contact with them and checks/rallies them, which is quite the tall order given how the fact both the German center and right are in a bad way right now, and there is a tremendous amount of open ground for a comrade to cross in order to help out.

The US and German center positions continue to trade fire ineffectively...

Until the Germans finally get their MG-42 (bottom right) back into action.  They turn the gun on the US BAR team (top left)...

And the weight of fire is enough to persuade Pvt Baldinger, the Mafiaso son that just wants to get back to NYC in one piece, to skedaddle (far left, from center)!  "Damn coward!" PFC Burress spits, continuing to spray rounds from his BAR back at the enemy.  "I hope this don't last too much longer, that bastard ran off with most of our ammo!  We'd better slow down a bit."

A lull in the action sees the German center and right make some progress in getting their guys rallied back into fighting shape.

While on the US right, Pvt Petry grabs Eatman (bottom left)...

And drags him up to cover as Sgt Cherry and Pvt Saxon continue to cower nearby.

"Hey Burr, we gotta do something about Graham, we can't just leave him out there.  Cover me!"  And with that, PFC Burress popped up and cut loose with his BAR (bottom left) while Pvt Porter dashed out to help Graham (top left).

And on the left, Cpl Hackett and his boys got moving up to the canal, putting some pressure on the Germans.

Who put their machine gun (bottom right, with Cpl Hackett just visible at top right) to good use keeping Sgt Cherry and the right hook pinned down.

The US center continues trading blows with the German center...

But the right hook just can't seem to get itself in gear...

And Sgt Cherry nearly breaks and runs!

On the US left, McGovern (top left) lays down covering fire as Cpl Hackett and Jones hop into the canal, continuing to push forward.

While in the center, Porter is finally able to get Graham (top left) back in the fight, just as the German machine gun turns on Burress and pins him down.

But Cpl Hackett and Jones (bottom left) engage the German MG-42 (top right) at close range; they don't cause any harm, but it's enough to make him shift fire, and he's unable to do any harm either as they're in pretty decent cover.

Which is enough of a letup to allow Burress got get the BAR back in action; he unloads on the German center house, suppressing the two German riflemen there...

Then driving them back, out of the house!

Cpl Hackett, Jones, and McGovern (bottom left) continue to shoot it out at close range with the German machine gun...

But, predictably, coming out on the short end of the stick, with McGovern being forced down (white bead) and Cpl Hackett and Jones both suppressed in the canal (red beads).

But then a miracle happens!  Okay, maybe not a miracle; the German left has already been shot to pieces (one man down, the other two curled up in the fetal position with no way for help to get to them), and the BAR has the two riflemen in the center suppressed behind the house.

While Cpl Hackett and his boys (top center) are being chewed up by the enemy machine gun (top right), Pvt Petry (bottom center), part of Sgt Cherry's broken down right hook, pops his head up, sights in, and squeezes the trigger...

Dropping the German machine gunner!!!  That's Pvt Petry's second kill of the game, the only two the Yanks have scored.

And with that, the sound of gunfire chokes to a halt and an eerie silence creeps over the battlefield as the five remaining German soldiers withdraw to the east to survive and fight again another day.

On the US right, Pvt Petry gathers Saxon and Eatman: "Dammit, Lowery's hit bad, we gotta get him outta here!  Why don't you fellas grab him and get him back to the aid station?"

The 18-year old Bostonian then turned on the still cowering Sgt Cherry and let rip up one side and down the other: "You dirty, mother#$%^ing coward!  You coulda got all of us killed you @#$%ing piece of @#$% @#%^!!!  I can't believe your mutha let you @#$% your @#$%ing @#$%, you disgusting @#$% of a @#$%!!!"

Five minutes later, the kid Private had finally worn himself out and just sat, staring at the Sergeant, who couldn't find a single word to respond.

Meanwhile, the rest of the squad cautiously moved up, securing the bombed out village.

And accomplishing their mission.

No one was decorated for bravery, but Petry proved himself a sharpshooter and a natural leader, and a feisty one at that!  The Lieutenant promptly promoted him to PFC on the spot, and there was also a tip of the hat to Pvt Porter for his coolness under fire, popping the rifle grenade on the German MG position, then rushing out into the line of fire to help Pvt Graham.  And it wasn't long before the Lieutenant heard tales of Sgt Cherry's cowardice under fire; he made a beeline to the squad leader, who got another five-minute long ass-chewing for his lack of intestinal fortitude.  Then the Lieutenant went and snatched up Pvt Baldinger and had him thrown in the brig for ten days for abandoning his post under fire.  The Lieutenant informed the squad Pvt Lowery was going to be okay: he was hit in the abdomen and would be out for about a month, but he was expected to return to full duty.

Hope you had a good time.



  1. Great write-up, thanks very much for posting.

    I was interested in the mechanics of what happened to Sgt Cherry. He was suppressed by the German MG fire, which seems fair enough, but then did he fail a motivation roll of some sort when the MG was silenced briefly?

    1. John,

      If I recall correctly, the opening MG burst suppressed him, a buddy moved up to help rally him but failed, he tried to self rally but failed, he finally successfully self rallied, then another burst of fire suppressed him again.

      He was an utter non-factor during the game, through no fault of his own, but I figured I'd turn it into an issue in the narrative, just for a bit of fun and character.


  2. Also, what were the odds of the shots on the two actual hits that the US achieved?

    1. Pretty slim. I think I was giving riflemen firing 1S (meaning the target would be pinned on a 1 or suppressed a on 6), the BAR was getting 2S, but then if I was 'bundling' them up for some group fire I would add 1K dice into the mix.

      So, if a single rifleman was firing at a German in hard cover, I'd roll 1S. If a rifleman and a BAR, or maybe three riflemen, I'd roll 1K 3S.

      So the hits were pretty doggone lucky!


  3. Hello Jack

    So I have found to time to read at least the first one, and a good read it was too. A nice small introduction To the campaign. I love these small battles. I am not sure how they managed to defeat a MG emplaced in a building but I am sure it was legit :-) Poor Cherry was hard done by the dice, it was not his fault!

    1. Shaun,

      Glad you had time to sit down and read, thanks for the comment, I know you're busy! Small battles is where it's at, buddy, but you know all about that! Hell, you showed me! There was nothing wrong with how they dug that MG out, quit being a sour puss! Regarding Sgt Cherry, only time will tell...


  4. Jack,

    A quick question for you - roughly what area does the table in this scenario represent?

    1. John,

      I’d say 100 yds x 75 yds, maybe even 75 x 50. Conceptually in these types of games (deliberate/hasty attack/defense vice a surprise encounter) the fight has started between 800 and 400 yards out. Whatever supporting fires (air, arty, mortars) and the defender’s response has already taken place, the company/platoon has jumped off, machine guns are doing their long range work, the company/platoon attack has devolved into lower level fire and maneuver, and we’re picking up the action where that lucky squad tasked with the close assault is moving on the objective.

      From my standpoint, it’s very good for what it’s designed to do. Are there weaknesses/things that are unrealistic? Absolutely. I’m following a squad of dog faces through WW2: We are not taking every single action to the tabletop: I’m not playing that time the squad was on a road march behind friendly lines and was strafed by an Me109, or the time they had settled into night laager and were submitted to an short but intense artillery barrage, or the time the company launched an attack but was hit by mortars as they crossed the starting line and fell back, it the time the attack went in but the squad I’m following wasn’t the assault element, they were in reserve or supporting by fire.

      So I suppose if I really wanted to follow a squad through WW2 I’d ‘play’ all those scenarios as well, but it doesn’t seem all that fun to me. The biggest failing of the system I can see is that all those scenarios, and even the time between the jump off and where I pick up the action, are times in real life that the squad could be taking casualties, and the way I play, they’re not, because the only thing ‘real’ in their little world is what actually happens on the table top.

      I’ve actually thought about conducting dice rolls prior to each table top game to try and figure out who became casualties on the way in, but that led me to the non- table top affiliated strafings and barrages, then I started thinking about non-battle casualties and long term illness/disease, and I scrapped it. Just couldn’t bear the thought of one of my little heroes being whacked or sent home because of a Messerschmitt strafing a landing craft or contracting malaria.

      Sorry, off topic a bit, but wanted to provide context for why I do (or don’t) do what I do.


  5. Jay,

    I used Ivan Sorensen's "Five Men in Normandy" skirmish rules.