Saturday, May 19, 2018

Blood & Guts, Tunisia, Fight #3

All,

It's now 1100 on 2 April 1943, two days after the squad's last firefight.  The American column continued pushing northeast, when once again the lead elements spotted movement up ahead in a (presumed) enemy-held village.  Sgt Cherry's squad got the call: they rushed forward, climbing a ridge to the southwest of the village, then took up an observation post approximately 900 yards from the center of town.  Squinting through his field glasses, sweat stinging his eyes, Sgt Cherry glassed the village slowly from west to east.  Twenty minutes passed with only shadows and blurs suggesting problems, until finally his eye was drawn to a desert-colored patch of unnaturally straight lines.  He lowered the binoculars, wiped his eyes, gave them a few seconds to re-focus, before again raising the glasses.  "There you are," he muttered to himself.  "Cpl Petry, run back to the Lootenant and tell him the Germans have a tank on the east end of the village."

Cpl Petry took off and reported back to his platoon leader: the next two hours were filled with runners furiously moving back and forth, responding to questions from their superior officers: how many tanks were there?  What kind of tank was it?  Where exactly is the tank?  Which direction is the tank facing?  Are there any tanks to the southeast?  The north?  The northeast?  How about he southwest?

By 1330 the constant shuttle of runners had drawn attention to Sgt Cherry's position; a machine gun opened up from the village, keeping the Americans' heads down, and the German tank pivoted and began slowly rolling towards their observation post.  Sgt Cherry and his squad quickly beat feet back to the platoon, a mile to their rear, where an American tank platoon of five brand-spanking new M4 Shermans had arrived.

It was April 1943 and the Americans still had much to learn about the ways of war: the American tank platoon commander, 2nd Lt Barker, was wracked by nerves and indecision.  Should I move my platoon forward aggressively?  What if it's a trap?  Should I flank?  What if we run into a minefield?  He made his decision, turning to his Platoon Sergeant: "Sergeant Smith, you are in command of the platoon.  I am taking my vehicle forward in order to determine the enemy's true strength and dispositions."  "Sir, I don't know if that's such a great idea."  "Tut, tut, Sergeant, I'll be right back.  And if I'm not, give them hell!"

And with that, Lt Barker hopped aboard his tank, plugged into the intercom, and ordered his driver forward.

Overview, north is up.  The village of Al Egheila (fictional, of course) is strewn across the map, with various hills, knolls, and escarpments.  The ground is dry and rocky with a hardball road running east and west, with an off-shoot heading north.  Sgt Cherry's squad/Observation Post is off camera to bottom center left.  Lt Barker's vehicle is at bottom left, the sole German vehicle at top right.

This is our first game of Too Fat Lardies' new "What a Tanker."  I'm handling the Sherman and the Boy General is handling the Panzer 4.  We started with just one tank per side so we could get a handle on how the rules work.

Lt Barker's M-4 Sherman, moving up the road.  His tank platoon had arrived in Morocco in M-3 Grants, but somehow when limited amounts of M-4 Shermans began showing up, his company was one of the first to receive them.

Cpl Stichle's Panzer 4.  A veteran of the campaigns in Poland and France, the canny tank commander has spotted movement to the southwest and is cautiously nosing forward to determine the threat.

Both sides are expecting trouble, so both commanders maneuver their vehicles forward and then off the road to their right (US at bottom left, just right of the building, German at top center right, just right of the hill).

Both sides seek the high ground in order to maximize observation and lanes of fire.  The American (bottom center left) gets up on the first level of a nearby hill, but can't really see anything to the northeast due to the second level of the hill, while the German has moved atop the hill at center top and cunningly pulled into the cover and concealment of some nearby scrub, making him more difficult to see and hit.

Looking west (bottom) to east (top), Lt Barker rolls his vehicle forward of the second contour (bottom right), but the German has already dropped down into the lee of the hill (far left).

Looking south (bottom) to north (top), the greenhorn American Lieutenant acts a bit too aggressively.  He pushes his tank down the embankment and up to a nearby Arab building (left), as the German Corporal nudges his vehicle forward (top center).

"Target, 100 meters, armor piercing!"  "Up!" "Fire!"  The German's long 75mm gun roars and Cpl Stichle watches the tracer as the round strikes the front glacis of the Sherman and ricochets off!  "Reverse!"

The German vehicle pulls back and reloads (center top left) as Lt Barker's gunner and loader point and chuckle about the wet spot that just appeared on the Lieutenant's pants (bottom right).  "Driver, up!"

The American tank rolls forward to point-blank range, lurches to a halt, and fires!

The 75mm round misses, throwing up a massive shower of dust and smoke.  The American crew is working like a well-oiled machine: they quickly reload and fire again!

This time the round strike the front hull of the German panzer, but it fails to penetrate!  The German crew is shook up and their driver backs them up.

Just then Cpl Stichle regains his senses: the crew reloads and he orders the driver forward again.  They reacquire the American and the gunner mashes the trigger... "Misfire!!!" (snake eyes)  The German crew frantically works to dislodge the 75mm round lodged in the barrel.

The American Lieutenant is confident; his gunner has already struck the enemy tank twice, and he can clearly see that something is wrong with the Kraut tank.  His driver rolls forward slowly as the loader slams a fresh round in the chamber and again the Sherman's gun roars...

But it's a third non-penetrating hit, serving only to further shake up the German crew (losing more command dice).  Somehow, despite the barrage of fire they've been subjected to, Cpl Stichle is able to get his crew to clear the tube, reload, reacquire, aim, and fire again, but again they bounce a round off the Sherman's front armor!!!

Lt Barker moves his tank left, and the Sherman bounces a fourth shot off the armor of the Panzer IV.

And the Germans return the favor.  The round doesn't penetrate but severely disorients the Yank crew (-2 command dice).

Another shot by the Sherman and another hit...

But again it's non-penetrating and the German backs out.  This was key as the American had another shot to take, but lost aim when the German was forced to back out.

The German commander, Cpl Stichle, has been incredibly adept at keeping his crew rallied and in the fight (the boy has rolled an incredible amount of 6s, allowing him plenty of aim/reload//shoot, but also 'buying back' lost command dice).  The German commander pushes his tank forward, flanking the American!

The German opens fire at less than 50 yards, and their aim is true...

But still the round does not penetrate!  Having said that, the American crew is a shambles (down to only two command dice after sustaining this hit).

Lt Barker desperately screams at his driver to make all speed towards the cover of a nearby hill.

But the American crew is too discombobulated and barely makes it halfway, while the veteran German commander easily swings his tank around directly behind the stricken Sherman.

The panzer's 75mm gun roars...

And Lt Barker's tank is destroyed in a catastrophic explosion that send the turret fifty feet into the air, before coming to rest with a massive 'thud' next to the hull.  There's no way anyone could have survived that mess...

Cpl Stichle, victorious but a bit shaken after experiencing five enemy rounds bounce off his tank, turns back east to make his report on the American probe and rejoin his platoon.

"Dammit," exclaimed SSG Smith, the Tank Plt's Platoon Sergeant, about half a mile to the west, "the Lootenat's tank just dropped off the net, I can't raise them."  "Sarge, you heard all that shootin', I bet they bought it."  "Shut up Bosley!  Listen up boys, here's what we're gonna do.  The Lootenat went straight in, but we're gonna hook around to the left and see what we can see.  I got the lead, everybody follow me."  With that, the four remaining tanks of the platoon pivoted and headed off to the northeast, skirting Al Egheila and setting the stage for the next tank fight, though along the way Snow's tank developed some sort of mechanical issue.  SSG Smith wasn't sure what the deal is; SGT Snow has seemed a bit pensive about heading into combat, hopefully this was a mechanical issue and not a 'mechanical issue.'

Anyway, that was a good bit of fun and we feel like we have a good understanding of the rules, just need to play some more games.  I love the activation system, very much like Chain of Command, lots of fun and lots of friction.  My only issue with the game was the lack of lethality: the American fired six times at (what I would gauge to be) 100 yards or less, scoring five hits, but didn't penetrate even once, costing the German tank two 'back-ups' and the temporary loss of a quite a few command dice (that the boy was great about buying back).  The German fired five times at 100 yards or less, scoring four non-penetrating hits, with one of them being a flank shot, and only killed the American tank with it's fifth shot, a shot on its rear armor.

I suppose that brings up my only other gripe: if you hit an enemy tank but don't penetrate, you may force the target to fall back.  Despite the fact the target moved straight back and is still in your line of sight, you now have lost your 'aim' and thus may not be able to fire again (this happened to me in the game), even though you just slammed a round into him and he only moved about fifteen yards, still in your field of vision and within fifteen degrees of your last shot.  I might house-rule that.

Anyway, the poor, overly-aggressive Lieutenant is gone, SSG Smith has taken over leadership of my attached tank platoon, with his first fight coming right up.

V/R,
Jack

6 comments:

  1. I wonder if the seemingly low lethality is to make up for the hit chances?

    Real life, it took a surprising amount of ammunition to knock out a tank, but maybe they figured people would complain if they kept missing, so you hit a lot for no effect instead?

    I'm speculating tho', I don't have a copy of the rules (yet!)

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    1. Yeah, not sure, but it seems more like they wanted a lite, quick game that had WWII feel, which is fine with me, and in this case the WWII 'feel' is having different penetration and armor values as if the engagement is at 1500 yards rather than 100.

      Like I said, my only real complaint was that I've got tanks practically on top of each other, say 50 yards or less in real life, and they're steady bouncing rounds off each other. It just seems to defeat the whole purpose of closing with the enemy, particularly something like a Tiger, if the concept is that the only way a Sherman can kill it is to get on the flank AND point blank range.

      We'll see, maybe it's not an issue, or maybe we just add a house rule that if your barrel is almost touching the enemy tank you get +2 penetration dice.

      The biggest piece of this is learning new rules, which I'm terrible at, always forgetting little things (i.e., +1 penetration dice if you hit a tank that is unbuttoned), I'm so used to 5Core...

      Based on Joe Legan's games, I also just bought "Combat Patrol," which is in the mail.

      V/R,
      Jack

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  2. Thanks Jack, that was really interesting. That was quite bold handling of that Sherman...

    I was struck by the same thing as you - that is a serious lack of lethality at 100yds - 9 non-penetrating rounds?! With the WRG rules that I normally use, the odds of that happening would be astronomical - were the dice rolls particularly odd?

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    1. John,

      No doubt the Sherman commander was a bit overly aggressive ;) But hey, I was just working on learning the rules and felt like pressing things to see how it worked out.

      Yeah, as I mentioned above, I think the rules are designed to give a certain 'feel' rather than a nuts and bolts simulation (hell, I think the Lardies said that themselves somewhere), and they are definitely fun. And no, the die rolls didn't stand out as exorbitantly bad or anything; he'd roll seven penetration dice, score three or four hits, I'd roll six save dice, score two or three saves, ricochet!

      Later on, in the last What a Tanker report, I actually changed the writeup; that is, according to the mechanics, the shot hit and bounced, caused some shock on the crew. I changed it in the narrative to say the shot didn't hit, but hit close by, enough to shock the crew. Seems more realistic, if you can live with it. It's more akin to rolling and hitting your target, then rolling penetration vs saves and finding out you actually didn't hit your target, which is a little goofy, but so far I can live with hit.

      V/R,
      Jack

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  3. Hello Jack
    The crew were "discombobulated"? Did your son teach you that word :-)

    From the battle reports of "What a Tanker" I have a similar felling - a great fun WW2-feel game with a great activation system but lots of non-penetrating hits. Regardless, it seemed like a great time was had and your son has managed a win against you (although he dd have a veteran crew which I assume gave him an advantage).

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    1. Yeah, I’ll have to do a better job of quality control ;)

      The game is a good time, just chalk the non-penetrating hits up as misses that were close enough to effect the crew and it’s fine.

      And he beat me fair and square; I called them a veteran crew but did not give them any advantage in the game.

      V/R,
      Jack

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