Thursday, April 30, 2015

KG Klink, France, Game 3


It's 0730 on 14 May 1940, and 7th Panzer Division has crossed the Meuse River and defeated a French counterattack on the bridgehead.  Seeking to outflank French forces in the area, the division begins to flow around the village of Haut le-Wastia.  As part of the southern prong, Kampfgruppe Klink's Panzer Company is leading elements of the 25th Panzer Regiment when they encounter elements of the French 25th Tank Battalion, 2nd Demi-Brigade, and elements of the 37th Tank Battalion, 1st Demi-Brigade, both of the 1st French Armored Division (1DCR) in the French countryside.

The KG is on a road march, with the Armored Reconnaissance Company in the lead.  Luck is with the French as the German recce elements speed along the road south, and the French armor arrives on the scene, catching the German Panzer Company still on the road.

The opposing forces.  This is the first time I played a game of 5Core Company Command without command stands; I didn't like it, and shan't be doing it again.  Those command stands are worth their weight in gold in terms of keeping their force in fighting shape (i.e., rallying pinned/hunkered/man down units).

The Germans:
Pz Co Commander: Captain Bohm (Pz IVD)

3rd Panzer Platoon - SSgt Friessler (Pz IIIF) 
Vehicle Two - Sgt Fittzbaum (Pz IIIF)
Vehicle Three - Sgt Emmerich (Pz IIIF)
Vehicle Four - Cpl Otjen (Pz IIIE) 
Vehicle Five - Cpl Krisnel (Pz IIIE)

4th Panzer Platoon - SSgt Mangold (Pz IVC) 
Vehicle Two -  Sgt Jurgens (Pz IVD) 
Vehicle Three - Sgt Graebner, holder of the Iron Cross (Pz IVD) 
Vehicle Four -  Sgt Kapp (Pz IVC)
Vehicle Five - Cpl Progen (Pz IVC)

Panzerjaeger Platoon -Sgt Dittrich (PzJgr I)
2nd Anti-Tank Vehicle - Sgt Taube (PzJgr I)
3rd Anti-Tank Vehicle - Cpl Hamburg (PzJgr I)

The French force: 3 Char Bis, 3 H39s.  The Char B's will be very hard to take down, with no German gun able to penetrate them from the front (all Germans will fire with 0K 1S at front, 1K 1S at flank/rear).

Overview, north is up.  Germans are on the road at right, travelling south, while the French have an H39 and two Char Bs in the southwest (bottom left) and two H39s and one Char B in the northwest (top left).

Germans on the march: 3rd Pz Plt in the lead (bottom right), followed by the Pz Co CO, the PzJgr Plt, and 4th Pz Plt.

French in the northwest (top left).

French in the southwest (bottom left).

It's time for my now normal opposed die roll to see who gets the first activation: the German luck holds.  The Germans not only win and get first activation, their first activation is a scurry, which will not allow them to fire, but it allows the entire force to get off the road and turn west.  But it gets better: the French are behind hills and thus do not have LOS to the Germans, so the French don't get to react move, and when they activate to come over/around the hills, the Germans will get to use react (Guard) fire.

In narrative form: travelling south on their road march 'round the French right flank, the KG's Panzer Company is moving with all haste when Captain Bohm notices dust clouds to the west, then catches a fleeting glimpse of French armor advancing upon the German column: "Achtung!  All stations, enemy tanks to the west, all units deploy!"

3rd Pz Plt gets off the road in the south.

The German center, with CO at top left and PzJgr taking up covered/hull-down positions east of the road (bottom right).

The German right (north), 4th Pz Plt.  Three vehicles take up firing positions whilst two, including Sgt Graebner's Vehicle 3 (blue bead) launching themselves towards the enemy.

For those that don't recall, Sgt Graebner was the hero of the last fight, eliminating two enemy rifle squads and destroying two enemy tanks, thus receiving the Iron Cross 2nd Class.

The French roll up a normal activation.

The first French lumbering beast (Char B, bottom left) crawls up the hill and fires at SSgt Mangold's Pz IV (top right), missing, as does Mangold's return fire.

The other Char B in the south (bottom left) moves up and fires at Sgt Taube's PzJgr I (top right, white smoke) and hits.  Taube's vehicle is immobilized, but the crew stays.

The final Char B (in the north, top left) rumbles forward and firs on Captain Bohm's Pz IV (bottom right).  The round is just short, but Bohm's vehicle falls back and hunkers (red bead, from where the white puff is).

The Germans are in a bad way, with the only way to kill the French heavy tanks being to get on their flanks, but the French are tucked away nicely on the table edge, protecting their flanks.  But SSgt Friessler, leader of 3rd Pz Plt (bottom right) moves forward and takes a shot at the southern most Char B (top left), and his aim is true!

The French vehicle is immobilized, but the crew finds the courage to remain with the vehicle.  They are, however, hunkered until they can be rallied.

Sgt Graebner, chasing his Iron Cross 1st Class (bottom right), dashes forward, exposing his own flank (to the Char B at top right) to take a flank shot on the Char B at top left.

KLANG!  The round strikes, but ricochets off...

Forcing the Char B to fall back and hunker (red bead).

Remember, there are no command stands, so the only way to rally units is to 1) spend an activation point (never popular), or 2) move another unit into base contact.  In the south the French have two Char Bs that are hunkered, no command stand to help rally, and only one H39 to move into base contact to help the hunkering crews to rally.  As I said, I will be using command stands in my armor-only games in the future...

Sgt Dittrich (top right) bravely maneuvers his PzJgr I out of its hull-down position up next to Sgt Taube's immobilized PzJgr I, rallying it.  Dittrich's crew then fires at the immobilized Char B in the south (bottom left), but the armor piercing round bounces harmlessly off the heavy tank's frontal armor.

The Char B returns fire, driving Dittrich's vehicle back (top right, red bead), away from Taube's vehicle (left).

Sgt Jurgens maneuvers his Pz IV (bottom right) up and takes a shot at the Char B in the north (atop hill at top left), but the AP round bounces.  The Char B returns fire, pinning Jurgens' tank (yellow bead).

The French roll up a normal activation plus a random event (haven't see one of these in awhile): "Confusion," so one tank may not activate this turn.  I roll it up, and it's the Char B in the south that's hunkered already, so not really a big deal.

In the south, the one H39 light tank moves up beside the hunkered, immobilized Char B (bottom left) and helps it rally, but the H39 can't fire as it had to sprint to get there.  Sgt Taube's recently rallied crew in the immobilized PzJgr I react fires but misses.

The choice was between getting the H39 into a spot to fire, but not be able to help the Char B, or help the Char B but not be able to shoot.  The French went with the latter option, feeling it was more desirable to get the Char B' back in fighting shape.

A closer look at the brave little H39 crew that put themselves in harm's way to rally the Char B in the south.

The Char B in the north (top left) moves up to take a shot at Sgt Jugens' Pz IV.  Cpl Hamburg's PzJgr I (bottom right) react fires, but misses.  The Char B fires on Jurgens' tank...

The French round knocks the Pz IV's turret askew, and Jurgens and his crew bail out.

One of the H39s in the north circles around the French left (top left) to counter Sgt Graebner's push (top center, with Sgt Jurgens' damaged vehicle below it).  SSgt Mangold's Pz IV (bottom right) react fires but misses...

The H39 (top left) fires on Sgt Graebner's tank, but misses.  Sgt Graebner returns fire - the French tank is immobilized, and the crew bails out (counts as another kill for Graebner!).

Then disaster strikes...

SSgt Friessler, commander of the 3rd Panzer Platoon, and the tank-killing leader of KG Klink with four knock-outs (all in Poland), fearlessly maneuvers his Pz III forward, looking to get to close range with the Char B.  But the Char B react fires, and Friessler's vehicle goes up in flames...

Back on the right side, Sgt Graebner, our Iron Cross winner who's already chalked up another kill (his third of the war), maneuvers his vehicle forward to get on the northern Char B's flank.  The Char B react fires, but misses.  Graebner's crew fires...

But again the round bounces off the French tank (bottom left), forcing it to fall back and hunker (from the white puff at top right).

Back on the left: his blood hot from watching his platoon commander's vehicle get brewed up, Cpl Krisnel (far right) maneuvers his vehicle forward and fires at the French H39 in the south, forcing it to fall back and hunker (far left, falling back from next to the Char B).

This is followed by Sgt Fittzbaum (bottom right) moving up and firing at the immobilized Char B (top left) in the south.  Fittzbaum's AP round bounces off the frontal armor; the Char B returns fire, also missing.

In the north, the remaining H39 (the other was knocked out, off camera to top) moves up and rallies the hunkered Char B there, then the H39 fires at Sgt Fittzbaum's tank (off camera to bottom left)...

Forcing him to fall back (bottom right).

The immobilized Char B in the south (bottom left, with the other Char B still hunkering at top left) fires on SSgt Mangold's Pz IV (off camera to top right)...

Mangold's vehicle (bottom right, with Sgt Jurgens' bailed out crew at top left) is hit, suffering damage to its main gun, but the crew stays with the vehicle.

Off camera, the hunkered Char B in the south finally rallies.

Sgt Graebner continues to move his Pz IV forward, lining up a flank shot on the immobilized Char B in the south (off camera to bottom right)...

BOOM!  The Char B is disabled by the flank shot, and the crew bails out.

That's Graebner's 4th kill, so I suppose that makes up for losing SSgt Friessler's tank...

With the threat in the south removed (the Char B Graebner just knocked out is at center right, the hunkered H39 in the south is hunkered at bottom center, and the remaining Char B in the south, far left, just rallied but is masked by the hill), Sgt Fittzbaum (top right) tries a flank shot on the Char B in the north...

The round fails to penetrate, but does force the Char B (top left) to fall back (from bottom center next to the H39).

Cpl Krisnel moves his Pz III forward (far right) and takes a shot at the H39 in the north (far left), but misses, as does the H39's return fire.

Sgt Emmerich pulls his vehicle forward next to Sgt Fittzbaum's tank and takes another shot at the H39 in the north (off camera to top left)...

But only manages to pin the crew (dammit!!! Where are my good shooting dice from last game???)...

But then the French roll a firefight.

The Germans have rather recklessly maneuvered into the line of sight of the remaining Char B in the south (as a matter of fact, I kinda screwed up there; I kinda forgot about him - he was hunkered for so long - but he should have had a react shot when Fittzbaum or Emmerich's vehicles pulled in front of him).

The Char B takes aim and fires on Sgt Emmerich's Pz III (follow the orange tracer)...

Emmerich's vehicle goes up in flames...

The H39 in the south tries to rally, but instead decides he's had enough today and leaves the map.  "Eh, mon Capitaine, ze gun, Sir, she's broke." ;)

I'm kinda pissed about this: from the French side, we really could use you hanging around for the rest of the fight.  From the German side, hey!  That's a tank we won't get to kill and run our stats up...

Sorry, but I want some tank-killers!  The Panzer Company didn't have many opportunities for tank kills in Poland, and when they did they didn't account themselves very well (minus Friessler, who had four kills but just got knocked out, and Fahrman, who had two kills, but is not taking part in the campaign in France as he attends officer training).

The H39 in the north (top left) fires on Cpl Krisnel's Pz III (right), but misses, as does Krisnel's return fire.  Sgt Fittzbaum's Pz III (bottom right) fires on the H39...

The round strikes home and immobilizes the H39, but the crew stays (when the crew stays I don't count it as a kill)...  The northern Char B (top left) rallies.

Then the Germans roll a scurry, which kinda sucks as I'd like to take some shots right now, but it will help get more tanks into position, as well as to rally some vehicles.

SSgt Mangold rallies his Pz IV, and the CO rallies up to pin (dammit), the Sgt Fittzbaum's Pz III rallies, and Sgt Dittrich's PzJgr I rallies up to pin.

The German left, where the Panzertruppen are pushing forward very aggressively to get to close range and get on the flanks of the heavily armored Char Bs.  Don't miss the Pz III at bottom left.

And the German right.  Things are a little slower in this sector, but for Sgt Graebner, who relentlessly pushes his tank forward (bottom center left)...

Capturing the hunkered crew of the French H39 next to him.

Then disaster strikes for the French: they roll up a scurry, when they absolutely needed a normal activation to maneuver and try to beat back the encroaching panzers...

The Char B in the south does the only thing he can: he has Germans maneuvering on both flanks, so he moves to one and goes nose-to nose with a German panzer, safe in the fact the German can't react fire (due to the scurry), and banking on the fact the German's shot, which is sure to come, will bounce off his heavy frontal armor and then he'll be able to return fire and knock him out.

The Char B in the north employs the same tactic.

And then the Germans roll a scurry!

In the south, Cpl Otjen quickly cleans his drawers and maneuvers his panzer back away from the Char B (bottom left) who's barrel(s) he was just staring down, whilst everyone else moves up.

But the crazy Frenchman reacts by chasing down Otjen's tank!

In the north, everyone pushes forward while Sgt Graebner's vehicle (far left) circles around behind the Char B (top left, just right of the twin trees and just above the knocked out H39).

But this time the Frenchman isn't so bold, and so he actually falls back (from center left atop the hill) to put his frontal armor towards Sgt Graebner (bottom right) and use the trees to cover his left flank.

The French get a normal activation, which will allow both their remaining tanks to activate.

In the north, the Char B fires at point blank range at Sgt Graebner's Pz IV, BUT MISSES (I gave him 2K 2S)!!!  Graebner returns fire (0K 1S) and pins the Char B!

While in the south, the Char B fires on Cpl Otjen's vehicle, but apparently he couldn't depress the gun far enough at such close range, and his round missed too (go ahead, break out the 'magic dice' comments, but I swear I'm not cheating.  Once again I gave the Char B 2K 2S, failed to roll a single 1 or 6).  Return fire pinned this Char B as well (I gave Otjen's vehicle 2S, but still 0K, as they were essentially nose to nose).

Then the Germans rolled a scurry.  A scurry?  Now?  What the hell do I do with a scurry?  Well, I figured it was basically time to throw in the towel.

In the south the Germans used the scurry to encircle the French tankers, who, realizing their insurmountable odds, promptly surrendered.

While the same scenario played out in the north.

The game was fun, but next time I want to try fighting out the battle over the length of the table, not the width.  I don't like how the ranges closed so quickly; don't misunderstand, it has to end up that way, it's what the Germans did in real life (when they had to, i.e., they didn't use Stukas or arty), but I think they should have to go farther to get there, and so that's what I'm going to do next time I have an 'armor only' fight.

It really hurts me losing Friessler (yes, I admit to getting attached to my make-believe men), and while I'm glad Graebner is taking up the slack, I have a bad feeling he won't be making it through the campaign either.  But for now he's a bona fide hero, being recommended for the Iron Cross 1st Class for knocking out two more enemy tanks (four total, didn't do a damn thing in Poland) and capturing two enemy tank crews).

It's funny how things work out; yes, I was pushing Graebner's vehicle more aggressively than the others, but I didn't cheat, he just got lucky several times.  More surprising to me was the fact that I couldn't get anything done with the other tanks (Graebner was the only one that even scored a kill in this fight): SSgt Mangold has a couple kills, but he got hunkered and never really got into the fight, the CO, Capt Bohm, who I intend on acting aggressively with as he should be the daring commander leading from the front, got hunkered and never really got into the fight.  Otjen, who's kinda my favorite underdog (in Poland he got a single tank kill, but it was a big deal to me because he did it in a Panzer II by getting on the flank at point blank range), got hunkered and never really got into the fight.  Emmerich and Fittzbaum got some good shots in, but couldn't get a kill, and then Emmerich's vehicle got knocked out...

-Sgt Graebner (V3, 4th Pz Plt), Recommended for Iron Cross 1st Class for eliminating two tanks and capturing two enemy tank crews (F3).
-SSgt Mangold, (4th Pz Plt Cmdr), WIA - Return (F3).
-SSgt Friessler, (3rd Pz Plt Cmdr), WIA Campaign (F3).
-Sgt Jurgens (V2, 4th Pz Plt), WIA Campaign (F3).
-Sgt Emmerich (V3, 3rd Pz Plt), KIA (F3).
-Lost: ~15 KIA/WIA, 2 Pz Mk III, 2 Pz Mk IV.
-Caused: ~20 KIA/WIA, captured ~10 POWs, 1 H39 knocked out, 1 Char B knocked out, 1 H39 damaged and captured, 2 Char Bs damaged and captured.

Helluva game, seemed decently historical to me, though I'm not all that pleased with the game ending on a scurry with the French surrendering.  I'd have preferred a heroic last stand resulting in the destruction of the last two Char Bs, though they surely would have taken more German tanks with them.  And I'll also address the issue of a French retreat, or more appropriately, why they didn't.  I let the hunkered H39 that failed its morale roll and left the map get away, and I'm not denying it's possible the last two Char Bs might have tried to retreat (at some point) as well, but the way it looked/felt to me is that it didn't make sense in context, that the Germans would have aggressively pursued the French tanks, and so there was no way the heavy tanks were going to turn their vulnerable rear armor to the speedy, aggressive German tanks.