Today I met with Col.Bourne again to have another campaign game. It’s the first game in the new year for me, so for some unknown reason it was twice as interesting to see how that would unfold.
On the last game US forces had forced the German defenders back to a position at Arthenay by means of artillery and numbers. The attack on this new position once more turned out to be a tough nut to crack for the Americans. Their subsequent attack on this new position was thrown back, but the Germans lost one of their NCOs in the fighting.
One of the men from Lohse’s squad was promoted to NCO, but seems to be has yet to grow into the role and be accepted by the men as their new leader (until then his command ability is reduced, compared to a regular NCO).
Nothing changed about the platoon structure or how it is put together and due to how well things went so far, the platoon still is at full strength. As per the scenario I’m allowed 10 levels of support, plus one more due to the positive impression platoon commander Unterfeldwebel Zausel’s performance left on his commanding officer. For this, and after reports of heavy fighting at La Cambe, battalion HQ sent over an adjutant to help Zausel organizing the defence.
By sheer luck (mostly the difference in force morale at the end of games) the German platoon hasn’t taken any more casualties than Obergefreiter Lohse. The support once again is a Pak40 with crew and junior leader (I’m ever-worried about all those Shermans the Americans brought to Europe), the aforementioned adjutant (because having just one senior leader can be a pain) and entrenchments for three teams.
The US side got a fresh platoon and 25 support points for their next breakthrough attempt.
Their support encompasses one (compulsory) Sherman tank, a .50 cal heavy machine gun team, an Artillery Forward Observer with a mortar battery on hold and a 60mm mortar team.
Map 2 – Delaying Action at Arthenay
We have seen some heavy fighting over the last two days, and we still have no contact with headquarters in Isigyny. Even after the loss of Obergefreiter Lohse, the spirits of the men seem to be up, and they seem like they are more willing than ever to hold the position so our comrades can be evacuated. The enemy left us enough time for the wounded to be taken care of and for us to hold a little ceremony for Lohse. ”
Col.Bourne set up the table, and we got right into it when I (eventually) showed up. After the patrol phase, the Jump-Off Points were placed and ended up looking pretty much the same as on the prior game:
This is based on scenario 4 in the Chain of Command rulebook (A Delaying Action). So the goal of the US player is capturing one of the German Jump-Off Points (underlined in red) at the back of the table and hold it until the end of that turn.
As we learned last time, the German side (played by yours truly) again has the option of getting some off-table support by a pair of Marder II (or III, who knows. US called them “mobile 88s” at first). This costs Chain of Command dice, and the Germans start with 2 of those.
US Force Morale: 8
German Force Morale: 9
This time Col.Bourne follows a new plan: A fire-base on the right keeping the heads of my guys down. Meanwhile US infantry advance on the left, under the cover of thick (and rather tall) bushes.
Soon the firebase is ‘fully developed, and featurs a gallery of US support: a Sherman, Bazooka Team, the 60mm mortar team and a .50cal heavy MG team (on overwatch).
As soon as my grenadiers, sitting in their well-fortified position in the little garden, stick out their heads to fire at this bunch, the HMG returns fire. Losses are minimal, but the grenadiers pull back. Which means that the mortar starts shelling them. For now the situation is more irritating than horrible, but as we all know, shock tends to accumulate and at the worst possible time you’re sitting in front of a pile of it.
Still, all those US support teams with a senior leader sitting in the open pose a very attractive target. Against my usual approach, I deployed another infantry section in the building behin the already-deployed grenadiers and keep firing at the enemy supports.
The fire is very effective – luckily more so than the return fire because Col.Bourne has to spend his activations moving the infantry towards my right flank. At this point my plan is to just keep hitting the supports to whittle away at the US force morale and then deal with the massed infantry (somehow) later.
The plan actually works, soon the support teams are either killed or on the rout. The platoon commander – lightly wounded at this point – flees behind the Sherman. This prompts my platoon’s Panzerschreck team to make their first appearance in the campaign.
They deploy, fire, …
…and Boom Goes the Sherman.
The vehicle explodes in the Lieutenant’s face. Another light wound. This is one tough man.
Despite individual toughness, US force morale is pretty low at this point and soon the attack is called off without the maneuver part of the force having engaged the enemy.
German Force Morale: 9
American Force Morale: 1
Campaign Phase and Aftermath
We kept this one short. No serious losses on the German side. Having one more enemy attack fended off, the Men’s Opinion of Unterfeldwebel Zausel increased by +1, without any in-game consequences. Zausel’s Outlook doesn’t change much; he’s pretty sure they can hold out a fair bit longer. Still no word from HQ.
The following hours are uncharacteristically quiet, with no US attacks what so ever. For the next two campaign turns the Americans do nothing (possibly calling in heavy support). Meanwhile, the German platoon dig in further and also dig a latrine, in case they have to hold this position much longer. Due to various states many of the men are in latrines have become a priority. The other priorities are also seen to be taken care of, but no wine cellar is to be found within the direct vicinity of the hamlet, just a mostly-empty stash of liquor.
Just as Unterfeldwebel Zausel sits down to write another letter back home, radio operator Funck reports that HQ in Isigny are coming through again! Zausel is informed about severe artillery attacks on Isigny, which delayed the evacuation, but most of the German forces have made it across the bridge.
Most welcome news. Even more so: Soon Zausel’s platoon would be called in to retreat down the highway and over the river to link up with the evacuated forces. It takes roughly 2 seconds for the news to make their way to the men and spirits are up.
We immediately proceeded to the final game of the campaign.
No big changes here. The German Jump-Off points are placed pretty much as always. US JOPs are contentrated in the orchard on the German right.
No changes to the forces either, except for the fact that the US side gets additional support points. Some of which Col.Bourne spends on a flamethrower team, the rest are not deemed necessary.
German Force Morale: 10
American Force Morale: 8
Once more US forces are on the attack. But this time, Unterfeldwebel Zausel wants to take the fight to the enemy. On short notice he grabs Rauch and Stanischewski (who is eager to revenge his friend Lohse’s death) and their respective grenadier sections and leads them down the right flank towards the enemy.
Gefreiter Zeman’s Pak40k crew reveal their position at the other flank to cover their advance.
Zausel has his men advance behind the hedges.
A cautious peek reveals what’s on the other side – a full US infantry platoon on overwatch with an artillery observer mumbling things into a radio.
Time to go. The glorious counter-attack is called off, Zausel heroically leads his men back to their initial position. The platoon commander leads Stanischewski’s squad into the walled garden (the walls aren’t supposed to be that tall actually, but we didn’t have any low walls at hand), Rauch’s squad hunker down between the walled garden and the tall building.
Both squads accumulate quite a bit of shock during their great adventure.
I worry and deploy the third infantry squad in the upper level of the building behind the fortified garden I usually deploy in.
Meanwhile the US side brings up their Sherman tank, the platoon sergeant and the 60mm mortar team on the road.
This time I have none of my sections dance back and forth behind LOS-blocking terrain. There’s no time for that. The Pak40 and the Sherman duel back and forth. Three lucky shots rattle the tank crew so bad they bail out eventually, but it costs me a lot of Chain of Command dice for Interruption firing.
Suddenly a my position is hit by a heavy mortar barrage, centered on the building with the dark blue roof, the US mission objective.
Luckily at least Zausel’s position and Rauch’s squad behind them are spared. The Pak crew and the squad inside the building take light losses. I end the barrage with my last Chain of Command die, hoping that Col.Bourne doesn’t have a CoC die to keep it going. As it turns out he doesn’t (by one CoC point. Phew.).
Despite the barrage ending prematurely, the US infantry advance now. Making full use of their semi-automatic weapons the three infantry squads advance under marchin fire. The leftmost US squad takes heavy losses, but they keep on advancing.
Zausel – in a panic – tries to get into the building behind them asap. The obviously shaken men try to get through the door all at once, which means that nobody gets in.
Realizing they can’t really move much further away, they turn and fire at the advancing enemy. Rauch rallies his squad, and they heroically jump over the wall and into the thick of it. Zausel joins them to keep the squad together, just as the US platoon commander – with a flamethrower team in tow – arrives!
They’re firing on the move, which is a tricky thing with a flamethrower.
That went surprisingly un-horrible. But the US infantry keep the fire up and the flamethrower – now in position – gives another blast.
This time – again – barely any shock is generated, but two men are killed outright. German casualties are piling up. They are at 10 men killed or heavily wounded now.
At the same time though the US forces are also heavily decimated, as both sides throw any CoC die they get into the battle to interrupt.
German force morale stalwartly sits at 9 as US force morale dwindles along with losses accumulating. The US platoon commander is killed in fierce close-range firefights and the offensive comes to a halt. US force morale is at 2 at this point and the battle is pretty much over. US infantry take sporadic shots at the German position in the walled garden while they discuss whether to sit tight and wait for reinforcements or pull back.
Rauch’s MG42 gunner is taken out and platoon commander Zausel raises his head to call out to Stanischewski to bring up their machine gun as he is hit.
Unterfeldwebel Claus Zausel is killed right away. Soon thereafter US forces have to pull back once more and leave the field to the German platoon.
German Force Morale: 6
American Force Morale: 0
Campaign Phase and Aftermath
Obergefreiter Rauch leads the platoon back to Isigny and across the bridge to link up with the rest of the German forces before the bridge is blown up. Zausel’s platoon holding out for so long allowed for two companies of Grenadierregiment 726, two batteries of Artillerieregiment 253, two companies of Grenadierregiment 915 and last but not least themselves to evacuate. This is a major victory in the scope of the campaign, and makes a rendez-vous between Utah and Omaha unlikely for some time to come.
One last time we do the Campaign Phase just to see how things develop. Overall, the Men’s Opinion of Zausel increases by one point. The Commanding Officer’s opinion increases by +2 as they were brought up to speed about Zausel holding his position against the enemy for so long. Zausel’s outlook on the war doesn’t have to be rolled for this time.
By the end of July 1944 352th Infantry Division was shattered. Survivors were reassigned to various ad hoc formations.
During the Battle of Normandy an estimated 425,000 men were killed, wounded or have gone missing, as well as roughly 20,000 civilians.
It had been a good while since I had played another person with my own figures. The campaign started in late April 2022, which was still pandemic time. But in reinvigorated my interest in WW2 as a period, and in 28mm gaming. Many thanks to Col.Bourne and his wife for providing time, space, terrain and beverages, and to Col.Bourne for hanging in there despite on paper this having been a series of defeats.
I found the format of the parallel AARs here on Tabletop Stories and over on the Lead Poets Society blog really interesting, featuring different points of view and different styles in writing about the actions.
Chain of Command is always a blast, even though sometimes we scratched the upper limits of the system with the US side getting immense amounts of support without being able to bring them to bear really. At times this felt like we should be entering Big Chain of Command territory.
Either way, I’m very much looking forward to the next campaign. Which might either be the Kursk PSCs or maybe more Normandy fun, depending when that supplement is released.
Thanks for reading; I hope that you enjoyed the battle reports and have a look at Col.Bourne’s AARs on his blog to get the full picture!