Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hold the Gap

The term "heavy metal" mostly refers to a music genre.  In this case it refers to assorted heavy German "cats" holding a corridor open for other valuable German forces to retreat through.  The Flames of War scenario (not a points battle) featured five Tiger tanks operating in two tank platoons with a platoon leader and four Jadgpanthers in one platoon, along with two weak companies of panzer-grenadiers with panzerfausts, a 105mm battery, two platoons of self-propelled AA, three towed 75s and four armored cars.  The last two named could be deployed in a special ambush manner.

Facing it was roughly a British tank regiment.  Four squadrons of tanks; two of Shermas, one of Cromwells and one of Churchill VIIs, two companies of motorized infanry, an eight gun group of Sextons, recon carriers and priority air support rounded out the British force.

Intended to be a six player game, we had to make do with three.  This summer has been  tough getting numbers together to play.

Looking south from the German positions, we see the Cromwell (right) and Sherman companies

As the German player I decided that to cover everything would be a losing proposition.  So I placed all the armor facing the most vulnerable British position and angled the guns that way.  I'd try to take out a company the first turn.  My Tiger CO's roll was increased ROF, as was one of the platoons.  So it started to look like a good choice.

All the British recon carriers were concentrated on the south side to I opted on turn one to spring an ambush of them by my armored cars.  Being old SdKfz 222 they had no real chance of survival but could tie up the British for a turn or two.

As it turned out, I had the good fortune to kill one of the observer teams for the Sextons, cutting down their potential impact.  One the north side things went much as everyone expected, and a British company was reduced to a rump formation.

Judging that men are more important than machines, I opted to have on turn one a column of halftracks loaded with men move at the double down the road.  All but one of them would safely exit on turn three.  My Tigers started to redeploy.  The British sent two Typhoons after me and my AA gunners sent them crashing to the ground.  The Churchills began to rumble through the fall fields to their front, heading towards my dug-in, gone to ground grenadiers.

On the south side of the table the British were moving with all haste to close since on turn two, more Tigers rolled on table along with three Panthers.  Now these were retreating machines.  So were rated Reluctent/Veteran and had a -1 to their shooting dice to reflect depleted ammo stocks.  Still, they are just as hard to kill.

As the Bren carriers mixed it up with the dug in infantry, I found myself out-gunned on the south flank.  The -1 for firing, coupled with the semi-indirect fire of the British meant I started losing valuable tanks.  The Churchills on the north side of the river charged unsupported into the dug-in infantry.  Dan graciously played as if he didn't know all stands had panzerfausts, even though he designed the scenario.  One attacking troops was completely bailed, while the other three tank troop lost two outright.  The bailed troop was eliminated by me next turn.  On the other side of the south flank my towed 75s with a special ambush rule in place, opened up on the Cromwells.

The remaining retreating columns of Panzer MkIVs, StuGs and Jadgpanzer IV ducked behind the Tigers and Panthers holding and used the dead ground to move at the double to freedom.  In the meantime I had gone totally cold on the dice on the north, failing to eliminate the remaining Fireflys who destroyed the two Tiger I had left to engage them.  A deserved result, since I had my chances.

All in all, we decided fairly early that it was a major German victory.  I lost four Tigers and a Panther but the rest would live to fight another day.  I'm not sure how many British tanks were destroyed, but I'd guess roughly half.  Air support was a failure for the British as twice the planes couldn't even find their target to safely attack.  The Sextons with their re-rolls were a major pain, but fortunately the 25 pdr. isn't very powerful, though they did kill the Panther.

We discussed various options for balancing the scenario more but agreed some luck and the initial deployment were the biggest factors.