subtitle: In Dust We Trust
Two squads of American soldiers advanced cautiously through the dust. Despite the irritating up and down nature of the terrain there didn't seem to be as much cover as they would like. Somewhere up ahead a German machine gun nest was waiting, barely visible through the gritty sky. Suddenly the youngest squad member stopped, his mouth falling open.
"What the hell is that?"
The lieutenant who had already fielded far too many questions from this pink cheeked babe in arms rolled his eyes.
"What does it look like?"
"It looks like a tank with a tumour," replied the young man.
"M3, don't worry they're on our side."
The squads carried on, on the hill above the German machine gun post opened fire.
"Are you sure we're safe?" squeaked the young man nervously.
The lieutenant sighed and contemplated a little reverse fragging.
"The air is full of dust, they can't see a damn thing now get forward." There was no response. The lieutenant looked around, in place of two full squads of infantry were a few streaks of dust stained red.
"Oh shit," muttered the lieutenant just as approximately three hundred and forty eight machine gun bullets collided with his body.
Well the above intro should give you an idea as to how this one went. Dave Wilson and I don't play too many desert scenarios. Given our respective stages of advanced mental decay there are just too many extra rules. However, just for a change, we decided to try a home grown classic; Easy Meat which was designed by a fellow member of the Paddington Bears wargaming club for a competition far back in the mists of time when the world was young and there were wolves in Wales.
Easy Meat is set in Tunisia 1943 and involves an American force looking to push a considerably smaller German force out of a recently occupied village. Lest the Germans feel hard done by the Americans have got some unpleasant ground to cover (half of it rough and the other half completely open) and the Germans are reinforced by a Tiger tank plus assorted hangers on in turn two. As it was designed for a competition there isn't just one set of victory conditions, dear me no. Rather both sides can win a marginal or decisive victory. There is also facility for a draw.
I would take the Americans and find myself in command of a dozen first line squads with four leaders (including a 9-2 and a 9-1), a medium machine gun, a 60mm mortar and a pair of early model bazookas. Rolling on in support were three M3 tanks. What is an M3 tank? It might help to think of it as an M11/39 on steroids. The job of this mob of olive green was to advance through the dust and push the Germans out of four stone buildings at their end of the map. If the Americans capture all four buildings and have eyes on hex 25GG6 at game end that's a decisive victory. Capturing the four buildings is a marginal victory. If the Germans hold all the buildings that's a marginal German victory. If they hold them all while suffering fewer than 14 CVP that's a decisive victory. If the Americans capture one building its a draw.
To defend this little piece of Tunisia that will be forever German Dave had six first line squads, a light machine gun, a heavy machine gun, two officers, two trenches and two wire counters. Grinding slowly but formidably to the rescue on turn two was the afore mentioned tiger, backed up by a couple of 20mm flak trucks, an armed kubelwagen and a truck carrying a pair of elite squads and a medium machine gun. By SSR light dust is in effect for the first three turns and the wind is coming from the south.
As you can see my main push would come across the open ground trusting to the dust to keep away the bullets. In the centre I placed my mortar hoping I might be able to take out his hmg team obviously up on the hilltop and also my 9-2 with a pair of squads and the mmg looking to find a useful firebase to provide support. To the east I had a pair of squads and an expendable leader to conduct a flanking maneuver hopefully in conjunction with the trio of M3s which would spend the first three turns (of six) getting to somewhere useful.
Things started rather badly when my entire flanking maneuver was killed by his hmg (dust be damned) leaving my tanks alone and my mortar started what turned out to be a long career of complete impotence. Elsewhere though things went somewhat better. My main force dashed through the dust and buried themselves in a gully peering through the dust at the small collection of stone buildings that were, unaccountably, their objective for this game. In the next turn my tanks, now in splendid isolation rolled forwards against no opposition heading for the road that would actually allow them to climb the mountain while my main force swarmed forward towards his building defenders. The dust actually started working in my favour and I got troops into close combat with a horde of others lining up behind. Which was good as the Tiger was coming, the dust would soon vanish and the good times were nearly over.
|End of turn 2, a building will soon be mine
Unfortunately the combined efforts of my mortar and mmg "kill" stack proved utterly incapable of so much as creasing the uniforms of Dave's hmg team up on the hill. If I wanted to win I would have to do it under the baleful gaze of a heavy machine gun. Oh yes, and the Tiger was coming. Unlike me in the last scenario Dave did not send it plunging forward to be surrounded by enemies but rather moved it up to the rearmost of the victory buildings securing his hold on that structure if nothing else. I ultimately triumphed in the first close combat and pushed him out of the adjacent victory building as well. This can be considered the high point of my game. Now, with the dust gone and Dave's hmg team reigning supreme any attempt to move forward was likely to receive brutal punishment. I attempted to move forward. I received brutal punishment.
|My high point
While Dave had sent his Tiger (and one of the flak trucks) around to solidify the village defence he had brought his reinforcing infantry (and their mmg) up onto the hill to support his hmg team which made matters even worse for me. My M3s, I decided, were expendable. After all if the Tiger was shooting at them it wasn't shooting at infantry (as it turned out all four tanks survived the game). Two I sent on a painful trip up a mountain road which rather resembled a length of small intestine but the third I sent looping around his rear in the hopes of shooting up that damned hmg post from behind.
Time was running short and so was the life exepectancy of my soldiers. I had kept them alive so far by cramming the survivors into the two stone buildings I had captured but if I wanted to win they would have to step out into the open. At this point Dave made his one false move of the game by driving one of his flak trucks up onto the hill to support the hmg team. My own mmg team which had proved useless at taking down his soldiers suddenly proved that a truck was just big enough for them to hit and blew the thing up in a cloud of smoke and flames. Suddenly I had a little cover to replace the dust. Meanwhile the forward most of my M3s was trading shots with his Tiger, fortunately we realised there was a building blocking our LOS before any damage was done.
|Ignore the acquisitions, the two tanks can't see each other
At some point around this time I broke my mortar. It can't be said that I noticed the difference. I also managed to break the 75mm on an M3 and the cmg on another. The Tiger was slowly pounding my infantry although so far casualties had been bearable and things looked briefly up as one of my M3s managed to kill his lmg team which had been guarding the road which at least reduced the number of things which could shoot at his forces.
|Time for a last desperate push
With time running out and my weapons showing a disturbing tendency to fall apart in their owners hands I had to take risks. Trusting to the smoke of the burning truck I pushed my mmg stack down from its position towards the village whereupon the hmg team fired through the smoke and broke the lot. By the time they recovered things really were over. Dave had placed a wall of troops in front of the final victory building, easy meat but it meant that I couldn't get through them and into the target building. His garrison of the other building was broken but attempts to actually capture it ended in bloody chaos and the Tiger managed to break the half squad stalking it with a bazooka. That's pretty much where it ended, in a stalemate. Since I had captured two buildings the game was officially a draw. Which it has to be said is a better result than I usually achieve. The next game will take place in a non desert part of Tunisia with Dave pandering to my predilection for Italians. I'm sure things can't go badly wrong there.
"Look at it this way," suggested the captain hopefully, "we got half the village."
"Since we've only got half our force left that does have a certain symmetry," admitted the major shaking some dust out of the creases in his uniform.
"Oh look, the Tiger's leaving," said the captain. "Do you think we drove it off?"
"No, I just think it was finished. But I'm definitely saying we drove it off in my report."
"Well done sir."
"Are you patronising me?"
"I would never patronise a man as brave and talented as yourself sir."
"Just as well."