Capitaine Ternynck was everything a French officer should be; dashing, courageous and impeccably dressed. His moustache glistened in the sun. Even the bandage wrapped around his hand added to his appeal. His men worshiped him which was handy as he was about to send them to certain death. Signing off from the radio he turned to the caporal his finely chiselled features bore the mark of bad news.
"Are we getting the reinforcements?" asked the caporal nervously?
"One company only," replied the capitaine heavily.
"One company," said the caporal. "There are more Germans out there than I can count. Where are the rest of them?"
"Reassigned," said Ternynck, "apparently there's been an uprising in the asparagus mines in Laos."
Ternynck raised his voice and addressed his men, he needn't have bothered there were only a dozen of them.
"Brave remaining soldiers of the 10th company we must keep this village out of German hands. Our duty is stern but I am sure we will acquit ourselves well. Grab as many buildings as you can and move around a bit to make it look like there's more of you. Have no fear, despite my injury I will stay with you to the end."
The soldiers looked at the village, there were more buildings than there were soldiers.
"Let's hope our reinforcements arrive soon," said one to his comrade who was staring at the capitaine admiringly.
"What a man," said his fellow, "despite his injury he stays with us on the front line. How did he get wounded?"
"He chipped a nail opening a pot of moustache wax."
So because apparently I have an issue with learning from experience DaveWilson and I sat down to play the next offering the Provence Pack had to show us. This is PP6 - Under a Sky of Lead. My job as the Free French is to end the game with control of more buildings south of the dry steambed on board 41 than the Germans. Complicating this task is the fact that I only control the buildings I set up in and my at start force consists of precisely three elite halfsquads and a wounded, heroic 9-1 leader. At least my set up won't take too long. Entering on turn 2, should I survive that long are my reinforcements; ten squads, eight first line and two second line led by a 9-2 and three other officers of lesser distinction. They carry three lmgs and are hauling a 60mm mortar which can best be described as both heavy and useless.
Dave's force consists of ten German squads split evenly between first and second line plus four crews. No guns, just the crews. These guys have four machine guns, two medium and two light. They are led by three not particularly good officers.
Because it wouldn't be a Provence Pack scenario without some special rules insanity let me tell you about the artillery. There are six predetermined locations (which we marked with shell holes). Starting on turn 3 a mission of 100mm harassing fire will drop on one of those locations each prep fire phase. The specific location is determined by whoever's turn it is. Accuracy is N/A error is measured normally. We don't have any choice in this, there is no radio contact or battery access the stuff is coming down whether we like it or not. Also just to emphasise the importance of this nameless village in southern France both sides can declare HtH CC.
With three halfsquads and a limping leader (apparently a wound to the hand has deprived him of the use of his legs) there isn't a heck of a lot I can do to deny buildings to the Germans. All of my forces have to set up on or adjacent to 41Z7 so I can't even spread them around a bit. There seemed to be two options. Form a knot around said hex and hope to hold off the Germans until the reinforcements arrived or round around madly trying to grab as many buildings as possible to at least force the Germans to spread out and capture them. I chose option two, it did not end well.
|At start, all the Germans have to enter on the red circle, French reinforcements on the blue
The first couple of turns were downright peaceful due to the fact that both sides are a fair distance from each other. I sent two halfsquads running around the backfield sticking little French roundels on every building they could find. The third I sent forward in splendid isolation to see what it could do about delaying the Germans, nothing as it so turned out. The hero limped along behind, as it will be seen he did a better job of German delaying than his comrades.
|End of French turn 1. Just to make things a little more difficult the Germans move first
By the end of the second German turn I had given up whatever faint hopes I might have had of delaying the onrushing Teutonic horde. The one halfsquad that had tried was broken and Dave was now pretty much free to start snatching buildings on his own account. While said halfsquad set out on an ultimately fruitless journey to "safety" I moved my hero, the only part of my force remotely near the Germans out into the street adjacent to one of his squads and with a line of sight up the olive grove lined road. Yep, orchards are olive groves quite thin ones beside the road apparently. Wheat is vineyards.
It takes the French reinforcements quite a long time to reach the battlefield. The end of French turn two saw them panting, dust covered and sweaty along the road. They wouldn't be in a position to make a difference until around turn four. In the meantime Dave had moved troops around the initial cluster of buildings and was heading for those in the rear defended by a sum total of one halfsquad. The rest of his force suffered unnecessary delay when he tried to kill my hero. Despite being encircled my hero survived all fire and next turn moved a hex up the road. The hero had his moment of glory when a German squad accompanied by a 7-0 trotted across the road. The squad passed the morale check my 1-2 shot inflicted but the 7-0 broke and ELRed to become a near worthless 6+1. This, no kidding, was the highlight of my game.
But now the artillery took a hand. In its only semi accurate positioning of the game harassing fire came down trapping my broken halfsquad and a German squad under a rain of steel which did absolutely nothing. For the rest of the game the artillery of both sides was so off the mark I suspect they were trying to shell Paris.
|Both of us feared the artillery, completely without reason as it turned out
By the time the third French turn had ended things were in a dire state. My reinforcements were only now trickling onto the battlefield. Dave had put together two separate forces that were very effectively overwhelming the precisely two halfsquads that were trying to defend the entire battlefield. The only thing I could do was push reinforcements onto the central hill and look for opportunities to counterattack.
|My at start force is gone save for one broken halfsquad
Not a particularly long AAR but then it wasn't a particularly long game and I was never in it. From the start I was losing and this simply carried on until I got sick of it. Despite this we're sticking with the Provence Pack, I'm determined that the Free French win at least one. Or failing that put up a better show losing than they did this time. Next up I'm charging German antitank guns with Shermans, what could possibly go wrong?
Battered and traumatised the remnants of the Free French force huddled in the couple of buildings they had managed to cling on to while roaming Germans shot everything that moved.
"You know what I could do with right now?" asked one of the soldiers.
"A ticket back to North Africa?"
"No, well yes, but what I could really do with is some asparagus."
"Good luck with that, I hear its being rationed."