French soldiers twiddled with their weapons, gazed pensively into the middle distance and did all of those other things that war films have soldiers preparing to attack do to build up the tension. In front of them lay a hill festooned with trenches. The French commander glanced back at his men, they seemed to have acquired some unusual "camouflage". Every one of them had what appeared to be twenty pounds of asparagus strapped to their uniforms. He turned to the shabby wretch beside him.
"Is that really necessary Outlebarrel?"
Outlebarrel shrugged, " You need the hill, I need to make a delivery. I call that win-win."
"If we take the damned hill."
"Don't you have armoured support?"
"Yes but, well they're led by a 10-2."
"Oh god, dead man walking."
"Well don't worry mon ami," replied Outlebarrel with a grin. "The asparagus always gets through."
So after my thoroughly undeserved victory in the previous scenario I'm trying to build on that success in the next, PP8 - A Little Bit Closer to Heaven. Here my bold French heroes (with sous-lieutenant Outlebarrel in tow) will attempt to capture a particularly desirable hill from Dave Wilson's German defenders. The French win by capturing all level 3 hill hexes. A nice and straightforward victory condition, the scenario designer must have been ill.
To do said capturing I start off with a dozen 458 elite squads equipped with four lmgs, a mmg and a 60mm mortar. They are led, if that's the correct word (it isn't) by a 9-1, an 8-1 and an 8-0. On turn two I gain reinforcements in the form of six squads of 648 assault engineers (and sappers) led by a 9-2 who would surprise me by surviving the game. These warriors are carrying a pair of mmgs a flamethrower and a DC along with a pair of lmgs. Also on turn two I would receive four Stuart tanks led by a mighty 10-2 (who wouldn't survive the turn of his entry).
Dave's defences are short on manpower but heavy on boom. He has precisely six squads half first line, half second. These are led by three officers headed up by an 8-1 and have a mmg, two lmgs, a 50mm mortar and a panzerschreck. The real bite to his defences are 48 factors of AP mines, a dozen trenches and a 50mm AT gun. Since my boys enter from offboard all of his force can set up concealed. However the mines cannot be laid on level 2 or 3 hexes.
On turn three Grenadier regiment 917 comes steaming to the rescue with another twelve squads (eight first line and four second) plus all of the support weapons their comrades apparently left behind; two mmgs, four lmgs another panzerschreck and a 50mm mortar. Three more officers lead the latecomers including a none too shabby 9-1. Obviously it would be best if I could clear the initial defenders off the hill objectives before the reinforcements arrive.
I could enter on the left board edge or all the way along the top until Q1. I opted for the shortest distance between two points. My plan was to deploy some halfsquads and plough forward finding minefields and defenders in the most painful way possible while the bulk of my force built up in the woods looking to take out the defenders thus revealed. When the tanks and assault engineers turned up the push would begin in earnest. Over on the left I had a couple of squads that were going to press for the two level three hexes that had been temptingly left unguarded.
My initial plan with the halfsquads worked so well that by the end of the first turn I already had a squad equivalent dead. Things didn't look so rosy but I had felt out a few of his defences including a couple of minefield hexes that my halfsquads nobly took in their stride (a very tentative stride but a stride nonetheless). I had also built up quite a significant firebase in the woods. Over on the very left I had disposed of some dummies and was trotting towards the unoccupied hill hexes.
|End German turn 1|
Turn two rolled around and with it my reinforcements. I had this turn and the next to take the hills before Dave's reinforcements likely tipped the balance. Naturally my 10-2 didn't last long but despite my moaning at the time this was actually encompassed within my plans. My infantry were pushing towards his AT gun and if it was shooting at tanks it wasn't shooting at them. On the left a pair of 648s with both mmgs and the 9-2 in tow armoured assaulted in the direction of the vacant hill hexes.
Meanwhile the remainder of my reinforcements pushed forward into a very crowded spot in the middle of the board. I sent two tanks up on to the hill from the right to give the defenders something to think about (and indeed lost my 10-2 immediately) and sent the remaining tank on a lonely guard mission to watch at least part of the entrance area for Dave's reinforcements. My at start force got very bold and started pushing forward as well. More minefields were found but it has to be said that Dave didn't get very good value from them. The only thing they could guarantee to break were my officers and it has already been established that my officers will break if you sneeze near them.
|End German turn 2|
Things looked a little messy (and two and a half of my squads were now dead plus two tanks) but the situation was actually moving in my favour. I had broken his forward defences and my troops pirouetted around the minefields to hit the left hand side of his line and start rolling it up. Over on the left hill I moved my 9-2 led kill stack forward under the dubious shelter of a Stuart to take a victory hill and also establish overwatch (great term, I wonder what it means) over a great deal of the entry area for Dave's reinforcements. A halfsquad (one of the few survivors) plunged into CC with Dave's AT gun crew. I hadn't actually captured the ridge line but I had snagged a significant amount of it and his remaining defenders were grossly outnumbered by my forces who could afford to take a few losses (and did) to drive out the remainder of his at start force. For Dave it would all depend on his reinforcements.
|End French turn 3|
At this point it has to be admitted that the dice were somewhat in my favour. Overall Dave's rolls were slightly worse than average and mine were slightly better. However, in the crucial turn when Dave needed to rush his reinforcements forward my dice were hot and Dave's were not. Over on the far right my guard tank would break and ELR a halfsquad carrying the panzerschreck (it would go down to a faust shortly afterwards but delay was imposed). Along the bottom edge of the board where Dave brought on the bulk of his forces my two squads with the mmgs caused carnage. A third of Dave's reinforcements were wiped out upon setting foot on the battlefield and this left the remainder in poor position to aid the survivors of his at start force which I managed to pretty much wipe out in the next turn. By the time Dave's surviving reinforcements had reorganised I held the entire ridgeline trenches and all and Dave would have to try and drive me out of them.
|End German turn 3 - The tide has swung in my favour|
Dave tried his best but now it was my guys hiding in trenches cheerfully firing on their attackers. There were nervous moments. On the right his last trench location was the scene of a close combat which raged until the end of the game with casualties on both sides. At one point he recaptured the AT gun only to be thrown out again next turn. Finally with his casualties reaching critical mass and his last forlorn hope pinned as it raced towards the most accessible hill hex he conceded.
Favourable dice notwithstanding I'm actually pleased with the way I played this scenario (a rare occurrence) but for all that I'm fortunate that German turn three wound up the way it did. Thanks to Dave for the game. We're starting to run out of Provence Pack scenarios, I'm not entirely sure what we're going to do with ourselves.
The French commander made his way nervously around the battlefield. A mine had detonated twenty metres away and precipitated a nervous breakdown he was still recovering from but it looked like his men had done well in his absence. Then he reached a trench and stopped with a look of horror. A German antitank gunner had literally been impaled on asparagus. Beside the defiled corpse stood Outlebarrel with a twisted grin on his face.
"And that's the way we do it in Laos," he announced and spat off to side.
"Bullshit," replied the officer, "I know perfectly well that you've spent the last three weeks hiding in a packing crate on the Marseilles docks. You've never been anywhere near Laos. Where the hell did you get the asparagus by the way?"
"My cousin has a vegan restaurant."
"Great, another war crime."