Two Polish soldiers, uncomfortable in their second hand French uniforms peered down the narrow road at the inoffensive looking Norwegian village. Up ahead of these Poles masquerading as French were a bunch of German sailors masquerading as infantry.
"That's the village we have to capture," muttered the first soldier.
"Why?"" asked his companion.
"I think the higher command want to be able to announce an Allied victory."
"Yes, I can see why seizing this village would totally compensate for the conquest of France. Where are our allies incidentally?"
The first soldier pointed at a group of ships far out at sea and rapidly disappearing over the horizon.
"That's the British," he jerked a thumb a mile or two in the rear, "and the French are back there."
"What are they doing there?"
Engine noises interrupted the conversation and a pair of tanks squealed to a halt in front of them. The commander of the first stuck his head out of the turret.
"Pardon moi mon ami, do you know where the rear area is? We have orders to report back there immediately."
"Certainly," replied the first soldier pointing, "its that direction."
"Merci," replied the commander (thus exhausting all of my French) and the two tanks trundled off.
"That's not the rear area," said the second, "that's where the Germans are."
"Shut up and follow them," replied the first.
I haven't done an AAR for a few weeks. This isn't because I haven't been playing any games. Rather there are only so many ways you can say "and then I conceded on turn two" before it starts getting a little heart breaking. After a series of not so much defeats as utter humiliations I have finally managed to raise my game to its usual level of incompetence for this one. Scenario J44 - Audacity!
Here I command a bunch of orphaned Poles fighting under French colours in Norway attempting to end a pathetically mismanaged campaign with a win so they could return to the main mismanaged campaign in France. My job is to capture building hexes from the Germans. Nine is the acceptable minimum and it must be done without incurring 19 CVP. The ground is covered in mud which makes moving difficult and by SSR alpine hills are in effect which has rather the same effect on shooting.
I start off with a small force of six elite squads three of which have to set up on the road which provides the only dry ground in the entire game. More is coming though, much more. Turn one sees the arrival of four more elite squads plus a half squad and an 8-1 leader. The halfsquad is quite obviously there to hump the dismantled 60mm mortar coming along for the ride. Turn two sees the arrival of four more squads (two elite, two first line) along with a 9-1 leader and accompanied by a pair of R39 tanks. Finally on turn three trucks lent by (or possibly stolen from) the French cart another three elite squads, a 9-1 an lmg and a dismantled mmg to the battle field. The game is only six turns long, by the time the last of my reinforcements arrive the game is half over.
My opponent Dave commands the Germans, a collection of highly motivated mountain troops and less enthusiastic sailors. He has two elite squads and four second line garrisoning the village along with a half squad for his own 50mm mortar (mine has ten more millimetres). In addition to the mortar these troops have an mmg, an lmg, an atr, a 37mm antitank gun and four factors of AT mines. Finally Dave also has a pair of elite squads equipped with a pair of lmgs and commanded by a raving psychopath of a 9-2 who have to set up on the only hill immediately present. Although the French (Polish) are technically attacking the Germans move first.
Above is our set up. As noted I didn't have much choice about the troops on the road. I was able to set up my other three squads in a choice of three buildings. Its probably fair to say I picked the wrong one.
Dave opened his account by wreaking bloody havoc on the three squads in the building courtesy of his 9-2 kill stack. When the firing stopped a 7-0 leader and three elite squads had been reduced to two broken first line half squads. These understandably decamped for a building slightly more to the rear. Dave brought a few troops forward to bolster his boys on the hill and sneaked a unit to capture the building I had been shot out of but otherwise stuck to his positions.
|End of German turn 1. Dave managed to convince me not to concede on the spot
In my first turn I gained a tiny measure of revenge for my butchered troops when my troopers in the road managed to break his newly arrived unit on the hill which turned out to be his halfsquad with the mortar. The German 50mm would not fire this game. For the rest I brought my first reinforcements on ploughing slowly through the mud and trees and wept quietly to myself.
|End of French turn 1.
My first goal as I saw it was to clear that damn kill stack from the hill. Fortunately the alpine hill rules allowed me to sneak ever closer. Unfortunately the combination of hills and mud meant that all of this took time.
Quite a lot of time actually. After the flurry of fire which opened the game things went very quiet for the next couple of turns as I brought my troops on and gradually moved them into positions where I thought they might be useful. Dave passed the time idly shooting at my surviving brokies which went a little wrong for him when one of the half squads rolled a snake eyes, battle hardened and produced a hero into the bargain. In fairness the other halfsquad died.
|End French turn 2, still getting into position
Turn three went much the same way with a traffic jam of French troops trying to sort themselves out and get into useful positions. My hero and elite halfsquad at the top conducted their own private flanking manoeuvre despite the fact that the main attack was yet to take place. Possibly fortunately for me there was no crazed rush at the 9-2 kill stack. Dave counted the number of blue question marks coming in his direction and decided to decamp to the building behind the hill.
By the end of my third turn I had swung around below the hill with a couple of expendables to capture the buildings Dave hadn't bothered to defend and my hero/halfsquad combination had faked his boys out of a building on the other side of the map. For the rest the French were fumbling around and nervously preparing for the moment when they would have to step forward into the line of fire.
It has to be admitted that at this point I wasn't really thrilled with the scenario. Almost nothing had happened it seemed for the last two and a half turns. The Germans don't have the numbers to chase the French and it takes the French time to get their forces in order. The second half of the scenario however would be non-stop action. Time was now pressing me, I had four of the nine building hexes I needed but there were no more easy pickings. The time had come for action.
|End of French turn 3. So far I have basically been trying to keep out of the Germans way
Then things started getting real. With my troops, if only by default, in charge of the hill I could start pouring fire down on his defenders. I did this so enthusiastically that I broke an lmg. Results were somewhat thinner on the ground.
But then things started to go my way. I was using my tanks (and a truck) more as shields for my infantry than anything else and their presence allowed my troops to close up with the defenders. I managed to break the 9-2 and his accompanying squad who fled for the not particularly distant rear leaving the suddenly too heavy captured French machine gun behind. At first that didn't seem to matter because Dave had his 8-1 leader and a pair of squads with lmgs in the building as well. Sadly for him while his 9-2 did sterling work (the single break notwithstanding) that 8-1 was the definition of uselessness. His attempt to fire had resulted only in the breaking of both lmgs.
With concealed French squads edging ever nearer Dave spread his troops across both hexes of the building behind the hill and defied me to come any closer. Step forward one Hotchkiss tank which scored a critical hit on one hex which vapourised a German squad and two machine guns thus clearing my way. A French squad hopped into the recently vacated location and was promptly chased out of there by the only effective sniper attack by either side in the game.
|Forward we swarm although the concealed squad in the building won't last much longer
At the bottom of the map a squad assault moved into the street and improbably survived all defensive fire to jump his concealed squad in close combat. Sadly they wouldn't gain a result but at least the melee kept going. In desperation (I like to think it was desperation anyway) Dave moved a squad down to reinforce the melee and managed to kill my squad while on the other side of the board his 9-2 (and hangers on) wiped out my hero and halfsquad.
I had been cautious with my tanks given the presence of AT mines and a 37mm (which baffled me by its absence) but now the time had come for boldness. I rolled one forward and parked it next to the building (and as it turned out next to some AT mines as well) so that my designated assault squad could shelter beneath its steel hide. I moved another squad forward as well, as much to give his 9-2 multiple targets as anything else.
|End of German turn six, my final turn to go
The last turn rolled around. I was pressing hard. The time had come for the final assaults and let the CVP cap take care of itself. At the top of the board my assault squad broke the squad opposite in it Prep Fire, if my guys survived defensive fire they would be able to stroll into another building hex. Survive they did and a toehold was secured in the large building.
Collectively this provided eight building hexes. I needed one more. At the top more in hope than expectation I assault moved a spare squad next to his 9-2 for one of the more improbable close combats of the game. At the bottom of the board my remaining squad survived is defensive fire and readied itself for an assault over the wall into the building. Throwing caution to the wind I rolled my other Renault forward and sleazed his 7-0/atr squad combo in yet another building. Now finally the 37mm revealed itself in a building far to the rear but its shots bounced off the Renault's thick hide. With the 7-0 team rendered temporarily impotent I CXed another squad and raced them adjacent.
Three close combats would be initiated, if I won any of them I would win the game. I won none of them. It wasn't particularly surprising. The odds were never better than 1-1 still the game came down to the very last CC roll and you can't ask more of a game than that. Luck was even and in contrast to the catastrophic misfortunes and hideous cockups of the previous games I was reasonably happy with my play. This was a bit of a slow burn of a game. The first three turns were very quiet but then action exploded in the last three. It was certainly the most enjoyable game I've played in a while. Many thanks to Dave for the game, next time we'll be playing Huns of Steel. If you're lucky I might write an AAR about that.
|The end, one building hex short
"Come on, let's go."
The Polish soldier looked up at his comrade in surprise.
"But we're almost there. One more building hex and we've got this."
"Look over there."
The first soldier looked to where his comrade was pointing. A furious French tank commander was talking angrily with their commanding officer who shrugged and pointed in their direction.
"Ok, yeah, time to make ourselves scarce. We might not want to seek exile in France any time soon. I wonder why he parked in the building."