Saturday, January 28, 2023

Silly After Action Report - Patton's Prayers

 Hauptmann Friedrich von dem Borne-Identity looked at the report in front of him with growing irritation.

"Feldwebel, what the hell is this rubbish?"

"Today's injury report Herr Hauptmann."

"We haven't done any fighting.  Look at this; two troopers injured when a snowman collapsed on them.  Three men choked on gingerbread cookies and one case of altitude sickness.  Altitude sickness?  We're at ground level."

"That would be Stanger Herr Hauptmann, he gets dizzy going up a flight of stairs."

"This is the fallschirmjager, how did he pass the selection process?"

"Now that the Luftwaffe has run out aircraft being good with heights probably isn't as important as it once was."

A soldier stumbled into the Hauptmann's command post, he was wild eyed and rubber legged and his salute was more a desperate and unsuccessful attempt by his hand to find his head.

"Stanger, what the hell's going on?"

"The American's are attacking," replied Stanger who looked like he was going to be sick.

"Are you injured?"

"No I stood on a firing post and had a panic attack."

Dave Wilson and I are currently going old school and playing some scenarios from ASL Annual 95.  We tried playing The Mailed Fist despite the ridiculously lopsided ROAR results.  We gave the Germans the balance but sadly the scenario turned out to be a hound of the most flea ridden variety and we gave it away after a few turns.  Instead we turned to Scenario A71 - Patton's Prayers.  Here I would command men of the 5th Fallschirmjager division attempting to stop Patton's 3rd Army (plus a little divine intervention) from coming to the relief of Bastogne.  To win the Americans must have a road link, free of any rubble from the south edge of board 6 to hex 3Q1.  As well as rubble the road must be free of any good order German MMCs on or adjacent to said road hexes.  As the German's I'm technically defending a village but in actual fact am defending a road network.  The village is just in the way.

To do said defending I have a charmingly eclectic force of twelve squads, four first line, four second line and four conscript.  They have four lmgs, two mmgs and a panzerschreck.  Leadership is provided by four officers; three 8-0s and a single 8-1.

Representing the US army is the cutting edge of the 4th Armoured Division; eight squads of elite US infantry carted around on seven halftracks of various stripes.  Four officers lead including a pair of 8-1s, they are equipped with four bazookas and a 60mm mortar.  Lest the infantry feel lonely armoured support is present in the shape of four Sherman tanks including two of the sexy upgunned 76mm variety.

Ground snow is in effect, environmental conditions are, unsurprisingly, wet and entrenching is NA.  

The American force has mobility and firepower to burn.  It seemed likely that once I placed my troops I might not get too many chances to move them.  to that end I set most of my troops up adjacent to the road so that they were automatically denying the Americans victory and challenged Dave to drive me out.  The only exceptions were outposts on the left and right to serve as speed bumps should Dave send any troops on a flanking mission.  Below is the scene at the end of US turn 1.

End US turn 1

 So Dave sent virtually his entire force around my flanks leaving the centre to a single Sherman which managed to break its cmg at the beginning of the game and never repair it.  On the right I couldn't resist the target presented by a squad carrying M3 and managed to break the occupants but for the rest I huddled under my concealment counters and tried to look small and unthreatening.  My own moves in turn one consisted of an ultimately doomed attempt to withdraw my picket on the right now that it had had its moment of glory.  On the left I pushed the corresponding picket forward to take a position in a building overlooking his force.  This was foolish and I have no-one to blame but myself.

End German turn 1.  Not much has happened but that's good news for the incumbent

In the next turn Dave tried to get his flanking attack rolling while simultaneously making threat displays with his centre Sherman.  Over the course of the next couple of turns he rolled up and over the hills which overlook the village gradually tightening the grip on my hapless fallshirmjager trapped within.  For my part I did a little shooting and a lot more hiding.  Every concealment counter would be worth its weight in gold as the latter part of the game developed.  Since this was only a five turn game the latter part developed pretty much after turn one.

Gradually Dave ground me out of the forward buildings flanking the road.  The firepower he had amassed on the hills was impressive and my concealment counters weren't enough to avoid casualties.  I had one brief moment of pleasure when my panzerschreck flamed a halftrack providing some smoke to mess with his lines of sight.  A vicious tussle took place for the wooden building on the right where I had a mmg capable of sweeping the hill with fire.  As it turns out Dave was also capable of sweeping the hill with considerably more fire than I could generate but my boys held firm until his centre Sherman finally stopped its flirtation with the single conscript squad I had left to block its path and rolled up in support.

Despite losing both men and positions I was starting to feel hopeful.  Dave's flanking manoeuvre had taken time and driving my troops out of the forward buildings had taken more.  For my part I placed my hopes in two final defensive positions.

On the right a clutch of squads were hiding in the combination of stone buildings and rubble overlooking a vital crossroads and on the left a couple more (although not as many as the concealment counters would have you believe) were hidden behind a stone wall.  Their job was to get at least one MMC back to the trees adjacent to the final exit hexes.

Dave's final push was nothing if not determined.  On the right supported by sleazing halftracks and shooting Shermans his troops drove into (but not quite through) my positions.  On the left he pushed forward driving me back (which had the inadvertent effect of reinforcing my troops on the right).  My troops which had been hiding behind the wall pulled back and wound up hiding in a building instead.  It isn't only bravery that wins battles.  Well managed cowardice is also useful.

One thing in my favour was the fact that not a single German MMC could be adjacent to the road which meant that some US troops had to be diverted to deal with a single halfsquad in the forward location which had defied all reasonable expectations by surviving while its comrades had wilted (wilted means "died").  This pulled some troops away from the final push.


The situation at the end of US turn 4

Despite my troops being of dubious quality sufficient of them had survived on the right to occupy his attention and actually grab back a road adjacent building in the final turn.  With that and my heroic cowards on the left (who didn't fire a shot the entire game) poised to sneak behind a halftrack and recover the road there it was all over.  Virtually my entire force was dead or broken but just sufficient had survived to give me the win.  


The end and apparently I've won

In Dave's opinion he lost this game on the first turn.  He had forgotten that ground snow negated the road bonus so his forces weren't as far forward on their flanking manoeuvre as he had intended and from there he was playing against the clock as much as me.  Whatever the reason I'll take the win.  Many thanks to Dave for the game.

"I think we beat them," von dem Borne-Identity couldn't quite believe he was saying the words.  5th fallshirmjager wasn't exactly the cutting edge of the Luftwaffe.  Silence greeted his words.  He looked around for his command.  Here and there a combat dazed soldier stumbled out from between wrecked buildings and even more wrecked halftracks.  That seemed to be about it.

"Well at least the next casualty report will be a little less embarrassing," muttered von dem Borne to himself.   He took a pace forward and almost stumbled into a twelve foot deep pit.  Peering into it he made out a familiar figure, entrenching tool in hand.

"Stanger what are you doing?"

"Digging a foxhole," Herr Hauptmann," replied Stanger without pausing.

"You can stop now, the Americans have gone," but Stanger wasn't listening.

Von dem Borne reflected briefly on the utility of anything else Stanger might be doing at that moment and left him to it.

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