As I reported previously, somehow I ended up scheduled in two Battlefront WWII events consecutively at Council of Five Nations. This meant I missed out on playing Might of Arms in the same timeslot (the event was cancelled for lack of players, sadly).
This is my report of the second game, which was billed in the convention program as:
Grandchamp * Battlefront WWII
Game Master: Pete Landry * 6 Players * Mature18
8 June 1944, 3rd Btn of the 116th Rgt was leading the advance to Grandchamp. Elements of the German 914th Rgt had been in non-stop combat since the 6th were weary but the only forces available to slow the American advance. The Americans must battle through Germans and hedgerows to get to their objective. Beginners encouraged.
What I realized as we began this game is that the Battleground WWII games were being run by the group of players associated with Cooper's Cave, a gaming and paintball store in the Glens Falls, New York, area (about 50 miles north of Schenectady, New York, where the convention was being held). They were also manning the store's booth at the convention.
At the start of play, we were asked to pick sides. Two players wanted to be Germans: my partner from the last game, who was a novice at Battlefront WWII, and Robert, the GM from the last game. Two players wanted to be Americans: Tim, who had been a British player in the last game, and Nate - both were novice players, as I recall. I had no strong preference, but went American since it looked like that side needed a third player. Then at the last minute, a sixth player joined the German side - the "GM's friend" from the last game. So three novices (Americans) vs a novice and two experienced players (Germans).
The tabletop is shown above. (The GM said the scenario was taken from a book, but "doubled" for the convention - he also added more forces.) The hedges are the bocage; the box/building represents a village; the dark-green felt are light woods; there were some rock walls near the village. There were also various kinds of fields - these had no effect on game play.
The GM had prepared a "sheet protector" page for each player, with that player's needed datacards in the sleeves. (We didn't have to share cards as in the previous game.) (We did have to swap cards around, as the GM didn't get some of the assignments correct.)
The Germans deployed green chits on the tabletop, representing their forces (some were dummies). Then the Americans deployed their forces behind the "stick" line.
Before deployment, I asked my fellow American players if anyone wanted to be our "commander." (Nobody did.) Our objective was to either (a) capture the village, or (b) exit troops off the center of the distant table edge. Each of us had one company of troops, one tank, and a miscellaneous group. Tim had the dozer-equipped Sherman, plus a command element with jeeps (unfortunately, not equipped with machineguns, despite having them on the models!). Nate had a Stuart, plus some heavy machineguns (I think). I had another Stuart, plus a few combat engineers (one with a flamethrower).
I proposed concentrating our force and "going up the middle," as that's where our objectives were. My guess was that the Germans wouldn't have air cover, and after sustained combat might not have much artillery, so massing up would be worth the risk. I also thought the Germans wouldn't be very mobile, and would have a difficult time bringing their defenders in from the flanks due to the hedgerows. Tim strongly felt that the Germans would concentrate their forces in the middle, and wanted to go up one of the flanks; Nate agreed with him. I pointed out that from the start line, we could hit the left flank bocage in one movement and breach it; the right flank bocage was too far to breach on the first turn. So we agreed to go for the left flank.
We deployed our "phalanx" on the left flank. We thought we needed to mass our forces to get them through the bocage as quickly as possible. (As we quickly learned, only one line could get through per turn, so we could have spaced out the assault lines.)
The Germans grumbled that we had thrown their defensive plan off. The GM complained that he wouldn't have set up the entire tabletop if he'd known we were only going to use one side!
The GM now explained his house rules for air strikes. Both sides could call for airpower; the Germans only had a base 10% chance of getting any; once one side received airpower, the roll was modified in favor of the other side (until they received some, when the modifier dropped to neutral again).
The Germans promptly rolled a '10' for airpower, and dropped a Stuka attack in the middle of my massed company. So much for my calculated risk!
To our surprise, the first bocage row was undefended. Meanwhile, German forces all over the tabletop began redeploying...
On our second turn, the Americans came into contact with the second line of bocage, but did not have time to breach it. (My force - in the center - was a turn later than everyone else, a consequence of the Stuka attack.) After a quick firefight, a few German defenders withdrew to the woods or moved off parallel to the road.
On the third turn, the Americans advanced into the field beyond the second line of bocage. The Sherman opened a breach in the second line of bocage, taking fire but suffering no damage. I suggested to Tim (commanding our right flank troops) to put someone into the bocage along the road, but he declined. In the Germans' turn, they fired from across the road, shooting up some of Tim's troops!
And in the field, the anti-tank gun revealed itself by firing on the Sherman. Tim's troops found a heavy machinegun to their front, near the exit to the road. Nate's troops closed on a section of light woods.
(The GM had a clever way to note which stands belonged to which company: by the number of white rocks (ballast) on the back of the stand.)
A fortuitously-timed airstrike took out the anti-tank gun... and his other close neighbors!
Meanwhile, Nate's infantry (and some of mine) prepared to put a wall of firepower into the light woods, and swung our Stuarts around to keep our flanks secure. (Unfortunately, Tim's troops blocked our sight line - can't fire through friendly troops...) Tim advanced against the machinegun, but his flank was exposed due to the gap in the bocage...
Nate's troops advanced into the woods after the withdrawing Germans, engaging them in close assault. Tim's infantry suffered a bad morale roll and momentarily withdrew, but his Sherman decided to take on the machinegun by itself.
Tim was now caught in a dilemma. His Sherman chased off the machinegun, but was forced to advance in victory... some Germans with panzerfausts now crept up next to his Sherman, able to attack the side armor because of the angle. Should he sacrifice movement, and fire to drive off the panzerfausts? Should he advance to the bocage, and give the panzerfausts a free shot as he moved?
Meanwhile, Nate continued his successful assault through the woods, and moved his Stuart up to support. I tried to advance my own forces, but was constricted into a column (!) due to space.
Tim and Nate now got their mortars into the act, bringing fire down on the final line of bocage.
Tim's infantry advanced out of the woods and flanked the remaining German defenders in front of us. Our other infantry (mine and Tim's) were delayed by bad morale rolls, but Tim's Sherman successfully ran away from the panzerfausts and breached the bocage. After combat, there was only one more enemy stand on our side of the road - a lone mortar stand in the far corner of the second field.
But the mortars scored a final hit on Nate's infantry! Ouch!
It looked like the Americans only needed a quick sprint to victory - through the final field, across the road, and across the "goalline" (the center backedge of the tabletop). Unfortunately, German reinforcements had the bad timing to arrive just now, right where we didn't want them.
At this point, the game was called on account of time. The GM said that since the scenario had not been played to conclusion, that he would decide the victor: and chose the Germans. In the GM's judgment, the Americans were too damaged to be able to exit the board against the fresh reinforcements. (All of the American infantry companies had taken at least 25% casualties.)
Nevertheless, the Americans felt they had done well. As Nate said, we had blasted through everything in our path - how could we have done any better?
One sour note was struck as the game was being cleaned up: the Cooper's Cave group began making fun and laughing at the "stupid" American players - despite the fact that I was standing right there, helping them put everything away. However legitimate their criticisms may have been - they felt that the Americans should have split their forces, since by concentrating on the left flank exclusively, they allowed the Germans to evacuate two-thirds of the board and counter-concentrate on them (though my counter-argument would be that two-thirds of the Germans never crossed the road, and were essentially out of the fight!) - they were jerks.