The attack on Normandy/Bordeaux from Belgium/Holland.
Attackers: 2 Infantry, 3 artillery, 2 tank, 1 fighter. Defenders: 1 Infantry, 1 artillery.
The game was played with 3mm models on 10” boards with a 1” grid.
Standard ground units were of battalion strength, at approximately 1 figure per 8 men, and 1 vehicle or gun per 3 or 4. The orders of battle were based on the Panzerblitz game and other data.
The Germans attacked with (based on 7th Panzer Division 1940):
2 tank battalions each of 2 x PzIb, 4 x PzIIc, 6 x Pz38T, 2 x PzIVd.
2 infantry battalions, each of 9 x rifle platoon, 1 x mortar platoon, 1 x towed 37mm AT platoon, 1 x towed 75mm gun platoon, 1 HQ
1 motorised artillery battalion of 3 x 105mm howitzers with half-tracks. 1 HQ, 1 OP,
2 horse-drawn artillery regiments each of 3 x 105mm howitzers and 3 horse teams
1 Staffel of 4 x Me109 fighters (1 per Schwarm)
The French defended with:
1 battalion of 12 x rifle platoon, 1 x 25mm truck-towed AT platoon.
1 artillery battalion of 3 x truck-towed 75mm guns.
The French defensive plan.
The three 75mm batteries were deployed, emplaced, around the hamlet near the rear centre. One battery was in the village and one either side, across a frontage of about 900 metres. The regimental CP was in a farmhouse to the west end of the village and a spotter team posted on the central high hill.
The infantry battalion was deployed with three companies occupying defensive positions on the right flank and centre, with the 25mm AT gun platoon guarding the left flank road from an entrenched position on the facing hilltop. The fourth company was in reserve in a wood behind the hill in the centre. Battalion HQ was established in a farm to the left centre.
The German attack plan.
The objective was to break through the French defence and push on to the west via one of the two roads.
The Germans had nine batteries of 105mm towed howitzers available, and decided to commence the attack with a creeping barrage for 12 turns from the guns off-table, followed by a broad front attack by infantry until the enemy defences were located. The batteries were spaced at 350m intervals across the front. The two infantry battalions would attack with two companies up and one in reserve. Heavy weapons were reserved until the enemy was contacted. Each battalion was to be followed by a company of Pz38T tanks at a distance of 500m to be called upon as necessary. Further armoured support was held in reserve until enemy strength and response was determined.
I added a rule for ammunition supply. Each artillery battery has an adjacent supply point with 1 average die worth of points. Whenever a 1 is rolled for shooting effect, one point is removed from the dump. For other unit types, if a 1 is rolled they are marked as “Low Ammo” and may only shoot in defence until supplied from the store, either by a transport unit or my moving to the supply point.
In turn 2 the French infantry spotted the first enemy infantry advancing on their right flank. They were out of range for the infantry but also seen by the artillery OP team on the centre hill. Artillery fire was ordered for turn 3 against map squares 02080202 – 02080204, one battery to each grid square, reducing range by one grid square per turn.
In turn 3 the French guns fired and scored a hit directly onto a German platoon in the open. The German went to ground, taking cover wherever they could find it. Two platoons were hit in turn 4. The German barrage had so far not hit anything.
The French spotters now halted the fire on the enemy infantry to the right for fear of hitting their own men, switching the fire orders to the enemy infantry on the left flank. The German artillery scored a hit on French infantry in a hamlet, scattering it and setting alight to the house they were occupying. Another hit was scored on a rifle platoon within a walled enclosure, wiping it out. The German infantry continued their advance, followed by the first of the supporting Pz38T companies on each flank.
German artillery fire continued to creep forward, followed by the infantry. One German platoon attempted a close assault against enemy infantry in the village, but failed. The French artillery spotters again switched targets, this time to the extreme right flank. The 75mm batteries all failed to do any damage.
In the next turn several close assault attacks took place along the front with limited success. The French spotters were now struggling to find targets that were not too close to friendly troops, but also in danger from the enemy barrage and called a ceasefire before withdrawing. In their last volley the 75mm guns stopped the German attack on the right, wiping out one platoon and scattering a second. On the left flank one German platoon was thrown back from its attack on the walled enclosure.
At last the German barrage had some real effect, managing to wipe out one infantry platoon on the far left. Otherwise no damage was done. Several infantry assaults were carried out, resulting in the disruption of three French platoons. The only effect of this was to prevent them withdrawing, as the French force, aware of its deficiency in the face of enemy attacks, began to fall back.
Several French platoons, including the 25mm AT guns, were disrupted and pinned by German close assaults. The remainder continued to retreat. After an attack on the hamlet towards the centre the two attacking platoons were spent and needed to retire to replenish ammunition.
One of the German artillery batteries used up the last of its ammunition and ceased fire. One of 1st Panzer Battalion’s Pz38T platoons had managed to outflank the last French platoon defending the stone walls on the left flank. They opened fire to no effect. Two platoons of PzIV tanks with the short 75mm gun arrived to support infantry attacks. The Regimental HQ also came onto the board in the centre. Further close assaults by infantry platoons had little effect.
The French continued to withdraw in the face of greater opposition. One of the 75mm batteries opened fire on the approaching PzIV tank platoons on their right flank and stopped it, blocking the road.
A close assault by an entire German infantry company suppressed the emplaced 25mm AT gun company. A gradual advance by tanks and infantry continued. The Luftwaffe was called in on a “seek and destroy” mission. The French artillery now had no enemy in sight. The infantry continued to withdraw by alternate platoons with covering fire.
The German RHQ spotted one of the enemy artillery batteries and requested fire from three batteries on the next turn. One platoon of Pz38Ts on the left flank made an over-run attack on a French infantry platoon, suppressing it, while two more platoons circled round to cut the company off from its line of retreat. Towards the right two platoons of infantry poured suppressing fire on a French platoon (with no effect), then their third platoon charged the enemy, disrupting their retreat.
I diced for the arrival point for each Schwarm of ME109s (one model), then they flew in a straight line across the table, dicing to identify each unit encountered, with misidentification on a roll of 5 or 6.
All the targets were correctly identified as French. First a 75mm gun, emplaced, then three infantry platoons, one sheltered by woods, were strafed but with no effect. The aircraft flew on and left the board. The location of the French artillery had been established and reported.
One French artillery battery had a PzIV platoon in its sights, which it managed to hit and wipe out. This battery had now run out of ammunition and prepared to limber up and withdraw. Infantry continued to pull back, with the surrounded unit trying to fight their way out.
Three 105mm howitzer batteries fired from off-table at the enemy gun battery identified by the RHQ unit. Two scored hits, wiping it out. Attacks all across the front had little effect. The French 25mm AT battery was again suppressed.
On the right flank the French infantry company continued their break-out attempt. The artillery battery that was out of ammunition retired to the rear, leaving just one battery with the regimental HQ.
German HQ called in artillery fire on withdrawing enemy infantry between the two central hills. Three Pz38T platoons and an infantry platoon attacked two French infantry platoons intercepted during their withdrawal on the left flank. Elsewhere the steady advance continued, except at the hill on the right flank where the AT gun platoon was now almost surrounded in their entrenchments.
The remaining 75mm gun battery now had a platoon of Pz38Ts to its front that had just crossed over the hill 900m away. This was stopped, literally, in its tracks. The French infantry maintained the fighting retreat.
One surrounded French infantry platoon came under fire from a platoon of Pz38Ts, a platoon of PzIVs and a rifle platoon. Once again they were pinned down but not eliminated.
At this point the French conceded the game. Two infantry platoons and the 25mm gun surrendered, being virtually surrounded. The remaining 75mm battery, together with the HQ units, escaped, as did the remaining infantry in the centre. This would have taken several moves to play out.
Final losses. French: 5 infantry platoons from 12, 1 artillery battery from 3. Germans: 1 infantry platoon from 24, 1 tank platoon from 20.
For campaign purposes the French infantry battalion was deemed destroyed, but the artillery survived and were reinforced. On the German side both units had their losses made up. Method: roll the appropriate dice according to the number of original platoons (D12 for infantry, D10 for armour). If more than the losses is rolled, the battalion is reinforced, otherwise it is destroyed.
These rules are OK, but the combat results table gives too many occasions wherein a unit is dispersed, recovers next turn and is again dispersed, and so on. The French infantry are under-rated by the designer. Their rifle platoons have an attack of 1 and defence of 5 against a German platoon of attack 2, defence 8. So the combat ratios are 1:8 (reduced to 1:4 minimum) against 2:5 (adjusted to 1:3). Adding more French platoons to the attack does not help much, giving odds of 2:8 (1:4 again) and 3:8 (1:3). So an entire French company is needed to equate to a German platoon in attacking an enemy platoon.
I think the rules work in their original environment – a hexagon based board with the ability to stack units – but even there they are better for armour than infantry or artillery.
For the next game I will use a version of “The Portable wargame”. I need to more easily identify the infantry of opposing sides, maybe with a paint stripe at the rear of the base. Future infantry will be based more randomly than the straight lines seen here.
These rules may work for armoured engagements, but infantry are only useful in defence of strongpoints.