After a quick detour into the American Civil War we returned to the deserts two weeks after our first campaign game.
We proceeded with our Chain of Command campaign, set in WW2, in Northern Africa in mid-1941. The haps so far: Operation Sonnenblume – The German Afrika Korps lands in Northern Africa. Initially planned to be a small force to keep the British Western Desert Force from driving back the Italian army in Africa even further, brash commander Erwin Rommel presses his troops on East tirelessly to throw the disorganized British back to Alexandria. With the Western Desert Force is young 2nd Lieutenant Deaglan Fitzpatrick who deserted the Irish army to join the British forces in the Good Fight. In his first battle Fitzpatrick and his men met sinister Leutnant Lechner’s Grenadier platoon and stopped them from scouting no man’s land, forcing them to retreat.
The lines were drawn. Lechner was repelled for now but swore revenge. Tonight his platoon returned and decided to break through British lines right at Fitzpatrick’s section of the front line.
We started by working out some campaign administration stuff. Looking how many of last game’s casualties would return to service immediately, how many would spend this game in the field hospital and for how many the war was over. Then we rolled for changes in how their superiors regarded Lt.Lechner and 2nd Lt.Fitzpatrick (Lechner’s superior wasn’t happy about his platoon retreating, Fitzpatrick’s superiors were moderately pleased with the outcome). The opinion of the men of both platoons for their officers didn’t change.
The Mission and Support
The mission was The Probe, Germans being on the attack (as per our campaign), getting quite a lot of support plus an extra bonus because last game we messed up a little and the British had gotten a little too much in terms of support. Force Morale was formidable on both sides but with limited support at hand (because bloody Battlefront, who I get my minis from, didn’t stock certain things like British anti tank guns then, so I didn’t have much to field at all that that time) I wasn’t too happy. The Germans ended up with seven levels of support which is a LOT whereas I got four which isn’t bad at all but alas – no models for anti-tank guns and no tanks small enough to fit that bill so I went with the now almost usual forward observer with a mortar battery on hold.
Lechner, after the small setback, was burdened with Battalion sending another senior officer with him to help him command his troops (an affront but he would have to wait for his revenge). On the plus side 15th Panzer Regiment sent him a Panzer III G for support.
My platoon came with a Boys anti-tank rifle team but the obsolete gun would have a hard time scratching the German state of the art behemoth.
So my plan was to basically keep my head down and hope for a good moment to pop up and swarm a juicy, isolated target. As the only aim of my opponent was to get anything to my table edge I had to keep reserves to show up where ever they would try to break through.
The Germans put pretty much everything they had on the table fast. first two sections, going in Overwatch, then one more section (led by their newly shipped in NCO after their former one was killed in the last engagement) and the Panzer III. Lechner himself as well as the Battalion staff officer kept things together and the whole platoon showed an annoyingly efficient display of Wehrmacht tactics paired with battlefield expertise learned during the Poland and France campaigns.
The only thing I deployed was the platoon’s 2″ mortar to lay down some smoke to cover possible pop-up opportunities for my boys (half the German platoon was on Overwatch constantly, scanning the hills). I made the mistake to be bold about using my Forward Observer, popping him up to give the off-table mortar battery coordinates to strike. Before that though the Observer fell victim to the combined effort’s of the Panzer III’s hull and co-axial MGs. I proceeded to pop some more smoke via light mortar but quickly realized that it made no sense engaging the enemy at this point and my three models (mortar team and Platoon Sergeant Graham) retired back to the platoon.
Well, this certainly is a thing that can happen. I stayed out of sight, trying to accumulate Chain of Command Dice (for certain activation rolls you get points you collect. For every six points you get a Chain of Command Die which you can use to do all kinds of snazzy things) or an activation roll just at the right time that would let me skip my opponent’s next phase (nothing too rare. The German player had that result twice during our game). The fact of the Germans looking through my plan and taking their time and advancing tactically and as a full unit rather than going for quick and rash advances didn’t help either. Plus, there was that tank which I had only very slim chances of taking down. In hindsight I’m very happy that I didn’t get any situations that would have tempted me to go “all in”. If the mortar battery would have had the chance to strike I could have effectively taken about half the enemy platoon out of the game for a few phases but my opponent got his chain of command points faster than me as well so he could have stopped the barrage rather early on anyway. It just wasn’t a day to fight. Heavy support on the German side plus no real opportunities due to activation dice…
We rolled up the consequences of the battle. Superiors’ opinions on Lechner rose (after they’ve seen the splendid display of discipline in front of the staff officer), the early enthusiasm for Fitzpatrick veined (we’re both back to zero now). The men’s opinion on the platoon officers didn’t change much either. One win on each side so far.
This may sound highly unspectacular but it’s a thing that can happen and it’s one of the reasons why I really enjoy Chain of Command. It’s a realistic decision. Granted, if this wouldn’t have been a campaign game I would have acted differently, throwing what ever I had at them, getting my men torn up and hoping for a miracle, but this again shows the strength of campaigns. It forces you to think beyond the gaming table, manage your resources and recognize a situation as it is. We both had a really good time though and it was never uninteresting in the slightest. Any time a lucky activation roll may have led to a situation which I would have deemed good enough to engage the enemy in full force, but it was not to be.
Stay tuned for the next game in which a whole lot more is going to happen!