Saturday, November 8, 2008

Somewhere west of the Rhine

Two weekends ago, we played a game of Kampfgruppe Commander that was rescehduled after and earlier delay (thereby preempting my plans to play Field of Glory). Mark Serafin put together a scenario set in France in 1944 where the German forces are in retreat while an American command attempts to cut off their escape routes.

The Germans set up a covering force in hidden positions on board. The American forces started on turn one with a scouting force probing for the German positions, to be followed by stronger forces on subsequent turns. Each turn, someone from each side drew a chit (poker chips with labels) that indicated what comes on board that turn. The options varied widely. Some chits were blank, others were unexciting. 

In the Germans' case, the chits were often for retreating forces like field kitchens, supply wagons, etc. Some combat units were available, but their mission was to retreat unless the German players could pass a test that called them into the fight.

German forces in retreat

The American scouting force performed somewhat dismally. I blame myself and my penchant for rolling 10s in this game. 10s are bad in Kampfgruppe Commander. 10s are never good. I roll many 10s. In scouting, a 10 means not only have you not found the enemy, but you just won't. Ever. This failure meant that for most of the early turns, the Americans learned about the German presence in the good ol' fashioned way: they got shot at.

"Do you see any Germans?" 
"Nope. You?" 

The American forces that came on as a result of chit draws were mostly battalion-level units. For the Germans, the chits draws mostly produced the aforementioned field kitchens, supply wagons, and mobile brothels. This disparity gave the Americans an opportunity to drive hard against the initial German positions and before long the German lines looked like a mini version of the Falaise pocket.

American armored forces attack the lower end of the German pocket

American infantry supported by tanks advances on the other side of the pocket

In response, the Germans moved a Fallschirmjäger battalion down from the top end of the pocket to attack the American flank.

Fallschirmjäger taking up poisitions against the American right flank

However, American infantry moved in to counter the threat.

American infantry moves into position to counter the German move

The Germans forces in the pocket died hard. Fearing destruction, they Germans voluntarily routed some units back, but this proved to be a mistake as American forces attacking other parts of the pocket easily destroyed the routed forces.

As things looked bleaker and bleaker for the Germans, they finally got a good combat unit in the chit draw. Using these forces in a local counterattack, they recaptured a town and forced back, with loss, the American light tank company of M-24s., which were no match for the German Panzer IVh tanks. The Shermans, which had started up to cut off the road where Germans forces were entering, had to be recalled to counter the new threat.

Shermans, supported by an AT gun,  dueling with the Panzer IVs

Meanwhile, the rest of the American combined arms force advanced to cut off one of the German reinforcement roads and survived an infantry counterattack to hold a vital position. The Americans counterattacked to regain the lost town, and the Panzer IVs got knocked about, but not yet entirely destroyed. It was time to call the game.

The central positions at the end of the game

American units in position to cut off German reinforcements

The Americans didn't have a clear victory. They had cut off one reinforcement road, but had not reached the bridge where the Germans were exiting their forces. To get there, the Americans would have a hard fight taking the town in front of the bridge and anything could happen. The Germans mostly got lousy chit draws, but that could change; there were good units that hadn't been drawn. The Americans were pretty lucky in their chit draws and still had the possibility of getting tank destroyers, artillery, and aircraft.

It was a good scenario. The Germans made a decent stand against superior American forces. We especially liked the chit draw as a means of determining reinforcements. We expect to see chit happen in our future scenarios.

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