Sunday, December 20, 2009

F.U.B.A.R. in Italy

Saturday's Kampfgruppe Commander II game had a mixed result. On the plus side, we played until there was a definite conclusion. (Rare for us.) On the minus side, I haplessly threw away the better part of my forces and the bad guys escaped to fight again.

I designed a sceanario set in Italy, 1943 during the Allied advance to the Volturno line after the Salerno landings. Five American battalions (three infantry--with support from an M8 HMC, some M10s, and a company of combat engineers, one tank, one paratroop) with artillery support needed to force a crossing of a river by a single ford. Three reduced German panzergrenadier battalions, (supported by artillery, a company of Pz IIIMs, and a company of StuG IIIGs) had to hold them back for five turns and then bugger out across the river themselves.

My initial fear in designing the sceanario was that the Germans would be easily overwhelmed by American superiority in numbers and firepower, so I had the Germans set up hidden and delayed the entry of the American paratroops. As it turned out, these changes made it a bit difficult for the Americans to press the Germans very hard. To winkle out hidden troops requires a few turns of patient scouting. By the time we found them, they would be escaping to safety.

The Americans attacked from opposite sides. I came in with two infantry battalions, supported by the engineers and M10s. Ken came in with the tank battalion and an infantry battalion supported by the M8. John, ex-82nd Airborne himself, ran the paratroop battalion.

As always, I lead with my chin. I tried to cautiously advance, but I still had a lot of open ground to cover, so there wasn't a lot of cover. Turn one left me with all my troops on the table but not one successful spot of an enemy position.

Mark Serafin, commanding the two German panzergrenadier battalions with support from the StuGs facing me, soon enlightened me as to where his units were. Artillery, mortars, and small arms opened up on my leading companies. I lost most of one compnay destroyed and routed on turn 1. In the following turns, I had another company shot up and routed and another two shot up. My advance over the stream against Germans on the wooded hill, got about halfway there before artillery, mortars, and small arms fire completely destroyed one company and routed another. By this time, my attack was a shambles and Mark was in a position to start withdrawing his units towards the ford where they could exit.

On Ken's side, his tanks advanced against Steve Puffenberger's forces, a single panzergrenadier battalion supported by a company of Pz IIIMs. Ken lead with his tanks followed by the infantry.

The Pz IIIs were outclassed by the M4A1 Shermans and Steve was hard pressed to hold his ground.

However, Mark, having nothing left to worry about from me, turned his StuGs to face against Ken's advance and managed to hold him in check for a few turns.

Because the Americans failed to break through and block the ford in time, the Germans were able to skeedadle on turn 6. They managed to get their Pz IIIs and some infantry companies off that turn and had more companies staged to get off the next. I had only one reduced company and the M10s to try and chase down the Germans as they left. It wasn't nearly enough.

The rest of my forces were a shambles cowering in the woods or behind a slope trying to recover morale and their some losses. They were in no position to continue the fight.

The scenario was a bit flawed. By design, the paratroopers wouldn't enter the game until turn 3, although they didn't really come on unitl turn 4. I should have had them come on turn one. Without a strong enough initial attack, the Americans didn't have enough force to press the Germans. My scenario design in the past few games I've run, is an attempt to get more mobile and fluid encounters. This scenario has potential, but I need to rethink a few things.

The day at The Panzer Depot was rewarding, too, because John was running a sale that attracted a few old grognards from days past. Even Bob Mackler showed up, which was a pleasant surprise. I haven't seen Bob in years. We had a good chat about gaming, our jobs, and, of course, our cats.

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