A shot in the dark

“One day my grandson said to me, grandpa were you a hero in the war? And i said to him no I’m not a hero, but I have served in a company full of them.”

Dick Winters, Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters

The “D-Day: American Forces” book provides a fantastic new scenario to use with your Para and Glider forces, allowing you to recreate the night of the D-Day Airborne insertions.  You could even use them for Market Garden if that’s what your gaming group fancies.  The new mission is called “Shot in the Dark” and is laid out like this

The key thing to this scenario is the special rules for the insertion.  We used a Para Force therefore we used the Para Drop rules. We elected to play at 100pts with the following lists

US Para Rifle Formation

Hq – In reserve
1 x Full Para Platoon with extra Bazooka and LMG plus Gammon Bombs
1 x Full Para Paltoon with extra Bazooka and LMG plus Gammon Bombs
1 x Full Para Platoon with extra Bazooka
4 x 81mm mortars
4 x 57mm guns – In reserve

Support
5 x DD Tanks (Vets) – In reserve
Cav Recon Patrol – In reserve

German Grenadiers

Hq with Faust – In reserve
Full Platoon with Faust and 2 x HMGs
Full Platoon with Faust and 1 x HMG
Full Platoon with Faust and 1 x HMG
6 x Mortars
3 x Pak40s

Support
2 x 88s
4 x PanzerIVs – In reserve
Full Armoured Panzergrenadier Platoon – in reserve

In this scenario all forces on both sides start pinned down and bailed out both to simulate the confused and dispersed landing for the US forces and the shock of being attacked for the Germans.  All reserves, for both sides, are delayed and scattered.  The Germans must also keep their HQ in barracks so they start in reserve.  The battle starts at night and you roll for dawn from turn 3.

Deployment

Paul deployed first, ringing the windmill objective with a platoon of infantry, setting the mortars up in the field and electing to have the Pak40s in a fairly central position, but not too exposed to an assault.  The 88s deployed to protect the road into the village (where the objective is) overwatched by the platoon with two HMGs, which would later cause so much havoc from the upstairs windows.  The final platoon went the other side of the village to ensure no paras crept up from behind.

The US had 4 x para markers and 3 managed to roll up in the same quarter.  I opted to place them fairly centrally to give me enough space and limit the chance of drifting onto any enemy troops (which automatically kills the platoon).  Unfortunately, while the Para platoons landed okay, the mortars drifted a long way and ended up on the Pak40s dying as they landed on them!  Not a great start.

The Game

Turn One

The Germans got the first turn and managed to unpin the infantry by the windmill, the mortars and 88s.  Due to the impact of’night fighting’ on ranges, there was no effective shooting and the mortars failed to range in.  The Paras response to the difficult drop was to attempt to rally.  The platoon behind the forest by the village failed and also don’t dig in, they are obviously dealing with some twisted ankles!  On the other side of the board the third platoon occupied the farm house and the central platoon assaulted the Pak40s killing/capturing them all, and avenging the massacred 81mm crews.

Turn Two

The Paks were in that gap however they were brutally overun by the paras.

The Germans responded by rallying the platoon in the village and the pinned platoon by the windmill.  The mortars found their mark on the central platoon and the third platoon, claiming a pair of stands and a further one to MG fire.  The weight of fire had pinned the whole Para force down. 
Shocked by the mortar bombardment and effective enemy fire these fearless troops all fail to unpin!  This is definitely tuning out to be ‘no easy day’.

Turn Three

No reserves for the Germans and no daylight either, thank goodness.
The Germans at the far end of the village still stubbornly refuse to wake up and unpin.  The repeat bombardment with six mortars was literally brutal killing a bazooka, LMG and a pair of rifle stands.

The right flanking platoon have moved up to take the farm but the mortars are keeping everyone pinned.
A big gap where the rest of the platoon used to be due to the mortars.

The Paras around the farm house still fail to rally but at least manage to dig in.  The platoon by the forest gets its act together and moves to reinforce the centre.  I have abandoned the objective in the village as a loss.

Turn Four

The turn starts with the grinding of tracks as four PanzerIVs arrived, luckily from a far corner.  However they manage to assault the LMG from the platoon that just vacated the area and add more casualties to the platoon via their MGs.  This despite the sun not coming up. 
Despite the mortars failing to re-range in the central para platoon is now in poor spirits thanks to the 88s taking another stand off them.

Post assault positions as the PanzerIVs arrive moving down the platoon as they fall back towards the farm.
The HMGs in the building dominate the ground, the paras have abandoned pushing this position and focus on the windmill instead.

Its time for the fight back to start.  As dawn breaks all paras unpin and open up with their embedded mortars pinning the grenadiers around the windmill and allowing a successful assault.  Two german stands die and the paras are finally on the objective.
The third para platoon takes up residence in the farm house with the bazookas covering the PanzerIVs approach.

Turn Five

The Armoured Grenadiers arrived from reserve by the windmill objective and their shooting at the Paras on the objective is so successful that they can’t assault this turn; the central platoon is wiped out. 

The remaining handful of paras on the objective fail to rally but dig in. 
The Shermans finally arrive from the beach and have a cunning plan. 
They arrive by the village and work out that by winning an assault against the German platoon, which has finally rallied, they can consolidate close enough to contest the village objective.  It’s a hail mary. 

It starts well with the grenadiers being pinned, although one Sherman is bailed on the way into the assault by the Panzerfaust.  However, over the following three rounds of combat, two more tanks are bailed to the panzerfaust with a single German stand dying.  The surviving Sherman breaks off with the rest captured.  The village has been held. 

Note to self: panzerfausts are (remain? – Lee)  amazing!

The Paras are on the objective but the halftracks arrive at the perfect spot opening fire in day light ripping the front platoon apart.
Five Shermans vs a a few rifle/MG stands with a single box of panzerfaust.  What could go wrong? 
Minutes later as the platoon commander fell back with the four other tanks burning, we got our answer.

It is now all over but the crying and the halftracks assault the small band of paras by the windmill, wiping them out.

Heros to the end….

8-1 to the Germans

Conclusion

Well that was a tough game!  At so many times it could have gone either way. 

I think my main mistake was not spreading the para markers out more; I had two where I could choose the corner, allowing me to threaten the mortars more and not be as bunched up.  I wanted concentration of force instead. 

Not rallying for two turns was brutal, and goes to show you can never rely on anything, even fearless troops. 

The arrival of the half tracks really finished me off. Despite all the set backs, I think had they arrived the other side of the board I could have stormed that objective. 

Its always great when you look back and see how things could have gone, it shows that the game was balanced and on a knife edge, which is always the best experience.  Both Paul and I had a blast playing this, now for some beach landings…


Category: AARFlames of WarGermansLate WarV4

4 comments

  1. All I can say is “Wow! Paratroopers ARE tough!” Just like they really were. They had a scattered deployment, and even had a risk of losing platoons due to drifting (the mortars suffering this fate). But despite being pinned and having horrible luck, they still managed to seriously threaten the objective. That in itself is amazing.

    The grenadier platoons “only” having panzerfausts and not also a schreck or two means that if you do miss with the single good AT weapon, you have to rely on your opponent rolling 1’s against the regular hits.

    All in all, the paratrooper player had really bad luck in that regard, but still kept trying and brought himself really close to victory. A bad player will blame his dice, a good player will say he tried but failed.

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Article by: Mark Goddard