Today, Duncan looks back at his most recent Flames of War Great War game the German launch the full might of their Stormtroopers against the US defences – fail – and then are force back on the defensive by the stout Dough Boys!
This AAR is the write up of the second game that we played that night. I shall now, for completeness, give a summary of the 1st game here for completeness.
- Through Mud & Blood scenario – Germans attacking.
- The Germans set up.
- The US troops fire.
- General carnage as I roll 1s and 2s and everything basically dies.
- In the German 2nd turn no one rallies apart from the Stoss platoon, which goes in unsupported and is gutted on the way in.
- The Germans concede at the end of their turn 2.
I thought that wouldn’t really make much of an AAR so we swapped roles and re-racked ready for another crack at the scenario.
We opted for the second scenario in the Great War rules, Through the Mud and Blood. This mission gives some very interesting deployment options for both sides. The flank attack means your trench lines are exposed from turn 1 and, with the defender having the first turn, the attacker should brace themselves for a true hurricane of lead.
*please note that this image was taken before the 1st game hence the reason that the US HMGs are MG nests in this picture*
With the US 42nd Division having French armoured support and, in this game, the Germans choosing to field a short battery of 7.7cm guns the Germans would be the de-facto defender with the US on the offensive.
As the defender, the first thing I had to do was choose a table quarter and set up my artillery battery in that quarter – this also dictates where the attackers flank assault will deploy.
Next I deployed the 4ft of trenches that form the front of my defences and, in the thematic storyline of the game, are the rear 2nd and 3rd line defences that are being fought over as the 1st line has been overrun by the Americans.
I choose to place all of my MG nests on my left flank to basically force the Americans to attack my right where their flank assault would materialise from – hopefully keeping my forces compact and not allowing the US troops a flank or rear shot.
My reserves were: the Stoss platoon, the two Krupp guns and the two minenwerfers.
The first thing I had to do was check for reserves… yep none of those.
In the spirit of doing what your opponent least wants you to do I decided to pull back my left hand infantry safe in the knowledge that if Rick swung his troops to take advantage of the vacant trench lines then he would have to run the gauntlet of MG fire from my three nests on that flank.
I then opened fire. The artillery ranged in on Ricks flanking force and pinned them down – a brilliant start! I would be hard pressed to wipe those troops out but if I could stop them moving then that would be a great result. The other infantry opened up at the US infantry and manged to pin them down too.
Rick started off by rolling to motivate his pinned troops – not for the first time in this game would the US special rule mean that his Confident troops would spring manfully from their foxholes and take the fight to the Kaisers troops.
Forward came the French flamethrower troops ready for, I assumed, grilled bunfarbenanstrich. The French tanks supported the flanking infantry on my right and the central infantry moved up to fire on the single German infantry unit left in the forward trenches.
The shooting phase started badly for the French – three skill checks, one – one – two and the flame throwers are spent: less than ideal but a break for me! The US crewed French howitzers opened up and, along with the US infantry, managed to pin my forward troops.
With no assaults it was on to turn 2.
My left hand infantry continued to pull back to toward the quarter where the objectives were, hopefully harassment free. There was no other movement so it was swiftly on to another firing phase.
The two gun battery ranged in again on the US infantry pinning them again and bailing out a FT-17 – I had forgotten how the rerolling hits for a short platoon really hamstrings your ability to cause consistent damage. The pinned platoon shot ineffectively at the US troops in front of them and the MG nest at the right hand end of my string of defences raked some more of the US troops that had strayed into range last turn, killing a base.
With no assault again the German troops would have to weather another turn before fresh troops could (maybe) arrive.
Hmm… not too much happened in the German phase and the game felt like it was reaching a climactic moment. With the aid of their reroll the 42nd Division rose again to their feet to press home their attack.
The US troops on the right of the German line fixed bayonets and charged. 3” stokes mortars deployed, the HMGs deployed, and the inexorable advance of the US infantry behind the German trench lines continued unabated.
In the firing phase the Stoke Mortars began to pound the MG nests pinning the closest and coming within a single pip of turning it into a charnel ruin. The HMGs added their weight of fire to the rear of the German lines but only managed to keep the infantry platoon’s head down and not cause any significant losses.
The assault phase was halted – due to a tremendous effort from the forward German troops as they pinned down the advancing US forces in front of them before they could get any further along the communications trenches and into the final line of defences.
Oh dear… US forces were now threatening to link up on my left and turn the front German forces. Of course now that a reinforcement was guaranteed I rolled enough to get a single reserve on – those blasted FT-17s had to be stopped so I chose to bring on a single 7.62cm Krupp gun to give them something to think about.
Meanwhile, at the front lines, the German troops stubbornly refused to pop their heads above the parapet and stayed hunkered down. My left hand infantry platoon continued its steady consolidation back towards the 2 objectives in front of the 7.7cm battery’s position in the rear left hand quarter.
The shooting phase brought further disappointment as the 7.7cm guns failed miserably to range in and the rest of the fire failed to cause any causalities on the advancing Americans. The 7.62cm guns did at least cause the FT-17s to pause as they hit the MG tank with a round on the move and caused it to bail out.
Again the US forces piled on the pressure by rallying both the infantry on the right of German lines and remounting the FT-17. This was ominous.
The US troops on the right prepared for another assault whilst the HMGs moved into a better firing position behind the trench lines. The FT-17s got in range of the 7.7cm guns in their gun pits and the accompanying infantry made for the ruined church in the centre of the board.
The 3” mortars bombed the nearest MG nest to oblivion and the FT-17s pinned the 7.62cm Krupp gun that was barring their advance on the 7.7cm guns – Rick had mentioned that they would have to go to remove the threat of their covering fire from the two objectives to the side of the ruin church.
The assault phase arrived and the fighting was fierce – the hail of small arms fired from the pinned Germans failed to stop the onrushing US troops and America bayonets claimed two stands of Germans. The Kaisers men motivated and stabbed back at the 42nd claiming one of their own stands. The Americans fought on, killing another stand and this time the study defenders could take no more and broke off; leaving the shattered remains of the US platoon in partial occupancy of the forward trenches on the German right.
Another 7.62cm Krupp gun trundled on from reserve, as again I only managed one 5+ on 4 dice, ready to repel the FT-17s. I withdrew the remains of the infantry platoon in the trenches out of their compromised defences – I saw no point in leaving them there but it would expose them to withering MG fire from the US HMGs for a turn.
The infantry that had left the trenches earlier now started to pop shots at the US infantry around the church, and were joined by the 7.7cm guns firing directly, which caused a casualty and pinned the US men down.
The Krupp guns again manage to bail out both the FT-17s and I hoped that would be enough – if there had been closer infantry then those American crews would have been captured but it was not to be. Finally the pinned infantry that had been ejected from the trenches fired at the 3” Stokes mortar closest to them and the HMG platoon – killing the mortar but leaving the HMGs unpinned.
This was it – turn 2 felt like a pivotal turn and the bottom of turn 4 had the same feel. It started well for the US forces as the FT-17s become operational again while the troops that had heroically stormed the trench lines decided that they needed some respite and stayed pinned down in their hard won cover. The US infantry near the FT-17s rallied and made a beeline for the cover of the ruined church.
In the shooting phase the HMGs cruelly gunned down two of the retreating Germans and pinning them whilst the FT-17s pinned their intended victim and the remaining Stoke mortar blasted another MG nest to smithereens.
The assault phase led to the surprising assault of the FT-17s taking on the Krupp guns! Predictably, the Krupp guns fluffed their lines and the tanks got in, crushing the infantry support weapons under tonnes of grinding metal.
That had been a bad turn for the Kaisers men. The loss of the 7.62cm without taking either of the FT-17s with it was crippling. I got another reserve on but was unwilling to send the Stoss platoon on to deal with the tanks marauding around my baseline so popped a minenwerfer on in the far corner instead. The infantry that was pinned jumped up again and poised itself for a savage fire fight against the HMGs racking its retreat taking cover in some shell holes where possible.
The 7.7cm guns began the firing by blasting another US section to kingdom come and the freshly rallied infantry exacted their revenge on the HMGs by killing 2 of their number in reply. The remaining Krupp gun stayed statuesquely still and planted 2 hits on the FT-17s causing the gun tank to explode – finally!
No assaults again and it felt like the Germans had begun to exert some control on a rapidly deteriorating situation.
The remaining FT-17 ran around the rear of the 7.7cm gun emplacements looking for an opening and the pinned US troops in the centre rallied and took cover in the remains of the church but again the pinned troops in the captured trenches remained in their protective surroundings and the pinned HMG refused to rally probably sealing its fate. The last 3” mortar pulled back into a copse of trees as its HMG support seemed to evaporate.
In the shooting phase the FT-17 casually gunned down the last 7.62cm gun circumnavigating its gun shield and killing the crew with ease. The final HMG blasted off another belt of ammo to little avail with the 75mm guns began the thankless task of trying to make single barrages have a meaningful effect on a battlefield.
The fire fight around the church intensified with a German infantry section falling in a hail of small arms and the platoon becoming pinned down but no assaults this turn at least gave the battered Germans some reprieve.
Turn 6 and I finally rolled for more than one reserve unit to appear so the Stoss platoon stormed on to the field of battle, doubling straight down the guts towards the church. The other minenwefer hovered around the trench works hoping to look inconspicuous to the FT-17. Nothing else moved; this was a gutter brawl now.
The German troops failed to rally on the objective and this could spell disaster for the Germans.
The shooting rewarded the Germans with a pinned unit in the ruined church and the destruction of the last HMG; the commander failing his moral test and heading back to friendly lines.
No assaults again and the Germans brace themselves for the US response.
The US forces steeled themselves and the survivors in the church rallied and flung themselves out towards the Germans on the objective in a final gamble to secure victory. The single gun barrages of the 75mm had zero impact but the final trench mortar claimed another victim in the craters behind the trenches.
The FT-17, unable to risk advancing in front of the 7.7cm guns, remained behind them ready to gun down the recently arrive minenwerfer. The firing of the US assault troops spilling out of the church was wild but their bayonets were fixed and so were their jaws. The defensive fire of the German troops killed a US stand but the assault went in killing a further 2 stand of defenders. The German band of defenders passed their motivation and counter attacked killing a US stand and forcing the assault back.
At this point we called the game.
Talking to Rick he felt that the imminent arrival of the crack Stoss platoon and the fact he had no real way to easily remove the 7.7cm guns covering the objective meant that he would struggle to contest the objective in the coming turns.
So this was to be the first outing of 2 new things in the Great War arsenal:
- Dedicated assault troops
- Field artillery.
On the dedicated assault troops I’m not sure that we can draw a good conclusion based on either of the games I played – in the first aborted game they were mowed down viciously but the Fearless morale kept them going when others simply stopped.
They are really expensive and I think without knowing the scenario you may be just as well off with Confident Veteran infantry but there is a fear factor with them. I talked to Rick afterwards and the potential of that unit in Reserve was playing on his mind constantly, so the psychological impact of having a unit of Stoss infantry might make them worth considering in and of itself.
I would like to try a Stoss Company to see what the Fearless Veteran Stormtroopers are like by themselves.
The second consideration, of artillery, is one that I think is a bit clearer cut. I don’t believe that they are worth the large points investment that you have to make to get them in the list. The single gun platoons are fine but once they are unable to fire directly a single gun barrage is almost completely ineffectual as an asset to your force.
The artillery battery at least gives you the certainty of always defending, but the near 300pts you outlay for the short platoon could be another Stoss platoon or two Confident Trained infantry platoons which are just as likely to pin an opposing platoon as the short battery re-rolling hits. I would never consider including a full 7.7cm or 75mm battery in games of less than 2000pts as at the lower levels they are half your army in a single platoon and they just will not do the heavy lifting you need them to at that point.
I’m off to consider how many Stoss platoons IS TOO many now and how I can cobble together some Great War Objective markers (I’d give zero thought into needing these so apologies for the use of the dragons teeth etc.) so I hope you have enjoyed sharing the first outings of my new troops.