Martin brings us his first post lockdown AAR.
I’ll start by saying that not having not been able to play here in the UK until very recently has been a tough thing to do and I have been forced to watch the campaign unfold in front of me with some great write ups and videos via cyber space, with ever more envy, until finally this week I got to take part.
With the British in the form of the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade still ocuppying C5, Rommel has correctly recognised the need to eliminate them and once more Infantrie Regiment 200 – 90 Leichte Afrika Division and 27° Divisione ‘Brescia’ were ordered to prepare to attack.
But, following the first turn battles, the British commanders acted quickly. The Axis forces were forced to attempt to withdraw to better positions as a Valentine Infantry Tank Company, supported by self propelled artillery in the form of some very powerful members of the ecclesiarchy (Bishops) and two infantry platoons, launched a counter attack, seeking to cut off the supplies to Rommels spearhead formations before they were ready to launch their own second attack.
The scenario for this game was Rear Guard; the Axis forces would have to defend their entire frontage whilst seeking to hold off the British forces with ever decreasing resources thanks to the Strategic Withdrawal rule.
4x Valentine Mk2 platoons
4x 6pdr AT platoon
4x Bishop SP Artillery (unofficial unit)
Motor Rifle Platoon with Inadian Motor Company & Softskin transports CC
90th Light Infantry HQ
Rifle Platoon with HMG and 8cm Mortar and Panzerknacker CC
Rifle Platoon with Panzerknacker CC
3x 7.62mm AT guns
2x SdKfz 10/4 AA half tracks
2x Bison 15cm SPA (unofficial unit)
2x 8.8cm FlaK36
Mixed Panzer III with 2x short 5cm, 1x Long 5cm, 1x uparmoured Long 5cm and 1x 7.5cm
2x 5cm AT guns
Rifle Platoon with HMG and 8cm Mortar with Softskin transports
Italian Rifle Platoon with Legions of Rome CC.
Having to deploy first I decided to deployed my minefields to block off the open space on my left flank to prevent a rush from the carriers and motor rifles around my left flank. My 88’s were placed to cover this and a rush along the road as well as hold the objective.
My limited artillery was placed behind the palm orchard which concealed my Firestorm platoon. The Italians, who I didn’t expect much of against the tanks, held the centre ground in the near impregnable farm house and my right flank and the second objective was covered by my German infantry and AT guns with the 5cm’s placed in ambush. With the open space of the desert, trying to hide my large 7.62cm’s was not really an option.
Finally my mixed panzer platoon was placed behind the farmhouse in the center ready to race to bolster either flank in case of a British breakthrough.
The British had a powerful tank force but my regular gaming partner, Bryan, recognising they would be susceptible to the heavy anti tank guns, decided to concentrate his forces to attack the right most objective and eliminate my 8.8cm’s from the game early on. He planned to use the carrier patrol and Firestorm unit to keep my left flank forces in position whilst the Bishops covered the advance of the Valentines backed up by the riflemen.
The British Battle Plan
The British attacking battle plan was pretty simple; a massed armoured charge to overwhelm the German infantry. With the strategic withdrawal rule, this decisive attack could break the German force very quickly as I only had five core platoons (we agreed not to count the Firestorm platoon). With the Valentines only only really fearing the 7.62cm AT guns, if these could be quickly silenced then they would be able to control the battlefield.
The game opened with the Bishops dropping a smoke screen, blocking all line of sight for the german anti tank gunners, and the Valentines rolled forward. As I had placed my infantry 18″ back from the British deployment zone, expecting this type of tactic, the Valentine, whilst getting close, could not engage my front lines. Other than a few ranging shots from my artillery I mainly chose to do go to ground to prepare for the inevitable assault next turn.
The British launch their assault, with three tank platoons engaging across the German front line. The combined shooting of Valentines and Bishops proved decisive, and I lost two of my heavy AT guns before they could even get a shot off.
The close quarter fighting started; the rifles held their ground, counter attacking with their panzerknackers, and after after three rounds of combat two tanks were burning and a third bailed out. however, this heroic effort had lost nearly 50% of my core infantry and all their AT weapons. I failed to counter attack a second time and was forced to fall back!
Luckily I still had unengaged units holding the objective.
The Axis turn started with Strategic Withdrawal claiming my 2cm AA, but otherwise it went well with my troops all unpinning and passing last stand tests. I moved my panzers to engage, but crucially forgot to activate my ambush! (That’s what happens when you haven’t played for a long time). Shooting was ineffective with no casualties caused on the Valentine’s my Bisons did manage to kill a Bishop and highly accurate mortar fire pinned the British Infantry.
The Rifles failed to rally which would see them remain stranded in the middle of the board doing nothing for the remainder of the entire game. The British sensing their opportunity with my mistake, pressed the attack with their armoured forces, the British HQ joining the assault. However, due to some poor rolls, I managed to disengage the German infantry, luring the overconfident tanks forward, towards the well hidden Italians in the centre.
On the British left, things went well and the last of the heavy AT was overrun and the British had managed to open a route to round the German right flank.
Strategic Withdrawal saw the remnants of my larger rifle platoon depart. I could now no longer afford to lose core formation platoons.
With nowhere else to go, I placed my ambushing PaK38’s inside the compound opposite the gate. I was forced to push the Panzers further forward potentially exposing their flank in turn 4 to counter the three tank squadrons now pressuring the objective held by a rifle team and my one remaining HQ team, my 2iC being lost in the assault.
I also elected to dash my Flak36’s at this point so they could potentially shoot next turn. Despite moving the Panzers proved their worth and promptly reduced two platoons to just a single functioning tank and 1 bailed out.
This was the pivotal turn of the Battle for the British. It started badly, with the tankies failing to remount and, despite the presence of their Commander, both tank platoons fled the field. The 6pdr unit dashed forward and the Indians and carrier patrol moved to engage the German Firestorm unit to prevent me redeploying them to bolster my defences.
The Valentine unit on the extreme British left advanced round the flank of the Panzer platoon but, thanks to the overworked rule, failed to score any hits on the weak side armour, whilst the remaining two platoons to the front only managed to knock out a lone short 5cm Panzer III.
With the proximity of the Panzers and Pak38’s, the British Tanks could not risk an assault against the remaining Riflemen and elected not to move. The Indians and carriers launched their attack supported by fire from the remaining Bishops, managing to push the Germans back behind the palm orchard but were unable to press home their advantage.
Strategic Withdrawal again forced me to withdraw another unit; this time I chose the Bisons.
My only movement was to reposition the 7.5cm Panzer III to allow my 88’s to target the Valentines supporting the HQ platoon. The tanks round my right flank, whilst of concern, were not a worry to me as I could seriously weaken or destroy the two platoons to my front. The British would have to withdraw from the battlefield if these were lost.
Shooting was going to be decisive for me this turn as I doubted I could survive much longer now I had been flanked. I started with the 88’s; they killed one and bailed one tank, Now I had a choice of what to do with my four remaining panzers,. After a few minutes to think through the options, I realised my Italians could make a sneak attack on the left most British tank, preventing it getting any defensive fire. This settled it; I concentrated all my dice against the British HQ tank furthest from my Italians. Due to the short range, the mistaken target rule could not be used. I rolled my dice, scoring two hits in total. The British failed both saves and I again destroyed one ank and bailed one, in all there were just two functioning tanks left; one of which would get no defensive fire against my infantry assault meaning despite being relatively poor troops the Legion of Rome would get into combat.
The brave forces of Il Duce charged in against the limited MG fire, taking out the remainder of the British HQ platoon. there were no remaining tanks within 4″ and the lone functioning Valentine was forced to break off as the Italians captured the remaining bailed out tanks of the HQ.
This was almost as short as turn one, with everything hinging on a lone tanker from the regiment second platoon. Fail the last stand test and it was game over and a decisive Axis victory. The dice bounced and rolled a 3, not enough. What seemed a wining position evaporated and the Axis forces had not only managed to withdraw in good order but had inflicted a major defeat on the British, Axis win 7-2.