On turn 2, shown in the figure below, the Germans continue to lay smoke in the center, blinding the Sherman Observer Tank there, while the PaK40 anti-tank guns continue to hammer the Sextons. Another is bailed, leaving the battery momentarily ineffective. Meanwhile the British get further reserves as a Stuart platoon enters the board. The Cromwells pound the top of the hill with machine gun fire, but it is ineffective.
On turn 3 the Germans get their first reserve and bring on their 15cm infantry guns. Although the range looks a little far in the image, the infantry guns open fire and destroy a Cromwell. It turns out that it was the Company Commander! The British receive no reserves, but their Cromwells continue to dance on the German right flank, looking for a way to take out a howitzer while staying out of range of the infantry guns.
In the center, however, Don gets aggressive with his Stuarts and a lucky MG shot takes out my dug-in Puppchen anti-tank weapon with a single burst! Don decides to go for the glory and assaults one of the mortars, easily destroying it in assault. He breaks through and attacks the corner of my Fusiliers on my right and kills one of the dug-in teams there. Don can taste blood and he is getting revenge for the lost Company Commander. Maybe tanks assaulting dug-in infantry is not so bad...
A miracle happens with the Germans, however. My leaderless Company HQ Support Weapons platoon survives its morale check and the subsequent Sole Survivor check and decides to invoke the rule Head to the Rear. This is the first time that rule has been played against Don (I just learned about it) and I think you could see the little light bulbs light up over both of our heads. For me, it is tying a concept of how to minimize your chances of losing in the game Memoir '44 to a similar concept in Flames of War. In Memoir 44 if often makes sense to pull the single block unit out of the line and tuck it away so you don't give up Victory Points. Early in playing Memoir 44 Don would continue fighting with those units as in those rules, the unit does not lose combat power with the loss of blocks. However, they are brittle and thus easier to yield VP, so I would always focus on pounding the weak units and would win more often than not. Don still does that in Flames of War. Although FoW does not retain full combat power when a unit is beaten down, Don did not see a way of easily protecting a unit from being destroyed, so he would force the unit to fight on until the bitter end. Again, I would focus on those units in order to win more often than not.
The above rule, and another similar rule, allows the player to pull units off of the line and remove them from the board, ensuring that they do not yield VP. Don't get me wrong: all is not rosy by doing this. Your company's morale is weakened; just not as bad as if you lost the unit.
The next turn, pictured below, shows the continued German reinforcements. I was able to get a unit of Marders on and, fearing the wrath of the Stuarts, decide to move them onto my left flank. My goal is two-fold:
- Knock out the Sextons, getting closer to a British Company morale check, which they would automatically fail given the loss of their Company Commander, or
- Make a run for the British objective.
I started by smoking the Stuarts, forcing them to leave (or be ineffective in their turn), then continued to pour fire into the Sextons. I was able to bail a single Sexton (momentarily), but in the end all fire had no real effect. I had hurt the battery initially and it had counter-punched, knocking out a single anti-tank gun, and after that they were like two tired fighters flailing at one another.
On my right flank the Cromwells moved out of my infantry gun range and continued to pick at my artillery's flank and the Fusiliers dug-in on top of the hill, but for now the British spearhead was blunted. Don did not want to jump into the fire of the 15cm infantry guns.
To be continued...