My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interesting FoW Game (Summary)

So, this game started with me believing that static, dug-in infantry with few infantry anti-tank weapons were easy prey to an armored attack, while Don's was that the armored company would crash into it and crumble. So, who was right?

Summary

First, Don's fears were largely tied to the number of anti-tank assets that cheap, static infantry can typically afford. A big part of that was due to recent games he played in which the infantry lists were able to buy two separate anti-tank platoons, which in the lists I use is atypical. I think Don would say that my use of howitzers and infantry guns in direct fire show that his fears are not limited to anti-tank guns. :^)

But, when you look at the cold hard facts, Don started learning how to assault infantry with tanks and he started to see the effects, which were infantry running from their foxholes. Two problems stopped Don from getting a better result earlier: he lost his smoke too early; and he spread his forces too widely.

Losing Smoke

Don did not much believe in smoke until I pointed out that a smoke bombardment could block line of sight. I used quite a bit of smoke in this game, frequently smoking his Sherman OP so his battery could not smoke me. Secondly, losing two guns from the battery on the first turn really hurt his ability to inflict pain, or lay heavy smoke on me in turn.

When Don's armor assaulted my infantry line his greatest threat can in my direct fire counter-attack from the second line guns. Had he smoked my guns he could have ground down the infantry without fear of counter-attack. It was because he did not mask off the threats to his armor that he lost, not because the infantry beat him. He unequivocally beat the dug-in infantry.

Spreading Force

This has come up with the What Would Patton Do guys in their podcast (which I recommend) several times. If you spread your force out your spread out your combat power, and thus decrease your ability to win at any given point in the enemy line. The two armor platoons were at the right spot, but when a hole was created, one platoon went left and one went right. The fact is, the Fusilier platoon on my right was a distraction. The only reason to destroy it was to attempt a company break. That platoon was too far to seriously contest the objective.

The British Guards Pioneers should have double-timed to their right flank at the beginning of the game when they realized they were on the wrong flank, for either attack or defense.

So, What did you do Wrong, Dale?

My errors were in thinking the AA trucks were weaker than they really were. They are brittle, but their guns are buff, especially against Stuarts, if you don't move! Going from 15 shots to 3 is really painful.

I was also deathly afraid of losing my Marders, so I was willing to forego shots in order not to get shot. In the end that may have been the right thing to do, but it allowed the enemy armor to run riot with little concern for being shot up. By squandering these resources, however, I possessed a valuable resource for the end game. So, I am still not sure whether this was played wrong.

Now for the Rules

As always, Don and I make mistakes with the rules. Every game is a learning experience and this one was no exception, despite us going slower and looking up a lot of rules as we were going along. (Anyone who says the Flames of War rules are simplistic doesn't know the game!)

Guards are Unflappable

Falling in the realm of "Know Your Army", Guards get to re-roll platoon morale checks. Don failed to use this rule for all three platoon checks when his armored platoons lost two of their three tanks; in the end he lost because he did not take these re-rolls.

Are HQ Support Weapons Platoons, Platoons at Deployment?

I posted the question on the Flames of War forum asking about this, but HQ Support Weapons teams, if not combat attached out, and not part of a kampfgruppe, are a leaderless platoon. However, at deployment, they are deployed as independent teams. This lead me to believe that they do not count as a platoon during deployment. Later, however, I began to doubt that was correct. If it always counts as a platoon, it is just that the step is deployed in changes, then I would have had nine platoons, not eight, and thus should have had three platoons on board, one in ambush, and five in reserve (not four).

UPDATE: still getting responses from the forum, but so far it looks like I did it right. Whew!

No HE

Don and I did not realize that the Challenger had the No HE attribute. So all of those ineffective attacks he made on my artillery with the main gun could never have produced any effect. He would have had to switch to machine guns.

No Gun

Don didn't realize that there was a Sherman OP line for his artillery observer in a Sherman tank and so he used the Sherman line, blasting one of my Marders with his 75mm cannon. Except that he did not have a 75mm cannon ...

I did not realize the British had fake cannons in the turrets!

Which Observer are You?

Observers belong to their specific artillery or mortar battery and cannot observe for just any battery, unless special rules or a Staff team are involved. Keep your observers sorted out so you know which battery can legally bombard from which observation. (I think I flubbed that once.)

So, What did I Learn?

The biggest surprise in game affect was the Head to the Rear rule, which allows you to pull units off of the board and have them not count as Destroyed. This allows you to pull a crippled unit back and save it, minimizing its impact on the whether you win or lose.

One particular situation where I could see using this more is where you have to march certain unit types on the board as part of reserves. For example, my mortar platoon had to march on the board late into the game. They should have moved a few stands close to the objective while keeping the remainder back on the board edge. If the forward elements gets killed, the rear elements can simply pull back off of the board, rather than sitting there to get massacred.

Another big surprise (for me) was the combination of infantry with guns directly behind, ready to direct fire any assaulting tanks. Sure, the infantry starts to peel at the seams, but the artillery can get some revenge licks in.

As I stated earlier, one way to mitigate the artillery is to smoke them, so the artillery cannot direct fire. This is where the third surprise came in for me: by smoking the Sexton's battery observer first, you cripple the battery's counter-bombardment to things only they can see. Essentially by blinding the observer I was able to keep Don from bombarding 1/2 of the board for most of the game.

I chose the Fusilierkompanie because it was Confident Veteran and did not have the Everyone Fires on the Beach special rule (limitation). The positive is that it has MG Teams, which is good for defending against infantry assaults, but it has very poor infantry anti-tank weapons; it only has a panzerknacker per platoon available to it. It does have very good artillery choices, but the armor is either three tank StuG platoons or paper thin tank hunters.

An alternative (Normandy) choice was Bodenstandig Grenadiers, but their armor choices are basically the same (only one platoon), plus the incredibly expensive Jadgpanthers. Otherwise you have Confident Trained infantry instead of Confident Veteran, the same plentiful artillery (only this time with Nebelwerfers!), and field fortifications.

Overall, it was a really good game. I saw the effectiveness of smoke bombardment on dictating line of sight and forcing movement. Later I saw how it could have allowed Don to attack my infantry while disallowing my direct fire counter-attack. The game reinforced my belief that armor will eventually kill all infantry, no matter how well dug in, if they don't have any anti-tank assets available, whether in the form of guns or infantry-based weapons. Most of all, I learned that I still don't know all of the rules or have them memorized.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").