‘Der Kaiser’ took a deep draw on his pipe and looked around at the faces of his men gathered round in the semi-darkness of the cellar. They had been through a rough time over the past few weeks but they were all ready and he knew that he’d be able to rely on them to do their duty once the Tommies attacked. That they were to be assaulted once more was obvious, they had been suffering one of the worst barrages any of them had experienced since the war had started and last night’s patrolling had bumped into some stiff opposition. Thankfully there weren’t any casualties but it had firmed up his belief that the attack was imminent and so he had called his NCO’s together for a final briefing.
The old man had beefed up his Zug by sending him Huth and his 5 riflemen from HQ, Klopp had come along with them too and they’d agreed between them that he’d go forward first to help keep the fight going while Franz stayed back to help keep the lads moving up to their positions as they might need encouraging through the awful drumfire. Thanks to the patrolling Beckenbauer thought that he had a good idea of where the Britishers would develop their attack. They had gained control over the house on the other side of the road from the barnyard and if he was them he’d also probably sneak up behind the hedge too that ran off away from that house, otherwise they’d have to advance across the wide open fields to the front. One thing that might assist the enemy was the horrible mist that had come down but that would help his lads too.
He took one last puff on his pipe, tapped it out and smiled at his NCO’s. “Right, lets to it then. Ballack: your boys look after the Barnyard, watch for the Britishers coming over the wall on the left; Huth, you handsome devil, get your team into the trench over the road but don’t expose yourselves unless you see any Tommies coming across the fields; Brietner, put your Gruppe into the house on the right, the pioniere have kindly reinforced it for you so sit tight, watch the fields but pay attention to the hedges and the house over on the left; Klinsmann you get to be the reserve this time; Schu’, I’ll keep you and your Panzer with me back here until we find out where the enemy’s are; Jürgen, you know what we talked about earlier. Right then gentlemen, back to your lads, good luck.”
It seemed like ages before there was any sign of the enemy but eventually some of the silly British helmets were soon seen popping up in the window of the house on the left, then all of a sudden a section of infantry spilled out of the door in front of the house. Obergefreiter Ballack couldn’t really believe what he was seeing ‘Must be new to this’ he thought and turned to his men, “Right boys: into the gateway and open up on the Englanders to our front”. With that his 6 men left the wall they had just climbed over (thank god there were a couple of ladders knocking about) and walked into the courtyard where they opened up with their 2 MG42’s at the khaki clad infantry in front of them. Their fire was accurate and they saw at least 2 men fall as well as the leader whilst the survivors hit the deck quickly. The shock of their attack meant that the return fire from the enemy was not great but one of the men was hit and Ballack quickly told him to head to the rear whilst ordering the rest into the barn and cover. The remainder of the Zug weren’t joining in though, probably due to the still fierce bombardment they were under or the slowly clearing mist obscuring their view. So he was happy to stay put, maybe the initial exchange of fire would make the Britishers cautious, but he’d definitely given them something to think about.
All of a sudden another section of the enemy appeared at the end of the open ground in front of the position and they moved steadily forwards, unfortunately for them the barrage suddenly stopped and both Huth and Brietner ordered their men to open fire at the clear target that they offered. Pretty soon the poor Tommies were cut to pieces, their NCO was seen to fall as he was encouraging his men forwards and soon he was joined by a few others whilst the remainder were pinned where they were. Soon a couple more of them fell to the continuing deadly fusilade that they were suffering from and things were not looking good for the rest. The enemy response to this withering fire was a couple of bursts of Bren gun fire from the house against Breitner’s position which did no damage apart from an unlucky shot that somehow nicked the short NCO. “Don’t worry about me lads, just keep firing at those poor bastards in the field out there” he shouted “I’ll just patch myself up and be back with you in a minute”.
The British outside the house also opened up directed by their now recovered Corporal at Huth’s Gruppe manning the trench which offered them such good protection that no harm came to anyone. The big Berliner was just about to order his men to switch targets to return fire on their attackers when the field between them erupted in mortar fire that also covered the barn yard. ‘I hope that Ballack is alright’ he thought for a second then got back to the job in hand, “Keep firing boys, those mortars won’t hurt you”. Ballack was far from alright though. He had been moving his men into the top of the barn so that he could either fire out of the doors and window or move them down the steps at the back if needed when the mortars hit. Two of his men were hit by a falling beam and the rest of them were in a right state, hopefully they would be able to stand it a while longer but for the moment they were pinned where they were.
Back at the command post Beckenbauer was quietly pleased, he’d received a report from the fortified house over the phone that one British section was being chopped to pieces out in the open and was bound to break anytime soon; one had taken casualties but was now inching forwards towards the barnyard, although they wouldn’t be able to go too far as they would walk into their own mortar fire, and a third one had been in the house but hadn’t been seen for a while. No Britisher tanks had been seen or heard which was also good but he was worried for the men in the Barnyard, all infantrymen hate mortars most and he knew things wouldn’t be going well for them especially as the barn was really taking a pasting and looked like it could collapse at any minute. He decided that he’d send his armour forward, the sight of the Panzer IV might just put the wind up the enemy enough to encourage them to withdraw as their morale must be shaky by now what with the pasting they were getting. He ordered Schumacher to keep an eye out for enemy armour and to ignore the infantry, he was sure that they must have some and he’d be foolish to ignore that potentially deadly threat.
Meanwhile the poor infantry that were being targeted out in the open had finally had enough and the four survivors broke and ran towards the hedges over on the left where Breitner’s men could see some men moving about. The tough Bavarian had patched himself up and though still groggy directed his men’s fire at the point where the escaping men had ran to. Huth’s men still couldn’t see much due to the mortar fire and he quickly kept them busy sorting out their ammo and looking to their front for any more Englanders emerging from the mist. In the barn things were going from bad to worse, Ballack had been slightly wounded and his three remaining men were now in a state of panic, he didn’t blame them after the pasting they’d been subjected to recently and seeing half of their number down, and then one more fell under a piece of roof he knew they’d not hang around much longer. When there was a sudden slackening in the ferocity of the barrage the two survivors grabbed the still dazed NCO and dragged him down the stairs at the back and into the orchard at the rear.
Breitner had seen the British section that had been inching forwards along the wall rush across the road round the side of the barn as soon as the mortar fire slackened and had got on the blower to Beckenbauer. The Oberfeldwebel then sent forward the last Gruppe to shore up the flank and to counter that move. Klopp went with them to see if he could help and and he quickly started rallying the dazed survivors of dritte Gruppe. Klinsmann had his men line the hedges on the side of the orchard and got them ready to open up on anyone coming round the corner of the barn. Whilst this was happening the Panzer had been targeted with a smoke round and so Schumacher decided to move off to the left to get a better view of things, this movement coupled with another burst of fire from the Gruppe in the fortified house at the enemy behind the hedge seemed to trigger something and soon the most advanced enemy section by the barn was seen running hell for leather for the ‘British’ house and safety and those behind the hedge melted away.
They had done it, the enemy had retreated. Klopp gingerly entered the frankly knackered barn to check on the casualties from Dritte Gruppe and was relieved to find that they had just been knocked out and would be fit for action after a stiff drink and a couple of cigarettes. The other casualty from Ballack’s men also would be able to return to action immediately and both Ballack and Breitner would be ok to fight on too as their wounds were just superficial.
‘Der Kaiser’ filled his pipe once more as he listened to Klopp’s report, the enemy had definitely lost 5 men killed as their corpses were still where they fell and must have suffered the same again in wounded whilst 1.Zug had come through with a full compliment of men. He hoped the old man would be happy with their work, he was, but he also knew that the enemy would be back and they would have learnt from this encounter. next time they might not be so lucky……
Well a cracking game to kick off the campaign and even though it didn’t go his way Des enjoyed it as much as I did (well, perhaps not!) .
I managed to get my JOP’s where I more or less wanted them – basically the classic positions for this scenario and Des did manage to get a couple into cover. Des suffered a bit from the mist effect losing a ‘spare’ rifle section and another mortar I think. Whilst I couldn’t get my lads on the table early I was wracking up the 5’s and so quickly built up a COC dice. Unfortunately for Des I used this to good effect when I had a good set of activation dice, hitting his section out in the open with 2 MG42’s and 5 rifles was going to hurt even outside close range. I really don’t know what he was thinking sticking them out in the open like that especially after I had just shot up his first section from the Barnyard. I did get lucky with hits on his leaders though, killing one outright and wounding another and after rolling badly on the ‘Bad Things Happen’ chart for one of these his morale went from 8 to 6 and so I knew all I had to do was to try and wipe out the poor buggers in the field to try and break him, I’d also reduce his platoon by a third if I was lucky and it wasn’t a support option.
His mortars were doing a good job though and they nearly wiped out one of my sections but I was saved by our new house rule covering mortars. We had talked about how overpowered they were after our last game when I just mortared the crap out of his men and so to help reduce the ‘death from above’ we hit on this idea:
Each time you activate the mortars you roll a dice: 1/2 you get 2 tubes, 3/4 you get 4 tubes and 5/6 you get a full 6 tubes. 6 tubes gives you the standard 9″ radius as per the rules but you reduce it by 3″ for each 2 tubes less. So 4 tubes = 6″, and 2 tubes = 3″.
The rationale is that some of the tubes might be called to fire on other targets that are being called in from other platoons in the company. The idea worked great, his first few rounds of mortar fire was of 6 tubes and this meant that my section in the barn were stuck under the fire and were suffering, however as soon as he rolled 2 tubes the footprint of the barrage reduced enough that the survivors broke and ran to the rear. If they were suffering enough shock to have pinned them they’d have stayed put obviously but if they weren’t pinned and weren’t broken they’d be able to try and leg it out of the way of the blast zone before the fire increased again.
After breaking his infantry section who were stuck pinned in the open without a Junior Leader to help them rally shock off and then wounding his CO when firing on them again when they finally legged it into cover nearby Des’ morale hit 4. With no chance of him managing to run his most advanced section off the table without being chopped to bits by my reserve section he wisely decided to pull out. He suffered 10 casualties as well as a Junior leader dead from his core platoon and his CO’s and men’s opinions of his Platoon leaders can’t be too good after that – we are going to do that before the next game on Monday. Although I did suffer 4 casualties my morale ended on 8 so got them all back due to the difference with his and I reckon ‘Der Kaiser’ will be a bit popular too. I’m expecting a totally different approach from Des next go though.
Des summed up why I love these rules so much on Monday: ‘I hate this game, you have to think about everything you do constantly and the slightest mistake costs you big time. Fucking brilliant!’.