The Chain of Command game played last Sundaybelonging to the Villers Bocage campaign (battle report here) prompted a heavy email discussion and exchanges among our gaming group which resulted in the decision to play the full campaign, starting as early as... today!
The battle took place just a week after the D-Day landings and was related to the early British attempts to take control of the key city of Caen. Elements of the 7th Armoured Division exploited a gap in the German defense line west of Caen and moved towards Villers Bocage attempting to outflank the Panzer Lehr Division.
The battle is well known for the bloody defeat suffered by British armoured forces in the village itself when ambushed by the Tigers of the 101st SS Panzer Heavy Battalion (Whitmann); but this campaign is focused on the actions of the infantry formations
The game today was the first in the campaign and is based on "The Patrol" scenario of the Chain of Command Book. The scenario booklet does not provide specific maps but a general description of the battlefield where the game will take plce. In this case:
"Terrain will be in the country side with possible fields, light woods or orchards, bocage and the odd house. Roads will be dirt and narrow"
And the following photo took after the conclusion of the patrol phase illustrates our interpretation of the above:
I played the Germans, comprising one Panzergrenadier infantry platoon, composed of three sections with two LMG teams each, as per the historical German OB at that time. A support die roll result of 1 (as per the scenario instructions) resulted in no support for the German and 10 support levels for the British due to the difference in quality between both sides (Germans elite vs British regular). Force Moral was 11 for the Germans and 8 for the British
This was a quick and fast paced game, as the Germans decided to pull out and fight another day after 90 minutes from the start. The initial turn was for the Germans due to higher force moral. We decided to pass as we were on the defensive.
The British deployed an infantry section behind a hedgerow at the jump-off point on its right flank and a Sherman tank emerged in the road on the left side of the British line. In the following phase, I deployed my first section in the house, deploying the two LMG teams one in each floor, and with overwatch instructions to react to any British attempt to cross the hedgerow.
In the following phases a second British section emerged from the same jumpoff point and moved under the cover of the hedgerow with the intention of crossing the road and attempting to attack the house form the flank. In the meantime the tank advance half way to the house but stopped just before a gate in the bocage line, clearly trying to avoid an ambush for a German tank-hunter team on its flank.
In my own phase I deployed a second section across the road, in overwatch, with one team overlooking the British behind the bocage line in front and the other at 90º facing south, and protecting the flank of the other team.
A double turn for the British, these crossed the hedgeroiw in the first and charge in the second over the German section. With one of my CoC dice I interrumpted the trun and made fire with the flanking team on the British, but an unlucky throw in a critical moment caused just two shocks to the British.
The sheer size of the British sections won the day, despite an initial draw: but with 7 casualties on both sides, only one of the section men survived the attack, and the accumulation of shock make him break. On the British side, 50% of the section and the leader were still standing, and despite the number of shock still in good shape.
This game was part of a campaign, and casualties were important in this context, as reinforcements are a scarce; considering the loss of tactical advantage, I decided to disengage with my troops and look for another face to face encounter in a different place.
First game and first Allied victory!
After battle thoughts
An interesting aspect is how different is your approach to the game when playing a campaign versus an independent battle. As I said in campaign casualties really matter and you have to balance the opportunity to put a bloody nose to the enemy with the need to maintain enough forces intact for the following phases of the campaign
In this case I definitively played more cautious than in the past which may not be the best approach, as you give away the initiative to the enemy... (NOTE to self: even in defense, you must act aggressively); and after losing the melee I decided to pull out early (NOTE: too early?), despite the fact that still a long potential game was ahead of us and reversal of fortunes can easily happen.