The first game of the campaign played this morning resulted in a quick Axis victory... so quick that there not a single shot was fired before the British troops rushed off the table in a stampede!
But before the report let's talk briefly about the background. As posted yesterday, ours was designed as a short 3 scenarios campaign with a maximum of 6 games, following the recommendations included in At the Sharp End, the companion scenarios booklet to Chain of Command.
This was a Big CoC game confronting one Italian infantry platoon, one infantry and one armoured DAK zugs vs two Infantry platoons (Polish and Indian) and one armoured troop.
The action takes place in December ´41. The Axis troops have been in a continuous retreat from the Egyptian border and now they are close to El Agheila, where they will try to hold the line between the sea and the soft sandy plains to the south.
The first game represents a rearguard action of the Axis forces, defending a position at the foothills of a defile in the desert. As can be seen in the map below, the Axis table edge (left) is dotted with hills (up to two levels) representing the area just outside the gorge. The Empire troops should move in a relatively flat terrain before reaching the enemy positions.
After rolling for morale and the supports selected, the patrol phase took place. The Axis had the higher hand in this phase and forced the British to place its jump-off points far in the table. The Axis players concentrated their jump-off points in the two flanks, aiming to control the heights, leaving the panzers to cover the central area of its position.
When the proper game started, the Empire players being on the offensive, decided to go for a quick deployment and in the first few activation phases put most of the troops of the table. The plan seem to attack on both flanks, the Indian infantry on the left and the Polish infantry and the tanks on the right.
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Although I was to be the umpire, one of our Axis players could not attend the game today and I replaced him, taking charge of the Italian forces. We deployed one infantry squad of each platoon in each flank to defend from a potential raid on our jump-off points and wait to see the remaining deployment plan of the British.
When we saw that the majority of the enemy forces on the table, we stroke with a counterattack: the Indians did not seem to have bought any armour or AT support (apparentlythey went for a recon unit with a couple of APCs instead) and the rest of the armoured assets were at a far distance.
The panzers now emerged in the Italian flank on the line; a double consecutive activation moving at maximun speed and voilá... the steel beast were on top of the poor Indian fellas!! A panic-striken British player first attempted to deploy some smoke to blind the gunners but then he realised that in the following turn his troops were likelyto be overrun, losing not only men but also two jump-off points.
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From my perspective, the British players made two mistakes: the supports chosen and a too dispersed deployment. Probably they were confident in the power of the tank troop to fend off any armour threat: Lesson learned: not a good idea to leave a full infantry platoon naked, without any anti-tank means, even when in the offensive.