The stunning Axis victory in the third game of the campaign, with the destruction of 2/3rds of the British tank force and the Indian infantry taking significant casualties, made the Axis players to be bolder than anticipated and instead of reinforcing the positions recently won, they launched a counterattack that could be decisive to win the campaign.
With the British now cornered in the first rung of the campaign ladder (see At the Sharp Endcampaign book for more detail) it was expected to be an all-out fight: a defeat in the game today would put an end to the campaign with the Axis emerging as the victors.
As the Axis held the initiative the British were to play the defenders in the game today. As it was played in the first rung, it was an "Attack-Defend Scenario" of the Chain of Command rules book, where the winner was to be the one controlling the field at the end of the battle.
After playing the patrol phase, the game started with an aggressive move of the Germans, deploying its 3 Panzer IVs in force on their right side of table, while the infantry waited in reserve to see where the British were planning to emerge. The Panzers moved during the following activations towards the British line, threatening the jump-off points.
This finally forced the British to start deploying, the Polish infantry platoon on the left side supported by a couple of tanks, and a lonely artillery FOO allocated to the Indian infantry platoon on the summit of a 2-level hill on their right.
The next phase saw an Italian infantry platoon emerging in the left side of the line and moving rapidly towards the British FOO position (thanks to a double consecutive activation) supported in this case by a German Pz III and a tiny but dangerous CV 33 flamethrower tankette.
From this moment the game broke in two different sub-battles, each played individually at each side of the table. This is not a new feature as I have observed that frequently, when playing Big Chain of Command, the players of each side get so focused on what's going on their side of the line, that they only do not pay attention to his pal or pals, but even forget that the other end of the battlefield exists.
On the Axis right side, the Pz IVs run straight to overrun the British infantry, aiming to conquer the jump-off point. Although the tanks caused initial panic and casualties in the Polish platoon, the arrival of a large (and unexpected...) number of British tanks made the Germans engaged in a tank-to-tank battle against superior odds: the thick-skinned Matildas defeated the Germans, destroying one Pz IV and forcing the remaining vehicles to leave the table without achieving its objectives.
On the other side, the Indian infantry , seeing its position about to be overrun by the Italians, called for the mortars but ended up in an unexpected "broken arrow" situation, as the barrage landed on top of the hill where the FOO and the infantry were standing.
With the FOO out of action under its own mortar fire, the British infantry pinned and the jump-off point also annulled, the Italian forces (including the flamethrower tankette) took positions at the foot of the hill and waited until the barrage would lift to close assault the beleaguered defenders.
However, when the situation was looking hopeless the Indian player made a master stroke taking advantage of a double consecutive activation. in the first activation, the FOO cancelled the mortar barrage and deployed the remaining Indian infantry troops into play; at the same time, a support British tank emerged on the flank side of the Italians destroying the flamethrower with the gun and causing some infantry casualties with the hull HMG.
In the following activation, a hail of fire from the Indian infantry and the tank caused additional casualties on the Italian infantry. The stunned Italian player panicked and announced that he was leaving the table.
And that was it. The Axis players kept the initiative for most of the game thinking that they had the superior hand on the British after the previous game defeat. But a surprise was in store and many more tanks than anticipated made a sudden appearance on the battlefield. I cannot give more details right now (there are at least two more games to play) but I'll make a full disclosure once the campaing is over.