Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Attack on an Entrenched Position

Taking advantage of a national holiday in Spain, we met this morning in our local club to play Scenario Six of  Stout Hearts,  the excellent companion book to Richard Clarke's Mud & Blood First World War rules set. Recently one of our club's mates have joined our little group of I WW aficionados and I thought this scenario was a good way of getting him introduced to the system.

The scenario represents a German battle group (four sections)  whose mission is to both mop-up the final isolated pockets of British troops entrenched in a fortified positions already stormed by the forwad Gemran troops and get themselves ready to face the unavoidable counterattack brewing up at the British rear.

The map (see below) shows a heavy shelled area with a main trench line and a communication trench to the rear and three fortified positions.

The British forces comprised three sections (inlcuding a rifle grenadier squad) placed in points D and  E and a reserve section off-table. It also have an off-table HMG support section that has to trace a fire line to any place within the yellow marks of the map. The British will activate the reserve section by sending a runner through exit point B.

The Germans had five Gruppes of eight man each and a command section with a level III Big Man leading the whole battle group.

The following photo shows the actual game table on which we played the scenario looking from the British side (see the communication trench and exit point B). For reference, we played in a 5" x 4 " area.

The British bunkers had severe constrained lines of fire (specially D, looking into an angle) and for that reason the Germans deployed their sections on their left threatening position E.

The British had little  discretion in their deployment (the scenario rules already indicated which sections had to deploy where), except for setting the off-table HMG fire lane. I decided to put a line traversing the table from the British left side and ending next to bunker E.

The British were also subject to preliminary bombardment turn, resulting in the three squads receiving several  shock points and going below ground into the shelters.

The initial set up is shown in the following diagram:
Battle development
The first phase of the battle saw the Germans sections making a frontal advance into the trench line, leaving a LMG at the back supporting the attack. In the meantime the British in E and D easily recovered from the preliminary bombardment and put some effective fire on  the Germans  while in the open.

Nonetheless the British bunker received so many shock points from the combined fire of the German squads, that it was finally put to silence.  One German squad initiated the assault but, unaware to it, crossed the offtable HMG fire line, with a devastating result (pinned for several turns there and finally reduced to 3-4 men after several fire rounds).

The Germans were disconcerted by the discovery of the HMG fireline and put a brake to the assault. In the meantime the British unit in  the other E bunker finally came out from the shelter and released a runner to activate the reinforcements.
This first part of the battle concludes with the bunker falling to the Germans, as the British occupants surrendered due to the large number of shock points accumulated.

The  second phase of the battle saw the following moves:
  • The German player sent three squads close to  bunker D and another section to take the remaining bunker at E 
  • The British section at E (rifle grenadiers) moved into the trench section next to the bunker's door in order to get a line of sight into the German troops
  • In the meantime, the British reinforcements were activated, but could only hit the table after three turns (snifter cards) after the activation.
The result of these moves was three close combat rounds between the German section and the rifle grenadiers, the latter suffering heavy casualties and fleeing towards the exit at B. The remaining Germans occupied the bunker and now were seriously threatening D as well.

The British reinforcements  helped to restore some balance. The German unit in E, despite winning the melee, accumulated a lot of shock points and a British assault on the bunker was successfully completed with the Germans being wiped out.

In the final part of the game the Germans sections pull together the remanents of their squads (most of them in a weak state after a long battle) to launch a final decisive assault on bunker D. Almost miraculously the attack was rejected by the British albeit with high casualties and large number of accumulated shocks.

 At this stage, and after more than three hours playing we decided to break the game and reasses the situation. We concluded that  bunker D was likely to be lost by the British but that the Germans could not gather enough forces and impetus to regain control of  the remaining  bunker (E).

In terms of the battle the British had under control the right side of the table (triangle  E,  A and half way to B) and the Germans the area between A, D and the upper part of the communication trench towards B.
None of the two players had achieved their objectives, therefore we decided to declare draw. A good fighting and almost everybody agreed  the scenario was quite balanced (Ed note: congratulations Richard)