Sunday, September 29, 2019

AAR: A Return to Rügenwald 1630 - a Thirty Years War Skirmish in 28mm

A battle report using the Pikeman's Lament ruleset, depicting a raid during the Thirty Years War



Introduction

The Thirty Years War had been raging on the European continent for already more than a decade when Gustavus Adolphus in 1630 landed in Northern Germany with an army, initially to take control over the German cities on the northern German coastline.


Gustaphus Adolphus landing in Germany 1630.
Reay's Regiment, a regiment under Scottish commander Donald Mackay, 1st Lord of Reay, joined the Swedish forces and was involved in taking the coastal cities of Stettin and Colberg. Like an earlier game, seen HERE, this game is set in between the taking of those two cities. During that time, in August 1630, six companies of Reay’s Regiment, was ordered to re-join the main body of the regiment at Stettin. En route, one of the boats foundered off the Pomeranian coast near Colberg, and nearly 200 men landed with only themselves, their "swords, pikes and some wet muskets". The Scots surprised the town of Rügenwald (today Darlowo in Poland) and obtained fresh powder, ammunition and other supplies. They held the town for nine weeks until Gustavus Adolphus sent Hepburn’s Scottish regiment to relieve them.

A print showing Scottish soldiers of the Thirty Years' War. 

Northern Germany by the Baltic Sea in 1630. Rügenwald is marked on the map.

In an earlier game of this setting the Scots clashed with Imperial troops outside Rügenwald. In this game, that we played quite some time ago, the Imperial forces have managed to contain the Scots to the city of Rügenwald. The Scots don't just sit and wait for Gustavus Adolphus to come and rescue them however, but try and make life as miserable as possible for the Imperials. This game sees the Scots sneak out of the city to raid one of the Imperial camps in a nearby settlement. 


Scenario

We played the game using The Pikeman's Lament ruleset. Its a great ruleset written by Daniel Mersey and Michael Leck, from Osprey Games. The scenario was the Beating Up Quarter scenario from the rules with the Scots attacking and the Imperial troops defending. The defender - apart from a small unit - start asleep in the buildings and must successfully activate to enter the table. The attacker set up a given distance from the buildings. To win the attacker must succeed in setting fire to four buildings and not lose half of his force.

The Forces



The Scottish attackers.


The Imperial defenders.



Set up and deployment



We played on a 4x4' table.
The attackers must set up outside 12" from the camp.
Most defenders start the scenario in the buildings.


The Game

The Scottish attackers initially had some trouble putting houses on fire. Also, the Scottish infantry struggled against the Imperial forces that quickly managed do get out from the buildings to defend their camp. The Scottish fortune changed however and some Scottish horsemen managed to put first one and then another building on fire before the Imperials could come and stop them. In the end, just as the attackers were taking some heavy casualties they managed to set a third and fourth building on fire, thereby achieving their objective and they returned to Rugenwald victorious.

Below is the game in pictures.


The Scot raiders attack...

...and the alarm sounds.

A small Imperial night guard is ridden down.
The Scottish horsemen initially fail to put a building on fire.

The defenders rally from their quarters and mount up as the Scots close in.

The Imperial troops fire as the Scot gallopers charge.

The Imperials quickly form lines to repel the attackers.

Push of pike as the Scotsmen charge in.

Taking heavy casualties some Scotsmen turn and flee.

Having cleared the first line of defenders the Scottish
horsemen manages to put some buildings on fire...

...before getting back into the fight again.

The battle swings back and forth as more units charge in.

The fourth fire breaks out!
The Scotsmen have achieved their
objective and can retreat to Rügenwald.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

AAR: Battle of Metz Game 4 - Last Attack at Arracourt, 29th of September 1944 (2 of 2)

The Second of Two Big Chain of Command Battle Reports at Arracourt 1944
- the American counter attack to clear Hill 318 from the Germans for the last time,
the final day of the tank battle at Arracourt, September 29





Introduction

To try the Big Chain of Command version of the Chain of Command ruleset from TwoFatLardies we played two tank heavy games in a day awhile back, both using the struggle for Hill 318 at the end of the Battle of Arracourt in 1944 as the setting.

This battle took place in the greater context of the Battle of Metz, in Lorraine, where Patton’s Third Army - having swept across France - started to lose momentum, in September 1944. Metz was surrounded by several forts and strong points and was also situated where several rivers - most notably the Moselle river and further east the Sielle river - made bypassing the city very difficult.


The situation, early September 1944.
Metz and Arracourt are marked on the map.

Awhile back we played two scenarios (Game 1 and Game 2) based on an early American beachhead across the Moselle river at Arnaville, south of Metz, in mid September.

This time we are a few weeks later in September 1944, and a bit further south where the US 4th Armoured Division have managed to cross the rivers and reached as far as the village of Arracourt, to the southeast of Metz. The Germans tried to contain the US effort to flank Metz by throwing newly formed tank brigades forward. What then happened was the largest concentrated tank battle for the Americans of the war: the Battle of Arracourt.

For more information of the Battle of Arracourt and our earlier game, please see out previous AAR: Game 3.


The Table

The second Big Chain of Command game was
like the first played on a 6x6' (180x180cm) table.

The Forces and the Scenario 

We played the Attack and Defend scenario from the Chain of Command rulebook where the attackers have to drive the enemy off the table while not having a Force Morale lower than 3. The counter attacking Americans were the attackers in the scenario.

The Americans had one platoon of Armoured Infantry from the 51st Armoured Infantry Battalion and a full Sherman platoon of five tanks from the 8th Tank Battalion. All Regular troops. The latter platoon had two 75mm Shermans and three 76mm Shermans. In addition the Americans had access to an Adjutant, a Preliminary Bombardment and a 60mm Mortar Team.

The Germans fielded a platoon of Panzergrenadier from the 11. Panzer Division (NB: lacking Heer grenadiers we used miniatures for SS Grenadiers instead) and an understrength platoon of three Panther aufs D. To keep things simple we played them all as Regular troops. They had access to an Adjutant, a Sniper and an Additional Grenadier Squad.

 
American Jump Off Points in blue, German in red.


The Game

Under cover from a barrage hitting the German assembly area, the Americans advanced quickly. On the right they established a fire base of medium machine guns and a squad of infantry covering the crest of the hill, waiting on overwatch for the Germans to appear.

The Americans added more pressure as the US Platoon Sergeant led two squads on their left, up amongst the buildings, quickly catching a German forward jump off point. Some German infantry did manage to deploy through the US barrage and took up position centrally amongst the hedges. They immediately took fire however from the watchful Americans.

The Americans trade fire at short range with the Germans
as the US machine guns keep an eye on the hill crest for more.
The Americans begin their flanking move.
More Americans appeared in the shape of a Sherman tank commander coming up the road shelling the German infantry in the hedges.

In response the first German Panther tank appeared across the battlefield trading shots with the American tank but initially to no effect.

The first tanks appears. Initially with limited effect.

The Americans advancing on the flank sent a squad up into the main building, getting av excellent flanking position looking down on the Germans below. To add even more pressure the second US squad rounded the corner to take position amongst some trees to add even more fire into the exposed Germans.

An American squad flanks the German and start to pour fire from the windows.

Yet another US squad flank the German squad.

Shock and casualties were mounting for the exposed German squad but it also had managed to get some return fire back as the American advanced. Also, with the US barrage coming to an end the table was about to turn quickly.

First a second and then a third Panther tank appeared up on the hill crest putting heavy fire on the Americans. Also, more German infantry revealed themselves having their double machine guns firing at close range on the US flanking squad.

German reinforcements arrive over the hill crest,
turning the tables on the flanking US troops.

The first Panther also opened fire again, this time hitting its American counter part down the road causing it to explode. The German firepower quickly made the American force moral go down. The flanking US unit went from having been the top of the spear firing on the exposed Germans to now being overexposed and getting shot to bits. The rest of the Americans didn't fare much better. The combined firepower of the Panther tanks and all those German machine guns stopped the American attack in its tracks and eventually made US Force Morale so low the attack had to be called off all together.

The Sherman Tank Platoon Commander is hit and explodes.
The last US remnants break and flee.

As in our previous game at Hill 318 the Germans had won.
The Americans now had to rely on the Tactical Air Command to save the day.

 Conclusion

Another fun game. It was a game of two halves really. In the first part the Americans took up some good positions and then quickly advanced on their left flank, catching the Germans off guard. When they closed down one of the German jump off points they also consolidated their advance. As the flanking Americans all but surrounded the forward German squad it looked grim for the Germans.

Then the tables turned completely. The American preliminary bombardment ended and Germans poured onto the table from their jump off points deep in their table half. With that the American flanking force found itself very exposed, in close range of some severe German firepower. The leading US squad was all but wiped out. With a Sherman exploding and some other casualties the American force morale quickly dropped so that the Americans no longer could win but had to call off the attack.

Having now played two games of Big Chain of Command we can say that we enjoyed it alot. For future such games we might try other scenarios than Attack and Defend as other scenarios might encourage movement of the tanks abit more. Also, the US was at a disadvantage by using a full five tank US tank platoon as you only have one Senior Leader to lead them, so they really couldn't use their superior numbers to full effect. A lower number of tanks (or six of them, granting another Senior Tank Leader) would maybe have been better. Instead the high quality of the Germans tanks and infantry weaponry made its mark.

The excerpt below is from an article by Arnold Blumberg on Warfare History Network, please read it all HERE.

It is a suitable end to our gaming at Arracourt for now but not the end of our Battle of Metz gaming, to which we we return shortly.

"On September 29, the 111th and 113th Panzer Brigades, as well as portions of the 110th Panzergrenadier Regiment, made a coordinated assault on the objectives. The early morning attack, in dense fog that limited observation to a few dozen yards, pushed the 51st Armored Infantry back 500 yards. This gave the Germans control of the forward crest of Hill 318 by late morning. In response, Clarke sent a company of Sherman tanks from the 8th Tank Battalion to retake the hill, and the fighting reached a new level of intensity. The fog lifted just in time for P-47 Thunderbolts of the U.S. 405th Fighter Group to foil the next German attack. The air strikes forced the German tanks into the clear where they were systematically picked off by American artillery and tank fire. In the afternoon, the Germans were forced to retreat from Hill 318 after a loss of 23 tanks. 

The fighting on September 29 marked the last major attempt by the Fifth Panzer Army to cut Third Army’s armored spearhead near Arracourt. The failed effort of the previous four days cost the Germans 36 tanks, 700 killed, and 300 wounded. 

The end of September 1944 found the fighting in Lorraine at a stalemate. Deprived of supplies, Patton could not switch to the offensive. As for the German Army, its panzer force had been so badly mauled that it was incapable of further offensive action against Patton’s Third Army."

Sunday, August 18, 2019

AAR: Battle of Metz Game 3 - Last Attack at Arracourt, 29th of September 1944 (1 of 2)

The First of Two Big Chain of Command Battle Reports at Arracourt 1944 - the American counter attack to clear Hill 318 from the Germans for the last time, the final day of the tank battle at Arracourt, September 29



Introduction

After Patton’s Third Army swept across France they finally started to lose momentum at the fortress city of Metz, in september 1944. Metz was surrounded by several forts and strong points and was also situated where several rivers - most notably the Moselle river and further east the Sielle river - made bypassing the city very difficult.

The situation, early september 1944.
Metz and Arracourt are marked on the map.

Awhile back we played two scenarios (Game 1 and Game 2) based on an early American beachhead across the Moselle river at Arnaville, south of Metz, in mid september.

This time we are a few weeks later in september 1944, and a bit further south where the US 4th Armoured Division have managed to cross the rivers and reached as far as the village of Arracourt, to the southeast of Metz.

The advance of US 4th Armoured Division.

What then happened was the Americans' largest tank battle of the war. The Germans needed to stop the Americans rapid advance in the area. The 5th Panzer Army - including the newly formed Panzer Brigades 111 and 113 - attacked. Although the Germans were superiour in numbers and had brand new Panther tanks their tank crews were often green and they were critically low on recce troops. The Americans on the other hand had experienced crews and used excellent combined arms tactics with the Armoured division working close with the Tactical Air Command, calling down Jabos on the Germans as soon as the cloudy skies gave an opportunity.

The area of Arracourt. Hill 318 marked in red.

Playing a part of Arracourt is a great opportunity for us to field some armour and play Big Chain of Command for the first time. Our two games - this is the first - depict the last effort of the Germans, after ten days of hard combat. Hill 318 to the south on the battlefield was a key position, giving excellent fields of vision across the landscape below. It changed hands several times over during the battle. Our games are inspired by when the Germans have succeeded in one final effort to take the crest of Hill 318 yet again, on the morning of September 29. The German forces are made up from the surviving elements of the 11. Panzer Division and Panzer Brigade 111 and 113 together with Grenadiers of the 15th Panzer Grenadier regiment. The Americans of the 51st Armoured Infantry - supported by the 8th Tank battallion, CCB of the 4th Armoured Division - then counter attacked to try and take it back!

Our two games represent two sectors of the American push for the crest of Hill 318 at noon September 29.

GAME 1

The Table

We played our first game on a 6x6' (180x180cm) table.


The Forces and the Scenario 

We played the Attack and Defend scenario from the Chain of Command rulebook where the attackers have to drive the enemy off the table while not having a Force Morale lower than 3. The counter attackning Americans were the attackers.

The Americans had a one platoon of Armoured Infantry from the 51st Armoured Infantry Battalion and a full Sherman platoon of five tanks from the 8th Tank Battallion. All Regular troops. The latter platoon had two 75mm Shermans and three 76mm Shermans. In addition the Americans had access to a Medic, a Mineclearing Team, a Preliminary Bombardment and a 60mm Mortar Team.

The Germans fielded a platoon of Panzergrenadier from the 11. Panzer Division (NB: lacking Heer grenadiers we used miniatures for SS Grenadiers instead) and an understrenght platoon of three Panther aufs D. To keep things simple we played them all as Regular troops. They had access to an extra Senior Leader and an Additional Grenadier Squad.


German Jump off points in blue, American in red.


The Game 

The Germans had taken the crest of Hill 318 yet again in the morning, driving the the American infantry of the 51st armoured battallion back down the hill. Now the Americans went back in,  through the wheat fields towards crest well aware of that the German grenadiers and Panthers were up there somewhere. They hoped that the recent US artillery barrage had softened up the Germans somewhat.

The Americans set up a infantry fire base on their right with one squad advancing slowly though some shrubbery. On the other flank the advance of two Shermans were met by a lone Panther coming trough the US artillery bombardment. The first shots were fired but with no effect.

When yet another Sherman entered, rolling down the road all hell broke lose.


The Americans build a base of fire in the wheatfield to their right.
Two Shermans advance as a lone Panther tank appears.

The Panther platoon commander evaluate the situation.

Another Sherman rolls up the road to support the infantry...

...only to find itself in the sights of a Panther on the hill...

...with predictable consequences!
The triumphant Panther.
On the other flank more armour arrived. The advancing Shermans were met by yet another Panther. It developed into a shooting match of quantity vs quality. The Sherman guns simply coundn't peneterate the fronts on the Panthers despite several hits. At times the repeated hits rattled the Panther crews but it was never enough to threaten them seriously. Having identified the lead tank of the Sherman platoon the US platoon commander were hit several times aswell. Although his tank started to fall apart around him and his crew, they managed to stay in the battle, although his command ability was severely hampered.

AT shells fly across the fields.

More Shermans arrive on the scene. But their guns fail
to penetrate the Panthers' heavily armoured fronts.
Having already destroyed the Sherman on his flank the Panther up on the hill
starts targeting the Shermans on the oposing flank, across the battlefield...


...with devastating results.

The tanks blast at each other while the US infantry start to crawl forward.

As the tanks slugged it out the US infantry kept advancing in cover along the road. Their advance was delayed as the lead squad sergeant fell to the first bullet coming their way. They kept moving though but were stopped in their tracks as German infantry appeared to their front. On the other flank it was the same story with the US infantry not being able to advance. The German infantry was hurting though as the US armoured infantry kept firing, getting support from multiple machine guns and a 60mm mortar.

The American infantry advance...
...but are checked by German grenadiers with MGs.
The US infantry also try the other flank...
...but with similar results.

The US infantry advance and the hurting of the German infantry was too little too late. Seeing their armoured support being shot into flames one by one while the Panthers being seemingly undestructable, the US infantry's hearts were not in it anymore. The US morale dropped and the counter attack for Hill 318 had failed in this sector.

Conclusion

Its was great to try out the Big Chain of Command rules for the first time! The rules worked really well eventhough there were only two players playing all four platoons.

The Americans had a really tough job in trying to handle all those Panther tanks. And as the Shermans started burning the US morale dropped, not only for the tank platoon but naturally for the infantry platoon aswell. They did inflict casualties on the German infatry but it was really too late. The Shermans kept hitting the front of those Panthers and were abit unlucky in not being able to knock out a single Panther. But it was probably very much like the situation on the field in 1944 aswell. :-) Eventhough we increased the tablesize for the game it was still very difficult for the Shermans to find a chance of flanking fire, as the Panthers wisely didn't advance much.

In hindsight the US infantry probably needed to get moving a bit earlier to draw the German infantry into sight and into the fire but the US advance were slowed down by loosing leaders to German machine guns.

We will return to Arracourt in a not too distant future to see if other neighbouring US platoons are more lucky in their attempts to take back Hill 318.