Doughboys vs. The 510th

A clear six months after our last (unreported) engagement, Stiggers and I convened for a rumble. As per usual, at the close of play, there were murmurings along the lines of ‘do this more often’, ‘we must’ and ‘that was fun’. We’ll see.

Stiggers, ever a fan of American football, Trump and Mom’s apple pie played the US of A’s 2nd Rifle Company from The Battle of the Bulge and I, ever keen to play new uber weapons, although not fully fettled (kinda apt) fielded a little something from the 510th Heavy Panzer Battalion.

As ever, this recollection of events might be a little off.

Here’s the US forces:

Here’s the Hun:

I only ever really want to play the short width as the baseline and since I was hosting, that’s what we did. No book scenario. No reserves. We just positioned two objectives either end of a table that I later confessed, had too much going on scenery-wise and rolled to blink first.

Stiggers, it turned out, had a mote.

Round One

As is our want, we played our House Rules Deployment Rule and so the first snap of the day is a little uninspiring minatures-wise with only bits of paper setting out into the battlezone.

There’s really not much to add other than we both appeared to be preferring our left flanks. Oh, and that I forgot the Stormtrooper rule. Again.

Round Two

Some moving at the double meant the Yank’s recce beat my ambling infantry to the hillside objective and forced a reveal.

Eek! Jeep-mounted .50-calibres were going to have the high ground in front of my plucky foot soldiers. I modified my evil plan, moved a unit card up and revealed… the pride of the Fatherland; a Zevvzzedada King Tiger! Hut, ya!

He aimed. He fired. He blew a General Purpose clean off the hill. Wholesale. And then the recce disengaged and ran to the other side of the valley. Where, as Stiggers pointed out, they earned their keep and forced more reveals: three of my infantry platoons.

On the big beastie’s reveal Stiggers also pointed out, very quickly, how unreliable the 1:1 was. Bless him. Nothing if not relentlessly predictable, eh? Stiggers? Sigh.

I now chose to share with Stiggers the presence on the back deployment line of two, frustratingly immobile, 88s. I had kinda positioned them, or tried to position them, in such a way to provide some kinda cover for the hillside objective. I figured showing them would keep the inevitable Shermans he had skulking around out of the open centre ground. Kinda.

But I think I also concluded that, without something to haul them into better positions, they’re an utter waste of points. Meh. I’m too easily drawn in by their real world reputation, by their purposeful looks and their rate of fire when crewed meaningfully. All a bit redundant when the buggers can’t move to a good spot.

Fittingly for a battle report, the details of what happened next are a little hazy in my head, suffice to say, somewhere in Round Two or Three, the American reconnaissance pointed their machine guns at my infantry whose positions they’d betrayed. Thankfully, they only popped the one stand.

One thing is very clear; I forgot to Stormtroop. Again, again. Was it ever thus?

Round Three?

My mixed-bag platoon of armour opened up on the pesky recce, dented it a bit, and forced a motivation test. Which it passed but, sufficiently hammered, it was no longer going to feature in what remained of the game.

Both sides did a little maneuvering for position: me, putting the infantry unit on my right under the shelter of the hill with the objective on it; Stiggers, sneaking an armoured platoon towards the woods to take up a similar position on the opposite side of this landscape feature.

The main action now swung towards the road outside the farm.

Round Four

Stigger’s favourite, the annoyingly swift M5 Stuart platoon now broke its cover. Light on their feet they may be but they’re also rather light on armour. The mixed ensemble panzers bailed one and destroyed one, almost with impunity but the crew of a IV were forced into an emergency exit in the return fire.

Fearing Rudy, Stiggers had been sure not to leave home without some anti-air and the M15 and M16 now  revealed themselves. In the absence of said fly-boy, they shot away a stand of krauts on the hill with a veritable hail of bullets.

As Stiggers moved some Doughboys through some trees at the foot of the hill in the corner I queried a bog and he pointed out that from the start we’d not agreed what was wood and what wasn’t. Sneaky. Once again, I mentioned getting some material to put woodland trees on to clearly delineate the thickets from the solitary oaks. I also mentioned having some brown corduroys I could donate to this cause. Stiggers merely guffawed. I reckon he has some cords, too. He just doesn’t own up to it.

Round Five

Bailed tanks were remounted all round and the Stuarts were despatched. They’re swift. They have a whole heap of dice. But they’re surely made of tin foil.

The on-going Mexican standoff back in the bottom-right corner of the table needed something to tip the balance. Stiggers still had an unrevealed unit near the woods so I decided to take the slow-moving massive feline the long way round the woods and avoid his dirty secret. Good call: at the end of the game, with this unit still in hiding, Stiggers divulged it was his other true love; the inevitable M36 tank-destroyers. I dodged a bullet there.

By now I’d moved up my final unit card and uncloaked another Zevyzsda King Tiger. But our time was running out and Stiggers, realising he’d nothing that could penetrate the big cat’s hide, suggested we call it a day and call it a draw.

With only the loss of two stands of grunts to one whole platoon of light tanks I felt I definitely had the upper hand but only the one objective, in my half of the table, was actually being disputed. At that moment, I think I had control. But those M36s had yet to pop into existence, and while I had more panzerfausts than you could shake a stick grenade down in that corner, they’d surely have had a big influence in the bottom-right. I fancy Stiggers’ final cards close to the farm hid some tasty anti-tank talent, too.

I think the call was valid. It had been entertaining getting to this point but we would need at least half as much time again to see it through.

Lessons Learned

First up, and as per usual, I didn’t start setting the table up soon enough and wasn’t quite ready when Stiggers arrived. That’s a hardy annual of Lessons Learned. Moving on…

I need more hedges.

I liked the extra element of the hummocks.

I need more hummocks.

With the actual rules misinterpretations I think we had a couple. Step forward, ‘Slow Traverse’ (p119). And the mistake here wasn’t with interpreting the specific rule as such but, rather, that we didn’t need to call it into play in the first place, I think – my turret simply didn’t turn back towards the engine bay but had always kept pointing forward. My love of all things jagd means all the heavy metal I’ve put on the table previously has dodged this one through lack of a turret, but when Stigger’s recce jeeps were skipping up hill and down dale, tracking right to left in front of my King Tiger, they remained in front of a line drawn across the front of the turret; so the traverse required was minimal, less than ninety degrees, and the +1 wasn’t necessary.

Mind, from memory, the dice rolls weren’t actually good enough without it but it’s a lesson learned.

‘Disengage’ (p194) was also new to us. Reading through this one after the event – and also hampered by my dodge memory – I wonder if we got it wrong on a couple of counts. First up, and crucially, I think the jeeps may have shot in their previous turn – they may actually have moved at the double, too (which means they shouldn’t have been shooting!). Whatever, either action means the run-away option should not have been  there for them.

As a rider to this, there’s also the ‘Disengaging From ROF 1 Weapons’ clause. Tigger had moved to be in range so only had the one shot to bring to bear. Ignoring the first point above, the Jeepsters actually had the right to move first and have the Tiger fire at them after, in their final position. Which, had they found cover or broken the line of sight, would have been preferential to their survival.

Man! But this learning of rules is just endless (but writing this up, looking things up, hopefully lodges things in my cranium a bit more robustly and aids the process, I feel). I do distinctly recall backing away from the idea of assaulting that same pesky recce unit with my infantry at one point because I plain didn’t fancy going through the morass of stages that appears to be the Assaults Step.

Moving away from the weight of the rulebook, I think I finally learned the value of infantry sitting on an objective. Mine weren’t actually called into action but, nonetheless, I could see their potential. Stiggers has known this from the start of our gaming together. He’s kept quiet, let me field bigger and bigger tanks and smiled, inwardly. Yet grunts are just not as damned sexy as anything metallic and painted in Middlestone 882. Unless you find uniforms (or grunting) sexy. In which case, ahem, there are specialist websites out there that can better cater to your predilections than this.

Me? I’m going to have to think about including squaddies in my lists more often. Perhaps instead of immobile 88s….

As ever, if you feel I’ve read the rules wrong, please do point that out and correct me via the Comments.

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