Thanks to the fact that I have a most estimable and excellent Beloved, I got myself down to the Dueling Grounds yesterday for a highly unusual whole day of weekend gaming. The club was running a special event, Operation Quarterback a series of linked Bolt Action games set in the period shortly after D-Day. There were three games over the course of the day; I was able to stay for the first two, but had to miss the third.
The gist of the day was an allied attack on a German-held town. The initial games focused on the allies securing the approaches, with subsequent games following depending on the initial outcome. I was running a American force for the day, with the figures kindly lent to me by Watts, who also organized the day; many thanks for the time and effort he put into the day.
My first game was against DaveB, and I was attacking against a fortified position. There were two objectives on the table, one on each corner of DaveB's side, and I had to take both to win. My force consisted of a couple squads of infantry, a medium machine gun, and a Sherman (75mm). DaveB had an edge in infantry and support weapons, but had no armour.
Dave placed his fortifications (about a metric ton of barbed wire) in a dense web around the bridge. This made it effectively impassible to my infantry, at least within the turn limits we were playing (the wire cost a turn to cross, just in itself, and placed an automatic pin on infantry that did cross). My tank could have forced it, I suppose, but the combination of the medium howitzer, plus the chance of a mobile panzerfaust response, made me a little leery. I figured my best bet would be to concentrate on the right, try to force the wall with support, and outflank his position with one of my infantry squads. Then I could sweep back across, and hopefully take the second objective.
I began by moving on table in the first turn, putting my MMG in the farmhouse to provide covering fire, and bringing up the Sherman to assume a fire-support position. While the 76mm Sherman is a dedicated anti-tank platform, in Bolt Action, the 75mm is an infantry support tank; it can fire both AT and HE shells. With no opposing armour on the table, I'd be using plenty of the latter.
The first few turns saw DaveB and I exchange some fire. I did my best to keep my advancing infantry squad in cover, and to provide fire support. Every hit on an enemy unit causes pins, and even if you don't get casualties, pins can both limit activation opportunities (units with pins must test to activate) and interferes with combat effectiveness (pins are negative modifiers to shooting). My main priority at this point was to shut down the panzerfaust team Dave had brought up on my right. As long as it was in play, my tank couldn't get too close to the German position, and I needed the firing angles it was blocking off.
I eventually managed to clear out the 'faust (I think it was a barrage of MG fire from the tank itself), and then pushed forward. The next problem I'd have would be to force the wall. DaveB had a squad in the building on the other side, one in the woods, and could pour in fire from my left as well. While my troops could take cover from the wall itself, they'd be getting hit from all sides. What I hoped to do was get them close enough to put effective fire on the squad in the woods, and maybe even draw out the "house troops". DaveB had, intelligently, put the "woods squad" on ambush to counter my outflank manouvre, but if I could get some pins on them, their ambush could be compromised.
It actually worked out better than I'd hoped. I moved my infantry up, and they hunkered down behind the rock wall. As far as the howitzer was concerned, they were in a sweet spot; too close for a barrage, but at the edge of direct fire range. That, coupled with the hard cover of the wall itself, gave them solid protection from the howitzer, plus enough protection that DaveB moved the squad in the house out, presumably to maximize his shots (the trade-off of taking cover in buildings is that there are limited fields of fire, and not all of his guys could get shots on my squad).
While I did take some casualties and pins, I also managed to put some on the squad in the woods, and my tank got in a good shot with an HE shell, that tore up the German defenders even more.
On my next turn, I brought in my outflanking squad (some scenarios allow for units placed in delayed reserves to deploy further up the table; a player nominates a table edge, left or right, and then can bring them in a distance up the table determined by how many turns have elapsed). They weathered ambush fire from the remnants of DaveB's defenders, and their counter fire wiped out the German squad. I now had one of the objectives in hand.
The problem was, I'd taken too long to do it. It was now either turn 5 or 6 (can't remember), we had at most 2 turns to play, I was down to one infantry squad (the unit at the rock wall eventually broke and ran under fire). Even though I'd torn the core of DaveB's defenders apart (he was down to the howitzer, an MMG team, and dregs), I wasn't going to make it all the way across the table in time.
The game ended with each of us in possession of an objective, but neither of us in a position to take the other. Overall, the allies had middling success, with a win, my tie, and two losses.
Game 2 saw me starting the game trying to figure out how to deal with this:
That's a nice, chunky squad of veteran german infantry, entrenched inside a building, with a medic, and friends on the way. At the time, I didn't think much of my chances, but in retrospect, if not for one serious mis-judgement, and one bit of bad luck, I probably stood a decent chance.
The scenario in question had the defender place 2 units close to the centre-table objective, while the attacker can deploy anywhere more than 18 inches away. I couldn't bring my tank this time, as I was attacking one of the town sectors, and we evidently hadn't secured the necessary access zones (that tank would have made a hell of a difference to the game), so I brought more support weapons instead; another MMG, a light mortar, and two bazooka teams.
I set up to get as many angles of fire on the target building as possible. The plan was to use the cover of the buildings to move up to assault range with one infantry squad and the bazookas, and then whittle down the defenders until an assault seemed viable. In the meantime, I put my other infantry squad on the far side of the table, in a bid to slow up any reinforcements that my opponent (Vonplutz) would bring on.
That last bit was probably a good idea, but in retrospect, putting them so close to VP's board edge that he'd be able to move on-table and fire at them on his first turn was a mistake. Another mistake was to then have my torn up, understrength squad try to assault the unit that fired on them. Half-strength regular american squad vs. full-strength veteran German squad with assault weapons is not a winning proposition, and I was down half my infantry by the bottom of turn one. Not my best move ever.
I spent the next several turns pouring fire into the target building, stacking up pins as I did, while I moved up my remaining infantry. VP was able to get some good firing angles of his own, and did some damage of his own, but by turn 4 or 5, I had a decent shot. I still had five guys left in my infantry squad, and his defending unit was at 8 pins; effectively out of the game, and likely to auto-break after another round or two of firing. I figured I'd assault across the street, clear the medic out of the first floor, and then finish off the unit upstairs with fire support.
I knew that my guys would take some fire in the assault from VP's supporting units, but basically, I only needed a couple of them to make it. They could take the first floor, I'd clear the second with fire, I'd move up, and unless things got really hairy, I'd end up at least contesting it by game's end. My guys dashed across the street, and took fire from MMG Vonplutz had covering the alley. 5 shots. 5 hits. 5 kills.
My poor guys never made it across the street. I still had a shot though. I managed to clear the first floor of the building (taking out the medic with a bazooka shot, no less), and moved one of my bazooka teams into the building, contesting it. I then completely whiffed my attempts to put a last pin on the defending unit, VP moved up one of his essentially undamaged infantry units, assaulted, and my bazooka team went down in hand-to-hand.
*sigh* Like I said, if I hadn't thrown away an entire squad of infantry, and if not for that bad break on the alley charge, I probably had a decent shot. What I really took away from the day is the extent to which Bolt Action really is an infantry game. Support weapons and armour are useful, absolutely, but the more infantry you can pack into a list, the more resilience and options you've got.
I had to leave at that point, and missed the last round of the mini-campaign, but from what I've heard, it was the Axis who won the day. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and due to the fact that we played on the same day as the Dueling Ground's anniversary sale, a fair number of us picked up stuff for North Africa. I'll likely be working on desert americans in the new year - just need to get my hands on a Grant / Lee in 15mm.
I figured I'd show some pics of the other games from the day as a closer. Many thanks, again, to Watts for both organizing and for loaning me a non-Soviet force to play. It was a terrific day.