Friday, July 15, 2011
Action at Darville: PAPER TIGERS Battle Report
Setting the Scene: June 1944
As the allies try to press inland, a platoon of G.I.s are ordered to cross the small Boissière river into the town of Darville to screen the flank of an eastward American advance south of the stream. They are to hold the village and its bridge over the Boissière against any German spoiling attack aimed at the northern flank of the main U.S. advance.
The Germans, expecting an American attack but unsure where and when, are sending out reconnaissance units to probe the U.S. positions, and snatch up any key towns or bridges undefended or only lightly held by the enemy. One such probing attack, executed by a German platoon supported by a Puma armored car, is launched from the village of Menton toward Darville, in the hopes of snatching the bridge over the Boissière.
Turns 1-3: The Germans have trouble keeping organized and they advance slowly into the woods northeast of Darville. As the Puma rolls into view of the Americans, the G.I.s reposition themselves further into the town, in the hopes of drawing the enemy AFV to close quarters and negating its firepower advantage. The Puma opens fire as they do, initially to little effect.
Turns 4-6: The German and American infantry on the east side of Darville engage in a violent firefight, taking maximum advantage of cover and courage [Game note: both sides made an improbably large number of cover saves and recovery rolls for damaged units], before the G.I.s finally manage to wipe out one of the German squads. Meanwhile, the Puma succeeds in catching one of the withdrawing American squads in the center of town and keeps them pinned down continuously by pouring in unrelenting fire.
Turn 7: Finally the Puma destroys the U.S. squad in the center of Darville, clearing the way into the rear lines of defense nearer the bridge. However, on the east side of town, another German squad is pinned by accurate fire, and the decision is made to withdraw, since the infantry has stalled and the Puma commander has no intention of fighting the American infantry deep in the town at close quarters all by himself [Game note: the turn deck ran out, bringing about the "mechanical" end of the game; the stalled attack is the "narrative" justification for the end of the fight reflecting the situation on the board at game end].
Time worked against the Germans in this game. They needed to kill US squads quickly, make a hole, and push through to the bridge in a hurry. Unfortunately they got really bad card draws, severely limiting their actions early on, while the Americans got tons of cards, which allowed them to burn through the deck rapidly (the game ends when the deck is empty). At the same time, firing was quite ineffective all around (compared to previous games of Paper Tigers I've played) as both sides made a surprising number of cover saves negating otherwise effective attacks and, when units did get damaged, they repeatedly made successful recovery rolls before they could be hit again and eliminated. Again, because the Germans needed to quickly blast open a path to the bridge, this worked more against the Germans than the Americans. On the other hand, it was quite fun to watch such a heroic stand by the G.I.s who survived far more punishment than they should have been able to, effectively blunting the German attack before it could even pass the outskirts of Darville. The U.S. platoon commander and his men ought to be up for commendations.
Two Up, One Back
"The dominant (though not the only) tactical formation for the infantry in both attack and defense remained 'two up, one back.' This was a product of the triangular organization that the infantry used from platoon to division level. Triangular units had three main 'maneuver' elements (weapons units did not count as 'maneuver' elements). Rifle platoons had three squads; rifle companies three rifle platoons; battalions, three rifle companies; and so forth. This encouraged commanders to place two of their maneuver units forward while keeping back the third so that it could relieve or reinforce a frontline unit."
--John Sayen, U.S. Army Infantry Divisions 1944-45 (28)