Saturday, November 5, 2011
Gratz: 4 November 1944
Lieutenant Grover slams down the handset and grinds his teeth together. "Goddammit..." he mutters. "He's got us charging straight in there with no idea what's in front of us." The lieutenant presses his eyes shut and pinches the bridge of his nose between his fingers. "Let's get them moving, sergeant."
Deck 1, Turn 1
Grover's platoon advances east toward Gratz, coming under light mortar fire, but no one is hit. They make contact just outside of town with a German rifle platoon. Benedetto, sober today, moves second platoon into the woods on Grover's left flank. while Pickard advances third platoon into the same woods on the American far left. Germans appear in the trees across the road. Grover's men, after an initial exchange of fire, deploy in Gratz. Though the Americans are successful in pinning down some of the enemy, a sniper rifle rings out and Grover himself goes down, shot through the head.
Deck 1, Turn 2
First platoon, now in Gratz but leaderless, takes fire from the Germans, losing one squad, but eliminating one enemy squad as well. The remaining American platoons deploy into the woods north of the town, and the Germans do the same across the north-south road.
Deck 1, Turn 3
A squad from first platoon sets off a booby-trap, no doubt left behind by the German sniper team before they withdrew from Gratz. Adding insult to injury, the Germans east of the town lay down additional heavy fire on the already stunned squad. First platoon has been whittled down to just a dozen or so men. Benedetto's platoon in the center also takes heavy fire. Things are looking grim for the GIs and their spirits sink momentarily as a German tank can be heard rumbling closer from the village of Schierholz to the east. Just as they begin to despair however, the GIs' morale rises again as they hear a Sherman coming up from the rear.
[Game note: this was just dumb luck. I created a scenario rule that allowed armored reinforcement to arrive on any roll [move, fire, recover] of double sixes. The end of the turn saw double sixes rolled on BOTH of the last two fire rolls – the first tank turned out to be German, the second American.]
Deck 1, Turn 4
The last remnants of first platoon wither away under German fire inside Gratz. Meanwhile, Pickard's third platoon finally gets into position on the American left, while the Sherman advances to become what is now the American right. With the help of the tank, the two remaining American rifle platoons manage to pin most of the German troops in the trees across the road.
Deck 1, Turn 5
The Sherman has mechanical difficulty and creaks to a halt. The German Panzer IV slowly grinds forward. Fire from the American infantry begins to take a toll on the Germans in the woods, knocking out two squads and pinning all the rest. The only German infantry in good order is the platoon advancing into Gratz from the east. After what seems like an eternity of vulnerability, the Sherman's crew get their vehicle running again.
[Game note: now at the end of the first deck, I could call the game and retreat; my force is down 4-3, a minor loss, and not the end of the world. However, seeing as how half the German infantry is pinned, and all of my units are in good order, I decide to take a gamble, thinking maybe I could pull this out – bad idea].
Deck 2, Turn 1
"Sonofabitch!" Pickard can see a dust cloud rising in the distance in the outskirts of Schierholz. Another Panzer followed by an entire platoon of German infantry! He grabs the handset from his radio man. "Fall back! Fall back! We can't hold this position!"
"Goddammit!" Hollers Thorpe into his own radio. "You hold your position Lieutenant!"
The GI's keep firing, taking out two German squads in the woods. The tanks on both sides fail to find their marks, and the German infantry in Gratz manages to destroy an American squad on the US right.
Deck 2, Turn 2
Things go to hell in a handbasket for the Americans. A mortar barrage leaves every squad in Pickard's third platoon pinned, and the exchange of infantry weapons fire leaves Benedetto's platoon down to a single pinned squad as well. The Germans in Gratz attack the Sherman with panzerfausts, and momentarily stun the crew. Yet another German vehicle rolls into the town of Schierholz joining up with the other troops assembling there. The only good news for the Americans is that their tank quickly recovers from the panzerfaust attack. However, it seems now only a matter of time before the German troops in Schierholz make the final push to drive the U.S. force from the field.
Deck 2, Turn 3
There is a lull in the action, as a few desultory shots are fired by the remaining engaged good order troops on both sides. The Americans take advantage of the lull to pull their troops out, falling back through Broeckerhoff, leaving Gratz in German hands.
[Game notes: Deck 2 ended here, and I wised up and opted to get out while I still could. In terms of casualty victory points, the game was tied, 5-5, as both sides had taken even losses. But the Germans took Gratz and that gives them the victory here. In reality though, the "numerical" VP score doesn't come close to reflecting the horrible position I was in when deck 2 ended. All my infantry was pinned, practically all the German forces were in good order, and the German reinforcements were going to be overwhelming, outnumberng me about 2:1 in infantry and 3:1 in vehicles. Sticking around would have been sheer suicide.
Playtesting notes: As for the solo Paper Tiger variant rules I drew up, the random events rules were pretty brutal. They come up four times per deck, and are all bad events undermining the solo player. In other words, they represent four "free shots" against the player's forces on each run through the deck. That may be a bit much. The random events just pounded me the whole game. With the random event rule as written, I'm not sure the player has any chance at all of winning a game, and my target is for a game that gives the player a roughly 50-50 chance to win or lose. For the next game I may tweak the rules so that random events don't pop up quite so often – maybe a random event occurs only when the enemy draws an ace. This way, instead of being guaranteed four bad events per run through the deck, I could get anywhere from zero to four such events, with an average of two per pass through the deck, depending on who draws the aces.]
Coming soon: After the battle.
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)