Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Too Fat Lardies' Campaign: Operation Martlet - The Probe Into Fontenay

Having just returned from a long period of intensive work abroad, I noticed that the Too Fat Lardies had released a mini-campaign, Operation Martlet covering the operations of the British 49th Division against the Germans' 12th SS Panzer Division in the run-up to Operation Epsom.  As this campaign has fascinated me since a young child and as the price was slightly less than a pint and a game of pool, I snapped it up straight away.  

I considered using the Too Fat Lardies' Chain of Command or Troops, Weapons & Tactics rules, both of which I own and enjoy.  However, I don't think that they are best enjoyed playing solitaire: to my mind, the mechanics of both games work better in head-to-head games.  Instead, I used the venerable WRG 1925-1950 rules.  Although designed for company-level rather than platoon-level games, I thought that the mechanics would at least give a nice quick game.  

To make the game solitaire, I used Martin England's Threat Generation System, described in Miniature Wargames 373.  Essentially, it uses a card system to generate enemy units, a dice throw to generate their direction and a dice throw to generate their posture.  It is more detailed than that but those are the basics.

The first battle in the campaign is "Probe Into Fontenay", where a reinforced platoon of Royal Scots advance through the fog towards the German forward positions.

Orders of Battle:
The British Army:
1 x Inf Pl
1 x Sherman
1 x extra Infantry section
1 x extra 2" mortar 
(n.b. as part of the sceanrio rules, there is a chance that each British section or vehicle will get lost in the fog on the approach march and not take part: this happened to one section and both mortars).
The British are also supposed to have conducted a heavy artillery bombardment before the advance.  I simulated this by carrying out a single artillery attack on each German element as it was generated.

The German Army:
1 x Reinforced Inf Pl
The exact details are randomly generated.  Basically there is definitely a German Platoon out there but all the possible support options became potential German additions/reinforcements.

The Plan:
As the British commander, I decided to act quite aggressively, figuring that the limited visibility would hurt the Germans, with their longer-range anti-tank weapons and more numerous machine guns, more than the British.  The main advance would be up the road (left-right) with a satellite section hugging the hedgerow at the bottom and advancing in parallel.

The Battlefield:
Photo of the battlefield before the advance

Same, slightly different angle

And again!
 The Advance:

The British advance as planned: the main body on both sides of the road with the Sherman in support, a section using the hedgerow to provide further flank protection

Yikes!! The Germans ambush both the platoon body and the flanking section!!  Half of the lead section by the road are cut down by an MG42, the flanking section loses its Bren team to rifle fire.  At this point, the British are beginning to get activated and begin counter-attacking: the flanking section has enfiladed the German position in the middle field and destroyed one of the MG42 teams.

The British flanking section is taking cover in the bottom house, pinned down by a German sniper (at bottom-left edge), after neatly eliminating the German section which had been nearby.  Another fire-and-movement attack - aided by the Sherman's machinegun - has dealt with the section in the centre of the field

Same position, slightly different shot.  The Pl Comd re-forming for his advance.

The Attack on the Town:

The British - having finally eliminated the very annoying sniper - advance into the town.  The Sherman makes short work of an SdKfz251/10 in the central farmyard.  Fearing intense opposition, the British Platoon encounter a single medical orderly who is quickly dealt with.  The section at the bottom has smartly dealt with a small group of German riflemen who were defending the trees at the bottom of the road.

A more closer-in view of the farm and the British main advance.

The British have occupied the main farmhouse and have advanced almost to the edge of the table.  Another small group of German riflemen were eliminated in the hedgerow on the far side of the road in short order, after some (luckily!) abysmal German shooting!  A senior German officer can be seen scurrying in the orchard on the right, thinking discretion the better part of valour.

Mission complete: the British have cleared the hamlet.

A very successful British probe: the combination of luck and fog worked very well!  
British casualties: 6 infantrymen
German casualties: 28 infantrymen (7 in the initial bombardment), 1 half-track

Game Notes:
I was very pleased with how all the elements of this turned out!  Martin English's TGS system did work really well for generating surprises and giving a workable and enjoyable solitaire game.  Although the British did win this relatively easily in the end, it did not look like that when they walked into the initial German ambush (and it really did feel like an ambush!).  What helped was that after the British eventually got rid of the two ambushing sections, the rest of the German threat draws were quite weak - singular good fortune on the British part.
The only thing that I am still wondering is whether the British and/or Germans should test morale by platoon (i.e. a single morale roll per side) or by section.  The advantages of the first is that it is both quicker and has the useful side-effect of encouraging troops going to ground as soon as fire breaks out, whether they are directly targetted or not.  The disadavantage is that the cumulative effect can be so strong that the Germans, even if they had pulled out stronger forces, would have been able to do little but hunker down at best, retreat straight away at worst because of the morale effects of the destruction of their first two squads.

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