After Action Reports Little Soldiers

Battle Report: Battle Near Marche-en-Famenne

This game is based on a fictional scenario set during the German invasion of Belgium and France in 1940. The forces represent elements from the 5th or 7th Panzer Divisions on the German side, and some forward elements from an unidentified French Cavalry division.

We played this game on the afternoon of August 15, 2009 and it lasted about 4 hours. There were 5 players, and I acted as the referee for the most part, controlling only the German HQ. The account below is a summary of how the game went, but because I didn't take notes, some of the events might be out of order. I tried to get the highlights at least.

French Forces German Forces
Player 1
  1 Infantry Company
    1 CC (+1) -- Capitaine Georges Delaflote
    1 FO for Heavy Artillery (6 FM)
    1 FO for off-table 50mm Mortar (12 FM)

    3 Infantry Platoons
      1 PC (+1*)
      3 Rifle Squads

    2 25mm AT Guns with Horse transport

Player 2
  1 Tank Platoon
    1 Souma S-35, PC (+1*) -- Lieutenant Paul Laurent
    2 FT-17's with Cannon
    1 FT-17 with MG

* Rallying only

Morale: Regular
Player 3
  1 BC (+2) -- Oberstleutnant Gerold Brandt
  1 SMG Squad
  1 FO for off-table 81mm Mortar (12 FM)

Player 4
  1 Schutzen Kompanie
    1 CC (+1) - Hauptmann Anselm Faber
    2 HMG
    1 50mm Mortar (12 FM)

    3 Rifle Platoons
      1 PC (+1)
      3 Rifle Squads

Player 5
  1 Panzer Platoon
    1 Panzer 38(t), PC (+1) -- Oberleutnant Jakob Ritter
    3 Panzer 38(t)

Morale: Regular

Objectives

Keep an anti-tank roadblock at the bridge. Hold the town.

Deployment

The crossroads were marked as mined. One infantry platoon was deployed near the crossroads. The rest of the stands were deployed around the town near the road leading to the bridge.

Objectives

Take the town and eliminate French defenders to make a breach for the follow-on forces to exploit.

Deployment

The German forces were moved onto the table as part of their first initiative.

Setup

The table was set up according to the map in the scenario. Of course my terrain rarely matches the way the map was drawn, so some adjustment was necessary.

View from the German side (NE)

The river and swamp areas (light tan colored cloth) were declared to be impassible to vehicles, but fine for infantry. The bridge was treated as a crest that blocked LOS from one side of the river to the other. All the other terrain was according to standard Crossfire and Hit the Dirt rules.

The Game

11:30 Game Time (GT)

Roadblock
French Roadblock

The game began with the French moving their forces into defensive positions. In retrospect, I probably should have let the Germans deploy first, but then the French didn't look like they had enough forces to retake the bridge if the Germans established a firm foothold there. So the French set up a good roadblock on the south side of the road facing the bridge, with tanks further back to provide fire support. Another platoon had been deployed north to cover the flank in case any infantry crossed the river near the crossroads.

The Germans had plenty of cover for deployment, especially since the French didn't cross the river on their initiative. While the tanks and infantry were organized, a single squad scouted ahead on the bridge. They discovered the way was safe and free of mines, but got suppressed by the HMG in the fields west of the woods. The battalion commander rushed forward to rally the squad and get them off the bridge. The rally was successful, but the squad never pulled back and ended up spending the rest of the game huddled on top of the bridge.

Scouting the Bridge

Meanwhile another infantry platoon was probing the north crossroads and trying to find a way around the mine field. They made it as far as the woods but were pinned by French infantry guarding that flank. A FT-17 moved down the road into a firing position, and two other squads moved up beside the field.

Near the bridge, two Panzers were brought up to the river banks to provide cover fire while the infantry supported by another Panzer attempted a crossing. A smoke mission was called on the far bank, providing enough cover for two Panzer 38(t)'s and a single platoon to cross the bridge. Unfortunately for the Germans, the French used the smoke for cover to move up their FT-17's as well. As soon as the smoke blew away they opened fire and knocked out the nearest Panzer 38(t).

Attention shifted back to the crossroads as a second German platoon crossed the river and took up positions along the riverbank (a crest in CF terms). Since the only thing able to fire at them was the 25mm down the road, they decided to take the risk and rushed across the road in the fields behind a French platoon. One French squad was able to respond, but only managed to pin the first attacker. Then the German platoon was in position to pour fire into the French who huddled in the clearing behind the fields.

12:00 GT

Advancing behind smoke
Advancing behind smoke

Now heaving fighting was going on around the bridge. A FT-17 was knocked out as it tried to pull back from the bridge. A heavy artillery barrage was called down on another Panzer 38(t), knocking the crew about and suppressing them. Then the Somua moved up and nailed the tank with a 47mm AP round.

A FT-17 moved up under cover of the Somua and assaulted the infantry taking cover in the marsh beside the river. It wiped out one squad and narrowly avoided bogging down. But before it could escape, one of the surviving Panzer 38(t)'s knocked it out.

13:00 GT

Up north, the German flanking attack was proceeding well, in spite of the ineffective mortar support. The defending French platoon that had been flanked continued to have it's squads suppressed and was in danger of being wiped out. But before the advantage could be pressed, a FT-17 armed with a HMG showed up in the nick of time to rescue the Frenchmen.

The Panzer 38(t) that could have threatened the FT-17 was killed by a 25mm that had left the roadblock to counter the northern advance.

At the bridge, the German platoon hiding in the swamp was wiped out by the final heavy artillery barrage allocated to this sector. The French were starting to think they would be able to hold the Germans back when a mortar strike killed the AT gun, and a lucky shot from the Panzer 38(t) knocked out the Somua.

With the AT gun gone, the roadblock was considered cleared and the Germans could call their Panzer reinforcements. A Panzer III and a SdKfz 251 were the first to cross, shrugging off the small arms fire. The Panzer III turned to crush the other AT gun with a rear attack. Meanwhile the 251 gunned down the French CC.

Facing an additional Panzer platoon with no anti-tank ability, the French side decided to pull back into the town for a final stand. But since we were out of time, we called the game at that point.

Germans facing the ambush

Conclusion

Not count German reinforcments, both sides had lost 75% of their armor, and two or three squads of infantry — I think the French had lost fewer squads. With German reinforcements pouring on to the table, the French position had shifted to from good to bad, and if we could have had the time to fight it out, they probably would have lost the town, assuming the German infantry could have routed them out of the houses.

But as it was, each side had one Victory Point (VP), and the game was considered a draw. In campaign terms, I think the game will be treated as a French victory and allow them to fight the next battle from prepared defenses.

final recon
Final Aerial Recon

Notes

The players enjoyed the game. The house rules from Tim Marshall for vehicles do a good job of enhancing standard Crossfire. Even though they include rules for measuring distance, the terrain was dense enough that we only brought out a tape measure once. After that we used it more to check LOS between stands.

Even though there were two players on a side, I used the rule that they were to act simultaneously and whoever failed an action cost the initiative for that side. While that sped up the turnover, it might have given the players more freedom to act if players were to have had their own phases as the rules suggest.

French Armor
Clock Tower for
Tracking Game Time

Moving Clock

Since the game was using the moving clock rules, I decided to include a clock in the terrain! It took me a week to build this tower. I was able keep track of the game time by moving the clock hands to show the correct time. It added a nice touch to the game.

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