Friday, April 24, 2009

Easter extravaganza #3: Country-house carnage

Preliminary reconnaisance
After a short night's sleep and a journey across the country to the east coast Martin and I sat down to the main event: Combat Commander. We decided to start with Scenario 4. Closed for Renovation. Could one of us gain the American victory which has eluded everyone so far?

Working at the GIMP to get files ready for RD/KA!, I searched for Humaine, Belgium on googlemaps, as I'd done with Scenario A. Ichiki Attacks from CC:P. I was able to find the town, but neither googlemaps nor google earth are detailed enough for me to pick out the chateau itself, so north is purely conventional on the maps for this scenario. Still, I found some pictures which show the piece of real estate to which those Germans clung so stubbornly back in December 1944.

The trees on each side of the picture to the right make me think that this shot was taken from the NE corner of the grounds, just at the wall along which the Americans set up. I don't think this is a shot of the other side because, by the CC map:

  • There are neither outbuildings nor trees in the centre of the shot.
  • The chateau is too distant in the shot for the vantage point to be inside the grounds and beyond those obstructions.
On the left is a closer view of the front of the chateau, showing what a strong defensive position it offered. And below left you can see the tree-lined wall which offers such valuable cover to the Americans' flanking manoeuvres. Notice that the trees are inside the grounds in the photo, whereas they are outside on the CC map. Does this represent changes on the ground since 1944? Or did Chad and his developers decide to fiddle with the map for the sake of balance? Either way, it's certainly true that the American exit-VP end run is much easier with the wall breaking LOS to the road from inside the grounds of the chateau.

Into the attack
I took the Americans in first.

Martin put most of his Germans into the chateau, as you'd expect. He also put a decent HMG covering force out on his right flank so that I didn't have an easy time of it with the end run he knew I'd be making after seeing how close this tactic had come to winning the game for Martin's Americans the last time we'd played.

My plan involved the by now familiar 2 task forces, each comprising:
  • A leader.
  • 5 squads.
  • MMG.
  • .50 cal MG.
Sgt. Buehler led my left-flank exit-VP end run with the line squads, plus an elite squad to lug the .50 cal. Lt. Wray - complete with satchel charge - led the assault across the chateau grounds. I usually give satchel charges to leaders, because they typically have the best morale, and are therefore least likely to be MIA before I've had a chance to lob the satchel charge. The other satchel charge went with an elite squad.

The map above shows I was making good progress by the first time trigger:
  • Sgt. Buehler's flanking force was established where I wanted it to be after its first bound.
  • Under the cover of smoke, Lt. Wray and his men were already halfway across the chateau grounds (and I had a veteran squad - that one with the green box around its statline).
This proved to be the highpoint of my left-flank manoeuvres, as the map of the final positions to the right shows.

Sgt. Buehler was MIA, severely hindering my exit-VP end run. With my left flank scattered and unable to coordinate their attacks, Martin had the leeway to bring his covering HMG through the woods, over the wall and into a position to bring fire down on my engineers who were working their way through the chateau. I brought my .50 cal across to put paid to any notion Martin might've had of charging these units across the grounds and into the chateau.

My attack across the grounds was getting bogged down thanks to wire and a blaze, so it was up to the engineers and their flamethrowers to do the job in the chateau. They worked their way through the wire at the east end of the chateau and set about the Germans, only to discover a hidden pillbox. I cleared this with an overstacked melee. Then my hero popped up. So I gave him a flamethrower and he went to work. I played 5 flamethrower attacks in just 2 turns - every CC player's dream scenario!

Unfortunately it wasn't enough, even though I managed to keep the game going for another time period. Martin won with 13VP, although he was just 2 kills from surrender when the game ended.

Hold the line!
Martin wanted to try for the prize himself, naturally enough.

I decided to try a variant defence, and put my HMG covering force in the treeline to the east of the chateau grounds. The idea was that it would be able to shoot both into the grounds and against the inevitable exit-VP end run.

Seeing this, Martin sent his strong assault force up the treeline. The result was that I quickly lost a leader and an HMG, which was only compensated for by a couple of quick time triggers. Still, I was feeling fairly confident as we hit time trigger 5 (see above):
  • I felt I had enough firepower to make it too costly for Martin to get across the wall and into the chateau.
  • And I was pleased to see that his second force hadn't even moved off their startline.
As the final position (right) shows, my confidence was justified and unjustified:
  • Martin decided to ignore the chateau and to play for exit VP (you can see that he was caught in the middle of his exit/reinforcement cycle at the end of the game).
  • His second force made a rapid advance under the cover of smoke and almost cleared my flank.
My lone squad on the left survived thanks to a fiendish piece of defensive fire: with Wire, Spray Fire and Crossfire it was able to break a leader and 3 squads in a single bout of OpFire! (I just love Spray Fire!). Martin battled on bravely, as he does, but even keeping the game going until time trigger 9 wasn't enough. I won with 25VP.


So the chateau is still securely in German hands after 2 more tense games. I'm mostly pleased with the plan I put into action as the Americans, although the result wouldn't've looked so close if my hero hadn't turned up. One thing I would do differently next time is to use smoke to cover my end run. With the benefits of hindsight, I feel that sitting back and engaging the German HMG covering position in a long range firefight is a bad move; it's a recipie for getting bogged down.

As the Germans, I wouldn't put an HMG in the treeline again. I'd looked to have arcs of fire to each flank, but that proved to be misguided:
  • The units' main role - covering the end run - was weakened because the Americans were running across an arc of fire, instead of into my guns.
  • The treeline gave the Americans cover until they were at pointblank range to the covering units, depriving them of defensive fire opportunities.
Martin punished me for this mistake.

I was fortunate that Martin got a bit carried away with his exit-VP end run. This is an important tactic, but I think the Americans have to combine this with an assault on the chateau if they are to win, as witness the VP totals: mine was twice Martin's.

Until next time then! ;)

- Once more unto the breach! (Or: Still no room at the inn)
- The Claymore mega-session
Easter extravaganza
- #1: The long weekend
- #2: Limbering up
- #4: Rumble in the jungle

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