Last night saw the second battle of our CoC Arras 1940 campaign. The British had won the first encounter in No Man's Land when the Germans voluntarily withdrew in the face of an unexpected British advance south of Arras. Truth be told, I had nothing with which to counter the British Bren carriers. This, of course, turned out to be a false assumption. Apparently, MGs (of any type) can attempt to drive off APCs...who knew? Nevertheless, the British victory allowed Vidal to push on to the outskirts of Achicourt to further probe the German positions.
ENCOUNTER 2 – Achicourt (The Probe)
In this encounter, the British are approaching the outskirts of Arras from the northwest, intent on capitalizing on their previous victory. The terrain represents the outskirts of the town, including the main road into Achicourt and a small stream running across the front of the town.
FM = 11 (including a +1 FM modifier)
support = 13 points (Bren carrier + team, Matilda II, regular infantry section)
objective = move one team off the defender's base line
FM = 10 (despite a -1 FM modifier)
support = 6 points (minefield, PzJgr I)
objective = prevent the attacker's objective
Patrol PhaseThe Germans chose to defend the short end of the battlefield and move their patrols up to the stream in front of Achicourt. The German patrol markers veered left to counter the British movement of patrols to that flank. The British chose only three patrol markers and concentrated them on their own right flank.
Deploying Jump Off Points
After reading Richard Clarke's latest tactical primers (as all proper WWII gamers should), I decided to hold back the German Jump Off Points (above in red) and created a defensive line based on the stream in front of Achicourt. My intent was to force the British to come to me, while setting up supporting fields of fire and using the stream and the woods on the left flank as cover. I stayed away from the limited fields of fire available from the buildings. Vidal pushed his British JoPs to his right flank, hoping to concentrate and force a breakthrough to the German baseline there.
The British platoon commander, Lt Stuart began the game by probing forward on his right flank with a section of infantry and sending a Bren Carrier and team down the main road, trying to force the Germans to show themselves. The British 2" mortar began to drop smoke on the right flank to cover the advance of (eventually) three British sections.
The PanzerJager I deploys on the main road in Achicourt to scare off the British Bren Carrier probing down the main road (seen in the far distance). The Matilda II also moved forward along the main road behind the Universal Carrier but neither the PanzerJager I nor the Matilda II were able to damage the other (so once again becoming an ineffectual sideshow to the main infantry effort). Side note: This was the debut of the Panzerjager I and it defied the norm of wargaming logic, such as it is. It was not destroyed and/or routed from the field in its first battle.
After a couple of close shots from the PanzerJager I, the Bren team disembarks from its carrier and deploys into the adjacent field. This team proved to be the bane of the British attack. A full German section and 50mm mortar team deployed in the stream to its front and quickly wiped it out and severely wounded the Junior Leader. This eventually cost the British 5 Force Morale points with no discernible advantage gained. Oh well, live and learn, I suppose.
Leutnant von Schoenenfeld sent forward a section into the stream and used the cover to great effect in wiping out the Bren team mentioned above and then turning its attention to the main British effort on the left flank. The stream proved to be the saving grace for the Germans. Although it was a minor hindrance to movement, its banks provided hard cover.
Three British sections prepare to assault the German lines under cover of a smoke screen from the 2" mortar. Although Lt Stuart (amongst his men above) had carefully prepared the assault, moving tactically and successfully covering his efforts with smoke, by the time he was ready to go in, the British Force Morale had dropped from 11 to 6 (mainly because of the lost Bren team in the center). Two more of the British section leaders had also suffered minor wounds. This didn't knock them out of the battle but did lessen their potential impact. Losing a Command Initiative each deprived them of the ability to direct the fire of their section Bren guns and target specific enemy teams (i.e. the MG34s).
One of the German sections on the left flank, facing the main British effort. Although taking some damage from the exchange of fire, it still represented a strong position behind the stone wall. Another section had taken up position to the left in the hard cover of the stream.
At this point, Vidal realized that with his Force Morale down to 6, completing his objective would be extremely costly. Although the Germans would take some casualties from the assault of three British sections (after lifting the smoke screen by playing a CoC die), the British could ill afford to swap damage. Lt Stuart prudently chose to voluntarily withdraw and leave the field to the Germans.
As with the first battle, a voluntary withdrawal equates to a loss. The British company commander was none too pleased, especially after the initial success in No Man's Land. His opinion of Lt Stuart has wavered slightly (down 1 for a net +1) but not to a degree to which it might affect the next encounter. Lt Stuart remains a generally happy man; this was a minor setback...and his men seem to agree with him (casualties were relatively light).
Coversely, Lt von Schoenenfeld's opinion of himself has improved though he remains pensive about the future, especially since his men are not too impressed, despite the relatively low body count.
The next game will see the Germans with the initiative, having won Encounter 2. They can choose to counter-attack or await another British assault. If the former, we will use the Probe scenario again with the Germans moving out from Achicourt towards the British lines. If the latter, the British will move against Achocourt again but this time using the Attack/Defend scenario.