Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hedgerows and Hand Grenades

Robert Bolan came over to my place last night to get in a game of Combat Commander: Europe. We moved onto the second scenario in the book - Hedgerows and Hand Grenades. The background:
Bocage Country, Normandy France, July, 1944: A few weeks after the D-Day landings, General Bradley was keen to choose a suitable place for a swift, decisive breakout with a minimum of casualties in order to get his armored forces into more tank-friendly terrain. The key ground to the south of US First Army, however, was the town of St. Lo along the Vire River - which could only be had via a tough slugging match through moors, marshes and a patchwork of tiny fields surrounded by dense hedgerows. One such skirmish occurred amongst the latter terrain on the outskirts of Pont-Hebert, just a few miles from the vital St. Lo-Coutances road.
The map for this one was nasty. Lots of hedgerows, very little line of sight. Since Robert won the previous match, I chose my side - the Allies (Americans). I had to setup my side first in the first three rows of the map, after which Robert could dig himself in anywhere else on the map. I decided to go with the attackers so I could play with the mortar and artillery. As the defended, Robert would have a lot of ways to make life hell for me though - including being able to setup heavy machine guns pointing down the only easy terrain - the roads. Robert also started with 10 VPs. After we setup, I was allowed to place one of my leaders - Lt. Blankenship in position to be my forward observer. I placed him near the back of map - I hoped to get a few artillery shots on the rear flank, then exit him off the map for points and a quick reinforcement. Our objectives for the map? 2pts for each of the 5 spots, plus Robert drew a house in the middle worth an extra point, and I drew the one objective on Robert's side of the map for an extra point :(.
The battle started with my moving my troops up the left side, while the group on the right used the mortar to try and soften Robert up. Lt. Blankenship was able to call in a couple of artillery strikes, but to no real effect. The one effect - I got my Real American Hero into the game! I placed him near Blankenship - planning to exit them both off the map (only realizing after I did that, that the hero is worth ZERO points). Robert had advanced one of his squads and a leader into a house, which I decided I needed to invade (despite not being an objective point). A quick advance let me eliminate a couple of his guys right away and a few rounds into the game, I was quickly gaining points back. The first time card came in fairly early and Lt. Blankenship and the hero re-entered the game, moving to support my mortar team. By this time, Robert had taken control of the central locations - two houses tucked away from line of site of anything. I was forced to advance into the house and my group overwhelmed the occupants. I had now knocked Robert's lead down to a mere 2-3 points and had comfortably advanced to a point where I thought I had a chance. Then lady luck struck.
Robert, tired of being shelled, moved some units down to eliminate my mortar team, which they did with a swift advance. In addition, a couple of events for Robert were letting him score points for objectives held and units he had eliminated. Before I knew it, his points had skyrockets back up to 15! He also managed to get a number of foxholes, some wire and other crap into play. My offensive had stalled and was in danger of being done. He started breaking my units, and if he had gotten some rout cards, I was going to be in a world of hurt. That was when I noticed that I had killed a lot of Robert's guys. Though I wasn't going to be able to dig out his guys much, I was in pretty good position to win the game if I could kill a couple more guys. With that in my head, I made a push to try and take out another of Robert's groups. He brought in another team to try and help, and that was the mistake I needed. He made a group vulnerable and I brought a number of fire teams down on him and was able to force Robert's surrender. Robert had a huge number of points, but the casualties were too much for him. I may have won, but I think future attacker/defender battles will much much harder now that we know a few more of the tricks.

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