Recon Forward!

Flames of War has one of their standard scenarios (Encounter) that is a meeting engagement type game. However, the way that scenario is set up, a player is encouraged to lead with the best combat elements and leave their light stuff to follow on as reserves. The idea is to get as much of your combat power on-table and not left to the vagaries of dice rolls. Fine for a generic game, but certainly not indicative of how real armies moved around in WWII – namely with their reconnaissance out front. So I tried writing a generic meeting engagement that would reward players who led with their recon assets. Ken agreed to try out this scenario, so we threw together a game based loosely an actual historical meeting engagement between elements of the Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion of 9th Panzer and a motorized task force of the US 90th Infantry Division in France in August 1944.

In keeping with the spirit of the event, both Ken and I deployed our reconnaissance assets on table. He had a couple of armored car patrols and I had full cavalry recon platoon broken out into three patrols. Ken’s starting forces also included a unit of panzergrenadiers in schwimmwagens and an off-table howitzer battery (and it’s on-table observers). My other forces included a unit of infantry in trucks and a platoon of M10’s.

In the first few turns we jockeyed for position, with each side trying to worm some recon platoons onto the other half of the table, since in the scenario you got bonuses to your own reserve rolls for having recon on the other side of the table. I quickly found out that the US recon assets, with two unarmored jeeps in each patrols, were at a significant disadvantage versus the German armored cars. I was forced to bring the M10’s out of hiding and forward into the center of the table to scare off the German armored cars. This allowed me to get some of my recon forward.

Ken had moved his panzergrenadiers forward on my right and occupied a wooded area near the village containing one of the objectives. Fortunately, my reserves arrived in a timely manner and a unit of infantry moved up to secure the village while my initial infantry moved forward and to my left under constant artillery attack. At this point I aggressively moved forward with some reconnaissance patrols and knocked out one of his observers with a lucky shot. I moved on patrol off table (providing Ken with penalties to his reserve rolls), which did serve to slow down his advance. However, in doing so I had left one of my own objectives completely unguarded. Ken’s 8-rads moved up and seized the point, giving me only one turn to respond before the game ended. All available assets were turned to my right. Fortunately the 9th Tactical Air Force answered the frantic calls and a single aircraft buzzed in to bomb one armored car and long range fire from a Sherman platoon killed the other one.

By this time Ken’s Panther platoon had arrived and proceeded to kill or drive off the M10’s. The big cats now dominated the center of the table, but could not move out because they had to guard the objective from my remaining recon assets and advancing infantry. The action would be decided on the right, where I had two full platoons of infantry ready to assault Ken’s Panzergrenadiers out of the woods. I charged in with thew infantry and got a little bit of lucky dice rolling to pin the German’s with my walking fire. The grunts then rushed the woods with grenades and bayonets and routed the Germans to a man. At this point we called the game as Ken had to get home and I there was essentially nothing to stop my infantry from advancing on Ken’s left objective.

The game was lots of fun, but I feel that my attempts at a scenario that would encourage forward use of recon still would not work. The advantages built into the scenario require the recon assets to move across the table and a player that simply deployed all of his combat assets could just blast the recon apart and still end up with the advantage of having more combat power on table earlier. I suppose that getting a good reflection of recon forward will simply require a more scenario based approach rather than trying to incorporate it into a generic scenario.

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