On to Palermo

Just Bob and I were available for the usual Friday night game, so I threw together a quick game of Flames of War. I decided on a Sicily-esque game and assembled a few German and US companies to choose from. We decided to do the Hold the Line mission from the FOW rulebook. This game provides some interesting tactical challenges but is still a fairly straightforward attack/defense game suitable for Bob’s second game of FOW. Bob chose to play a Panzergrenadier company defending with artillery and AT guns supported by a Tiger. I attacked with an American rifle company supported by MG’s, mortars, artillery, and some tanks.

We laid out a table with a number of ridges and a small village nestled in the valley. There were also some fields surrounded by low stone walls as well as some areas of rough going to impede vehicular movement. Bob chose to defend the end of the table with a couple of small woods, a ridge down the center, and a villa on one side with walled fields behind it. One objective was placed on the ridge toward the middle back and the other on the tip of a ridge overlooking the road toward the front of the German zone and on the American right. He deployed a couple of rump platoons augmented by HMGs in the center and in the villa and left the closer objective uncovered although had a couple more platoons in ambush. I had three infantry platoons plus the HMGs, so decided on a broad advance with the center platoon able to swing left or right depending on where I could get a breakthrough. I sent the Stuarts down the right side to threaten the closer objective and draw out his ambush. My mortars were set up behind a ridge and my artillery was off table to the rear (where artillery belongs).

My attack proceeded mostly as expected. Bob quickly realized the advantages veteran infantry have in staying hidden, so I was largely unable to target any of the German defenders as I advanced. The Stuarts played their part with entirely predictable results. They raced forward to threaten the objective and Bob placed his ATG ambush in the woods on the right. The Stuarts survived the initial onslaught with minimal casualties, but their callous commander ordered them forward to keep the Germans pinned on the right while I moved forward.

Eventually I reached a position where I had two platoons opposite the villa and another platoon driving toward the near objective. Feeling that that objective was threatened, Bob deployed a full platoon of panzergrenadiers in the woods where the ATG had been (they were trying to displace after finishing off the Stuarts). With the last of the ambushes on the table, I brought a platoon of infantry out into sight and drew fire from Bob’s infantry in the villa. With the Germans no longer gone to ground, I felt I had a decent chance to range in with my artillery and launched a hasty assault with both infantry platoons. If the attack worked I could overrun the rear objective before Bob could react. If the artillery failed to pin the Germans, I would be caught in the open and suffer heavy losses.

The mortar boys came through, pinning the Germans and allowing my infantry to sweep into the villa and surrounding fields. In a couple of turns of assaults, I finished off the defending infantry platoon on that side and pushed to within striking distance of the objective. Bob’s remaining troops were caught over on the other side with my tanks, HMGs, and third platoon of infantry in position to interdict their movement. Bob ceded the table and withdrew his forces, but not before driving his Tiger out for one last parting shot, which neatly sliced through a Sherman.

FOW’s point system and generic missions get a certain amount of grief from grognards (mainly due to some of the worst of the inevitable tournament excesses) but it certainly is handy for quick pick up games. There is no reason that such a game cannot have a suitable historical flavor as long as the players involved exercise a little self-restriction and stick with historically matched forces and reasonable force mixes. A few tweaks to the basic rules/scenarios can also help, such as allowing off-table artillery in all games.

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