IABSM – Blenneville or Bust: West of Pierrecourt
We recently decided that a campaign would be fun, so I picked up the Blenneville or Bust campaign from Two Fat Lardies written by Robert Avery. This is a fictional campaign set in a valley in Normandy immediately following the landings. The first game of the campaign involves an American reconnaissance effort.
Spoiler Alert – If you are planning to play the campaign and want to have limited intel, read on at your own risk.
I set the game table up and took some aerial reconnaissance photos for the Americans to use when planning their attack (and I kept them away from the game table until their planning was done to put them into their company commander role). The German player decided to defend forward and to shut down the main road completely. He stationed an infantry platoon in and around the farmhouse, augmented by an MMG and a panzerschreck, and stationed a second platoon on the hill with the other panzerschreck. The ‘AT platoon’ made up of a couple of 37mm armed halftracks were positioned in the center while the heavy armored cars were off table as a reserve.
The American’s initial probe was with one of their reconnaissance units right down the main road and towared the farmhouse. It was a classic example of recon by burning armored car. The panzerschreck destroyed two M8’s and the MMG and small arms hosed down a couple of jeeps. The survivors fell back in disarray, but the lone surviving M8 was to be important as it proceeded to hose down the offending platoon with the pintel mounted 0.50 cal for turn after turn, keeping them pinned in place and inflicting shock and casualties.
With the main road clearly well covered the Americans shifted their focus and started bringing units down the track alongside the river. The attached Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon maneuvered into the fields in order outflank the farmhouse and keep the Germans deployed there pinned down and away from the real battle that was shaping up further north near the bridge as another Recon patrol raced north followed by the pair of M8 assault guns and a platoon of Stuarts. The recon patrol took a couple of passing shots through a gap in the bocage but soon rounded the corner at the north end of the table and came face to face with the German heavy armored car platoon coming up from reserves.
The M8s and the SdKfz 231s began a furious firefight that lasted for the rest of the game and dragged in the Stuarts and the German AT halftracks. 37mm and 20mm gun lack the punch to usually destroy vehicles outright, so for the most part the vehicles accumulated damage and shock until their crews abandoned them. An immobilized Stuart kept fighting from the position it occupied in the opening to the field bordering the road. The heavier armor of the Stuarts game them an edge, but the American gunners were not up to the task and missed many easy shots, allowing the Germans to remain in the fray. Adding to the Germans misfortune, a P-47 made a couple of passes over the battle area attacking the lightly armored German vehicles with its eight 0.50 cal MGs.
The second German infantry platoon had pulled out and retreated back to the house and woods next to the bridge, along with the second German panzerschreck. However the first platoon in the farmhouse was wiped out by a combination of 0.50 cal fire from the HQ platoon’s M8s and assaults by the I&R platoon. This allowed the remaining M8s to start back up the road where they were able to bring additional 37mm fire into the flanks of the remaining German vehicles aligned to defend against Americans pushing toward the bridge from the west.
At this point the wife declared that the beef stroganoff was ready, so we called the game and went upstairs for some food. The Americans were the winners as they had ample forces left to defeat the three remaining German armored vehicles and ample M8s or Big Men available to rush one onto the bridge and satisfy the victory conditions. With the strength of the bridge determined, the allies are ready to continue their push forward up the valley and into the heart of France.
Another fun game of IABSM and a really fun scenario. The biggest gun on the table (other than panzerschrecks) was a 37mm and the M5 Stuart was suddenly heaviest and best armored thing around. Because the strike values on the weapons were low (3-5 dice), there were not many times where the guns scored the required 3 successes over the defender’s armor save to produce a brewed up vehicle. So shock and damage played a huge roll, especially immobilizing hits that reduced the amount of shock required to force the crews to abandon the vehicles. Both sides were using their Big Men in the vehicle platoons to activate vehicles sooner and get off the first shot, but in this case I think the better plan might have been to always use those guys to remove shock and keep your crews from abandoning their vehicles. Looking forward to the next game in the campaign, where I’ll be playing the German defenders tasked with stopping the allied advance.