That game was a resounding victory for the Para platoon, effectively writing off the German #1 platoon for the campaign. The Paras themselves suffered no permanent losses and remained in good shape. On that basis I saw no reason to replace them with a fresh platoon just yet.
This third scenario was make or break for the Germans. They have eight campaign games to gain a victory. This was about to be campaign game five, which meant if they don't win this one they would have to win every subsequent scenario to achieve victory. Losing didn't mean victory was impossible, but it would certainly make it a tall order. With that in mind I planned to try and do as much damage as I could to this next German platoon. This was the last time I intended to use my original platoon, so I felt I could take some casualties in the process without the risk of carrying those losses into the following games (although that cavalier attitude to the men's lives might not boost their opinion of me).
Annoyingly, the final missing team from the parachute drop, the PIAT team, still failed to show up. I really didn't want to have to spend support points on bringing in what I felt I should already have. I had seven support points, so decided on a Roadblock instead of a PIAT team. The terrain is very restricted for the available German vehicles, none of which are sturdy enough to drive through the tall stone walls. I knew a roadblock would absolutely guarantee a limited range of movement for any AFV, while the PIAT could end up a one-shot wonder or die trying to get a shot off. Remaining support points went on a section of Paras and an Adjutant. I wanted to be able to get both senior leaders on the table and try to make full use of 'concentrated fire' with the bren teams to inflict casualties.
The Germans had five free moves of their patrol markers, but at the end of the phase our Jump Off Point placement varied very little from the previous playing.
German Force Morale was eight and the British was nine.
The Paras waited to see what the Germans had in mind and it was soon clear that Dave was following a similar pattern to last week. He deployed two sections to his right flank with a senior leader. All very familiar, so what did he have in mind that was going to be different? Firstly there was no Werfer pre-game barrage, so I knew I would have no issue deploying, but clearly he had another plan.
He was already aware that I was taking a different approach with the appearance of the roadblock at the end of the patrol phase:
|The roadblock prevents vehicle access into Ranville.|
I also thought I would approach this differently by trying to inflict casualties whenever I had a good opportunity. With the German right flank facing a move across fairly open ground I really thought I should take full advantage to hurt him before pulling back. Once the two German sections appeared on the table I decided to make a concerted and quick effort to take these out before pulling over to the other flank to deal with what I was sure would be his other avenue of approach.
My command dice allowed me a lot of flexibility and so I deployed a senior leader and the support section, with its two bren teams, to the upper level of the farmhouse. A rifle section went into the ground level. In the upper level of the barn behind the farmhouse I placed the Bren team from my one depleted section. The barn has only one window facing the Germans but the line of sight over the high wall into the fields was a good one. That gave me four bren teams that could fire, plus a number of riflemen.
|British deployment to hit the first two German sections in the fields|
Using the CI of the Senior Leader and the Junior leaders I used 'concentrated fire' to try to take out individual MG42 teams. I was aiming for a hit and run result before too much fire could be returned my way. Regrettably the Paras were not on form today and the unerring accuracy they demonstrated last week deserted them. The Germans took only two casualties and a few points of shock, but were otherwise unscathed. That wasn't supposed to happen. The German section on Overwatch returned fire to the upper level and immediately killed two Paras. With elite troops in hard cover at effective range I was hoping I could me more resilient, but not so.
When the German phase arrives I sense I might be in a world of hurt. I am right. Hello, the Lorraine Schlepper.
|The roadblock is impassable but there is a line of sight to the farmhouse.|
A 150mm HE round comes crashing into the upper level of the farmhouse. I'm lucky to get away with only two casualties and some shock but what it does do, is make the building unstable. The Junior Leader takes one of the hits and wounds taking British FM down to 8. With two sections in there and a senior leader I will need to get out quick before the turn ends.
The German sections return fire and there are more casualties. The wounded junior leader is hit again and dies taking FM down to 7. The other casualties mean one of the bren teams is wiped out and that takes FM down to 6. I am sensing I may have been far too over confident here. Plan A hasn't worked and I don't really have a great Plan B. Then I discover Dave has opted for a Mortar Barrage in preference to the pre-game barrage and on comes a forward observer.
|An order is being placed for some 80mm mortar.....|
Then the process of emptying the building begins.
It can't happen fast enough and before long a ranging shot comes crashing through the roof.
By the next phase I've got one section clear but when the barrage comes down it catches what is left of the bren section in the open.
I begin to feel this is all going horribly wrong and I'm paying the price for that rather rash decision to try to take out his squads in the fields. Last week I was very cautious and waited for him to come to me, now I feel I've offered myself up on a plate. Not smart play.
|The senior leader and remains of the section pinned under the barrage.|
With the barrage coming down and most line of sight blocked the Germans advance on both flanks.
|Skirting the barrage two sections advance on the German left|
The Paras pull back and reform a defensive position in the rear buildings. Everything is a bit disjointed and I only have one section still to deploy. Meanwhile the barrage continues to hammer my pinned section, finally wiping out the remaining bren team and taking British FM down to five. The senior leader has clearly found some good cover because he's surviving all they can throw at him but that's a small mercy, things are not going well here.
|A senior leader, the sole survivor of a once potent force.....|
As the German left flank approaches the wall I deploy my final section. I want to cover a possible flank move and the line of sight from the buildings won't let me, so I go into the street in Overwatch. It's dangerous, but I'm getting desperate.
|How's that for a stand off?|
The Germans decide there's no rush and bide their time, bringing up some additional men.
|No one wants to jump the wall. How about grenades?|
So what follows is almost comical, as both sides start lobbing grenades over the wall, but neither of us are very successful. Things grind to a halt on this front for a while, but I'm feeling under pressure now.
On the other flank the Germans have got into the large orchard and begin swinging around to the flank. Pressure is building from both sides now.
Back to the other flank and finally a German grenade has an effect, wounding the Para's section leader and incapacitating him for the remainder of the turn. British FM holds steady. I fall back into the building and the German senior leader puts a smoke grenade over the wall and sends one section into the road. I'm being enveloped on both flanks.
I have a CoC dice I could use to end the turn, but it would be a mixed blessing. For now the barrage is giving me as much protection as it is hurting me. It would enable me to get my section leader back on his feet and my senior leader out from under the barrage, except for one thing, Dave has a CoC dice as well, which he could well use to keep the barrage going.
Dave decides he can afford to lift the barrage anyway as he's now ready to close with me. On his right he moves up to the orchard wall and neutralises my JoP. I decide to use my CoC dice to move it and he uses his CoC dice to interrupt. He activates the section behind the wall and comes over it onto the JoP and into close combat range of my lone senior leader. The odds are not good and although my leader goes down valiantly, it's another blow to force morale and it drops to three.
Dave now ends the turn and captures my JoP at which point it's very clear which way this game has swung. After last week's success the Paras are a chastened force. I made the fatal mistake of putting too much store on a single event. To succeed my initial deployment really needed to have two phases of devastating effect on his sections in the field. I didn't even come close and instead was on the receiving end of devastating firepower myself.
Unlike last week, Dave took his time and worked his way around me. He was patient and waited for the right moments and he used his support well. I was the complete opposite and paid the price.
This puts the Germans back in the game, but it's still all there to fight for. We have the potential for three more games across two more scenarios. The next scenario happens to the east of Ranville where a fresh platoon from 13 Para will be available. If they can't stop the Germans then the final scenario will allow me to play a fresh platoon from 12 Para. The Germans have two full platoons plus the remnants of #1 platoon to feed in as replacements, so we go into the end phase with strong forces available. With any luck this one will come down to the wire.