The “String of Pearls” Flames of War Cobra supplement scenario was run at the recent HMGS-PSW WWII January convention (see WR previous blog posting). Three WWII gamers and WR himself wrapped up the lively scenario in two hours plus. The final “String of Pearls” scenario turn movements and gun action determined the winning team, with high and low frustrations of tabletop battles along the way.
Opening positions and situation for String of Pearls scenario: Per the scenario written in the FoW Cobra supplement, the Germans deploy their three SS Pz Grenadier (2nd Das Reich) platoons (cmd, four SS MG teams, attached Pak40 7.5cm A/T). The 1st SS Pz Gren. platoon holds the German right flank open field and covers the possible convey exit road behind them. Traveling to the road junction and central buildings found another SS Pz Gren. platoon and the SS company headquarter teams (Co. cmdr, 2iC, 2 panzerschreck teams) in position among the buildings. Behind them as local reserve is the small SS Pz Pioneer platoon (cmd, four pioneer teams). Last SS Pz Gren. platoon holds the German left flank field guarding the entrance of the truck and wagon objective convey along the roadway. In reserve off table are two Panzer IVH tanks with three possible road entrance points.
The Americans have their forces divided into two groups. The left flank group has M4 Sherman platoon (5 M4 Shermans) and Armored Rifle (AR) platoon (cmd, five AR teams, five bazooka teams, 60mm lt. mortar, and two LMG teams) carried in five M3a1 halftracks. The right flank group has the same force composition. Between the two American armored groups is their tank company HQ which includes the Co. cmdr M4 Sherman, 2iC M4 Sherman w/dozer blade and attached M4 105mm Sherman tank. In reserve is the M4a1 (76mm) platoon of five tanks, entering down the central road.
Team American (Daniel and Sam) plan is simple. Overrun each SS Pz Grenadier platoon facing them and then either one or both group columns seek out the slow moving German laden convey. Their right flank M4 Sherman platoon will use the “spearhead rule” pre-game reconnaissance movement. Meanwhile the company headquarters and arriving M4 (76mm) Shermans will occupy the attention of the road junction building defenders.
Team German (Eugene and WR) plan also simple. Hold their flank positions for three turns then retire back on central roadway positions. Hopefully the platoon attached Pak 7.5cm AT guns can destroy a few M4 Shermans before they are overrun. Use the SS Pioneer platoon to plug the first American breakthrough. Arrival of the reserve Panzer IVH tanks is random, so pre-game planning could only assume their fortunate arrival someplace.
Note: Scenario background and forces covered in previous blog posting (link): FoW Action – HMGS-PSW WWII convention – String of Pearls and Roncey Pocket scenarios.
Turn One: After the pre-game reconnaissance movement by the right flank M4 Sherman platoon is complete, the American armored groups crash into the hedgerow before them. Daniel commands the right flank group and his M4 Sherman platoon all cross into the next hedgerow bound field with no bogged tanks. One M3a1 found a hedgerow cutter gap and follows the tanks while the other four awaited their turn (M3a1 halftracks cannot cross standing hedgerow and need a gap to cross). The left flank American armored group under Sam’s control, with his first hedgerow crossing attempt, bogs his M4 Sherman platoon commander while the other four M4 Shermans all cross without incident. Like Daniel’s movements, one M3a1 halftrack follows the tanks while the others awaited their turn.
Successful reserve roll (5+) so the column of M4a1 Shermans (76mm) arrives straight down the central roadway and link up with the tank company headquarters. Both Daniel and Sam didn’t know what to do with the tank company headquarter tanks so WR suggested to create a trail break into the small central woods. Skill test (3+) to successfully cut the 4″ trail break failed with the lead 2iC Sherman dozer.
Note: Hedgerow crossing requires a bog skill test (3+ successful) or a ordinary bogging test (2+ successful) if transiting a gap or tank equipped with hedgerow cutter. Two M4 Shermans in each platoon have the hedgerow cutter equipment and shown by marker placed before the tank miniature. When a hedgerow gap is created, keep the cutter marker with the tank model and use a spare cutter marker to mark the gap location. Attached is my hedgerow cutter marker template (.doc) to cut out and glue on thick cardboard: Hedgerow Cutter marker.
After the American movement, the forward M4 Sherman platoons try their luck to destroy either of the German flank position Pak40 7.5cm AT guns. No success as they need a six to hit. The road bound M4a1 Sherman 76mm cannon similarly has no effect on the Pak40 7.5cm guarding the roadway within the building area defense.
The stationary German reply with their Pak 7.5cm cannon is terribly ineffective. Two bailed Shermans from six shots. The SS Pz Grenadiers stayed in their foxholes or the buildings to end the first turn cursing the inapt Pak40 crews.
Turn Two: With Sam’s platoon commander crew failing to unbog their M4 Sherman (failed skill roll 3+) and one bailed Sherman crew from the Pak40 AT, the M4 Sherman platoon remained stationary and engaged to destroy the only target seen… the German Pak40 7.5 cm AT gun hidden behind the hedgerow. Another M3a1 laden halftrack entered the open field with Sam’s Shermans.
On the American right flank Daniel’s M4 Shermans roll up to the linear hedgerow and prepare to assault the defending SS Pz Gren. platoon. Additional M3a1 halftracks, laden with AR platoon teams, join them in the same open field. Daniel’s bailed crew from the Pak40 firing fail to rejoin their fellow tankers and is left behind for the moment.
Central front has the leading 2iC Sherman dozer cut a 4″ deep trail-break into the small woods besides the buildings. The M4a1 Sherman 76mm platoon rolls up to the minefield and fails their motivation roll to drive across the minefield. They stop short and open a sporadic firing on the dug in Pak40 7.5cm AT gun to no effect. The German reply was two Pak40 AT shots, causing one American M4a1 76mm tank crew to bail out and look around the dented tank hull.
After firing with advancing reduced ROF, Daniel’s M4 Shermans cross the hedgerow and assault the dug in SS Pz Grenadiers. Their defending Pak40 7.5cm AT gun totally flubbed the point blank belly shots and was crushed by the tank treads, just like the Cobra supplement cover it seems (see below).
To add further SS discomfort, their counterattack with Cmd Panzerfausts and two SS Pz Grenadier teams fails to effect the breeching M4 Shermans who promptly squashed another two SS teams. Totally shaken, the SS Pz Grenadiers break contract and hop over the next hedgerow to recover their pinned morale. The assaulting M4 Sherman platoon consolidate in their newly won field of Normandy. Luckily, the German laden convey teams have moved past this German debacle.
Turn Three: With Team German wondering how to stop the rampaging M4 Shermans on their left flank, the American team seems to pause their forward movements for terrain reasons. Several M4 Shermans on Daniel’s right flank fail to cross the hedgerow and as such the follow up assault on the weaken SS Pz Gren. platoon is held up. On Sam’s left flank the same hold true as he finally un-bogs the platoon commander and he joins his platoon positioned before the SS Pz Gren. platoon san Pak40. American firing has no effect on all the dug-in SS Pz. Grenadiers. Central front 2iC Sherman dozer tank cuts another 4″ trail-break and reaches the final hedgerow standing before the town buildings.
The Germans, with little to touch the steel hull Shermans, fire their remaining central Pak40 7.5cm AT and destroy one M4a1 Sherman 76mm parked on the central roadway. The black smoke column soon with have several others billowing into the morning sky.
The only good news for the Germans is their heavily laden truck and wagon convey has reached the road junction and turned south, seeing the arrival of their two Panzer IVH tanks rumbling up the distant roadway.
Turn Four: Turn of American assaults, one successful, the other repulsed. Sam’s M4 Sherman platoon goes first after watching his AR platoon start to dismount and rush forward to line the near hedgerow. Three M4 Shermans attempt to cross the hedgerow, one is bogged. Two assault rolls and both veteran dice tosses fail to squash any SS Pz Grenadiers. The SS Pz Grenadier cmd team assaults with their panzerfaust and destroy one Sherman. American tankers think this is not a good position and retreats back into the open field. The bogged M4 Sherman crew bail out and flee the revengeful Germans. Two destroyed M4 Shermans for no loss. The recently disembarked AR platoon look on and wonder are they next?
Another failed motivation to cross the minefield so ineffective American firing into the buildings, causing the lone Pak40 to be hit and destroyed. Overall the Pak40 AT gun performance this scenario is totally dismal mutters the German team. Several of the M4a1 Sherman 76mm have left the roadway and made their way into the nearby field.
After shifting about the SS Pz Grenadier teams to meet the disembarked AR platoon, German building defenders fire their panzerschrecks into the stalled American armor scoring one bailed tanker crew result.
On Daniel’s flank the organized American M4 platoon quickly cross the hedgerow and assault the dazed SS Pz Grenadier platoon again. The American tanker quickly crush or scatter the remaining SS Pz Grenadiers for no loss to themselves. Platoon consolidation on the roadway quickly follows as the M4 crews see the tail end of the German convey ahead.
Turn Five: Well, if the first time you doesn’t succeed, try again? So wrong, as the American M4 platoon on Sam’s flank found out trying another assault on the defending SS Pz Grenadier platoon. Failure to score any hits allows the SS Pz Grenadiers to counterattack (after tank terror test done) and quickly fry up another Sherman. One more round of assault combat totally destroys the M4 Sherman platoon for one SS team lost.
The AR platoon meanwhile has moved into the woods near the buildings and prepared to assault the building SS defenders. With rifles, grenades and bayonets, the American AR infantry storm into the building area and brutal hand to hand short range fighting takes place. Losses on both sides end the bloody field with the SS Pz Grenadier platoon and SS Company command teams wiped out, leaving just the two panzerschreck teams hiding in the buildings.
Daniel meanwhile sees the SS Pioneer platoon lining the roadway so no driving down the open path. He opens fire on the German convey tail and destroys one truck objective. He disembarks his AR platoon to engage the SS pioneer platoon on next turn.
The German SS Pioneer platoon, seeing the advancing AR platoon behind them, quickly enter the roadway, then using stormtrooper movement, cross the second hedgerow to avoid standing in the roadway before the M4 Sherman machine guns. Luck favors the Germans this turn WR except… a problem quickly discovered… the Panzer IVH road bound column has come face to face with the road bound heavily laden truck and wagon convey. How is the truck and wagons gong to pass the Panzer IVH tanks quickly without bogging tests? Easy…. sort of… the leading Panzer IVH rolls to cross the nearby hedgerow with success.
Turn Six: While the Germans facing a traffic jam problem, team American need to catch the fleeing German trucks and wagons objectives and destroy them. The best and quick method would be to advance down the central roadway but two panzerschreck teams and minefield again stall the M4a1 Shermans 76mm platoon. Failing again the minefield motivation, the M4a1 tank crews blast dead the panzerschreck teams with 76mm HE and machine gun firepower. Shouting to the AR platoon, the tankers discuss having the AR platoon to clear the minefield using the bayonet “touch and poke” ground method.
Turn Seven: Daniel marches forward his AR platoon to enter the roadway while his blood tracked M4 Sherman platoon bog test a couple of M4 Shermans into the next field, facing off against the lone Panzer IVH in the adjoining field. The German SS Pioneer platoon, fearing another assault after losing two teams by the AR platoon, quickly retreat into the central roadway from the advancing American rifle toting horde.
On the central roadway Sam’s AR platoon clears the minefield with deft bayonet poking work. The M4a1 Sherman 76mm platoon can roll forward next turn. Meanwhile, the 2iC Sherman dozer tank had cut another hedgerow break and rolls into the built up area followed by the rest of the tank company headquarter tanks. Knowing that the AR platoon will never catch the fleeing German convey, the AR platoon, after clearing the minefield, settle down to a meal break within the buildings, while no doubt looking for some local German SS souvenirs.
The German 2nd Panzer IVH miniature has a hard choice. Roll a bog test to enter a nearby field, thus opening passage for the convey, fail the same bog test and blocking passage of the convey, or reverse gear the tank and allow the convey to follow the tank. Cannot risk or stop the trucks and wagons movement so hit the reverse gear Hans. The SS Pioneer platoon follow the retiring convey, providing rear guard coverage.
Turn Eight: American armor roars forward down the roadway, led by their 2iC Sherman dozer tank, then the rest of tank company headquarters followed by the M4a1 Sherman 76mm platoon. Driving past the road junction building, the Sherman dozer tank spots the German convey tail and destroys another German wagon objective. One more and the American team can secure a minor win.
Daniel’s M4 platoon fight hedgerow crossings to fire several shots at the stationary Panzer IVH sitting in the open field. All miss their target. His AR platoon cross another field to approach the Panzer IVH from a different angle.
But wait… those crazy SS tankers back their Panzer IVH tank into the roadway, turn and face the Sherman dozer tank, and fire one 75mm shell into the Sherman body. One brewed up Sherman and 2iC to go. SS Pioneer platoon hop into adjacent field as tank shells screech down the roadway. Another turn of reverse movement for the retiring Panzer IVH “leading” the German convey off the table. One more turn of movement then German victory if no more convey objectives are destroyed.
Turn Nine: Last turn for the Americans before the German convey escapes. They need to fire upon and destroy one more truck or wagon team objective. Sam’s M4a1 Sherman 76mm platoon drive quickly down the central roadway till they are slowed / partially blocked by the burning 2iC M4 Sherman dozer. Daniel’s M4 Sherman platoon have one tank adjacent to the central roadway so it bog checks across the hedgerow and moves down the roadway towards the German convey. Seeing the convey and the Panzer IVH directly ahead, the M4 Sherman tank commander shouts… hit the truck! His gunner is totally confused as he sees the long barrel 75mm of the Panzer IVH staring straight back at his tank. Truck… aiming Panzer IVH… which target? His one shot is fired and misses the truck slowly driving in the distance. Two flashes as the Panzer IVH 75mm gun is fired twice but history doesn’t record the fate of the M4 Sherman as its scenario over because the last German convey truck objective is driven from the tabletop.
The movement or survival of the remaining Panzer IVH, weakened SS Pz Grenadier, and SS Pioneer platoons wasn’t recorded either. With two destroyed SS Pz Grenadier platoons plus three Pak40 7.5cm, SS company headquarters overrun and two out of five truck or wagon objective destroyed, the German victory was a minor rating. Still, the battle was to have the convey exit the tabletop so the German minor victory will impact the next “Roncey Pocket” scenario. Extra German 105mm artillery battery for the German northern column in the Roncey Pocket scenario game.
American losses were one M4 Sherman platoon destroyed, one M4a1 Sherman 76mm destroyed and two AR teams killed. Not too heavy considering the German defense.
That was a close “String of Pearls” scenario… the winning margin was the 8″ German truck movement on the last turn as WR’s hands measure off the distance.
Special thank you for Eugene, Daniel and Sam playing in the “String of Pearls” scenario. Next scenario game “Roncey Pocket” immediately was played following the “String of Pearls” scenario. These linked scenarios, along with “Barkmann’s Corner” can all be found in the Cobra FoW supplement or the reissued Normandy battles booklet and AAR reading posts found on the WR blog.
Update 01/30/2015: The follow up “Roncey Pocket AAR is now posted. Roncey Pocket AAR
All 20mm miniatures and terrain from the vast WR collection.
Cheers from the warren.