After completing the morning String of Pearls Normandy 1944 scenario, WR cleared the tabletop and set up for his afternoon 20mm FoW Roncey Pocket Normandy 1944 scenario game. String of Pearls was fought in daylight, the Roncey Pocket scenario is entirely fought during cloudy moonlit nighttime conditions. Both sides have several special rules outlined in the Roncey Pocket .pdf briefing and highlighted in WR’s previous blog post FoW Action – HMGS-PSW WWII convention.
Scenario rules used for Roncey Pocket include: SS Instant Readiness, Spearhead, Tank telephones, Hedgerow cutters, Headlights, Morning light, Outnumbered, Mobile battles, and Surprise. WR made up several paper “tent markers” to place on tabletop to remind players of the special rules in play. Roncey Pocket rule tent markers (.doc) and his Hedgerow Cutter marker template (.doc) used with the American M4 Sherman tanks.
Opening scenario situation: Scenario starts with both German road bound columns facing in opposite directions. The “Nord Kolonne” (Northern column) of Kampfgruppe Wisliceny 3 SS Panzergrenadierregiment consists, in order of march, the following units:
Facing the German Northern column’s advance is Easy Co. 67th Armored Regiment. This mobile force arrives in position (mobile battle rules in play), near the road junction at La Rampinniere, and consists of:
Photos taken during scenario and embedded in this AAR are coded Northern column [NC] and Southern column [SC] to clarify the photo location.The other end of the scenario tabletop has the German “Sud Kolonne” (Southern column), traveling in the opposite direction. The German Southern column force and order of march:
Waking up to the surprise German column amidst their positions, the American 78th Field Artillery battalion is pinned down and all vehicles bailed out status (laagered for the night). The 78th Field Artillery battalion force has:
The “broken” down M10 tank destroyer, commanded by Sgt. Oxenreider, takes aim at the passing German road convey in La Chapelle. Nothing like have a dead duck shot lined up for the scenario start.
Turn One: A very wild turn of missed shots, instant assaults, and burning vehicles. The scenario opens on the Southern sector with successful American reserve roll. The prompt arrival of the American reserve “B” Battery, 78th Armored Field artillery battery (M7 Priests), in corner of scenario table, causes both sides to be shocked (players included). The ensuing wild American .50 cal AAMG and 105mm howitzer firing totally miss the exposed German Company command staff cowing in their Kfz 15 staff car or motorcycle.
Note: WR used his T19 105mm HMC battery vehicles for the second M7 Priest battery during this scenario as he only has one M7 Priest battery unit painted in his collection. M7 Priest vehicle rating and weapons used during scenario.The broken down M10 tank destroyer, commanded by Sgt. Oxenreider, fires directly into the rear of the German Southern column Sd kfz 251 halftracks. Two shots… both miss. The shots must have passed completely through the thin skinned vehicles leaving nice 76mm breeze holes. Daniel, WR’s son, cannot keep a straight face at WR’s “miss fortune.” The laagered “A” Battery, 78th Field Artillery woke up to the sights and sounds of wild firing along the roadway south of them. M7 Priest crews try to hop back into their vehicles and two are successful while the rest fumble about in the darkness. The rest of the battery, including command and staff teams, remain pinned down for the first game turn as radio requests for fire support from Capt. McCartney’s Easy Co (northern sector) fill the airwaves. No German vehicles or infantry can be seen (night distance visibility rolls) so no hasty firing done by the two crewed M7’s.
Note: Southern objective marker under one of the M2 halftracks.Along the roadway the 78th Field Artillery battalion command headquarters sees strange vehicles driving past. Captain Simard recognizes German voices and orders the surprised headquarter teams to open fire with their carbines. The two M8 Greyhound armored cars (standing in for two M3a1 halftracks this scenario) rake the German column of trucks for no effect… but the M1 carbines destroy two trucks, along with their occupying four German SS Pz Grenadier teams. Finally the Americans hit something mutters WR. Daniel still has the widest facial grin. On the northern sector, the American Easy Co, 67th Tank Regiment, under Capt. McCartney command, spot the head of the German Northern column, led by the three StuG III G assault guns and some alongside marching German SS Pz Grenadiers. Hearing nothing but radio static from their supporting “A” Battery 78th Field Artillery attached M4 Sherman observer, the American tankers open fire on the leading StuG III platoon. With poor nighttime visibility, the massed American M4 tanks barely hit and destroy two StuG III’s with their massed firing. The resulting German platoon morale test leads to morale failure and the remaining Stug IIIG is destroyed by their crew hightailing it back down the road.
After all the American surprise and horrible firing, the German turn commerces. With Teutonic efficiency, the swift SS Pz Grenadier counterattack starts. First the Northern column reaction. The SS Pz Grenadiers immediately disembark from their transports and start heading across the open fields towards the central hilltop woods while their machine gun platoon disembarks alongside the roadway. The walking SS Pz grenadier platoon in the stream bed dig in and hide from the gunfire flashes seen ahead. The lone Hummel SPA attempts to seek cover behind the nearby hedgerows by driving off the roadway. The SS Panzer IVH platoon slowly crosses hedgerows and make their way forward since the roadway is totally blocked by stationary transports. Column tail end SS Motorized artillery 10.5cm leFH18M howitzer battery (2 guns) unlimbers and send their observer team walking forward to spot the reported American positions. Not a shot is fired while their preparations commence except for the fleeing StuG III platoon commander being pistol shot, without trial, besides the roadway.
Note: Crossing hedgerows at night cause two bogging checks, not the usual single check. Twice the opportunity to hang up your tank…. much fun.The German reaction along the Southern column. At the rear of the column, after looking at the nice new 76mm window breeze holes in their halftrack armor, the rear SS Gepanzerte Pz Grenadier platoon disembarks and assault the broken down M10 tank destroyer. Still confounded that Sgt Oxenreider’s cannon had no effect on the German Sd kfz 251’s, the M10 crew used their co-axis .30cal machine gun, nicking two onrushing German teams which passed their 3+ save roll. Promptly, the veteran Pz Grenadiers toss grenades in the open top M10, causing the destruction of the broken down M10. One problem solved says Daniel. The Marder III tank hunter platoon attempts to enter the open field towards the stationary “A” Battery, 78th Field Artillery M7 Priests. One makes it, the other bogs in the hedgerow. One 75mm shot sends a crewed M7 Priest into a flaming wreck. Next, the surviving members of the shot up SS Pz Grenadier platoon (light tan covered trucks, two in flames) disembark, and led by their platoon commander, cross into the open field besides the Marder III tank hunter. The next forward column platoon, another veteran SS Pz Grenadier platoon with only two squads, disembark and immediately assault the American defending headquarter teams and their vehicles. Braving the nocturnal firing by the surprised American carbines and vehicle machine guns, the SS Pz Grenadiers close to point blank grenade range and bayonets. Losing one M8 Greyhound, a security carbine team, and someone’s precious jeep, the Americans bolt for the rear to disengage from combat. This leaves only the two Panzer IVH tanks near the column head to discuss. One moves forward to engage the M7 Priests (aka T19 105mm HT) directly over the hedgerow, the other successfully crosses into the adjacent field with “A” Battery M7 Priest still pulling up their trousers. Finally, column leading SS Company headquarter staff (Oberstrumfuhrer Grieme) abandon their Kfz 15 staff car and motorcycle vehicles, hopping over a nearby dark hedgerow, chased by American machine gun bullets. Their neat military jackets with decorations and black boots landing in the muddy ditch no doubt. Daniel still grinning. Turn Two: After an exciting German 1st turn, the American northern forces cannot find any live German targets except for the three burning StuG IIIG’s. and the “large moving van” called a SPA Hummel. The darkness of night prevents their platoons from seeing the gone to ground and dug in German SS Pz Grenadiers lining the stream bed clearly. Several HE 76mm shots light up the Hummel for all to see. The movement of the other SS Pz Grenadiers is beyond visibility range, even with the American “headlights rule” re-roll capability. So the game action shifts back to the southern sector where the action is furious. The “A” Battery, 78th Field Artillery M7 Priest platoon un-pins themselves and two more M7 crews remount their vehicles as one of their companions burns. Seeking targets, the three crewed M7’s spot the motoring Marder III approach. They aim, pull the lanyards, and watch several shells land nearby the speeding Marder III, destroying one of the open topped Marders. While grinning of the German vehicle destruction, the M7 Priest crews realize that the infantry approaching wear different helmets. Too late, the SS Pz Grenadiers have crossed the open dark ground and assault the stationary M7 Priests. Losing one SS team to wild inaccurate defensive machine gun fire (see dice roll in photo, 5+ to hit), the three active M7 Priests are destroyed by grenades and close range machine pistols. The local Panzer IVH tries to add another M7 Priest to the burning pile but fails to range in. Lastly, someplace in the confusion of battle, the SS Company commander Oberstrumfuhrer Grieme and his 2iC teams are splashing about with muddy uniforms, lucky to be in one piece.
Note: Night Visibility table has 1 = 4″, 2 = 8″, 3 = 12″, 4 = 16″, 5 = 20″ and 6 = 24″. Roll each platoon to determine that platoon’s visibility range that firing phase. Americans with “Headlights” rule have choice for re-roll, but discarding the 1st roll, if desired.Other than the burning SPA Hummel, the SS Pz Grenadier platoons and 2iC led Company headquarter teams are quickly moving / storm-trooping towards the central hilltop woods. The 2nd objective clearly marked on the hill near the old shellholes. Turn Three: Northern sector goes quiet. Occasional long range firing as visibility constantly shifts for each platoon’s roll. American sit pat behind the hedgerow defending as the Germans continue to march into the central hilltop woods and strive to bring forward their Panzer IVH platoon and artillery observer teams. Remember the American have re-roll visibility opportunity if their first roll is deemed poor but doesn’t do them much good over 16″. German clean up turn on the southern sector. The remaining “A” Battery, 78th Field Artillery vehicles and artillery teams are hunted down by the victorious SS Pz Grenadiers while the Panzer IVH face off the table corner “B” Battery, 78th Field Artillery M7 Priests. One new M7 Priest is destroyed by the Panzer IVH as his platoon commander Panzer IVH bogs down in the hedgerow. The muddy Oberstrumfuhrer Grieme and his 2iC team reach the empty truck convey, no doubt seeking a uniform change. Asking a nearby shell shocked driver, “Got anything in black?” Turn Four: A bit tired of the northern sector standoff, the M4 Sherman and Sherman 76mm platoons attempt to cross the hedgerow. Several tanks bog down and only two cross the hedgerow. Exchanging fire with the arriving Panzer IVH platoon, they lose one M4 Sherman to the accurate German 75mm counter fire. The two SS Pz Grenadier platoons, plus 2iC leading the headquarter panzersckreck teams, are positioned in the central hilltop woods. The disembarked SS Heavy weapons platoon (cmd, observer, 4x HMG, 2x 8cm mortars) arrive along the forward hedgerow, peering out into the darkness past the burning SPA Hummel. Having destroyed the “A” Battery M7 Priest, the German SS Pz Grenadiers take a smoke break defending their captured objective. Their commander officer Grieme, in fresh black clothing, is seen crossing the open field of burning M7 Priests.The sole surviving Marder III tank hunter moves towards the central woods to take pop shots at the American Armored mortar M4a1 halftracks on central hill. The remounted SS Pz Grenadiers, fresh from their M10 tank destroyer encounter, are driving their Sd kfz 251 halftracks up the connection roadway toward La Rampinniere. As the Panzer IVH platoon commander un-bogs his Panzer IVH, he sees the other Panzer IVH brew up from a direct 105mm shell hit. Quick movement forward under the cover of darkness and trees, the first SS Pz Grenadier platoon charges home, outside the assault 8″ bubble range of the nearby M4 Sherman tanks, against the understrength defending American Armored rifle platoon. Sharp rifle fire, followed by grenades and bayonet has crumpled bodies from both sides. The savage night fighting continues, several rounds of bitter combat. Finally the last German team is killed to a man and the surviving American team soon writes itself a three day pass to the rear. Turn Five: Hearing the massed German infantry in the woods before them, taking occasional 75mm shot from the flanking Marder III tank destroyer, and finally hearing tracked noise coming up the roadway, the American Armored mortar platoon M4a1 halftracks seek a better position since they cannot see any enemy formations to bombard. The central hill M4 Sherman platoon still is facing off the three, soon two Panzer IVH down in the hedgerows, since they destroyed one Panzer IVH earlier. To counter the advancing German halftrack column coming from La Chapelle, one independent M4 Sherman observer tank (from the dead M7 Priest “A” Battery) drives down the back roadway towards La Chapelle. They have no one to radio contact and that 75mm cannon could be useful. The other M4 Sherman observer tank still trying to contact “B” Battery, 78th Field Artillery who are current busy fighting off a Panzer IVH platoon to fire supportive bombardments. Remember the 78th Field Artillery headquarter group? Well, they have returned from hiding since turn one and have positioned themselves along the roadway hedgerows again. What to do with these guys mutters WR? All they can see is dead bodies or burning vehicles but a German firing 75mm cannon is hear over to the left. Turn Six: Pulling the Armored mortar platoon M4a1 halftracks further back, the exposed M4 Sherman platoon commander is nervous. That pesky Marder III as getting close with its flank shots. The well hidden Panzer IVH platoon is to their front in the distance and now stray German 105mm HE shells and smoke are landing about the tanks. Too late, the rush of German Pz Grenadiers armed with their panzerfausts swamp the tanks. Machine guns and hand held tommy guns drop some dark camouflaged uniform Germans but the stalking panzerschrecks & panzerfausts teams destroy the remaining M4 Sherman platoon tanks. Mortar smoke rounds soon are landing on the M4 Sherman 76mm platoon which just crossed their hedgerow to engage the Panzer IVH platoon. Daniel and now Sam are grinning. The central hill position is firmly in German control. Tabletop action scene: A few rare photos of the players (Eugene, Daniel and Sam) in action, and WR himself. The active WH WWI game in background at the HMGS-PSW January convention.
Turn Seven: Back to the action report. As WR’s southern Artillery battalion is reduced to a shot up “B” battery M7 Priest unit and the remains of their headquarters staff, WR moves up road to assist Eugene with his La Rampinniere defense. seems total chaos lives here too with German SS Pz Grenadiers pouring out of the central woods past burning M4 Shermans. Having finally crossed the hedgerow with the M4 Sherman 76mm platoon and Capt. McCartney’s headquarter tanks, the 76mm armed Shermans advance to engage the hidden Panzer IVH platoon. Destroy those panzers and the open ground to La Rampinniere can be held (deny the objective marker on central hill) with tank machine guns till scenario end. Meanwhile the Armored mortar M4a1 halftracks and headquarter command M4 105mm Sherman, the observer Sherman tank, and stray infantry teams from another weak Armored rifle platoon are positioned around La Rampinniere, holding the last objective marker. Sounds like a plan…. as German 105mm shells register in near the M4 Sherman 76mm platoon tanks.Two can play the artillery bombardment duel. WR on the radio to “B” battery M7 Priests in the corner. Radio contact made and targeting request given. The remaining four M7 Priests fire their bombardment on the German SS Pz Grenadiers crossing the central hill open ground. Range in…. second attempt… four tubes… three hits… no deaths. Sigh… Daniel points to his steel helmut…. good German steel and promptly unpinned the platoon in the German turn.
Things can only get worse and Sam, with Daniel’s guidance, launches that long stationary SS Pz Grenadier platoon, the same platoon which since turn one has laid low near the stream bed, into their attack. As German 105mm shells from their two gun battery land amid the M4 Sherman 76mm tanks, the SS Pz Grenadier platoon close assault the Sherman tanks. Machine guns sputter their lead into German bodies but only four hits in the concealing darkness. Two SS Pz Grenadier teams are killed but their assault destroys one M4 Sherman. The American counterattack motivation fails, forcing the US tanks back up the central hill.
Turn Eight: German death time… that SS Pz Grenadier platoon receives all the American firepower from La Rampinniere hamlet. Four teams are cut apart with extra for all. The M4 Sherman 76mm tanks, unable to see the distant Panzer IVH tanks can only fire at targets of local opportunity. Another dead German team blasted apart. American M7 Priest 105mm shells are falling near the American positions as WR corrects the bombardment onto the closing German SS Pz Grenadiers from the Southern column. More blasted teams but they keep coming on as they unpin again on the German turn.
German reply. Needing to control all three objectives for glorious German victory, Daniel and Sam go for broke. They have one for sure, the central hill objective within control range, and La Rampinniere objective just in movement range if they hurry. Moving the replacement German platoon* of stragglers, they march up the central hill within 4″ of the central hill objective. Next the 2iC led panzerschreck teams sortie from the central hill woods and fire upon the remains of the M4 Sherman 76mm platoon. No hits but the teams are positioned to assault the Shermans. Next the Panzer IVH open fire and destroy one M4 Sherman 76mm with their 75mm cannon. German artillery finds the concentrated Americans but miss on their spotting rounds. While this is going on…. the SS Pz Grenadiers prep their explosives, ATMs and panzerfausts.
In the darkness of night, the battle reaches it bloody climax. First assault charges into the crossroads of La Rampimmiere. SS Pz Grenadiers vs. Sherman 105mm, Sherman observer tank and some American armored rifle teams in La Rampinniere. Bullets and shell spit out, two dead German teams lie in the roadway. The last survivor last seen running into the darkest of night. Next comes the charge against the American Armored mortar M4a1 halftracks. Again the bullets spit out… but grenades find there way into the open compartments. American Armored mortar platoon is no more but burning M4a1 wrecks. These wrecks lit up the hill as stalking panzerschreck teams mug the solitary M4 Sherman near the central hill objective. Another burning M4 Sherman 76mm. The Sherman platoon commander, seeing the carnage atop the hill, bolts – drivings crazy into the night. Two objectives in German control.
Note: The replacement German platoon come from the pool of German stragglers crossing the battlefield from the orange fields zone (see scenario map and Outnumbered rule). Any destroyed or voluntary removed for losses Northern column German platoon can return, starting in the orange fields zone, and move forward without their original vehicles. Those zombies from the central hill fight have returned…Just burning wrecks and flame flickers across the southern sector. The sole Panzer IVH stalked by the American headquarter group… maybe not. They seem a bit cautious to getting close. Will their be another turn? Dice roll to end the scenario under the Morning light rule. Americans roll the d6, a three, so another dark of night turn.
Note: Morning light rule. Roll one d6 on turn nine start. If 5+ daylight and the scenario ends under the wings of American P-47 Jabo fighter bombers. On next turn roll two d6, either die with a 5+ ends scenario. Continue to add another d6 for each turn roll thereafter.Turn Nine (extra turn): Morning is delayed per the German gods of war. American northern command need a Company morale check as more than 50% of platoons destroyed. Eugene rolls the critical roll… a two. American morale has completely broken and all remaining northern platoons seek to exit the scenario table. Scenario is over and on the last German turn they occupy the remaining objective marker in La Rampinniere without a fight. Per the scenario victory conditions total German victory result. Result is a shattered American cordon and German Seventh Army will escape to fight again. Turn Ten (sunrise and scenario end): Just for the sake of it… we rolled the Morning light rule d6 roll again. Two d6 rolls, both were fives. The morning light has arisen and the carnage of the night battle brings American air power over the burning vehicle smoke.
Very interesting scenario. When WR first reviewed the scenario I couldn’t foresee how the scenario would unfold. Total German wipeout on turn one? American wipeout by the German counterattack on turn one? How would the night visibility rules work out? Americans can see and Germans cannot? Lots of unknowns for this scenario.
Thank you Eugene, Sam and Daniel for playing both scenario at one long HMGS-PSW convention day. Hope all had fun. WR did, even with his furry bottom being handed to him by Daniel’s luck… and veteran SS Pz Grenadiers.
Cheers from the dark moonlit warren.