First post for the 2016 New Year and cleaning up the small backlog of AAR reports from the past holiday season gaming. First up is Pointe du Hoc Normandy 1944 on this rainy day in California. WR’s background introduction on this Normandy seaborne cliff assault and historical forces scenario was covered in a previous Pointe du Hoc post. WR used the old Omaha Beach or Normandy Battles supplement Flames of War (FOW) scenario outline converted to his use of 20mm miniatures and larger infantry team basing.
The assaulting US Rangers were commanded by Daniel, his first time using these fearless-trained infantry teams. WR recently painted up his Rangers to cover the Ranger platoon FOW structure and also First Special Service Force (FSSF) platoon structure for future Italian scenarios. WR commanded the 352nd Division Germans at Pointe du Hoc, organized with a Festungskompanie structure, with several open bunker (nest) structures positioned on the forward cliff. The scenario tabletop map review again and Ranger reserve arrival (diced for) locations.
The terrain for this scenario was a bit of a challenge for WR. Creating a specialized tabletop with the cliff and moon-cratered terrain wasn’t in the cards or storage space. So WR thought about the problem and decided to simply use a stacked textured boards look on the scenario tabletop (four layers in all), similar to past scenarios when heights play an important part of a game. Once the cliff issue was covered, the shell crater effect was created using all WR’s “crater/shell hole” washer markers scattered about. WR used every shell hole marker in his collection. Barbwire, the hedgerows, and concrete fortifications came stock from the terrain file cabinet drawers. For the sea and beach, the materials are basic thin Plexiglas (blue) and textured paper sheets. With terrain on hand, the scenario tabletop can now be set up on the gaming tables.
American plans…. from Daniel’s after game interview. “I planned to land directly all four initial boat groups on the beach with a wide deployment. Hopefully one or more boat groups (Ranger platoon) will find a firm foothold on the upper cliff and roll up any nearby German defense. Nearest fortifications will be direct assaulted by any nearby available Ranger teams, using the shell hole ground as partial protection from the German defensive firepower. Once the forward edge of the German defense is neutralized, send every Ranger platoon forward to broadly advance on the two objectives, mopping up the rear fixed fortification structures (HMG tobruk nests). German reserves will arrive at unknown rear edge positions so contain the Teutonic arrival and seek to capture the opposite objective for the game win.” On his Ranger reserves….”if they arrive great but don’t assume they will. 50/40 chance they will be paddling ashore behind the advance platoons.”
German plans per WR. “Duck deep from the preliminary bombardment, pop up while knocking the bell ringing from the dusty soldier heads, and hope something is available to stop the American assault on turn one. Delay for several turns with the combined forward platoon placed near the cliff edge to minimize the Ranger advance and contest every yard backwards using the rear bunker fortifications and hope a favorable delayed reserve die roll brings one or two platoons to cover the two rearward objectives.”
Scenario start and Turn One: The American Rangers storm ashore to the base of the cliff beach and start their skill rating climb rolls to reach the top forward edge of the cliff. The scenario starts with the four leading Ranger platoons assumed to be positioned at the cliff base. Remember that WR purposely halved the Ranger strength for his version of the FOW Omaha Beach Point du Hoc scenario from six Ranger platoons plus their mortar weapon platoon to three Ranger platoons and the mortar platoon. For one thing seven full Ranger platoons would never fit on the beach zone.
Note: Rangers were rated Fearless-trained for this scenario. “Fearless” means they pass morale tests on 3+, “trained” skill test on 4+ using a d6 for the die roll. The Rangers have special rules for company morale test following their “I Shall Never Fail my Comrades” rule.
The naval preliminary bombardment commences. Each German team outside of a fortification is rolled for on d6. A roll of 4+ hits the team and immediate saving roll of 3+ required to retain the rifle/MG team on the tabletop. Two teams failed their saving rolls and are removed from the tabletop. The entire German defense is pinned in place by the naval bombardment. The forward vacate observer bunker is just a terrain prop during the scenario.
The Ranger fire their boat climbing rope launchers and set their wobbly ladders against the cliff face. Each Ranger team against the cliff face rolls their climbing skill test roll (4+ successful) to climb the cliff. the platoon command team rolls first. If failure, the first ordinary Ranger rifle team up the cliff face is swapped out with the platoon command team (special rule “Don’t Wait for Me”). The eastern 3rd Platoon effort shown below with five successful teams atop the cliff ready to close assault the German grenadier platoon still pinned by the naval bombardment. The Rangers are exposed to the weak German defensive fire……
Two Ranger teams (bazooka and platoon command) quickly tackle the 20mm Flak open bunker while three other rifle teams charge the German grenadier Rifle/MG team and nearby HMG tobruk bunker. Another HMG tobruk bunker fired in support of the German grenadiers with little effect.
Note: Fortification bunkers or nests within 16″ link together and give supportive defensive fire against attacks. Their interlacing fire gives mutual supportive defensive firepower.
First success for the Rangers. The eastern open bunker and HMG tobruk positions are destroyed along with one German grenadier team removed from play. 3rd Ranger platoon consolidates around the smoking 20mm Flak bunker. 2nd Platoon climbs the cliff face. three teams are successful and charge the German grenadier and another HMG tobruk defenders. This time the Germans cut down two Ranger teams in their defensive fire, then exchange close combat rolls with the surviving 2nd Ranger platoon command team. After one round of combat destroying the remaining forward HMG tobruk nest, neither side rolled additional kills and the Rangers fail their counterattack morale test. They hide on the open cliff face ducking into several of the local ready-made protective shell holes. The German grenadiers reoccupy their defensive shell improved foxholes while the HMG crew retrieves another MG42 7.92mm ammunition box. So what happened to the 1st Ranger platoon? Daniel saw the strong German defense atop the cliff in their zone and elected to hide at the cliff base. Three rifle/MG teams, the 20mm Flak cannon and the supportive HMG tobruk bunker, even with reduction for being pinned was too much firepower for now. Especially since the successful eastern assault breached the German defensive line.
The Germans, on their half of the first turn, recover from their pinned result and organize themselves. The next round of defensive firepower is going to be deadly. Counterattacking the line breach on their right flank is impossible since no surviving grenadier teams are nearby.
Note: Firepower targeting cannot be exchanged between the upper and lower cliff/beach positions for this scenario. Also, the shell hole ground provides bullet proof protection from firepower except when conducting assaults vs. defensive firepower.
Turn Two: Daniel rolls to unpin his Rangers atop the cliff. 3rd platoon fails so they cannot advance to assault the German central position. The remnants of 2nd platoon say “no way” and stay within the machine gun raked shell holes. Even Lt. Colonel Rudder’s best beach side efforts cannot convince 2nd platoon teams to climb the cliff*. So only the 1st Ranger platoon is available to assault the strongest German position. Climbing the cliff, they hear the sound of 60mm smoke mortar rounds landing among the German defense. Smoke cover, thanks to their mortar teams set up on the rocky beach. Somehow their mortar command team had climbed the cliff on turn one to see the German defenders and “called down (the cliff height)” the targeting direction. 1st Ranger platoon charge home the surprised Germans who fire a wildly inaccurate volley of HMG and rifle fire. What hits taken are saved by the nimble Rangers taking cover and firing on the assault move. Diving over the barbwire, bayonets, tommy guns, and grenades flash along the cliff headland. The western 20mm Flak bunker crew is wiped out, another grenadier team dies in the swirling smoke. Ranger teams are lucky, WR cannot roll any sure counterattack hits on these olive drab miniature warriors. The two command team grapple in close range combat, neither roll the kill. Finally the German morale breaks and the three surviving teams retreat towards their final 20mm Flak bunker covered in swirling 60mm smoke. Total Ranger success as they consolidate among the German defensive positions.
*Note: Warrior higher command team (ie.. Rudder) give a platoon one re-roll morale test.
A bit shocked by the American success, the German turn is spent unpinning their reduced defenders and positioning them around their final 20mm Flak bunker position.
Turn Three: The German defense is collapsing. Time to get off the seaside cliff and advance inland. 3rd Platoon fails their morale roll to unpin themselves so they remain near the former eastern 20mm Flak bunker. 2nd platoon fails to budge or even climb up the cliff. Lt. Colonel Rudder fails to led the Rangers up the cliff. Mortar platoon fires another successful on target 60mm smoke bombardment covering the advance of 1st platoon on the remaining German 20mm Flak defensive bunker position.
Its turn three and the first rolls for reserves. Neither side rolls the proper required number.
Note: Ranger reserves arrival is diced for each turn, starting with turn three (Ranger reserves rule). Roll one d6 per turn*, a 6 rolled means one reserve platoon arrives with the M4 Sherman tank platoon reserved for the last arriving reserve platoon. When a reserve platoon arrives, the scenario map is consulted for arrival point (see die images on map, scattered reserves rule). The M4 Sherman platoon can only arrive via overland entrance so if a sea (1-3) is rolled the platoon arrives on following turn roll off for zones 4-6 only.[Optional] If using the half-strength Ranger company suggested option, WR increased the d6 Ranger Reserves roll from “6” required roll to a “5 or 6” roll. Still only one dice rolled per turn following the Ranger Reserve rule.
The German reserve platoons are handled differently from the US Rangers. Start rolling on turn three a d6. If 5 or 6 rolled, a platoon arrives on the German reinforcement table edge. On turn two roll 2x d6 for same 5 or 6 result. Each successful roll grants the arrival of one German platoon of player choice.
Charging into the German firing, the smoke provides some cover. 1st Ranger platoon loses one team then grenade one German team. German platoon leadership charges into the smoke. Both sides seek their opponents in the swirling smoke. Neither lands a hit. Sensing the wild German counterattack, the Rangers withdraw to reorganize their attack. For now the German defense line, if you could call one 20mm Flak crew and one surviving German platoon command stand a line, hold the German front at Pointe du Hoc? The sole surviving team past their “sole survivor” morale test. Future Iron Cross award for gallantry?
Turns Four and Five: Turn four was a dull turn with no action. All the Ranger platoons failed their unpinning morale rolls again including those 2nd platoon chaps still on the beachfront, setting out their sun chairs on the beach I guess. German bunkers (two remaining HMG tobruks) and the 20mm Flak firing caused no losses. No arriving reserve platoons rolled for either side. Stalemate at Pointe du Hoc. With morale slowly eroding, the sole surviving German platoon command team finally decided to report personally to headquarters and they leave the battlefield.
Maybe seeing the German platoon command leaving the board to gather reserves, the Rangers wake up from their rest and turn five surge forward towards the two objectives. First they have to reduce the remaining German bunker and HMG tobruk positions. 1st Ranger platoon again charges the 20mm Flak bunker. Several close range grenades and the bunker crew is no more on the German active duty list. Likewise the eastern rear HMG tobruk position is stormed by 3rd platoon. Finally a few reluctant 2nd Platoon teams, along with Lt. Colonel Rudder, climb the cliff and wonder what happened up there.
Turn five and the German reserves roll is summarized below…. three ones rolled on WR’s old FOW dice style. Sums up the German effort so far it seems… totally disengaged.
Turn Six: While the Ranger platoons fan out to cover the open but shell hole ground, or finish their leisurely climb of the cliff face, the Germans lieutenant survivor has reported to headquarters and reserves are on their way. One fresh German grenadier platoon, armed with double the normal strength of MG42 machine guns, arrives and quickly double times down the Normandy pathway. Are German fortunes look up?
Turn Seven: As the Rangers advance they storm the last HMG tobruk position. The German crew no doubt fired a few bursts then bugged out seeing no nearby friends. On the Ranger reserve roll they receive a Ranger platoon which is random determined to arrive at position 6… directly behind the beachhead and in the middle of the German reserve arrivals. Oops, where are the Rangers that we are to relieve?
Germans roll for their turn seven reserve arrival… four platoons! The remaining three German platoons will arrive on the tabletop. German fortunes have taken a victorious look to the scenario.
German reserve platoons arrive and spot those interposing Rangers positioned central to their rear position. The arriving HMG weapon platoon with two HMG marches on the eastern roadway and sets up behind the hedgerow, covering the Rangers if they twitch. Last turn’s veteran German platoon arrival left two teams to rake the lost Rangers, cutting down one Ranger team in the Normandy field. The rest of the platoon sets up positions to cover the roadway objective marker. The other two German platoons, one a veteran MG armed platoon and the very reluctant ex Soviet POW Ost Battalion platoon, arrive on the western road or open fields behind the tall hedgerow. They are marching to cover the other objective marker in the open Normandy field.
Turn Eight: The scenario game has taken a big change of direction. One Ranger platoon is trapped. The others are rushing to save their fellow Rangers after removing the last of the original German Pointe du Hoc position defense. Seeing their trapped position, Daniel op’s for the swift attack and launches the trapped Ranger platoon in a fierce charge. They charge the German veteran platoon who calmly machine gun down the exposed Rangers in the narrow Normandy roadway and open field. Dry olive drab clothed bodies everywhere and the survivors break and flee or taken prisoner.
Meanwhile the beach landed Ranger platoons advance up and down within the shell cratered terrain and cross the barbwire rear perimeter.
Turn Nine: Scenario ends after turn twelve so the Rangers must hurry to seize either one of the objective markers. Looking over the situation Daniel sees one veteran German MG teams platoon near the eastern (roadway) objective. Behind them is the small German HMG platoon with two HMG teams. On his right approaching the open field objective marker are two fresh nearby German platoons, one a veteran, the other Ost Battalion platoon. He decides the roadway objective for the win and send his 3rd Ranger platoon to try the first assault to push back the veteran Germans lining the Normandy hedgerows. 1st Ranger platoon covers the open field marker and the 2nd Platoon held in local central reserve with Lt. Colonel Rudder’s command team.
Quick note: One additional Ranger reserve platoon arrived on turn ten but came via the beach (zone three). Since they couldn’t effect the outcome on the upper headland we decided to avoid deploying the actual miniatures. All the German reserves have arrived so no additional German platoons for the balance of scenario.
Daniel moves his 3rd Platoon into assault range and then, after some weak prep fire, charges across the broken ground. while some teams of 2nd Platoon along with Lt. Colonel Rudder’s command group remove some barbwire sections to free up future movements.
A quick melee and one team loss on both sides. The 3rd Platoon secures the hedgerow line for now. They still need to push the German veteran platoon further back from the objective marker for the win (uncontested).
On the German half turn nine they failed to recover from the Ranger assault so remain pinned. This will have some effect on the last turn. The other veteran German platoon marches along the transversal roadway to back up their fellow grenadiers and prepare for a massive counterattack. The ex Soviet POW Ost Battalion platoon defends the other open field objective marker from any loose Ranger teams nearby.
Turn Ten: The 3rd Ranger Platoon are spent and still pinned from their last effort (failed to rally even with Lt. Colonel Rudder’s barking orders). So the eastern portion of the battlefield is marked with rifle fire and BAR fire between the two sides. The 1st Ranger Platoon approaches the hedgerow and roadway, near to the open field objective defended by the Ost Battalion platoon. A quick but bloody assault pushes back the Ost Battalion platoon with loses on both sides (one team each). Automatically pinned after their assault, the Rangers sort themselves out to renew the assault next turn.
But WR sees his opportunity and suddenly the reserve German veteran platoon sorties from their roadway and charges across the open Normandy field and along the Pointe du Hoc roadway. They catch the Rangers disordered (pinned) from their own assault and a very bloody melee erupts. Two German team drop dead crossing the open ground by defensive fire but more teams crash over the hedgerows. Frenzied fighting, bayonets and grenades explode in the close no quarter fighting. Back and forth for three assault rounds increase the blood markers dotting the battlefield. The initial German assault killed three Ranger teams but the remaining Rangers rally and counterattack, killing two more German teams. The Germans renew the attack and wipe out all but the Ranger platoon command team. Remains of 1st Platoon are sucked into the fighting and their counterattack effort removes more German teams. Not to be out done, the rear German teams rally and charge forward to shoot, stab, and grenade the bloodied Rangers. Teams on both sides are removed from play from the forward in contact teams. Finally the Germans break to the rear and fail their morale to rally from losses. the entire reserve German veteran platoon is no more on the tabletop. Daniel rolls his depleted 1st Platoon battered in the brawl. Failing their morale roll, Lt. Colonel Rudder sees the remains of his right flank scatter back to the shore line. Just the 2nd and 3rd Platoons remain for the American side, apart from Lt. Colonel Rudder’s team. and the beach landed last reserve (unengaged) Ranger platoon.
Turn Eleven: Back at the beach several 2nd Platoon original teams have been slowly (or failing) their skill test climb rolls during the last turns. Slowly several of them make the cliff climb and advance towards the fighting inland. The last teams finally make their climb on turn eleven after many attempts. They will arrive too late for the scenario ending combats.
Lt. Colonel Rudder advances to the front lines. 2nd Platoon follows him to join with reduced 3rd Platoon for the final charge to push or remove the pinned German veteran platoon dug in contesting control of the objective marker. Rifle fire echoes across the Normandy fields between both sides but with both in bullet proof cover no losses. The German veteran platoon has dug in to hold their ground from the last American forthcoming assault and prepared teams to counterattack after the initial surge assault. Their HMG platoon, with its two HMG teams, advance into support distance to rake the exposed roadway by the objective. All is set for the final “win it or lose the scenario” American turn twelve.
Scenario End Turn Twelve: All or loss Daniel says. The American 2nd and 3rd Ranger platoons charge forward over the hedgerow after Lt. Colonel orders in a naval bombardment strike from the offshore destroyers. Most of the game Lt. Colonel Rudder and his Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) members in his command team have been moving forward or had no enemy teams to target so they couldn’t summon the offshore US destroyers. Finally they had a target directly in front but the vacuum radio tubes were wet.
Note: NGFS is rolled each turn the request for naval bombardment is made. Roll a d6, 4+ and the link is made with the offshore naval destroyers. Then the normal ranging in process like artillery batteries is followed. The observing team must remain stationary to summon the bombardment.
The Rangers removed two German grenadiers teams after their weak (pinned) defensive fire failed to inflect any American casualties. The roll for counterattack motivation is rolled…..a one. The Germans are forced back and the 3rd Platoon consolidates to control the objective marker. German half turn before scenario end (12 turns). Time to kick back these American invaders. The signal is given but the veteran grenadiers have had enough and remain pinned in their positions. Half hearted blasts of rifle and MG42 fire fail to remove the exposed Americans positioned near the objective. Scenario over… Ranger win by the narrowest of margins.
Scenario summary: Couldn’t have a closer ending. Near the historical event with the battered Rangers just holding on against the German counterattacks till the Omaha Beach reinforcements arrived next day. Daniel played an artful plan on the initial cliff assault and quickly cleared the forward German grenadier platoon. The fixed defenses and fortifications quickly fell due to the covering protection of the broken and cratered ground. He forced the Germans to cover both objectives and almost seized the open field objective except for the sudden German counterattack, ending with both sides removed from the scenario tabletop. Well done Daniel.
For the German play, WR followed his plan. A big question was to deploy the first German platoon at the cliff top or further back near the central 20mm Flak bunker. If the platoon wasn’t up front the forward bunkers would have been destroyed on 1st turn. But the option to counterattack assault the disordered Rangers at the cliff top could have destroyed one or maybe two weak Ranger platoon groups. Then the Germans would face the Ranger response. A thought for future scenario play. The rear zone reserves arrived almost all at once gave WR options. Maybe one platoon should have been a central reserve till near the nearly the last turn, then used to counterattack the Americans holding either objective. The HMG platoon, except for supporting the removal of the interposing Ranger platoon, basically didn’t cover a sector frontage with their firepower. They could have been used to rake any Rangers seeking control atop their assigned objective marker instead. Still, by their presence, the interloper Ranger platoon couldn’t stay in place with 12 die firepower hitting them every turn. Fun scenario. Played generally to form and historical result.
Cheers from the post-holiday warren. Klagenfurt 1809 AAR report next.