Having written up the recent Salerno invasion “Crossing Calore River 1943” sscenario, it is time to play test the scenario with an actual Flames of War 20mm tabletop game. The scenario is based upon the efforts of 2nd Battalion, 179th RCT to advance across the shallow Calore river, march to block German access to Highway 19 near Serre, and link up with the rest of their 179th RCT taking a different route towards Ponte-Sele and Serre villages.
To the scenario commentary. Start off with a quick view of the scenic scenario tabletop and suggestive platoon deployment. The scenario notes (.doc) file describes the platoon initial placement in map row assignment or specific map square, so the actual placement is freely determined by the players…. within the assigned map rows or actual map square location. Generally, the terrain is mostly open rolling ground dotted with low hedges, crop fields providing infantry concealment, a few farm buildings, and river or hill slope bushy zones. Woods are near the table edges except for one near the destroyed bridge – ford. The river is crossable for foot or vehicle, being low water flow during late summer, but does reduce vehicle movement.
For the players…. Paul, a seasoned German player, Luis a new-bee with the FOW system, backed by WR to coach him in the finer points of dice rolling. Daniel called to work at last minute.
German Objective: The German 29th Pioneer battalion arrives to engage and push forward against the American river crossing, reducing the American 2nd Battalion 179th RCT in the process, with the objective of securing advantage position to support the next day attack from Hill 424 against Altavilla village and send detachments back towards Serre to support the German attack against the 179th RCT marching along the Sele – Calore corridor (behind the 29th Pioneer battalion’s starting line). See the WR scenario “Ordeal of the 179th RCT” for details on that action.
German Order of battle: Platoons organized from Battlefront’s Flames of War North Africa book for a Panzer grenadier Pioneer company with two additional 8cm mortars placed in pioneer company HQ.
Battalion HQ 29th Pioneer Battalion command team with kubelwagen (treat as extra – replacing company CinC command team if lost).
29th Pioneer Battalion includes: Company HQ (CinC, 2inC, 2x MG42 teams, 2x 8cm mortar teams, 2x Kubelwagen, 4x Kfz 70 trucks). 3x Panzer pioneer platoons (Cmd Pzkr, 6x pioneer R/MG teams, 3x Kfz 70 trucks, Kfz 15 car, and a pioneer truck only for 1st platoon).
Attached units include: Panzer grenadier platoon (Cmd Pzkr, 6x MG teams, 3x Kfz 70 trucks, Kfz 15 car). Assault gun platoon (3x StuG G). Half-track Panzerspah platoon with two patrols (1x Sd Kfz 250, 2x Sd Kfz 250/9 (2cm) each). Light AA gun platoon (2x Sd Kfz 10/5 (2cm) H/T).
Off board Motorized Artillery battery (Cmd, Staff, 4x 10.5cm LeFH18 howitzers) positioned in the local hills on call with observed fire anywhere on the scenario battlefield. Cannot be counter-bombarded during scenario.
German deployment: From right to left; one pioneer platoon deployed in forward crop field (map reference C2) and another pioneer platoon behind in support on low hill (C1-D1). A Panzerspah HT patrol guards the open flank of the forward pioneer platoon with the pioneer truck (map B2).
Towards the German center the other Panzerspah patrol covered the central SP88 roadway along with the company HQ kampfgruppe formed platoon and command warrior teams (map D2-E2). Lower on the slope and towards the left behind a low hedge is the sole panzergrenadier platoon (map F2). Battalion HQ set up in the trees lining the roadway at F1 with a great view of the American advance. The last pioneer platoon deployed echelon back from the panzergrenadiers to anchor the left and cover the SP88 road exit where the two arriving reserve platoons will enter the tabletop (map G1) behind the tree-lined roadway. Those two reserve platoons are the StuG G assault gun and light AA HT (2cm) platoons.
American Objective: Secure the Calore River crossing then advance northward to meet up with the rest of 179th RCT near Serre via exiting the northern map SP88 road exit at F1. By exiting the scenario map at F1 they could affect the northern battle being fought under the “Ordeal of the 179th RCT” scenario… if the scenario linking process is used.
American Order of Battle: Platoons organized from Battlefront’s Flames of War North Africa book for a Rifle company.
Battalion HQ 2nd/179th RCT command team with jeep (treat as extra – replacing company CinC command team if lost).
2nd Battalion 179th RCT includes: Company HQ (CinC, 2inC, 2x bazooka), 1st, 2nd, and 3rd rifle platoons (Cmd, bazooka, 9x rifle teams each), weapons platoon (Cmd, 3x M2 60mm mortar, 4x M1919 LMG), mortar platoon (Cmd, 6x M1 81mm mortars), I/R platoon (Cmd, 3x rifle teams, jeep w/50cal, 3x jeeps).
Attached units include: M4a1 tank platoon (5x M4a1), SP A/T platoon (Cmd, jeep 50cal, 2x jeep, 2x carbine teams, 4x M3 75mm GMC) using tank destroyer rules, and the off-board field artillery battery (Cmd, staff, observer, jeep, 4x M2a1 105mm howitzers). Cannot be counter-bombarded during scenario.
American Deployment: With first move in scenario, the American deployment is mildly aggressive. From right to left; one rifle platoon deployed in the crop field (map F4), another rifle platoon up the hill slope alongside (map C4-D4-E4), and last rifle platoon in reserve (map D5-E5-F5). Between the rifle platoons, the M4a1 Sherman platoon is ready to rumble forward (D4-E4). Back on Hill 424 across the Calore river is the 81mm mortar platoon lining the woods edge on raised ground. Completing the south Calore bank deployment is the SP AT 75mm GMC platoon right at the crossing “ford” near the destroyed bridge.
The American left flank deploys the forward rifle platoon already mentioned (map C4-D4-F4), the weapon platoon in the central woods forward edge (map C5), Company HQ set up in Caseificio F.Lil Cicatelli (CFC) farm building (map C5) with the 2iC team joining righthand rifle platoon. Battalion HQ starts near the river crossing on north bank. As can be seen, three American platoons deployed in map row 4, three in map row 5, and two on south bank of Calore river.
Turn One: Americans have first movement, firing, and assault to start the scenario. Seeing the un-entrenched Mg42 packing panzergrenadiers near the low hedge before them, the American rifle platoons tried their spade work on the Italian countryside while the M4a1 Sherman platoon rumbled into MG range. One rifle platoon dug in…. the other, standing directly in front of the panzergrenadiers, wondered why shovel earth? After many hits and one dead panzergrenadier team, the PG’s were pinned mainly by the Sherman MG bullets.
On the left, the leading rifle platoon, under a sharper lieutenant no doubt, dug in and open fired on the crop concealed pioneer platoon. One dead pioneer team from all the M1 Garand firepower. Even the rearward weapon platoon opened fire with their advancing LMG teams to pin the exposed pioneers for the moment. while this is going on in the front lines, the SP AT platoon slowly crosses the Calore river near the destroyed bridge and the 81mm mortar platoon dislikes earthwork… failed their entrenching roll too.
German movement and reply was swift. Panzergrenadiers unpin and promptly complete their earth spade work, then stayed gone to ground. The nearby Shermans are a great incentive to avoid attracting attention. Their HQ kampfgruppe 8cm mortar crew range in direct fire smoke on the Sherman platoon, clouding up the battlefield, Two HMG teams rip into the distant American rifle platoon for some loss. The central recon Panzerspah HT patrol, seeing the advancing M4a1 tanks before them, dart left to get out range while shooting up the exposed rifle platoon a bit more.
German right flank sees the other Panzerspah HT patrol advance, to engage the entrenched American rifle platoon, along with the now entrenched pioneer platoon in the crop fields, pinning the Americans in their foxholes.
Turn Two: Failing to entrench on turn one, the American 81mm mortar platoon on Hill 424 slope opens fire with their bombardment of the panzergrenadier platoon. For the scenario, the 81mm shells continually bombarded the German panzergrenadiers, causing only one team loss, but frequently pinning the panzergrenadier platoon.
Seeing the Panzerspah HT driving towards their fellow infantrymen, the Sherman 75mm cannon trained on the German recon patrol. Setting one Sd Kfz 250 HT on fire, the rest bugged out up the low slope, thus avoiding any more Sherman shells in their wild escape. The panzergrenadiers stayed low….. occasional 75mm and bullets flying into the exposed position for now.
Left flank more of the same…. The 105mm off-board field battery zeroed in on first attempt….. the blasts lifts one unlucky pioneer team skyward and wrecks the pioneer truck. More bullets from the entrenched rifle platoon and weapons platoon lining the central woods bump off another team, leaving the pioneer platoon at almost half strength.
After battering the pioneer platoon, American Paul awaits the German response. German reserves arrive on turn two… the StuG G assault gun platoon and their light AA Sd Kfz 10/5 (2cm) buddies rumble onto the battlefield. While the assault guns take their deadly aim on the American Sherman platoon, the light AA platoon HT join the far left flank to threaten crossing the Calore river with the 3rd pioneer platoon behind them.
Far right…. having rolled into position, the Panzerspah HT cut loose with their auto-cannon and machine guns. Caught in the deadly firepower, three weapon platoon LMG teams are removed from play. The nearby artillery observer team, being entrenched in their personal foxhole… saved themselves from the German firepower, shouting in their R/T to dead ears about the advancing reserve pioneer platoon following their Panzerspah patrol.
Turn Three: Another turn of the same old American firepower drill. The forward rifle platoon open fire across the open ground to engage their opposite number in their own foxholes. The 105mm battery pounds again the reduced pioneer platoon, now deep in their foxholes, saving from the few shells which land close.
M4a1 Sherman shift right…. to open the distance from the StuG G’s and engage the arriving light AA (2cm) platoon. No effect…. those lucky HT’s, dodging every shot. The far right American rifle platoon send a few shots at the advancing pioneer platoon entering the Calore riverbank bush terrain. To counter the pioneers, team America sends their reserve rifle platoon towards the far right, into the Calore riverbank lower down, to match the German pioneer advance.
German movement, the pioneers advance further down or into the Calore river terrain. Spotting American G.I. coming upriver, the rifle fire increases. Wondering what’s happening to their right… two unlucky rifle teams are cut down by the stationary light AA (2cm) cannon.
Having shot up the weapons platoon, the Panzerspah HT patrol drive west to engage the inactive American I&R platoon lurking in the edge woods. With all the 2cm cannon fire, only a jeep tire was shot out…..and a few trees no doubt. The following pioneer platoon, advancing quickly behind the Panzerspah HT, prep fire the American rifle platoon along with the battered pioneer platoon lying in the crop field, still shelled by the American off-board artillery.
Having covered the left and right flank action…. the center warms up with the StuG G platoon blasting one M4a1 Sherman into a bonfire. Seeing the American rifle platoon pop up their heads, the entrenched panzergrenadiers along with the HMG up slope rake the American foxholes. One dead American team with all the dice tossed. Lastly, the 8cm smoke up another Sherman to restrict their return fire or force movement.
German shells whistle overhead. Waking up to the available off board 10.5cm battery, the battery ranges in and bombards the Hill 424 mortar platoon. One team is blasted apart with a direct hit while the rest dive behind any cover to be found. Pin marker please….
Turn Four: Wild turn….First the Sherman platoon tries to destroy the light AA platoon and engage the StuG G up the hill. two hits… the HT crews wonder how many new AP holes the American can make. For the StuG’s… bounced shot on their frontal armor except one. A StuG G is burning! Next the Calore river fight…. American reserve rifle platoon charges down the double river banks and assaults the German pioneer platoon advancing the other direction. The leading two team wave is gunned down, drifting in the flowing water. Two surviving teams assault the pioneers and miss their skill death roll. The pioneers strike down one team, the Americans counterattack, miss again, the pioneers grenade, bayonet and shoot down two more American teams. The river is blood-red as the last team bolts for the rear ending the assault.
Slowing moving up last turn, to engage the pesky Panzerspah patrol, the SP AT platoon deploys their four “hidden” 75mm GMC HT. Seeing the totally exposed pioneer platoon flanking the American line instead, their cannon fire impacts in open German ranks. the entrenched rifle platoon add in their rifle fire for additional damage. Pinned and battered, the pioneer platoon holds their ground, leaving three teams dead on the battlefield. the off-board 105mm battery still pounds the crop field pioneer platoon, pinning them again but cause no loss.
With the American half turn done, the German team roll off the several platoon pin markers and press the attack. The StuG G platoon extract revenge with another burning Sherman wreck and bailed crew. Local German infantry stay low in their foxholes, as 81mm mortar shells land nearby.
German battery shifts target from the 81mm mortar platoon… and lands the ranging shot near the SP AT 75mm HT platoon. Fire for effect bombardment promptly follows and one HT explodes into flame. The riflemen thank their sergeants for ordering them to dig the foxholes earlier as shells blast the area and rifle fire zips overhead.
On the bloody river…. the victorious pioneers advance over fallen American bodies. Joined by the two “holed” light AA (2cm) HT firepower, more American bodies join the ones floating downstream past the American lines. Before the firing on the Calore… the surviving two Panzerspah patrol HT are driving southeast to join the light AA platoon. Team Germany see a possible victory….
Note: Victory conditions for the Germans gives a victory if two or more platoons cross the Calore river and end the scenario on the southern riverbank.
Turn Five: Enough punching AP holes, try HE shouts the gunners. The Sherman platoon shifts right again then blasts apart the light AA (2cm) platoon into flaming pyres. Rifle and carbine fire echos across the flowing Calore water. One pioneer team joins the floating body pool.
With the shelling stops and pin marker rolled off, the 81mm crews clear the blasted branch debris and opens a new bombardment of the hunkered down panzergrenadier platoon.
American left flank…While one SP AT 75mm HT burns, the others shell the exposed pioneer platoon of last turn. A few rifle teams add in their effect but the pioneers hug the earth and save all hit rolls. Seeing a Panzerspah HT in range, a bazooka team fires off their rounds. Totally surprised, the recon unit fails to disengage (recon rules) and one Sd Kfz 250/9 (2cm) HT is soon burning.
German turn five. First, seeing the exposed pioneer platoon being shelled into oblivion, the pioneers charge forward towards the SP AT 75mm platoon. Priming their grenades, the assault goes in. Checking the initial contact point 8″ radius, the American company HQ group is drawn in plus the nearby larger rifle platoon. Defensive firepower drops one team with four hits. Staggered, the pioneer teams set one SP AT HT afire, explosions soon following.
Charging out the building led by their CinC company commander himself, the nearby American rifle platoon charges in from the other side with several teams while the SP AT halftracks try to maneuver or shoot down the German pioneers. Bayonets, tracks, gunfire, and grenades end the brawl with two more pioneer teams lying on the ground. Will the pioneer command team pass their morale? Nope, they leg it to the rear and disappear from the tabletop. The American infantry and their commander return to their lairs and the SP AT HT advance to engage the nearby Panzerspah patrol next turn.
Well, one assault failed on the German right flank… let’s try the left flank with another pioneer platoon. The pioneer platoon charges out of the river bush into the flank of the entrenched rifle platoon. While the light AA platoon burning wreck cast smokey light, the massed rifle fire drives back the assault with five hits and two dead teams. Back in the river bush, the pioneers think the situation is bad, fail their under half strength morale test, and exit the battlefield upstream post-haste.
Payback… After frying up the light AA platoon, the Sherman platoon is targeted by the assault gun StuG G platoon. Another burning Sherman leaves the platoon under half strength. Like the exiting pioneer platoon, the Sherman crews remember they have an “urgent” evening appointment tonight and exit the battlefield, leaving the American infantry wondering their fate.
Turn Six: Both sides take stock of the battle. The American players figure out they need to reduce the German platoon count under half and force German company morale tests to win as moving forward under the HMG and assault guns eyes not a wise move. Team German has nine platoons on the table and the off-board artillery battery. So far the Germans have lost two pioneer and the light AA platoons for a total of three. For the Americans they have eight platoons on table and their own off-board battery. At this point the Americans have lost only the M4a1 Sherman platoon but both the weapons platoon and SP AT 75mm HT platoons are crippled at near half strength.
With those stats in mind. the American effort centers on destroying two more German platoons in short order. They open fire on the weak crop field pioneer platoon with everything in range. Off board artillery pounds the position. The weapons platoon drops 60mm mortar shells for a chance kill. Rifle bullets pepper the German foxholes. A big nothing but several near misses. Meanwhile, the two surviving SP AT HT drive around the Caseificio F.Lli Cicateili (CFC) farm building. They open fire on the elusive Panzerspah halftracks. The Panzerspah patrol dodge the few 75mm shells with their recon disengagement movement for now.
Back at the watery graves of many, the left Panzerspah patrol enters the river bush and spots the advancing American rifle platoon, much reduced from their earlier “personal” contact with the exited pioneers. Short streams of 2cm shells or machine gun bullets splash the river waters.
Hey…. Is it safe to make their game appearance? The forgotten I&R platoon exit the edge woods and make a call for their jeeps to return. They look up as the German artillery targets them in rapid bombardment. One team disappears in a poof of smoke. Senior command really wants use to scout and report from the German rear lines?
Center table the Germans pound the American infantry in their foxholes. Bullets, 8cm mortar shells, or 75mm shells from the assault guns parked before them find their mark. One or two teams end their active participation in the war.
Turn Seven: Hunt the Panzerspah patrol is the game. Having disengaged last turn, they are forced stationary this turn. Another Sd Kfz 250 halftrack turns into a flame ball. Patrol passes their morale test… why worry…
Shoot up the crop field pioneer platoon continues for again no effect. The rest of the American infantry go to ground and hide in their foxholes.
Failing to entrench along the river bank, the rifle platoon is ripped by the Panzerspah patrol cannon or machine guns. Several more team stands add to the floating bodies going downstream. American rifle platoon, under half strength now, just passes their morale test.
As Americans tip over in the river water, one or two more rifle teams on dry ground find out their foxholes are now their graves from the German firepower.
Turn Eight: Pumping 81mm mortar shells out every turn, the Hill 424 mortar platoon keeps the panzergrenadiers heads down, reducing a bit the German return fire aimed at the American rifle platoon foxholes. A few more trenches… and we have WWI on the tabletop.
Time to finish off those elusive Panzerspah halftracks on the American left flank thinks team American… closing the range to point-blank, the last one is left a burning wreck by the SP AT 75mm HT platoon. No morale test needed. Another German platoon is removed from play and just one more needed to force company morale test each German turn.
Short lived celebration for the Americans as their river rifle platoon is ground apart by the other revenge seeking Panzerspah patrol, the sorry khaki remnants flee the table. Strike off another American platoon. Platoon score stands at: German 4, American 2 for the dead platoons accounting (but three American platoons are near half strength).
Turn Nine: Finally, the American 105mm battery hits the pioneer platoon and the firepower blasts apart several teams. Required morale test….. drum roll please…. a d6 roll becomes a failed test. The surviving pioneer teams exit the tabletop counting as another platoon destroyed or removed from play. That causes the German side to exceed their company morale level so mandatory side test every turn hereon.
German roll they company morale and pass for this turn nine. Seeing the scenario is heading for an American win, a last “in the ditch” effort is mounted to wipe out or remove from play three American platoons. Several are near morale testing points… the weapon, SP AT 75mm HT, the mortar platoon, and even the forward rifle platoons have taken losses. German artillery ranges in on the mortar platoon, sending one team to the medical aid tents…. two more teams and that platoon is testing from battle loss. The exposed and nearly flanked right American rifle platoon is selected for the German final effort. Defeat them and cross the Calore river with any two German platoons is a possible German victory if the scenario lasts all twelve turns. So, unpinning the panzergrenadiers, they exit their foxholes and cross the low hedge, continuing into the crop field. They join the HQ kampfgruppe firing their HMG into the American position as the Stug G platoon drives within assault range. All the German firepower pins the rifle platoon to their foxholes. Scenario ending maybe touch and go…
Turn Ten: American have little to do. Seeing the advancing German assault scheduled for this turn, the rifle platoon tries for pin the advancing panzergrenadiers in the crop field by rifle fire and 81mm shells from their rearward mortar platoon (unpinned again). Several hits but no team deaths. Elsewhere, the other American platoons, except the center rifle platoon, turn to march and contest the German advance… but they are basically out of position to really influence the outcome… and the scenario end. The free ranging I&R jeep patrol is nearly in the German rear areas… waiting to attack the HQ teams if possible.
German company morale test roll…… Paul’s picture below says all. It’s a three…. needed a 4+ on the d6 so the scenario has ended with the German retirement.
Scenario end summary: the planned German assault on the exposed rifle platoon never happens. With only two removed platoons the American victory is assured by clearing the tabletop of German forces. They wouldn’t be exiting the northern road exit (map F1) soon so possible inference with the “Ordeal of the 179th RCT” scenario is minimal. Hard fought scenario. The German almost pulled off their win by having two platoons on the southern Calore river bank. The final positions shown in the photos….
All seemed to enjoy the scenario. WR will chalk up a successful game. Luis… you have your first FOW win. Paul, you played the Germans with typical Germanic flair…. almost a win too. Just needed one or two more platoons heading for the Calore river. Another game in January will be scheduled…. maybe the “157th RCT vs. the Tobacco factory” scenario.
Cheers from the warren and for all Grand Holidays.