Time for something a bit different from the normal rabbit horse and musket era gaming habits. Last weekend David K. invited several gamers to his Long Beach residence for a little “over the top and through wheat fields to the Hun’s woody hill we go” scenario gaming. David arranged a scenario called the Franco-American assault on Hill 142, near the famous U.S. Marines Belleau Woods battle several days later. The rules of play were the OOP Warhammer “The Great War” and “Over the Top” supplement plus David’s painted 28mm WWI miniature collection.
A brief overview of the historical action from quick source Wikipedia… and YouTube link LionHeart FilmWorks production: Belleau Woods 1918 LionHeart FilmWorks.
Attack on Hill 142
At 03:45 on 6 June, the Allies launched an attack on the German forces, who were preparing their own advance. The French 167th Division attacked to the left of the American Marine line, while the Marines attacked Hill 142 directly to prevent flanking fire against the French. As part of the second phase, the U.S. 2nd Division were to capture the ridge overlooking Torcy and Belleau Wood, as well as occupying Belleau Wood. However, the Marines failed to scout the woods and, as a consequence, they missed a regiment of German infantry dug in, with a network of machine gun nests and artillery.
At dawn, the Marine 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, commanded by Major Julius Turrill, was to attack Hill 142, but only two companies were in position. The Marines advanced in waves with bayonets fixed across an open wheat field that was swept with German machine gun and light artillery (mortar) fire, and many Marines were cut down. Captain Crowther commanding the 67th Company was killed almost immediately. Captain Hamilton and the 49th Company fought from tree to tree, fighting the entrenched Germans and overrunning their primary hill objective. At this point, Hamilton had lost all five junior officers, while the 67th had only one commissioned officer alive. Hamilton reorganized the two companies, establishing strong points and a defensive line against the German counter-attack.
In the German counter-attack, then-Gunnery Sergeant Ernest A. Janson, who was serving under the name Charles Hoffman, repelled an advance of 12 German soldiers, killing two with his bayonet before the others fled; for this action he became the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor in World War I. Also cited for advancing through enemy fire during the counter-attack was then-Marine Gunner Henry Hulbert.
The rest of the battalion now arrived and went into action. Turrill’s flanks lay unprotected and the Marines were rapidly exhausting their ammunition. By the afternoon, however, the Marines had captured Hill 142, at a cost of nine officers and most of the 325 men of the 1st/5th Marine battalion.
So, how does David’s Hill 142 scenario play out? Well, bloody in the short eleven turns of play but followed the historical action. The U.S. Marine correspondent, W. R., crawling back from the new front lines, filed his photographic report below.
The warm morning of June 6th, a date known for another famous U.S. & Allies beach landing, saw the lines of U.S. Marines and French poilus advancing from their dirt road start line. Their plan was to mass on the left side of the scenario table and rush the wooded hill. Simple WWI tactical planning it seemed. but did place two German platoons, and their HMG team, out of position till they marched over from the German left flank later in the scenario. Germans pre-deployed their forces using a map drawn hidden placement system. WR also elected to have two platoons and their Company command group held in reserve. Several improvised positions were available for WR to place anywhere within the German lines. These positions gave +1 saving roll for defenders behind the protective cover.
The German player can decide if the platoon starts on the tabletop (hidden) or roll for arrival. Each turn, starting with turn two, roll d6. If a six rolled the entire reserve has arrived and can march in from tabletop edge anywhere along the German rear zone. If roll failed, next turn a 5 or 6 for arrival…. then 4, 5, or 6 progressive steps till roll made.