Flames of War: Novus Design Studio 15mm City Block Ruins

ruinsWar is destructive by its very nature, and World War II was the most destructive war in history. Aside from the tens of millions of military personnel and civilian deaths, the war brought unprecedented ruin to the thousands of villages, towns, cities and industrial areas through and over which the war was fought. The nearly immeasurable physical and financial impacts of WWII rippled for decades to come, including enormous effects on buildings and other physical spaces worldwide.

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My 15mm European terrain during a recent game

For my 15mm WWII wargaming using Flames of War and I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules systems, my terrain has been modeled almost entirely on Western Europe using buildings from numerous manufacturers collected over the past few years. In all my 15mm modelling, destroyed buildings have largely been absent so far, so I’ve been really happy to add my new city block ruin models from Novus Design Studio to my terrain collection.

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NDS was founded just about a year ago in April 2014 by Robert and Nancy Rumfelt, the founders and original owners of JR Miniatures. Like many wargamers, I’ve got a long history with models from JR Minis and so in many ways I knew what to expect from NDS when the company’s launch was first announced. I watched their inventory grow in the past year covering 6mm, 15mm and 28mm scales across WWII, sci-fi, fantasy and modern themes, and they’ve continued to add new products in the new year.

IMG_4969A complete set of four 15mm city block ruins from Novus Design Studio

The two and three story 15mm urban ruins retail for $26-31 USD each but I picked up a full set of four in a 40% off deal NDS ran at the end of 2014. The straight and corner buildings match up nicely together in a row or bunched into a city block in various configurations. The models also look great placed among buildings from other manufacturers, especially other city row houses from JR Minis. The castings in a creamy resin require a little flash clean up with a sharp hobby knife and air pocket holes show up here and there but don’t distract from the destroyed nature of the structures.

Novus Sample Front BackFront and rear view depicting multiple removable floors of a typical city block ruin model

All the NDS city block ruins feature removable floors molded with plank floors, piles of rubble, walls and interior doorways. The buildings have staircases and walls on the interior, broken window panes and more rubble on the attached sidewalks at the front. Everything about these make them very usable for 15mm gaming whether it be for 20th-century historical scenarios or contemporary and near-future gaming in European or even American urban settings. Getting multiples of the models on the table would easily allow setting up a truly impressive cityscape ravaged by the impacts of war.

IMG_4987Cleaned and primed corner city block ruin model

After cleaning up the flash on the models, I washed them all in warm soapy water to remove excess casting residue. The main building structures got a spray of flat gray as a base coat followed by layers of dry brushed tan, light gray and off white paint on the exteriors. Sidewalks also received grays and off white to highlight piles of ash and broken masonry heaped on the ground. On building had shutters which were painted in a dark blue and green and then highlighted with the same color mixed with a bit of white.

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For the interiors, the removable floor levels were base coated in flat black. Plank floors were built up in layers of browns ranging from dark to light in each coat. I went basic on interior walls, using an off white to create a simple plaster look. As with the exterior, the rubble and tile floors on the ground floors were built up in grays and off white.

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After a finish of a few coats of clear matte spray, the city block ruins were done. Arranged in a square block or stretched out in a row, these models easily blend in with other 15mm terrain manufacturers and add a great bit of variety to a tabletop set up. Bringing a bit of destruction to my overly neat wargaming battlefields is a welcome addition with my first buildings from Novus Design Studio.

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I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: Gela July 11, 1943 Scenario

gelaWe continued our play through Operation Husky and the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 this past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. We’re working our way through the events of July 11th in the Sicilian Weekend book by Too Fat Lardies for their I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules for 15mm World War II play.

HuskyMap2Operation Husky, July-August 1943 (Gela in green)

The scenario represents the northeast section of the town of Gela where ferocious fighting had taken place the day before in the early actions of the Allied invasion of Sicily. The table was set up with a couple dozen buildings from a variety of manufacturers, including JR Miniatures, Battlefront, Mark IV Miniatures, Miniature Building Authority and Games of War. The occupying US troops all began hidden in  Gela with the Italians arriving on blinds at the opposite end of the table over a small railroad cut, bridge and road surrounded by open farm fields dotted with trees. The objective was simple: the Italians had to take back this corner of Gela and the Americans had to hold what they had fought so hard for the previous day.

Sicilianweekendcover‘Sicilian Weekend’ by Too Fat Lardies for their I Ain’t Been Shot Mum WWII rules

The Americans deployed in well-defended positions in the town with two platoons of rifles and light machine gun squads perched in buildings. A combat engineer platoon armed with a 37mm M3 anti-tank gun in tow sat hidden along the main street through town. Off board, 4.2 inch M2 mortars and 105 mm M2A1 howitzers from the 33rd Field Artillery Battalion were available as support to be called in by the captain from the company HQ perched in the tall building at the center of town. Tough and dug into great positions, the Americans looked to have a clear advantage.

IMG_5651The tabletop battlefield for Gela

As in the previous scenario southeast of Butera, the Italians again represented a massing of manpower from the Livorno Division with six small rifle platoons and a machine gun support platoon. Accompanying them this time was Mobile Group E compromised of light French Renault R35 tanks and pre-war Italian CV33 Tankettes. What the Italians lacked in a starting position on the field and quality of equipment and troops, they certainly made up for in volume as they began the game arriving on three blinds per turn.

IMG_5652Italians arrive northeast of Gela

As the Italians neared the town, the Americans bided their time and sought not to reveal their positions until the approaching forces were nearly on top of their positions. Approaching in the open, the Italian blinds were spotted in the open to reveal tanks and infantry closing in at the center and edge of town. With IABSM’s randomly card-activated units mechanic, my US commander was perhaps overly cautious in waiting a turn or two too long to start getting the American cards into the deck. This all but negated off-board US artillery support for the game and allowed the Italian attackers to get dangerously close to seizing a quick victory with nary a shot fired.

IMG_5653Italians swarm the edge of the town and the hidden American positions

On the Italian left, one of their early shots fired down the street took out a crew member of the M3 anti-tank gun, forcing the remaining American crew to haul it back around a corner to safety. In answer, the US engineers opened fire at close range and threw back the initial push by the Italians on the American right. At the center of town, US rifles, machine guns and bazookas firing from within a massive central building ripped into the Italians marching forward in the open. Under heavy fire at their center, the Italians fled for cover to either side as their approach was slowed and their returned rifle and tank shots had little effect on the Americans.

IMG_5654Italians encounter fire from US engineers defending from buildings

IMG_5655Italian infantry duck for cover as they receive heavy combined arms fire from the Americans in the large central building

IMG_5656Italian armor repositions away from American fire

With nowhere to go but forward, an Italian rifle platoon at their left assaulted the US engineers holding down the American right from a building. The Americans took heavy casualties and were thrown backward from their position into the open street to the rear. In response, returned fire from engineers in a nearby building flung the Italians back from their brief victory.

IMG_5657Italian rifles push a US engineer platoon from the building position

Back at the center, another round of combined arms fire from the Americans in the large central building continued to feed shots into the Italians, forcing them to continue to slide into cover to either side of the open field outside town. While pushing the Italians back with casualties and shocking fire provided a short-term positive for the US, it also allowed the Italians the chance to redeploy and set themselves for a move into town on the American left.

IMG_5658Italians slide from the center toward the American left

Meanwhile on the US right, the surviving engineers were chewed up by additional fire in the street which stalled them out of the action. With the main street into town wide open, the first Italian tank positioned itself to roll down the cobblestones. Waiting in the distance was the American anti-tank gun with a clear field of fire down the street looking to stave off an armored assault into the heart of Gela.

IMG_5659Italian armor sneaks around the American right as the US 37mm M3 anti-tank gun waits in the distance

With the Italians abandoning the center, the fight moved to the flanks. One US rifle platoon moved to reposition into buildings further to the edge of town on the American left as two Italian platoons, one already having suffered heavy casualties, snuck between buildings for cover. The American engineers on their right sought to hold down the approaching Italian tanks and three rifle platoons, and the US anti-tank gun crew had yet to fire a shot. The American rifles, machine guns and bazooka crews who had caused so much damage at the center were facing a choice of redeployment as their Italian targets skirted to either side.

IMG_5644Italians mass for an attack on the US engineers

Several hours in, we called the game. The small-scale tactical nature of IABSM is highly contingent on when a platoon or command ‘big man’ card activates. With so many Italian cards in the deck, a run of activated Italian unit cards may have provided the push they needed to get to the main street and victory. That said, each US card drawn was continuing to have devastating results on the somewhat weaker Italians, causing casualties and flinging them into reconsidering different routes. The large number of Italian on the field were still poised to match up with the higher quality American troops, although the US had clearly blown an early opportunity to use their off-board artillery effectively. Good and bad command choices had left Gela contested for the day.

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: South East of Butera July 11, 1943 Scenario

SicilyJuly1943Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of the island of Sicily, commenced on July 9th 1943 with combined naval, air, airborne and amphibious forces from the United States, England and UK colonial nations attacking a largely Italian force backed by their German allies. Over the next five weeks, the Allies took the arid and rocky island of Sicily and opened up the Mediterranean for the eventual invasion of mainland Italy.

HuskyMapOperation Husky, July-August 1943 (area around Butera in green)

The Sicilian Weekend campaign guide for I Ain’t Been Shot Mum offers 24 scenarios from the opening days of Operation Husky on July 10th and 11th 1943. Like the other scenario books from IABSM publisher Too Fat Lardies, the Sicilian book presents solid historical background and maps, along with force lists and detailed briefings for each side easily adaptable to a number of lines of 15mm WWII miniatures. The scenarios may be played individually or as part of a linked campaign, and so we recently started playing through a few of the Sicily scenarios at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY.

Sicilianweekendcover‘Sicilian Weekend’ by Too Fat Lardies for their I Ain’t Been Shot Mum WWII rules

We began with the eighth scenario in the book, southeast of Butera on the morning of July 11th 1943. Members of US 3rd Infantry Division are presented with a simple mission of aggressively pushing through the field to link up with their fellow Americans at Gela. The Italian force from the 33rd Infantry Regiment of the Livorno Division, must hold the invading Americans back.The scenario presents the Italian and American forces each entering the table in column on blinds. The counter attacking Italians rolled in mounted in trucks at one road at the table edge, and the Americans arrived on foot at one end of the table.

IMG_5605Initial forces arrive on the field in the early turns

IMG_5606Italians rush to the battle and deploy from a column of trucks

My first to arrive American machine gunners and bazookas quickly took up position on a rocky hill overlooking the road and a crossroads in the distance. Italian trucks moved in with their heavy weapons likewise leading the away with machine guns and 81mm mortars deploying at the road edge. Initial long range fire from the US machine guns pushed some of the Italian line back over the road. The Italians offered several rounds combined of direct mortar and machine gun fire in return, spraying bullets and landing rounds amid the bunched-up US machine guns. The Americans scooted back over the crest of the hill and the bazookas ran off to meet the other Americans arriving by the road to their right.

IMG_5608American machine guns take Italian mortar fire and fall back

IMG_5607US machine gunners rally back to their positions and pour fire into the Italian lines

 As the heavily-damaged US machine guns rallied, the Italian column continued to advance on the board in force. Four Italian rifle platoons spread out from the road to run at the advancing American column ahead and to cover the crossroads overlooked by two rocky hills. As the Americans moved straight on to meet the Italian front line, a recon platoon accompanied by four bazookas made way for the hills and the Italian flank.

IMG_5609Italian rifle platoons sprint ahead through the open field

IMG_5611A US recon platoon moves to take position atop a hill as Italians deploy at the crossroads

IMG_5612A firefight erupts between two hills as American bazookas hump their way around the Italian flank

IMG_5613The Italian line folds back toward the road under US fire in the field

With an Italian front deployed across the field in several lines and more rifles rushing into the hills at their left, the battle settled into two main firefights. American rifles at the center gradually pushed through the field toward the overwhelming number of Italians. Between the two hills on the Italian left, Italian and American rifles echoed back and forth. As gunfire was exchanged across the lines, US bazookas attempted to run to engage the Italian trucks which had made their way to safety beyond the battle at the rear. Despite moderately mounting Italian casualties, the Americans just could not break through.

The US forces ultimately ceded the field to the Italians. Even with superior command quality, the initial deployment of the US machine guns had been a bit premature and was not met by the quick arrival of supporting rifle platoons. Rushing them to the hills at the crossroads might have made a difference. The Italians had also managed to get the vast majority of their troops on the board early in the game, and their neatly arranged front line allowed them to angle directly over a defense of the road. In our refighting of the early hours of July 11th, 1943 the massed Italian counterattack had stalled the US invaders southeast of Butera. What awaited at Gela later in the day would unfold in our next battle.

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: West Of The Oktiabrski State Farm July 12, 1943 Scenario

t34OktiabrskiThis past week, two of us at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY headed back to the summer of 1943 and the opening days of what would become known as the Battle of Kursk. The German offensive in Soviet territory, known as “Operation Citadel,” took place southwest of Moscow and led to one of the largest tank battles of all time, the Battle of Prokhorovka. It was south of Prokhorovka at the Oktiabrski State Farm where our game began.

BKCover‘Battlegroup Kursk’ from Iron Fist Publishing

Our 15mm battle was a mash-up of game systems, using Flames of War models, I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules and a scenario lifted from the Battlegroup Kursk book by Iron Fist Publishing. Aside from its own set of tabletop rules, the Battlegroup Kursk book offers some well-drawn scenarios easily adaptable to a variety of gaming systems and scales. Our scenario, “West Of The Oktiabrski State Farm,” was the second of seven scenarios from the section entitled “The Inglorious 12th July.”

oktMAPMap of the West Of The Oktiabrski State Farm scenario

IMG_5577Soviet blinds deploy and move as T-34s are spotted pushing on the left

Our first Eastern Front and largest IABSM game to date started with the German infantry, Pak 40 anti-tank guns and two StuG III units deployed in hidden on a third of the table. Across a wide field, the Soviets deployed on blinds along the table edge in and around a collective farm complex. The initial Soviet blinds featured three infantry platoons at the center, a T-34 tank platoon to the left flank and one more tank platoon arriving on blinds in the second and third turns. Each side also featured off board artillery and the German side also had air fire to draw on throughout the game, although none of it would play a measurable role during the battle.

IMG_5547Soviet armor rumbles toward their first objective

IMG_5578A Pak 40 reveals itself to the approaching Soviet T-34s

IMG_5569The T-34s and Pak 40 exchange fire across the open field

IMG_5571The Soviet commander exposes Germans dug into the field just as his tank is destroyed

IMG_5575The first wave of Soviet armor burns in the field as reinforcements arrive on a blind to the rear

Soviet objectives sat at the German-defended crossroads, and so the T-34s pushed hard in the initial turns toward the road entry at the edge of the table at the Soviet left. Rolling quickly toward the road, the T-34s encountered a Pak 40 position at a hedge dominating a field of fire at the center of the table. The Pak 40s immediately hit the tanks, damaging the turrets, sights and mobility of the T-34s. Over several turns, fire was exchanged between the T-34s and the German anti-tank crews, leaving several burning tanks and a partially destroyed German gun position. Mid-game, a reinforcing platoon of T-34s moved to support the first wave of nearly-destroyed Soviet armor but were likewise halted in a crossfire from the surviving Pak 40s and three StuGs moving out their hidden positions and toward the road. The Soviet tank commander managed to close gloriously on the objective, but the StuGs and hidden German infantry positions stalled the advance and his tank went up in flames with those of his comrades, too.

IMG_5570Mid-game with Soviet blinds arriving on each flank, infantry at the middle and thick lines of German defenders in the distance

IMG_5572German Pak 40s and MG42s hold the center

With the Soviet attack on the left completely at a standstill, infantry moved from the farm complex toward the crossroads objective in the distance as T-34s maneuvered to their right using a forested area to cover their advance. The Germans moved to strengthen their center with the deployment of MG42s which laid fire into the Soviet infantry. German infantry deployed across the crossroads objective and were buoyed by the support of another StuG platoon on the opposite side of the trees.

IMG_5573T-34s try to push from the right using the forest as cover

IMG_5574T-34s and StuGs duel at the edge of the forest as infantry begins to take heavy casualties on both sides

Between the road and forest, the battle for crossroads began. Soviet infantry were cut down in the open and the Soviet armor moved cautiously around the woods to fire into the German infantry and armor. As the T-34s rounded the edge of the forest, a crossfire of Pak 40 and StuG shots stalled the Soviet tank advance with the Germans suffering a loss of only one StuG in the firefight. With the objectives at the crossroads and road at the table edge still secure, the day tipped to a German win effectively repelling the Soviet attack.

I hardly ever play Soviets, and in a look at the battle afterward I reasoned a consolidated attack to the road on the German right may have provided the critical mass of armor needed to sway the victory. The German anti-tank guns had effectively pinned the center, and a replay with T-34s massing to one side may have provided just enough of a steel wall to allow the other tanks to move to the objective instead of dying in the open. With our largest IABSM battle played out over several hours, we thought having a crack at one of the other Eastern Front scenarios would be worth it to test if Soviet metal might prevail over the German invaders on another day.

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: Cabourg June 6, 1944 Scenario

LandingatOmahaOn the morning of the Normandy Landings of June 6, 1944, taking the eastern sector of Omaha Beach fell to the United States 1st Infantry Division. Despite some missed targeted landing zones on the beach and heavy losses at the far ends, the exit “draws” were largely secured by mid-morning. As additional troops and supplies began to arrive, the push inland began.

Omaha to CobourgMap of the US push to Cabourg from Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944

(via US Army Center of Military History)

Moving toward the objective of Colleville-sur-Mer, probing forces from the 1st Infantry Division pressed forward through the seaside fields of Normandy and began to encounter German defenders in various states of disarray. Tired from the fighting at the beach, the first group of Americans on patrol moved cautiously into Cabourg from the north and east while the German force scrambled to hold against any additional headway by the invaders. WhereTheHell After a couple of month hiatus, we jumped back into a 15mm World War II game at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY this past weekend centering on the action at Cabourg. Using the I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules and a post-D-Day scenario from the Where The Hell Have You Been Boys? book, all from Too Fat Lardies, our table was set to show the American advance and German defense at Cabourg.

IMG_4940Initial advance of US forces on blinds from the east and north toward Cabourg

Playing on the US side, my partner and I divided our force of three rifle platoons under blinds plus three false blinds. I swung two platoons and a false blind directly at the village from the east while my teammate took the other two false blinds and a single platoon around to the north behind a copse of trees. The mass of US blinds hiding a force only half the actual size provided a great simulation of the confusion the Germans felt that morning as they also lay hidden in and around the village in defense.

IMG_4941US forces near Cabourg on blinds from the east

IMG_4942The first US forces are revealed beyond a wood north of Cabourg

After a couple turns of US movement and prodding for Germans outside the town, the Germans spotted the Americans moving cautiously to the north. With two false blinds exposed, the third American blind revealed a rifle platoon armed with a mortar and two officers present. A false blind was also revealed near a farm at the eastern edge of the town as the Germans continued to burn up turn actions trying to find out where the Americans actually were.

IMG_4943American and German forces simultaneously surprise each other near the farm

IMG_4944A close assault erupts in the woods behind the barn

In close proximity to each other to the rear of a barn at the farm, US and German blinds were exposed nearly simultaneously with American gunfire tearing into the outnumbered Germans. A close assault at a hedgerow quickly pushed the first German fire team to the rear and out the action for the game. The remainder of the German platoon stayed to continue on firing from within the first barn and a hede nearby.

IMG_4945The final American blind is exposed just north of the farm

IMG_4946Americans give and take fire at a hedgerow

On the other side of the farm, the final American blind revealed another rifle platoon hunkered behind a hedge lining a road to town. At long-range, shots were exchanged between German defenders in and around the barn and the Americans now shooting from both sides of the barn. The action at the east end of Cabourg settled into a stalemate of fire across the fields and around the barns.

IMG_4947US forces inch toward Cabourg across hedges and fields from the north

IMG_4949US forces stall out to the northeast of Cabourg

Back to the north of town, the lone US platoon on the moved cautiously along a road and over fields, fences and hedgerows. With the Americans creeping toward Cabourg, the Germans opened up with MG 42s positioned in an upper story of a second barn and from the garret of a farmhouse near the entry road to town. With a cross-fire of heavy machine gun pouring into the Americans at the north and east, the US advance stalled somewhat until something could be done about the German fire ripping from building windows.

IMG_4948The remnants of the first German rifle platoon look to reposition to cover

IMG_4950Americans move to assault the German machine guns at the second barn

Back at the two barns, one US platoon swung around to the rear of the barn to assault the German machine gun crew inside. With the MG 42 crew thrown back into a retreat from the barn, the surviving German rifles on the other side of the barn retreated from fire into a nearby house. Firing from their new position, the Germans stalled the Americans pushing around the barns to the village. At the same time, the other MG 42 continued to fire into the other US platoon now pinned with dwindling numbers behind a hedge.

IMG_4951German reserves arrive late in the day to defend against the American push from the north

As the engagement progressed late into the scenario, the game’s referee announced the arrival of reserves on both sides. From the west, a fresh German rifle platoon joined the fight at the road and tree line at the northern edge of town. At full strength, two German platoons focused fire on the lone American platoon which had so cautiously moved toward that end of the village. Taking casualties, the shrinking US force began to fall back over the hedges and fields from where they had just come.

On the far end of the table, three more American platoons arrived from the beach to the east. Looking to advance quickly on the road straight toward town, the US reserves just couldn’t get in the fight fast enough. With the US forces already near Cabourg greatly reduced and in retreat to defensive positions, the game was called with the Germans holding Cabourg from the American assault.

At Normandy in 1944, the result was the same and the German defense halted the US advance which broke off by mid afternoon. The IABSM scenario at Cabourg is a great illustration of the dozens of small inland battles which raged after the morning’s landings along the Normandy coast over 70 years ago, and we’ll be returning to more follow-up actions in the weeks to come.

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: Panzer Lehr Counterattack Campaign – ‘Morning of the 902nd’ July 11, 1944 Scenario

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The battle near Hauts-Vents was a two-day affair between the US infantry and armored forces and German Panzer Lehr Division. After a day of intense combat on July 10, 1944, US forces were warned of local movements of the 902 Panzer Grenadier Regiment toward Hauts-Vents. With a German counterattack expected in the early morning hours of the next day, American infantry and armor prepared for a defensive fight under the cover of darkness and foggy, damp weather among the dense bocage hedgerows and under cover of the strong French buildings.

HVJuly44MapMap of the battle at Hauts-Vents, July 11, 1944

(via US Army Center of Military History)

After a first game loss at Hauts-Vents by the Germans, we continued our campaign at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY this past week. The second game from the “Panzer Lehr Counterattack” mini campaign from the Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr scenario book from Skirmish Campaigns is called ‘Morning of the 902nd.’ The game uses the same terrain set-up as the first scenario, but this time focuses on the German attempt to recapture Hauts-Vents on July 11 after losing key objectives to the Americans the day before. The game begins under pre-dawn darkness over wet ground with US platoons in hidden positions at the north end of the table and the Germans advancing under blinds from the hill position to the south. The Germans must retake the field by capturing two of the three objective buildings at the center town.

IMG_4251Germans deploy on blinds looking to take back the town

IMG_4253Germans blinds rush forward and immediately hit a minefield

IMG_4254A German platoon encounters a minefield and takes heavy casualties

The German advanced on blinds from Hill 91, making a hasty frontal push straight for the town. On the German left, mechanized Grenadiers mounted in Sd. Kfz 251s roared their engines and drove straight into a minefield at the bocage at the bottom of the valley outside town. Making matters worse, American machine guns hiding in the dense hedge sprayed the German line with fire. German infantry and half tracks fired back, destroying one US machine gun team and forcing a retreat of the other to the center of town. At the end of the firefight, the German commanding officer escaped but three fire teams in one platoon took heavy damage, forcing them to fall back.

IMG_4256The German Panzer IV column exposes two Shermans behind a farmhouse

IMG_4255The lead German Panzer IV is destroyed, blocking the road

IMG_4312Panzer IVs switch routes, making for the American flank

On the German right, things didn’t go much better. A column of Panzer IVs drove on the main road for town, accompanied by a a Grenadier platoon closing in on a farmhouse they had lost the previous day. Waiting hidden at the stone cottage were two M4 Shermans which opened fire at the lead Panzer at close range , leaving it a burning hulk blocking the road forward. Closing in from behind, Grenadiers ran to engage the tanks with a Panzerfaust shot on their rear armor. Several turns of fire were exchanged between the Shermans and Panzer IV second in line as the two rear Panzers reversed direction back to the fork in the road. A few rounds later both Shermans were destroyed, and the surviving three Panzer IVs and the unharmed Grenadiers were heading for the east side of the town.

IMG_4313Panzer IVs and Grenadiers move on the US left and expose a Sherman platoon at an objective

The Germans continued their advance up the road on the US left, looking to flank the town. The three Panzer IVs were slowed over the barbed wire blocking the road, and one bogged for the remainder of the action in soggy ground. German infantry spotted a Sherman platoon camped out around one of the objectives and then ran over and around the bocage looking to avoid fire in the field beyond.

IMG_4314US Wolverines take aim at a German Panzer III flame tank in the open

IMG_4316US and German armor exchange fire, leaving a Wespe, Panzer III and M10 Wolverine in flames

Two remaining German blinds rolled to the field as US tank destroyer M10 Wolverines appeared behind the bocage at the town. The blinds revealed themselves as a Panzer III flame tank and Sd. Kfz. 124 Wespe and both turned to engage the Wolverines. Two quick shots from the flame tank failed to harm the open-topped Wolverines which returned fire and blew up the Panzer III. The German’s mobile gun fired back, destroying one of the Wolverines before subsequently being wrecked by US anti-tank fire. With German armor burning in the field, the Grenadiers continued to sprint over the open area and looked to swing into the town from the rear.

IMG_4317Flares illuminate the town objectives and German mechanized Grenadiers push forward

Back on the German left, several Grenadier platoons on foot and mounted in their half tracks moved to the US left in the town as the early morning darkness was lit up with a flare. Two fresh American rifle platoons revealed their positions in two of the objective buildings and gunfire was exchanged with the German platoons moving toward the town. Despite their cover in the stone building, the combined arms fire from the Germans ousted one US platoon from their building and the other took steady damage.IMG_4318Panzer IVs destroy the final M10 Wolverine as German infantry rush to flank the town from the rear

On the other side of town the two functioning Panzer IVs rolled across the field, shooting at and destroying the last American tank killer. Under continued cover from their Panzers, the Grenadier platoon continued slipping across the field, climbing over the bocage and looping around to the American rear.

IMG_4319A direct hit from Germany artillery arrives in the middle of the American position

With German infantry looking to encircle the town and two Panzers wheeling to engage the Shermans at the center of town, a German artillery barage hit dead center amid the objective buildings. As the smoke cleared, only two Shermans remained fully operational and the surviving US rifle platoons were on the run. As early morning light began to break, the Americans heard encroaching German voices from the hedgerows from every side of the town. The Panzer Lehr counterattack had been a success, and the Americans chose to cut their losses, regroup and fight again.

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: Panzer Lehr Counterattack Campaign – ‘Hauts-Vents’ July 10, 1944 Scenario

NearStLo

Although the Panzer Lehr Division was held out of action during the Allied D-Day landing at Normandy in June 1944 , they would go on to provide a number of important defensive, delaying and counterattack actions in the months following. They first distinguished themselves in the days immediately after, throwing up a hasty defense at Caen against encroaching British and Canadian forces. After battles at Tilly-sur-Seulles and Villers Bocage in mid-to-late June, the vastly depleted Panzer Lehr Division was called out of the fight. With only a short time to regroup, the war-worn division was ordered west to countetattack he Allied inland progress toward Saint-Lo. While the June battles had run the Germans up against British Commonwealth forces, the July engagements in the hilly fields and bocage-lined roads would be against the armored and infantry forces of the United States.

PLCounterattackJul44Map

Map of the Panzer Lehr Division counterattack in July 1944

(via US Army Center of Military History)

For a few months now at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, we’ve been playing a fair amount of I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules system for World War II. After a number of one-offs and our recent North of Caen game, we finally decided to jump into a mini campaign focusing on the Allied push inland toward St Lo and the German defense following the D-Day landings in  Normandy in June 1944.

SCHeroesofOmahaSkirmish Campaigns  “Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr” scenario book

For our campaign, we’re using the classic Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr scenario book from Skirmish Campaigns. The Skirmish Campaigns series of books offers well-researched and detailed campaign scenarios full of detailed orders of battle, terrain layout maps and deeply descriptive narrative of how actual engagements unfolded during World War II. With just a little bit of work, the Skirmish Campaigns scenarios are easily adaptable to a variety of wargaming rules and scales including Battleground, Bolt Action, Flames of War and I Ain’t Been Shot Mum.

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Scenario set-up with two small houses as objectives at the middle of the table set amid rolling hills, small farms and thick bocage

The scenario at Hauts-Vents is set up on a long table with hills rolling into a valley from either end. Roads cross the table among fields lined with heavy bocage hedgerows. At the center of the table are two farmhouse objectives that are the focus of the US mission. All German platoons are deployed on blinds nearly everywhere on the table, accepting the northeast corner from which the US advance begins.

My Germans deployed on blinds with a Pak 40, a Sdkfz 10/1 and an artillery spotter for the off-board 105mm artillery deployed around a farmhouse atop Hill 91 on the southern end of the table. German rifle platoons armed with Panzerfausts deployed in blinds in and around the objective farmhouses. One platoon also had a MG42 and another contained a Panzerschrek anti-tank team. To block the predicted US advance, one road was blocked with barbed wire and another was laid with mines.

The American blinds moved in straight in column along the road sloping down toward the valley. Heading the advance was a US recon platoon led by an M8 Greyhound armored car. Three platoons of mechanized infantry loaded up in half tracks and a platoon of Sherman tanks fell into line behind.

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A US recon Greyhound at the head of the column exposes barbed wire laid to block passage on the road to the objectives

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The recon unit moves to overlook the German position near the objective house as US half tracks roll into position

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 German infantry move out of the house to engage the US infantry

IMG_4213Fire from German Panzerfausts destroy two half tracks and their passengers

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Germans use their last Panzerfausts to destroy the remaining half track and its crew

The first few turns progressed quickly with the US column moving down the road under blinds while the Germans quietly defended from concealed positions. The lead Greyhound revealed the barbed wire blocking the road, forcing the first platoon of half tracks off the road toward the first objective. Closing in on the house, the German position was revealed and the Germans quickly destroyed two half tracks and their mounted infantry with shots from Panzerfausts. In subsequent turns, the US commander jumped from his vehicle and was followed in by the final half track which was also destroyed. With the lone US commander in the position, the Germans assaulted taking casualties before eliminating all Americans from the disastrous head-on assault on the objective.

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 The column of US Shermans and infantry mounted in half tracks rush down the road

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German 105mm artillery rains in from off the table wreaking havoc on the US column

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A German Pak 40 and Sdkfz 10/1 break their cover on Hill 91 to engage the paralyzed American column

As the first platoon of US infantry fell, the remainder of the column ran into problems of their own. The Shermans attempted a push into the field off the road but two of the three quickly bogged in the rain-soaked ground. With the Shermans stalled and the rest of the column bunched-up on the road, an off-board German 105mm artillery barrage made a direct hit to the US line. As a result, the tanks took severe damage to their sights, main guns and mobility. Infantry jumped from their half tracks and one platoon took immediate fire from German MG42s hidden in the bocage across the nearby field. As the Americans desperately attempted to spread out and move to cover, additional rounds of fire from the Pak 40 and Sdkfz 10/1 on the far hill continued to pour shots into the remnants of the burning US column.

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 US reinforcements arrive at the house and advance on the defending German left

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Germans attempt to hold the flank at the objective

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Smoke is laid down in front of the German position on Hill 91 to cover the US advance

IMG_4245A late game push up Hill 91 by the US Greyhound leaves it in flames

The survivors from the US column swiftly moved to position themselves for another round of assaults on the German position. Two surviving Shermans unbogged and rolled to position along the bocage, destroying the MG42 positions along the way. US infantry rushed in along both flanks of the German survivors at the farmhouse who were quickly reduced to a single operable fire team. US mortars followed up with a directly aimed smoke bombardment in front of the German guns on the hill, providing invaluable cover for the American ground advance. Pressure from the advancing Greyhound forced the Sdkfz 10/1 to fall back late in the game. As the armored car breached the crest of the hill, a quick shot from the Pak 40 eliminated it. Unfortunately for the Germans, this was one of their last bits of glory for the game.

IMG_4242German defenders get routed at the first objective during close assault and fall back

IMG_4243The last platoon of German defenders get spotted at the second objective

IMG_4244The final objective falls to the Americans as the German defenders are caught in combined infantry and artillery fire

Back at the two objectives, the US moved hard toward victory. A close assault at the first house sent the survivors of two German fire teams running for the rear with heavy casualties and all but eliminated from the game. With that, one lone German platoon was exposed at the second house objective, and all US focus turned toward them. Two turns of heavy US artillery strikes and small arms fire from the bocage across the road laid waste to all but a few of the last Germans holding out. With the US Shermans still working their way on the German left and US infantry closing on the front, my Germans threw up their hands in defeat.

The first day of battle at Hauts-Vents went to the Americans, but as dark was drawing near, another battle was already looming before dawn as more Germans rushed to the defense.