Battleground: Brecourt Manor 1944 Scenario

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This year’s 71st anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 didn’t get the same attention as last year’s full weekend of D-Day gaming at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. Even so, a few of us did come together for a quick run through a gamer favorite small-scale battle at Brecourt Manor.

101stABDDaydropsDrop zones of the US 101st Airborne on June 6, 1944 and the area around Brecourt Manor (circled in red)

Made famous in more recent years in the hit HBO series Band Of Brothers, the action at Brecourt Manor by a couple dozen men from the US 101st Airborne has long been a favorite for military historians and a textbook example of a small-scale assault on a heavily defended position. With four 105mm howitzers firing on Utah Beach, the German gunners were defended in a series of shallow trenches by several MG42 heavy machine guns and a number of infantry. Through surprise and quick movement through the trenches, the US Airborne quickly took the position and disabled the German guns.

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Skirmish Campaigns  “Normandy ’44 – First Hours” scenario book

For our replay of Brecourt Manor, we turned to the classic Normandy ’44 – First Hours scenario book from Skirmish Campaigns. The Skirmish Campaigns series of books offers well-researched and detailed campaign scenarios filled with orders of battle, terrain layout maps and deeply descriptive narrative of how actual engagements unfolded during World War II. Adaptable to a number of rules systems, the scenario as outlined in the book scaled nicely to our game. Using most of my recently painted 28mm German and US troops and classic Battleground WWII skirmish rules, we were set to replay Brecourt Manor.

IMG_6025The 101st Airborne plot their assault on Brecourt Manor

Two players split their command as the US Airborne and set their battle plans before my Germans deployed in the trench system. Beginning German positions were defined by four gun emplacements each crewed by a team of five rifle-armed gunners and an officer. I also placed three MG42s at different points in the trench lines and one patrolling battery command squad of four riflemen and two officers deployed at the western end of the position.

IMG_6027Germans sit at the ready in their positions at Brecourt Manor

The Americans moved first, slowly deploying a .30 cal machine gun crew from behind the farmhouse at the northwest corner of the table. Directly to the north, a bazooka team crept into position behind a copse of trees with two fire teams behind the nearby hedgerows in support. To the west and toward the south, the other two US fire teams set up and moved toward the German lines, also under cover of the thick bocage.

IMG_6026105mm gun crews stand at the ready

Spotting the American bazooka team to the north, I quickly redeployed one of my machine guns to hold back the advance on that side of my position. Not waiting to get their machine gun in place, the Americans advanced on two sides and took heavy fire to their fire teams leaving them pinned in place. Hoping to pin down the Germans at the strongly defended north and western edges of the position, the US machine gun attempted to lay down a stream of fire but jammed is the trigger was pulled on its first shot of the day.

IMG_6029A 105mm gun position is destroyed by an American bazooka

Even under fire, the US bazooka team managed to get into place and a shot destroyed the northernmost howitzer, killing one German gunner and suppressing most of the rest of the gun team. On the western side, another of my redeployed machine guns was instantly spotted and raked with American gunfire and all but knocked out of the rest of the game. With only one MG42 left in the western trench line, a US Airborne team moved with over confidence toward making their first assault. The foolhardy bravery of the Americans was met with combined arms fire from my remaining MG42, rifles at the gun position and shots from the command squad. When the smoke cleared, one American fire team was left with just one man standing and the other had been briefly pinned.

IMG_6028   US Airborne units ready for a close assault at Brecourt Manor

By turn three, the American machine gunners cleared their jam and were finally able to lay down strafing fire along the entire western edge of the German trenches. With bullets whizzing overhead, the Germans were forced to the ground and the remaining Airborne came over the hedge and made way for the German howitzer. The Airborne soldiers poured into the German gun position and hand-to-hand combat ensued leaving two Germans and two Americans dead in the melee. With no clear victory in the first close combat of the day, the Americans bounced out of the German position, pulling back toward the hedges from where they had just come.

Back to the north, the American bazooka team had been cut to just one man who had retreated under heavy fire. One other US rifle team at the north had been eliminated, and the last had been whittled to just two injured men. With just a few rattled troops strung along two sides of the field, the US Airborne retreated and left three guns ready to continue raining shells on the beaches in the distance.

What the scenario showed us, as it did on the actual day some 71 years ago, was the importance the US machine gunners in a tight assault like the one at Brecourt Manor. Met with a larger, more well-defended German force, the American machine guns were the equalizer in real life. Had the American soldiers on our tabletop focused their assault after pinning the German defenders, our game this month may very well have gone the way of history with another victory in the hedgerows of Normandy.

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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: 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.

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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.

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: North of Caen 1944 Scenario

BritsCaen1944The city of Caen presented a big target during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. One of the larger cities in the region of the invasion, it also occupied an important series of crossroads straddling the Orne River. Less than ten miles from the British Commonwealth forces landing zone of Sword Beach, Caen was a target for British and Canadians wading ashore on June 6th. Despite a relatively easy landing at the beach, Allies with their eye on Caen were met with a hastily-organized armored counterattack from the German 21st Panzer Division. By the end of the day, the British sat just halfway to their objective and Caen remained in Axis control.

CaenMap1944Map of the Battle for Caen, July 8-9 1944

Over the next two months, the area around Caen became a bogged-down front as Anglo-Canadian forces positioned themselves around the city. The eventual capture of the city on August 6th was costly for all involved. The ancient city was nearly leveled with Allied bombing campaigns and much of the French civilian population fled. The British forces suffered around 50,000 casualties, a devastating loss of men and equipment for British commander Bernard Montgomery. With the costly British victory, it had achieved not only the occupation of Caen but had also provided an enormous distraction for German forces which suffered even greater losses than the Allies.

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This past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, a couple of us ran through a non-historical scenario typical of the British-Germany engagements just north of Caen in early July 1944. The “North of Caen” scenario is provided in the basic rule book for I Ain’t Been Shot Mum, the fantastic company-level World War II game that has fast become a favorite for some of us at the club.

Caen1British infantry advance through an orchard under blinds north of Caen

The small infantry engagement is set in the fictional hamlet of Le Moulin on a table of flat, open terrain with fields, orchards, low hedge rows and five stone buildings set at a crossroads. The game begins with three British infantry platoons entering from the north under blinds after an initial off-board artillery bombardment of the Germans dug under in around the farm and crossroads. The objective of the game is for the Germans to eliminate the British advance while the British are tasked with seizing four of the five buildings or otherwise eliminating the German troops.

Caen2A British rifle platoon takes heavy German MG42 fire and is pinned behind a barn

Following my initial bombardment, my British advanced under blinds for a few turns through the orchard northeast of the crossroads. The German blinds positioned themselves in a wood at the crossroads and in a small orchard southwest of the hamlet. Three of my blinds moved toward cover to my left behind a barn while my third false blind moved toward the road. My first blind was spotted behind the barn by a German platoon armed with three rifle sections and a deadly MG42. With the Germans deploying in a nearby barn and within the orchard, they opened up on the British rifles. With not enough cover behind the small barn, one British rifle section was all but eliminated in the first round of fire.

Caen4A British platoon runs bravely under a blind across an open field between two barns

The British survivors behind the barn returned fire, firing their rifles and 2″ mortar into the Germans in the orchards and nearby barn. In the meantime, my false blind was revealed as a second British platoon slipped to the hedge to the other side of the barn. Firing at the Germans from each side of the barn, the MG42 was forced to retreat back south of the crossroads. But the damage had been done to my first platoon at the barn, and two fire teams fell back to the orchard leaving one safely inside the barn. Sensing a brief opening, my final blind sprinted across the wide open field between the barn.

Caen3The British blind is exposed, take fire and break for hedge in the distance

Midway through the field, the German rifles in the second barn spotted and revealed my blind, slowing their run and forcing them to deploy in the open. The final German blind revealed itself among the buildings west of the crossroads. My fresh British platoon hopped the hedges and likewise crossed to the west of the road, opening fire at the Germans in the building just the other side of a small orchard. Subsequent turns of fire were exchanged and my British losses started to pile up on my right.

Back at the field on the British left, combined rifle and mortar fire poured into the Germans in the barn. Despite shock stocking up on the Germans, their position in the barn allowed great enough cover allowing them to slowly begin wearing down the exposed British platoon which became pinned from movement. With British taking losses to the right and less against well-protected Germans in the heavy stone buildings, it was not working out as a good day for the British who ceded the tiny hamlet to the Germans. More costly days were to come after this day just north of Caen, but a month off there would be victory for the British.