Battleground: Advance to La Fiere 1944 Scenario

LaFiereAerialAllied airborne troops were the first units on the ground in the pre-dawn hours of June 6th, 1944 invasion of Normandy. As the vanguard ahead of the massive beach landings to come on D-Day, the inland goals of the paratroopers was to secure key inland areas and deny German reinforcements a path to the coast. Members of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division were tasked with seizing a bridge over the Merderet River at La Fiere and just west of Sainte-Mère-Église.

LaFiereMapMap of the action around La Fiere, June 6-9 1944

There to meet the arriving Americans were elements of the German 1057th Infantry Regiment of the 91st Infantry Division. For three days, German resistance amid the open fields, bocage hedgerows and scattered stone Normandy buildings held out against the elite US airborne troops. By July 9th, however, the Germans withdrew and the way was cleared as Allied troops began to arrive inland from the beaches.

IMG_6037Skirmish Campaigns  “Normandy ’44 – First Hours” scenario book

I’ve previously run a 15mm Flames of War scenario at La Fiere, so I was excited to scale up the battle to 28mm at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY this past weekend. Our game at La Fiere once again came from the classic Normandy ’44 – First Hours scenario book from Skirmish Campaigns, and we used Battleground rules. The Skirmish Campaigns series offers narratives, orders of battle and terrain layout maps that are brief and to the point, focusing on getting into the game as quickly as possible. For our game at La Fiere, we modified the order of battle and added in my newly-painted Rubicon Models Sherman tank for the US and a German anti-tank unit I’ve also recently completed. The rest of our forces came from my collection of 28mm German and US troops painted over the past year.

IMG_6699Table set up and initial German deployment at La Fiere

At the 28mm scale, we increased the tabletop set-up to a 4′ x 4′ board accommodating two main bocage-lined east-west roads, fields and a large stone house. With an American objective to seize the house, the Germans set-up with an infantry team and light machine gun in a line of trenches stretching through the main field. The German command set-up in the top floor of the house with a tripod-mounted MG 42 and anti-tank unit armed with a Panzershreck and Panzerfausts ready to deploy from the rear of the building. Two small anti-personnel mine fields were also set — one to the east of the house and one protecting the northern end of the German prepared positions.

IMG_6701Entrenched German troops and machine guns shift to meet the arriving Americans

With a game time limit of ten turns, the game began with the US being given the initiative as the Germans lay quietly in wait. The Americans took the first two turns to move on from the far edge of the table to the east and their deployment quickly revealed their plan. To their right, a M1 mortar crew set up behind a tree with their spotter creeping to the edge of the bocage to sight German targets across the field. Next, a .30-calibre machine gun team  set up at the hedgerow, followed by the HQ and a parachute rifle squad all stretched along the thick hedge. Across the road at the American left, one additional rifle squad moved in along the road with their Sherman rolling in support.

IMG_6700US paratroopers advance at the bocage hedgerows supported by a Sherman

Clearly the US plan was to lock down the German forces in their prepared positions with combined mortar, machine gun and infantry fire as the infantry would push through the open field toward the house objective. All the while, the balance of the Americans would creep toward the house using their tank for cover and intimidation. The mortar team confirmed the plan by launching two smoke rounds into the wide field at the end of the second turn, providing drifting cover for the next two turns.

IMG_6706German machine gunners take heavy fire from the American rifles

With the tank’s position revealed at the road, my Germans quickly moved their anti-tank squad around the house through turn three and lay in wait behind the bocage. The Germans also redeployed their tripod-mounted MG 42 to the far right of the trench to stave off the American advance in the field. The German advantage lay solely in their defensive positions, and all they had to do was survive. The Americans were going to have to abandon cover early in the game, but they superior numbers, elite troops and better weapons. Plus, the airborne had a tank.

IMG_6703The Sherman rolls down the road

There were few targets for the Germans soldiers to shoot at through turn four, and they had difficulty spotting through the smoke and distance across the field. The American machine gunners managed to lay down steady fire each turn, forcing some Germans into prone positions, wounding others but not scoring any kills. The American plan shows signs of unraveling early on as the mortar began failing to repeatedly to sight and range in effectively on any German targets in the trenches.

IMG_6705Confident US soldiers make for the open as their tank protects their left

The only other alternative for the Americans was to simply start pushing across the field in the open. With the heavy German machine guns at their center and right jamming and the crew taking fire, the US airborne began a slow advance by turns five and six. Infantry fire from the US included three dice from each Thompson submachine gun and two dice for every M1 rifle. As the paratroopers closed in, grenades were also thrown and knocked the German tripod MG 42 out of commission. All the Germans could answer with were single dice from their rifles and three dice for submachine gun shots from the officers, all in fewer numbers than the larger US squads.

IMG_6702German anti-tank weapons move to meet the advancing American airborne and supporting tank

Across the road, the second American rifle squad crept along on either side of the bocage with the tank rattling along beside them. As the first troops closed near the house, the first minefield was exposed but no Americans were injured as they continued on at a slower pace. Their delay allowed the German anti-tank crew to move into position, firing a few rifle and submachine gun shots along the way at the airborne tip-toeing around the mines. With the tank finally in sight, the Sherman opened up with opportunity fire from its hull, turret and top-mounted .50-calibre machine guns. Under a hail of bullets, the anti-tank crew went prone and took light wounds, disallowing their planned shot at the tank for the turn. By the sixth turn, the assistant gunner was able to crawl to the injured Panzershreck and deliver a crippling shot to the tank’s front track. Rolling for morale after the hit, the American crew rolled a ’20’ — the worst possible outcome — and fled their tank and the field.

IMG_6704German troops hold fast against continued fire from the Americans

With the tank out of the battle, the airborne infantry were left alone to do the job. At the seventh turn, the first US troops to close on the building were mowed down under heavy fire from the German HQ inside the building. The German survivors in the field trenches held out against three waves of US advances. In the open and with no heavy support, the Americans were eaten up in the field despite their superior training and weapons. Against the odds, the German forces had thrown back the US airborne’s advance on La Fiere.

Playing a 28mm battle with the Battleground skirmish rules gives an incredible amount of detailed feel to the game. Wounds, suppression, weapon jams, moving, loading, spotting, morale checks, cover and troop quality all intertwine to effect each figure individually as they contribute to the overall mission of their force. Under battle conditions, unlikely things — like mortars being completely useless or a tank crew fleeing the field– can and did happen. In our game, a well-laid plan by a superior American force was thwarted by Germans who just kept hanging on as the dice went their way.

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28mm: German Anti-Tank Weapons And Command By Artizan Designs

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After a few months taking a break from painting, I came back to my 28mm World War II Germans by adding some anti-tank weapons and command figures.

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I’ve been so pleased with the German infantry from my first and second platoons using models from Artizan Designs that I returned to their miniatures again to round out my collection. The panzerfaust and panzerschreck teams gave a nice mix of poses on the move and in firing positions. Likewise, the command molds make for a nice grouping including a radio operator and a stern officer with battle plans in one hand and the other hand planted confidently on his hip.

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As always, the Artizan figures required little flash clean up before being glued to metal washers. Here’s my battle-tested steps in detail for painting my latest Germans.

Painting 28mm German Infantry

  1. Clean flash from metal models with a sharp knife and glue to metal washer or plastic bases.
  2. Apply filler putty to bases. When dry, scrape off excess with a sharp knife.
  3. Basecoat models and bases with flat black spray primer.
  4. Paint smocks and helmets with Tallarn Sand.
  5. Paint pants, soft hats, officer greatcoat and gas mask containers with Skavenlight Dinge.
  6. Paint camouflage on helmets and smocks with alternating Waaagh! Flesh and Dark Brown.
  7. Paint faces and hands with Tallarn Flesh.
  8. Paint packs with Baneblade Brown.
  9. Paint boots and equipment straps Black.
  10. Paint bases, gun stocks, water bottles and helmet straps with Dark Brown.
  11. Apply Agrax Earthshade wash to uniforms, helmet netting, webbing and packs.
  12. Mix 50/50 Baneblade Brown and Off White and lightly dry brush packs, webbing, socks and holsters.
  13. Dry brush pants, soft hats and officer great coat with Light Grey.
  14. Lightly dry brush bases and gun stocks with Baneblade Brown.
  15. Paint metal gun and water bottle parts with black and finish with a light dry brush of Metallic Silver.
  16. Dry brush gasmask containers with metallic Silver.
  17. Paint eyes with small dots of Off White and Dark Brown. Clean up around eyes with Tallarn Flesh.
  18. Mix 50/50 Tallarn Flesh and Off White and brush highlights on cheekbones, chins, forehead, nose and hands.
  19. Cover bases in white glue and cover in 50/50 mix of fine light green and dark green grass flock.
  20. Glue small pieces of clump foliage to base.
  21. Spray coat completed models with matte finish.

So, with some simple steps I’ve got a bit more punch and leadership for my Germans as they hit the table soon.

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Flames of War: Fielding the PSC German Heavy Weapons and FOW Artillery Command

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After focusing on my Flames of War (FOW) Allied forces for a while, I decided to throw some energy back into beefing-up and diversifying my late war Germans. Although my German troops seldom see play, getting some infantry punch on the table led me to a number of mortar and other support weapons platoons the FOW rules offer.

Battlefront, the maker of FOW, has a number of good platoons which run anywhere from about $12-20 each. Having recently tried my hand at the Allied Stuart Tank set from the growing line of 15mm WWII kits from the Plastic Soldier Company (PSC), I spotted the Late War German Heavy Weapons box. At around $25, the set looked to be an excellent and economic way to get a lot more German infantry on the table at perhaps a quarter to one-third the cost of the official FOW models.

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The PSC box comes with four MG 42 teams, four 8 cm mortar teams, four 12 cm mortar teams, eight Panzerschrecks and eight Panzerfausts. Also included are four Panzerschreck loaders and four ammo carriers. With about 70 bits on the sprues, this set was going to add a lot of action to my already extensive German infantry collection.

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Cutting out and gluing-up the tiny pieces from the PSC sprues is a bit of nerve-racking task harkening back to my early years wrangling with assembling soft plastic HO scale Airfix soldiers. That said, following PSC’s simple assembly diagram (above) and keeping all the parts carefully organized on the workbench is key to getting the job done right and not losing anything along the way. Flames of War rules call for basing Panzerschreck teams in groups of four miniatures per medium stand, allowing for four total teams to be constructed from the PSC set with two Panzershrecks plus a loader and ammo carrier per team. The 8 cm mortar and MG teams likewise went on medium bases and the big 12 cm mortar teams were glued-up on larger bases. I had a few extra plastic FOW Germans on hand from a bonus promotional sprue I received from the Open Fire! box set, and adding those to the 12 cm mortar stands helped finished those off.

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With a bunch of new mortars in the field, I also needed to add some additional command and spotters to make them playable. FOW offers an artillery command headquarters blister pack which I added to the mix. The set comes with enough models that I was able to create three two-man spotting teams, a few command stands (adding in Panzerfausts from the PSC kit) and a nifty HQ vignette with a four figures surrounding a table with a radio operator.

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Painting Germans is a simple process for me with a base spraycoat in flat black followed by a darkish grey uniform and details picked out in flesh, blacks, browns and gun metal. The stands get finished off with some simple grass flocking and a matte varnish spray. Getting a consistent finish on the PSC models made them blend in nicely with my FOW models.

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For comparison’s sake, the PSC figures do tend to be a tad smaller and thinner than the typically-chunky FOW figures. Since most my PSC figures are being fielded on separate stands, I don’t see the minor scale differences being an issue at arm’s length on the tabletop battlefield. In addition, the extra poses in the PSC casting add some nice variety and animation in the troops once deployed.

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IMG_2217My FOW German force has long-relied on the strength of deploying large numbers of tanks in my games, so these new additions should be a nice compliment to getting more action from my German infantry. Now that it’s fall, I’m anxious to rush my new PSC and FOW Germans to the tables at Metropolitan Wargamers in Park Slope, Brooklyn and add a new season of playablity to my battleworn forces.