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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Just because I'm losing doesn't mean I've lost - Gazala - June 1942 (Roadblock)

A Mid War Roadblock in the Western Desert that is down to the wire.

[quote]Following the break down of the Gazala defensive line Rommel's Afrika Korps surrounded Tobruk and started to break in and even had tanks as far as Tobruk itself. Maj. Gen. Klopper of the 2nd South African Division was the Fortress Commander but was undecided if he should take a stand or retreat. Finally he decided that little could be achieved through further prolonged resistance and ordered all units to cease fire and lay down their arms.

This order was received with general amazement and disbelief by many. The 201 Guards brigade had been move into Tobruk to stiffen its defenses and Maj. Sainthill of the 2nd Coldstream Guards led 199 men and they fought their way out adding stragglers along their way.[/quote]

The battle played was Roadblock as Maj. Sainthill and his force attempt to ambush and stop the advance of an Italian detachment that is in pursuit.

[quote][b]FORCES

Coldstream Guards

Coldstream

[i]Nulli Secundus[/i]
Infantry Company
2th Company 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards
8 Platoons (34 teams, 9 Tanks)
1500 points
Tobruk, June 1942, Gazala


COMPANY HQ – 85

Major Sainthill (C/V)
2iC – Mortar Section 2 mortars
Total 85 (2 Rifle, 2 mortars)
Guards

COMBAT PLATOONS – 535

1st Motor Platoon (C/V)
3 Motor Sqd, 3 x AT Rifle, Sticky Bombs
Total 185 (4 MG, 3 x AT rifle) Guards

Scout Plt (C/V)
3 x UC Guards
Total 100 (3 Tanks)

Motor Machine-Gun Plt C/V
1 Machine-Gun Section
Guards
Total 85 (1 rifle, 2 guns)

2nd Motor Platoon (C/V)
3 Motor Sqd, 2 x AT Rifle, Sticky Bombs
Total 165 (4 MG, 2 x AT rifle) Guards

WEAPONS PLATOON - 200

Motor Anti-Tank Platoon
4 x 6 pdr, Sticky bombs
Total 200 Guards

SUPPORT PLATOONS – 680

Light Armoured Troop
3 x Crusader II
1st Armd Confident/Trained
Total 155

Heavy Armoured Troop
3 x Grants
1st Armd Confident/Trained
Total 280

Royal Horse Artillery
1 Gun Troop with 4 OQF 25pdr
Fearless/Veteran
Total 245



Squadrone Esplorante
Regio Esercito 132° Divisione Corazzata 'Ariete'
2/ Compagnia III battalion "Lancieri di Novara"

Lancieri di Novara Ariete

Ferrea mole, ferreo cuore
Mechanised Company
7 Platoons (20 teams, 21 tanks)
1495 points
Tobruk, June 1942


COMPANY HQ – 60

Capitano Lucchini C/T
L6/40 (CC/2iC)
Total 60

COMBAT PLATOONS – 415

Motociclisti Platoon - C/V
4 Motociclisti Squads
Total 115

Light Tank Platoon - C/V
5 x L6/40
Total 150

Light Tank Platoon - F/V
5 x L6/40
Total 150

Motociclisti
Move as jeeps
Save as Cavalry

DIVISIONAL SUPPORT - 1020

Carri Platoon - C/T
5 x 14/41 Tanks
Total 300

Self-Propelled 75/18 – F/V
1 Carro Comando with 4 x Semo 75/18
Total 320

Bersaglieri Company AS42 C/T
2 Bersaglieri Groups
Total 220 (5 rifle/MG teams, 2 HMG, 2 47/32)

Cannon Battery - C/V
4 x 75/27guns
Observer
Total 180 (2 Rifle, Staff, 4 guns)

[/quote]

Set up[/b]

Having the board set up and forces at hand it was just too good to miss so I went in for a second battle. This time my opponent was my long time friend Jói (the Icelandic equivalent of Joe, but his name is Jóhann). He too is a newcomer to FoW but he has good gaming experience and since FoW is a logical game he was very quick to familiarise himself with the game. Seeing how the Sqd Esplorante is Mechanised they automatically are the attacker in Roadblock I thought at first that he should control the Coldstream Guards but then decided against it, since the defender is more the attacker and attacking an infantry force against a mass of tanks is no simple task.

I selected the Semoventes 75/18 as my primary target, naturally and decided to use my 6pdrs for the ambuscade. This was a suicide mission I realised but if I could neutralise the Semos the Grants would become Kings.

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[b]Ambuscade[/b]

Joi had set up his Semos inside the small village and this meant that the 6pdrs where limited in deployment,

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Then they let rip and managed to score a single hit on every Semo and two on one. Three where destroyed outright including the Carro Comando but two where bailed. Since the commander was destroyed Joi rolled for the unknown hero and being fearless it was no great surprise that he managed to pull himself to a Semo. Even if only two remained they had become a monster.

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[b]Eytie Turn 1[/b]

The Italians quickly reorganised and were reinforced by a Cannon Battery and further L6/40s. Seeing how the British were deployed they strengthened their left flank with the light tanks while their entire force redeployed. Faced with 12 light tanks the 6pdrs where quickly destroyed to a man.

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[b]British Turn 1[/b]

Suddenly the British were faced with the prospect of attacking with infantry against tanks if they were to win, almost an impossible task. The Grants were powerful but if they advanced they could easily be flanked and destroyed. So the infantry advance with caution in the scrubs but the Grants took advantage of their long range and semi indirect fire and let loose on the M14/41 tanks. They scored a few hits but at this long range the armour of the M14/41 offered some protection and only 2 where bailed. So excited was I by the prospect of these long range shots I completely forgot to use the Royal Horse Artillery and they passed the turn doing nothing.

[quote]Indierockclimber once asked me to list what makes a good FOW general and put "Never makes mistakes" as a top qualifier. It is exactly mistakes like forgetting the RHA that I suffer from. I know a few players who never make mistakes and they are VERY HARD TO WIN.[/quote]

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The Grants would prove to be the Rook of the British forces, although it was not obvious yet.

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[b]Eyties Turn 2[/b]

Quick to realise that in order to win the Italians only needed to go on the defence the Italians reorganised once more. The M14/41s pulled back while the L6/40s advanced. A Bersaglieri Company arrived and marched on the double to secure the left flank objective.

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The Italian artillery ranged in on the Grants, but their cannons had no effect other than to pin the nearby motor plt. Other fire was ineffective.

[b]British Turn 2[/b]

The Motor plt rallied and moved out of harms way. More importantly the Crusaders arrived from reserve and entered the fray. The Grants fired a few shots against the L6/40s and brewed a tank and the Crusaders bailed another. This time the RHA was not forgotten and yet another L6/40 was bailed. Not sterling results but wWith the majority of the Italian medium armour on the right or centre it was possible to use the British Armour to soften the Italian left flank.

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[b]Eytie Turn 3[/b]

The last unit came to the rescue, a Motociclisti Platoon. The Italian Commander decided to move them to a central position as a reserve.

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The Italian Commander also decided that an offence is the best defence and bring the battle to the British to keep them off the Via Balbia.

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The Grants faced concentrated fire from artillery, semos and the M14/41 and the Italians were rewarded with two bails, but failed to destroy a single tank. Even when two bails where accomplished the Brits held on stiffly.

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[b]British Turn 3[/b]

No further reserves and the Grants would not remount and the Maj. Sainthill was to far away to influence them. That was quickly corrected and the British could only hope that there would still be Grants there to motivate when he could make a difference. The Crusaders flanked the advancing L6/40s and their joined fire with the RHA managed to bail two but one crew fled.

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[b]Eytie Turn 4[/b]

So far the Italians had suffered minor losses and now they were in place to reap the whirlwind.

The Bersaglieri Company took position to cover the objective.

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While the remaining L6/40s turned the tables on the Crusaders, taking one out with flanks shots with their puny 20 cannons.

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Then the heavy armour and artillery pounded the Grants in a brilliant display of pyrotechnics but failed to score a single penetration.

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[b]British Turn 4[/b]

The British Force was still intact and spurred on by Maj Sainthill the Grants remounted one tank but no reserves. If the British didn't soon start to advance to either objective they would loose by default so they had to press on. (The defender looses the Mission if there are no defending teams within 16"/40cm of either objective at the start of the attackers turn from turn 6)

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Fortune favors the bold and a confused tank battle started to take place when the Crusaders circled the L6/40s. The infantry moved out from cover in the hope of assaulting a weakened tank platoon and to move closer to the objective.

Shooting was dismissal, the Crusaders bailed a single tank, the Grants failed to penetrate the Semoventes 75/18 but finally the RHA saved the day when they destroyed the weakened L6/40 platoon. But the infantry now faced 4 active L6/40 tanks and decided that assaulting was a bad idea.

[b]Eytie Turn 5[/b]

The Italians surprised the British, rather than taking on the exposed infantry the remaining L6/40 platoon sped past and went for the Royal Horse Artillery and 2 tanks made it passed the gun shields of the Artillery that had never dug in.

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Worse the British had made a grave miscalculation, by advancing their Crusaders they were now within range of the Bersaglieri Elefantinos and their weak armour left them exposed to the rapid firing guns.

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One Crusader was destroyed and the leader bailed, leaving only the command tank bailed. But he held on and the platoon stayed. The Semos and artillery finally found a weak spot on the Grants and destroyed a tank after a prolonged duel but the surprise attack of the L6/40 failed to have the impact expected, poor shooting and surprising saves only saw a single gun succumb to their attack.

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[b]British Turn 5[/b]

Universal Carriers raced from reserves but the Crusader failed to remount. The infantry took advantage of their strange salvation and advance as well leaving only the HQ section mortars to soften up the Bersaglieri.

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Shooting brought the British hopes of Salvation! The Grants took out the two remaining Semos, the mortars and few Motor Plt teams in range soften up the Bersaglieri a little and pinned them but the greatest success was by the RHA who wiped out their attackers including the Italian Company Commander. All of a sudden the tables had turned, now the Italians where down three platoons of seven and would automatically fail their company morale if they lost a single more since the Company Commander had been destroyed.

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[b]Eytie Turn 6[/b]

The battle was crumbling around them but just because they were losing didn't mean they had lost. The British Guards Motor plt was to close to the objective for the Italians to claim a win so the M14/41s moved passed the nemesis the Grants to take on a more suitable target in the motor platoon and mortars, while the Bersaglieri rallied and fired their HMG against the Motor plt and Elefantinos against the Bren Carriers and through amazing shooting stopped them cold (I usually don't like to refer to dice rolls, but the Elefantinos needed '6's to hit and the 2 guns scored 3 hits on the Bren Carriers but then failed to destroy a single one but left them all bailed). The M14/41 then destroyed the Motor plt but failed to destroy the mortars so they followed with an assault but only took out one before the other managed to retreat. The cannon battery fired yet again against the Grants and managed to bail one.

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[b]British Turn 6[/b]

Now there were no British teams close enough to contest the objective but they had a turn to rectify that. To much dismay none of the Bren Carriers or the Crusader, or even the Grant would remount and all the other British units where to far away to be of use. Even the remaining reserves arrived but they would never affect the outcome of the battle, it would be won or lost without them.

But just because they were losing didn't mean they had lost. The command Grant moved up to fire at the M14/41s and the RHA ranged in their 3 guns, being in part obscured from view by the Bren Carriers that remained motionless on the field.

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But it was for not, their combined fire destroyed two Carris and bailed a third, but that left two active and the platoon remained.

[b]Eytie Turn 7[/b]

With no British teams within 16"/40cm the Italians had snatched a victory from defeat. But with only 3 tanks remaining of 21 is was a Pyrrhic victory.

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[b]Italian 4-3 Win


Conclusion[/b]

Wow, what a great great game. One of the best. It started slow but then went right down to the wire.

The forces are well matched and the Sqd Esplorante benefits greatly when it has room to manoeuver, more so than in a direct attack like Hold the Line. Their guns are poor but the British aren't overly powered. Games like this when one person tailors two forces against each other are often evenly balanced and good fun to play.

That Jói was new to the game hardly showed, by turn 3 he had the mechanics of the game sorted out and even if he has a thing or two to learn about statistics and finer points he played very well.

It was a tense battle down to the very end.

Thank you for reading :)

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