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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bolt Action - AAR: Hold Until Relieved: Dawn at Hill 131

I haven't posted my own battle report on BoltAction.Net in quite a while, and last weekend I had the opportunity to finally play against fellow CNYHQ member Joe Foland. We'd teamed-up before, but never faced each other. On or about turn three, Joe said, "Why aren't we taking any pictures?" I paused, looked at all the fully painted units on a nice board courtesy of Nemesis Andy, and agreed. So we started taking pictures!

Joe brought a 1000-point list of primarily Volksgrenadier units supported by one veteran Pionier unit. He decided to eschew vehicles, but did bring a medium mortar, a medic, a regular 2LT, and an officer unit at Major level. To envision his force, think poorly trained Germans with lots of weaponry, including light machine guns, panzerfausts, assault rifles, sub-machine guns - really anything the Germans can take Joe had handed his men. He even brought an amazingly converted Goliath team to the fight. I'm probably forgetting one or two units, but the short of it was, he had lots of inexperienced troops with tons of extra gear. Very cool!

I brought a list that consisted of almost nothing but British regular units, except for their forum-famous, sword and shotgun-wielding, leader. This game, he rated as a veteran 2LT. A six-man SAS squad was attached to his platoon of regular Tommies, as well. The Tommies consisted of two ten-man squads with nine rifles and an SMG each, as well as two five-man squads that carried four rifles and a Bren each. (A tip o' the hat to all my history homies out there.) These soldiers were supported by a basic late-war Churchill - Mark VI I believe, the heavy tank version with a 75mm, co-ax, and hull MMG - and a Bren Carrier with two LMGs. Division had also attached a forward artillery observer, as well as a dashing British pilot serving as a forward air observer. These troops had been highly trained in putting lead down-range with their bolt action rifles, so they selected the Rapid Fire national ability, giving them an extra die in shooting for every three riflemen firing in a squad.

The mission came up Top Secret, and Joe's Volksgrenadier ended up defending a hill in the middle of the table. Two Volksgrenadier squads secured the objective, while calling desperately for reserves. The Tommies formed a semi-circle around them, and fired everything they had at the two squads as they approached. Their fire was voluminous, but only caused a single casualty in one of the two squads. The Volksgrenadier, seeing their comrade dead beside them, flew into a patriotic rage and became veteran soldiers.

Pistol and mustache gleaming with oils, the British air observer immediately called in an airstrike on the newly-veteran Volksgrenadier unit, devastating them, but not removing them from the field. By this second turn, German reinforcements began arriving. Tommies held houses on both sides of the objective with their five-man, Bren fire support squads, while their platoon mates and the SAS squad advanced on the objective slowly, firing from the hip. Pulling the first die in the third turn, Joe's pionier squad flamed one of the two buildings occupied by Tommy fire teams so severely that the building was immediately engulfed in flames and completely inaccessible for the rest of the game.

Seeing their friends flee the building, some wreathed in fire, the Tommies laid into the pionier squad with everything they had. Riddled with bullets, the unit was pinned down, but not eliminated. By the end of the turn, it became apparent where the main German push would take place, and the forward artillery observer attempted to call-in fire on the coordinates. Unfortunately, the battery commander misheard a figure, and the fire rained down on a copse of trees filled with several British units. The pioniers were near enough to also be forced to hit the dirt. One side of the objective, now would be almost completely pinned down; and as the Churchill trundles on from reserve, that's where we pick up the action.

The brave British pilot, having successfully called in an airstrike on a German position, charges it with pistol drawn, while the Churchill advances onto the field and fires at approaching German reserves. A severely pinned pionier unit can be seen on the left, behind the fence, and a Goliath team lurks behind the central hill, the British objective: Hill 131.

The platoon commander, SAS squad, fire team, and rifle squad all advance on Hill 131 from the right side of the Churchill. Once again, the brave (stupid?) pilot/observer stands in the open, near the hill, and in the middle of nearly every unit's fire lane.

An aerial view of the battlefield around Hill 131. The British advance on the right on the ravaged, but now veteran, Volksgrenadier squad. German reinforcements approach the hill from behind the center copse of trees, and the pioniers hunker down near the burning building. Several British units cower in the lower left copse of trees, still suffering the effects of the artillery observer's poorly directed fire.

Beleaguered pioniers, at less than half strength, still threaten the Tommies in the woods. Reserve German units pour on from the left and the rear, including an imposing Major, driving his troops forward.

Outflanking Volksgrenadier spray fire into the pinned British. The remnants of the fire team that had occupied the now burning house suffer the worst of it.

The Churchill lumbers forward, providing cover for the advancing Tommies from most of the German avenues of fire. SAS forces clean out the remainder of the brave Volksgrenadier unit that had been struck by British airpower earlier. Spraying fire from all guns, the Churchill lays into the approaching German reserves. Unable to detonate their Goliath on the advancing Churchill, the Germans launch their tracked bomb at a nearby Bren Carrier. Shrapnel from a grenade severs the control wire, and the explosive carrier stalls. Meanwhile, the pilot observer, seeing the plight of his comrades in the woods, runs back towards them in support.

Motivated by the nearby Major, the remnants of the pionier squad attempt to spray liquid flame into some exposed portion at the flank of the Churchill. The fire finds no weak spot, but serves to startle the crew of the tank. Seeing their assault, a PIAT team that had been part of the force bludgeoned by friendly artillery fire charges the flamethrower and its attendant. The pioniers destroy the PIAT team in close combat.

The German right (foreground) seems to hold, while British attackers advance on the hill from the center and left. Having achieved the appropriate position to provide supporting fire, the Bren Carrier sprays machine gun fire into the Major and his entourage.

The pioniers, deciding attacking the tank in the open was a poor decision, moved into the woods and destroyed the remnants of the Tommy riflemen that sheltered there. Seeing this, and seemingly determined to earn himself a medal, the British airman charges them, pistol and mustache blazing in the early morning sunlight. Slaying the pionier squad, he ultimately earns a Judtoria Cross for his gallantry.

Flanking Volksgrenadier attempt to line up shots with their panzerfausts on the sides of the Churchill, as the house still burns beside them.

In true British fashion, the pilot, resplendent after his victory, strikes a pose before the oncoming Volksgrenadier.

Clearly, the Judtoria Cross was awarded to the pilot posthumously. The approaching Volksgrenadier gunned him down as he posed. Meanwhile, the Churchill, having attained the objective, fires ruthlessly into the relatively exposed German reserves that approach Hill 131. The Bren Carrier lays everything it has into the same positions, while the SAS troops and Tommies move onto the hill.

The Volksgrenadier at the bottom right move in to fire their panzerfausts on the flank of the tank. Again, they fail to find their marks, and the British riflemen behind the tank assault the Volksgrenadier in the open in an attempt to protect their tanker brethren.

The assault succeeds, and the Tommies regroup behind the cover of the infantry tank.

The Major urges his heavily pinned and poorly trained men onwards as the Churchill sprays high explosive ammunition and machine gun bullets throughout their ravaged ranks.

SAS forces move over the crest of Hill 131. Combined fire from the Bren Carrier and veteran infantry squad eliminate another Volksgrenadier squad.

Sensing not only defeat on the battlefield, but an end to this war, the Major urges his remaining forces into a last ditch assault on the tank, which fails.

Joe and I had a great game. We learned a lot about both regular and inexperienced troops, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. In retrospect, I made a lot of bad moves where ultimately the dice favored me, and Joe - well, his only mistake was taking Andy's advice during the game.

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