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Friday, April 4, 2014

Italy Battle report: Elephants in the dark HG Pioneers Vs. 8th Indian Division

by Eric Lauterbach

A little while back, John Desch came over to test out the new Italy books Road to Rome and Fortress Italy.  We each wanted to get some toys on the table that we rarely use. For John that was the Elephant. So, he set down with the Fortress Italy book and came up with a life support system for two of the beasts.  His choice was Herman Goring Panzer Pioneers because of their great morale rules and the fact that they can have two platoons of Pioneers with their supply trucks, 3 Pak 40s and Stugs. I went off the deep end trying to make the most multi-national force I could get away with.   I settled on Indian Infantry, British Churchill tanks, American Stuarts and Tank Destroyers, and some more British in a breaching group.  I have had the silly AVREs for so long and never played them so it seemed like the thing to do. I also had 20 points left over and gave my Indians the Gurkha rating even though the figures are Siks.  Both forces were 1650 in preparation of the up coming Game Vault tournament on May 10th in Fredericksburg, Va.

The mission we settled on was Breakthrough, and both of us had Infantry companies, but a British company with a breaching group is an always attack force so John defended.  The table was a rough one in a mountain valley with a bombed out village.  When you are the attacker in breakthrough you select where the fight will be, so choose your objective locations wisely.  Always put one as close to the edge as possible where your troops will arrive.  I picked the corner with some woods and the hills since I had a lot of tanks. I also chose to do a night attack with the Infantry so the Elephants would not be picking me off from the start.

Objectives will be put in the top left corner by the woods.

On table: both Infantry platoons, Tank Destroyer security teams, and the AVRE.

The Germans are lurking in the town and behind it.

One objective in the clearing and one at the back.  John put down three wire obstacles thinking I would put the Infantry on flank march. 

"The Objective area"  I had decided to put most of the tanks on flank march to keep them safe from "Tantor" the stomping elephant. 

Herman's Girlies ready for anything.

"Tantor" ready to stomp!!

At night the village feels safe for the sleeping elephant.

Moving up undercover of darkness.

Germans move out to defend the objectives.

With Tank Destroyers moving up the big boys always keep their front towards the security section.  It's night so they can't drop and move fast around their flank.

I use my security section with reckless abandon ....hey they are free teams to get whacked. 

I get lucky and pick off a German with a 50 Cal. which makes his buddy mad with a Panzerschrek.  John's return fire bails the armored car.

The AVREs skill testing through the rubble.

One Indian platoon skirts the village to go for the objective and the other is hunting Germans in the rubble.

German Pioneers are firmly dug-in and waiting on the objectives. 

With the bunker busting AVRE crashing through the village the Germans wisely pull back.

John gets his reserve in and positions them to support the Pak 40s.

The Germans choose to stay out of the big building and hide in the edges of the rubble.

The German deployment.

Turn 3 and still night.

The Indians keep pushing the Germans back and a AVRE gets stuck in the rubble. 

Its still night on my roll and the TD security is in a good spot to pop a ambush.

I did get a reserve roll and the Breaching Group came on.

Since all teams in the breaching group are non-assaulting teams they are only good for shooting Germans out of their holes.

Dawn could break at any moment and the Germans are in a good spot to cover the open ground....but John rolls three dice ...still night!

The Elephant catches the tail end of the Indians sneaking outside the village sees them and blasts them in the dark.  I fail two saves.

My turn...I roll still night!!  But I do get reserves and we bring in three churchills with two to shoot the Elephant in the butt.

This is a risky shot as the fire off that hill is going to be pretty heavy, but I do have one Churchill VII with front armor 13 which will be fine, but his wing man? Not so much.  Its worth the risk to try and bag an elephant.  I get my Infantry platoon ready for the assault on the objective as well this turn.

Bang... I roll well and get a bail.  Which pretty good for the weaksauce Churchill gun.

The AVREs pull up as well. If the Elephant is still bailed when my turn comes again I can whack him.

John's turn he rolls five dice and Night finally ends.

If I would have known night was going to last so long I probably would have assaulted earlier.

John is sick of the AVRE so the elephants get close to shoot them.

The pak 40 rolls around the edge of the building to shoot the other AVRE. He also puts fire on the Churchill killing the front armor 8 one.

BANG!! that is one dead AVRE.  His buddy in the alley gets bailed by the Pak 40 as well.

Confident morale check for the AVRE platoon...Yeah! I pass.

With the Tank Destroyers still not dropped yet, the Stugs are playing it safe.

On my turn I get my last reserve the Stuarts. Now the pressure on the Infantry is getting hot.  If I can get them pinned it'll be time to go get them, even if he has 2 PanzerFaust and a PanzerSchrek.

The Elephants are tucked in behind the woods to keep them from getting shot in the butt and in order to keep their front towards the TD drop. 

Fire fight emerges from the rubble while my other sneaking platoon outside the village sets up to assault the objective.

Stuarts in position to put the pin on the Infantry.

John's turn and he decides to put a hole in the Super Churchill with his AT16 gun.  BANG...hit.. but I save it!

The Elephant spins around for the TD drop daring the Churchill to try and hit him.

My assault goes in and, what you do not see is the dead Germans these guys killed. Time for a German morale check to counter attack.

Tantor the elephant stomped me! He killed them all.

I have one guy left, a mortar team, so I will be doing sole survivor checks for him. John does not risk the overloaded bog check to get the elephant out and also he can now shoot the pesky Stuarts.

The Panzerschrek comes over to shoot as well. Stuarts look out! 

Bang! Elephant kills a Stuart!

Allied turn and its time for the TD drop.

There is a very narrow window where I can get two M10s on the flank of the elephant, I have to drop and drive to the flank, so I will have two dice for 5s not great odds.  At least the other TDs can shoot at Stugs.

The narrow window.

BANG! I get lucky and one dead elephant!

The other M10s completely miss with four shots..Oh well I got a big boy.

I paste the Infantry along side the Elephants pretty good and set my Churchills and Stuarts up for assault.

I cause a morale check on the Herman Girly platoon which he fails.. good news they reroll platoon morale checks...  FAIL again!  This is called Desch luck.  He now has a big hole with one elephant and the CO plugging the gap.

John sends the elephant to contest the back objective and the CO goes to the near objective. Both contested.

His Stug and Pak40s do a number on my M10 platoon and he decides to assault the Indians in the rubble because things are not going well in the woods. This assault does not go well for John either. Remember, I gave the Indians the Gurkha rating and they hit on 2+.  The counter attack is murder and all but two are killed, at least John passes his morale.

On my turn I set up a wall of infantry to keep the Stugs from getting the objective and the Stuarts take care of John's CO guarding the objective.   Also....Fail on the fearless morale check and the sole survivor of the first infantry platoon runs. I am down to a 4-3.

John's turn and he has to get to objective Stugs are all that can do it.

Brits holding one objective and contesting the other so the Elephant can not leave.

Skill test, rubble and one PIAT defend this end of the line.

I positioned the tanks in such away that if he assaults the end guys in the open he will take tank gun defensive fire.

John chooses the rubble and bogs one but the other guys kill an Indian.

The Indians roll to counter attack and pass.

The Indians get some hits but do no damage but,  the Germans fail morale and break off which will lose the game for the Germans.

This was a fun battle with some whacky armies that we never play. Who knew night was going to last so long. In the end it was 4-3 to the Allies but we only killed one of the dreaded Elephants.  They are scary but really do not do much damage if they have to keep moving.  Also they are useless in terrain and not much good against infantry. I found out that breaching groups are silly but at least they are cheap.  The Indians which can be put into Kangaroo armored vehicles will be nasty.   The "Gurka-Roos" will be good combination.

Eric Lauterbach can be heard on the WWPD podcast doing discussions of limited interest to women everywhere. 

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