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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Snakehead Ridge US 36th Infantry Division Vs 1st Fallschirmjager Division

By John Desch and Eric Lauterbach.

Flames of War is great tournament system, but it's even better at historical battles.   Our job was to take the idea about a battalion size fight of the Cassino battle area and make it ready for the gaming table.  In this particular fight the US 36th Infantry Division (Guard troops from Texas) was tasked to hold its hard won gains on Snakehead ridge, northeast of Montecassino against a night counter-attack of the elite German 1st Fallschirmjager Division.  This was an all infantry fest designed for about six players on Eric's mountain terrain.

Our approach in building the forces was to keep it simple and put out full strength platoons as a representation of a larger force.  The Americans, for example, represented a reduced battalion, so we put out a full strength single company with supporting arms.  The Germans had two multi-platoon parachute companies and, as a last minute addition, a Gebirgsjager company.  (The Gebs weren't there in the battle, but it was a golden opportunity to showcase the pretty figs in John's collection. Sean Mackintosh did a masterful job with the basing, as ya'll can see!) Each force was supported with artillery, mortars, recoilless rifles, heavy machine guns, and in the case of the Americans, a reserve platoon of Combat Engineers. We classified both sides as veterans, with the Gebs and the Americans being confident, and the FSJ fearless.  We did not count up the points.

The American deployment

Holding the mountain.

This is a night battle.

We set the table up with two prominent hills and a small mountain.  Each hill was defended by and American platoon, with combat attachments, against two attacking veteran Fallschirm or Gebrigs Jager platoons. The battle was fought entirely at night, just like the real engagement.

Eric ran the Germans, and John the Americans.  John combat-attached the LMGs of the weapons platoon and all four HMGs of the heavy machine gun platoon, thus having three very salty American platoons on the board.  The US Engineers would start in reserve and plug the gap as needed.  The German paras took on the right and center objectives, while the Gebrigs faced the mountain in an epic rope-climbing assault!  The Germans set up their support Mortars and HMGs for concentrated fire support and thus no-holds-barred slugfest began.

The mountain terrain was design to all go together on one board.

I rarely get a chance to put out all the mountain terrain.

Fallschirmjagers attacking the center hill.

Gebirgsjager approach the mountain.

The "Texans" dug in around the rocks.

Battalion HQ

The center objective

Center and right objectives  both under FSJ attack.

The left mountain objective is the Gebirgsjager's problem.

Left and center objectives.

marking who has fired at night.

On the right the FSJs are going for it!

On the German right, the paratroopers rolled up, braved the fire of the defending Americans, and took the position.  A brave, but Ill-conceived counter-attack ended in complete defeat for the Americans, and the Germans camped squarely on the first of three coveted objectives.

On the far left, the Gebirgsjagers climbed the mountain effectively using our interpretation of the mountaineering rules, but were repulsed initially in a knife fight on the slopes of the mountain.  A second assault gained a foothold, and after a second brutal melee, tossed the Americans off the mountain. This was a very close run affair, and the Americans conceded a second crucial mission objective. Would the Germans sweep?

The center hill is strong position initial approaches are blasted back.

The FSJs on the right fight like devils and there are too many for the Texans.

The Gebirgs get their ropes up with a skill test.

Several fail the test so the assault is not going to be good for the Germans.

More Mountaineers head for the base.

The CO of the Gebirgsjagers looks on.

The US fire in the center repulses the first assault.

The Germans get in and the fight is on.

The Texans counter attack!

The Germans are crushed.

The Gebirgsjagers are thrown off the mountain.

The FSJs holding the objective get ready for a counter-attack.

John's sees the sneaky Germans coming up the draw.

Engineer counter attack!

The US artillery is coming in hot on the center objective assaulting FSJ.

More Germans thrown back

The US assault goes in and the fighting is back and forth.

In the end only a few FSJ remain, the Texans die on the counter-attack.

Gebrigs try it again!

Another assault in the center.

The Gebrigs get in for the assault.

They strike hard.

The Texans counter attack the Gebrigs!

The Gebirgs are hit hard and fail morale and are thrown off the hill again!

The few Texans left on the mountain fail platoon morale and scurry off the back trail.  Nobody owns the mountain. 

The center held by the skin of its teeth, by exercising stern fire discipline and throwing back three assaults, the second of which included a particularly effective flame thrower barrage. This platoon had the benefit of the company commander's adult leadership, and that proved to be the difference in holding on.

Fire support was fairly effective. US artillery usually ranged in needing 5+, but Eric's saves were pretty good throughout. Pinning generally had little effect o the elite Fallshirmjagers, who had the advantage of more company commanders, and more rerolls.  The German recoilless rifles took a steady toll on US gun teams.  The American reserve Engineers arrived to contest the first fallen objective, but could do no more than seal off the breakthrough.  The two reduced FSJ platoons there dug in thick as fleas on a dogs back, and were not to be ejected.

One more assault from the FSJ they are almost out of steam.

Thrown back for the last time the FSJs collect their wounded and slide down the spur.

What is left of the Gebirgsjager take the undefended mountain.

It was a great game! We determined that the night attack gave the Germans a Reasonable chance to close in to assault, where their numbers eventually tipped the balance. Amazingly enough, our first go pretty much hit the target. We felt the Americans could have used more leadership, so we might give the XO a reroll in this scenario. We had the US Battalion HQ on the map for a third reroll, and will include one for the Germans. We heartily encourage folks to explore their favorite battles and play them using Flames of War. Our experience has shown that a large game can be played in just few hours with great fun to be had by all.

John Desch can be found Tournament Organizing at many of the I-95 events, and Eric when not helping John, can be found at questionable establishments associating with questionable types.

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