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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Action at Fritz's Hill- A Solitaire FOW AAR

By Chuck Carey

This article is the second in a series about playing Flames of War solitaire.  The first article, Action at Fritz’s Farm, featured a simple scenario whereby a lone HMG defended against a platoon of infantry.  This scenario kicks things up a bit by expanding the number of teams and by introducing a bit of strategy into the play.

Action at Fritz’s Hill

It’s 1944, and the Germans on the Eastern Front are trying to keep from being overrun by the Soviet juggernaut.  Leutnant Fritz and his platoon of grenadiers have been ordered to hold Hill 101 just long enough for their mates to fall back to a more defensible position.  Meanwhile, Kapitan Ivan and his strelkovy company, with help from a mortar company, have been ordered to “Take that hill!”

The Lists (from Grey Wolf and Red Bear)
Grenadier Platoon (Confident Veteran)
155 7x Rifle/MG team
70 2x MG42 HMG teams
225 pts

Strelkovy Company (Confident Trained)
350 15x Rifle/MG team + 7x SMG team
95 6x 82-BM 41 mortar + 1x Rifles
445 pts

You will notice that the attackers get approximately twice as many points as the defenders.  Offsetting this imbalance is the fact that the defenders are dug in and gone to ground while the burden of performance is on the attackers.

The Setup.
Earlier in the war, Kapitan Ivan would have charged at the enemy recklessly and hoped that enough of his men survived to take the objective.  But Ivan is a fearless conscript no more; he has learned to fight a bit more craftily over the years.  Consequently, he decides to deploy his platoons separately instead of collectively.  1st Platoon will demonstrate in front of the hill while 2nd Platoon attempts to outflank the hill to the left.  Meanwhile, 3rd Platoon, armed with SMGs, will approach the hill through the woods on the right and deliver the company’s main attack.  The six mortars will attempt to keep the Nazis pinned down while the three platoons complete their maneuvers so as to hold down casualties to a minimum.

Meanwhile, Leutnant Fritz has positioned his HMGs so that they can rake the field from one patch of woods to the other.  His grenadiers are placed so that they can bring maximum fire to bear on the Commies as they advance.

 The Germans are dug in on top of Hill 101, aka Fritz's Hill.

The Soviets form up just outside of HMG range.

Turn 1.
The Commies get the party started.  3rd Platoon double-times towards the woods while 2nd Platoon begins to work its way through the wheat field and garden.  1st Platoon spreads out so as to keep everyone in command.  All three platoons are careful to stay out of range of the Nazis’ HMGs.  Meanwhile, the mortars attempt to drop a storm of steel on the hilltop, but they fail to range in.

With nothing to shoot at, the Nazis remain gone to ground.

Turn 2.
3rd Platoon begins to work its way through the woods while 2nd Platoon continues to be hampered by the slow going in the wheat field and garden.  1st Platoon continues to stretch, but soon it will have to advance in order to keep the other two platoons in command.  The mortars range in and score four hits, but none results in a kill.

The Nazis rally from the mortar attack and, continuing to lack targets, remain gone to ground.

Turn 3.
The lead team of 3rd Platoon has made it through the first patch of woods to the creek, while 2nd Platoon is just beginning to clear the garden.  1st Platoon is stretched as far as it can go; from this point on it can only move forward if it is to keep the two wing platoons in command.  The mortars manage nine hits, with rerolls, on the Nazis but get no kills.

But the mortar bombardment is so intense that Fritz cannot rally his men.  So, instead of firing ineffectively at the sole Commie team that has blundered into the range of a grenadier team, he elects to remain gone to ground.  He will save his bullets for when he can see the whites of their eyes.

 3rd Platoon prepares to ford the creek between the two patches of trees.

While 2nd Platoon still has a very long ways to go.

Turn 4.
3rd Platoon crosses the creek and is now hidden in the second patch of woods just below the hill.  Meanwhile, 2nd Platoon realizes that it can’t stretch out enough to be able to attain the cover of the woods on the Nazis’ right, and so it is forced to creep forward, along with 1st Platoon, so as to remain in command.  It’s not a bad thing, reasons Ivan, trying to make a virtue out of necessity.  Maybe if the Nazis’ HMGs open fire it will make it easier for the mortars to range in on them and destroy them.  Speaking of the mortars, their rounds fall ineffectually on the hilltop.

Or do they?  Again, Fritz is unable to rally his men, and now the Commies are getting closer to his position.  Can he afford to hold his fire much longer?  He thinks not, and orders the HMGs to open fire.  They take six shots and manage one kill.  It’s not enough to stop the Commies from coming on, and now perhaps he has blundered by exposing his HMGs to more effective fire from the mortars.

 3rd Platoon is over the creek and moving through the woods.  They will soon be in position to assault the hill.

Turn 5.
3rd Platoon advances as far as it can through the woods without getting within line of sight of the defenders; it will be ready to launch its assault next turn.  Meanwhile, 2nd Platoon advances on the opposite flank while 1st Platoon continues to edge forward in the center.  The Nazis are now within range of four of the Commie rifle/MG teams and they fire on the hill, to no avail.  Despite being able to range in on 5+s rather than 6s, the mortars manage no kills.

Things are getting anxious for the hill’s defenders as the Commies close in on their prey.

Perhaps because the danger to the platoon is so imminent, Fritz is finally able to rally his troops.  They open fire on the Commies, with deadly effect.  Eighteen dice generate 14 hits which result in 7 kills, 4 in 2nd Platoon and 3 in 1st Platoon.  The Commie attack on the Nazi right flank is reduced to a measly three teams who are now out of command, thus all but eliminating the threat from that quarter, but the 3rd Platoon in the woods below the hill remains unscathed, albeit pinned down along with the rest of the company.

Turn 6.
The murderous fire from the HMGs has forced the Commies to hit the deck, and nothing Ivan can do will get them moving towards the enemy.  So he directs the remains of 1st Platoon to follow 3rd Platoon by seeking the safety of the woods.  By now, 2nd Platoon is so shot up and so far out of command they are on their own.  They keep their heads down and try not to draw any attention to themselves.  The failure to rally forces 3rd Platoon to delay its assault.  The mortars try once again to rain death on the Nazis, but despite a number of hits the shells fall harmlessly to earth.

The barrage does have the effect, however, of pinning down the Nazis.  The one HMG fires at 1st Platoon but does no damage.  The other HMG, however, despite its targets being concealed and gone to ground and getting only three shots, manages to knock off two more teams on the right flank, leaving just one surviving team from 2nd Platoon.

 Kapitan Ivan strives mightily to get what's left of 1st Platoon into the woods.

Meanwhile, 2nd Platoon has, for all practical purposes, ceased to exist (but notice that 3rd Platoon is skulking in the woods, just waiting for the order to attack).

Turn 7.
All of a sudden, things begin to look up for the Commies.  Ivan rallies his men and, at long last, the assault on the hill can begin.  Up the slope charges 3rd Platoon, SMGs blazing away.  Fifteen dice manage just 4 hits, but one of them takes out the HMG directly in front of them, a huge plus towards ensuring the success of the coming assault.  Meanwhile, the continuous mortar barrages finally pay off by killing a Nazi rifle/MG stand.

Now the SMGs assault, with one team getting on top of the hill into the old HMG position.  They send only four teams so as to keep the remaining HMG from getting defensive fire.  Consequently, the Nazis get only 4 DF dice, not enough to stop the assault, but they roll three hits and get two kills.  The Commies take two swings and kill one team.  The Nazis pass their motivation test and kill two more teams.  All the assaulting teams are now dead, so the remaining SMG teams retreat into the woods to lick their wounds and await reinforcements.  The losses in the assault put the company under half-strength, but they pass their motivation test to stay on the board.

 Commies assault the hill; one team makes it all the way to the top...

But they are overwhelmed by the Nazi counter-assault...

 And are forced to retreat into the woods.

The Nazis consolidate into their foxholes but fail to rally from the assault.  The HMG and one rifle/MG team open fire on the last team from 2nd Platoon, the only team within range.  It goes down in a hail of bullets, forcing another motivation test.  This time, Ivan decides that enough is enough, and the Commies withdraw from the battlefield.  The Nazis have won.

Bloodied but not beaten, the Nazis retain control of Fritz’s Hill.

At this point, some of you are undoubtedly thinking that you could have done better than Kapitan Ivan did. So, here’s a challenge for you: Recreate the scenario on your own -– use different lists, or even different nations, if you prefer -- and see how many turns and points your side needs to “Take that hill!”  Post your results on the forum or in a separate article, as you prefer.  

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