I followed with fascination the NZ (Paul from Plastic Warriors and Al from Twentieth Century Wargames) Command Decision 2 scenario of the Battle for Calais 1940 (and I am very much looking forward to its forthcoming conclusion). Partly out of my own interest for the period and party for the fact that I was also finally getting round to play a similar game set in 1940 (after many years of collecting the kits in 1/200 scale). French v Germans in Belgium set in the opening days of "Case Yellow" set around the village of Crehen.
The French are faced with a delaying action, the Germans are pushing forward as fast as they can without the usual artillery and air support. Recon (or death) by contact and a Panzer battalion hits a mixed force of French (Motorised Infantry - Dragoons and their integral armour support) trying to block their path.
Who will prevail?
An excellent After Action Report (AAR) has already been posted to the BattleFront Forum (see below). Well worth the look as it contains different and far better quality photographs than this post. Plus an impartial review from an official umpire ;)
(Click on AAR in the posting to go to a rather large document, but well worth the read)
The Germans thrust through the middle and were horribly ambushed. As a riposte to this the Germans tried to out flank to their left and were again horribly ambushed. In an attempt to drive past this resistance they impaled themselves one the final French defence line and "broke a company" (see below - middle of Crehen is at the top of the photo, the field of burning German tanks being the French right flank).
The stragglers running in panic off-board (suppressed and disrupted) to the amusement of the French (see below).
The Germans tried to outflank right, suffered casualties but pushed the French back (who tried to use a smoke screen [white card in photo] to cover their withdrawal, see below).
The Germans initial success stalled as they met hastily re-deployed French reinforcements from the victorious French right battle described in the previous photographs (see below, stopping the Panzers, French tanks have firing positions off-camera to the left).
A stalemate ensued and the Germans tried to force the issue with their third medium company of Panzers which start hurting the French tanks. Tank carnage ensued as French tanks started to hurt and burn in a one for one exchange that the Germans could afford, the French not.
However during this exchange the German second light company suffered one too many losses and broke thus stalling the Panzer battalion and gaining the French their victory conditions (i.e. the best French outcome of an "orderly retreat" not rout - sums up France 1940 really). Note: The German medium company PzIII's and PzIV's were untouched in the exchange, which was something disturbing and a point to watch out for in the follow on battle.
Photo below shows French tanks redeploying from their right flank to their left/back as a final "Alamo" defence line.
It had been a tight run thing and the French just got out of Crehan before being surrounded (see below as the infantry transport safely extract the Dragoons despite the attention of two cheeky PzI's). Of note, I have also never seen so many German tanks burning on table in a wargame before, over 50% of tanks committed were knocked out!
The game was played over two successive nights at the venerable Hartlepool Wargames club in the north of England using Battlefront the WW2 rules (if I say I think Command Decision gives a Battalion view of a battle, then I think Battlefront scales down to the Company eye-view; Note: my own opinion). This is a set of rules I have possessed for many years without actually playing/reading them. Luckily I was in good hands as several of the club members are active contributors to the Battlefront Rules forum and know the rules inside out. As the BF "virgin" I was given the job of commanding the elements of French 3rd DLM tasked with stemming the German tide, the more experienced Battlefront player (Paul) commanded the forward elements of 4th. Panzer Division.
The Wargaming Team:
My gratitude goes out to the Hartlepool Wargame Society regulars involved in this game. Ken for compiling the AAR report and umpiring, Andy for the scenario design and umpiring (yes two, we were spoilt with a 1:1 players to umpires ratio!) and Von Paul for being my erstwhile opponent despite coming off a horrendous twelve hour shift pattern (the fatigue factor which some could say was shamelessly exploited by the French). It goes without saying that I am looking forward to the follow on scenario and to see Paul's thirst for revenge after my bit of "beginners luck".
Although I like (and am basically addicted to 20mm modelling, see 20mm blog entries) I have a love-hate relationship with them on tabletop. For "infantry" battles I like the scale, however for battles that bring in swathes of armour a Panther and a Sherman barrel to barrel leaves me cold (that being the worst case depiction). It is that dreaded scale versus visual presentation thing, hence I have a second preferred "armour wargaming scale" for WWII. For early war I see 1/300 (or 1/285) as too small so I chose (maybe just to be odd) the 1/200 range from Skytrex. In fact I am happy mixing 1/200 vehicles with 10mm infantry (Pendraken). For latter-war WW2 I intend to use the more conventional 1/300.