Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Simulating War: Fire and Movement - The Push Forward - Extended Ammo Variant (Part 1)

Once more unto the breach. The battlefield (see below):

My fascination with a small game called Fire and Movement from Phil Sabin's Simulating War book continues. To me it epitomises the "battalion push" over a broad front, The strategy that seems reminiscent on France 1944 Normandy+. A hasty German defense is strung together covering the "battalion frontage of 1200 metres" of two under strength companies with little or no reserve, with depleted mortar support. The goal of the British player is to dislodge the German front line by (a) killing Germans and (b) capturing baseline German hexes. The terrain is generated randomly as per a little JavaScript program I wrote for Connections UK 2016. The Germans have "choice" of with baseline to defend - so the program allows it to flip the board accordingly (see below the generated terrain) :

The German player chose the "hilly" side of the board. The terrain is not ideal as the British left hand flank has a potential blind spot caused by the ridge of hills near the German held wood. The Germans scan deploy up to three hexes in from their baseline. The British will deploy on their baseline.

Note: I will "flip" the generated map to align with future photographs (see below):

The "map" is transferred onto the terrain of the game board (see below, van you spot the six "hill" and two "wood" hexes? ):

As the German player I set-up the defense in a line across the board half way in to maximise the firing line but at the same time avoid bunching in consecutive hexes. In this game rifle, machine gun and mortar effect all the enemy units in two adjacent hexes. It really does pay not to bunch if (and it is an "if") you can be fired at. The only problem (as in a defensive weakness) is that I have is the low lying hills to the German left flank. I don't want to move forward and occupy them as that would lose my precious dug-in status  but I want to protect my German platoon in the central woods. I decide to lay in ambush in the adjacent hex which allows me to ambush any "Tommies" (Canadians, Scottish, Welsh or Irish, even Free French) that dare to come 'over the hill'. Almost "guaranteed suppression" by the Germans I think. The other option would be to hang back to the German hill in the rear. Taking General Slim at his word, when choosing between two plans of equal worth chose the bolder! The final platoon is a "tail-end Charlie" guarding the baseline as a final redoubt (see below):

The games then commences unceremoniously with a light British Artillery barrage, the regimental mortars plastering the Germans in "Line Of Sight" from the British baseline. The barrage will suppress and cause one casualty on an unmodified roll of 1 or 2 (this is as per the base rules, Phil via the Simulating War Yahoo Group suggest increasing the "ho hit" range in a bidding war with the player with lowest artillery score 'winning' the privilege to play British.) The rolls are poor and only the German in the "last redoubt" is suppressed. This means there will be a 'hot' reception for the attacking British infantry. The British battalion commander moves his HMG into the wood to get the defensive modifier and decides to probe the German right flank for a weaknesses by bringing on two platoons from "A Coy" (see below, position after the end of the first turn): 

The Germans send a welcoming torrent of fire down upon the advancing British. Three rifle platoons and the hated 81mm mortar [which to some epitomises the battle for Normandy through the hedgerows] open up. The two British infantry platoons take casualties and are suppressed. The HMG survives intact (See below, please note I had to swivel the photo 180 degrees to maintain the British top Germans bottom orientation so the perspective is different in this picture):

Note: The right German flank platoon has also fired but I was snap happy and took the photo before the white suppression counter was in place! A thing I noted about this game is that although there were two of us, so much was happening that despite all the photographs lots of small details were missed. In "professional wargames" along with computer audits of moves there are dedicated scribes furiously making notes for the "After Action Review" (AAR).

Flipping onto the next British turn, "B Coy" moves onto the German left flank as the right flank is bogged down. Don't reinforce failure. The British HMG and mortar fail to suppress any German stands. (How many times game you draw a one? perhaps a "bag of numbers" would be a better random control! That way extreme variances could be taken out of the system.) At the end of the British phase (and the end of Turn 2) the British suppression markers are removed (see below): 

No German movement (other than shuffling in their trenches) and the defensive fire silences the British Infantry attacking the right hand side of the German line. The British casualties are slowly mounting but have not yet reached the point whereby a platoon is removed from play (see below):

The British Battalion Commander (whose wargaming lineage can be traced back to the Spartan King in  the Sparta v Argos game in the previous series of posts) commits "C Coy" to attack the German left flank. The attack on the German right flank seems stalled and something needs to be done to generate impetus. "Am I being aggressive enough?" is the British infantry officer's mantra, so on cue he launches his third company forwards. At the end of the British phase all their suppression markers are removed. Turn 3 draws to a close (see below, 25% of the way through the battle and the British are barely off the baseline):

Turn Four starts with telling German defensive fire (again). The British attack on the right is pinned, including the useful Vickers HMG platoon (Note: A key British weapon system: the British need the firepower but as soon as it is on table it becomes the primary German target for their 81mm mortar. In practice (and when or where possible) the British used it in an indirect role, thus not exposing to 'direct fire' retaliation). The only good news being that the Germans have used a lot of their stock of 81mm mortar ammunition as part of their early success on the PBI of "A Coy". However "B Coy" are all still fresh and in a position to advance further across the board (see below):

The British player brings in another platoon from "C Coy" attacking the German left flank, he snakes two platoons of "B Coy" up to the low hills on the German left flank (in preparation for an 'over the hill assault'), using the third platoon to spot for a mortar attack on the German wood and fire at the central German platoon (hence the name Fire and Movement, or as the sequence of play has it Move then Fire; the ones that didn't move are critical for suppressing the defenders- as per Captain Ed Farren's quote at Connection UK 2015 "Movement without Suppression Fire is disastrous"). The result being the central German platoon is (happily for the British player) suppressed. At last there is some leverage and perhaps slackening of German fire for next turn [5] (see below):

Turn 5 starts with the familiar German LMG and rifle chatter. The mounting British casualties draw  blood and a platoon from "B Coy" is removed from play as a KIA (1 VP for the German player), but for the first time the British player options are starting to open up with four fresh platoons that could advance (see below): 

The British player is stoically "hanging in", perhaps playing Sparta in the last DBA game helped and has already picked up the 'good' wargaming habit of playing through until the end. A well respected wargaming friend once pointed out that "someone had to be under the guns" for things to work on another part of the battlefield. Not a pointless useless sacrifice but getting the "friction of war" to work in your favour. Can the British Battalion Commander get something going, the German lock down seems to be slipping slightly?

Next: Starting the push (to Berlin)!


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

A very interesting battle report. I have read Phil Sabin's book but have not fought any battles using his rules. It does seem to be ideal fir a battalion-level action, and I ought to reconsider using them.

All the best,


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Only half way through Bob
Watch this space ...