Fighting in the bocage

Ran hosted an ASL meet last week, where he faced off against Daniel, and Josh and I played each other.

Josh suggested Bocage Blockage, a Normandy 1944 scenario pitting USA troops against defending Germans, with a focus on bocage terrain. I was the Americans, and Josh was the Germans.

The Germans have six squads, three leaders, an LMG, MMG, and HMG, an 81 mm mortar, and a Panzerschreck. They also have 24 points of mines, and a dozen concealment counters.

The American core force is nine squads, three leaders, two MMGs, and two 60 mm mortars.

One neat aspect is that the USA player gets to choose two out of four available support groups to add to his core troops: (a) four assault engineer half squads, complete with half-track and demolition charges; (b) three elite half squads plus accompanying heavy machine guns, and a half track; (c) two modules of 100 mm off-board artillery; and (d) two M4 Sherman tanks.

My original thoughts were to take the artillery and the tanks. However, the more I studied the terrain, and tried to work out how I could best use the artillery, the less sure I was that they could be decisive. There is no dominating, high terrain, from which to observe the enemy defense lines. Also, the German benefits from the bocage in being more likely to be concealed. And artillery fire against concealed units has a habit of more quickly losing battery access because of the mandated extra chit draw. I was also thinking about using the HMG support, as a kind of death star. But these buggers are heavy, and there’s some need for speed. I finally decided to take the assault engineers and the tanks.

Bocage blockage map area. The USA setup is from the bottom to the blue line, and the German setup is from the top to the red line. Josh put mines in R8, R9, Q7, and one other location that I have forgotten. Either O1 or Q1.

Bocage Blockage map area. The USA setup is from the bottom to the blue line, and the German setup is from the top to the red line. Josh put mines in R8, R9, Q7, and one other location that I have forgotten. Either O1 or Q1. The USA needs to control at least three stone buildings without losing more than 11 Casualty Victory Points in personnel and crews.

The game lasts six turns, and the Americans have to keep up a decent pace. Although the Germans have minefields and plenty of concealment, they are short of men with only six squads to cover the line.

I have read somewhere that one of the issues with playing ASL is that you can fail your personal morale check, and give up before you are defeated. I know how that feels and can happen, because I was close to failing my personal morale check here.

The first couple of turns went well enough. I advanced according to schedule in the center and the right, outed some defenders and got up close and personal. By the third turn, I had hit the main line of resistance in the center, and meleed and killed two of Josh’s precious squads. A combination of smoke and demolition charges had proven effective. However, on the left flank, things were not so good. I hit the minefields, and was well repulsed by the defenders in and around the stone building in P8.

In turn three, having singularly failed to get any smoke in place (again) to cover an advance on this flank, I charged the P8 building with a Sherman to try and freeze the defenders, and it was promptly destroyed. At the same time, my right probe hit more minefields, and I was suddenly getting nowhere.

I stopped to have a think, and it dawned on me that in all the chaos of the game, I had forgotten to take account of Josh’s meager defending force. He had six squads to start with, had lost two, and that left four. He had six stacks on the board. Were two dummies? One? Had he deployed to give him some extra width? I guessed that he had not deployed, and there were two dummy stacks. Of course I was wrong, but one ‘dummy’ stack that I probed rolled badly and missed. That allowed me a little breakthrough, and Josh had to pull his defense back. I could now threaten to make a run for the two stone buildings in the rear.

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About midway through the game. The German defenders on the left stack on top of the Sherman they have destroyed. On the right, the German 81 mm mortar has appeared.

At this point, I was beginning to think I might just be able to do something. I drove the last Sherman in to the damned P8 defenders (using bypass) and managed to survive, and flood in enough attackers to take the building in close combat.

Josh’s forces fought desperately, but could not immediately retake the P8 building. Meantime, in a cat and mouse set of maneuvers around the remaining stone buildings, I managed to secure a hold on the H5 building. I was also in the J3 building, but locked in melee and so could not claim control there. But as since I already had the R1 building, it meant that the game would turn on whether I could hold on to P8. It came down to the last close combat in the last turn; I held on to claim the win.

As always, I couldn’t believe how much time had passed. When playing ASL, nothing else seems to matter!

Josh was unlucky – though at least his sniper got in one effective shot – because his HMG broke down for a couple of turns. He did repair it. My bad luck was that only once did any of my target troops pass a morale check. Being Americans, they bounced back quickly, but that and the dreaded mines were a decided delay factor.

This was a close match, and a good scenario. I think it is more fun for the Americans, but those who like to construct clever defense plans will enjoy it playing as the Germans.

Thanks to Ran for hosting, and Josh for choosing a good scenario, and giving me a thoroughly enjoyable (and tense) game.

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