From Mark McLaughlin:
Four of the guys from the CT game club came north to play at my house today. (John Manning, John Demeter, Tom Cusa, Roland Fricke). We did a double header....Disposable Heroes (a HUGE) game and Flames of War (a quick short 'clown cars and cruiser tanks' scenario).
First, the DH game:
“A Grain of Sand” – The Foreign Legion at Bir Hakeim, June 1942 -The Biggest DH battle to date – Feb 21, 2010
This was going to be the biggest Disposable Heroes battle to date. John Manning, John Demter and Roland came north to play at my house, so I pulled out EVERYTHING I had for this one.
In the summer of 1942 the First Free French Brigade held the fortified position at the end of the Gazala line – a defensive “box” built around the oasis of Bir Hakeim. For six weeks it was repeatedly attacked, besieged and attacked again by the best of the Axis forces in the desert – Trieste and Ariete armored divisions, the Bersaglieri of the Pavia infantry division, plus the German 90th Light and 15th Panzer Divisions. Ironically, many of the German soldiers in the 90th Light were former members of the French Foreign Legion – which formed the principal components of the defenders of Bir Hakeim.
Obviously in Disposable Heroes scale we can do only a tiny portion of the fight (I plan to do it bigger in Flames of War scale soon)…so I chose the corner of the box where the Italians hit one side and the Germans the other.
On defense, two platoons of French – rated Elite (Foreign Legion) with a pair of Hotchkiss heavy machine guns, a light and a heavy mortar, a 47mm AT gun and an old French 75 (an antique toy soldier piece that actually fit to scale). The French were dug in, and in depth, with barbed wire
A relief force set off board was composed of a Sherman, a Char B, a Hotchkiss light tank, a Bren gun carrier and a Panhard armored car (this played the role of the British relief force that helped the French break out at the end of the siege – the Char basically played the role of a British Matilda/infantry tank, and the lighter vehicles the roles of British armored cars and Stuarts – but I kept the stats for the actual models)
The French (98 figures), though well-positioned, were heavily outnumbered (as they should be both historically and to compensate for the strong defensive position)…
On the attack, on one flank, two Italian platoons, reinforced with an extra rifle section (102 figures) supported by a pair of heavy machine guns, a light mortar and five vehicles: two tankettes, an armored car, a light tank and a medium tank.
On the other flank, the Germans (92 figures) – two more platoons, one reinforced with an extra rifle section, the other with a halftrack filled with a large section of all-SMG…and towing a Pak40. German forces included 4 MG42s, and were supported by a Stug and a Mk III…..
So there, a massive fight with nearly 300 figures, three guns, three mortars, 8 heavy and lots and lots of light machine guns and SMGs, and 13 vehicles…points almost beyond counting…
There is no ‘barbed wire’ rule in DH, but there is in their WW I game – Price of Glory, at least according to the forums. The designer recommends a 6-inch movement penalty for infantry to cross. (This means they can not use sneak or even basic movement, but have to use the ‘run’ move – which means they do not shoot).
(Bir Hakeim was ringed with minefields, but I thought that might be a little much in this outing – plus the Axis had cleared paths through the fields with engineers, bombardments and, well, previous assaults (grin) -.)
So, the game begins…..
Roland took the right, Manning the left of the French position. Defense in depth, with infantry manning the sand bad dugouts covering the wire, heavier stuff in the second line, in the stone ruins and buildings of the oasis. The two AT guns “hidden” (this is a rule used by the DH designer at conventions: AT guns are hidden at start, not shown until they fire.
Opposite Manning was Tom Cusa with the Italians; Demeter took the Nazis.
The Axis advanced cautiously on the first two turns, using their overwhelming numbers to try to throw as many shots downrange as possible. French were in much better cover (sandbags -2, stone buildings/ruins -3) vs Axis units either in the open or in assorted rough ground -1), but volume is volume. By the end of turn two the French had lost some 40 men, the Axis about 60. The French heavy mortars did a number on a couple of the big Italian units, and the Germans lost heavily to the many light and heavy machineguns on Roland’s front. On the third turn the Axis starting breaking through the wire with their armor. Turn four the battle hit its critical point…
Axis armor led a charmed life. On each of the four turns so far both Allied AT guns had found targets. Both then failed to actually hit each time – Roland roll a six each of four turns in a row to hit the German halftrack (which was packed with 9 submachinegunners). Manning fared no better against the Italians…..
On turn four the Allied armor finally arrived. First unit on was the mighty Sherman. Manning rolled for where it would arrive, and it come on behind his force…he moved it full speed to set up a shot for turn five….
…but turn five never came. Demeter fired his Stug across the board – found, hit, tracked and bailed the Sherman. At this point Allied player morale broke. Even though the rest of the Allied armor was to come on this turn (the Char B, the armored car, light tank and bren gun carrier) they had enough. With nine units gone and over 50 dead, the French had lost about half of their forces….Axis losses were over 70 figures but, remarkably, only five units and NO armor losses….
Historically, the fort held out for six weeks. Almost out of food and ammo and with many wounded, the French were ordered to withdraw to fight another day….about 2/3 of the original force of 3600 men made it out alive….the Axis eventually took the fort but at a heavy price in men, material and, especially, time….
General Bernard Saint-Hillier would say in an October 1991 interview: “ A grain of sand had curbed the Axis advance, which reached Al-Alamein only after the arrival of the rested British divisions: this grain of sand was Bir Hakeim
--Second Flames of War
For Flames of War i resurrected the oft-played 'clown cars and cruiser tanks' scenario. A convoy on a road has to get off the table. It moves 16 inches a turn on the road. It has 16 trucks. Five trucks must make it off the table or the convoy side loses, regardless of other losses...
This time the convoy was Italian, protected by John Manning with the Italian medium armor (M14/41s and Semovente47s), and John Demeter with the Recon (a mix of motorcyclisti, sahariana jeeps, autoblindo armored cars, light and lighter tanks and truck mounted 20mms). John also had the 'old' armor squadron of M11/39s -- basically armored cars with treads.
Roland took the British armored car squadron (a wild mix of daimlers, daimler dingoes, assorted humbers, marmon-harringtons, AECs and portees) plus "Popski's Army" - ie the Rat Patrol (five jeeps with twin 50cals).
Tom Cusa had the light armored squadron - a lot of crusaders and cruisers..........
The Italians rushed forward to get their vehicles between the british and the convoy. Initial shooting a lot range was rather ineffective, but then Roland moved up and destroyed one of Manning's two good tank platoons. He also swung around the flank, risking a double speed move two turns in a row, in hopes of getting behind the armor and onto the road to go after the trucks. John fell back a little and toasted the flank move. Roland pushed on ahead, knocking out a few more trucks while they were still in range ( I knocked out 10 trucks totalon my mad dash at the Italians - Roland ), but that meant fewer shots at Italian tanks. Manning eventually knocked out 4 of the 7 platoons, and Roland failed morale and that company broke...but by then the rear of the truck column was out of range anyway.
John Demeter drew a harder job, having to fight the crusiers and crusaders with the italian clown cars. He did, however, have a lot of them, and using the old tanks to pin the British on the front sweep around and got behind Tom, using 20mms and machineguns into the rear of the light cruisers. Italian losses were heavy, but Tom was slowed...
still, Tom managed to break out of the pocket with a few tanks....by now there were 10 trucks burning. He hit and burned an 11th...one more and the Allies win..Tom shots, he hits..but Demeter makes the save!
And there ended the game, as the five remaining supply trucks, the MINIMUM needed for the win, rolled out of sight....