Counter-Attack at Buron - a Tigers at Caen Scenario
Tigers at Caen is the proposed west front 1944 - ‘45 expansion for my Tigers at Minsk hex based rules (Thank you PaulR from the Pendraken Forum for the title suggestion).
This small expansion includes a scenario covering the Canadian defence against a German counter-attack at the village of Buron. Todays post is going to follow an AAR of this action as an introduction to the module, which will soon be released as a free (for personal use) download.
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The module introduces a new Shoot and Scoot rule to add to the TaM series rules, together with specific module rules to reflect the deteriorating situation for the Germans through the final phase of the war. These module rules can also be applied to any east front games that are set in the same time-frame.
At the time of release, the main TaM rules will also be updated. As always, amendments are gentle and players who have printed off the rules can just print off the relevant amended pages or make pencil notes. Some smaller anti-tank gun values have been changed as this module raised an issue with high velocity, small bore, but long calibre guns. Plus the Shoot and Scoot rule gets added to the series optional rules. All changes will be detailed in a subsequent post, which should be the subject of the next post.
Scenario background - 8th July, during the fighting around Caen, Canadian troops took the village of Buron (6km North West of Caen) in an attack starting at 0730 with generous artillery support. Having taken the village by 0830, they prepared for the inevitable German counter-attacks. 17 pounder armed M-10 Achilles were brought up, helping to hold against the attack and knocking out several Panzer IV’s and Panthers.
Setting up - After initial terrain placement, two hexes are randomly converted to shell hole hexes (new terrain type) to reflect the earlier Canadian bombardment of the area. Then the German side select a hex on the table for pre-registered artillery fire. I am playing this scenario solo today, in preparation for a face-to-face with Mike on Friday, so I select five obvious target hexes and set that list aside for now.
The Canadians set up within the top four rows of the map. They place their HMG, a rifle section and the two 17 pdr Achilles in the village. Two sections go behind the hedge on the right of the map and one takes the woods on the left. Their two observers can be placed anywhere, so one goes into the single woods hex in the middle of the table and the other goes into the woods over on the left.
The German side then randomly select one of the 5 pre-registered artillery targets and execute the strike. This happens to be amongst the hedges on the right, but is not effective.
Please note that the AAR will use the terms ‘on the left’, ‘on the right’ in relation to the above map as viewed by the reader, rather than describing the ‘German left flank’ or ‘Canadian left flank’ etc.
Here is the Order of Battle for our scenario (edit, this has since been tweaked). All the terms relate to those used in the Tigers at Minsk rules.
Opening turn - 1000 hours
(Canadian Morale = 4 German Morale = 6).
The German side advance all of their units onto the table. Their plan is to infiltrate up on the right with a platoon of infantry and a half track and pin the defenders, while the main force gets into position to attack the village from the lower left. The Panthers advancing cautiously along side the road are spotted by the artillery observer in the woods ahead and accurate fire is called down onto the tanks. (Note the star symbols denote the two hexes converted to shell holes).
One of the tanks takes a direct hit and starts to burn causing a German morale drop to 5.
1005 hours - The remaining Panther picks out an M-10 amongst the village buildings, getting an unsurprising first shot kill, but then finding itself again under artillery fire again as the 2nd artillery mission hits its hex, stunning the tank.
On the right, the German 1st Platoon, together with a half track continue to infiltrate up through the woods, attracting machine gun fire from the village, pinning one of their rifle sections.
1011 Hours -
Canadian Morale =3, German Morale = 5
Out on the far left, the two German Pz IV’s move up to get clear of the woods and gain a partial view of the village. As the first sticks their nose forward, the remaining 17 pdr armed M10 fired and left the Pz IV burning.
The Germans take a further loss over on the right as the infantry reach the edge of the wood taking fire from the village. A rifle section is removed from play. The two losses bring their morale down to 3, this is a worrying start.
1020 hours -
Canadian Morale = 3, German Morale = 3
The Pz IV finds its mark on the second M-10 and removes it from play, the defenders are now without effective anti-tank cover. On the left, Panzer Grenadiers start to advance through the wheat field, with the lead section getting pinned by rifle fire from the woods up ahead.
1028 hours -
Canadian Morale = 2, German Morale = 3
The Germans lose their HMG (left) from effective HMG fire from the town and the attack loses its momentum (3 units go out of command and two refuse to unpin!). On a positive note for them, at last, the Panther recovers from the stun result, perhaps the crew suffered some minor concussion from the artillery fire.
1037 hours -
Canadian Morale = 2, German Morale = 2
Some local determined leadership gets the German attack moving again. The Pz IV and Panther, without enemy armour to worry about, start pumping H.E. shells into the village. Over on the far right, at the hedge, a Canadian rifle section is removed from play, causing a worrying morale loss ... now down to level 1. Canadian crossfires had been largely ineffective, but their presence has been enough to cause the Germans hesitation in stepping out to cross the open ground in front of the village.
1045 hours -
Canadian Morale = 1, German Morale = 2
With the pressure building, there was relief from the defenders when a M-10 rumbled up into position behind the woods on the left of the map. This vehicle had thrown a track an hour earlier and so had been delayed getting to Buron.
The German right put down devastating fire, firmed up my the machine gun on the half track (that had successfully negotiated the woods) removing the second rifle section and that Canadian flank position was now fully exposed. Only a single rifle section in the end building of the village was covering that end of the Canadians position. The arrival of the M-10 had put the Canadian morale up by 1, but the loss of the rifle section had brought it back down again, their position feeling somewhat perilous.
1051 hours -
Canadian Morale = 1, German Morale = 2
As the newly arrived M-10 skirts around the woods on the left, it spots the Pz IV ahead, it is facing the village, so presenting it’s side armour, not that that matters too much to the 17 pdr armed vehicle (see the panzer in the distance beyond the fields).
But the German tank is already swinging its turret to engage. Base To Hit is 6, +6 for gun value (12), -5 for M-10 frontal armour (7), -1 for the tank turret moving to engage give as final To Hit of 6, so a d10 is rolled, looking for equal to or less than 6. They roll a ‘6’ and then roll on the penetration table, getting a ‘stun’ result. The M-10 can not do anything at all until it recovers, perhaps the damage is minor, who knows?
1059 hours -
The advance of the game clock dice roll is doubles, so both sides get a Random Event. The German side get ‘Men of Action’ so something this turn will be able to move AND fire or vice-versa. The Canadians get Tank Fright! Units in cover this turn are not able to move out of cover.
On the left, German sections use smoke to leave the wheat field to assault the woods ahead (note the stunned M-10 ). The smoke has the unintended consequence of blinding the view between the M-10 and Pz IV, which uses the opportunity to move on towards the village, putting the woods between itself and the M-10. The lead Panzer Grenadier section takes a pin, but the Germans manage to retain its smoke capacity for now.
1106 hours -
Canadian Morale = 1, German Morale = 2
Both German tanks go out of command this turn. The Canadian rifle section covering the right of the town is pinned, it can either attempt to lose the pin or fire but only with 1D6. It chooses to test for recovery and succeeds.
1112 hours -
Canadian Morale = 1, German Morale = 2
On the right, the Germans use smoke to approach the end of the village (see below). On the left, Panzer Grenadiers enter the wood and engage in close combat with the Canadian rifle section. The action is so intense that both sections are removed from play. The loss crashes the Canadian morale to zero and each of their units must test for ‘fallback’. (Except the stunned M-10, which never acts while stunned). The rifle section holding the right side of the town fails and falls back to the church. Likewise the HMG fails and falls back to the café. The front edge of the village has now been abandoned.
1116 hours -
Canadian Morale = 0, German Morale = 2
The new position at the café seems to offer a better field of fire and the HMG starts to dominate the space in front of it, removing a Grenadier Section from play and bringing the German morale down to 1. The Canadian position is fraught and abandoning the village is a serious and perhaps sensible consideration, but the prospect of now stalling the German attack due to their low morale, keeps them holding on.
1125 hours -
Canadian Morale = 0, German Morale = 1
The village is now being pressed from both ends. The Pz IV shells the café, pinning the HMG and at the other end of town, at the church, the rifle section also becomes pinned. The defence is teetering on collapse. In the photo below, the cafe is the building in the rear to the far left.
1127 hours -
Again Random Events are generated. The German side can reveal a previously unknown minefield. They choose to have the hex immediately behind the church to show mines, no doubt part of their own defences from when they controlled the village. The Canadians get ‘Men of Action’.
The Germans enter the town and take two of the five buildings. The HMG finally succumbs to the shells of the Pz IV and is removed from play. Again the rifle section at the church must test for Fallback and they fail. With mines directly behind them, they are forced out into the wheat field, just managing to escape casualties from nearby rifle fire. The section has no choice but to retire to the safety of the rear. The M-10 is still immobile, with no sign of life and it is feared that crew did not survive the earlier attack.
1137 hours -
Panzer Grenadier sections push through the village, while as a final act, the half track on the right fires across the hedge at the escaping Canadians, who manage to leave the table without further harm.
1144 hours - The time has gone beyond 1140 hours, so the game ends.
Victory Points - The German side have inflicted 6 losses, so gain 6 VP’s. The Canadians likewise inflicted 6 losses, for 6 VP’s. So it comes down to control of the village and here the Germans have secured four of the five buildings, so the win goes to them.
The scenario seems to be broadly working and is getting a replay on my Friday night session with Mike to stress it a bit further. I think for that game, I will drop one Canadian off-board fire mission and replace it with an extra rifle section and see how that goes.
The random nature of the arrival of the reinforcing 3rd M10 does bring some interest, especially as arrival is dependent upon losing their first M-10 and then the availability dice roll is related to the number of German tanks (i.e. threat) still in play a the time of testing.
Although historically, the German attack was halted with heavy vehicle losses, for the purposes of a workable wargaming scenario, the prospect of a German win needs to be real enough to keep interest for both sides. There were several moments in the game that became locally pivotal, which should bring enough dynamism to allow replayability, plus even though the Canadian situation looked dire, the Germans themselves were close to morale collapse and their securing of the village only really happened in the last moments.
This scenario enjoys a slightly larger playing space than the usual 8 x 6 grid scenarios given in the base rules, but this was done deliberately to show the rules working in a bigger space, but still within the bounds of the ‘kitchen table’ type game.
The shoot and scoot rule is interesting and brings quite a bit of nuance for little rules overhead. It is obviously ideal for something that is vulnerable to enemy fire, but when it scoots, usually taking itself out of line of sight, it also loses its own line of sight to the enemy. It works well for dropping back to secondary ambush positions, so some thought is needed with initial placement. There didn’t seem much opportunity in this game to use it, but at least when needed, the tactic is there and viable. The rule is only available to tank destroyers / hunters with a frontal armour value of 6 or less.
(EDIT - in my game with Mike, I twice used Shoot and Scoot, the first time I 'scooted' to a stupid position that essentially locked the M-10 down for over half an hour and in the other, I pulled back directly into the line of sight of a Panther sat in the far corner of the board, that I hadn't noticed, with an obvious outcome .... Doh! I then moved the other M-10 into what looked like a great ambush spot, only to realise I had moved into the line of sight of a Pz IV, so some real bad management of my M-10’s in that game delivered another German win).
Note that going out of command in this system is simply a turn based temporary abstracted way of showing that unit awareness is not always at the level that gives the player an over emphasised level of control of what is going on - it stops micro management and makes the players make the best of the situation presented to them. The rule also allows automatic command at a chosen point, showing that the player typically has a command focus on the most important part of the battlefield at that particular moment in time - often a point of crisis.
The text for the new module is pretty much done and should be the subject of the next post and hopefully by then, the final tweaks to this scenario will round that out into a pretty useful package for anyone who dabbles with these rules.
My COMMANDERS web space is more snippet based than here and supports my various rules.
An big AAR from the final playtesting of a East Front campaign system for these rules, showing design amendments along the way.
LINK (dropbox download)
The original Tiger at Minsk Rules can be downloaded via this post - but note the rules will have a March 2018 update shortly that will be fairly minimal, but never-the-less, if you print the rules, you may wish to wait.