It might well have been another day for most of us, but yesterday it was the first time my boss played a wargame with his own figures!
Last year my boss (let’s call him StuG, he’s OK with that) decided he might like to try wargames, probbly because he has two big kids who play with toy soldiers who work for him (or at least who turn up and drink coffee a lot)! So he cut a deal with my colleague and, before you knew it, Valiant Miniatures and Plastic Soldier Company sprues were the new currency! Normandy in 1944 was the place to be!
Anyway, StuG has moved pretty quickly on this and got German and British forces and scenery ready for his first game! We decided to use my home-grown rules for convenience, since at least that meant one of us was familiar with what was going on. Back in the 80s I built my German panzer division up to game against a mate who played with a Guards Armoured Division that he’d largely scratchbuilt, so I opted to go Germans!
StuG’s managed to paint both British and German forces, make quite a few of his own roads, buy hedges and paint buildings, so I just took along a few bushes and trees and areas of broken ground to use if we needed them. This game was actually played in between sessions of the SCW game that’s still continuing elsewhere!
We just decided to use most of the stuff that StuG had got ready, but also chucked in some buildings that were unpainted or not quite finished to get the feel of what the game layout could look like with everything finished. The Germans had an understrength infantry battalion (one rifle company short, partly mechanised) and a StuG III company. The British had a weak infantry battalion (only two rifle companies and a weak weapons company, but also partially mechanised), an anti-tank gun battery and Cromwell squadron.
The British started with a six pounder anti-tank gun covering the route of an expected German counter-attack, with an infantry company moving up to support the gun. British reinforcements had been requested, but the Cromwell squadron had been delayed on the choked-up roads in the British supply area.
However, the Germans were experienced enough not to head straight down the road towards the six pounder position! While the armoured infantry company pushed up the German right flank, the StuG III moved up into cover to support it. Lacking a machine gun, the StuG put an HE round into the large farmhouse occupied by the British infantry, wiping out the the company commander with a lucky shot! In the meantime, the German weapons company had brought an 81mm mortar into action against the six pounder, whilst setting up an MMG to cover the SdKfz 251 advancing on the farmhouse.
The British responded well to the attack and the six pounder reacted to the incoming mortar fire by wiping out the German observer calling down fire! After this, the Germans were a bit hesitant about occupying the upper floors of any of the buildings, but they needn’t have been – the six pounder failed to either hit or damage anything else during the action! A British infantry company moving up in an M5 half-track decided that it was outgunned by the StuG III and scuttled off to hide on the British right flank!
On the other flank the British infantry had got into firing positions inside the farm and raked the advancing SdKfz 251, although no casualties were inflicted. But the Germans had planned their assault well, and sustained fire from the weapons company’s MMG caused so many casualties that the survivors broke and ran from the farm, piling out of the back door as the German infantry de-bussing from the SdKfz 251 charged in through the front door!
Apart from that setback though, the British started to apply a bit more pressure. The M5 half-track raced down their right flank and started shooting up the Germany infantry company holding position there. Although the Germans managed to get their infantry into action, they failed to deter the half-track, re-positioning the MMG to cover the latter in case it got too close. In the meantime, the Cromwell had come into action, skillfully firing at the StuG III whilst moving from cover to cover, but watching all of its shots ricochet off the assault gun. In a pretty impressive show of bravado, the Cromwell charged at the StuG III and subjected it to a barrage of hits, but none penetrated the frontal armour! Having surprisingly maintained his composure, the StuG III gunner put one well-placed round into the Cromwell and it started to burn, the German commander following this up immediately by ordering the driver to swing the assault gun round and hunt down the M5 half-track!
The Germans followed this up by opening fire on the British HQ from the captured farm and bringing down some effective mortar fire onto the British weapons company that had moved up into the centre of the action. With German fire increasing, and the threat of the StuG III all too evident, at this point the British decided that discretion was the better part of valour and made plans to pull back to more defensible positions!
So, the Germans (me) managed to best the British (StuG, my boss)! Rather than giving up, the Brits are now going to be acquiring their own MMGs and mortars, plus some carriers! It was a good game – for StuG ’cause he got to use all of his troops, tanks and scenery for the first time, and for me because I was actually away from home this week staying in a hotel and it was a change to be able to play a wargame!
I’ve maybe scuppered me chance of a promotion or a pay rise, but who cares! Did I mention that I’d beaten my boss at a wargame?