Having got a few French and German tanks painted in the last year or so, I thought it was maybe about time I got them into a wargame, so I set up a small game next to my desk in the same space I’d used for my 1859 French-Austrian game.
This game was played by e-mail over a couple of weeks, so I recorded and photographed each move as it was completed. Unfortunately this means this is quite a long post, so it’s maybe best read by insomniacs just before they go to bed!
German Player Briefing & Rules Stuff
On 10th May 1940 the German army started its invasion of France and the Low Countries, resulting in the first large scale tank versus tank actions of WW2. You are in charge of a German tank force tasked with securing a vital road junction and river crossing. Aerial reconnaissance has indicated that French tank forces are in the vicinity, so you can expect armoured opposition. Your starting point is the ford crossing the river at the bottom edge of the aerial reconnaissance photo (shown below).
Your Kubelwagen is parked at the side of the road and hidden from view from the French forces by the woods surrounding the ford (see picture below).
You’ve moved to the forward edge of the wood to survey the area and observed the following:
1) The road junction is at the top right of the aerial reconnaissance photo next to some farm buildings. It appears to be guarded currently by a French heavy tank of a type unknown to you (see picture below).
2) The river crossing you need to secure is at the top left of the photo, surrounded by woods. Despite reports to the contrary, the river crossing appears to be a small ford.
3) There is another farm located near the centre of the photo and this appears to be unoccupied.
4) There appears to be a supply dump located between the above-mentioned farm and the river crossing. It’s guarded by a French light tank in a shallow revetment while another tank appears to be on the road behind it (see picture below). The tanks appear to be light Renault or Hotchkiss models with short 37mm guns.
To win this game you need to get one of your tanks within 4 inches of both the road junction and river crossing to prevent the French from bringing up reinforcements. In addition you need destroy all French tanks on the battlefield.
All your tanks must enter the area via the ford where you’re currently located. On your first move two tanks can be deployed, with one tank becoming available each move after that. The roads are not particularly good quality so don’t confer any movement advantage. The river can be crossed at the two fords without penalty – the river can be crossed at other points at half speed, although any vehicle doing so risks getting temporarily stuck. You can’t drive along the river itself. The woods at both fords provide cover but can only be driven through by vehicles on the road. You can move vehicles up to trees, hedges, buildings etc. to use them as cover, but you can’t go through any of these obstacles. You can fire on the move, but will suffer hit penalties for doing so.
You have the following vehicles available to you (shown in the photo above):
1) Two Panzer 38(t) light tanks – armed with a 37mm gun in a fully rotating turret and capable of a speed of 24mph (all of your tanks move at this speed)
2) One Panzer 38(t) platoon commander’s tank – effectively the same as above.
3) One Panzer II light tank – armed with a 20mm cannon. Whereas all other tanks can only fire once per move, the Panzer II can fire twice.
4) One Panzer III medium tank armed with a 37mm gun.
5) One Panzer IV medium tank armed with a short 75mm gun.
6) One Panzerjager I self-propelled gun, armed with a 47mm gun in a limited traverse mount.
Generally, the bigger the gun, the better its armour penetration. The 75mm gun on the Panzer IV, however, is optimised for firing high explosive ammunition so its armour piercing ammunition is not as effective as it might appear to be.
The board is approximately 32 inches square and the 37mm guns on your tanks have a range of 36 inches, whilst the 47mm and 75mm guns have a range of 48 inches. Armour piercing ammunition loses effect with range and the range effect bands are divided into 12 inch increments (e.g. penetration is worse at 13 inches range than 11 inches range). Your tanks all do 24mph and that translates to a movement rate of 8 inches per turn (i.e. maximum speed in mph divided by three to give movement in inches). Tanks can reverse at half speed and turn on the spot, but a 180° turn reduces movement by one quarter.
As in the previous 1859 game, I’ve added markers with numbers and letters next to each tank to make it easier to give instructions by e-mail.
The first two German tanks (both standard 38(t)s) cross the ford (see picture below).
One of the 38(t)s halts on the road while the other moves in to cover to observe the French positions. Even though the leading 38(t) is on the road at the edge of the woods, the French don’t appear to have spotted the German tanks and take no action.
With little reaction from the French, the Germans now brought up a Panzer III and a Panzer IV, but things were getting a bit congested around South Ford (see below).
Despite most of the German tanks remaining at least partially hidden in South Wood, the French had spotted the 38(t) on the track leading out of the wood. The Char B1 bis heavy tank at the junction of the tracks next to North Farm turned to its right and started moving down the track towards the 38(t) that it could clearly see (see picture below). Although it couldn’t fire its hull-mounted 75mm gun because it was moving, the Char B commander managed to squeeze off a 47mm round from the turret gun but, luckily for the 38(t), it went wide of the mark.
The commander of the Hotchkiss H35 in the revetment next to the supply dump had more luck with his shooting though, and the crew of the 38(t) on the track were startled by the sound of an armour-piercing round bouncing off the turret armour. At the same time the other H35 moved along the track and disappeared from view behind South Farm. The French knew they were there for sure! Positions of all of the vehicles at the end of Move 2 are shown below (some of the terrain features have acquired Roman numerals to help with specifying tank movement during the game e.g. move the Panzer 38(t) up to Feature III).
Since it was now getting a bit crowded around the South Ford, the Germans decided to advance against the French positions. The two 38(t)s headed north towards the H35 defending the supply dump, making use of the intervening cover. Both tanks fired at the French tank, hitting it but failing to cause any damage. With the exit from the South Wood now clear, the Panzer III headed west in an attempt to work round the flank of the Char B on the track, with the Panzer IV moving up the track and directly facing the French heavy tank. Both German tanks fired! Both German tanks missed! Since the track across the South Ford was now clear, another 38(t), followed by a light Panzer II entered the battelfield.
Having halted on the track next to the South Farm, the Char B engaged the Panzer IV emerging form the South Wood with both its 47mm turret gun and 75mm hull gun, but failed to hit with both guns. At the same time the H35 on the track behind the South Farm turned into the farmyard (Tank C in the picture below) and squeezed off a 37mm round at the closest 38(t), hitting it but causing no damage.
The H35 at the supply dump also fired at the same target, with exactly the same result! Over on the French left flank, timely reinforcements arrived in the form of a SOMUA S35 medium tank (see picture below).
As it was crossing the North Ford, the S35’s commander spotted the two 38(t)s advancing north parallel to the river. With very quick reactions, the commander fired a 47mm round at the closest German tank, hitting it and watching it start to burn furiously (the S35, firing on the move at the the 38(t), also moving behind cover, needed a D6 roll of 5 or 6 to hit; once hit, a 2D6 roll of 9 would have been enough to penetrate the German tank, but the S35 scored an 11, which started the 38(t) burning and put it out of action, as shown in the picture below).
At this stage in the game, the French had four tanks in action against the five the Germans had left. The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 3 are shown below.
Putting in place a plan to deal with the Char B, the Panzer III (Tank 3 in the picture above) turned sharp left and moved in behind the bushes and rocks on the German left flank (shown in the picture below). From this angle, the Char B was mostly hidden by vegetation, so the Panzer III’s shot at the French tank failed to hit. Over on the track, the Panzer IV (Tank 4 in the picture above) closed the range with the Char B, more to let the following German tanks exit the South Wood, and its shot against the Char B struck home but failed to cause any damage.
Meanwhile the latest 38(t) to arrive moved up next to its stablemate already in action against the H35s, closely followed by the Panzer II. Both 38(t)s fired at the H35 in the North Farm, one missing the small French tank and the other seeing its round hit with no effect. With the Panzer II having cleared the South Ford, a Panzerjager I tank destroyer now crossed the river into the South Wood.
With the Germans not having achieved anything with their firing, the French opted to stay put and return fire. With the Panzer III in good cover, the Char B targeted the Panzer IV with both of its guns – the 47mm round missed the German tank, but the low velocity 75mm round from the hull-mounted gun penetrated the Panzer IV’s armour but failed to do any damage, although the crew were momentarily shaken!
The two H35s fired at the 38(t)s opposite them and were rewarded by seeing one of them burst into flames (a 5 on a D6 secured a hit, while a 12 on 2D6 destroyed the vehicle – see picture below)!
Things were now getting decidedly chaotic for the Germans, with two tanks knocked out and room for manoeuvre around South Wood being tricky to find (see picture below).
As if to emphasis the difficult position the Germans were in, the French S35 over at the North Ford halted as it was crossing the river and put a round into the Panzer II. Fortunately for the Germans, this failed to do any damage. The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 4 are shown below.
Having made a dash for the left flank, the Panzer III pulled off a snappy right turn and headed straight for the Char B. Despite firing on the move, the German gunner hit the Char B smack on the hull side at close range and it started burning (see picture below – needed 10 on 2D6, so not that easy a shot).
With no obvious target now, the Panzer IV turned its turret to engage the H35 at the South Farm, hitting the French tank but not quite penetrating its armour. The 38(t) and Panzer II also joined in against the same target, but failed to hit anything! Over at the South Ford, the Panzerjager I re-crossed the ford and turned into the cover of the woods on the river bank to aim a shot at the S35 at the North Ford. At this point an additional German reinforcement arrived in the shape of a StuG III assault gun, and this took up position next to the Panzerjager I (still a bit crowded around the South Wood, as shown in the picture below).
With the S35 at the North Ford still halted in the middle of the river crossing, both the Panzerjager I and Stug III opened fire on it, although both missed! At this point another S35 appeared on the track next to the North Ford (see picture below) and both S35s returned fire on the Germans, but neither French tank managed to hit its target!
In the centre, the two H35s returned fire on the 38(t) but neither tank obtained a damaging hit. The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 5 are shown below.
With the Char B out of the way the Panzer III advanced to the junction of the two tracks in front of the North Farm, blocking the chance of any French reinforcements arriving from there (see picture below).
The rest of the German vehicles continued firing away at the H35 at the South Farm and the S35 at the North Ford, but with nothing to show for their efforts (the H35 took four hits without being damaged, whilst the Panzerjager I and StuG missed the S35 completely). With an R35 arriving at the North Ford to support the French, one of the S35s moved to support the H35s (see picture below – the R35 is hidden behind the tree on the right, the tank being identified in the game by the red F marker).
The other, recently arrived, S35 on the French left flank (tank E above) halted and fired at the Panzerjager I, penetrating its thin armour, destroying its gun and shaking the crew! The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 6 are shown below.
With the French right flank weakened and cut-off from reinforcements, the Panzer III edged cautiously up to the burning Char B and fired at the S35 advancing along the French rear line (see picture below) but missed!
In the centre, the remaining German tanks kept up their fire against the H35 at the South Farm – the Panzer IV hit it but failed to cause any damage, the 38(t) missed and the Panzer II scored two hits, one of which knocked out the H35’s 37mm gun (quite an achievement, since the Panzer II’s 20mm gun is much lighter than those of the other two German tanks firing)! Over at the South Ford the crew in the damaged Panzerjager I were still shaken from the earlier hit on their vehicle, while the StuG fired and missed the S35 near the North Ford.
Ignoring the Panzer III, the S35 moving along the French rear halted and fired at the 38(t) in the German centre, but failed to hit it. The H35 at the supply dump also fired at the same target, but the hit caused no damage. As the newly arrived R35 cleared the North Ford, the remaining S35 backed onto the track and moved forward to its right, giving it the opportunity to fire on the light Panzer II in the German centre. Although the shot penetrated the Panzer II’s armour, it only destroyed the co-axial machine gun and shook the crew (a lucky escape)! The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 7 are shown below.
Over on the German left the Panzer III had now halted and fired again at the S35 advancing along the French rear line, missing completely! In the centre, the Germans couldn’t pass up the chance to try and catch the same S35 in its flank, so the Panzer IV and 38(t) moved towards the supply dump, followed by the Panzer II. German shooting, however, was shocking, the Panzer IV missing and the 38(t) getting a hit that did no damage! Over on the German right flank the StuG moved forward parallel to the river and also fired at the S35, but the latter’s luck was holding and the round missed it completely (see picture below).
With the volume of fire it was attracting, the S35 at the rear of the French position decided to advance towards the Panzer III and gain some cover from the North Farm buildings (see picture below).
The crew in the damaged H35 at the North Farm were still shaken from the hit that destroyed the tank’s main gun, so they stayed put despite the advance of the German tanks. Meanwhile, the R35 that had crossed the river at the North Ford moved along the track to the supply dump to support the H35 there, whilst another R35 entered the battlefield on the French left flank and advanced to support the S35 at the North Ford.
Unfortunately for the Germans, French firing demonstrated just how deadly the 47mm gun on the S35 could be. The S35 behind the North Farm hit the Panzer III and penetrated its frontal armour, but it didn’t cause any damage, although the crew were shaken. The other S35, over at the North Ford, fired at the 38(t) advancing towards the supply dump, scoring a hit and causing the German tank to slew to a halt and start burning (see picture below)!
On the French left flank the newly arrived R35 fired at the StuG, penetrating its thick armour and shaking the crew, but not causing any damage (The R35 needed 11 on 2D6 to do this, so it was good shooting and lucky for the Germans that it caused no damage)! The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 8 are shown below.
Down to four operational tanks at this point, things weren’t looking good for the Germans! However the shaken crews in the Panzer III and StuG managed to pull themselves together and get on with the fighting! The Panzer III gunner carefully loosed off a round at the S35 approaching him and was rewarded with a hit that penetrated the turret front, disabling the S35’s main gun. Unfortunately the StuG failed to emulate this performance and missed the R35 near the North Ford completely (see picture below).
The Panzer II now advanced around and closer to the Panzer IV and both concentrated their fire on the H35 at the supply dump. The Panzer IV hit the H35’s front plate with a round that failed to cause any damage, but the smaller 20mm gun on the Panzer II managed to penetrate the thinner side armour on the H35’s turret, knocking out its main gun – this now meant both H35s and the S35 at the North Farm were all mobile but none had a functioning main gun. At this point, the German commander ordered the damaged Panzerjager I to withdraw from the battlefield since it couldn’t contribute to the fight any further.
In the confused fighting around the North Farm, the damaged S35 and H35s decided that they might as well make a run for it, the S35 charging at the Panzer III and the two H35s backing out onto the track ready to follow the larger tank (see the chaotic situation below – the damaged S35 is just off-picture to the left).
Over on the French left flank though, the remaining S35 and two R35s were putting up more of a fight. On the far bank of the river, the R35 advanced against the StuG and managed to get a close range hit on the German assault gun, although the latter suffered no damage. The other R35 and the S35 both managed to hit the Panzer IV, the S35’s 47mm gun penetrating the hull front plate and destroying the transmission, immobilising the German vehicle. The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 9 are shown below.
With the damaged French S35 and H35s trying to get out of action, the Germans carefully picked their targets! The Panzer II skirted round to the left of the South Farm and was presented with the flank of the S35 as it charged west down the track (see below – the Panzer II is Tank 6).
Since both vehicles were moving, the Panzer II only hit the S35 with one of the two rounds fired and this failed to damage the French tank, which rapidly sped past the Panzer III and away from the battlefield! The Panzer III decided to fire at the only undamaged French tank it could see, the recently-arrived R35 near the supply dump, but this was a tricky shot and the German tank missed. The immobile Panzer IV, however, fired at the same target and was rewarded by a hit that destroyed the R35’s engine.
On the German right flank, the StuG III fired at the other R35 advancing towards it but failed to cause any damage. In response, the R35 continued its advance and the S35 near the North Ford moved down the river bank in support, both tanks hitting the StuG but failing to penetrate its thicker frontal armour (see below).
The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 10 are shown below.
Without it being too much of a spoiler alert, Move 11 proved to be full of pretty awful shooting all round! The Panzer II moved up next to the North Farm and joined the Panzer III in firing at the R35 further along the track, but they only obtained one hit and even that did no damage. The Panzer IV fired at the same R35 but missed completely! The picture below shows the north end of the battlefield (the immobilised R35 is just left of centre at the top of the picture).
Over on the German right flank the StuG opted to turn slightly and fire at the oncoming S35 but, you’ve guessed it, missed by a mile! In the meantime, the two damaged French H35s were reversing north with one of them managing to leave the battlefield. In the centre the immobilised R35 on the track turned its turret to face the Panzer II and scored a penetrating hit on the German tank, shaking the crew but otherwise not causing any damage.
Over near the river the S35 and undamaged R35 continued to advance south. The S35 managed to hit the immobilised Panzer IV in its flank, penetrating the thinner side armour but failing to cause any more damage. On the far side of the river the R35 moved in for a point blank shot into the StuG’s side but the hit failed to penetrate the assault gun’s armour (see picture below).
The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 11 are shown below.
Apart from the StuG, the remaining tanks on both sides decided to remain stationary and shoot it out (well, OK, apart from the damaged H35 which scarpered off the north side of the battlefield)! The Panzer II and III both hit the immobilised R35 behind the supply dump but failed to damage it. The Panzer IV now swung its turret round and hit the S35 in its flank, penetrating the side armour but causing no damage. The StuG reversed smartly and turned to fire at the other R35 but, incredibly, missed the French tank completely!
After suffering several hits from the two German tanks at the North Farm the immobilised R35 hit the Panzer II squarely on its front, penetrating the light tank’s armour, putting it out of action and setting it on fire (see below).
Over near the river the S35 crew remained calm despite the hit from the Panzer IV and they halted and hit the German tank in its flank but failed to cause any damage. On the far side of the river, the R35 manoeuvred around the side of the StuG and scored a hit on the assault gun’s weaker side armour, but failed to cause any damage (see below)!
The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 12 are shown below.
Most of the misses and non-damaging hits are the result of consistently shocking dice throws by both sides!
With the destruction of the Panzer II, the Panzer III moved forward to try and deal with the troublesome immobilised R35 near the supply dump and was rewarded with a hit on the French tank followed by a spectacular explosion (see picture below, the only tank hit so far to completely explode, rather than just catch fire and burn, which is why it gets the bright yellow clump of hamster bedding to represent the explosion)!
This German success was, however, offset by the destruction of the Panzer IV by the S35, the French tank penetrating the Panzer IVs side armour and setting it on fire (after the Panzer IV had missed the S35 completely).
Over on the far bank of the river, the StuG managed to turn enough to be able to hit and damage the remaining R35, knocking out its main gun. Under these circumstances, the R35 driver decided that heading south might be the best move, even though it might put him deeper into German lines (see picture below).
The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 13 are shown below.
With the French only now having a single combat-worthy tank left (the S35) the Germans decided to close in and deal with it! Having received Luftwaffe intelligence reports that no other French forces were in the vicinity, the Panzer III decided to move along the track running along the north end of the battlefield, luckily managing to edge between the burning Panzer II and the wall of the South Farm. In the meantime the StuG decided to close in on the S35 and try for a close range shot. Unfortunately, the StuG missed but the S35 didn’t, the StuG disappearing in a blinding explosion (see the yellow hamster bedding in the picture below. This was no mean feat for the S35 firing against the StuG’s reasonably thick front armour, but the French tank rolled 12 on 2D6, resulting in the maximum target overmatch leading to the StuG exploding)!
The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 14 are shown below (the Panzer III having accelerated so quickly along the track that it left its game ID marker behind)!
Now down to one tank per side, it was up to the Panzer III to try and knock out the S35 before the latter could bring its more powerful 47mm gun into play. The German tank trundled past the supply dump and the turned right, bringing it into a firing position behind the S35. In such a good position the Panzer III gunner fired and hit the S35, penetrating its rear armour and setting it on fire (see picture below, Panzer III on the right and the burning S35 bottom left)!
The positions of all of the forces at the end of Move 15 are shown below (well, OK, there’s actually only one intact German tank left on the battlefield and its game ID marker still hasn’t caught up with it)!
Who Won Then?
So, a win to the Germans? At a casual glance, yes, since the only remaining tank on the board is German. But the Germans only have one intact tank left, along with the damaged Panzerjager I that left the battlefield. The French managed to get four damaged tanks away (an S35, two H35s and an R35, although the latter may well end up abandoned behind German lines by its crew) and lost three others. Since the Germans have control of the battlefield they have the chance to determine whether any of their destroyed tanks can be recovered and repaired. However, the German losses more than likely mean that any further advances will be delayed while their tank force is brought back up to an operational condition, so it seems more appropriate to call it draw. I expected the game to have lasted about 10 moves at the most, but the really bad shooting meant that it went on much longer.
The two heaviest vehicles, the Char B and the StuG, achieved very little in the game and both were knocked out. In contrast to their performance, the two French H35s did quite well, considering that they had the worst guns of all of the tanks. The best performance was put in by the S35s, demonstrating the better capability of the 47mm gun over the 37mm weapon in most of the German tanks. Luck did play a part, however, with the French getting more than their fair share of it! For this game I didn’t penalise any of the French tanks for their reduced turret crews, so I could maybe try that out in future to see if it would make much of a difference.
Having played out a tank game on a small playing area I reckon I’ll try more in the future, but not sure what might come next!