Since moving to Virginia, I've been meeting a number of different groups of gamers around the area. One such group meets at the FLGS (Your Hobby Place in Martinsburg) and usually plays various historical board games. However, Jim was interested in playing I Ain't Been Shot, Mum! from Too Fat Lardies. I'd had the rules for a while and had been wanting to try it out, so I was happy to set up a game.
I wrote a scenario based on the encounters between the French 3rd DLM and German 4th Panzer near Hannut in May 1940. With a first game, the smart play is to start small… but I am not always smart . I wanted to get a good taste of how the rules handled things, so threw in a little bit of everything. The French had a couple of infantry platoons, some MMGs, and a pair of 25mm ATGs. A platoon of SOMUA S-35s were in reserve along with a couple of 47mm ATGs. The Germans had a company of infantry to start the game, backed up by some MMGs with the company HQ platoon, a platoon of off-table 75mm infantry guns, and a patrol of a couple of light armoured cars. Coming up behind the forward German elements were three tank platoons: a light panzer platoon of PzKw Is and IIs; a section of PzKw IVD; and a platoon of PzKw IIIs. The German mission was to push armour off the other side of the table.
IABSM incorporates all of the standard Two Fat Lardies staples (or rather, TFL games mostly incorporate IABSM mechanisms, since that game came first): card based activation, deployment of troops on 'Blinds', and the role of Big Men on the battlefield. The French had a number of Blinds on table (which could be units or dummies and in addition, each terrain feature was considered a Blind, so the French could be anywhere. The Germans deployed the infantry on four Blinds with a section of MMGs and the FO for the 75mm guns tasked to support two platoons on the left moving against the town. The HQ kept two MMGs and was to support one platoon and the recon armoured cars moving against the farmhouses on the right.
The first turn saw the French Blinds card come up first, so they were able to reserve their dice in case Germans later came into view. The Germans then moved forward and began trying to spot the various French Blinds. A successful spotting check verified the farmhouses were empty, but the HQ platoon foolishly tried to sprint across some open ground in front of the orchard. Suddenly French small arms fire erupted from the low stone wall enclosing the orchard. An entire platoon of French infantry was packed into the space! The HQ platoon was decimated, with many casualties and wounds (a colourful term in the game for negative cohesion), and would play only a minimal role in the rest of the game.
The Recon armoured cars rolled forward up the road on the right and paused to machine gun the French infantry in the orchard while trying (unsuccessfully) to spot some of the Blinds. The German infantry on the left moved up cautiously through the woods and revealed a couple of French dummy Blinds. The first German tank reinforcements arrived in the form of a platoon of Panzer Is and IIs, and were committed to supporting the infantry against the town on the left. As some Frenchmen were discovered on the edge of town, the tanks rolled out to hose them repeatedly with 20mm and MG fire.
Back on the right, the third German Shutzen platoon was attempting to move forward to seize the farmhouse and outflank the orchard. However, apparently the hedge at the end of the field was covered in razor sharp thorns as my troops had great difficulty getting over it, leaving them caught out in the open to be fired on by the French in the orchard and some MMGs further back. One section was badly mauled, but one reached a marginally safe position.
With time getting on, the armoured cars began to press up the road looking to ID more French Blinds. They succeeded in locating the French 25mm ATGs: the hard way! However, the thin-skinned armoured cars survived the onslaught with only some engine damage to one car. The tank fire against the town was followed by an infantry assault. Despite a substantial advantage due to defending the buildings, the French were driven from the front of the town and German troops moved up to take the first row of buildings. In the last turn, the SOMUA platoon deployed off of their Blind and fired off a barrage of shots against the light panzers, but succeeded in only damaging a couple of engines.
At this point we ran out of time and called off the game, but it was clear that the French enjoyed a substantial advantage. The unit holding the orchard was a little beaten up, but so was the German platoon near them. A couple of Panzer IVDs had arrived to help, but were very slow in deploying forward. The Germans had seized the front of the town on the left and inflicted a lot of damage on a couple of French sections, but still had a number of French in the town that would have to be overcome in close street fighting. They would get little help from the light panzers, as the thinly armoured and lightly armed tanks would be no match for the advancing SOMUA S-35s.
I knew that I had put together a game too large to likely finish with the first try of a new set of rules, but as stated above the real purpose was to try out the rules and see how things worked. The game was fun and I'll happily play it again… but probably only until Fireball Forward gets finished! I generally like games with a little chaos in them, as it seems to better reflect first person accounts from the war. Not knowing exactly when things will move or whether your infantry can make it over the hedge adds interest and forces you to make really sound judgments, or to take risks. However, the rules are very British, meaning that they are written in a manner that is long on flavour and short on specifics. For instance, when firing, rather than have a list of modifiers, each shot is simply classified as Great, Okay, or Poor. In and of itself this is not a bad thing, but in a game without an umpire, it does add to the resolution of each shot as you have to stop and make sure that you have an agreement with the opponent as to what each shot is rated.
Like a lot of other British game rules I've played, it also tends to have a separate mechanism for each type of action, which definitely adds to the learning curve and makes a reference sheet essential. I also have a love-hate relationship with card-based activation: I like the randomness and the ease it brings to inserting special events, but dislike the waiting around while each individual unit takes its turn. However, most of those issues are either acceptable parts of the game's charm or just things that I can get better at with increased play. However, the firing chart is unfortunately central to the game and a real drag on it. Having to total up several dice and cross reference the results on a full-page table to find the results of each shot is just a pain. Other gamers may not be put off by it as much as myself I guess. We definitely need to give it another go (or two) to give the mechanics a fair shake.