The Road to Scoglitti
Last week we got in our second game with IABSM version 3, this time using a scenario from the Sicilian Weekend scenario book published by Too Fat Lardies. This book contains a scad of scenarios covering the first two days of Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943.
The scenario for this game was Scenario 7: The Road to Scoglitti. The Americans are ashore and forward elements of the 180th Regimental Combat Team, 45th Infantry Division, have established a blocking position north of the beachheads. On the German side the Herman Göring Division is counterattcking toward the beachheads. Lead elements of Kampfgruppe Links are tasked with brushing aside the US roadblock and opening the way for the rest of the battle group to drive the Americans back into the sea.
The players were given briefs for their side only and in keeping with the confused situation after an assault landing, neither side had a very accurate intelligence picture as to the other side’s forces or mission. The US had essentially an infantry company composed of good regulars and some airborne troops, reinforced by a machine gun platoon and fire support from half of a battery of 105mm howitzers. The sum total of the American anti-tank assets was four bazooka teams! The Germans attacked with a reinforced infantry company as well, but enjoyed a greater level of support. Each of their platoons was plumped out with an extra squad and one of the platoons was mounted in armoured halftracks, They also had a machine gun platoon, but the real danger to the US lay in the platoon of two 15cm self-propelled guns and the platoon of three PzKw VIE Tigers. The main German weakness lay in their leaders, who were all of lesser quality than their American counterparts.
The terrain was relatively open, with some terraced hills covered in olive groves on the American side giving some limited cover. I made these light cover, giving the US troops a place to conceal themselves, but not blocking line of sight, so once revealed, any German could see and attack them. The ground though was strewn with boulders and rocks, making off road travel for tracked vehicles slower and stopping the movement of wheeled vehicles off-road.
The US deployed their forces evenly, with a couple of platoon, two MMGs and two bazookas in the larger grove to the west and a single platoon, one MMG, and a couple of bazookas in the smaller grove to the east. The Germans entered the table on blinds from the road from the north. The Americans had a couple of dummy blinds on table and used these to spot some German units and soak up German spotting attempts in return. The first German units were revealed to be a unit of a truck and a kubelwagon screaming up the road and a unit of halftracks. The halftracks headed off road and toward the olive groves but were finding the boulders (and their bad movement dice) to be slowing their progress. As the grunts debussed and started forward the platoon came under fire from US artillery and a pair of MMGs that were revealed and started to fire on the oncoming panzergrenadiers. The German squad and MMG from the truck on the road also debussed into a hail of fire. These squads were cut down and gutted by a large volume of US fire, leaving the first panzergrenadier platoon with only a squad and some halftracks. The halftracks began to return fire using their pintle MMGs though and started to put some shock and casualties on the US machine guns. This brought down 105mm of US retaliation and two of the tracks were destroyed by artillery fire.
As the Germans fire began to reduce the effectiveness of the US machine guns, the US commanders moved two blinds forward to give them more firepower on the front line, each of which represented a full platoon of infantry. Once these blinds were spotted and the troops placed on table, the US forces found themselves tightly packed and presented excellent targets to the surviving Germans. This blunder (which was more of a game familiarity issue than a tactical blunder per se) opened the door for the Germans as the US troops took heavy fire and serious casualties. A couple of reduced German squads managed to reach the US lines and assault some of the suppressed squads, but didn’t have the strength to inflict telling losses and were subsequently wrecked by fire from the US line.
The Germans had suffered a few turns of delay where they did not get any Blinds cards to enable them to bring on fresh troops, but eventually began to bring on more blinds. One dummy blind raced across to the east olive grove and revealed a US MMG and bazooka. Another platoon of infantry moved on and immediately debussed, but before they could move away the tightly packed mass was hit repeatedly by American MMGs, suppressing the troops and heavy losses and shock. Two squads were chewed up before the German’s own MMG could begin to lay some effective suppressing fire on the American MGs and permit the surviving squad to clear out.
While the packed Germans at the road were being hammered, another German blind had moved about halfway up the road before being revealed as the platoon of three Tigers. A brave (foolish?) bazooka team crept to within range and fired off a rocket at the beast – and scores an immobilizing hit to the track! More importantly, the vehicle also picked up two shock and as it was immobilized and Morale III, one more shock would send the crew packing. Fortunately for the Germans the American bazooka was unable to score another damaging hit before two German Rally cards had come buy and allowed the tankers to recover their shock. A platoon of American infantry had been trying to cross from the east grove to the west grove when the Tigers appeared and now it was their turn to experience the rocky Sicilian ground. The lead squads of the platoon were only about 7 inches from the cover of the grove, but rolled miserably for movement and were caught in the open and hammered by all three Tigers. Only a few men ever reached the safety of the trees.
As the end game approached, the US players shifted their artillery onto the Tigers and between that and the work of their intrepid bazookamen, the big tanks slowly began to accumulate damage to optics and running gear. Their morale didn’t falter though as the German CO, Hauptman Klink, moved forward and used every bit of his limited command initiative to remove shock from the big tanks. The SP infantry guns had suffered rather bad luck in the card draws (slow loading crews perhaps), but were able to add additional fire against the US line. The German players finally decided that no nasty American AT gun was going to pop out of hiding and that no Shermans were on the way and dedicated full resources to squishing the last of the bazookas. When the last one was killed we called the game at the next Tea Break.
The game was decided to be a very, very minor and very, very Pyrrhic victory. The US infantry strength was dangerously low, they had no machine guns or bazookas remaining, and their AT power was reduced to the incoming artillery. The Germans on the other hand were also virtually depleted of infantry and their heavy panzers were all damaged. The SP guns and Tigers would be able to clear off the remaining American infantry, but there was no way this company was making any further advance on the US beaches.
Another great fun game with lots of tension on both sides. The friction introduced by the IABSM system was definitely at work on both sides during the game. The US, with more and better leaders was able to offset some of the friction on their side, but not always, as was the case for the ill-fated first platoon caught crossing between the olive groves. We also got to try out the artillery system extensively in this game and it is definitely a great improvement over IABSM2. Clean and easy to use, but still with a lot of the air of uncertainty that characterized WWII artillery close support. Against moving targets, it required great luck to bring the guns in before the target had moved off. Against a sitting target like the immobilized Tigers, the guns could be brought in and reliably hammer away at the target. Shifting to a new target was always a decision not to be taken lightly as it required restarting the entire process. I ran into a couple of the players a couple of days later and they were still thinking about what they could have done differently. A sure sign of an engaging game.
Looking forward to the next IABSM game.