Wargaming in Hertfordshire

Friday, 11 August 2017

Hill 112 - Battlegroup Game

Report and Pictures by Fred.

At the beginning of June, we ran our annual Summer WW2 big game at my local club. We use the Battlegroup system for our larger-scale events. This year we opted for a points based, expanded version of the Hill 112 scenario from the Kampfgruppe Normandy rule book, which I have been itching to play for years. The standard scenario is 6 x 8 longitudinally but I went for a 12 x 6 set up with less depth but far greater width as it was a multi-player game and I wanted to bring the two sides together from the off, with each having the ability to manoeuvre and get down the flanks.

Various objectives were identified on the table - the cross roads, tactically important woods and, at the rear, the hillocks. The actual hill was apparently more of a steadily rising and surprisingly wide open plain. The British were attacking from the left edge in this photo, the Germans deployed in depth on the right. The British had 1,200 points from the Overlord Armoured list, 500 points of which were reinforcements coming on to the board from Turn 3. The Germans also had 1,200 points drawn from the HJ / 12th SS Panzer Division List from the new Rule Book. 500 points constituted reinforcements starting from Turn 4.

As a further twist, and unbeknown to their opponents, each side had a Secret Rule. The British benefited from Escalation, which represented HQ seeing a gap appear in the German line and feeding an additional 200 points into the attack. The Germans benefited from the Cut off the Head Special Rule. This represented the decision of OKW to assign 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions to reinforce the flanks of Hill 112 and launch counterattacks. In game terms, I permitted the Germans to hold back reinforcements and, from Turn 7 onwards, launch them into the British flanks from the sides of the table. In the real battle, the British learned of the German intentions via Ultra communications interceptions. In our battle, they were not so lucky.

As per Warwick's scenario notes, the battlefield was strewn with a few knocked out British vehicles from an earlier attack.

I organised and umpired the game which meant I didn't have to worry about lugging a force to / from the Club and could relax a bit. Here is a pic of four of the six players before the festivities commenced.

The Germans deployed first and opted to field infantry and AT guns in dug in positions across the width of the board, supported by Panzer IV's in covered, ambush positions.

As was often reported during the Normandy campaign, the Panzer IV's proved to be surprisingly effective in this game.

The British decided to avoid the teeth of the German defence and attempted to outflank it by concentrating the bulk of their force on the far left.

Initially, the attack made good progress. However, those smouldering Shermans from the earlier attack were a portent of what was to follow.

The British decision to concentrate down one flank seemed to backfire a bit as it enabled the Panzer IV's to "corner" their spearhead in a small area of the table where their tanks were vulnerable not only to the Germans' L48 75mm calibre tank guns but also well-placed off-board artillery fire.

The Panzer IV's used the cover of hedges and woodland to manoeuvre into good firing positions.

British infantry crept forward behind the Armoured spearhead.

Whilst their tanks started to take hits at a fast rate.

There was some British success. One of the German ATG emplacements was knocked out by artillery fire.

But the German tanks continued to mete out punishment.

SS Panzer Grenadiers stealthily picked their way forward.

More British armour fell victim to the Panzers' fire.

In an attempt to draw attention away from the main attack, the British played their Escalation chip and sent a platoon of Shermans down the middle of the board to attack the critical cross-roads junction.

British luck did not improve. We were using my D12 ammunition system rather than the standard rules and two Shermans failed their ammo test after each firing twice.

The British had barely got beyond the first cluster of buildings on the left.

In the centre, another Panzer IV took on the Sherman reinforcements and immediately drew first blood.

British infantry was pinned under German mortar fire.

Both the out of ammo Shermans and the supply truck re-arming them were then hit with a salvo of direct hits from the German off-board mortars.

British luck couldn't get much worse and the tide started to turn in their favour as German tanks took hits back.

Although they had excelled themselves so far, the German morale was quite brittle compared to the British and their BR was getting gradually chipped away. Off-board artillery pounded the German defensive positions and the British drew Jabo counters which were successfully rolled for. The Hanomag command vehicle in the foreground led a charmed life as it drew the attention of the British artillery spotters. Consternation creased the brows of the German players.

In the centre, British units made progress towards the strategically important road junction. A long debate took place between the German players over whether, where and when to use their flanking Special Rule by bringing on their final reserves - a platoon of Panthers! Wary of the Jabo threat, they decided to hold off and trust in the Panzer IV's to hold out for the time being.

However, the Germans were starting to suffer ammunition issues of their own.

In a dramatic moment of game play, one Cromwell burst through the German line and reached this patch of woodland in front of the central hillock before hitting a minefield. Two opposing tanks burned away next to each other.

Behind them, the British continued to push forward.

On the left, they were finally making good progress. The young HJ fanatics braced themselves in their trenches as the British armour continued to roll towards them.

An overhead spotting plane captured the carnage in front of the hill top.

The German problems with ammunition supply were now critical.

Instinctively, the Germans reacted in the only way they knew how, by throwing their Grenadiers forward to hold the cross roads. In doing so, they took a pounding from the advancing British troops and their supporting 25 pounders. The German BR was disappearing at an alarming rate.

An intensive firefight erupted as the British pushed forward towards the German positions near the cross roads.

At that precise point, the Panthers were at last thrown into the fray. With their flank exposed, the British players were perplexed to say the least! And yet at this critical moment, the Panthers missed their shots.

Then a halftrack went up in flames as it approached the cross roads courtesy of a panzerfaust as German infantry fought tenaciously to hold this objective.

On the far left, another Panzer IV blew up, leaving a gap in the German defence. The Panthers had been concentrated on the other side.

The woods in front of the central hill top saw bitter fighting between opposing infantry squads as the Grenadiers launched a furious counterattack.

Another British halftrack charged through the gap left by the knocked out Panzer IV and seized another hillock, securing this objective.

A British spotter plane took another overhead photo showing the general mayhem at the end of Turn 10.

We called it quits at that point, by which time the evening was upon us after a long day of intense and exciting game play. The pivotal moment had been the German decision to hold back the Panthers until the very last moment, due to the threat of Jabos, by which point they could not really affect the outcome. That said, the Panzer IV's really had done their job for them, excelling in the "penny packet" defensive role and giving the British armour a hard time all day.

The Germans were very close to breaking - only 2 off their their BR of 52. However, not only had they held the key point on Hill 112, they had counter-attacked frontally and seized control of a number of tactical objectives. The British were still 20 points off their BR by the end, but I felt that the combination of a very bloody nose and the ground held by the Germans merited calling the game a hard-fought and meritorious draw.

A final pic of the two sides at game end. A great day.

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