Sunday, 21 August 2011

Operation COBRA - Objectives GRIM and REAPER!

Preparations for 1812-2012 Napoleonic wargaming, the priority for my hobby activities during the 200th commemorative period until 2015, are well in hand, so a WW2 treat was in order. Most of our WW2 games are in 20mm, but since we wanted to put on a large game with multiple player teams, 15mm models were to be used. Whilst I have ample German forces, in this scale I have no British or US models so I would have to rely on the collection of my mates for the gallant liberators of Europe. I did hope to use my newly painted 1:100th Tiffies for the first time, however.
Armaments in Miniature Typhoon prowling for Tigers....

Bryan, an experienced and well equipped Flames of War hand, was keen to use his large collection of US forces, and since the Normandy Campaign has long fascinated me, it would have to be an Operation COBRA scenario.

The overall game concept was to condense the COBRA characteristics into one day long game, an initial phase with the US forces struggling through the 'Hedgerow Country' of the Bocage, and then a headlong dash south...The table was duly set up with a potential bottleneck represented by a bridge, set in close country, but with a major road leading South through more open country to the final objective, the town of St Jean de Daye in which was the 1 Infantry Div HQ. 
Photo distributed to the players prior to the game to allow for pre-game planning. Monochrome to give that period feel!
The allies' first objective would be the bridge, Codename GRIM, with the town in the distance, REAPER, being the final objective, and capture of which within 15 moves would be the victory conditions for them. If they captured GRIM within 5 moves, as well as getting access to the road net, they would recieve reinforcements...The table was 6 foot wide and 12 foot deep, so the allies had a fair slog to go...

ORBATs. The initial US forces, led by Bryan, with Ross as his Chief of Staff, were 2,000 points of the 3rd US Armored Division, made up of 2 Sherman platoons, one of which sported 76mm guns, a TD platoon, and, no doubt wisely in view of the prospect of an assault river crossing , a platoon of Armored Engineers. If the Allies captured objective GRIM intact within 5 moves, they would also recieve a further 2,000 points of the 82nd Airborne Division, but in a ground based role. They could call upon these reserves at any time anyway, but would forfeit the chance of victory and could only claim a draw if they called on these reinforcements without gaining the bridge.

Peter Pig Tiger IE
The German opposition consisted of Mark commanding a Tiger comapny and I an infantry company and medium tanks. These amounted to just under 2,000 points, centered around a Grenadier rifle company of two platoons, with direct fire support coming from a platoon of Panzer IV's and indirect fire support from a half track based 81mm mortar platoon. There was also the Heavy Panzer Company of 4 Tiger 1E's. One of the infantry platoons and the Tigers were held off-table in ambush mode. The Germans could also call upon 2,000 points of reinforcements, in the form of an Assault Pioneer company and supporting heavy artillery, but to call them in would similarly forfeit the chance for victory, a draw being the best outcome then possible even if the town was successfully defended. The ulterior reason for these conditions on both sets of reinforcement was to discourage the game from getting bogged down too early in the close country, but allow the game to continue on all day if one or other side experienced disasterous casualties. This was not a competition game, but a friendly and social event with the real objective being for all of us to improve our understanding of the Flames of War rules, since with the exception of Bryan we were all novices and indeed Ross had never played with them at all.
Peter Pig armoured 81mm Mortar Platoon - the poor man's artillery...
One of the priviledges of hosting a large game and setting up the terrain before hand is the chance to mull over the terrain factors and make a leisurely command estimate. The main question seemed to focus on whether to defend in front of or behind the river. It was shallow in places, and thus could be fordible in alternating stretches for about half its length on throwing a 4+D6, so holding on to the bridge was not absolutely imperative, and in any case the order to blow it could be given from move 4 on a 6D6 falling to a 5DG the next move and so on. But the table had been set up to represent an actual part of the COBRA route, and as you might expect there was no high ground along the river valley, and so respectable fields of fire were few and far between without being exposed to allied air superiority, which would be overwhelming, as for this game the allied air pool would not fall below 2 dice....
Restricted fields of fire in the dense bocage - Plastic Soldier Company Panzer IV
One of the realistic aspects of FOW rules is the restriction on command distances, so I couldn't spread my infantry nor my armour over both banks. I plumped for a forward defence, which with hindsight was the wrong decision. I centered the infantry in the woods in and around the bridge, and spread the mediums out a little further covering all likely armoured approaches. 
The US assault at first seemed quite tentative as they assessed that the approaches were covered by the long barrelled Kwk 75mm/L48s of the Panzer IV's, but their opening salvoes inevitably attracted the attention of the circling 'tiffies' who soon clocked up their first kill...The US armored infantry initially advanced more boldly, but were soon pinned down by the skill and resolution of the German snipers.
Plastic Soldier Company LW German Infantry based as Sniper and spotter
With the momentum of the advance in danger of being lost, the US resorted to using smoke rounds on all the revealed tank hides and used their Cullin cutters to detour aroung the flank approaches to stalk in for the kill. As my Panzer IV's started getting picked off, and with an apparent momentary lull in allied air activity, I decided to pull my survivors out, frustrated at having lost several valuable tanks without brewing up any Shermans at all...A lone sniper team had done more to hold up the allied advance than an entire platoon of tanks!
As the Pz IV's retreated across the exposed bridge to their fall back hides, the RAF made its inevitable appearance, but with some luck no further losses were taken..
With typical Sapper ingenuity and dash, the US armored engineers seize the bridge...
With the German infantry left to hold the bridges defences on their own, and the relentless prescence of the US spotter aircraft preventing the deployment of the supporting sister platoon in ambush, the US were not long in exploiting the pullout of the German tanks. The US armored Engineer platoon assaulted the German positions along the extreme flank, working their way in along the river bank. Ins successive exploitative bounds they were able to follow the retreating Germans across a ford in the river to capture the bridge - from the far end! They had captured Objective GRIM within 4 bounds, and so now reorganised and absorbed their reinforcements. Phase 2 was about to begin, and the German players were resolved to do better than in phase 1, so did not themselves call for reinforcements, despite the now impressive odds against them, including some heavy US artillery:

 It didn't take long for the US to launch the second phase of the offensive, and it soon became clear that they were intent on avoiding our carefully planned killing zone centered on the highway, instead they worked their way down both flanks. Careful use of the ubiquitous spotter aircraft prevented the use of several successive ambush positions, and it soon became clear that the next line of defence would also have to be the last, the town itself...
US 3rd Armored Division deploying at the edge of cover.
 Now Mark, the Tiger commander, can usually be relied upon to make bold and aggressive moves, and it was clearly high time to wrest the initiative from the US who had been having things their own way for far to long. He was itching to launch into a death ride in the best traditions of Wittman and 'Panzer Meier'...
However, the terrain was now wide open, and the Typhoons were still making their prescence felt:
This being a friendly, discussion ensured about the best way to deploy our Tigers, which had hitherto remained in ambush. We reluctantly concluded that a defensive posture would be wisest, although I inwardly believed this could only postphone the inevitable. They were accordingly deployed in and around the town:
The commander intent on communicating with his loader - how long does it take to make a Koffee! Gott in Himmel!
However, the US continued to be wary, and with the judicious employment of smoke bombardments with their now lavish artillery assets, the Tigers had a pretty thin time of it stalking the wary US tankers, whilst the ample US infantry forces closed in on the town from the Eastern flank, which provided useful covered approaches. With hindsight, this is where another German sniper team would have bought us some time...
The 82nd Airborne using the covered approaches to Tiger stalk - The spotter a/c is searching for ambushes, but at this stage the German cupboard is bare of infantry...
Without infantry support and with swarms of US infantry on his flanks and rear, the Tiger commander pulled his valuable assets out, and the town defences, battered by devastating artillery fire, surrendered. The gallant US forces had gained their objectives with several moves to spare. This result did reflect a masterly performance from Bryan and Ross, and after congratulating them Mark and I concluded that it was all the fault of the dice....In retrospect, I now appreciate the value of AA assets!

I must record my thanks to Bryan, who patiently shared his knowlege of the rules with us and did the bulk of the calculations in what was a large and complex game, but I think we all had an enjoyable and interesting game.


  1. Great battle report. Very nice photos.Thanks Sparker

  2. Neat Sparker,

    Nice report!


  3. Excellent batrep and great pics, love the Typhoons!!

  4. Cracking stuff!!! Lovely blog mate

  5. Good stuff! Nice to see a game without wall to wall vehicles!!!

  6. Hi guys, Looks like great fun and a great game, looks fantastic. Can't wait to see more. Hope you look me up , would like to hear from you . Billy.