The event was a smaller one than usual featuring 11 players (myself included)
Here’s a summary:
A few late cancellations saw a far smaller gathering that normal and more concerning (for me) prior to Saturday was that the Axis/Allies split was a particularly scary 3/7. Fortunately, Mark and Derek brought along quite a few spares and I brought along 3 German forces, well 2 and half to be precise and with some last minute tweaking I’d claim things went along pretty well. I should like to thank everyone that came along for making the event so enjoyable. Thanks too to Mark for agreeing to play without his regular playing partner and also to newcomer Martyn, who is pretty new to FoW but nevertheless ably took control of two German armies to face Paul and Ross. Finally on a sad note, a big thanks to Steve and all at Triple Helix Wargaming for being such wonderful hosts over the passed two years. If you weren’t already aware the gaming hall at the venue will shortly be ued for other purposes and no longer available for the gaming masses, I hasten to add that Triple Helix Wargaming continues to grow and their shop and online business is continuing as normal.
The gaming on Saturday morning began with the Alied forces poised en masse around three crucial areas: South of the railway station at Cassino and at two separate starting points on the gentle slopes approaching Hangmans Hill. The Germans were dug in on all fronts awaiting the onslaught.
The Allied forces enjoyed air superiority all weekend, the artillery duel was certainly won by the Germans simply due to it being far more accurate for the most part due to occupying the best vantage points and of course having already dealt with countless assaults in the preceding weeks and months. The Allies had numerical advantage on only one front.
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Due to the volume of artillery and bombing the terrain had suffered movement for all was severly impeded, however it was the Allies that suffered because the Germans, of course weren’t moving. This combined with the accurate German artillery made for some painfully slow and brutal movement to begin with. As ever, when the allies did make contact it got messy , very quickly. At the railway station my forces inflicted heavy casualties across the entire front as they moved to close but although casualties were heavy no platoons broke prior to contact. On the German side a few of the weaker platoons and units deciding to play peek a boo were tagged after failing storm trooper moves. Highlight of the game was a massed attack right of center, heading for my right objective where units of Nissei backed up by Gurkhas has massed. Unfortunately for them the massed shooting aimed at the defenders to soften them up before the assault had failed miserably and neither inflicted any/many casualties or succeeded in pinning them. Consequently the Nissei charged into a hail of fire from HMGs, MGs and supporting tank mgs and it was no surprise that they broke off with heavy casualties, what was surprising that after an easy motivation test they came back for more of the same with the same result. Next came the Gurkhas and they too had to suffer from withering defensive fire.
Ultimately, the well dug in Germans with accurate artillery was enough to hold firm and would certainly have held out for a few more turns. The fighting at the base of Hangmans hill followed a similar pattern. The Allies made very good use of smoke to silence the dreaded 88s which would have made armor advances particularly difficult. However, results were the same across the front, the terrain was too tricky and artillery too accurate to reach the German lines with anything like the speed needed and having taken far too many casualties on the way in.
After a quick change of table and opponents the Allies tried again, the Germans relatively content where they were saw no need to move and were certainly in no mood to leave their entrenchments and counter. This time the Allies closed far quicker and were nearing the objetives in short order. My game saw me in position beyond the railway beneath the foothills of Hangmans hill facing Steve and Graham. An error in deployment saw them waiting for me to commit my available 88s before loading just about everything on the other flank. This meant that I left only a below strength Panzer Grenadier unit on each of the other objectives along with some 88s whose transports had long since been destroyed. The other full strength Panzer Grenadiers left their foxholes and sprinting to get to the far left objective. The sight of two units of doubling infantry soom drew the attention of Recce patrols and the odd barrage, casualties were mercifully light though but they were of course stopped in their tracks and proceeded somewhat more carefully from then on. On my left objective i had only two AT platoons with two Pak 40s apiece one of which also need to offer some cover to the central objective or fear of a feint and one unit of Panzer Grens facing up to two full strength companies minus only some limbered 6 pounders. Suffice as to say I was expecting short game. The Allies pile everything forwards in good order and pour smoke down over the PAKs. First turn unsurprisingly sees no reserves turn up so everyone sits tight and prays that the artillery would help; it did. A few tanks are bailed and a couple tagged, the infantry out in the open pays a very heavy price with few pinned and one platoon lost completely. Second turn sees the Allies repeat the first and head for my left objective en masse. Crucially, an important infantry unit refuses to unpin which means the forward platoon would have to wait for some support, recce UCs can only do some much against dug in troops. The UCs head for the woods.
Turn three sees the Allied air force turn up and th first of the assaults. The leading elements of the German infantry are wiped out but there is not enough momentum (nor infantry) to press on the attacks and the Germans have enough of their number left to still hold the objective. This, combined with the arrival of some timely German armour reserves and reinforcements from the centre and right objectives mean the initially weak right flank all of a sudden looked pretty solid. The 4 Stugs hit by planes also shrug off the attack. Once again the Allies would have needed a number of turns to shift the Germans from the objective. Unfortunately (for the Allies) there was a similar pattern on the other tables although there were some gains, certainly more so than the first battles. Nevertheless, the last game of the weekend (11Am on) would need to see a huge swing towards the Allies for them to have any hope of rescuing something from the weekend. Having reasonably comfortably held up the Allies on our little corner of the Cassino campaign things on other fronts had been better for the Allies and the Germans were sufficiently concerned about their forward lines being compromised that a withdrawal was ordered.
This time the Allies launch their attack at night, a move not appreciated by everyone. I too failed to see the benefit especially as it denied the Allies their one trump card:air superiority. I appreciate that the Allies can close on the German lines relatively unmolested but equally the defenders are usually relatively if not completely unscathed.
One positive is that they do seem to close on the defenders lines far quicker and for that reason alone it was worth it.
It seems that on all three tables daybreak came as a surprise with masses of troops in the open. On my table I was again facing up against three companies in the form of Alan’s Canadians, Davie’s Gurkhas and Mike’s Poles. As said they closed quickly and even when they were in range my troops had trouble shooting any distance. The only real success were some Armoured cars repeatedly machine gunning the Polish forces before withdrawing. German artillery was again accurate but seemed to do little to slow them down or indeed make much of a dent in their numbers. My AT did tag a few tanks but I, in return saw my precious 88s and Pak40s getting taken out.
Ultimately the battle would be decided on the two objectives which I would be removing. On the right the Poles poured in and succeeded in taking out a platoon of Panzer Grenadiers but they too were decimated; in come the Gurkhas, this time against far less defensive fire and after several rounds of combat and lots of war cries and hoots of joy from Davie saw the Germans pushed off the objective and crucially most nearby supporting units left the field leaving the Allies sat on the objective one turn before I could take it off. I also had nothing to reach it to contest, game over? not quite. The decimated Gurkhas sat on the objective were about to face three artillery bombardments: first one fails to range, second one inflicts hits but they’re saved, third one tags a team forcing a motivation test to decide the game; you guessed it, Davie rolls a one and withdraw leaving the objective uncontested for the start of their turn. It was a classic situation, burnt out tanks from both sides littering the field but the Germans having done ‘just’ enough.
With time rapidly running out and with Grahams Canadians facing up against a few full strength German platoons backed up by Stugs the fight shifted towards a mad rush at the center objective. One of my companies broke after having lost their 1iC in the earlier assaults. Leaving precious few platoons left to cover the center against Churchills, Shermans UC’s and more. I could probably have got something on the objective to buy myself some more time it mattered not, the correct decision was to concede the game and congratulate my opponents. A decision made easier because Fear Naught is not a tournament, doing what feels right matters more.
The other two tables again saw the Germans have the upper hand and withdraw in good order.
It will be of no surprise for you to learn that the overall result for the weekend could only be a comfortable win for the Germans.
Once again thanks to you all for attending and for making the event a pleasure to organise.