SP195 Retreat From Hannut - AAR

von Marwitz

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SP195 Retreat From Hannut - AAR16488

A while ago I came across this early war Westfront scenario, which looked quite interesting. So I gave it a go as the defending French.

By the way:
If you wonder why I always initially merely post the beginnings of AAR's, here is the reason.The games are looged to ROAR and the ASL Scenario Archive webstite. The Scenario Archive allows you to comment on games. As the forum provides better means as simple text, when registering the game into the Archive, I provide a link to the AAR in this forum - for which that link needs to exist. For which I have to create a thread. To prevent forgetting registering the games, this means registration first, full AAR later.


Situation at Game Start:

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First, let us have a look at the situation and objectives. The French need to exit at least one of five French H39/H39(L) tanks off the west edge (left) AND if they have a certain number of VP of unbroken Infantry in Stone Buildings on board(s) 59/63 for winning immediately at the end of any player turn.

So, this is the classical 'fall-back defence' scenario. There is a lot of open ground in the center and in the south (bottom) of the playing area. The northern (upper) part of the playing area is somewhat secluded by a strech of Woods and not as open with Brush and Orchards around. The Germans have not less than seven tanks, all with good or even powerful MG armament plus one AC which can move about just as lightning. The French have the aforementioned mix of five H39 and H39(L) at start but get reinforced by two powerful S-35 Soumas in their Turn 2. The Infantry forces are roughly equal in power, but the French are burdened by an ELR of 2.

Basically, the French can set up to avoid most of the Germans in their Turn 1. This is the reasonable thing to do, as they want as many of their forces as possible to reach the Stone Buildings and to allow the exit of the required tank. The German tanks will be faster than the French Infantry can hope to run, so it needs to be protected. The first way on how I determined to do this was to stay out of sight, i.e. to take the 'northern' (upper) route, forfeiting the southern half of the playing area altogether. Personally, I can't see how splitting up the French in an attempt to reach Stone Buildings on both bd 59 and 63 will have any benefit. The southern area is very open and French Infantry will get caught there by German tanks with not many places to Rout to without resorting to Inderdiction.

Instead, I concentrated everything in the north to provide my Infantry with tank cover and to have the flank protected by the woods line. This would allow the Germans to speed along in the south (bottom) freely, but still, it would be a long haul for the Landsers - Riders are not yet allowed. The French 81mm MTR set up in 59M1 waiting for some too careless German Infantry hasting across the open. Its Crew could as well fall back to add to the Infantry within Stone Buildings.

You can see the basic French plan of movement in the above illustration indicated by arrows (red for tank movement, blue for infantry movement) with the turn number added:
If German Infantry and tanks would enter via bd62, they'd need to move partly into the valley, thus no longer being able to harm my French. If German tanks were to emerge on the other side, my tanks or even MG could target them with all the vagaries this entails in these French-German tank duels.
Turn 1 would see my French fall back as fast as possible with some infantry in the Woods line to threaten the German infantry with some long-range shots. Three tanks would move north of the Woods line, two south of it - again to serve as a bit of a speed bump.
In Turn 2 my French would cross the hill or move around it with three tanks. The other two tanks would move up onto the hill either overlooking the eastern side, the western side or stay mostly out of German LOS in the middle. By now, the Germans would probably have reached an area behind the bd59 hill and the village to threaten and to cut off its approaches for my Infantry. So my two Souma S-35 tanks would move into the area, posing a lethal threat to any German vehicle in the area and to provide some cover/ eliminating 'Open Ground' modifiers. When the Germans would close in in their Turn 3, my French would hopefully be concentrated in one area to make them pay for it.
In their Turn 3, the French would either ward off the German AFV or move with the French Infantry using Armored Assault towards the village crossing the dangerous open area in between the village and the hill, and some infantry might even reach a Stone Building and a H39 might drive off for an early French instant win.

My opponent set up to enter most of the German forces via bd53. I welcomed that as it meant my retreat in French Turn 1 would not be much meddled with.


Situation at the End of German Turn 1:

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In German Turn 1, my French were completely unharmed by the Germans and beside the German Pz IV in 53P4 there was nothing which could dangerously interfere with my pulling back. Despite the German vehicles having spent 1/4 of their MF at start, I underestimated how quickly they actually can move about on the roads. This would mean they could seriously screw up the area behind the bd59 hill & village which the French would have to cross one turn later. I had furthermore overlooked the possiblilty of Germans moving a MG into the Steeple Location on the bd53 board edge for some long range fire which could cover many Open Ground Locations, albeit at 16+ hexes range which would treat my units as if Concealed due to that range.


Situation at the End of French Turn 1:

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During my French Turn 2, the fall-back proceeded pretty much as planned. Luckily for me the German MMG in the Steeple of 53P3 led by an 8-1 had no effect. Unfortunately, my tank in 62D6 was taken out by a somewhat low odds shot from 63EE5. That was bad, because it makes a big differnce having a single tank face all these German one instead of the Platoon - and I would have to make a TC to attempt non-Platoon movement as well. This meant, that my plan to install this (former) platoon as a flank guard on the hill was in doubt.


To be continued in subsequent post...

von Marwitz
 
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von Marwitz

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Situation at the End of German Turn 2:

16499

German Turn 2 proved to be deeply worrisome for the French. One of the German tanks moved right up to 62D6 just to 'break through' my surviving tank which was intended to be the 'hill protection force'. Much to my chagrin, that audacious German tank managed to immobilize my tank in 62C5, but as the German tried to move on towards the hill, I could nail him with either ROF or IF (in the picture, the turret is erroneoously facing into the wrong direction). So I had lost two out of five H39s of which the VC required to exit one.

Even worse, no less than three German tanks and the AC messed with the key exposed area I had to cross with my infantry to reach the Stone Buildings of the village. On top, the AC was excellently placed to interfere with my infantry movement having LOS through the gap in the Woods line. North of the Woods line, two German tanks were on my heels posing a potent threat to my Infantry on their way back and to my tanks in that area. I would either have to engage the tanks at questionable odds to take them out, forfeiting my movement or to allow the Germans to take a shot at them in my upcoming MPh.

My two Souma S-35s were due, but at this point, I was pretty convinced that the Germans had outmaeuvered and would shoot the French to pieces in their next Turn.


Situation at the End of French Turn 2:

16501

In my French Turn 2, I have to say that I was lucky on a couple of occasions. There was not much Prep Fire except for my immobilized tank shooting up a German squad.

My French had to move. And my opponent forced me to take some risks in doing so by the fast advance of his tanks in his last Turn. So Movement it was. To begin, I entered my platoon of the two Souma S-35s, drove them right into the face of the German Panzers and stopped the forward Souma just ADJACENT. This show of force made quite the impression, as all three German tanks in the area made (partly automatic) Motion Attempts shrouding themselves in SMOKE with sD's. Much to my relief, the AC on the hill went into Motion as well. As a result, the German potential to fire at my Infantry was vastly inhibited, and later, my opponent judged his going into Motion instead of risking his tanks in favor of suppressing the upcoming French Infantry movements as his crucial mistake.

For sure, I took advantage of this opportunity which still included some risks: One crucial moment was when a French stack of a 8-1, 457, and 2x237 dared a 4.5@0 shot by the AC (FFNAM/FFMO neutralized by having to turn its turret). They had to take a PTC but all made it, finally Advancing into the Woods of 59J7 and a HS into J6. With the AC having exhausted its fire, I was 'now or never' for another of French Infantry stack consisting of a 8-1, 458+HMG, 458+LMG(malf) to brave a long-range 1@-3 shot by the MMG perched up there. I was lucky - no effect, no ROF. These made it unscathed finally Advancing beneath the cover to the Souma in 59I6. The Frech 458 in 59C8 was lucky as well escaping the wrath of German tank-MG's by one pip. The lone French H-39 made its TC for non-platoon movement and ended up in relative safety of 59N6 close to the board edge where it had to exit... The remaining Platoon of two H-39s made it across the hill escaping the two German tanks in their backs in 62C2 and 62E3 for the time being, stopping in the open area on bd59 in between the village and the hill upping the number of French tanks there to four. As a small consolation for the Germans, in the end he did shoot up a French stack of a 8-1, 458+MMG, 457, breaking and ELRing all of them when it attempted to ascend the hill with the intention to just reach to low ground beyond.

As it looked at this moment, I did have a reasonable chance to exit the one required H-39 and to get the 7VP of Infantry into a Stone Building in my next French Turn. However, the Germans had no less than five tanks and the AC to prevent that, albeit all of these would begin their MPh either out of LOS or in Motion and shrouded in SMOKE with four French stationary tanks, the two Soumas among them, laying in wait.


Situation at the End of German Turn 3:

16504

German Turn 3 would be the deceisive one - this way or the other - both my opponent and me agreed.

The Germans were aware that while it would be very difficult to prevent a H-39 from exiting the board, stopping the French Infantry from reaching its aspired Stone Building Locations would be crucial.

So the Germans came right at my French declaring Platoon Movement for the two German (Motion) tanks in 59I3 & I4 using Platoon Movement and the forward one drove right into my forward Souma S-35's hex. Quite a good move, as it made it not easy to hit the forward German tank with my forward Souma with 'Fire Within Hex'. If I could not stop the German tanks, they would Overrun my valuable Infantry stack of an 8-1, 458+HMG, 458+LMG(malf) taking cover beneath my rear Souma in 59I6 and regarding the awsome MG armament that OVR would be a very deadly affair. So I fired my rear Souma, taking out the forward German tank. Just as I was beginning to relax, I noticed the German Crew scrambling out of the tank. That was bad, because the Vehicular Crew still bound my forward Souma with Target Selection Limits, so it's deadly Gun was not free to shoot at the second German tank following up. Therefore, I unleashed the full wrath of the ADJACENT big French Infantry stack upon the hapless Vehicular Crew and duly scored a 3KIA on the 28FP @-1 shot. With my forward Souma now free from Target Selection limits, I opened up for a good shot on the second German tank - and rolled Boxcars malfing my 47 Gun! Noooo!

As the Germans had still three unmoved tanks and the AC, I did not invervene with the further Movement of the German PzIII as it made its OVR vs. my big Infantry stack in 59I6. Its 20FP @+0 shot broke and ELR'ed everyone before it moved on to 59J6 where it ended its MPh in Motion with a French HS in its hex which without success tried to take it out with CC Reaction Fire. Now I saw it coming: The German Pz IV and the AC moved in to sandwitch my broken stack which would eliminate it in the RtPh entirely. I could not prevent this. Two more German tanks moved up the hill, threatining my H-39s from there and re-DM'ing the French brokies along the route.

Meanwhile from the South, German infantry was racing up. I had been waiting for this to happen to nail them in OG with my still HIP 81mm MTR in 59H1, but unfortunately, I had to turn my CA and thus missed the stack, keeping ROF, though. The golden opportunity was lost, though, as now the German squad broke up into single units which closed in underrunning the Minimum Range. I waited for the German 8-0+DC to move, who was the only one who could reach the MTR. The MTR shell scored a CH, sending the 8-0 and his DC to Kingdom Come. Still, I had ROF. Now the story repeated itself for the second German Infantry squad with the squads moving individually, and eventually disappearing from LOS while I waited for the 9-1 German Leader. I hit and broke him with my last MTR shot.

My Armor Leader Tussot in his immobilized tank in 62C6 was still mad at being stuck there and took it out on a second German squad breaking it with its MA.

The Turn came to a close with a pivotal event in the CCPh: My HS in 59J6 was up against a Pz IIIF with 8 CMG factors. Luck shining on me, the halfsquad heroically immobilized the tank which was to aghast that it failed to eliminate the HS in return. The effect was that now his most evil tank which sat right in my path was bound by Target Selection Limits and could not fire out of its hex. With my big stack having been totally annihilated for Failure To Rout just moments ago, a quick count of Infantry VP in the area revealed that I had 7VP that could theoretically reach a Stone Building in my upcoming French Turn. But there was Open Ground to cross which was covered by a German Pz IV and by the German AC in H4 and H5. If I managed to take these out, then I could bring this home. If, again, my lone H-39 in 59N6 would make his TC for non-Platoon Movement to trundle off-board...


Situation During the MPh of French Turn 3 - End of Game:

16524

In the RPh of French Turn 3 I attempted to repair the malfed MA of my Souma only to finally break it with a 6.

In the PFPh, the second Souma killed the Pz IV on top of the nearby hill. Now it was almost only the Motion Armored Car which stood in the way of a French victory. The Souma used Intensive Fire - and just hit. The thin armor of the AC was no match for the 47mm shell which wrecked it.

Movement Phase - the all important roll: Would the French H-39 show some initative and make the non-Platoon Movement TC? It did!

This was the French victory. The H-39 trundled off and no German unit could interfere with my 7 points of infantry moving/advancing into Stone Buildings for the instant win!


Review:

I feel that I have been quite lucky in this one. In the end, my original plan did work out just as I had planned. However, I had underestimated the speed with which the Germans could interfere and interdict the movement in the crucial open area around 59I8 which my plan required me to cross.

If maybe some more Germans with an extra tank had been in my neck in the nothern half of the playing area through which I staged my fall-back, it would have been even more difficult in the first place. Losing basically one Platoon of H-39s close to the edge of bd62 was a nasty setback because it left the hill between the village and the Germans uncovered, from which I expected the Germans to interdict my movement beyond.

The two Soumas proved to be exactly where I needed them. In the thick of it. My deployment of them was not subtle, but still I cannot think of a better way to have used them. Probably the crucial factor that allowed much of my French Infantry to close in towards the village was the decision of my opponent to make Motion Attempts and pop sD's. While this did save his tanks for the moment, it deprived him of the likely more vital opportunity to delay my Infantry Movement towards the village for another turn, in which he could have brought up more German forces. Still, taking out two tanks and the AC, and most importantly Immobilizing his tank with my halfsquad in 59J6 and surviving CC at 4:1 against it, binding the tank by Target Selection limits for my winning half turn could not be expected and made all the difference.

I do not think that I have dallied during my fall-back defence. Nevertheless, the Germans overtook me with relative ease or closed in from behind faster than I could get out of the way. I also think that taking the 'northern' route behind that line of Woods is the most promising one. But without my healthy portion of luck, it would not have been enough.

Therefore I wonder how different approaches might work (or not) or what could have been done better.

Altogether, an intersting scenario.


von Marwitz
 
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