Chain of Command – Attack on Al-Papsi: Part 2

Back in the heady days of September we actually played the second mission in the campaign set in North Africa. However, before we get into the battle, I actually finally rolled up the details of my command team, using the details from the At The Sharp End PDF book.

Senior LeaderThomas Fuchsex-Doktor of Engineering32BerlinTall and Thin
Zug 1Claus HaberSturmabteilungsmann (street fighter)28KolnShort and full of fight
Zug 2Manfred BraunEx-Gamekeeper on a large estate23EberswaldeAverage Sort
Zug 3Horst GüntherInner City School, Ex-Hitler Youth21MunichStrapping 6ft

As you can see, I’ve picked up a pretty good mix of characters – I really like how Zug 3 that has been absolutely hammered so far (and will be in this scenario) is led by the youngest and most impulsive of the leaders – perhaps this is his first campaign and is a little too impulsive/full of bravado.

Additionally, after the previous game, I had to handle the losses. With two soldiers wounded and two killed, I decided to reduce Zug 3 to keep the rest of the squads at full strength.

Game 2 was a Delaying Action – after the DLI managed to advance with their recon units in the previous game, the Afrika Korps guys are falling back to defensive positions around the town itself. As part of this, they will need to slow any advance, buying time for the rest of the defenders.

As you can see, the battlefield is a few scattered outbuildings around a larger farm complex. The Germans dug into the main farm, placing their three jumping off points (the objectives to be defended) among the fields and behind the buildings. The Allies managed get into the two depressions each side of the board – I had blocked them off from reaching the outbuildings which might have caused more issues.

I ended up deploying my forces relatively rapidly – being on the defence it was handy to get as many MGs on the board as possible, so I could easily engage the attackers with a full force. The only thing I aimed to keep back was my senior leader and the AT gun I chose as my support option. Mostly because…

The Queen of the Desert was on call. Obviously a sign of the main assault’s proximity, the Matilda at this stage of the war definitely has a chance to inflict “Tiger Panic”, where a player focuses on the big target and ignores the actual threats (the infantry trying to capture the position). This wasn’t helped the fact my only AT weapon was a brand new (for the time) 50mm Pak38, my only support choice for the game thanks to some poor rolling.

Less poor rolling was the gun crew on the Pak 38! After an initial ranging round that bounced off the Matilda’s thick armour, a second shot (under the eye of the senior leader) managed to cause a pentrating hit that was bad enough to make the screw bail out.

As for the rest of the game, it was a bit of a slugging match. The Brits attempted to push at both sides of the board, using their jumping-off points to push forward. The top side of the board mostly ended up getting pinned down in the palm trees, with a lead infantry section and a Vickers team getting into a firefight with the defenders. Turns out, MG34s are really good at suppressing enemy troops not in hardcover, and only the arrival of the belt-fed Vickers (and the loud SNCO) started to even the odds. Of course, it didn’t help that the Pak 38, after tank crushing, decided to switch to HE and drop explosive rounds among the palms.

On the south side, British troops attempted to cross the smaller gap between the outbuildings and core farm itself. This is actually where my Dastardly Regular Opponent almost got a win. While one section lay down some suppressive fire, the other one decided to make a break for it. They managed to push forward to the very edge of the farm buildings, just as a German squad moved to reinforce the position. Both sections prepared to engage in a close-range firefight…

And then we ran out of time (the fatal flaw of still learning to play the rules/playing after work).

As the game managed to end at a key turning point, my Dastardly Opponent and I talked through the end result. Although both sides had taken casualties, the British had lost a major support asset and had several units with lots of shock on it (the MGs being assisted ably by the AT gun). Zug Three took even more casualties (bringing it to basically two MG teams and an injured junior leader) but the rest of the force was in pretty good standing. So as a final decision, we decided the Brits had won by only a very narrow margin. When we come back for the next game, we’ll use a slightly tweaked setup (showing the Brits getting a foothold in the suburbs while the germans managing to hold off the bulk of the enemy force).

Standby for the next game… when I’m allowed to go to York again.