An After Action Report for Mission: 3.0 Bump In The Road

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Overview: This was my first real playtest session of the LHY game system. I had experimented with Missions 1.0 and 2.0 but it wasn’t until I played Mission 3.0 that I started to see nuances within the game and how they could be put to use tactically. I will go over the strategies and details of Scenario 3.0 and then dive into some of the observations about the rules. So, here goes…

Setting: It’s 0900, and the remains of the German 1st Tank Platoon are serving as rear guard for the retreating Germans. The American 1st and 2nd Tank Platoons are in hot Pursuit.

Forces: The German force consists of two Pz IV and one Panther. The American force consists of two platoons consisting of ten M4A3 Shermans.

Initiative DRM – Americans: (+2); Germans: (+1)
Casualty Differential: Americans [4]; Germans [2]

Mission Objective – The Mission ends at the end of the Game Turn all German units are eliminated or either side reaches its Casualty Differential.

German Strategy: Having retreated from some defeats in recent weeks, the depleted German armor forces need any help they can N get. Despite only having 3 operational tanks, the skillful use of terrain, the German’s 1st Tank Platoon could very delay the American advance. To accomplish that, the initial placement and optimized lines of sight will be extremely important. Fortunately, the terrain lends itself to that. The large Hill 302 appears to be an excellent location for the Panther tank. Its range of 30 hexes and firepower of 8 means that it will be able to blast away at anything that comes up through the large central flatland below from the South. The Pz IVs on the other hand, pose a bit of a challenge. Because their frontal armor is only an 8, they are vulnerable to the Sherman’s weaponry. So, rather than place them in a clearly visible location from the outset, they will be concealed in the woods located in the NE and NW corners of the map. This placement serves several purposes. First, if the Americans try some kind of “end run” on the side of the board, they should be able to take some of them out and jam up that pathway. Second, despite their armor vulnerabilities, the Pz IVs have a greater range and firepower, with an Anti-Tank value of 5, than the Shermans and the long distances might grant them an advantage in a shoot out. Additionally, the Pz IV located in the NW corner will have good visibility to the large central flatland making it a very dangerous crossing indeed.

American Strategy: Having over a 3:1 ratio in armored vehicles may seem like an advantage, but it really is not. Depending on the crew fighting with this vehicle, the Sherman’s Anti-Tank value is a 2 or a 3 and a defensive frontal armor value ranging from 9 or 10. Firing against the Panther from the front is almost useless as the Panther’s frontal armor value is 12. Long odds, indeed. Moreover, the large hill makes it impossible to avoid the Panther’s gaze – and its 75 L70 main gun. So, rather than confront the Panther directly, the better idea appears to be to put the pedal to the metal and rush the American armor as fast as it can go and take out one of the tanks on the corners (probably the one in the NW corner). While the Panther really does control the flatland areas South of the Hill, the woods to its sides and rear obstruct its line of sight from its position on the hill. So, if the American force can move fast enough, it can pass beyond the line of sight of the Panther and concentrate its fire against the single Pz IV in the NW corner. In a fight like that, ten Shermans are more than a match against the Pz IVs. After that point, the force can then take multiple approaches up the hill and catch the Panther on its far more vulnerable flanks. Alternatively, the Panther may choose to engage the American tank force once it has passed behind the tree lines. Should it choose to do so, it will have to either come down from the south side of the hill or use a very time consuming set of moves to try and plow through the forest that nearly surrounds it – again making it vulnerable.

Turn 1, 0900 (The Americans begin with the Initiative) – The Americans activates the 1st Platoon, which enters along the southern board edge and advance as fast as they can towards the NW corner of the board while hugging the edge of the woods. The German commander chooses not to react to the American 1st Tank Platoon to see what else the American might have up his sleeve. The American 2nd Tank Platoon is then activated and follows along the right flank of the 1st Platoon hoping the Panther will be slow to respond. However, having the multiple targets, the Commander of the Panther orders his new gunner to split his fire and fire on the two closest Shermans. Fortunately for the Americans, the Panther misses both. The Americans have caught a lucky break here.

Turn 2, 0904 (The Americans wins the Initiative) – The Americans were successful in their Combined Activation attempt and both American tank platoons are activated and continue their rapid advance, choosing to hold their fire until they are within close range. As they are so focused on the Panther on the hill, they fail to notice the Pz IV in the edge of the NW Woods, which now reacts and opens fire. Because of the range to closest American tanks, the Pz IV chooses to concentrate its fire on a single Sherman of the 2nd Platoon and fortunately misses. The Commander of the Panther, after chastising his new gunner for his earlier misses, instructs the gunner to split his fire against the two nearest Shermans and this time is successful and destroys both. The Americans are already down two Shermans and the Panther gunner made amends for its failings on Turn 1 in a big way!

Turn 3, 0906 (The Americans win the Initiative again) – Having paid dearly for its advance so for, the American 2nd Platoon activates and continues to maneuver towards the NW woods. As they do so, they pass alongside the wooded hill with relief as they are now out of the Panther’s line of sight. Now, the Panther’s Commander is caught in a dilemma. If he reacts and comes off the hill, there is a good chance he will be enfiladed by some of the tanks of the American 1st Tank Platoon, which has yet to be activated. On the other hand, it is totally useless to continue sitting there as the Americans run by. Sensing danger in abandoning the hill and not desiring to risk the loss of such an important weapon, the Panther Commander, now indecisive, decides to stay put. However, the PZ IV in the NW wood reacts and again fires against one of the tanks of the American 2nd Platoon. The 1st Platoon now activates and, unlike the previous turns, opts to Halt & Fire with all 5 tanks against the Pz IV in the NW woods. With all the incoming fire, the Pz IV is rattled and misses and but the American tanks do not and concentrated fire from the 5 Shermans destroys the Pz IV.

Turn 4, 0908 (The Germans win the Initiative) – Surprise! Germans take the initiative. The PZ IV in the NE Woods is activated and maneuvers into position to fire on the American tanks without the risk of being flanked. So too, the Panther cautiously comes off the hilltop and immediately encounters the Shermans of the 1st Platoon….

Turn 5, 0910 (The Germans win the Initiative again) – The Germans continue to hold the initiative. The Panther is activated first and conducts a Halt & Fire action against the nearest Sherman. At the same time, the remaining Pz IV splits its fire against the remaining Shermans of the 2nd Platoon. In the reaction, the tanks of the American 1st Platoon gains up on the Panther and firing against both its front and flank. The Pz IV is successful in destroying one Sherman, and another Sherman is shocked by the Panther. But, the Panther Commander pays for his indecisiveness and poor decisions with the loss of his Panther due to a flank shot.

Turn 6, 0914 (German win the Initiative again) – With the Panther destroyed, the sole remaining German tank, although outnumbered and in desperation, activates and chooses to split its fire against two of the Shermans hoping to even the odds quickly. The remaining Shermans within LOS of the last Pz IV react and return fire. The Pz IV is destroyed with no further losses to the Americans. The crew of the Shocked Sherman reacts by attempting to recover from Shocked but fails their recovery die roll and watches their tank brew up. In all, the Americans lost 4 tanks to the Germans 3 and the total Elapsed Time for the Mission was 16 minutes. The American Player won as all the German tanks were destroyed.

Summary: At first, I thought that the numerical superiority of the American forces would make this pretty easy. However, in the end the Germans paid the price for the poor initial placement of the Panther and the decision by Commander of the Panther to engage multiple enemy tanks at close quarters. Although, a couple of different die rolls and this could have gone the other way. The Germans rolled horribly on Turn 1 and missed a couple of other easy shots. I want to play this again and reverse roles. The Mission plays fast enough (less than hour) that you can easily get a couple of games in pretty quickly and then look at the point difference between each of the games for each player.

There is a sense of risk involved. Both players know they are going to lose equipment and personnel as they try to achieve their goals. It is a question of minimizing those losses and out maneuvering your opponent. It is pretty clear that the Americans are walking into an area containing many kill zones. So, I liked the challenge of trying to clear a pathway and destroying the German rear guard units. The German player has a few instances when they really feel the pressure. When does the Panther’s position become untenable on the hill? When to mobilize the Pz IVs to engage despite the risks? I feel that initially, the more advanced player should probably play the Americans.

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