Below is an After Action Report for The Last Hundred Yards Mission 20.0, “Hold On and Fight”. Enjoy!
The long costly Battle of the Hurtgen Forest had entered its fourth exhausting month. After several days of bitter fighting, mounting casualties and lack of progress – the 4th Division, 22nd Regiment was slated to be pulled off the line for rest and refit. On December 1st, 1944, just prior to the relief, a German counterattack sortied from Gey in an effort to cut one of the few roads in the area that the 22nd had counted on as a lifeline. One worn down company of the 1st battalion dug in to defend their isolated sector when suddenly they were hit head on. With his units partially overrun, and in danger of losing the lifeline, regimental commander Col. Charles Lanham told his men to “hold on and fight.” Help was on the way… if they could hold long enough.
The Mission ends at the end of any Game Turn that there are no undisrupted American units within one hex of hex F4 (marked by the yellow “X”). The first player to reach his Casualty Differential Limit loses the Mission, otherwise the German player wins if the Final Score (Time Lapse +/- Casualty Differential) is < 30 and the American Player wins if the Final Score is > 41.
American Plan (Mark Perkins) – The American’s mission is to delay and survive in sufficient balance to win. Having played twice before, with wins by each side, no real trend is evident. Two playings is an impossibly small sample size, since the LHY on this scale can be wonderfully wild. I decided to defend up front, fire off a volley to cause as many casualties as possible, and get back to the Hill behind the road for a final defense.
The American player sets up hidden, a significant advantage, and in improved positions. Two things can really slow the Germans down: first, if their casualties run high from the initial volley, they will have to become more cautious so as not to lose from that route. And second, the German’s need to assault and then recover (regroup or rally) before that can assault again. If I can survive more than two rounds of assaults without succumbing to casualties myself, the Time Lapse may start to weigh enough in my favor that I can hold onto the road.
Complicating the matter from the American’s side is that the Germans attack and assault along a very narrow front. This inhibits local shifting of forces for advantages in assaults, especially with the German numerical advantage, 9 squads to 3 and 3 leaders to 1. The German Initiative advantage also allows him to pin down American units with assaults, negating and channeling small arms attacks. So, right from the start, with a forward defense, the American player holds his breath. Will he get enough casualties against the Germans from the first volley? And will he get the Initiative allowing him to fall back or even fire a second casualty-inducing volley? How will the Time Lapses go? Will high rolls put pressure on the Germans, or low rolls give them time for deliberation and even a bit of maneuver?
German Plan (David Hall) – I have to push the Americans back several times in this scenario, with the close terrain and close starting positions – its all about Assault and Maneuver rather than Fire and Maneuver.
I don’t have a lot of time, and don’t really have that big of an advantage in Initiative – so if I lose even just three Initiatives – I won’t accomplish the mission. I like how this puts pressure on me and represents the urgency of taking a position before the enemy’s reinforcements arrive.
Gotta grab him by the belt and push push push.
Game Turn 1
Germans – I was able to advance all across the line, only taking one casualty. I am now set up well for my next turns when I go into an all out Assault mode. The Americans have set up very far forward, perhaps he is trying to delay me as much as possible, or inflict as many casualties as possible. However in doing so, some of his units are not set up on the Hill, giving up a positive TEM they could have had if I had to assault up the Hill. This is a trade off I hope goes my way.
Americans – Because of the irregular contours of the Hill and the need to station one unit adjacent to the victory hex, there is a gap in my line. The Germans surge forward, and my men let go with their initial volleys with mixed results. Although the Germans did suffer one casualty, it’s not enough to slow down the coming assault. The Initiative die rolls are going to be big on Game Turn 2.
Game Turn 2
American: I lost the Initiative, and now the Germans can pin down my platoon in their foxholes. He envelops my right flank and has several advantageous assault results. My worst fears have come to pass. My line is about to crumble like a beach before a storm surge and only a few short minutes have passed.
German: I won the Initiative and was able to initiate four assaults, and with some good die rolling won three of them – pushing the American line back and disrupting it in some measure. One thing I particularly like about this game is that Assault combat is not the sudden death type of combat that is more common in other tactical games. I’ve been use to either one side dying completely, or both sides going out in a blaze of hand grenades and submachine guns. In LHY, Assault is more of a lever to push opponents out of objectives that you need. You just have to be able to close with the enemy, and here in this forest I’m already close.
Americans: The lone American platoon is on the brink of collapse, having been assaulted by the initial German surge. Assault in LHY can be deadly for the defender, but only if the attacker has numerical advantage. The Germans have maneuvered well and successfully disrupted the defenders. Otherwise, the worst is retreat and pass a cohesion check and then recover if disrupted while the attackers are regrouping. In our situation, the Germans did well in creating advantageous assault DRMs, helping push the Americans squads back toward the objective hex. Critical now are the Time Lapse die rolls.
Game Turn 3
Germans: The Americans grab the Initiative as I regroup after the first wave of assaults. It’s a very common result in LHY for even the victorious side in an Assault to have to regroup the following Game Turn. It’s not as bad as being disrupted, and if you do pass a regrouping check, it does not count as a formal activation (so you can take another action right away). In this case, I passed my checks and had leaders in place that enabled me to react with limited maneuver actions even though the Americans have the Initiative. I managed to close the gap again on the reeling American line. I gotta get the Initiative next turn before the Americans can get organized.
Game Turn 4
Germans: I won the Initiative as I had hoped and pressed forward, winning two more assaults and clearing more ground in my front. He has two MG’s on the first Hill and one other isolated group. If I can push him off the first Hill now, my job will be halfway done. Still no further casualties among my forces, but I’ll have to flank the second Hill around the Eastern side and may suffer additional casualties there.
The Americans are likely to try and make a stand on the road and the front side of the second Hill. We both know more assaults are coming and if I can surround him before I assault, then I can force him to retreat through my lines. (Note: If you are forced to retreat from an assault through an enemy hex, the retreating must attempt a Breakout, by conducting an assault to get through). My German forces are tiring perhaps, the last Time Lapse roll was for five minutes, a few more of those and I could easily lose the Mission.
Americans: Into the idea of a variable Time Lapse goes that multitude of events that chew up time and cause exasperation for small unit commanders. Communications by radio and runner can be uncertain; first aid and evacuation of wounded may take what seems like forever in the chaos of battle; land navigation, leadership aptitude, weather and ground conditions, and so on are all factors. In our game, back to back Time Lapse die rolls of 10 and 9 have advanced the marker at break neck speed to my advantage, and suddenly new hope arises for the American platoon. Can they hold for two more turns?
Game Turns 5 and 6
German: I’ve won two more Initiatives in a row, but 10 more minutes have elapsed, it’s going to be a close one. With my one casualty, it in effect adds three minutes to my favor when calculating the Final Score, which I want to keep low. I feel good about driving the two unsupported MG teams from the objective, especially since one is disrupted. However, the American Lt. Murphy and his best squad still hold the road. If Lt. Murphy and his squad can hold on for two more turns, it may be long enough for an American victory. These thick forests and my ability to maintain the Initiative have limited his ability to hit me with decent fire attacks, especially since I would suffer over-stacking penalties on any fire attacks I might suffer. Keeping him within one hex assault range each turn has been very helpful to me. Note: You can assault from two hexes away, but when doing so the defender will get to react, laying some fire on you before you can enter his hex. When assaulting from an adjacent hex, his time to lay protective fire is negated as you have him pinned in place.
Americans: The battle swirls around the Objective hex. More of my squads and MG sections head for the rear. Should the final squad jump into an assault hex or use their SADRM in an attempt to cause one more casualty, possibly causing the German’s to have to settle for a draw? I choose the latter, and their firepower reduces another German squad. Now if I can survive the final round of German assaults, a draw is in order…
Game Turn 7 (Final)
German: These three assaults will decide the outcome. As the attacker, I get to resolve them in any order I want and will do so in order to possibly force a situation where he will have to retreat through my forces. Ok, I am very fortunate to win all three of the assaults with above average rolls and even force the breakout of one of his units. As a result, it does not go well for the defending Americans.
The Americans suffer three casualties as a result of the Assaults, pushing the losses in favor of the German the exact moment when they needed it most. The Mission now ends as there are no Americans undisrupted combat units adjacent to the Objective hex and therefore road is mine. The Germans win by one point with a Final Score of 29, one point less than required.