Monday 20 November 2023

Counterattack at Mortain - Postcard game

 This is another postcard game in the same series as Westerplatte and the Siege of Rhodes. It covers the German counterattack at Mortain against 30th US Div. Unlike the other games we played, this one uses a conventional hex grid, and I get the impression it is one of the earlier ones in the series.

It is on a grid, so I'm going to play it on my Hexon! Battlefield from the south. It is a 9x5 grid so the top row of hexes is unplayable (I put trees on them to remind me).

Mortain is the town at the crossroads and the village of St Barthelmy further up the road.

The US start with 30 Div on the map. This apparently consists of three infantry regiments and both a towed and SP tank destroyer battalion. I put one Regiment up on the hill in the north with the towed tank destroyers. Units on hills can fire an extra hex (3), which is handy.

In reserve is the entire 3rd Armored Division with three Combat Commands (CCA, CCB and CCR).

The mechanisms are otherwise very similar to Westerplatte, combat ranges of 2, card based activation and combat resolution, various covers benefits (woods, village +1, Mortain +2). The only difference from Westerplatte is that units can't recover steps, and the combat resolution is more bloody with much higher to hit numbers.

The US have offtable air and artillery, and as in Westerplatte the planes can conduct a single airstrike or conduct interdiction/suppression which last the whole turn and affects seven hexes(!).

The Germans. 17th SS Panzergrenadier Div with a Stug battalion and two PG regiments. 2nd SS Panzer with two armoured kampfgruppes and two infantry kampfgruppes - I assume the panzer units are supposed to be supported by integral infantry. 

The units are all rated for anti-armour and anti-infantry combat, the Germans are a bit worse vs infantry, presumably as their KG only represent two battalions. Or something. The Tiger (SS SchwPz Abt 102) is a special unit which stacks and activates for free and gets a +1 attack vs armour but only has one step, unlike all the other units which have two.

These are very manageable OOBs which would translate well to One Hour Wargames...

The Germans decided to sneak through the woods to the south. They provide cover and block fire through them, avoiding that nasty strongpoint on the hill. As in the other games, you activate units based on a card draw - half the value of the card, fractions rounded up gives the number of activations. 

The Germans drew a whole bunch of black cards and came piling on. The Americans....drew no cards at all. In fact they had drawn a red first, and then a joker, so this was going to be a whole deck turn. I obviously hadn't shuffled the deck well enough. 

Those black cards kept on coming and the panzers rolled up to the US position in the woods.

And blew it to pieces in short order. The Germans kept drawing black cards and despite some losses (an infantry regiment seems to be missing here), rolled on to Mortain and shot up the defending infantry, who suffered a step loss but otherwise survived.

To win the Germans either have to exit five units from the western edge or destroy every US unit on the board(!).

US casualties to date.

The US airforce finally turned up and interdicted the Germans as the battered US infantry retreated into Mortain. The northernmost Germans had wandered into the (three hex) range of the hill strongpoint and finally the US started drawing cards. The AT guns opened a withering fire and took out the Tigers first, then chipped a step off the Panthers. Ouch!

The Germans responded by advancing further west, which put them out of LOS of the deadly AT guns. Their headlong advance had left most of 17th SS far behind. Readers who can count will note that there are five German units still in play here, so in theory they can get off and win. There is still another German infantry unit in reserve.

However, the interminable turn finally ends as the deck runs out. Turn two is more favourable to the US and 3rd Armored comes motoring on, as do the jabos, before the Germans can respond. More air interdiction, it is just so more effective than a pointless low odds bombing run.

CCA and CCR draw five activations, then roll forward and blow away the Panthers with a massive attack. Their combined AT strength is 8, you need to draw that value or less on one card to hit. +1 if adjacent to the enemy. Combat is much bloodier than in Westerplatte.

Another US card. Now the Pz IVs get hit. This is going really badly for the panzerwaffe now.

Another round of US fire demolished the last German units near Mortain, and I called it a day at that point as the few remaining German units had no chance of winning.

OK, that was interesting as a first run. I cant believe every game is over in one and half turns so I set it up again.

This time the US concentrated a bit more near to Mortain trying to get some interlocked fields of fire.

Having been shot to bits going south, the Germans went north. The US did draw some cards but with no Germans nearby, there wasn't much they could do. Eventually the German rolled on with two strong kampfgruppes each of one tank, one infantry plus the Tiger Bn.

They then proceeded to shoot up the towed tank destroyers.

And eventually knocked them out after a couple of rounds of fire. The US drew some cards and returned fire focussing on the infantry. A hail of low odds attacks (trying to burn the card deck) took out one German infantry and damaged another.

More US activations, more attacks. They finished off the other German infantry and then knocked out the Tigers. After burning through half the deck with US infantry fire, the turn ended as the joker was drawn.

Turn 2 and lots of US activations saw 3rd Armored Div arrive in Mortain itself.

And US aircraft all over the remaining Germans. Rather than pack it in, I thought I'd go for a 'kill the US' victory, and the Germans began to head south towards the comforting forest.

Eventually the remains of 2nd SS linked with 17th SS, and off they went through the woods once more. Presumably there was a long run of German activations until this point as each hex moved required a separate activation. 

A bit more shuffling forward and the Germans manage to put a hit on the US infantry.

And.... it all goes horribly wrong the moment the Germans move into range. The US TD battalion knocks out the Pz IVs, P47s swoop and CCB pushes forwards.

The US keeps pushing forwards, hitting the Stugs. For some reason the German infantry have bunched up away from the tanks, maybe to shoot the US infantry.

The US finish off the Stugs.

The Germans keep plugging away and remove the weakened US infantry unit, but really it is hopeless at this point. The German infantry aren't much good against US armour, and the US tankers can just drive away to deny the Germans victory.

OK, another interesting run though. This game reminded me why I hate games where turns end on the draw of a 'random' card. I had the same issue with IABSM, but this one was even worse as there were long, long runs where one side activated time and again and blew the other one away. Now, I could probably have shuffled the deck better, but tbh, if you are going to have card driven activation, a constrained deck (like that in Fireball Forward) is probably a better bet.

This is probably fixable, but can I be bothered? I'm not sure. It is however an interesting scenario and would be easy to translate into a larger scale One Hour WW2 game.

There are some other games in the series which also look like interesting scenarios, in particular each of the D Day beaches and a four scenario collection of Bulge games, but I'll have to see how they play before investing heavily.


  1. Nice idea, nicely executed. With the scene set, there are other boardgame systems that could be used.

    1. Yes, it is an interesting scenario, and there are many other game syswwhich would work at that level of resolution.

  2. Martin -
    The thing looks Portable Wargameable, too. Having experienced the long colour sequence with card draw activations, I 'invented' my dice driven system. Each IGoUGo turn, roll a red (Axis) and a green (Allied) die, high roll goes first. That does open the chance of one side getting two moves in a row, which adds at least something to uncertainty.

    If you really want to randomise things, you could add that if the high initiative roll is a six AND the low roll is a one, the 'winner' gets a free extra turn before the 'loser' can respond. This opens the possibility that come the NEXT turn, if the 6-1 initiative roll is reversed, the latter side will have got THREE turns in a row.

    Solely for solo games, of course...

    1. I was thinking about a dice driven alternative, thanks for the suggestions. Advancing Companies does something similar, albeit on a single D6 throw. Tbh, I think it would be better to play the scenario with a completely different set of rules! I've got a copy of Sword Beach now, a later game in the series, and the random activation is toned down a LOT. It is still a deck draw, but odds activate one stack, evens, two stacks and the 9 and 10 cards are removed completely.