Sunday, July 15, 2012

Les Quatre Villes - a reconnaisance in force

August 1944, and the British command believes that it has detected a weakness in German defences to the west of Caen, an area known as Les Quatre Villes for the four towns arrayed symmetrically down the highway. Elements of 7th Armoured have been given the task of reconnoitering the area, with orders to push on through if the opportunity presents itself. The Brigade commander has been allocated two motorised rifle battalions for the reconnaissance, supported by a regiment of 25pdr field guns, and two squadrons of the divisional reconnaissance regiment. He allocates one armoured squadron in support of each infantry battalion.

The day dawns with a typical Norman mist, keeping the allied air force grounded. Over night reconnaissance patrols have indicated the presence of two German infantry battalions in the area, but their strength was unknown.

The defenders are spread thinly here as everywhere in Normandy, occupying only two of the four towns.

The British Brigade commander opts to attack through the centre of his area of operations, attempting to take the two central towns.

Early indications are that the defenders are certainly more active than had been thought, as artillery fire begins to fall on the attackers early on in their advance. Early casualties include the battalion AT platoon on the British right wing, a loss that has weakened the British right flank more than its commander realises this early on in the attack.

The right wing battalion commander hopes to take the first town with a 'coup de main', and rushes a battalion forward to seize the town.

The first attack is bloodily repulsed as German 105mm rounds fall amongst the advancing infantry platoons.

At this stage a frightening realisation hits the British attackers: this is no lightly held sector, as a detachment of German tanks rumbles forward against the British right.

Feeling some urgency to take his objective the British right wing battalion commander throws in a second battalion against the town. He is aware that his own armour no longer has any AT support of its own and he can't predict the outcome of the armoured action that he knows is about to unfold on his own flank.

Simultaneously some of his supporting armour begins to push through against a weakly held German centre. The squadron commander is sensing the need for action.

On the British left, the second British battalion has been more circumspect, but the commander here sees the opportunity to take his objective, and throws in an attack against the town.

His attack here meets with success as the two German platoons defending the town are unceremoniously ejected from the area.

Meanwhile on the British right the German armour begins to make its presence felt, beginning action against the British armour. The Firefly section has no luck with its tank gunnery, but its German opponents make no such errors and the Firefly platoon is put out of action. This and the casualties from the second failed attack on the town leave the British battalion commander no choice but to withdraw.

While a small gain has been made on the left, the reconnaissance has shown that the German defenders are stronger than had been believed. Taking Les Quatre Villes will require an attack in divisional strength.

Game analysis:

The game was generated using the Scenario Generation System, and was played on an 8'x5' table using the enlarged ground scale +50%. We sued Nick's figures, all based on larger 40mm square bases (although the German armour was mine, commanded by Nick's newly completed Pzkw IV). We were trialling game sizes again, looking to avoid the 'track to track' visuals that seem to occur often in 20mm WW2 games. Nick fielded almost all of his available British force, and the German defending force was chosen as our best guess at what would be required to defend the area. The points were not balanced. Nick's force came to 387 points while the German force came to 370 points, clearly there were nowhere near enough British forces to attack a defending force of this size. To illustrate the disparity for those not familiar with the SGS, an attack list should be 650 points, while a defend list should be 450 points. We felt that the defending force was probably about the right size for the job on a table of this size, but the attacking force needed to be larger. We now need to assemble the forces and see what the resulting game looks like. We are looking for a balance of playability and aesthetics.

Certainly at two manouvre battalions the British force lacked the tactical options that an attacker needs. Nick really needs a minimum of three manouvre units to attack with any reasonable chance of success.

Additionally, the attackers were far too weak in artillery. Nick needed more field artillery (those good old 25pdrs), and also some 5.5" for counter battery work at least, if not for pre-planned bombardment. The German artillery had free reign, and was essentially responsible for the demise of the British attack on their right.

When all said and done of course, we played a very cool game with lots of laughs. Bring on the next one.


  1. Very interesting game report. Sounds like it was a very interesting game.

    I assume the Germans had two Panzer Grenadiers battalions and a small Panzer battalion? If so with three manoeuvre units against two they certainly have the flexibility to counter-attack. Worse for the British attacking defending infantry at near even odds adds to the dilemma. I like to focus two battalions and ideally hit only a section of the line with each. I assume all four villages objectives? If so the British player may in future want to attempt to have non-town sectors as objectives. They are, I feel, very difficult to capture.

    All this aside it sounds like an enjoyable game and hopefully we will read of more encounters in the near future.

    1. Thanks for your comments Keith. Yeah, that town in the centre, supported as it was with heavy artillery, was just too hard a nut to crack.

    2. Another option when attacking towns is to attack the stands around the town. However, even then the British will struggle to dislodge entrenched defenders, or those in woods. Again, I find you really need to achieve greater than 2:1 odds ideally more. Attacking from a flank will often achieve this and can cause the defender to displace, disrupting his defence.

      I find a British HMG company is a very useful addition. As a support stand they can fire through infantry of the battalion they are attached to. Of course, as you have found, some counter-battery is very useful. Consider also a Jabos, possibly armed with bombs, as an alternative to more tanks.

    3. Keith

      Oddly, in two games Nick has attacked town sectors that have been 'unprepared' and has succeeded in the assaults in both cases... urrgghh.

      And he brought along his newly completed Typhoon last night, forgot the stand to mount it on over the table, so opted not to use it.. whew was the cry heard from the German lines,. but in fact he really needed it.

      We did ponder one other possibility for attacking towns.. using Brit armour in support of the infantry.. the armour isn't as easily suppressed, and so is more likely to get in.. but of course if the defender has managed to strip the infantry away, they armour is very vulnerable,. and still loses on a bad die roll anyway. We both agreed that even this was a 'dodgy' option for the Brit commander.


  2. Keith
    So true, it was very interesting. There were some SGS rules that we didn't follow (for example the panzer battalion as too small with fewer than 2/3 of the fighting stands present.)

    The size of the forces were largely driven by what Nick had available. Neither of us really wants to get into a massed painting project to get the 20mm forces up to full SGS size (even if the larger table doesn't look too overcrowded with them), which is one reason why we are tinkering with points sizes.

    What we are seeing though is that the points sizes as written give good sized games with challenging command decision making, so the tinkering we are doing is likely to diminish the quality of the command experience for each player. I think we may try 600 to 400 points attack/defend and see how that goes.. slightly smaller but Nick thinks he may be able to field 600 pts of Brits with the appropriate off table artillery assets.


    1. Yep. 615 or there abouts, + some 5.5s off table. Still only gives me two manoeuvre units though...unless I hold back that third Sherman squadron as an armoured reserve, stead of using them in there's an idea...add the M10s to them...hmmm...

      Anyway, thanks for the game Robin, and you've made a spelended job of the write up!


In the shadow of the bald mountains..

To the Honourable Gentlemen of Horseguards Your Lordships Following our defeat of the dreadful horde of the Spider God, I advanced my f...