Bad encounters at Bir el Hamr

Stephane and I had scheduled a BKC game this saturday to give my North Africa Armies their 1st outing, and let me devise a scenario and terrain, provided he’d get to pick his side and board edge. I’m really afraid I haven’t been very imaginative this time, going with a vanilla encounter battle of equally sized forces. He picked the 8th Army and the “eastern” edge (which became so after he picked it, *chuckles*)

8th Army
Afrika Korps
     
CO cv 8   CO cv 10
     
1 Motorized Infantry Batallion
1 Schutzen Abteilung
HQ cv 8   HQ cv 9
6 x REgular Infantry   6 x REgular Infantry
1 x AT Gun 6pdr   1 x Mortar 81mm
1 x Bren Carrier   4 x Trucks
6 x Trucks   3 x SDKFZ 251
     
1 Tank Regiment
1 Panzer Abteilung
HQ cv 7 *   HQ cv 9
6 x Grant M3   3 x Pz II
    6 x Pz III H
1 Tank Regiment
2 x Pz IV F1
HQ cv 7 *   1 x Pz IV F2
6 x Crusader 2pdr   2 x Flak 36 88mm **
4 x M3 Honey   2 x Trucks
     
* amply justified given the abysmal   ** Attached to the Pz Rgt as it would
Performance of 8th Army armour prior to   allow the CO to attach to the Panzers
El Alamein    

Terrain
On the  western edge, Bir el Hamr, set along a dirt track, is the only locality for miles around. 3 low hills (Ridge 103, 104 and Panned Egg Ridge dominate the battlefield, and a few even lower heights can be found. East of Ridge 104 an unpassable rocky area can be found.

  

Looking West from the British edge                                                                Looking East from the German Edge

Blue stars and green tokens mark the objectives. The rock is an unpassable area, buildings are 1/200th Hovels.

Deployment and initial plans
The British deployed their Grants in the center, sending their other armour regiment on the left flank to occupy the ridge 104 objective, while the infantry would sweep through Bir el Hamr to take the one on Panned Egg Ridge. The German deployment was faulty, as I’d forgotten to which unit the 88 were attached, so I deployed them on the right flank with the panzers, while the infantry deployed on their left. The panzers woud drive NW towards Panned Egg Ridge, under cover of the 88 on Ridge 103, while the infantry would take care of Ridge 104.

The German deployment

British after their 2nd command roll. The Crusaders and Honeys are deploying at the foot of ridge 104

Deployment and intentions. Notice the messed up german dispositions… green dots mark the objectives.

Beginning of the battle
The British plan seemed to start swimmingly. The Crusaders rumbled forward ( 2 successful activations thanks to road bonus) and got within reach of Ridge 104, while further north, the Honeys sped down the road, guarding the British left flank. They didn’t fail to take the objective, interdicting with their guns the southern foot of the ridge, while the Honeys moved forward and got poised to surge on the DAK right flank.
The Grants too made good progress and took position NW of Panned Egg Ridge. The infantry, after some troubles (command blunder on turn 1 which fortunately saw them move backlward only at half speed) went through Bir el Hamr and towards Panned Egg Ridge.

Command blunder for the rifles, but hardly of consequence… Infantry is riding in the trucks.

End of the 1st stage. The British have secured 2 objectives and seem poised to roll over the redeploying Germans

The German, on the other hand, were slow sorting out the faulty deployment. While the infantry surged forward and took shelter under the lee of a low hill, deploying its mortar there, the tanks swerved ponderously right (a single activation succeeded) while the 88 mm stayed put. As the British seemed poised to launch a coordinated attack on the German right wing, the big guns were still lumbering towards Ridge 103 and the Panzers had just reached a position east of Panned Egg Ridge.

British Command failure

 

As the British seemed poised to roll over the German force, things started to take a turn for the worse. Content with the positions they occupied, neither armour regiment wanted to move on ( Stephane consistently failed command rolls for his armour, even activating with the CO, for 3 turns in a row, with catastrophic consequences…) while the Rifles debussed on the west slopes of Panned Egg Ridge, sheltering in its lee, and guarding their right flank with. their 6 pounder.

1st blood : the Panzer IV F2 take out a Crusader platoon (glad not to have glued the turrets as I’d forgotten my “smokes”)

The Panzers were the first to take profit from this inactivity : The only modern troop of Panzer IV “Specials” fired their 75mm L43 gun, knocking out a platoon of Crusaders at the foot of the ridge, while the mortar added its shells to the battle. The Schutzen were not long to send a company North, just behind the Panzers. And the 88 mm at last made it to Ridge 103, debussed, and opened a withering fire on the British tanks, knocking out 2 platoons of Grants (4 command rolls passed in a turn after the snail pace of the previous turns : 10 attack dice at each tank…). The Panzer IV F2 managed to suppress another Crusader, and forced it to fall back.

The 88 mm guns take position on Ridge 103…

… and destroy 2 Grant platoons...

… while the Panzer IV specials force some Crusaders to fall back.

German counterattack

Endgame.

The losses suffered seemed to deepen the lethargy of the British armour (these failed command rolls) while the infantry was fairly stuck in place, going over the top meaning they’d be under the panzers’ guns on the other side of Panned Egg  Ridge. The Flak Guns took profit of it, finishing the Crusaders Regiment, and even shooting in the flank a redeploying Grant (the tanks were redeployed behind Panned Egg Ridge, out of sight of the 88), destroying it. It was the moment the Stuarts picked to resume their move east, providing the Flak Guns with fresh targets. One troop was immediately brewed up, and the remainder of the squadron stopped there, unsure what to do except provide target practice for the German gunners (once again, Stephane failed to fail his command rolls) who knocked out another troop.

The Flak 36 wipe out the Crusader Regiment…

… and opfire and kill another Grant platoon.

The destruction of the Crusader Regiment removed the threat from Ridge 104, allowing the Half track company to rejoin its truck riding brothers and the tanks. Everyone debussed on the eastern slopes of Panned Egg Ridge, ready to go over the top. A first attack of 2 Pz II pinned the Antitank troop, allowing the Panzer IIIs and the Panzer IV special to go around the north slope. A Pz II platoon was destroyed, but the Panzers took out the Antitank platoon, engaging a Grant platoon behind. Though several shots struck the Panzer IVs F2, none penetrated their armor (2 hits, both saved). Return fire by the German tanks obliterated the British tanks. At the same time, the Panzer IV F1 navigated round the southern edge of the hill, getting sight of the flank of the British infantry on the west slope.

The German get ready to assault Panned Egg Ridge

The Panzers attack and obliterate the 6 Pounder, and lose a Panzer II platoon.

Final situation : the British rifles are about to be envelopped from both flanks by the Panzers, while only 2 Grants are remaining.

Game was called at that point. Though the losses are pretty one sided (4 Grants, 6 Crusaders, 2 Stuarts and a 6 Pounde for a single Panzer II…), they do not reflect the nature of the game. Had the British attack proceeded normally, it would have fallen on the still redeploying Germans and obliterated their strongest assets, and won a victory. Thanks to Stephane, for a great game, and how he phlegmatically took the abysmal command rolling