30 July 2014

After Action Report: Combat Command AAR

Contributor "Obsolete" takes us into Combat Command with his AAR of Allied forces attempting to secure the Medjez El Bab-Tebourba Gap in Tunsia against the Axis.

Published on 21 MAR 2011 1:12pm by Scott Parrino

Longstop Hill, December 23-25, 1942

Size of Battle: Small

Type of Battle: Allied Attack

Axis: German

Allies: American/British/French

Location: Tunisia

Description: A small, tense battle for possession of a key position in the Medjez El Bab-Tebourba Gap area features interesting attack opportunities for each side.


02:00 (Night), 23 Dec 1942

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What a time of day (erm night) to start off a scenario. Since the terrain looks rather bland and dark at night, not to mention the night-time Fog-of-War (FoW) rules would make other units hard or invisible to spot (depending on terrain and postures), I decided to fill in the rest of the landscape here with some other windows.

The Order-of-Battle (OOB) below shows our armyís breakdown. One thing that is of interest here, is that the allies are made up of three separate nationalities. But whatís most interesting in that, is they are all part of the same division, sharing the same divisional HQ, and there is an absence of regimental HQs.

This actually is fine for me, since it keeps things much simpler than having to be careful on mixing different division penalties, and reassigning HQís while trying to be careful not to overextend command ranges, etc. Those are better served for the much larger scenarios, this one however is played on a small scale size. It is also important to note that we are not going to be getting any reinforcements. The units that we start off with in the first turn, are the only ones which we are going to get.

One of the first things my eyes want to see is the Victory Objectives. This window here tells us that there are a total of 5 objectives. We hold none of these yet, but by 12:00 on the 25th of December, we are going to need at least 85 points in order to pull off a marginal victory. Since we just rolled over into the 23rd, that gives us at least 48 hours (and change) to see what we can do here.

Usually I start off by planning to go for a decisive victory, and then only go for the margin when that plan fails. However, another way to go about things is to try and secure a strong position for the margin first, and then try to free-roll your way to a decisive as a bonus.

And now, letís take another look at our allied troops here. You can see most of them are rifle companies, with one US machine gun and another US tank also included. Almost all these units are using leg movement of 12 movement points (MPs), though the tank is over 20 due to using tracked movement. There are also two exceptions, the HQ has quite a lot of movement available, and the southernmost British rifle is also using wheeled movement, which will let me blitz around at will, particularly on both primary (black) and secondary (brown) roads.

On the top left I have brought up the info panel on our divisional HQ to check our statistics. Our leadership rating is not spectacular, but it isnít terrible either. One thing I should point out is that all British units have a quality rating of 60%, with the Americans only 50%, and our Axis opponents generally around 70%. This could end up being a bit of a problem, particularly when the strength of the German units tends to also be higher than what we currently have to work with.

Over to the far east is some town called ĎGrich el Ouedí. Well, Iím not sure what that means, but weíll take it first anyway to start climbing our way up to the victory level. Iím not SURE if there is any nasty surprises hiding in there or not, but since I canít remember ever hearing of this ĎGrich el Ouedí town in any war history annuals, I guess that is a good sign (for now).

It is time to head eastward...


06:00 (Day), 23 Dec 1942

Movement Phase

Limited Visibility

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Ahh, daylight rolled in at 6 am. Things were much brighter, despite the bad weather.

Unfortunately, I ended up losing initiative starting this turn. Once you lose it, things can become problematic to re-achieve it, but I was not exactly TOO worried about that for the moment.

In the current screenshot I had already moved all my other counters into place except for my ĎB 5/Northamptonsí unit. You may have noticed the digits on the bottom of the counters have changed to color coded letters now. I did this by pressing the tab key to check certain stats quickly. The red N signifies units that are out-of-command (OOC).

I had no divisions that were OOC last turn, so what happened here? Simply, me and my genius of an idea to move my HQ halfway around the map instead of sitting down somewhere and digging in has increased the chances for me to fail my command checks. The probability for this is a bit more complex to get into details here, but basically, itís my fault.

Besides combat penalties, these OOC units also have their movement halved, which means I canít use this unit to follow up in a manner which I had been planning to last turn. However, weíll have chances to linkup these OOC units next turn during the command phase.

If I had the full movement left, I would have combined this with the others in order to help push weight against that German infantry sitting in the mountains on a victory objective. Oh well, I get what I deserve I suppose. When will I ever learn?

My plans for this turn were to trap that German infantry unit in my Zone-of-Control (ZoC) with my other units while I dug in and then gave him some peppering during the direct-fire phase to soften him up, before a full assault the next turn. I also would have the option to exploit my off-board artillery strikes as well in a bombardment.

When looking farther east at the river town of ĎHalte díel Herií my plan was to also pepper spray him this turn, but to not engage in any full assaults for the moment. Hopefully our artillery barrages would also be able to force him into quality checks (QCs).  If we could disrupt him like that, it would make our future planned assault much easier.

Other than getting a number of my units out-of-command, I also suffered a few disruptions after rolling bad QCs. These happened when moving into the minefields near River Town. My problem is I just did not want to burn off too much time looping around those hexes, and this was compounded by one of the mine-hexes being invisible until I actually passed through it, catching me by surprise.

The final worry here though, was what was coming my way in those two German Fog stacks. The limited visibility this weather was giving did not make my judgements easy, but once we engage I should be able to get at least some limited intelligence as to what I am up against there. Or, the weather could change and be nice to me for once to me. Oh sure ... keep dreaming.

 

08:00 (Day), 23 Dec 1942

Movement Phase

Limited Visibility

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The weather was still poor during the 8-oíclock turn, but since we skirmished each other during the direct-fire phases, I was able to gather both some limited intel, and absolute intel from the enemy counters.

My favourite insight came from those poor bastards who had dug in atop that mountain peak. It seems he received not one, but two direct hits somewhere in between my bombardment, and small arms/HE fire. I suppose, there also may have been a chance he injured himself trying to escape and failing a good withdraw roll, but I doubt it.

What mattered now, was me most likely going to break that unit completely during this turnís assault phase. With that axis company down to just one platoon worth, I hardly think I could go wrong here, and quite rightfully so. I had each surrounding unit then set on attack posture. Without any intervention, that crippled defender would become completely smashed.

Over by River Town we had a different situation. I had decided to keep my units in defend posture in order to try and pepper spray the nearby hostiles once again. It also seemed the mechanized infantry unit which moved adjacently north of my US tank received a little disruption. IIRC his defence should have been a total strength of 15, but I cut him down to 12 when I forced him into a small disruption with my opportunity fire.

On the other side of things, I did another silly genius move and paid the price. My British wheeled infantry which I had on the other side of the river ... I decided to move it closer to help see what was going on with Jerry, and to possibly aid in some actions. I knew there was a risk in wandering him around in travel posture, but I didnít want to keep any units sitting idle. I feel units sitting idle too often equate to lost manpower.

Of course, a stack of nearby German infantry popped up on the horizon, and BOOM, I lost a platoon worth in that company from reaction fire. Oh well, you have to take some and give some in war.

Oh yes, and I almost forgot to mention something. Since I did not show the scenario data in the first turn, here is that data now. I am given a total of two off-board artillery missions a turn, with a total strength of 42. While weather does correlate somewhat to the effectiveness of bombardments, I have used a few tricks in order to maximize my bombardment chart.

 

 

10:00 (Day), 23 Dec 1942

Attacker Assault Phase

Weather is Clear

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Boy, what a difference clear weather makes during the day. Now we can finally get some good solid statistics on our opponents which are up close and adjacent to us. It looks like our situation with the German mechanized infantry which was trapped by our E-ZoC has not changed. As long as I hold him within E-ZoC, he canít shake off disruption levels. Of course, thatís a two-way street, unless one of us goes a level too far down, which causes zone control to fail altogether.

In any case, I had decided to pounce upon that friendly neighbour who was unfortunate enough to be forced to make a stand in the clear and open terrain.

It is very unfortunate that my U.S. tank company was not able to make contact with my HQ, and would be OOC for this turn. This would prevent me from getting a special column-shift on the combat table (tank bonus) for attacking a lone infantry out in open terrain like this without any armoured defence in there. Oh well, many battles are full of missed opportunities like that.

One problem I had to think long and hard on here, was if I wanted to add the northernmost British infantry unit into the assault or not. I was definitely not happy to see a stack of two German Fog units just three hexes away from one of the victory points. That would be all I needed this game, was to watch a stack of strong Axis units cross the 1.5 Km distance and start to dig in on that mountain tile, forcing me to burn off time and God knows what else in an attempt to dislodge them off the victory hex again.

I decided to err on the side of safety and dug in my unit on that mountain tile. The French infantry, despite being a little weak, would still be strong enough to hold the other victory location behind the former (well I assumed).

So despite I wasnít able to assault the target with EVERYTHING that I wanted, (including the kitchen sink) I believed I was still in great shape. Actually, I knew I was in great shape to hit it. Sure, things could go wrong but from my looks at the Ground Assault combat table, the worst that could happen to me is that I go through disruption checks, while the worst that could happen to our opponent is he suffers at least two hits, and also has to go through a nasty QC on top of that .

Ok .., Ok ... the worst that could happen to me was not just a quality check, but me being forced to retreat, which would cause more quality checks and then ... well, in any case, I was also going to add in our off-board artillery as well, just to be sure. Since this piece will not be doing a regular indirect fire operation, but instead participate in the actual assault, it would suffer no table-shift penalties. The way the differing strengths and a hundred other factors are laid out in this table, a roll from 1-to-3 with my artillery should at least score a single hit on the defender. Since weíre using a 10-sided die here, thatís 30% for a positive result, and Iíd like to sit here all day and roll at those odds.

I decided not to dare attack the city behind the minefields though. Not on this turn at least. I would use my remaining artillery support to hopefully soften it up a little bit further. I knew from cycling units in that axis stack that at least one of the counters in there had disruption from either an arty hit, or was it my direct-fire Small Arms/HE? Regardless, if things went really well for me, I could maybe try to push into River Town hard during my next turn and pry those units out of there.

Speaking of things going well, my poor infantry far to the east /south was sitting there quite useless again. It was forced to withdraw during the AIís direct-fire phase, and I decided to switch it into tactical reserve posture in order to shake off its disruptions quicker.

Now, all I have to do is hit End Phase and we would see how we did this turn. And then ... and then ... and then...

Well, weíll just have to end the story here, after all, I canít afford to give away all my secrets. Otherwise I wouldnít be able to keep my PBEM win ratio above 50%. Ermm, wait, thatís 90%, no really! (wink)


AAR written by: "Obsolete", Contributor