Last night Paul and I had our first game of IABSM. As we were not familiar with the rules, we made it a small infantry action only with no tanks or artillery. Further, IABSM is normally a 1:1 skirmish game with the figures individually mounted; but as our figures are based in 3s for other rules we modified the ratio and made each base of 3 figures equal to a section of 9 men, with 3 bases being equal to a platoon. Only the "Big Men" were mounted singly.
The British side were attacking and had a reinforced company of 6 platoons, plus 2 Vickers MMGs. They were allowed 4 Big Men, 3 of which were platoon Commanders and the other the Company Commander.
The German side were obviously defending and possessed exactly half of the British forces. 3 platoons and one MG tripod mounted. One of their two Big Men was the Company Commander.
Both sides started off the board, the British are advancing from the South end and The Germans at the North end.
Playing area was 8 feet by 6 feet. Looking from the British viewpoint, a small river runs North to South on the extreme left. (long edge of the board) It has burst its banks and there is marshy ground either side of the river. The only bridge is at the extreme North East corner which is the German entry point.
To the right of the river, about a quarter of the way into the board is a road running directly North and South parallel to the river. The South East Corner is the British entry point in the game. About two-thirds of the way up the board there is a road junction, another road runs off it directly East. A cluster of 5 large buildings surround the junction. (Given the 1:3 ratio, you could if you like imagine this to be actually 15 buildings on the ground, a small village; but for clarity's sake I will treat them as single buildings.) I have given them arbitrary names for the sake of the report; Church, Schoolhouse, Chateau, Hotel, Boat Club.
Church is situated the furthest away from the junction, between the river and the road.
Boat Club is situated between the river and the road just past the junction and directly facing the Hotel. There is a large hedge along the left (West) side of the road running from the junction to the Boat Club.
Hotel is directly opposite the Boat Club on the other side of the North road. It is at right angles to the Chateau and there is a gap between them sufficient to move an infantry section through.
Chateau is situated on the North side of the road running East. It directly faces the Schoolhouse on the South side of the same road . The surrounding countryside is mostly flat but there is one important hill on the extreme East on the North side of the East road which commands the whole of the road past the village.
There is good cover (hedges) on both the German and British sides running right up to the junction.
The British need to press on and get as many troops as possible off the board via the East road. They MUST investigate the village and are not allowed to just go cross country.
The Germans orders are to prevent the British from advancing North and East.
Who Is Who?
Paul won the toss and elected to be the Germans. I was the British.
This will not be a turn by turn account but described more as an action narrative.
IABSM is a card driven game and the forces all start off initially as "Blinds". Until they are spotted by the enemy or declared by the player units can be combined under these blinds and moved together as one unit. After that they can only move or fire when their particular unit card comes up.
Off We Go!
The British placed 3 blinds on the board. Advancing directly up the road was 4 platoon led by a Big Man with a Vickers gun under command. On their left was 3 platoon also led by a Big Man, and on their right 1 and 2 platoons moving as one unit with a Big Man and the Company Commander.
The Germans placed 2 blinds on the board at the North East bridge They swiftly advanced and entered the village with one blind and kept one in reserve behind the village to the North.
The British units advanced swiftly up the road. (One of the factors that was less than realistic about this particular first game was that both players knew the other had no artillery or mortars so caution was thrown to the winds where movement was concerned)
4 platoon, leading slightly, passed the Church on its left and approached the junction. The leading German 1 platoon deployed into the Hotel and Chateau with a section each, and left a section outside covering the gap between the two buildings. Both units came within automatic spotting distance. 4 platoon deployed the Vickers mg in soft cover at the end of the hedge to give covering fire and sent 2 sections forward across the crossroads towards the Hotel while the Big Man led the remaining section to storm the Chateau. It was a rash decision.
The three sections were hit with a hail of fire from the buildings causing several casualties. 3 section lost 4 dead straight away and was pinned, as was 2 section.1 section led by the Big Man carried on and attempted to Close Assault the Chateau but lost 5 dead and ran to take cover in the Schoolhouse across the road. (actually the rules dictated that they were thrown back 8 inches and the Schoolhouse was directly in their way) They had not realised the Germans had their MMG attached to the section. 2 and 3 sections were pinned in the road but were able to return fire at the Hotel with little effect on the German defenders, who were of course in hard cover. The Vickers gun opened up which forced the German section in the open to join their comrades in the Chateau and caused only light casualties.
At this point things seemed to be under control for the German side in the village so Paul opted to move his 2nd unit to the East towards the commanding hill. Little did we know that his card would not come up for the next few turns and all movement would be by the British.
British 3 platoon reached the crossroads, and sizing up the situation took cover along the length of the long hedge at the left side of the road covering the crossroads.
1 and 2 platoons, still moving together as a blind came up behind the Schoolhouse and invested this building from the rear, finding inside the shaken remnants of the 1 section from 4 platoon.
The situation was now that the Germans held the North side of the village while the British held the South.
British reinforcements in the shape of 5 and 6 platoon started advancing up the road.
The Germans continued to pour fire on the hapless men in the road, and also killed one of the Vickers gunners and wounded another. Both the sections in the road had by now 5 dead and several wounded. 3 platoon however gave covering fire and German casualties in the buildings now started to mount.
The British Company Commander led an assault by 1 and 2 platoons (as they could still be deployed together as a blind) over the road into the Chateau. The German MG was neutralised and the German Company Commander was killed. British occupied the building. (As it was a close assault, there were no wounds only dead). All the Germans were killed except for one single survivor who fled to the North. Of the British, 3 were killed in each platoon, an acceptable loss; but the Company Commander was also killed.
At this point the last British units arrived at the Junction, this was 5 and 6 platoons with another Vickers MG. This was sent across the road to join the remnant of 4 platoon in the Schoolhouse (coming under the command of the Big Man) while 6 platoon on its own initiative started moving through the village down the East road.
At last the Germans got a blinds move but seeing the situation in the village moved his unit onto the hill covering the road. Paul also got reinforcements and unspotted by me moved his 3rd platoon into the Boat club. This constituted a danger to my 3 platoon who were hiding behind the hedge adjacent.
The German section still in the hotel were proving troublesome and fired at 6 platoon moving across their flank through the village, causing 2 dead . 5 platoon also began to follow 6 platoon down the East road and reached cover with no casualties.
British 1 platoon, now moving independently of 2 platoon, now stormed the back of the Hotel led by their Big Man and drove the remaining German section out to the North, these taking casualties as they fled. The German 1 platoon now took no further part in the action, being only around 5 badly wounded men left.
The Germans on the hill were spotted by the 6 platoon coming out of the village and identified as the German Para platoon (it was an adhoc Kampfgruppe). Unfortunately for the Germans the British (still smarting from being shot up in the village)got to fire first and the Paras took some casualties in each section, enough to pin them down.
The British 1 platoon in the Hotel now realised that there were Germans in the Boatclub across the road. Again, they got to fire first and gave the building everything they had, causing some wounds to the Germans.
The British 3 platoon now realised to their horror that the Boatclub house adjacent to them was occupied by the enemy in platoon strength. Their position was untenable. On the initiative of their Big Man they withdrew without delay across the junction to join 5 and 6 platoon travelling down the East road, and made it to cover of the Chateau without mishap.
The hapless 2 sections of the 4 platoon were not so lucky. They and the Vickers gun had by now started to attempt a limping withdrawal out of their exposed positions in the road. The newly discovered German 3rd platoon shot them all in the back as they ran, killing them all to a man.
The situation now was that the Germans held the West side of the village while across the road the British occupied all the buildings to the East. The opposing forces in the buildings either side of the North road began a shooting match without much effect.
3, 5 and 6 platoons in turn continued to move down the East road. Again, as mentioned before I only had the confidence to do so knowing that the Germans had no mortars or artillery. 5 platoon came under fire from the German Paras but only 1 was killed. They returned fire which caused more satisfying German casualties and kept them pinned on the hill unable to move.
The Big Man of 1 platoon decided that with all British troops clear of the road junction now was a good time to bug out so they left the Hotel by the back door. 2 sections made a good distance but one lagged behind owing to a poor dice throw.
This was a small tactical error as in fact 2 platoon should have vacated first before 1 platoon, as from the formers position in the Chateau they could not fire on the Germans in the Boat house.
5 platoon made it home off the board via the East road, 3 and 6 platoons were steadily advancing up the road, using one dice to fire and two dice to move, which slowed them a little but allowed them to keep the German Paras pinned down.
The remaining Vickers MG and the 3 remaining men of 4 platoon with their Big Man-the only survivors of the rash initial action- now saw this as their only chance of withdrawal. They fled up the East road.
The Germans on the hill, having taken a really unfair number of casualties and at less than half strength, withdrew behind the hill and took no further part in the battle.
3 and 6 platoons both made it off the board.
The German 3rd platoon came pouring out of the Boat club like bats out of hell being led by their Big Man. The British 2 platoon, without a Big Man to lead them, decided not to get in their way and vacated the Chateau, catching up the two sections of 1 platoon on the road. 2 sections of Germans occupied the British buildings, and caught the lagging section of 1 platoon in a withering vengeful crossfire, killing them all.
All the others of 1 and 2 platoon now made it off the board
The remaining German section raced across the junction towards the Schoolhouse but did not get all the way. The Vickers gun, heroically turned about and set up to give covering fire to the 3 soldiers and Big Man of 4 platoon who were the only remaining British troops on the road, giving up their own chance of escape in the process. With an amazing dice throw the gun killed 6 of the German section crossing the road and pinned the rest on that crossroads that had already seen so much death.
The 4 survivors of 4 platoon limped to safety off the board.
The other Germans opened up and for the Vickers MG gun and its crew, in their exposed position on the road, there could be only one outcome ... they were all killed still firing. The Vickers Gun, and the Crossroads of Death, now fell silent.
This was considered a VICTORY for the British as most of my forces made it to their objective. British casualties were only 32, (about 20%) of which most of these came from the unlucky 4 platoon and the two Vickers teams.
German casualties were 44 killed, about 60%.
As an attacking side as a rule of thumb usually needs a 3:1 superiority in numbers to be successful, having only a 2:1 superiority this should have been a lot more bloody battle for me than it actually was. Unfortunately for Paul the turn of the cards meant that he could not get all his forces into the village at the same time, whereas the whole of the British force was at the road junction within a few turns.
He was also unlucky with the Para platoon on the hill. He only managed to get on the hill late when I already had 3 full platoons on the road, and I got to fire first. A single mortar would have blown me off the road like autumn leaves in the wind ... in hindsight the hill might have been a better place to site his single MMG.