Today Tim and I got together to try out the Kampfgruppe: Normandy rules. I picked up the rules from Warhammer Historical a few weeks ago as part of their 50% off sale. The rules were designed with 20mm models in mind but we are using 28mm models and figures. We played the starting scenario, A Panther Hunt. This scenario calls for a British force versus a German force. I did not have all the stuff for the British so I changed the scenario to an American force.
The Americans had an infantry platoon with a medium MG team. They also had a Sherman tank platoon with three tanks and an M10 tank destroyer. Not a bad little force. The morale value (MV) for the Americans came out to 17 with two command units.
The German force consisted of an infantry platoon with an 80mm mortar and a PaK40 anti-tank gun. The Germans also have one PZIVH and one Panther. The germans had an MV of 15 with only one commander.
It is interesting to note the differences between the German infantry platoon and the American platoon. The American platoon has three squads of infantry with 10 men in each squad. The have a BAR light machine gun and a Bazooka in each squad. The German infantry breaks the LMG teams out from the infantry squads so there are three infantry squads with five men in each. There are three LMG teams with three men in each.
This difference in unit configuration can really change how the two forces are played. More units will generally mean more flexibility in selecting targets as well as more maneuver options. Fewer units are easier to activate, therefor, more likely to actually do something.
Tim took the Germans and I played the Americans. Tim always plays the Germans...
Here is a point of criticism of the rules. There is an army roster that you can download from WHW. This roster sheet is pretty much useless. I could not figure out what information should be on the roster and thinks I thought should be on it had no place. In the end we just made notes of vehicle stats on note paper and referenced the gun stats from the book. I need to see if someone has made a better roster or I might just need to make my own.
Anyway, back to the game. The American deployment can be seen above. The battlefield had a dog-leg road on the right flank running across the table. In the American center as a field edged with bocage. On the American left as a large wooded area. The Americans deployed two Shermans to the right of the road along with one infantry squad as well as the infantry platoon HQ. On the road was the M10 and the .30cal MG team. In the American center was one Sherman and one infantry squad. On the far left of the American line was a single infantry squad behind the woods.
The Germans side of the battlefield had a large wood on the extreme left. Next to that is the other end of the dog-leg road. This road is lined with bocage with only a couple of gaps. In the center of the German side is an orchard surrounded by a stone wall. On the German right is a second road that runs diagonally and exits the table on the short table edge. This road is line with low hedges. To the right of the road is a farmhouse.
The Germans deployed most of their infantry on the right along the diagonal road or in the farmhouse. In the gap between the orchard and the diagonal road was the Panther. In the orchard was one infantry squad and one LMG team.
We rolled off for the first turn. This would actually be an important roll as we had both deployed armor on the road. Whoever went first would have a huge advantage. I got lucky and got the first turn.
The Americans started off with a big push on their left flank. One Sherman and one infantry squad moved up quickly on the left while the M10 cautiously moved up the road and fired on the PZIVH. In KGN direct fire can be tricky because you must spot your target first. If you fail this spotting check you cannot fire. Fortunately, vehicles in the open are extremely easy to spot (for me anyway, Tim would have lots of trouble with this early on). The shot from the M10 was on target and the PzIVH was destroyed. I thought this a great way to start off the game but Tim was not impressed.
In American center one Sherman and one infantry squad moved up and the Sherman attempted Suppressing Fire on the LMG team in the orchard. Suppressing Fires differs from Direct Fire in that no spotting check is required so it is much easier to do. The down side is that you are not likely to damage the unit you are firing at. The Sherman was able to suppress the LMG team so Tim would have to draw a morale chit in order to rally the unit.
Throughout the game there are certain events that require a player to draw a morale chit from the cup. These chits mostly have numbers on them. These numbers are subtracted from your MV as noted above. Once a force is reduced to zero MV their force breaks and the battle is over. The most common reasons for drawing a chit are when a unit is destroyed or to remove a suppression marker from a unit.
The Germans were taken by surprise and where very slow to react the American attack. The Panther moved up and attempted to fire on the advancing Shermans but with no success. The suppression was removed from the LMG team so they were already starting to feel the morale hit.
The American quickly secure the dog-leg road and began to pore fire into the Panther as well as the infantry in the orchard. Most of the was of little effect.
The German fire from the orchard hit home against the American infantry and they started to take casualties.
The Panther has several good shots but either failed to spot of failed to hit.
The American were able to get one Sherman on the Panther's flank. Faced with two Shermans and one M10 to the front and one Sherman to the side things were looking grim for the Panther.
A lucky shot to the side and the Panther was aflame.
A this point in the battle the Germans had lost both tanks and had only managed one killed American infantryman. The Germans had already collected a few morale chits. Tim was just about ready to throw in the towel. Bad dice rolls and a dislike of the rules meant he was not having much fun (I was also giving him a ration of shit about his whining so that was not helping either). We took a little break to talk over the rules and check a few items in the rulebook.
We decided to press on with the battle and soon the Americans were taking a pounding in the center. A series of suppressions and direct fire damage was taking a tole. In addition, another big push by the American infantry to flank the orchard would get severely bogged down trying to cross the bocage.
All of this drama was capped off by the Germans infantry squad moving out of the orchard to engage the tank platoon commander. The Panzerfaust hit and the Sherman brewed-up. This was really bad news for Americans. This was not only a lost tank and a chit for loss of a unit, it was also a lost commander. This would make the command phase a bit tougher.
The Sherman supporting the commander eventually destroyed the German infantry squad but the damage had been done.
Just eight German infantry hiding in the walled orchard had held up my flank attack and done real dame to my center. The good new was that there were only two of them left. Time to press harder one the German positions along the diagonal road.
For most of the battle the American had been ignoring the main German force to their left. By the time they were ready to attack this line the M10 was out of ammo and had retired, one Sherman had been destroyed and another was stuck along the dog-leg road attempting to cross the bocage. The American infantry on the left had been suppressed and taken a couple of casualties but was still combat ready. The American were attempting to shift the infantry from the center to wards the left but they were taking a beating.
In order to support the attack on the left the Shermans from the center swung around to engage the Pak40. This gun had been an annoyance most of the battle but had done no damage. It was time for it to die. The Sherman fired HE at the gun team but the shot went wide!
The Pak40's return fire was true and the Sherman went up in a ball of fire. In addition, the Germans were able to destroy the two American squads attacking the diagonal road. This was the end of the battle with the Americans broken. Germans win with 20 points to 14. The last couple of turns were very closely fought.
I really had a great time with this game which is something considering it was the first time we played it. After out mid-game break the rules started to click for Tim and he really started to get into it. What helped was getting to more infantry action. I do not think the A Panther Hunt scenario is a very good first game. If I were to setup a scenario for an introductory game I would not include any armor or vehicles. I think you get a better feel for the rules by playing infantry. Having said that, I thought the armor rules worked fine and are fun.
I have a few more thoughts on the rulebook. The actual rules only take up the first 70 or so pages of the 350 pages of the book. Those first 70 pages are pretty well laid out and the rules are pretty easy to follow. The remaining 3/4 of the book is comprised of the army lists, scenarios and background/historical information. This part is divided into a British sector and a US sector. Each section includes scenarios, army lists and a campaign. The problem that I have is that finding the information in these sections is a major pain in the ass. The layout of the book would have been better served by putting all the lists in one place, all the scenarios in another and the maybe just splitting the historical and campaign stuff by zones.
The book is very beautifully done and includes some really nice model and game photos as well as some historical pictures of the Normandy campaign I have never seen. On page 242 is something I have never seen in a rulebook for a miniatures game before - a photo of a dead American soldier (I actually cannot recall ever seeing a game with a picture of a dead soldier for any nation). This was actually a bit of a shock and I found it distasteful. I am probably over reacting but I just thought that was fairly classless. Sometimes, as historical gamers, we forget that the games we play, or write, are about events that actually happened. People actually died. I understand this, I just don't need to be reminded of it in the rulebook. I will step off the soapbox now, sorry.
All-in-all I liked the game and I plan to play it again. I thought the 28mm models worked fine with no modification to the rules. I would love to see additional periods and theaters of the rules covered and I understand that some may be in the works. Knowing how long it takes WHW to put out a book it may be a long time before we see anything else for this game.
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