Fold or Fight?
An Army at Dawn #1
|(Defender) France||vs||United States (Attacker)|
|France||16e Régiment d'Infanterie Tunisiens|
|United States||18th "Vanguards" Infantry Regiment|
|Overall Rating, 15 votes|
|Scenario Rank: 137 of 586|
|Parent Game||An Army at Dawn|
|Maps||2: 78, 79|
|Layout Dimensions||56 x 43 cm
22 x 17 in
|Kill Them All|
|Scenario Requirements & Playability|
|An Army at Dawn||maps + counters|
Major General Lloyd Fredendall's Center Task Force landed on either side of Oran, Algeria. From three beaches they planned to converge on the city and capture the port. They remained unsure of whether the French would resist their advance or not, since the task force included no British troops. The French held a significant grudge against the British after they sank a number of French ships and killed 1,247 French sailors at Mers-el-Kebir in 1940.
Nevertheless, the American 18th Regimental Combat Team advanced from Z Beach toward St. Cloud. In 1942, the farm town of St. Cloud boasted a population of 3,500 housed in sturdy stone buildings that lay astride the main road east of Oran. Any Allied force advancing from the east would pass through there. Knowing that, the French created numerous fire lanes and reinforced the defenders.
This first real test of arms for the Americans revealed their lack of experience. The hidden French ambushed Company C and roughly handled them as they approached the town, quickly driving them off. A bit later they showed some grit and returned with the rest of their battalion. Again, the French sent the Americans packing. Apparently these Frenchmen did not agree with the Allied pre-invasion scuttlebutt that the French would welcome the Americans as liberators rather than invaders.
|1 Errata Item|
Date needs to change to 1942 from 1940 listed.
(mwalbion on 2015 May 31)
|My First Shot at Dawn|
First time with this new game, I went to the first scenario, Fold or Fight, with several companies of US infantry attacking a Tunisian (Vichy French allied) town, held by a similar number of infantry with about half the firepower of the US units but with a slight morale advantage, and a better leader draw for this game. Both sides have off board arty that, if fired at a single target hex, are equal at a 21 column. French not in the town may start dug in, while US troops are on the move and have no opportunity to begin dug in. With one stack of 2 infantry and an HMG lead by a good LT, and adjacent to that, a stack of all 3 US mortars with a poor Captain placed on the southern hill of the eastern board to give some overwatch and to call off board fire, I started the main force with the Major and a good LT, each with 2 Inf and an HMG, down the road onto he western board and just out of reach of French direct fire, and a northern force with the last US Captain and LT each with 2 units, the Captain having an infantry and the engineer and the LT having 2 infantry. My intent was to fire at the town with off board arty while the troops approached from north and east. French were set up with the French commander, 2 infantry and an HMG in the eastern town hex, a Captain with 3 infantry in the northern town hex and the single French mortar in the southern town hex, while a dug in unit of 2 infantry and an HMG were dug in on the southeastern hill on that board and another stack dug in with 2 infantry, the 45mm AT gun and it's transport on the north side of he hill beween the eastern hill and the town along he south side of the board. While the french couldnt put a lot of firepower on target with direct fire, they more than made up for it with luck on the off board arty, and it wasnt long before demoralized US units were seen fleeing back along the road. The US off board arty was pretty good, but having the additional 21 column of mortars that could usually see their own targets to raise that a column helped out too, and the forward French outpost soon lost both steps of one infantry unit and had the other demoralized. Over the course of 14 turns, the US tried unsuccessfully to assault the town and tried staying adjacent to rally and regroup to give it another try, but the French in the town became a bit overly brave and the commandant and his captain lead their stacks out to engage the smaller US stacks in assault. US suffered slightly more than the French, but both sides held on. With another stack of US troops aproaching, the French mortar unit moved forward to hold the eastern hex and held there for several turns until the LT and 2 infantry platoons moved from the hill to help hold the town hex. The assault in the one town hex continued to the very end while the assaults outside the town also stagnated, and at the end of 14 turns, neither side controlled the whole town. The US lost 8 steps, which would have helped the French get a major victory if they controlled all 3 hexes, but with the single hex contested, neither side won by the victory conditions. Great game.
Like many scenarios there is a setup mini game here; the French have a lot of latitude and so coming up with an optimal setup isn't easy, which is a plus. I enjoy the setup puzzles. Of course a fair amount of the French force will hunker in the town, but some French units might occupy the flanking hills, which forces the US to assault the hills or risk advancing up the middle in the open.
The US assault isn't easy with a morale of 7/5. In my game the US was able to clear a path over the hills and get close to the town, but the last bound over the open proved too much and most of the US force was demoralized or stopped.
One small US stack did assault one town hex on the last turn, which denied French control, resulting in a draw. That might be the best the US can do; 14 turns isn't a lot of time to clear and hold two town hexes needed, and there just isn't much support here. Probably I didn't use the US mortars effectively enough; I also drew poor US leaders, which didn't help. In order to take the town you need at least one leader, probably two, with a 1 or better morale modifier.
Very tense and studious scenario; good for beginners but also for a veteran who wants to really brush up on their approach.
|A Draw for the Big Red One!|
On the morning of November 8, 1942, troops of the First Infantry Division, a.k.a. “The Big Red One”, landed at the beaches east of Oran as one arm of a pincer movement to capture that city. In moving west, they approached the small town of St. Cloud, where the Vichy French 16th Tunisian Infantry Regiment was stationed. The town was well protected with a strong force in the town itself, mortar & infantry platoons on the hills north of town, and an HMG on the hill southeast of town. At 1115 hours, troops from the 1st Battalion, 18th Regimental Combat Team moved towards the town on all three flanks from the east, with the greatest strength on the French right using the southern hill as a screen. By 1145, both sides had lost a mortar platoon to OBA. By 1215, US units had advanced to the east edge of St. Cloud, and to the hills both north and south of town, meeting heavy resistance on all fronts. However, the US was not able to actually enter the town until 1315, at which time Lt. Baker led his combined force of engineers, HMG and infantry in from the south. The French position north of town on the hill was well dug in and repelled an Allied assault causing significant casualties. By 1330, all US mortar platoons that had been positioned on the hills east of town were eliminated by OBA. Lt. Baker’s group was successful in eliminating all Vichy French from the south sector of St. Cloud, and was joined by Major Hextall in assaulting the northern sector. Here, they ran up against crack Vichy troops led by Commandant Talbot, who rallied the remnants of the Tunisian Infantry. The two adversaries continued to square off against one another, but fought to a draw with neither side being able to secure the town. The battle ended at 1430 with the French controlling the South and East sectors of St. Cloud, and the US holding the Northern one. This is a nice introductory scenario to An Army at Dawn. It involves the US troops attempting to seize and hold a well-fortified Vichy French village in one of the first Allied skirmishes of Operation Torch. The victory conditions involve either side having control of St. Cloud and loss of US five steps. Both of those are necessary for a French “major” victory, which was not achieved in this case; the US lost six steps to the French loss of five steps, but the US held one sector of St. Cloud at battle’s end. A French “minor” victory is achieved if they control St. Cloud at the end of play, but technically this was accomplished either. A US “minor” victory would have called for control of at least two hexes of St. Cloud, also not achieved. So, technically none of the victory conditions were met, resulting in a draw. Due to the limited time and morale, this is a difficult one for an American major victory, but a minor victory is certainly possible. In fact, a few different die rolls on assaults would have given that result in this case. Similarly, a French major victory would be difficult to achieve as there are so many US units that could assault the town late in the skirmish and remove French control. Although a small scenario, it offers some great strategic questions in terms of both the French setup and the US response to it. The French may choose to consolidate strength in St. Cloud and surrounding hexes, letting the US come to them, or as in this case, may spread their forces create fields of fire on the approaches.
|It's gonna be a loooooong war|
This is a basic infantry attack on a town, nestled between hills. The French defenders have an infantry battalion with limited HMG, mortar, AT and OBA support. An American battalion is tasked with capturing the French town, and while numerically similar boast a 2-to-1 firepower advantage. However, French morale is marginally better, and their leadership is much better.
The French chose to base their defense on the hill masses north and south of town. Placing an infantry company supported by mortars and AT guns north of town, they placed a second company on the hills south of town, all dug in. The remaining company garrisoned the town. A direct American approach would be hit on both flanks and from the front.
The Americans chose to allocate 2 companies to sweep the southern hill mass while the remaining company pinned the northern French force. The hope was that the southern hills and the town could be taken in succession by the southern force, while the northern force prevented any reinforcements from filtering into town late in the battle.
This was a tough slog for the green Americans. Although they had a significant initiative advantage, they consistently lost the initiative to the French elan. While they suffered very few casualties, their low morale and poor leadership left them bogged down in the hills, even while inflicting significant casualties on the French. By mid-battle, the northern hill mass was completely clear and while French defense of the southern hills had collapsed, the Americans were in disarray. In the final turns, the heroic American major, the sole light in a dismal officer corps, continued his aggressive flanking assaults and pressed the attack on the town with an ad hoc company of infantry and engineers. At the same time, the American captain leading the northern force hit the opposite side of the town with a few platoons more. Unfortunately, both attacks were immediately repulsed by French artillery and direct fire before they could enter the town. Rather than add casualties for a lost cause, the major ordered all forces to fall back. A minor French victory.
I don't believe this is a scenario the Americans can win. While that might seem like poor scenario design, I actually consider it a pretty good one because it presents the reality of trying to lead an amateur army.
|French Artillery rules the day|
I set the French up defending in the town with a HMG with infantry platoon/leader on each hill to the north and south. On the SE hill I put a company forward to interdict an attempt by the US on that flank.
The US did attack the southern two hills in order to use them as cover but the forward French company delayed and broke the US up for a few turns. Finally getting the attack going again the US then easily cleared the southern hill but met with heavy and accurate small arms, HMG and indirect fires on the hill. These fire broke up the American attack and they withdrew to try again later. It was a major French Victory. Both sides lost seven steps.