The Witch's Cauldron
Fall of France #9
|(Attacker) Germany||vs||France (Defender)|
|France||3e Division Légère Mécanique|
|Germany||4th Panzer Division|
|Overall Rating, 11 votes|
|Scenario Rank: 92 of 556|
|Parent Game||Fall of France|
|Maps||4: 26, 27, 28, 33|
|Layout Dimensions||86 x 56 cm
34 x 22 in
|Kill Them All|
|Scenario Requirements & Playability|
|Fall of France||maps + counters|
After an easy trip through Belgium, 4th Panzer Division met French armor for the first time near Hannut on May 12. Its commander halted the advance and waited a day for 3rd Panzer Division to arrive on his northern flank before launching a massive attack on the French line held by the 3rd Division Légère Méchanique. the assault was brutal, with all German forces committed to a hammer blow on a narrow front and nothing held in reserve. For their part, the French were well dug in but scattered along the line, diluting the effectiveness of their otherwise-powerful Somua tanks.
Often thought as the first first tank vs. tank battle in world history, this was actually a combined-arms assault, with the panzers having received orders to bypass village strongpoints when possible and leave the mopping up to the infantry. The tactic did not work well, with a counterattack by French tanks from 1st Cuirassiers wreaking havoc among the panzers. Confused armor combat lasted several hours, but in the end brute force and numbers prevailed over tactical skill. The French abandoned their positions all along the line in costly retreats, and by the end of the day 3rd Division Légère Méchanique was nearly destroyed.
|AFV Rules Pertaining to this Scenario's Order of Battle|
|3 Errata Items|
In 1940: Fall of France, the units show Direct Fire. All units are Indirect Fire.
(rerathbun on 2015 Jun 06)
The reduced direct fire value of the Heer HMG became 5-5 starting with Fall of France.
(plloyd1010 on 2015 Jul 31)
The morale and combat modifiers of German Sergeant #1614 should be "0", not "8".
(Shad on 2010 Dec 15)
|La infantería decide una batalla de tanques|
En este escenario se enfrentan dos fuerzas blindadas de tamaño considerable. Los alemanes disponen una masa de tanques ligeros (PzI y PzII) y un grupo significativo de tanques medios (PzIIIF y PzIVD). Los franceses presentan una gran masa de tanques medios (o "de caballería", según la denominación francesa). Los tanques franceses "Somua S35" son con diferencia los mejores de todos ellos.
Los franceses disponen de muy escasa infantería y algunas baterías de cañones AT, entre ellos los poderosos 47 APX. Los alemanes disponen de una muy superior fuerza de infantería y una artillería fuera del tablero considerable.
Los franceses defienden el terreno, amparándose en las poblaciones repartidas por el campo de batalla. Los alemanes entran por el este. Ambos bandos consiguen puntos de victoria (VP) por destruir unidades enemigas y tomar hexes de ciudad.
Los alemanes entran con la infantería por delante, ya que el envío de sus unidades blindadas primero habría sido un suicidio. En efecto, la potencia AT de los cañones 47 APX y de los "Somua S35" habría convertido rápidamente en chatarra a las avanzadillas blindadas germanas.
Metódicamente la infantería alemana va atacando los hexes de ciudad defendidos por los tanques franceses, que lentamente van siendo desalojados o destruidos. No obstante, los franceses resisten bien en el centro y bastante bien en su ala derecha, donce ceden terreno a costa de elevadas pérdidas del enemigo. Sin embargo, el ala izquierda francesa es desbordada y las avanzadillas alemanas consiguen llegar hasta las últimas poblaciones francesas del oeste. Al final del turno 24 el comandante francés se retira y otorga la victoria al rival. No obstante, la batalla ha sido muy reñida y el bando francés podría resistir bien en el centro y ala derecha, aunque la práctica desaparición de sus ala izquierda le supondría a la larga la pérdida de la batalla.
Magnífico escenario donde se aprecia que a pesar de las grandes masas de tanques es al final la infantería quien decide el resultado.
a) Los tanques franceses deben situarse fuera de las ciudades, cortando el paso de los atacantes. Si se despliegan en el interior de las ciudades están es desventaja por la carencia de infantería propia.
b) Los tanques franceses deben desplegarse al este de las ciudades, en terreno despejado y esperarán la aproximación de la infantería enemiga para desgastarla con fuego de oportunidad.
c) Los franceses deberán controlar los principales nudos de carreteras para poder trasladar rápidamente refuerzos a los puntos en peligro.
d) La artillería francesa bombardeará prioritariamente aquellos hexes donde sus tanques hayan sido asaltados.
e) La infantería francesa se desplegará prioritariamente en aquellos hexes de ciudad que sean al mismo tiempo nudos de comunicaciones, al igual que las baterías de cañones AT.
f) Los alemanes mantendrán los tanques PZI y PzII a retaguardia y a cubierto, dada su fragilidad ante el fuego AT enemigo. Sólo los hará avanzar cuando éste haya sido neutralizado. El resto de tanques alemanes avanzará por grupos intentado flanquear a los tanques enemigos para beneficiarse del "fuego cruzado".
g) La artillería alemana bombardeará prioritariamente las posiciones localizadas de baterías AT enemigas.
Dubbed the first tank battle both Vince and I were loking forward to his one. Large German forces advancing from the east come across a thin French infantry line backed up by excellent French armour. Initially the Germans made little headway, losing some infantry to artillery and a couple of PzIIIs, the German commander was looking a little glum after our first session however I felt that the next turn would be crucial as French lines were now being stretched and already some Panzers had out flanked the line and were making towards the rear and the French artillery park, and so it proved as between 1500-1530 more German infantry poured onto the board and French tank losses mounted. The efficient use by the German commander of infantry to assault the slower French attacks while the Panzers unleashed shots into the flanks was a model of combined arms attack to which the French had now answer. A local counter attack did cause some casualties to PzIV's and at least lifted the morale of the troops but the writing was on the wall and the French commander condceded the battle. This is a good scenario and I have rated it a 4, although the secnario as a contest was finished about half way through the 30 turns this may have been down to the choice of a forward defense line by the French commander and even though Herr Hughes gave me a sound thrashing I would consider playing this one again. (Just not for a while)
|The scrap yard|
For the French I decided on a line defense roughly running north-south across the middle of the battlefield including the southern village on bd 28 and the hamlets north of it. I found it difficult to decide where to place the roadblock but finally put it on the northern rim of that same village blocking a possible approach from the north. I decided to keep the tanks in the back as flexible reserves who could be employed any time when necessary. The German attack was two- pronged with the main weight on the south intending to occupy the eastern villages as soon as possible. Initially it was my intention to make it a combined attack but decided on grouping the PzI's and II's together as freely roaming packs to occupy the hinterland. The PzIII and IV would support the infantry. Soon however the French counter attack with the tanks decimating the weak panzers while the terrific French 47mm's wiped out the support tanks. Up until.. the frightening 88mm was deployed on the northern hills. My first play with an 88, it was a blast.. :-) After deployment it picked off one H39 after another with a few steps of S35 to boot. The French tried to neutralise the threat but it did not work because In the meantime the German infantry was working on the French infantry defense and were successful in doing so. At 17.15 the French called it a day only occupying the nortwestern village with its remaining S35's. There were no French infantry leaders left. All H39's were destroyed while 13 S35 steps remained. The Germans won a major (124 VP against 82) but the cost was high: only 3 steps of PzII and 3 steps of PzIII remained. The battleground had turned into one giant scrap yard.
Nice medium sized scenario with a plethora of choices you can make on attack and defense. Lots of armor to move and shoot with and don't forget the 88mm. A deserved 4!
The victory conditions are clear. Each side has to take/hold towns and eliminate enemy steps. Each side has plenty of armor but what a strange group of tanks. Some are under-gunned and over-armored. Some have adequate guns but very light armor. Some have light armor and no guns! The French deploy a deep defense with the intent of requiring the Germans to assault as many towns as possible. They locate their AT and armor wide to set up cross-fires.
The Germans advanced cautiously to move into cross-fire positions of the first line of French. As they approached French armor broke ranks and charged the German armor. This counter-intuitive move blasted many more German steps than French steps. Score one for the brave (suicidal) French tankers. The Germans continued the assault through the first village. Steady progress with steady casualties. Be sure to bring and protect that ENG unit!
The German 88mm was the only gun that could confidently take out the heavily armored French tanks. So it is another of those "how do a get a gun in place and unlimbered without the loaded trucks getting blasted by AT or bombed" problems. This 88mm managed to blast two tank steps before unceremoniously dispatched by the French arty on the next hill.
The remaining German armor (mostly reduced units) spread wide to encircle the remaining French armor. There was a complicated array of cross-firing from both sides. I even had to use markers to remember which tank got attacked from which hexside!
Although it was fun combined arms scenario it wasn't fun for the French player. The Germans scored a major victory. Maybe a point defense would have been better.
|Tough French Tanks Gave Me A Genuine Head-Ache !|
Germans Eventually Breakthrough At Hannut
This was Wayne and I's first FoF scenario and the boards and the scenario conditions looked interesting. Bags of town hexes on the boards and for both sides, points per casualties inflicted and towns taken were the crux. But what made this a real poser was could the very tough and well armoured French tanks, when stretched out along a line, beat off the quite flimsy but numerous tanks of the German attacker?
‘The Witch’s Cauldron ’
Scenario played 25th October 2010
Attacking from the east, the Germans needed to pile through the numerous town and village areas that bordered the main road, The first main built up area of around 2km long was only some 1.5km ahead of the German attack forces. The French had defended this with most of their infantry, but had also had to defend further north where another and more rural road ran from east-west. The heavy French Somua 35’s and the not exactly weak Hotchkiss 39’s had to spread across the front. Some seventeen platoons in all, around 70 tanks would face the mostly weak German PzI’s and II’s, (about 50 of them) supported by 20 Pz III’s and 8 Pz IVD’s. The Germans though would concentrate their forces in one area, and for this they chose the route through the heavy town area where their infantrymen could support them well AND be aggressive against any enemy armour there.
The Germans launched their attack at 1300 hours, with a battalion of infantry in support of the tanks and a lot of OBA assigned to the sector. Despite this, in the first half hour, it was the Germans that lost the most troops as around 50 casualties (2 steps) were sustained going forward. But after this initial set-back a troubled German commander was finally able to get some co-ordination into the assault and this resulted in three enemy AT batteries and a couple of Hotchkiss tanks (1 step) being knocked out over the following hour. Not that the French were inactive either. They too eliminated two Panzer III tanks (1 step)and some more infantrymen. The battle was certainly tight with both commanders experiencing difficulties in their battle-plans. For the French Commander, he was simply stretched across a front and despite his obvious superiority in tank models, was finding it difficult to block all avenues to the Germans. The German was given the headache of trying to make his tank force effective. The French tanks, given the chance would blow holes through his Panzers and he therefore had to advance cautiously and avoid the French tankers getting a jump on his own machines. So for the first two hours, progress was very slow and frustrating for the attackers as they experienced a 6 to 2 tank loss and even a 100 casualties amongst the men.
But it was the infantry that were to provide the key to opening the French defence for the Germans. As they entered the area where the villages began, they were able to slowly, but usefully press along the built up streets and get in close to the French tanks located there. The French were short on infantry and were now being forced to try and stem this steady advance with just armour in some areas. As they did this, elements of the PzI’s and PzII’s meandered through some of the undefended parts of the towns and were able to breakthrough to ‘The Green Fields Beyond’ and begin speeding headlong to claim the undefended French towns and villages that were far to the rear. It resembled the very slow bending and then cracking of a dam as first just droplets of the enemy filtered through, followed by a steady trickle with an impending gush looming.The effect meant that the French were now experiencing not only being stretched to their front, but seeing complete chaos to the rear leaving German Panzers and some motorcycle platoons to roam free and set up controlling these roads in the rear areas.
Now the worse began to happen for the French defenders. The German infantry began engaging the French tanks close up, and often in the tight streets of the villages and towns. Not only did this cause horrible French casualties and a loss of cohesion, but it also meant the German tanks could navigate around their foe and fire flanking and rear shots into them. The carnage proved absolute! From 1500 hours to 1645 hours, no less than 38 French AFV’s were taken out as well as around 100 infantry casualties. Also, the aforementioned motorcycle recon units had manage to start directing OBA at the French 75mm batteries positioned well to the rear.
The game was now up for the Frenchmen ! Nothing else could be done to hold this sector despite the best and frustrating efforts early on. At 1700 hours, the French commander conceded the field to the enemy and was forced to pull back en masse. End casualties were German step-losses of 4 INF, 1 MTC, 1 88mm, 8 AFV steps. The French losses came to 5 INF, 4 AT batteries a staggering 20 tank steps. Manyfold town hexes of the 45 on board had been lost !
I rated this a 3. Good game, but given a 30 turn length, we only made 16 hard fought turns before the French through in the towel, albeit after some really tough fighting. I like a rating of 4 to go closer to the end than that. All that said, it is a 'good' 3, because it really did give me a paracetamol needing head-ache in the first session where I found it just so tough to get at the Frenchie tanks and was forced to think of ways to do so and avoid the puny Pz I's and II's being turned into scrap!. The points totals were hard to finally compute. In losses it was a 49pt to 22pt German advantage. Most of the towns had fallen and there are 90 pts of them on board. So perhaps with 30 town hexes taken, the score would have been around 109pts German to 52pts French ? Wayne even stated that had the battle continued for the remaining 14 turns, unless he exited the board, he would have expected total annihalation!
To sum up. It appears the key to any forward defence, as this one was set-up to be by the defenders is all about how that line holds. How the German disposes of his tanks upon entry and the crucial tank battles between the opposing forces. As this is the first play of this one, it will be interesting to see how others follow?
|Valorous French Tanks|
These France 1940 scenarios are very interesting to me. The French always appear to be outmatched by the Germans, but they somehow manage to wear the attackers down and get more draws and victories than I would expect. Their infantry have pitifully low firepower, but terrain often works to their advantage, as does their almost entirely defensive stance (in the scenarios I've played thus far). In this scenario they do have a genuine firepower advantage though, in the form of their tanks.
The French forces held a number of small defensive positions all along the line, with a few infantry and ATGs interspersed among tank companies. The German plan was to demonstrate against the southern and central portions of the French line, while trying to break through in the North. Unfortunately, their big northern tank push of PzIII and PzIV tanks was smashed by the French tanks and ATGs lurking behind hedges. German infantry clawed their way forward, picking up ground slowly, battling mobile tank companies here, there and everywhere.
In the south, a scratch force of German infantry and infantry guns found some seams in the French line and infiltrated deep into French territory. As the final turns played out, the exhausted French pulled back and the equally exhausted Germans consolidated their control of half the town hexes on the board.
The French had inflicted grievous losses on German tanks and a fair number of infantry, but their inability to cover the large towns meant they just lost a minor victory and had to settle for a draw.
The French have a lot to protect and not really enough to do so, especially when it comes to infantry. What they do have are their armor and the APX At guns. The German pushed his panzers forward looking for some crossfire opportunity. This resulted in the armor getting ahead of the infantry. The French armor and AT guns took advantage of this and reduced a number the German tanks. The Germans got their 88 set up on the ridge and started raining down some thunder on the French armor. The French were able to bring their artillery to bear on the 88, but could only cause some disruption. This also meant they were not hitting the infantry with it as they closed on the first towns. The French armor had to make a choice, go for kills or withdraw from the threats. The chose the kills and continued to have some success. For the first several hours the French were winning with more kills while protecting their town. The German reinforcements were over an hour late, but they turned the tide. The Germans eventually punched some holes and were able to start isolating parts of the French defense. With no escape they fought hard but were simply worn down and eventually overwhelmed. The Germans learned that their armor was not as strong as they had felt and paid the price by leaving a lot of burning steel on the battlefield.