LNL-Tactical (Modern)

A Tank Battle 1944 AAR

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Michael Eckenfels, 27 November 2014

 

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A NOTE ON THIS AAR:

I used the game Tank Battle: 1944, from Hunted Cow Studios, to write up this piece. It’s a rather intense game of simple, quick, and fluid combat, on a tactical level. Unit scale is not given, but it feels as if infantry are in their own units. The game does seem to indicate, however, that tanks are individual units, which I don’t see them as. Each unit has a maximum strength of 10 (think Panzer General), and once that’s reduced to zero, they’re eliminated. There is no ‘carrying over’ of units from one mission to the next, so there’s no experience, promotions, medals, or anything like that. One must defeat the scenario to continue to the next one.

With that said, let’s get on with it!

 

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So here we are in France…huh. Looks kind of like the area around Chicago, but with more vineyards and even more people that hate Germans. I never thought I’d be here a couple of years ago…most of us thought Uncle Joe would steamroll Germany before we even had a chance to get into the war. A little side trip to North Africa as a shavetail looey and a couple of minor holding actions at Kasserine Pass (for which I received a Bronze Star, which I always said I didn’t deserve. All I did was not crap my pants in fear and I get a medal for it? Fuhgeddaboutit.

 

Anyway, now me, simple grocer from middle America, Artemis Tillery Major, no longer a butter-bar but now a railroad-track owner, leading a column of Shermans through Normandy. Our battalion commander told us that the fighter jockeys spotted a column of heavy German armor headed towards the beachhead – apparently they shot it up as best they could but most of them scattered to cover as the sun went down, so we’d need to head out before first light to set up a blocking position and stop them.

 

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I ordered the column to split into two with half going left and the other half right. Soon, the right column spotted some Germans – in Panzer IVs. The Germans apparently didn’t spot our boys, because they let fly and decimated their unit with a few well-placed (not to mention lucky) shots, reducing them by more than half strength. They half-heartedly replied in kind, but barely scratched the paint on our Shermans.

 

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I kept the left-hand column exactly where they were, anticipating a German move from that direction too – and sure enough, more Panzer IVs showed up. This one was a little more prepared – his buddies must have radioed contact, because they blew up one of my Sherman units, reducing it by half, and knocking down the other unit by darn near that much. The other Panzer IV meanwhile was reduced to within a hair’s breadth of a chicken’s tooth’s lifespan, boy howdy.

 

Soon that right-hand Panzer IV unit was a pile of junk in a moonscape of shell craters. The other Panzer IV put up more of a fight but eventually my left-hand Shermans got his goat, though that Panzer IV unit managed to inflict a total of 10 losses between the two Shermans before they went to Valhalla.

 

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Still, we managed to destroy both Panzer IV units and did not lose any Sherman units, so the higher-ups counted it as a victory. We checked our drawers and finding them fortunately clean, we headed back to our lines.

 

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MISSION 2

Flush with victory against the two Panzer IV units, the Colonel sent down word to make my unit a Combat Command, which meant the addition of slow-moving dogfaces. They might move slow, but they could save our bacon when we come across German infantry, which hide well in this bocage and maze-like mess of flora that they call Normandy. We were ordered forward into a messy tangle of woods and hills and ordered to flush out, and hopefully destroy, any German defenders we found there without taking too many losses.

 

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I chose to spread everyone out – our operational area was pretty narrow so I felt confident in doing that, interspersing Sherman units with infantry units so each could be mutually supportive. We didn’t have to wait long before we made contact.

 

The Germans had a couple of infantry units and a unit of Panzer IVs (again), and my infantry in the center took a heavy blow when the Ratzis ambushed them. The Panzer IVs were up on a hill, supporting their two infantry units, so he was in a great position. One of their infantry wasn’t so lucky, and he took a pounding from our two infantry units next to it, not to mention some close-by Shermans. Both German infantry were soon weakened and overrun, just as more Panzer IVs appeared on our right flank and more German infantry started to pour out of the woodwork. Our work was far from done.

 

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The Panzer IVs on the hill were soon decimated, though one of our Sherman units was nearly depleted in helping finish them off. Our infantry had taken a beating too, with one unit close to destruction and the other two with some bruises. Fortunately the Germans were close to the end of their tether too, and our Shermans on the right flank helped to reduce their last strong Panzer IV unit, though it took some HE slaps in the process. I brought around another unit of Shermans, this one with only a few dings. Some German infantry in the north made a last stand as my depleted Shermans on our left flank, with infantry in support, charged across open ground to make them pay for that real estate.

 

Finally, we destroyed all seven German units without losing one of ours – though many of our units took a beating in the process. This would be a harbinger of things to come, unfortunately.

 

MISSION 3

The next day was uneventful as we absorbed some replacements and got back up to strength for the next round with the Germans. This was much needed, as word got down that the Germans had brought some Tiger tanks into the field and were looking for a soft spot in our lines. Guess who got the job of stopping them?

 

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I had three Sherman and three M10 Tank Destroyer units under my command. Ahead of us was a ridgeline with a flat plateau beyond, interspersed with a few copses of trees. This would not bode well for going up against Tigers.

 

When we crossed the ridge in force, one of their Tiger units appeared in the distance on our right flank. He had a clear shot on the M10 unit that was holding that flank and he barely hesitated to fire on them, reducing the M10 unit by more than half. Another Tiger unit appeared on my left flank, directly in front of my Shermans over there, and yet another Tiger unit appeared at our center. So much for only two Tiger units – thanks, military intelligence!

 

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I swarmed the Tiger unit on my left flank with all three Shermans, and surprisingly it went down pretty quickly. That freed them up to swing east against the center Tiger unit, and with support from the M10s, it was reduced severely. I moved the damaged M10 off of my right flank as it would hardly be good for anything but target practice at that point.

 

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My M10s proved their worth and helped wipe out the center Tiger unit quickly, though the one on our right flank continued to pummel my armor with 88mm slugs. It didn’t matter – the last Tiger unit’s attacks was cover fire as it retreated from the battlefield. Funny, because I was one heartbeat away from calling a retreat before it destroyed one of my units. Command considered it a victory as we destroyed 2/3 of the Tiger tanks that were fielded against us. It could have easily gone the other way, though.

 

MISSION 4

Next up, the boss gave me some artillery units to add to my Combat Command, and we’ll need them. He’d given me the objective of taking a couple of important control points away from the Germans. One was a high hill commanding a wide view of the area, so it was a good bet to put money down on the Krauts having a lot of defenders in the area. The double threat was that according to the intel, they were building for an offensive against our front line, at a point where our line covered open terrain. If the Germans captured our control point, they’d have an open route into the heart of our rear area. We’d have to take the German control points and inflict large-scale casualties on them to carry the day.

 

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Initially, there was one German infantry unit right below their first control point and a whole horde of my boys ready to take it down within firing range of them. I had four artillery units, three of which had the range on the Germans, and they proceeded to have hell rained down on them.

 

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Despite the heat, they stayed in the kitchen, and were not reduced nearly as quickly as I thought they would be. As they were in a Woods hex, this afforded them better cover than I thought. I knew Woods hexes gave units a defensive bonus, but against three artillery, three infantry, and two armored vehicle attacks? I didn’t expect them to live that long.

 

Finally, the German unit was eliminated with only superficial loss to three of my Sherman units. By the time this had happened, German tanks appeared and headed for their control point, and German infantry appeared on our right flank, near the west edge of some little town that I forget the name of. Fortunately I had sent some infantry that way, and my third artillery unit on that side of the map started letting them have what for. The Germans took heavy losses.

 

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More Panzer IVs appeared at our center; this made it two German tank units bearing down on our line, with German infantry now on the left flank as well. With solid lines, I’d have to concentrate on the armor as they were by far the biggest threat. With copious artillery and good Sherman shootin’, one Panzer IV unit was reduced to scrap in exchange for a bit of damage to one of my Sherman units. The other Panzer IV, though, was untouched, and yet another German infantry unit appeared.

 

On the right flank, my artillery-infantry one-two destroyed the German infantry there, giving me access to the building located behind their corpses. The German infantry on our left took some heavy losses in exchange for a few smacks to one of my infantry.

 

More Panzer IVs appeared in the center, and I’d had enough – Command would send us reinforcements, but only if I showed some progress, so I charged one of our Sherman units straight to the control point, even though it was right under the noses of both Panzer IV units.

 

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As I expected, that Sherman took massive damage. A small consolation is that the German infantry on our left flank went down, and the one in the center took a bit of damage, but another Sherman was getting low in strength. I needed that artillery, and they’re very slow moving, so it would take a while for them to get into position. I brought another Sherman, meanwhile, onto the ridge next to the nearly-dead one in the control point, and together they reduced one Panzer IV down a bit.

 

We’d been taking some random damage here and there, and finally I spotted why – a German 105mm artillery unit on the right flank. They pummeled my Shermans in the center, and the Panzer IVs gave them hell, too – which made both Sherman units very close to becoming ex-Shermans. Fortunately, Command finally got their act together in response to our taking the one German control point, by providing us with another Sherman unit. None too soon, as I had no Sherman unit in the field that was stronger than half strength.

 

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This would be bad, as one of my Sherman units was eliminated, though one of the two Panzer IV units was destroyed, too. Just as I thought we had a bit of breathing room, another Panzer IV appeared right on my left flank, with only a half-strength infantry unit in place, and out in the open to boot!

 

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Fortunately, the German had moved so was unable to fire, and infantry is pretty decent against armor at close range, so they were able to give them pause. Meanwhile my artillery was finding range and was able to help defeat both these newcomers and the Panzer IV left at our center. On the right I had moved my infantry into the large building there, just in case the Germans came calling. I had initially moved my reinforcement Sherman unit in that direction, thinking I’d take out the German 105mm unit, but instead moved it to my center, because I figured the Germans would be good for another surprise or two.

 

Another Sherman unit appeared on the map, thankfully; with the elimination of Ratzi armor we gained a bit of space to straighten out our lines – though a German infantry unit appeared in a ruined structure near our center, right next to a full-strength Sherman unit. My left-flank infantry had been weakened further from its encounter with those left-flank-jumping Panzers, and was in no condition to meet the new German infantry that appeared on our left flank right then. Artillery made short work of them, but not before the Germans wiped out my infantry. I had to bring over a weakened Sherman unit to take it out, but more Sherman reinforcements arrived, and it finally felt as if the tide had turned in my direction, giving us a shot to start pushing on the enemy artillery and on the other German control point. The constant German counterattacks, though, made me wary and ready for just about anything.

 

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The one thing I wasn’t expecting were German infantry appearing now on our right flank, occupying that large building that my infantry vacated to move forward to take out the Wehrmacht artillery there. I had to turn them around to root the Germans out. My infantry took a beating, so I backed them off; strangely enough, the German infantry abandoned the house and started heading towards my artillery unit that had been giving them grief.

 

I kept a full-strength Sherman unit, one of my many reinforcements, handy in the middle as my other forces pushed up towards the remaining German control point. That was wise, because more Panzers appeared on my left flank. My artillery, which had been moving forward, was caught off guard and one of them took some damage before the Shermans arrived to put an end to that.

 

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My units pushing north made it to the control point, but some German infantry was dug in there (it was another Woods hex). Both Sherman units that had taken point were damaged heavily, and made more so by the sudden appearance of a German Tiger tank unit. Wonderful.

 

The Panzer IVs that appeared on my left were destroyed by a Sherman and copious artillery, and we reduced German infantry in those ruins more. The Tiger meanwhile disappeared after one of my Sherman units was eliminated; we’d lost sight of it. It didn’t take long to find it again, with four Shermans now looking for it. All four hammered away at them, reducing the monstrous tank unit, and with the aid of my artillery, it was finally destroyed.

 

Just in time, too, as my Sherman next to the control point was getting the worse end of its exchanges with the German infantry guarding it. I moved up my Shermans, fresh from defeating the Tiger, and eliminated their infantry, clearing out the control point. Finally, we’d carried the day.

 

MISSION 5: THE END

Unfortunately, our push forward resulted in a trickle of reinforcements, and an order to stand our ground. We formed a defensive perimeter, and Command told us we had air support. Only one of our artillery units was left with us, though, as the others were removed to other threatened areas of the front. That would be bad, because suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by yet another German counteroffensive.

 

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German tanks and personnel carriers started appearing out of the woodwork – literally. The fighter-bomber runs we had available made short work of some German armor that popped into view, but no sooner would one German tank unit get damaged than two more would appear on another part of our perimeter. The fighter-bombers were kept busy every turn, decimating enemy vehicles like clockwork, but the Germans were hydra-like and there seemed to be no end to them.

 

We held our own well enough for a while, but their numbers began to be felt, especially on the east part of our perimeter. With too many targets, the fighter-bomber had to be used intelligently, but it was not an easy decision during any one turn to make. Tiger units started appearing, and our infantry in their sandbagged defenses began taking irreplaceable losses on the left flank now. The German personnel carriers were machine-gunning our boys with abandon, and they did their best to inflict the same hell on their attackers.

 

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Our one artillery unit in the middle of our defenses was kept busy too, turning this way and that with a constant stream of screaming orders needing their attention. More German armor and personnel carriers kept appearing; our fighter-bombers kept blowing things up, but their tenacity was incredible. Despite the terrible losses they were taking, more and more kept appearing. Meanwhile, my infantry on the perimeters stopped answering their radios one at a time, like lights in a house being turned off just before bedtime.

 

I tried to focus our efforts on the biggest threats, but everything was a big threat. Reduced German units kept attacking with the same eagerness they had at full strength, and our fighter-bombers and artillery unit couldn’t cope. Nor could our surviving infantry and armor; they slowly had their strength sapped by multiple attacks.

 

Command had told us to hold out until Turn 12. If we could do that, we’d win – ostensibly I suppose due to massive U.S. reinforcements arriving after defeating the German counterattack further south that surrounded us in the first place. By Turn 8, my infantry was very weak as were my Shermans. If we pulled this out, it would be by the skin of our own chicken teeth.

 

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I had my doubts. The Germans just kept pouring it on, and my reduced strength in the perimeter meant they had less and less chance to inflict casualties on the enemy. One of my three Sherman units went quiet – it was facing the largest German concentration of armor. Another infantry position went quiet. It was Turn 10, and my boys couldn’t hold on much longer.

 

With the Sherman gone, I kept hammering at their armor and reduced it greatly, but my strength was sapped for the most part. Turn 11 came, and all I had were three infantry units – two of which were nearly dead – and one very reduced Sherman, as well as my full-strength artillery. The Germans smelled blood, and started coming at us hard. There were nine of them, more than half of which were at full or nearly full strength. We didn’t stand a chance against their final push.

 

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Before long only one infantry unit was left, one Sherman, and my one artillery. The Germans didn’t let up, killing the infantry unit on Turn 12. And just like that, we had to surrender our position as we’d taken far too many losses. Just a bit longer and we’d have lived to fight again.

 

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CONCLUSION

Tank Battle: 1944 is not a storied game in the way I wrote this piece; they’re more or less separate battles with no tie-in, and everything I described above was done for the purpose of interesting narration. That’s not to say the game is dull; not at all. The tank battles are rather intense, especially that last battle I fought. In game, I could just restart the mission and try again, but it seemed like a good place to end this AAR. Thanks for reading.


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