Decision at Ouroux

Multiplayer games can both be challenging and enjoyable. Challenging, as they require additional coordination and enjoyable, due to the greater social interactions. These days they form an increasing component of my regular gaming activities. However, less frequently do these games use Spearhead.

However, with the pandemic curtailing my regular wargaming several weeks ago I thought it was time for something different. The result was a multiplayer Spearhead game with players provided situation reports by email while I moved the figures and resolving combats on the table.

The scenario I decided on, after much thought, was an encounter scenario set in Normandy in 1944. As to participants the scenario allowed for a total of nine players, with seven commanding a battalion, supplemented by a brigade commander for both the British and Germans.

The Background:

The Germans forces, drawn from the 10th SS Panzer Division, comprised three battalions under nominal command of 22nd Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the force being designated “Kampfgruppe Klink”. The battalions comprised two Panzer Grenadier battalions on foot, as well as a Panzer battalion supported by a further company of Panzer Grenadiers. The kampfgruppe was further supported by various reconnaissance, assault guns and artillery elements.

The British meanwhile would have a slight numeric advantage. Drawn from the 11th Armoured Division the reinforced British Brigade would comprise two infantry battalions, from the 159th Brigade, supported by a tank battalion (25th Hussars) and the divisional motor battalion in halftracks. Further support would be provided by a 25pdr artillery regiment as well as a small number of 5.5″ guns for counter-battery and under strength 17pdr company.

Each player team was then tasked with determining the plan. The concept was of course, that the brigade commanders came up with an overall plan and then issued orders to the various battalion commanders. The battalion commanders were then required to organise their own battalion attack deploying the companies and various support weapons. Then, as the forces advanced, the various company commanders (the umpire) would provide intelligence updates to their battalion commanders who then provided a revised summary to the brigade commander. Of course as intelligence reports came in the brigade commanders modified their plans and committed reserves as best they could.

The plans, at a high level, can be described as follows. The Germans opted to seize three objectives nearest their start lines and then fight a defensive battle holding his panzers in a central reserve. The British meanwhile opted for a defensive action on their right and a converging attack on their left against the German right wing with two battalions rising to three once the reserve was committed.

The Game:

Now, I wont provide a blow by blow report, but below are a few photos and a commentary on each. I trust that this will provide something of a “picture” of the battle.

Above, a view of the German left flank where a Panzer Grenadier battalion, advancing on foot, is soon to secure the first objective – marked here by a red marker. This battalion was reinforced by a divisional reconnaissance company and a StuG company. In the centre foreground a Puma platoon is on the lower slopes of the hill while StuGs are moving through a wood.

Below, the German right flank where a second German Panzer Grenadier battalion is also moving forward. In the background the German Panzer battalion has moved into reserve positions.

Simultaneously British forces were also advancing. Below, elements of the 4th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry can be seen just prior to deploying into defensive positions.

Another view of the battalion below. The battalion was reinforced by a reconnaissance company and had on-call three sorties of Typhoons. The town of Cagny is visible on the left. The battalion would soon go into defensive positions and await the arrival of elements of the 8th Motor Battalion, The Rifles, before advancing again.

However, it was on the German left that the fighting was first get underway. The 1st Battalion, The Herefordshire Regiment had been advancing on the British right to seize defensive positions centred around the town of Morteau and a ridge line. Here they would deploy into defensive positions.

The commander of the 1st Battalion, The Herefordshire Regiment, Lt.Col Blackadder centred his battalion to the right of Morteau and a key part of his deployment was a long ridge, visible below.

However, while attempting to secure the ridge resulted in an escalating battalion level action.

Above and below the position on the British right, viewed from the British lines. The red markers mark the objectives, with two on the German side of the table and one on the British. Morteau in on the left, Osmets on the right. In the distance is the town of Verenay where the German the 22nd Panzer Grenadier commander, SS−Standartenführer Klink, was located.

Casualties on the Herefordshires accumulated quickly, mostly as a result of German small arms fire. Unable to sustain such casualties the exposed British platoons on the ridge fell back under cover of a smoke screen. Sensing the British casualties were becoming critical the German battalion commander now pushed forward only to have his own infantry decimated by intense and unrelenting 25pdr fire in the following hours.

Meanwhile the British left flank had erupted. The 8th Battalion, The Rifles had finally arrived and pressed forward in a flanking movement, which can be seen below.

Below, the general situation of the German centre and right viewed from the German lines. The German right flank is marked by the centre ridge between the towns of Ouroux on the left centre and Cagny on the right.

The British Brigade commander now ordered forward 4th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. With advanced elements on the German right detecting the British armour cross-attached to the 8th Battalion’s halftracks the German reserve battalion, comprising PzIVs and infantry in half tracks, moved to counter.

Soon this movement was detected by the British resulting in the British reserve, the 25th Hussars, also being committed. Now three British battalions were converging on the German right flank which was held by one dismounted Panzer Grenadier battalion while the Panzers attempted to reinforce the position.

Above, a British air strike by Typhoons against the high ground where three British battalions would converge. Well placed German Flak would minimise casualties by the British air strikes and being unable to see all the Flak British artillery fires were of limited success.

Above, the 25th Hussars move forward in the British centre foreground. The 4th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry is to their left and beyond the 8th Battalion, The Rifles.

Below, the 4th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry move forward bypassing the town of Cagny. British armoured cars are moving around Cagny and will soon draw the fire of the remaining StuGs on the ridge to the front.

Below, a view of the British left as two companies of the 8th Battalion, The Rifles reinforced by a tank squadron engage the Germans around the town of Cagny.

As mentioned the Germans were reinforcing their right. Below, German reserves deploy to protect the dismounted Panzer Grenadiers on the high ground. The Panzers arrived 30 minutes too late and many were destroyed by British armour supporting the 8th Battalion. Additional Panzers were committed to bolster the ridge position as casualties continued to mount.

British pressure was unceasing and with all three battalions adding their weight to the attack. Below, the town of Cagny is about to be assaulted. On the right the 4KSLI are well across the Cagny stream and pressing the German positions on the high ground.

Below, the 25th Hussars exchange fire with three Panzer IV platoons with another view of the 4KSLI to engaging the unsupported German armour. Behind the German armour on the hills in the centre, the town of Ouroux is visible.

At this point the German position had clearly become untenable. Two Panzer Grenadier battalion had been forced to take a morale checks and the Panzer battalion was suffering ever increasing casualties. The German Regimental HQ was soon caught up in the retreat and with reports flowing in the German commander, SS−Standartenführer Klink, authorised a retreat. The positions around Ouroux had collapsed.

Above, a general view of the British left, clearly showing the three converging British attack on the critically outnumbered and exposed German right.

Below, a more general view from the British perspective showing all British battalions. The Herefordshires are on the right, while the 25th Hussars are in the left foreground. Further to the left are the 4KSLI and the 8th Motor Battalion.

Summary:

I must say the game proved an excellent exercise in hidden movement and confusion, and one I was very pleased to have organised. Feedback from a number of players was that the hidden movement and evolving situation provided a very different player experience to a normal game. Reconnaissance forces also came into their own as both players sought to advance, screened in part by their reconnaissance elements.

However, the logistics of writing around 30 company level reports per turn, each defining the company’s position relative to other companies and the enemy was significant. I had plans to use more photo based reports but that was deemed unworkable as the photos provided too much detail. The workload of writing reports is clearly not for the feint hearted! Despite this workload I determined it a great success and one I will long remember as part of the pandemic.

As to the models they are from my own collection and are from Heroics & Ros.

10 thoughts on “Decision at Ouroux

  1. Thank you for sharing. Sounded great although from the umpires point of view like you say a mammouth undertaking.

    I am amassing a skytrex 1:200 scale army and hope in the not to distant future trial a multi brigade game with a view to multi Divisional operation maybe over a weekend but am not there yet. With this lock down i am not sure when it will be.

    Anyway great to hear from you.

    Kind regards
    Ray

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

    1. Ray, thanks for your comment. Yes, certainly a lot of work, but something very different – at least for me. Your planned game sounds very interesting. Good luck with it.

  2. I must thank Keith for giving me the chance to play in gthis game. As commander of the 23rd Hussars In reserve things did seem a bit abstract, but no different from the real thing. I was a bit worried that we would miss the entire game, not being involved for the first couple of chukka’s. At least it gave the Farrier a chance to check all the horses before the off.

  3. I’ve always found that pictures don’t really convey the ebb and flow of the game.
    One thing I would be interested to see would be the communication chains from both sides , even just in a chaotic form. possibly approach the commanders to compile this. The battalion commanders experience came though in the communications. its a unique opportunity as I don’t recall a game like this ever having been played using spearhead.

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