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La Ferme de la Vie en Rose, 1944


The Second World War, Chain of Command, 28mm

This little game was a scenario lifted straight from an article by Richard Clark, who wrote the rules. In his turn he based it on a wartime British infantry platoon leader’s training manual, which gave it as an example of how a platoon should carry out an attack on an enemy-held position. The premise was that the British were advancing up a road in Normandy, but found their way blocked by a German-held farmhouse, La Vie en Rose. The defenders had two squads – one in the farm, the other in a nearby copse. The British platoon commander had three sections, plus a PIAT team and a 2-inch mortar team. What would you do in his shoes?The way the manual suggests, you send two sections off to the stream on your left flank, and once they’re in position their Bren teams lay down covering fire, as does the third section on the hill. Then the riflemen begin their advance, to clear the Germans from the wood, and then the farm. Meanwhile the 2-inch mortar fires smoke to screen the attackers from view. That’s the textbook way. Before our game is neither Joe with the British or Alan with the Germans had read the old manual. Instead Joe improvised as he went along. Here’s how he got on…Joe began by sending one section towards the stream, while everyone else advanced off the hill and into the cornfield. The left-hand section would provide fire support from the stream bed. Effectively this meant the British platoon commander wasn’t bothering with laying down lots of covering fire – this would be an all-out assault. Strangely the two support weapons moved forward with the rest of the platoon – no standing around on the hill and lobbing mortar rounds here. That, of course, is where the game got interesting. The Germans caused the first casualties, opening up on the British moving towards the stream from their two sections – one in the farm, the other in the copse.Both had MG-34s attached, and half the British section – a full five men – were either killed or wounded. The survivors sprinted to the stream, bullets flying all around them. To deal with them the German platoon commander sent a fire team towards the stream as well – the idea being to enfilade the British by firing up the length of the stream bed. The British were still lurking around the corner of a little bend in the stream, so for the moment there wasn’t a clear target. However, as soon as they waded up the stream they’d be fair game.In the meantime the MG-34 in this fire team targeted the PIAT and 2-inch mortar teams, inflicting one casualty on the mortar-men. Joe reacted by lobbing a smoke grenade to screen the mortar, and then switched to live rounds. HE scored a direct hit on the farmyard, killing two Germans. The advance continued, and the smoke still lingered, stopping the Germans in the stream from having a clear shot at anyone. Frustrated, they ran back to the copse, only to be caught in the open by the fire of the two British sections in the cornfield. Having reached the edge of the cornfield (which offered no real cover) they dropped to the ground and began firing at anything they could see. This meant the Germans in the copse and the farmyard – until the fire team running back from the stream appeared. They were scythed down before they made it back into the trees. That was where Joe’s plan finally clicked into place. The 2-inch mortar began dropping rounds on both the copse and the farmyard, where the outnumbered Germans started to take serious casualties. Another lucky mortar hit effectively silenced the remaining Germans in the farm, apart from the lieutenant in charge, who was protected by the front of the farm building. By that stage he was left with half a squad of men in the copse, and had lost both of his MG-34 teams. The morale of his platoon had been dropping as casualties mounted, and now it reached breaking point.Deciding that living to fight another day was the best course they slid back through the trees, and withdrew to the north, leaving the British free to advance and take the copse and the farm. it was a short, sharp little action, but one that gave both players some tough and realistic choices. All I did was umpire it – keeping the two players on course with the rules. The result was a very enjoyable game, and one that ran smoothly. The more we try Chain of Command from the Two Fat Lardies the more we like the rules. They’re now our Second World War skirmish set of choice.

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