Yaaaah!

Hmm. This looks familiar.
Hmm. This looks familiar. And, yes, I know it is impossible to stack all the German units on the starting hexes.

The next installment in the short learning scenarios I’m writing for each map. Okay, I’m getting a little slap happy here. Even so, this situation will familiarize players with SATWs, night, paved roads, and my simple turreted vehicle rule. Which reads:

5.3.3 Turreted Vehicles
Vehicle units with a colored or white ring around the vehicle depiction may choose to fire outside of their front firing arc without changing the orientation of the vehicle. This is important in terrain which restricts movement, such as narrow or sunken roads, or where the player chooses to avoid the risk of vehicle bogging.
(5.3.3.1) Firing out of the front firing arc always requires a proficiency roll, even at ranges under 5 hexes. Fire outside of the front firing arc suffers the usual -1 for turning to fire applies and anti-personnel firepower is reduced by 2.

I doubt I’m really going to playtest this. Well, I might do it if someone requested to play it live via VASSAL. Drop me a line if you want to read the module rulebook. You can have a look at the scenario here and right click to download the VASSAL file here.

B coy CP, Le Bourg St. Leonard

Who wouldn't want to drive tanks around in such constricted terrain?
Who wouldn’t want to drive tanks around in such constricted terrain?

Here’s my rendering of the old center of Le Bourg St. Léonard. More than with the other maps I’ve had to commit some sins of scale and, for playability’s sake, sacrifice outbuildings (hence the gardens). M15 is B/359’s CP 15/16 August 1944. I’ve written the observation post rules to be very simple. If you can occupy M15 or keep a unit adjacent to it, you may observe artillery to the range printed on the map. (Twenty hexes in this case.) No, you needn’t calculate LOS, as the fall of shot can be observed from shell bursts, the height of which are sometimes materialized in other tactical systems. However, LOS may be traced only through the indicated (yellow) hexsides.

These hexes are something regimental and battalion commanders worried about historically. They do not serve as likely spots for installing ASL-like “death stars”. This impacts game play quite a bit, especially in built-up terrain. I can find no doctrinal guidance about using buildings as cover. During this battle, US corps command prohibited deployment in buildings out of CIMIC concerns. 359IR’s executive officer, who wrote the best account of combat here, explicitly mentions the advisability of doing so in his lessons learned paragraph. However, it is just as easy to find anecdotes of more experienced troops (75th Rangers in the Hurtgen Forest, for example) preferring to defend built-up areas from newly-dug foxholes with trenches communicating to buildings.

Former town hall (marked "Mairie" on the game map), Brendan Clark, bottom left. Note bullet scarring still visible on its façade.
Former town hall (marked “Mairie” on the game map), Brendan Clark, bottom left. Note bullet scarring still visible on its façade.
Vic. hex P15. Note the density of buildings and the narrow streets. 359IR's XO CPT Hickman reported tank engagements taking place at 40 yards here.
Vic. hex P15. Note the density of buildings and the narrow streets. 359IR’s XO CPT Hickman reported tank engagements taking place at 40 yards here.

This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Turn 7 of first playtest of St. Léonard 1: "Not Such a Bad War after All."
Turn 7 of first playtest of St. Léonard 1: “Not Such a Bad War after All.”

Just look at this mess. Three missions active, two of them called at or near the end of the turn. There would be two more as well had my opponent forgotten his amazing ability to roll 10s. What bothers me is that, at the moment of close assaults on the German objective, the moment for using artillery to suppress is well past, nor is there much concern for the  negative consequences (other than a short mission) for firing so close to friendly troops. Tsk, tsk.

It goes this way in every scenario I’ve playtested. There is a lot of isolated, vicious artillery fire at units just across the street from the objective you want to take. The two sides’ missions converge like perfectly coordinated trash compactor jaws. Not good. This made me consider doing away with artillery altogether and represent its effects in a more notional way. Yet artillery must still be represented because it such an important part of planning a successful tactical mission. Getting it right should be rewarding.

Perhaps some new rules are in order.

Le Bourg St. Léonard in 3D

POV ~50m above positions of 1/A/359 along the first axis of the 3 SS PzGr's attack.
POV ~50m above positions of 1/A/359 along the first axis of the 3 SS PzGr’s attack.
Playtest scenario. Developer Brendan Clark's 3 SS PzGr pushes back the US line.
Playtest scenario, depiction of same area. Developer Brendan Clark’s 3 SS PzGr pushes back the US line.

Click through to a manipulable 3D visualization of Le Bourg St. Léonard, the fourth battle in From the Ground Up. Terrain relief is exaggerated 30m SRTM data. The building footprints are from Open Street Map before I visually compared them with my field notes and the 1947 aerial survey photo of the IGN. The Z height of the buildings is a database merge based on my field notes and an aerial photo from 1944. This is a very preliminary model. Later on, I’ll tease out polygons for the ground cover and assign heights when I next have some time to devote to making further progress in QGIS.  For the moment, I’m hammering out artillery and campaign rules.