The Flare Path: Welcomes Combative Commenters

Hefty, persuasive, and reeking of spruce-scented Eau de Ardennes, the new Bulge-themed Combat Mission unquestionably deserves a Flare Path After Action Report. The trouble is, after seven days of snowy slaughter, fraught forest probes and costly cottage clearing, I’m now in no fit state to shepherd Shermans or put plucky pixeltruppen in harm’s way. Worn to a frazzle by delicate tactical decision-making and teeth-rattling mortar stonks, I’ve totally exhausted my capacity for command. There is a battle yarn waiting below the break, but to unspool it I’m going to need your help.

The Idea

Rather than risk repeating myself I thought this week, for a change, I’d let you dispense the orders. There’s probably a good reason why no-one has ever attempted play-by-comment communal Combat Mission-ing before, but here at Flare Path we’ve never let silly things like ‘good reasons’ stand in the way of an interesting, potentially entertaining experiment. Here, in outline, is how I envisage the world’s first (?) PBC co-op turn-based wargaming session working.

I’ve selected a bijou Combat Mission: Final Blitzkrieg ‘quick battle’ map and populated that map with two small opposing armoured forces. Battlefront’s AI will be left to choreograph the American AFVs while you, good Flareopaths will, I hope, attempt to guide the German ones to a famous victory. Every turn I’ll describe the current tactical situation (utilizing pictures and a gridded map where necessary) and, via a comment, invite Axis orders from anyone – prior CM experience unnecessary – willing to get involved.

As orders will be accepted on a first-come-first-served basis and individual commenters are only allowed to ‘move’ one vehicle per turn, every turn will involve tactical input from multiple CCs (Comment Commanders). One turn Vintokryl68 might send the Tiger trundling northward towards grid square C41, while Hodges manoeuvres the halftrack and Nichtschießen does something sly with the Hetzer. During the next order round, SabotBrummel could end-up in charge of the Tiger while RATOG and Firecrest do the honours with the tank destroyer and Sd.Kfz. 250.

Once the orders are in for all vehicles, I’ll execute them then return with a brief image-accompanied account of how the sixty seconds of in-game action played out. Did you manage to nail that Sherman loitering in the churchyard? Were you able to reverse your Panzer IV into the safety of that alley before those Hellcats pounced? It will all be revealed.

Fondness for things like family, food, and sleep means some turns are sure to be executed faster than others, but with a thirty turn time-limit, and a relatively compact map, I’m confident this historic multiplayer engagement will have reached a conclusion by the time next week’s Flare Path heaves into view. Please pop in regularly to check on progress and lend a hand with the Panzer plotting.

The Challenge

It’s a cold clear day in late December, 1944. In the cobbled precincts of a deserted Belgian town the remnants of ravaged German and American armoured units are about to meet in mortal combat. The commenter-controlled Axis force consists of…

A mighty Tiger, sure to bead the brow and knot the guts of any US tanker that encounters it.

A squat Hetzer tank destroyer. Though not nearly as well armed or armoured as the Tiger, this ambush hunter is more than capable of stopping standard Shermans in their tracks.

A capable but callow Panzer IV J (late). Unlike its comrades-in-armour, this medium tank is crewed by a ‘green’ rather than a ‘regular’ crew. Will that inexperience tell in the fighting to come? Only time will tell.

A vulnerable but relatively swift Sonderkraftfahrzeug 250. Be aware that this halftrack currently contains your highest ranking unit, a three-man disembarkable Forward Observer HQ sadly without access to arty or air support in this skirmish but equipped with radio and three pairs of potentially useful Mk. I eyeballs.

Fleeting glimpses of approaching enemy units suggest the American force is a little larger than ours and includes Shermans (variant unknown) and tank destroyers (type unknown). Wipe out the US armour to secure victory.

The Venue

(Click map to enlarge)

The four German AFVs begin turn #1 sheltering in a square in the NE corner of the urban arena (Tiger g54, Panzer IV g55, Hetzer j54, Halftrack j55) while the US ones lurk unseen in the SW corner. The extensive undamaged road network means getting around quickly on this hill-free map won’t be a problem (Flat-out even the tardy Tiger could drive the length of the venue in a couple of turns/minutes). For the two turreted Panzers shortcuts through the numerous garden and yard walls (thin brown and grey lines) are practical. The halftrack and Hetzer will happily trundle through fences (orange lines) and previously breached walls but won’t barge through brick or stone barriers.

Looking NW

Looking N (centre of map)

Looking S (centre of map)

Looking SE

Running longitudinally through the centre of the town is a perfectly straight two-track railway line that affords unobstructed views all the way to the western map edge (naturally these views are reciprocal so be careful!). Elsewhere sight-lines are generally dictated by buildings and, sometimes, trees, the majority of walls on the map being of the low variety.

Issuing Orders

Your order instructions can be as brief or as detailed as you like. A simple “Order Tiger to drive down road to grid square gg40” is just as acceptable as a fancy command specifying multiple waypoints, a movement speed/type, and a cover arc direction.

CM ingénues that wish to nuance their commands should bear in mind that ‘hunt’ is the most cautious of the movement forms. A tank ordered to ‘hunt’ to a destination will proceed slowly and extremely vigilantly stopping to engage the first enemy it spots. ‘Move’ stresses momentum but still means a tank will engage and evade of its own volition if it feels the need. A vehicle ordered to move ‘quick’ or ‘fast’ will prioritise reaching its destination over swapping shells with foes.

Cover arcs are a way of focusing a unit’s attention in a particular direction during movement or an ambush. The Panzer IV in the screenshot above will keep its main gun pointed southward (the right-hand side of the pic) as it moves out of the courtyard and heads north then west. Using arcs is by no means essential but if you suspect you’re being flanked or are concerned about a particular side-road on a route, they can be lifesavers.

It’s unlikely you’ll need to give specific targeting instruction during the engagement (Battlefront’s excellent TacAI can usually be relied upon to choose the best target, re-orientate a vehicle to maximize armour benefits etc.). What you could conceivably find yourself doing is ordering a smoke shell shot. Both the Hetzer and the Panzer IV carry small stocks of smoke projectiles.

There’s a good chance, especially with longer multi-stage order sequences, that some actions won’t be completed within the scope of one sixty-second turn. If this occurs then the person guiding the vehicle during the next turn, may order any outstanding orders deleted or tag new orders to the end of existing ones.

If you’ve any questions about ‘rules’ or map features, ask away. The Tiger, Hetzer, Panzer IV and halftrack are nervously awaiting your instructions. Good luck and good hunting, gallant Flareopaths.

Turn 1. The Panzer IV and Tiger have successfully relocated to new positions beside the railway. The Hetzer is on the right of the pic looking westward down the long east-west road. The HQ halftrack is in the process of crossing the railway. No sign of the enemy yet.

Turn 2. The Tigers bold advance alongside the railway is uneventful. The cagier Hetzer moves to a new position with views of the church to the W. The halftrack  arrives at aa55 (bottom-left of pic) without incident. Seemingly confused by a lack of waypoints (I issued only one, the destination, allowing the tank to choose its own route) the unbuttoned Panzer IV (bottom right of pic) backtracks apparently intending to approach m39 from the NE. Still no sign of the enemy.


Turn 3. Within seconds of unbuttoning, the Tiger has spotted a Stuart halted in the SW (top left in the pic above) corner of the map. Shots are traded. A Sherman appearing beside the Stuart joins in the exchange. In a furious 60 seconds the Tiger is hit five or six times (turret front x2, weapon mount x2, weapon…). One hit causes spalling which injures the commander. The other impacts seem to cause no ill effects. It’s hard to assess the damage wrought by the outgoing 88m rounds but going by the sounds and a red cross that appears briefly over the Sherman, I believe the Tiger scored at least one penetrating hit. As the turn draws to a close both the Stuart and Sherman pop smoke, reverse and disappear from view. Elsewhere, the Hetzer arrives in its position, a position screened by several buildings from the US armour apparently concentrated in the SW.  Moving through the courtyard previously occupied by the Hetzer, the Panzer IV is still approximately 20-30 seconds from its next destination (o41, just around the corner from the Tiger). Meanwhile, the HQ is a short dash from the groundfloor of a three-storey building across the railway from the Tiger.

Turn 4. Let’s start with the good news. During turn 4 the Germans lost no AFVs and sustained no casualties. The bad news, the very bad news, is that our Tiger came under sustained fire from multiple US tanks including what looked like a 76mm Sherman ‘Easy Eight’ and now sports a useless main gun. Two of the Tiger’s tormentors, the Easy Eight plus a bog-standard M4(?) , now appear to be heading N towards the railway. From its new 1st floor eerie the HQ can see several thus far unidentified AFVs and an infantry unit (crew?) in the SW corner of the map. The advancing Hetzer and Panzer IV are still totally unsighted but are approaching positions where they may have LOS to targets if the enemy tanks keep heading N. The pics below indicate possible LOF.

Hetzer

Panzer IV

Turn 5. The patient Hetzer is no more and I feel partially responsible. As it trundled into position next to the church it was hit by two shells hurled by an undetected foe in the SW. The first shell ricocheted skyward, the second punched a neat hole through the TD’s front armour. The killer appears to have been the AFV arrowed in the pic below. It was firing over the intervening high wall something I didn’t think was possible.

Thankfully the turn wasn’t a complete disaster. Moments after the Hetzer perished, the Panzer IV made use of its new vantage point to kill an M3 halftrack that was heading in the direction of the church.

The wounded Tiger is now tucked in the alley at o38 while the three-man HQ on the other side of the tracks is just settling into new digs overlooking the US positions in the SW corner. Hopefully, they’ll make some useful observations in the next turn.

Turn 6. Some interesting developments. From its lofty perch at dd33/34 the HQ seems to have a pretty good view of the yard in the SW corner of the map. About midway through the turn a Stuart and what looked to be a two-man AT team was observed exiting the yard and heading N. Now the only occupants of the yard seem to be a destroyed M10 tank destroyer (slain by the Tiger during turn 3?) and a few scattered crewmen.

Spasmodic unidentified AFV contacts on the railway suggest US armour is gathering there, possibly with the intention of moving off E or N.

During the turn the Panzer IV backed into the lee of the house at k/l34 where it was joined by the buttoned Tiger. It looks to be in a good position to tackle anything moving E along the railway or N past the wreck of the M3 halftrack.

Turn 7.  In order to get the halftrack to z29, a little improvisation/interpretation was required. I chose to route the vehicle via the courtyard entrance in the SW rather than the one beside the railway.  The turn ended with the halftrack about to swing right into a road with LOS to the railway and a possible US AFV.

On the other side of the tracks things were quiet until, in the closing seconds, a three-man US infantry team toting a bazooka and a radio came into view close to the M3. The team appears unaware of the German armour watching it from the east.

Turn 8.  Shelled by the Panzer IV (which opened fire of its own accord) and machine-gunned  by the Tiger, the ‘AT team’ attempted a retreat. I think all three were cut down as they ran.

I could be wrong but I think I heard a US AFV moving towards the M3 wreck from the railway in the closing seconds of the turn. Potential prey for the Panzer IV?

The Hetzer team are 30 seconds away from a promising observation position in the second storey of the house at h16.

The halftrack is now a stone’s throw from the yard in the SW corner, but sees no targets (a consequence of its skeleton one-man crew?).

Turn 9.  The surviving Hetzer crewmen have just suffered the same fate as their mount. They were spotted at the windows of the house at h16 and mercilessly pummelled by the US armour lurking near the railway. Before they perished they clocked the following scene…

There are at least three US AFVs on the northern side of the railway. A 76mm Sherman (behind the wall, top-centre), a Stuart (amongst the trees) and a 76mm TD (on the road and, like the Stuart, facing N). The buildings in the foreground mean none of the trio can be seen by the Panzer IV (k34) or the Tiger (j35).

On the south side of the track, the HQ team are still making their way to their new OP.

Possible fourth AFV nr railway?

Turn 10.  Yep. There are four US tanks loitering north of the railway crossing.

Turn 11.  Gosh, that was an exciting sixty seconds.

The key events:

+27 seconds. Disobeying the ‘hold your fire’ target arc, the HQ team’s rifleman decides to have a pop at the closest Sherman. Madness!

+31 seconds. Pushing forward with the Tiger, the Panzer IV spots this same, now distracted Sherman and jams on its brakes.

+35 seconds. The Panzer IV fires. A lower front hull hit and a penetration!

+38 seconds. The perforated Sherman replies. Ricochet. No penetration. No damage.

+41 seconds. The Tiger, still advancing,  takes a canister round in the flank. It looks like the round emanated from the Stuart.

+44 seconds. South of the railway, the decoy is hit and KOed by the Easy Eight behind the wall.

+46 seconds. The penetrated Sherman pops smoke and begins reversing.

+47 seconds. And, hosed by the Tiger’s MGs, so does the Easy Eight!

+60 seconds. It looks like the M10 is about to spit an HE round at the HQ team.

Turn 12.  Real heart-in-the-mouth stuff.

Five seconds in, the reversing Tiger loses a chunk of Zimmerit to a 37mm AP round fired by the Stuart. Two seconds later, the M10 drives into view close to the M3 halftrack. It’s bringing its gun to bear on the Panzer IV when a 75mm shell tears through its weapon mount. The damage clearly isn’t terminal because the TD immediately goes into reverse. By the end of the turn it has disappeared back into the growing smoke clouds seeded last turn.

Meanwhile, south of the tracks, the HQ’s flight goes without  a hitch.

Turn 13. Unlucky for some.

Another gripping turn.

+27 seconds. Moments after arriving back at k34 in the company of its pal, the unbuttoned Panzer IV spots a Sherman at 11 o’clock on the south side of the railway (the Sherman hit and penetrated on turn 11?).

+32 seconds. The Panzer fires.

+33 seconds. Bullseye! A front turret penetration!

+44 seconds. A second shell is dispatched. This one strikes the wall in front of the target.

+47 seconds. Blimey. Hydrogene’s premonition of flanking proves eerily accurate. The Easy Eight is speeding east along the railway tracks.

Before the Panzer IV can engage, the US bruiser has disappeared from view.

+53 seconds. The Easy Eight was slowing and turning its turret anti-clockwise as it vanished. It seemed to be aware of our pair.

+59 seconds. The Panzer can’t resist a third shot at the penetrated and seemingly lifeless Sherman south of the crossing. The round passes harmlessly over the turret top, slamming into the façade behind.

+60 seconds. The HQ is a few steps from the doorway of the house at v34. Once inside and upstairs it should have a grandstand view of the currently out-of-sight Easy Eight.

Turn 14. Ignoring my ‘pop smoke’ order (not sure why), the Panzer IV relocates to o41. No targets in view from this position at the moment. The tardier Tiger is still heading south to join its companion when the turn ends.

From v43 the HQ team have a fine view of the railway and its denizens. The Easy Eight is stopped near s23 facing E. The Stuart is still lurking under the trees by the crossing pointed NE.  The AFV beside the wall on the left of the pic above is (I assume) the M10 damaged during the duel in turn 12.

Turn 15.  I’m not sure my heart will take too much more of this.

+9 seconds. On ‘road 41’ the Tiger’s southward progress is abruptly checked by a shell impact. A weapon mount hit. Partial penetration. Halted last turn the Easy Eight has decided to hunt along the rail lines. Glimpsing the buttoned German behemoth through a narrow keyhole, it has engaged and scored a palpable hit.

+18 seconds. The stunned Tiger is hit again. This time the shell punches straight through the front hull armour. Hatches fly open. Crewmen in mottled uniforms tumble onto the cobbles.

+30 seconds. Still moving E the Easy Eight catches sight of the Panzer IV reversing past the abandoned Tiger. For a few excruciating seconds the Panzer IV’s fate seems sealed. But no. The forward momentum of the Allied vehicle and the backward momentum of the Axis one conspire to cheat the Easy Eight of a second kill. The Panzer disappears behind the house at d39.

+50. From their roost south of the railway, the HQ team watch as the Easy Eight pivots to port and begins making for the entrance to ‘road 31’. Gulp. It looks like it’s going after our Panzerkampfwagen.

Blue lines = likely Easy Eight movement routes

In its current position the Panzer IV appears not to have LOS/LOF between buildings A and B.

Turn 16. Not for the first time (see turn 14) the Panzer IV decides to ignore a smoke instruction. It starts towards i38 without  smoke shelling the spot first as requested.*

*This was a LoS issue. See comments.

Ten seconds into its journey, our surviving AFV spots something squat, olive drab, and angular approaching at speed on the road by the church. It halts with the intention of firing but is unable to align its 75mm KwK 40 L/48 main gun before the beetling M10 disappears behind trees at the E end of the road. Will the TD reappear? No. It seems to have stopped out of sight of both the Panzer IV and the HQ in the vicinity of l30.

The Easy Eight is no longer alone.

And, as a consequence, the LoS picture is somewhat complicated.

The above is my very crude estimate of what the Easy Eight and M10 can see from their current positions. Green = Easy Eight forward field of view. Red = M10 forward field of view.

Turn 17. Little to report. The Panzer IV is now tucked behind the house at d39 facing west. The Easy Eight and M10 sit tight at o/p30 and l29 .

Turn 18. The Panzer IV manoeuvred without incident. No LoS to either of the US AFVs from  the new position.

At the thirty second mark, the Tiger crew came under SMG fire from a knot of tankless US tankies. Heading east the ersatz GIs had just crossed the road close to the stationary Easy Eight. The pistol-armed Tiger crew emerged unscathed from the attack and are now ready to take orders from a Comment Commander.

What next? Your guess is as good as mine.

Turn 19. Breathe, Tim. Breeeeathe.

Holy Hafthohlladung, that was thrilling.

A reminder for those that missed the last batch of order comments. In turn 19 while the Tiger crew attempt to crawl south to the safety of a nearby house, our last AFV, a plucky/lucky Panzer IV, is planning to quit its hiding place and go face the Easy Eight and the M10 TD that are waiting a stone’s throw apart on ‘road 31’ to the west.

An attention-focussing ‘target armour’ arc in place, the big red GUI button is pressed and the frozen battle instantly thaws.

+21 seconds. Creeping westward the Panzer IV catches sight of the Easy Eight down by the railway.

+25 seconds. After a slight twitch of the turret, a shell screams southward. The round hits the Sherman variant on the weapon mount and refuses to stop. ‘PENETRATION’. Perfect.

+34 seconds. Are we going to get something in return? It seems not. After a nailbiting nine second wait (What are our chaps up to in there?) the Easy Eight is rocked by a second impact. This time the AP round enters the turret, instantly setting the American machine ablaze.

+55 seconds. Meanwhile, on the road next to the church, the M10 is all a fluster. Having popped smoke, it’s reversing in a south-easterly direction. What is he up to? He’s ours, surely.

+60 seconds. Even our Tiger crew seemed to be leading charmed lives this turn. In another twenty seconds all four of them should be safe and sound inside the house at n39.

Turn 20. Victory in reach?

No miracles from the M10. The AP round that finished it off had enough energy left after completing its dark deed to burst back into the light, bounce off the building at 028, recross the road beside the church, and embed itself in the wall of the house where the Hetzer crew perished.

In theory all that now stands between us and an unlikely triumph, is the two American AFVs parked either side of the railway crossing at the western end of the map.

A = damaged Sherman? (see turn 13)

B =  Stuart

Turn 21. High noon.

As the Tiger crew bundle through the door of the shop at p40, pistol shots ring out. Our rattled recon team is being fired at from the S side of the railway by two prone American tankies! Don’t worry lads, at that range those trigger-happy clowns haven’t a hope of…

Ah.

The Tiger crew have a close-range target arc to ensure stealthy observation, but that’s forgotten in the heat of the moment. Two clusters of unhorsed tankmen are now trading pistol shots across the broad expanse of the railway tracks. From a high window at u43, the German HQ team, still undecided about moving west themselves, look on flabbergasted.

Things are quieter on the northern periphery of the map. The prowling Panzer IV’s journey west to c11 is entirely drama free. The tank stops a few metres from a left turn that, if taken, could produce a confrontation with a cowardly/coy Stuart.

Turn 22. Here we go round the mulberry bush.

Turn 22 from the perspective of our gunslinging Tigermen:

+5 seconds. Revenge.  A US tanker endeavouring to cross the tracks and join his pals is stopped by a flurry of Walther P38 slugs.

Turn 22 from the perspective of our predatory Panzer IV:

+30 seconds. Rounding the corner, the hunting PzKpfw IV finds a wounded M4 slap-bang in the centre of its ‘target armor’ arc. Moments later the Ronson is burning brightly.

Turn 22 from the perspective of our eagle-eyed HQ team:

+13 seconds. Interesting. It looks like that sedentary Stuart is finally making a move. Yep, here it comes, haring down the tracks. Where on earth is it headed?

+40 seconds. Ah. It’s hanging a left at the Easy Eight. If it keeps heading N we’ll lose sight of it. (The Stuart keeps heading N)

Stuart last seen at 031.

Turn 23. I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘s’.

The HQ’s move proves useful. From the third storey of the property at w42 they spot the remaining – we assume – US AFV. The Stuart is stationary and facing E – not the way you want to be facing when a Panzer IV is approaching at pace from the NNW.

In 10-15 seconds, assuming its orders remain unchanged, the PzKpfw IV will round the east end of the church.

Turn 24. And then there were none.

When our 25 tonne grim reaper swung into the churchyard and clocked its quarry, that quarry was desperately trying to make itself scarce. With its arse-end pointed directly at the Panzer, the skittish Stuart didn’t stand a chance. One round stopped it in its tracks. A second turned it into a crackling funeral pyre. I don’t think anyone got out alive.

Dabbing the ‘end turn’ button I half expected to see the victory screen, but it seems our silicon adversary still has a bit of fight left in him. Perhaps if we give the tank crewmen dotted about the railway tracks, and the yards in the SW, a little taste of bow MG the chump will realise the game is up.

Turn 25. Pinch yourself.

Mop up along the railway line. Use road i to rejoin the HQ. Be careful – it’s not impossible a bazooka team is still at large… In plotting the Panzer IV’s orders for turn 25 I attempted to reflect the concerns and wishes of several Comment Commanders rather than just one.

As it turned out, a tentative pause-punctuated run to the western map edge wasn’t necessary. Apart from a single long-range pistol shot fired at our unbuttoned Panzer TC as he passed junction i31 the turn passed without violence, the Americans surrendering at the close.

Pat yourself on the back. We secured a ‘Major Victory‘ (1000pts to 328pts)!

During five days twenty-five minutes of bitter, surprise-sprinkled scrapping we lost four men and three AFVs. The Americans suffered twenty-one casualties and left five tanks and one halftrack smouldering on the pavements and street corners of ‘Unnamed Belgian Town With Unusually Short Street Lamps’.

Post-battle stats confirm the obvious. Our ‘green’ Panzer IV performed brilliantly. By tomorrow, assuming one of the crewmen can scrounge a pot of white paint, that barrel will boast another five kill rings.

As suspected the Tiger’s only scalp was the M10 slain in the yard in the SW on turn 3. Of course what the numbers don’t show, is the important role our Panzerkampfwagen VI played in distracting attention from its little brother during the tense skirmishing around the church (see turn 11).

A Tiger-sized thank you to everyone that has issued orders, offered advice, or simply cheered from the sidelines since Friday. Without your thoughtful and enthusiastic contributions this experiment in communal Combat Mission would have failed dismally, and Flare Path’s AAR archive would now be much poorer.

* * * * *

This way to the foxer

265 Comments

  1. ElementalAlchemist says:

    So, it’s a game of chicken then. Shall we test out your guesstimate of LOS? If nobody has any better suggestions, move the MkIV to the east/right side of the house at approx. D40 facing south, see if it can spot either the M10 or E8 (or vice versa).

    • ElementalAlchemist says:

      Oh, I just realised there is a low wall that might be in the way. Did you say earlier that the tanks could move through those?

      • Hydrogene says:

        Yes, Tim said the tanks could drive through walls.
        I say the HQ stays where it is.

        Whatever happens next, I really enjoyed this game, it’s really fun being confronted to choices made by others! And I’ve learned a lot about tanks since the game started (I’ve looked up all the types of tanks we’re confronted with, and read quite a bit about their qualities during WW2.). Thank you Tim for such a great idea.

  2. Tim Stone says:

    Turn 19 orders here, please (see body of article for sit rep). Commenters are cordially invited to suggest moves for the following: Panzer IV, HQ team, Tiger crew (armed with pistols and probably pretty fragile)

    One unit per commenter.

    ORDERS RECEIVED. TURN 19 UNDERWAY.

    • Hydrogene says:

      The Easy Eight icon looks like we have lost eye contact from HQ… Is it true? has it moved a bit? If so, we could try crossing the railroad with the HQ to get a better viewing position.

  3. alh_p says:

    Using the (very handy) LoS approximation, it looks like we could potentially deal with one opponent at a time. If only for a short time.

    I’d have rather fancied our chances of penetrating the M10’s frontal armour but the way we’re parked up on the west-east road means we’d more likely face the Easy 8 if the PIV were to edge forwards…

    Popping smoke with the main gun seems dangerous here, i’d rather we kept AP chambered (assuming CM models that) and in any case we’re too close to the enemy as they could easily drive through/around the smoke.

    Still surprised the Tiger went down so easily.

    My order, if I may: PZIV “hunt” to D38, turret bearing 7 or 8 o’clock. If possible to command: fire a couple of shells, then reverse back behind the building (position at start of turn).

    • alh_p says:

      Allow me to clarify that turret bearing: 240 degrees (from north, NOT hull orientation!).

      • alh_p says:

        doh, that would be to point at the M10, better to go with 220 – if it makes a difference.

  4. ElementalAlchemist says:

    Question – how is movement constrained? Is it grid-based or entirely free? For instance, can the MkIV poke its nose out a little past the side of the house without fully exposing itself? That was kind of what I had in mind for the previous turn.

    Btw, it’s unbuttoned judging by that pic?

    • Tim Stone says:

      Infantry destinations can be a little difficult to predict, but AFVs generally end up almost exactly where you want them. Nose poking is definitely possible.

  5. Tim Stone says:

    Does anyone have an urge to move the HQ or attempt to utilize the Tiger crew? A word of warning if the latter attempt to engage the approaching ‘infantry’ they may attract the ire of the Easy Eight and/or the M10.

    • ElementalAlchemist says:

      The Tiger crew appear to be prone. If they can crawl, you could try moving them south to the house at approx. N40.

    • alh_p says:

      Attract/distract the enemy you say? Couldn’t this be a wonderful opportunity for advancement or defence of the fatherland etcetc by the redundant crews?

  6. Tim Stone says:

    Turn 20 orders here, please (see body of article for sit rep). Commenters are cordially invited to suggest moves for our remaining units. One unit per commenter.

    ORDERS RECEIVED. TURN 20 UNDERWAY.

  7. ElementalAlchemist says:

    Nice one. That went amazingly well.

    Can we get a sitrep on the current position of the MkIV? Judging by the pic, approx. D39 facing west?

    • Tim Stone says:

      Image added to the end of the turn report.

      • ElementalAlchemist says:

        So the M10 is moving SE towards/crossing road 31?

        In that event, should the MkIV remain stationary, or try moving to D36/35, tracking the turret southward to try and catch it?

        • Tim Stone says:

          “So the M10 is moving SE towards/crossing road 31?”

          Yes. To be precise, it’s reversing towards the wall corner at m30.

        • alh_p says:

          Does the PzKwIV currently have LoS on the M10? If so, and if I’m right in thinking it won’t lose it immediately, I’d suggest the panzer should stay put, target the M10 and plug as many shells into it before it escapes.

          • ElementalAlchemist says:

            It seems like the house at K34 might block LOS from the IV’s current position, if I am understanding things right.

          • Tim Stone says:

            Yes, it’s currently in view, but it’s not impossible that the smoke popped last turn could end-up obscuring it at some point (smoke clouds grow)

          • Tim Stone says:

            “It seems like the house at K34 might block LOS from the IV’s current position, if I am understanding things right.”

            Eventually perhaps, but the M10 would have to reverse an awfully long way for that to happen.

            To correct an earlier typo, the M10 is currently reversing towards the wall corner at m30 not t30.

          • ElementalAlchemist says:

            Ah, M30 makes a lot more sense. I wondered what was going on.

            In that case, I say the IV should hold its ground and fire at will.

          • alh_p says:

            Agreed. I think the M10 might be pulling away from its smoke anyway. Could the crew have panicked? (i don’t know if the game models morale but surely it does…)

          • ElementalAlchemist says:

            I’m pretty sure there was a mention of morale earlier when there was a discussion on the merits of moving the HQ and what their loss might mean.

    • alh_p says:

      Fantastic! Great intel and LoS estimations.

      I have to ask, is our PzKwII crew still rated green? They’ve rather shown up the Tiger and Hetzer… There’ll be iron crosses for those chaps before this is done.

      • Tim Stone says:

        Green as grass, but highly motivated and well led. The tank commander is a fellow called Hermsen, +2 leadership.

  8. ElementalAlchemist says:

    How far can the IV move in a single turn at “hunt” speed?

  9. ElementalAlchemist says:

    Besides the M10, what (functional) vehicles do the Yanks have left?

    • Tim Stone says:

      At least one – the Stuart last seen under the trees near the crossing. There may also be a damaged Sherman lurking somewhere out west.

      • ElementalAlchemist says:

        Was that somewhere in the vicinity of Q12/13, during turn 14?

  10. Tim Stone says:

    There seems to be a consensus to leave the Panzer IV where it is and let nature take its course. Stay tuned for the next turn report.

  11. Tim Stone says:

    Turn 21 orders here, please (see body of article for sit rep). Commenters are cordially invited to suggest moves for our remaining units. One unit per commenter.

    Orders received. Turn 21 underway.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Since I was in charge of the Tiger when it died (just after extolling the strengths of its armour too, for added embarrassment) and in charge of the HQ when it fired on the Sherman (the rifleman’s transfer orders to the Eastern Front have already been signed off), I am going to stay very quiet and not make any orders whatsoever!

    • BooleanBob says:

      Can we get the Tiger crew into the building at o33, looking west? We might get some useful from the vantage of the upper floors.

      • Tim Stone says:

        That might be a big ask. There are still two or three US ‘infantry’ contacts in the vicinity (Probably crewmen. Possibly armed with grease guns).

  12. Stugle says:

    This is the most entertaining thing I’ve seen on the internet all week! Thanks everyone for sticking with it!

  13. alh_p says:

    HQ doesn’t look like it can see the Stuart’s end of the map. If it’s out of range, I suggest the squad relocate on foot to the building at U22/23. Is there any way they can make that move without exposing themselves, i.e. by moving east-west off the road, along V?

    How long would it take them to make that trek, 2 turns?

    • Tim Stone says:

      They can see the Stuart but not the ‘damaged Sherman’.

      To reach u22/23 they’d need to use one of the ‘gateways’. That yard is ringed by high walls.

  14. ElementalAlchemist says:

    So, Iron Crosses all around for the IV crew then.

    I assume the Tiger crew are now holed up in the house at N39? Any sign of that enemy infantry that was shooting at them?

    Perhaps the IV should proceed westwards along road C, possibly at “move” speed?

    • Tim Stone says:

      The Tiger crew are currently lounging around on the cobbles just outside the house at n39. Exhaustion? Fear? (entering it would mean moving closer to the enemy) An order plotting gaffe? Not sure.

      No sign of the US tankies that attacked them.

  15. khamul says:

    Stuart should only be armed with a 37mm main gun, so shouldn’t be much of a threat to the Panzer IV?

    How well can the Tiger crew work as spotters? They have no radio?

    I think we need to make best possible use of most expendable asset (Tiger crew) to get eyes on the damaged Sherman and ensure no nasty surprises. We’re close, but we have only one gun left – we can’t afford to lose it now.

    • ElementalAlchemist says:

      If that disembarked crew with a submachine gun (Thompson?) is still lurking around, I doubt the Tiger crew will last long out in the open. Could they get LOS from the house at P39?

  16. Tim Stone says:

    In Turn 21 the Panzer IV will proceed westward along road C. I still need clear orders for the Tiger crewmen (who being ‘rattled’ may decide to sit tight anyway) and the HQ team (who, if they intend to push west *and* stay alive, probably shouldn’t do it via the railway).

    • ElementalAlchemist says:

      I know we are only supposed to command one unit each per turn, but if nobody else chimes in, might I propose moving the Tiger crew into the house at P39 and leaving the HQ where they are.

      • khamul says:

        As Elemental has already given a move order, move the Tiger crew into the house at P39.

        I agree with Elemental – I suggest HQ should sit tight for the moment. They’re too valuable to risk, and currently have eyes on the Stuart. If we lose the Tiger team, or they refuse to move, we can reconsider next turn.

        • ElementalAlchemist says:

          Yeah I’d be wary of moving the HQ when there are unknown/unsighted enemy infantry moving around.

    • alh_p says:

      Re the HQ team, can they get into U34/35 without exposing themselves on the railroad? If there’s no back door into the courtyard, relocating to U34/35 might be our best bet for a greater chance of an eyeball on the Sherm without further loss.

      • Tim Stone says:

        Yes, but it may take a turn or two (south down 43, then across bb, and up the courtyard at 35 to their destination)

        Would you like me to give it a try?

        • GrinningD says:

          I would say keep the HQ where they are in case the Stuart thinks about moving out. I too think the Sherman may have had it’s main gun knocked out or be hurting bad at the very least.

          Let’s focus on the Stuart for the moment and find out what our Tiger crewmen can see.

      • ElementalAlchemist says:

        If that’s the Sherman that had both lower front hull and turret penetrations, it mustn’t be in great shape.

  17. Tim Stone says:

    Turn 22 orders here, please (see body of article for sit rep). Commenters are cordially invited to suggest moves for either the Panzer IV or HQ (the Tiger crew are now ‘shaken’ and won’t take orders). One unit per commenter.

    ORDERS RECEIVED. TURN 22 UNDERWAY.

    • GrinningD says:

      Let’s hunt that PIV around the corner then blow some kisses at the blushing Stuart.

  18. ElementalAlchemist says:

    Time to boat this bass. Southward turn at C9.

  19. Tim Stone says:

    Turn 23 orders here, please (see body of article for sit rep). Commenters are cordially invited to suggest moves for either the Panzer IV, HQ, or Tiger crew (they are taking orders again but may be too busy playing cowboys to obey). One unit per commenter.

    ORDERS RECEIVED. TURN 23 UNDERWAY.

    • Leroy says:

      Is HQ in the central building of the horseshoe complex? If so, can they move one building left to be on the NW corner, attempting to get LOS on that speeding Stuart

      • Tim Stone says:

        They are currently at u43 (see last pic Turn 21). Moving into the west wing of the same complex (column 43) might help a bit, but I fancy they still wouldn’t be able to follow the Stuart’s movements. Assuming the Stuart /is/ moving.

        • Leroy says:

          I see, in which case we would have to cross the tracks to get an eye on the Stuart.
          Since it looks like the tracks are covered by enemy infantry I reckon HQ should hold tight right now.

    • ElementalAlchemist says:

      IV to turn around and proceed at “move” speed back along road C, if possible cutting across to F25/26, seeing if there is LoS to the Stuart.

    • BooleanBob says:

      If I may be so bold, have the PzIV turn and hunt east along the C road, targetting armour in a south-easterly arc.

  20. Tim Stone says:

    Turn 24 orders here, please (see body of article for sit rep). Commenters are cordially invited to suggest moves for either the Panzer IV, HQ, or Tiger crew. One unit per commenter.

    ORDERS RECEIVED. TURN 24 UNDERWAY.

    • Hydrogene says:

      Gripping stuff! What a turnarund by thePzIV “green” crew! PzIV hunt to G26, by the church.

    • Tim Stone says:

      I’m not sure there’s much for the Tiger crew and HQ to do now except watch and applaud. Turn 24 underway.

  21. Cederic says:

    I may have lost (half) track here but isn’t the HQ halftrack still available?

    Can it drive up to the building with the Tiger crew in so they can pile on board and get a decent heavy machine gun to use on those dastardly GIs?

    • Tim Stone says:

      The halftrack is long gone I’m afraid. It selflessly sacrificed itself in a diversionary feint in turn 11.

  22. Tim Stone says:

    Turn 25+ orders here, please (see body of article for sit rep). Commenters are cordially invited to suggest moves for either the Panzer IV, HQ, or Tiger crew. One unit per commenter.

    ORDERS RECEIVED. TURN 25 UNDERWAY.

    • GrinningD says:

      Let’s send the P IV back down the railway lines to our HQ then, and pray we really did kill that AT Inf team earlier…

      If we don’t explode lets mop up those dratted tankies.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Just realised. If all the US tank crews are armed with pistols, suddenly Hasty Heinrich, the rifleman can come into his own!

      Can he redeem himself? Should he be given the chance?

      In short, no, should risk the HQ unnecessarily.

      But I would suggest the PzIV get some infantry near it. Are we sure the US AT team is dead?

      • GrinningD says:

        No idea, we haven’t seen anything of them since Tim thought the Tiger and P IV nailed them.

        Personally I think we should let Hasty Hymek off the leash – what’s the worst that could happen?

    • heretic says:

      Brilliant, I thought we were done for but we pulled through! Well done everyone :D

    • khamul says:

      I worry that the AI hasn’t given in because they still have at least one viable anti-tank weapon in play.

      And given how lethal long-distance pistol fire has proven itself to be, I think we need to exercise some care in exposing the HQ team.

      I think we should sit tight with the infantry, and pull the Panzer IV back into the open, where it can engage unhorsed sherman tank crews away from any possible AT infantry surprises. Then we can move the Tiger and HQ teams forward, under cover of its MGs.

      Anyone want to give a sensible PanzerIV move order along those lines? Around the back of the church to Q31? Or Q41, if we want to be really careful?

      We’re so close! Can’t afford to throw it away now!

      • ElementalAlchemist says:

        Perhaps the IV can proceed at “move” speed, south to I31, turn east, east to I41, , turn south, south to P41, all while keeping the turret aimed south-ish at the train tracks? That would put it right outside the building the remains of the Tiger crew are in.

      • ElementalAlchemist says:

        Going back over it, on Turn 7 a 3 man bazooka team was spotted at approx. M12/13, but was possibly killed by Panzer IV shells and Tiger MG fire. If they are still alive, they are presumably lurking somewhere around the WNW corner of the map, although they weren’t spotted by the Panzer IV on turn 22 when it was in the vicinity of E10 (but the building at H11/12 probably blocked LoS to their last known position).

  23. ElementalAlchemist says:

    An after action report might be a bit premature, but here’s the tally for the AFVs:

    Turn 3
    Tiger hits Sherman, damaged not destroyed
    (?) Tiger hits and destroys M10 (unknown, wreck sighted on Turn 6)

    Turn 5
    Panzer IV hits and destroys M3 halftrack

    Turn 11
    Panzer IV hits Sherman, damaged not destroyed

    Turn 12
    Panzer IV hits M10, damaged not destroyed

    Turn 13
    Panzer IV hits and disables (?) Sherman (seems crew killed)

    Turn 19
    Panzer IV hits and destroys Easy Eight

    Turn 20
    Panzer IV hits and destroys M10

    Turn 22
    Panzer IV hits and destroys Sherman

    Turn 24
    Panzer IV hits and destroys Stuart

    So that’s 5 tanks and a halftrack to the Panzer IV, and 1 (unconfirmed) tank to the Tiger. I think that Panzer IV crew is due not only a round of Iron Crosses, but also a vehicle upgrade.

  24. alh_p says:

    This was great Tim, thanks! Am considering getting in CM now, although I imagine that even over the internet you made it easy to understand what might be a fiddly game. I hope you still have time to write this week’s FP…

    • Hydrogene says:

      I also wish to thank Tim and all the co-commanders for that fantastic Flare Path. This is the kind of scenario no one would have believed if Tim had only written the after action report. Great fun!

      And I’m also tempted to give CM a try, now. :)

  25. BooleanBob says:

    Good show everyone.

    It seems fitting that even a victory this comprehensive is still somewhat pyrrhic. You get the sense that any Oberstleutnant reviewing a report of the skirmish would feel the Fatherland could have ill afforded the lost Tiger, even at a rate of exchange of multiple Shermans and Wolverines.

  26. GrinningD says:

    That was brilliant Tim, thank you for the all the time and dedication you put into this and for sticking with us foolish forumites!

    GG!

  27. khamul says:

    Well done, everyone!
    That was brilliant.

  28. ElementalAlchemist says:

    And thus ends the battle of the unusually short street lamps. A hard fought victory, well done to all involved. Thanks to Tim for persevering through it.

    I suspect the effort required means we won’t see these types of collaborative play sessions too often, but it’s definitely something I would love to see more of in the future.

  29. maninahat says:

    Congratulations everyone! This has been gripping stuff.

  30. Rorschach617 says:

    There were moments there where I looked at the map and said to myself,

    “OK, the chips are down, everything’s in play. You’ve spent far too much time in World of Tanks, now to make that work for you. What would you do in this situation?”
    “Call everyone in my team “noobs” and drive into a lake? Not available. Pop a repair kit, load the premium ammo and troll the enemy? Not available. Dammit, I am going to have to use my wits and intelligence!”

    Lost the Halftrack, lost the Tiger. :(

    GG everyone!

    • ElementalAlchemist says:

      Don’t feel too bad. I was tempted early on to jump in and try to Leeroy Jenkins the Tiger right into the heart of the enemy formation. Shermans and Stuarts? How bad could it be, right?

      While its overall performance was disappointing, it actually soaked up an impressive amount of damage before finally succumbing. As Tim suggested, drawing fire the way it did is probably the only reason the Panzer IV survived.

  31. Stugle says:

    Thanks to everyone and Tim in particular for persevering! That it actually made it to the finish line, over the course of five days, is remarkable in itself. That it did so in such an entertaining fashion, snatching a total victory from the jaws of defeat, is even better.

    Aargh! I’m broke, broke, broke, but this definitely puts Combat Mission on my wish list. Question for anyone who knows: are there any substantive differences between this iteration and the previous Eastern Front one? The setting of the Eastern Front is a bigger draw for me, but if this version has been improved, perhaps I should focus on the Ardennes after all.

  32. Someoldguy says:

    Very entertaining. Good job everyone for sticking with it and securing victory.