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Panthers in the Fog AAR

AAR by Jim Zabek, 24 January, 2013

click images to enlarge

Close Combat is a well-known and well-loved patriarch of the reat-time tactical wargame family. There are few games that I enjoy sitting down to more than Close Combat games. I don’t play them as often as I would like, but when I do it’s like coming home.

 

Setting: The battle is Juvigny, set on August 7, 1944. As part of Operation Luttich my orders are to hasten our advance and attempt to break through to Avranches to cut off the 3rd Army.

pitf

My orders. Brief and to the point.

 

Being a real-time game, I can’t break the action down by turns, so instead I have to break it down by events. My initial look at the map tells me I’ll need to tread carefully if I’m going to succeed. The force selection didn’t provide me with any embedded artillery. Given that the majority of my force is infantry I will have to move carefully to avoid getting them chewed up by the defending American force. My initial orders are to move several squads forward while others provide covering fire.

My three Panzer IVH’s are moved into open ground and order to Defend. As soon as I hit the Begin button I am notified that an opfor unit has been spotted. Before I can even move the map to identify it, I can hear tank fire. As I move the map to the west I can see that an opfor Sherman has already brewed up and the crew is under fire. A second Sherman is still healthy, and I hope my Panzer IV’s are up to the task of taking it out; a Sherman is roughly a peer of a Panzer IV and I don’t want their crew to get off a lucky shot and lose a tank this early.

pitf

The game opens with the action taking place so fast I’m not sure exactly what’s going on.

 

Within 30 seconds the issue is settled. Scratch two Shermans. My game is off to a good start.

pitf

Sherman #2 goes boom.

 

I then begin to examine any other opfor units identified on the map. I can see to the southwest that a unit has been spotted but is unidentified. I can also see that due west of me there is a victory objective in a house that likely shelters some defenders. This is going to be an interesting nut to crack. I will need to move up some infantry along the hedgerows and will need it to suppress any infantry that tries to meddle with my advancing armor. I also see notification that off-board mortar support is available. Typically these assets don’t remain available for any lengthy period of time. I need to quickly identify a possible threat and use it before its availability expires. Let’s see how this goes.

pitf

The view to the southwest.

 

The housing complex identified as M. Pasquier appears to have the flash of rifle fire coming from it. That’s probably as good a target as I’m going to get. It’s a logical place to house some defenders. Should I call in the mortar fire or not? I’m going to hold off, opting instead to use direct fire from my panzers to see if I can shake out the defenders. I’m still only about 90 seconds into the game. Odds are good the mortar support will be available for another couple of minutes.

To the southwest of my position I see a small two-man crew attempting to withdraw from the two story house. They’ve got a lot of open ground to cover. I order a squad to take them under fire. But just as I start to issue those orders that squad spots an infantry squad sheltering behind the hedgerow. Wow, we’re going to catch them on their flank. I can’t believe my luck, and order my squad to take them under fire instead…to no avail. A hill blocks the way.

pitf

A hill blocking LOS.

 

Now I notice some bad news. My mouse has been acting funny lately – a left mouse click often registers as a double click. It’s annoying, but in this case it actually is messing up my game. I inadvertently double clicked and ordered one PzIV to fire about two meters to its left. The tank respositioned and exposed its flank. A Sherman took advantage of that and has immobilized it. Shortly thereafter I spot the Sherman and before I can order the tanks to take it under fire, the AI recognizes the target and takes care of it for me. Cool. There can’t be more than one or two other Shermans hanging around here. I hope.

pitf

Sherman #3 brews up.

 

And now about four minutes and fifteen seconds into the game a message pops up that the opfor wants a ceasefire. I’ve managed to inflict some damage, take some victory locations, and haven’t done worse than to have a tank immobilized. I’m tempted, but believe I can take some more ground before accepting that offer. I ignore them and press on.

Bad news! The PzIV to the north has spotted a single Sherman. They’re dueling one-on-one. As I order my remaining mobile PzIV to move up to support it the Sherman strikes, destroying my PzIV! Yikes. I order the PzIV to halt. Hopefully I can draw out the Sherman and get a first shot off.

pitf

My PzIV blown away.

 

Then some activity to my southwest. The advance squad spots a rifle platoon and starts to fire standing in the open, but then spots another to their southwest. This is dicey. I’d like to call in my artillery support on them, but I’m also tempted to call it on that Sherman. What to do? As if I didn’t have enough choices, I’m prompted again to consider accepting a ceasefire. No way. Those opfor pixels are going to pay for that PzIV. On a side note, it’s becoming clear that my broken mouse is a liability. I’m gaming on a laptop and can use the native left mouse button to single click, but it’s awkward. In a fast-paced game like this one, I really don’t need the distraction.

I don’t know who M. Pasquier is but I decide it’s time to serve him an eviction notice. I advance my PzIV and one infantry squad toward the house. It’s time to use that mortar. Where there are a lot of them or only a few, it’s time to encourage them to leave. As the mortar rounds start to rain I look around to see what else needs some attention.

pitf

Serving the eviction notice.

 

Holy crap! Out of nowhere a P-38 blazes by and lights up my PzIV! It’s a flaming wreck. OK, maybe it’s time to accept that ceasefire. The opfor morale is pretty low, but my is starting to flag, too. Let’s accept this, lick our wounds, and see how we did.

(ed note: this image wasn't included... d'oh!)

 

pitf

I lose as I failed to hold more victory locations.

 

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