Battle for the Serre Road Battle report

This was our first outing of Warhammer Great War, excluding a brief playtest when the rules first showed up. As such, we wanted to both try everything out, so i made a scenario where both sides would be attacking and we could use our 1500 point army lists. First thing to note – two 1500 point sides is a long game! Please excuse the unpainted figures on the table. Neither of us has had the time to finish painting our armies, but it is the priority!

Anyway, on to the battle:

We did alternate deployment. I chose to leave two companies in reserve as I felt that this was historically what happened. Dan massed the British on the Serre Road.

In the following, green lines are German movement, blue lines are British and red lines indicate fire. Red circles indicate hand to hand combats.

The first move was predictable enough. The British began their advance up the Serre road. In the south the Germans left their trenches for a flanking attack with the flamethrower team. At this stage shooting was pretty effective, but not crushingly so. The German battalion command moved behind the trench line towards the road, sensing that it may have to hold the line until the reserves arrived.

Turn two saw the advances continue, and the Mark IV moved forward to exchange fire with the A7V. Tank vs tank combat proved to be as ineffective as it was in history! No reserves arrived and the German AT gun and mortar were destroyed. The Stosstruppen holding the trenches were taking plenty of casualties, but also inflicting a few too. (apologies for the lack of arrows in this turn).

Turn Three saw the British infantry assault and destroy the A7V. Unfortunately their grenades hit the ammunition for the 57mm gun and the tank exploded in a devastating way, taking out most of the assaulting British! The Stosstruppen reserves showed up in the nick of time, rushing to occupy the wall of La Signy Farm and the now practically empty trench. British fire had decimated the holding platoon. The troops holding La Signy farm were also suffering heavily, but the battalion command placed itself to make sure that they could firm up the troops. Meanwhile the British were on the verge of their assault on La Signy farm.

Turn Four saw the British pour fire into their intended objectives. The Reserve Stosstruppen platoon that had occupied the empty trench were cut down almost to a man! The advance guard of the assault on the farm reached the farm wall, but a shot from the supporting mortar scattered back onto its own men! Not only did several members of the platoon face the end of their game, the unit was pinned as well!

Things had been looking grim for the German line when the Stormtroop Company arrived. They swept into the battle, assaulting the leading British formations and cutting through them! The battle had reached a turning point!

Ignore the shot from the 18pdr that says the mortar was destroyed. That was intended for turn two!

The Germans go over to the offensive, not wanting to lose the momentum of their attack. In every combat of hand to hand they are totally successful, not losing a figure. But there aren’t that many of them, and shooting keeps whittling down their numbers. Even those British units falling back continue to fire their Lewis guns. In the South the Flamethrower team finally reaches the hedgeline. Can they get past the assault party and occupy the road corner?

The British Assault party throw back the flamethrower team with their shooting. There simply won’t be enough turns to take the road now! Meanwhile the Stormtroop counterattack continues, scything through the British in hand to hand, aided by their bombing ability. But always suffering casualties. It might have even been worse for the Germans, but at about this stage Dan started rolling the worst dice I have ever seen. Five 1s and three 2s for his HMG? Oh dear…

What is left of the two forces engage in a desperate struggle in front of the Sugar factory. The hand to hand combats continue to be fast and decisive, but the familiar pattern is still there. Only the Battalion commander’s leadership rating is keeping any troops still going. And at the end of this turn the sole survior of the Stosstruppen platoon that was in the first reserve wave begins to fall back. In the north, the mortar crew pull out rifles and pin their attackers. In the south the flamethrower team pushes pointlessly on.

The final turn. The Germans assault and occupy the Sugar Factory, but there are only five of them, representing three different units. They can’t claim the victory points. In the south the flamethrower team and assault party are still largely intact, but have not managed to do anything decisive. The battle is over and it is a very bloody draw!

So what lessons did I learn from that?

First of all, the Stormtroopers and Stosstruppen are devastating troops and move like lightning. Their extra d6/6″ gives them a huge counterattacking advantage. If you make them bombers, their assault power is overwhelming. In this game only the Stormtroopers were bombers, but they were exceptionally effective. On the other hand, there are very few bodies to soak up the bullets, and it was telling that for all of their assault power, they simply didn’t have the numbers to achieve their objective.

The Brits mounted a human wave attack and it very nearly paid off. As they don’t have any troops that can zip about the board like the Germans, they must go on the offensive early and be prepared to take a lot of fire. For this reason, fielding the maximum unit strength is important for them. Dan was not convinced that having a field gun was particularly useful, and despite some notable target kills (the German Mortar team), he is probably right.

I’m still not convinced that Dan massed his troops in the best place, not used his tank effectively. But just one tank is a pretty ineffective toy to have. I don’t think I’d bother taking one for the Germans again. It draws fire for a while and distracts the opponent, but it is a pretty pricey distraction. If the Brits had two tanks, it might be more effective for them. An attack on the centre of the ridge with two tanks and a company of troops might have been a better help to the attack on the farm. It would certainly have meant that the Stormtrooper and Stosstruppen Reserves would have been less concentrated and easier to deal with.

Trenches and hedges may give cover saves, but don’t rely on them. I had two platoons who never left the trenches almost totally wiped out. Mortars are particularly effective for this, and I would recommend taking the maximum number of mortars in attack or defence. Same with HMGs. Dan was of the opinion that if we played a lengthways Blitz mission HMGs and Mortars would be more of a hindrance on the attack as they can’t move and fire. I guess so, but using them to support an advance in stages is historically accurate.

So what will I do with my attacking army list now? I think that I will go to an assault battalion with a Stormtrooper Company as support. The Stormtroops will be three platoons strong, two armed with Lewis guns, and one with a flamethrower. They will all be bombers. The 2 Assault Companies will be 2 full platoons strong each. It just gives a few extra bodies, and that is important in this game. I’ll price this up and work out the support and see if it is viable.

Not too sure what Dan will do with his list other than drop the field gun and maybe work another tank in – or maybe no tank at all. I thought the British came very close to winning the game, but a few bad dice rolls and pinning his own attack didn’t really help.

Two 1500 point armies is a BIG battle. The purpose of teh game was to learn the rules properly and try out everything in our army lists to see how it performed. In that sense, it was a success. But I’d definitely recommend only 1000 vs 1000 or 1500 vs 750 point games for the future.

Finally, the thing that we both agree on is DON’T think that you are playing Warhammer 40,000. We got caught out with the rules several times as they were not what we had expected. Great War is its own game, so be aware of that!

Nate

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2 comments on “Battle for the Serre Road Battle report

  1. Nate and Dan- many thanks, good report, and you are right, the Great War is its own game, there are a number of differences from Warhammer 40000, so that key mantra is required- read the rule book!

  2. Pingback: The Battle of Mount Agned « NDC Weblog

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