Ambush in Provence

A What a Tanker! Scenario from Too Fat Lardies, via Zoom

Through a quirk of fate, I had my attention drawn to the recent VIRTUAL RECRUITS CONVENTION held last week– just because I happened to see notice on social media. Recruits looks like a fun convention, smaller than the East Coast miniatures cons but featuring a nice mix of RPGs, Boardgames and Miniatures games. This year, due to the COVID epidemic, they had to virtualize a lot of their games, just like HMGS conventions did with the so called “Cybercon” back in July. Recruits was open to everyone so I figured, why not? I signed up for a game of What a Tanker! by Too Fat Lardies, run by Mr. Jay Arnold and his brother Chris Arnold. Watch the Youtube if you want to get the elevator pitch for the rules. Jay runs a podcast called the Veteran Wargamer on Soundcloud. Turns out I was already following this one. I was offered a side to pick, I chose Americans as I am wont to do. Here was our player’s briefing below. I was playing a single tank, like one does with these rules. Sherman TC (Tank Commander) 3. We were moving through a town in France near Aspres. There were two StuG tank destroyers in town, already in position. We set up in various positions on the South edge, and drove forward.

Virtual Recruits 2020
Ambush in Provence – A What a Tanker! Scenario
US Players Briefing
Date – August 26th, 1944
Location – Near Aspres, France
Forces – 2nd Platoon, B Company, 191st Tank Battalion
4 x M4A3 Sherman tanks with 75mm main gun
Situation – We’ve got Jerry on the run. The T-Patch boys from the 141st Infantry have been
duking it out and need our big guns. We have to get there quickly or their attack might get cut off
by a Kraut counterattack.
Mission – Get your platoon off the north end of the table with as few losses as possible. If
practical, don’t leave any effective German forces in your rear area.The main thing is get your
tanks north to support the attack.
Deployment – Americans may deploy anywhere up to 12” from the south end of the table.
Special – Tanks on the road may change any die to a 1/Move Die. Any movement from the
changed die must be completely used on the road.
StuGs are “Low Profile.” This means it takes an additional Acquire Die to spot them.
StuGs are also “Tank Destroyers.” This means they may change any die to a 3/Aim Die

The Crew engaged in battle. Jay is top right. Chris is moving tanks and providing the close up cam view.
The Battlefield. You can see the Sherms approaching from the near (South) edge. You can see the StuGs set up near the buildings just beyond the stream.

The M4s were reasonably formidable when attacking en masse. The US 75mm thank gun wasn’t exactly cracking open Tiger armor at this point in the war, but still reasonably lethal against earlier German armor. If you followed the video, you’ll know that you roll a command dice for actions during the upcoming turn– you start with 6D6, which decreases with either temporary or permanent damage. The results are figured by dice: 1s mean “move or drive”, 2s = Aquire. Meaning training your gun at a target. 3s mean “Aim” which can only be achieved if the target is acquired. 4s= Shoot.. as in fire your vehicles gun. 5 = reload, and 6 is “Wild”.. which can be any one of the other choices, or it can be saved to give the player an initiative bonus for the upcoming turn.

Sherman 3 starting position. I would move up to the hedge top right to get my first shot off.

As luck would have it I rolled one of everything in my first go. Given the angel I was at, I couldn’t acquire the one StuG (StuG 1 from here out) which was behind 2 hedgerows and had a low profile. However, if I moved to a clear firing position, I had a shot at him. My last experience with What a Tanker! taught me to be bold. So I moved to a clear spot using the 1, Acquired (twice) using the 2 and the 6, aimed using the 3, and shot using the 4. I rolled reasonably well with a 6 and two 5s (temp damage) StuG 1 reversed out of there. I didn’t take him out in the first shot as I did in Historicon, so he was a game chicken.

You can see StuG 1 in the dead center backing up after getting a solid bell ring in the first shot of the game.

Meanwhile Shermans 1 and 2 were executing a complicated fandango with StuG 1, who had advanced to get LOS to fire at them. This was one of those gamey situations.. each one of them kept getting the drop on the other, but nobody ever rolled a 4! It got a little frustrating.

I got the drop on you! No, YOU got the drop on ME! No, He has the drop on BOTH of us!
This is getting silly. Tanks shouldn’t be this close to each other!

I did manage to get another shot off at StuG 1 who was hiding in the orchid. He kept reversing out of the situation and was soon un acquired. I rolled 2 1s and 1 6 the following turn and used them all to move closer to the StuG’s position at the end of the orchid.

Nobody here but us chickens! My position was probably overly cautious– the other StuG was quite busy at the moment but just in case he was looking for targets, I wouldn’t give him one.
At this stage TC 4 decided to run for the North edge right down the road. Which was okay I guess but if he had hung out a bit we could have nailed the already damaged StuG.
There he is, hiding in the orchard.
Come on dude, just one shot! Just one! I’ll ping the other side. Sigh…
At this point TC 1 got bored of the fandango and departed for the North edge, claiming he wanted to “be true to his orders”.
At this stage, one Sherm had left, and I was in a similar situation as the Sherman fandango recently in that I had a decent shot on StuG 1 but he managed to save three times so it didn’t scratch his paint. I decided I might as well head for the map edge, myself… sigh.

So with my compadres in armor heading off the map, the game was called. A couple of salient points. I managed to hit the StuG 1 three times. I am unsure if my fellow Shermans did even that well. On the other hand, through a mix of luck or skill, the StuGs never got much of a shot off on the Shermans. StuG 1 didnt fire his gun even once. I think StuG 2 managed to fire, though.

Jay giving us the wrap up. He declared it a draw. We did manage to exit the North edge but we left the German armor intact. So it goes!

I was impressed at how well OWAT plays over Zoom– if you pass out the readahead materials and scenario briefing via email, and have a couple of cameras (one steady and one mobile), the players very quickly get into the ebb and flow of the game. I really enjoyed this and hope Jay and Chris decide to throw more OWAT games via Zoom. Thank you gentlemen, for inviting me, and thank you to all my fellow players for putting up a spirited fight. More pictures below

TLDR summary

There were effectively two major points of action– TC 3 (my role) and TC 4 on the right (both M4 Shermans with 75mm guns), moving down the West side of the table and seeking cover where we could find it. We were facing a StuG (1) that was hunkered down in an orchard sighted down the road. I advanced on StuG 1 early on, got two shots in on him (that were not lethal) and he backed out of acquisition range. My platoon mate in TC 4 drove down the road and passed the StuG without firing a shot, and drove off the board. I engaged one more time and he saved. At that point I could stay on the board by myself or leave.. it was still up in the air

On the other (East) side, shots were exchanged and I was under the impression that both sides scored hits on each other. However, it didn’t seem that signficant. Both sides got into a position to really damage each other in a three way stand off between TC 1 and 2 versus StuG 2, but nobody rolled a critical SHOOT result (4), so they kept trying to line up with each other until one of the Sherman TCs said “the heck with this, we’re out” and drove down the road and off board

What would I have done differently? Convinced TC 4 to fire on StuG 1, maybe just once. He was in a big hurry to leave the battlefield. Both he and I never even took a scratch so I was more than willing. StuG 1 never even fired! StuG 2 fired more but I think people were just getting impatient. So I shrugged and left the battlefield– that’s what turned a minor victory into a draw.


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