The Cauldron scenario throws up a very mixed up battle, with units deploying and appearing everywhere, making it tricky to give a blow-by-blow account so this report will be shorter than usual, less precise, and concentrate on the main flow of the battle. Lack of pictures I'm afraid, I let the Eyties take them so they may appear in the near future, or not as the case may be.
For my Germans I went for the Grenadier Kompanie rather than the Panzer Grenadiers, reasoning that not as much manoeuvring would be needed on a 6 by 4 foot battlefield. Three infantry platoons (including one pioneer) were backed up by mortars, machine guns, artillery, the compulsory StuG F/8’s, and finally a Tiger 1E. I reasoned little in the Italian army could damage either of the last two, and they would be needed to take on the small horde of light tanks the enemy would bring.
The Italians had called upon some German assistance to help them reach 2,000pts, with a platoon of 3 Panzer III J’s. They had the compulsory two platoons of Bersaglieri infantry (one of which turned out to be fearless veterans!), backed up by machineguns, light antitank guns, light artillery, two of the Lancia heavy anti-tank guns (truck mounted) a platoon of (fearless veteran!) Semovente assault guns and one of light tanks, plus the Panzer III’s of course.
The opening moves - Err, didn’t really happen! The Italian re-enforcements were typically late for their appointments, and only began arriving in earnest from turn 5 onwards. The Germans in comparison played a waiting game, waiting for enough of their own troops to arrive to bolster an assault force. The only clash of note was the StuG’s vs. the Panzer III J’s in the centre, which the StuG’s came off best, destroying two of the enemy for no loss. The remaining Panzer III raced off to spend the next three turns dogging the footsteps of the Tiger, and somehow avoiding certain death.
With the arrival of the German infantry the attack finally went in, with the right-hand side objective being the target due to the location of the StuG’s and Tiger being more right, and the left-hand objective being in a tree-strewn location covered by machineguns and AT guns. The fearless veteran Bersaglieri platoon made an error trying to bring the StuG’s to battle after one of the assault guns had been destroyed by the Lancia heavy AT guns. The German guns drove them off, just, and the machine guns opened up with them stuck in the open, and not even the presence of an ‘Unknown Hero’ was enough to save the platoon and company CO from destruction.
The German mortars and artillery spent the battle duelling the Italian artillery, breaking off only to blow the rogue Panzer III up (finally!), and successfully kept the enemy pinned down. The Italian light tanks arrived, and made a sweeping attack around the German left, destroying the machine gun platoon, the pioneers, and damaging the mortars for no loss, and ringing alarm bells in Wehrmacht HQ. The StuG’s, having dealt with the Semovente’s, were forced to turn and face their onslaught to keep them away from the main infantry attack going in on the right.
With the Semoventes and Panzers destroyed, and the Tiger hiding behind a hill to avoid the last Lancia truck-mounted AT gun, it was down to the infantry to win or lose the battle. The first German grenadier platoon drove off the Italian artillery, and pushed back the other Italian infantry platoon. However, the Eyties were soon back, their infantry destroying most of the grenadiers. At this point the second grenadier platoon charged in and destroyed the enemy infantry completely. With German infantry swarming the objective, and unable to pass the necessary company motivation check, the Italians conceded and withdrew.
Having played ‘Cauldron’ a few times before I had hard-fought knowledge that an early attack would be pointless, and lead to defeat, so I held my army back waiting for the rest to turn up so I could launch a more powerful assault on the objectives. This, and the lack of Italian re-enforcements lead to the first four turns being a dire affair, with both sides so well entrenched that even the artillery did little/no damage.
The Italians had only one weapon that could comfortably destroy the Tiger and StuG‘s, and good placement of it meant that the heavy tank spent the game doing very little for fear of getting shot, and the assault guns were almost as ineffective! The Italian light tanks meanwhile were very effective in rolling up the German left and centre, and at one point I was concerned they would destroy enough platoons to force me into a Company Motivation check (which I rarely pass!). The StuG’s, having dealt with the Semovente’s and Panzer III’s so easily, seemed incapable of hitting them, but luckily for me they hadn’t made it far enough to the right by the time my infantry swarmed the objective.
I was very pleased with this victory because it is the first defeat the Italians have suffered, which, after a previous six battles (5 wins, 1 draw) against Russians, Finns and Germans is testament to how difficult they are to beat! That is despite their lack of armour, anti-tank ability, artillery or numbers.