A book I’d ordered well over a year ago finally turned up at my work…Alan’s War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope by Emmanuel Guibert, published in 2008. It’s Western Front, not Eastern Front and as per the title, it’s about American troops.

It’s a great read, though. It’s a graphic novel but in the broadest meaning of the term. Alan recounts his experiences and extensive black-and-white images accompany them, sometimes captioned so that it’s a comic, sometimes not. But the stories, while simple enough, become gripping because he recounts so much of his emotions and inner thoughts as events unfold. A young man experiences a great amount of exposure to all aspects of humanity and is so much richer for it – as is the reader who is able to share them so well.

Briefly, Alan is first drafted and is a radio operator for a Sherman tank, but then ends up as radio operator in an M8 “Greyhound”. He arrives in Europe in the last few months of the War and is involved in the lightning marches across countries to defeat the Germans and prevent the Soviets from claiming too much new territory. He continues serving in Eurpoe after the war is over, returns to America but then decided to leave America forever and settle in France. Along the way he meets all manner of people whom affect his beliefs and thinking.

I was first drawn to it through a work-related comic strip I read, Unshelved. They did a single-page book review about it which intrigued me – read it by clicking on this link.

Sound good? Then you’ll really enjoy it.

This game was a little unusual in that there were four platoons per side. This was because when we were going to play this game back in January, it was going to be two players per side. On the night it was just Peter and me with a lot of vehicles and a lot of firepower on the table. Peter was playing the Americans for a change; I was playing Germans.

The scenario was a second trial of a reconnaissance encounter. A medium-sized village somewhere near Germany in the late Autumn of 1944. A gale-force wind was blowing. Both forces are trying to see if the train station and railyard are clear…since that is where most cover for armour would be. Here are some photos of the table:   and here are three close-ups, going from right side to left:    . As you can see, there was plenty of terrain to block LOS and provide hiding spots as well as slow up any gallant cavalry charges.

So to the game! Turn One was plain movement. Each player moved one platoon and then their opponent moved a platoon until all platoons had been ordered to do something. \Such is the way of resolving movement with an Encounter scenario in Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist. Here you can see some M8s coming on board:  .

Turn 2: more movement. Peter’s M8s and a platoon of Chaffees are making the most of no hostile fire:  .

Turn 3: I choose to move full and get some of my men into optimal positions. Sadly, as they do so they sight enemy armour –  – they see Chaffees trying to conceal themselves by sticking as close as possible to a small brick house past the railyards  . Now, as I’d moved full movement that turn, I couldn’t shoot. However, Peter could and did. His Chaffees open up on a 234/3 and knock it out. They also try to hit a 234/2 but miss – it had only just come into view and they hadn’t properly trained their guns on it. I have to make a Morale Test for my 234/3s – I roll a 10 – they are fine.

Turn 4 is when it got hot. Both forces are fully aware of each other. I have to make a desperate gamble to save my Panzer II Lynxes from the very powerful guns of a second platoon of Chaffees. I bring around my platoon of 251/9 Stummels to do so. It is at this juncture that Peter asks me if I have purchased HEAT ammo for all my guns, which I have neglected to do…damn!

My forces try to manoeuvre into good firing positions while using as little Movement to do so and Peter does the same, boldly racing his M8s down the road to flank me.

A 234/2 Puma gets a good shot off and tracks a Chaffee  and in retaliation a platoon-mate of the stricken Chaffee shoots and hits a 251/22, destroying it completely:  . True to my luck, or form, or character, call it what you will! – that 251/22 wasn’t just any 251/22 but my Company’s Command Vehicle. This was bad. To ease my concerns slightly another 251/22 knocks the gun out of action on a Chaffee and the Chaffee crew bail, but regardless it still means I have to make a Morale Test for the whole company and the there is a good chance the game will end right then and there. I roll a 7…after extensive modifications it is a 2, which means the whole company is Shaken. I roll a single D6 to see how many turns they are Shaken and get 2. Not so bad. Across the table a 251/9 is hit and brews up – the armour they have is no defence at all to a Chaffee gun. A 234/3 who had turned 90 degrees is able to knock out an M8  , even though it was racing along the road. End of a tumultuous turn for me.

Turn 5. Due to so many enemy AFVs being within 400 metres (40cm) of my forces and my forces currently being Shaken, my troops must all withdraw. Peter checks the rules and realises that there is no discussion of what speed my men must withdraw at, so I can withdraw as slowly as possible. Two more 251/9s are destroyed  and the Morale Test gets a flee result. I then have to test the remainders of the Company and they too fail Morale, so my bloodied and battered troops flee the scene. Just as well, as at the rail yard the Americans had massed for a big push:  .

This game was played with 1/72 and 1/76 scale forces. Most of my forces were plastic, but the Lynxes were resin and some of Peter’s were resin.

I lose again and once again my badly placed commander dies too early. I don’t know how I can fix that situation apart from play ‘out of character’ and put my Commander at the back of the force.