Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Vercours Campaign - Part Two - The Battle of Saint Nizier- Battle of Saint-Nizier

As a result of the last battle, the German player recieved additional reinforcements, in the shape of a tank unit. In Memoir '44, a tank unit has three models (i.e. it can take three hits before it is removed from play) As we play more games of Memoir '44 to 1/.72 scale figures, I anticipate using single tanks either with shell bursts or tank rider to track casualties, but for this game I went ahead and put three pieces down. The Panzer I is from Matchbox, painted about a lifetime ago, the staff car is resin (possibly from Frontline) and the crewman checking his watch is from SHQ or possibly Battlefield.

This was the second scenario in the campaign  and the briefing was as follows:

"With its cliffs, steep slopes and limited access points, the Vercors plateau is a natural and easily defended fortress. Familiar with the terrain, the heads of the French Resistance immediately saw its value as a defensive bastion deep within occupied France. Soon enough, word spread and a few thousand
young French men and women began to arrive - all eager to take arms against the occupier. Unfortunately, the Germans had also gotten wind of the growing resistance there. On June 13, 1944, a German battalion moved into the gap near Saint-Nizier, before running into stiff resistance from the maquis outposts
and withdrawing with heavy losses. Determined to flush the place out, the Germans were back in force two days later however. This time, they broke through, forcing the maquisards to withdraw. The road to Saint-Nizier was now open; soon the Germans seized it, burning the village to the ground in retaliation for
their losses."

Because of the way the rules work, large ridges and hills only have their edges marked in Memoir '44 scenarios, but I got the bit between my teeth when we were putting this one together. I pulled out every hill that I had and put them all together, they were almost enough to fill up the whole plateau. From a rules point of view it didn't make a lot of differance and I suppose I could have just put books under the cloth. Still I think my set up looks rather well.

The German troops start mortaring the Resistants at the road block, note the dust cloud raised by the falling mortar shell

As you can tell this setup was a bit of ramshackle sort of effort. I used some pieces of black cloth as roads, I also experimented with using cat litter as a road, that was actually quite successful - I don't think I'll be using the fabric again.

German troops begin by moving up on the French left. Donogh and I had decided that we were going to try to contest the edge of the plateau, then fall back in attempt to string out the advancing Krauts and then counter attack the isolated ones.

Our counter attack didn't really work as we completely failed to even slow the lockstep advance of Mr E & General Creanor's grey legions.

True to form we skedaddle in the hope that we can cause the Germans to get strung out a little. As you can see the German infantry on the left have taken some casualties.

But they wipe out our left most partisan group in retaliation. Things are looking very grim.

The survivors scurry for the safety of the buildings, pursued by German infantry.

The German infantry have outflanked the partisan roadblock and the Panzer I starts to roll down the road. A joke anywhere else in 1944, the "leetle tank" is a major problem for the French.

Long range fire manages to shake the crew of the Panzer and thin out the advancing tide of grey, but it may be too little too late.

The Panzer moves swiftly past the French defences, turning to attack them in the rear.

Wiping out one group of partisans, the Panzer preparing to riddle the remaining defenders, while the infantry move forward.

A lone Masquisard with a  .45 faces the steel beast. If the last reel of "Saving Private Ryan" is to be believed, this might actually work...

Spurred on by their comrades heroism, the Masquisards break cover and surround the German vanguard.

They open up with everything they have, but one Landser manages to hang on.

However, the tank crew have decided that discretion is the better part of valour...

Mr E and General Creanor discuss what they will do. Donogh & I were feeling somewhat miffed about the tank having escaped.

However pride comes before a fall and the panzer rolled up onto the hill only to be greeted by a hail of petrol bombs.

The demise of the German panzer gave the Resistance fighters new hope. Their commandant rallies the troops...

...but over on the French left, things are still bleak as two weakened German units corner the shell shocked Maquis.

Sadly high spirits and gallic pride don't seem to be cutting the mustard today. The German infantry move forward, not confidently, the Frenchmen have taken a harvest of them certainly, but with purpose.

One of the unusual things about this scenario is that the French must lose almost all of their units before losing. I think this represents the sheer desperation of their situation. With only three units left on the board, it would take a miracle for Donogh and I to pull this out of the bag, even having left the German unit on the left teetering on one base.

But before miracles have time to manifest themselves, the Landser on the left close in and destroy the remaining Masquisards. The survivors on the right pack up and slink into the night.  Another defeat (5-1, if memory serves) for the Resistance, which is a pity as it was a closer game than that would make it appear. Some dismal dice rolling early on did serious damage to our chances of success and the extra German tank unit did considerable execution. I'm sure Donogh, Mr E and General Creanor will add their own observations.

This campaign is not going well.


  1. A very interesting and thrilling battle report.

    I had hoped that the Resistants might have just managed to win ... but it was not to be.

    Interestingly as I was reading your battle report I thought that it sounded very like the descriptions I have read about German operations in Yugoslavia.

    All the best,


    1. It's funny how (and I include the portable wargame in this) how relatively simple and quite abstract rules can end up creating such a "real" impression.

  2. There's something missing in all this ... the GMR and the Milice, i.e., Frenchmen fighting the 'bandits' and 'bolsheviks'. Would you like a copy of my little booklet on these stalwarts of Vichy?

    1. Damn! I put your address in my address book, but I can't find the bloody address book. That's another way of asking you to e-mail me your address. Again. My apologies.

  3. Getting up onto that ridge was actually a pretty tough prospect for the German side in that game. I think that's where it's decided, really. If the Germans can get a foothold on the ridge, the French are in a world of trouble.

    Not sure how well it would have gone if we hadn't had that little tank to drive up the road!

    1. That damn tank!

      I think you can contest the ridge, but not all of it. We were a small amount of jam covering a rather large piece of bread.

  4. Great battle report- really enjoyed looking through it. I guess the true strength of a tank is all about context.



  5. That's something that the system handles rather well. Units are rated relatively rather than absolutely. Glad to have you aboard by the way.

  6. Kinch, just wanted to let you know, you've been nominated for a Liebster:

  7. Nice little action. The high ground looked the part of a rough and inhospitable hiding place.

  8. Nice and interseting! Fighting in the maquis is well explained...