Operation Torch, Centre Task Force
French Counterattack, Tafaraoui Airfield
SE of Oran, 9 November 1942
Played at my house, 30 June, 2002, refereed by me!
US Players: Peter, Dave; French Players: Joe, Ron B
Historical Background   Go to Table of Contents for Game Account & Game Photos
On 8 November 1942, Anglo-American forces landed in Vichy French North Africa. The landings were divided into three areas, Eastern, Centre, and Western Task Forces. The American Western Task Force had as its objectives the Morroccan city of Casablanca and several other ports. The British comprised the majority of the Eastern Task Force whose objective was the Algerian capital, Algiers. This game takes place in the American Center Task Force who were given the objective of taking the port of Oran, also in Algeria.
On the first day of Torch, Task Force Red of the US 1st Armoured Division, landed to the east of Oran. With very little opposition, they took the coastal town of Arzew. Part of TF Red proceeded along the coastal road to Oran, encountering French defenses at the town of St Cloud. Another force headed southwest to take the airfield at Tafaraoui, about 15 miles south of Oran, to deny French aircraft this landing area. Consolidating themselves at Tafaraoui, and preparing for the next day's thrust north to Oran, the local commander sent a combat team of an infantry company reinforced with a platoon of M3 75mm GMC tank destroyers to the foothills 6 miles south of Tafaraoui. Aircraft reconnaissance had reported French armour and infantry operating in these hills and the combat team represented a rearward screen protecting tomorrow's offensive operations. 
It was dusk when the combat team set out and by darkness they had reached a dried up riverbed in the foothills. The combat team commander decided that this was far enough and ordered his platoons to take up positions on the western side of the riverbed (see the picture of the gaming table, below). The screen's southern advance had not gone unnoticed; French scouts had reported on their progress and later in the night, covered by darkness, French infantry moved into positions on the eastern side of the riverbed. From about midnight, the green American infantry were plagued French artillery falling around them, obviously an indication of registration of targets. To add to the American unease, in the distance could be heard the high pitched squeak of tracks and the low rumbling drone of tank engines. 
At daybreak, French and Americans are able to see each other across the riverbed... 
Game Account Scenario Details Historical Background French Artillery Fire Plan
Click on any rectangle in the picture of the gaming table below for a game photo in that location
 
French artillery barrage on GMC and US infantryTwo platoons of French are pinned by a lone US squadFrench assault on GMC stymied by US MGFT-17s cross the arc of fire of a distant GMC75mm GMC - The highest 'kill' score didn't prevent its own destruction later2nd French artillery registration on hastily assembled defenders2nd barrage - front viewMedal of Honour - AT crew fends off a whole French platoon!FT destroyed by the GMC of photo 4FT hits advancing US troops in the rearFrench attack US troopsStuart moves to block US left flank from incoming French armourStuarts roar into hull down positions to engage SomuasFrench command post smoked offSlogging match: S-35s and Stuarts, in the distanceGaming Area
Game AccountNote that not all activity of the game is reported here! Table of Contents
1st barrage[Photo 1] As the morning sun lightened the sky, the American troops spread out along the riverbed (two platoons forward, with one back aways [off-board] in reserve) were able to spot some French infantry in position directly across from their AT gun position (at photo #7, above). However, a single squad piqueting the southern bend of the river (at photo 1, above) along with a GMC realised that at least a whole French company had moved into position directly across the riverbed.  They were not given much time to ponder this as all hell broke loose with the falling of the first French artillery registration. The M3 75mm GMC here is an Airfix M3 APC with a scratch built "drop-in" 75mm, floor and crew (in this model, British 8th Army figures). Two other similar conversions are used in this game. The US squad are Matchbox figures.
Despite the pounding of the French 75s, the GMC and the 60mm mortar equipped US rifle squad began to take a toll on French troops moving in the thickets on the other side of the riverbed. Nearby French mortars laid down a thick cover of smoke and eager French infantry rushed the American positions. After running into and sustaining some casualties (pins) from their own artillery, they close assaulted and destroyed the half-track and suppressed the infantry squad.
French stopped[Photo 1A] With the barrage still coming down, the rest of the French company tried to bypass it to the west. With the first French platoon having suffered some casualties from its own artillery and the short-lived but tenacious defence of the Americans across the river, two other platoons charged across. As they left the thicket and began to climb the hill another US infantry squad, part of the platoon dispersed around the AT gun emplaced at photo 4, opened up. The two French platoons were pinned and supressed. French mortars came to the rescue once again with a smoke screen against the sharp shooting Americans and the company's 4th platoon made it past the other two platoons, clambering up the hill. French figures are all ESCI, the US troops are Matchbox.
French attack on another GMC stopped by US MG[Photo 2] The 4th French platoon investigated the rough ground at the top of the hill (in the area of photo 5 and 6) and found, to their commander's delight, no US defenders. Seeing the GMCs away to the north (engaging the French Bofors which had been placed on the hill north of the area of photo 3 as well as the Renault tanks moving over that hill at photo 3) and no visible American infantry between them and these half-tracks, the French platoon set off wildly north. Moving from low hill to rough ground until they reached the foot of the hill at Photo 2, they came under effective fire from an American machine gun set up and hidden in rough ground on a hill in the eastern area of photo 2 (and near what the US did not realise at the time was French registration number 4). 

The hapless French platon was cut to pieces, all of its rifle squads being pinned or suppressed...only the platoon commander made it as far as the half track. Soon, the reserve US platoon came in and, working with the machine gun, wiped out survivors of the French platoon. Nevertheless, this incursion behind US lines had the American players believing the game was just about over.

The reserve US platoon, with the GMC of photo 2, moved rapidly to the hill to the south, worried about stopping any further French advances that way - there was, after all, the better part of an infantry company still there, along with tanks. This GMC is similar to the one described in photo 1, except with a tarp covered fighting compartment. French are ESCI, the MG is Matchbox.

FT-17 platoon on the move[Photo 3] The tanks were a platoon of FT-17s which had been positioned behind the hill at photo 3. En route to help the company at photo 1A, they went over a hill, exposing themselves to very long range reactive fire from the other end of the gaming table, by two GMCs - the one which was attacked in the preceeding paragraph and another in Photo 4, which can be seen as a distant bump in photo 3, on the horizon about a third of the way from the left.. The first FT-17 with an octagonal turret is Matchbox, from the Char B1bis/FT-17 kit and the other two, with round turrets, are completely scratch-built from plastic card. The GMC in photo 4 is another of the M3 conversions described in photo 1. The gun in the mid ground of photo 3 is the French Bofors (actually an Airfix model with British crew, but the French didn't mind borrowing it). Distant GMC
[Photo 4]
2nd Barrage[Photo 5] The French commanders now switched their 75mm batteries to the second registered target, the hill on which the US had just established a hasty defensive position with the reserve platoon and GMC. Once again, a murderous concentration of fire wreaked havoc on the Americans. The GMC was unaffected by the artillery however and entered into a slogging match with the FT-17 platoon in the low ground below. Amazingly enough, the antiquated WWI vintage tanks got the better of the 75mm on the M3 GMC, but only after considerable other activity had taken place. By now, the US combat team commanders had reported back to Tafaraoui Airfield that they were under major attack by at least two companies of infantry supported by armour. TF Red commander responded by placing a 105mm battery in support and sending another combat team (a second company plus a platoon of Stuarts) south. Front view
[Photo 6]
ATG defense[Photo 7] And other activity was in progress. Although a major French effort was in the south, a little further north, in the area of photo 7 was a platoon from the second company. It was directly across the riverbed from a well positioned US 37mm AT gun which was able to cover the road coming from the north and south east. Another FT-17 platoon was in position behind the hill around the location of photo 14 and the French players wanted to get them forward to engage the machine gun (photo 2) and the GMC remaining in the north. To accomplish this, the French infantry platoon poured across the river just as the French artillery commander (who was the 2nd company commander, set up in a command post, complete with land line in the rough ground at photo 13) switched to artillery registration 3, pinning the AT crew. A rifle squad was in a nearby woods/thicket feature and there was another with the AT gun, but were both were suppressed by artillery and then eliminated by the French platoon when it crossed the riverbed. The French infantry had a much rougher time with the crew of the 37mm gun, however. Despite the reduced dice, it stopped the French infantry in their tracks and held them off until such time as the reinforcing US company arrived. The 37mm gun and jeep are Hasegawa. The US crew are loose figures from the Airfix US Marine set and the French are all figures that came with the Matchbox FT-17 kit, except the commander who is a converted ESCI figure.
In the meantime, the doughty 37mm gunners were helped by numerous concentrated sheafs of fire from the 105mm battery the TF Red commander had alloted his besieged troops. Later, a 2 tank platoon of Somua S-35s drove up to the 37mm, across the riverbed on the road. Even engagement from the S-35 machine guns did little more than momentarily pin the 37mm and its crew, and the remaining GMC at photo 4 took out first one S-35, and then, unfortunately for the French commander who had performed "Hart tactics" (placing the S-35s rather close together) a second free shot from the GMC put paid to the second Somua. With the French tanks killed and the French infantry now suppressed ( arriving US infantry reinforcements engaged them and inflicted more casulaties), the US player in charge of the gun engaged in a curious gun dragging contest in which he had his crew, as a reward for their heroism, drag and push the 37mm all over the board for the rest of the game, eventually ending up on the road just to the west of the cut near photo 4, covering the road in case any further French armour came...
FT destroyed[Photo 8] With the diversion taking place around the AT gun, the northern FT-17 platoon moved. The lead tank reached the area of photo 8 and engaged the MG. By this time, French artillery had switched to the registration which was actually pretty much right where the MG was. The MG position was wiped out, but the remaining US GMC, now added this lone FT (the others in the platoon had stayed to the east of the hill at photo 14) to its score (2 S-35, 1 Bofors, and now the FT-17). By now, the US Stuarts had arrived and were on the hill at photo 5 and 6, taking up where the destroyed GMC had failed. FT-17 in this picture is Matchbox.
FT riverbed[Photo 9] The US infantry which had been placed along the riverbed to the north had now crossed and were in the thickets at the foot of the hill at photo 9. The surviving FT-17s from the northern platoon rallied themselves and one drove down the riverbed, firing at the Americans. This is one of four scratchbuilt FTs. 
lone tank[Photo 10] The Stuarts on the southern hill had destroyed the southern FTs. One, under the command of the same curious individual who was performing the 37mm AT gun jig, began a strange, inexplicable dance around the hill at photo 5 and 6... Another Stuart, the Hasegawa M3 model in this picture, moved north to act as a screen against possible French armour incursions along the road there (doubtless, the American commander felt the AT crew needed a rest from their long dancing journey).
French counterattackStuarts arrive[Photo 12] Now, things were serious for the Americans. Under effective attack from French infantry at photo 11 and the momentum of their armoured infantry attack in the north smashed by the S-35s, quick decisions were called for. Leaving the dancing Stuart on the hill at photo 5, the Americans raced across the riverbed in the south with two Stuarts from the tank platoon, which roared up to hull down positions at photo 12. Ignoring the infantry to their left and trusting the US infantry to deal with them, the Stuarts concentrated on trying to deal with the dangerous S-35s. Stuarts in this picture are Matchbox M3A1s.
smoked off[Photo 13] The Americans in photo 9 sent forward a squad with a 60mm mortar. French infantry in the command post area at photo 13 were harassing US infantry in the low ground. The mortar men of the US squad were able to smoke off these infantry and the artillery command post. These ESCI French obviously know the meaning of sharing as several heads have been changed around on the figures. The US 60mm mortar equipped squad in the back ground are Matchbox figures.
S-35s[Photo 14] Now came the final great tension point of the game. The Stuarts pulled into their hull down positions, visible in this photo as bumps on the far horizon. An S-35 platoon (Heller S-35) crossfire failed to hit either Stuart as they pulled up. Then in a flurry of amazing dice rolling, with very low probabilities for hitting (the Stuarts had moved) a Stuart crossfire killed first one S-35, and then, the hart tactics rule came into effect: a second shot at the remaining S-35 was allowed...this was successful and now all the french armour had been destroyed except for a couple of FT-17s. The French conceded defeat. The game was over.

Scenario Details Table of Contents
American Initial Forces French Initial Forces
French Artillery Fire Plan Referee Activity
American Reinforcements French Reinforcements

Terrain Notes
Woods features are, in fact, dried up thick thickets of thorny bushes and some stunted trees. Vehicles may enter woods features, on entering, no further actions permitted that initiative. While in woods feature, only one move action is permitted per initiative...of course driving out allows the vehicle to carry on as if it were in open ground.... Of course, deployment in a woods/thicket feature means such forces are hidden.

Rough ground features are represented by rocks on cut out templates. The rocky nature of the ground does not allow vehicles or large towed weapons such as the Bofors, but infantry can and will be considered hidden if they initially deploy there.


American Initial Forces Scenario Details Index
Mission: Prevent any French from breaking through

Set Up: Anywhere west of the dried up riverbed, including woods features (dried up thickets) on west side of riverbedn and north of it where the riverbed exits the west side. Deploy hidden, but see following on referee set up.

Infantry Company:

  • 2 platoons deployed on table, each with +1 PC, 3 rifle squads.

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  • 1 reserve platoon, kept off table to be called in at any time by the US players. Enters from the west edge of the board and north of the river where it exits the west side (see photo of the game table).

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  • One MG stand under command of CC or assigned to any platoon.

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  • One rifle squad with 60mm mortar (direct fire, with smoke) under command of CC or assigned to any platoon.

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  • One 37mm AT gun + crew & Jeep prime mover, under command of CC or assigned to any platoon.

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  • One +1 CC
Tank Destroyer Platoon:
  • 3 M3 75mm GMC. Because of the width of the area to be defended, these can be under the command of the TD platoon commander or assigned to any infantry PC (remembering the Crossfire limitation of two attached weapons per platoon). In the latte case, it will not be able to form fire groups or crossfires with the infantry; the infantry PC allows it to be able to move.
Artillery/Air Support: none

All American forces are considered green and normal US C&C applies.


French Initial Forces Scenario Details Index
Mission: Seize and control the high ground on the western side of the road, to secure the road for upcoming operations against the US.

Set Up: Infantry can be set up anywhere east and south of the dried up riverbed, including in the thickets (woods features) on the same side. Armour must begin off board, to be brought on at the discretion of the French players, the Bofors can be placed anywhere, except in the woods features alongside the river.

1st Infantry Company:

  • 4 platoons deployed on table, each with +1 PC, 3 rifle squads.

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  • One MG stand under command of CC or assigned to any platoon.

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  • One +0 CC
2nd Infantry Company:
  • 1 rifle platoon - 1 +1 PC, 3 rifle squads - normal French C&C applies.

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  • 2 SMG platoon - 1 +1 PC, 2 SMG squads - these are scouts and have German style C&C.

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  • One MG stand under command of CC or assigned to any platoon.

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  • One +0 CC
Armour:
  • 2 FT-17 platoons, both with 3 FT-17s

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  • 2 Somua S-35 platoons, both with 2 S-35 (yes, I know Vichy North africa had no S-35s, the 23 in North Africa were held in some other African country until the Free French took them over in time for the Tunisian campaign, but the poor French needed something formidable in the armour department...)
Artillery Support:
  • 1 Bofors AA gun and tractor

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  • 2 medium mortar stands - must be deployed on board and will fire only indirect fire. Can be called by any infantry PC or CC. 5 Smoke missions available.

  • BR>
  • 2 Batteries of 75mm artillery in support as per the artillery fire plan.
All French are regular and normal French C&C applies except for the SMG scout platoons in 2nd company. 


Referee Set-Up/Pregame Activity Scenario Details Index
After both sides have set up and mapped their forces, the referee then looks carefully at the placements to see if:
  • Any forces deployed in the open, on hills, etc, can see each other; and

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  • In the thickets along the riverbed, if there are enemy directly across from each other, these will be seen.
The referee then places the forces that can be seen as described above. 

This approach means that both sides have hidden forces.


French Reinforcements Scenario Details Index
The French player will be permitted, at any time in the game, to "disband" 1st company and reconstitute it as 3rd company, to enter on the east side of the table. This is an approach similar to Chris Leach's "Race for the Reichstag" scenario in the Hit the Dirt Crossfire scenario supplement. It was necessary because of the numbers of french infantry I have!

All remaining squads, including pinned and suppressed stands, are removed from the table. A complete company (including any killed stands) is entered. 


American Reinforcements Scenario Details Index
Once the American player has reported to Tafaroui (the refreee, via hand written notes) that a greater than company sized French attack is taking place, commander Task Force Red will dispatch a combat team south and immediately open channels for the US infantry CC to act as an FO for a battery of 105mm guns.

The combat team will take 40 minutes to assemble and move south, which amounts to two 20 minute advances of the "moving clock" (q.v. Hit the Dirt Crossfire scenario supplement) before the following forces arrive:

New Mission: Seize and control the high ground on both sides of the road and riverbed.

Infantry Company:

  • 3 platoons, each with +1 PC, 3 rifle squads.

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  • 3 M3 APCs to transport one of the above platoons.

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  • One MG stand under command of CC or assigned to any platoon.

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  • One rifle squad with 60mm mortar (direct fire, with smoke) under command of CC or assigned to any platoon.

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  • One +1 CC
Stuart Tank Platoon:
  • 4 M3 and M3A1 Stuarts.
Artillery/Air Support: See above.

All American forces are considered green and normal US C&C applies.

French Artillery Fire Plan Scenario Details Index Table of Contents
This has been given a section all its own in this game report should I want to refer back to it for furture scenarios. Although the French have mortars for opportunity fire, their artillery has a fire plan.

As part of their game preparations, French players may map out up to ten artilery registration points (only 5 are shown in the map above), numbering them consecutively. At the start of the game, or at such a time or initiative when the French see fit, the artillery fire plan begins, opening up on registration 1, following the procedure below:

1. The French player positions a 16" by 8" area of effect such that the registration point is within the area of effect. The sides of the area of effect should be parallel with the gaming area.

2. The American player rolls a dice. A 5,6 has no effect, while a 1 to 4 means the US player may move the placed area of effect in any direction from 1" to 4" - whatever was rolled on the die.

3. The barrage is fired as per an area barrage in the house rules.

4. On the following French initiative, the French player can choose to keep the barrage going at registration 1 or move on to registration 2. If he moves on to the next registration, follow the procedure outlined in steps 1 and 2, above. If the French wish to keep the barrage in place, both sides roll a die, and the Americans subtract 2 from their roll. Whoever scores the highest may move the barrage area of effect the number of inches equal to their roll (1 to 4 for the US, 2 to 6 for the French) as described in step 2.

5. The French may only move to a registration point its artillery controller (see hereafter) may see and only if the artillery controller is successful in making an "artillery contact" roll. If the artillery contact roll fails, the barrage continues in its current place (after adjusting rolls described in 4, above).

6. The French may move to an out of sequence registration point, but the artillery contact roll is drastically affected (see below). If the artillery contact roll fails in an attempt to bring it to an out of sequence registration, no artillery falls that initiative or the following US initiative.

The artillery controller is either of the first two infantry company commanders. One commander can be designated as having set up a command post with land line back to the artillery. This CP is where the CC sets up in initial deployment - if he moves from the CP or moves at all during the game, the CP is no longer in service and calls to change registrations must be made by radio.

Artillery contact roll for an in-sequence registration change:

  • From the CP - automatic

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  • By radio - 3-6 on a d6.
For an out of sequence registration change:
  • From the CP - 5,6 on first try on a new target, 4-6 on subsequent tries (one try per initiative - failure does not constitute loss of initiative). Note that even going back to the proper sequence number means "out of sequence"

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  • By radio - 6 on first try on a new target, 5-6 on subsequent tries.