14th May, 1940. North of village of Stonne.

The Maginot line has been pierced and the French defence is in shambles. Individual units are either putting up a fierce fight, or running away. No one knows what the French high command is doing and the BEF is just starting to understand the magnitude of the disaster at hand. German generals have pulled a trick that has few equals in the military history, but are now reigned in by the high command who fears a trap. Guderian was ready to resign, Rommel would cut his own communications so orders would not reach him and panzers are still on the prowl. German sickle cut is aimed at the channel coast to trap the northern part of the Allied armies, but Guderians' south flank is wide open, so he launches 10th Panzer Division to cover it. The French try desperately to seize the initiative. This is a fictional story about the battle of Stonne, also called Verdun of 1940.


Area of the Stonne, Germans are attacking from the north through the woods. First scenario depicts a fight at a small stream crossing.


The table. Stream is in a small depression, offering some cover. Similarly road and field side offer some cover in small ditches. This does not have the anti-tank ditch which was shown only at the start of patrol phase. In our games, supports are chosen after map is shown, but before patrol.


The unbreakable Maginot line has fallen and confusion is reigning. 3rd DIM (Division d'Infanterie Motorisée, motorized infantry) is moving towards Stonne along with 3rd DCR (Division Cuirassée, armour), but they are not yet there, so the enemy must be delayed. Fortunately some tank obstacles have been prepared in suitable choke points and your men have just arrived to reinforce one of them. Just a platoon of men and few recon troops from 3rd DCR, but your men are brave and your mission is important. Stop the attacker here if you can, otherwise fall back towards Stonne and make them pay for every inch of ground.  Artillery is just now setting up, but is unlikely to be able to support you. Your left flank is officially covered by 2nd platoon and there might be some pioneers on the right, but no contact to either has been made - make absolutely sure you are not surrounded, we cannot lose more men. There is a 25mm antitank gun carried en portee on a laffly truck further back the road in a concealed firing position.

Lieutenant Vernet St Mortimer, leading the 2nd platoon, 10th Company, 51st Motorised Infantry Regiment had entrenched himself along the tree line, covering the stone bridge spanning a small river. The engineers had mined the bridge and Panhards of the recon troop were screening him, when observers on the hill reported approaching German tanks. The Panhards were caught between the rock and hard place, in this case river and enemy tanks - St Mortimer was quite sure they would beat a hasty retreat, but was surprised to see how they drove forward to stop the German advance, driving through the mine field just as the last lanes were closed. Tankers had also examined the stuck Somua by the bridge, but declared it a loss, so engineers had mined in, too. ((French recon player had the option to crew the stuck Somua, German player did not know if it was active or not. Similarly, Panhards started the game deployed at each JOP, presenting a hasty recon screen.))

In the recon phase, French recon had 2 options, either to press forwards to stop the Germans, or withdraw and get more defensible position. He chose the aggressive option, pretty much dooming his tanks. All his Panhards would start the game deployed. Unfortunately the French infantry commander chose a static defence position, so they would fight piecemeal. French players were allowed to discuss tactics before the game, but not during the game, whereas Germans were allowed tactical discussions at any point - this approach was chosen, s during the Stonne battle French infantry and armour had great difficulties coordinating event the most obvious actions.


French recon and German JOPs. As can be seen, Germans were forced to start at the table edges after very aggressive French patrols. Small stream marks the ditch.


German lead with a dismounted recon squad and a lone tank. Landsers quickly took positions in the copse of woods, training their machineguns on likely French position and trying not to attract the attention of 3 enemy Panhards. The leading PzIII stopped while its' commander Grueber gleefully told the gunner to take aim and dispatch the puny armoured cars. The leading puny Panhard shook off 37mm armour piercing grenade and returned fire, knocking holes in the gun mantel of the panzer, slightly wounding the gunner. The rest joined and very quickly Grueber was forced to give orders to abandon the tank. Armour mostly held, but was spalling badly and any sort of cohesive reply was impossible. Platoon leader Kreutzfeld could barely believe his ears at this point. Mined bridge combined with a tank ditch and infantry informed his that pioneers were not necessary, his lead tank knocked out by a light car and Frenchies finally making a stand. This was not good.


Panhards giving and taking. The stuck Somua can be seen on the background.


First PzIII is abandoned, but more panzers follow.

The Panhards gave a very good account of themselves, but finally the heavier guns and armor of panzers begun to tell and one by one the recon cars were abandoned. After that the German infantry started a cautious advance, while sporadically grenades fell at their positions, causing few casualties. Unfortunately for the French, their position offered great field of fire both way, and German tanks took their time shelling each position. St Mortimer had no other option but to pull back, secure in knowledge that the Boche would be at least slight delayed by the mines.


The inevitable


The German scouts push forwards


And the French infantry abandons hopelessly exposed positions. It is over


So ended the first game of the campaign. French really took the initiative in patrol phase, but their deployment was piecemeal - armoured cars could only attack and were not supported by the infantry of the anti-tank gun and the infantry was in a very exposed position after Panhards were knocked out. German made a very serious mistake in not taking any pioneers, even if the map had an obvious choke point at the bridge - had the French deployed at covered position, German infantry would have been completely stripped of their support. It is a good lesson, open field offers good field of fire, but attacker can usually bring more guns to bear on the point of contact.


Open field like this would have been hell to cross under fire.


Next game will be entry to the village proper. German morale improved a bit and French dropped somewhat, but nothing serious yet. One German tank will miss next game due to casualties and maintenance.
All in all a bit lopsided game. French armour gave a good account of themselves, but overall the French fought and fell divided, unable to use their advantages.
Historical outcome: German attack on Stonne started only on 15th, as the resistance around bois du Mont Dieu was so strong. The woods itself were only finally cleared on the 20th. So much for the French army being unable to fight.