Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Tale of Claus von Slaus

Ok, what follows is a bit of a departure from my normal blogging, but it's appropriate with the close of the WWPD Overlord Campaign. For the campaign I mainly played with a force I'd never used before, and found myself more attached to them than any tabletop army in a long time. The 21. Panzerdivision struck me as having the right kind of balance between competitiveness, fluff, and personal play style.

For a while now I have playfully called my German commander for any armored force Claus von Slaus, a German of Eastern European descent with an inferiority complex that drives him to deeds of insane bravery. This WWPD Overlord campaign really formed his identity, and that's what I hope to share with you. And so, ladies and gentlemen (who am I kidding, gentlemen) I present to you the saga of Claus von Slaus, unit commander of indeterminate rank of the 21. Panzerdivision:

Yes, I numbered him "zero"

Another battle, and another bloody victory for Claus von Slaus. With the enemy pulling back, von Slaus was finally able to assess his losses in this last, desperate struggle to beat back the British. The road to victory had been littered with the wrecks of his once mighty tanks, and the bodies of his once living tankers.

He thought back to the first Normandy action his men had faced. They had been called upon to repulse the earliest British assaults, just back of the beaches. Where others had failed, they had succeeded through cunning and skill. He had even learned to use the enemy's weapons against their former masters! So great was that first triumph that von Slaus allowed himself a rare moment of optimism. That day was not carried by the arrogant, fanatical men of the SS, but by the humble bravery and resourcefulness of his 21. Panzerdivision.

Not all of whom survived, despite the victory

He had led his platoon commanders in a textbook ambush of the over-confident British, breaking their will with one devastating salvo. They had more firepower, they had more equipment, but they didn't reckon with the skill and courage of von Slaus' men.

One victory can be a fluke, but when success is repeated all critics must accept the facts. Once again the 21. Panzerdivision was called upon to beat back a British thrust, and again Monty's eel-eaters were thrown back in disarray. Yet the cost of victory had begun to climb.

Many brave men were sent home in caskets to their grieving families, if their bodies could even be recovered at all. Even his loyal, if foolhardy, second-in-command Hans von Hansenhof fell to his over-eagerness to destroy the foe. Those who had survived had stared flamethrowers, naval artillery, and Death himself in the face and lived to tell the victorious tale. They would ensure that the memory of their fallen comrades lived on. Skill and courage won the first bout. Sacrifice was also needed in the second.

Claus von Slaus had always held a grudge against the other officers in the German armed forces, but not without cause. Where his men had fought the British to a standstill, the best that could be expected under the circumstances, those officers promoted ahead of him in the past were now running for their lives against the Americans. It fell to von Slaus to take his force and try to link up with his beleaguered comrades. Rushed into battle, von Slaus had no idea what awaited him. Outside the little village of Ville de Petite, his column ran headlong into American tanks and artillery. Several desperate charges were launched, but his men simply could not break through. In an instance of pure despair, von Slaus' noble pioneers were caught in the open and suffered the full weight of American artillery.

The tragedy befalling his tankers, and the smoke fumes in his damaged vehicle, brought tears of sadness and frustration to his eyes. He was so close and yet so far to seizing the objectives! Reluctantly he was forced to pull back. The link-up had failed.

So close...von Slaus is at the very bottom of the picture

In the final days of the Allied push to run the Germans out of Normandy, Claus von Slaus was once again called upon to lead his tanks in one final attempt to deny Normandy to the Allies. A sizable British infantry force with much armored support had been spotted outside of a key crossroads. von Slaus was ordered to seize the high ground outside of the village to deny that avenue of approach to the enemy. He knew that failure meant the destruction of his beloved force and the disgrace of his reputation.

Well defended, and well supported, but it had to be taken!

His men...his brave, doomed men. They gave their lives in one last effort to achieve victory against their mighty foes. Through the thunder of artillery and the whine of anti-tank shells they advanced, never pausing in their attack. One by one their radios fell silent. von Slaus found himself in a swirling maelstrom of destruction, with all sorts of British vehicles and guns falling prey to his fury.

His personal tally was 1 Achilles, 2 Carriers, and several AT and Artillery pieces

All along the attack approach, one could find the charred hulks of his tanks, the last remnants of a once-proud force.

And yet, calling these men a "once-proud" force does them a disservice, as they remained proud. Victory was won despite their losses. The near destruction of Claus von Slaus' last Normandy command had still resulted in the denial of British objectives, and that was the best that could be hoped for. The Allies may pound their way to victory eventually, but today, if only for today, the field belonged to Claus von Slaus, and the last few, brave men of his command.

Nothing says "bravery" like a platoon morale die roll for the win!

Claus von Slaus would not survive the war. Retreating into Germany he was given command of a Panzer unit trying desperately to halt the Soviets. One day, mounting the last operable tank under his command, von Slaus drove onto a bridge and covered the retreat of his men to American lines, where they were able to surrender. Nobody lived to record the details of his last, heroic exploits, but members of the village where he met his fate describe a panzer tank exploding with such tremendous force as to demolish the bridge it was standing on, denying its use to the communist hordes.

Statistics on his infantry and support elements are hard to come by, but the casualties of his tankers were well-recorded. In the final analysis the tankers under the command of Claus von Slaus suffered a 68% casualty rate (calculated by assessing how many of my tanks were destroyed/bailed at the end of each game).


  1. Good to know there's someone else out there who names their tankers as seriously as I do!

  2. Hell yeah! Makes both victory and defeat more memorable!

  3. Nice angle on the campaign coverage, lets hope von Slaus, sneaked away from his tank at the last possible moment so we can continue to read of his continued exploits??? I sense a James Bond like moment coming on...?

  4. @Scott We'll see when we get our hands on some Cold-War-Turned-Hot rules *wink wink*