Unternehmen Launenhaft – interlude


I fought the first two hours of this German raid on the Dorset coast in July 1940 using my own gaming rules. I was not content with the tank vs tank combat, which clearly made hitting the enemy too difficult.

I decided to investigate the “Flames of War” system, adapting it for 6mm models on 10cm hexagon tiles. I have the first edition rulebook.

I wanted to make everything “hex-compatible”, avoiding measurements, and so I spent two days writing a converted rule set. I think that I have a usable version, but the continuing battle will show, one way or the other.

The first job was to analyse the game figure, ground and time scales. The only one claimed by the writers is that one model is one real-life counterpart. I will mention in passing that the result in their own photo’s of 15mm battles is a “phalanx” of wheel-to-wheel tanks.

Even reducing the scale to 6mm/1:300 one 10cm hexagon would be only 30 yards/metres.

After converting the rules from 15mm to 6mm by a simple “inches to centimetres” method I investigated movement rates.

From the infantry move rate, allowing marching men to move at 3MPH/5KPH it appeared that the game move was a time period of only 12-13 seconds, and that, comparatively, a jeep at full “at the double” speed on road could only achieve 26 KPH/16MPH.

So we are dealing with an abstract concept and the 1:1 ratio may as well also be abandoned.

With this in mind I decided to divide all forces by 4, and to make each rule for a platoon apply to a company. A company would become a battalion, or more likely a “Kampfgruppe” or “Battle Group”.

Movement rules were adapted to hexagons by using the inches measurement as centimetres and then adjusting to hexagons by rounding. With many moves close to the “half-hex” I worked this method:

3-7cm = 0 hexes*, 8-12cm = 1 hex, 13-17cm = 1 hex*, 18-22cm = 2 hexes, etc. * indicates that a die roll of 4,5 or 6 allows 1 more hex (2 rather than 1, etc.) Road moves were rounded up by default.

For firing ranges I simply divided the stated range in cm. by 2. for hexagons. In retrospect I could have done the same for movement but the numbers worked out better the way I have done it.

I then investigated the FoW “Blitzkrieg” book for orders of battle and reconstructed each of my units at 1/4 scale by adding all the men/weapons in a company and dividing them by 4. I similarly allocated weapons.

Thus a British Infantry company becomes:

1 HQ element of 3 figures (assumed to include the platoon AT Rifles and 2” mortars as needed) and 3 Platoons each of 1 x Rifle element (4 figures) and 1 x rifle/MG element (4 figures).

A German infantry company is an HQ element and 3 platoons of 2 x 4 rifles and 1 x MG element. I could have made it 3 platoons of 3 rifle/MG elements but decided on the organisation as listed for more interesting battlefield tactics. (Also I have many distinct rifle or MG bases available).

Surprisingly, most tank units were reduced from 3 to 2 tanks, but the British acquired some MkVI light tanks.

And so the battle resumes at 07:00 with these forces (British at the rear, Germans in front)

The Germans also have artillery support from an offshore destroyer (9 x 150mm guns = 2 guns in game terms)

After this revision the Germans have a better chance of expanding their bridgehead. Both sides are waiting for reinforcements.

Unternehmen Launenhaft: Part 1

As part of the assault on Britain in July 1940 it was decided by Adolf Hitler’s whim and a few die rolls to make a diversionary attack to the west between the Isle of Wight and Plymouth.  West Bay was selected as the focus for the attack, having two access roads inland and a small harbour for unloading follow-up units and supplies.

The German plan was to land a company of infantry at West Bay by subterfuge, wearing French greatcoats over their regular uniforms.  These would be supported after 30 minutes by a platoon of experimental submersible PzIV tanks.  The harbour at West Bay would be secured for further landings.  A second company of mountain infantry would land south of Lower Eype, supported by a platoon of experimental submersible PzIII tanks to take and secure Lower Eype.  A company of parachute infantry in gliders would take control of and destroy the radio transmission station on the hills east of Lower Eype.

The glider assault was initially successful, but eventually defeated by the arrival of a squadron of A10 tanks that happened to be in the area on an anti-invasion exercise.  A further squadron of Matilda II tanks (the “enemy” from the same exercise) were parked in Lower Eype, to the west.  The tanks were scheduled to move to the Lulworth firing ranges on the morning of the attack.  Fortunately, following the exercise both squadrons had re-armed with live ammunition before bivouacking for the night.

Two companies of the Dorsetshire Regiment were also in the area.  One company was in comfortable billets in Bridport while the other was dispersed.  A platoon was guarding the radio station and two more platoons were encamped at nearby farms.  The West Bay Home Guard Platoon was responsible for the harbour and in particular the pill-box overlooking it.

At dawn (05:00) an old steam tug warily approached the harbour at West Bay, flying the French flag.  As it docked, two soldiers in French greatcoats leapt off to tie it up.  They were followed by more soldiers.  The local Home Guard, alerted to their approach, formed up on the road at the end of the mole.  Sergeant Prendergast met the leader of the newcomers, who explained in halting English that they had escaped from Brittany and sought refuge in England.

Sgt Prendergast ordered his men to stand down, and to escort their allies to the local hotel for refreshment.  At that point, two large gliders swept overhead and the local volunteers gazed skyward.  The Frenchmen reacted and shot them down to a man.  They then discarded the French coats, revealing their German uniforms.  More German infantry then emerged from the tug, and an MG was set up on the prow in case of further opposition.

Meanwhile, on the heights west of the town, two gliders had landed near the radio station.  One crashed on landing but the passengers emerged shaken but intact.  The pilot was killed in the crash. The two platoons of Fallschirmjaegers moved to the radio station and began to cut through the barbed wire defences before scaling the high stone walls around the compound.

One platoon moved around to the main entrance.  There they were met by rifle fire from the men defending the control building.  Many of the Germans were killed and wounded and the rest ran.

While all this was happening the mountain infantry company approached the beach to the west in rubber dinghies.  They landed and began to cut through the barbed wire entanglements on the beach.  Half the allotted submersible PzIII tanks allocated to their support made it ashore and together they moved inland.

Two more gliders arrived. Again one crashed, but all the soldiers emerged unscathed.

Back at West Bay the Brandenburg Infantry (trained for surreptitious activity) had secured the town of West Bay, including the pillbox that the Home Guard foolishly left unmanned as they greeted their supposed allies.  Half their allotted submersible PzIV tanks had made it to the beach, but were stuck in the shingle, unable to move.

In Bridport the commander was alerted by the noise to the south and by the fact that the town was now under fire from an offshore destroyer.  He stood his company to in the churchyard – they were billeted in the church itself.  One platoon was ordered to patrol and see what was happening.  As they reached the south end of town they were caught in another naval salvo and all were killed or wounded.

At Lower Eype to the west the Gebirgsjaeger company moved inland and, by keeping out of sight of the enemy tanks, infiltrated and occupied all the houses on the east side of the main road.

The squadron of Matildas at Lower Eype was more concerned with trying to eliminate a platoon of enemy tanks that had appeared at the south end of the main street.  After several exchanges of shot and some near misses the German tanks withdrew under cover of smoke, making for West Bay.

At the radio station the German Paratroopers broke in and killed the defenders, destroying much of the equipment with grenades. 

Two platoons of the Dorsets tried to oust them but one was effectively wiped out and the second retreated to the safety of a nearby farm.  The arrival of a squadron of A10s with their twin turreted machine guns forced them to abandon the place and retreat to West Bay.

By 07:00 the situation was that the German Kampfgruppe HQ had landed and taken control at West Bay.  He ordered the remains of the Fallschirmjaeger company to occupy the warehouse complex near the dock and the PzIII platoon to remain on watch.  The PzIVs, bogged down, would provide support as and when they could spot an enemy.

On the British side both tank squadrons were moving, unsupported by infantry, towards the western side of West Bay.

To be continued…

Unternehmen Launenhaft: The Landscape

One morning in July 1940 Adolf Hitler gathered his generals and calmly stated: “Gentlemen, I have decided to launch an attack on England next week. The operation will take place…”
He rolled a few dice and placed his finger on the map.

The officers were stunned. The Führer’s finger was poised on the coastline east of West Bay in Dorset.
“It is not possible!” exclaimed Manstein.
“Anything is possible for the Wehrmacht.” replied Hitler.
“We should at least test it with a tactical evaluation, suggested Model.”
“Very well, conceded Hitler. Make me a model of the area.”

And so it began.

The first step was to obtain a detailed contour map of the area. This was used.

It is a modern Ordnance Survey map, so modern caravan camps and expanded residential development must be ignored. The satellite image was also studied.

A hexagon tessellation at a scale of 1 hexagon to 100 metres was overlaid parallel to the coastline and the contours at 25m, 50m and 75m traced, along with roads and waterways. To make the 2cm hexagon slope height differences compatible with the ground scale the contours should be at 20m, 40m and 60m but the 25m intervals are clearer to copy from the map, and it’s close enough.

Next the waterways were adjusted to run through hexagon sides. Some of the broader sweeps of the river were simplified to fit. Then the contours were aligned to the nearest hexagon edges. Finally the roads were tweaked to pass through hexagon sides.

With the plan in place the arrangement of hexagon tiles was designed on the layout. It involved juggling the six types of slope tiles, as illustrated below from Kallistra’s online catalogue.

It was important that the waterways were flat and effectively at sea level. No waterfalls here. Then the slopes were constructed to follow the contours as far as possible. One further useful slope design would be four low edges and two slopes rising to a point. This can be made by sawing two existing Type B tiles in half and joining the halves together, but not for this layout.

Some new river and stream tiles were needed. These are made in one of two ways:
1. by running a wet brush across a flocked tile and scraping the damp flock to each side with a craft knife, thus creating banks.
2. by painting the river onto a bare tile and adding flock afterwards.

The rivers were painted in layers. First beads of PVA glue were run along the length to make ripples. Then a layer of blue/brown/green/grey mixed paint was added and topped with a PVA coat. Next a touch-up layer of paint and another coat of PVA. Rivers were bordered with trees and shrubs.

Roads were added using Noch self-adhesive model railway products. Two types were needed for the brown and yellow roads on the map. (The pink highway/A road is a modern addition and was ignored.) The larger road was modelled using the dark tarmac trimmed to remove the white edges.

The minor road was modelled with the lighter option. The original plan was to use a single lane of the roadway, about 15mm wide, but troops are modelled on 2cm wide bases, so 22mm width was used.
Where the narrow road climbs a steep hill a “wiggle” was introduced.

Both types were applied using a wallpaper seam roller.

For town streets the cobbled road was used, applied over bare hexagon tiles spray-painted with grey stone texture paint. Buildings are from various sources and the gardens are from Timescape.

Hedges are of two types: Irregular Miniatures shrubbed hedgerow, painted and flocked, or home-made. The metal ones are useful to bend around road curves or where slopes meet flat ground. The home-made ones were made by attaching Woodlands Scenics clump foliage in three colours to the sticky side of a vinyl floor tile, covering in diluted PVA and baking in a warm oven.

The beaches were originally made using pieces of Games Workshop plastic “Desert” playmat, but for this project enhanced with builders’ fine sand.

Not wanting anything permanent, I made the cliff faces from Noch Sandstone rock compound applied to thin MDF and attached to the tile edges with school glue (which it is hoped will be removable later). The cliffs were painted with Homebase “oyster” from an old tester pot.

The barbed wire was made by burning the fluff from pipe cleaners and twisting the wire, after wiping clean, roughly around a paintbrush handle.

The layout was enhanced with a few pigs and cows and telegraph poles. There was a debate about stringing grade 000 black cotton between the poles, but dismissed for reasons of practicality.

There is on the model a radio mast made from the top half of a 1/72 Hornby electricity pylon (pending a better model on order). It is shown on the map, but is probably a post-war addition. But it makes a good objective for the raid, so it stays.

The only thing missing is a few civilians, for decoration or as refugees.

Having a look round.

Today, as a follow up to my prostatectomy in 2017, I suffered the ignominy and discomfort of a Flexible Cystoscopy. This involves looking at the inside of the bladder with a camera through the only available access point, and I was very nervous before-hand, having read about the expected pain level.

As it happened, I barely felt a thing at the time due to the numbing ointment, but for the rest of the day it stings like the devil. It was a simple, five minute procedure and the operating nurse, two trainee nurses and I all had a good look via a monitor screen around inside what turned out to be a healthy organ.

People say the NHS is underfunded. I suggest they could save quite a bit on the laundry bill. It went something like this: “Take off your trousers and pants and put this gown on. Don’t bother to tie it up at the back.” “OK, now hop up on the bed and pull the gown up to your waist.” A quick poke about, then “OK, you can get dressed now. Pop the gown in the bin.”

That gown was used for less than ten minutes and covered my dignity only for the half dozen steps from the changing screen to the bed and back. I’m not even sure why they need a screen for you to change behind when three young ladies will be staring in detail at your bits and pieces immediately afterwards.

All is well, but apparently to avoid having to get up in the night I must drink more during the day – and cut the caffeine.

Testing rules for 2mm

I have been playtesting a new set of home-produced rules for wargaming in the early eighteenth century using 2mm blocks. On a hexagon terrain.

I describe them as “Battle Chess” because there are no dice and almost no random element, depending instead on manoeuvre and local superiority of numbers.

I am indebted to Bob Cordery for the card activation method which randomises the turn sequence. This can very occasionally have bizarre consequences, as in the game shown above. Blue Army had the first five turns of the game, allowing them freedom of movement over 3/4 of the battle field. Then Red Army took the next three turns and passed his cavalry unopposed through the village and across the only bridge to take Blue’s cavalry in the rear, just when Blue was preparing for a sweeping charge.

Anyway, after mentioning my testing on Facebook I was asked if I will publish the rules. Here they are in their first draft and unformatted. Feel free to use or abuse them as you will.

I am now moving back to 6mm for a while. I have not played a 6mm game for over a year, since the first Covid lock-down in England.