Battle of the Denmark Strait – 1

Step 1. Preparation.

For this game we only need four large/extra large ships.

The ships come from the “Axis & Allies – War at Sea” collection and are 1:1800 scale.  This is about 20 times the sea scale for the game (6cm hexagon = 200m)

The ship bases are printed and painted.  Using translucent PLA for the printing I sprayed the underside blue and only painted the ship names, the ship’s wake and arc of fire lines on the top.

The ships are glued to the bases, and clipped to maintain rigidity until the glue dries.

The first “sinking battleship” token is designed, printed and painted.  More are in preparation, either awaiting printing or painting.

The ship data is printed on label paper and must now be transferred to the actual cards (search Amazon for “blank playing cards” to buy 1000 for £10).

When all is dry I need to run a solo rules check playtest before exposing the game to my friends.

3d printing game tokens

For my adaptation of Axis and Allies (copyright) War at Sea (Copyright) for hexagon games I needed markers for ships in the process of sinking.

Having looked around Tinkercad.com (copyright) I found a generic WW2 battleship.  I mucked about with it and produced a sinking battleship on a 5cm diameter base.  I then reduced it to 80% and 60% for a cruiser  and a destroyer.

IMG_1215

HMS Hood and the Bismarck are shown for scale comparison.

I have also been working on new individual ship bases, which must be painted, including highlighting the name…

ships

Work in progress…

 

 

 

 

Market Garden – Wilhelmina Canal

Attack on the Wilhelmina Canal
18th September 1944

09:30
A Squadron of the 2nd (Armoured) Battalion Irish Guards, under temporary command of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, advanced to cross the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal at Son. They were followed by infantry companies of the Grenadier Guards in armoured half-tracks.

18 sep son 001

As the first tanks began to cross the bridge there was an enormous explosion and the lead tank tumbled into the canal. The bridge was wrecked.

A radio message was sent immediately to HQ 2nd Irish Guards advising them of the situation and requesting that they should force the railway bridge crossing and then move east towards the main “Club” route to clear the enemy from their defensive positions north of the canal.

As the first tanks crossed the rail bridge, one was knocked out by a 50mm AT gun of 59th Infantry Regt. The Irish Guards turned on the enemy and soon removed the problem. At the same time the US parachute infantry securing the bridge removed their guns to allow free passage for the British tanks.

18 sep son 003

The Grenadier Guards, having orders to clear the approach road for the Royal Engineers Bridging Column, moved to their right and debussed south of the canal, taking up defensive positions and establishing their mortars for a potential assault. One company moved left to assist the tankers of 2nd Irish Guards.

The 2nd Battalion Irish Guards pushed eastwards along the north canal bank, encountering small pockets of German infantry and pushing them away from the canal, but without inflicting serious damage. The Germans pulled back to establish defensive positions further north.

18 sep son 006By 11:00 the Irish Guards had reached the main road again. An alternative route towards Arnhem had been secured, but the diversion would have consequences for supply unless a new bridge could be established in place of the one that had been destroyed.

An expedition to Norway

Last Sunday I played a wargame with my young friend Benjamin.

We decided to play a WW2 naval game as the scenery would be simple and it could be set up (and put away for the Memsahib’s satisfaction*) reasonably quickly.
I have a set of rules adapted from the game Axis and Allies – War at Sea, previously mentioned on this site.

*Actually Mrs. GeneralWhiskers said she was impressed with the layout.

The adaptations are to allow play on a hexagon grid rather than the rather more basic sea area maps provided with the game.
My adaptations therefore involve actually steering the ships and include arcs of fire from the various guns and torpedoes.

The table available is 270cm x 900cm (9ft x 3ft), i.e. long and narrow.  Searching for a suitable battle I decided on something based on the Royal Navy attacks on Narvik. The game would involve a British task force steaming into the Fjord, wreaking havoc and getting out again.
The location was Ingenstedsfjord, south of Narvik, known to be a haven and refuelling depot for the Kriegsmarine.  The date was 31st April 1940. (Yes, I know, but I got the idea from Len Deighton’s excellent book “Bomber”).  The location translates as “nowhere inlet”

The forces were determined by dealing the first 12 cards of ships available in early 1940 from the deck (no pun intended) for each side. Unfortunately this resulted in the following very unequal balance:

British:
1 Battleship*
2 Carriers
2 Cruisers
6 Destroyers
1 Minesweeper
*actually a flower class corvette was dealt, but turned out not to have been built yet. The next card was HMS Warspite!
“Oh dear, ‘ow sad, never mind” as BSM Williams[#] might have said.

Germans:
3 Submarines
5 Destroyers
2 Auxiliary supply ships
2 Commerce raiders

As it happens, the German force would not be unusual to be sheltering in a Norwegian Fjord, but a Graf Spee, Prinz Eugen or Bismarck might have been useful! I did flirt with the idea of one of these three turning up half way through the game, but decided to play what fate had dealt.

I topped up the German defences with a minefield across the Fjord entrance which proved more effective than expected, even though I ensured that there was a path through it with careful seamanship.

I placed MDF hexagons from another game around three edges of the table to indicate the limits of the Fjord and created a small town at the north-east corner. I added a couple of islands for good measure (of which more later).

DSCF0009And so, with a mixed bag of 1:1800 ships, 1:900 aircraft, 1:1200 houses and 1:600 forests on a sea scale of 1:360000 we were ready to play.

One German destroyer and one submarine were on patrol. All other ships were moored and would take 1 average dice of turns to get up steam.

DSCF0011

DSCF0012
The British approached from the west end of the table. The minefield was about one turn in from the edge.

HMS Halcyon, the minesweeper, darted in and failed for three turns to clear a single mine, even though there were only five, a 2/3 chance of each being removed, and arranged so that she could attack two at a time. Cries of “mine, mine” as performed by the seagulls in “Finding Nemo” echoed around the room. The German destroyer Diether von Roeder failed equally to cause any damage to the Halcyon during this part of the operation.

Then the big boys arrived. HMS Illustrious and HMS Victorious, each with two flights of Swordfish biplanes, entered the Fjord and sent the ‘planes to do the dirty work. They were the nemesis of the German fleet.
The rules allow all aircraft to fly a mission every turn and so each turn four flights attacked a single ship. The best defence a destroyer could offer would be for one flight to be chased off before attacking, and so it would still be subject to six torpedo attacks, with a roll of 6 being sufficient for a deadly strike.
Rules have been rewritten for the next battle.  (See below)

Both sides of necessity fed in their ships piecemeal, but the Swordfish just picked off the Germans in a most unsatisfactory way.

DSCF0015The hardest thing for Ben as British commander was manoeuvring his larger ships between the numerous wrecks that began to litter the fjord. It also appeared that one of the islands was too close to the northern shore for any ship to sail through the gap.

He did lose most of his destroyers to submarine attack or from the guns of the Altmark, and I thought it most cowardly when he started to hide his  destroyer screen behind his carrier, behind an island, DSCF0014.JPG

but we called it a day when it was clear that the Germans could not run, nor beat off those deadly Swordfish.

After the battle we sat and discussed how the rules could be bettered.
We thought the submerged submarines would be better if each had a couple of dummies for the enemy to chase.
The existing rule was that a submerged submarine would actually be in any one of the seven hexes containing or around the actual model. This resulted in one of my subs accidentally running aground when I was not paying attention.

The biggest amendments were to the operation of carrier aircraft.
First, a mission would not be restricted to one turn only, so a longer range attack over several turns would be possible.
Second, after landing, one complete turn would be spent refuelling and rearming.
Third, Only one flight could target a single ship in any one turn.
Fourth, no carrier would be able to launch aircraft and receive returning aircraft in the same turn.

In total there are 12 new rule amendments.
If anyone wishes to see my rule set, please e-mail paul.wisken@btinternet.com for a copy.
(But please give me time to rewrite including the revisions).

Our next foray on the foaming seas will probably be the hunting of the Bismarck next year.

[#]A character in the BBC sitcom “It ain’t half hot Mum”, played by Windsor Davies.

Arnhem-Oosterbeek Road, 18th September 1944

Battle Report

Arnhem-Oosterbeek, 18th Sept 1944, starting at 08:00.

Three Companies of 10th Parachute Battalion from 4th Parachute Brigade, advancing from the Oosterbeek area towards Arnhem, encountered a blocking line consisting of three companies of 2nd Panzer Grenadier Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Regiment and two companies of 9th SS Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion.

The Panzer Grenadiers were astride the main road, while the railway line was blocked by a company of obsolete French S-35 tanks “liberated” during the retreat from Normandy.  To the rear was Hauptsturmführer Gräbner’s HQ, including his captured Humber armoured car.

The Para’s deployed and halted, calling for reinforcements from 1st Airlanding Brigade, holding the drop zones to their rear.  Pushing on to Arnhem was paramount, but they had insufficient strength on their own.

German deployment, viewed from the East

Gräbner assessed the situation and also called for support from 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion, holding the Rhine railway bridge to his left.  At the same time he ordered the tanks to probe forwards.

Luckily for the paratroopers, they had a troop of 17pr Anti-tank guns in tow, which deployed  and made short work of two platoons of S-35s.  The third platoon was caught by a mortar “stonk”, which put them out of action too.

So much for the tanks! The ciows seem undisturbed by the noise.

10th Parachute Battalion deployed their 3rd company, with Vickers MG support, to their right to guard the railway line.  The intention was to use the support weapons to keep the enemy’s heads down until reinforcements arrived.

The Germans had no intention of letting that happen, so one rifle company was moved to the top of the low hill to their left flank.  Opening fire on the British before they could deploy the Vickers guns, they forced them away from the railway line.

However this forward move put the German company within range of the British mortar platoon, which swiftly retaliated.

“That’ll teach you to stand on top of a hill in a battle.”

The remains of the company moved down to the road to take some shelter in the trees that lined it.  A second company, with a MG platoon, advanced to the railway crossing near their centre.

By now the British had established their own machine guns and fired at the company in the roadside trees, causing some damage.  But this success was short-lived, for just after 08:30 two companies of 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion arrived across the railway bridge to the British right flank.

The British mortars fired again at the enemy sheltering beside the road and put the last platoon out of action.  Things were going well for the Para’s, if it were not for this new threat from the south.  But where the hell were the glider boys?

German reinforcements swarm across the bridge

The two newly-arrived German companies used their machine guns to great effect against the enemy machine gunners.  The parachute company fell apart.

The Germans were now able to advance and deploy, allowing two more reinforcing companies across the bridge.

It was now 09:00.  Three companies of the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment arrived on the northern road (British left flank).

Gräbner took control of the situation.  Spotting that the advancing British could outflank his position and march on into Arnhem, he ordered the 3rd Panzer Grenadiers to take over blocking the left flank while he shifted the two companies of the 2nd Battalion to the right, including the mortar platoon which was in the farmyard.  He moved his own HQ swiftly to block the roadway on his right flank.  Although unable to take serious offensive action he hoped this might delay the enemy long enough for 2nd Battalion to get to grips.  He also called Division HQ for support.

While the South Staffs. made their best speed along the road a company of 7th King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSBs) arrived along the Utrecht railway line in the British centre.   A few minutes later a second company of KOSBs arrived.

Under fire from the Germans moving to block them, the follow-up companies of the South Staffs abandoned the road and moved up the hill into the heavily wooded area.  

The mortar platoon of 10 Para shelled the nearest Germans in support of the KOSBs.

At 09:30 three batteries of 10th Panzer Division field artillery in Arnhem were released to Gräbner for support.  Spotting for them from his armoured car he was able to halt the South Staffs.  The whole battalion made for the woods, but continued to advance slowly around the German right flank.

They now received the attention of the German mortars, but only a few casualties were suffered.

Effective artillery and mortar fire strikes the South Staff’s.

10 Para, on the right flank, now attacked the 3rd Battalion Panzer Grenadiers

In support of the the lead Company of 7 KOSB, who swung right and took the road toward the now abandoned farm, reaching the eastern level crossing.

3rd Bn Panzer Grenadiers retaliated against 10 Para with concentrated MG and rifle fire and the Para’s gave up after severe casualties.

Two companies of South Staffs. advanced to the edge of the woods, from where they opened fire on the German HQ.  No serious damage was inflicted, but Gräbner pulled back 250 yards.

On the German side 2nd Battalion continued to attack the enemy in the woods, while a company of 3rd Battalion raced to cut off the advance of the KOSBs.

They were too late as the determined glider troops beat them to the farm.

A second company of KOSBs advanced to attack the intercepting Germans.

One company of South Staffs managed to get past the Germans and moved on towards Arnhem.

Shortly after 10:00 a second artillery barrage drove the remaining South Staffordshires back into the woods with further casualties.

As the lead KOSB company continued to advance down the main road Gräbner realised that he was outflanked and pulled the rest of 2nd Battalion back to form another blocking line further east.

3rd Battalion dug in to defend the rail bridge from further attack from the north side.  Firing could now be heard from the south bank of the Rhine, but that is another story.

Total losses during this engagement (killed, wounded and missing)

Germans: 27%, British 33%

The cost had been high, but the British were one step closer to relieving their friends on the road bridge.

Operation Dab-It-Off

Looking back on my blog it appears that I never got around to reporting the results of Operation Dab-It-Off from 27th December 2016.  Unfortunately all photographs are also untraceable.

The game was based on Len Deighton’s book “Bomber”, and I was lucky enough to obtain a flight manual for the Lancaster Bomber to help with the detail.

The operation was so named because it was the fun game played at Chris Scott’s place on the Day After Boxing-day.  For non-UK readers, Dab-It-Off is a form of home dry-cleaning fluid.  It erases unwanted stains, including the town of Irgendwo (somewhere) in 1943 Germany.

Unfortunately the pictures have disappeared into the mists of time, but the idea of the game was that each player was issued with three 1/600 scale Lancaster bombers to fly the length of a 16 foot table, bomb strategic sites in an enemy town (using tiddly-winks) and return safely home.  Each player also had control of a JU88 night fighter to shoot down the opposition.  Every aircraft had randomised skill ratings for each crew member, adding to the same total for every bomber or fighter.  During the flight damage and equipment failures* would be rolled for against the relevant personal skill of the person responsible.

The general game scale was 1 hexagon (6cm) = 4 miles and 1 height level = 2,500 feet.  In air-air combat this was telescoped to about 1/5 of the above.

In summary, the bombers took off in three waves, starting at 21:00.  Each game turn was 10 minutes of real time.  Points were awarded for successful navigation, so there was considerable jostling to fly over or near the first beacon.

As the bomber stream flew over the North Sea a convoy escorted by a FLAK ship was passing*.  The umpire had fun engaging the bombers as they flew overhead, and three aircraft were downed before reaching Holland.  After the first Lancaster crossed the enemy coast the German night fighters were activated.  (D6=6 each turn to activate).  During the approach run one Lancaster was downed for the loss of one JU88.

The first two bombers to arrive at the target decided to ignore the Target Indicators and flew across the target at 90 degrees to the planned approach.  X-XRay was hit by FLAK immediately after bombing and crashed with all the crew lost.

The remaining aircraft followed the TIs (the last one was dropped in the wrong place by the pathfinders*).

Eventually 168 x 1000 pound bombs were dropped.  Of these:

10 hit factories, 6 hit the railway yard, 4 hit the town hall and 4 the army barracks.  10 hit other parts of the railway, 46 hit residential districts and 68 landed in open countryside.  The church and hospital were spared, much to the chagrin of the umpire.

2/3 of the bombers reached the target.  40% of the bombs were wasted, 15% hit valuable targets and 45% hit domestic infrastructure.

Individual aircraft performance:

D-Dog.  Did not bomb.  
E-Easy. FLAK ship hit starboard wing.  Crashed, no survivors.
H-How. 60 pts vital, 90 pts other targets.  "A milk run".
I-Item.  105pts other targets.  Navigator killed.
J-Jig. 120pts vital, 90pts other targets, flew home on 3 engines.
K-King. 120pts vital, 30pts other targets, shot down JU88. Beers all round.
M-Mike. 45pts vital targets. Navigator and bomb-aimer not on speaking terms.
N-Nan. 180pts vital, 75pts other targets. Point-blank hits.
O-Oboe. Engine Fire, Pilot and Navigator bailed out over North Sea, others lost.
P-Peter. 45pts vital, 120pts other targets. Bombed across the stream.
Q-Queen. Hit by FLAK, exploded, all crew lost.
R-Roger. First to cross enemy coast. Hit by FLAK, crashed with all crew lost.
S-Sugar. Engineer dealt with 3 engine failures, aircraft hit by FLAK at low level.
T-Tare. 105pts other targets. Flight Engineer on Elsan throughout flight*.
V-Victor. 60pts other targets. uneventful flight.
X-XRay. 90pts other targets. First to bomb, across stream, but hit by FLAK and crashed.
Y-Yoke. Shot down after unsuccessful bombing run by JU88. Tail Gunner bailed out.
Z-Zebra. 75pts other targets. Last to reach target. Front Gunner killed.
-------
B-Bruno. No combat contacts.
D-Dora. Shot down in combat.
E-Emil. Destroyed 1 Lancaster.
F-Friedrich. No combat contacts.
H-Heinrich. No combat contacts.
I-Ida. No combat contacts.




The game ended due to time restrictions before the bombers could return to their now fogged-in airfield, but all agreed it had been a jolly good game.

Maybe other raids – Brest submarine pens, the Tirpitz, the Dambusters raid, etc. will be created for the future, but meanwhile I rest upon my laurels.

*Each turn I, as umpire, drew a “Gremlin” card to randomise damage, change of wind direction or strength, enemy shipping, and other similar effects.

Serendipity and repurposing

It is a well known fact that in our household very few purchases (except food) are used for their intended pupose.  So it was no surprise that when I spotted in the centre aisle of our local Lidl a pack of brown felt pads for the protection of shiny floors against furniture legs for less than 2 pounds/dollars/euros that I snapped them up for potential wargames use.

(I since bought a supplementary pack of beige ones, which have vanished after arriving home.)

The pack has circular pads of 32x10mm, 36x15mm and 48x20mm; square pads of 20x20mm and one sheet 200x200mm.  All are about 2mm thick.

Felt pads. 15mm versions used up.

Coincidentally, within a week I needed to create for the Market Garden campaign a wargaming area of heathland in 6mm.

Some time ago I bought from eBay some Chinese model trees as an alternative to the “flocked bottle brush” type of which I already have plenty.  Examples below.

In the pack were lots of tiny trees which remained in the box for potential future use.

“Aha!” thinks I, “This is my serendipitous moment.”

By twisting the miniscule tree trunks together and pressing them onto to the sticky side of the felt pads I managed to create  clumps of bushes.  The felt underside helps prevent them from being inadvertantly moved against the flocked base terrain hexagons.

I may decide to use my previously described method of coating the bushes with diluted PVA glue and baking in the oven at a low heat to solidify the models, but for the time being they will suffice, when properly placed, interspersed with occasional trees, to represent my heathland.