Unexpected Consequences

It is very easy when playing a wargame to lose sight of the objectives.  When playing a campaign it is easier to focus on what needs to be acheived rather than the obvious quick results.  When playing a game within a campaign to other people’s instructions it focuses the mind even more.  When the game involves a card-based order system this complicates the situation.

This was my latest challenge, west of Arnhem on 18th September 1944.

Orders:

The British troops [green tokens] from 1st Airborne Division have an overall objective to push through the town towards the Arnhem road bridge in support of the troops holding the bridge.  They were also tasked with doing maximum damage to enemy armour.

The Polish battalion [yellow tokens] was in defensive mode, protecting the southern end of the railway bridge across the Rhine.

The Germans [black tokens] were initially on the defensive.  Their objective was to destroy as many allied units as possible, and to retake the railway bridge.

Allied forces:

2nd Bn South Staffordshires (Glider Infantry):

     1 HQ Platoon, 3 rifle platoons, 1 MG Platoon.

10th Bn Parachute Regiment:

     1 HQ Platoon

7th Bn King’s Own Scottish Borderers (Glider Infantry)

     9 rifle platoons, 3 mortar platoons

1st Battalion Polish Independent Parachute Brigade

     11 rifle platoons, 1 MG platoon.

Off-table artillery support from two batteries of 75mm Howitzers of 1st Air-Landed Light Battery Royal Artillery.

German forces:

9th SS Armoured Recce Bn.

     3 platoons SdKfz222 scout cars.

2nd PanzerGrenadier Bn, 9th SS Panzer Div.

     9 rifle platoons, 2 mortar platoons, 1 panzerfaust platoon.

3rd PanzerGrenadier Bn, 9th SS Panzer Div.

     1 HQ platoon, 11 rifle platoons, 1 MG platoon.

I use the Memoir ‘44 game system, with some house rules for equipment types not covered in the game.  For example, light armoured cars move like supply trucks but fight like half-tracks. Off-table artillery is activated by “barrage” cards, and if appropriate by artillery order cards.

Game set up

For campaign games I allocate command cards by dividing the number of platoon elements by three.  As casualties are suffered or reinforcements arrived, the hand of cards is recalculated.   This reproduces the friction of battle: as casualties are suffered the number of command choices is reduced.

Victory points are calculated by the number of company units of the smaller force divided by two.  But points are won by achieving goals for the battle or campaign as set by the remote generals.For this battle, Victory points were set at 4.  Allies win 1 VP if the enemy armoured unit is destroyed, and 1 VP for each company that leaves the board by the eastern edge, towards the Arnhem road bridge.  Germans win 1 VP for every allied company destroyed and 1 VP for possession of the rail bridge.

Battle Report

The South Staffordhire’s opened the action with a surprise assault against about a dozen light armoured cars (SdKfz222) in the yard of the Arnhem railway station.  Leaving three or four ablaze they then moved on into the town itself, heading for the road bridge.

South of the river the 3rd PzGren Bn charged the Polish paras south of the bridge.  The Poles fell back with light casualties.  They called in artillery support which pounded the Germans and caused heavy casualties.  The Germans attacked again at close range, this time inflicting heavier casualties, and the Poles retreated, followed up by the victorious Germans.  One Polish platoon counterattacked, inflicting light casualties on the Germans and halting their chase.

Back to the north of the Rhine 2nd Bn commenced mortar fire on the KOSBs. Light casualties were inflicted.  The KOSB mortars replied, and the Germans lost about one third of their number.

The Germans’ answer was to advance to closer range and use the rifle platoons against the KOSBs.  One British company fell back with light casualties and another took several hits.

South of the river the 3rd Bn kept up the pressure on the Poles, effectively wiping out two of the three companies defending the bridge.

\With the situation south of the river getting desperate the KOSBs pressed on with their objective.  The mortars fired again causing very heavy casualties on the enemy and opening up the possibility of breaking through.

In the Polish sector the Germans attacked again and drove the remaining Polish paras away from the bridge, taking control of the railway line.

The KOSBs pushed eastwards and fired at the defending Germans with minimal result.

The Poles charged the Germans on the railway line and retook the south end of the bridge.

The Germans now launched an all-out assault, wiping out the last of the Polish defenders and driving the KOSBs back.  The KOSBs began to dig in where they stood.

In the final act the Germans moved their last remaining company south of the river onto the railway bridge, achieving their objective.

Summary

A battle which the British initiated, with the idea of pushing forwards north of the Rhine, but which was ultimately lost to the south of the river.  Each player started with a wide range of options from the command cards (10 and 9 respectively), but the Germans managed to play aggressively on the south flank, forcing the Allied player to respond to his moves.  When the allied player had a chance, his cards were used well to break down the enemy force, but that, in this battle, did not score him any points.  It may help for the future, but we shall see…

Eventually both sides were reduced to only 4 command cards.

Casualties:

Allies 18/30 = 60%

Germans 16/28 = 57%

Not good news for the newspapers on either side!

Market Garden: Campaign rules

I have been asked several times by gamers within and without this e-mail campaign game to publish my rules.  The truth is that, like so many games, the rules evolve as the game progresses.

But I think I have reached a point where the rules are fairly stable, and so I am now prepared to share them.  This is a draft, un-proofread document, and I am sure that my grammar school English teacher of 50 years ago, Mr. Tilney-Bassett, would pick many holes in my presentation.  However, here they are in PDF format

I reserve the right as umpire to change, alter, amend or otherwise muck about with the rules as I think fit.  They are in fact merely guidelines to aid me in conducting the campaign.

Make whatever use of them that you will, remembering always that my main inspiration was SPI publications “Arnhem” game for the map and order of battle, and that they should be credited in any commercial publication.

Rules for the conduct of the Market Garden Campaign

Any comments, suggestions or criticisms are welcomed as part of the development process.

Brexit and my holiday???

I don’t normally indulge in politics in my posts, but this is beginning to get personal.

I have booked a camping space on a site near Oosterbeek, Netherlands from 17th to 25th September 2019.  Those who follow this blog will understand why.  I have also booked my ferry from this small island to the mainland of Europe.

With all the current shenanigans I have no idea if my passport, car insurance or travel insurance will be valid after 29th March.

Let me be clear.  I voted to join the European Economic Community in the 1970s.  I thought it was a good idea.  In my working life and my re-enactment hobby I have found many friends in Europe.

I was never given any say in the subsequent creation of a pseudo “United States of Europe.”  In the 2016 referendum I voted to leave the EU, because in my opinion we were beginning to lose our national identity and our parliament’s ability to govern Britain independently.  (I little understood that, thanks to the aftermath of the referendum and a subsequent ill-conceived General Election, our Prime Minister would be rendered incapable of governing anything more than a large house in Downing Street, Westminster.) 

I understood at the time of the referendum that the intention was to actually leave the European Union, not to piss about for a couple of years and then have another think about it.  I admit that neither side gave a full appreciation of what would be involved before we were asked to vote, but I never thought that the famously quoted “£350m to the NHS” bus slogan meant what it was interpreted by the uneducated masses to mean.  The wording was very clever, and never actually promised £350m to the NHS.  If in doubt, check what it actually says.

Enough petty politicking.  All I really need to know is:  After March 29th 2019 will my current British/EU passport still be valid, or do I need to apply for a new one?  If so, how long will it take?  The British passport office appears to have no useful information yet…

Three wargames and some real life

Following my recent post “Rethinking my priorities” I have moved the campaign on.
The battle for the Arnhem railway bridge has been fought and the allies now hold this crossing over the Rhine.
I have another game currently in play for this campaign using Memoir ’44 board and rules, but instead of their models I use my own gaming tokens based on German tactical map signs (see photo’ below).
Each token represents one platoon or equivalent.

Oploo 4

In this game a German Panzer regiment and a supporting Panzer Grenadier regiment have encountered two battalions of British infantry. They have been fighting for two game hours so far.

On other gaming fronts I have been preparing the battlefield for the long awaited 4th September 1939 battle in my project to refight the whole of World War Two before I die! The troops have been ready for months.

I have also been gathering the models for the first naval encounter of World War Two, the sinking of three commercial vessels by German submarines on 7th September 1939. Although the attacks did not happen in the same area, my game will involve an escorted convoy against three submarines operating independently. British must cross the table with as many ships as possible surviving. German submarines are vying with each other for the maximum ships sunk.

Annoyingly I have lost the box of unpainted “sinking ship” models  that I printed a couple of months ago.   The only one I can find is the half-painted version (now complete) in the centre of the picture below.

IMG_1215

I know that if I reprint them they will turn up, so meanwhile the printer is in use to produce dummy submerged submarines for the confusion of friend and foe alike.

My idea for submerged submarines is that when a sub dives it is replaced with a number of transparent models according to the roll of one average die. One of these is marked underneath as the real submarine. They each go their separate ways and until they come into action neither side is allowed to look beneath the model.
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I have been struggling with a computer program “Rule the Rail” which is used to design virtual model railway layouts. I found the game in a discount store many years ago and have since upgraded it by downloading extra models and functions provided by other users more clever than me to make it more British and 1950s focussed – my old trainspotting days.

rtr_120011
Last week the program suddenly started refusing to save files, although I have successfully run it on Windows 10 for a year or more. I can only guess that Microsoft have updated something to the detriment of my enjoyment. The developers last tested the system with Windows XP, so any fixes are now handled by the fan-base community. I have asked them for help.

My latest, half finished, project is based on a layout found in “Railway Modeller” of the local station where I used to do my trainspotting as a lad in the late ’50s and early ’60s. The actual model is well researched, but the creator admits that it was pure accident that the school-children on the platform are wearing the correct uniform for my old school (Poole Grammar). I want to finish the project, but if I cannot save any changes I am, as they say, “stuffed”.

Incidentally, the developers recently launched a kickstarter to develop this program for the latest PC, Mac and Android operating systems, but it failed with only half a dozen backers. A shame, since there is clearly a large community of users who could have helped.
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On a personal note, I have recently undergone a “triple A” investigation for possible aneurism, which showed that I have no problems in that department.  Next Thursday I have my PSA blood test to confirm that all is still well after my cancer operation in November 2017.  Isn’t it amazing how concerned the NHS gets about you when you  are over 60, when so many of the issues could have been solved by better advice when you were 20?

Arnhem Rail Bridge part 2

18th September 1944, 12:00

Situation:  3rd Polish Parachute Battalion (3 PP) and 7th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers (7KOSB) had joined forces across the rail bridge west of Arnhem.  Two companies of 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Division (3/9SS) were still holding out in bunkers at each end of the bridge.  A flight of German fighters was threatening the allied troops.

General Urquhart sent his congratulations and ordered that the remaining enemy troops in the bunkers be eliminated.

Forces.  7KOSB.  3 companies, 10 platoons.  3PP. 4 companies, 14 platoons, including 2 mortars and 1 HQ.  3/9SS. 2 companies, 7 platoons.

Turn 1. 12:00

7KOSBs – Move Out (4 infantry units)  The three companies moved to positions to close assault the northern pill box.  A. 2 infantry. 2 hits  B. 1 infantry, 1 star. 1 hit. Unit eliminated and pill box captured.

3/9SS – Behind Enemy Lines.  Fighters left the table with no appropriate command card.  The company in the south bunker made a break-out.  Moved 1hex,  attacked a Polish rifle company in a defended position. 1 flag, so Poles retreat.  Moved 3 +1 for the road and exited the board, so a successful break-out was acheived.

Casualties.  Germans: 2 of 14=14%.  Allies: none.

Arnhem Rail Bridge18/09/1944

Despite spending over a month preparing my terrain and 6mm specialist infantry bases for this game, bad weather forced me to play it indoors as a board game.

Five companies of SS Panzer Grenadiers were defending the rail bridge.

They were attacked simultaneously by four companies of Polish parachute infantry from the south and three companies of British glider infantry from the north.

E2B91F29-100F-4EB9-A916-0762CEF56491

The Poles (at the bottom of the picture) were represented by Russian tokens and the British (at top right) by US tokens.

Because of the peculiar nature of this game, and with the Anglo-Polish side suffering communication difficulties and a potential language barrier I played this game with three independent sides.  Each nationality received one command card for each company.  All troops were rated as elite (Special Forces rules apply.)

Both the Germans and Poles were cut off from their supply base, so a reduction of 1 die was applied for any distant shooting.  The Poles had the benefit of two mortar platoons.  I ruled that if a grenade (1/6 chance) was rolled when attacking a bridge hex with HE, then a second roll of a grenade would damage the section.

The battle would end when either side scored 3 Victory Points for destruction of enemy unts.

Order of play was British, Germans, Poles.

Turn 1. 11:00

British.  Assault left flank (all 3 companies)

The 3 rifle companies manoeuvred to a position from whence they could all fire at the German company defending the end of the bridge at 2 hexes (500m) range.

2 dice per company.  A. 2 tanks rolled, no hits.  B. 2 flags rolled = 2 retreats. Enemy fell back onto the bridge.  The retreat was then blocked by friendly troops, so one platoon was lost. C. (Reduced to 1 die tue to increased range). Grenade = 1 hit.

Germans. Assault Centre (all 5 companies).

The company at the south end of the bridge fired at the advancing Poles at 2 hexes range.  2 dice -1 for short supply. Grenade = 1 hit.   The company in the bunker were unable to shoot at the enemy at 3 hexes range due to the need to conserve ammunition.  At the north end of the bridge the company that had been driven back moved forward again and fired at the enemy infantry on the river bank.  1 die. Grenade = 1 hit.  The company on the centre of the bridge moved to the north end and shot at the same enemy company.  1 die.  Tank was a miss.

Poles. Probe Center. (2 units).  HQ increased this to 3 units. The Two flanking rifle companies moved forwards through the polder.  Three companies fired at the German company in the open at the south end of the bridge.  A. At 3 hexes, no firing, conserving ammunition.  B. At 2 hexes, 1 die due to ammo restrictions. Tank was no hits.  C. At 2 hexes, Star was no hits.

Turn 2, 11:10

British. General Advance. (2 in each sector, all 3 companies included).  A. Shooting at 2 hexes. 2 dice, Infantry, Tank = 1 hit.  B. Shooting at 2 hexes. Infantry, Tank = 1 hit.  German unit eliminated. 1 VP.  C. Shooting at 3 hexes, Infantry = 1 hit.

Germans.  Recon Center. 1 unit +2 on the move.  Company at south end of bridge shoots at nearest Poles at 2 hexes, 1 die. Star is a miss.

Poles. Dig In. All 4 units improved their defensive positions.

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Turn 3. 11:20

British. Probe Center ( 2 units).   Two companies fired at enemy in the open at 2 hexes.  A. 1 grenade, 1 flag.  1 hit, 1 retreat.  B. 1 grenade. 1 hit.

German. Air Sortie played with Left Flank.  One fighter arrived on the left flank. Air check rolled tank, so the aircraft was OK.

Poles. Recon Center.  The centre company  fired at the enemy unit in the open defending the bridge.  At 2 hexes, 1 die. Grenade was a hit.

Turn 4. 11:30

British. Probe left flank.  One company made a close assault on the German bunker at the north of the bridge.  A second company advanced to the north of the bridge and fires at the company on the bridge.  A. Close assault vs bunker. 2 dice. grenade, star. 1 hit.  B. Shooting vs infantry in open at 3 hexes.  1 die. star was a miss.

German. Probe Left Flank used for Luftwaffe support.  Moved 4 hexes east.  No target available.

Poles. Assault Centre.  3 companies advanced to contact. Close assault, left company.  2 dice, 1 hit.  Centre company. 2 dice, 1 hit, 1 retreat. Germans fell back onto bridge, Poles took ground.  Right company. Vs bunker 1 die. No effect.

Turn 4. 11:40

British. Firefight. 4 units not adjacent, +1 die.  Centre Company at 3 hexes vs bunker was 1 die. Tank was no hits.  Left company at 3 hexes is 2 dice. Flag, star was 1 retreat, but retreat was blocked.  1 platoon lost, unit eliminated.

German.  Direct from HQ. Ordered all 3 infantry and 1 LW unit.  LW. Air check OK.  Strafing missed.  Unit in N Bunker.  2 dice at 1 hex.  1 hit.  S. End of bridge. 2 dice at 1 hex. 1 hit.  Bunker at S. end. 2 dice ar 1 hex. 1 retreat.

Poles. Recon in force.  1 unit each section, increased to 2 units center for HQ.   Left company. 1 die. 1 hit.  Centre company. 2 dice, 1 hit.  Unit eliminated.  Poles took the bridge.

img_1236

Losses:  British.  2 of 12 = 17%  Poles. 2 of 16 = 13%  Germans. 13 of 20 = 65%

But the Germans still hold pill boxes in company strength at both ends of bridge, even if the allies hold the bridge itself.  We shall see what progresss…

Rethinking my priorities

For some time now I have been running a WW2 play-by-email campaign with five “generals”. The original idea was to give them a strategic game which would provide me with some interesting tabletop solo wargames.

However, I have become too bogged down in getting the visual depiction correct and this has slowed down the execution of the big game.

And so, in the recent spate of bad weather which banned me from both the gaming and painting sheds I had a re-think.

The campaign will now progress somewhat faster and individual engagements will probably be fought as board games or simple tabletop wargames without the frills.

I have already played as a board game the expected table-top game that took more than a month to set up, of which more later…