D-Day and beyond

INTRODUCTION

Yes, yet another new wargaming project to divert me!

The plan is that this will be a narrative campaign, reported from the point of view of a company commander of an indeterminate British infantry battalion.  The game itself is to be played using “Squad Leader” boards and 13mm square plastic counters, each representing a single rifle squad, MG, tank or gun crew, etc.

The campaign management rules are nicked from “Blitzkrieg Commander”.  The tactical rules are adapted from “Memoir 44”, with forces semi-randomised from “Flames of War” orders of battle, and the ground scale normally used for “Squad Leader” has been halved so that it fits better with both the unit size and the game board graphics, so that 1 hexagon represents 20 yards/metres (10% either way is immaterial). 

All in all, a total mish-mash plagiarised from other peoples’ bright ideas.

As for a time frame, I guess that each turn will represent about 10 minutes, but this is subject to verification as the game progresses.

3rd June 1944.

This morning the officers were briefed for the forthcoming operation, codenamed “Overlord”.  Captain Copley, my 2i/c, and I were shown the aerial photographs of our planned landing area with our objectives.

Our company assault area contains several large scattered sea-front houses, which we could assume were defended and possibly fortified.  The central sector is defended by a concrete sea wall.  A road runs east-west close to the beach, deviating inland at the centre-right to skirt an area of woodland.

Back from the beach are two ridges of steep hills. The only visible major enemy positions are two batteries of howitzers deployed behind the forward ridge.

From the centre of our landing area a road runs from the beach itself inland, winding through a gap in the ridge.  Seizing this road is our primary objective as it will allow reinforcements and supplies to be quickly moved up from the beach.  With the assistance of the tanks and the mortar platoon we have also been tasked with neutralising such of the enemy guns as have not been knocked out by air and naval attack prior to our landing.

In addition to my company, I have the support of one extra platoon from B Company, together with a vickers MG platoon, a 3” mortar platoon and two troops of Churchill tanks.  There are few good landing places for the tanks; a couple of 40 yard gaps on the far right flank, a single point where the road runs down to the beach in the centre and one single 60 yard gap on the left flank.

The MG and mortar platoons will not be able to support us until we have captured the initial beachhead.

The plan has been made.  One troop of tanks will be landed on the right flank where the road is close to the beach (at map 8 Y1-AA1) and make for the road junction (at map2 U7). The second troop will land at (map8 Q2) the point in the centre from which the road runs inland.

One infantry platoon will land either side of this central point, taking cover from the sea wall while attempting to neutralise enemy defences.  The third  platoon will land on the left flank (8E3-8K6)

The platoon from B Coy will land on the right of the tanks on the right flank (8CC2-8FF2).

As soon as the sea front beachhead has been captured the mortar platoon will land at the centre and attack the enemy guns.

The MG platoon will land later and set up in positions to defend the existing perimeter.

Transport will only be landed once the beachhead is secure.

Tomorrow we will embark and then brief the platoon commanders.

My biggest worry is that the RAF and the Navy will not suppress those enemy gun batteries before we land.

To be continued…

“Bathtubbing’ in reverse

Many wargamers are familiar with the term “bathtubbing”, which means taking a historical battle and reducing it to a scale compatible with their own gaming area.

Thus, for example, a game of the battle of Waterloo reduced to a 6ft x 4ft table (180cm x 100cm) might reduce each brigade, or even a division, to a battalion in wargame representation.

This tends to be more common in 20th century warfare, maybe reducing every real formation to the next lower, so that a division becomes a brigade/regiment, a brigade/regiment becomes a battalion, a battalion becomes a company and a company becomes a platoon.

I am trying a new method.  Let us call it “Swimming Pool Method”  (SPM).  My idea is to use Squad Leader boards and 13mm counters to reproduce battles in many eras.  I have already successfully fought a Napoleonic game.

But my current project is to use the Squad Leader boards for a rolling campaign, beginning on 6th June 1944 (2019).  I have “Swimming Pooled” the boards from the designer’s 40m per hex to a, more realistic for the artwork,  20m per hex.

At the same time I have delved deeper into the unit ratio so that in my game an infantry base is, rather than a platoon or squad, a half-section, for the infantry either a light MG team or a rifle team.  (In my Napoleonic version a base occupying the same area would be a company of 60 men in 2 or 3 ranks!)

My initial game will involve a reinforced British infantry company assaulting the coast of Normandy on 6th June 1944.  The infantry company has:

2 bases for the company HQ

3 Platoons of:

         Command base

          PIAT team,

          2” Mortar team,

          3 x Bren team,

          3 x Rifle team.

German defenders are similarly organised, but according to national standards:

     HQ: 2 command bases

         3 platoons, reach of:

            Platoon HQ

            Panzerfaust team,

            3 x MG42 LMG team

            3 x Rifle team.

Reinforcements may include tanks, mortars, artillery or many other options.

Each tank, armoured car, artillery piece, etc.  is individually represented.

Although I would have liked to use ‘top-down’ illustrations to fit with the map/game-board style, I found that those available for download would not reduce satisfactorily to a 13mm x 13mm print.  Therefore I went back to the military mapping symbols of the time, but once again using the Swimming Pool Method I have adopted platoon symbols for sections or sub-sections.

Thus the symbol for a company HQ will represent a Platoon HQ.  An LMG platoon symbol may represent a single Bren gun squad. Some bases are reversible to show the “mounted” or “deployed” status, particularly for HQ or artillery units.

We shall see how it actually works on 6th June…

A restricted game planner

I have been “unavailable” of late, due mainly to the Memsahib occupying the home office.  It is a public holiday weekend, therefore she has been working on her normal office work for around two thirds of every day (“because I can do it here uninterrupted”).

Therefore I have been excluded from the home office with my main computer and relegated to functions available on my i-Pad or my old Windows 7 Notepad, which is painfully slow (it was the latest technology when I bought it at Currys duty-free at Heathrow)

However, I have this afternoon been allowed an hour to update my Market Garden campaign by a further 30 minutes and send reports to two of my PBEM “Generals”.  We are just approaching 15:30 on 18th September (day 2 of the operation), although some individual combats have progressed as far as 19:00.

It is not easy to keep track of where every unit is on the main map, particularly when a local engagement is played that continues beyond the current campaign time frame.

I think I may have one more engagement to play before everyone settles down for the night and brings in stragglers and recovered casualties.

On other fronts, I have managed some painting, but my 3D printer has packed up and a new “more precise” print head is on order.

I have been able to use the old notepad PC to create unit stickers for my 13mm plastic counters for my planned “D-day and beyond” solo game (of which more later).  I have to find my opportunities to print the stickers during the Memsahib’s coffee breaks, and then spend hours attaching them to the blank plastic tokens.

Light Gardening and Light Wargaming

Life has been rather quiet for the past few days.
I have not felt particularly able to do much, but I have been keeping the garden somewhat under control.

Whenever I work in the garden I am reminded of an old “Punch” cartoon dating from about 100 years ago.
Scene: An old man working in his garden. The local vicar looks over the hedge.
Vicar: “Isn’t it amazing what man can achieve with the aid of the Almighty?”
Gardener: “Aye Vicar, but you should’ve seen it when the Almighty ‘ad it to ‘Isself!”

On the wargaming front I have been designing, printing and sticking to blocks more labels for my “Memoir ’44” games.
Yesterday I produced reinforcements for the 1944 US Parachute Infantry and two forces for Poland in 1939.

 


These graphics (produced pixel by pixel using MS Paint) are printed onto A4 sticky labels, then cut out and attached to 13mm square (19mm for aircraft) plastic blocks. They are much easier to handle than cardboard counters and using tactical map signs lends a greater sense of authenticity to the game when playing on what is essentially a map view of the battlefield.

They lack the visual appeal of real painted toys on a modelled terrain, but I do get the games played sooner! Today, for example I played out a campaign scenario involving 13 companies of US Paras assaulting and defeating 2 companies of German Landsers. Not worth a full-blown battlefield set-up, and the whole thing was set up, played, documented and put away within 90 minutes.

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!