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.

Unintended Consequences part 2. The best laid plans…

South-east of Nijmegen

18th September 1944 13:30

Played to Memoir ‘44 rules, with local scenario special rules.

In this report I will elaborate the game mechanisms, followed by a creditable narrative of the battle action. Extract from it what you will…

Situation

406 Landesshützen Regiment, now reduced to three companies, is facing an estimated two companies of US parachute infantry holding a crossroads near their observed supply drop zone.

With no definite orders from Corps HQ, I rolled a die for the local commander’s decision. A 6 showed that, with odds of 3:2 in his favour, he would order an attack.

Unfortunately for the Germans, when I rolled for the detailed force make-up, one of their company units was no more than a battalion HQ, which can be useful if there are a lot of units under command, but possibly not so useful in this case. The rest of the force was made up of six rifle platoons, one mortar platoon and one platoon armed with Panzerfausts.

The second potential problem was that there turned out to be three American companies rather than the expected two; two with mortar platoons and all elite forces. I use the US Marines “Gung-Ho!” rules for US parachute infantry, which is effectively about the same as giving them a free HQ unit, allowing one more unit to be activated than the number allowed on the command card.

The picture above is looking from the south (US) side. Rough heathland to the left, flooded polder to the right with a farm near the crossroads.

The Germans, with 9 platoons, start with 3 command cards. The Americans, with 12 platoons, start with 4 command cards.

Victory points. Side with the lowest units, with number of units divided by two, rounding down. Both sides have 3 units, so 1 VP ends the battle.

Both sides win 1 VP for eliminating an enemy unit. The Germans will win 1VP by exiting the field at the crossroads.

13:30

The German player, with orders to attack, must make at least one aggressive move. But with no useable cards, he must surrender one card from his hand and take another. The initiative is lost.

The American player has only one playable card: Recon with 1 unit. “Gung-Ho!” rule increases this to 2 units.

The left flank company advanced half-left and opened fire on the enemy, supported by the mortars of the 2nd company. 1 hit and 1 retreat.

Narrative

Observing the strength of the enemy, the attack stalled.

The Americans initially opened fire with mortars, then advanced a rifle company on the left flank which drove the Germans back with light casualties.

13:40

The German player was still not able to use any of the cards in his hand. Nor was the US player.

13:50

Still no useful cards for either player.

Narrative

After the initial engagement there was a lull for 20 minutes before…

14:00

The German player still had no playable cards.

The US player used “Direct from HQ”, allowing orders to any four units.

I use this in the campaign to include off-table reinforcements within one map square, so the four companies of 3rd Bn 508th PIR arrived on the left flank.

This brought the US strength up to 25 units, and thus 8 command cards, so 4 more were drawn from the pack.

Narrative

At around 14:00 US reinforcements arrived from the south-west in the form of 3rd Bn 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment: HQ, 10 Rifle platoons and 2 mortar platoons.

14:10

Finally the Germans had a useable card. Attack Center. The right flank company advanced to fire on the US left flank company, supported by the mortars of the other company. 1 hit and 1 retreat.

The US played Attack Center. 3 units. The mortar platoon attacked the enemy to the left with 1 hit. The two rifle companies advanced and fired. 2 hits and 2 hit respectively. One German company eliminated. 1 VP. End of game.

Narrative.

The Americans advanced both rifle companies, supported by mortar fire. One of the enemy companies broke and ran. The remainder began to fall back.

Result. US victory.

Casualties.

2/508 PIR. 1/12 = 8%

406 LS Rgt. 5/9 = 56%

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.

Wargaming progress: March 2019

The story so far…

As usual I have too many wargaming balls in the air at one time.
I am working through my in-tray, but now have adopted the system that if a game is on the table then other projects will have to be recycled through the pile of paper, unless they are research, reading, rules development, etc. that can be done without disturbing the current game.

Each project gets an hour to progress before the next one is examined.  That way I do not get stale.  So, in the last two weeks I have:

1. Printed, painted and played with some WW2 naval models, to playtest my rules for use of submarines with my hex-based adaptation of Axis & Allies War at Sea. The trial game has already been reported here.

2. Received some new Kallistra half-hex tiles to square off the edges of my terrain. This makes a world of difference to the visual aspect. Unfortunately part of my order was incorrect, receiving unflocked rather than flocked tiles. Sally at Kallistra was very helpful and sent replacements, but this time with the wrong orientation (cut side to side rather than point to point).  Anyway, it’s all sorted out now and Kallistra refunded my return postage.  I am now in the process of creating roads on some of the half-hexes before my 1939 Poland game can progress.
Having discovered that the half-hexes are simply whole hex tiles cut in half I had a go at some half-slopes for where my hills run off the board.  Photographs will follow when the rain stops enough for me to comfortably get to the man-cave.

3. Designed and printed labels to create WW2 tokens for use with both my Memoir ’44 and Advanced Squad Leader boards*.  My idea is that if the terrain is viewed top-down, the troops should be too.  I have tried using various top-down images, but the definition on 13mm square tokens is too low to easily identify troop types for mechanised warfare.  Therefore I have adopted map symbols. As a basis for the images on the labels I am using the German system from 1939/40 for map symbols. I have not been able to find a comprehensive pre-NATO system for the Allies, so the German system is used for them too.

The labels are printed onto Avery A4 sticky label sheets, then stuck onto 13mm gaming tokens of different colours which I obtained from Plastics For Games. Unit labels German for blog

4. Played two engagements of the ongoing Play By E-mail campaign of Market Garden and started a third one, using the tokens described above and Memoir ’44 boards and rules.

5. Started research for a (probably) solo campaign for Operation Lion – the possible German invasion of Britain in July 1940 (before the “Battle of Britain”).  I am re-reading Kenneth Macksey’s book: “Invasion” and have ordered an old copy of the GMT game “Britain Stands Alone” from the USA, for orders of battle if nothing else.  I have yet to decide whether to use the board game as a basis for air, naval and land battles (solo or with an opponent), or whether to use the ASL boards for a rolling terrain campaign for maybe one German regiment to follow its fortunes – or both!!!

(I refer my honourable friends to the comment in the second line of this post.)

Oploo 4

* I was always too lazy and short of time to learn how to play Advanced Squad Leader properly, but have found a myriad of uses for the hex-boards, of which I now have several dozen and am always on the look out for more.

image

They are particularly useful for “rolling terrain” type games or campaigns involving exploration into unknown country. My latest idea is to create a template to place over ASL boards to create a board for Commands & Colors and its various derivatives, or for transfer to my Kallistra terrain for 6mm games.

Where did February go?

Since my last wargame posting I have finished the game that was in progress as part of the Market Garden campaign.
By the parameters of the game the British won, with two thirds of the 7th Hampshire’s moving off the board to the north. However, The Germans are holding much of the town of Oploo in strength and the British have a regiment of field artillery ranged in and the remains of the 1st Worcester’s as protection. Reinforcements are arriving, but once again XXX Corps advance was stalled for four hours.

I have also been preparing for the Donald Featherstone Tribute Weekend at the end of March at the Wargames Holiday Centre. We have received the rules (“Will Victoria be Amused?”) and the “General Idea”. This year it’s an expedition up the Nile fighting the Mahdi. The game appears to be very much a rôle playing exercise with all players against a randomised enemy.  Our game provider, Steve Thompson, has gone to incredible lengths with production of model soldiers, boats, buildings, dogs, crocodiles, etc. , not to mention producing a game character sheet and back story for every officer!

I decided that we needed to try out at least the basic rules, so I ordered a load of 20mm plastic figures and gave them a basic undercoat. Unfortunately on the first solo test I ran out of enemy on turn 2! (Half the order of Mahdists had not yet been delivered).
So I quickly took some “top-down” photo’s of what I had available, stuck the results onto vinyl floor tiles to make some units and we set to.
Large warband We found that this is not going to be easy.

Of course, I now have lots of half painted plastic soldiers for a scale and period that I don’t normally game, so they have gone into the painting pile.

One model has been completed, and the umpire has already written extra character rules for the pair of characters:
The Right Honourable Sir Armstrong Whitworth C’nardley-Stannde with his servant/gamekeeper and now batman, Gordon Bennett.
Sir Armstrong Whitworth CNardley_Standde
These were created from a mix of body parts found on eBay. I needed riding legs and a bewhiskered face resembling my own, and ended up with a pack of two Lancers and a pack of two steampunk adventurers.   With my painting skills, or lack thereof, I used basic block painting followed by a coat of Army Painter dip and then a matt varnish spray.  It has been touched up in detail  since this photo’ was taken.

Apart from that I have achieved very little in the past couple of weeks, apart from some gentle gardening in the ridiculously fine weather we have been enjoying in Britain. So kind of Europe to let us share some of the warmth before we drift off into the fogs of isolation.

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?