D-Day and Beyond, Part 4

6th June 1944

Report from Capt. Copley, 2 I/c A Company.

It appears that the Major was correct to worry about the German guns.
Although our bombing and naval gunfire had pretty much wrecked the shoreline defences, we ran into several minefields behind the beach area and the Jerrys sent forward three SP anti-tank guns. We managed to knock all three out but not before they had accounted for all 6 of the Yeomanry’s Churchills.

We landed at 07:30 and by 09:00 most of the remains of the company was still pinned down near the shore line and in the ruined houses on the left flank.
Some of our chaps never got ashore until later because the beach was too congested to move.
We did not get the Vickers platoon or the 3” mortars ashore.

Two rifle squads succeeded in punching through on the left flank and took the high ground, capturing one German howitzer and killing both the crew and the OP team, but the road junction objective is still in enemy hands.

We are now digging in within 100 yards of the shoreline against enemy counter-attack and hoping for reinforcements. We have a forward post at Point 621 at our front centre.

Casualty report:
Major Read (Company C.O.), C.S.M Gane,
Lieut. Flitcroft, 1 Platoon
Lieut. Davies, 2 Platoon
Lieut. Cork, 4 Platoon
55 NCOs and Other Ranks.

Fit for duty.
Captain Copley, Lieutenant Smythe, 100 NCOs and ORs.
Equipment Return.
4 PIATs, 4 x 2” Mortar, 6 Bren guns, Rifles and other small arms.

In addition 6 Churchill tanks from the Yeomanry destroyed.

Capt. Copley, Officer Commanding A Company.

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…

Battle of Cape Matapan: phase 1

Following on from yesterday’s “convoy” battle, another long-outstanding battle which turned up in my “to do” tray.  This was the battle of Cape Matapan, which I was intending to fight as a full scale game, but may be better fought as separate actions.

Whatever the final decision is, today I played the first action: the engagement off the island of Gavdos.

The account of the original action, taken from Wikipedia, reads thus (edited to remove hyperlinks):

“Action off Gavdos

On 28 March, an aircraft launched by Vittorio Veneto spotted the British cruiser squadron at 06:35. At 07:55, the Trento group encountered Admiral Pridham-Wippell’s cruiser group south of the Greek island of Gavdos The British squadron was heading to the south-east. Thinking they were attempting to run from their larger ships, the Italians gave chase, opening fire at 08:12 from 24,000 yards (22,000 m). The three heavy cruisers fired repeatedly until 08:55, with Trieste firing 132 armour piercing rounds, Trento firing 204 armour-piercing and 10 explosive shells and Bolzano firing another 189 armour piercing shells, but the Italians experienced trouble with their range finding equipment and scored no significant hits. HMS Gloucester fired three salvos in return. These fell short but did cause the Italians to make a course change.

As the distance had not been reduced after an hour of pursuit, the Italian cruisers broke off the chase, turning to the north-west on a course to rejoin Vittorio Veneto. The Allied ships changed course in turn, following the Italian cruisers at extreme range. Iachino let them come on in hopes of luring the British cruisers into the range of Vittorio Venetos guns.”

And with that in mind, how did the wargame progress?

At 08:00 the Italian squadron came within range of the British squadron, both heading to the south-east.  The Italian cruiser Trento opened fire at long range (10 hexagons), scoring one hit on HMS Orion.  Orion returned fire with her stern guns.  The range was good and four hits were registered, giving the Trento one point of damage.  The Trento fired again with her forward guns and damaged the Orion.  Trento’s secondary guns also fired but to no effect.

Matapan03

The British squadron, aware that they could not outrun the faster Italian ships, turned to fight, planning to bring their broadsides to bear on the enemy.  Anticipating this manoeuvre the Italians turned to starboard and crossed the British front line.

Matapan04

From this position the Italian ships were able to fire broadsides at the British, who had turned to inflict this upon the Italians.

HMS Gloucester fired her forward guns on the Trento, scoring 4 hits with the main guns for 1 point of damage, and a further hit with the secondary guns.  HMAS Perth added her fire with 5 hits and a further damage point.  Trento, with 2 damage points against a hull value of 3, was now “crippled”.  This means -1 to armour, vital armour and speed.

HMS Ajax fired a long range broadside at the Bolzano, scoring 3 hits but no damage.  HMS Orion also fired at the Bolzano, but failed to register any hits.

The Italians returned fire.  The Trento fired a devastating broadside at the HMS Gloucester with 11 hits from her main guns and a further 3 from her secondary armament.  The Gloucester began to sink.

Matapan06

The Bolzano fired at HMS Ajax and scored 4 hits, inflicting 1 damage point. Trieste fired at HMS Orion with her forward guns.  2 hits were registered.

The head of the Italian squadron now turned to the south-east after crossing the British front.  On the British side, HMS Ajax made an emergency turn to starboard to avoid the sinking Gloucester, followed by HMAS Perth.  HMS Orion continued to the south-west to cross the new enemy front.  The destroyer HMS Ilex passed directly in front of the Italian destroyer Ascari, risking being rammed.

The Bolzano fired her main and secondary guns at HMAS Perth, inflicting two points of damage and a crippling effect.  The Trento fired at the destroyer Ilex and sank her before she could inflict any damage on the Ascari.

HMS Ajax fired at the Trieste and inflicted 1 damage point.  HMAS Perth and HMS Orion both fired at the Bolzano, scoring 3 and 2 hits respectively but no serious damage.  The destroyer HMS Hereward scored a hit on the Trento, but again no serious damage.

Matapan07

Note: Although it looks like these ships are at very close quarters, the actual model at 1:1800 scale represents its “sea room” required for operation.  A cruiser occupying two hexagons is actually using an area of about 400 x 200 yards and the opposing ships are about half a mile apart.

By 08:25 the battle had broken down into individual engagements with each ship operating to its best advantage.

The Ascari, with no room to manoeuvre, struck the sinking HMS Ilex and took severe damage to her bow.  She too began to sink.  HMS Orion fired at the destroyer Corraziere, inflicting one damage point.   HMS Hereward damaged the destroyer Carabiniere.

HMS Hasty launched torpedoes against the Bolzano, but they failed to strike home.

HMAS Perth scored five more hits on the Trieste, crippling her.  HMS Ajax destroyed the destroyer Carabiniere with an overwhelming barrage, scoring 9 direct hits.

At 08:30 the Corraziere attacked HMAS Perth but with no significant damage.  The Trento sank HMS Hasty.  Trieste fired a broadside at HMAS Perth, scoring five more crucial hits and crippling her.  The Bolzano joined in and with 11 more hits sank the Australian cruiser.

Matapan08

In the next five minutes the Italians completed their destruction of the British squadron.  The Bolzano hit the Orion six more times, and the Trieste added five more hits to the stricken cruiser.  The destroyer Corraziere sank HMS Hereward and the Trento scored eight telling hits on HMAS Perth.  Three British ships began to sink and the battle was over.

A decisive victory for the Italian navy.   From the British squadron of four cruisers and three destroyers all had been sunk except the cruiser HMS Orion, which was severely damaged but able to escape.  The Italians had two cruisers and one destroyer severely damaged by enemy fire,  one destroyer sunk and a second destroyer sunk after a collision.

The turning point in the battle was literally just that.  The British squadron turned to attack but the Italians seized the initiative and crossed their line in Nelsonian fashion, and were thus able to bring all their guns to bear at short range.

Rules: tweaks and clarifications

Each salvo is to be adjudicated independently.  If a ship is firing both main and secondary (or even tertiary) guns, the damage effect is registered for each set of guns independently.  Likewise, if two ships attack one, the damage from each is registered separately, not cumulatively.

No ship may fire guns and launch torpedoes in the same turn, because the effect of firing would disrupt the balance of the ship and thus the aim of the torpedoes.

Depth charges may only be used if no other weapons are in use, it being deemed that if main guns or AA guns are in use there are higher priorities on the surface or in the air!

 

 

 

 

Atlantic Convoy

A test game using my Axis & Allies* naval, adapted for hexagons, rules.

It’s a lovely day, so I decided to play a short wargame in the garden.  I have three lightweight trestle tables, each 60 x 100cm and 95cm tall, so I took them from the Shedquarters and set them up on the patio area. I covered them with my somewhat bright blue hexagon cloth, clipped it to the table edges and set to.

Situation.  A convoy of merchant ships, escorted by two British destroyers, is approaching a screen of German submarines in the North Atlantic.

The submarines submerged.  Each is replaced by one real submerged token and 1d6/2 dummies (rounding down).  They all look the same, but the real subs are marked with a number on the bottom and the dummies with a small ‘x’.

Both destroyers have the “Sub Hunter” special rule, so after each German turn, they turn and move 3 hexagons towards the nearest German submarine.  This turn is deducted from their next maximum move.  I decided to change the operation of this rule, see below.

The two destroyers went after the nearest contacts and the convoy was ordered to make best speed, so some of the larger ships increased to maximum speed of 4 hexagons. (around 22 knots)

The entire convoy of 16 merchant ships was now spread over a length of 15 hexagons, or around 3000 yards.

Two submarines closed on HMS Hasty.  One was a dummy, and after declaring its attack was removed from the table.  The other fired a torpedo at the destroyer’s port bow at 1 hex (around 200 yards) range.

Two dice were rolled: 5 and 2.  One hit was scored for the 5.  (4 and 5 score 1 hit, 6 scores 2 hits).  One point of hull damage was caused, and with only one hull point remaining the ship was marked as “crippled”, losing one point from armour, vital armour and speed.

Hasty swung to port and depth-charged the sub, with five dice scoring 6,6,5,4,3 for six hits.  With hull points of 1 and vital armour of 5 the submarine sank immediately.  I decided to adjust the depth charge rule as well (see below).

HMS Herward also depth-charged and sank a submarine with two hits.

Meanwhile Penguin and Countryman, two of the faster ships, both swung to starboard to avoid the destroyers operating in their paths.

The other ships ploughed on at about 12 knots.  One of the cargo ships on the edge of the convoy was struck and began to sink immediately.

The destroyers chased another two targets, both of which turned out to be false contacts.

Three more submarines lined up to attack the convoy but two, on declaring their attack, were revealed as dummies.  The third failed to hit the Atlantic, a large tanker.

Hereward depth-charged another dummy U-boat.  With several wrecks in the process of sinking, ships were now having to take avoiding action to avoid collisions.

Another cargo ship was struck by a torpedo near the centre of the convoy.  She continued, crippled.  Hereward steamed for the location and sank the last of the German submarines.  The convoy proceeded towards Liverpool.

Losses.  One cargo ship lost and one crippled.  HMS Hasty crippled.  Three U-boats sunk.  A good day for the Royal Navy.

Rule changes to be applied.

Depth charges.  Rather than rolling 5 dice for hits on any submarine adjacent to the rear half of the destroyer, I will apply the same system of splitting the dice as I do for gunnery.   Thus the depth charges are thrown in a pattern into the three adjacent hexagons to starboard rear, starboard port and directly astern.  Up to 1/3 of the dice available, rounding up, may be used for each hex, provided that the total number is not exceeded.  

Targeting 5 dice at 1 hex is overkill, because it only needs 1 hit to sink most submarines.  With 1 die there is a 50% chance, with 2 dice a 75% chance and with 5 dice almost 97% chance of rolling 4,5 or 6 on at least one of them.  

Sub Hunter.  Rather than arbitrarily moving the ship at the end of the enemy move, I decided that a destroyer with this special rule must at the start of its turn roll a die and immediately head for the nearest enemy submarine within 1D6 hexagons, notwithstanding any search pattern she is working to.

Summary

All in all a fun little test game, and I think with the rule tweaks the submarines might have a better chance of surviving more than one destroyer sweep.

* “Axis and Allies” and “War at Sea” are copyright to Wizards of the Coast, and the use of their original rule concepts is acknowledged.

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%