On the horns of a multilemma

Before I start, I should explain that a multilemma is a bit like a dilemma, but with more options.


Mythically a Multilemma is a creature with horns that grow in a manner similar to a “monkey-puzzle” tree. Once every 1500 years it migrates to the coast (normally Bournemouth or Torquay) to indulge in a bit of sea-bathing, in the process of which it invariably drowns due to the weight of the horns when soaked in salt water. (yes: I made that up, just like the folks at Games Workshop used to do.)

But for our purposes a multilemma is the situation that I face.
In my campaign I have a company of German PanzerGrenadiers in 1944 facing a company of British Glider Infantry, across a bridge. To the right (from the German viewpoint) of the enemy is another company of PanzerGrenadiers, but to their right is a company of British Parachute infantry. The company commander of the southern unit has (by rolling a 6) decided to attack.

My problem is how to play this engagement:

  1. A simple die roll, taking into account the support companies.
  2. Hex and counter boardgame. Each company is 4 counters. 1 hex = 250m. Rules: Memoir ’44.*
  3. 6mm models on hex terrain (similar to option 2 but wth 3D detail), in which case I will probably need to do some terrain building. Rules: Probably Memoir ’44, and my preferred option.
  4. 20mm. I would need to substitute American soldier models for British. As for rules, I have several possibilities. I would probably have to make some quite a lot of terrain, including a river and a rail bridge. Chain of Command rules?
  5. Counters as Sections/Squads with Squad Leader boards and local rules.
  6. Counters as Sections/Squads with Squad Leader boards and 1970s (not Squad Leader) rules.
  • Option 2 has been the normal recent method of resolving engagements, but can be somewhat boring, particularly with small engagements.

So far, from the above, I have a Sexilemma. Not something that I would wish to meet in a wood on a dark night!
But it is looking to me as if the answer may be D6-based. Before I roll the die( and a D3 or a D6) any suggestions?

Thanks for any input.

As it was in the beginning…

Many moons ago I acquired a copy of the GHQ rule booklet: “Tank Charts”, first published in 1984.

I have never got around to actually playing a game with this horribly complex (but normal for their time) set of rules.

So I thought that it might be an interesting exercise to evaluate the rules using the described encounters from the book “Battle”, by Kenneth Macksey.  The book documents a fictitious combined arms operation in Normandy in the summer of 1944

The first engagement is by a sniper against a machine gun position (described starting on page 37 of the book).

Snipers are not covered by the rule set, so I used the factors for an infantry rifle half-section.

—————-

PFC Cherry (the sniper) reported:

“I consulted my manual to see if I could spot the enemy.  Rule 2.1 states that I have to spot the target before shooting at it.  The MG team was for no apparent reason rated as easy to see as an anti-tank unit.

I consulted my observation table. 

   I had conducted a specific search: +5

   The enemy was concealed: -2

   The enemy was an anti-tank sized unit: -3

   The range was 0-250 yards: +9

5-2-3+9 =9, so I had actually just about seen them (needing 9 or more)

Then I worked out the chances of a successful shot.

I checked my Base Fire Table (Rule 6.2). I rated myself as the equivalent of a five-man rifle unit.  I guess the range was around 200 yards, so my Base Fire Value was 3.  From this I had to subtract 1 because the enemy was “positioned” and 1 because they were in a hedgerow (Rule 6.3).  I checked that my target had been both located and spotted.  Normally I would have only a 1/6 chance of hitting, but because I am American and it was 1944-45, I had a 1/3 chance (Rule 6.4.1).

Having evaluated the chances I pulled the trigger.  A lucky 5 meant that I reduced the enemy strength by 1.     I knew that I would need a second shot to stop them returning fire (Rule 6.4.2).

Because I had just fired they would have a +3 chance of spotting me (Rule 2.2)

This was not looking good.  I needed to skedaddle pronto.”

————

That was the resolution of one wargame figure firing at two wargame figures.  it took just over an hour to read the rules, evaluate the factors, check the results and document it.  The documented action is supposed to have taken 20 seconds!!!

How the devil did we ever finish a game in the 1980s?

Aha! I remember… We never did finish a game in the 1980s.

I will be evaluating further actions in a similar vein..    The next one from the book will be retaliatory mortar fire.  

A D-Day remembrance for all combatants

Last week our radio, TV and podcasts were full of the D-Day 75th anniversary events.  From a British perspective, how many covered the German remembrance?  Almost none, that’s how many.  There was coverage on the BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme, but that’s all that I could find.

We celebrate our heroes and all our veterans.  Most of them were conscript soldiers, just as the enemy were.  Both sides suffered; men on both sides were killed and suffered horrific injuries, both physical and mental.  I find it heartening that men who could not talk to their own generation or their immediate family about the traumatic events can now open up to their grandchildren and to the media, and can find friendships with the men on the other side who endured those days.  As they come to the evening of their lives, I believe that the importance of remembrance of the sacrifice of young men and women is high on their priorities.

And let us not forget in our national commemorations all the other nations involved in D-Day and the Normandy campaign.  For example, there were Poles fighting on both sides in Normandy.  My own late father-in-law was an unwilling Polish conscript in the Wehrmacht for most of the War, and ended up serving with the Polish army in exile in Great Britain.  I only found out most of his story at his funeral.

—————

As an aside It’s odd to think that I have to thank two of the most evil men in history for my wife.  Her father was a Pole escaping Hitler.  Her mother was a Latvian escaping Stalin.  They were both welcomed, or at least accepted, into Britain.

—————-

  

D-Day and beyond. Part 6

Being a narrative story of a continuing wargame.

When I had the idea of this project I thought that I would very quickly fall behind the timeline of 75 years to the day.  I was right!  Even without taking into account the restricted weekend gaming time, I cannot afford to spend the requisite amount of time staring at a game board, making decisions and rolling dice.

Anyway, here is the next part of Captain Copley’s report.

8th June 1944.

This morning we began to receive reinforcements.  First to arrive, around 10:00, was a platoon from C Company.

As they arrived, the remains of A Company launched an attack on the Germans who were trying to cut us off from the beach.

One of Lt. Smythe’s PIAT teams moved up into the woods, stalking the SP gun which gave us some bother yesterday.  They successfully put it out of action. They were accompanied by a rifle squad which attacked enemy infantry on the road.  The enemy ran back into the woods, but then the squad came under rifle fire themselves.  To add to their problems they then suffered artillery fire.  None apparently survived.  The PIAT team was also wiped out in this bombardment.

On the left flank Sgt. MacGregor’s platoon began to move southwest towards the main road, and I moved my HQ southwards to keep in contact with the company’s advance.

The Churchill tank moved cautiously up the road and took position in a defile between two cliffs.

I ordered Sgt. MacGregor to try to get his light mortars to a position from which they could attack the enemy artillery, which was believed to be behind the far hill (point 538 on my map).  He acknowledged the order and I observed his platoon moving over the hill crest towards the southwest.  I continued to move my own HQ up to remain in touch with the company.

I ordered Lt. Smythe to keep moving forward.  For the time being I took command of the newly-arrived platoon from C Company, who advanced along the road.  I also instructed the commander of the Yeomanry’s single Churchill to continue along the road, reporting any sighting of the enemy.  After a few minutes he reported that he had found the enemy’s artillery and destroyed one of the guns.  He was intending to pullback behind the cover of the woods.

Around 10:30 I suffered W/T problems and lost touch with both my own platoon commanders, but urged the reinforcing platoon to  push on up the road.

Next to land was a troop of 25pr guns.  They were a sight for sore eyes!  I suggested to the Troop Commander that he should move to point 621 and deploy behind the crest.  He agreed and advised that the whole regiment (16 guns) would shortly be landing.

I could not raise the Yeomanry tank commander and feared the worst.

I heard shooting to the south and looking around from my vantage point on one of the bluffs I was able to make out a column of enemy infantry moving up the road on our left flank.  They  were already engaged With our infantry on the left.  I immediately called up Sgt. MacGregor, who told me he was already taking action to redeploy his platoon to meet the new threat.

Lt. Smythe reported that he had cleared the immediate threat from the west and was turning to assault the hill to his left flank.

A few minutes later Sgt. MacGregor reported that he was in a spot of bother on the southern flank.   One of his Bren teams had “bottled it”, disturbing the chaps behind them as they ran.  I ordered him to hold as well as he could while I attempted to reinforce his position.  On the right I ordered Lt. Smythe to push on up the hill as he had planned.  I had no response from third platoon commander.

As the first 25pr troop began to set up their positions a second troop arrived, followed by another infantry platoon from C Coy.

Sgt. MacGregor established a defensive line against the enemy infantry arriving from the south.  Lt. Smythe pushed on up the hill, encountering some disorganised infantry in the woods.

The first artillery section took position and their observer moved forwards and established an OP in the woods on the forward slope.

I looked at my watch.  11:00.  Had all of this happened within only one hour?

…to be continued…

 

D-Day and beyond. Part 5

Being the continuing story of a wargame

7th June 1944

Report from Captain Copley.

No reinforcements having been received, except for a few stragglers coming in overnight and one of the Churchills that the Yeomanry managed to recover, I reorganised the company into two platoons. Lieutenant Smythe became my 2 i/c and I put the other platoon in charge of Sgt. MacGregor.

Each of the platoons had the standard three  sections with Brens and rifles, but benefitted from two PIATs and two 2” mortars each.

I deployed Sgt. MacGregor’s platoon on the heights around hill 621 to our front and Lt. Smythe’s on the right flank, mainly in the woods.  The Yeomanry took post between the two platoons, guarding the road with their single tank.

I kept one rifle squad with me at the company HQ in the large building near the beach.

The enemy attacked us at 08:00.  Some ineffective small arms fire was received against our forward positions on the hill, which was returned with interest!

But 10 minutes later heavy artillery began to fall on our forward positions and we lost half a dozen men.

At 0840 two SP guns appeared, one on the road and one in the woods on the right flank.  The Churchill had a crack at the one in the road and it ceased firing.  The tank fired again, knocked out the gun and advanced to the gap between the cliff and a stone wall to defend the defile.  On the right flank we lost a bren team to the second gun.

Lt Smythe ordered his platoon to advance, keeping under cover.  He left the two 2” mortars to the rear with the protection of one section.  He moved forward to find a vantage point from which he could direct the fire of the mortars.

The tank was caught in a heavy artillery stonk but survived.  On the right flank the PIAT team crawled forwards and fired at the SP gun to their front.  Some damage was observed.

Two rifle squads dashed forwards to assault opposing infantry in the houses to our front.  The enemy was wiped out and we occupied the houses.

In the centre the Churchill tank fired at a MG in the woods beside the road junction.  Wiping the enemy out the tank advanced and took over the position.  Finally we held the road junction; one of our objectives for yesterday.

Sgt. MacGregor sent two of his sections out to left and right to outflank the MG position in the house to his front.

Suddenly the Churchill was struck by what appeared to be a Panzerfaust bomb fired from the house to its right.  The tank quickly backed off to a position from where it could fire at the building.

The tank fired, then a rifle squad stormed the building while defenders were still shaken and cleared them out.

On the left flank a MG team was driven from the house they had been holding.

At around 09:15 the enemy called off their attack and withdrew.

During the action we lost ten men and one of our bren guns.  We estimate the enemy lost about three times that number, including one SP gun destroyed.

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.

“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…