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 if 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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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…

Dunkirk – two short film reviews

Whilst doing my ironing today I started to watch the 1958 film of “Dunkirk” with John Mills, Richard Attenborough, Robert Urquhart et al.

I know that this was a post-war semi-propaganda version, but it is far more believable, despite the clipped language, than the absolute rubbish perpetrated by Christopher Nolan in 2017,

It appears that the major claim to fame of the latest version appeared to be: “We did not use CG”. Nor did the earlier version (simply because they could not), and in their day they did not need to show huge cardboard cut-outs of queueing soldiers or very obvious buildings from the 1970s or later.  But the 1958 producers could get a large quantity of extras who had actually been under fire in WW2.

It appears to me that the producers of the 2017 version were too carried away with  filming at the location to notice that it has been rebuilt since 1940.

The earlier producers/directors also seemed to have researched the number of bombs that a JU88 “Stuka” could actually carry, unlike their later “let’s aim for maximum effect” counterparts.

My vote?:  1958 version: 4/5, 2017 version: 1/5.