Matapan: phase 1

The Battle of Matapan – phase 1

Today I fought the opening stages of the Battle of Matapan 1941 with my young neighbour Luke.

This was his introduction to naval gaming, at his request.  He is hoping to join the Royal Navy when old enough.

The scenario was the opening stags of the battle of Matapan.  At 09:00 the Italian flotilla of 3 cruisers (Bolzano, Trento and Trieste), with three destroyers (Ascari, Carabiniere and Corazziere) were pursued by the British cruisers Gloucester, Perth, Ajax and Orion with the destroyers Hereward, Hasty and Ilex.

After one turn it was clear that the Italian cruisers would outpace their British counterparts and no battle would ensue so I obligingly turned them to fight.  I ran down the line of British cruisers, expecting to lose, but I knew that on turn 10 (2 hours in) if I could hold out that long, the battleship Vittorio Veneto would arrive and save us.

As it happened, after the two flotillas circled each other for an hour and a half the Italians had rolled the better combat dice and by turn 8 (10:50 am) the British were down to one destroyer while the Italians still had the cruiser Trento (severely damaged) and two destroyers.

At this point Luke conceded defeat. He then spent another hour playing with my toy ships before asking if we can play a major tank battle next time.

I am thinking that with the toys in my collection, Arras 1940 is probably the most likely. That might be an eye-opener for a young lad of about 10, who is expecting Tigers vs T34s.

Battle of Britain. The game

Game 1 for this week has been played. This was the PSC/Richard Borg “Battle of Britain”. We played the first scenario “Kanalkampf”. The game only has four turns and the designers say that it should take 1-2 hours for experienced players. Well, we were “straight out of the box” players and it took almost four hours. This is in no way a criticism. The game mechanisms are simple, once you know what you are doing.

There are a huge amount of game cards and tokens to manipulate, so apart from the game board (about 70x50cm), or the larger game mat that we used (106 x 86cm), you have to find room for eight control mats about 35 x 17cm each, half a dozen piles of counters and somewhere to roll the dice. A table about half the size of Canada will suffice!

As for the game mechanisms, they are very much in the Richard Borg style, as in “card driven options, then chuck x number of dice and what you roll is what you score”. Each side has cubic dice with 3 of their own symbol, 1 enemy symbol and 2 blanks.

The German player has 7 “Flights”, each of initially 6 squadrons. Each is dealt a mission card (from a hand of 10) to bomb an airfield, a radar station or a city. It is impossible to cross the English coast without being detected by radar, unless you have destroyed the radar station. If detected the British player may choose to intercept with an entire flight (he has 12 flights of 3 squadrons) or to wait and “dogfight”. But he can only make 5 attacks each turn, so someone will usually get through, only to be attacked again next turn.

I started by concentrating on the two radar stations in my hand of cards, but was intercepted (Total defending flight value vs total attacking flight value) and only destroyed one of them. Those flights that got through (I only had 5 achievable targets*) were attacked by dog fights where you play off one squadron at a time until one side has nobody left. In both forms of combat you have a 1/2 chance of damaging the enemy, a 1/3 chance of no effect and a 1/6 chance of “friendly fire” adding to the enemy’s roll.

*When you have only 1 flight in Norway and 6 in France, and 5 of your 10 possible missions are Newcastle, Glasgow, Middlesborough, Preston and Creswell radar (N. of Newcastle) there is not a lot you can do about it!

The actual models are representative. Details of the squadrons for each flight are on the players’ control boards.

I managed to knock out the Worth radar station in Dorset, and one airfield, but the first thing the British player can do next turn is repair them or replace lost aircraft. German aircraft are out for good. New aircraft and new missions are available, but downed Germans count for the British final score.

Anyway, after the four turns I had with my seven flights achieved three mission successes and two aborted missions. The game ended with one radar station out, one city (Newcastle) damaged and one fighter ace to my credit. My British opponent counted three fighter aces, two aborted missions and innumerable downed German squadrons. The score was; Germans 15, British “too many to count”.

I nearly obliterated Nottingham but when I got there he had shot down all my Heinkels and Dorniers and left me with 4 squadrons of ME109s with no bombing ability!

I’ll hammer him next time! Iron crosses all round in place of this foray’s wooden ones. This is a game to play again when I get the chance.

D-Day and beyond. Part 7

…being the story of a wargame, now in arrears…  Unfortunately my detailed report has vanished into the depths of the internet, but the synopsis is that we chased off the crew of a 105mm howitzer, captured or  scared of a German supply company, deployed two sections of the RA 25 prs which helped drive the enemy at least into cover, and consolidated our position.

Game note.  The Germans having been driven mainly away from board 2 and totally from board 1, board 1 was removed and a new board added to the German side, with all their reinforcements deployed.  The new situation is shown above.  And thus we will start the next day with a German counter-attack.

 

 

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 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…

A bit of painting

Today I have been painting with (I think) Coat d’Arms 515 Iron Grey.  The label has faded so this is my best guess.

Whatever it is, I have painted the roof tops of my square and hexagonal town outlines for gridded wargames, touched up several roofs on my “tiny towns” and base coated some 3mm WW2 German guns and prime movers.

Oh – and relabelled the paint bottle. 🙂