Friday, 4 October 2019

Brexite Campaign - A Ridge Too Far?

After our break for Operation Market-Garden, it was time to return to the 18thC and our narrative campaign. The English troops have been forced to withdraw once again by the French and have chosen to make a last stand on a long ridge controlling the road to Bristol. Further retreat is simply not an option. The French, with their lines of communication increasing by the day, need to defeat the English in open battle, so that they can take control of Bristol. Nothing else will suffice.

Table Set Up
Once again the scenario was taken from the excellent 'Scenarios for All Ages' by Grant & Asquith. Broadly speaking the French have an almost 2:1 advantage over the English, but the terrain favours the defenders. The English have deployed along the rdige, expecting an attack from across the road. However the French have a sneaky plan to attack them in the flank, via a night march. As dawn breaks, the French right flank have mistaken a village for the one they are meant to attack. The French left flank is in the right place, but is late arriving on the battlefield and so is somewhat behind from where they should be.

An overview of the table (3 1/2' x 2 1/2'), with the English on the ridge to the right middle of the 'photo, with the French on the left hand edge.

The French right flank deployed for action, but against the wrong village.

The English on the ridge, suddenly see the French appear on their flank as the early morning mist lifts.

The French right flank, although in the wrong position, are in the English rear.

The view from the French right flank.

Turn 1
The French press forward on both flanks, whilst the English suddenly try to re-align their troops to face an unexpected direction of attack.

An overview at the end of Turn 1.

The French cavalry lead their right flank forward.

English troops move in the village to take up new defensive positions.

The French left flank push on through the Somerset cornfields.

Turn 2
The French continue their advance and deploy their medium gun on the left flank, which opens fire on the village. Their shooting is good and they inflict a hit on the English infantry. In response, the English send more infantry towards the village, whilst their cavalry and light infantry move to meet the threat from the French right flank.

An overview at the end of Turn 2.

The French right flank continues to advance, whilst the English troops make the best use of the wooded terrain to form a defensive position.

The English face towards the French right flank.

The French light infantry advance towards the village, whilst the French left flank struggles forward.

Turn 3
Again, both sides manouevre to try and gain a favourable and advantageous position over their enemies. The shooting that there is misses, as most guns and all of the infantry are out of range.

An overview at the end of Turn 3.

The French flanks begin to converge on the village.

The English left flank moves its light infantry into the woods, whilst the cavalry form a reserve, waiting to see where the French will strike their first blow.

Turn 4
The French left flank suddenly bursts into life, as a double move allows them to close in on the village. The English respond and reinforce the village as best they can, but the French are in a good position. Despite all this manouevring, both sides shooting is ineffective.

An overview at the end of Turn 4.

The French right flank pushes its cavalry through the woods as the infantry advance towards the village, that is held by the English light infantry.

The English have been able to reinforce the village, but the mass of French troops is closing in.

A view from the English artillery position, protected by infantry.

The English light infantry have been outflanked by the French cavalry.

Turn 5
The French manage to close in on the village on the ridge and begun to envelop it. However the English defenders cause hits on the advancing French troops, but take none in return. The French right flanks cavalry put pressure on the English left flank, forcing them to move back, whilst the French infantry move into the village unapposed.

An overview at the end of Turn 5.

A view of the French left flank as they close in on the village.

The view from the French right flank.

The English defenders cause hits on the French infantry, but are under a lot of pressure from the massed French troops.

The English light infantry and the Taunton Tartars hold the woods to try and slow the French advance.

Turn 6
The French left flank, supported by their light infantry, close in on the village and their weight of fire forces an English infantry unit to retreat, with four hits. The English hold on the village is looking somewhat tenuous. The French cavalry on their right flank try and force their way past the defending English, only for them to be shot at by the English light infantry, who cause two hits on the French dragoons.

An overview at the end of Turn 6.

A unit of English infantry having been forced to retreat, leaves the village almost at the mercy of the French.

The French infantry poised to take the village, which is now defended by a sole English infantry unit.

The French dragoons are shot at by the English light infantry in the woods as the English cavalry defends their flank.

Turn 7 
With the village ripe for the taking, the French left flank fails its command roll, meaning they cannot advance! The French light infantry take up the attack and move into the village, as the English infantry withdraw to its edge. The French pressure forces the English infantry to begin a slow withdrawl, but on the English left flank, the French cavalry take more hits from the English light infantry.

An overview at the end of Turn 7.

The French cavalry being shot at by the English light infantry.

The English begin to withdraw, but the French are unable to take advantage of this, other than their light infantry.

The English cavalry form into two lines, ready to receive or make a charge.

Turn 8
Unbelievably the French left flank again faills its command roll, which is aiding the English defense no end. The French advance as best they can else where, but the English are managing to form a good defensive line across the ridge. Both sides exchange shots, but fail to cause any retreats etc.

An overview at the end of Turn 8.

The French poised to reinforce the village, but are unable to do so, whilst the English are.

The French right flank continues to advance and to exert some pressure on the English positions.

The English left flank is putting up an active defense.

The English trade shots with the French light infantry in the village.

Turn 9
Miracle of miracles, the French left flank again fails to advance and so can only look on in disbelief. The French light infantry shame them by causing an English infantry unit to retreat, having taken four hits. This causes the English to further withdraw to form another defensive position. On the French right flank, the infantry advance and charge the English light infantry, who evade. The Taunton Tartars see a chance to charge the French dragoons, who they manage to cause to retreat off the table! Luckily the Taunton Tartars fail their roll to pursue, otherwise they would have gone as well.

An overview at the end of Turn 9.

The French troops in retreat whilst the Taunton Tartars look on.

With the French left wing stubbornly refusing to move, the French right wing continues to try and put pressure on the English positions.

The new English defensive line, now that the French light infantry anre in control of the village.

The English left flank are in a good position to hold any French advances.

End of Game
At this point we took stock of positions of both sides. The English had managed to form another good defensive line, which would take the French left flank, at least two Turns to reach ,as they would have to advance through or around the village. The English left flank also had the advantage of the wooded terrain which would make any advance by the French right flank problematic. Also the English could perform a fighting withdrawl along the ridge to yet another village, which would naturally provide a good defensive position.

So with all of the above, we agreed that the French had missed an opportunity to defeat the English in the field and so now needed to consolidate their postions in Somerset as well as securing their lines of communication. From there they might be able to advance towards Bristol at a later date, subject to seeing how Bonnie Prince Charlie had fared against the English on the Borders.

Post Game Thoughts
Well a highly entertaining game and one with a rather unexpected result. So as always, some post game thoughts:
  • I can safely say that the English didn't win the game, rather the French lost it. They were in the perfect position to push the English out of the village, from where it would have been rather hard for the English not to have been constantly on the back foot. A case of snatching defeat from the jaws of vicotry. 'C'est la guerre' as the French say.
  • Yet again the scenario provided an interesting and challenging game for both sides. These scenarios tend to work well for 18th & 19thC games, but less so for more modern ones. Definitely worth getting a copy IMHO. 
  • Once again artillery failed to have much impact on the game in a direct sense. Post game we talked about this and it came down to the fact that a lot of the time, the artillery was either having to move or shooting at long range and on occasion, both. However it did have the effect of pushing the French left flank towards the village, rather than pusing along to try and turn the English flank, due to the threat that it posed. We both know how devastating artillery can be at close range when it gibes a whiff or grapeshot.
  • Frankly I love these rules. They are elegant and have simple, yet subtle, mechanics that allow one to focus on the game, rather than the rules. Add in us playing with a good dose of common sense you you have pretty much gaming heaven.
  • I know a lot of gamers aren't that keen on 18thC linear warfare, but I find they do provide really challenging and interesting games. They are also colourful and provide a great visual spectacle. I'm glad that Keith Flint first introduced me to this period as it has become on of my favourites to game. 
  • Both sides light infantry had a big effect on the game, largely due to the lack of French line infantry advacning when they were most needed. I do enjoy fielding them and am also tempted to model up some dismounted dragoons at some point. 
  • It was nice to have my new terrain on the table for the first time. Much of my stuff comes from my days of 28mm skirmish games, so hasn't been that useful. Now having terrain specifically for 10mm makes setting up games so much easier.
  • This was the first time that I have been able to field a whole brigade of my own painted units, which was rather nice. To come out with a 'win' was an added bonus.
  • The narrative campaign has been great fun, but now the action moves North of the border. I hope to be able to paint up some SYW British from Pendraken for this, but I'm not sure how much time I will have due to some family visits over the next few weeks.

Our campaign will be on hold for a month or so, as Dave is away for a few weeks and then the aforementioned family visits will most likely put pay to any gaming until some time in November. Hopefully I will get in some solo games and also painting, especially as we are now well into Autumn and I naturally paint more between now and late Spring. So until next time...

Thursday, 26 September 2019

The Koevering Raid - Operation Market-Garden

Like many of my friends, I was captivated by Operation Market-Garden as a child, when I read Cornelius Ryan's 'A Bridge Too Far'. This was only re-inforced when the film of the same name came out. So with the 75th anniversary of the Operation this year, I planned to play the campaign, but for a variety of reasons I failed. However, I did have enough forces to play at least one part, choosing the cutting of 'Hell's Highway' as the basis for the game.

Dave was up for this and so after a bit of research in Kershaw's excellent 'It never Snows in September' book, the Koevering raid of 245h - 26th September seemed perfect. It had the added bonus that we could play the raid on the same day it happened, 75 years ago. Details of the actual action can be found here.

I used the OOB that I could find as a guide for the game, tweaking things to fit in with our normal mid-week game constraints. If we'd had longer to play, then I would have reflected the actual action much more closely. Anyway, after scribbling I away I was happy with the scenario and forces to hand.
Scenario Details
Broadly speaking Kampfgruppe Jungwirth, re-inforced by elements of Fallschirmjager Regiment 6 (van der Haydte), were to continue with their attacks in and around the hamlet of Koevering on the morning of 25th September, with the aim of preventing any Allied troops passing along the road.

In response the Allies launched counter-attacks with the 502nd PIR from 101st US Airborne Division, later supported by elements of the 44th RTR, 7th Armoured Division 'Desert Rats' and the British 50th Infantry Division.

The Allied troops would arrive at random points and intervals during the game, to try and reflect the random nature of the engagement. There would be the chance of some air support as well, in the form of Typhoons, with the chance that the Americans would show up and the P-47 Thunderbolts causing some Blue-on-Blue action.

Table Layout
The game would be played on our normal 4' x 4' table, with the Germans coming in from the East, the Allies from North, South and/or West.

An overview of the table, with Koevering in the middle, with some Fallschirmjager already in residence.

Fallschirmjager re-inforcements already on their way.

A view along the very exposed 'Hell's Highway'.

Elements of Kampfgruppe Jungwirth in Koevering. In the background smoke can be seen rising from trucks that were shot up the night before.

Turn 1
The Germans got the first move, with all units advancing as much as they could, taking up an all round defensive posture, in anticipation of an Allied counter-attack.

The first Allied troops to respond were the 502nd PIR, who arrived from the South and the West, with both elements making the best use of cover to mask their advance. As a result the Germans had no targets, so there was no shooting. At the end of the turn, an allied FAO arrived and moved into position to try and call down artillery fire next turn.

An overview at the end of Turn 1.

US Paras advance through the woods.

Other US Paras advance towards a hedgeline, which masks them from the Germans.

Falschirmjager move into a building on their left flank, supported by a StuH-42.

A Tiger I in position to dominate the road.

Stug III's cover the right flank.

Turn 2
Both German flanks advanced, with Fallschirmjagers moving to help provide protection to the Stug III's.

The first British troops arrived in the form of the 'Desert Rats', as their Shermans moved of the road and immediately engaged a lone Stug III, suppressing it. The US Paras continued to mve through the woods to threaten the German left flank.

An overview at the end of turn 2.

A suppressed Stug III facing elements of the 'Desert Rats'.

The Fallschirmjagers advance on the left flank, but then fail an order, leaving the StuH-42 in the open.

Turn 3
In response to the Shermans attack, the Tiger I moves to the right flank to help counter the threat.

On the Allied side, a British Recce unit arrives and advances down the road, supported by a Carrier Company. Combined fore from mortars and off board artillery sees the loss of two Fallschirmjager units and the StuH-42 pushed back whilst it was suppressed.

An overview at the end of Turn 3.

The German left flank comes under attack.

The British Recce and Carriers arrrive and advance towards Koevering.

The Tiger I has moved up in support.

Turn 4
In the German turn, mortar fire manages to suppress some of the British Recce armoured cars and the Stug III supresses the Sherman Firefly. However it is destroyed by the other Shermans as they shoot back.

The Shermans continue their attack and with some amazing shooting, destroy the remaining two Stug III's on the right flank. The FAO fails to get through and the cab rank of Typhoons also fail to appear.

An overview at the end of Turn 4.

British armoured cars are suppressed by mortar fire.

The Tiger I is the only armour left on the German right flank.

The Shermans of the 'Desert Rats' have destroyed the Stug III's in quick succession.

Turn 5
As the British infantry have advanced into the open, combined mortar fire leads to the loss of one unit and the others suppressed. With no other targets, the Germans sit tight.

A busy turn for the allies, with the 44th RTR arriving from near Veghel, who immediately move and engage the Germans, destroying the StuH-42. In the woods the US Paras continue to push forward and in the centre the Carrier Platoon de-bus and occupy the building near the road. The 'Desert Rats' engage the Tiger I, but fail to damage it, but combined artillery fire and a Typhoon attack seeing it suppressed and it only just misses out on retreating off the table. The Allies are very much in the ascendancy but they still haven't secured the road.

The Typhoon attack.

An overview at the end of Turn 5.

The 44th RTR arrive.

The German Pak 38 is the only real obstacle to the 44th RTR's Shermans.

The lone Tiger I.

The 'Desert Rats' are having a field day.

The British Recce armoured cars advance to threaten the German right flank and centre.

Turn 6
In the German turn, they are able to suppress a Sherman and hit some infantry, but have no other available targets.

The Allies on the other hand cause devastation with their artillery, destroying a Pak 38, a mortar, an MG and a Fallschirmjager unit and only narrowly fail to destroy the CO as well. The Typhoon once again cames in, but it is the Shermans tha administer the 'coup de grace' on the Tiger I.

The Typhoon on target again.

An overview at the end of Turn 6.

The German right flank is a mass of flaming armour.

The German left flank has little left to halt the Allies.

The devastating 'Desert Rats'.

End of Game
At this point it was obvious that the Allies were now in complete control and the Germans had nothing with which to halt the Allied armour. Some German units were able to retreat, others had no option but to surrender. A resounding Allied victory but the Germans had kept the road closed long enough to prevent re-inforcements and supplies getting to where they were so desperately needed. So honours fairly even at the end.

Post Game Thoughts
A fun game and a fitting way to commemorate Operation Market-Garden. As always a few thoughts on the game etc:

  • I thought the scenario itself worked well, especially the random turns upon which units would arrive and where exactly on the table. This kept both sides in the dark, which made for interesting decisions for both players.
  • Dave's die rolling for his artillery and Shermans was phenominal throughout the game, with the latter really swinging the game in his favour early on, as the 'Desert Rats' gained fire supremacy over the German Stug III's. The Germans were never really able to recover from this.
  • The British artillery was devastating. I'm not sure whether I gave the Allies too many batteries, but probably one less would have been better.
  • The scenario gave both of us a feel as to why it was so hard for the Allies to keep 'Hell's Highway' open and also why it was hard for the Germans to keep it closed for more than 24 hours. The terrain is so open, that you can see why the German guns could pick of any Allied vehicles with ease on the main road. Also there is so little cover, that it is hard for the infantry to advance, as they are so exposed.
  • I know I forgot a few things in the rules during the game, but ultimately it didn't affect the outcome. We used BKCII as the main rules, but combining them with the good ideas from BKCIV, but a good dose of common sense.  The latter applies to all games and allows things to flow nicely, without the stop-start nature of having to constantly check a rulebook.
  • The random nature of the air support worked, but sadly Dave didn't roll a '1', so that the P-47 failed to arrive to shoot up the Allied armour... 

So a nice game and good to be able to commemorate Operation Market-Garden. Next week we are back to our Brexite Campaign, which gives me time to paint some more units as well as carrying on with upgrading my scenery. So until next time...