Last night saw the start of our next scenario in “The Winged Horse” campaign. This is the 5th scenario from ‘Red Devils in the Night’, entitled “Where’s Merville?”.
This is a hypothetical scenario, written to highlight the issue of the scattered parachute drop of the 3rd Brigade as it attempted to assemble to assault the Merville Battery.
The British force is scattered randomly across the board, to denote the parachute drop. As they are getting organised, they hear the sound of engines…
The Germans are a recon force from 21st Panzer Division, who have been ordered to make contact with a force of engineers in Benouville. However, you’re not sure which way to go…
It’s 03:30, so night rules are still in effect
This was the map:
Which translated to this table layout:
All the hedges are Bocage. There are random breaks in the hedges along the roads.
The British: (3rd Brigade, 6th Airborne Division)
3 Squads of Paras, equipped with Hawkins Grenades and Gammon Bombs
1 Command HQ (2 Senior Leaders + Radioman)
2 x PIAT Teams
1 x 2″ Mortar Team
1 x Vickers Team
The Germans: (Recon Company from 21st Panzer Division)
1 x Sdkfz 222
1 x Sdkfz 234/1
1 x Sdkfz 234/2 “Puma”
1 x Panther Command Tank
1 x Sdkfz 250/3
2 x Regular Infantry Squads, each mounted in Sdkfz 251/1 halftrack
Playing the game
We simulated the parachute drop by Dave throwing markers onto the table using his ‘wrong hand’
…and then randomly allocated a squad to each point, using a D8.
As luck would have it for Dave, his main force was all together with the Vickers near the farmhouse
Whilst his PIATS, Mortar and Senior Leaders were in the middle of the table…
The game started with a German 222 Armoured Car moving onto the table.
The German force is all based in vehicles – Chain of Command rules only allows you to bring a single vehicle onto the board in each phase.
The Paras started moving forces across the fields
whilst a PIAT Team move up to the base of the hedgerow
The Paras had a double-phase at this point.
One squad continued to move across the field, whilst the PIAT team fired on the Armoured Car…and missed. (Even if they are up against bocage, we rules that they could still fire through it) We also ruled that vehicles, especially since they were using headlights, were more easily seen that troops, so can be automatically targeted at close range – 18″.
Here we had what is fast becoming our ‘rules discussion du jour’.
In most wargames rules, you can fire back at a unit that fires upon you – even if they have missed. However, this is a specific situation. The scenario takes place at 03:30, so night rules are in effect. The PIAT Team are hidden in a piece of bocage. They are also firing a spigot mortar, which fires using a spring, so there will be no muzzle flash. Given that they are also engaging a vehicle, which has limited visibility, and that one of the major senses for spotting at night – sound – would be made useless to the crew of the 222 by the engine noise, would they be able to see them?
In an added bonus, we are sat in Dave’s downstairs back room, with the curtains open. Dave turned the light off. We looked outside, and tried to spot the bottom of Dave’s garden, which is less than 30 yards away (roughly the range the PIAT was firing at – about 10″). We couldn’t see it. So we rules that the Paras couldn’t be seen. So, despite the fact that the Paras are in plain sight on the table, I had to play as if they weren’t there, because I didn’t know that they were.
a) Playing in the dark is a pain in the backside, and the sooner Rich & Nick write some official rules for night fighting, the better.
b) This type of country really encourages the proper use of Panzer Grenadiers!
With the crew oblivious to their narrow escape from the PIAT, the 222 Armoured Car speeds past the road junction…
…whilst a Panther tank and a 251 Halftrack full of Panzer Grenadiers arrive…
The Paras rush towards the road and the sound of the approaching vehicle
Meanwhile, a squad and the Vickers fortify the farmhouse at the other road junction…
More Germans appear, including a 234/1.
WHAM! As the 222 Armoured Car advances, it’s commander busy looking for landmarks, it is hit in the side by a PIAT. The explosion kills the gunner, and leaves everyone else with their ears ringing.
Rushing from cover, Pvt. Jenkins plants a Hawkins A/T Grenade on the 222. The resultant explosion doesn’t cause much damage, but inside the crew are starting to panic…
The first unit of Panzer Grenadiers de-bus by the road junction, but fail to spot the approaching Paras in the darkness.
Meanwhile, the Panther moves forward to support the beleaguered 222, remaining oblivious to the PIAT team still hidden in the hedgerow. The 234/1 moves up to the road junction to provide extra fire support…
…and the second squad of Grenadiers arrive…
At that point we called it a night. We were late starting, and had been delayed gaming due to our earlier discussions about visibility issues. Everything is about to kick-off, so the conclusion of the game should be interesting. It’s the Paras next phase, and I’m expecting carnage…
Playing the games incorporating night rules has been something of a challenge – especially when looking at limited visibility, and dealing with the fact that the German player is unclear of what is actually there. Looking back, this may have been dealt with in a much easier way by using blinds for each unit, and keeping the rule that a unit has to be placed on the table when it fires, and can then be targeted. I’d be interested to know your thoughts…
Part II should be published at the end of the week.