The Winged Horse – AAR#4 – Where’s Merville? – Part I

red-500x500Last 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?”.

The Scenario

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:
scenario map

Which translated to this table layout:

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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’

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…and then randomly allocated a squad to each point, using a D8.

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As luck would have it for Dave, his main force was all together with the Vickers near the farmhouse

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Whilst his PIATS, Mortar and Senior Leaders were in the middle of the table…

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The game started with a German 222 Armoured Car moving onto the table.

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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

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whilst a PIAT Team move up to the base of the hedgerow

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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.

Conclusion?

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…

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…whilst a Panther tank and a 251 Halftrack full of Panzer Grenadiers arrive…

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The Paras rush towards the road and the sound of the approaching vehicle

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Meanwhile, a squad and the Vickers fortify the farmhouse at the other road junction…

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More Germans appear, including a 234/1.

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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.

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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…

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The first unit of Panzer Grenadiers de-bus by the road junction, but fail to spot the approaching Paras in the darkness.

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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…

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…and the second squad of Grenadiers arrive…

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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.

8 Comments on The Winged Horse – AAR#4 – Where’s Merville? – Part I

  1. We play a different set of rules and still have problems with playing night scenarios. One thing that does help is having the troops that can’t be seen held off board. This requires an umpire but it means that things like a night ambush can actually work. When you add things which don’t reveal the ambushers – grenades and PIATs – you can neatly recreate the fog of war. It’s almost like what happened at the Orne River Bridge where one PIAT team managed to knock out a German PZ III and send the rest of the column with it packing.
    Jerry

  2. Nice report and your terrain is really good. I have had this campaign book for sometime, I will have to dig it out.

    John

  3. Mervyndouglas // April 20, 2016 at 15:42 // Reply

    Never one to be pedantic of course, but just crossed my mind…June, northern France, 0330….would it actually still be dark to warrant “night”?? Not that I’d want to interfere with any of Dave’s advantages…
    Otherwise though blinds would seem a good solution with figures placed, as you say, when they fire or when within a certain range (getting less murky and therefore longer range as time goes on…if you were so minded). Just a thought.

    • Dawn was at 0548 on 6th June, at least according to the Internet anyway, so at 0330 I suspect it was still dark…

      • it was also cloudy with light rain moving in from the west. the ground was slightly muddy from the rain and that should taken into account with movement rates. I also understand a flock of deer was seen in and around the area which would represent a hazard, and there may have been a fox and her cubs in the undergrowth

  4. Great report, looking forward to the next installment

  5. Allowing for the extra hour our continental cousins have that’s 4.48 – that is when full sun has risen – allow a half hour/hour previous for the sun to actually rise you might be in half light at that time. (Apologies – being a long range commuter I often get to see the sun rise!!)

  6. Mervyndouglas // April 21, 2016 at 18:07 // Reply

    I was just thinking that its not truly dark much after 0330 in June and that gradually “less dark” could be factored in if you wished and the time frame was appropriate…. Although of course carrots may have been in short supply so that may not have helped. 🙂
    I hadnt realised until recently that there were different sealanding times for beaches too – I’d assumed they were simultaneous (to the extent that the nature of what they were trying to do could be!). Amazing operation wasnt it – if I only had time to study one military operation I think it would be this…maybe thats a question for the podcast….??

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