Well its been months since I got into a wargame....but last night I sprang a surprise on some of the guys who turned up probably expecting me to be stunned and confused as usual....by having a game all set up and ready to play. It was a big effort although it was a relatively simple game to do in the end. But because of the minor stroke late last year I spent a fair bit of the week getting the wrong game scenery together. In fact I kind of prepared three different games. But on the Friday I sat in my chair for a while reading the scenario and repeated to myself over and over and over what the battle was. I still wandered slightly, but from then on was able to get the right game ready, despite realising the night before that I had swapped off my German gliders and had to hastily make four more. The paintwork was barely dry when the guys arrived.
I chose to do Eban Emael (Fall Granite) as the first in a series of Scenario battles based around the invasion of the Low Countries in 1940 + France....(Fall Gelb). Over recent months I've tried to campaign but get too confused, which has no doubt been frustrating for my group. So after talking with some overseas gamers I went to varius recommended web sites and downloaded a heap of scenario's, some of which run sequentially. I was also leant a copy of 'Fal Gelb' which was written by Mark Hamman, and is quite excellent for my purposes.
In the scenario as we played it, the Belgians were unlikely to come out of the fort....Note I say....UNLIKELY....so the four of us had a German glider each and ran the fortress defence between all of us. (Pretty fairly too I think)
Each glider was numbered and as a divergence from BLITZKRIEG COMMANDER, every group had its own HQ. This was because in real life they were trained to act independently and all were capable of carrying out the task of the others, should they not survive. However Glider 1, had a CO on board as well. To determine where each one landed a central point was designated on the roof of the fortress, a direction die was then thrown, with a die 6 as well. This showed how close they landed to the designated point. Rick in glider 1 landed on the north side, Les in Glider 2 landed on the south side, and Big Trev. landed North West of the point, all being positions not actually on the roof. Only my own glider 4 rolled sufficient score to land on the roof and even then only just made it.
In the scenario the Glider landing was a free move for the Germans, as they came out of the dawn sky and the second move was a German only move to allow for surprise. None the less it was a bit of a fright for Les and Trev. to find themselves a fair distance from their objectives, and a whole row of machinegun embrasures facing them. Rick was lucky and landed right along side, so it was only a short dash to reach his objectives. Same for me to reach the first, but a bit further for the rest of my opening objectives.
The requirement was to first eliminate all the EXITS from the fort, in order to prevent the large number of Belgians inside, launching a counter attack. There were two exits on the roof, one in the south face of the main position, and one in the rear of each of the four corner bunkers. The next was to eliminate all the observation posts so they could not direct fire, and in my case to take out the 12cm gun positions on the roof. After that had been achieved, the bunker guns and the numerous machinegun posts were to be taken out so they could not fire on the nearby bridges or the road on the opposite side of the canal.
Everything went pretty well at first. We all seemed to get quite a good rolls, although Big Trev had less luck than the rest of us. Les did particularly well, managing to knock out the South exit, and most of the machinegun positions on that side. But then...he came unstuck on a particular position covering the south eastern corner. In the meantime I had a pretty easy run on the roof, knocking out the roof exits, observation position and then the guns without difficulty. Rick was slogging away at the north side but had a high number of failures with his demolition charges. Trev needed a fair while to reach the bunker and was exposed to a lot of fire, but still reached cover.
Then things started to go wrong. BAD DIE ROLLS. The bane of every wargamer. Les was thoroughly stuck, unable to suppress or destroy the south east corner. Rick was similarly hung up on some of his and took a long time to work his was from emplacement to emplacement, along the north side. Trevor dealt with the West side but then was unable to move for some time. I had to get off the roof, so as my glider was hanging over the eastern edge, I got my men to slide down one wing. Unfortunately this was covered by the machingunes Les and Rick had not been able to knock out and this was where I suffered my first losses.
Move 12 was carried out in the gathering dusk. I raced toward the eastern bunker and observer objectives but was under heavy fire from my rear as the eastern face of the main bunker was still active. Les and Rick attacked from opposite sides and gradually worked their way along the eastern wall taking out one position after another. Trev. headed for the bunkers on the western side, taking out the North Western one fairly easily, and I was able to kill off those I was tasked with.
But then during the night moves, the Belgians were able to sortie from the South West exit. This was BIG trouble for us. There were lots and lots of them and that position was quickly dubbed "The ant hill" as defenders swarmed out. The first part of this action took place in the dark, while my force were all busy up the other end. Half Rick's force was similarly busy and most of Trev's men were occupied with the Nth West, so initially Les had to bear the brunt of the counter attack. He was being steadily driven back by the time Trevor attacked out of the dawn taking the Belgians in the rear. A prolonged fire fight then took place.
The battle swung back and forth with the Belgians driven back in, then swarming out again as we progressed through the morning. However first Rick, then my unit, arrived to help and the combined fire power from three sides started to turn the tide. In the middle afternoon the combined forces forced the Belgians to retreat. As soon as the last Belgian was back in the hole, Big Trev. sent his flamethrower unit up and the took out the entrace once and for all. Shortly after he completed the job on the gun bunker in that corner.
Everyone was pretty relieved. It had been an exciting and rather exhausting game. We had suffered 50% losses to each of the four attack groups and could not have held out much longer as ammunition would have been running out.
We found that Blitzkrieg Commander rules were quite flexible enough to use them for this action and produced a very enjoyable game. We had to tweak a few things, but in general remained faithful to the rules as written.