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Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939 - Colours 2007 Demonstration Game

by Keith Flint, September 2007

Introduction

In 2005 I took the plunge and put on my first demo game at Salute in Reading. I managed to get four other local gamers interested and we had a great day – despite being consigned to a slightly claustrophobic squash court. In 2006 I visited Colours at Newbury Racecourse and loved the venue – loads of space and fine views over the course from the first and second floors. Earlier this year I applied successfully for a table for Colours 2007 and so Sunday 16th September saw Paul James and myself on the M4. This is the report of the game we put on, with the help of Dave Pike and Paul Gardner (that’s KiwiDave and Leader to you).

Scenario and Forces

The photos should give a good idea of the set up. This was a 6 foot by 6 foot table using 15mm figures. The concept was an assault river crossing by the Germans against light opposition, which would develop into a battle on the far bank with Polish reinforcements. The success of the Poles in slowing down the German crossings would affect how successful they were likely to be in the encounter battle on their own side of the river. I developed some of my own rules for the river crossing which are included at the end of this report.

German Briefing

Dawn, on a morning during the first week of the German invasion of Poland. The leading elements of a German Panzer Division are about to commence an assault crossing of a Polish river.

The Recce battalion and Panzer battalion I are on table behind the river at the start of the game. Any mounted or truck-borne units may be deployed or dismounted at game start. 4 assault boats are ready in the water, and 4 more wait in 2 wagons on the riverbank. A vehicle bridge and an infantry bridge are unloaded at the riverbank and work is about to start.

The remaining formations can deploy on table from move 1 using mobile deployment from the base edge. Visibility on move 1 is 40cm, on move 2 60cm. No air until move 3. German orders are to cross the river and establish a bridgehead. Break the Polish battlegroup and have at least 25% of your original units across the river to win. Fail on one of these counts and you have drawn. Fail on both and you have lost. No limit on game turns.

Dice for deployment – highest score chooses to deploy first or second. Both sides plot assets before either side deploys. Germans take first move.

German Forces

Command + Recce battalion

CO, Sdkfz231, Sdkfz222, Sdkfz221, 4 Cavalry units, MG unit in truck, 4 Engineer units in 2 trucks, 20mm AA unit (static, bridge defence). Only armoured cars and cavalry have recce status

Panzer Battalion I

HQ, 3 Pz1, 2 PzII, 1 PzIII, 1 PzIV

Panzer Battalion II

HQ, 2 PzI, 3 PzII, 1 PzIV, 1 20mm SPAA unit

Motorcycle Battalion

HQ, 10 Motorcycle Infantry units, 2 MG units in 2 trucks, 1 8cm Mortar unit in 1 truck, 1 37mm ATG unit with tow

Infantry Battalion

HQ, 9 Infantry units, 3 MG units, 1 75mm IG unit with tow, 1 37mm ATG with tow

Field Artillery Battalion

FAO, 3 105mm Artillery units, 9 smoke assets, 6 artillery assets

Medium Artillery Battalion

FAO, 2 150mm Artillery units, 4 smoke assets, 4 artillery assets

Stuka Staffel

FAC, 1 Stuka unit, 2 assets

Points 3145, Breakpoint 28, Minimum units across river 14

Polish Briefing

Dawn, on a morning during the first week of the German invasion of Poland. The leading elements of a German Panzer Division are about to commence an assault crossing of a Polish river.

Of the defending Polish forces shown below, Infantry Battalion 1 and the Armoured Train are on table at game start, including the train FAO. The infantry battalion may be dug-in. Initial forces must be deployed in the Polish third of the table except for the recce units which can be anywhere up to the river. Recce units outside the deployment zone are assumed to be scouting forward and cannot be dug in. The armoured train is placed at the station in the BUA. From move 3, the remaining formations may arrive on the Polish baseline using mobile deployment. Visibility on move 1 is 40cm, on move 2 60cm.

Karas units may only target the bridge sites. Write down arrival moves before game start. No air support until move 3. Dice on arrival – 1,2 attack infantry bridge, 3,4,5,6 attack vehicle bridge.

Break the German battlegroup to win, or leave the Germans with less than 25% of their combat units across the river. No limit on number of moves.

Dice for deployment – highest score chooses to deploy first or second. Both sides plot assets before either side deploys. Germans take first move.

Polish Forces

Command/Infantry Battalion 1

CO, 8 Infantry units, 2 MG units, 1 37mm ATG unit with horse tow, 1 8cm Mortar unit, 1 Motorcycle unit (recce)

Infantry Battalion 2

HQ, 8 Infantry units in 4 trucks, 2 MG units in 2 Laziks, 1 37mm ATG with tow

Tank Battalion

HQ, 4 7tp (37mm), 1 7tp (mg)

Cavalry Regiment

HQ, 10 Cavalry units, 2 Tazcanka MG units, 1 75mm Field Gun with horse tow, 1 Wz34 (recce)

Armoured Train

HQ, FAO, Armoured train, 1 TKS (mg, recce)

Artillery battalion

FAO, 3 75mm Artillery units

Karas Flights

2 Karas units, 4 assets

Points 1975, Breakpoint 26

The Game

As hoped for, we found ourselves on a light and spacious ‘pitch’ on the first floor, next to some friendly Napoleonic gamers. The tables provided gave us a good overlap at each end of the gaming area to place our stuff without cluttering the actual battlefield. We were also just across from the snack bar and also a real bar selling real beer. Perfect. Paul James took the Germans (joined after a short while by Paul Gardner), whilst Dave Pike and myself controlled the Poles.

In the grey dawn light of the first two moves the company of combat engineers and squadron of cavalry crossed in boats without incident (the cavalry horses were allowed to swim across led by their riders in the boats). As visibility returned to normal, the German artillery used their smoke assets to set up a wide smokescreen which continued to mask the crossing points, so that the assault boats and bridge construction proceeded uninterrupted. On the Polish side, the on-table battalion advanced forward hoping to make a spoiling attack against the first Germans across. However some of these units were caught by a German scheduled artillery strike as they crossed the railway, delaying the progress of about a third of the battalion. The rest established themselves on the small hill near the table centre, and were about to dig in when the threat of the German cavalry, emerging from the smoke on the river bank, made them think twice. The Polish reinforcements arrived without too much problem from move three except for the FAO, who stubbornly refused to arrive until move 7.

Meanwhile the German assault bridge was completed on schedule on move 3. The motorcycle battalion immediately motored across and made briskly for the Polish right flank, where an encounter between Polish cavalry and German motorcycles seemed possible. The German infantry battalion was also now crossing using the assault boats. Moves four and five witnessed futile attacks by Polish Karas units on the bridge sites. Initially their main target, the vehicle bridge, was obscured by smoke, but their subsequent attacks on the assault bridge were also without effect, most of the bombs falling wide.

Up to about move six, it was still anybody’s game, but with the completion of the vehicle bridge exactly on schedule, the pendulum swung in favour of the Germans and stayed there. There was some hesitancy on the part of the panzers at first – they had been queuing up for three moves but only moved across tentatively, before inexplicably moving back a short way (command blunder of course). This gave the Polish tanks the opportunity to come up alongside their most advanced infantry and get into good firing positions facing the crossing point. There seemed to be a good chance that the panzers might be picked off as they advanced in file up from the river bank, but unlucky command rolls at the critical point allowed to the German tanks to advance and shake out into battle formation. They then proceeded to knock out all the Polish tanks over the course of two moves for no loss to themselves. This signalled the end of any realistic hopes of a Polish victory. The infantry battalion here had also lost its firefight with the advancing German infantry battalion, who were supported by the dismounted German cavalry and combat engineers.

On the right flank the Poles were looking stronger, but the rapid advance of the German motorcyclists had pinned the Polish front back to the line of the road, where dismounted Polish cavalry exchanged shots with dismounted German motorcyclists. The Polish truck borne infantry were slow to get into position but eventually formed up on the left flank of the cavalry. German artillery was active on this flank, but the short distance between the contending units resulted in as many friendly casualties as enemy ones. The Polish artillery, when the FAO finally deployed atop the large hill behind the cavalry, did its best to support this flank, but with a total of only six attacks a decisive intervention was never on the cards.

And what of the mighty armoured train? Unfortunately, a Stuka attack on move three had destroyed the northernmost artillery car, preventing the train from moving out of the town. For the rest of the game, the train FAO, positioned in the church tower, brought some very scattered fire to bear on the advancing Germans, but with little effect (hardly surprising, as with one artillery car firing, this gave the train just one attack when firing as indirect artillery). The loco itself was destroyed later in the game by another dive bombing attack, forcing the two units of infantry carried in the train to deploy into the fields west of the town.

In the final moves of the game (eleven turns were played) the German tanks were able to spread out and advance almost unopposed towards the town. The Polish infantry from the train claimed a Panzer I tank destroyed with anti-tank rifles (the only German tank casualty of the game), but were about to be surrounded and destroyed as the game ended. The original Polish infantry battalion had been effectively destroyed in the centre. The Polish right flank was holding, but German infantry was advancing to support the motorcyclists and the German tanks would soon be able to outflank the Poles here. By this time, Polish casualties had exceeded their breakpoint by six. They threw a command bonus, and so earned the right to continue, but it was hardly worth it as the Germans had obviously won. Only six German units had been knocked out, three of these by friendly artillery fire.

As can be seen, the game had been a frustrating one for the Poles, who somehow never seemed to get to grips with the Germans. In retrospect, the game was perhaps weighted too much in the German favour. The river crossing had been too easy, allowing forces to be quickly built up on the Polish bank. It would probably be better, if refighting the game, to allow the Polish infantry battalion deployed at game start to deploy up to two thirds of the way across the table, and also to allow the Polish artillery to be deployed from game start. Perhaps those German smoke assets could also be made less generous.

Anyway, we had had a relaxing day’s gaming and the battle had filled the time available quite nicely. Passers-by had shown an interest in the rules and the game set up, and it had been possible for all of us to get away from the table and look round the show at some point or other. It was nice to see Stefan from the forum stop by in the afternoon as well. Needless to say, the game had been played in the easy-going and friendly spirit one would expect. Many thanks to those who turned up, and thanks to the organisers at Colours for letting me book the game and giving us such a large and well placed pitch.

River Crossing – Special Rules

Assault Boats

An assault boat occupies the same space in transport as an infantry unit. Each boat can carry one infantry unit or a support unit up to medium mortar. Cavalry horses may swim across accompanying their riders in the assault boats.

When transport carrying assault boats reaches a river bank, it halts. A deploy order is then needed to get the boats into the water. To enter a boat, a unit needs to be within 5cm of the boat and requires a deploy order. A normal move order in the command phase allows the boat to cross the river. Disembarkation also needs a deploy order.

An assault boat is hit on a 4,5,6 and takes 3 hits. Suppression does not prevent disembarkation.

Infantry Bridge

An infantry bridge occupies the space of 4 infantry units. An infantry bridge can also take cavalry and motorcycle units, as well as manhandled anti-tank guns and infantry guns.

When transport carrying an infantry bridge reaches the riverbank it halts. A deploy move is needed to unload, then construction may start. It takes 3 moves to build the bridge - construction takes place in the initiative phase of each move.

Infantry bridges are hit on a 5,6 and take 4 hits. At least 5cm of the bridge must be within an artillery or air fire zone to take hits. Fire against a bridge is taken to include fire against engineers on and around it, but these troops are not represented.

If a bridge is under construction/repair and is KO’d or suppressed, add 1 move to the construction/repair time. If the bridge is complete, only a KO result has an effect. A KO takes one move to repair. Units whose attack stat includes an asterisk do not affect completed bridges.

Vehicle Bridges

As infantry bridges, but they occupy the space of 8 infantry units, and take 6 moves to build. A vehicle bridge takes 6 hits. A KO will take 2 moves to repair.

General

Only units 20cm or less from the river bank have a LOS to boats or pontoon bridges on the river, unless firing from a hill. Infantry and infantry support units may take cover at a river bank, but only infantry and MG units may fire.

If more than half the units of a bridge are lost before construction commences, the bridge cannot be built. If up to half the units are lost, construction time is increased by 2 moves for an infantry bridge and 3 moves for a vehicle bridge.

Command Units

These may cross by any of the above methods. A command unit crossing by assault boats must start and finish its move at the riverbanks, and will require 2 assault boats.



Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


Polish River Bridgehead, Poland 1939


 
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