Saturday, September 22, 2012

Neck of the Swan - Wetteren Sept '44

Neck of The Swan, Wetteren, Belgium, Sept 1944

The Pre-amble

So having finally sorted my new garage and organised my storage I decided it was time to have the grand opening of my gaming room. I wanted a good sized multiplayer game to be played over a couple of week. I opted for WW2 as each player could command a company and I’ve been desperate to

a)      get motivated to finish rebasing my infantry
b)      paint up some of the backlog of buildings and vehicles
c)      become more conversant with BGPG2 ruleset
d)     get my hardly used WW2 toys on the table.

For the scenario I picked this one:
Kindly put up for sharing by the Fire & Fire Battlefront WW2 players. They have a full selection here of great scenarios Many thanks to them and in particular R. Mark Davies, who helped me out converting it for 20mm and the BGPG ruleset.

Since the scenario is documented above I’ll leave off OOBs etc… and stick to pics and the exciting action.

Here is the initial town layout. The keen observants might notice some additional track road added in later pictures, I’d forgotten to place it at this point.

We had 3 players on the  Brit side, each commanding a troop with one acting as senior commander to make decisions and hand out Action points; the Germans also had 3 players, 1 CO with the pioneers, mortars and AT gun whilst the other two took a company each.

Before we proceed I apologise to those that feel I’ve let the side down with some unflocked bases, the players cared not and although I prefer to have all figures completed I was stepping in to replace a planned game that could not go ahead. I had intended to do the game in a few weeks so had to make do.

The Battle

 The Germans deployed in two concentrations with a company each, one to advance parallel to the water edge taking the fields between the town and the river Schelde, covered by yhe AT gun. The other supported this assault from the North. The mortars far out of sight and the pioneers held in reserve to do their job.

The Brits have few troops and can’t hold a full perimeter so elected to hold North and south ends of the Bridge and the far NW of the village, each area holding 1 troop plus their supporting vehicles.

Germans advance across the open as their first move, not bothering with smoke or clever stuff like that and paid the price, very quickly losing a platoon to fire from the houses and .50cals on the halftracks. The support from the North pushed through the woods to set up position to help out.

The Germans were not helped by losing control of the game by failing command rolls twice and going FUBAR in the first couple of turns.

The Brits in the NW buildings soon came under fire from the assault to the North so could no longer support those covering the fields. They managed to prevent the Germans exiting the forest completely but could not halt the swing around on the German left which could cut off any Brits to the West. The Germans also pressed on their assault pouring in 2 more platoons and managed to clear the troops defending the hedge on the edge of town to take the first row of houses.

Continued heavy firing by the Germans to the North managed to suppress the Brits and the Germans lined up for the house to house assault.

The assault is a huge success after the early losses and setback and the Germans are surprised to find they come under no further fire from the houses in the centre of the board. In fact the solitary Brit stand squad that runs for cover to the bridge makes them realise the Brits do not control any buildings on that road. Desultory fire from buildings NE of the bridge indicate there are more enemy there.

Meanwhile a straggling unit of panzergrenadiers move East along the roas South of the river attempting to find a way across, the Brits on the south side move to counter this threat.

The Germans consolidate in the outer houses and the Northern advance continues to link up with it.

You’ll notice now some of the Germans bases have been finished – I was busy over the weekend between sessions :-).

On the Southern side of the river the British attempt to use the halftracks to prevent the Germans from moving towards the bridge but the AT gun and MMgs return fire to quickly put the halftracks out of action.

For the Brits Lieutenant Colonel AD Hunter now arrives on table and speeds off to meet Major Fitzgerald. The British now prepare to defend the bridge  and ensure Fitzgerald gets away.

The Germans now prepare to assault the yellow topped building to cover their final assault on the bridge. Meantime British AFVs rush forward to block any German plans to control the roads. The AFVs are soon dispatched but not before allowing Fitzgerald (Humber LRC top left) to get away and call up reserves. German pioneers make their way through town (far right).

The Germans find no one in the yellow topped house and British firing fails to prevent them taking up residence. Just as they pile in the cavalry arrive. Cromwells roll into town but tread wearily as the Germans are bristling with schrecks and fausts.

To get more cover the Germans call in smoke on the bridge and advancing armour. A Firefly appears in the NE of town (bottom left).

German infantry rush across the North end of the bridge and take the final house needed to cover the pioneers. Again lack of firepower prevents the British from stalling this attack

The British armour risks the AT weapons of the German infantry and zip through town to protect the bridge as the Germans have now moved the pioneers into contact with the bridge. It’s looking desperate for the Brits.

Meanwhile further British reserves arrive on the scene only to be met by the mmgs now controlling the roads in and out of the Eastern side of town. Those Brits that make it are hampered by smoke.

The Germans bring the fausts round to the Bridge and brew up a Cromwell whilst a brave Dingo attempts to mow down the Germans loitering around the bridge. The straggling Panzer Grenadiers continue to advance towards the bridge hoping to escape capture.

The German company commander brazens the Bren fire from the Dingo as he calmly waits for the pioneers to set the charges an his infantry exchange fire with the British in the houses on the South.

The Germans having laid their charges vacate the area and blow the bridge first time round taking down the poor Dingo in the process, but leaving their fellow stragglers to the South to spend the rest of the war as POWs. In final insult to injury the Firefly goes up in smoke.

The Autopsy

My table is 8by6 but I like a bit of space around so I used me 7by5 terrain sheet and compromised the map slightly. 

Historically the Brits won, but it was very close. They were engineers, not ideally suited to holding a bridge against determined enemy. That said they performed well and repelled the assault leaving the bridge clear for the advancing formations to cross the river.

As for the game, well, the British players felt they had too little a chance and the Germans players thought it finely balanced and a great result… Go figure :-)

Lack any real support weapons other than the .50cals hampered the British but the Germans and myself (as umpire wondered if they’d  bitten off more than they could chew and tried to hold the town too far out with the 1 troop. Once the Germans were in a position to attempt close assault on the first house the British had little support fire from neighbouring houses. After that the Germans actually reached the bridge unscathed more or less.

This was stark contrast to the early moves when the Germans took heavy casualties trying to move parallel to the river. The straggling Germans were just added early to give the Brits more to think about as it looked like the Germans were due to be trounced. In hindsight they were unnecessary.

I did bring forward the arrival of the reserves as after the initial setback it then looked like the Germans would reach the bridge very quickly. Even so they were unable to prevent the German success. A key point was that German mortar fire in the first two sessions was ineffective and actually caused friendly fire!! In the last session it was always spot on!!

The British suggestion to ‘balance’ it more was to have Germans start further back to allow more time for the reserves since more troops would patently be against the historical oobs. The Germans and I all thought the Brits could have held a tighter perimeter. The players did not ‘know’ various deployments but the clues were all in the briefings, the British could have chosen to effectively ignore the South side and just left token resistance there as a calculated risk; they had after all technically arrived from there the previous day.

Either way all had a good time and if the autopsy starts pointing fingures at leat you know they cared and were involved and hopefully had a good time. We might try again something swapping sides just to see how hindsight changes things. If any one else tries the scenario let us know how it goes as we’d be interested to hear.

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