Friday, 19 October 2012

Hell's Highway, Holland 1944....Game Number 19


Lt.General Horrocks to Lt.Colonel J.O.E. Vandeleur (aka Michael Caine) of the Irish Guards - "I've selected you to lead us, not only because of your extraordinary fighting ability, but also because, in the unlikely event the Germans ever get you, they will assume from your attire that they've captured a wretched peasant and immediately send you on your way."

I spent some time yesterday evening giving Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame: Modern a run out with a small scenario loosely based on some of the fighting that took place along 'Hell's Highway' - the road from the Belgian frontier ending at Arnhem - as the American Airborne forces desperately hung on to positions ensuring that 30 Corps could reach the beleaguered British. The Germans launched numerous 'hasty attacks' (in modern parlance) against the narrow corridor with pretty much whatever troops happened to be at hand - from elite Fallschirmjager through various Panzer troops down to 'old men on bicycles'. As ever, the blocks were used with the olive set representing the Americans (of the 82nd Airborne) and the grey the Germans.

Additional Rules

Basically I treated each block as a separate entity within the unit and so for combat purposes rolled a d6 per block. Retreat results affected the entire unit. I also allowed troops in cover to exchange the first retreat result of a combat to a loss of a block instead. I treated all troops as average as I felt this better represented the disorganised state of the assorted American paratroops after landing - units being mixed up, command casualties, dispersion etc - and the overall varied quality of the German opposition (see above for details). I also made use of an exhaustion level for each side - this was set at 50% (11 blocks) for the Americans (simply because they had to hold at all costs and the overall troop quality was high) and at 33% (8 blocks) for the Germans due to the bewildering quality and variety of troops in use!



The opposing forces - note how the German armoured and motorised infantry is represented by a pair of standard infantry blocks combined with an armour and wheeled unit block.


The initial positions - note the densely forested edge of the playing area.

The German plan was very simple. An armoured assault on the right flank with a pinning attack in the centre utilising both tanks and motorised infantry, flanked with conventional infantry supported by field artillery. The US plan was to hang on and a unit of infantry was held in reserve to be used as and when needed (the top left hand square, next to the commander and the artillery).


Turn 1 Artillery Fire. The German armour on the road was targeted by the American artillery and lost a base as a result whilst the paratroopers in the centre are similarly affected (note the white markers indicating artillery strikes and the upturned blocks for casualties).


Turn 1. The paratroopers stay firmly put whilst the German advance in the centre along the road and on the right flank get underway.


Turn 2 Artillery Fire. Disaster for the Germans on the road as the US artillery batters the attacking armour in the centre. Meanwhile the German artillery switches fire to the paratrooper position on the other side of the road causing some casualties.


Turn 2. With the destruction of the German armour in the centre the supporting motorised infantry disembark  prior to moving into the woods. Meanwhile both German flanking attacks continue to advance.


Turn 3 Artillery Fire. Both sides artillery switch targets with the flanking German armour taking casualties but the US paratroopers in the centre suffer severely.


Turn 3. The German flanking attack gets underway with telling effect from the combination of tanks and mechanised infantry. Meanwhile the sole surviving element of the central US paratroopers retires from the edge of the village whilst reinforcements are summoned from the rear.


Turn 4 Artillery Fire. The American artillery switches fire to spoil the German armour attack on the right hand end of the village whilst their foremost positions come under more enemy artillery fire.


Turn 4 and Turn 5 Artillery Fire. The US machine gun opens fire to telling effect on the advancing German infantry (destroying two blocks). When the artillery fire resumes a telling barrage lands on the German motorised infantry inflicting casualties and driving them back into the woods. The German reply inflicted casualties but by then the damage had been done. US 10 blocks, Germans 8 so the Germans lose by virtue of having reached their exhaustion level and are thus incapable of further offensive action. It was very close though!


The final result - note the distribution of casualties - most of the German armour and over half the US paratroopers

Despite being only 4 1/2 turns long this was an interesting action to fight. I made an initial mistake in rating the  US artillery too highly (I classed it as being field artillery but for a 75mm pack howitzer perhaps this was a little generous!) and boy was it effective! The big guns were the main casualty inflicting source for both sides although the machine guns certainly did their part and the German armour/mechanised infantry combination was also rather useful. I have to say that the whole idea augurs well for the future and I reckon that in 20 mm  it will be something to see (as indeed it already has!). 

It felt strange fighting on squares rather than hexes and to be honest, I did have to remember how to measure ranges in a different way or more than one occasion as I kept trying to use diagonals. I would also prefer to use a larger area so the next game will be fought on a 12 x 8 grid. I will also need to lock down unit compositions - especially for motorised and mechanised types and the whole embarking/disembarking thing.

Adjusting the exhaustion level to take into consideration overall troop quality is a quick and easy device to employ rather than using multiple troop qualities for varying unit types although this will not always be the best solution. At this stage I really wanted to concentrate on the overall feel rather than low level detail.

Great fun and a very pleasant way to spend an evening.





14 comments:

Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

David,

A very interesting battle report. I liked the way the battle unfolded, and one felt that the German might just have achieved their objective.

The blocks look very good, and the combination of different symbols on the blocks makes it very easy to follow what each unit represents. I also like the way in which units are degraded - very Morschauser! He advocated the use of rosters for units if you wanted a longer battle ... and that is what you are doing!

I look forward to reading more PW:M battle reports in the near future.

All the best,

Bob

Steven Page said...

Good game and a well written report. i think I will run the same rosters and layout, and see what happens.

I agree with you on the Airborne 75mm. I am using mine as "infantry guns".

Your blocks do look impressive.
-Steve

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

I had my reservations but the boy did good :)

Hmm maybe there is a use for my 20mm toys after all ;)

Good game Dave thanks for sharing,you have perked me up after a long hard week ;)

:)

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

PS I bet that German armour that was destroyed was of the miscellaneous light variety .. probably a little bit French in origin

David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

Many thanks old chap! I really enjoyed fighting the action and am looking forward to taking the rules further.

The Germans could have won it but were unfortunate in that the US artillery was so well served.

The unit degradation worked well - as did rolling a d6 per block - and I was pleased I used it. I will keep these in going forward, together with the exhaustion level.

I plan to paint one of the boards this weekend into a desert version as I would really like to tackle some North African actions.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Steve,

I will be interested to see how you get on fighting the action - especially if you reclassify the US artillery!

The blocks have worked out well for this, their first 'tank era' action and I have great plans for them going forward.

All the best,

DC

Jim Duncan said...

Am just back from the pub so is difficult to judge what you have achieved bit I'm sure it is something!

I will have another look tomorrow!

Jim

The Angry Lurker said...

That was quite enjoyable and unique David, nicely done!

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

Happy to oblige - and for similar reasons as well! It has certainly raised the possibility of 20mm to DEFCON4....;-)

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

I was tempted to go down the King Tiger route but yes you are correct, it was representative of a real mish-mash of types with probably some old French kit thrown in for good measure.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Jim,

I hope it was a good one!

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Fran,

I really enjoyed it as it was simple but very effective and nicely captured that all important 'feel'

I am pleased that the modern blocks worked out as well as they did and going forward I have plans to make more use of them.

All the best,

DC

Steven Page said...

Hi David,
I just ran the scenario with the same set-up, except using one stand per unit. I rated the US artillery as Infantry guns. The game took five turns, with the German armor on the right flank blasting the US out of their cover. Attempts by the Airborne to assault the PzIV sere cut down by the supporting grenadiers.

The US guns needed to be in the front row of buildings to have much effect with their now shorter range. The little howitzer did knock out one tank unit before falling to the German field gun.

A very enjoyable scenario, and I should think an excellent one to teach the game to a newcomer.

-Steve

David Crook said...

Hi Steve,

Really pleased you enjoyed the game and I reckon the rating for the US artillery seems about right.

The German armour tried the same in my second scenario (blasting troops out from cover) but without success as the infantry could not keep up!

All the best,

DC