My usual gaming partner, Neil, was keen to have a go at a Market Garden scenario: his WW2 figure collection being centred around the Irish Guards and their opposition from that theatre. As I was/am busy with the Burma supplement, he decided that he would write the scenario, adapting it from the another system’s campaign book, but got so carried away that he actually wrote three linked scenarios, which we would play over the course of two weekends.
The scenario would feature a company/squadron of the Irish Guards (five troops of tanks, three platoons of infantry, and HQ elements) trying to force their way down “Hell’s Highway”: the straight road leading to the where paratroopers were holding the bridge that, historically, proved to be too far. Table One was half open terrain and then half wood; Table Two was mostly open terrain and the odd farm; Table Three was based around a large town. Vehicles could not leave the road without being bogged down.
On all three tables, the “Micks” would be supported by a platoon from the Devonshire Infantry on either side of the road: a platoon which would regenerate each time any elements on the table were pulled back to their start line. There would also be constant air support throughout the day: although the air support’s targets had to be marked by the tanks with purple smoke. The Micks would have thirty turns to get across all three tables.
As the Micks approached Table One, five stonks landed on the German positions there. Hoping that this would have nicely suppressed any opposition, and aware of the need for speed, a troop of Micks carrying a platoon of infantry, zoomed forward and hit the tree line at top speed. On either side of the road, a platoon of Devons was making their way over the fields as well.
This rapid advance proved to be somewhat painful, as there had been a company of Fallschirmjagers, along with some AT guns and two StuG’s, hiding in the woods dug-in behind tree trunks and the like. Fortunately the stonks had really batterered them: knocking out at least two MMG’s and killing a couple of handful’s of infantry. This still left plenty of them left, however, and three of the four Shermans on the road were dispatched before they had a chance to do much more than ask directions to the nearest pub serving Guinness. Their accompanying infantry were also pinned down as they hurled themselves off tanks that were starting to brew up.
The next troop on the road called in air support (purple smoke everywhere!) and the Devon’s moved up to help out. On the left flank, the platoon of Devon’s went mental: a move around the side of the German position then resulted in them charging into the rear of the German position led by their Big Man with an incredible display of athletic prowess (a roll of 17 on 3d6 for movement). This dispatched one German AT gun and left a hole in their line from which the Devons, now supported by the Mick infantry, began to roll up either side. The Germans crumbled on the left as the same platoon of Devons then performed another sprint (a roll of 18 on 3d6 for movement this time) and another FJ position fell to an attack from behind!
On the right, the Germans proved a bit more difficult to shift: but constant air attacks kept their heads down. A Sherman bravely charged forward and distracted the StuG long enough for it to be taken out by a PIAT (the Devon platoon from the left again), and without any other AT weapons apart from their ‘fausts, the Germans could then be blasted into submission by the whole of the British force. Table One fell after only seven appearances of the Turn Card.
Neil’s plan was for Table Two to be a psychologically sapping table: the idea was that the Brits, having encountered dug-in FJ’s once, would see the slightly denser terrain here and move forward slowly and cautiously. There weren’t that many Germans on this table (a couple of platoons and a couple of ‘schreks only), but the cautious advance would eat up valuable time.
Well, that was the plan. By now the Micks had got the bit firmly between their teeth, and just charged forward shooting at anything that moved. The Germans were quickly identified and blasted with every Blind that could be uncovered, and close assaulted by the Devons (again!). All opposition was quickly suppressed, and the tanks charged forward ignoring the possibilities of running into something more substantial. By this stage I was happy to sacrifice a tank or two in exchange for rapid movement: those paratroops at Arnhem couldn’t hold out for ever!
Table Two fell with only 13 appearances of the Turn Card. So far, the real heroes of the piece had been the Devons, who appeared unstoppable: a combination of the cast of Chariots of Fire and Aliens! On to Table Three.
Things went wrong almost from the start. Seeing the town, the Micks sent forward a Daimler Dingo from their HQ elements to charge through the town seeing what they could see. This looked to be a suicide mission, and so it proved! The Dingo spotted six German Blinds, one of which dropped grenades into its open top and blew its crew to strawberry jam. But at least I now knew where the Germans were: or so I thought!
Up came the rest of the Brits: usual formation of a tank troop along the road and a platoon of Devons either side. Unfortunately on the right was a large farm in which there was a dug-in ‘88’ supported by a two-squad platoon of FJ’s. The FJ’s opened up on the Devons (each squad was a two-LMG one as well!) and the right-hand platoon was effectively taken out for the rest of the game. The ‘88’ then went on to KO two Shermans on the road in quick succession, and a third after a bit. Ooops!
On the right, things went no better. The Devons were pinned down behind a hedge by MMG fire from buildings before they properly got to the town.
Drastic measures were needed: that 88 covered the road superbly, and there was no way any tank was going to get past it. Even the tank that had poked its nose out to try and purple smoke it had been brewed up!
Drastic measures were needed: drastic measures were taken! A troop of tanks under a Blind got a good roll and zoomed onto the table: in sight of the 88, but hoping to get into the town before it could spot and start blowing them up. Tea Break. British Blinds again, followed by Rapid Deployment. A track led from the main road to the gates of the farm at which the 88 was dug in. Come on the Micks! The entire troop, still under a Blind, hammered down the road and then the track, pedals to the metal, and smashed into the farm!
The FJ’s desperately fired their ‘fausts at the approaching tanks, but all four missed, and the infantry scattered into the farm buildings as many tonnes of Sherman drove over their positions! The ‘88’ was not so lucky: its crew scattered as another Sherman rammed into it, effectively taking it out!
Neil was gobsmacked. He had expected the ‘88’ to hold me up for a long time, and for its position only to fall from a properly coordinated air, tank and infantry assault. I merely awarded myself the “Fat Wally Medallion For Ridiculous But Ultimately Successful Charging”.
With the ‘88’ gone, the way into the town was now open. A quick “Skirl of the (Irish) Pipes” later and the first few streets were packed with half a dozen Shermans and a couple of platoons of infantry. The Shermans all hung back (squeezed into alleyways!) as there were three ‘schrecks and a PaK40 lurking in the centre of town and on the other side of the main square, and the narrow streets didn’t give much room to dodge! The infantry, on the other hand, began house clearing with enthusiasm. The lead FJ platoon took some shifting (one house changing hands three times in as many turns) but the nearest half of the town was captured with twelve turns still to go.
Meanwhile, the FJ’s that had protected the ‘88’ had scarpered down and to one side of a narrow road bypassing and leading to the other side of the main square, where the Germans were firmly dug-in. One Sherman raced after them and managed to machine gun one squad to death, but was then somewhat perturbed to see a German tank hunter suddenly appear at the other end of the road.
The music from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly began as the two tanks faced each other about ten inches apart on a narrow road bordered by hedge and houses. Surely it would be who was first to shoot that would decide things! The Sherman shot first, but both shells that hit the tank hunter bounced straight off its armour. My glee turned to anguish as the Germans’ card came up. I was lucky: the Sherman was also hit twice, and received a turret jam and an engine-fire, but a quick thinking Mick put the fire out with his Guinness. Both tanks exchanged another round of fire, and both tanks missed, but the Micks’ nerve had gone and they abandoned their Sherman before they could fire again.
This duel had, however, given other Shermans from the troop time to start working their way around the far right flank of the tank hunter, and it wouldn’t be too long before they could fire at its rear tail, just poking out onto another street.
Meanwhile, the Micks in the centre of the town had been doing stirring work at shooting German AT personnel. The three ‘schrecks had been shot down by infantry (well, my daughter had arrived back by this time and did her usual trick of rolling ‘6’s when required – Neil later complained that he’d actually been beaten not by me but by a 7-year old with loaded dice: bad sports these Krauts!) and the AT gun only had two crew left.
Worse, the last FJ platoon had suffered another Sherman charge (they can get up some speed on a good road) and wasted their ‘fausts shooting at the rampaging tank before scattering into houses as it drove into their trench! They did manage to knock it out, but that was the end of their anti-tank capacity.
At this point, with about six turns still to go, Neil surrendered. After a hard fought battle across three tables, the Irish Guards and Devons would manage to get through to Arnhem, polish off the troops assaulting the para’s there, and open the way into Germany. Word has it that Hitler surrendered only a week later, the Americans took Berlin, the Soviets objected, and a very nasty third world war broke out, only ending when the Yanks dropped the world’s first atom bomb not on Hiroshima but on Moscow…but that’s another story!
A fantastic series of games from Neil: most enjoyable to play. There was a real difference between gaming the open countryside, wooded countryside and town terrains. As the British player, I really felt nervous for my tanks in amongst the houses, desperate for my infantry to come up and support them. The ‘88’ was awesomely good, and combined with the Ronson rule, really put the fear of God into my tankers.
Total game time was about eleven hours: but well worth it. We both agreed that the key points of the battle were the Devons’ miraculous sprinting on Table One; the sheer “who cares what we encounter” attitude of the Micks on Table Two; and the German ‘88’ being taken out by charging tanks on Table Three.
That and a 7-year old with loaded dice, of course!