Friday, 23 August 2019

Breaking the Crust

After out foray with The Portable Wargame, I have been kicking around various ideas for simple brigade level WW2 games. NATO Briagde Commander always worked well with smaller scale things, but some aspects of the game system were a bit slow (random movement in particular) and I wanted to play with 15mm stuff, which would be a bit of a squeeze for WW2 units at NBCs 1 hex = 1000m ground scale.

Eventually I came up with a relative of NBC, but using 600m hexes. This reduced the unit density per hex to manageable levels with the larger toys, and generated ranges better suited to WW2 weapons. It also meant that all units were now generally spread over multiple hexes which meant I had to introduce battalion command zones.

I'd been planning to play some more of the Command Decision 'Market Garden' campaign scenarios, neatly pitched at brigade level games. The one I picked for a live playtest was 'Breaking the Crust', the Irish Guards breakout through Kampfgruppe Walther. The Allies have three battalions supported by the entire Guards Div artillery against four weak German battalions, a mix of enthusiastic but poorly trained German paras, and veteran but rather cautious SS troops from 10th SS Panzer Division.

The battlefield from the west. 2nd Bn Irish Guards can be seen massing on the right. In the foreground are two battalions of 6th FJ Regiment, and lurking in the central woods are more FJ, KG Hoffman. In the far distance is SS KG Heinke, composed of panzergrenadiers, engineers, artillery and the entire 10th SS Panzerjaeger Abteilung. 

SS KG Heinke HQ. The lonely Panzer IV/70 is the entire 10th SS Panzerjaeger Bn... Both 9th and 10th SS Panzer were issued Jagdpanzer IVs to equip their AT battalions as the battle for France was ending, and they formed the bulk of both divisions armoured strength during the retreat to Holland. 10th SS managed to withdraw with a dozen operational jagdpanzers, and 9th SS still had two operational vehicles as 1st Airborne started to land. 

Tim and Tim got to wear the smartest hats.

2nd Bn Irish Guards, a cross-attached group of Shermans, infantry from 3rd Bn and the all important Forward Air Controller in his scout car.

John and Jerry played the plucky Brits.

KG Hoffman on the main road. It seemed like a good idea to put their AT platoon on the edge of the woods, because that is where it was in the film. The Germans also had some minefields, some of them were even real!

The Irish Guards advanced behind a massive rolling artillery barrage. The barrage disrupted the German communications so no artillery for them.

The leading elements of KG Hoffman were obliterated by artillery and massed tank fire. Sadly the combat team on the road failed a morale test and were unable to follow up, stalling the advance. Meanwhile 3rd Bn (the rest of the Shermans and infantry) came piling on, heading for 6th FJR on the Germans right flank.  In the far distance a battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment supported by Cromwells from 15/19th Hussars put in an appearance.

The Dorsets set off for KG Heinke. The Germans had moved their armour up in support and this attracted the attention of RAF Typhoons, who naturally missed completely.

The Dorsets closed in and the Cromwells and Jagdpanzers started duelling. British Engineers peered doubtfully at the minefield.

Over on the other flank the British armour waited for infantry support before trying to root the FJ out of the village.

The Germans scored some hits on the Cromwells, and the British return fire was ineffective as their shells bounced off the Jagdpanzers heavy armour. The Typhoons came back for another go and managed to strafe their own engineers who were trying to clear the mines. Danger Close!

The leading companies passed a morale test to assault the SS, but sadly the Germans were not put off by more airstrikes which destroyed the battalion and HQ, and the British were gunned down in a hail of MG42 fire. 

In the 6th FJR sector something of a stalemate settled in. The Germans couldn't do much except lob mortar rounds at the British, but the British failed their morale attempting to assault the village.

In the centre, the British had advanced a mile or so up the main road but KG Hoffman was still hanging on at 50% strength and as it seemed unlikely that the British were going to break through in any sector before nightfall, we called it a day.

That was a fairly tough scrap for the British. They were hideously unlucky with their morale tests and air strikes, and lost the rolling barrage fairly quickly. They may have been better putting an infantry heavy force up the main road and using their mass of armour in the better tank country on the right, but that was where the better German troops were. In all the excitement I also forgot some of the rules - the Germans should have taken some extra morale tests, and the British armour should have taken rather fewer, so many apologies to John and Jerry.

The main issue was (still) the amount of dice rolling required, to hit rolls, saving throws, morale checks.... In NBC as the units are all stacked together, you tend to throw handfuls of dice, whereas in this environment with more distributed units, were were resolving combats a couple of companies at a time.  An unfortunate consequence of the smaller hex size. It wasn't a complete disaster though, and although originally I was somewhat despondant about it, just writing this report made me realise it had reasonable flow and narrative, so I'll  persevere with it for now.


  1. Sounds promising. It is often the case (or has been in my limited experience) that one knows the thing isn't quite right, but it so nearly is that one feels one is on to something that is worth pursuing.

    1. I think part of the problem is that our appetite for complexity has fallen even more drastically in the last few years, so I'm trying to come up things that have a bit of bite yet are playable in an hour and a half!

  2. How could you not call the Germans "Tiger Tims?" wearing those hats at such a rakish angle?

  3. Plucky British Moustaches face down thin-lipped clean-shaven Teutons. Scores on hats are even!

    Excellent battle report.

    Regards, Chris.