Friday, 1 September 2017

The Bridge At Staruchy - September 1939

And so good fortune presented me with a free morning to set up and fight out the airborne assault scenario I had developed, with the intention of trying out the rules for glider and parachute landings recently published in Battlegroup Tobruk.

Now Battlegroup (like most contemporary rules, especially the WW2 ones) benefit from being played regularly. Whilst basically simple, there are quite a few fiddly bits to get the hang of, and if you haven't played for a while there can be some time-consuming searching through the rules for re-familiarisation. Such was my experience for this game, with the added problem of using the completely new rules for airborne landings.

The new rules I found pretty good. They seem to have the right balance of frustration and 'feel', which gives a good impression of the things that can go both right and wrong during an opposed glider and parachute assault. What was particularly interesting was that my modest game (platoon level, about 400 points per side) was resolved in just three moves. They were three quite lengthy moves (about 45 minutes each) due to my rusty Battlegroup skills, but nevertheless the relatively high Battle Rating of the Germans was rapidly eroded as gliders crashed, Fallschirmjäger dropped into the river, and Polish fire took its toll.

The scenario as described in my original post provided a pretty tight game, with the Poles exceeding their Battle Rating in German turn 3, whilst the Germans themselves had lost 34 of their original 35 BR. One surprise was how quickly the 2 pillboxes fell - with a cover save of 2+ for the occupants, these are usually tough nuts to crack. But some intense small arms fire linked to a run of 1s emptied one pillbox, whilst the other was silenced by placing a very handy 'ammo low' card on top of it. Flamethrowers are really fearsome weapons in Battlegroup, provided you can get them into range, and a Polish squad was quickly wiped out by such a discharge. They would have been ideal to clear the pillboxes, but in the end weren't needed. The counters taken for being under flamethrower fire and being under air attack were very useful in eroding Polish strength.

Below are a few pictures to give you a feel for the terrain - 15mm miniatures of course. The only changes I would make to the scenario as presented in my previous post would be to give just 20" of trenches to the Poles (more isn't needed), and reduce the number of HS-123 strikes to 1 to balance the points. I would also restrict the 'Alarm' special rule to 2 turns in this particular case. I didn't use the 'Red Shines The Sun!' special rule either. With veteran and elite Germans facing inexperienced Poles, the superiority in German morale didn't need extra boosting. 

The overall set up and the position after German turn 1.
One glider was destroyed, and of the other 3 only 1 made a perfect landing.
Polish positions around the bridge.
The only glider to land exactly as planned. I mistakenly marked the occupants as 'pinned' at first, as you can see.
In fact they were entitled to receive orders straight away.
The HS-123 strikes were effective in pinning some of the Polish units around the bridge.
Polish reinforcements arriving on turn 2 advance past an abandoned glider.
Final positions. A 'drop canister objective' has been captured by a German squad (bottom right), which won the game.
This particular rule is a clever abstraction of the critical nature of paratroops (especially German ones) having to retrieve supply canisters after a drop.
I'm looking forward to giving these rules another try, perhaps in a bigger game featuring air-landing troops. Perhaps this project from 2013 would be a good one to resurrect. 

In the unlikely event anyone is interested, I would represent transport planes landing under fire during a Battlegroup game in the same way as glider landings, but make them a bit more likely to land safely. So the dice rolls become 1-destroyed, 2-3 rough landing, 4-6 perfect landing. Thus the better chance of a good arrival (due to being powered aircraft using an airfield or prepared strip) is represented.

Thanks for reading. 'Til next time.


Steve J. said...

An interesting post Keith. It might be worth giving the gliders a better chance of landing safely than they did on Crete. Afterall the terrain in Poland is more than likely a lot less rocky and riven by gullies than Crete. Still, one of those 'rules' that can be tweaked to suit the circumstances.

Keith Flint said...

That's just what Piers has been suggesting on the Guild site - that maybe the rules could be toned down for other theatres. My own impression is that when landings were genuinely contested (which is pretty much the only kind of landing that would make a worthwhile wargame) casualties were high.

Drops and glider landings away from the enemy aren't really worth gaming. My feeling is that the level of enemy resistance is the key factor, rather than terrain.

Stu Rat said...

I question whether you should rate the Germans as veterans in this scenario.
Elite, sure, I can see that.
They were highly trained, but this was the start of the war for them as much as it was for the Poles.

Keith Flint said...

A very reasonable point Stu. As they never went into combat in 1939, it's hard to know how to rate them, but perhaps regular might be an alternative. On the other hand, their motivation would surely have been very high.