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Sunday, 26 August 2018

Air Assault Danzig - Battlegroup Blitzkrieg

So, as mentioned in my previous post, I decided a month or so ago that it was time to get my Ju-52s and DFS-230s out of their storage cabinets and revive my fictional Poland 1939 airfield attack scenario. The original game was played out using the Blitzkrieg Commander rules (that I enjoyed using for many years), but now I wanted to see how the game would work using Battlegroup Blitzkrieg, particularly as the recent Battlegroup Tobruk supplement includes rules for glider and parachute landings as part of the Battle of Crete. Besides wanting to get the toys out the cupboard again, I thought it would be interesting to see to what extent the very different levels of play in the two rule sets affected the game. In the end, the answer was 'not much', of which more later.

My scenario is inspired by the German attacks on the Dutch airfields around The Hague on 10th May 1940. These always looked like great scenarios to re-create on the table, but I didn't want the effort of buying and painting Dutch forces, so I decided to transpose the whole thing to 1st September 1939. Most of you will know that the German airborne forces weren't ready for such an operation in 1939 - a Fallschirmj√§ger regiment was operational (and had a number of potential operations cancelled during the campaign), but the glider and airlanding forces weren't yet available. This game is therefore very much a fictional one, and supposes an attack on the main airfield serving Danzig on the first day of WW2. For some more background, see this post from 2013 and this post from 2012. 

Scenario - The Assault On Danzig/Langfuhr

Langfuhr aerodrome. A 6' x 5' table was in use. Bridge objective in background.
Langfuhr was a real airfield (now defunct), situated on the outskirts of Danzig, but the representation of the airfield on the table is entirely generic. The airfield and a nearby river bridge are to be seized by German airborne forces, basically consisting of a glider assault platoon, a parachute platoon, and an airlanding (luftlande) platoon with supporting heavy weapons. The gliders will land off-airfield (to avoid blocking the runways) and concentrate on the bridge and airfield headquarters area. The paras will simultaneously land on the airfield itself to seize the runways and attempt to suppress the airfield defences. A few moves later, the airlanding units will arrive on the airfield to finish the job. 

The Polish aircraft based on the airfield are considered to have been dispersed to less vulnerable locations, or destroyed in air combat - German air superiority is already established in this part of Polish airspace. The airfield has some good AA defences and a modest infantry presence, along with a small unit of armoured cars which are temporarily based there. The nearby bridge is defended by a couple of pillboxes. Reinforcements will arrive during the game consisting of mobile recce units and more infantry, along with a couple of old Renault tanks from a nearby training base.

Now, I could list the full forces in detail, as I have done for many scenarios in the past, but I think you get the idea. I actually found adapting the scenario for BGB made for an easier game. I used the parachute and glider landing rules from Tobruk pretty much as written, and found once again that these work well. I was disappointed that the supplement didn't include rules for airlanding operations, especially as these featured prominently in the air invasion of Crete, but creating my own wasn't really much trouble. I decided the landing Tante Ju's would be subject to AA fire as they arrived, under the normal rules for air attacks, which would mean the defending AA units would need to have 'ambush fire' orders as far as could be managed by the Polish defenders. Ju-52s were allocated 4 hits. A 'return to base' morale result would involve the relevant aircraft joining the next wave in the following turn. After any AA fire, a landing table similar to that for the gliders would be employed, but with a higher chance of a safe landing.

The forces for the game were reduced from my original 2013 bash so that playing time would be less onerous - in particular, only three waves of Ju-52s would be needed. I have 8 model aircraft, and 4 were allocated to each wave, so survivors from the first 2 waves would need to take off again to form the third. This represented the need in real operations for aircraft to get airborne as soon as possible after deploying their loads, in order to avoid being destroyed on the ground. There was thus also a 'take off table' to match the landing table, based on a roll of a D6:

1 - crash on take off, aircraft destroyed.
2,3 - unable to depart due blocked take-off run.
4,5,6 - successful take-off.

For interested Battlegroup players, the German forces came to around 800 points with a BP of 61. The Polish forces had around 450 points, BP 33. And so, without further ado...

The Game In Pictures

Turn 1. A timed Ju-87 strike severely damages the airport HQ buildings and destroys the Polish HQ.
The parachute and glider landings are rather dispersed but broadly successful.
Some of the German paras landed almost on top of the Polish dug-outs.
Assaults on the Polish AA positions were determined and effective.
The gliders on the LZ south of the bridge landed pretty well.
On the northern LZ, one glider miscalculated and hit the trees of a windbreak east of the LZ.
All on board were lost.
Turn 4. The first airlanding wave arrives. AA opposition was limited.
Turn 5 - second wave.
On the left some motorised Polish infantry have arrived to reinforce the defenders.
They rake the airfield with effective fire.
The bridge is in German hands. The flamethrowers of the assaulting engineers were put to good use.
Turn 7. Casualties on both sides were high, but on this turn the Poles reached their BP number and were defeated.
It had been a close run thing, however, and the Germans were only a few points from their own BP.

So Much For Scales In Wargames!
Well, in BKC one stand equals a platoon, whilst in BGB one figure equals one man. But I played the same scenario on much the same table and terrain, using the same figures and models with both rule sets, except that with BKC a 'battalion' of airlanding troops supposedly arrived, whilst with BGB a 'platoon' arrived. How come those 1980s rule books were so hung up on the importance of accurate scaling? As I have found so often recently, those 1960s pioneers who just went with what worked were absolutely right.

Anyway, this is a fun scenario that I hope to play again. The vagaries of airborne arrivals are dramatic and create a game that will be different every time. My main disappointment was that the Renault FT-17s arrived too late in the game to see combat - blast! I think I have demonstrated that this kind of speciality game can be developed without a shed-load of expense and months of work on tailor-made terrain and figures.

As a coda, I decided the airfield needed decorating with at least one Polish aircraft. So I purchased a Zvezda Russian Po-2 biplane. This will be painted in Polish colours and will pretend to be an unserviceable Lublin R-VIII stuck on the aerodrome:

 

Thanks for reading. See you next time!

5 comments:

Steve J. said...

Great to see you getting some time to play this scenario again. It looked great and I think has lots of replay value in it. Just a shame that the Ft-17's didn't arrive in time.

Norm said...

enjoyed, thanks and agree about 'what looks right'. I might be using modern rulebooks, but my gaming ethos is going full circle, back to my early days of gaming.

Peter said...

A very interesting game and nice looking tabletop and miniatures.

Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

Spot on. I suppose our generation just had to find this stuff out the hard way!

Chris Gregg said...

A lot of truth in what you say about scale especially for "modern" wargames where the unit footprint on the ground is not so relevant. I'm having success using Rapid Fire! with my 12mm WW2 with platoons and companies instead of battalions, but keeping all the ranges and movement the same.