Monday, July 14, 2014

Wintercon 2014 -Chain of Command 'Air Assault' games: Pegasus Bridge

Well another Wintercon has come and gone with what appeared to be a good attendance and dozens of great games and comps with Flames of War, Bolt Action, Impetus etc, etc as well as the usual hordes of fantasy gamers and even some rather attractive cosplay 'actors'(?) were observed.  Myself, Andrew, Jason and John put on the 'Air Assault' demonstration / participation games with scenarios for the famous parachute drops at Pegasus Bridge, Normandy June 6, 1944 and the German drop on Galatas on April 21, 1941 the final part of their Op MERCURY air assault on Crete.  Andrew did a sterling job devising the scenarios for both and adapting the excellent Two Fat Lardy's 'Chain of Command' rules for them. Both scenarios consisted of two games each - the first being the actual landing and the second the fight to hold the objectives seized. 

This worked extremely well with the Pegasus Bridge scenario, mainly because the elite British paras landed right next to mainly third-rate German troops - mostly dozing Osstruppen (Ukrainians, Poles etc, none of whom had much enthusiasm for the war and couldn't speak German!) The German commander was also happily tucked up in bed with his French mistress (historically accurate!) so all in all the paras were not faced with much opposition in the first game and predictably rolled the German defences on one side of the canal, seizing all their objectives and capturing all but one of the German's drop off points, making it impossible for them to deploy and fight back.  One of the Para commanders was Jason's son Andrew (AKA the Boy Who Rolls Boxcars). The 37mm AckAck  and a HMG in the bunker were opposite the crashed glider which had only disgorged half its compliment and both threatened to brass up the paras before they could get into the entrenchments.  But young Andrew did what he does best - rolling consecutive double sixes - and put a Piat round right through the bunker door, taking out the pesky MG and crew.  At this point all German opposition on that side of the canal ceased with any surviving Osstruppen surrendering.

Detail of Jason's magnificent bridge model.
All but one of Jason's beautifully made Horsa gliders landed perfectly.
This time the bridge guard didn't stand much of a chance as Howard's paras quickly rushed the bridge.
The paras quickly overwhelmed the German defences who couldn't deploy, only the gun crew fought back.

After blowing up my bunker and everyone in it, young Andrew calmly contemplates the fact there are no Germans left to eliminate on his side of the canal. [Photo: Greg Blake]
The German reaction on the other side of the canal (the last remaining jump-off point!) could do nothing to stop the paras from seizing their objectives. The blazing tank is part of the scenery!
Unlike the test game we played (but matching what happened historically) the paras suffered only very light casualties seizing the bridge, its defences and deploying into the village approaches opposite.  The second game was a rather different kettle of fish as they were faced with multiple tanks, AFV's, well-equipped SS and Wehrmacht regulars.

British positions, Game 2.  They have taken the town on the other side of the canal and rapidly dug in entrenchments as well as occupying the buildings, turning the large hotel/chateau into a strongpoint.
The German heavies arrive - cautiously.  They all have a pin marker as they are convinced the paras are bristling with AT guns. They aren't of course, save for the captured  one next the bridge - but there's plenty of Piats to compensate!
The para's 2" mortar soon zeros in on the German commander & HQ section. The accurate fire killed half the HQ section and caused the CO to flee for the relative safety of the trees.
The German's proceeded with caution due to the rumour the paras had a couple of AT guns. Of course the only one they did have was the one they captured but it was in the capable hand's of Andrew who, true to form started getting hit after hit on the German tanks. Young Andrew was unlucky not to knock them both out with the amount of hits he got with his captured PAK38 and later with the captured 37mm AA gun. For a change I was lucky and rolled off all but one shot which penetrated the turret and killed the gunner, silencing the tank's main gun for several turns while they hosed the old gunner out and got a new one in. It must have rattled them as they couldn't hit a barn door for the rest of the game.
The Germans concentrated on the main British strongpoint, pouring all their fire into the hotel, eventually collapsing the upper floors and wiping out the para sections therein. The 2nd explosion marker on the side of the road near the bridge marks the final resting place of British commander on that side of the canal, the aptly named Col. Pine-Coffin. A Panzer got a direct hit with its75mm on the Colonel and his HQ team who were sheltering behind the stone wall.  The white puff of smoke on the other Panzer is young Andrew's hit on the turret with his captured PAK38.
Unlike the historical German counterattack, ours proceeded with great caution, using the armour to screen the advance and pummel the main strong points. Once the combined fire collapsed the hotel's top floors and the Para's CO was killed, the British had little choice but to try and pull their remaining troops back over the river. The guns on the other side proved to be a constant menace and only lucky saving dice rolls prevented them loosing one or both tanks, which took hit after hit. After taking the major strong point the Germans laid down successive round of smoke with their 81mm mortars to obscure their Panzers and SS who were assembling for a final assault on the bridge.

The German assault on the village rolls on after British morale collapses and they flee after the death of their commander. Temporally covered by laying smoke, the SS begin their dash across the road to take one of the British objectives.

Jason got to roll-off the smoke for one turn, enabling him to catch the SS section sprinting across the road to seize the objective on that side of the canal. The Paras opened up with every available gun (nearly 30 x D6 worth!) and knocked off nearly half the squad before the Germans could lay down more smoke.  That was to be their last success as the Germans finally took out the captured 37mm and half the crew of the PAK38 on the other side.

Germans assemble for the final assault after taking the objective on this side of the canal.
  Tthe smoke on the road obscured the Paras vision of the Germans as the SS made an impetuous dash for a key objective.  The smoke briefly blew away (not quite sure how that happens!) and uncovering the SS who were only halfway over the protecting wall.  A storm of British lead brought down most still in the roadway.
The captured 37mm Ack Ack finally bites the dust.  The Paras put both it and the PAK AT in the fortified emplacement on the other side of the bridge to great use against their former owners!
Save for one section of SS, the German's had all their troops including regular Wehrmacht and Osstruppen intact as well as all their Panzers and AFV's assembling for a final rush across the bridge. Unfortunately time defeated us and we couldn't play that out but it was agreed that the Paras, half of whom were now casualties, were a much depleted force and unlikely to be able to stop the German armour, so ended the game in their favour.

The Germans line up to pound the village but the British have already fled (oh OK 'withdrawn'!) A Pzw IV rolls over the entrenchment in front of the hotel from which the surviving paras have definitely fled! [Photo: Greg Blake]

This did not bode well for the next two games on Sunday.  The scenarios are great and all but the first Pegasus Bridge one would be enough for an entire day's gaming.  It became apparent that we would be lucky to get through both Galatas scenarios the next day, which indeed turned out to be the case. That's not to say everybody who played didn't have a good time - they did.  The games provided a unique gaming spectacle that was commented on by dozens of spectators at Wintercon - even attracting the attention of some of the Flames of War and Bolt Action players. Almost forgot - one thing that attracted their attention was the flashing explosion markers that I made from little tea lights. Can't say its an original idea as I saw it somewhere in Blog-land but I'm pretty happy with the result!

German mobile artillery concentrate on the hotel strong point [Photo: Greg Blake]

Here I must pay tribute to our mate Andrew who devised all the scenarios and was a driving force behind making the CoC 'Air Assault' games work.  He's had the roughest trot of late battling debilitating personal injury and then family tragedy which saw him have to leave the game halfway through the first day. Not only that but just a week or so before Wintercon he suffered the disaster of all his carefully crafted terrain boards being ruined by water following a heavy rain storm. Such things would have defeated a lesser man and I wouldn't have blamed him from cancelling it all together but that was clearly the last thing he wanted to do. Its due in large measure to his efforts that it was such a huge success at Wintercon. Our thoughts are with you Andrew and I'm sure the sentiment is shared by all your wargaming mates.

The good news is that John, Jason and myself decided not to run the second Galatas scenario but to do the whole thing properly at the Lanyan club in a few weeks time, when I'm sure Andrew as the rules guru will be better able to come along and guide us all as we re-fight the Kiwis' heroic counterattack on Galatas.

My next post will be devoted to Andrew's terrific second scenario, the German air assault on Galatas.