Right, now I’ve sorted out some technical issues I can get this post done!
Saturday saw me up and at ’em at 5 o’clock so I could get the first train to meet Daren at Tulse Hill so we could get on the road to Newbury Racecourse to attend Colours. We were putting on Daren’s cracking game centred around the fighting for Son Bridge during the Market-Garden operation in WW2 (the Arnhem campaign if anyone doesn’t know). Unusually for us we hadn’t had a chance to do a full run-through as both Dan and I were on two different Mediterranean islands when the club was last open for an all day game but we had discussed solutions to some issues in the few partial games that we had so were confident things would run smoothly.
Luckily we had no problem on the journey to the show and were in and ready to set up by half 8, even though we were down as being from SELWG (oh, the horror!!) on the organisers sheets and in the programme which caused a touch of confusion when signing in, and pretty soon the table was ready to rock and Dan and Bart arrived pretty soon after too. After Daren had finished setting the forces on the table it was time for a quick tea/coffee and obligatory bacon roll and a quick spin round the traders before the public were let in. I had a quick chat with Ian at the H&R stand about some of the planned Swedes in the pipeline (no plans for the BILL atgm but I’ve been in contact with Andy since and it might be a goer, fingers crossed for that!!) and checked out the models for the up-coming releases, there’s some very nice trucks coming soon that’ll make Warsaw Pact and ‘non-aligned’ players very happy! Then a quick visit to Pete at Baccus to get a few bits and to have a quick chat about next years Joy of 6 as there’s been talk of more than one Warlords game being taken and I wanted to check it’d be ok – apparently the more the merrier so all good there.
So with everyone back from the traders we were ready to go and started the game just before the doors were open. Dan and I were in charge of both the Irish Guards advancing along the road and the US Paras dug in around the bridge, Bart was trying to stop us with Kampfgruppe Walther and was expecting some reinforcements later. Our plan was quite simple – barrel up the road as quickly as possible and by pass any tough pockets of resistance. Before we get stuck into the action though some shots of the battlefield before all the nasty shooting and stuff started! (as usual you can click on pics to make them bigger)
Dan had developed a fire plan for the first 5 moves which we thought would allow us to get past the PAK-40’s lurking in the first wood and maybe neutralise the second line of defence. We were also allowed to deploy the ‘Purple Smoke’ from the off to bring in a Tiffy strike too. Unfortunately things started to go wrong right from the start. First of all the Typhoons didn’t make any impact on the waiting anti-tank gunners and neither did the application of HE from the 25pdrs, and soon a couple of armoured cars were brewed up whilst the long line of traffic behind them slowly started inching their way forwards. We decided to push the recce types forward hell for leather and they fell prey to, as Dan said, ‘A filthy Hun trick’ of being ambushed by Panzerschrecks. Bart also started calling in artillery onto the head of the column behind the Armoured cars and unfortunately for us his shooting was very precise causing the lead vehicles to become disorganised and supressed which slowed things down for the following units.
We did mange to knock one of the Pak 40’s out with an artillery strike but the other one led a charmed life and started taking out the lead Shermans. Our problems then went up a notch when we realised that we had miscalculated just how fast the Armoured Cars would be able to move and they were hit by our own guns when they lifted forward from the wood, a situation that was exacerbated when some RAF type missed his target and dropped his bombs smack on the survivors! Just to make things even nicer for the Irish Guards Bart’s artillery had a particularly effective couple of stonks in which he took out the majority of one of the infantry platoons when their carriers were knocked out. So a sticky start to say the least, so we decided it was time to get off the road.
We managed to eliminate the pesky infantry and their nasty anti-tank weapons and the last surviving PAK-40 finally succumbed but only after being shot at by a whole troop of Cromwells! However it had taken about 4 moves to get past the wood along the road and the Cromwells that were now free to go round the other side were having problems with the boggy ground (we had to dice for each model more than 4″ off the road and not in fields to see if the bogged down for a move) which slowed them down somewhat. Once past the wood however meant that we were now in range of the 2 Panthers deployed along the left hand road and they soon started taking out vehicles with gay abandon. So, we got the Purple smoke out again and trusted in the RAF to sort them out. Unfortunately we didn’t account for the German ack-ack boys who were on fine form, the first mission saw the Tiffy’s manage to miss both of the Panthers albeit unscathed but the second pair off the cab-rank weren’t as lucky, one copping a hit from an 88 that caused it to explode whilst the other was badly damaged by the Quad 20mm that was accompanying the Panthers. The Yanks by the bridge did have some success though with their mortars and artillery making short work of the quad 20mm halftrack and 88 that were posted on the other side of the river. The only other notable success was the taking out of a Marder around the hamlet but at the cost of a couple of Shermans.
Not happy to sit in the edge of the field that he was in waiting for more attention from the Brylcream Boys, Bart decided to attack the head of the column with his Panthers and they set off for the junction merrily dispatching more British tanks whilst laughing off all attempts to take them out. We did manage to supress them and their accompanying AA once but that was as close as we got to a victory all day where they were concerned, even repeated strafes from the RAF didn’t work, and pretty soon the area around the road junction was a terrible scene littered with burning vehicles. The right hook around the wood by the Cromwells didn’t fare any better with a StuG and a Marder soon taking out half their number for the loss of the Marder. Luckily for us time was running out at this point and we decided to call it a day, with Daren declaring a victory for the Germans. For the loss of 2 Marders, 2 PAK-40’s, an ’88’, a Halftrack mounted quad 20mm and a few infantry teams Bart had destroyed: 6 Armoured Cars, a Platoon of half tracks plus their infantry, a Typhoon (and badly damaged another), and 20 odd tanks – we were running very short of knocked out markers by the end!
To be fair the dice gods were with Bart for most of the day but it did show just how difficult it must have been in real life, once the road was blocked it slowed the advance to a crawl not to mention ‘suppressed’ and ‘disorganised’ vehicles also slowing things down. It was lucky for us that the Germans were limited to only 4 rounds of artillery fire as it would have been so much worse for us if they had more. We spent some time discussing ways that we could improve things and are all keen to get the game on at a club Big Game Saturday to really get stuck into it and are thinking of maybe taking it up to Joy of 6 next year.
Apart from the playing of the game it was really cool to see the interest in the game, we had people around the table nearly all day long and some were coming back throughout the day to check on the progress of the advance (or lack thereof!). It was also great that we solicited as many quotes from ‘A Bridge Too Far’ from people, racking up 8 ‘this is the wide bit’ during the course of the day, it was a major inspiration obviously. It was genuinely nice to engage with everyone, (thanks for introducing yourself Greg by the way!), with people saying nice things about the game, models and terrain and thankfully we didn’t have any rivet counting annoyances this year!
Of course big thanks go out to the chaps who made it a great day out as usual and a good humoured game played in the right spirit, although Dan did look a bit twitchy at one point after yet another of Barts dead eye dice rolls! Special thanks must go to Daren for all his brilliant work in making the terrain and for coming up with the scenario as well as letting us use his terrific models. Mind you I did the Purple Smoke so, you know….