Saturday, 22 August 2015

Falaise Gap - Part I

It's been a long time since I had a game of anything; too busy at work.  But this year I'm at least having some sort of summer holiday - or to be more exact, a winter holiday, since I'm spending it in New Zealand.  I've taken a week off from staying at my parents' place in Christchurch to move north up to Palmerston North to spend some time gaming with my oft-time partner in testing gaming systems beyond their design limitations, Rhys Batchelor.

And since it's August, Rhys's suggestion of replaying something set in Normandy was particularly apt, suggesting the main action at the Falaise Gap, 20 August 1944.  Now this is a somewhat larger action than Spearhead is normally played, but not greatly so, and in any case, we were roping in three other gamers to help move the lead around.  It took the two us two complete days to put the scenario together, including setting up the table, preparing some extra scenery, and play-testing one half of the field to see how it all looked. The last part was far more organised than we are wont to be, but as it turned out, was time  usefully spent.

Here's the scenario description I sent out to our other players last night:

Background: the Falaise gap, 20th August 1944.

Reeling from defeat in the west, the remnants of the German 7th army are trying to escape east, as powerful Allied forces threaten them from both north and south   Fortunately however, Allied command friction has meant that their path eastwards has not been cut completely.  Only a small force of Poles stands between them and the Seine: the Polish 1st Armoured division.  Are they up to the task of blocking the 7th Army’s desperate retreat?

Scenario description:

The table is 2400 x 1200 mm, representing the most important 9.6 x 4.8 km of the action, encompassing St. Lambert and Chambois to the east, and an all-important crossing of the river Dives between them, along with Mont Ormel in the east, also prosaically known as "Hill 262".

The bulk of the 1st Polish Armoured Division is on table. One battle group, consisting of two battalions, the 10th Polish Dragoons and the 24th Polish Lancers, is deployed around Chambois.  Unfortunately, each battalion has only have enough fuel left for two turns’s of Advance orders (movement under Defend orders is not restricted).  With this battle group is the 2nd Battalion of the American 359th Infantry.  This unit may not undertake any Attack orders whatsoever, but has powerful artillery support to aid the defence of Chambois.  To the north, a small force of Canadians hangs on to their beleaguered position in St. Lambert.  They too many not undertake any Attack orders, having exhausted themselves during the night trying to prevent Axis units crossing the bridge leading west over the river Dives from the southern half of the village.

The majority of the Polish force has moved out from Chambois overnight and is now deployed around Mont Ormel, 5 km northeast of Chambois. Facing east are the 2nd Podhalian Rifles. Facing north are the 9th Polish Rifles, and between them is the 1st Polish Armoured Regiment. Facing west, and deployed around the village of Coudehard, are the 8th Polish Rifles, and south of them, also facing west, is the 2nd Polish Armoured Regiment. Enough supplies have been paradropped over the night to allow the Armoured Regiments to undertake two turns of Advance orders each; while the three Rifle Battalions have unrestricted numbers of Advance moves.

Certain German units have made it across the river Dives in the night, and are now positioned between Chamois and Mont Ormel.  The bulk of these detachments come from the veteran 3rd Fallschirmj√§ger Division, organised into three small commands, plus remnants remnants of the 353 Infantry Division as a fourth manoeuvre unit.  Still on the west side of the Dives, approaching St. Lambert, are the remnants of the 2nd Panzer Division and 10th SS Panzer Division, amounting to little more than a battalion’s worth of effectives, while further south are the remnants of the 116th Panzer Division and 12th SS Panzer Division, also amounting to little more than a battalion’s worth of effectives.  To their rear are the remnants of 5 infantry divisions, the 84th, 276th, 277th, 326th, and 363rd, which will make on to the field of battle over the course of the day.

To assist the 7th Army in breaking out to the west, Feldmarshal Walter Model has ordered two combat formations outside the gap back into the fray.  The 2nd SS Panzer Division, down to barely 20 tanks, and assisted by the badly-depleted 362 Infantry Division, is in position to assault Mont Ormel from the east, while to the north, what is left of the 9th SS Panzer Division, is awaiting fuel before starting off southwards towards Hill 262.

The table was 1200 by 2400 mm, the biggest we could fit into his dining room space, which equates to a 9.6 by 4.8 km slice of the battlefield, and was just enough to cover all the important bits, once it had been rotated slightly off a strictly east-west axis.

The west side of the board is the high ground that the Germans have to surmount in order to escape; the north is much more strongly held than the south.  The centre is flat open country, lacking the bocage seen in the Cotentin peninsula.  The east is is also flat, but has the river Dives meandering northwards; small enough to be crossed by determined infantry, but deep enough to stop vehicles, save at three bridges.  One, leading into Chambois, is strongly held by the Americans and Poles, and thus not likely to be of any use to the Germans.  Another leads directly into St. Lambert, but can be taken with effort, as the Canadian defenders are weak.  The middle bridge is not physically blocked, but is nonetheless overlooked by the American artillery observers stationed in Chambois, so crossing it will not be without its hazards...

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