A couple of weeks ago I got to play probably one of the prettiest and most fun games I've played in a very long time - the opening stages of the British attack on Hamburg, against Jon's "Last Levy" Germans. Sure, the 11th Armoured Division weren't there, but we fudged that to make stuff work!
First, the table and the forces, and then I'll explain the game...because the mission rules we came up with worked an absolute treat!
Table and forces:
This was what Jon put together for us to play on - stunning!
|A 4x4 table, to keep things up-close and personal|
Jon's defending Last Levy force, at 850pts, was a characterful mix of veteran SS and inexperienced Volkssturm and Kriegsmarine with a couple of support teams and a whacking great 88...*gulp!*:
Because mine was a recce screen, I went for a very light armoured platoon: three Bren Carriers, three infantry sections in unarmed lorries, and a Staghound and Stuart jalopy for 'heavier' support. This came in at 1000pts - all regular apart from the inexperienced officer.
|Arty FOO (L) and rookie 2Lt (R), with my trusty Staghound|
and my lovely new Recce Stuart.
The mission was a home-brewed mix of asymmetrical rules plucked from sources such as 'The Battle of the Bulge' and my own head.
The Brits' job was to gain a bridgehead in two neighbouring houses for a win; a foothold in just one house would be a draw.
The Germans' job was to stop them.
Essentially, the plan was that all the German troops would be completely hidden, with their locations only marked on a sketch map. The exception was the 88, as it was placed - with brilliant cinematic styling by Jon - plum in the middle of the square. No mistaking that. As with all hidden troops, I'd know where they were when my units got within 6/12" of them, or if they shot at me etc.
If you're used to Bolt Action campaign expansions, then you'll be used to unbalanced forces, with defenders in built-up areas usually being given a points deficit - we went for a generous 80%, mostly so Jon could field more toys!
If you're wondering why I'm taking the armoured platoon...well, it's because it fits. It's a recce screen, backed up by a lorried platoon and a couple of heavier bits. At first, it seems massively advantageous, but actually, it's really quite fragile. All but one of my armoured vehicles are open topped - which makes them vulnerable to all small arms fire - and my three trucks can be easily pinned and destroyed by anything...including 88mm AT rounds and Panzerfausts!
In addition to this, I only had three sections of troops (plus my officer) - that's only four units in total to assault and hold two buildings. Given that troops cannot enter a building on the same turn as they exit a vehicle, this meant that the earliest I could enter a building would be turn two, giving the Germans a considerable amount of time to shoot the crap out of my lorry-borne Toms...
...and I didn't even know where the defenders were in order to avid them!
Here, then, was the tactical challenge for each of us: the Brits didn't know where the Germans were and would have to probe their defences to work out where the hell to fight for their bridgehead.
The Germans, for their part, were well dug in, but didn't know where the Brits would attack, whether they might feint, or which buildings they'd try to invest.
But the SS and their levy had a great tactical card up their sleeve...
The 88 in the square.
That's me in the background: wondering how exactly I'm supposed to deal with the big gun. Do I advance at the double straight up that broad avenue? - I can do 48" in a 'running' lorry, or 24" if I want to dismount afterwards...
...do I pour everything in toward the 88, in the hope that he cannot possibly kill everything with it? - or...
... do I ignore it completely, refuse the flank and head instead straight for the houses on my right flank, knowing full-well that this is what they'll expect me to do?...
...or do I advance a cross a broad front, probe his defences, and try to work out where on earth I can start fighting into buildings?
|The artillery FOO ponders the British options.|
Tune in for Part II to see just what the Brits did decide to do and just how well that may or may not have gone for them!