Team Yankee Megagame: The Elbe Bridgehead
On Saturday, myself and eight others fought a 400pts mega-scenario on a 20ft x 8ft board. This involved several months of work to set up, including a titanic pile of miniatures to paint and a large and complicated scenario to write. We split down into two teams, and I tried to engender some realism and excitement by enforcing secret planning. We had no idea what the other team would take, and there were a lot of meetings, phone calls and discussions which were almost as fun as the game itself.
We played on four 8ft x 5ft boards, each one separated slightly to allow access for model-moving. Fighting along the table rather than across it, it was effectively a large corridor with six objectives spread along it. Each objective generated a point every turn for the side which held it, and each unit killed also earned the team a point.
The board itself was a huge project, testament to the efforts of all the players. Everyone emptied out their wargaming cupboards and we managed to (roughly) recreate some real world terrain around the village of Krüzen, northern Germany. It took a full 24 hours to set up.
The scenario was designed to escalate naturally. Both alliances began with only a few reconnaissance units on the board, with a gradual trickle of units being pushed into the battle from the rear. This meant it wasn't quite as simple as rolling through your enemy with a lovingly-crafted army, you had to plan on the fly using whatever happened to be on the spot at the right time.
There were three Warsaw Pact players:
- Mike - British infantry company
- Dan - US mechanised company
- Ollie - Danish tank platoon
- Tim - British infantry company
- Sam - West German tank company
- Mark - West German tank company
Contrary to our normal play style, we decided to go for a defensive strategy. Infantry are extremely difficult to dig out of cover, so we set ourselves a secret Defence Line. We would dig infantry in along that line (which covered two of the six objectives), and block any attacks. We hoped to have two other objectives in our line of sight which could be shot at, leaving only two completely free for NATO to hold. We also had a large reserve of T-64 and T-55 tanks, and an absolutely huge air detachment of some twenty MiG-23s and Su-17s. Our powerful reserve of off-table artillery would harass the objectives at the back that our tanks could never reach.
On the right you can see one of the planning documents I typed up on a real Soviet-era typewriter. Just another exhibit in my future insanity hearing, I can feel it.
|Objectives 1 and 2: Let NATO have them. 3 and 4: Deny by fire. 5 and 6: Hold!|
On the other hand, NATO spent a large portion of their points on reconnaissance elements. Most NATO armies, especially the British, have very powerful reconnaissance units like Scorpions and Scimitars. Their ambitious plan went smoothly into action on Turn One - try and grab four of the six objectives with their powerful recce screens, build up an unassailable lead in points, and push armoured units up to block any Soviet counterattacks - in all cases relying on superior NATO skill and 'to hit' rolls. In the end they changed the plan to try and get as many tanks up to the front as possible.
|Objectives 1, 2, 3 and 4: Hold with recce, 5 and 6, let the Soviets have them.|
The game was twelve turns long, and ended in a (very narrow) Warsaw Pact victory - 27-26 in the end. However with everyone exhausted from some pretty energetic dice throwing, shouting and cheering, and with WP sitting on four of the six objectives, we decided to call it a day.
Early Game: Reconnaissance Clash
In the opening turns, where there were only a few units on the board. Scorpions and Scimitars managed to snatch the central objectives early on, meaning that NATO were scoring three or four points a turn to our paltry two. We had some success with our first flight of MiG-23s; they managed a successful gun run on one of the objectives, destroying the unit guarding it. However, it wasn't just NATO that was short of air defence in the early game, and a flight of Harriers managed to cluster bomb one of my infantry companies before it could dig in, inflicting heavy casualties.
Mid Game: NATO reserves push in
As the game developed, WP brought on their strong armoured units and started to form reserve columns in accordance with The Plan. But with NATO now starting to bring on their own main body, it became clear that we needed to act sooner rather than later and I decided to commit our reserve. The tanks started to drive on the objectives. Our artillery managed to pin a few infantry units and disrupt the relentless accrual of points, but by turn six we were eight points behind. NATO started to bring on their air defence units, meaning we no longer had control of the skies, and a positively frightening build up of rock-hard Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks was soon getting ready to attack.
Late Game: Soviet air power decisive
In the final few turns, we tried to distract NATO from the objectives with some bold air and helicopter strikes deep into their rear. However, this was a bit of a disaster and we took our heaviest losses of the game here - twelve Mi-28 Hinds, and seven Su-17s in a single turn (!). However, our drive on the objectives went better. Thanks to some more successful air strikes, we managed to push the recce elements off the objectives with our T-64s and inflict some heavy casualties. At the end of Turn 12, we'd just managed to claw back a single-point lead, but with four objectives in WP hands and no immediate hope of reserves, a very gracious NATO team conceded defeat.
|Some of Mike's gorgeously-painted Brits. They proved implacable in defence - as Brits always do!|
|The entire force laid out.|
|The Poles quickly rushed forward using the Spearhead rule on the BDRM-2s to seize this objective.|
|My own Polish mechanised battalion.|
|The village of Krüzen would be a lynchpin of the NATO defences (Objective 2 on the maps)|
|NATO moving their reconnaissance into position as the game begins.|
|British reconnaissance units are powerful and capable - they held their own against Soviet tanks for a long time.|
|The game ready to begin!|
|A lucky roll got some MiG-23s onto the board on Turn One, who managed to take out a reconnaissance unit with their 30mm autocannons and deny NATO an early objective point. The town was soon retaken.|
|Here come the cavalry! T-64s (using T-72 models) rush forwards. These were supposed to be our reserves but we decided early on that we needed to commit them to overturn NATO's early lead.|
|British infantry almost reach walking pace in their FV432s.|
|Action always happens at the join of two maps! By placing Objective 3 in woods, we allowed NATO to move up and secure it in cover. D'oh! Our T-64s get the unenviable task of pushing off a platoon of Leopard 2s.|
|The Soviet rear areas are plagued by fast air early in the game. SA-8 Geckos (which were a surprise we'd secretly bought and painted specially for the day!) were knocked out by some A-10s.|
|Objective 4 - here you can see our counterattack has all but stalled - although we did take the objective.|
|We had twelve Mi-28 Hind helicopters which proved devastating - until they were caught in the open by TR1s and Gepard AA vehicles. All twelve were cut to bits.|
|Danish Leopard 2 tanks. These fearsome vehicles are the best tank in the game, and accounted for the better part of the Soviet tank force. These three were taken out by an air strike.|
|More air power - this was a deliberate strategy. We very secretively built and painted a huge force of strike aircraft, interceptors and helicopters so we could surprise NATO on the day. We still lost seven out of our twenty planes!|
|Here my Polish infantry sat on the defence line all day, taking cluster bombs and artillery without firing a shot in return.|
|Even on a 20 foot board, the interesting stuff all happens on an 8" square! These are our T-64s and BMP-1s in the process of turfing out some pesky British recce units.|
|The NATO team! They played an absolute blinder, and were ahead for ten of the twelve turns.|
I'd like to thank you, dear reader, for making it this far through the write up. My poor efforts can't do justice to what was, without hyperbole, a once-in-a-lifetime gaming experience. I can only hope you found it interesting, and perhaps inspiring.
And if any of my gaming chums dared to read this far, I can only thank you for all your efforts and driving (six hours each way, in once case!) to make this day a resounding success. NATO, you were magnanimous while winning and gracious in defeat. Soviets, it was a pleasure to serve with you in this truly unforgettable battle.
And thank you to Mrs. Wife for letting me have Saturday off.