Metropolitan Wargamers D-Day Plus 70 Event Report

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This past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, dozens of gamers came together for three days commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Throughout the weekend, we ran multiple WWII-themed games, including Normandy ’44, I Ain’t Been Shot Mum, Flames of War, World In Flames and Memoir ’44. Dice were rolled, strategies were debated, prizes were won and Allied and Axis forces vied for control of France. In all, it was another great weekend full of gaming at our club’s space in the heart of Brooklyn.

Friday Games

IMG_3586The invasion of France begins with Normandy ’44 at Metropolitan Wargamers

Friday kicked off after work with a few players unpacking a fresh copy of the classic Normandy ’44 from GMT Games. This one-map game covers the pre-dawn D-Day Airborne landing areas, five Allied invasion beaches and the charge to the initial inland objectives. The game scale plays with regiments and battalions with each turn representing one day of action. The small, self-contained game provides a great introduction to game mechanics at this scale with a tight, clear rules set. With a quick look at the game, I decided I’m going to have to personally give this one a shot sometime soon.

IMG_3587 US infantry blinds move toward unsuspecting German defenders at a farm outside Vierville

At the back of the club, we ran a game of our new favorite WWII tactical miniatures game, IABSM  from Too Fat Lardies. In our ongoing campaign of the Normandy scenarios in the IABSM Where The Hell Have You Been Boys? book, our game focused on the battle at Vierville-sur-Mer. With the 116th Infantry Division supported by the 5th Ranger Batallion, the Allied mission was to drive inland to capture and defend the church at Vierville.

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German and US units exchange fire in and around the farm at Vierville

As per the scenario, initial Allied blinds approach a farm outside Vierville where a German blind sits unknowingly in the complex of buildings. With Allied infantry closing in over dense bocage hedgerows and orchards, a firefight erupted and drove the German defenders through the buildings and into the orchard beyond.

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German reserves arrive at the flanks of the advancing US infantry outside Vierville

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Germans reinforcements push the Americans from the farm

As the first force of Germans fled the farm, their reinforcing comrades came on to the rear and flank of the US infantry. The Americans made consecutive moves of firing and moving back to defend at a series of stone walls across the road from the farm. The retreating defensive US actions held off the German onslaught until enough Americans could take up position amid Vierville’s houses. At the same time, the US Rangers moved in at the far end of town to hold the objective at the church.

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Americans pull back from the farm to take position in Vierville

The game eventually settled into a bloody house-to-house and hedge-to-hedge fight along the road leading toward the church. Occasional lucky shots from US Ranger light machine guns at the church also harassed the Germans lying low behind their stone wall position at the farm’s orchard. By midnight, much of the initial American force had been destroyed or was retreating to a final stand at the church held by the Rangers. While the Germans had also lost a sizable amount of their force, their heavy machine guns were still in play as they closed in through the town. This time around, we called the action at Vierville a draw.

Saturday Games

IMG_3603The Americans hit the Easy Green sector of Omaha Beach

The next day kicked-off with a running of a FOW beach landing at Easy Green on Omaha Beach. We have been play testing the FOW scenario over the past two months, tweaking our forces and strategies to cope with the clumsy beach landing rules. In our past games, the US invaders only manage to win about a third of the time. Even so, we decided no D-Day weekend was complete without a return to “Bloody Omaha” on one of the club’s award-winning sand tables.

IMG_3604German defenders hold their positions behind a burning bunker

The opening turns found a lot of US boats on the beach and a quick push to the seawall. So early combined arms fire managed to destroy the main bunker at the beach, but the battle was far from over. The initial US push followed on to the left of the beach, but multiple turns at clearing the barbed wire stalled the advance as the Americans took heavy fire.

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American armor and artillery follow-up the infantry landings

As US armor arrived, several tanks managed to drive off the beach to the minefield position to lay down fire on the German trenches. One tank wound up spending three turns bobbing in the surf offshore only to arrive and bog for two more turns on the beach. As this most inexperienced tank crew in Normandy struggled, the other Shermans took fire from German rockets and reserve tank platoon which rolled to bulk up the beach defense. American artillery also arrived but proved pretty ineffective to the Germans at the trenches. Wave after wave of US infantry pushed to the trenches, eliminating most of the defenders but never managing to clear the barbed wire lines to seize the German position. At the final turn, the Americans just hadn’t made enough headway to control the beach.

IMG_3627World In Flames continued over D-Day weekend

With action raging on the sand table, a group of club members showed up to continue playing their massive World In Flames game. Australian Design Group’s WIF from 1985 is the standard in grand-scale strategic fighting of the entire WWII period. The game’s rich playable detail, dizzying number of 1400 playing counters and sprawling maps makes it a commitment for only the most experienced gamers over many months of play.

IMG_3630Allied forces push from the beaches inland to Caen in Normandy ’44

The Normandy ’44 game from the evening before concluded with a decisive Allied victory Saturday afternoon. Pushing the Germans back from all but Utah Beach, the Allies captured Bayeux and several smaller towns. With German defenders routed from roads leading inland from the landing beaches, the victors rolled in to control half of Caen by the game’s end.

IMG_3625No one was going hungry at Metropolitan Wargamers over the weekend

Saturday also included a lot of other club members down for the usual variety of board, Euro and card games, making for a packed house. As the crowd rolled in, a longtime club member showed up with an enormous fresh-caught fish which he proceeded to gut with a huge military-style knife. With fish on the grill and food ordered in, there was plenty of food to sustain the crowd of gamers throughout the day.

We all took a mid-afternoon break to dice-off in a game, books, DVD and miniatures raffle to raise funds for the club. I was fortunate to score a copy of A Few Acres of Snow from Treefrog Games, and another lucky person picked up an unused copy of out-of-print the Games Workshop classic Dreadfleet.

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Initial deployment of Allied and Axis blinds in our Saturday evening IABSM scenario

As the main crowd thinned out, we ran an evening IABSM game continuing the assault beyond Easy Green. The scenario found initial US forces deployed around a small French farm with the objective of moving men off the table on the roads beyond. The Germans were tasked with preventing the American advance and seizing the farmhouse stronghold.

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Settling in for a contested fight at the farmhouse above Omaha Beach

Using initial blind deployment, Germans quickly moved to the farm along thick hedgerows as the Americans drove into the building for cover. Turns followed with the Americans jumping from cover to fire on the dwindling German force which returned fire over the hedges to unfortunate US infantry hanging out in the open. A US flamethrower attack from the window of the farmhouse decimated another German squad sitting close behind a nearby hedge. Pressing their luck, a group from the farmhouse made a run for the road exit only to be stalled by a reinforcing German heavy machine gun squad. Returning fire, the German MG42s were eliminated from their position in the open field. However, the damage had been done. Although the Germans had not captured the farm objective, the Americans no longer had a sufficient force to push off the table. The night ended with a German victory beyond Easy Green.

Sunday Games

IMG_3620The war continues on the Memoir ’44 Hedgerow Hell battle map

With the first days of Operation Overlord behind us, Sunday’s game focused on the breakout actions. A couple visiting players showed up for the club’s Memoir ’44 game around noon on Sunday. Using the wide Hedgerow Hell expansion map, the Allies beat the scenario odds to win the game in the Overlord scenario. There was much talk of getting larger games of Memoir ’44 back in rotation at the club soon, so hopefully getting the game back on the table will bring some renewed interest in the coming months.

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The initial armored encounter outside Lingevres leaves British tanks in flames

I finished off my weekend as the British at Lingevres using the same scenario I first ran at the club a few months ago. The mission ahead for the Brits was to move into the heavily defended town and take two of the buildings. Historically, the battle played out as a tank duel between UK Sherman Firefly and German Panther tanks, and our game this past weekend played out in a similar way.

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A Panther meets its end at the hand of the British Royal Artillery as a close assault is attempted on another in the woods nearby

At the outset, my first platoon of tanks got a bit overly aggressive and charged into contact with the full Panther platoon at the farm outside Lingevres. With the first Firefly destroyed in the opening turns, my remaining Shermans pulled back as the Panthers rattled to the middle of the field to hold off UK infantry advancing through the woods and bocage-lined fields beyond. One Panther bogged on a hedgerow and another was destroyed in an initial volley from the Royal Artillery in the fields outside town. Several turns became ensnared in attempted infantry assaults on the third Panther in the woods, but eventually the German tank rolled away to deal with the building reinforcing infantry and tank platoon in the fields on the other side of the table.

IMG_3622British Shermans and infantry break across a field toward Lingevres

With the Panthers moving away, fresh British infantry and the surviving Shermans moved to the farm and fields beyond. British artillery fire winnowed and pinned the German platoon in the church over several turns. Artillery fire also sought to keep the reinforcing German spotter pinned to limit the effectiveness of the reserve Nebelwerfer battery which as delayed reserves to the rear of Lingevres.

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The duel between the Panther and Firefly ends with the British tank in flames as the remaining Shermans destroy a Panzer IV platoon in the distance

In the meantime, a multi-turn tank duel had settled in between a lone Firefly and Panther while a reinforcing Panzer IV platoon arrived at the edge of town. Both tank groups traded fire, and in the end, the Panzers were routed with two or their three destroyed and the Firefly fell to the Panther’s gun. Back at the farm field, Shermans traded fire with Pak 40s and destroyed an anti-aircraft platoon defending the town’s flank. With two Panthers left on either side of the church, Shermans on each side of town and advancing British infantry, we called the game a draw.

 Weekend Debrief

After more than 20 hours of gaming over two nights and days, I was pretty worn out, but the interest in the D-Day event had made the weekend well worth it. WWII still holds enormous interest to this day, as demonstrated not only by our weekend of gaming but by the mainstream media’s coverage of D-Day over the week leading up. In the next week, we’re kicking off an FOW Infantry Aces campaign with fresh forces hitting the tables in rounds of Italy-themed WWII games. This fall we’ll be playing out some Market Garden battles and by the winter we hope to host some Battle of the Bulge engagements. It was a pretty special weekend in Brooklyn, but for regular visitors to Metropolitan Wargamers, there’s always the next game in this very unique New York City community.

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Metropolitan Wargamers D-Day Plus 70 Event – June 6th-8th 2014

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This June is the 70th Anniversary of the Allied D-Day landings at Normandy, and New York City’s oldest and largest wargaming club Metropolitan Wargamers is celebrating with a full weekend of events.

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La Fiere Causeway at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY

Whether you’re new to the hobby or an experienced gamer, there will be plenty of WWII action the entire weekend. On the evening of Friday June 6th we’ll begin with Flames of War airborne landing scenarios. Saturday June 7th kicks off at noon with a FOW beach landing scenario on one of the club’s famed sand tables. Sunday wraps up the weekend with a couple FOW breakthrough battles and a large Memoir ’44 board game. Other WWII-themed games will run throughout the weekend.

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Utah Beach on one of the sand tables at Metropolitan Wargamers

We’ll have FOW scenarios set up for the weekend with plenty of miniatures and stunning terrain on the club’s tables, so all you need to bring is your passion for wargaming and history. Our FOW miniatures games are fun and a feast for the eyes, and you can get a sense of what’s in store for the weekend by viewing some of our past scenarios at the club here.

Admission for the full weekend of gaming is just $10 and a great opportunity to visit a very unique community of gamers in the heart of Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood.

For more information and to RSVP for the D-Day Plus 70 weekend, check the Metropolitan Wargamers website or join our Yahoo group.

New Game Weekend: Memoir ’44

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I’m about 10 years late to the WWII board game Memoir ’44, but after a few first plays through it this past weekend I’m glad this modern classic is now part of my gaming arsenal. Released by Days of Wonder on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy Invasion in 2004, the game has won numerous awards and remains high in the esteem of casual and serious wargamers alike.

mem44contentsContents of the basic Memoir ’44 game from Days of Wonder

The base Memoir ’44 game runs about $40 and contains over 300 playing pieces. The blue-grey Axis and green Allies tank, infantry, artillery and defensive features look fantastic, and playing with them evokes the little plastic toy soldiers of many a kid’s youth. The reversible game board with a beach on one side and countryside map on the other provides the basic layout for the more than a dozen historic scenarios included in the easily-read rulebook. Scenarios are laid out using hex tiles with various terrain features such as towns, forests, hills, rivers and hedgerows. Each historic game scenario is presented with a clear illustration on how to lay out the appropriate terrain tiles and initially deploy forces on each side.

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Sample Command Cards from Memoir ’44

Command cards and battle dice provide the basic drivers of game mechanics. Cards provide activation of one or more units in the left, right and/or center portions of the board. Infantry may move once and attack or move twice, artillery may move or shoot, and tanks may move up to three hexes and engage in combat. Attacks are resolved with a simple roll of special battle dice which hit units based on the icon results on each die face and what units are present in the combat. Die rolls may also result in misses of forced retreats. When a player finishes their moves and combats, they draw a fresh card and play passes to the opposite side of the board. Games are scored by destroying units or securing objectives like bridges.

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The Sainte-Mère-Église scenario for Memoir ’44

As fairly experienced WWII historical miniatures players with Flames of War, both my son and I were pleasantly surprised by the fun to be had with Memoir ’44. The intro scenario is for Pegasus Bridge which we tackled in about 20 minutes to get a feel for the game. Next up, we tried Sainte-Mère-Église with a fun added feature of actually dropping a fistful of paratroopers onto the board. We both found the command cards to be a good mechanic to represent the effectiveness of delivering orders on the battlefield. In out second game, my son’s tanks lay parked at the corner of the board the entire game since he never drew a card allowing activation of units to his left. We each pulled a couple special cards, allowing things like airstrikes and close assaults to happen as the game quickly moved to a finish in about four or five turns. With the basic rules under our belts, we’re anxious to push on through the remaining scenarios included in the basic rules.

M44terrainContents of the Memoir ’44 Terrain Pack expansion

The scores of  available official scenarios, expansion editions, campaign books and army packs add an amazing amount of replay value to Memoir ’44’s basic rules and mechanics. A nifty online design scenario design tool also allows armchair historians to have a go at creating official-looking games of their own, and I can just imagine the educational possibilities in using it in school settings. Along with the base game, I snatched a copy of the Terrain Pack expansion which offers nearly 150 additional tiles, markers, special unit tokens and four additional scenarios. With the vast expansions of Memoir ’44, just about any interest in the air and land battles of every major front in WWII can be endlessly played and explored.

I realize I’ve just begun with Memoir ’44, and I’m certain to have both my boys playing along with me. There’s so much appeal in Memoir ’44 for kids or adults who have dabbled casually in war-themed board games like Risk or Stratego, plus the added interest of easily replaying historic WWII battles. Quick games, some real history and a fun box of toys — Memoir ’44 brings the complete package to the table.