I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: Pegasus Bridge and Bénouville June 6, 1944 Scenarios

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There are thousands of little actions in the history of warfare, and a longtime favorite of myself and other wargamers is the capture of Pegasus Bridge on June 6, 1944. Just minutes past midnight, Operation Deadstick delivered some 180 British soldiers from the 6th Airborne Division onto French soil near two key bridges on the far eastern flank of the Allied invasion during the D-Day invasion throughout that historic day.

DDayOverallMapThe D-Day Allied assault routes with the British 6th Airborne Division drop zone (circled in red)

Landing in the dark in six wooden Horsa gliders with only one casualty and minimal other initial incident, the British soldiers and engineers made quick work of the surprisingly meager defense by about 50 men from the German 716th Infantry Division. With the bridge over the Caen Canal secured and another at the nearby River Orne also captured, the initial mission had been accomplished in quick order.

The mission then shifted to a defensive one for the British at the bridges and nearby Bénouville as the German command ordered a counter attack. Another 200 paratroopers from the British 7th Parachute Battalion landed to join in the occupation but were met by German tanks, mortars and guns. Under German sniper fire at the bridge and with few heavy weapons at their disposal, the British held out in the town amid house-to-house fighting in Bénouville until the close of the first day of the invasion.

Too Fat Lardies, makers of the I Ain’t Been Shot Mum company-level WWII rules, provided scenarios for the actions at Pegasus Bridge and Bénouville in the 2006 Summer Special. Playing the scenarios recently at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY allowed me to use my recently-completed 15mm bridge model from Najewitz Modellbau and refight one of my favorite little moments in the big history of the war.

The Battle for Pegasus Bridge

Like most IABSM games, the fight at the bridge started with hidden German troops and the British entering the board on blinds. Initial blind placements were randomized through a die roll to reflect the off-board glider landings. Owing to the time just past midnight, spotting of any troops was impossible until units closed with just inches of each other.

IMG_6299Initial set up of the scene at Pegasus Bridge

IMG_6300British charge hard into the German positions

IMG_6301A British fire team splits off to attack the German bunker

Dividing my British force, one platoon rushed into an initial German position, took a few hits in a close assault, fell back but charged back to overwhelm the Germans. The remainder of my force (including my engineers) moved slowly, clipped a path through barbed wire and made its way toward the concrete bunker. A brief firefight at the bunker sent the German defenders fleeing toward the canal, the engineers placed their explosives and the rest of the British made way for the bridge.

IMG_6302German troops flee their bunker as the British cut the wire and push onward

IMG_6303British engineers set charges at the bunker as German machine guns open fire across the canal

As the German bunker went up in and explosion of flame, German machine guns revealed themselves on the opposite side of the bridge. Two sniper sentries also appeared and began harassing the advancing British with fire. To clear the way, a British officer took a heroic run at one sniper, capturing the German where he sat.

IMG_6305The bunker burns, the British head over the bridge but take shots from German snipers

IMG_6304A thin line of Germans look to hold off the advancing British

IMG_6306With the Germans in retreat, the British take Pegasus Bridge

With the bunker aflame, the British marching over the Bridge and the thin German defense starting to run, the British had again made quick work of their mission. The bridge was held, but it was on to Bénouville and the inevitable German counterattack.

The Battle for Bénouville

At Bénouville British blinds moved on to the table for six turns, stalling briefly in turns four and five. Taking up occupying positions in the town, the mission was to simply hold against the coming German counterattack. As German blinds began entering the field in the woods and open areas outside the town, the initial British infantry were supported by slow-arriving reinforcements to the rear.

IMG_6307Initial set up of the scene at Bénouville from the British end of the table

IMG_6308British blinds enter and occupy the town

Attacking from a safe position within two buildings, the British over zealously abandoned their defensive mission and attacked to reveal the closing German blinds. In a close assault, the British were thrown back as reinforcing German heavy machine guns and mobile guns moved in. Taking fire from the German guns at close range, the remaining British defenders in the nearest house answered with a side-armored shot from a PIAT which left one German gun burning but the Germans still on the advance.

IMG_6309German troops advance on the town supported by mobile guns

IMG_6310Germans swarm out of the woods toward the British defenders

IMG_6311A British PIAT takes out a German gun

The licky destruction of one German gun was about the last thing to go right for the British. Additional reinforcements were tardy in their arrival as Germans continued to pour into the town. As the Germans set up positions amid the town’s houses, two towed field guns also rumbled into the town. Additional close combat erupted between the buildings with the British continuing to take heavy casualties and losing more ground.

IMG_6312German artillery is towed into the town

As British reserves continued to fail in their arrival, the Germans pressed on. After initially holding four safe positions in the buildings of Bénouville, British positions continued to evaporate and men fell back under continued German combined arms fire and close assaults. By that time of the game, it was clear the British were not going to hold the town and the German counterattack was clearly on its way to victory.

Our final score in the played action at Pegasus Bridge and Bénouville was 1-and-1. The early success at the bridge had not been capitalized upon by the British at Bénouville, upsetting the historic balance from 1944 but still making for a great afternoon of gaming a favorite scenario for the first time.

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Flames of War: Najewitz Modellbau 15mm Pegasus Bridge

PegasusBridgeWWII

Most of my 15mm wargaming terrain building I do is generic enough to be used throughout Western Europe during World War II. Even with a large collection of buildings at my disposal, there are a few iconic WWII landmarks that have long stood out in my imagination as projects I should tackle at some point. One of those is Pegasus Bridge at Bénouville, France.

The bridge was made famous by a brief but important battle in the early morning hours of D-Day on June 6, 1944. Glider units from the British 6th Airborne Division landed near two bridges just past midnight and quickly secured the Caen Canal crossings with minimal casualties. The quick nighttime action ensured movement and counterattack by German forces would be significantly limited in the coming days and weeks after the Allied landings in Normandy.

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Building Pegasus Bridge would turn out to be a number of firsts for me. The model I picked up from Najewitz Modellbau in Germany is laser-cut, a model material I had not worked with before. The nature of the model and its situation crossing the Caen Canal would also necessitate I create surrounding terrain. In all, the project allowed me to try out a bunch of new things on a signature set piece which wound up being much more of a project than I originally envisioned.

Building the Bridge

The Pegasus Bridge model shipped in plastic bag folded into a flat, short cardboard box which had definitely shown some wear and tear during its journey from Germany to Brooklyn. Some pieces of the model had come loose from the MDF sheets during transit, but everything was there and unbroken. The rest of the model was easily punched or carefully cut out using a fresh blade in a hobby knife. With all the parts cut out, I sorted them on a tray to get a handle on the task of things before me. The model does not ship with assembly instructions, but they are available for download once registered to the Najewitz Modellbau website. The instructions are pretty spare, relying on simple wordless graphics and some imagination to put all the pieces together. I found referring to historic and contemporary images of the bridge online was just as helpful as the actual manufacturer instructions. Since there were no images online of the bridge being constructed, I decided to offer up a visual step-by-step for others looking to add this model to their terrain collection.

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I started by laying out the parts into subsections, including the little control house which sits adjacent to the bridge and the two large sections which are found at the top of the bridge. I dry fit all the pieces to test them at first and then used carpenters wood glue to put the pieces together. Getting the stairs to the control house together was a little finicky. The curved roof on the small structure at the top of the bridge was achieved by scoring the flat roof and carefully bending it to the shape of the arched roof line.

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Next, I tackled all the trusses and supporting elements of the main bridge structure. This is where the fine lasercut detail really started to pop as I glued pieces together to resemble the plates and seams of the metal work on the bridge. After each section dried, I glued them to the main deck. The fine railings which run all around the bridge again were a challenge to figure out which went where, but some careful test fitting before gluing everything in the correct place.

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To finish the bridge, I glued the small gatehouse to an extra piece of square basing, attached it to the main bridge and cut some of the railings to fit around the building. The separate piece of the road approach on the other end was glued to the main bridge using a thin piece of cardboard glued to the underside to create a flexible hinge-like connection. The model doesn’t come with crossing guards, so I used extra pieces of the kit’s wood to cut some simple shapes. The cross guards were simply painted white with red stripes. The entire structure got a grey sprayed base coat and was then dry brushed in an off white paint to produce a worn look to the entire bridge.

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Building the Terrain

As I was constructing the bridge I quickly realized it was going to need to be elevated off the table to accommodate the graded approach and a span over the canal. I went to the trusty standby of foam sheets in order to create sections of terrain on either side of the canal to create roads to the bridge and banks of the canal.

Using a ruler and marker, I outlined the areas to be cut away and sculpted. After making the rough cuts, I smoothed the edges out using wood filler and then sanding everything to a relative smooth shape. The foundation under each side of the bridge would also feature stone sections which I gently carved by using a pencil to create rows of masonry. Everything got an undercoat of brown spray paint followed by a coat of watered-down white glue and mixed flocking. The stone foundations received several coats of gray and off white dry brushed paint to create a realistic. The roads were likewise dry brushed in various shades of browns. Small chunks of foliage were glued here and there around the stone sections to add a little detail.

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Pegasus Bridge

With all the painting and construction done, everything got a dull coat spray to seal the model and terrain. I decided to keep the bridge and two terrain section separate and unglued from each other to ease transport and storage. Laid out on the table, the bridge spans the canal with approaches on either side. The only thing left to do is get the model on the table, and the heroic early morning raid on Pegasus Bridge will be ready to be replayed on the tabletop soon.

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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.