Battleground: Uncle Red 1944 Scenario

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The action at the “Uncle Red” sector of Utah Beach on D-Day June 6, 1944 is a favorite at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. Using one of the club’s sand tables, we have previously run the scenario for Flames of War in 15mm, and this past week we had a go with a game in 20mm using the Battleground skirmish rules.

utahmap2Map of US 4th Infantry Division at Utah Beach June 6, 1944 (“Uncle Red” circled)

The US 4th Infantry Division’s landing was less murderous than the casualties experienced by the Allies at Omaha Beach, but the German 709th Infantry Division’s defense was still substantial. German fortifications eventually fell to US assaults by both infantry and timely tank support arriving successfully on the beach.

IMG_6037 Skirmish Campaigns  “Normandy ’44 – First Hours” scenario book

We’ve been enjoying World War II scenarios at the skirmish level in both 28mm and 20mm, allowing for a more detailed feel to our games taken from the well-researched and detailed Skirmish Campaign books, including the Normandy ’44 – First Hours book.

IMG_6176Table set up for the “Uncle Red” scenario at Utah Beach

The table’s layout featured a heavily-defended beachhead with German machine guns firing from three coastal bunkers, lines of barbed wire, mines and trenches carved into the sand. The short, eight-turn scenario presents the Americans with the objective of taking the three bunkers at the seawall plus one at the rear of the table. The Germans must simply hold off the US invaders from seizing their objectives.

IMG_6179The US 4th Infantry Division arrives in Normandy

IMG_6178US soldiers hit the beach

US arrivals began with one boat of infantry arriving in each of the first two turns. The Americans used both of their actions in each turn to push forward on the beach with an eye on assaulting the bunkers at the German center and left.

IMG_6177American GIs push forward under German machine gun fire

IMG_6180The initial US landings take heavy casualties from German bunkers at Utah Beach

Under no cover on the open beach, the US soldiers took heavy crossfire from German machine guns in each of the three beach bunkers and one squad of infantry tucked behind barbed wire in trenches. The first two turns were deadly. One American squad were reduced to half strength by the time they pushed toward a gap in the minefields and on to their first bunker objective. Combined fire from the US poured into the bunker, cutting the German machine gun’s crew to a barely functioning unit as the Americans swarmed forward.

IMG_6188A brave American close assault leaves the first German bunker in flames

By turn three, the Germans in the trenches had shifted left to cover the oncoming Americans just breaching the seawall. In a close frontal assault the first American squad managed to lob a grenade into the German bunker, incinerating the remaining machine gun crew inside. With one objective one, the GIs set their sites on the bunker at the rear of the table beyond trenches, barbed wire and weakened German forces.

IMG_6194American armored support arrives

IMG_6193US engineers light up a German bunker with a flamethrower

The US Sherman and final boat of engineers arrived in turn four and immediately made way for the right side of the German lines. Exploiting a gap in the wire, the fresh squad made quick work of the bunker on the German right with a blast from a flamethrower in turn six. German infantry at the center trench were cut up through combined HE rounds from the Sherman on the beach and close fire from the encroaching American squad.

IMG_6190US troops get bogged down under German grenades and gunfire

Back at the German left, the initial US success became hung up in a tangle of trenches and barbed wire just beyond the burning bunker. German survivors at the second row of trenches tossed grenades and opened fire on US troops, and the Americans answered back likewise. In the bloody close action, the Germans offered just enough delaying actions while taking heavy casualties. By the time the Germans began to break in turn seven, the American forces were in no position to seize their final two objectives by the game’s end. Despite the aggressive American fight, the beach was held by the Germans.

Having played the Uncle Red scenario now several times using Flames of War rules in 15mm, we really liked the nuance of play at the skirmish level in 20mm. At the larger scale, individual losses and heroic actions seem to mean more and can swing the game from victory to defeat in a heartbeat on the sandy tabletop beach of Normandy.

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Battleground: Brecourt Manor 1944 Scenario

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This year’s 71st anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 didn’t get the same attention as last year’s full weekend of D-Day gaming at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. Even so, a few of us did come together for a quick run through a gamer favorite small-scale battle at Brecourt Manor.

101stABDDaydropsDrop zones of the US 101st Airborne on June 6, 1944 and the area around Brecourt Manor (circled in red)

Made famous in more recent years in the hit HBO series Band Of Brothers, the action at Brecourt Manor by a couple dozen men from the US 101st Airborne has long been a favorite for military historians and a textbook example of a small-scale assault on a heavily defended position. With four 105mm howitzers firing on Utah Beach, the German gunners were defended in a series of shallow trenches by several MG42 heavy machine guns and a number of infantry. Through surprise and quick movement through the trenches, the US Airborne quickly took the position and disabled the German guns.

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Skirmish Campaigns  “Normandy ’44 – First Hours” scenario book

For our replay of Brecourt Manor, we turned to the classic Normandy ’44 – First Hours scenario book from Skirmish Campaigns. The Skirmish Campaigns series of books offers well-researched and detailed campaign scenarios filled with orders of battle, terrain layout maps and deeply descriptive narrative of how actual engagements unfolded during World War II. Adaptable to a number of rules systems, the scenario as outlined in the book scaled nicely to our game. Using most of my recently painted 28mm German and US troops and classic Battleground WWII skirmish rules, we were set to replay Brecourt Manor.

IMG_6025The 101st Airborne plot their assault on Brecourt Manor

Two players split their command as the US Airborne and set their battle plans before my Germans deployed in the trench system. Beginning German positions were defined by four gun emplacements each crewed by a team of five rifle-armed gunners and an officer. I also placed three MG42s at different points in the trench lines and one patrolling battery command squad of four riflemen and two officers deployed at the western end of the position.

IMG_6027Germans sit at the ready in their positions at Brecourt Manor

The Americans moved first, slowly deploying a .30 cal machine gun crew from behind the farmhouse at the northwest corner of the table. Directly to the north, a bazooka team crept into position behind a copse of trees with two fire teams behind the nearby hedgerows in support. To the west and toward the south, the other two US fire teams set up and moved toward the German lines, also under cover of the thick bocage.

IMG_6026105mm gun crews stand at the ready

Spotting the American bazooka team to the north, I quickly redeployed one of my machine guns to hold back the advance on that side of my position. Not waiting to get their machine gun in place, the Americans advanced on two sides and took heavy fire to their fire teams leaving them pinned in place. Hoping to pin down the Germans at the strongly defended north and western edges of the position, the US machine gun attempted to lay down a stream of fire but jammed is the trigger was pulled on its first shot of the day.

IMG_6029A 105mm gun position is destroyed by an American bazooka

Even under fire, the US bazooka team managed to get into place and a shot destroyed the northernmost howitzer, killing one German gunner and suppressing most of the rest of the gun team. On the western side, another of my redeployed machine guns was instantly spotted and raked with American gunfire and all but knocked out of the rest of the game. With only one MG42 left in the western trench line, a US Airborne team moved with over confidence toward making their first assault. The foolhardy bravery of the Americans was met with combined arms fire from my remaining MG42, rifles at the gun position and shots from the command squad. When the smoke cleared, one American fire team was left with just one man standing and the other had been briefly pinned.

IMG_6028   US Airborne units ready for a close assault at Brecourt Manor

By turn three, the American machine gunners cleared their jam and were finally able to lay down strafing fire along the entire western edge of the German trenches. With bullets whizzing overhead, the Germans were forced to the ground and the remaining Airborne came over the hedge and made way for the German howitzer. The Airborne soldiers poured into the German gun position and hand-to-hand combat ensued leaving two Germans and two Americans dead in the melee. With no clear victory in the first close combat of the day, the Americans bounced out of the German position, pulling back toward the hedges from where they had just come.

Back to the north, the American bazooka team had been cut to just one man who had retreated under heavy fire. One other US rifle team at the north had been eliminated, and the last had been whittled to just two injured men. With just a few rattled troops strung along two sides of the field, the US Airborne retreated and left three guns ready to continue raining shells on the beaches in the distance.

What the scenario showed us, as it did on the actual day some 71 years ago, was the importance the US machine gunners in a tight assault like the one at Brecourt Manor. Met with a larger, more well-defended German force, the American machine guns were the equalizer in real life. Had the American soldiers on our tabletop focused their assault after pinning the German defenders, our game this month may very well have gone the way of history with another victory in the hedgerows of Normandy.

Flames of War: Utah Beach “Uncle Red” 1944 Scenario

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When most people think of the D-Day invasion at Normandy on June 6th, 1944, the deadly images from the US landings at Omaha Beach in popular movies like The Longest Day or Saving Private Ryan generally come to mind. Utah Beach was added as an objective for US forces late in the invasion planning and occupied the far right of the Allied coastal assault. The beach was divided into three sectors (Tare Green, Uncle Red and Victor), and the landing of some 23,000 troops and armor support started the day’s invasion at 6:30am. Awaiting the invasion was the German 709th Infantry Division.

utahmap2Map of US 4th Infantry Division at Utah Beach June 6, 1944 (“Uncle Red” circled)

The US 4th Infantry Division at Utah Beach, including Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and author J.D. Salinger, came ashore with relatively few US casualties of just 400 compared to the 3000 at nearby Omaha Beach. The success of the assualt is credited largely to the effective landing of more Sherman tank support, relatively light German fortifications covering the exits from the beach and early inland actions by the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions earlier in the morning.

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US 17th Airborne Division using a sand table before Operation Varsity in 1945

 Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY is pretty well known for the sand tables which occupy our space, and some of our founding members have won several awards for presenting sand table games at conventions over the years. Sand tables have been used by military planners since ancient times when sticks and stones were simply laid out in the sand on the ground.

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NY Army National Guard troops train with a sand table at Fort Irwin, CA in 2011

Despite all our military technological advancements, modern war colleges and even troops deployed in the field today still use sand tables for training and planning real-world actions. Gaming on a sand table provides a great amount of flexibility and realism in shaping the contours found in real-life battlefields, adding tremendous playability to just about any scenario.

HitthebeachmapFlames of War “Hit the Beach” scenario set-up

This past weekend a few of us ran an Uncle Red beach assault scenario on one of the club’s sand tables using the Flames of War Amphibious Assault rules and ‘Hit the Beach’ scenario.The 4′ x 5′ table I set up featured a sculpted surf landing zone, sea wall and two beach exits leading to an inland area. Each player placed an objective. The German player then deployed their coastal defenses at the beach including barbed wire, two bunkers, tobruk machine gun nests and a Grenadier platoon. At the rear of the table, the Germans deployed an artillery battery and another machine gun platoon in a nearby house defending their objective. Half their 1500-point force remained off the table in reserve.

IMG_2813The US landing begins against the fortified coast and German artillery at the rear

The Americans began with a naval gun barrage pinning every German platoon but only detsroying one stand at the beach. With the first turn, two boat assualt platoons and a pioneer platoon landed at their left and center area of the beach. Choosing to shoot rather than move at the double, the first three American platoons were quickly pinned and subsequently destroyed in the first two turns of the game.

IMG_2814View from the German rear with Americans landing

Choosing to still keep their D-Day tanks off the beach, the Americans attempted another landing in turns three with only two boats able to land. Naval guns and P-47 air support attempting to hit the rear German artillery proved completly ineffective as troops at the beach continued to be pinned and detsroyed.

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US waves struggle to get off the beach

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Remanants of US platoons get over the sea wall in turn four

With still more delayed landing reinforcements and no tanks heading for the beach, two US platoons breached the sea wall in turn four. Moving at the double and under heavy machine gun fire, the short-lived progress was stalled and the platoons lay pinned with heavy casualties.

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Swimming Shermans finally come ashore with more infantry

Switching tactics in turn five, the Americans went for the right side of the beach. Two boat crews hit the beach moving at the double with three Shermans coming ashore in support. Two tanks immediately bogged, creating two targets stuck on the beach for the next round of incoming German artillery.

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Shermans pour fire into the German defenses

With turn six, one more Sherman made it to the beach while another was swamped and lay destroyed in the surf offshore. Just one more boat of infantry landed to support a pinned and heavily-damaged platoon already on the beach. Progress was made over the sea wall with US troops moving out of range of much of the German machine gunners on the far right edge of the table. Finally, the US did some damage with fire from the Shermans destroying several Grenadier units and a tobruk nest. At the bottom of the turn, the Germans brought on their first reserves with a Nebelwerfer battery at the back of the table. One Sherman was hit and destroyed by German artillery and another’s crew bailed out.

The US looked to be making a bit of progress as turn seven began with their M7 Priest arillery platoon landing with half of the platoon bogging right off the boat. The remaining three guns, along with three Shermans, took  shots at the German defenses and destroyed two more Grenadier stands. German infantry reserves began rushing on the table in front of the artillery to cover the American objective. On the beach, another monstrous German barrage left the Priests in flames and just one surviving Sherman. At turn eight, the Americans ceded the table after only one additional landing craft of troops made it to the beach to join their final Sherman.

This was our first FOW beach landing at the club, and a big learning experience for us. The US players chose to play way too conservatively from the outset with troops moving too slowly off the boat in the first two turns. Leaving the Shermans off the beach until the fifth turn was also a huge mistake, as getting them on sooner would’ve provided greater pinning support and potential for smoke cover for the boat infantry. US air support was frustrating, as often seems the case, and use of the naval guns was likewise botched. The US also suffered from poor luck with too many landing craft either not getting back off the beach to grab more reserves or failing to land existing floating reserves. In many turns, just one of three boats were able to arrive, making it impossible to hit a critical mass of troops on the beach.

Several of us at the club are planning a weekend-long D-Day series to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy campaign this June, so look for more practice scenarios and a lot more on the anniversary event in the coming months. As Gen. Roosevelt said at Utah Beach, “We’ll start the war from right here!”

Flames Of War: Encounter Mission

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The official FOW website makes all the missions from the third edition rules available online, and they’re a quick way to throw together a game and practice tactics without putting all the work needed into a historic scenario. Having been away from a Flames of War table for a week or two, a couple of us at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY threw together a quick, non-historic Encounter Mission last weekend.

IMG_2698Encounter Mission table (German deployment to right and US to the left)

My opponent, playing as Germans, rolled as attacker and chose the long side of the table with the church on his right and a farm and wooded area to his left. This left my US 101st Airborne with the bridged river at my right and a farm at my left as defender. As per scenario rules, we each began by placing an objective on either long edge of the table, placing half our platoons in reserve and deploying the remainder of our starting units along our edges.

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Germans Stugs move to control the center

The Germans won the roll to go first and immediately pressed toward the center around the church yard with their Stug platoon and on their left toward the river with Panzergrenadiers. It was clear the Germans hoped to make  speedy run to the objective just on the other side of the stone bridge and ford on the river.

IMG_2700US anti-tank platoon rolls to seal the German advance at the bridge

In my first turn, I moved my M-18 Hellcat tank destroyers to the bridge and hoped to get some quick kills in on the advancing German Stugs from the bridge.

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Members of the 101st Airborne take position in the woods

On the other side of the road to the bridge, my US Airborne hustled into the two sets of woods. Hiding among the trees, the paratroopers looked to seal the flank against the advancing German mounted troops on the other side of the river.

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One Hellcat burns at the foot of the bridge while another fires from the bridge

With my Hellcats missing their shots on the advancing Stugs, the German guns rolled to the intersection just beyond the bridge and destroyed one of my anti-tanks. While the loss of the Hellcat halved my anti-tank capabilities, the burning hulk effectively shut down the German path to the bridge.

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US Airborne and German Panzergrenadiers exchange fire over the river

Across the river, the 101st troops safely fired from the treeline toward the mechanized Germans across the river. With combined fire from a a nearby remaining Hellcat, Jeep and armored car from the tank destroyer platoon, a German halftrack was destroyed and forced its troops to dismount. Returning fire, the Germans destroyed the armored car and Jeep.

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Stugs cross the field as an Airborne platoon lies behind the bocage beyond

With the road to the bridge shut down, the Stugs turned to speed their way across the fields at the center of the board. An Airborne platoon took up position on the other edge of the field, lying in wait for the advancing Stugs.

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The US P-47 hits the Stugs in the open field

The Stugs sitting in the open field made for a quick target for the P-47 Thunderbolt which flew on in turn four, leaving one Stug in flames and a second with its crew bailed out.

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The Stugs reach the gap at the field edge and destroy the remaining Hellcat

I their next turn, the Stugs remounted and made their way to the gap at the far edge of the field. A couple quick shots to the side armor of the remaining Hellcat destroyed the remaining US tank destroyer which had been busying itself pouring fore into the still-mounted Panzergrenadiers. It looked bad for the Americans with nothing standing between the German Stugs and the objective just beyond the river ford.

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US Shermans make quick work of the remaining Stugs

Luck switched back for the Americans as they successfully rolled for their Sherman tank reinforcements in turn five. The Shermans moved to the river’s edge and destroyed the remaining three Stugs. Not only had the German armored advance to the objective been thwarted, but yet another easy path had been closed-up with a burning Stug clogging the exit from the field.

IMG_2710Panzer IV reinforcements move to take the US left

By turn six, the German Panzer IV reinforcements were rolling down the road looking to run around the far edge of the field and attack the US left flank. The left side was only held by a US light machine gun and rifle platoons, so armored support was badly needed if the Germans were to be stopped.

IMG_2716The first turn at the battle of the crossroads on the US left

At the intersection on the US left, ferocious fighting erupted as an assault from the usually stalwart 101st Airborne was repelled. The Shermans moved in and destroyed a Panzer IV.

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The second turn of the battle of the crossroads on the US left

With space and options getting tight, the Panzer IV’s returned fire and Sherman was left burning. With a two-on-two fight. the Shermans destroyed another Panzer IV in the sixth turn and the final German tank fled the field after failing a morale test for the pummeled platoon. With German armor destroyed across the field, the US rifle and light machine gun platoons scurried to the German right toward their objective behind the church.

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German half tracks struggle to cross the river on the weakening American right

The final turns of the game played out back at the river with the reinforced Germans struggling across the river. Fire continued to be exchanged with the US rifle platoon in the forest which eventually fell back into the treeline at the road.

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The Thunderbolt engages German transports at the river crossing

Another run from the Thunderbolt threw more Germans from destroyed transports. Remaining Germans trucked over the river and around the woods with only only a few US rifles between them an victory with capture of the objective.

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The final showdown at the contested objective

On the eight turn, it all came down to the contested objective. With a full US parachute rifle platoon in the woods and another heavily-damaged one nearby, the final battle looked like it was going to be decided with some bloody assaults. It looked like anyone’s game, but the Germans were now at half-strength on the table, and a failed motivation test caused the Germans to cede the battle.

German artillery never played a factor in the game, and the heavy terrain shut down use of US air support except for in two deadly runs of the game. Tanks on both sides wound up serving more as roadblocks at some key points on the road, and the river also played an important role in the US defense against the German advance.

We’ve got a couple historic scenarios at the club I’ll be reporting on soon, including a landing at Utah Beach and a scenario from the first day of the Battle of the Bulge. What makes FOW flexible and so enjoyable as a system is the ability to play historic and non-historic engagements, something I experienced last week and am certain to see more of in my after-action reports soon to come.