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Normandy Beachhead, 1944

Second World War, Disposable Heroes & Flames of War, 28mm & 15mm

The weekend was spent in Kirriemuir, Angus with the “League of Gentlemen Wargamers”. These fellows laid on a Normandy weekend which consisted of two games – an impressive D-Day landing fought out in 15mm, followed by an even more spectacular 28mm game set somewhere around Villers Bocage. This was a huge game, involving a 14 foot x 14 foot table (with a pop-up hole in the middle), and what must have been well over 30 tanks a side, plus supporting infantry.Omaha-LandingsThe Allies (both British and Americans) were charged with defending the line of the River Vivre in the face of a surprise attack by a very powerful German panzer force which appeared to consist of serried ranks of Tigers and Panthers! The Allies stalled the advance by blocking the two bridges – using the simple expedient of having tanks knocked out on them!In one corner British Paras were battling it out against German Panzer Grenadiers, while at the far end of the table a cut-off American force was fighting to the last man in an effort to stem the German tide. It was all fantastic fun, and just as importantly it looked truly spectacular! We used Disposable Heroes – a skirmish-level set of rules which I’ve not had much experience with, but which seemed to work well. Sword-LandingsThe previous day we fought our way off Omaha and Sword beaches. This was a big 15mm game, and it really highlighted the difference between the two beaches. The Americans had a really tough time capturing or neutralising the German beach defences, and just like in the real thing they took very heavy casualties as they came ashore. For their part the British also took losses, but their “funnies” of flail tanks, Churchills with petard mortars, bridgelayers and fascine tanks all helped ensure that the attackers were ready to move inland without quite so much difficulty.Sword-in-afternoonHowever, that’s where it started to go wrong. The Germans were able to bring up substantial reinforcements – including a lot of tanks – and the British advance from the beachhead soon stalled well short of its objective lines. For their part the Americans also became embroiled in a fight for the inland towns and villages, which had been turned into German strongpoints. However, by the end of the day’s fighting, the umpire (who organised the event) declared the battle a “winning draw” for the Allies, whatever that is! American-Armored-InfantryOn the Sunday, as I said at the start, we played a follow-up battle in 28mm, using a rather impressive collection of large toys. This involved American as well as British troops, and the Germans did what they could to stem the tide. This was really just an excuse to get our heavy metal out, and the table probably had enough tanks on it to refight Operation Goodwood! Well, I’m not really sure who won, but the Germans put up a good fight, but gave ground steadily throughout the day. In terms of ground won the Allies had the edge, but the Germans definitely knocked out more tanks.  German-ArtilleryMy own contingent – a force of British paratroops supported by a handful of tanks – held grimly on in the face of a spirited German counter-attack, and spent most of the day being pounded by German self-propelled guns. Still, in the afternoon an Allied airstrike “took out” the German guns, and we managed to actually move a little further forward before the end of the day. Regardless of who won it was a nice weekend of gaming. While both rules sets have their faults, the lack of “opportunity fire” in Flames of War meant that the German defenders were hard-pressed to stop the Allies on the beaches. Still, it was all great fun.

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