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The Pont d’Eau, 1944


The Second World War, Triumph & Tragedy, 28mm

I’ve railed about skirmish games before, and how they’re almost universally unsatisfying. They don’t seem to have much purpose. One exception is usually a skirmish game run by my friend Colin Jack, who invariably cooks up some fiendish plot, throws in a mix of competing factions, and tops it off with conditions of victory that often only one player knows about! Even with all this help, this little game was still a bit underwhelming as a wargaming experience, although my view might have been coloured by the fact that the good guys lost!silly-ww2-game-001The idea was that the Americans and their French allies had to capture a bridge over a river, held by what we expected was a thin force of Germans. Like all true commanders we encouraged our allies to do most of the fighting – leading the advance with our Moroccan ghoums, backed up by the local French resistance. We winkled out the snipers and other German advanced guard forces on our side of the river, but were still left with the problem of how to cross it. There was only one bridge, and from turn three it was covered by a Tiger tank, that spent the game dominating the centre of the table.silly-ww2-game-007 A frontal assault was out of the question, and so the game bogged down a little, as my rather lacklustre Americans advanced from behind their dwindling screen of French allies to regain the initiative. Morale was bolstered by the arrival of a single Sherman tank, which manfully manoeuvred within range of the Tiger, and began a brave but ultimately unsuccessful duel with it, from the cover of a building on our side of the river. Another party of French resistance tried to attack in from the far bank of the river, only to be mown down and dispersed by German machine guns.silly-ww2-game-011Rather inevitably it all ended in tears. The Americans tried to ford the river, only to find that the far bank was defended by German paratroopers and SS troops, lining the hedgerows and hiding out in a gasworks that dominated the enemy left flank. Still, the Americans fired back with their support weapons – machine guns and mortars – and saw off the Fallschirmjagers, but it was all too little, too late. The game fizzled out when it became apparent that for that day at least, the Germans  were going nowhere.silly-ww2-game-010Colin’s secret victory condition involved the SS in the gasworks. They were busy loading some undefined mystery cargo onto a truck, and needed 40 points of loading time to do it. Each turn the SS player rolled a D3, and got to 38 by the time we called a halt to the game. Therefore, he would have been able to spirit his evil cargo away – whatever it was. Yes, it was an underwhelming game, but at least it involved ghoums (who are pretty cool), and Nazi SS guards, who are distinctly not. I’ve played more enjoyable games, but at least it passed the time quite nicely, on an otherwise nondescript autumnal evening.

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