Several months ago the local HMGS-PSW executive committee asked me if I could arrange my Flames of War (FOW) 20mm collection and present a D-Day like scenario at the HMGS-PSW June 14th convention. The intent was to set up a premier game scenario for their Overlord themed regional late spring convention. I agreed and quickly determined my collection of 20mm WWII miniatures best aligned with the American amphibious landings…. either Utah or Omaha beaches over the British and Canadian Gold, Juno or Sword beach sectors. Utah wasn’t in the running, too much of a smooth landing to make a historical nail-biting event. Omaha beach on the other hand could be a complete American success or an utter disaster from a scenario writing viewpoint. I simply didn’t have much basic British infantry painted for the British/Canadian sector beaches. So Omaha became the final choice and a challenge in WR’s eyes. Doing the basic research and drawing heavily upon the Omaha beach booklet in FOW, I arranged the tabletop terrain from my terrain collection, collected, organized or painted the required 20mm miniatures and arrived on time to the convention with all the family issues swirling around me (see previous blog post on the death of my father post convention).
After an hour of setting up the terrain to match my hand drawn scenario map, we pulled the miniature forces for both sides and placed the German fixed position defenses. Several convention attendees stood around watching the tabletop terrain being set up. Wasn’t long before I had them placing the barbed wire across the entire seawall or the beach obstacles in the surf line. The finished table look before the American commenced their first turn landings, drifting their DD tanks and landing craft while rolling the effects of the preliminary shore bombardment.
Two teams of players. The German defenders included Paul, Greg, Anton and Fred with WR running up and down the table keeping the scenario moving. The Americans were Paul, Daniel, Rob, John and Marc. After placing the initial Sherman DD tanks and four landing craft at the blue surf line, the American team rolled each DD tank and landing craft to determine the drift eastwards along the coast (per D-Day FOW booklet). Only one American Sherman DD tank went “gurgle-gurgle” under the waves, the rest made the beach except one with delayed landing. So far, so good for the Americans since their preliminary bombardment killed only a few German infantry stands and pinned down the entire German side.
Quick summary of the forces involved starting with the Americans:
Easy Green zone had: Company command, 6x boat assault groups, Sherman DD 75mm platoon, engineer combat platoon w/sherman dozer, 105mm field battery (DUKW), AA artillery platoon 2xM15 HT, 2xM16 HT, NGF support.
Dog Red/White zone: Company command, 2x boat assault groups, Sherman DD 75mm platoon, 81mm mortar platoon, engineer combat platoon w/sherman dozer, M7 Priest SPG 105mm battery, AA artillery platoon as above, NGF support again. Automatic third turn reserve arrivals added include General “Dutch” Cota warrior, Ranger company command, 4x Ranger platoons and a Ranger mortar platoon (60mm).
In the bocage zone was random unknowing placement of ten unknown markers all across the back row of the tabletop. Five were dummy markers. The other five were four markers of French resistance teams (2 teams per marker with one having a command team included). The last marker was an American “lost” paratrooper squad of airborne platoon command and two paratrooper teams.
German defenders included: One company HQ in WN66 and WN70. Then one grenadier platoon garrison in WN68 and WN70. WN66 had a grenadier platoon and WN66 seashore another two squads defending. WN69 had the rocket launchers plus a command team.
German reinforcements arrival by each half of the scenario tabletop (East and West zones). East zone had one grenadier platoon supporting WN66 and WN68. WN70 had a pioneer platoon then a tank-hunter platoon of Marder III’s. If the French resistance is discovered (movement within 16″ of a “?” marker), then the following turn an “anti-partisan” platoon (grenadier scout platoon) is brought immediately on the tabletop (just outside of 16″ from any known partisan team) sweeping the rear areas of those pesky French skirts. The germans had on call an off table 105mm battery if 4+ rolled just like the allied NGF roll.
Lastly, if any of the WN66, WN68 or WN70 garrisons were completely destroyed (the grenadier platoon that is), automatically two additional grenadier platoons were added to the German reserves. All German reserves require a d6 “6” rolled to enter on the tabletop edge. One reserve arrival roll per zone (east or west) each turn.
Each WN position had their own fixed defenses and other armaments. See the rosters (.pdf) below and the scenario map for complete details and locations.
While the Americans were drifting about in the sea planning their winning game scenario strategy, the German players were trying to figure out the crazy patchwork of German guns and bunkers dotted along the beachfront in three main defensive positions or Wiederstandneste (WN). I helped the German players with a small white “tent” shaped paper marker naming each German bunker and equipment contained within. The following three photographs show the three main German defensive positions at scenario start; WN66, WN68 and WN70. Each photo gives a quick summary of the defenses.
Opening American landings. For some reason Team America decided to land opposite and against the two strongest positions… WN66 and WN70 at each end of the scenario table. Position WN68 in the center of the beach zones wasn’t ever threatened by American units all during the scenario.
The eastern or Easy Green beach had four American boat assault teams wade ashore following the four Sherman DD tank platoon dripping from their salt water bath. With tracks crushing the beach sands, the Sherman DD tanks rolled forward engaging the German infantry lurking (pinned) in their trenches from the preliminary bombardment effect. Losing infantry teams across the front, the American boat teams used flamethrowers and weak rifle fire against the WN66 seashore position. Roasted one German infantry team as the others sought cover from the American firepower. Still, the barbwire prevented most American teams from crossing and assaulting the German defenders this 1st turn.
On the other western beach, opposite German held WN70, the American 1st wave had one Sherman DD sink while three made it ashore. With two boat assault teams alongside, the Americans rushed across the open sand hoping the Germans were “sleeping off” the effects of the preliminary bombardment.
Disaster… three of the American landing craft on the eastern beach opposite WN66 are stuck on the sands of Normandy and cannot return (recycle) for the next wave of American platoons. Was a 50/50 die roll, failed three of four rolls (4+ needed per landing craft). Seeing the American beach master’s nightmare before them, the German infantry unpinned themselves, with their Company Commander’s pistol waving, and set up their MG34/42 machine guns. The carnage was terrible… two boat assault groups wiped out and the bunker 5cm PaK brewed up a Sherman DD to warm everyone up..
The only opening success for the Americans was a highly accurate naval gunnery (NGF) strike on the 7.5cm Pak38/97 open bunker in WN70, destroying the cannon completely.. and saving a few Sherman DD tanks for sure. Daniel knew he had to destroy the HMG tobruk positions, from earlier scenario test games, so they were first targets for his Sherman 75mm cannon at WN70. Boom, Boom… two HMG tobruks quickly knocked out.
Overall picture into the scenario. WN68 garrison still on “American holiday” as no American landed nearby. First of German platoon reserves march in from a lucky d6 roll (6) by Greg. American naval gunnery (NGF) destroyed two of the rocket batteries in WN69 for a brief moment of American success.
Easy Green beach looks deserted…. Some brave 1st wave American infantry and Sherman DD tanks push forward. The bunker 5cm PaK claims another Sherman DD while the unengaged HMG tobruks just rip apart the American on the open sands. No Sherman 75mm fire support on this beach even though they are trying. German rocket firing from WN69 add to the American mounting losses. Even the random German artillery shows up to drop a salvo of 105mm (roll 4+ for one German fire mission that turn). Can it get any worse? …Yep… the same landing craft remain struck on the shore (all three of them failed their 4+ roll to return to the transports again). By now I expect the beach master is screaming in or eating his radio.. or dead, either one has the same effect.
Finally the landing craft at Easy Green beach free themselves on turn three and return to transport in another American wave of infantry. But the landing time schedule is hopelessly behind schedule. Westward on Dog White beach the first waves of Rangers follow the surviving American boat teams ashore. Here the German MG fire isn’t as effective with the HMG tobruks knocked out. But American losses are mounting while the remains of the 1st wave try to clear away the seawall barbwire defenses.
WN68 on “American holiday”…. other than some distant supportive firing for the seashore WN66 position below or occasional engagement of Dog White Sherman DD’s by the 4.7cm Pak, this garrison didn’t see much action in the scenario. Must have been the wicked looking Panzer Drehturn 7.5cm mount near the anti-tank wall scaring the Americans.
Back on Easy Green or the eastern beach, the Americans wade ashore with their engineer platoon and two more replacement boat assault groups. But with the Sherman DD’s almost all knocked out the HMG tobruks are just ripping apart the American infantry. Worse the reinforcement German grenadier platoon is rushing towards the WN66 position to replace German losses. American NGF spotter aircraft see the German platoon running cross-country but the call for NGF targeting fails to reach the USN destroyers offshore (failed the 4+ roll for on call NGF that turn). That German platoon had a “charmed life” during the scenario.
Even the engineering platoon’s Sherman dozer tank bogs down on the beach…. the irony of Easy Green sands.
Back in the rear area bocage, a German pioneer platoon arrives and promptly engaged by WR’s famous…. “what is that marker” unit. Turning over the marker reveals four French resistance teams with worn old rifles and maybe a skirt or two. Their firing totally ineffective, the German platoon does advancing firing while they push teams forward towards WN70 near the coast. German players totally forgot to try a simple assault on the weak French resistance teams for extra movement forward…. must have been the “skirts”. We never found the lost American paratroopers squad in the bocage.
It’s all over on Easy Green beach… With machine guns raking the beach, the last Sherman DD brewed up by the bunker 5cm PaK, the engineering Sherman dozer bogged down on the beach sand, and American infantry trying to hide behind the seawall, the American players see their future. The pending arrival of the fresh German grenadier platoon lifts the spirits of the remaining German garrison MG teams… they sing aloud while seeking more MG42 ammo. Easy Green will be held firmly by the Germans this game.
Dog White beach is showing a weaken Germanic defense. The remaining 1st wave boat assault group have cleared the seawall barbwire and allowed the Ranger platoons to charge forward towards the German held trenches. General “Dutch” Cota arrives right on schedule, pistol drawn and leads his Rangers up the buff slope. Forget the wire!… charge in Rangers and lead the way! German defensive fire is weak due to pinning firepower applied. It’s point-blank firing and hand grenades as the Rangers clear the barbwire and the forward trench work.
Rangers cling onto the bloody trench position and beat back the German counterattack along the trenches. General “Dutch” Cota leaves the area to rally the beach rear area it seems.
Back on Easy Green beach the American huddled masses seek protection from the HMG tobruks and grenadier infantry manning the elevated trenches of WN66. They try to clear some barbwire along the seawall but take heavy exposed firepower in return. The engineer platoon’s Sherman dozer tank falls victim to the bunker 5cm PaK gun.
As the Rangers stormed the trench lines in WN70, additional American reinforcements arrive just as the German rolled their random 105mm battery module of fire. Ranging in on the first roll, the artillery template weapon quickly reduced a fresh Ranger platoon to gory mess.
A few stray Sherman DD tanks trade shots with the Italian open bunker 4.7cm AT position. No real effect done to either side except one Sherman DD is brewed up.
More German artillery lands along the beach below WN70 pinning American mixed up platoons. Losses were light this time but weakened the remaining American strength.
Passing the French resistance teams, the German pioneer platoon exits the bocage country heading for WN70 whose defenders are basically the 10th Company headquarter command teams now. Occasional shots from the French resistance still cause an infantry team save roll.
With Easy Green beach a disaster in the making and General Cota checking out the beach rear area it seems, the American players determine that they may take WN70, with additional losses for a moment, but the arriving fresh German pioneer platoon will quickly kick them out. Time to call the Omaha beach scenario to a close and credit the German side with a win. General Eisenhower needs to think about reading his pre-written speech to discuss Omaha beach with the wartime press pool off shore.
What went wrong? WR quick thoughts….on scenario improvement especially….
First thing was the total disaster with the Easy Green landing craft rolling to return to the transports for recycling the next wave. Hard for a GM to factor in just horrible luck on the tabletop but it does happen. On average there should be 2 landing craft available per turn assuming a 50% return rate (d6; 4+ to return). If a landing craft fails to land that turn, ie remains at sea till the next turn, it would reduce the landings a bit more under 50%. Still, the American had no luck with the Normandy sands and the effect quickly showed on the seashore. I like John’s suggestion to increase the probability for each successive rolling by 1 pip on the d6 dice…. 4+ on initial attempt, 3+ on next attempt, 2+ on third attempt then automatic.
Second issue noticed was the choice to land against both the strongest defenses… WN66 and WN70. They could be overcome by massed forces but the landing platoon selection I would have made different. WN68 being the weakest defensive position was never threatened during our game.
Speaking of massing forces…The American player team could have arranged to land both landing groups in front of WN68 and WN66 and overwhelmed the positions while taking no losses from the distant WN70 position. The majority of platoon forces landed as close to WN68 as possible as mentioned above. The dividing border between Easy Green and Dog Red/White beaches (and the american landing forces) was in front of WN66’s seashore position (row H/I on map). WR thinks landing both Sherman DD platoons, both AA Artillery SP platoons and four boat assault teams near to seafront of the WN66 and WN68 positions would have given massive 2nd turn firepower on the WN68 and WN66 seashore positions. The HMG tobruk positions should all be quickly knocked out (like the HMG tobruks at WN70 were) plus the open bunker 5cm KwK (WN66), the panzer drethum 7.5cm short, and 4.7cm Pak (Wn68) positions. Then the landed boat assault teams have only the actual German infantry to deal with at seashore WN66 and the WN68 positions. My player pre-game American briefing mentioned that the WN68 and WN70 were the strongest positions. Still, the American team almost cracked WN70 with the Ranger infantry platoons alone.
There was a 81mm Mortar platoon available for landing on Dog Red/White beach. The 81mm mortars may have limited effect on entrenched infantry but their ability to create smoke screen bombardment was an option never explored. The same capability existed with the 105mm SP Priest battery too. No smoke screens seen on Omaha that day except burning Sherman DD’s.
Neither beach saw the AA Artillery SP platoons landed (2x M16 Quad 50cal and 2x M15 37mm halftracks in each platoon) with all their firepower rolls. Those platoons with the Sherman DD at the same time needed to be used against the HMG tobruks first, then the German infantry teams afterwards. The AA Artillery SP halftracks were very vulnerable to the bunker 5cm PaK gun (WN66) or 7.5cm (in WN70) but then the Sherman DD’s wouldn’t have been engaged for a turn or two if the German players engaged the AA halftracks. In addition, on Dog White/Red the American had a 105mm Priest battery of six Priests SPG. Their effect in direct firing would have caused damage to the German infantry in the trenches or found out the HMG tobruks in WN68. All three platoons never saw the shore during the game mainly due to landing craft delays and preference to land the infantry platoons all first.
German players rolled an Easy Green beach reinforcement Grenadier platoon arrival on the 2nd turn. Not a major game changer but the American NGF aircraft overhead never had the NGF available to plaster that platoon into atoms for various reasons. Spotting was automatic….in the open terrain but the naval guns were silent with failed 4+ availability rolls when it counted. American bad luck again on Easy Green. The NGF on Dog Red/White (separate 4+ availability roll from Easy Green) was active against the German defenders of WN70 during the scenario till the American platoons advanced and reached the 16″ distance or less (friendly fire restriction).
In closing WR is well aware that playing a scenario or being behind the front line players second guessing is very different from being under the “dice firepower”. There is no golden tactic of game play once the first dice is rolled. Veteran gamers all keep their dice warm and cozy as the crazy tabletop action unfolds.
I thank all the players who gave their Saturday convention afternoon to my scenario and the kind thank you’s of appreciation given. All were aware of the ongoing family situation I was undergoing that very day of the convention (previous post).
Additional game play photos were taken by Anton playing the static WN68 garrison. His Flickr linked photos can be seen here: HMGS 6-14-14.
Omaha beach scenario platoon rosters, WN armaments, and reserves (.pdf): American OB and Reserve notes, German OB and Reserves notes. Each beach sector has its own American landing platoon roster with Dog Red/White combined. Note that the Dog Red/White Sherman DD tanks must land on Dog White beach zone.
Scenario designed and rules straight from FOW books including Omaha beach, D-Day and Fortress Europe if needed. WR doesn’t have the newer D-Day compilation books and the current version3.0 of NGF wasn’t used either. I used the NGF rules from the D-Day booklet.
Map legend for the scenario map above.
Lastly, at 5:28pm that very same convention afternoon I arrived in time besides my father’s bedside. He expired in silence with his last breath, hand held, watched, and loved by all family present.
Rest in Peace Dad.