Monday, July 21, 2014

Preparations for the big drop!

Myself and fellow club member Michael Stringer have been playing world war 2 games in 15mm using the popular Crossfire rules system by Arty Concliffe. For this year's club Open Day we decided we would "go big" and run a demonstration/participation game focused on the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944. 

When looking at the battle of Arnhem we had to decide what offered the most options and fun for a public participation game. We decided to focus on the initial landing of the 1st airborne and their attempts to secure the bridge. The latter parts of the battle are really a slug fest where the SS try and prise out the paras from their positions in Oosterbeek and around the Northern end of the bridge. Certainly a hard fought heroic action but not much fun to play as a wargame.

The first day landings offered more potential for movement, hidden movement, ambushes and general confusion as the Germans tried to find the paras and stop them getting to the bridge and the paras looking for gaps in the defences to increase the forces holding the bridge.

For a game of this size we had to do some "bath tubbing" or scaling down of the battle. We decided that companies would represent battalions, platoons representing companies and so on.
We also had to scale down the battlefield. It was around 8 miles from the landing zones to the bridge which is a much larger area than typically covered by a standard crossfire game.

We started designing the layout for the game, following historical maps. One club night we got out some terrain and using masking tape blocked out where roads, railways and villages, towns and the Arnhem bridge would be located. We then took photos as a reference for when we set up and ran a rehearsal of the game.

Here are the initial mock ups.

You can see we have clearly identified the landing zones and the nearby village of Wolfheze.

At the next club meeting we got serious and based on our initial layout ,set up what terrain we had.
We still have a few things more to make to complete the terrain for the big day but already you can see the table is going to look terrific when done.

The railway track is a special HOm gauge. It is normally used for narrow gauge railways but is pretty close to 1/100 scale for 15mm miniatures. The track will eventually be mounted on a embankment made from balsa as it runs through Wolfheze and Oosterbeek.

A lot of the buildings are actually printed card stock buildings and on mass look terrific!

The bridge is a laser cut MDF kit I can't remember the manufacturer but will post it when I find out.

Another special rule we had to add into the game was to limit the amount of movement allowed per initiative. With normal crossfire you could theoretically move, if unopposed, from the landing zone to the bridge in one initiative. This was not realistic given the ground scale and it would not allow the German player to move units to intercept. We therefore limited the movement of infantry squads to a maximum of 2 feet per initiative and vehicles like the jeeps to 3 feet. Jeeps of course would operate on the roads. If they moved off road, then they would be limited to two feet as well. 

This is a great view of the landing zone with the paras looking ahead to their target..The Arnhem Bridge!

The Paras are all Old Glory Command Decision range with a few Peter Pig thrown in.

One of the big "What if?s" of the first day is the fate of the reconaissance jeep squadron commanded by Freddie Gough. The division commander Urqhaut was worried about landing so far from Arnhem so he organised for a squadron of jeeps manning Lewis guns were to make a rush for the bridge in a coup de main attack to seize the bridge and hold it until the paras travelling mainly by foot arrived.

As it turned out, unluckily for them ,they were ambushed early on by a German machine gun and were unable to get to the bridge. Some elements did end up finding their way to the bridge but not until Frost's battalion was already there.

I had to paint up the squadron for the game and here they are.

And lastly, what's an airborne battle without my favourite bit? Gliders!

I wanted to have a few gliders to scatter around the LZ to really make a nice scene including a big Hamilcar glider. I found a great little company that makes really stunning gliders called Arnaments In Miniature

Here's some pictures before I paint them they really are quality all over.

Horsa Glider. There is a deluxe version with detached tail and unloading ramps.

The mighty Hamilcar that could carry two Bren Carriers or a light Tetrach tank! No light tanks were used in the Arnhem battle.

Stay tuned for the battle report on the big day coming very soon!


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