Play testing continues for the Normandy book, and as such I had the chance to run through the new ‘Beach Head’ amphibious assault scenario, using two of the odder army lists for the book - the US Amphibious Assault Battlegroup, and the German Atlantic Wall Resistance Nest. It proved a useful game in ironing out a few wrinkles, and a very different and close battle too.
I’m not going into full detail here, its still a WIP, but here’s a few photos of the game.
As a brief overview, the plan is to turn beach landings into re-playable 'generic' scenarios (with all the D-Day character and authenticity you’d want), just like land battles are. So, if you want to collect landing craft, DD tanks, bunkers, etc, then you can use them again and again and still get lots of options and very different games every time. Hopefully, it then becomes worth investing in all that specialist stuff. It makes for great battles too, very ferocious and evocative.
This was a smallish Platoon-sized game, with my US battlegroup consisting off: 2 Assault Boat Teams (each approx 30 men in various squads and teams) all transported in 2 LCVPs. 3 DD Shermans. 1 M7 Priest in an LCM, with a shore fire control party (in jeep) also onboard. Off-table were three timed 6” gun barrages, 2 artillery requests (the guns will be all those big naval ones!), and 2 counter-battery fire missions. 600 pts.
The Resistance Nest I would face is the oddest of odd lists. Few (and poor) infantry, no tanks at all!, some artillery (off-table or in gun casemates) and lots and lots of defences. This first test force consisted of: an Ost infantry platoon with a HMG-34 team added, a 50mm AT gun in a casemate, a 150mm infantry gun in a casemate, an MG42 in a pillbox, a 20mm Flak in an open emplacement, OP team in a dug-out, a supporting 80mm mortar and off-table 105mm guns. Add to this: mined submerged obstacles at the shore, 40” of beach obstacles, 20” of barbed wire, a minefield, and a heavily reinforced house (the Cafe - front and centre) providing a 2+ cover save (effectively a concealed bunker) and 4 timed 80mm mortar barrages. 600 pts in total. It looked fearsome, but had a low BR total, less than half that of the US forces.
With the tabletop set-up and the defences deployed, it was time to place my attack waves. 2 DD tanks first, then the M7 in LCM and another DD tank, all in the centre. Then on either flank an LCVP assault boat team (see photo).
The attackers began, landing a timed 6” barrage on the 50mm AT casemate, which did little due to all those high 2+ saves (boom-boom-boom). All my landing craft moved forwards as fast as the ‘low swell’ sea conditions would allow. The German response was slow, some ineffective long range mortar fire that splashed around the DD tanks, and some units going onto ambush fire.
Next turn, repeat turn 2. More 6” shelling (a direct hit wiped out the 20mm FlaK and crew and the 50mm AT gun was pinned), more moving towards the shore. The first DD tank made land and immediately opened fire with HE Area Fire on the MG pillbox, which wasn’t affected in the slightest.
Again, not much from the Germans, two timed mortar barrages smashed the beach (a little early them). Accurate HMG fire did some damage to the LCM as it cruised in.
Turn three and things got hotter. Another 6” barrage, this time right on the fortified cafe, that caused much pinning if no actual losses. Then the Priest added to the pinning, firing over the bows of the LCM. The other two DD tanks made it ashore unharmed. It was going well, armour was on the beach.
Until the German turn, when a mortar shell pinned a DD tank, and subsequent 50mm AP hit caused the crew to abandon it - first loss. More timed mortars hammered the beach and every DD tank was hit, but survived the inferno. More MG fire damaged the LCM, that was now looking rather full of holes, and the 150mm infantry gun opened up, scored a direct hit on a DD Sherman at short range, but failed to destroy it. It was pinned though. Only one tank left operating for my turn.
In my turn, all the remaining landing craft hit the beach, and the M7 drove down and onto the beach into the mortar blasts, hammering at the MG pillbox with its 105mm shells (it wasn’t pinned though), whilst the shore fire control party in his jeep were pinned and couldn’t disembark, which left them exposed in front of HMG fire next turn (which then easily destroyed the jeep and team in it. Eek!). The first infantry assault team hit the beach, and was instantly raked by MG fire, losing 7 men - ouch. The others ran for the top of the beach, but the flamethrower team was wiped out when they stepped on mine (extra bad luck if you’re carrying a huge canister of highly volatile fuel). The carnage was growing, and the counters mounting fast. The second LCVP (on the right) was pinned, so couldn’t disembark its teams, who hunkered inside from the MG and small arms fire - ‘Go out there? Into that – hell no way!’.
The Germans, after a slow start, now got things going. Their OP was on the phone to his 105 battery, but counter-battery fire from the destroyers out to sea meant his guns couldn’t fire (small mercy). The timed mortar barrages had ended, but the single 80mm at the rear of table kept up its steady fire again. The 50mm AT gun easily dispatched the Priest with a clear flank shot (somebody suppress that gun!), and a DD Sherman took a point blank hit from the 150mm casemate gun and detonated. Only one DD tank was now left. The LCM, now empty, was finished off by more fire and it began to burn, subsiding into the surf. Counters now looked very lob-sided, 10 to me, only 3 to the Germans.
The US attack was floundering. The DD tank was all alone amidst the burning wrecks, but it did managed to pin the 150mm gun crew with more HE fire (and it was now running low). The infantry on the left were my best hope, they advanced on the 50mm gun bunker, their demolitions team with charges at the ready, and came face to face with an Ost infantry squad at short range. Thankfully, the Boat Team HQ (just 2 men) with their Thompsons blazing pinned the Ost squad to save me from terrible short range fire next turn - thanks 'LT'.
The other LVCP was pinned again. A bit unlucky that, but those boys just didn’t want to risk the open beach yet. My break point was looming large.
By fortune the Germans didn’t manage too much in return, again their off-table artillery fire was blocked by my second counter-battery fire mission, and the mortar only pinned a unit as it shelled the area around the 50mm AT gun bunker, now being overrun by US infantry. I had got away lightly, no counters taken.
But this couldn’t go on. I was just 3 points from breaking, not enough to even risk rallying pinned units, so it was all or nothing this turn.
Finally my second assault boat team disembarked, rushing from the LVCP. Its HQ instantly got on the radio, calling in 1st priority fire from a destroyer’s 4.7” guns (off-table). These hammered the bluffs ahead and wiped out the MG team with a direct hit. Thank you the US Navy! Next, I pushed my DD tank forwards, braving the beach mines to reach an objective on the road from the beach. I couldn’t claim it because the still active HMG pillbox was too close. If I could knock it out, I’d have the objective though. Also, the DD tanks was now out of the 150mm casemate’s arc of fire. Boldly I gave the Close Assault order to my assault boat rifle team on the hill, and assisted by more area fire from their boat team HQ, they came forwards, weapons blazing and grenades flying. In the resulting close assault the Ost troop squad were wiped out, for the loss of 5 of my men (1 was saved by the attached combat medic). Bloody for both sides, but another counter for the Germans. Finally, the demo-team’s charge went up, Kaboom! The AT gun bunker was reduced to rubble and the 50mm gun inside, and crew, wiped out. Another counter, and with that the Germans were done! They had broken, turning and running for the rear, abandoning their positions. The sight of the Americans on the high ground at the smoking bunker was too much, or maybe it was the DD tank breaking through on the road?
Victory - just! We were ashore (by the skin of our teeth!), in just three intense hours of furious battle. Another close game, despite the big imbalance in BR, but that is all to the good. Uneven forces can work in this system and still give a ‘balanced’ game. The test was also helpful sorting some issues over landing craft movement distances and being pinned, as well small arms vs landing craft (they were just sinking them way too easily, so I changed that instantly), and gun casemate ammo (they will have it, like tanks, but can be resupplied too, because they use a lot having nothing else to do but fire). Notably for the German player, every MG, gun and mortar that could had a loader team, and they never got the extra shot once all game. One shot could have made the difference too.
Now, on to Berlin...