Archive for May, 2015

The Big Game

Mission Command Designer Diary Retrospective: 3

This post was to have been about the Poor Bloody Infantry and our re-writing of the infantry rules. But in the interests of getting the story in the right order – and it is supposed to be a diary, after all – I’m going to make a quick diversion to the Eastern Front, and our Big Games.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the Abbeywood Irregulars play in a large church hall. It’s a fabulous building in the centre of Frome, called the Bennett Centre – named for William James Early Bennett, the Vicar of Frome Selwood, who built a new Infant School on the site in the 1850s; later it became Frome St John the Baptist Church Hall, and we’re priveleged to name the current vicar as a vital member of our AWI group. For those interested in the history of this wonderfully re-furbished location, see: http://bennettcentre.org.uk/ – visitors are also welcomed. Part of the re-furbishment has been to remove the terrible post-war false ceilings and ‘modernisation’, so that now the building’s main hall shows off its rafters, ceiling and arched windows, up to the bell tower on the roof, as you can see from this picture.

BennettCentre

The Bennett Centre (circa 1850)

The hall is airy and well lit by daylight, and new, but traditional, lantern-style lights are suspended from the roof to supplement when needed. There’s even a large stone fireplace. Most importantly the hall is large enough for a multitude of wargamers. AWI is host to one of the South West DBM tournaments (every October), and we can readily fit in 6 lots of 6ft x 5ft tables, with plenty of space to move around. In Mission Command terms, that means a Big Game can be 30km x 25km if necessary.

For June 2010 we mounted an Eastern Front game based on a Russian attack on the cut-off Germans in the Courland Peninsula in January 1945. For this game we had the better part of a Russian Tank Corps versus 14th Panzer Division, albeit the Germans at roughly 50% strength. The Russians were hoping to push the Germans back and over a river, so we needed some depth to the position. We used 5 large tables, with a 2:3 split so players could reach the troops in the middle (see picture), but they had to remember that the gap didn’t represent any real distance so an element on one side of the gap could move straight onto the other side.

Courland

Courland tables

The Germans were intended to have a team of 4 (C-in-C, chief of staff plus 2 tactical ops), though on the day we had to adjust to only 3, as I recall. This left them properly stretched (possibly stressed!), which gave a realistic tension. The Russians had a team of C-in-C plus 4, commensurate with their larger numbers of troops. We didn’t permit C-in-Cs to directly move elements on the table, but only to work via their tactical commanders. Therefore they were able to, and wanted to, concentrate solely on the overall operation, especially on how effective (or otherwise) their artillery attacks were, and to gather and react to information coming back from the table. We gave them sufficiently colourful briefings, suggesting to the Russian tactical commmanders that “You must adhere to your orders. High Command takes a dim view of officers with excessive initiative, and you’ve seen many examples of the unfortunate results. Getting shot by the Germans may result in a pension for your wife and family, getting shot by your own side certainly won’t.”

The Russians were able to put in a textbook attack: a large, well thought out artillery fire plan, infantry and supporting infantry over the bridges rapidly, consolidation of gains against desperate German counter-attacks; then a pause as the artillery had to be moved up and a new fire plan arranged. On the other side, the Germans attempted a classic mobile defence with a relatively thin front line. Unfortunately for them the speed of the Russian tank attack caught them a little flat footed, particularly a poorly placed 8.8cm battery that was outflanked and overrun (the commander didn’t survive to explain his error). Their tank counter-attack was a little too late, and the Russians were able to take them on on relatively equal terms. Defence of the built-up area was, nevertheless, excellent, so although the Russians could claim to have penetrated the position, they were likely to be threatened by flanking forces from the town, so couldn’t claim a decisive victory.

In game and scenario design terms, this was a useful play test, because it showed that Russian and German units were handled differently, in accordance with the command and communications structures described in the materials. For example the Germans had more flexible but less powerful artillery, a Russian set piece could steam-roller ahead behind its bombardment, and German mobile and flexible defence was difficult to co-ordinate but could be very successful when they made excellent use of cover and the timing worked. We were encouraged that one of our Russian players, who was completely new to the game, was still able to pick it up and command a tank brigade successfully. The scenario was a tank-heavy game (so perhaps more traditional in WW2 wargaming terms), and it worked well.

Skipping lightly over our Western Desert game in November 2010 (of which more perhaps another time), our next major Eastern Front game built on the Courland experience. We decided to try a full-blown multiple table game to represent a major German attack on a Russian Tank Corps over a sizeable area. This was to be a breakthrough attempt by the Germans using a Panzer Division and an Infantry Division, so we needed to enable penetration and large scale sweeping manoeuvre. We set up the game as a series of match-ups on separate tables, initially one player versus one player, with the C-in-Cs carrying out the overall direction as in the previous game. Each one-on-one table was in effect a separate game linked over time to its neighbours. Each simultaneous match was intended to last up to two hours, then be adjudicated, at which point tied games would be re-matched (in effect continued), losing forces would retire to the rear or move left / right (if able) onto friendly tables, and winners could advance or stay where they were. It’s probably worth quoting our Basic Assumptions:

1. No diagonal movement across conflict tables (winning troops have options of Advance, Stand, Move Left, Move Right).

2. Tied games require either Rematch (assuming one or other side requires that), Stand with no “hostile” intent, Withdraw or Move – Left or Right. [Each CinC elects without knowledge of the other].

3. Losing forces may retire directly to rear or move left/right onto friendly tables. [i.e. tables where friends either won last bound or were not contested.]

4. Reserves will march in formation designed for such at COLD bound rates if on tables which are not actively fighting.

5. Forces which motor thru’ a table as part of the attack (i.e. NOT as part of the Reserves) within 1 hour will be provided with a bonus positioning on their next table, those completing their movement across table within 90 minutes will receive a lesser bonus.

[Note: typical bonuses might be (and depend on map/terrain also) – 1 hr the swift force may start the next game up to 1000m in from the table edge assuming they wished to continue ahead. Also disruption to defenders positioning of troops – he may not position anything other than infantry within 1200m of the enemy’s table edge. 90 minutes – Start up to 500m from table edge but defenders may not position any element other than infantry within 1000m of enemy table edge, Defender’s tanks may not be dug in [?].

6. Umpires may, before table games commence advise a reduction in game time to 90 minutes (otherwise 2 hours as standard) – particularly in first round of games if position lightly held etc.

7. Artillery fire will be limited with Map fire being constrained to prominent features only. [Pre registered firing marks other than onto clear features will not be permitted].

8. We will try to get 4 games in. Might mean 5pm is not achievable.

As you may have noticed, there were some tentative parts to this. In the mixing of the ingredients and the cooking, the recipe worked pretty well though. Players were engrossed all day. Although the starting positions were one-on-one, after the first session we were flexible enough to modify our basic assumptions. One largish encounter continued into sessions 2 and 3, as the Germans pushed across a minefield into a village. The main German armoured attack overran the Russians, the remnants retreating to the east. Advancing virtually unopposed in session 2, the Germans were able to exploit rapidly along an undefended table, while part of the armour peeled off to the east. Players unused to this type of sweeping manoeuvre needed a bit of guidance from the umpires and some insistence from C-in-C – there is a tendency amongst some wargamers to simply head for the nearest enemy, rather than to exploit open spaces. The Russians stuck to their plan, which was to engage the Germans with a mobile defence, and to force the enemy to attack Russian blocking forces in terrain favourable to the defence. However, the Germans retained the initiative, because their breakthrough enabled them to pick their route of advance, and it became difficult for the Russians to co-ordinate, especially because their artillery and armour lacked the command and control flexibility of the Germans. The Germans were able to carry out the classic armoured finesse of hitting Russian artillery with direct fire, their Panthers destroying a regiment of Katyusha rockets while outranging T34s (with mainly 76mm, not 85mm guns). The system of separate tables enabled the Germans to recce ahead with fast-moving armoured cars to find the weak spots, while by-passing strongpoints.

By the end of the day, two main points emerged – (i) the Germans had broken through to the north and were going to be able to link up with an off-table pincer coming from that direction, thereby cutting off all Russian forces to the west. This thrust was to have been blocked by Russian reserve armour, but the speed of the advance and the failure of the Russians to recognise the German schwerpunkt quickly, meant that the reserves were 10km away and far too late to block. In terms of our game mechanics, this was an excellent result, because it demonstrated that the Big Game structure functioned as designed. We had a believable result, well within expected parameters (and the players agreed, which is always critical). And (ii) signifant German forces (half the armour, plus most of their motorised infantry) were engaged in a direct fight with the main force of the Russians. This larger engagement happened because the Germans needed to pin them, and the Russians wanted to bring on a major combat on their terms. Our scenario management permitted this through two expedients: pushing together the tables from two or three of our one-to-ones, and sychronising the time scales.

The latter point was a major learning experience for the umpires. Naturally, when we were operating across several separate tables, the time scales or flow of game turns varied, as players were slower or quicker. One table might be on turn 9, while an adjacent table was on turn 12. If the two tables came to interact, either firing from one to the other, or moving troops between tables, it was necessary to synchronise them, or players would be confused, particularly when looking at communication delays, for example for calling in artillery fire. Our method was initially to attempt to split the difference and adjust both tables. However, this method was not entirely practical, as it could create confusion on both tables. Pete and I decided during the game that the slickest method was to match the two tables using the table that had the most turns as the base line. The other table’s game turn indicator (sequentially numbered cards) was adjusted at the first point of interaction, and then both would operate as if they were a single table. All existing communication delays on the second table would be adjusted to the time scale of the first – a one-time adjustment that proved easy to operate. This mechanism worked because Mission Command doesn’t force any particular relationship between a game turn and elapsed time; our game turn lasts roughly 10 minutes but can happily be variable in length.

Our take-away from this scenario was that the Big Game concepts functioned well, as long as the umpires, and to an extent the C-in-Cs were flexible in reacting to changing circumstances. Some of the sub-games would continue through more than one session, others would last the prescribed 2 hours, but many would be shorter as recce forces or overmatching forces moved rapidly through the next table. While at the start of the day the sub-games would be one-on-one, later sessions could readily be two v one, or larger, as troops moved and operations developed. We didn’t want to force a rigid structure on the players, because that threatened to shake the believability of the overall game. Most operational decisions were taken by C-in-Cs between sessions (which was our initial thought), but we also found that a quick sub-game, say, one hour, might enable intervention during a neighbouring longer engagement, and this type of occurrence was not only acceptable, it was to be encouraged, because it helped C-in-Cs have an impact during a session and maintained the game flow. Without our flexible approach the game would suffer from a disjointed feel and leave some players with a poorer experience.
Next: PBI re-write

Advertisements

Let’s write our own rules!

Mission Command Designer Diary Retrospective: 2

Our experience of replaying WGRG 1973 in 2008 and ’09 was only moderately positive. Not because we didn’t respect the rules, but because we became convinced that the scales were wrong for our purposes. We were more interested in tactical / operational play over a larger combat area with game time of up to a day, rather than 30 second turns with a whole game running for 15 to 20 turns. The time scale, ground scale and figure scale meant that the rules were designed for skirmishes, rather than for full scale battles. We were feeling a bit cramped.

Scales

As an experiment, we decided to address the scale issues. We replaced 1 millimetre = 1 metre with 1 millimetre = 2 metres and radically reconsidered the length of a bound. I was already conscious that in many traditional wargames, troops ‘do stuff’ all the time, whereas actual combat tends to consist of “long periods of boredom where not much happens except fire from known positions at known positions, interspersed with intense, brief activity during which a great deal happens” (quoting from our 2009 draft rules). Movement rates in many games are determined by theoretical maximums or theoretical averages, or even rely on an element of randomisation through various dice rolls dependent on troop type. However, it struck me that movement rates and other activities that expose men to fire are often a function of how close the men are to the enemy. Up close and personal to enemies with small arms was bad news and tended to enforce restrictions on movement (‘keeping your head down’ was a good idea), and even at slightly longer ranges, say within range of direct fire from MGs or other support weapons, activities might be more circumspect than when the enemy was a long way off or using area fire, particularly indirect area fire. We introduced the idea of a variable length bound: 5 minutes for a ‘hot’ bound within 500m of known enemies, during which movement was at ‘normal’ rates; 15 minutes for a ‘warm’ bound, outside 500m range (potentially off-table), and no new direct fire within 500m, during which movement could be 5 times the normal rates; and 30 minutes for a ‘cold’ bound outside 1000m of known enemies, during which movement could be 10 times normal rates. Cold or warm bounds could suddenly become hot if the enemy used close up fire revealing themselves within 500m. We had the advantage that the umpires could keep track of the passage of time and control the type of bound in operation. At this stage we didn’t use the concept of opportunity fire in an opponent’s bound, but more simply would end the bound and start a new one if new short range fire changed the circumstances.

Bounds

There were many advantages to the new types of bound. Warm and cold bounds enabled very quick (in real time) sorting out of orders, requests and reports, whereas previously we’d been tied to very short turns, which bogged players down in detail even when the enemy was a long way off. This way, the attacking side could ‘go cold’ and carry out a lot of activity at the start of the game, until the enemy was encountered within 500m. This could even mean vehicles travelling several kilometres, or carrying out reconnaissance over large areas very quickly without players becoming bored. It also meant we avoided a problem in earlier games whereby infantry were only allowed to move 100m per turn, so could take an age to cover basically uncontested terrain (or even terrain behind their own lines). If the bound was cold, the foot-sloggers could slog along at 1km per bound; though of course they’d be vulnerable to ambush if they did that in areas that hadn’t been cleared of enemy. Here we had some naturally emerging friction. A player might want to move his troops fast, but if he did, there was a significantly increased risk of losses, so players would be very reluctant to do it, unless convinced there was no enemy around.

We also changed the number of men and vehicles represented by a single figure or model, settling on a ratio of 10 to 1 for most infantry, and between 3 and 5 to 1 for vehicles and heavy weapons. These ratios were by no means strict, so we didn’t envisage people counting up the figures and multiplying by 10. Infantry stands were approximately 6 figures, but could readily have just 4, with support weapons such as MGs or mortars separately depicted on smaller bases. Our elements used pretty much the same frontages as Flames of War, as these base types were readily available, with the main infantry base having a 50mm frontage – representing 100 metres.

Our next couple of play test games were very different. For June 2009 we decided that a D-Day game would be appropriate, while for October we scheduled a Western Desert game.

“Hold until relieved!”

I blithely asked Pete if he could supply any British paratroopers for D-Day – only 1 division was the answer! So we had almost the entire 6th Airborne Division available, complete with Tetrarch light tanks, 75mm pack howitzers and little red berets. And the piece de resistance: Horsa gliders. We decided that the whole division might make rather too big a game for a play test, so we opted for 5 Parachute Brigade and the area around the Orne bridges. Opposition was primarily elements of 21 Panzer division with minor supports from 716 Infantry Division. Unbeknown to the British, this was not to be a true-to-history scenario, but rather, a what if 21 Panzer Division had been committed earlier, as a whole division? The scenario focused on the eastern supporting German forces, while the main Divisional attack went in off-map to the west, which was perhaps a bit of a cop-out, but had the merit of a smaller area of operations.

Period maps are pretty easy to come by, so for added realism and immersion, we used the historical recce maps and a large aerial recce photo. In addition the British briefings for the “Hold until relieved” scenario were based on the historical briefing for the Brigade. The German briefing had the merit of simplicity, in that their objective was to take the Orne bridges in support of the main attack, and to secure the eastern flank of the division.

A further innovation was our introduction of Event Cards as a method of injecting semi-random happenings to enrich the scenario. These helped to cover things difficult to model through conventional mechanics, such as snipers, cut off sections of 716 Division, arrival of lost paras, and air support. There was even a German gunboat on the Caen Canal to contend with. I created a small pack of 13 event cards, and we drew about 1 per hour, so using perhaps half of them during the game. An advantage of this idea is that players can take actions that might mitigate against adverse events, for example, it’s worthwhile sweeping an area in detail, as you’ll likely prevent snipers or infiltrators from umpire-controlled event cards. This mechanism worked very well, and we’ve used it many times since.

EventCard

 

Event card example

As I recall, the Germans eventually overcame the stubborn paras after a tough fight. More importantly, the rules had worked, if a bit clunkily. I recall that the hot/warm/cold idea worked reasonably well, though it was a little complex to implement, because we hadn’t nailed down precisely enough all the conditions and implications of changing the type of bound. We put this down to unfamiliarity at the time, and the umpires smoothed out some of the rough edges. The infantry movement issue was partially resolved, particularly in the ‘move to contact’ part of the game, but bogging down and lack of sufficient player decisions cropped up when things got close up. Communications in relation to artillery strikes worked well, though new players didn’t quite understand the time lags imposed. We felt that even though the game was supposed to be umpired, the pressure on the umpires to move the game along was more than expected, and players tended to wait instead of helping the game to progress.

Sidi Rezegh

I felt that “Hold until relieved” had been inconclusive, and we needed a different test to prove the rules or to stimulate more development. Our next major game, based on part of Operation Crusader in November 1941 around Sidi Rezegh, was indeed a different test. We had to have more space for a desert game, we had less cover, more tanks and far more manouevre.

I was against the idea of PIP dice or other artificial fog of war mechanisms that tried to restrict the numbers of troops that could act in a given turn. These, in my opinion, seemed to rely on dice rolls as a proxy for friction, whereas I felt that friction should be built into the game system, or more properly should be an emergent property of it. Therefore, as I’ve noted earlier, we kept the idea that troops should be given orders and report what happens. I see that we’d implemented this to an extent via this briefing to the German commander in the desert:

“You have all your regimental/battalion commanders with you and therefore should brief them accordingly on their tasks etc (including order of march/attack, objectives etc).
How you go about your task is your decision…at this point you can talk directly to your commanders; once they return to their units then all messages will be by radio communications.
As CinC you have the option of operating independently or attaching yourself to a unit (this should be clearly stated /identified) at will.”

SidiRezegh

Sidi Rezegh umpires map

Our Sidi Rezegh game was especially interesting for me. The game was organised by Stephen Welford, who masterminded all our North African theatre games, so my original role was to help with umpiring. Best laid plans failed however, and our German commander couldn’t make it, so I took over the German C-in-C role a few days before the engagement.

Fortunately this isn’t a session report blog, because I can remember little about this game other than the design decisions that sprang from it. Both sides learned about the power of artillery, particularly as the main British assembly area came under massive indirect fire controlled by a well-concealed German Forward Observation Officer whom they never tracked down. We also learned how difficult it was to mount an infantry attack on a prepared position, as an attacking German regiment suffered heavy casualties due to the lifting of a smoke barrage too early. We also had a couple of swirling tank melees that gave the right feel of the desert fighting. And we capped it with a more or less historically accurate outcome: indecisive at the end of day 1!

A key design and organisation feature was how to handle ranges for spotting and firing. In the desert, you could have visibility over several kilometres, and effective direct fire range in the open could be over 2 kilometres, for example with a battery of 8.8 cm guns. As we have the advantage of a large church hall, we’re able to have a very extensive play area, and we decided that we could simply put out more tables if the fighting spread. For the 8.8 cm battery initial position far to the south, we used a separate card table, which we could move in towards the main playing area as it re-deployed. Direct fire at more than 3 kilometres was quite practical.

To help players with the game flow, we put the sequence of play on a poster on the wall, and we used a flipchart with numbered squares to act as a turn counter. This very much helped to give the players a good impression of the passage of time.

These two play tests convinced us of two things. First we definitely wanted to continue with this development, and second we were writing big chunks of changes to WGRG 1973. Sooner or later, we thought, we’d be writing our own rules.

Next: PBI re-write

A new problem and an old solution

Mission Command Designer Diary Retrospective: 1

The year was 2007, the place was Frome, Somerset, United Kingdom, the group: The Abbeywood Irregulars (AWI), and we had a problem. AWI was, and is, a very experienced bunch of wargamers – not yet oldies, but perhaps an emerging trend towards grey amongst some (myself included), and perhaps an air of tradition amongst others. We could, some of us, recount stories from the mists of time when Donald Featherstone was in his prime. In this blog series – a restrospective designer diary for Mission Command, Surprised Stare Games’ new World War Two miniatures rules – I will mostly avoid naming names (except for myself and Pete Connew, brother in arms), both to protect the innocent or guilty, and because I don’t have many authoritative notes, so I might blame or credit the wrong individual. I’ve also no idea how it’s going to pan out, so I ask your indulgence.

The problem was: we’d tried a fair few of the published WW2 miniatures rules and rejected all of them. None of them fitted the needs of our group of recalcitrant and fernickety players. We favoured gritty realism over slick presentation, and historical authenticity over ‘hollywood wargaming’. We weren’t afraid of weighty tomes (for Napoleonics, our favoured rules were General de Brigade), nor did we shy away from excessive versioning or as some might put it, correcting, of published rule sets (DBM with slips of amendments stuck in was favoured over the more professionally presented Field of Glory). What to do?

Consideration fell to myself and Pete Connew, being the two players primarily organising our WW2 games. The first idea was to return to an old favourite – Phil Barker’s 1973 Wargames Research Group “Armour and Infantry, 1925 – 1950”.

cover1

A paper copy (how quaint!) was dug out from the archives. Our intention was to uprate the rules in the light of our own researches and ideas, and to cover perceived weaknesses, bearing in mind the progress in wargames rules over the past 35 years or so. This short, snappy process would result in a set of rules that our group would be happy to play with. We hoped.

Looking back at the earliest version of our partially upgraded WGRG rules, we retained 99% of Phil’s original, and gave it an outing in April 2008. The scenario was called “Advance to Contact”, and it was a historical one from Operation Goodwood, so already Normandy was uppermost in our minds.

“It is the closing stages of Operation Goodwood. Guards Armoured Division having fought through and occupied Cagny has ordered 1st Coldstream Armoured Battalion and 1st Welsh Guards Infantry Battalion to advance through the village of Frenouville to their final objective the Bourguebus ridge. A Canadian Battalion (Lord Strathcona’s Horse) is in reserve. Unknown to the Guards and blocking their path was Kampfgruppe Waldmuller of the 12th SS Panzer Division. Historically, once engaged the fighting lasted well into the late summer evening. One point of interest was the arrival during the fight of a kette of Luftwaffe Me110s armed with bombs.”

This last provided Pete, if I recall correctly, with an opportunity to put some aircraft models on the table, even though the air rules amounted to less than 200 words.

A significant addition to the organisation of the game was our first use of what became the ‘command cards’ of Mission Command. I decided that it would be easier for players if they had the order of battle broken down with relevant movement and fire data immediately available on cards. Each player would have the cards for the troops under their command, and it might save them from looking everything up in the various tables in the rules. I was aware that this wasn’t a radical innovation, as the idea has been used elsewhere, but it may not have been used before with WGRG 1973 rules.

EarlyCommandCard

The main rule changes were to permit German units to ignore some reaction test triggers, thereby making them a bit less liable to fall apart. We also considered, but didn’t fully implement, an idea that all reaction tests would be taken at company level. Apart from that, our approach was highly comparable to WGRG: we kept the IGO/UGO sequence of play for the stated reason in the WGRG rules – to speed up play and ‘capture something of the flavour of a fast moving tank battle’ without imposing strict written orders and simultaneous movement, or a more complex turn sequence. IGO/UGO has the merit of simplicity, a major factor we wanted to retain. On the other hand, we wanted players to give their troops orders, so we also kept the WGRG notion that command elements should be ‘given realistic orders couched in fairly general terms’. We’ve retained this concept throughout, with the more explicit idea that the main purpose of orders is simply to enable your plan to be carried out, not to restrict what players themselves can do. More on that later, I mustn’t get ahead of myself!

We also kept the now archaic term ‘bound’ to mean a player or side’s turn, and the rough time (30 seconds per bound) and distance (1mm = 1 metre) scales. We were less convinced by the one-to-one figure scale, so instead used 1 figure = 3 to 5 real men or vehicles.

Our philosophical approach was:

  • Use WGRG 1973 as a starting point.
    We expected to simply modify the WGRG 1973 rules to our taste – this was to change!
  • Umpire moderated, not player argued!
    We weren’t that interested in the points values for troops, having no intention to run tournament games, though I notice that I suggested we might put points on the cards, so that players had an idea of the relative values of groups. We weren’t interested either in excessive arguments between players about what could and could not happen. We kept to the no points values approach, but stopping the arguments proved harder. Player enjoyment within a historically realistic game was our objective, and our advantage was that both Pete and I (with the addition of Stephen Welford later) were happy to umpire rather than to play.
  • Use historical data where we could get it, and best guesses where we couldn’t.
    We were placing this at the simulation end of the wargame spectrum, but short of ‘professional wargaming’, even though some of our players were military or ex-military.
  • Play test and refine till happy.
    We had no particular time scale in mind. AWI has monthly meets, and we were happy to commit 2 or 3 sessions per year to large WW2 games. Finishing wasn’t a particularly important objective at the start – in fact, we didn’t have an idea what ‘finished’ would look like.

The briefing for the players in “Advance to Contact” was very brief, and we relied on our very large table to show the terrain, rather than having anything like sketch maps. However, my order of battle notes show a reasonable sized British brigade group of the Coldstream Guards (Shermans), Welsh Guards (infantry), a reserve battalion of Shermans, with appropriate artillery and anti-tank supports, versus a Kampfgruppe of 2 fairly weak panzergrenadier battalions, with a couple of companies of Panzer IVs and a couple of Tigers due to show up later. Outnumbered Germans was to be a feature of most of our late war games, as we would expect with a historical or pseudo-historical approach.

I can’t remember much about what happened in Kampfgruppe Waldmüller versus the Guards, except that the Welsh Guards infantry learned the hard way that a cavalry charge in Bren carriers wasn’t a good idea. And the ever recurring lesson that you shouldn’t forget to use smoke screens.

Next: Let’s write our own rules!