Operation Overlord: Round One

 

Today marks the start of Battlefront and WWPD’s global Flames of War online campaign “Operation Overlord“. Focusing on the events of D-Day and the Normandy landings, this seemed like a perfect vehicle to use to motivate myself and Kev into getting our fledgling 15mm armies underway. Since we had our initial ‘training game’ a few weeks back I have been itching to try things from the other perspective and assume command of the Allied forces from the Open Fire set. Normally it would be the Axis forces I would be running with, but it also gave my opponent the opportunity to get to grip with the Grenadiers and reap revenge with the anti-tank Pak 40s that had proven to be so effective in the first game.

So, with the campaign start imminent, I set about putting some effort into not only finishing the remaining German platoons I already had in order to deploy them during the event, but also start building on the terrain collection for Flames as whole. Being new to 15mm, my selection of available terrain consisted of a flat battlefield. Although it would have been nice to start things off with a beach assault, emulating the events of the Day 1 landings, clearly I don’t have a full sized themed table to call upon, nor a vast selection of historically accurate Allied or Axis forces. So we are going to have to make do with more modest forces and  games that are very much in the spirit of the D-Day engagements, albeit not historically accurate.

With that in mind, I decided the first engagement should be at Carentan, landing zone for the 101st US Airborne. In this instance, they are supported by two squadrons of Shermans from the Grenadier Guards. The first contact is north of a small ruined church and house just clear of the bocage from the road leading into the town, and advancing through some wheat fields. Defending the outskirts are two platoons of Grenadiers with anti-tank and Assault Gun support.

Somewhere north of the outskirts of Carentan. You may need to use some imagination. Note: there would have been roads, but Kev forgot to bring them so think of this as a little more rural just off the bocage lined tracks and highways. That plus ‘bocage’ is on the “To Do” list along with more walls, more trees, more buildings and ploughed fields.

Being only our second game and still very much learning the rules, the field of conflict is deliberately quite small at just under 4′ x 4′. Although it doesn’t give a huge amount of room for manoeuvring, it’s a good enough size for the small starter forces we are using and great for getting straight into to the meat of the moving and shooting mechanics.  Kev set up his Pak 40’s in the fields to the south-east (top right as you look at the photo), with his Grenadier line stretching between the fields and the copse of trees behind the house. The Stug Assault Guns were also waiting to pounce from behind the tree line out of sight on the second objective. I set up my Guards ‘A’ Squadron hull down to the north behind the wall and supported them with the 101st. The Guards HQ and ‘B’ Squadron were to the north-west behind the trees you see in the foreground.

As Kev won the opening turn the Allies had ‘gone to ground’ mostly out of sight. The only open target was one of the Sherman V from ‘A’ Squadron which took a long-ranged speculative round from one the distant Pak 40. The shot was wide and Kev advanced his Grenadiers north using the house as a screen. The Stugs moved west to flank around the treeline waiting to ambush my armour.

We both made good use of the available cover to move with caution, my Shermans screening round to negate the Stugs and flank the second objective, whilst my 101st advanced made their way through the trees to get into position by the church. My opening shooting was in return against Pak 40s, a hit, but they easily made their save. My mortars ranged down the advancing Grenadiers, but they easily shrugged off the two rounds. I also made my first rookie mistake by forgetting to fire with the Sherman I had so carefully manoeuvred in cover behind the church to line up the advancing Grenadiers. A mistake that would prove costly the next round.

Kev’s Stugs charged out of cover from the trees and made short work of the Sherman’s front armour. His Pak 40 also managed to take out one of the US rifle teams which was exposed as they advanced. In answer though my Grenadier Guards swung around to flank the Stugs; the two Sherman V catching them on the side whilst the Firefly remained stationary to get maximum effect from it’s 17-pounder. One Stug went up and the second bailed, leaving just one operational. I pulled back the remains of ‘A’ squadron to behind the church, the second Firefly drawing up alongside the burning Sherman. The rest of the Airborne sought out good cover from which to deny the Germans the second objective whilst my mortar team continued to harass.

The next couple of rounds were pretty much an infantry duel between the Grenadiers and Airborne as Kev tried to get his first platoon north to seize the undefended first objective. I moved the Guards HQ two Shermans east in support and the extra weight of MG fire they brought, alongside the stationary Rifle/MG teams was enough to blunt their advance. Inevitably taking so many casualties, they eventually failed their motivation and the platoon was rendered combat ineffective. The Assault Guns suffered the same fate once the flanking Shermans had dealt with the remaining operational Stug. With two destroyed and one bailed, the platoon failed it’s motivation and was taken out. At that point, and being forced to re-locate his Pak 40’s Kev had no real tactical options available other than to dig in with his second Grenadier platoon and defend his objective in the hope that the Pak’s could whittle down the armour.

Knowing the anti-tank guns would be a real threat to my Shermans, I used the terrain to deny any line of sight and set about laying into the entrenched Grenadiers from the west. I then re-tasked A Squadron to deal with the Pak’s, which the Firefly duly did with some very lucky dice rolling taking one of the two guns out. despite a brave last ditch defence by the Germans a tactical withdrawal was pretty much the only option left having surrendered so much ground.

Result: Allies 5 – 1 Axis

On the face of it, a bit of a mauling for the Germans, who were forced back by the Allied advance. Not really one of those games you can take too much from as it was a learning experience for both of us, plus it was primarily dominated by shooting as opposed to assaults or artillery. Those aspects we are still to introduce and will certainly be featuring more in the next few games. What we did take away though was just how much fun Flames is and despite the outwardly daunting size of the rulebook, the game flows along pretty smoothly and quickly. We are now both fired up to push on with our respective armies and build on our 15mm experience. So what’s next?

Firstly we will both be reverting back to our intended forces for the remaining games of the campaign. For Kev that is the Allies and specifically the 101st and for me the Germans. We may not be making the biggest, or the most authentic contribution to WWPD and Battlefront’s D-Day campaign, but I like to think it’s most definitely in the spirit of what it’s about; namely getting more folks to play Flames of War. So with that in mind I will be filling the gaps between the battles not only putting the finishing touches to some reinforcements, but also continuing to work on new terrain for each game and increasing the table size as the scale of conflict ramps up. Coming up from Kev’s side will be additional Airborne MG and Mortar sections. From my side, the fearsome Fallschirmjäger and 10.5cm aertillery, as well as Michael Wittman’s Tigers.

You never know, this global campaign might even get me to blog a bit more regularly, stranger things have happened.

If you want to know more about Operation Overlord, check out WWPD on their campaign website for more information. Equally, there is a sizeable chunk of information on Battlefront’s site who are sponsoring the event.

Until next time, have a great week!

Carl

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