Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nations at War: The Arnhem Campaign - Scenario 4: Hold the Line

Captain McCloud looked north towards the small town of Wolfheze nervously.  It was his charge to keep it in British hands now.  But somewhere out to the east were German tanks and men advancing straight for them.  If the British 10th Para could not hold the small town, the Germans would soon march into Arnhem and reclaim it, reversing all the hard British  efforts of the past 3 days.

The late September heat was oppressive and the wounds he suffered in defending against the German counterattack on Arhnem two days ago were finally starting to heal.  However, there had been no time for proper rest as the Germans meant to steamroll back into the city, this time with even more tanks and men than before.  Although a British landing was scheduled to come later today with fresh troops, there would be only death waiting for them if the Germans advanced into Wolfheze.  Once again, everything came down to him.  He tried to appear confident as he watched one of his men sitting on a large fallen tree branch sipping tea from his canteen and reassembling his Bren Gun. A distant rumbling sounded to the east.

British set up defensively around Wolfheze (Ste. Jeanne).

The German tank commander, Lt. Wurtz wiped his brow and ordered the Panzer IVs to advance on to Wolfheze.  With a long line of German infantry behind him, his job would be relatively simple.  He was to pour as much firepower as possible on the city of Wolfheze before the German infantry assaulted the town.  After securing that town, they could quickly advance on Arnhem and have this whole unpleasant business over with soon enough for him to return on leave and see his young wife, Anna, on her birthday.  This was the only incentive he needed to start moving his tank platoon.


German tanks and infantry set to advance.


The Germans advanced straight down the road towards Wolfheze, avoiding the obvious traps such as  the forests.  Taking the road and the high ground was a bit risky in itself but much better than going into the dark and deep unknown of those ancient forests to the south of the town.  As his Panzer IV slid onto the highway, its tracks hungrily ate at the concrete below and the rear exhausts belched out smoke behind them.  They were carnivores searching for prey and they would find it.  

Just as a slight smile creased his lips, Wurtz heard a screaming sound behind him and turned to see a flight of British bombers - Tornadoes, they called them - loose a payload of bombs to their south.  He ducked reflexively as the bombs fell harmlessly about 200 meters to the southwest.  Chatter on the radio took a suddenly buoyant tone after the bombers flew off.   It seemed fate may be on their side.

British Typhoon bombers miss the Germans.

Ten minutes later, however, fate proved a fickle ally.  Another flight of Typhoons hit an infantry column behind them.  The nearby explosions were enough to ring his ears and he could see that many of the British bombers had scored direct hits on the advancing German infantry just behind him.

The Typhoons return and destroy an entire German infantry platoon.

Captain McCloud ordered his men to be patient.  With so few men to protect Wolfheze, it was best to wait and find out about the German plan and then thwart it rather than to go looking for trouble.  He would let the Germans march as close as possible to the small town and then try to engage them at close quarters.  FISH - he called it - Fighting in Someone's House.  There would be a lot of that today, he reckoned.

One of McCloud's scouts finally reported back the positions and movement of the oncoming Germans.  He sent Lt. Chapman and a platoon of men into Wolfheze to wait for the Germans and prepare a surprise welcome for them. The 3 inch mortar platoon to the south had been firing ineffectively for the past 30 minutes and he finally decided to let them pull back.  The fighting was going to be at close quarters so there was no need to start firing mortars all over the town and into everyone's lap.  

Germans start to surround the town and the Brits wait...

Lt. Wurtz sent his tanks up the hill and sat on the crest near the city.  One of his scout cars came back, reporting that the British were set up in the forest to the south of town.  With that, he ordered an artillery strike on the area.  Spotting rounds landed far to the south near a small pond and he sighed as the German artillery battered the pond and slew all the aquatic inhabitants in a matter of minutes.  If the German army had been at war with fish, it could have counted the off-target artillery fire as a great success.  As it was, he hung his head in frustration for a moment before watching the column of German infantry behind him advance up towards Wolfheze.


Lt. Chapman and his men had secured several houses facing to the northeast and did not need any convincing to fire on the unsuspecting German infantry as it clambered towards the city.  Soon, however, it was obvious that they simply did not have enough firepower to destroy the Jerries. The German infantry moved up into the woods to the north and Chapman ordered his men to cease fire.  Ammunition and supplies were tight, he reasoned, so best save it for the main event.

McCloud looked far to his south and watched German artillery pounding away at absolutely nothing.  He didn't need to tell his men the obvious.  Everyone knew that those deadly rounds had been meant for them.  It was time to move.  The Germans were too close to the city and their final assault would come soon. 

The Germans moved into the north of Wolfheze and Chapman grinned.  Soon they would come and his men were ready to absolutely maul them.  The only fear he had were the German tanks lined up on the hills to the east.  How would McCloud deal with those?  It was then that he heard the great German guns firing away.

A reduced German infantry w. HQ takes the north of Wolfheze.

McCloud and one of his platoons made it into Wolfheze - just barely.  Stunningly accurate German tank fire had cut down many of his men as they pulled back into the town.  As they all scrambled for cover from the German guns, discipline started to waver.  A handful of his men cowered in the streets in fetal positions while others simply stood and watched the upper floors of several buildings explode around them.  Brick and wood frames started to spill into the street.  He looked around and he was suddenly alone.  

Lt. Wurtz was having a very good day.  The British had been silly enough to try and run through open ground to retreat back to the city and prepare a defense.  His Panzers had cut many of them down on the way and now they were shelling the south of Wolfheze.  He could only imagine the hell of being in that place right now were they were firing non-stop for ten minutes.  He looked at his watch and a cease-fire order came over the radio net.  It was time to advance.

The German tanks descended grumpily from the hill and poured into the town.  One of his tank platoons was lost but the others rushed through the streets, firing at anything that was moving.  British soldiers ran away in panic or stood and stared as his huge machines turned everything before them into rubble.  20 minutes later, Wolfheze was theirs and he climbed down from his tank to scoop up something shiny that had caught his eye.  Bending down, he noticed a beautiful silver trinket in the shape of a tulip.  He stuffed it in his pocket.  "And now I even have a nice present for Anna," he thought.

End of turn 8.  The Germans have captured Wolfheze.

Conclusion:

Well, with the British loss in Scenario 4, that brings us to the end of the Arnhem campaign.  The result for the campaign is a Draw, which is actually not so bad considering how tough things are for both sides.  There is real accountability for both players in terms of your decisions here because Pyrrhic victories can and will cost you subsequent scenarios.  I believe that is exactly what happened in this case.  I had enough RP to buy a Typhoon close air support chit but not enough to also reinforce the rest of my remaining Paras.  The Typhoons performed admirably but it may have been better to go with more practical decisions in terms of buying replacements and support weapons.

The Arnhem Campaign is simply terrific.  It gives you lots of decisions to make as the British player and there are so many choices to make from scenario to scenario.  The campaign nature of the game really forces you to play your best.  What might have made the campaign a bit better was an option to play as the Germans with RPs so both players could share in the fun.  Also, a Chaos marker is also a nice addition to any scenario but I can also understand why the designers left it out.  A big thanks and kudos to Matt Lohse for such a great and ambitious approach to the NaW system!

4 comments:

  1. Another great report, and the campaign system sounds really good. Could it be adapted for home brew campaigns, do you think?

    Cheers,
    Aaron

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    1. Hi Aaron,

      Thanks very much! Yeah, I think you could take the list of refit points and adapt them to other nationalities and use pretty much the same cost for similar unit types for a homebrew campaign. There are so many good ideas in there that I think you could use it as a very good starting point for homebrew. Glad to see you like Band of Brothers, by the way!

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    2. Really like your writing, Brad.

      Aaron, yes this can be adopted to other campaigns. The initial ideas for the refit points came from a World at War campaign in Battles within Battles.

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    3. Thanks Mark! I have ATZ on the way now and I can't wait to try my hand at writing in the horror genre.

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