Band of Heroes: Overlord Begins
"Overlord Begins" is a scenario from Lock 'n Load's Band of Heroes expansion "Swift and Bold", which focuses on the British efforts in Normandy and Holland during 1944. It's an impressive expansion with 12 scenarios and 83 counters. Although it is tough to find these days, I hear it will be included in the upcoming new edition of Band of Heroes.
"Overlord Begins" depicts the landing of the 6th Airborne Division's D Company in the early hours of June 6th, 1944. The company's mission was to take and hold the Caen Canal Bridge over the River Orne, a vitally important strategic target. With the bridge in British hands, it would help speed the passage of friendly units as they pushed south of the beaches while at the same time preventing the Germans from easily reinforcing their coastal defense units later on in them morning.
In scenario terms, the British win this one if no German units are within three hexes of the bridge by scenario's end.
Here we get map 14 and 17 with a handful of Germans at either end of the bridge while a platoon of men is set up anywhere west of the river hexes or on board 17. Just a quick note that the scenario rules indicate that some of the terrain on the board is different than what is actually depicted; bocage is actually hedge while marsh hexes are clear terrain.
|The playing area for the scenario.|
I love the Horsa glider mechanic and how it plays out. You pinpoint where the gliders are supposed to land and then make a morale check that's modified by terrain and enemy defenses to see where it actually lands and what happens to the glider's occupants. Since this scenario takes place at night, the chances that the glider is going to crash land off course is a little higher than during the day. The night rules for combat and spotting are slightly modified by the scenario. Basically, units can spot anything within 3 hexes of their position (instead of the usual two). The scenario rules also state that the Germans are taken by surprise by the landing so all they can do in the first turn is basically sit there and defend in melee. The British plan to take full advantage of this.
A little closer look at the German setup here:
On the eastern side of the bridge, the Germans get a single 0-5-4 squad with an MG42 in a bunker.
|The eastern side of the bridge with defenses|
On the western side, we get another 0-5-4 squad with an MG42 but it's sitting right on the bridge hex in 17H6. The Germans have a platoon of infantry, which they plunk down on the west side of the bridge.
|German defenses on western side of bridge.|
With the Germans set up, the British decide on where their Horsa Gliders are going to land. They choose two gliders each (both of which have a platoon of men inside) to land to the west of the bridge.
|Two Horsa Gliders will be landed on the west side of the bridge.|
The remaining glider will land on the eastern edge of the bridge and hopefully take out the MG bunker quickly.
|Remaining Horsa Glider to land near the banks on the east side of the bridge.|
After we choose our landing spots for the British, we roll away and see what happens. As it turns out, both gliders on the west side of the bridge land perfectly and the men are in good shape.
|Lord Holmes and Sgt. Livingston arrive safe and sound with three squads each.|
Disaster strikes when the third glider fails its check badly and lands far to the south of where it was supposed to land. Captain McCloud and his three squads are instantly eliminated and the British are down to 2/3rds strength before a shot is even fired in the scenario.
With no time to mourn the loss of the other British platoon, Sgt. Livingston and his three squads move east towards the bridge to melee the German machinegun crew in H6.
|Livingston and platoon head into melee with German 0-5-4 with MG42.|
Unbelievably, both sides in the melee roll poorly (both of them roll a "3") and no one is eliminated. Lord Holmes moves a bit further south, hoping to cover any advance from the German infantry under command by Sgt. Baumann.
|Placement at end of Turn 1.|
Turn 2 begins and the British retain the initiative. Sgt. Livingston decides to get the melee with the German machinegun crew over and done with but the British roll a "4" while the Germans get a lucky "11". Sgt. Livingston and his men are completely wiped out. The British now have only 1/3rd of their starting force and it's only the start of turn 2. What a disaster!
With a stiff upper lip, the remaining British platoon decides to carry on, cautiously pushing up towards the bridge using assault movement. Sgt. Baumann moves two of his squads up to intercept the British paras in the coming turn.
|End of Turn 2|
At the start of turn 3, it is time to throw caution to the wind. Lord Holmes orders one squad to fire on the German machinegun crew sitting on the bridge and manages to shake it. He commands one of the squads to follow up by moving in to melee the shaken Germans.
|One of the Para squads melees and eliminates the German machinegun crew in H6.|
The Germans get a bit of revenge here as one of the Wehrmacht squads shakes up the Para squad in I7. The turn ends.
Turn 4 begins and the British gain initiative. With bravery that borders on recklessness, the British squad that eliminated the German machinegun crew last turn jumps into melee with the adjacent German squad in G6 after picking up a Bren during the rally phase. A couple of rolls later, the British squad has eliminated these Germans too.
|British paras eliminate their second German squad of the day.|
Just before the melee takes place, an event marker calls for German reinforcements to arrive in the following impulse.
Sgt. Beck and a handful of squads arrive with a light tank that trundles up towards the British position. Now the Brits are really outnumbered!
|A German tank and a platoon of Germans arrive on the scene.|
Lord Holmes can do little about the uninvited guests so he hauls back an adjacent British squad, hoping to rally the men in the coming turn.
It's Turn 5 and the Germans get initiative. Lord Holmes successfully rallies the squad with him.
This is it - time to crush these pesky Brits!
The Panzer tank pulls up adjacent to Lord Holmes and his two squads. The adjacent British paratroopers fire back with everything and shake up the vehicle crew.
|Lord Holmes and his men fire on and shake up an adjacent German tank.|
The remaining British squad in the G6 building hex ends up in a short victorious melee with a German squad that rushes for the machinegun sitting on the bridge in H6. While the British are preoccupied with enemy tanks and machineguns, Sgt. Baumann and his men take the opportunity to move south towards Sgt. Livingston's position.
Turn 6 begins and again the Germans get initiative. The German tank rallies and immediately fires on Lord Holmes and his men, scoring a hit. The tank fire shakes up Lord Holmes and one of his squads but what's this? A British hero ("Chapman") emerges and is given the "Preempt" skill card. The unshaken men fire on the adjacent tank and shake it up. Baumann and his men fire on the British but without result. Despite being almost impossibly outnumbered, the British are still clinging on.
|The Paras get a hero with the Pre-empt skill card after taking on fire from a German tank.|
With only one turn left, the British will need to start securing the far side of the bridge. The remaining British squad runs across the bridge to the east side of the river. They get adjacent to the German machinegun in the nearby bunker. Sgt. Beck see the Brits race across the river and take possession of the building in G6 on the west side. The British will now have to eliminate him and his men in order to win the scenario!
|British paras get close to a German MG bunker while Sgt Beck moves into building hex in G6.|
It's turn 7, the last turn of the scenario. In order to win, the British will need to eliminate any Germans within three hexes of the bridge. It's going to be a very tough job. The Germans win initiative and fail to rally their shaken Panzer in the rally phase. The British use Chapman's "Preempt" card to go first in the Operations Phase. They send the hero off towards Sgt. Baumann and he is wounded while approaching the German position.
|Chapman runs towards the German position in F7 and is wounded.|
Now the British paratroopers will have to eliminate Beck and his men and also take the bunker. First, they went for the bunker...and took it!
|British paras successfully melee the German MG bunker on the east side of the bridge.|
Now to take out Sgt. Beck and his men.
Lord Holmes sends one of his squads out towards Beck's position but the Germans hold their fire, waiting for the main assault. The Para squad gets adjacent to the Germans and fires using its assault movement. However, the Brits fail to shake the Germans.
|Brit Para squad gets adjacent to Beck and fires at the Germans without result.|
With no other option left, Lord Holmes and his remaining men move towards Beck, hoping to get past the German fire and beat them in a melee. As they get adjacent to Beck, the Germans open fire and shake the British leader and his men. With Beck and his men clinging to the G6 hex near the bridge, the Germans retain control of the crossing.
|Lord Holmes and his squad are shaken as they get adjacent to Beck and his men in G6|
The British have lost this one, but just barely. I believe it was a matter of just not having enough men to take the objectives despite a good amount of luck on their side. The combined loss of Cpt. McCloud and his platoon in the third glider and Sgt. Livingston's platoon in melee on turn 2 was just too overwhelming for the British to make up for. Still, it was shockingly close and the British did have a chance of winning even right up to the very last impulse of the last turn of the scenario. Great stuff!