Forgotten Battles from France to Germany, January to April 1945, covers 23 hard fought actions on the western front at the end of the war. Written by Peter Heath and published by Anschluss Publishing.
Described as Module 2, it is the first scenario book to follow the release of Peter Heath’s WWII rules called ‘The War on the Ground’, but the scenario book is not specific to his rules and with a current popularity in various rules at this level, there will likely be broad interest in them.
The rest of this post will cover my initial impressions of this Perfect Bound 88 page module and include an overview of a small infantry / artillery action. Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.
Firstly I should say that Peter Heath gifted me this scenario book in recognition of a piece of work that I did for him. It is therefore the first time ever, I think, that I find myself writing on this blog about something that I have not paid for. However, I hope the reader will take the following comments at face value.
|The book cover|
The front cover says that the module is ‘designed for all rules and scales’. That does have to be seen in the context that bigger scales will mostly need bigger tables.
Also, in the introduction, Peter Heath emphasis that these scenarios are well researched and historically accurate rather than being particularly balanced for equalised play.
This should mean that your chosen rules should be fine with these scenarios and the only real variances will be how various rule sets ‘reflect’ the subject matter. For example, The War on the Ground rules do allow for their artillery to be used pretty much continuously if circumstances and planning allow.
The author has chosen actions in which, despite the speculated near collapse of the German army, some of the hardest fighting of the war was witnessed and in that respect, these late war scenarios should prove interesting to both sides.
The physical quality of the module is nice. The contents are black and white, printed on good paper stock and heavily illustrated. Some of that illustrative work actually presents new vehicle and troop stats that expand the War on the Ground rules, so will be less useful to other rule users.
The scenarios are grouped into three categories. There are 6 stand alone scenarios from across the campaign area, each independent of the other. There are 5 scenarios that are built around the actions in and around the town of Gambesheim. The second half of the book has 12 scenarios in Northern Germany, between Hamburg and Minden, with a focus on the area in and around Rethem.
The stand alone scenarios follow the format of those scenarios in his rule set, that is, a decent section on the background of the battle, special rules, orders-of-battle and a map. The other scenarios do similar, but their background story line runs through as a thread between the various scenarios, with a general situation map of the campaign also included, so that the player can put each of the actions into context of the bigger picture.
For owners of the Peter Heath rules, along the way, additional rule stats are included, so there are things like the fire tables for the infantry units, such as German Marine sections and British Commando sections. In addition vehicle and gun stats that gamers have likely been waiting for, show up, such as Tiger I, Hetzer, Elefant, flak guns, Comet, Easy Eight and Chaffee etc. which are included as they are required by some scenarios.
For the benefit of all readers, there are organisational charts that show typical company structures, including 'one off' ones such as Kampfgruppe Brenner.
The immediate impression that you get when you open the book is that it is chock full of material and there is an interest to be had of just reading the various action accounts, which by their nature are written with the sort of tactical content that will grab the interest of the wargamer. At random, I have just selected this paragraph as an example;
‘It was a while before an effective way to bypass the village was found, the right hand side of the railway line, beyond the embankment providing suitable cover for 2/FF Yeo and hull down positions, beyond the range of panzerfausts, from where they could provide supporting fire for the Herefords’.
The map sizes are given in centimetres, which accord with the maps from the original rules that favour the 12mm figure scale and using a ground scale of 1 Centimetre equals 10 metres. The largest table is 120cm x 200cm, but the rest are smaller, a good old mix with 100cm x 80cm, 100cm x 140cm, 120cm x 120cm etc. The battle for Husum, which is a village fight is just 100cm x 100cm and chock full with buildings.
There is even a 75cm x 50cm game, Assaulting the Waterworks (8th January 1945), which gives the Americans 3 infantry companies and 4 Shermans (with a special rule that off road movement may bog a vehicle) against a German force of a company of Volksgrenadiers, plus their heavy weapons company.
Just to keep my hand in with the rules, I set up a small action (scenario 14 - The assault on Strongpoint Strassengabel, 10th April 1945) on a 120cm x 120cm table that just has a company of infantry per side (9 infantry sections, 3 platoon HQ and a company HQ). In addition the Germans get a 20mm FlaK and a PaK 40 anti tank gun.
|German positions. The British enter at the top|
This looks a tough situation for the British, but they do have a battery of 25 pdrs and a battery of 5.5” guns, which are available throughout the game, unlike the Germans who have 105mm guns, but they can only fire for 4 turns.
The British objective is to capture Strassengabel, a small group of buildings bounded by roads and a fence (marked above by 2nd Platoon), but with a German platoon holding it and being flanked by a platoon to both their left and right, the British will be advancing into a wall of fire! The terrain is described as open, with clear views, fields and no hedges.
|The view from the woods towards Strassengabel,|
occupied by 2nd Platoon and a machine gun and FlaK.
|German left flank (1st Platoon) with a PaK 40 and FOO|
they are dug in with an excellent field of fire.
In ‘The War on the Ground’ rules a player can get to fire twice during the turn. Also, combined fires can easily see fire power values reach the maximum strength column. By the end of this first turn, 1st Platoon have evaporated!
[all figures are 10mm Pendraken].
|German right flank (3rd Platoon), dug in and closest|
to the British arrival point.
Turn 3. The British company HQ, call down artillery fire. The targets are the nearby German’s (3rd Platoon) to the British left and the building complex ahead. The 5.5” guns make an accurate hit on the buildings, but the 25 pdr’s overshoot the German flanking platoon by 250 metres and …….. the fire zone lands slap bang on Strassengabel .
The result of this is that without further correcting, the full weight of the British artillery will pummel the buildings.
But 2nd and 3rd British platoons are still taking fire from German dug in positions to either side of Strassengabel and then to add to their misery, the German artillery starts to fall amongst them.
|The entire German company frontage can hit the British|
This is a tough scenario for the British. Historically, their first attack stalled as they became pinned, but renewed, it succeeded in capturing the buildings, only for them to be ejected by a German counter-attack. ‘C’ Company eventually re-took Strassengabel in a fresh attack.
Perhaps it should be no surprise that today the British attack fell apart, though taking two rounds of fire per turn over open ground against a dug in enemy of equal strength makes me interested in how other game rule systems would fare in these same circumstances.
For this scenario, the artillery rules are probably central to the British having any chance of getting their objective, but I felt that ‘The War on the Ground’ rules have some ambiguity / vagueness in the artillery rules and like some other areas of the rules, just need some extra text to more fully explain them.
I quite clearly should have used the pre-game bombardment option against German positions, but I was left wondering whether the original plotted fire is subject initially to accuracy roles and therefore subject to inaccuracy even for a short part of the bombardment. Also, the rule seems to imply both that this fire is pre-game (i.e. you do not use up any game turns) and that you can fire for as long as you want. I was unclear on that, as that meant that I could simply pick a spot (say the fortified building complex) and just keep firing and firing and firing! until all the enemy were KO (knocked out) ….. surely not! But there aren’t any rules that I could find to curb such excess.
Once the game starts, spotters can call down artillery fire at the start of the turn (Turn Action Joint Phase), but it is not clear whether there is any built in delay to arrival of a barrage. The sequence of play suggests it happens in the first part of the same turn, but for Defensive Barrage (not Opportunity Barrage) the rules state that type of fire happens in that sides NEXT fire phase, but each Turn Action part of the sequence of play has 2 such fire phases and it is not clear whether the reference is to the Joint Initial Action Phase artillery action or one of the two Fire Phases in the Turn Action Phase. I am sure that the solution is perfectly simple, it’s just not obvious and leaves questions.
Due to these questions, I did not use Pre-Game Barrage and I may have got the ‘in game’ barrage sequence wrong. I’m sure that pretty much cost ‘C’ Company the game.
So while I continue to fight a bit with the rule book, it must be said that the scenario book is rather good. Just like the four scenarios we met in the rule book, these are well researched and demonstrated, with a wide variety of actions to suit various collections, gaming space and available playing time.
It is an interesting scenario book for its own sake as a good read and the very full content is worth the cover price. Gamers that use rules focused on game systems set around company to battalion structures will find the contents both interesting and useful.
Again, I would thank Peter Heath for proving an opportunity for an early look this scenario book.
An earlier post that looked at the ‘War on the Ground’ rule set. LINK
My sister webspace COMMANDERS is being rebuilt to look at ongoing projects and series rule sets that I like. Link.