This small battle found recent fame in the excellent Band of Brothers series, but is of course far more important than that to the US Military, and to all military historians, the assault on the 6 June 1944 (being a part of the U.S. parachute assault of the Normandy Invasion of World War II) often being cited as a classic example of small-unit tactics and leadership in overcoming a larger enemy force.
It was therefore begging to be the subject of a participation game at one of the wargame shows my club WyreForest does shows at. The one chosen was the one run in Halesowen see http://wargamershow.tripod.com/id1.html
The set up
The four gun emplacements with linked trenches can be seen here, one of the two German squads being in the trench at the bottom right. Brecourt Manor is top left.
There is no doubt that many a wargamer has played this battle, but I wanted to use the BattleGroup rules, at least as a base, and thus turned to the WargamersGuild forum where help in the shape of Warwick (one of the authors of the rule set) came to my assistance.
From a wargame perspective I had to overcome the problem that using ‘normal’ rules would simply not work, as the US forces would be out numbered (even in this scaled down action) whilst the Germans were surprised (something that is hard to mimic with the ‘Gods eye view’ that wargamers most often have).
I also wanted the game to be really fast and easy to play and thus dropped the ‘Area Fire’ pinning mode (although pinning could occur via Morale tests, the effect lasting for one turn). Plus it was necessary to take into account the panic that set in when Easy Company stormed in and also the fact that the artillery men would not be as good at fighting at close quarters as the US troops.
To make it an even fight (in wargame terms) the Germans were to be given Victory Points for just firing the guns plus 2 points for every gun still firing by Turn 15, the US forces getting points for every gun spiked (this being automatic if their Close Assault was successful).
To mimic the real thing, about a third of the US troops (under Lt Spiers) did not come into play until turn 4. Other important rules were that :-
The Germans could only fire the guns until the assault started.
Once the fighting had started, all of their units had to roll to see whether they would take an order, in some cases this resulting in them opening fire on the nearest gun (as happened on the day at one stage). Here the one German officer added a +1 to the dice if with the unit.
Taking Orders D6
Squads & MG
1 = Fire on nearest gun
2 – 3 = No Action
4+ = Do as ordered
1 = Do Nothing
2 -3 = Have to Fire Guns
4 + Do as Ordered
Gunners when Close Assaulted D6
1 – 2 = Run for nearest gun (no casualites on US troops caused)
3+ = Fight (hit on a 4+)
The Gunners would if close assaulted roll a D6 to see if they would stand or run. In the former case their ‘hit’ roll being reduced by -2 (making for hits on 4+), whilst in the latter case they just took casualties while inflicting none, the gun of course being taken and spiked (3 VP’s to the Yanks).
The number of Offices for the USA was 3, but these could be lost if their unit took a casualty, a roll of 17+ on a D20 meaning the officer was hit (and thus an order dice lost). This meant that the USA troops could normally move all their units, whilst the Germans could not, this being an attempt to replicate the command chaos that was evident on the day. Similarly the German officer could be lost when the unit he was attached to took losses.
Every casualty was a VP for the other side.
The Forces used.
3 squads of 5 men plus an Officer
2 * 30cal Machine guns
4 guns in emplacements with 5 crew each
2 * MG42 to the rear in trenches
2 squads of 5 men, one with an Officer.
How it went
The game was played about 6 times in all, each one taking about 35 minutes, with the first one being played by a 5 year old (his first ever war game). It seemed to go down a treat with all players too.
2 Guns Down – 2 to Go
Going for the Third Gun
Only two men from the command squad of Germans left here..
The USA troops were successful in all but one game, this being the time we reduced the ‘panic’ effect on the German troops (plus there being some bad die rolls).
About to Close Assault the Fourth Gun
I think this shows how tweaking the rules a little here and there can make all the difference, so would suggest that anyone who wants to play it has a go to find the ‘right balance’ from their point of view.
All Guns Spiked
However, in this action, only a few US troops survived..