The Second World War, Rapid Fire, 20mm
This game was laid on by Bart, and apparently was based on a real battle fought in a place with an unpronounceable name. Well, Bart can pronounce it, but he’s Polish, so he should. Anyway, it was a game using Bart’s 20mm toys, using a rules set I haven’t played with for the best part of five years. It featured, rather unusually, a Polish armoured advance on the aforesaid town (let’s just call it “the town, shall we), against what looked like a fairly thin crust of German defenders. Peter and I played the Poles – the Warsaw Armoured Brigade – while Bart and German Michael commanded the Germans. It was fought on an 8×6 foot table, with the town at one end, and a belt of woods in front of it, plus a couple of villages. The Poles entered on Turn 1 from the western (short edged) side of the table, and our objective was to capture the town. The Germans started the game dug in along the western edge of the woods. So, off we went, in the spirit of Polish cavalry, with an all-out defence against dug-in opponents. What could possibly go wrong?Well, at first everything went fairly well. Peter advanced on the left, I advanced on the right, and I shot up Michael’s anti-tank battery which was sitting in a road through the southern woods. A German tank appeared (actually in these rules it represents a platoon), but I managed to damage it, and Peter’s artillery knocked it out. So far so good. By now Peter’s armoured cars were approaching a village in front of the northern wood, and they began shooting up the German defenders. His infantry then moved up and finished the job. So, we prepared ourselves for our attack on the woods – Peter assaulting the northern wood and I the southern one. That though, is when the Stukas showed up, and we got our first inkling that this wasn’t going to be as easy as it looked. It tried and failed to shoot up one of my tanks, but then amused itself by strafing my Polish infantry. It did that for three long turns before it cleared off. Still, while it whittled down a rifle company, it didn’t do enough to stop my advance. My tanks supported the attack on the woods, and eventually the Polish riflemen went in and began rolling up the German defenders. So far so good. That was when the first German reinforcements appeared. On my side of the table a German reconnaissance battalion deployed across the gap to the south of the woods, and I discovered that most of my machine-gun armed tanks couldn’t touch them. Bart then gleefully picked off the few tanks I had with a half-decent gun, along with an attached anti-tank battery. As if that wasn’t enough, while Peter was busy clearing his way through the northern wood, a German panzer battalion roared onto the table, and advanced into the gap between the two woods. This wasn’t good news. Peter and I engaged them though, using tanks and his artillery, and amazingly – thanks to some lucky die rolls – we blunted the German attack. The enemy tanks pulled back to lick their wounds, allowing our infantry to consolidate their hold on the two woods. Actually it was Peter’s artillery who did most of the damage, firing at the German panzers over open sights. With that threat out of the way we set about figuring out how to resume our advance. I began advancing my infantry up the road through the southern woods, heading towards the town. Meanwhile what remained of my right-hand tank battalion kept on fighting those darned German recon troops. What remained of the rest of my tanks accompanied the infantry up the road. Peter was doing the same, but aiming for the gap between the two woods. He though, was slow off the mark due to a more dogged German resistance in the northern wood. That of course, was when Bart sprung his trap. It turned out that the German panzers we’d seen were merely the small advance guard of a whole German Panzer Division. Suddenly no fewer that 15 German tanks appeared around the town, and killed the game stone dead. We started with a dozen Polish tanks, half of which were little better than machine-gun armed bren carriers. I’d lost most of my half-decent tanks to the reconnaissance battalion, so what remained was no match for the big boys – the Panzer IIs, III’s and IV’s. Still, we were playing the Poles, so what did odds matter, eh? The picture above pretty much sums up the situation on my side of the table. The tanks caught my infantry advancing into the town, led by one of my two decent tanks. they found their path blocked in the town’s outskirts by a company of panzers, while more were lined up track to track on the flanks. So, what followed was a fairly predictable bloodbath! Over on Peter’s side the Polish advance ground to a halt, as a company of panzers moved to block the gap between the two woods. So, Peter formed a defensive line and shot back, with what remained of his half-decent tanks and an anti-tank battery. For me though, the high point of the game was actually getting a tank into the town, and the front of my column of infantry. Strangely, Bart’s shooting was pretty poor, so my tanks survived the first wave of fire, although my infantry were getting chewed up. It was clear by now that this wasn’t a game we were going to win! So, with time running out we called it a day. What remained of the Warsaw Armoured Brigade would have tried to extricate itself, harried by the German panzers as they retreated. So, it was a pretty emphatic German win. The thing is, the game was pretty evenly matched most of the time, and was fairly enjoyable for both sides. What tipped it though, was the 2nd Panzer Division. While that was – apparently – what happened historically, it killed it as a game. It might have been better to change history a little, and to see if the German 4th Light Division could have held on without help. as for the rules, I can’t say Rapid Fire are my WW2 set of choice, but they do have the advantage of being fairly quick and easy.The game also looked quite pretty, which of course is a very big plus.