Operation Ptarmigan


WARNING: This scenario works best when the players know only what is in their written briefs. If you have no umpire, then the player who knows what is going on should play the commander of the British forces, and the German player should not be shown anything more than his own brief before the game starts.


This is a scenario that asks for a fair amount of nice scenery and figures. I used British paratroopers for one side and a mix of ordinary German infantry and armoured panzergrenadiers for the other. This is a fairly historical set of forces for northern France in June 1944. There were many British paratroop drops which had artillery and coastal batteries as their targets, and which were successful. Of course you could substitute simply field artillery batteries for the coastal naval gun batteries, and you could use other forces. The use of American paratroopers would be less historical, since the American parachute drop in Normandy went very wrong, and took none of its objectives.

If you are going to use different forces, perhaps because you are setting the game in a different time and place, the essential relationships are these: the defender of the objectives must be green troops, and significantly out-numbered by their veteran attackers, perhaps by three to one. The force arriving from off table should be regular, and significantly stronger than the force attacking the objectives, and ideally supported by some armoured vehicles. Bear in mind that I play Crossfire at a figure scale where sections are split into teams, so one of my "platoons" is roughly equivalent in terms of number of figures and stands to a "company" at the published scale, so you may want to convert my platoons to companies.


A: Trench protecting flank of gun emplacement M.

B: Trench protecting A and enfilading beach.

C: Trench protecting coastal battery N.

D: Trench protecting barracks.

E, F and G: Barracks for gun battery garrisons.

H: Terrain feature offering good cover (in my case, my water treatment works, counted as better than normal cover, but less good than hardpoint). This gives the British player a handy position from which to make things difficult for the attacking Germans coming from the south.

I: Road.

J: Fast flowing river, which is crossed a bit like barbed wire, except that the roll is as if to rally from suppression (5 for regulars), not from pin (4). Where is enters the sea, it is deep, making it impossible for troops to avoid the die rolls by splashing round the end of the river on the beach.

K: Bay.

L: Beach, with line of barbed wire (swirly lines) and anti-tank obstacles (Xs).

M: Objective for attacker. I used the old Airfix "Gun Emplacement", which has a pillbox, radio room, communication trenches, and a large turret with a big naval gun in it, of dubious authenticity. Wise German engineers have placed solid stoppers on the gun's turntable making it impossible to point the gun towards N.

N: Objective for attacker. I used the old Airfix "Coastal Battery", which has a double naval gun turret mounted in a roofed concrete emplacement, together with radar, AA guns, and firing slits. Whereas this is more authentic than the "gun emplacement", I doubt that the grey rectangular area on the map, which represents the open back of the building, is authentic. I think that this is a compromise made for the sake of the younger children who would regard the model as a toy, and who might want to play with the spring-loaded guns more easily. Perhaps I should extend the roof to cover the whole of the guns, but nostalgia and laziness may prevent me.

O: Bridge, capable of carrying armoured vehicles.

Pale Green Area: This area to be covered in a dense scattering of hills/dunes, woods, rough ground, depressions, hedges, walls, etc.





German Commander's Brief

You are the commander of a company of armoured panzergrenadiers in northern France, not very far from the coast.

0200 - Receive word by courier that the allies have launched an attack to the North. The Pas de Calais is the suspected target, although there are reports that parachute drops have been made to the south west. You order your men to stand to, in anticipation of orders to rush to the defence of some trouble spot.

0215 - Still not managed to contact Div HQ. The telephone network seem to be damaged. You decide to send off an MC courier to find out what is going on.

0300 - The sound of gunfire is audible from the roof of your HQ. Still no word from HQ. You send out a scouting party to investigate the telephone lines.

0330 - The scouting party reports that the lines have been cut by resistance workers. By this time you have managed to contact Div HQ by radio, but the line is faulty from enemy jamming, and is not secure. The only orders you are given are to round up any resistance suspects.

0430 - The first reliable report comes in from a supply unit. It had encountered paratroopers in an area to the south of you. It was impossible to ascertain which way they were going. You study your maps and see that the area is suitable for a parachute drop, with flat open areas of dry land, but has no obvious enemy objectives in it. Since you are in command of the nearest fully motorised unit, you consider that you are the perfect man to deal with this drop. The paratroopers will mainly be on foot and time is of the essence. You radio Div. HQ and using code words, ask for orders to engage the paratroopers. No go ahead is given. HQ is waiting for a Luftwaffe reconnaissance report.

0440 - You telephone the coastal observation points and batteries to the north-west. They report that the guns are about to engage, but then the line is cut mid-conversation. You consider that this might mean that the batteries are a target. If they are engaging, then there must be targets off the coast in that direction, and not just at the Pas de Calais.

0445 - You contact Div. HQ but again are given the orders to wait. All attacks are suspected of being decoys. Enemy agents have spread rumours, many of which have been shown to be false.

0455 - First action in your area. An intense gunfight breaks out almost on top of your position. A large parachute drop lands in the nearby fields and your men engage immediately. You leave your deputy CO to man the communications, and take the command of the action in person.

0535 - You realise that this "attack" is an enemy ruse, and that your men have wasted thousands of rounds firing at two-foot tall dummies dropped in with strings of firecrackers on them. You post a heavy guard and regroup your forces.

0600 - A Div HQ MC courier rides up with authenticated orders. There is no news of your own courier, and he is presumed killed. Reports are now confirmed that there has been a parachute drop in your area, and that a substantial force of it is heading towards the coastal batteries. HQ orders you to intercept this force and prevent it from attacking the batteries from the landward side. Your men are ready to go. You set off to the sound of resistance suspects being shot.

0640 - Your fears are confirmed. You have wasted hours and the enemy has had time to get between you and the coastal batteries. You catch sight of the enemy force in the dawn light. Already they are poised for the attack, so you may just be in time. The batteries are now within radio contact range, and report the correct code words indicating that they are in operation. The garrisons there are low-grade troops, however, and you do not fancy their chances against determined British veteran paratroopers acting on a definite plan, attacking defences pointing the wrong way.

0650 - You are just about to give the orders for the attack when an enigma decode is handed to you from the dept. CO's radio vehicle. "Panzer Battalion B is heading to your aid. E.T.A. 1100 hours. The Pz. Batt. will mop up remaining resistance and secure the area. Prevent if possible the capture of the gun batteries, then contain the enemy until the arrival of the panzers."

Your force:

A full armoured panzergrenadier company (see here for full details). Morale/quality = regulars.

Company HQ:
Company C.O., plus his aides, riding in 251/3
Dept. Coy. C.O. plus his aides, in another 251/3. Will only dismount in the event of the death of the C.O.
One AA vehicle (Sd 251/17 or 251/21).

Three armoured panzergrenadier platoons, each with:
One Sd. 251/10 half track with 37mm AT gun, carrying platoon commander, one base of aides, one panzerschreck team. Three sections each with two LMG teams, one NCO, riding in one Sd. 251/1.

One support platoon:
Platoon's 251/1 command vehicle; three AA vehicles (251/17 or 251/21); one Kettenkrad half-track motorcycle; two 251/9 75mm stump guns; two 251/2 81mm mortar carriers plus forward observation team with radio.
Riding in the command vehicle and the AA vehicles is the company's integral machine gun platoon, with three tripod SFMGs ("HMGs" in Crossfire), plus rifle-armed ammunition carriers and platoon commander.

Gun Battery Garrison
A ramshackle collection of what German figures I could find. Quality = green. About a platoon and a half.

The forces you are up against seem formidable, but certainly no match for a panzer battalion. When the reinforcements arrive, the game will end. How well you do until that point will determine victory. If you can prevent the loss of both gun positions, you will have won. If you can prevent the loss of one, then this is a partial victory. If you can contain the enemy forces on the table until the arrival of the panzers, this will make it possible to force a win, depending on the number of enemy killed and your own losses.

Terrain rules

The river is deep and fast. The bridge is the only place where vehicles can cross on table, and troops will have to roll as if crossing barbed wire at -1 when crossing elsewhere. The trenches are designed for defending against attack from the sea, and count as ordinary cover from the landward side. Both batteries have hardpoints with 360 degree fire arcs. The back of the double gun battery is not open as per the model, but is closed over with a concrete roof.

Deployment

You deploy first. Your garrison troops can deploy in the batteries, and in the defences around them, in their barracks and the barracks' defences, and anywhere in the northern half of the table. The rest of your forces start off table and must come on the southern edge. You have control of another bridge much further upstream, where you can cross with your motorised forces. You must decide at the game's start how many forces to deploy on each side of the river. The British start with the initiative.






British Commander's brief.

You are the commander of a parachute company. You are supported by an MG platoon, and have some demolition experts with you, and a few assault engineers. The drop as usual lost you most of your heavy equipment, including three of your four six-pounder AT guns. All the carriers have been lost too, and you have just four working jeeps. Two of the four 3" mortars never made it to the RDV point either. Otherwise, you are fairly complete.

Company HQ:
Coy. C.O., plus his SMG-armed aides.
Dept. Coy. C.O. with rifle-armed aides and radio operator.

Three infantry platoons, each with:
Platoon C.O., his SMG-armed aides, one 2" mortar, one PIAT team, three sections each with: section commander, one base rifles, one bren LMG team.

Machine gun platoon:
Platoon C.O., rifle armed ammunition carriers, two sections each with two Vickers .303" MMGs.

One section SMG-armed demolition experts (two bases plus section commander).

One assault engineer base (flame thrower and satchel charge), plus section commander.

Two 3" mortar teams, plus one FOO for each.

Four jeeps: two recce versions armed with Vickers K gun MG, one towing the 6-pdr, one with trailer laden with high explosives.

One 6 pdr AT gun (I think two might be fairer to the Brits).

Two LCMs. Note that this is not enough to take off your entire force at once, so they will have to make more than one trip.

Your objectives are the two coastal batteries on the table. Intelligence suggests that they are manned by dispirited low grade troops. They will not be easy targets, however, and they are surrounded by wire, trenches, and each have hard-points built in to them. Once inside them, blowing them up is not an easy matter. Orders require them to be completely irreparable, and to this end, you will need to use a lot of explosives in the right places. When the charges go off, you must have no one in the buildings with them, or these will be killed in the confined blast. The demolition section is best at the job, but all your men are capable of doing it. A section doing nothing other than demolition can carry enough explosives for one battery. One jeep has enough stowed on it for any number of attempts.

Once the targets have been destroyed, you can signal for evacuation. The area is likely to be swarming with enemy as soon as Jerry twigs what you're up to. The Very Light sequence is green green red. This must be fired by the most senior officer on his side of the river, while he is in line of sight of the sea. On seeing this, LCMs (landing craft, medium) will be despatched to the beach to pick you up. Each can carry a full platoon. Scuttle any vehicles you leave behind.

Deployment

Deploy your troops out of sight of any Germans on the table, and not further north than the line of trenches defending the batteries. You start with the initiative.

Terrain rules

The river is deep and fast. The bridge is the only place where vehicles can cross on table, and troops will have to roll as if crossing barbed wire at -1 when crossing elsewhere. The trenches are designed for defending against attack from the sea, and count as ordinary cover from the landward side. Both batteries have hardpoints with 360 degree fire arcs. The back of the double gun battery is not open as per the model, but is closed over with a concrete roof.

LCMs

After the flares are fired, the LCMs will arrive at the start of the third friendly initiative following. They can be seen approaching from anywhere along the coast or on a hill with line of sight to the coast. The LCMs can be boarded as a move action. They can carry fifteen bases of troops each. They can not group move. Setting off is an action, and they take one move action to arrive, and one to depart from the table. Troops in them count as in cover to direct fire and in hardpoint to indirect fire, but kill potential is kills, not suppressions, plus a suppression earns a second roll. Guns must roll to set up in order to depress enough from the land to hit the LCMs (unless actually on the beach). Treat hits on the LCMs as APC hits. LCM armour 2/2.

Demolitions

Every 15 minutes spent in the battery qualifies the Brits for a demolition roll, per battery. 4+ indicates that the charges are in place, 3+ if using demolition experts. Charges will go off during the friendly initiative after the British player has declared that he is setting them off. If the initiative passes before he has got all his men out, all men inside die unless roll 5+ per stand. This includes incapacitated, buried etc. Charges destroy batteries successfully on 3+ or 2+ if using experts. If for some reason the men trying to blow up the battery have no access to the specialist explosives, perhaps because the jeep carrying them was destroyed and over-run by the enemy, or is the other side of the river with no way to get the explosives across safely, then -2 to this roll. No rolls are needed to scuttle a jeep.



Paras rush aboard an LCM while Jerry's guns hamper the evacuation.

Photograph taken during playtest. British paras rush aboard the LCMs, but Jerry guns are hampering the evacuation. In the foreground can be see the twin gun barrels of the Airfix coastal gun battery. Along the beach are AT obstacles and barbed wire. The Airfix gun emplacement, in mottled camouflage, is in the background, the far side of the bay. A few paras can be seen just to the right of the patch of white phosphorous 2" mortar smoke. They are hung up on the wire. Photograph by John Dixon.






The following information should be known only to the umpire if there is one, or else only to the British player.

GAME CLOCK

Game starts at 0700. At end of each British initiative, 4+ advances clock 15 minutes. German reinforcements arrive at the end of any German initiative on 5+ from 1100 hours onwards. This means that when they do arrive, the British will have at least one more initiative in which to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

VICTORY POINTS

German gets 2 per enemy stand destroyed, 1 per enemy vehicle captured, 1 per stand on table with no clear path to the table edge when the panzer battalion turns up, -1 per other ranks stand lost, -2 for platoon officers lost, -3 for company officers lost, -1 per enemy stand escaped, -2 per vehicle lost. Victory if result is positive. Decisive victory if result 14+.

DISCUSSION

Both sides have problems, and both are not in full possession of the facts, but both have good resources, and both know most of what is going on. The British have good troops, but are out-numbered, out-gunned, have no armour, and start the game surrounded. The German player may get suspicious when he sees the British scuttling their own jeeps, which are surely good get-away vehicles. In playtest, the German player was expecting an attack on the beach once the batteries were destroyed, not an evacuation. Nowhere in the briefs does it say that the beach is one of the Normandy invasion beaches. I imagine it to be a beach between Normandy and the Pas de Calais, and that this attack is designed to make moving ships along the coast easier, and to distract German forces away from the real landing area. The British will find withdrawing difficult, and will probably have to leave some men behind to cover the retreat.

The Germans know that reinforcements are on the way, and that containing the paratroopers is almost as good as killing them. However, they don't know that the paras are going to be evacuated from the beach, and so might be content to trap the paras against the coast and wait. The Germans have forces far stronger than the British, but must fight their way on to the table, and have an enemy force between their main force and the enemy objectives. If the British concentrate on attacking the batteries, then when eventually they do lose the initiative, the German main force may have an easy time punching through.

Forces at published scale

German: One company green troops garrison, plus three companies regulars, supported by a fair amount of light armour.
British: Three veteran companies, plus a six-pounder or two, some demolition experts, a few HMGs, two FOOs with on-table 3" mortars, some jeeps.




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