Tuesday, September 29, 2015

SCS Day of Days

A month ago I had the opportunity to participate in my first hex&counter wargame that could be described as a "monster" game. It's MMP's Day of Days, a fresh Standard Combat Series game focusing on the first ten days of the Normandy campaign. The map scale is about 700 meters per hex and the counters represent mostly company-sized forces. Four mapsheets and a ton of cardboard on top!

It's a struggle to present the game in a way that you, my dear readers might enjoy even slightly, so I will only outline the main developments or lack of them per turn. There's a lot to cover even in the main points so I hope the photos make some sense into it. We managed to play the first 9 turns during the weekend in some 22 hours of gameplay including two hours to set up.

Turn 1 + Turn 2 (D-Day begins)

During the first two turns of the game, there isn't much for the players to do other than to roll the dice. Very little choice involved. Big piles of troops are moved ashore and then put back into their plastic bags.
The landing parties at Omaha Beach have to deal with a lot of German strongpoints

US paradrop area and Utah Beach
During the allied paradrops, there was a lot of dispersion for the US forces. The preliminary bombardment went well for the  US, not so much for the British, who did not receive any air support. After the first two landing waves and a ton of dice rolling, Utah beach was clear and Omaha contested. Gold, Juno and Sword were clear also, although there were plenty of strongpoints still close to Sword.

Sword Beach
Juno and Gold

Turn 3

The third landing wave come ashore. The British and especially the Canadians make excellent progress inland, but Sword beach remains bogged down with massive stacks of counters cluttering the area. The British Paratroopers spread out northeast of Caen and take Pegasus Bridge.

Pegasus Bridge was an easy grab, but important. Without this bridge, the British airborne can only trace their supply to their dropzones.

The yanks make good progress inland from Utah. At Omaha the fighting continues, but German strongpoints are surrounded and put out of supply. Pointe Du Hoc mounts a good defence without German losses.

The first German reinforcements arrive swiftly using road movement. Their advance catches some British paras by surprise as they are surrounded.

The German commander plots his moves

Turn 4

The allies get plentiful air support which is put to good use. The more allied forces are landing ashore. Now all the landing areas are clear of Germans save a couple of isolated strongpoints. The allies hit the scattered German defenders hard and the German reinforcements are busy plugging the gaps in their defences. The Germans are also effective in counterattacking some British advance units trying to push as deep inland as possible. A single British tank unit rolls into Caen, but we later found out we had broken an activation rule there. D-Day ends.

I cannot overstate how hard some of these stacks were to handle. Good thing the British spread out from Sword Beach quickly and it was no longer an issue.

Turn 5 (D+1)

Lots of marching about on the British front. You might guess I'm playing the Brits as I have very little time to check on how the Americans are doing. Long lines of battle are forming throughout the map and the Allied advance is slowing down. The Germans defend stubbornly and the British are unable to mount effective assaults. The German players get their long awaited SS troops and finally have some real muscle to put against the Allies.
The US paras get busy
Battlelines are beginning to form near Caen. The SS halt the British advance towards Caen.

Turn 6

The Allies find gaps in the German lines and around flanks and start to pour through. Dangerous bulges in the line are starting to form. Road marches into the rear become a concern for the Germans. The British start to turn the left flank of the German line mid-map in hedgerow country.
A breakthrough of US troops near Omaha, a stalemate elsewhere. Americans are attacking toward Cherbourg. The Allied lack of activations is a hindrance.
Two groups of German units are surrounded and become out of supply.

You can see where the Allied forces are turning the German flank on the middle-to-right side of the picture.

Turn 7: (D+2)

The British continue to turn the German flank, but the Germans deploy a more effective, defensive depth. Fighting north of Caen is a stalemate and the opposing lines become static. Utah front is stable, Carentan is now in reach.
Breakthroughs near Omaha

Turn 8:

US forces attack Carentan. The British move in to the countryside in the mid map, blocking several roads. Baeux becomes out of supply Fighting in the mid-map hedgerows is slow, but slight progress made. The allies make dangerous use of road movement to move deep into occupied territory.

The British airborne have been fighting a losing battle against the SS. Now they receive armored support. The Airborne retreat out of contact and the SS receive an artillery pounding. The Tanks move in and break the line. Then they achieve an exploitation breakthrough and wreak havoc on the SS artillery. The Germans scramble to plug the gaping hole so made in the line northeast of Caen.
The Airborne retreat to let the tanks attack the artillery-battered Germans..
The Germans are pushed back and the tanks overrun and exploit..
..to great effect!

Turn 9: (D+3)

The Allied tanks continue their breakthrough northeast of Caen and reach the outskirts of the city.  Mid map, the allies make grand gains by using road movement to capture huge amounts of territory. Some three kampfgruppen are stuck out of supply near Bayeux. Carentan is almost captured, St Lo captured, Villers Bocage captured.

We had to end the game at this point before the German half of the turn, but the result was not in question anymore. The allies had achieved major breakthroughs in the German lines and it was doubtful if the Germans would be able to turn the tide even in a longer game.

The map at game end from left..

..to the center..
..and finally to the right.

Post-battle thoughts:

An exhausting but also rewarding game! We had a good group of players and the whole weekend was enjoyable. I liked the game so much that I went online to buy It Never Snows right away :)

As for the strategy involved, the pressure is on the Germans. The Allies have plenty of troops to just keep hammering away at any weak points they discover even though they can't brute force their way through well defended areas very easily. The Germans, however, are badly outnumbered and have to play their defence smart in order to stay alive. They need to deploy deep and sparse and try not to get swamped. If they try to "hold the line" in one place, they will be hammered by the built-up Allied superiority and lose. There is plenty of bocage to to retreat to however, and the German players have to take advantage of that. Our Germans learnt their lessons and caught on, but it was too late and the campaign was lost. It would be interesting to play this again with the same group and see if the Germans could fare better.

Also, be wary of Road Movement! The German player has to take extra care not to leave any roads open for enemies to march through. The road movement rules allow for simply ridiculous marches into enemy territory and can really ruin your day. I think these rules need an overhaul as the Road Movement rules lead to some pretty unrealistic situations where the Allies can march entire divisions via small country roads into the rear of the German army. This is a minor gripe in a very good game though.