8 Para Brigade of the 6th Airborne Division were due to be dropped in DZ-K, east of the River Orne and Caen Canal, in the early hours of the 6th June 1944. Their mission was to interfere with any enemy troop movements towards the D-Day landings, by blowing key bridges and establishing a defensive bridgehead in the Bois de Bavant.
Over the past few days I’ve been playing through a series of games related to the actions of 8 Para:
- the first representing a squad forming up immediately after being dropped on the southeastern edge of their DZ (Nuts!);
- the second was an attack back through that area to expand the bridgehead (Nuts!);
- the third saw a German convoy being ambushed by dug in paratroopers as a column attempted to move up the eastern side of the Bois de Bavant (Nuts!);
- the fourth was a larger action as the Germans organise an attack to clear those ambushing troops (Battlegroup – I’ll blog about this soon!).
Nuts! is a peculiar game, one which I really like. It’s designed with solo and cooperative play in mind and it offers the player a toolbox full of options. Some of these options are in the core rulebook, some are in the Compendium. I used some from the latter in the first game, to represent the immediate aftermath of a paratrooper drop. All of these options combined with the Reaction System and solo-play can make Nuts! a bit daunting. It is a game that requires a bit of effort to figure out, but there are some shortcuts/simplifications that can be taken. The first is to only have different Reputations (Rep), essentially the measure of quality for troops, for different ‘classes’ of troops. For example, when rolling up a German squad, I’ll give the NCO and Jnr NCO the same Rep, based on a random roll. Then the LMG team. Then the Riflemen. This simplifies things, but still leads to different squad make ups, e.g. sometimes a squad will be led by a low quality NCO. This gives some differentiation without getting down to granularity of individual differences.
One aspect of Nuts! I hadn’t looked into before were vehicles. I wanted to use them in the third game to represent the spearhead of a column advancing northwest along what is now the D37 towards Escoville and Bénoville (on the Caen Canal). I also wanted to use the rules for AT guns as this battle takes place after the glider-landed 6 pdrs have found their way to 8 Para. Anyway, on with the games…
Game 1: Airdrop
This was a squad level game, played as a Patrol with the paratroopers being dropped using the rules in the Compendium. The drop, on the western side of the board, was pretty successful. A few soldiers took a little longer to get going from their parachutes, but they caught up quickly. Nearby PEFs (Possible Enemy Forces) turned out to be nothing. As they closed on the farmhouse a full platoon of Germans appeared to its north. Following a quick firefight four Germans were hit, as was one paratrooper. The paras retired in good order, bringing their comrade with them. He had only taken a glancing hit and fully recovered.
Game 2: Establish Perimeter
Set in the dawn hours of D-Day, the second game represents the paratroopers expanding their perimeter having regrouped following a very spread out drop. To represent this, I only had two squads available to attempt to clear the enemy from the area. The battle is set on mostly the same terrain as in game 1, just shifting the viewpoint eastwards. German forces appeared in the wheat fields to the north, but following a brief exchange, they quit the field, a couple of casualties proving too much for their inexperienced leader.
More appeared in the central woods and a substantial firefight ensued. Despite being quite outgunned, the paratroopers saw off the German defenders and continued towards the farmhouse. The other para squad approached from the northern side. The farmhouse turned out to be garrisoned by a squad of German infantry, their MG34 trained out the southern side of the house. The paratroopers attacking from that side ducked back, following their leader being hit, and left the main attack to the other squad. That squad was unsighted to the defenders and a couple of well placed grenades (thrown after an upstairs’ window was shot out) finished them off.
Game 3: Convoy Ambush
This game is set along the western edge of the Bois de Bavant, where paratroopers are dug in to ambush any approaching Germans seeking to counterattack against the D-Day landings. For this game, I set three PFF (Potential Friendly Forces!) tokens as possible PIAT teams. The two ambushing infantry squads were also joined by a 6 pdr gun camouflaged at the side of the road.
I set the first vehicle in the convoy as a Kübelwagen and randomised the order and timing (D3 turns after the previous vehicle) of the rest of the convoy, consisting of two Panzer IIIs and two trucks with infantry squads. I also randomised the approaching speed which left the convoy approaching at a moderately cautious speed.
The Kübelwagen sped into view, not spotting the well-hidden troopers. The 6 pound shell whizzing by caused it to halt and back up, its MG team coming under fire as the jumped out.
A Panzer III sped into view and calls for “PIATs up” resulted in confusion as the PIAT teams couldn’t be found initially. The buttoned-up tank failed to spot the dug in paratroopers and the anti-tank gun. This was the last mistake they made as a deadly accurate shot turned the armoured vehicle into a smoking wreck.
The PIAT team started moving as a truck appeared on the road, the sharp-eyed driver spotting the enemy and disembarking his troops into the woods. Another German squad arrived on foot and pushed up through a field on the opposite side of the road to the woods. They exchanged fire with the paratroopers, who reoccupied their foxholes having briefly fled in the face of the German armour.
A truck drove quickly up the road, failing to spot the danger (and the smoking hulk of a Panzer III!). A junior NCO from the paratroopers opened up with his Sten, hitting the driver, causing the truck to swerve and overturn. This killed and incapacitated most of the squad it was carrying. As the dazed passengers disembarked they came under fire and fled into the field.
Another Panzer III appeared and decided to join the infantry in the field, rather than advance up the road. The PIAT, however, had moved up through the woods and then crossed the road to get a side on shot against the tank. It was destroyed, causing the remaining German infantry to flee.
There you have it. Three games of varying sizes, all played out with Nuts! I think it’s an excellent ruleset for Platoon and smaller games. It throws up a lot of variety and randomness. It’s not a command game like Chain of Command… it’s more of a character or personality game. By varying some of the set up, the toolbox nature of the game can offer different gaming experiences.
Until next time,