Our Christmas Wargame this year revisited an idea I'd first explored about twenty years ago. What might have happened if Rommel's 7th Panzer Division had encountered Charles de Gaulle's 4th Division Cuirassée de Reserve in France in May 1940?
As we couldn't gather in person, I decided that we'd have a try at gaming by Discord. I set up a server with separate spaces for the French and German commanders and recruited four players; Andy Sangar (de Gaulle), Phil Gray (Rommel), Rob Connolly (Rothenberg - commander of 25th Panzer Regiment), and Richard Phillips (LtCol Sudre - commander of 6e Demi-brigade de Chars de Combat). In addition, Jamie very kindly assisted with moving the models on our table using the TacWW2 rules.
I knew we'd be playing out an encounter battle; something I generally try to avoid because they can be rather one dimensional. So often they degenerate into a race to occupy key terrain at the centre of the table. I thought we could get round that to some extent, though, by careful design of the terrain and by starting some elements of both forces on the table quite close to the enemy.
I set up terrain that used models I already possessed and then converted the table layout into a map (created using Paintbrush on my Mac):
The locations are fictional - justified by the fact that the two formations were never in a position to encounter one another in real life. The Germans entered from the east (top of the map) and the French from the west (bottom). The long axis of the table represents about 7.2km.
The French force consisted of:
- 10e Cuirassiers - recon battalion (one company of Panhard 178 armoured cars and one of motorcycle infantry)
- 4e Chasseurs Portées - a battalion of motorised infantry in civilian buses!
- 6e DBCC - two tank battalions (19e with Chars D2 and 46e with Char B1 bis)
- 8e DBCC - three tank battalions (2e, 24e and 44e) with Renault R-35s.
- Plus half a dozen 75mm artillery batteries.
Of these, 10e Cuirassiers could start on the table anywhere up to the line railway-works-Ferme-de-Mesnil.
The German force represented only a portion of the assets available to 7th Panzer. I omitted three motorised infantry battalions, partly because I didn't have enough models and partly because their presence would have slowed the game down. The full force totalled:
- 7th Motorcycle Battalion
- 37th Reconnaissance Battalion
- 25th Panzer Regiment (mostly Pz38(t) but also some PzII and Pz IV)
- I battalion 6th Schützen Regiment
- Divisional assists in the form of six 105mm artillery batteries and two platoons each of 37mm AA guns, 88mm AA guns and 37mm AT guns.
Historically, 7th and 37th battalions were used by 7th Panzer as a forward detachment so I allowed these two to be deployed anywhere as far west as the Chateau St Juste.
I had intended that at the end of each game turn we would use die rolls (Tac rolls) to determine which companies had managed to communicate to their battalions. A second set of die rolls would then determine which battalions managed to send reports to the player commanders. Reports would be sent to the Regimental or Divisional commander depending on who the battalion in question reported to.
In the end we decided on the fly (a) to drop the company level reports and (b) to send all reports to both players of the appropriate side. The requirement for a Tac roll provided for considerable friction. 10e Cuirassiers, for example, failed to get any communications off to 4DCR HQ for a good half of the action.
Because the recon units started on the table, Jamie and I were very quickly in action. The French had decided that the 10e Cuirassiers would immediately attempt to occupy Sery l'Etang and their armoured car and motorcyclists quickly did so. The Germans on the other hand decided to advance on both flanks to screen their main force attacks.
|Stukas attack Sery l'Etang (a Hungarian |
Air Force model standing in for my damaged
Both main forces were a little slow in getting forward. The most aggressive French advance was on their right flank where 6e DBCC pushed forward through Ferme du Mesnil and drove towards Sery. The Char D2 battalion would go on to engage the German 37th battalion's armoured cars.
|19e BCC's Char D2s approach Sery.|
4e Chasseurs' buses can be seen on the road.
|46e BCC's Char B1s pass Ferme du Mesnil|
|7. Kradschützen Bataillon passes the |
Chateau St Juste
|The Sery l'Etang traffic jam developing|
|Part of 37. Aufklärungs Abteilung moves|
to pass Sery to the south
|44e (nearest camera) and 2e BCC R-35s|
(near the green die) approach the works
|A view of the table circa Turn 5|
|4e BCP enters Sery|
|In the foreground the Char D2s of 19e BCC|
clash with armoured cars of the 37.AA
|I/6. Schützen Regt backed up by the|
Panzer Is of 66. Panzer Bataillon
|Here come the Panzers!|
|The final positions seen from the west end of the table|
over de Gaulle's HQ