Breaking Fortress Holland No. 7

I was planning on providing some historical context here, but I’m running low on time, and in actuality, there isn’t a lot to say. Between noon on the 11th, when the previous scenario ended, and the start of this scenario, the infantry divisions we controlled in Melee at Mill expanded the breach at Mill, and German forces waiting at the border rushed through the gap. Dutch forces disengaged and fell back to the Zuid-Willemsvaart, the canal running south from Den Bosch, and organized a second defensive line. Partially survivors from the battle for Mill, and partially fresh troops, the Den Bosch line was not, in reality, reinforced by the French. Here, though, the scenario briefing says I should expect French resistance.

I suppose there is some extra context to give: why it was so important to push so quickly. The Germans had attacked Rotterdam proper with paratroopers and air-landing infantry on the first day of the war—a bold call, considering that the German border was more than a hundred kilometers away from Rotterdam. In the same spirit as my Bastogne AAR from a few Christmases past, my goal here is to establish supply lines.

1730

As befits this more free-flowing scenario, the Aufklärungs-Regiment of the 9th consists of motorcycle infantry, who use the motorized movement tables. As widely-spread as they are, the pathfinding tools say that it should only take them about 40 minutes to reach the forming-up point.

On the attack order, I tick the ‘secure crossing’ box. The pre-battle intelligence says that the Dutch might have engineers near the bridgehead who can attempt to prime it to blow before we can cross. Secure Crossing instructs my men to specifically discourage any such attempt.

1830

So much for 40 minutes. Maddeningly, 1st Company of the Auflklärungs-Regiment decides to take the long way around, delaying the attack for half an hour or so.

1925

The attack at the Dungen bridge is well under way.

1930

At the Dungen bridge, the reconnaissance troops reach the objective and begin to push across.

Reinforcements arrive: Gruppe Apell comprises some support troops, II Battalion of the 11th Schützen Regiment (motorized troops), and I Battalion of the 33rd Panzer Regiment. I split it into two pieces: the Gruppe headquarters and II/11 Schützen Regiment, which has orders to leave the main highway at the Varkenshoek junction toward Gesticht. It will head west from Gesticht to the road into Orten, where it will then turn southwest to attack the northern Den Bosch bridge. I Bn/33 Panzer Regiment, along with a flak company from Gruppe Apell’s headquarters will continue down the highway to De Built, where they’ll hold until the assault commences.

The northern bridge bypasses the main bulk of the town, and the route on which it sits has fewer bridges between our jumping-off points and points west, so I’m dedicating the heavier force to it.

1945

Tanks and motorized infantry stream down the Den Bosch highway.

1950

The reconnaissance troops at Dungen bridge reach and secure the objective.

2010

One of the biggest things this version of Command Ops has over previous versions (the Airborne Assault series) is the box labeled ‘Assault At’ in this screenshot. That determines when the assaulting forces will leave their jumping-off points, which allows we commanders to coordinate attacks between multiple forces. This one will attack at 2201. (It’s in five-minute increments, and started one minute off the hour.)

2030

With all the attacking forces nearly in place, I bump the start time up to 2130 (or 2131).

2115

As Gruppe Apell reaches its marks, scouts spot the first French unit. I order a brief artillery barrage to say hello.

So far, we have mediocre artillery support: the unit counter marked ‘701’ in this screenshot is an assault gun company, equipped with self-propelled 15cm low-velocity guns. Right now, they’re serving in the indirect fire role. Further up the road is a regular artillery battery, equipped with twelve 10.5cm guns.

2130
The next big wave of reinforcements arrives, but it’s a little disappointing. It’s primarily headquarters: the XXVI Armeekorps HQ, the 9th Panzer Division HQ, and the SS Regiment Deutschland HQ. We also get one company of motorized infantry from the SS Regiment, and two light flak companies, which feature a large number of 20mm guns, which translates to a truly staggering amount of anti-infantry firepower.

2145
Oops. Looking at the orders, I don’t think I ever actually changed the assault time. Looks like we’re starting at 2200 after all.

2200

The assault starts on time. All of the French units my units can see are moving to counter our push at the Dungen bridge.

2230

Although we’re advancing toward Den Bosch unopposed, progress is nevertheless slow.

2300

It takes another half an hour to get close to the bridges. Crossing polder is the worst.

2310

As soon as German forces near the southern Den Bosch bridge, it blows up. That’s not good.

I order I/33 Panzer Regiment to fall back for now. It’s too late for them to join in the attack on the northern bridge.

2320

Gruppe Apell spots a defending company at the north bridge. I order an artillery barrage on it, to keep the Dutch heads down while my engineer company gets in close to cut the wires.

2350

My engineers successfully unprime the bridge! All we have to do now is force the crossing. I give I/33 Panzer Regiment orders to head northwest and rejoin Gruppe Apell on the far side of the bridge.

What happens next? You decide.

Guderian – As soon as we have crossed the bridge, send a panzer company and motorized infantry west as quickly as possible. We must reach the western objective as soon as possible!

von Rundstedt – Consolidate on the far side of the bridge, then attack into Den Bosch to pin the French in place, leaving us room to maneuver next morning’s reinforcements through to the western side of Den Bosch.

Paulus – Divert forces from the Den Bosch crossing to reinforce the Aufklärungs Regiment at Dungen. Expand the bridgehead at Den Bosch, focusing on clearing a path for tomorrow’s reinforcements.

P.S.: I warn you now, it’s going to be a little while before my next update: I have plans for the next weekend, so my usual wargaming time will not be available.

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Breaking Fortress Holland No. 6

This is the second part of a three-part series. Have a look at part one if you don’t know what’s going on.

Welcome back to Breaking Fortress Holland, wherein we take on the role of the Germans in 1940, during the invasion of the Netherlands. Last time, we achieved good success at Mill, breaking through the first Dutch defensive line.

Now, we find ourselves facing off against the Dutch again, across a different canal: the Zuid Willemsvaart, running through the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. (It means ‘the Duke’s forest’. I’ll adopt the Dutch colloquialism and call it Den Bosch—the forest.) You’ll have to wait a few days for the deeper historical context, as I’m running short on time, but to tide you over, here is scenario author tukker’s synopsis:

tukker wrote:

The French Arrive

On May 10, 1940, the German 254 and 256 Divisions had broken through the Dutch defenses of the Peel-Raam Line. In the afternoon of the first day of the war in the west, 9 Panzer Division crossed the river Maas and started moving west, with the SS Regiment ‘Deutschland’ in its wake. Their goal was the great bridge across the Hollands Diep at Moerdijk, where they would link up with the Fallschirmjäger of 7 Flieger Division. After their defeat at Mill, the Dutch have reacted quickly, and sent part of their III to positions behind the Zuid Willemsvaart canal, reaching their destinations in the early afternoon of May 11. At the same time, reconnaissance forces of the French 1 Light Mechanized Division are moving north after crossing the Dutch-Belgian border.

It is now the late afternoon of May 11, and the stage is set for an armoured clash between the German and French forces in Brabant.

It is indeed the case that most of my force this time is mechanized. Reinforcements for the first eight hours include an armored kampfgruppe, an armored regiment, and the SS Regiment of motorized infantry. That’s good, because the map is now 30 kilometers across, and we don’t have much more time to cross it than before:


Presented in anamorphic widescreen for your viewing pleasure

At the numbers 1 and 2 are two of our main objectives: heavy road bridges in Den Bosch itself, which will get us across the canal and into the backfield. You’ll notice, though, that the objective markers (the squares) are overtop of red circular markers. Circular markers are crossing points; the red indicates that they’re primed to explode. If we don’t secure the bridges with enough force, the Dutch can easily blow them and force us to detour south. Numbers 3 through 5 indicate auxiliary bridges.

The aim here is to cross the entire map (again), and get to the exit points at numbers 6 and 7, which will take us to Moerdijk and the final scenario.

We have one day and about eighteen hours: it’s currently Day 1 at 1730, and the clock runs out at Day 3, 1200.

Here’s what we start with: a single cavalry reconnaissance regiment (the motorized kind, not the horse kind), which will have to do for the entire first two hours of the scenario (after which point armored forces begin to arrive, along the arrows from the first map).

How should we proceed?

Guderian – Marshal the cavalry regiment in the center and attack Den Bosch directly, to gain the initiative.
von Rundstedt – Marshal the cavalry regiment in the center and hold it in reserve, to aid in delivering a decisive attack once reinforcements arrive.
Paulus – Marshal the cavalry regiment to the south, then make a diversionary attack to draw Dutch attention away from Den Bosch. When reinforcements arrive, attack Den Bosch.

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The Long Retreat No. 18

Alfhilde volunteered, “We thought we might have one more day to prepare for the journey. Hrothgar left the walls…” She thought a moment. “Last night, wasn’t it? He left to trade for food. By the time he made it back, everyone else was long gone, and I had to kill an ontling minutes before we left.” She smiled thinly. “If they bled red, he might have been concerned.”

“My wife is a formidable woman.” Hrothgar gave her a grave look, and until she snorted at him, Falthejn missed the warmth in it. Hrothgar and Alfhilde shared a smile. Happy to be alive, Falthejn thought. He looked at Sif, who was pretending—badly—to be asleep. He let her be. Her day had been a hard one, and the rest would do her good.

“I’m turning in,” he announced. “We need not worry about a watch. I will know should anyone find us.”

Alfhilde and Hrothgar nodded their goodnights, and Jakob cooed at him. Falthejn smiled briefly, then rolled over, found the least uncomfortable arrangement of limbs and bedroll on the cavern floor, and closed his eyes. In moments, he was asleep.

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The Long Retreat No. 17

“You passed the city two weeks ago,” Hrothgar prompted. “What came next?”

“Our scouts found them moving north. They marched in poor order. We thought we could strike a decisive blow, ambushing them as they moved, but they were too many.”

“Didn’t you know you would lose?” Sif put in, then immediately shrank back.

“You may speak freely here,” Falthejn assured her. She relaxed, though remained wary. Falthejn could see Hrothgar didn’t altogether agree with him, but a warning glance from Alfhilde held back his objection. Falthejn continued. “I do not see sure things. I see possibilities. A battle is a tangle of possibilities—one tiny change might change everything. I doubt more than one or two magiker alive could tell the outcome with any surety. As it was, we knew we would not lose altogether. The war-leaders thought that was enough.” He shrugged. “The ontr held us with a counterattack in the center, then swept around to our left. We made a good account for ourselves, but had no choice but to fall back. They chased us toward the city, and for a tenday, we fought to delay them while our advance guard evacuated the city. The last refugee column moved out early in the morning. The stragglers and the army marched by midday.” He tilted his head, and left the unspoken question dangling: except for you.

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Commentary, The Long Retreat No. 17

Greetings, readers. It’s been a while since I’ve used this space, but I have two things to say today, so here we are.

First off: more on the Procurement Games at the Fish Bowl. Parvusimperator chooses a fighter which is not the one I expected. I have a few things I want to write there, but time has been tight. (Or rather, I’ve been deep into Guild Wars 2 again.)

Second: expect a story update Friday, and a return to wargaming fun for two weeks or so starting this weekend.

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The Long Retreat No. 16

“How did we lose?” Hrothgar said. Alfhilde gave him a look, and murmured something below Falthejn’s hearing.

“No,” said Falthejn, “the question is a fair one. What news have you had heard of the war so far?”

“Too little,” said Hrothgar.

More helpfully, Alfhilde said, “We know that we fight the dweorgr, and that these— ontr, you call them? They have joined in.”

“Near enough.” Falthejn leaned experimentally against the wall of the cavern. He found it comfortable enough. “Between us and their foes from beeper below the surface, the dweorgr did not care to fight a third front. They shut up the ways below the mountains from the south, until it became clear to them that the ontr would go over the mountains just as easily. After that, the dweorgr closed their halls altogether. No man has seen a dweorg since the start of summer.”

“The War of Man and Dweorg is three months ended?” Alfhilde said, eyebrows rising in surprise.

“So it would seem.” Falthejn said. He paused for a moment, sizing her up. “You have the look of a fighter,” he ventured.

She looked pleased. “In the war with the dweorgr, and for some time before. I met Hrothgar when the thane’s army camped near the city.”

Falthejn nodded approval. “The dweorgr were honorable foes. These ontr are not. Should we find ourselves face to face with them, do not forget,” he advised. “After the dweorgr fell back, we went back north and celebrated. The next word of these ontr reached us only a month ago: survivors from the first attack on the north side of the mountains told what had happened. We were on our way soon after.”

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The Long Retreat No. 15

Falthejn unrolled his bedroll at the mouth of the chamber. Sif set up a few yards away, nearer him than Hrothgar and Alfhilde. The couple unpacked at the back of the chamber, six yards away. Alfhilde unbound the pan from her arm, setting the makeshift shield down next to her, and laid her hatchet in it. She unbundled Jakob, who cooed. Adjusting her garments, Alfhilde turned away and began to feed him.

“What do we count among our supplies?” Hrothgar rumbled, working at the lacing sealing his pack.

“Trail bread, for the most part.” Falthejn ticked off items on his fingers. “Bedding, of course. Traveling clothes, should the weather turn. Dried fruit and nuts.” He shrugged. “Enough to see us to Flodsvadgard, if we keep to a good pace.”

Silence settled over the cave. Falthejn sat on his bedroll, yawned, and said, “You have questions.”

“How did you— oh.” Sif tilted her head. “I see.”

Falthejn smiled. “You are a quick learner.”

In response, Sif stared at him intently. The quiet stretched on, and eventually Falthejn waved for her to speak.

“If you can see the future,” Sif said, exasperated, “why am I saying this out loud?”

“For one, it’s polite.” Falthejn showed a weary grin. “For another, I don’t see the future all the time. I can rely on instinct, on bad feelings, to tell me when I need to be careful. To see things clearly takes effort. All magic does.” He yawned again. Tension flowed from him as he felt the stretch in his jaw. “Look at me, for example. For two weeks—more than two weeks—since our march south to Syderskogholm, I’ve been at full speed. I could sleep the whole winter through.”

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The Long Retreat No. 14

A few minutes’ scramble down the hillside brought them to the cave. Hanging moss obscured the entrance. Alfhilde pushed it aside. “Do you have a torch?”

“Something better,” Falthejn said. He set his extra pack down, felt through his pockets, and came up with an intricately-carved piece of wood. Alfhilde thought she recognized the type. Confirming her suspicion, Falthejn spoke a few aelfish words at it, and it began to glow faintly. Some magiker were trained in the craft of little trinkets, imbued somehow with spells of various sorts. Once or twice, during the last campaign, she’d used them.

Falthejn edged past her, cupping his hand over the light to hide it. Its glow penetrated a mere few yards into the cave, revealing moss-covered rocks and the occasional patch of stone slick with water. The diviner looked over his shoulder. “How far in does it go?”

“Two dozen yards, about,” Hrothgar said. “I do not know of any other entrances.”

“It will do,” Falthejn judged. He took a step into the cavern. “Sif, could you bring my other pack?”

 

They settled in at the back of the cave, where the narrow passage opened into an oblong chamber. Falthejn let everyone else file in after him, then set the light in the center of the cavern. Sif set her pack down near him. Falthejn unstrapped the bedroll from its top and passed it to her. She took it carefully, as though it were of great value, and smiled.

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