Operation Herkules

Operation Herkules

On Tuesday 30th December 2008 Swindon and District (SAD) Wargamers held an all-day wargame.  This game was based on Operation Hercules – the Italian and German plan to invade Malta.  The game had two linked scenarios – Game 1, a seaborne attack by the Italians against a defended shore, and Game 2, a parachute attack by Germans.

This shows an good view of the battlefield – beaches on the right, slightly hilly/wooded interior/

Game 1 – Beach Assault

Game 1 was based on the “Hit the Beach” scenario from “D-Day”, where the army sizes in the scenarios are 1,750 points for seaborne invaders, and 1,000 points for defenders.  The defenders also got 40 points of fortifications.

Players Iain and Phil (Italians) invaded against Paul (British) on two tables, both with sea, beach and sea-wall, and lots of defences.  The attacking Italians had air support (Stukas), two lots of Naval Bombardments, two lots of artillery firing from the sea, plus lots of infantry in the first wave.  Phil had a Fucilieri company with four infantry platoons, one of which was pioneers, supported by Light Tanks, whilst Iain had a Bersaglieri company with three infantry platoons, including Pioneers, and the following wave had light tanks, armoured cars, Semoventi 75/18s and heavy machine gun platoons in support.

Paul had two armies – one with 1,000 points of Veteran infantry and the other with 1,300 points of Trained infantry.  Both armies started with infantry and artillery (25 pdrs) on the table.

Paul wasn’t sure whether to defend the beaches, or defend further back.  In the event he did the worst thing possible – he tried to do both.  Four machine-gun bunkers defended the beaches, whilst everything else was well back.

The British Left Flank defences – 2 infantry platoons in trenches behind wire and mines, using an old farmhouse as the centre.

The British Right Flank defences – 3 infantry platoons in trenches behind wire and mines, also using a bombed-out building as the centrepiece.

After a fairly ineffectual Preliminary Bombardment, the first Italian waves hit the beaches.

The Italians are sighted!  The landing craft are by TSS, and are really superb, and about twice as large as the Battlefront ones.

A general view of the Italians at sea.

The Italians hit the beach behind the bullet-proof cover of the Lego sea wall.  Why is it that no 15mm scenery manufacturer does a sea wall?

The Italians wiped out all four bunkers on the first turn – two bunkers by one unit of heavy Machine Guns!  This was partly because we read the rules wrong, and partly because of the poor British dice rolling and the very good Italian dice rolling!  The Italian infantry then swarmed over the sea wall, and advanced unopposed.

The Italians Pioneers (“Demolishers”) live up to their name and destroy both Bunkers on Turn 1!

The Italians pour over the sea wall and advance inland.

The British platoons continually failed to un-pin, and those that did were immediately pinned down again by air-strikes, naval-bombardment or Italian sea-borne artillery, all three of which struck with great accuracy and regularity, killing a steady stream of British troops as well.

The Italian air force showed up with commendable regularity!  This time the target is 25 pdr artillery.

On the British left the Italians advanced to the main defence line, and undisturbed by the British firing (from two pinned-down half platoons), gapped the wire, cleared the mines, and assaulted the two British Infantry Platoons, wiping out both.

The Italians advance on the defences.

This picture shows the British infantry – down to two rifle/MG teams and the Command team.  It is pinned down, and trying to stop two Italian platoon – one of which is Fearless Veterans!  Italian heavy machine guns on the hill to the left give covering fire.

The Italian pioneers assaulted the old farm building, and at the second attempt made it, advancing to capture the second objective.

The Italians had already destroyed all the 25 pdrs, and a last-minute intervention by two British heavy-machine-guns in Universal Carriers did little to stem the tide.  The Italians captured the second objective on Turn 9, and Paul conceded on this table as the British had nothing to counter-attack with.  This was 6-1 to the Italians.

On the British right the Italians also advanced, particularly where a British rifle platoon had been destroyed by artillery.  A second Rifle platoon, in a trench, was destroyed in a remarkable series of dice-rolling by Iain’s heavy machine-gun platoon – so many ‘6’s for fire-power!  On Turn 5, three lots of British Reserves turned up, including heavy machine-guns in Universal carriers and a Universal Scout platoon with extra machine-guns, which decimated some of the Italian infantry.  A British Platoon of two 2 pdr anti-tank guns, in co-operation with the three remaining 25 pdrs, destroyed the platoon of four Semoventi 75/18s, destroyed two Italian Light tanks, and one armoured car.  However, the remaining Italians were enough to destroy the British reinforcements and the British third rifle platoon, and the Italians captured the second objective on Turn 12.  Sadly there are no pictures of this – Phil and I were too caught up in the game to remember!  Consequently this was a 5-2 victory, for a combined 11-3 victory.

Game 2 – Airborne Assault

Game 2 was based on the “Death from Above” scenario from page 201 of the “Africa” rulebook, where the armies were 1,875 points for the German Fallschirmjager invaders and 1,500 points for the British defenders.

This was also played on two tables, with James and Leigh providing the Germans and Mark and Stewart providing the British.  The British took a very conservative deployment, with impressive amounts of artillery and anti-aircraft guns supporting their infantry.

The British deployed in a tight phalanx around one objective.

By contrast the Germans arrived very spread out.

On the other table the advance was spearheaded by gliders with anti-tank guns.

This is the aftermath of the German glider-borne pioneer assault.  They are all dead, but you are looking at the remnants of a British 8-gun artillery battery and a 6-gun Bofors position!  James awarded this platoon posthumous Iron Crosses – they did much to eliminate the British firepower.

The conservative deployment by the British players allowed the Germans to capture the objectives early, and then struggled to counter-attack, mainly due to much delayed reserves.

The Germans capture the objective – a burned out Panzer III.  No, I have no idea how it managed to end up in the middle of Malta either.

On the other table the Germans similarly captured the objectives and dug-in, awaiting the counter-attack.

When the British Reserves did show up, the massed British Universal Carriers caused some consternation, and the British infantry attacked with great resolve, but the Germans had managed to dig in and beat off all the British attacks.  To their credit, the British managed to destroy a platoon of PAK36 and a platoon of glider born pioneers from James, plus a combat platoon and a light gun platoon from Leigh.  This meant each game was a 4-3 victory to the Germans, or 8-6 overall.  Again there are no pictures of this epic climax because the players were to caught up in the action.

Consequently, after the two initial scenarios the score was Germans/Italians 19, British 9 – a very convincing win for the Axis powers.

After this game, the aim was to have another game with all players playing an “Encounter” mission – the British counter-attack!  However, the main games didn’t end until late, so we didn’t have another game after all.

I would like to thank James, Leigh, Iain, Mark, Stewart and Phil for joining me, Paul, in playing this game – it was great fun.  Also a huge “Thank You” to Warren and Derek, who provided some of the armies and other equipment like landing craft and gliders.  We couldn’t have played without their generosity.  Finally, thanks to Andy for de-bugging my report (again).  One day I will learn to write these properly!


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