Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Operation Market Larden 2 (Part 2 - Verdun)

For my afternoon game at Operation Market Larden on Saturday, I had the opportunity to play Sidney Roundwood's outstanding Verdun 1916: Operation Gericht, its second outing after its debut at Partizan. I suspect I was quite fortunate to have responded to the survey quick enough to take one of the commands. I took on the role of Fahrnich Joachim Vogel, of the 157th Reserve Infantry Regiment. Fellow Wyvern regular Bob took Leutenant Ulrich Bek, with our Strosstruppen assaulting the French poilu commanded by Ralph and Paul.

Our briefing material contained an aerial reconnaissance image of the terrain facing us:

Our objective: capture the ruined village of Fleury at all costs, to open up the route to Fort Souville and shatter French resistance at Verdun. Clearing the forest of Le Bois de Guise was a minor objective. We settled on an unconventional plan to surge past Le Bois de Guise, hoping to make quicker time by circumventing any French defenders there. Sidney described this as 'bold', but I suspect he was being polite.

With two support options to choose, Bob and I took some German pioneers, concerned about French wire teams disrupting our rapid advance, and after much debate we settled on an inspiring speech to improve morale from the incessant privations of Verdun. This gave our troops a small advantage in close assault, until we lost an assault.

The daunting view from the German lines - surely our men would be too exposed?

The tense strosstruppen assemble in the cratered fields of Verdun.

As they surge forwards, French defenders pick out targets, the entrenched machine guns spitting fire. German gunners and granatenwerfer respond.

Our elite troops take no pause and surge forwards - to falter means death...

Right on time, the German artillery bombardment rains down...

...while our troops pass unscathed over the cratered landscape, relieved that the German gunners' aim is true. Could anything survive such a barrage?

As the lead infantry approach the French trenches, they pause. Men fall. Where are their commanders? While the German fire support has managed to neutralise one machinegun, SOS fire from the French soixante-quinze guns rains down over their heads. It is mercifully ineffective. Still, our brave Strosstruppen are taking murderous fire and the assault risks faltering at a critical moment.

Poilu pour forwards to reinforce the village - surely seizing this is too much to ask?

Relief! The pre-arranged German barrage recommences, with French gunners taking the best shelter they can from the savage bombardment.

This was our chance chance - Forwards! Forwards! Pioneers take the lead, with Ulrich Bek urging them on. Joachim Vogel follows, allowing no man to linger over this briefest opportunity.

The barrage lifts, dazed Poilu lifting themselves from the landscape - new craters piled on top of old. Are the assault troops close enough to engage the French can open up on them again?

Almost there - charge! The French counter-attack, hoping to fling the handful of surviving Strosstruppen back before they reach their objective. German stick grenades rain down and a fierce melee ensues.

Joachim Vogel rallies his men, desperately mustering a second wave, but is it too late in the day?

The brave Poilu waver and are flung back, pioneers surging forwards in their wake

Victory! Fleury is taken!

We gambled it all on taking the village and with (literally) the last turn of the card, by the skin of our teeth, the strosstruppen pulled it off. With dusk falling (and the pub calling), there is no time for a French counter-attack. They fall back and the route to Fort Souville is open.

All in all, one of the most exciting wargames I've played in many years, Sidney put on a stonking game. The visuals were made by his exceptionally painted collection of miniatures and oh so fittingly bleak terrain (with comment of the day being "grey on grey, a bit difficult to photograph really")

But what really made the day was the steady build-up of background information over the preceding week, the propaganda of the Zuricher Zeitung with the latest news from the front lines. Though it was a one-off game, Sidney managed to make it feel like the culmination of a campaign, with our pre-game decisions influenced by the propaganda he fed us. Those decisions of when to time the bombardment and how best to support our ragged troops directly influenced the outcome of the game. I could only have wished for more time to play through a French counter-attack - it seemed to cruel to have to end the French resistance so abruptly. Bravo Sidney anmd thanks once again to you and the Bob, Paul and Ralph who made the afternoon such an experience.

As for Fahnrich Joachim Vogel, survival and a modicum of fame in Weimar Berlin. Memories of those days in Verdun providing ample inspiration for bleak impressionistic works. At least something good came of his war, for a few years, at least...

Rolling your post-war years, one last neat touch


  1. That is just a thing of beauty.

  2. Very, very jealous... Glad you had a wonderful time (though I knew it was 'in the bag' with Sidney running the show).

    1. Yes, he rather has a knack at putting on an 'event'.

      Still, plenty of ideas for the rest of us to borrow!

  3. Phil, it was a huge pleasure to stage the game for you all. Thank you so much for the very generous loan of your photographs.

    And yes, the post-War "After the Guns Fall Silent" dice roll was perfect in transporting Joachim Vogel to the glitter and doom of Weimar Berlin as an expressionist artist! Very pleased you enjoyed the day - here's to next year's outing!

    1. You're very welcome Sidney, it was a pleasure to photograph such a spectacle.

  4. Great Game, Phil and the perfect example of the lardies in action.
    Great to see a risky plan carried out, always on the last turn.

    1. Haha yes indeed! These things can't be written into scenarios but make them so memorable


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