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Europa Games and Military History

Author: Mike Willner

May II 40

The second May II turn extended the surging momentum the German armies built up. By now, the front line corps were maxed out with 3 strong divisions, 3 appropriate supporting non-divisional units and two artillery units each. The armor corps approach 60 SP each, and get the favorable armor DRM for being 100% armor!

There were three main themes for the Germans this turn:

1) In Belgium, focus on screening in front of Antwerp and smashing the exposed southern flank to move behind it and cut it off. A combination of overruns and successful combats brought the 4 German corps tasked with this attack two hexes closer. The southern portion of the army group is focused on protecting the right flank of the forces in the Ardennes.

2) From one to four hexes behind the front line near the Meuse in the Ardennes, the focus this turn was bringing up all the strong infantry divisions and getting them stacked to the max. Thus, just behind the front line there are at least 10 strong corps of infantry waiting to exploit the breakout.

3) At the Meuse, maximum effort to breaching that obstacle. The TEC grants defenders great benefits (attackers 1/2 SP, and since most are in woods, favorable DRM to the defender), so the French are motivated to hold the line at all cost. And cost it did. But, in the end, two powerful German corps (XV and XVIII if you have access to the photos) bullied their way to the west bank of the Meuse. This was probably the highest-risk moment in the campaign so far, leaving these corps exposed. They would not be able to retreat without losses in the case of a strong French counter attack.

Air power concentrated on the two main points of attack at the Meuse, with a spread of combat support elsewhere. Since several French and British air units were inoperable, it was worthwhile running airfield bombing missions (a hit on an inoperable unit destroys it). Two French units were thus destroyed.

German exploitation movement saw the final adjustment of the motorized units, filled in some gaps in the line, filled in an open spot or two in the front line corps. Now, it was time for the French to roll the dice…

May II 40 - Overview

May II 40 – Overview

The French and British army staged three main operations this turn.

1) Paris Reserve: Units from around the country gathered in Paris. Now there is a strong corps-sized formation (that is, the full 8 units in a stack) and more on the way. The trick is not to deplete the front line defenders, but to keep some punch around the capital. Also, the engineer corps is busy building a ring of defensive fortifications around Paris (if you have access to the photos, you’ll see three of them just to the east of Paris, hatching forts that should come into play next turn.

2) Strong Left Flank: Still under the delusion that the main thrust will come through Holland and along the channel, the French and British are lining up their strong motorized and mechanized corps around Brussels. The remnant of the Belgian army strongly holds Antwerp, and it actually looks like they could make a fight of it … if this was where the fight really was! …

3) Strong Counter-attack: Much effort went into building the strongest possible forces around the front-most German corps, and surrounding them to prevent retreat without loss. Most of the French and British air force flew combat support bombing missions on the three points of attack (I corps, XV corps, XVIII corps). The French were hampered by the Blitzkrieg rule, in effect for this last turn, that reduced any moving units’ SPs in half … so any units that moved up for the counter attack were weakened, but still took up the same amount of space in the stacks.

Once ready the attacks began … and disaster struck. The first attack in the north was AR, with many of the French and Belgian units also trapped in ZOCs (friendly units do NOT negate ZOCs for combat retreat). Many losses. Next, the critical attack to push the German armor back over the Meuse resulted in an AH (half attacking SPs gone, the rest retreat) and NE (no effect).

May II 40: Paris prepares for defence

May II 40: Paris prepares for defence

The stunned French high command used Exploitation movement (at 1/2 MP due to Blitzkrieg) to fill in some blanks, position some French motorized infantry to threaten the German right flank in the Ardennes. Also, filling in some defending stacks so they get the favorable defensive DRMs next turn for having 1/5th armor REs in the stack. The turn ended on a gloomy note for the Allies.

May I 40

After the invasion turn, the Germans get a regular game turn, no restrictions.

The German’s continued to follow their plan: a strong force fought north and west aiming for the rivers just south of Rotterdam. Several overruns put them into perfect position by the end of movement.

In the center, almost all the German armor is consolidated into three corps, headed directly west, overruning whatever they could. The rest of the turn involved moving the supporting troops into position, forming strong infantry / artillery forces to follow the armor through any breaches they created.

And, the brave defenders of Liege were surrounded and, this time, there was no miracle … all were lost and the Germans rolled forward into Belgium.

May I 40: the Benelux overrun.

May I 40: the Benelux overrun.

More German divisions peeled off the southern West Wall and from hexes facing the Maginot line and headed north to join the Schwerpunkt … a mistake as we will see later.

The air phase was, again, brutal. German pilots concentrated on ground support again, piling in on the two key combats in the north that would secure victory over Holland, and on the defenders east of the Meuse that stood between the armor corps and their objectives.

The French and British fighters were positioned to fly some CAP and intercept, but at great cost, but managing to turn back and render inoperable a reasonable number of German air formations. Perhaps next turn will see a more strategic air war, but this turn was all about punching through the Allied lines and keeping them reeling backwards.

The German combat phase was a great success. Holland was all but isolated, only one hex left to pass supply. Numerous strong Belgian divisions and handfulls of non-divisional units were eliminated.

The armored spearhead reached the Meuse and due to the stubborn Belgians and bad terrain didn’t manage to breach that critical river. The combat phase ended with a wall of German armor, flanked by strong infantry divisions and backed by several motorized divisions lined up along the Meuse. Facing them were the fortifications of the French defenders.

The exploitation phase saw the last Dutch defender run-over and the steel trap door slammed shut on the Dutch supply lines. A few minor overruns in the center, more consolidation and readying for the big push next turn.

Battle for the Ardennes, May I 40

Battle for the Ardennes, May I 40

The Allied Supply phase was dramatic: Holland collapsed and the entire Dutch army (all out of supply) surrendered. A pause here: that must have been a severe blow to the Allies and it becomes obvious when you see it happen in the game. Simulation!

Allied movement is still restricted. Units that moved in the previous reaction phase (the entire British army and all the strong French motorized divisions north of Paris) cannot move. Only the Strategic Reserve can move full speed, the rest at 1/2 MP. And, due to the Blitzkrieg rule, if they do move, they attack at 1/2 SP!

All that said, the French pulled units from near and far, using the excellent rail net, and shored up the defenders along the Meuse. A second line was formed up in front of Paris and even some troops sent directly to Paris to start a defense force.

THe game allows for North African troops to be siphoned off and sent to defend the homeland … 2 infantry divisions (6 regimental equivalents, the limit per turn) embarked and will arrive next turn.

At the northern edge of the Maginot Line the French generals spotted a German stack that was a bit too far forward, and was already partially surrounded. Several divisions were sent to build an attack, along with a considerable amount of railroad artillery.

The Allied air phase was interesting: about 3/4 of the Allied planes flew defensive missions over their defenders along the Meuse … they will remain in place through the next German combat phase and add their Tactical Bombing Factors to the defense strength.

View from the North: May I 40.

View from the North: May I 40.

The rest of the air units got aggressive, braving CAP and fighter interception and flew air base bombing missions, hoping to take out some of the mid range German bombers. Also, the Allies have a lot more night fighters and bombers which cannot be touched by the regular air units. The value of the British Air Command, long range night bombers based in London, became apparent.

The Allied Combat Phase was brief but dramatic. The two attacks went off well, one resulting in a DE (defenders eliminated unless they have a reduced side, in which case they flip and retreat) and a DH (1/2 the defenders are eliminated, an equal number of attackers and the rest retreat). A German division eliminated, and several more reduced to Cadres! Not much, but a real morale boost.

Finally, the Allied exploitation phase was minor, seeing some repositioning of the armor and motorized units to best leverage the armor / anti-tank defensive bonus.

Invasion Turn

After a truncated attempt and a reset of the game (I forgot non-divisional units don’t have ZOCs) I’ve gotten to complete the Invasion Turn. Here’s a brief summary:

German Movement: In this phase the Germans get to take a full movement phase. Most of the units can move, thought the Reserve remains in place. The Plan is simple: – On the right flank, slice north and west to capture the cities and knock Holland and Belgium out of the war.

– In the center, punch straight through Luxembourg and the Ardennes, and breach the Meuse as quickly as possible.

– The southern flank is static

This phase saw a significant number of over-runs, driving the German corps (note the use of corps markers) over the border and up against the second line of defense. Eben Emael fell (well, the rules give a virtual step-by-step guide how to capture this air-assault-vunerable fortress. But what the hay, I went for it). In southern Holland the German armor was able to double-overrun.

View over the board from the south during the invasion turn

View over the board from the south during the invasion turn

I made the strategic decision not to force the Maginot Line at all. Thus a significant number of divisions moved north and joined the effort in the Ardennes. Joe and I conferred on the validity of this approach and decided it was OK. We agreed that the Germans should leave a reasonable force on the West Wall since they couldn’t be sure a counter thrust was not coming.

German Air Movement: The air war is a game in itself. For you non-Euproists (Europanians?), the phasing player sends out his / her planes on missions (what you expect: bombing, combat support, rail line bombing, etc.). The defending player has a CAP where fighters within 1/2 movement range attempt force attackers to abort the mission (roll a 6 or if superior factors, 5 or 6). Then the non-phasing player gets to send the fighters out on interceptions that can result in planes getting sent home or even shot down. The surviving attackers execute their missions at the appropriate point in the game (i.e. combat support will execute in the combat phase).

The German air force is a bit smaller than the French, but the ME109 fighters (excellent air attack strength) and the Ju878 (powerful short range bomber) more than compensate. There were some notable heroics by the Allies, with the tiny Dutch air force turning back some German fighters. And French aviators must have had their Wheaties for petit-dejeuner, because the casualty rate was 3:1 in their favor.

The German Luftwaffe strategy was almost exclusively centered on combat support. They heavily supported attacks on hard points like forts and river crossings. Very little air field bombing or interdiction was attempted, that will wait for future turns.

The Benelux countries during invasion turn

The Benelux countries during invasion turn

German Combat: As expected, the Germans pretty much ruled. Almost every one of the 20 German corps was constructed with a mix of units that allows the maximum stack of 8 units (experience gained in my first attempt schooled me on this).

Infantry corps were endowed with artillery and engineers to minimize the defensive value of Allied forts. The armor corps were kept pure armor and motorized as possible … this allowed them to get from 50% to 100% of the Armor Effectiveness Capability DRMs as possible (anything from +1 to +3 on the die, enough to neutralize terrain and fortification benefits.)

Notable heroics on by the Allies at Liege resulted in that city remaining in Allied hands. This puts a crimp in the German assault, as that stout defense left 3 of 4 surrounding German corps on the wrong side of a river (attackers halved) and in a ZOC, which will slow movement next phase.

View over the board from the west during the invasion turn

View over the board from the west during the invasion turn

Allied Reaction: In this phase the Dutch and Belgians get to react with a limited move. The French and British can move as well, but only the troops north and west of Paris, and they must remain north of the Meuse. Basically, the Dutch and Belgians filled in their lines, re-inforced river lines, pulled the large, valuable divisions out of now-doomed Liege to fight another day. The French and British rushed forward (as per scenario rules) and deployed around Brussels awaiting the assault.

The Blitzkrieg rules are an important factor: you can move during reaction, or during the subsequent Allied movement phase in Turn 1 but not both. For the first few turns, most Allied troops will only move 1/2 their MP and, if they move, attack at 1/2 SP! It takes a few turns until they figure out how to march and chew gum at the same time, when these restrictions are lifted.

I wanted to move now so any counter attacks next turn will be at full strength. I’m risking getting cut off and destroyed, but if I can take down some German divisions and special units now it may blunt the blitz just enough.