How table top war gaming works.
The tension is almost unbearable! The two commanders pore over the battlefield, looking for ways to exploit the situation, and to out-think their opponent. The Allied commander must reach the bridge at Arnhem quickly whilst the German commander will do his utmost to stop that happening. Troops are committed then it’s down to the confusion of war. It’s almost as though the gods of war throw the dice to decide the outcome. Well, actually, that’s exactly what happens, even in table top war gaming.
I have just given you a peek into the very enjoyable world of table top war gaming – a very pleasant way of spending an evening, with friends old or new.
It all started innocently enough. A few years ago I visited an Army friend of mine who I hadn't seen for quite some time. John DZ now lives near Bury St Edmonds. Having shown me round his lovely detached house, John took me to his pride and joy, his bothy in the garden where he hosts weekend war gaming exercises. After a superb and relaxed meal John asked me if I might be interested in doing some war gaming, albeit on a simpler scale from the bothy. Link to war gaming for adults for his article - which is a lot more serious than table top war gaming.
He had already prepared the scene – in the living room was laid out a battle board which represented Omaha Beach. John explained the rules to me – the two armies were deployed and units moved as dictated by throws of the dice. Situation cards laid out specific rules about movement, locations and outcomes. Time flashed by and it was well into the night before the dust of war settled and the battle was decided. I went away with very fond memories of my visit overall, and the fun of the war game.
The battle of Arnhem
Fast-forward a few weeks and I was walking past a gaming shop near Waterloo in London when I noticed a box set of the battle of Arnhem. The battle has always interested me [I will be writing about battlefield tours to Arnhem later] and, with my recent introduction to war gaming with John DZ, I immediately went in and bought it. This particular game is A bridge Too Far, made by Flames of War, and is based on the famous but failed attempt to capture the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem, in an bid to end the Second World War in 1944.
What's in the box?
The box contains everything you need. The board which portrays the battlefield comes in three sections, which make up to 1 metre 20 cms by 56 cms. The highly detailed map board is divided into 60 areas of open, hill, wood, polder and town terrain over which the battle is fought.
The key bridges which the Airborne troops fought so hard to capture and hold [Eindhoven, Son, Veghel, Grave, Maas-Wall Canal, Nijmegen and Arnhem] form the main spine of the battlefield along which XXX Corps had to advance. Each type of terrain affects the fighting ability of the troops committed – for example, the German Tiger tank is worth a score of 4 in open country but this drops to 1 in polder or hilly country.
The table top war gaming kit contains tanks, artillery pieces, aircraft, soldiers, and a variety of markers and play pieces. The attached photo shows the battle board laid out, with the commanders in action, with the inevitable mug of tea to hand!
Just one problem
The game was created in New Zealand and manufactured in China. If the game has a drawback it’s the instructions!
My friend Ian and I have been playing for many months and we still don’t fully understand all the subtlety of the rules! It takes a few minutes to set out the board, placing all the pieces in their opening positions. Then the battle commences, throwing the dice to see who has the initiative. Once play has started you follow the rules step by step, committing your units to battle, with the dice deciding the outcome.
The game has five main phases, with up to 12 battles per phase. We generally find that working through the five phases takes us about three hours in total. A very pleasant evening! We chat about everything during the evening, not just the board game. We are both ex-soldiers and inevitably some of the time we yarn about our time in the Army.
Can you help?
We would like some variety in our table top war gaming and are now looking to acquire a new game, but that is proving a little hard to achieve. The beauty of this game is that everything packs away into the box, so that at the end of the evening the room is clear and ready to return to its normal function.
The Flames of War site is full of kit and play pieces but they alls seem to be for the larger war gaming board, where the kit is left out ready for the next battle. We are still searching for a new battle and one option is the Omaha Beach scenario which first attracted me. [D-Day at Omaha Beach, published by Decision Games]. If you have any advice to give us we would be pleased to hear from you.
If you want to set up a group and don’t know anyone who is interested, contact a local war gaming shop or put a card in your local library. Numbers for this game can range from 2 – 4.
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