Monday, 11 June 2012

More on the Big Battle League and the Invasion of Arcadia 1975

Peter Merritt has been in touch about the Invasion of Arcadia and kindly passed on his write up of the game to be posted here. A little bit like the Ukes he can say, "i was there"...

"I was a member of three clubs at the time - South London Warlords, SELWG and Whitehall Warlords - and therefore helped to co-ordinate our 'combined tank corps'. There was a LOT of prep before the game (the article aludes to this), including planning meetings and kit collection. The rules for l/r fire were on a LOGARITHMIC scale(!) which didn't bother me, but Mr Wise was definitely out of his depth (although to be fair, he was not alone)... However, our side had a superb guy doing initial co-ordination, with lots of modern soviet doctrine (and kit), who also took a very 'operational' approach - once the broad plan was agreed, sectors were allocated and other groups given carte-blanch for deployment. Lists of useful kit were also submitted (see later), and key assets pooled under CinC reserve; very 'Stavka'.

The combined SLW, SELWG and WW 'division' held the right flank of the defences (about 1/3 of the entire frontage), which unfortunately had the asst umpire - so didn't appear much in the write-up (although to be fair it was only the secondary beach). About half the equipment was WW2 vintage (shed loads of artillery, flak, T34s, artillery, and German light flak; oh, and artillery), with the 'modern' kit (T55, M60s and Centurions) held in reserve.

Our front faced a heavily reinforced 'Israeli' battlegroup (I believe) with bags of modern a/c and special forces in support - which would have been great if facing 1973 arabs (or Pact for that matter). Unfortunately for them, they found that:-
# radar jammers are no good against thousands of unguided 20mm AA rounds! We actually set-up some big 'juicy' targets (big rader stations etc [which we weren't using]) in order to temp their fighter-bombers into our own 'valley of death' - and they did, time and time again....
# no matter how 'special', infantry forces are not Nebelwerfer/Katyusha-proof (they quickly knocked-out a big [old] coastal battery on some cliffs, but no-one came to relieve them in time...I seem to recall the rescue h/c was caught in the deluge of Nebelwerfer fire!)
# a few high-tech ATGM launchers are NOT the best way to stop a 'charge' by 30-ish T34s, which at one point overran part of the beach until forced back by point-blank naval gunfire (not easy with one turn's targetting delay)!

Their frogmen did do very, very well; the guys running this (and some other special forces assets) were very 'switched-on', but fortunately for us no-one on their side seemed interested in their suggestions/warnings - including not cancelling the big para-drop after the flak suppression mission failed, the survivors landing right on a huge tank/mech force, already on full alert. Seemed very different to our C-in-C (a real 'Zhukov') who insisted on one rep from each front reporting back each turn, apart from any written notes; this was not just for orders, but true command discussions took place, especially during the night periods.

The frogmen were helped because the river formed a major club/unit boundary, and although we had agreed who was protecting each bridge, our neighbours had removed their guards but forgot to mention it.... To be honset, the forward bridges were of more use to the enemy, so no-one (of the of our division) was that fussed; as soon as the first blew, we had arranged a reception at the next two obvious targets. Well, it gave the heavy mortars something to do as the invasion was a bit behind schedule!

As mentioned, all the defending clubs pooled critical assets like a/c and strike h/c (about 20+ models in the latter case), which is what did for the attacker's last big tank assault (their own much more limited effort and unescorted attack was seen-off by the SLW People's Air Defence Regt [=massed Airfix Mig15s] flying CAP). This assault had been seriously delayed in any event by some cargo a/c making an almost unopposed run along the big forest (where everyone was obviously sheltering), and instead of paratroops it went gaily spreading A/T mines from automatic launchers. All this stuff was straight out of Janes' latest editions, with which Mr Wise was all-too familiar by the end of the weekend!

There was also the Saturday-night scratch built German coastal sub, which caused consternation on the Sunday among unescorted follow-up waves (the confusion was more then the actual damage caused - it's why one lot landed at the wrong end of the beach). All-in-all it was a very tough fight, and we were especially pleased at how the WW2 kit (massed T34s, light AA and Nebelwerfers) had caused such problems to our high-tech reliant opponents. Our resident T34 maniac was most pleased at the end to punch-through the thin ATGM ring and get to the beach with enough kit to start firing over open sights at incoming landing craft, thus proving Rommel was right!

The host club actually did very well considering the odds, vast numbers of arguing gamers, untried rules etc, as evinced by the immediate clamour for a campaign (see below).

There was a tremendous 'arms race' in the run-up to the game. You had to have the models, painted and ready (no partials), which was great for me - multiple tins of humbrol green/earth spray and 20+ Airfix polythene M60s and Centurions.... But top prize goes to our North London leader who scratch-built a perfect recce Mig25 which flew 5K+ ft (?) above the opposition's flight of brand new Airfix F14s. Annoyed? Yes, they were....

They also forgot about camoflage (you could prep so much trench OR camo). Given the leathality of the weapons, I opted for loads of cammo netting, which had to be recce'd for effective fire to be laid, which lead to lots more a/c losses.... And the l/r sensors (in 1976) were no use either - because the always WAS 'something' under every piece of netting, it's just that at l/r a clapped-out old Pzr4 wreck and assorted junk was identical to three or five closely-parked T34s. Or a masked battery of light flak!

But could we pull the same 'scam' today with our WW2 kit? I think not - I believe 'modern' modern stuff would trash us (night/smoke vision, RPVs, computer targetting & counter-battery etc), apart from most old kit bouncing off Chobham armour!

The Campaign:
The enthusiasm generated an entire fake world campaign (designed to generate battles), with economic factors affecting what units could be built. All I remember from this phase is:-
# using a series of 'front' companies and allies to corner the world supply of rubber
# 'recruiting' a huge militia force of my WW1 plastic figures (you had to actually have the models for your units)
# launching a long-range airstrike to cripple one of our bigger, stroppy neighbour's oil production
# selling the rights to a strategic island airstrip - to lots of people! When one big lot finally began to smell a rat and insisted on taking possession (more payments), we also acquired a wing of brand-new F14s which they flew-in unescorted (the 'ground crew' were liberally mixed with our own special forces).
# and last but by no means least, we staged a massive coup-de main on another country by arranging for our extensive and ubiquitous national 'tanker fleet' (lots of hidden soviet naval amphib stuff) which just happened to be docked/passing a few minutes before war was declared......

The campaign fizzled-out as campaigns always do - our clubs didn't do any more big games, and the problem as ever was how to balance the NATO/WP blocks - 'third world' clubs stood no chance at all. Still, a wargaming milestone; well done to Terry Mutlow and co for the hard work."

Thanks to Peter for this very informative account.

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