This week I decided that, rather than a solo game, I would umpire a remote game for some of the lads. The game would be coordinated via social media; which is ironic as I'm the least social media inclined of our group. The game would be What a Tanker and be run using WhatsApp.
I chose an historical setting and set the game near Ste Mere Eglise during the Normandy invasion. I used an approximation of the terrain around Neuville au Plain on the 7th June 1944. I say an approximation as I didn't look it up but just set it up from memory, using the information in my IABSM scenario book 'All American'.
The backround is the advance towards Ste Mere Eglise by the 1058th Grenadier Regiment supported by the 709th PanzerJager Battalion. Here they were counterattacked by the US 82nd Airborne Division supported by B Coy. 746th Tank Battalion.
This being What a Tanker, we would only be concerned with the armour. Hence two players (we'll call them Hans and Fritz) would run two Stugs; the opposing players would run Shermans. As an aside. the allies had chosen to go by the call signs Arse and Drink!
The game was very simple in concept. We had a WhatsApp group that allowed communication between all players plus umpire. A second (Team Axis) consisted of the German players plus the umpire; with a similar (Allied Tankers) group set up for the Allies.
Players were free to communicate between themselves on their respective groups representing the radio net. Orders were given and received by the umpire by the individuals personal WhatsApp account; i.e. this bit was only seen by the umpire and the relevant player. This way I could include a photo of the view from their own tank. Both sides had an overview at the start (aerial reconnaissance) but after that were restricted to the view from their own tank.
I, as umpire, rolled all the dice and reported the result. The main difference from standard What a Tanker was that, in the interest of game flow, players were required to assign all their command dice all at once at the start of their turn.
From the off it was an amazing experience, I as umpire had the normal wargamer's helicopter view but the players didn't and, judging by the chatter on their respective radio nets, the Fog of War was very apparent. It was also hard work as the umpire was required to monitor 7 different WhatsApp channels and as the players were all talking to each other the background 'chatter' was quite intense. We played for 4 hours encompassing 9 player turns; which is the equivalent of 36 command rolls. . Not too shabby really. Like I say hard work but would I do it again? Absolutely. I'm still buzzing several days later. The use of photographs to create the Fog of War worked brilliantly and turned a rather simple game into a pretty good simulation. I only hope the players had as good a time as me. Judging by the banter and the drinking they seemed to be having a good time. A definite tonic for current times!
Below I will post 3 different versions of the same battle from different viewpoints; I know the players at least will find this interesting.
The Helicopter View
|View looking north from allied lines|
|View looking south from Axis lines|
|Stugs observe allied advance|
The Allies were having trouble finding the enemy so switched their advance to their right flank covered by the farm buildings.
|Arse and Drink look for enemy|
|Arse switches advance|
|Hanz lines up on Arse's flank|
From here Hans put in a good shot which hit the Sherman in the flank causing temporary damage. Meanwhile, Drink had crept up to the edge of the farmhouse and had turned his turret to observe the farmyard.
|Drink catches Fritz nosing past building|
Shortly afterwards, Fritz nosed out from behind the barn to be greeted by a shot from Drink which flew over his front glacis. Taking fright he reversed back between the buildings.
After being hit in the flank, Arse turned left down the road and attempted to flank the German position. Hans tracked his movement and pumped in more shells; Arse only being saved by his sandbags. Unfortunately, he was also in sight of Fritz who, due to a good command roll, got in 2 shots against the Sherman; both missed.
|Umpires view of farmyard battle|
While Arse was attracting enemy fire, Drink used his Hell Driving ability to reverse back down the road to begin a movement around the rear of the barn. Meanwhile, Arse was fighting back putting in a couple of good shots against Hans who took permanent damage and was forced to reverse away.
Then in what would be the last turn of the game Drink came screaming around the barn and pumped a shell into the rear of Fritz who promptly brewed.
|One up the arse for Fritz|
A cracking game then and a good hard fight. Looked to go all the Germans way until the last moment fight back by the allies.
The Allied View (edited for brevity)
Drink: up the road is ballsy but probably inadvisable.Arse: I was thinking 2 an 4. Agree road just silly.
Drink: should we concentrate on the left hand side?
Arse: 1 and 2 then.
Drink: OK we'll go alphabetically Arse 1, Drink 2. If he deploys on our left he will probably try to take cover behind the buildings. If not he will take a while to get there.
Arse: They'll avoid the right hand side of the road, too open. They come through the buildings to the left.
I've reached the gap in the hedge, straight ahead. No sign of enemy.
Drink: I'm moving forwardsto hedge from position 2. I see no enemy from here.
Arse: I've reached the next hedge. Turret aiming at buildings. No sign of enemy. Will head for the gap next.
Drink: I'll cross hedge and make for right hand hedge to cover you.
Arse: I'll turn and head for the gap.
I've nearly reached the T junction. Still no sign of enemy.
Drink: I will follow you. We need to look into some fields. I will turn my turret and look behind the buildings.
Arse: I'll go straight ahead and look into field.
Been hit from the farm to my left
Drink: behind you, not quite past farm have buttoned. Better be no infantry AT coming from the farm, I'm gonna be really miffed.
Arse: Stug in the farm!
I've been shot at again but missed.
Returned fire but missed.
Can head round other side of farm?
Drink: Is the Stug behind the main farmhouse?
Drink: Can see the buggers now, there's two of 'em'. One behind the farmhouse, one behind the barn.
Arse: Lay some fire. I'll try and work round other side of farm. Past the haystacks and left.
If I can still see one of em I'll keep lay down rounds but will move off If I can't
[this section was intercepted by the enemy (sent to wrong WhatsApp group!).
Drink: Have used Hell Driving to reverse back along road to come at em from the rear.]
(the axis still got themselves flanked even with this intelligence - Fog of War!!)
Arse: Been hit. Can see both Stugs. Fire from one behind barn. Damaged.
Hit again saved by Sandbags.
Been shot again both missed. From between the farm buildings.
Both the swine are pointing at me. Get around the farm and you will see their rear.
Drink: Will do
Arse: Theyre both after me. Have you been able to get round farm?
They've come forward towards the road at me.
Drink: just been able to cross hedge.
Arse: Hit Stug.
Hit again Stug has reversed.
Drink: AHA, I have the bugger's backside in my sights. Acquired and loaded.
The Axis View (edited for brevity)Fritz: 4 and 5 looks like a better position
Hans: 3 looks like suicide agree 4 and 5
Move up to hedge perhaps you could go towaards hedge between road and house.
Fritz: Yeah we'll have the first hedge as checkpoint then
Hans: engine trouble, haven't moved
I can see one of the schweinhund
Fritz: Ja so can I. We shall bunker down and have at em.
Hans: Just have to watch they don't flank us on road.
Hans: A hit!
Fritz: Hurrah. I appear to have lost sight of the enemy, can you see them?
Hans: have seen one Sherman moving across our front to our left and managed to hit it not sure how badly.
Fritz: shall we advance then, I'll take point?
There are some logs piled up I can advance for cover.
Hans: have crossed the hedge am to left of the farm already the logpile will give you some cover and a possible flank attack
Fritz: advanced in between the two buidings
Can't see any sign of the other tank
Hans: am on left of house behind piles of hay. Not moved since I fired. Need to reload
Fritz: not fired yet they got out of my line of sight
Hans: Sherman heading down road has moved out of my arc but am tracking
Fritz: I'll try and head up to the intersection and head them off.
Hans: there is one on the road almost up to farmhouse
I have missed it
Fritz: I hit the Sherman heading down the road but he's still in action.
Have been shot at glanced off glacis
Hans: just been shot at but they missed.
Have scored another hit
Fritz: fired two shots both missed
Hans: got another hit. So frustrating not knowing if it did any damage.
Fritz: one is driving down the road, am in pursuit.
Hans: I'm shooting at it.
I have been hit
Been hit again, moving backwards.
BOOM!!!!!Hans: Fritz? Fritz?