In the early hours of September 17th, 1944, weary Wehrmacht private, Willy Hauser, was walking along a railway embankment near the Valburg Canal in the Netherlands when he heard what sounded like a train approaching. Had the train really been a train, Willy’s smart four-pace retreat would have ensured his survival. However, because the train was actually a heavily laden Horsa glider moments away from sweeping the embankment with its starboard wing, the sleepy Soldat’s evasive manoeuvre proved hopelessly inadequate. Clobbered by a hurtling aerofoil, the unlucky Herr Hauser became the first fatality in the Battle of Brinkmann’s Bridge.
Keen to start Tally-Ho Corner’s very first play-by-comment Combat Mission game, but reluctant to interrupt “normal service” in order to do so, the CMBfN-powered “Brinkmann’s Bridge” won’t, I’m sorry to say, unfold anywhere near as rapidly or as regularly as its six RPS-hosted predecessors. My intention is to post turn tales on Wednesday morning and, possibly, Sunday morning too. That way I’ll still have the time I need to research and write mammoth Friday articles like next week’s A2Z, and help Roman with foxer fabrication.
The structure referred to in the title is a Dutch canal crossing captured by British glider troops in a cheeky nocturnal coup de main attack. Your task, Comment Commanders, is to retake it within 25 turns without accidentally killing one of Germany’s most famous and highly decorated fighter pilots in the process. By chance Oberst Bernhard “Der Sperber” Brinkmann was in the vicinity of the bridge when the Horsas landed. Abandoning his Kubelwagen, the ace fought tenaciously alongside Hauser’s comrades until he realised that he was alone and surrounded. He’s currently hiding out in an attic close to the canal. The Brits have no idea he’s there, and the longer they remain in the dark, the better.
Approximately 750 metres by 450 metres, the battlefield would be as flat as a stroopwafel if it weren’t for its numerous impassable watercourses and the low railway embankment that runs the length of column ‘blue k’.
Although there are German forces on both sides of the Valburg Canal, until the bulk of your mechanised infantry arrive on the woody western map edge circa Turn 5, you’ll have to do most of your scouting and scrapping with units temporarily (?) marooned on the eastern side of the map. Fail to dislodge the bridge defenders and these easterners risk close encounters with an Allied armoured spearhead set to cross column ‘green l’ in about twenty minutes’ time.
Noteworthy topography includes the all important canal bridge (red w, 39), the railway bridge at blue k, 23 that must be used by any unit wishing to enter or leave the rectangular ‘island’ in the NE, and the vehicle-impassable conifer plantation in the centre of the western map edge.
Don’t expect the light fog that’s moistening scenery and soldiery to have a major impact on spotting or ground conditions. AFVs should be able to operate off-road without difficulty.
^ Looking west with foliage removed
Most of the grey ‘walls’ on the gridded diagrammatic map above are actually wire fences easily traversed by men and vehicles. The majority of the hedges on the battlefield are low and similarly permeable. Just about the only green line that will prompt a detour, is the pale green one (‘bocage’) screening Van Barneveld’s farm (on the right in the above image).
^ Looking east with foliage removed. The walled complex close to the bridge is a bomb-damaged monastery.
^ Looking SW across ‘The Island’
Present at kick-off are three distinct clusters of German units. In the top-right corner of the map a well-equipped* nine-man fusilier squad and a three-man light mortar team keep a SPW U304(f)-10 halftrack company. The latter’s 37mm gun is as happy to hurl HE as AP.
* Their arsenal includes submachine guns, semi-automatic rifles, rifles, rife grenades, Panzerfausts, and a bipod-fitted MG 42.
Awaiting orders in the SE is the remainder of ‘2 Platoon’ – two 9-man fusilier squads, a 4-man HQ, and another light mortar team.
Spooking squirrels on the other side of the map at the start of Turn 1 are a Panzer 35(t) and three MP 40-toting Aufklärer.
At T+5 the lonely westerners will be joined by a convoy consisting of two SPW 251/1 halftracks, a truck, and a Kubelwagen. The convoy brings another fusilier platoon (three squads and an HQ) and a medium mortar team to the party.
You’ve been promised additional armour, but heaven knows when this will arrive. Waiting around until it turns up could prove a very costly mistake.
As the Britishers were delivered by Horsa gliders, Panzerfaust targets are likely to be thin on the ground today. We have no real idea how many men are holding the bridge, but judging by the corpse-strewn glider crash site we passed en route to ‘The Island’ our foe may be a little short-handed.
Communal Combat Mission Basics
Just in case you weren’t around for last year’s Italian dungeon crawl, here’s how Play By Comment Combat Mission works. Every turn, via a comment along the lines of “Turn 1 orders here, please…” I solicit written instructions for friendly forces. Orders are accepted on a first-come-first-served basis with individual commenters usually only permitted to ‘move’ a single vehicle, infantry squad, or weapon team per turn.*
* Embarked infantry and their transports are treated as single units until separated.
For example… one turn Invincible_Vince might send the scout team to investigate the building at black j, 48, while Cherubik manoeuvres the Panzer 35(t), and SlowDoris does something helpful with the SPW U304(f)-10. During the next order round Concordski might decide the scouts need to halt and scenery-scrutinise for a spell, while LMF retasks the halftrack, and Shropshire_Lass tweaks the Panzer’s waypoints.
On the evening before a turn report appears I’ll execute all issued orders posting the results as a short illustrated article the following morning at approximately 0900 hrs GMT. Did 2nd Squad manage to get across the canal unscathed? Did the mortar team nail that pesky Bren gunner? All will be revealed.
Keen to reward the THC readers who are helping me keep body and soul together by subscribing, I’ve decided that some of the units involved in the battle for Brinkmann’s Bridge will answer only to Comment Commanders with brown names (If you’ve subscribed and have yet to be browned, please contact me with your user details and I’ll rectify matters). To keep things simple, units east of the canal can be orchestrated by anyone; units west of the canal are reserved for subscribers.
You don’t need to understand the intricacies of Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy in order to participate. Consider the tactical situation, and provide a destination coordinate and perhaps a clue to pace/cautiousness and I’ll do my best to translate your instructions into successful in-game orders.
Full strength infantry squads can be split into two or three sections for tasks like scouting and assaulting, and will fight harder, react quicker, and be less likely to panic if close to an HQ. As infantry like to bunch up in CM, and the game’s MGs and mortars can make mincemeat of crowds, sundering squads often saves lives.
During the sixty-second non-intervention ‘action phases’ that follow order issuing, units may encounter a threat or target that causes them to abandon or modify your instructions. For example, vehicles can decide to reverse if they don’t like the situation they find themselves in. Specific targeting instructions may be issued but usually combatants can be relied upon to self-select targets sensibly.
The CMBfN demo is a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar with CM play mechanics. I’ll do my best to answer any technical questions that arise, but as I know the original trio better than I know the second gen titles, I’d be very grateful if spectators and players with more experience furnished explanations and proffered advice too.
Enjoy the hostilities, Comment Commanders. May Mars treat you better than he treated poor old Willy Hauser.