GDW’s Road to the Rhine

Markus and I caught up for another Road to the Rhine scenario (you can read about our last effort here). The more that I play this the more I like it. The Allies can do anything, but not everything. The key mechanisms are Maneuver Supply Points (MSPs), which you need to move your units effectively. Units that have a movement factor of more than 15 (most Allied units) need to spend an MSP to move their full allowance and engage in combat. MSPs are also needed to fly air missions.

The other is a really clever mechanism where a player’s game turn consists of a series of impulses. Each turn is a week, and each impulse could be a few hours to a couple of days. In your turn, you move the units that you want and attack. Your opponent then moves and attacks with any units in reserve. A unit can only activate during one impulse per turn, and if you want to react to your opponent’s moves in their turn, you have to place units in Reserve (which also costs MSPs) in your own turn. Impulses continue until the phasing player decides to call a halt – the reacting player *doesn’t* get a reaction in the final impulse.

So you *can* play it Igo-Hugo and move everyone in a single impulse, but if you try it you’ll probably have your head handed to you on a plate. You have to think about the sequencing of your attacks, keeping a reasonable reserve for your opponent’s turn, and so on. It’s a game that was really ahead of its time.

It’s not perfect, of course. The GDW rulebook has some ambiguities, most of which can be nutted out, but there is still a bit of errata. Basically, it’s not always easy to find what you need. The CRT is very attacker-friendly, so much so that even at 1:1 the attacker has a 1/3 chance of forcing the enemy out of its hex. But it also does make limited local counterattacks easier, and except at very high odds the attacker will often take losses as well.

This game was the Market Garden Battle Scenario, which is just the Allied portion of the September III turn, and just uses the north map. I had the Allies, and we began with 22 MSPs, which seemed a lot compared with the 4 German MSPs. But during play I found my MSPs draining away like wine at a wedding, with me footing the bill. To win a strategic victory I had to get a supplied unit across the Rhine. Getting across the Waal or the Roer would give me a tactical victory, and the would Germans win if I couldn’t manage any of these.

Of course, I also had my paratroopers – the US 82nd and 101st Airborne, the British 1st Para and the 52nd glider division, plus the 1st Polish Parachute brigade. I had to pre-plot the hexes they would land in, but I could choose the impulse to land them during the game. Very useful if the weather is poor.

I decided to drop them around Utrecht rather than where they were dropped historically. But I thought that I’d make my initial drive on the ground towards Nijmegen before dropping my paratroopers and hopefully pull some of the German reserves away from my intended target.

One of the things that we both found was that the game scale made it obvious why Montgomery was able to convince Eisenhower to go ahead with Operation Market Garden. Most games that concentrate on Market Garden itself have units parachuting in, and XXX Corps desperately fighting through difficult terrain along a narrow front to link up with them, and possibly you wonder why they went with such an awful plan. But they don’t show you the prize had they succeeded.

Even had Patton breached the West Wall, there was still the Rhine and a lot of difficult terrain to slug through. Getting into Holland would have basically put the Allies on the North German plain, and would have made the consolidation of Antwerp easier (those MSPs grow for the Allies as they secure harbours). In the new year they could have been in a position to encircle the Ruhr and cut it off from the rest of Germany.

The U.S 1st army (incorrectly labelled as the 2nd) and the Canadian 1st army both have quite lengthy fronts to maintain. The British 2nd army by contrast has a short front and lots of punch.

Road to the Rhine - setup

In this scenario, the prevailing weather is ‘rain’, which means that there is a 1/3 chance that my aircraft will be grounded on any given impulse. Naturally, it rained first up. Still, I attached near the hinge of the British and U.S armies and managed to begin pushing my way towards Nijmegen. The Germans shuttled some reserves into Arnhem to protect. Ha! Falling into my cunning trap!

Road to the Rhine - end of 1st impulse

The skies clear for the second impulse, but I want to draw more defenders out of my drop area. I bring on more reinforcements and activate the Polish armoured division.

Road to the Rhine - 2nd impulse activations

The Poles drive across the Maas and the newcomers take their place in the line. The German lines in Holland as reserves rush to protect the Arnhem crossings. However, although the situation on the ground looks promising, the allies have already used 12 of their 22 MSPs.

The clouds roll in again for the third impulse, again removing the paratroopers from play. Th German defences in front of Utrecht are now dangerously thin, allowing the British to smash their way over the Rhine and seize the city.

Road to the Rhine - 3rd impulse - Utrecht falls

However, the Germans still have reserves available, and the SS are thrown into the attack. Their opponents retire in reasonable order, but the Germans have managed to cut the British spearheads off from the remainder of the 2nd army.

Road to the Rhine - 4th impulse - German counterattack

On the fifth impulse the skies clear again, and with the Allies’ supply situation becoming critical, it’s now or never. The paratroopers jump.

Road to the Rhine - 5th impulse - The paratroopers land.

The Allied planners had, as the photo shows, planned a drop on Utrecht itself, but as parachute drops can’t be made in a major city, they were placed in an adjacent hex north of the Rhine. The Utrecht bridgehead is reinforced, but the Germans blocking the progress of XXX remain in place.

The Allies have nothing left in the tank. They must declare another impulse because they can’t declare their last impulse when they make a parachute drop. Some units rush north, but without MSPs there are no attacks. However, a supplied division remains north of the Waal. The Germans have to dislodge it to prevent an Allied tactical victory. Alas for them, there are no reserves nearby. The Allies declare the final impulse and the game ends in an Allied tactical victory.

Road to the Rhine - 6th impulse - the game ends.

Road to the Rhine - game's end.

One of the reasons that the hook of Holland was so weakly defended is that in the campaign game the Germans can open the dykes, which will flood the country and cost precious MSPs. There’s no such penalty in this scenario though, and there should be some sort of penalty for the Allies if they do the same thing that I did. Nevertheless, we both enjoyed it immensely. Colour me very impressed indeed.