Narvik: Post Game Analysis
Having two games under my belt, what could have been done differently? Done better?
The Allied Strategy
Southern Norway, I believe, is a lost cause for the Allies. The Luftwaffe is too dominant, and supplies too vulnerable. Every time the Allies would set up a supply base, the Luftwaffe would destroy it with ease, forcing the Allies to move a little further north each time.
Would it be best for the Allies to set up an operating base in the arctic, particularly in the Narvik area and attempt to hold it?
The benefits of this strategy is that the supply bases will last longer, as the German bombers will have difficulty reaching them without flying extended range missions, meaning their bombing strength is compromised.
The weakness of this strategy is that the Germans should be able to sweep southern Norway more quickly, as there will be limited troops to contest their advance. Even though there was not a lot of fighting between the Germans and the Allies, their presence would force the Germans to wait for reinforcements to arrive in the area before attacking, thus slowing them down.
If all the Allied forces land in the arctic and defend the choke points south of Narvik, the Germans will be allowed to move quickly up the spine, and in force. The choke points could be easily overrun. Choice of terrain may make the difference here.
In both games, the Allied air forces were crushed by the Luftwaffe. In fact, the Luftwaffe could have flown all missions unescorted. The Allied air forces consisted of the following aircraft (excluding bombers):
- The Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber (biplane)
- The Gloster Gladiator fighter (biplane)
- The Blackburn Skua torpedo bomber a two seater fighter-bomber, but not well adapted to the fighter role
- The Blenheim 1-F night fighter, an adaptation of the Blenheim-1 light bomber, used in a fighter role. This fighter was better than the Gladiators, but still outmatched by the Me-109E
- The Hawker Hurricane fighter, quite the upgrade, but early Hurricanes were still inferior to the German fighters of the period, and it doesn’t show up until late in the game
The Royal Air Force in Norway is not large on fighters, but heavy on fighter bombers and torpedo bombers. They also have the advantage of mostly being on aircraft carriers, mobile airfield platforms, but they have a tendency to be recalled from time to time, and there are not enough airfields to handle all the planes the carriers can.
Every time I would try to oppose what the Germans were doing, be it airborne drops or bombing runs, the British (and Norwegian) air forces would be decimated, so obviously, interception is not the solution.
At the moment the Germans invade, the Norwegians have exactly one airplane counter of Gladiators at one of the airbases near Oslo. They do not have the range to make it to Bardufoss, even at extended range. Even if they make it to the Trondheim airfield, I still don’t think they have the range to make it. They can’t land on a carrier, so this aircraft needs to be looked upon as disposable. Make the attempt to knock down a transport or two before being shot down.
One plan is to start at Trondheim and back up, possibly losing supply depots along the way, but slowing the Germans down in the process.
The German Strategy
Once I discovered the devastating impact the Luftwaffe has on Allied supply bases, that became a high priority for the Germans. What better way to weaken the Allies than by destroying their supplies?
It has been pointed out to me that I missed the part of the rule governing the British antiaircraft cruisers (CLAs). Their sole purpose in life, it seems, is to defend those bases. The rule says they can only fire on aircraft bombing ships, ports, and at the top of the next column, it says bases. Since I missed the top of the column, I often wondered what use those ships were, and it makes more sense now. I avoided them by not bombing ships or ports. Hey, this is only the second time I’ve played this game in 30 years. If that’s the only rule I missed (and I’m sure it isn’t), I count myself lucky.
It definitely not a game changer. We don’t change missions just because of flak, unless it is too heavy, then we seek out valuable targets with less protection. We hit where the AA ain’t.
Twice, I have sent troops to Narvik, and both times they have been destroyed. The first time, a battalion was hanging on by its fingernails, but was wiped out. The second time, two regiments were in a better position, but were still destroyed.
There is not much that can make it up there. Anything sent north of the arctic weather line counts double against naval transport, and two out of three units will be sunk, at a minimum. In other words, transporting a battalion costs two transport points, and runs a high risk of being sunk in transit. Transporting a regiment, being composed of three battalions, costs six transport points.
Except if the 3rd mountain division is stripped of it’s artillery and non-essential personnel. This leaves the two regiments that were sent up there at the cost of 6 transport points (three for each).
After that, it becomes a question of how to get more troops to the area. Supply isn’t a problem, as they get a depot from “neutral” Sweden on turn 2.
Narvik is uncovered, making it a tempting target, especially given the fact that victory points are tied to it.
I’ve shown that leaving this division alone, isolated, is not a winning strategy for the Germans.
So, as the German player, you have to ask yourself a couple of questions:
- If the 3rd mountain division is sent to Narvik, how do I get more troops there to hold the area.
- Is it worth it to send troops someplace you now know they will fail to hold?
In order to ensure that troops can be brought in safely is to capture the Bardufoss airfield, but that isn’t likely to happen. On turn 1, the 3rd mountain is in full supply. When the land, they have two movement points available. Bardufoss is at least four movement points away. (I don’t remember off the top of my head if rough terrain still only costs a single movement point in the arctic, or if a river still costs only 1 mp to cross in the arctic)
After turn 1, the 3rd division is on its own. On turn 2, the captured depot appears in Sweden, and the division is back in supply. It can push for Bardufoss, but even if it does, and takes the airfield, it is then out of supply until more can be flown in, no easy task.
Flying in a battalion and supply would cost the use of 12 transports, almost half the fleet, but it may be something worth investigating….
The other option is to not capture Narvik, to not even send troops to the arctic.
At the beginning of the game, the Germans have the capability of shipping 15 battalions in the invasion wave. Each supply depot is one battalion, each company is 1/3 of a battalion, and a regiment is three battalions (from the German side). Units transported in the invasion wave can only be sunk on a die roll of 6.
Every transport point is precious.
There are 14 shipping points for the follow up wave, which can’t do opposed landings. They can be sunk on a regular shipping die roll, depending on the destination. Units destined for Oslo are sunk on a roll of 6, Kristiansand and Stavanger a 5 or 6, Bergen and Trondheim a 4, 5 or 6, and ports north on a 3,4,5 or 6. (I am doing this from memory, so my ports may be off by one or two). Followup waves in the arctic are at the most risk.
In addition to that, there are 21 transport aircraft available, meaning that 7 battalions can be landed at captured Norwegian airfields. Three transports can carry one battalion. (Be aware that these 21 transports do not include the three used to drop airborne troops, or the odd Kriegsmarine Ju-52 floatplane)
The 3rd mountain division at full strength is composed of 2 infantry regiments (9-4) and an artillery regiment (9-4) [this has been corrected from 14-4 after I double checked it]. If the 3rd mountain division is shipped to Narvik without the artillery, that would require 12 naval transport points, three for each infantry regiment, and doubled for transport to the arctic.
What if the 3rd mountain division were landed somewhere south, say, Namsos or Trondheim? Either of these options could cut off any Norwegian troops trying to escape up the spine of Norway, plus give them a jump off point to head towards Narvik.
I think that was one weakness from the last games invasion turn, was that Trondheim was left out of the party. Odds favor (2 in 3 chance) that on the first turn, the Norwegians are going to run away, except in Oslo. The HMKG battalion (Hans Majestet Kongens Garde, essentially the King’s Guards), will make a stand to protect the king. However, this does not mean that it can be taken for granted that they will run away. The instant that I assume that the Norwegians will run away, and I send a single battalion is the moment they decide to stand and fight. It’s kind of like assuming the Vichy French in Torch won’t fight, or only put up token resistance that they suddenly turn, giving a vigorous defense, and joining the Axis. Oh, yes, I’ve had that happen to me, and it really ruined the American’s day. Planning has to be thorough and careful, and assume the Norwegians are going to fight.
Not taking Trondheim on the first turn was a definite mistake. That area held me up for quite awhile, and it wasn’t until the Allies actually backed away as I was preparing to attack did I finally break through that area. So, Trondheim has jumped way up the list of targets. Bergen, Stavanger, and Kristiansand have airfields associated with them, but all three are arterial to Oslo, while Trondheim, also being arterial to Oslo, is the gateway to the northern part of the country.
I also think it is probable that I did not use the airborne capability enough.
There are three airborne companies available, however, there is one caveat. There is only a 1 in 3 chance that they will actually jump, based on weather conditions. In both games, I have had two of the three companies do their drops. But once those jumps were complete, they just sat on the sidelines. I have to figure a way to use them again. I have then until turn 6 when they are withdrawn, then again at turn 12.
I just have to figure out how, when and where to use them.
Were strategic mistakes made? Yeah, but I learned quite a bit from both of these games. Sooner or later, I will be able to develop an ironclad strategy.