Cardboard Wars

War is the continuation of politics by other means

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.

Hawker Hurricanes in formation

Hawker Hurricanes in formation (Photo credit: Adelaide Archivist) click image to enlarge)

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:

  1. If the 3rd mountain division is sent to Narvik, how do I get more troops there to hold the area.
  2. 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.

His Majesty, The King's Guards (click image to enlarge)

His Majesty, The King’s Guards (click image to enlarge)

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.

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2 thoughts on “Narvik: Post Game Analysis

  1. Mike Phoenix on said:

    Hmmm…what the heck…just for fun….

    For the German:

    Initial Goal: Capture, hold and sustain LOC/S Oslo, Trondhiem and most northern Rail Head.

    1. Trondheim–What would a Turn 1 maximum effort do if the German where to make an attack on the town itself, immediately? How much Navy, Air, Airborne and Ground energy can be placed for an all in attack?

    2. What does that leave for Oslo, then the Arty Parks and finally the Assembly Centers in that immediate area?

    3. Assume assault on Trondheim is successful and you have also landed at Namsos Turn 1. What would be needed to make such a landing sustainable given Turn 1 success at Trondeim?

    4. Arctic–Land at Bodo? What are the odds a continuous LOC/S can be established from Oslo to Bodo? If achieved does it make a further advance north feasible? Do you need the Arctic to “win” at all?

    Thoughts:

    In both the last games you found that holding on to any part of S. of Arctic Norway (SofAN) was hopeless for the Allies. Yet the German was caught up in a “clear SoAN first” strategy that ultimately lead to Axis defeat. There was plenty of Axis force to win but there was no time left. In addition Axis Naval losses and the Ground losses associated with them added up to significant Allied points. Certainly trying to land either troops or supplies by sea even on the periphery of SofAN prove costly indeed.

    What happens if the German Naval operations after Turn 1 are limited strictly to landings at Oslo and it’s immediate environs? If the German holds the LOC/S Oslo to Bodo there no need to supply by sea at all. What need there is for alternative supplies will be short in duration and seems within Luftwaffe capabilities to sustain. Also, if HMN must close inside the Baltic can’t the Luftwaffe punish it severely? Perhaps not, I remember no air attacks on HMN in your games. In either case the Axis is managing Naval/Transport losses to the maximum extent possible by landing at Oslo only–having benefits in ground strength, supplies and VP.

    For the Axis the Luftwaffe is practically a magic wand of perfect solutions as far as SoAN is concerned. With it there’s plenty of time and force to clear SoAN no matter what the Allied does. And since the vast majority of the Luftwaffe can’t do much of anything north of Arctic concentrating its efforts there is about all it can do anyway.

    Operations North of Bodo are the exact opposite. Is a land only offensive from there feasible even if it has a very early game start? Is there any way to fight any part of the Luftwaffe north of Trondheim? If the German doesn’t even risk landing supplies by sea up there, can air sustain a drive? Seems that unless the German takes Narvik there isn’t enough VP pay off to make any offensive worth the losses.

    End.

    Like

    • Taking this a piece at a time.
      You are correct; I made no attacks on the Royal Navy. I view them more as a diversion of air resources considering that they have to fly out, find the carrier (and there is no guarantee they will find it), then bomb it. I would rather use my air assets on something I know I can accomplish, like disrupting Allied troops (tactical air forces) or destroying supply depots (strategic air forces). Bombing the carriers, in my opinion, is a waste of resources, at least until the ground campaign is nearly complete, even though there are victory point penalties if the Allies lose carriers (for example, if the Ark Royal is sunk, the Allies lose 8 VP)

      However, the Royal Navy cannot enter the Baltic Sea. There is a line of demarcation from the Kristiansand airfield drawn to the southwest to Denmark that the RN cannot cross. This means Allied troops can’t be shipped past that line, either. Kristiansand is as far as they can go (which was a major f-up I made in my first game).

      However, since I now know the purpose of the British antiaircraft cruisers, they are definitely on the list of targets.

      To address your other thoughts:

      I’ve been considering Bodo as a possibility for a landing. The Germans do not need to capture that arctic, nor do they have to capture Narvik itself. The game requires that the Germans only hold Narvik OR one of the adjacent hexes at the end of the game. The Allies will win the game if the Germans can’t get a foothold into one of those hexes.

      Anywhere that a landing takes place, three is a reaction roll that is made for the Norwegians to check if they flee or stand and fight. Odds are that they flee, except in the case of Oslo. The King’s Guards will stand and fight.

      I think that it wasn’t so much that the Allies held the Germans up as much as it was me who held them up. Instead of attacking Oslo immediately, I waited for reinforcements, which allowed the Norwegians to get more troops in the city, and it was several turns before I attacked.

      Trondheim was the same thing. I let the Allies reinforce the area while I waited for reinforcements. By the time I was ready to attack, the Allies were pulling out, and I had wasted 2 to 4 turns doing nothing.

      And yes, shipping is a dangerous thing, which is why I prefer everything go through the Oslo area, as it presents the least risk. To free up shipping, I use air transports to fly supplies in, but they have limited range.

      The first few turns for the Germans are critical as far as supply is concerned.

      The invasion turn, the Germans are in full supply, that is, they have general supply and are in attack supply, meaning they don’t need to expend depots to attack.

      On turn 2, however, they are out of supply if they don’t have a depot nearby. The first turn out of supply has no effect, but the second turn, they start losing attack strength.

      So, what does this mean, exactly? The Germans don’t have to worry about supply on turns 1 or two, but on turn two, they need to get supply in so that the negative effects don’t kick in on turn 3.

      Supply can be shipped in in the follow up wave, say, to Trondheim, but (if I remember correctly, I don’t have my reference card in front of me at the moment) there is a 2 in 3 chance that it will be sunk, which means it must be flown in.

      Trondheim is well out of the normal range of most of the German transports. There are some that may be able to make it to the Trondheim airfield to dump supplies, but it is probably a safe bet that the Norwegians, if they had to retreat, retreated to the airfield. This means that the Germans would have to attack the airfield immediately on turn 2, but even though they are in general supply, they are not in attack supply, which means their combat factors are halved.

      Add the complication that Bodo would need to have a depot sent to it because the Germans have to have a supply depot within 6 movement points of the unit, which is why they tend to carry them around, or steal Norwegian trucks. =P The Norwegians, on the other hand, are always in supply, no matter what.

      It’s incredibly complicated and makes my head spin. =P

      Honestly, I have never played a game that required this much thought and planning on the part of the Germans. Certainly, you plot and plan for other games as well, but not to this degree.

      I will be playing the Germans in my upcoming PBEM game, so I will be doing a write up on my plans.

      Like

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