Narvik: How Does the German Player Win?
It all starts at Trondheim
Through four separate games, the Germans have yet to win one. They came close in one game, but fell just short of their goal. Is there a way for them to win the game?
I agree with most of Alan’s assessments on how to win as the Germans, but most of my disagreement are over details. If we saw things 100% eye to eye, and played exactly the same way, then we would just be playing against ourselves.
Alan’s strategy was pretty straightforward. He opted for the path of least resistance, grabbing as many unoccupied ports as he could, with the exception of Kristiansand. He opts to break down his units into battalions for shipping, while I prefer to ship the entire regiment, except in the case of artillery. Alan thinks that it is better to get what he can across, just in case anything gets sunk. I think going that route just gives the Allies more shots at sinking some (or all) of the transported troops. Sure, it hurts a bit if a regiment is sunk, but there are fewer die rolls, and I don’t find myself wishing i had the breakdowns available, instead of them being spread out on the map. That works for me, And Alan’s thought process works for him.
He says that you should try an airdrop over Kristiansand, and over the west Oslo airfield. I’ve tried that, as I have in every game where I controlled the Germans, and had the transport shot down by the Norwegian Gladiator. I would recommend keeping them out of interception range, going for Sola Air Station (Stavanger) if you are going to drop on anything. But this carries risks that not all of your parachute companies jump, and those that do get destroyed by the Norwegians.
I don’t think the rules are quite as full of holes as Alan does, but one issue that I do have with the rules, and I’m not sure if I raised it before, is that the rules restrict parachute drops to clear and rough hexes only. Storm over Scandinavia updates this, if I remember correctly, to include woods hexes.
The Germans performed a successful airdrop on Dombas (shown in the picture to the right), where the rail junction is. This hex is a forest hex, and thus, illegal to airdrop into. In SoS, it is a mountain hex, still illegal to airdrop into.
So, if the Germans could drop there, why can’t I? Why can’t I drop onto the unguarded Trondheim airfield? It is very difficult terrain, so, why not have a chance of disruption?
So, what do we know?
The German player receives transport enough to ship 15 battalion equivalents to Norway in the initial invasion. Generally, the important objectives were to secure ports, try to grab as many of the Norwegian artillery stores and mobilization centers as possible. Well, what if we were to ignore the artillery stores and mobilization centers, except as a byproduct of the invasion?
Units shipped into the Oslofjord (Oslo, Larvik, Horten and Fredrikstad) are sunk only on a 6. From Kristiansand to Haugesund (including Stavanger) units are sunk on a 5 or a 6. Bergen to Andalsnes (including the two island ports of Kristiansund and Alesund) sunk on a 4, 5 or 6. From Trondheim north, shipping is sunk on a 3, 4, 5 or 6, making this very dangerous. The only exceptions to this are on the first wave of the invasion, where everything is sunk on a roll of 6.
One cannot reasonably expect that every unit is going to make it through to their destinations, but that is beyond player control. You plan, whatever happens, happens, then you adjust.
The Germans need to examine their options. Trying to do too much will weaken the overall offensive, but at the same time, you have to deny what you can to the Allies, force them as far north as possible. Supply is the weak link for the Allies, as both of us showed in our games. The further south it is, the more vulnerable it is to destruction. The further north it is, the shorter the supply line will extend.
Anything shipped north of the A weather line costs double the transport, unless the German player chooses to use the stripped down version of the 3rd mountain XX, which means the use of 6-5 regiments and 2-5 battalions. Each battalion of the stripped down regiments counts as a single battalion equivalent for shipping to the arctic.
One of the drawbacks, as far as I can tell within the rules, is that the Germans must choose to either use the full strength 3rd mountain division (2 x 9-5 regiments), or the stripped down version (2 x 6-5 regiments). You can’t choose to strip one regiment to send it to the arctic, but retain a full strength regiment that won’t go to the arctic. It’s not like there are set division counters that limits this. There are no division counters, other than the HQs that can absorb divisional units. It would be nice to be able to only strip one of them down, rather than both.
Also, it is very important that you take your time and examine your options. I’ve always been one who tends to rush through my turn, because I want to get to the combat phase and be disappointed as quickly as I can. Actually, I don’t know why I tend to rush. I just do, but it is important to take stock of the situation and make sensible moves, while not leaving holes in your lines for the enemy to exploit.
The First Wave of the Invasion
(This section has been updated since the picture was placed, and the plan modified slightly. However, the screenshot still gives a pretty good idea of the basic plan.)
Two battalions of the 138th Regiment of the 3rd Mountain XX lands at Mo, These battalions have 2.5 MPs available to it on landing, and one immediately moves to capture MC 14 to the south. The battalion that is scheduled to appear as a reinforcement will still arrive on turn 1, but it will appear in an adjacent hex, however, seizing the 14th MC denies the Norwegians the possibility that a second mountain battalion could mobilize here.
In the meantime, the second battalion holds Mo and traps the mountain battalion from recapturing Mo, or moving north to join its compatriots further north.
The Norwegians can use their naval transport ability to occupy Bodo, but that won’t happen until at least turn 2, and that’s when the British start landing units in Norway. They cannot reach the Mo area until turn 4. The Germans must move quickly to get more reinforcements to Mo, including artillery to hold the Allies off until the Trondheim/Namsos area is secure.
This costs the Germans 4 transport points, because Mo is in the arctic.
Two battalions of the 139/3rd mountain division lands at Namsos. Immediately upon landing, the German 3-capacity lake airfield is placed to allow transports to fly in. These battalions have 2.5 MPs, and after spending 1 MP to entrain, they can move 6 hexes, adjacent to MC13, where there is the Norwegian 3rd Armored Cavalry battalion, and this move prevents the armored cavaly battalion from moving north, as it is considered to be a combat/motorized unit, and can’t enter a mountain hex without a road or cross mountain hexsides. Landing two battalions here costs two transport points.
This leaves the port open, but it will be occupied before the end of the turn.
Namsos is very important because the port is out of range of ALL Allied aircraft, as far as interception is concerned, with the exception of any Skua fighter bombers that may be stationed at the North Oslo airfield. This ensures the safety of any transports that are to be flown into the area. At extended range, German Ju-52 transports can reach Namsos from Germany at a range of 46 hexes.
Namsos is 42 hexes from Hatston Field in Britain. Flying at extended range, only the Wellington 1C (1 TBF – 2 SBF) and the Whitley (2 TBF – 3 SBF) bombers can reach it. Because of the range, this means that collectively, they only have 1.67 strategic bombing factors, not enough to destroy the airbase, and 1 tactical bombing factor, not enough to destroy any aircraft.
Flying from Bardufoss is a range of 26 hexes, leaving those two units with the same situation, but a Blenheim 1 bomber (1 TBF – 2 SBF), two Swordfish biplanes (2 TBF each) and one Skua fighter bomber (1 TBF) could be added to the mix. Neither the Swords nor the Skuas have an SBF, so they can’t destroy the base, but they can add 1.67 TBF to the total in a raid to destroy air units. The danger to the airfield itself becomes 2 SBF, and a roll of a 5 or 6 could destroy the airbase. The threat to aircraft becomes 3.3 TBF, the same chances to hit one of the aircraft. Since 4 or more TBF cannot be achieved, the likelihood of multiple runs is very low.
Bergen is 25 hexes away, again forcing the RAF to fly extended range missions.
The northern Oslo airfield is the closest, at 20 hexes, but I would find it very surprising if the RAF based any bombers at that location.
Bomber Command is 68 hexes away, so the base is completely out of reach for those bombers, as they cannot be based anywhere else. However, all of the southern Norway and the Danish airfields (as I was taught during this last game, to my chagrin) are within striking distance of Bomber Command, and the Germans have to be cognizant of that.
The 388/214 regiment is to land at Trondheim. Trondheim is a mobilization center (12), has one of the three Norwegian artillery stores. and is close to an airfield.
Up until the last game, I was always at a loss once I captured Trondheim. My thought process was always “I have Trondheim, now what?” I wasn’t sure what to do because it is difficult to reinforce. So, it would just sit and wait for me to get troops there, which is not an effective strategy.
The capture of Trondheim traps the Norwegian 3rd armored cavalry battalion between the 214th division and the 3rd mountain division.
The idea here is that (hopefully) the Norwegians will run away to the airfield. If that happens, the regiment can advance on the airfield during the exploitation phase. This kind of move does expose Trondheim to recapture by the Norwegians, allowing them to recapture the artillery, which become available at the start of turn 2, before anyone can take their turn. If Trondheim is abandoned by the Germans, the Norwegians can get 7 combat factors into the hex to defend it, but the 3rd armored cavalry battalion and the II/13th mountain battalion to the north cannot reach Trondheim, at least on the first turn.
The trade-off is that the Germans can hold Trondheim, while putting pressure on the airfield, or they can abandon Trondheim in a bid to capture the airfield. With the airfield, units and supplies can be flown in, except on the floatplanes, which have to go to Namsos. So, which is more important, holding Trondheim and the mobilization center, where only the floatplanes can land, or attempting to secure the airfield, where more transports can be flown in?
Even if the Germans decide to hold Trondheim, Namsos will enable reinforcements and supplies to be flown in, possibly in a much safer manner.
However, as I pointed out above, the German paratroopers cannot make a jump onto a forest hex, which means that they cannot jump onto the airfield at Trondheim. The Germans did drop on a forest hex on turn 2 (April 14, 1940) at that rail junction. I think I should be allowed to attempt a drop in the airfield hex, and possibly suffer disruption.
Having occupied the airfield with 9 combat factors, the Germans will then be confronted by as much as 8 combat factors from the Norwegians if they decide to stand and fight. This would put them at 1:1 odds with the Germans, if they decide to fight for it. Since it is a forest hex, there is a -1 DRM that goes along with that combat. The Half Exchange result goes away due to the modifier, and the Attacker Eliminated result slides into the window. Of course, there is still a 1 in 3 chance that a No Effect result occurs, throwing the decision back into the lap of the Germans, at -1. But I think the risk is worth it, if the airfield can be captured.
The landing at Trondheim costs 3 naval transport points, leaving 6 left over.
The 236/69 infantry regiment (9-4) is tasked with landing at Bergen. Bergen is a choice pick for a landing because it has an airfield in hex, and it would deny use of that airfield to the RAF. It is also closer to MCs 9 & 10, and a push up the valley does not need to be made to capture the port. That’s 12 of the 15 regiments tasked for the initial invasion.
Finally, the 334/163 rd infantry is to land at Kristiansand . This regiment is a 6-4 regiment, and landing here would be a 2:1 ratio, but hopefully the Me-110Cs that are flown in for support can disrupt the Norwegian battalion that is garrisoning the port. The mission is at extended range, meaning that the three squadrons can only bring 3 TBF to bear on the troops. If the Norwegians flee, most likely to the airfield, the regiment is to break down and move on the airfield to the east.
That’s all 15. The thing that may be surprising is that not a single landing on the Oslofjord has been attempted.
Planned air missions
3 x Me-110C at 10:4415, extended range
6 x He-111 at 10:4415, normal range, bomb troops in Kristiansand to encourage them to move along.
3 x Ju-52 floatplanes to 5:2128 (Namsos), range 46 hexes, carrying the third battalion of the 138th regiment up near Mo. The planes have to land and return to Germany on turn 2.
18 x Ju-52 transports to 5:2128 (Namsos), range 46 hexes, one set of six carrying the last battalion of the 139th mountain regiment, the second set carrying an AA battalion, and the third set carrying a supply depot. These transports can return to Germany after unloading their cargo.
That’s one of the quirks of airfields in Narvik. If you had 1000 transport aircraft, you could land them all at the airfield, unload them and fly them home, as long as you do not violate the capacity of the airfield at the end of the turn.
3 x Luftwaffe Ju-52 carrying 3 x parachute units to 5:2128 (Namsos), where it lands with its cargo. The point of this is to keep the parachute units out of danger from being shot down, but put them in a position where they can actually make a jump, as opposed to being subjected to a die roll if they are coming from outside Norway.
Here is a decision point for the strategic air arm. There are three possible missions. The He-111 fleet will likely be flying at extended range until it can be based in Norway, while the Ju-88s can reach almost anywhere, at least in south Norway at the beginning of the game. In this game, we decided to use the He-111s to bomb Kristiansand, so that, even though they are weak tactical bombers, they can fly at normal range.
Option #1: Blast the II/12 mountain battalion at Trondheim into oblivion. This is a ground attack mission aimed at disrupting the Norwegian mountain battalion, and making it so it cannot attack on the next turn. It’s retreat check stays the same, but if it retreats, it cannot attack the next turn, and if it retreats to the airfield, it has to abandon the airfield if German units can make it to that hex during the exploitation phase.
Option #2: Go after the Norwegian Gladiator that will be at one of the Oslo airbases. It doesn’t matter which airbase it is at. For the He-111s, this mission will be at extended range, giving the 6 of them a total of 4 TBF to complement the 12 TBF the Ju-88s will bring. If all survive, that’s 16 TBF, and a hit will be scored on a 2-6 (a one misses), and the Germans will take 2 VPs away from the Allies right off the bat. If the Allies choose to send it up, it will be facing two waves of bombers at 1:7 (1:4 on the air to air chart) on the attack, and be outgunned 8:1 (6:1 on the air to air chart), meaning it will be shot down. At least on the ground, there is a chance the bombers will miss. Of course, if they do miss, that’s probably a harbinger of how the game will go.
Option #3: Airbases or rail lines, your choice. Hitting the airbase is a strategic mission, while rail lines appear to be tactical missions. I say appears, because the rules are not 100% clear on this.
The Follow up wave
The follow up wave consists of 14 battalion equivalents, and can include artillery, but cannot make opposed landings.
The 730 artillery battalion is tasked with landing at Andalsnes. There are 3 batteries in this battalion, and each is sunk on a 4, 5, 6, making this a kind of risky move, but hopefully at least one will make it through to occupy this port and MC 11.
Fredrikstad: 1 & 2/196 battalions land in conjunction with the I/233/196 artillery battalion
Larvik: 1 & 2/181 infantry battalions land, along with the I/222/181 artillery battalion
Horten: 3/181 infantry battalion and the 399/181 infantry regiment, along with the II/222/181 artillery battalion land here.
Haugesund: 307/163 infantry regiment. That takes care of this pain the the backside port, and moves the Wehrmacht forward rather than backwards (the army has to move to the port, then back out when finished).
None of these units can move after landing in the exploitation phase.
Every port is covered, except Stavanger and Oslo. There is not a major race to try to get airfields, though they have not been reduced in importance.
Why not try for Oslo on the first turn?
Oslo would require six battalion equivalents to get a 4:1 ratio, assuming the HMKG battalion is not disrupted. This battalion can choose to retreat or stand. It is not subject to retreat checks like other Norwegian units are. It is better to try to push on Oslo from the south.
Why am I not sending the panzers over in the follow up wave?
It’s six one way, half a dozen the other. The follow up wave lands in the exploitation phase and can’t move. By sending it on turn 2, it can move in the exploitation phase as well as the movement phase.
I think this plan is better, at least for me. It creates pressure points on multiple places, and does not allow the Norwegians to concentrate on one or two places for defense. Their defense has to spread out somewhat.
Assuming all landings are successful, it pins some Norwegian units in between Trondheim and Namsos, while controlling the chokepoint at Mo.
One of the greatest weaknesses of my plans was always capturing Trondheim, then wondering what to do next. This last game was a great example, as I waited two turns before delivering supply to the area, and 5 turns before deciding to try to break out of there.
Yes, it allows the Norwegians to mobilize two or maybe all three of their artillery battalions, but as I learned in the last game, the Germans can’t do everything. They have to take a more methodical approach.
Alan will disagree with certain aspects of this plan, but that’s okay. We don’t all think alike. Overall, I think this is a much more solid plan than my other attempts, and taking fewer risks.
I hope I have all the rust shaken off now, and hopefully Alan will give me another shot at this to allow me to show that I am a better player than this last game showed, but for now, we are going to move on to Torch, another blast from the past. We’ll see how that one goes first.
Tips from the big loser
- Try to keep your divisional units grouped as closely together as possible. By this I mean, assign the 69th Division to the Oslo area. Assign the 214th to the Trondheim area. Assign each division a specific part of the country, so that when you get your HQ units over, they can be absorbed more quickly.
- Fly your HQ units as soon as you can. Do not sacrifice reinforcements to get this done, but fly one HQ unit in per turn so that the divisions can assemble.
- The mountain divisions are the only divisions where all units have breakdowns. Instead of assembling all of your battalions into their parent regiments, keep them as battalions when they have been absorbed by the parent HQs, so that if the Allies try a ground bombing mission, disruptions won’t hurt as much.
- The 214th and 69th divisions are your strongest divisions. Treat them like gold. Both divisions have 14-4, 4 battalion size artillery regiments. Broken down, they are only worth 13 combat factors. However, consider keeping them broken down while absorbed, because the extra combat factor you gain is not worth the 14 you will lose if the Allies successfully disrupt it.
- Keep some form of combat unit at your airfields until the Norwegians have been pushed back/decimated enough that you no longer have to worry about suicide missions by Norwegian troops who want to go out in a blaze of glory.
- Ideally, you want to reserve your strategic air forces for bombing ports or supply bases, but they can be used to disrupt ground troops if that pesky Allied port is currently out of range.
- Do not neglect your air forces. Be aware of where the Allies can and cannot reach. the Denmark airfield is vulnerable! If you want to give the Allies a nasty surprise, keep at least two of your Me-109s at the Danish off map airbase, but don’t forget they are there.
- Consider flying AA to the on-map Danish airbase until such time as all aircraft have made it to Norway. AA is air transportable.