The operation planning to invade Norway, in the wake of the fall of Denmark, had to consider the combination of naval, air and land assets.
It proved to be the first major campaign that saw all three arms used in conjunction and a lesson in operational execution, for good and for worst.
This entry is all about a cardboard wargame published by Trafalgar Editions and designed by José Antonio Baena Luengo ( game info link ) that I acquired during March 2022.
Usually the questions presented are mostly reduced to a “why” this game. Why indeed.
Well, to be honest there’s several aspects of “why” and I will try to expose my reasoning.
First and foremost is the balance of expenditure. Final price and delivery, given I must rely not on local stores ( of which there’s none ) but the online stores on mainland Europe and part of the EU, so to avoid customs charges and paperwork troubles.
Second, and not necessarily less important, is that I find myself more and more drawn into the outside circle of US centric wargaming Avalon Hill / SPI / clones mindset and have been having more pleasure in exploring these one-of-a-kind designs for purpose that originate from european designers and publishers.
Maybe it is just a placebo effect but somehow I feel that the way the systems are designed and the data presented throughout the exercise are more complete and detailed regarding the level being played, as opposed to a tidal wave of minutiae and cogs and wheels that try to show off more than what is actually needed. I’ve read someone referring to it as “look how much work we had gathering orders of battle” syndrome as opposed to the “we designed a wargame”.
So, with an eye towards the price and the focus design I got myself into perusing what true operational combined arms wargames were out there. There’s the obvious answers that would simply lead me to a hex and counter “pseudo operational” exercise that invariably throw me into having to plot battalions and regiments movements across the countryside. That’s not operational conduction but rather a breakdown of that into several tactical scopes, that summed up will obviously grow to a grand tactical pseudo operational.
That’s not what I intended. I was looking for a wargame where I was given the allotted resources by the high command, have the initial setup and go on from there and try to manage the outcomes with having to meet determined objectives.
Norway 1940 seemed like a perfect proposal in all levels. Price, design, and definitely a fun exercise now that I have juggled a bit with it. Different and yet similar but definitely its own.
At the Strategic level the decision is already taken – invade Norway. At the Operational level ( the scope of the game ) the initial wave is decided where to focus. After that is any player’s game.
One of the things I like is games that don’t take the players by the hand and having to READ and actually experiment and observe how the rules are played, and maybe i’m rowing against the tide, as opposed to the mindless exercise of following instructions – place this here, move there, roll die, rejoice cycle. I like experimenting with a few pieces, read the rule 20 times, then try something different and apply the rule again and observe what different factors apply, etc.
Obviously this leads to many mistakes but supposedly I will gain a better insight on the how and why the rules work that way.
But that’s the entire point of playing games. To spend time with the historical lenses looking at a military map and playing the pieces like the armchair commanders we are.
I throw the game to the table and start messing around with it. This is how it went, in overview, until the moment the German forces land on Norway. I will do a more in depth play through at a later date but for now this should suffice to convince at least one of you readers to go out and collect this great game.
As with all brand new additions to the collection, the time spend on setup is divine. Everything is new, all methods a novelty, counter art, counter information, orders of battle, map and side boards. Everything falling into place.
The operation kicks off on the 7th of April 1940, with some naval elements already in place. The final destinations of the German land forces, being transported by sea, have a timetable, but all can go down the path of a disaster if not combined with proper application of the naval and air elements.
7 April 1940
Submarines from Task Force 2 converge to possible concentration of RN.
As per roll result of 6 the scouting is successful and turns out as a deception.
An important aspect of the game – it is intended as a double blind. There’s hidden information.
Playing it solo, as I am learning the rules so I can provide a proper game to my mates and probably even run it as a kriegsspiel, is not that difficult even with knowing the information. A bit of imagination is needed and find artificial randomness to the outcomes, for example while scouting an area with several elements just roll a die to select which is being targeted as opposed to selecting. I mean, you readers are intelligent wargamers and can perfectly adapt and evolve.
7 April 1940
Reconnaissance flights are launched in the wake of the first wave of the invading fleet.
7 April 1940
Unconfirmed reports of RN task forces moving up North towards Namsos.
Norwegian command reports no enemy vessels in the area.
One of the interesting aspects on the very first turns, with the aerial and naval components being the most important is that reconnaissance must be conducted. Having the counters occupying areas is just visual cues and not actual targets. Some might be actual concentration of power while others can be just decoys.
I flipped the counters to the blank sides so I don’t know which ones are what, so I had to select what force to attempt the reconnaissance, which resulted ( as shown above ) in deception.
8 April 1940
Norwegian reconnaissance flights detect German ships off the coast from Bergen, warships and transports.
The example above shows a task force being spotted by the Norwegian air. This opens up for further action, especially attack planes sorties.
Attack squadrons are dispatched from airfields around Stavanger and manage to score !
Of note that the planning is built on availability of resources and capability of locations. Airfields can contribute with 6 points each and there’s a limit for each type of mission for turn, recon, bombing, interception, escort, etc. It is important to plan how the points are used and from where.
9 April 1940
Reports of German attacks all across Norway. From Narvik to Oslo there’s information of seaborne landings.
This is just the beginning. A quick and unpolished showcase of what the game brings to my table and apart from some initial hiccups with certain rules it is now rolling perfectly fine.
I have to sit and run through the land component next and that also includes keeping the troops supplied. Yes, there’s supplies and there’s no tracing back to source or nothing of that magical realm. The supplies must be planned and transported and delivered and used accordingly. Is not a logistical game at all, but is a necessity for the operational conduction of the campaign. And it requires air and sea power to achieve that.
See you next time.