I like traditions. Their familiarity is a comfort and can give a focus to life. Our gaming group has a tradition that is now in its 32nd year. Once a year eight of us trek down to the centre of the North Island for an annual wargames event. We call it the Tarawera Weekend, because it is held at one of our member’s holiday home on Lake Tarawera, and once upon a time it was just a weekend. Now it runs Tuesday night to Sunday afternoon.
The event is greatly anticipated and often provides a catalyst for a new project or a prompt to finish off one that has been in play for some time. For me this year it has been the catalyst to finish the Crimean War project.
The tradition is pretty settled now. We arrive on the Tuesday afternoon, play full day games Wednesday through to Saturday, then a half day game on the Sunday before we drive back to Auckland. Each of the games is organised by one of the group, shared out over the years.
As much as a week of gaming it is a time for a group of friends to catch up – one or two we see quite infrequently - and relax away from the pressures of work and home. It is an opportunity to drink too much wine and eat food wouldn’t normally be allowed at home – l you won’t find any tofu on the menu.
This year the five games are:
• 15mm WWII – Soviets vs Poles in 1939
• 28mm Crimean War
• 28mm Northwest Frontier
• 28mm 1066 Norman Conquest
• 1:600 scale Ironclads – Austrian vs Italian in 1866
So last Tuesday morning four of us met up to pack the cars and left Auckland with a light rain falling. Within an hour the rain was gone and we drove on to Matamata, or Hobbiton as it is known to many, where we stopped for coffee. By noon we has made it to Rotorua where we had lunch and stopped to buy the week's food supply. We then headed out to the lake where we set up the table in the garage and then over a few wines began the process of winding down. Two other members of the group arrived in the late afternoon.
Wednesday dawned with heavy rain falling, but by 7:00 the rain had passed and the sun was shining, although the forecast was for more rain and the sky to the North looked threatening.
After hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs was served, we started the Soviet vs Polish WWII game about 9:30.
The scenario was a that a mixed Polish force consisting of an infantry company, a dismounted cavalry company, supported by a platoon of tanks, two batteries of artillery, two platoons of anti-tank guns and a section of infantry guns defending a village against a large Soviet force of an infantry battalion, supported by three platoons of tanks, an artillery battery, a platoon of self-propelled artillery, two platoons of anti-tank guns and a reconnaissance platoon.
A general view of the table. The Soviets would move from the upper edge of the image
The Poles were deployed in position with the anti-tank guns in ambush. The Soviet recce unit had a two turn advantage and the felt out the Polish position. As the Soviet armoured cars approached the first ambush position they came under fire from the Polish infantry guns, but the fire had no effect. The armoured cars then pushed on and were ambushed by the Polish anti-tank guns, hidden in a wood. But the Polish guns fired abysmally and only one vehicle was knocked out. The armoured cars withdrew and leaving the tanks deal with the anti-tank guns.
First blood to the Poles - an armoured car burns
When the first Soviet tanks came forward they tried, but failed to silence the Polish anti-tank guns. The Polish guns forced a couple of tanks to bail out, but failed to destroy any vehicles. The Soviet tanks then opened a heavy fire with machine guns, knocked out two of the three Polish guns and identified a platoon of Polish infantry in support, deeper within the woods. Then with a stroke of luck the Polish infantry guns opened fire on a lone armoured vehicle that just happened to be the senior officer of the Soviet tank force.
The main Soviet force advances
To the right of those woods the other Polish anti-tank platoon ambushed a unit of Soviet light tanks and again fired abysmally. The Soviet tanks destroyed all of the Polish guns with machine gun fire and found a second infantry platoon in the wood.
Next the Soviet infantry came up to support the attack on the first Polish platoon. In no time at all the Soviets cut the Polish infantry to pieces while the tanks took care of the last of the anti-tank guns.
The Soviets assault the wood
In the meantime the Soviet recce unit had identified a third infantry platoon and the tanks moved to engage. At that same time a Soviet aircraft, that had up to now failed to arrive, made an appearance and attempted, unsuccessfully to bomb the Polish infantry guns.
The Polish artillery was proving completely unable to get range on any Soviet unit. When a Soviet observer spotted one of the Polish batteries and then brought fire down on the Polish howitzer battery, the Poles limbered up and moved out.
The Soviet machine continued to roll forward and soon found the Polish tanks, that launched as counter attack on the Soviets. Again the luck as not with the Poles and in a short space of time the Soviets destroyed all the Polish tanks.
...before they are knocked out
The Soviet tanks soon have nothing to stop their advance
The writing was on the wall for the Poles now. The last infantry platoons were surrounded and destroyed. The dismounted cavalry attempted to hold the positions under extreme pressure. The infantry guns successfully destroyed one of the self-propelled guns before they were overrun. The Soviet tanks now had free rein and swarmed around the village. When the remaining Polish artillery were attacked by the Soviet aircraft and lost two guns, all Polish resistance failed, leaving the Soviets in control of the field.
The game ended at around 3:00 pm and the table was stripped down and the terrain for the next game was set up. Then we retired to the house for refreshments and had dinner at at around 8:00. Two more of the group arrived later in the evening.