September Game Day AAR Beyond Omaha

Beyond Omaha by Dave Schaffner

My Beyond Omaha scenario played this last Saturday, was a deep-dive sample of some of the early infantry combat fought in June 1944, in Normandy France.  The situation was based upon the immediate days following the initial landings, as the Americans began pushing out of the Omaha Beachhead.  It was also the first major action fought by the green US 2nd Infantry Division (Indianhead), after it began arriving as reinforcement over the beaches, and started pushing southward into the heavier bocage country ahead.  The game was a faithful recreation of this initial phase of skirmishing, as the 3rd Bn., US 9th Infantry Regiment encountered German screening forces attempting to impede its effort to expand southward, but before the Germans were able to establish solid defensive lines in the thick Norman terrain.

The German unit involved in the scenario was an interesting formation – elements of Schnelle Abteilung 517, part of the Schnellen Brigade 30, a Wehrmacht Erstaz (replacement) unit that had been formed in France, and was used in anti-partisan duty/patrolling (mostly as bicycle troops)   This formation was subsequently deployed around the western coast of Normandy, mid-way up the Cotentin peninsula, and reflected one of the few, immediate reserve units that could be deployed to the invasion coast on the first days of combat.  The Schnelle-Abt. 517 contained some interesting ‘heavy’ weapons, Ersatz conversions in themselves, built from captured French vehicles – lt. Panzerjager SPs, and with French halftracks.  This set the stage for the game – with green American infantry facing off against German ersatz troops, and arguably before either was ready to do battle – but battle they would.

The game has been played twice now, and I think the players enjoyed the scenario each time – it’s not a game level or combat style presented much anymore.  I enjoy working up the terrain, units, and doing all the original research for these types of games – no better way to test and refine ones knowledge of history.  Unfortunately, we don’t get to play in-depth engagements much anymore, which exercises the tactical knowledge of players, but as a game host, and being aware of this, there’s always a need to make scenarios accessible too.  My current presentation philosophy is to go heavy on game immersion (nice models and terrain), but make the rules and gameplay approachable – I think it’s a formula mix that can pay dividends, whether on a game day or at a con. 

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