My son and I have been on quite a Normandy jag of late, partly because I have had the very large maps of it out on our big table in the hobby space, and also because we have watched several D-Day documentaries this summer. A year or two ago we watched The Longest Day together, of course. (I was amazed to see him paint a canvas a few days later with the words “Beyond Their Great Wall” — referring with his own insightful phrase to the beach battles we had just watched…) So it made perfect sense for us to make our next tabletop battle about Normandy, and of the two American beaches, my son chose Utah to explore in miniature.
We had a beach zone with fortifications, backed by flooded areas that the American invaders could cross only by using a couple of narrow “causeways” or, as we had it, simply gaps in the water. In the rear was a church town where my son, playing the American side, dropped airborne troops who would try to seize the road junction before panzer reinforcements (determined by die roll) could enter and tip the scales. He employed all our landing craft and all our U.S. planes with invasion stripes, which meant he started with a C-47, a P-47, a P-51, and a B-26 at his disposal. The Germans had two Fw-190s.
The battle unfolded according to the classic imbalances of 1944, it turned out: 1) the beach zone put up a struggle but was overcome fairly easily, partly because the Germans had bad luck and their guns kept jamming when I rolled boxcars; 2) the paratroops had some notable successes, like knocking out an 88 and spiking a Werfer battery in the town square before either could do any damage to the armor coming up from the beach, though they couldn’t ultimately hold the town; 3) once panzers (Mark IVs, Panthers and Tigers, with other AFVs) started entering the fray, it looked like it was going to be a lopsided German victory; but then 4) German flak was finally neutralized, the Fw-190s were shot down, and the U.S. Jabos started picking off all the German tanks, leading ultimately to an American win after all.
A word about the figures: although we have a ton of painted figures, we don’t tend to use them for our tabletops, aside from crews. We want to be able to use hundreds, and it’s hard to have that many painted — and I don’t want the softer ones to lose their paint. 😉 Our next tabletop is slated to be a British landing zone, probably Sword Beach, with bunkers, commandos, “funnies,” glider troops, and a canal bridge. We’re working right now on completing late-war British forces for it. Stay tuned!