Operation Nostalgia

Exeter Games Day –
The Return of Operation Nostalgia

by Richard Marsh

A rare outing of the Operation Nostalgia game which won ‘best Scenery’ at the London Salute show way back in 2000. This Games Day was a chance for RF players in the Southwest of England to fight this fictional Aegean amphibious landing game using the new edition of the rules, including many of the Advanced Rules.

Clifton Road Games is a shop with a difference, the difference being a large, well appointed games room which owner Steve is already working on expanding. It’s the new home of the Devon Wargames Club and many other table-top games organisations and the perfect place to undertake a bit of relaxing (well, fairly relaxing) RF play.

Nostalgia is loosely based on the British recapture and then loss of a number of Aegean islands in late 1943. Our version instead takes place in early 1943 and the invaders are better equipped with support – including an escort carrier and tanks – for their attack on Rhodes, the largest island in the area.

The table was set out pre-game as pictured below, ready for the players who’d responded to the open invitation. These included guys from Exeter, North Devon and Bristol.

The big naval vessels were positioned in advance. They didn’t physically move during the game due to the limitations of table space and were assumed to be under way throughout. They also had to be the minimum distance away from shore. All this is covered in the RF Naval Combat section.

Both sides were given briefing sheets, which included objectives, orders of battle for their side and special rules. I won’t go into detail about them here, but check them out how to download these at the end of this report.

In the true spirit of military security John Durston briefed the British players on one side of the room and Roger Harris did the same with the Axis players on the other. As umpire, I wandered back and forth between them, trying to remain impartial.

Move 1 started with a bang – well a swoosh and a scraping sound actually – as the British immediately launched a glider attack on Maritza Airfield. This was in the true spirit of surprise landings and completely flummoxed both the defenders and the umpire!

As the airborne troops whizzed overhead the landing craft simultaneously started towards the shore from their start line, the LCTs loaded as specified in the briefing sheets.

For HMS Saboteur’s pre-game bombardment we added some extra interest by using the predicted fire rule for identifying enemy emplacements (rule 14.4 with ‘average’ Allied intelligence). After every throw had failed miserably the destroyer’s guns were trained on observable targets; mainly in the harbour area. Unbeknown to the Axis an SBS canoe was also stalking their vessels. It survived 4 d6 throws for possible discovery during its ‘hidden’ moves (a special rule for this game) and eventually managed to successfully plant a limpet mine on the caique moored in the foreground!

With the British airborne still doing their best to snatch the airfield, Roger and two of his commanders, Greg and Geoff, contemplate the situation. Note the mountain company and Italian 75mm battery occupying the rugged high ground.

As the battle for the airfield ebbed and flowed, the landing craft neared the beaches in two flotillas. An exchange of coastal and destroyer gunfire saw the destruction of the Italian 149mm coastal gun, but the German R Boat daringly left the harbour to engage the British boats.

With the destroyer otherwise occupied with shore bombardment the R Boat weaved in and out of the attackers causing mayhem for several moves. Although it was eventually stopped by the trawler and ML this little action showed how the naval rules can give a lively game in a relatively small space.

The first landing craft to hit the beach were the flotilla on the British left, unloading onto the small beach where the leading Valentine drove off straight into an unmarked minefield. It didn’t survive.

On the right LCT 10 and its accompanying LCAs and LCMs approached the main beach. Defending guns and armour can be seen emplaced behind a small ridge just behind the beach.

Overhead the British Swordfish joined in the attack on the R boat

By now the number of players had reached double figures, all deeply pondering their next move and trying to remember what Rommel had said about needing to defeat landing forces on the beaches…

And it’s always at crucial moments like this that you need to double check that key rule!

On the left the British infantry swarmed ashore, led by the Commandos in the DUKW amphibians, but restricted by the rugged terrain. LCT 34 managed to unload its remaining tanks by reversing and re-beaching, but it all took time.

LCT 10 was luckier, with its more heavily armoured Churchills avoiding a minefield on the main beach. These tanks would be ideal for punching a hole through the defences, but the only hope of capturing the airfield quickly lay with the armoured car squadron.

Unfortunately for the British, by this time the daring coup at the airfield had failed. It had been close, but with the airborne force landed so far in advance of the beach assault they were battered into submission before friendly units could get near the airfield.

Half the victory points available in this game were grabbed by the British after three moves of vicious fighting for Falikari. Here British infantry finally occupied the whole town, the Axis defenders having perished or fled after poor morale throws.

Two of the British armoured cars survived to crash through the Airfield gate and race onto the runway. With the town and harbour in friendly hands they only needed to drive the enemy from one of the two airfield boards to win the game. In the end it came down to a showdown along the length of the runway between a 50mm AT gun and the advancing armour. The armour lost…

The British were now faced by the long delayed German reinforcements, fortuitously entering from the edge of the board nearest the airfield gate. They were just in time to block the advancing British infantry and tanks. It was soon clear to everyone that we had a stalemate on our hands. With 50 points worth of objectives in their respective hands the two sides declared a draw, shook hands and withdrew for a friendly debrief.

Bits and pieces

The game was definitely a ‘near run thing’. I couldn’t help feeling that if the airborne troops had been introduced a little later they might have clung on until relieved, but that would have allowed the Axis to use more airpower and who knows what damage they might have done to the amphibious landing force. Unmentioned above is the JU88 (representing a squadron of 6 each time) that launched 2 attacks on HMS Woolworth (the carrier). It was driven off by AA fire the first time, but managed to badly damage the flight deck on its second visit, effectively putting paid to British carrier air support for the last quarter of the game.

Thanks to John and Roger for all their invaluable help and support, for Steve who kindly lend his amazing premises for the day and all the gamers (and some of their wives…and children) who turned up to play and hopefully have a good time. As usual, some of the high points were the conversations and the wealth of ideas that flows around knowledgeable wargamers.