The Battle of Lodz, seen here from the Southern aspect, was fought in 1914 on the Eastern Front … or refought in London (just about) on the 100th anniversary using the Op 14 operational level rules by Richard Brooks.
It was fought in ever harsher conditions as the Germans attempted to destroy the Russian 2nd Army and headquarters in Lodz (while the Russians attempted to encircle the Germans and trap them in a freezing vice).
Here’s the view from my end of the table – I took the Reserve Corps of XXV and III Guards, turfing the defenders out of the Northern villages and completing the encirclement while XX and XVII Corps annihilated the trapped Russians.
We did not know the Russian plans, and I had the unenviable task of closing around the position … leaving all that empty space (the whole near, left quarter of the table – around which several unarrived Russian players would deliberately hover) to my rear.
In truth, there was nothing I could do about it: I did not have the resources to police it all, and we did have to crack the enemy position. Whilst not being naive, I had to run a race against time and hope to get into the position before unseen enemies could trap me against it. Or so it seemed.
Op 14 is played with 4 stand brigades in 2 Km squares organised around Divisional HQs and artillery support. If all are in contact then command is a good as whatever is normal for your forces. For effect, you roll =< than the number of figures in your brigade (so as you lose men your chances of hitting diminish).
Some of your losses are recovered overnight but otherwise accumulate and trigger morale issues at higher levels.
Anatomy of XXV Res. Corps … 3 4-stand Brigades, a Field Gun support battery (3 figures) and a Divisional HQ with some cavalry attached for liaison duty. All ‘in command’ (all in adjacent squares).
In the background some outlying Russian units fall back on the main position.
XXV are gradually sucked into the cauldron … the force is now spread out, using the HQ and cavalry to maintain command integrity. With just the one battery in support, the chances of these attacks prevailing against men in villages and/or dug in are low – but the actions are necessary to draw troops and support away from the main attacks in other sectors.
The troops activate in card order – so in this sector XXV will go first. The cards limit what actions are possible. Hearts are good, but those enemy on clubs would be stalled if they were out of command (and e.g. not dig in) …
I like the simplicity of Op 14 as it lets you get on with the ‘big picture’ … however the squares do allow tactical modifier such as flank and enfilade bonuses which are too often missing from operational level games. So there is subtlety as well as the grand sweep.
Tape rivers form on the boundary between squares and e.g. affect artillery movement … and toy town buildings create the convincing illusion of built up areas once you are inside the abstract bubble of the game.
As the battle developed the Germans were able to bring up some typically massive siege guns. They took rather a long time to set up (hence the counting down D8) … the shell holes in that corner square come from the howitzers … they will be resolved when someone assaults the position.
In the example above, the square is likely to be attacked from both directions, giving the attackers extra dice. Up to 2 of the defenders might be removed when the attack goes in as a card will be turned for each bombardment marker (shell hole) – red is dead – but as the defenders are in permanent trenches (extra dice) the attacker will still probably need the pummelling to have paid off (the defenders still get their extra dice, but, 2 bases left, would need 2 or less for hits, rather than their establishment 4) …
Little by little (square by square) the defenders were squeezed into less and less of the city … Unless spotting is available, artillery is by support only and requires line of sight (so the guns were being pushed through the streets) …
The game gave one of the better – fluid and dynamic – city battles I have participated in … it felt gritty and brutal but progress was made (though not without reverses and losses) … Meanwhile Russian 5th Army was closing around us …
By the end of a day’s wargaming we had pretty much taken Lodz (at least that was what was being said in the German HQ … ) and our flanks had held out … just about (actually a number of divisions were in a mess and my reserves were on the brink of heading home – but don’t tell the Russians that).
We had 8 players in the game running from map moves to table top, including resolving a multi divisional city fight in a single afternoon (whilst allowing a good amount of socialising and a buffet lunch as you go) – yet at no point did the game really feel either rushed or simplistic. I think that speaks highly of Op 14 for games of this sort.
Op 14 was published in Nugget 236 (June 2010) – the journal of Wargame Developments.
The figures and components were mostly supplied by Ian Drury and include a number of veteran Minifigs plus anything else that suits.