Behind the Lines
I’m especially proud of the way the AI performs as the Allies in Market Garden. It maintains a sensible perimeter with 1st Airborne, shrinking it when actually pressured to do so. Guards Armoured dashes up the road to Nijmegen, the US Airborne divisions defend their sectors while XXX Corps guards the road and repairs the bridges. These tasks are not easy for a human player to master and the fact that the AI can do all of this in a competent fashion is an under appreciated minor miracle.
Talk of Market Garden brings me back to the reasons why we make games in the first place. I own many history books, and quite a few dealing with Market Garden in particular. However, none of them produced the same feeling as playing the Allied side at Market Garden for the first time. Looking at the map, looking at the Allied OB and then looking at the map again, this time noting all the different places where the operation could be derailed gave me an insight into the battle that the books just couldn’t provide. To me, this is one critical reason why we all enjoy wargames. Yes, we want to play with history and explore alternatives but we also get that understanding that simply reading the words of others can’t easily reproduce.
The Historical Perspective section is intended to give readers the "history behind the game." This week, Osprey Publishing takes us to Operation Market-Garden, one of the scenarios from SSG's new Battlefront.
The following extract is taken from Osprey Publishing's Campaign 24: Arnhem 1944: Operation Market Garden by Stephen Badsey.
The Battle of Arnhem, known today by its Allied codename of "Operation Market Garden," was the largest airborne battle in history, and the only Allied attempt during World War II to use airborne troops in a strategic role in Europe. It was a battle of Army Groups numbering hundreds of thousands of men, but repeatedly its outcome hinged on the actions of small forces and individual battalions at crucial points. Rather than a set piece battle with a tidy beginning and end, it began on 17 September 1944 from a confused and daily changing pattern of events and ended ten days later as the only major defeat of General Montgomery's career, and the only Allied defeat in the campaign in North-West Europe.
In the planning before D-Day on 6 June, the Allies had assumed they would advance steadily inland with General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commanding Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), directing the advance of his three Army Groups, Montgomery's 21st Army Group, 12th Army Group under Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, and 6th Army Group under Lieutenant General Jacob Devers, on a broad front against a strong German defense.
After the collapse of the Axis forces in Normandy, Montgomery first raised with Eisenhower the idea of changing Allied strategy to a single thrust advance by his own 21st Army Group through northern France and the Low Countries and into Germany. On 23 August, Montgomery at last pressured Eisenhower into agreeing that 21st Army Group's thrust into northern France should have priority.
Montgomery issued formal orders for Operation Market Garden on 12 September. The plan called for First Allied Airborne Army to assist Second British Army in a rapid advance from the Meuse-Escaunt Canal all the way to Nunspeet on the Zuider Zee almost 160km (100 miles) away, before turning east into Germany. The airborne troops would capture bridges over the major rivers and canals at three towns, each with a population in 1944 of about 90,000: Eindhoven, about 20km (13miles) from the start line, Nijmegen 85km (53 miles) away, and Arnhem 100km (64 miles) away. These airdrops would occur on three successive days.
British paratroopers at Arnhem, 1944. Illustrated by Kevin Lyles © Osprey Publishing Ltd. Taken from Elite 1: The Paras 1940-84. http://www.ospreypublishing.com/title_detail.php/title=Q5731
The plan was for each of the airborne divisions to land as a formed body in open country about 10km (6 miles) from its main objective, and then advance to capture it. If everything worked, each of the three complete divisions would finish after three days holding an all-round perimeter of at least 40km (25miles) while ground forces arrived.
Unfortunately, these distances and timescales only made sense if the German troops were not in fact going to fight. Meanwhile, the Allied ground advance would be made along a tree-lined double track road which ran through countryside that was almost entirely flat and well suited to the defense.
To find out more about this book, or to purchase your copy, head over to OspreyPublishing.com
FRAGmentary Orders are updates to previously-published missions. In this section we provide a rundown of the latest updates from Matrix Games.
The Matrix Personnel Dossier is an opportunity to get to know the developers behind the titles published by Matrix Games. This week we're spending a few minutes with Gregor Whiley, the developer behind Battlefront.
If you could be present as an observer for any battle in history, which one, and why?
Agincourt, for the history and the atmosphere and the fact that the battle is small enough for a single observer to see much of what is going on. Then, when battle was fully joined, you could pick up your poleaxe and wade in.
First military book you read?
John Erickson's 'Road to Stalingrad'.
First game you ever bought?
First computer game was Southern Command, an SSI wargame that, funnily enough, was written by Roger Keating. First boardgame was Fortress Europa.
What game turned you on to strategy gaming?
It all started with D&D, which led to fantasy miniatures, naval miniatures, boardagmes, wargames and then computer games.
Coolest military machine (current or historical)?
Me 262, the perfect marriage of form and function (if you ignore the operating life of the jet engines, which was measured in hours). Given an unlimited budget I'd buy one of the replicas.
Last time I walked more than 1 mile was?
I don't walk, I ride my bike. I did 150K last weekend, same again this weekend
Our Parting Shot section is intended to be a mix of rumor, commentary, recap, and whatever else doesn't fit in with the other sections.
First off, a little bit about what to expect in coming newsletter editions. Our goal with the Matrix Games newsletter is to use it as a way of highlighting up-and-coming or just-released products to meet the enthusiasm for titles when they're at their peak. As a result, if you see a new title hot off the presses, expect the newsletter that follows it to contain plenty of digital goodies to whet your strategic appetite for that brand new game. This doesn't mean, however, that once a game has been out for a while that its appeal has at all diminished. We're also planning to revisit a few seasoned Matrix hits to give you the low down on what their venerable developers are working on next. Speaking of venerable development teams, I wouldn't be too surprised to see some feature articles coming from the TOAD team sometime shortly, especially since TOAW III has recently been updated...
As far as rumors are concerned, we've got two juicy tidbits for you this issue. First, expect to see some details and perhaps even a release announcement for the next title in the Panzer Command series very shortly. And second, we can't say much but... you may also soon hear the rumble of aircraft on the Matrix Games aircraft carrier flight deck for another currently "nameless" naval strategy title. Stay tuned to find out more...
Last but not least we'd like to mention that our public relations director, Joe Lieberman, has left Matrix to pursue other things. Holding down the PR end of things at Matrix now are Brant Guillory and Sean Drummy.
Thanks for reading!
The Newsletter Team