Pegasus Bridge is both the first operation on the ground that was part of the D-Day landings of World War II and also an older solitaire wargame covering the same topic available in issue 122 of Strategy & Tactics magazine. The game is actually as old as I am, being first put out in 1988. The reason I even found out about this game is that I was trying to get a hold of Raid at St. Nazaire, which is nigh on impossible without spending a pretty penny. Pegasus Bridge is that game’s predescessor using a very similar system and an almost identical aesthetic. It’s available on the markets for less than $30 on the regular so I took the plunge and picked it up on ebay.
Pegasus was the code name for the bridge at Benouville that spanned the Caen canal. It was to be a key holding for crossing the waterway after British troops landed on Sword Beach as well as preventing reinforcements from coming across. In the wee hours before D-Day, D Company of the 2nd Batallion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire light infantry descended on Benouville silently in gliders with almost complete surprise.
Publisher: World Wide Wargames
Designer: Robert G. Markham, Mark Seaman
Time: 60-120 mins.
In this simulation you take control of D Company to test your mettle against the German defences and try to achieve an equal or even better outcome of this action. Historically the Germans were caught almost completely unawares and a decisive victory was won by the British.
The first part of the game is a landing sequence where your gliders come in from two edges of the map to land, and then debark their troops. It’s some random dice rolling that move along a specific set of spaces (pictured below). At first I thought it was a little random and arbitrary, but then the more I thought about trying to land an unpowered glider in the pitch black in foreign occupied territory, the more realistic I felt the landings were. When my gliders started to veer too close to the river I found myself leaning to the left trying to will the dice to roll in that direction. It ended up being kinda neat.
After the initial landing phase the game is very structured between moving and fighting and some upkeep style phases. Units have a movement point value and an attack strength, you expend MPs to move along connections between areas based on terrain and enemy units present. This point to point movement isn’t usually my favourite style, but it intrigued me in a solitaire game for a few reasons. For me point to point movement is a little less strategic feeling (and I think that it is just a perception) but in a solo game I don’t necessarily want to get bogged down in the nitty gritty. In Pegasus Bridge movement felt fast paced because you would cover larger portions of the map with a move than had it been fully hex based, so it gives a little bit more of a feel of your units running around stealthily at night causing confusion.
Combat is a fairly simple procedure, you add up your combat strength and then apply a small set of modifiers, based on range, obstructions and a few other factors and then roll on a table. The results are applied and you move on. There’s some extra bits and pieces like firing the captured Anti-Tank gun or grenade attacks, which are limited but fun to picture: Just an infantry platoon running up to a bunker and tossing in a bunch of grenades gives you a pretty satisfying feeling.
The German Garrison in the historical game is extremely weak, you’ll steam roll it almost everytime, which felt kind of unsatisfying, but when the reinforcements arrived in a big column of panzers the game took a turn for the better. That being said I had sufficient time to erect very sturdy defenses and arrange my forces optimally, so my pincer ambush worked like a charm. After the alloted turns are completed you total your VPs for holding the bridge intact, clearing bunkers, killing key german officials and keeping your own men alive. All in all it’s a solid little solo simulation, but you’ll probably need some help with the rules as written, which we’ll discuss a little later.
This is going to be somewhat similar to Intruder, where the components ‘are-what-they-are’. This game is both old, and it comes in a magazine, so you’re never going to get deluxe Victory Point Games style counters and map boards etc. The counters are small, plain, and functional. It’s not much to look at at times – especially the British forces – but they work. The map is actually really nice; it was designed and put together by Rodger from RBM Studios [Vice President of GMT and responsible for C3i magazine and a majority of GMT’s artwork/cartography]. I say that because I own a few games like Air Assault Malta and France 1944 that have distinctly drab and monotone maps, and these were released more recently than Pegasus Bridge. So the vibrancy and clarity is something that was a high point of the game, at least comparitively. The rulebook that comes in the magazine is a travesty, however, so you can try to struggle through it like I did for a while – but I would recommend giving up and going on BGG and downloading the updated rules.
The game comes with three scenarios, and within those there’s a number of different possible set ups/reinfocement combos that are randomly drawn. With that in mind there’s some different ways the game can play out each time. Conversely the map and the British glider landings are fairly constrained. You’ll always land in the same(ish) area for historical and geographical reasons.
The big changes then are the German set up which can potentially be extremely strong to start with providing a much stiffer challenge. I think this has maybe two or three more serious plays in it whilst I play around with some of those set ups. The objectives will always be the same and the game can feel a little linear, both narratively and strategically. Something I will say is that the historical scenario is definitely just for learning the game, the experience wasn’t actually all that fulfilling just because it was very easy. But that’s why they included the alternate set ups etc, so you would have a more challenging game in subsequent tries.
I enjoyed the mechanisms, but getting to grips with them was very difficult at times, due to the rulebook. It might sound like hyperbole but I found that the game was almost unplayable with the rules as written. There’s just too many vagueries and bits that are unclear. It’s also an old magazine insert so it’s just from an age before rulebooks the likes of GMT and VPG put out that are detailed, indexed and cross referenced. Seriously though, if you get this game go to this page and get the newly rewritten rules and sequence of play that help to clarify everything.
Mechanicswise the game is actually really easy once you get them down, I found that once I knew the rules I pounded through the game very quickly, there’s very little maintainance and book keeping so you just move-fight, move-fight.
There is a good amount of strategy to the game, although in the learning scenario it’s very predictable and therefore strategically unsatisfying. In the alternative scenarios where the German defenses are brimming with Panzer IV’s and military grade troops it’s a different and much more rewarding game. You have to keep your leaders stacked with platoons of the matching names in order to maintain bonuses in combat, and setting up timely defenses and traps for incoming reinforcements can be nailbiting stuff. Enemy armor moves very quickly and is hard to take out, so there’s a lot to be said for good planning. With all that in mind this game is still very much on the lighter, fun side of war games. The game at times can feel frantic as you run around in the dark with no cover and try to take the enemy by surprise.
Pegasus Bridge is a decent simulation. It would have been much more enjoyable had I had the revised rules from the get-go, so if you do pick this up they are seriously a MUST. Once you get the rules down pat it’s a fast paced move and fight style game that presents a unique, if somewhat static challenge. For the price point it was a good purchase; it was cheap and I will get a few plays out of it. It probably also helps that I’m English so I have that extra affinity for the game and the factions presented therein. This has definitely rewhetted my appetite for Raid on St. Nazaire, which is much more challenging and lethal by all accounts. That’s a game I printed all the components out for from BGG, and now I just need to mount the counters, which I’m dreading.