Holland ’44: Operation Market-Garden, September 1944 from GMT Games is an operational level game in the 44′ Series (including Ardennes ’44 (2003) and Normandy ’44 (2010)) designed by Mark Simonitch. The game takes a look at the failed combined operation of the British 1st Airborne Division, the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions (the Market portion of the operation) and 30th Corps supported by 8th Corps and 12th Corps on the advance up the highway to link up with the airborne troops dropped in to secure 3 key bridges, including Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem.
In this series of Action Points, we will take a look at several distinct portions of the game in order to give you a look into some of the mechanics that make this a great simulation of the operation. In this first Action Point, we will take a look at the Airborne units, their landing procedure, how they move and fight and some of their objectives.
First off, the Airlanding Phase can only occur once each day, either in the AM or PM part of the turn, but never during a night turn. The Turn 1 Procedure is slightly different as the Allies will be landing a lot of units and don’t have to worry about weather as it is Clear on Turn 1. The other condition that must be met in following rounds though to allow for an Airlanding is the appropriate weather. Airborne units can only land if the weather is Clear or Cloudy. The weather can be very frustrating and limit the reinforcements that you can bring to the aid of the three landing groups, including the 1st Airborne Division around Arnhem Bridge, the 82nd Airborne Division near Nijmegen Bridge and the 101st Airborne Division north of Eindhoven Bridge.
You can see on the Weather Table that beside the different results are numbers in parenthesis. This is the number of Airlanding Points that are allowed in each type of weather. 1 Airlanding Point is equal to one unit of any size. If they Allied player has more scheduled reinforcements that can land in any given turn, they get to choose which units to land.
Each airborne unit has a specific drop zone printed on their counters and these are the zones that they have to attempt to land at. On Turn 1, there is no leeway to where the units can land but in later turns there is leeway and units can land on or adjacent to their printed drop zone. After Turn 6, the airborne units can choose to land on any one of their division’s drop zones or choose to land on the hex containing their Airborne Supply Head. This change is due to the changing conditions as fighting continues and drop zones are either held or lost to enemy units.
The Airlanding Procedure is pretty simple, especially during Turn 1. On Turn 1, the Allied player will roll 1 die per hex and simply consult The Airlanding Table and use those results to affect only one infantry type unit in that landing hex. Later in the game, the Allied player will roll a die for each unit in each hex and apply the results separately.
During Turn 1, any roll less than 4 is a no effect result and means that the landing went as planned. The units are not effected and all units in this drop zone land ready to move and fight. If a 5 is rolled, this is an “S” result which means the unit is Scattered. Scattered units can only use Tactical Movement (which is limited to 2 hexes) and can attack but have their Attack Strength halved. If the Scattered unit is an Artillery unit, it will be unable to offer Artillery Support to combat this turn.
Other results include “S1” and “S2”, which means Scattered with resulting reductions, either one step or 2 steps. These steps are then tracked on the Airborne Replacement Track with the appropriate division marker. With the result of S2, the first reduction in tracked on the Airborne Replacement Track but the second reduction is lost. Artillery units are handled a bit differently with an S1 result. They will not lose a step but will be flipped to their Fired side and marked with a Scattered marker. An S2 result will eliminate Artillery units.
You will also notice on the Airlanding Table, that there are modifiers for different situations or when the landing spot is not on a clear terrain hex. As the game advances, pressure from the German defense will close or hold certain landing zones and if the zone is a contested or enemy-controlled hex, will suffer a +2 or +3 modifier, which will make it more likely that the landing units suffer S1 and S2 results.
In Holland ’44, Airborne units are considered Elite. If a majority of the steps contained in the lead formation are Elite, they will gain a favorable 1 column shift to the right on the CRT for what is referred to as the Morale Shift. In the example picture below, this Morale Shift is really key in the 1st Airborne units being able to damage the SS units that they will encounter on their way to their Turn 1 objectives, mainly Arnhem Bridge.
In looking at the Airborne units counters, you will notice that they are generally 4-5-3 or 3-3-3 units. Their Attack Strength is a 4 or 3, their Defense Strength is a 5 or 3 and their Movement Allowance is a 3. You will also notice that their Defense Strength has a red box around the number which designates them as Elite units. Notice by contrast the German Security Forces unit to the far left which has a white box which means it is a Low Quality unit and it will suffer a negative column shift when fighting if all units involved are Low Quality.
On the right side of the counter, you can also see a small white number in a black box. On the Airborne units, most of them have a 2 or a 3. This means that the unit is either a 2 or 3 step unit and can take multiple reductions before being eliminated.
Move and Fight
Airborne units are mobile and pack a punch. They even have limited Artillery Support as well, which provides additional favorable column shifts in combat if the Artillery units are in range. First, let’s take a look at movement. In the above picture, you will notice that after landing, the British 1st Airborne Division is already on the move attempting to establish a defensible perimeter to protect future drop zones, attacking the SS units located to the northwest of Arnhem Bridge, while also attempting to rush their more powerful 4-5-3 units to the bridge to control it as quickly as possible.
Using Extended Movement, one of the Airborne units that landed in Drop Zone X is able to just make it to the outskirts of Arnhem. Extended Movement simply provide an additional 2 Movement Points to a unit that doesn’t pass through an Enemy Zone of Control nor ends its move adjacent to an enemy unit. This allowed the British 2/1P/1 unit to make it to the Town hex 6221, which should allow him to continue next round all the way to the Unknown Unit located in hex 6122 to control the north end of Arnhem Bridge. The German units can only use Tactical Movement during Turn 1 (remember that Tactical Movement is only 2 hexes) so they will should be unable to stop the 1st Airborne Division from getting at least 2 or 3 units to control the bridge at the end of Turn 2.
Lets now take a look at the combat that will occur between the 3 Airborne units that are surrounding the Krafft SS Division in hex 6319. First off, the Allied player will add up the Attack Strengths of his units. In this case, his final Attack Strength will be a total of 11 (4 + 3 + 4 = 11) to the Defense Strength of 5 for the SS unit. 11-5 equates to 2-1 odds but the Airborne units will also receive a favorable column shift for their Elite Status so will be rolling on the 3-1 column. The Woods hex offers no modification to combat. The Allied player rolls a 4 which equates to a DR result. This means the Krafft SS unit must retreat 2 hexes and place a Disrupted marker on the unit. With a successful attack, each of the 3 participating units may advance one space in any direction. In this case, they choose to advance once space closer to Arnhem Bridge. I could have used the Artillery unit located in hex 6317 to offer an additional favorable column shift from 3-1 odds to 4-1 odds but decided not to as I want to use that unit to attack the bridge if possible. The difference in the columns are also very tough as even though this shift to the 4-1 column made the odds greater for the Allied units, the end roll of 4 would have actually hurt the Allies as the result would have been an A1/D1, which means each side will take a reduction and the defender would have to retreat 2 hexes.
Objectives for the Various Airborne Divisions
As you know, the three participating Airborne Divisions all had different objectives. The 1st Airborne are trying desperately to create perimeter around their landing zones while also putting up a defensive screen for German units approaching from the west and racing the German SS units to the hexes outside of Arnhem Bridge. These objectives are critical and will not be easy. In fact, it is possible for the 1st Airborne to control at most 3 hexes in that area, one Town hex and two City hexes, at the end of Round 2. Their first combat against the Krafft SS unit cannot end in an elimination result so the SS unit will retreat and on the German half of Turn 1 will simply use Tactical Movement to snug up next to the British 2/1P/1 unit in Town hex 6221. The unit can however use Infiltration movement to make it into hex 6122 to attack the Unknown unit on Turn 2 but I am not sure that is more beneficial than holding the SS units back allowing the British 3/1P/1 unit to take their place so they can move to hex 6223 to hold both City hexes. Interesting tactical decisions here for the 1st Airborne Division.
The 82nd have their hands full as they have to somehow land intact and make a rush to Nijmegen Bridge to establish themselves in this area. There are several Unknown units in the City and Town hexes here which can be a real cakewalk, if they all end up being 0-0-0 Garrison units (that get removed upon being uncovered). The also must immediately be concerned about attempting to gain control of the bridges at Mook (in this picture not yet controlled), Malden (shown as blown) and Hatert (intact and captured) as well as make progress toward capturing the bridge at Grave (shown as contested with 2 82nd Airborne units attacking from each direction), which can be attacked from both sides. Aside from taking bridges, they must also be concerned about protecting their drop hexes outside of Groesbeek from pressure coming from the German 406th Division that will arrive over a period of the next three turns to harass the 82nd’s flank. If the 82nd can’t get control of Grave by the end of Turn 2 and control their landing area, they are in for a very tough fight and will have to simply hunker down and await support from 30th Corps that is coming from the south.
The 101st Airborne Division has a tough task ahead of them as well, although they do not have much resistance at firs as they are only Unknown units at the bridges they are targeting including Veghel, Son and Best. These bridges have to be taken and you will have to hope that they are not blown by the German as part of their Bridge Phase. Of the three bridges here, Veghel and Son are the most important. They must have a way for 30th Corps to be able to get across the Wilhelmina Canal without having to do bridge assaults as they are simply brutal, as they halve the attacking units Attack Strength. The Germans will also have significant reinforcements coming onto the board to the west of this area following Turn 2 and the 101st must be quick about their work.
Holland ’44 is a fantastic simulation of this critical operation during World War II. The plan was audacious, and had the Allies been successful, would have most likely ended World War II in Europe by the end of 1944 and saved 6 month of hard fighting. I hope that you enjoyed this Action Point and got a good feel for the role that the Airborne units play in the game.
In our next Action Point, we will take a look at the starting situation for 30th Corps as they struggle to advance up Hell’s Highway to relive the beleaguered and cut off Airborne units before their initial success is wasted.