In October 2014, 70 years after the failure of Field Marshall Montgomery’s ambitious plan to jump the Rhine, we released two pairs of 16mm BattleDice. These, and later releases in this series, may be used to game various engagements during Operation Market-Garden. The historical module A Bridge Too Far, the historical Starter Kit publication Decision at Elst, and Hell’s Highway, a Tactical Mission (TM), or mini-campaign game from Lone Canuck Publishing, are only a few of the ASL publications where our BattleDice may find a place at the table.
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|Anticipated pace of Allied operations 17-20 Sep 44|
The initial British and German pairs in our Operation Market-Garden series each include a white die with a roundel. The white dice are designed to be paired with other British and German color dice in this series, thereby reducing overall cost. With the exception of the Arnheim die, all of the dice in this series may used to fight battles elsewhere, be it in Normandy, the Ardennes, or the Eastern Front—in the case of the German dice.
|Glider (E8.) and Paratroop Landings (E9.) are a dicefest. May as well make the most of it. :)|
As Starter Kit players (re)learn when they fight for the town of Elst, ASL is all about making toughs decisions. But with so many things to consider before making a decision, some important information can be overlooked in the heat of the battle. With this in mind, we applied rate-of-fire reminders to the deuce and the trey (three-spot) of each color die. The ROF symbols mimic the symbols found on weapon counters.1
|There are heaps of tough decisions to make at Elst. Deciding which dice to use shouldn't be one of them.|
The battle depicted in Decision at Elst took place on “The Island,” a large expanse of land sandwiched between the Waal and Rhine rivers. The main formation involved on the Allied side was the 214th Infantry Brigade, 43rd Wessex Infantry Division, with the 8th Armoured Brigade in direct support. Opposing them was a potpourri of German units—under the leadership of Major Hans Peter Knaust, and otherwise known as Kampfgruppe Knaust.
|All color dice in our Arnhem series have ROF reminders.|
The 43rd Wessex Infantry Division fought as part of British XXX Corps during Operation Market-Garden.2 The 43rd took the lead after Nijmegen, and advanced through the difficult polder country of “The Island.” The gold wyvern, which resembles a dragon, was the divisional symbol, and explains the division’s nickname: the Yellow Devils. insert wyvern patch
|43rd Wessex pair|
I wanted a generic symbol to represent the variety of smaller formations and units that fought on the German side during the Allied drive for Arnhem. While searching for ideas, I came upon a proposed Arnheim Shield. The shield was never produced, but I liked the look of “1944” on the prototype.
|Proposed German shield for the battle Arnhem (Arnheim).|
The Arnheim pair also incorporates a design element that helps “pair” it with the British dice in the series. By using the pre-1919 cockade of the German Empire, I was able to use a red pip on each white die. The cockade was worn on German headdress in both World Wars. I think it works well with the British roundel, or “bulls-eye,” itself a version of the French cockade that first appeared on French aircraft in 1915. The black die in this set got two thumbs up from Helen.
The airborne, or “Market,” element of the operation was tasked with securing bridges all along the route to Arnhem. The men of the 1st British Airborne Division were the northernmost “crossing guards.” The “Red Devils” would seize the bridges over the Lower Rhine over which the tanks of Guards Armoured Division would cross. If they succeeded, the Allies would outflank the Westwall—which did not extend north of the Rhine, and be poised to launch a follow-up offensive into the heart of Germany.
|The Westwall was built between 1938 and 1940|
On 17 September 1944, the “Red Devils” of the British 1st Airborne Division landed on the outskirts of Arnhem. A battalion-sized force managed to secure the north end of the road bridge over the Rhine that same day. This proved to be the zenith of British success. To their surprise, British paratroopers and glidermen found themselves besieged by an SS Panzer Corps.
|Fateful first day: paras push east toward Arnhem bridge.|
I had given some thought to producing a die for the British Airborne forces as early as 2011. At the time, I was worried that a mythical hero mounted on a winged stallion was too detailed for even a 16mm die. (However, I was pleased, and a little surprised, at how well the Turul transferred to the green Hungarian die in our first HASL set.) No image came close to matching the symbolism of Bellerophon on Pegasus, however.
Light-blue foil was always a given, but I only settled upon a red die earlier this year. (I had briefly considered using a pink die, but even Helen was against the idea.) The text was likewise a late addition to the design. I have no idea why I it had not occurred to me earlier. I used the same typeface as I had for the 43rd Wessex die, and kept the text lower case, and informal looking.3 Our Pegasus die marks the first time that we have used this particular colour combination.
|To their surprise, British paras found themselves attacked by "French" tanks at Arnhem.|
General Horrocks, commander of British XXX Corps, gave his most powerful formation the task of punching a hole in the German line, and racing headlong for Arnhem. The narrow frontage and soft ground robbed the Guards Armoured Division of its tactical flexibility. When the advance stalled at Nijmegen, the division’s limited complement of infantry was ground down to a handful of platoons as the guardsmen tried to breakthrough a strong blocking force based on a battle group of 10. SS-Panzer Division. The hitting power of the Guards Armoured was weakened further on 22 September, when a combat team was ordered south, back along what the men of the US 101st Airborne Division had dubbed “Hell’s Highway.” The Germans had cut the main supply route of XXX Corps. Time was running out for the 1st Airborne at Arnhem.
The die that I designed to represent the British Guards Armoured Division is at once straightforward, and complicated. The elements of the design are simple enough: a shield, an eye, and some text. However, there is, as they say, more to the die than meets the eye. (Sorry, that was too hard to resist.)
|Guards Armoured Division crosses bridge at Nijmegen.|
The design is a direct consequence of my efforts to create two-tone BattleDice for Stalingrad. But whereas the Stalingrad designs tend to contrast an image in one colour with text in another, several of the designs in the Market-Garden series use two colours to form a two-tone image. Indeed, some designs cry out for this treatment. However, stamping more than one colour of foil invariably leads to problems with alignment. Because each colour is stamped separately, and by hand, it is rare that each component of the artwork is perfectly aligned. I believe that the trade-off is worth it, however.
The emblem of the Guards Armoured Division is a red shield enclosing a white eye on a dark-blue background. While a monochrome design may have worked, I wanted the all-seeing eye to be the focal point of the die.4 So I took advantage of the circular surface of the die and widened (and shortened) the shield. This allowed me to enlarge the eye. These transformations left a noticeable space above the shield. I had never intended to add text to this die, but added it almost as an afterthought. In retrospect, the text tied the three British coloured dice in this series together. Serendipity not forethought carried the day.
|Equivalent to the Sherman IIC(a) in game terms, the "Firefly" combined the exemplary penetrating power of the British 17-pounder anti-tank gun (in previous photograph) with the mobility of the American M4 series of tanks.|
I stuck with the typeface that I had used for the rest of British dice in the series. The only difference was that I used uppercase letters. This made for a tidier design, as a lower case “g” would have extended well below the baseline of the type. Uppercase, or capital, letters are also more formal, befitting the status of guardsmen to the British monarch. Moreover, despite having the text in white, the “Eye of Providence” still predominates.
|"Red Devils," Guards Armoured|
The Americans are coming!
Operation Comet, Montgomery’s original plan to seize bridges from Grave to Arnhem by coup de main, was primarily a British show. The British 1st Airborne Division, consisting of three parachute brigades, the 1st Airlanding (glider) Brigade, and divisional troops, was to be augmented by the 4th (British) Parachute Brigade, and the 1st Independent (Polish) Parachute Brigade. Market-Garden was, in some respects, less ambitious. The new plan involved capturing and holding bridges as far south as Eindhoven. However, Montgomery now had two additional airborne divisions at his disposal: the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. British airborne forces would concentrate entirely on Arnhem, while American troops secured the bridges and high ground along the route to the prize.
|Some dropzones were remarkably close to German border.|
Paramarines excepted, MMP has yet to publish a historical module with US paratroopers.5 That may change if their Normandy project comes to fruition. In the mean time, there are plenty of scenarios that involve the singular 7-4-7 squad. But truth be told, I included US Airborne Divisions in this HASL series because of my involvement with a publication released on the 71st anniversary of Operation Market-Garden.
George Kelln’s “Hell’s Highway” is an accessible campaign game that can be played over the course of one weekend. The pack includes five scenarios that also make the most of the beautifully rendered, historical map of Mariaheide, the Netherlands.6 Much of the action takes place between elements of the 101st Airborne Division, and Panzer Brigade 107. The Americans are supported by Shermans of the 44th Royal Tank Regiment, which was subordinated to the 101st during the battle. During the latter stages of the campaign game, a battle group of the Guards Armoured Division enters play, and a combat team from this formation also guest stars in one of the scenarios.
|"Liberation" could prove fleeting.|
Once I decided to include a die for the 101st Airborne, it made sense to include one for the 82nd Airborne too. These divisions played important roles during Market-Garden, but also earlier, during the Battle of Normandy, and later, during the Battle of the Bulge.
The divisional symbols were the starting point for the designs. While I could not hope to replicate these symbols faithfully, I wanted to give players the illusion of authentic reproductions. In order to keep things simple, I removed the raptor’s tongue on the die representing the “Screaming Eagles.” (The pupil, seen on some patches, is apparently a postwar addition circa 1956.) Granted the tongue may have been noticeable at scale, but a tiny splash of red was hardly worth the cost of a third silicon stamp.
|16mm Screaming eagles: authentic factory defects|
The design for the 82nd Airborne also required some compromise, or artistic license, to pull off. It light of the feedback that we have received since we released this die, the “red” tab was an acceptable trade off. In fact, of all the Allied dice in this series, the “All-American” die has proven the most popular.
|16mm "Jump wings"|
Although I considered creating a generic white die (with a green US star) to accompany the “airborne” dice, I settled for something more in keeping with the esprit de corps of the men who served in these divisions. Now if only MMP were to release 7-4-7 squads with parachute wings in their forthcoming Normandy HASL.7
|Paratrooper versus paramarine|
|US Airborne set of three|
Although still reforming following its retreat from France, the battered II SS Panzer Korps remained a potent fighting force. Battle groups drawn from two SS Panzer Divisions counterattacked the British at Arnhem, and held XXX Corps at bay in Nijmegen. These Waffen-SS formations had received their baptisms of fire against the Red Army in the spring, and had been ground down during the fighting in France that summer. However, what little armour they retained was more than a match for the light infantry that dropped into Dutch territory on 17 September.
|Bad to the bone? According to most contemporary accounts of the battle, the Waffen-SS treated Allied prisoners of war, and the wounded in particular, with respect and chivalry.|
I modelled the dice for these divisions on the die that I created for 8. SS “Florian Geyer” Kavallerie-Division. In keeping with the earlier design, I included each division’s “honorific,” or cuff title, below the shield. But in neither case did I include any divisional number. Aside from the text, these dice therefore replicate the contemporary symbols used by their respective formations.
|9 and 10 SS PzD|
Owners of A Bridge Too Far may appreciate having some dedicated Waffen-SS dice. Meanwhile, Ostfront junkies should find heaps of opportunities to roll these bad boys in scenarios set in the east, just as fans of Normandy will too.
In June 1943, the 25th Infantry Division (motorized) was reorganized as a Panzergrenadier, or mechanized infantry, formation. A year later, the division was all but destroyed during Operation Bagration, the massive Soviet offensive that pushed the Germans back to Poland. There the remnants of the Swabian division were reformed as Panzer Brigade 107.
The Panzerbrigade were created on the orders of Hitler. These small formations were designed to be more nimble than the Panzer divisions. Equipped with the latest armoured fighting vehicles, these brigades wielded considerable firepower. Their primary weakness was in the quality and number of their infantrymen, many of whom were hastily trained and poorly motivated. Panzer Brigade 107 was something of an exception in this regard. Before deploying to the west in September 1944, it received a longer period of training than most brigades—albeit much of this training was geared toward combat on the eastern front. In the end, the extra weapon systems lavished upon the brigade failed to offset its lack of tactical expertise and limited infantry complement. Following mixed success during Operation Market-Garden, Panzer Brigade 107 was disbanded, and its components used to reconstitute 25. Panzergrenadier-Division in late October.
|Panzerbrigade 107 - 25. Panzergrenadier-Division|
Some of you may be wondering why I bothered creating a die for a brigade that played a limited role in the battle for Arnhem. From a historical perspective, this formation is important because it severed the main supply route of XXX Corps for a critical 36-hour period. More important for our purposes is the fact that Panzerbrigade 107 is the villain in Hell’s Highway. In fairness, I did not so much create a die for this brigade as for its parent formation 25. Panzergrenadier-Division.
|Hell's Highway is the first publication from Lone Canuck to include counters.|
During my research, I found several variations of the divisional symbol used by 25. Infanterie-Division as it was transformed into an increasingly mobile and powerful formation. Most versions featured three black antlers against either a white or gold field.8 I was particularly taken with the black on gold versions. However, this “stencil” design presents some technical challenges when stamping the pattern on a die. Because so much foil is applied at once, there is a tendency for some foil to adhere to the inner, that is, non-foil portions of the design.
Happily for me, there exists some evidence for the less common version of the symbol. Have another look at the front of the halftrack in the spread of Panzerbrigade 107 above. The photograph is revealing. It was taken in the Netherlands during September (or possibly October) 1944. Therefore, it arguably represents a vehicle belonging to Panzerbrigade 107 prior to the brigade’s “return” to 25. Panzergrenadier-Division. Although there is some speculation as to what colours were used, is not unreasonable to assume that the antlers (and the outline of the shield) are yellow (or possibly white). The Wehrmacht commonly used both colours for their tactical symbols. I would like to think that the antlers were yellow. Whatever the case, I like the look of gold foil on black.
|Three stag's antlers on the coat of arms of Württemberg.|
The number “25” is fanciful, but nonetheless serves to remind players what division they are dealing with. This formation was originally raised in 1936. It fought in Poland in 1939, and in France the following year. The division then spent three years on the eastern front, from Barbarossa to Bagration. From October 1944 to January of the following year, 25. Panzergrenadier-Division battled in France before returning to the east where it fought the Soviets until the war’s end. If players cannot find a use for this attractive die, they are not trying very hard. Mate it with the white die from our Arnheim pair, and roll antlers!
|25. PzGren-Div/Pz Bde 107|
1. We liked this idea so much that we made the ROF reminders a standard feature on subsequent HASL dice such as our Stalingrad series. We also added these symbols to our latest set of anniversary BattleDice.
2. The division participated in the fighting in Normandy as well, including a fierce battle for Hill 112 against 9. SS Panzer-Division “Hohenstaufen,” and later 10. SS “Frundsberg.”
3. I chose the Plantagenet Cherokee typeface for the Wessex die primarily because I liked the appearance of the numerals four and three, especially when enlarged.
4. During a trip to the Riviera in 1989, I recall seeing dozen of blue fishing boats with eyes painted on the bows. However, this practice is not confined to the Mediterranean. Fishermen in Asia adorn their watercraft with similar eyes. Superstition is a universal trait, and ASL players are not immune to its pull.
5. The 5-5-8 Paramarine squad debuted in the Historical Study Operation Watchtower, or Edson’s Ridge. Unlike the 7-4-7 squad, the counter for a Paramarine squad has a parachute symbol on it. This was necessary for distinguishing between Marine Raiders and Paramarines, which share the same Strength Factors (A1.2).
6. This Tactical Mission (TM) is also the first product released by Lone Canuck to contain counters. The pack includes a pair of Sherman V OP Tanks, half a dozen rocket-firing Typhoons, and extra SPW 251/21 halftracks for the campaign game (CG). We not only stock this item, but also offer discounts when purchased together with some of the BattleDice in the Market-Garden series. See our KitShop catalogue for details.
7. Wishful thinking perhaps, but not if there is a practical need to distinguish 7-4-7 assault engineers in the 82nd Airborne from those in the US 4th Infantry Division during a campaign game.
8. The antlers are taken from the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Württemberg, where historical Swabia was primarily located. Today as then, historical Swabia straddles in the modern states of Baden-Württemberg and Bayern (Bavaria).
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