Session 7 – Arnhem Sector, British 1st Airborne Division
Last session, 2nd Platoon made a heroic charge across open ground in the face of armed enemy opposition. Rhys killed in cold blood and so did Wickersham. Kingsley saw good men fall in battle because of his decisions and gained positive confirmation that Arnhem Road Bridge is not yet wired with explosives. After his cold-blooded killings last session, Rhys spirals into nihilism.
Day 1 – 17 September 1944 – 2207 hrs.
A Bad Start
In the big picture, not a hell of a lot happened – sorry 1st Lt. Kingsley – the first session was great for you, this one, not so much. For Cpl. Rhys, in particular, and for L/Cpl. Wickersham too, this is their defining session.
After the meeting with Kingsley, Rhys heads up to the fourth floor and spots a couple of Germans moving through the close under the building opposite them, to the east. He pops the pin on a grenade and throws it through the window at them, killing them in the confined space below. He stands there, observing their fate in a completely detached way. The Germans in the opposite building start shooting back after the detonation and Rhys, lingering in the window, takes fire.
Rhys withdraws out of the flat and into the hallway, not hurt; but, more wound up than before. He encounters L/Cpl. Johnson and Pvt. Thornburg in the hall. They notice him but pretend they don’t. They know he killed those Germans in cold blood and they haven’t come to terms with it. So Rhys leaves them behind without a word and heads off in search of Sgt. Powell, who was missing from the 2nd Platoon staff meeting last session. Johnson and Thornburg are more than happy to see him go.
Rhys heads south and then east through the outer ring of the apartment complex. Then, he hears a heavy German accent speaking in English. He briefly listens in at the door and deduces that the Germans have a British prisoner and are interrogating him. So Rhys kicks in the door.
There are three German soldiers in the room along with Sgt. Powell. A German officer is interrogating Powell and a NCO is covering Powell with a rifle. The other German, who is supposed to be covering the door with his SMG, is actually paying more attention to the interrogation. So, Rhys gets the drop on them.
Rhys steps in and fires on the SMG-toting guard, killing him where he stands. A few haphazard shots are fired back, causing Rhys stress. The Germans are stunned by the sudden interruption. Rhys fixes his bayonet. Powell seizes the opportunity and tackles the NCO guarding him while Rhys readies himself to spear the officer.
Rhys stabs the officer with fixed bayonet and the officer falls down, wounded, but not finished. Rhys is completely absorbed, so I have his player roll for Powell, who is fighting for his life, unarmed, against an armed enemy without any help from Rhys. Rhys’ player blows the roll.
Rhys hears the sounds of Powell’s life being extinguished but feet from him while, totally aloof, he stares down the German officer in front of him, who is fumbling for his own pistol. Rhys clears his mind for a moment and wheels around. The German that killed Powell is standing on top of him, knife drawn and covered in Powell’s blood. Rhys spears him and, in return, is shot in the back by the German officer.
Stunned, Rhys pauses. The German officer, in poor shape himself, let’s his gun arm fall to the ground in exhaustion. Rhys turns around, one slow, leaden footfall after the other. The officer is paralytic. With the last of his strength, Rhys lunges toward the German officer and buries his bayoneted rifle into the German’s skull. Then he collapses on top of the German. Rhys is down for the count.
A Worse End to an Already Bad Day
Meanwhile, Wickersham is making his rounds and he heads up to the fourth floor. There, he encounters Johnson and Thornburg. He asks where Rhys is and they dismissively point, “Over there, by himself.” Bobby shames them into coming with him in search of Rhys and they reluctantly follow. They hear the gunshots and the ensuing struggle coming from down the hall and rush to help.
When Wickersham gets there, he sees five bodies and one of them is Rhys. Bobby quickly checks to see if anyone’s alive: Rhys is hanging on; but, he’s critical. Everyone else is finished.
Bobby stabilizes Rhys with a successful medic roll. This is where the two characters really clicked, the scene they had in the previous session after Rhys had just killed his second lot of unarmed Germans and Wickersham had just induced fatal bleeding in his patient was just foreplay. I don’t think I can do it justice in my dry exposition, so I’ll leave it to your imagination. In summary, Rhys had a bit of an emotional meltdown and Wickersham did his damndest to keep it together himself; but, wasn’t; entirely successful either. In the end, they bonded, big time.
In parting, Bobby wants Rhys to retire to the field hospital to get real medical treatment and away from the stress of combat. Rhys asserts that he’s fine, even though he clearly isn’t and they are left at an impasse. Rhys ultimately guilts/calls Wickersham’s bluff, so Bobby leaves Rhys there while Johnson and Thornburg scrounge for “food and medical supplies” in the adjacent flats. Wickersham doesn’t press the issue; but, returns to Kingsley with Powell’s dog tag instead.
When Wickersham meets up with Kingsley, Kingsley is busy reorganizing his platoon. Bobby informs him of Powell’s death and Kingsley runs down his mental list of assault squad’s corporals for acting sergeant duty. Rhys is Kingsley’s first choice. Bobby tells him that Rhys is barely holding on to his sanity and is unfit for such a duty. So Kingsley assesses the situation. I give him the pros and cons of the two corporals available to him and he chooses the one who thinks better on his feet for the job, passing over the assistant squad leader and Rhys, who are both senior.
In the background, Kingsley consolidated 2nd Platoon’s gains and is poised to oust the Germans from the apartment complex. It’s now the wee hours of day 2.
It was a short session. That’s where we left it.
Tell us about the maps! You make them in prep, not at the table? I imagine you’re working from historical sources? They’re gorgeous.
Wow, thanks! Yeah, I do the base layer of the map in prep. I start with a collection of any historical maps, diagrams, or other information describing the area I can find (as well as Google maps). They are “inspired by” historically (and/or presently accurate) maps: a kluge of factual information (my main source is “It Never Snows in September) and my own creativity. I start with a sketch in pencil, so I can erase features I don’t like. Once I have the map I want roughed-in, I trace over my sketch in pen, using different width pens and, in some cases, colors too. Then, I erase the pencil sketch and scan the map. I then upload the map to Infrno, which is how we play online together. Once in Infrno, the tool’s basic draw features allow me to overlay the base map with the red and blue force dispositions you see above. A couple of times a session, I do a screen-grab and archive it for my blog posts.
The style is based on hand-drawn, military maps I’ve found on the Internet. I tried to adopt what I thought were the best features of those maps (to the extent that I can replicate them); my own mapping style; as well as mapping symbology from MIL-STD-2525 (revision B), the joint standard for display of tactical information. I learn something new about the mapping process with each map I make for this game, so I try to add some new type of detail each time.
I do map making in prep because I love making maps and because Infrno’s draw tools are fine for overlays; but, actually composing a map is like watching paint dry for everyone else and the result is definitely not worth the hassle. Hand drawing and scanning in real time is off the table. So, if we were sitting at a real game table and not a virtual one, I’d draw a bunch more maps and do most of it at the table – they wouldn’t be as pretty – but, I’d actually draw out, “OK, this is your door Rhys. You kick it down, cool – this is what you see: adjoining rooms, a couple of armed Germans, and a couple of unarmed ones; here are your squad mates.” I don’t do maps at this level of detail for our online game, because what actually happens in play is totally spontaneous. I don’t want to railroad them to something or try to guess at what they might do next. That’s why I just have area maps and detail maps of the objectives.
Very cool, thanks!