Nijmegan Bridges is a scenario for Memoir ’44 from the Terrain Pack, set during Operation Market Garden and authored by Borg himself. The Terrain Pack was the first major expansion for Memoir ’44, and the official scenario designers had not yet, in my opinion, fully mastered the subtle art. Though the map is interesting and the scenario uses the special rules in the Terrain Pack well, the inclusion of an Allied artillery piece turns what should be a fun battle of offense versus entrenched defense into a boring plink-fest. With the artillery removed, this scenario really shines.
It was hoped that the 82nd Airborne Paratroopers would be able to take the strongly held Nijmegen bridges during the early phases of Operation Market Garden, but other priorities and drops that put most of the Paras miles from their target, thwarted any serious attempts. The bridges would have to wait for the arrival of XXX Corp.
On September 20th, XXX Corp. mounted an attack on the Nijmegen road bridge, while the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in assault boats hit the Fort protecting the railroad bridge and then turned east. The railroad bridge was taken intact from both ends. As British tanks advanced toward the road bridge, the retreating Germans gave the order to blow it, but in a stroke of luck for the Allies, the demolition charges did not detonate and it also was captured.
The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.
Here’s a screenshot of the map.
The Allies have three infantry equipped with collapsible boats on their left flank, and a railroad bisects the map. The Germans can shelter in fortresses, and their whole field is protected by a Big Gun artillery piece. Many of the best rules from the Terrain Pack are on display here … and are made largely irrelevant by the single Allied artillery piece.
Let me explain. This map has a clearly designated Defensive player, with a smaller number of units and dramatically less firepower. To win, he or she must make skillful use of terrain and position to slowly win via attrition. A bold offensive strike is not really possible in the early or mid game thanks to massive Allied tank superiority. The dense terrain on this map gives the defensive player a number of options, and presents the offensive player with an interesting challenge. How can he or she bring his firepower to bear without taking disproportionate losses?
Oh, wait, the Allies have an artillery piece. Terrain and line of sign do not matter to artillery. Walk the artillery up, wear the axis down, plink plink plink, game over. In the face of that artillery, supported by tanks which make counter-offensives impossible, the battle becomes boring for the Germans and Allies alike.
Remove the Allied artillery piece, and all of a sudden it gets interesting. The Allies have clear force superiority, and can soak a ton of hits – but get too cocky and the Germans will rack up medals. Those bridges are tempting targets, but they are covered with a TON of units in heavy cover. The Allies have tanks, but can’t do much more than plink at a distance with them … unless a lucky retreat roll pushes the Axis in to the open. Possibilities and strategies open up, and the interesting terrain comes into play.
Try it both ways, and you’ll see what I mean. Skilled Axis players can have a ton of fun with this map, minus the Allied artillery, but as printed it is problematic.
Overall Evaluation – 2/5 (4/5 without the Allied artillery) As stated above, the artillery turns this into a boring plink-fest.
Balance Evaluation – Heavily Allied Favored (somewhat Allied Favored without the artillery). The Allied force advantage puts the ball in their court, but the Germans have a number of opportunities to strike back, and their Big Gun makes it nearly impossible for damaged Allied units to hide in the backfield. DoW Online gives this scenario 59/41 in the favor of the Allies. Many reports of Axis victories mentioned getting a lucky roll and knocking out the Allied artillery early. Coincidence?
First Turn Win Possibility – None – This is not that kind of map.
Plink-Fest Danger – High/Low – With the artillery piece in play, the Allies can use a slow and safe strategy, hitting with tanks and artillery from a distance and forcing the Axis to pull back. Without the artillery piece, the Allies can still do this a little bit, but the long-distance firepower of the Axis big gun makes this a lot more risky.