Tuesday, 14 January 2020

St. Nazaire Raid - deciding the rules

Having completed the terrain, ships and a few commando units it was time to consider the rules to be used. Once upon a time I owned the boardgame Raid on St. Nazaire by Avalon Hill. This was a solo boardgame which had the German defenders moving to a set of rules. This is an approach I want to include in the rules.

The rules have been kept very simple to make the action swift, and I have called them "Attack on the Iron Coast" after the film which was loosely based on the St. Nazaire raid. As an aside, I do remember going to see this film at the cinema and enjoying it when I was young and still wearing shorts. So I had a quick look at the trailers for the film on Youtube. My memory and the trailers viewed 50 years on don't quite match, but I do like the film's dynamic poster.

Anyway, back to the game rules as they currently stand after a couple of test games...

The game starts with the landing of the commando parties and the ramming of the dock gates by HMS Campbeltown. The game's challenge is focussed on the commandos running amok and demolishing all their targets before re-embarking on ships from the Old Mole to escape. While the Germans continually feed in more and more reserves making the commando's task increasingly difficult as the turns go by.

A map of the 6x4 foot tabletop showing the German reserve entry points and commando landing areas. The map is a slightly cut down version from "Battle Notes for Wargamers" by Donald Featherstone.


Units represent commando raiding parties and German patrols. On the raid commandos were organised into demolition parties, protection parties or assault parties. For the purpose of the game I have combined the protection and demolition parties into single units. Only the four demolition units can blow things up, and are is no limit on the number of attempts at demolition. The remaining eight commando assault units are used to form a bridgehead and put out of action: searchlights, gun emplacements, and pillboxes.

I am using ten German patrol units and two armoured cars. The infantry unit get reused as they are eliminated returning as reserve units at one of the reenforcement points on the map. At the start of the game a German patrol is placed at each reenforcement point.

Sequence of Play

The game is played in turns with the commando player attempting to activate each commando unit first. Then followed by the German unit activation and re-enforcements.

Each unit gets to make a variable number of actions, including no action (more on that later).

During the German turn the following rules are applied to each unit:

  • Any deployed German unit must move towards the closest commando unit until within shooting range. As soon as they are within shooting range they must shoot. 
  • If they begin an activation within shooting range, they must only shoot at the closest commando unit. Until all enemy unit within range are eliminated they cannot move.
  • Pillboxes only get one action, and must shoot at the closest commando unit.

A single German reenforcing unit arrives each turn after all German units have attempted activation. Roll a D6 to determine which of the three re-enforcements points their unit arrives (see map). If a unit is arriving from second point (dice roll 3 or 4) then roll a second D6 and if a 6 is rolled, change the infantry unit to an armoured car. This only occurs twice during a game, otherwise it is just infantry units arriving. Any eliminated German unit is reused, so reserves are endless.

Commando landings in the first turn:

  • Move the ships to their target landing areas
  • To represent the ships not making their landing areas due to sinking and casualties sustained from German fire. Roll 1D6 for each of the four motor launches and HMS Campbeltown. If a 6 is rolled one commando unit is eliminated, player’s choice.
  • Start activating commando units to exit the ships.

German starting positions first turn:

  • Three German units start the game on the tabletop. One is place at each reenforcement point (see map).

Unit Activation

Each unit in a player's force is activated once during the player's turn. Assuming a successful activation a unit can move, shoot, attempt a demolition of a target*, or engage in hand to hand combat**.

Roll a D6 and adjust the score:
-1 for German forces to represent the confusion
-1 if a unit has sustained a hit

If the adjusted score is:
  • Less than 1 = no action allowed
  • 1-2 = one action allowed
  • 3-4 = two actions allowed
  • 5-6 = three actions allowed
Pillboxes always have one shooting action until they are destroyed.

* Commando demolition units only
** Commando assault units only


A move costs one action and units when moving must move in a straight line. If a unit is moving it must perform all its move actions together, a unit cannot move, shoot, and move again.

Commando units and German infantry units move 6” for each move action. There are no deductions for moving in built up areas.

Armoured cars move 12 for each move action, but cannot move into built up areas.

Units may pass through friendly units without penalty.


To shoot costs one action. As with the moving all shooting actions must occur together. With each  shooting action all units roll a D6. A unit with two shooting actions would roll twice, once for each attack.

  • A score of 5 or 6 causes a hit on infantry units in the open, and gun emplacements/searchlights.
  • A score of 6 causes a hit on units in cover, armoured cars, and pillboxes

All units, pillboxes, gun emplacements/searchlights are eliminated on taking a second hit.

To attack a pillbox, gun emplacement, or searchlight the attacking unit must be within 3”. Otherwise all ranges are 12".

Gun emplacements cannot fire at ground units and for the purpose of the game they are targets for being put out of action.


A demolition attempt takes two actions and can only be carried out by a commando demolition unit. The unit must be touching or on the target to attempt a demolition. 

Roll a D6, if a 5 or 6 is scored the explosives were successfully set, then the unit moves 3 inches away. Yell bang! And place an explosive looking marker to show the target has been successfully destroyed. If the explosives were not successfully set and the unit remains in place (and you don't get to yell).

Hand to hand combat

Hand to hand combat can only be initiated by commando assault units. A unit must first move into contact with an enemy unit. It then costs one action to engage in hand to hand combat.

To determine the outcome commandos roll a 2D6 selecting the highest score. German units roll 1D6. Compare scores the highest score eliminates the opposing units. Re-roll any draws. A bit risky, but a very effective way for commando assault units armed to the teeth to quickly clear out enemy units in cover.

Commando re-embarkment (escape)

A secondary objective for the commando player is to re-embark any surviving commando units off the Old Mole. Extraction can only take place if the 3 gun emplacements and 2 searchlights are destroyed. If this has occurred, commando units are re-embarked as soon as they are able to move on to the Old Mole.

A test game in progress. The green flocked bases are at odds with the dockyard terrain.
B&W photos disguise the flocked bases and look more atmospheric.
A few more test games to play before a game report. So far the rule mechanisms are working for me and have delivered some fun games. Just need to finalise victory points.


  1. I like the rules you posted and some nice ideas contained therein. It's good to have the Germans programmed as it were, which is a nice touch. Looking forward to seeing the full AAR when ready:)

    1. Thank you. The programmed German moves start to cause problems for demolition teams if a perimeter has not been established quickly.

  2. I like the way that you have devised simple but effective rules to enable the battle to unfold in a way that reflects the actual operation.

    The use of B&W photographs make the whole thing look very atmospheric.

    I look forward to reading your battle report.

    All the best,


    1. Thank you. The battle report will definitely be B&W photographs. Cheers, Peter

  3. This action looks so fun, Peter! Super layout, simple but interesting rules, and perfect setup for some enjoyable solo gaming. Looking forward to seeing this one in play.

    Great stuff!

    1. I am certainly enjoying the test games, having stayed up one evening way past midnight to complete a test game.

  4. Wonderful looking setup! Thank you for sharing your rules - I particularly like the simple, but presumably effective, programming for the Germans.

    1. The programmed approach seems to work well when there are a constant stream of reserves arriving. Thanks.

  5. The excitement is building.

    1. The test games have been fun to play.

    2. That's just making it worse - I can't wait!!!

  6. This is really coming together nicely.

    1. Thanks. The project has turned out better than expected.

  7. Shaping up well. I like the B&W photos.

    1. Thanks. B&W photos are definitely the way to go.

  8. Very nice set-up - simple, not over-elaborate, effective. I agree that the B&W photos look more World war two-ish. I'm curious about those boats drawn up: S-boats of some sort?

    1. The scratch built boats represent the motor launches and torpedo boats used by the commandos. However, they do certainly have the look of S-boats.

  9. One idea (i.e. the way I'd do it) is have the German units eliminated anytime their activation roll was less than one. So a unit can take up to 4 hits and still survive (but not do much). It also means some will bugger off with only one hit (or even zero hits-if they roll a '1'). Not sure how this affects play balance, but it adds more uncertainty to the thing.
    Just a thought...

    1. Thanks for the idea. In the two test games the balance seems to be about right, but I like the suggested rule mechanism and I will keep up my sleeve in case the game balance become an issue.

  10. This is building up nicely. I like the programmed opponent mechanisms. Can’t wait to read the AAR.

    1. Thank you. I am on to my third test game so an ARR should not be too far away.