KEEP’EM ROLLING: RACE TO THE RHINE is a new edition of our WW2 supply and logistics game 1944: Race to the Rhine. It introduces a fourth player option for the game encompassing Operation Dragoon, the liberation of southern France. It also comes with a standalone solitaire game called THESE ARE MY CREDENTIALS, covering the Allied liberation of Brittany and its major ports.
In this blog Yves Roig, one of the co-designers of the new edition, provides some historical context for these two important side stories to the wider Allied liberation of France and the Low Countries.
Now, over to Yves to discuss Keep’em Rolling – 1944: Race to the Rhine!
When the original Race to the Rhine was released in 2014, I was an instant fan. Given the topic – managing the supply challenges of the biggest military landing and invasion ever attempted – the mechanics were intuitive and easy to learn. Yet the decision-making was very tough, and surprisingly realistic.
I saw there were other stories of the liberation of France that could be covered using the system, and with some friends I started developing a ‘home-brewed’ expansion. PHALANX picked it up, and it became KEEP’EM ROLLING: RACE TO THE RHINE Edition. Here’s a bit of historical background to both the Allied operations covered in the new edition.
Operation Dragoon, the Allied landing in Provence in August 1944, is ‘the other’ great landing in the European theater of WW2. Though it is less well known than Operation Overlord, it played a major role in hastening the conclusion of the war in Europe.
The original plan was that Dragoon and Overlord would happen simultaneously. Due to a shortage of landing craft, among other factors, Dragoon was postponed.
The landing eventually occurred on 15th August, led by General Jacob Devers. His force, the Sixth Army Group, comprised elements of the US Seventh Army and the French First Army. The objective was to try and secure the French Mediterranean ports and open a second front against German forces.
A few weeks prior, French troops had liberated Marseille, and resistance fighters had prevented the total destruction of the Port de Bouc refinery, just north-west of Marseille. This allowed US tankers supporting the landing to unload oil nearby and have it transported to the front by rail, river barges, trucks, and even on the backs of mules.
The initial landings were successful, catching the German’s largely by surprise. As the size of Allied forces grew, General Devers was replaced by General Patch. He continued the rapid advance northwards. Though hindered in places by the terrain and German resistance, the advance through the Rhone Valley was so quick that French troops were ready to cross the Rhine at the beginning of December 1944. However, for reasons never fully clarified, Eisenhower forbade it.
During the advance, Devers’ troops made contact with those of General Patton, opening up the potential for shared supply lines, critical to the wider Allied push. Supplies for the Sixth Army were nonetheless hindered throughout by the retreating German forces, who plundered food reserves on an industrial scale. This ultimately forced the Allies to divert three ship’s worth of food towards Provence from the Middle East, and in the meantime meant that the troops of General Devers had to survive on limited rations of around two light meals per day for a few weeks.
In addition to its wider importance, the landing in Provence had particular resonance for France as a nation. French forces were heavily involved, both as part of the organised landing and in partisan and resistance activities. Overall, French General Delattre de Tassigny commanded 400,000 soldiers, a majority of which were Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians, and Senegalese.
The Battle of Brittany, a side operation of Operation Overlord launched at the start of August 1944, was intended to liberate Brittany and open its Atlantic deep-water ports to Allied shipping. It is even less well known than Operation Dragoon. It saw intense collaboration between US and Free French forces that resulted in the liberation of Brittany itself being concluded in more or less a month. However, the campaign to dislodge the 26,000 Wehrmacht soldiers from the major ports took much longer. German efforts were led by General Fahrmbacher, the overall Wehrmacht commander for Brittany. At the start of the Allied liberation of the region he moved to a bunker in the Keroman submarine base in the south of the region. He was ordered by Hitler to hold the Festung (the fortress) for at least eight weeks. German forces ultimately held on for 277 days.
The liberation of Brittany saw incredible acts of heroism on both sides. In one incident, German forces launched a daring and successful mission to free German POWs in captured American jeeps, who then helped with the defence of Brest. For the Allies, the Jedburgh Teams, forerunners to modern day special forces, played a very active role in linking up conventional Allied forces with the partisans, and sabotaging the remaining German war machine. Many of these events are captured in the Aerial Recon cards that come with the game, and the back of the rulebook provides historical context for these cards, so please read that if you want to learn more.
By the way: why do we call it ‘These are my credentials’? Following the liberation of Brest, the captured leader of the German defenders asked an American divisional commander what were his “credentials” for accepting the surrender. The general pointed his hand to a group of US soldiers with rifles and responded that those were his credentials. Pure class.
~ Yves Roig