Monday, 17 September 2018

Tank Clash, with Battlegroup Kursk

Back to the start, with a BG Kursk game. It was always my plan that BG would provide a range of books for WW2 so that players could select a period or theatre and play a game, knowing the core rules, but that still felt like it was different part of the war to any other. That battles on the eastern front in 1941 would feel different to those in 1943, to those in Normandy in 1944 or at the end of the war in 1945 - same game, but different character and feel, and always with the ‘right’ forces on the tabletop. I think, now BG has 10 books, we have got to that point. I can now decide to play a game and think, ‘hmm.. which theatre today, err today will be Kursk’, and know I’ll get a game that looks and feels like that battle.

Today’s game would be a straight meeting engagement, a tank brawl on the steppes of Russia. 600 points each (platoon-sized), Panzer Division vs counter-attacking Tank Corps.

The German battlegroup consisted of, roughly:

FHQ in SdKfz 251/3
Armoured Panzer Grenadier Platoon, all with AT grenades
Pz IV H Platoon
Recce HQ in SdKfz 250/11
2 snipers
supply truck
off-table 120mm mortar battery
2 2nd Priority Artillery Request (4+)
4 officers, 36 BR, 3 scouts

FHQ in Gaz Jeep
Forward Observer Team in Gaz Jeep
Motor Rifle Platoon (tank riding), all with AT grenades
T-34 Platoon
T-34 Platoon
T-70 Platoon
BA-64 armoured car
off-table 120mm mortar battery
2 1st Priority artillery requests (2+)
2 Officers, 37 BR, 2 scouts

With the scouts deployed (chit taken by the Russians for being out scouted), it was time to start, the Germans taking turn 1.

The snipers traded shots, the Russian one winning out by pinning one of his enemy having avoided the fire trying to pick him off. The SdKfz 250/11 moved through the woods on the hill on the left (German PoV), to get a good line of sight for mortars and artillery spotting as the Russians arrived. The BA-64, hiding down by the farm, was watching up the field track (obvious German approach route) to do the same with his 120mm mortars.

The German reinforcements arrived, keen for the fight, with a max 6 units - hurrah! On came the first panzers with their infantry carriers behind. The Russians were more tardy - 1 unit (a T-34 and riding infantry) responded (oops). The Germans pressed forwards, and the first 120mm mortars targeted the farm, missing wildly and hitting nothing (adjust your fire!). The snipers lined each other up, and this time the Russia was pinned, cowering under a bush after a close call that nearly took his head off.

4 more German units arrived, the last Pz IV, the FHQ track and the supply truck. They were all in by turn 3. Only 2 Russian arrived again, T-70s moving right to take cover at a hedge. As yet, no tanks had opened fire, but if the Russians didn’t get a move on the Germans would be in the farm and have the objectives.

The Russian plan was (post-battle interrogations revealed this), to hold the farm and demonstrate on their right, holding the bulk of the German armour, so their main attack could sweep round on their left, a left hook by 3 T-34s and the faster 3 T-70s, coming round and behind the German armour as it attacked the farm. They would only face a German right flank guard, 1 Pz-IV, supporting grenadier squad and half track and the FHQ who was over their to use the hillock as a position for spotting (between him and recce HQ they could see the entire tabletop). They would be hard pressed when the Russian attack came. They had to arrive first, and were very slow about it.

For the Russians the plan sort-off worked, the farm was secured, if under incoming mortar fire, and 3 T-34 and the SU-152 drew the attention of the Tiger and 2 Pz -IVs. The first of which up the track was hit by a 120mm mortar bomb and unlucky KO’d… meanwhile the Tiger opened fire at long range but could not score a hit on the T-34s down by the farm. Russian HE shells came back, but no pinning thankfully.

The Russian finally showed up in numbers, T-34s and tank riders moving right (German POV form now on, this is getting confusing). With the T-70s. The German FHQ could see them coming straight at him and called in a Corps battery of 150mm guns. They rained in shells and scored pinning and left one T-70 smoking. The Pz-IV opened up and missed… he was the main defence against five enemy tanks. Target rich environment.

As the skirmishing around the farm continued, and the SU-152 wasted all 3 of its ammo on missing (no supply truck either, so now useless), the main Russian attack tried to get rolling. T-70 HE rounds pinned the Pz IV (ot-oh) and the T-34s raced through the hedge and into the cornfield at full speed. HE shells where flying all over (and doing little).  It looked bad for the Germans, the flank guard would surely be overrun… except the T-70s had a bad turn, pinned by mortar fire, they were also now almost out of ammo (wasteful earlier suppressing fire having cost them), only 1 rushed forwards. The lurking Tiger moved position to help out with some long ranging shooting across the fields.

At the farm it was a stalemate, German grenadiers had deployed and were firing MGs down at Russian riflemen now occupying the objective. A T-34 came forwards to try and hit the Tiger, and paid next turn when the beast’s turret turned and boom! - 88 shell through the front - first dead T-34. More T-34s followed, the flank guard Pz-IV - tactical co-ordinated (in desperate need), and smashed a high velocity 75mm round through another T-34. Grenadiers sneaked up through the corn field, AT grenades in hand. Suddenly the Russian positioned didn’t look so good, and the chits were mounting. On the plus-side for Uncle Joe’s boys, the Tiger was now out of AP shells and withdrew to the resupply truck to get some more.

But Pz-IVs do the job well too.. after an utterly rubbish turn for the Russians in which they hit nothing, failed to get any artillery fire down (needing 2+), their mortars quit in them and they managed to remove a single pinned marker, the flank guard Pz-IV scored another T-34 kill, and the Tiger was back in action, moving right to help out the hard pressed (but doing well) flank guard. The German’s second artillery request again came through and this time more 150mm shells hit the farm, wrecking the BA-64 in the process (mortar spotter gone). That chit taken produced an air attack, and next turn (rolling a 6) an IL-2 Sturmovik buzzed in with 4 bombs - could it swing the day?

The answer was - well, no, not really. Its bombs pinned a Pz-IV, but German infantry MG fire turned skywards and three MG teams just hammered it, pinning it and damaging it. The pilot wasn’t happy!

The German CO had a narrow escape as T-34 AP shells winged passed his track, and his driver turned it around and sped away as fast as he could - wise move. T-70 HE shells followed him, and missed as well. Things were too hot, time to go!. That T-70 was also now ammo-less, so just a rolling single MG. 

By now the chit stacks had built up, the Russians significantly more than the Germans. Russian luck continued to be poor, when the returning, unpinned Sturmovik came in strafing the re-supply truck and rolled a 1, failing to spot it, only for another torrent of MG fire to pin and damage it again -   it was close to being shot down! German grenadiers, more AT grenades in hand, moved across the orchard towards the farm, threatening the useless hunk of metal that was the SU-152 - which reversed away, helpless (it really is large white elephant). When the Tiger, now fully gunned up, targeted the T-70 and smashed it into scrap with another 88 hit, that was it and the Russian were done. Their messy counter-attack had been repelled. German loses had been light, 1 Pz-IV and about 6 men, but their BR total had reached 26 for 36 (tactical co-ordination can be costly). Russian loses for the day were 4 T-34s, 2 T-70s, a BA-64 and about 12 men, and almost a Sturmovik…now looking more like a collander.

Cracking game, the Germans hung tough and the Tiger, well… they’re just so mean… 2 kills, never pinned - no dramas… easy day at the office. It had not been the Russian's day, slow reinforcements, no supply truck, twice failing to get 1st priority artillery support through, and not great orders rolls either, it had been a struggle. I'm still don’t know how they are supposed to kill a Tiger tank! 

Here are some shots of the game, on rubbish camera phone though. Hopefully not too bad.

Hmm, what to play next time? My friend has almost completed painting his Crusaders army, so time for some serious Soldiers of God action over the winter… I think we’ll play through the mini-campaign.

 The Russians waiting to hit the tabletop

 BA-64, mortar spotter, waiting for the German thrust up the track

 Here they come.

 120mm mortar, direct hit - KO'd Panzer - good start. Note Tiger in firing position behind. 

First Russian armour, hiding and using harrassing HE fire

The rest of the kampfgruppe speeds onto the board. Keen today...

First T-34 risks a peak at the Tiger, and incoming 88 shells. A diversion to keep it busy.

 Main Russian attack, hit by a timely 150mm barrage.

 T-34s race into the corn, infantry off. Germans are worried now.

 Reinforcements at the farm

 Panzer IV scores first kill. 

 Then second

 Sturmovik dives in, bombing. German AA MG fire was very heavy and accurate. 

 King of this battlefield...

Monday, 16 July 2018

Bovvy '18 - El Alamein campaign weekend

Battlegroup South has been and gone for 2018, another top weekend down in Dorset at the Tank Museum (once you have fought the traffic). This year we played the campaign weekend using the Torch book, 1942 lists for some desert-action. Three games over Sat and Sunday, each 500 points. Time to get out my DAK and get some sand in my boots.

I pre-planned three lists for the three scenarios chosen for each round of games. The first was Defence Line, with the Axis dug-in - the initial Allied attack. The second would be the Axis response with an attack/counter-attack scenario. The final game, on Sunday morning, would be the Axis in retreat, defending in a Delaying Action. A neat little narrative of games, the work of our campaign organiser, Andy Tutton.

Game 1 was against Mark van der Born’s Brits, who made good use of an SAS jeep team and LRDG team to start behind my dug-in defences and, starting turn 1, jump me, assaulting my HMG dig-out in a blaze SMG fire and grenades. It was a close game, his 25 pdr timed strikes hammering my trench lines (my counter-battery fire stopped one). The RAF also turned up on turn 1, bombing my positions and costing me an anti-tank gun… a horrible start. I did recover somewhat, trying to fire-fight the SAS teams behind me… and my artillery started to cause his approaching Shermans some pinning issues. My MGs managed to hit and damage the circling Kittyhawk. But, in the end, when his 3” mortar bombs started landing, he squeaked home… using tactical co-ordination to good effect to get his SAS back in the fight with their twin-pintle-mounted MG jeep (that thing kicks out firepower!). A narrow Allied win (by just 2 BR points) and a memorable fight (especially for the SAS/LRDG sneak attack).

Here is my force list:

Comms relay team            15    0-r    comms re-roll
Wir Sind Rommels Soldaten        15    +D6

Schutzen Platoon (vets)        134    15-v    off

FO Team                23    1-v    off, art spotter+
2 105mmL28 guns            90    0    off-table

20” Trenches                20    0    3+
3 Minefields                30    0
20” booby-trapped barbed wire    15    0   
HMG Dug-out                32    1-r    3+

sniper                    10    1-v    sniper scout

Pzjager battery + tows        70    4-v    restricted

PRTP                    20    0
Timed Stuka strike            15    0    1 lg, 4 small bombs
1 counter-battery fire mission        10    0    4+

Totals                    499    22+D6    (6)    2 offs, 1 scouts

Next game was to be against another of our Dutch visitors Rogier. It would be a tank-brawl. He brought Crusaders and Grants, to face my Pz II, IIIs and the single Pz IV F2. This went the distance (14 turns I think), both seemingly unable to hit with AP fire, or unable to penetrate when we did, except my F2, which scored 4 Crusader kills (after a resupply). Still, neither of us were that close to breaking when my 250/3 took off across the table towards the last far objective (I already had 3 thanks to my Kradschutzen squad). It was pursued by a Daimler armoured car, 2 pdr frantically targeting it. It missed and then, luckily for me, ran out of ammo. My 250 took the objective, machine-gunning his single sniper holding it, to win the game on all objectives seized. Another fun battle, with a lot of KO’d armour by the end. I even emptied a Pz II of 20mm ammo… some doing (all long range suppressing fire at enemy tanks). My resupply truck earned his wages too, resupply 4 tanks on my side. The British lack of supply truck started to hurt him by the end.

Pz III (J) lang Platoon            150     9-r    off, mortar spotter
Pz III 2 x H, 1 x G Platoon        118    9-r    off, mortar spotter
Pz II Platoon                65    6-r    off, mortar spotter   
Pz IV F2                56    3-r    (restricted)       

FHQ in SdKfz 250/3            32    3-v    sen off, arty spot
SdKfz 222                20    1-r    scout, mortar spot

Kradschutzen squad            34    3-v    6+3
Supply truck                8    1-r    resupply

Timed Stuka strike            15    0    1 lg, 4 small bombs

Totals                    498    35    4 off, 1 scout

Final, on Sunday, I’d be facing an old nemesis (and lovely man), Graham Baylis, whom I have played twice at campaign weekend and lost both times. Time for some measure of revenge! Graham has been to all the BG campaign weekends (a stalwart) and learn the rule well over the past years. He knows a few tricks now and likes to reserve move a lot. Ambush fire then!

The Brit's attack started with them driving straight towards my three minefields, before his leading Daimler drove into it. 'Err... that’s a minefield marker’ I explained. Graham hadn’t realised… and suddenly his whole attack plan (advance straight at the big minefield) had to be abandoned (no engineers to clear it). The Brits all reversed away and swung right across the table, to attack into the open ground (covered by my waiting 88 and 25 pdr). At the back, my panzers lurked on ambush fire, as a second line. I was simply playing for time, as the Brits only had 9 turns to break me or lose the game.  The ‘Oh, it’s a minefield!’ mistake cost the Brits at least 3-4 turns. Highlight for me was a an M3 Honey rolling over my buried 500 lb bomb and going into orbit.

The minefield delay cost Graham the game really… he did get going, knocked out both my big guns (both rolled 1 for morale tests and the gunners fled - rubbish!), but my tanks held him up long enough… so by turn 9, I was still fighting and it was an automatic victory to my DAK. Delaying action successful, the others would now get away back to Libya.

My third force list:

Wir Sind Rommels Soldaten        15    +D6

3 minefields                30    0
Buried 500 lb bomb            10    0

Schutzen squad +AT gren        33    3-r
Schutzen squad            28    3-r

2 x AT dug-outs            40    0    3+ cover
88mL56 + loader team        65    3-v     (restricted) in dug-out
Captured 25 pdr + loader team    51    2-r    (restricted) in dug-out

Pz III (J) lang Platoon            150     9-r    off, mortar spotter
Pz IV F2                56    3-r    (restricted)       

Timed 150mm barrage        20    0    4 guns

Totals                    498    23+D6    (5)    1 off, 0 scouts

It was a top weekend, along with some light retail therapy (fresh stowage and bits and bobs) with the show traders and a few good chats (and many questions about BG NorthAG's progress). Thanks to all those that came to play BG, Andy T for organising, Matt T as best Axis player (3 wins with his Italians) and Nick P as the best of British. Well done the Brits who won the campaign overall, 21-11 in victory points. Now, it is on to Tunisia for them… I look forward to next year, when a BG Blitzkrieg weekend is planned. Might be time to paint some Belgians.

Here are a few shots (not many, I was busy) of the tables, forces, games, etc.

 Sneaky SAS jeep team behind me in game 1, stole an objective then unleashed hell for twin-pintle-mounted MGs. 

 Table 4...

 Table 5... the Mosque. Scene of my tank-clash.

 Table 1... desert hillocks to defend in game 1.

 Table 2. Scene of a heroic Italian defence of the compound in their first game. 

Will's (from PSC), Italian armoured force, narrow defeated in game 2 after a epic come-back (he was in big trouble after the first few turns).  

 The RAF show up again in my game 2... I was dogged by air power, no sign of the Luftwaffe though.

My Pz IIs do sterling work with 20mm cannon pinning... allowing my Pz IIIs to close for killing shots (well, that was the plan). 

Round the other side of the Mosque, the other British pincer, ran into a F2 'special' which worked them over (despite being immobilised by wear and tear)

My DAK tanks fight to get out of the corner after some rubbish reserve rolls... no Panzer Marsch in 1942... (who wrote these rules!).

Rocky desert jebel... table 6. 

Matt T's winning Italians, the backbone of the Axis efforts... 

Monday, 2 July 2018

Engagement at Jebel Mayouf

This was meeting engagement scenario (we randomly rolled Recce Screen, but only after we’d picked forces),  for Battlegroup: Torch, set in 1942, somewhere in the deep deserts of Egypt. It would be an Ariete armoured battlegroup vs a British armoured battlegroup, 750 points aside.

I had planned to go with an infantry force, using both my infantry platoons (one has not yet seen action), but realised that the 'Mobile Warfare' rule meant I’d need trucks for them all, and I don’t have the models (hoisted on own rules petard), so I reverted to an armoured list. I’d go with smallish force, but well-supported by off-table guns and additional fire support. That would eat into my BR total, but make C and C easier, with only 3 officers in this sized force, it would be tight anyway.

The heart of the force was a motor rifle platoon and its supporting Vickers and AT rifle team, with the 3 M3 Grants. The gunnery support was the FOO in his carrier, along with off-table 3” mortars (lots of spotters for them) and 4.5” guns, with a PRTP, 2 counter battle fire missions and a 2nd priority request (aided by dispatch rider) for a big-gun stonk when I had a suitable target. A Kittyhawk timed air strike would help too, for the free counter inflicted. I also had a towed 25 pdr and loader tma as a stand-in ST gun (no 6 pdr model). Hopefully, I’d be able to pound the Italians with all that firepower, keep him well pinned and use my Grants to bully his little tanks.

For recce I had three scouts: a sniper and 2 Humber IIs (first outing for these models, so obviously doomed). Other stuff included the CO in his staff car, a signals Dorchester to keep those guns firing, a supply truck, a repair truck and a Bofors for AA cover. That was about it… small 'all-rounder' of a force with a bit of everything.

The Italians, well there was a lot of them, a reinforced Bersaglieri platoon with supporting weapons, including a 47mm AT gun. An M41 tank platoon, a Semoventa platoon, four scouts (motorcycle squad, motorcycle HMG team, Autoblinda armoured car and a skulking Auto-Sahariana team). For gunnery, he had off-table 105s, a 90mm portee’d AA gun (big gun!) and change (supply truck, signals truck etc). Also,a timed Stuka strike (always has at least 1 timed air attack - hence the Bofors).

The initial recce screen turns (just 2) were uneventful, as both sides got into position and/or on ambush fire and my sniper pinned his HMG team up the Jebel’s rocks with some accurate suppressing fire to keep their heads down. My Humbers split up, one holding an objective on the my left on the end of the ‘little jebel’. The other had the ‘big jebel’ under observation for signs of Italian movement and called in a few harassing mortar stonks.

The reinforcements began to roll in (well trickle), as we both rolled low for these - stretching out the game. 1, 2 or maybe, if lucky, 3 units a turn was the norm… this made for a odd battle, with neither side being able to mass much combat power in one place. With the two jebels blocking lines of sight, it became rather cagey,and there were basically two Mexican stand-offs around the hills, me one side, the Italians the other, with both waiting for the units and orders to get an attack moving (mostly in vain). I rolled terrible for orders (2, 4, 4, 5, good grief!), meaning to get units in the battle I had to sacrifice my artillery (all those points doing very little).

The turns passed quickly, the Italian attack building slowly on my left, at the ‘little jebel’, now reinforced with one M3 Grant, and the first infantry to de-buss from their trucks (which then withdrew). The Auto-Sahariana called in artillery fire, got a wild result and shelled themselves (the first of about 6 or 7 wild artillery shots in the game - the Italians shelling their own units due to ‘Rounds on the Way’, 3 times! - mostly pinning themselves).

As the two side skirmished, my other 2 M3 tanks drove up the central valley for the objective in the centre of the table. I figured they’d be able to take most Italian AP shells frontally (and kept the rocks between them and that 90mm AA - which they could not hope to survive). It sort of worked, 1 M3 was pinned then abandoned after multiple 47mm AP hits… tsk! But the REME truck rolled up and a few turns later they were rolling again (I foxed a dead tank, first time in years!).

My 4.5” guns finally got going on the PRTP, but the nearby rocks proved amazing cover for his anti-tank gun… and I was mostly just making dust (on which, we rolled 12 for desert cloud so it didn’t figure until the very end).

The Italians were manoeuvring beyond the Jebel Mayouf, bring up their three Semoventas and more Bersaglieri in trucks. I was waiting on the far side on Ambush fire, with my portee’d 2 pdr, deployed 25 pdr in AT role, Bofors gun, sniper, a rifle section and a Humber. The 25 pdr and loader team was waiting to blast his armour (I had taken it as a stand-in AT gun, as I don’t have a 6 pdr model - one to add I think). The stand-off continued. A timed Stuka strike did try to bomb me, but the Bofors was ready and drove it off - hurrah! My own Kittyhawk swooped in but its bombs didn’t hit much except sand. Enemy took a chit though.

At the ‘little jebel’ I had seen off the first Italian probe, motorcycle troops had routed after a 3” mortar hit, and the M3 Grant had KO’d a distant M41, but more troops were massing, more infantry, a little 47mm Semoventa was being pain, pinning my Grant with AP fire and refusing to die when my AT rifle team hit it twice. I lost my rifle section to incoming 105s (finally vaguely on-target), which my counter-battery mission failed to stop. My second Humber had been immobilised by a breakdown counter, but at least it was on the objective.

The battle had sort of reached stalemate, nether side willing to push forwards much… exchanging artillery  and mortar fire and waiting. The dust thickened, so with ranges now cut and it harder to see, we figured it was time to get on with it. I pushed my M3 Grants onto the centre objective. My 4.5” guns finally destroyed his 47mm AT in the rocks (that took some pounding) and the last objective on the table was suddenly free. My two Grants could get there in a turn’s movement and win the game for me - too tempting.

I went for it, but was instantly thwarted. The first Grant was pinned by ambush flanking 20mm Breda fire from the lurking Autoblinda armoured car, the second was hit in the side by the 47mm Semoventa and KO’d (for the second time). At the same time, a pulled Low Ammo chit was played on my 25 pdr and a 6 rolled. The gun, loader team and quad all withdrew! Argh! It was a turning point… suddenly the cagey Semoventas moved up onto Jebel Mayouf and opened fire, lacking any real AP power my line was now vulnerable. The portee’d 2 pdr truck was hit by HE shells and destroyed… my infantry were pinned and the blazing 15mm Besa on the Humber was little help. My right flank was collapsing.

In the centre it didn’t go much better. My pinned Grant was targeted by the 90mm AA (it had moved to get a LoS) and its aimed fire rolled a 6 to hit - boom - no more M3! The end was close (I was now 1 BR away from breaking). I clung on and, expected the end to come on my next chit, but drew an Air Attack. In came the RAF, another Kittyhawk, which then bombed wild again! and hit my own rifle section, just pinning them - phew! Who is that idiot pilot? The RAF wasn’t enough to save me though, and when M41 tank MG fire spotted and wiped out my AT rifle team on the ‘little Jebel’ that is enough… another BR counter and my forces broke. The Italians had captured the high ground at Jebel Mayouf.

Another defeat (I’m on a bad run of 5 in a row atm - ho-hum!). It was a strange game, many weird things happened with the dice… the repeated wildly inaccurate shelling, a Mine Strike that failed to kill something (unheard of), neither side able to roll 3 or more for reserves (even with the senior officers re-roll), my Grant’s 37mm guns failing to penetrate (repeatedly) and my 25 pdr just upping and doing-one on a random draw (very gawling). I think that moment changed the game… until then it was close, with me marginally ahead on counters drawn. In my defence, I had inflicted more BR loss than I had taken, but the Italians had a higher total (less off-table artillery). All excellent fun though…

Here are some pics of the game, to prove it all happened ;-)

 Recce screen, Humber and sniper looking up at the Jebel Mayouf. 

 Italian Bersagleiri scouts rounding the little Jebel

 Waiting for them, the other Humber... 15mm BESA primed...

Recce HMG team and trike, up on the Jebel. 

 Start of the Mexican stand-off on the little jebel

 Mortaring starts

 Humber probes up the jebel, hunting those machine gunners

 Bofors unhitched and in place, as first reserves arrive

 Italian 105s fall on their own recce troops

On top of Mayouf, the Humber gets a better view of Italian deployment

A bit of help for the immobilised, pinned and an ambush fire, Humber

 Big gun deploys

HQ at the back, directing  the action. Dorchester proved useful.

More reserves on my right... to form a reserve slope defence against the jebel. 

 Victim of an M3 (only 1 n the game)

25 pdr deploys

Long range tank engagement, waste of ammo really!

Infantry arrive at the little jebel objective

 Timed strike, err... pants! 

On ambush fire, intimidating the Semoventas

Here they are, sneak around behind the hill. 

REME to the rescue in the centre

The Italians assault guns byed-their-time in safety.

My Humber's probe up the jebel, very wary of the assault guns not far away, 
but making a pain of himself. 

 The repair truck does its job. M3 back in action!

After this, technical issue with the camera, I have more pics, they just won't download for some reason... ah, the technology fails again... hmmm!