Monday, 2 January 2017

ROGUE STARS. A BRIEF REVIEW

A long time ago, in a galaxy (not) far, far away, there was game called Laserburn… this has a very similar premise, a new take on space-opera skirmish gaming. Having just played through my first game of the new ‘Rogue Stars’ game, I thought I’d write down my thoughts in a mini-review.

Our game scenario was an attack by my mercenary squad, breaking into a spaceship to steal some of its high-tech cargo from its security detachment of ‘Star Cops’. It all took place inside the ship, represented on floor plans. 1 floor plan square equaled 1” in game terms.

The book itself is in the now established ‘Osprey-style’, nothing very flash from a graphic design POV, rather small font size and a lot white space’ left, which makes me think these books are written to fit a set format, which in itself can be limiting. It feels lightweight, no real meat on this bone, just the rules and a short (one page) on the campaign rules. The artwork is nice in a cartoony style, I’m more a ‘gritty reality’ man myself, but each is just an image of single character, so not much for establishing a look or feel for the universe. There is no background at all, its just generic ‘far future’ space opera, which is fine, players can create their own, or just use a ready made one from Star Wars, Star Trek, Buck Rodgers, 40K, whatever they fancy and floats their boat.

The miniature photography is rather uninspiring, nothing here in the way of eye-candy, nothing to get the creative juices flowing or inspire a player to do something cool themselves. Each picture is almost the same, 3-4 miniatures on a bit of generic sci-fi terrain. The same miniatures reappear often. Meh! I’d like to have seen something that got me really wanting to play ‘games like that!’. These photos add very little and just fill some space.

On to the rules then. Well, the game scores well for its activation/turn system. That stood out as the best part of the game, acting, reacting and passing the initiative back and forth. It feels like you can you do a lot with a little, if the dice favour you, and that there is a nice ‘to and fro’, both sides are always very involved in the game. There is never a predictable pattern forming of who will get to do what when. This kept both the players thinking, planning and re-planning throughout as the game progressed. I enjoyed that.

The downside, well sadly, is the rest of the rules. The shooting combat I found very dull, and this should really be the heart of the game, laser-blasts flying. Its a D20 system, and the problem is that a D20 allows a lot (too much) of detail and flexibility. The long list of ‘to-hit’ modifiers had my eyes rolling - 24 in all! More that 3 or 4 modifiers don’t stick in the head, so you have to look it up each time. -1 on a D20 is a tempting prospect for games designer, the lovely detail it includes, but makes such little difference and slows the games down a lot. Rogue Stars has fallen into this pit trap.

Second big negative point for me was all the counters. It’s a skirmish game, so with just 5 men to control each, you can have some bookkeeping, but here the counters stack up to crazy levels. Stress markers, Pinned markers, Wound markers, and then other types of wound marker too, Staggered, Lightly Wounded, etc, it all made for a messy table and felt inelegant. At one point the stack of Pinned counters on one of my mercenaries was as tall as the model itself. All these counters have -1 effects in various places and need tracking, which is slow and fussy.

The final part of the game is the squad creation system. Again, it feels very light weight and a bit ‘tacked on’, but the detailed required for each character, their abilities, arms and armour, makes it a lengthy process to run through pre-game. You really need to pre-generate these before hand and have a right models painted, which is a lot of work for a small ‘pick-up’ skirmish game.

In our game my Mercenaries took a good kicking. The Star Cops captured 4 of them and killed 1, for only 1 badly wounded cop in return. Of course, that now suggests a follow-on game for a rescue mission to recover the four prisoners, but if this was an on-going campaign then my squad would be decimated already, and the 5 miniatures I’d bought and painted up would be useless and require 5 new ones. Here is a problem with the whole genre of ‘narrative skirmish games’ (Inquisitor being a classic for this), there is are no grunts to just get killed, everybody is a detailed character and specific to their model. Their loss is a massive loss and means a miniatures is now useless (unless you replace the loss with the same model, which sort of defeats the object of the narrative - a character dies only to be replaced by almost exactly the same person doesn’t happen much in books or movies).

Rogue Stars has its good points, but it leaves me a bit disappointed. I’m not hankering for another go at it. I enjoyed the game as a learning/testing experience, but it took over 3 hours to play which, even with this being a learning experience and checking rules etc, seems long. This from a man who used to play Phoenix Command (the big-daddy of ultra-detailed firearms combat rules), but times have moved on.

I’d play again, but I can’t see it becoming a regular in my gaming circle. As with all these small Osprey games, they feel flimsy, never really getting into the meat of the hobby. The rules do the minimum and that’s about it. More ‘play it twice and throw it away’, not sure I like that… for me my hobby is about longevity (having been at it 30+ years). In our world where your PC or phone or washing machine is redundant after a year, I like that my model soldiers remain in use for 20+ years and never grow old. Osprey just seem to want us all to move onto to the ‘next thing’ all the time.

Overall, Rogue Stars gets 2 stars out of 5 from me.


 Game in progress, as the firefight in the ship's cargo hold begins. My Mercenary leader is down, shot whilst leading the way. The rest of my men are still making their way through the engine room. Note those counter stacks.

A grenade goes off in the doorway as the Star Cops try to get through, knocking 2 prone, but only injuring the lead guy. Not sure the rules on grenades are well explained - how do you do damage to multiple targets hit by 1 attack?

Counters everywhere! To illustrate, my down leader has Stress counters (brown), pinned counters, a dice for wounds and his gun is empty. All could be written down on paper, but a visual reminder helps, especially in a first game when you don't know what these things mean.


Sunday, 1 January 2017

FALL OF KONIGSBERG, GAME 1.

STRONGPOINT ASSAULT, ON FORTRESS Va ‘LEHNDORF’

So, for 2017s first tabletop entertainment, I’ve planned out an 8 battle mini-campaign for the final offensive to capture Konigsberg, East Prussia, from April 6th to 10th. The city had already been surrounded for 4 months, but the Russian launched an offensive to eliminate the pocket (and the final German held parts of the Samland Peninsula) in early April - a fine subject for a series of Fall of the Reich games.  So, armed with some initial reading and research, the campaign will play- out those last four days as 8 battles, each using a different scenario and allow me to get my recently re-vamped Russian on the field. The German defenders aren’t much to write home about, 4 badly burnt-out infantry divisions, with about 8000 Volkssturm and some SS police units, and about 50 SP guns as armour. Outside the city the defenders can look to the aid of 5th Panzer Division, but after its early hard fighting, I can’t imagine they were anything but a badly burnt-out panzer division with a few tanks and armour carriers left. They certainly didn’t achieve much in the actual fighting. I need to find some better information on 5th Panzer’s strength in April 1945, but I think I can guess it wasn’t pretty.

The first campaign game would be an assault on one of Konigsberg’s 12 surrounding forts. Originally Napoleonic defences, them were formidable even in 1945, mostly buried under metres of soil, with hidden embrasures and firing positions, and encircled by more trenches, barbed wire, minefields and an anti-tank embankment. Much of these exterior defences were smashed by the 4 day long preparatory bombardment, including by 203mm and massive 305mm siege guns. Before the attack began the embankment was flattened, the trenches filled in and the wire cut.

I would be playing a morning assault on Fort Va, called ‘Lehndorf’, held by the 1094th Volksgrenadier Regiment’s men, and positioned north-west of the city, close to the village/suburb of Juditten. My opponent would be the fort’s defenders and their few reinforcements (an alarm force of bicycle-mounted grenadiers and a Marder - woo-hoo!). Late war fighting and not a single King Tiger or such in site… how it really was most of the time.

My assault force was selected for the mission of clearing those bunkers and pillboxes, so twin ISU-152s for bunker-busting, assault engineer platoon with flamethrowers and demo charges, a screening rifle platoon (err, cannon-fodder) and T-34s, including a lurking OT-34 flamethrower tank hidden amongst them. For artillery, I wanted off-table 203mm guns (who wouldn’t?), but the points ran out, so I went with an on-table Katyusha battery, to saturate the fort under 132mm rockets. After that there were a few odds and ends, supply truck, sniper, etc.

The Germans held the fort with a Volksgrenadier platoon, 2 sMG-42 pillboxes, a Pak-40 and loader team in a bunker, a command bunker, 2 minefields, 30” barbed wire, trenches and a dug-in 88 (with loader team) lurking at the back. His reserves were more bicycle-mounted grenadiers, a Marder, resupply wagon, etc. Off-table he had only 80mm mortar fire (all artillery being under heavy counter battery fire). His BR was far lower than mine, but almost everything had a 3+ or 2+ cover save.




It was raining on the morning of April 6th, so all aircraft were grounded. No air support for either side, except timed air strikes. Air Attack counters would be worth 1 BR instead.

With both sides deployed, it was time to begin the battle. My plan was to soften up the defences with the ISU-152s and Katyushas whilst I awaited the flanking force of 3 T-34s and the 3 tank-riding veteran assault pioneer squads to arrive from my right flank. They would conduct the main assault at speed, to get onto/into the fort with their flamethrowers and seize the objective with lightning speed. Battlegroup’s Strongpoint Assault scenario allows a flanking force, but as the fort was historically close to large lake (effectively roughly the left edge of the table as I looked at it), it couldn’t really arrive from the left except by boat, so the flanking force had to be on the right, which gave it further to go under fire, but seemed to be .

So the first turns passed, my Katyushas hammered the fort to little effect (2+ cover saves, urgh!), my first ISU-152 shot did score a direct hit on an sMG-42 pillox and vapourise it, crew and all, nice job. The second pillbox proved harder to hit, even for my sniper hidden in a shell crater, who had the embrasure in his sights. In return came German off-table mortar fire, harassing my infantry and causing some pinning. The 88 took some very long pot-shots and missed. The PaK-40 in its bunker on (actually under) the hill, lined up an ISU-152 but the first shots clanged off the frontal armour.

Initially, the main fight continued on my left. An ISU targeted the pillbox and again missed, whilst the other one reloaded (ammo 2!). The sniper hit one German within the pillbox and his death pinned the rest of crew - result. Meanwhile, my Katyushas reloaded as fast as they could.  The Germans hung tough, holding position and mostly going onto ambush fire. The PaK-40 fired again, aided by its loader team and scored all 3 hits on one ISU-152. First shot - clang! Second shot - clang! Third shot - kaboom! The big SP gun was a-goner… damn. That PaK was a big problem. 

Turn 3 and the Russian flanking force arrived, to immediately be targeted by the 88, waiting for them. Its ambush shot hot but glanced off, phew! But, the tank riders had to jump clear. The softening up hadn’t really done much, to launch my main assault now would be suicide, so I had to re-think. I wasn’t going to directly attack a dug-in 88 with loader team over open ground with four T-34s. They would last, well, not long. So, as I had no way of pinning it (a few T-34 HE shells so far hadn;t cut it and my katyusha’s observer team had no line of sight), I decided to change my plan. The main assault would swing around to take the fort head-on, out of the 88’s sight. First, for this to work, the PaK-40 had to die! The T-34s gunned to full speed and raced around to the centre, more 88 shells flying high as they did. My last ISU-152 targeted the PaK-40 bunker for ‘the treatment’, but again failed to dent the fortifications. I called up some off-table artillery from Front-level support, using my dispatch rider, and four 152mm guns hammered down fire on the fort. They did little, beyond pinned the infantry and command squad within, no doubt with ringing ears, but that bunker-PaK was still free to shoot.  Which it dually did, taking out the lead T-34. Argh! This wasn’t going well, the German were so deeply dug-in it seemed unlikely I could shift them.

German reinforcements were now also arriving, the Marder and a few guys on bicycles. Soon the fort would be reinforced with more men to winkle out. Desperate measures were required.

When one of my infantry squads came under MG fire, the 3 survivors got a lucky beyond the call of duty freebie order and so double moved at the Pak-bunker, next turn they would assault it with grenades and try and take it out. I failed to notice that in the charge they ran across and minefield, and so lost another man. Just 2 left, but when the defending MG then failed to spot twice it seemed they might get their chance for glory - go boys go! But an ambush firing second MG did not fail its spotting test and cut the two brave boys mad dash short in hail of bullets. Drat! Almost a very heroic moment.

My ISU-152 was reloading (again) so I unleashed my now reloaded Katyushas for another mega-strike. The screaming rockets smashed down and scored multiple direct hit, including on the bunker-PaK. 1 gunner was a casualty as the roof threaten to come in, and the resulting morale check saw the Volksgrenadiers abandon the gun… yeah! The fort was giving way. My last two T-34s immediately broke cover and raced for the fort, pioneers jumping off them as they advanced on the objectives. My sneaky sniper scored another kill, on the fort’s MG team and the resulting morale test left the last man running. Suddenly, the fort looked like it might well fall.

The last Germans put up a heroic fight, shooting down a few pioneers as they came through/over the barbed wired. The grenadiers on bicycles jumped from their transports (?) and ran for the fort, but too late to reach it in time. The my pioneers closed in and shot down the last of the infantry squad within, grenades and PPSHs blazing, whilst my OT-34 rolled up to the embrasure of the command bunker and poured on the flaming death. That flamethrower shot wiped out the forward HQ within. The human torches costing the Germans 4 counters - 2 for the senior officer, 1 for the flamethrower attack and 1 for the objective. The Germans drew the counters and the defenders broke! Time to pullback towards Konigsberg. But Fort Va ‘Lehndorf’ was gone. The first step towards the city had been taken…

Great game. Not a scenario I have often played, an assault on a strong point position, but it was great fun and a first outing for my ISU-152s (that I can remember). They did well, but the OT-34 won it, its final surge onto the objective winning the day. The poor Volksgrenadier had but up a good fight, but the Red steamroller is tough to stop in 1945 (as it was). So, I take an early lead in the campaign victory points. 3-0 up with 7 games to play (each battle is worth different amounts of campaign VPs, and bigger wins give a bonus too).

The next battle will be 5th Panzer Division putting in an emergency counter-attack on the Samland peninsula, just west of the city, on the afternoon of April 6th. On the day, the weather also cleared by then, so the VVS should be able to put in a strong appearance. After that, game 3 will be the Volksgrenadier rearguard fight in Juditten on April 7th, a delaying action to buy time for the retreat into Konigsberg’s suburbs. After that, we’ll be into the gritty business of street-fighting.

Here are some shot of the game in progress. Mostly of my stuff, as I’m too always involved in the game to wander to the other side of the board (read lazy), and really you just want to get on with playing.

The battlefield, to the right the fields across which the Russian assault will come, over-looked by the Fortress bunkers. The T34/85 wreck is marking an objective.

'Lehndorf', before the German deployment. The bunkers represent the hardened positioned 
under the hillock.

The Russians arrive, visible through the morning rain. ISU-152 lines up a MG pillbox, much needed supply truck in close attendance.

Kaboom! Bye-bye pillbox with the ISU's first shot. Eat 152mm HE shell, direct hit.

 Stalin's Organs begin to play, targeting the fortress hill. Smoke marks them as fired.

The fortress takes it first pins, but little damage. White smoke 'puffs' are for ambush fire. 

 Pak-40 scores multiple hits and takes out the ISU, even needing 10s to penetrate. 

Flanking reserves arrive on the right.

 Second MG pillbox, concealed in the wood line, under fire but taking a pounding and fighting back. Behind are dug-in grenadiers in their trenches, back from the wood line, meaning I'd have to get into close contact to target them. They await on ambush fire.

 A feint on my right, drawing mortar fire and 88 shots, but not a serious attack, just something to draw fire from the main assault.

The reinforcements race round into the centre, pioneer tank riders still aboard. 

88 finds its mark at last, the T-34 supporting the diversion is knocked-out. 

 The offending gun, dug-in behind the fortress (entrance bunker in the background)

 Grenadiers await in trenches, on ambush fore

 Two surviving riflemen try a crazy lone assault on the Pak-bunker. They came close, but, like most heroics, it ended in death. 

Behind, the screening riflemen hunker down, sniper continues to harass from his shell crater. 

T-34s move up towards the fortress, and one catches a Pak-40 shell and brews up. Pioneers now off and readying for the charge, but they need their targets pinned first.

T-34s move up again, the assault is on, HE flying. The OT-34 has just crashed through the barbed wire and is closing on the command bunker.

Wreathed in smoke from Katyusha fire, the OT-34 is almost there. 

Meanwhile, pedaling like mad, the reserves can't reach the fortress in time to save it. 

 Burn baby burn! Pioneers are there and the OT-34 hoses down the command bunker, a crushing lost that broke the defenders. The pioneer's flamethrower wasn't required.








Friday, 2 December 2016

CRETE LANDING, SOMEWHERE NEAR PIRGOS

May 20th, 1941
On the edge of the village Pirgos, near Maleme airfield, Fallschirmjager (FJ) forces are dropping onto Crete, the invasion has begun! The paratroopers objective (that's me) is to silence a Bofors anti-aircraft gun, part of the airfield’s defences, and clear the area of defenders. The defenders, all New Zealanders, must hold their positions and defeat the paratroopers on the ground.

This was a small play-test game, running through the basics of a new Airborne Assault scenario, which allows games to be played with paratroopers (and those in gliders) landing on the tabletop in a directly opposed landing… a messy business, but a different and fun game. Not many tanks though…

Here are the two battle groups for this ‘platoon’ game.

7th Flieger Division Force
FHQ -   3 men
Luftwaffe Air Liaison Officer - 2 men
Comms Relay Team - 2 men

FJ Platoon    - 6 men PHQ, 3 x 6 men, 3 x 3 men with MG-34 (vets)
HMG Team  - 3 men with sMG-34
80mm Mortar team - 3 men, plus a loader team

2x Snipers

FJ Pioneers Squad - 6 men with a demo-charge and flamethrower, 3 men with MG-34
Counter Battery Air Strike (3+)

Totals        380 pts, 27 BR, 3 officers , 2 scouts


Creforce Defenders
Infantry Platoon - 5 men PHQ, 3 x 8 men with a Bren LMG, 1 x 2 men with 2” mortar (regs)
HMG team       - 3 men with Vickers HMG
AT Rifle team   - 2 men with AT Rifle

Sniper
Vickers MkVI B Light Tank (unreliable)
Carrier Section - 3 x 3 men in 3 Bren Carriers

Artillery Observation Post
Fortified Building (in the center of the table)
AA gun dug-out with 40mm Bofors

Battery of 2 x 75mmL30 guns (off-table)
Totals        379pts, 21BR, 2 Officers, 1 Scout

In blue, landing areas and FJ moves. In red, NZ moves. The objective was the small hut in the centre.


Turn One and the action started with the first wave of FJ dropping in and randomly scattering all over the place. The Platoon HQ hit first and, by luck landed right next to one of the objectives (marked by a drop canister) in a vineyard, they immediately came under Ambush Fire from the dug-in Bofors on the hill top, with a commanding view, but the first rounds flew high and missed. It was a good start, that rapid went more pear-shaped. One squad landed fine (but pinned) but their MG team was lost in the drop, hit by ground fire or scattered to the winds… another MG team landed in rocks and the resulting casualties that caused, and also being pinned, meant they were lost too. The platoon’s other squads hit the deck, mostly pinned, and that ended the turn. Some unpinning (finding drop canisters) later, and it was the defending New Zealander’s first go.

They set about inflicting some damage, mostly more pins though as they didn’t have many orders (4), the Bofors gun went onto Ambush Fire again. Dug-in, it as going to hard to take out or get near enough to assault. Two other New Zealand units scurried off to grab the drop canister objectives from where they had randomly fallen. The AT rifle team grabbed one, whilst a Bren Team, detached from a rifle section set off to get the other - all worth counters on the FJ, like normal objectives.

Turn two, and the rest of the FJ dropped in, including the FHQ, into the vineyard, as well, and his air liaison officer, who unfortunately landed in the open about 6” in front of the Bofors gun and was immediately turned into meaty-chunks by 40mm cannon fire. The mortar team and loaders hit the vineyard too but, best of all, the pioneer squad’s drop deviated them right towards the central building (an objective and a fortified building, containing the New Zealander’s Platoon HQ, nice and safe). Well, until the pioneer’s perfect landing left them unpinned, ready to go and with their flamethrower in hand. Eek!, they immediately rushed up to the building and gave the PHQ a whiff of hot flammenwerfer, wiping them out, and costing 3 counters(!): unit destroyed, under flamethrower attack, captured objective (even if it was now rather scorched). The FJ were back in the game after the initial counters had seen them rapidly race up to 16 BR lost, with the New Zealanders only on 3 (from being out scouted and one objective grabbed).

The third FJ MG team was wiped out by rifle fire, leaving me very ‘MG light’, but a lack of orders meant that the NZ observer team in their dug-out couldn’t call in the off-table 75mm rounds this turn, a small mercy for the struggling paratroops. As well as that break, none of the defender's reinforcements arrived this turn.

Turn 3, and the FJ were all down now, but mostly pinned. They did what they could, the mortar team was ready to go, but the PHQ failed the required comms test, even with a re-roll for the comms relay-team, now set-up in the vineyard that, by default, had become the command post. The pioneers took the fortified building (3+ covers save, yeah!) and shot up the rifle section in the field outside, pinning them down. The pioneers were winning this single-handed it seemed. Their squad MG also got into the action and added some extra pinning too, game on.

In the New Zealander’s turn, well, the scampering 2-man Bren team grabbed a drop canister and the Bofors opened up again, hosing down that vineyard where the FJ kept landing, and luckily killing one of the FHQ with its suppressing fire. Also, reinforcements arrived, the Vickers MkVI clattered up the lane, with a Bren Carrier team behind -  Actung Panzer! My FJ had almost nothing to fight that with, except  suppressing fire at close range and hope it broke down (it didn't). The Vickers sprayed a lot of MG rounds but managed to pin nothing… the Bren team behind de-bussed and headed into the vineyard, to see what they could mop up, and managed to kill one man from the comms relay team, but his surviving mate wasn’t pinned and would fight back.

The BR count looked bad for the FJ, but this turn the pioneers wiped out the squad outside with two aimed fire shots which massacred the poor NZ guys pinned in the open at short range. The PHQ also took a drop canister objective as well, and the the two snipers managed to keep some enemy heads down too, all good. The paratroops also got the mortar into action for the first time, spotted for by the PHQ, they tried to hit the Bofors gun, but failed to pin it, even with the help of their loader team's extra shot. The sMG-34 team then pinned the Vickers light tank, bullets ricocheting everywhere, but it was the best they could do to stop it. Unpinning, the FJ were now at 25 from 28 BR, but the counter was an Air Attack, hurrah, the Luftwaffe, except my Air Liaison Officer was very dead and my roll failed, no show from my Stuka… drat! The counters inflicted on the enemy made it closer again though, and both sides where furiously doing the maths, checking their counter stacks.

New Zealander’s go, and finally they had enough orders to try and fire their artillery, and got through on the radio, and avoid the counter battery air strike (damn, the Luftwaffe was failing me today). The 75mm shells plunged in and did, well, not much - phew! 1 pinned unit in the orchard was it, well worth waiting for (and cost 3 orders). Oh well, the fire fight continued, the Vickers HMG fire pinned the heroic pioneers in the fortified building, but that was about it. The Vickers light tank was pinned on the road (and now just 2 BR points from breaking, it wasn’t going to get unpinned anytime soon), and the carrier team in the vineyard failed to spot the last FJ signals man, hiding under the vines twice, a lucky break. It was so close, but that Bofors was back on ambush fire, looking menacing.

German turn, and they had big problems, they were also just 3 BR points from breaking. Their orders also deserted them and, with so few, I tried to cause a counter or two - somewhere! Anywhere! But, the mortar failed to hit or pin the Bofors again (dug-in, very tough). It then returned fire, luckily spotted and then hit the FJ FHQ calling in that mortar fire, and killed them all (well, both). 2 counters for a lost senior officer… and game over. The FJ had lost, but it was very, very tight in the end. If only that Stuka had shown up.

The scenario was great, some tweaks needed, so it was not quiet so harsh on the attackers as they land, and to make gliders look a bit more attractive as a way of getting onto the tabletop. Also, I'm not sure the defender’s reinforcements will show up fast enough to take part in the battle, but overall the balance was good. The FJ lost a lot of BR (and units) at the very start, but they have sky high BR totals as veteran and elite infantry. The defenders lower BR total meant that once in the fight, they looked very dodgey. The horror of the flamethrower attack cost them dear (11 BR out of 19 lost in all). The Vickers light tank was frightening, not often you can say that, but on this table it felt like a Tiger tank…

Here are some shots of the game in progress.

Crete army lists and airborne assault scenario will form part of the next BG book ‘Tobruk’ for North Africa (and Crete) in 1940-41. The airborne assault makes for a very different battle and has a chaotic feel from the desert tank fights, and I really like that. Next time, some glider landings too I think… best paint a DFS-230. Hmm, who makes one...?

The mighty Bofors, in its dug-out. In front, a drop canister objective marker has randomly fallen. A detached Bren team ran over and grabbed it.

PHQ hit the vineyard and another drop canister objective.

 
 Defenders become alert, PHQ in the central objective, unaware of a fire fate awaiting them.

Vickers HMG team and AT Rifle team on the edge of Pirgos.  


Landing in the lane, pinned, then diving into the walled orchard for cover. 


Up that same lane comes reinforcements - serious armour(!). Well, on this table, it is.

 The Vickers MkVI gets pinned down by the HMG-34 team blazing away at it, from about 4" away.

Meanwhile, the Bren carrier team de-buss to investigate the vineyard. 

Across the table, 3 last survivors of second squad shoot it out with a 2-man 2" mortar team, that ditched the mortar in favour of their rifles. 

The Vickers team hosing down the objective building and pioneers, pining them down. Nothing dared come up that lane...

Last reinforcements arrive from Pirgos, another carrier team, but too late to get involved. They can just help mop up the surrendering paratroops.




Tuesday, 15 November 2016

BG CAMPAIGN WEEKEND @ BATTLEFIELD HOBBIES

So, next year, Battlegroup will be running a couple of events at Battlefield Hobbies, which is a very cool shop and gaming centre in Daventry. The first event will be a campaign weekend, along the lines of the previous weekends, but with a few changes. This time it will use the FotR campaign book and it will be set in March 1945 around the (fictional) town of Mundenberg, where a last tough pocket of resistance is holding out and the British are leading an attack (with US aid) to clear it out.

There will be 15 tickets aside (Allies, Brits or US, or German), and each player will play 2 games on Saturday and 2 games on Sunday. The Germans will try to hold the town and then put in a local counter-attack on Sunday. Players each play as part of a larger team, earning VPs for their side to determine the overall winners. It isn't a competitive tournament, and the historical theme is kept throughout. Some locations around the town will be key objectives and no doubt see the hardest fighting for bonus VPs. All the games will be with forces chosen from FotR, so it will feel right. There are no individual winners, this is a team game.

It's all happening on the weekend of January 28th-29th. All forces involved must be 20mm in scale and 500 points (you bring your own models but the terrain is provided). There is a briefing pack available too, that set the scenarios and some extra restrictions and aid to keep the campaign feeling historically right.

I shall be umpiring, keeping track of scores and doing the admin bit, whilst everybody else gets on with their gaming fun and winning in their sector of the front. 

Each time we have done this before its been a cracking weekend of really good battles, played in a great spirit. It will be again, and the venue is top notch, I don't think there is better one in the country atm.

Tickets and briefings are available from Battlefield Hobbies events pages. It's well worth it if your a BG fan, and you meet lots of other players as well.

There will be another event later in year, as yet to be decided.




Monday, 14 November 2016

‘Trouble at Pit!’

With a weekend at home and not too much on, a rarity it seems these days, I decided to give myself a modelling project, something to get done in just a couple of days. For a long time I have neglected my terrain collection. I have a lot, and it sits in various boxes, but its becoming a bit worn-looking, too many chips, breakages, etc. I think it needs a make-over, so I went in search of some buildings I could give a tart-up. Rooting through boxes I found some buildings I had forgotten about. Two years ago they were gifted to me, by a friend, who had a friend of friend that had dismantled his model railway set and was giving away the buildings. To cut a long story short, I was offered them and, as they are HO scale, which is roughly 1/76th, and really nicely painted I couldn’t say no, they are superb! They are all parts of a mine head, and so I made plans to create my own wargaming minehead terrain piece. I never got beyond the planning stage, and the buildings were consigned to a box, collecting dust. Until now...

On my weekend foray I re-found them and decided they had now languished too long. It was time to put the plan into action, two years was a waste for such good stuff. It was a bold plan, with lots to do, but to save time I decided that I’d only use modelling material, paints, etc I already had, no shopping required and I could then crack straight on. Searching through the detritus of model-making stuff in my shed I found a piece of thin plywood to be the base, once jigsawed to size, and lots of other stuff, like various bags of grit/sand, etc and my big bucket of strong PVA glue. I also turned-out some old bits of railway track I kept in a bag and searched for any other ‘useful’ bits.

Commandeering the dining room table (well half of it) for two days, I set-to with the plan to get the piece finished in one weekend. The buildings were complete, they just needed sticking down, which was the really time-consuming bit done. I just had the ground-work to do and lots of that was going to be piles of coal (very easy to paint with a black spray can).

In the end it couldn’t quite be done. Life gets in the way and Saturday had been a late start after the search for all the bits. Drying time for all the PVA used was also longer than I thought, even with the model in the airing cupboard over night. Still, a few extra hours of detail work was all it was missing by Sunday evening, and that’s the stage I got it too before pausing  to take some photos (below).  I thought about battle damage, but couldn’t bring myself to trash the lovely buildings, so they remained intact (also far faster).

Terrain building, much under-rated by wargamers, is a pleasure. Messy, with glue, spray cans, paints, grit and sand everywhere, the hours just fly by.

In the end, I have a single 24” x 16” board for my mine head, with 4 buildings, including the winding tower and a tall chimney, several heaps of coal and a small marshaling yard area at the back (so leading off the table). I wanted to keep it tight, as a place for infantry to lurk and fight over rather than the tanks (they have the rest of the table), you could maybe squeeze a tank between one of the buildings, but it wouldn’t be advisable with enemy infantry stalking the buildings.

Once its on the table, with a few other factory/industrial buildings next to it, it should really look the part, and I kept it generic, so I can use it in Germany in 1945 or in Russia (early war). I’ll try and squeeze it onto a game sometime soon, I can see my Volkssturm platoon defending it against the advancing Russians. It will definately see some action at next January's BG campaign weekend as a vital part of the German defensive pocket. Better get those finishing touches sorted, final drybrush highlights and pin washes, a couple of abandoned railway wagons glued on the tracks and it’ll be completely done. It could also double as a set for Peaky Blinders!

The pit head, almost complete. First grass scatter just chucked on, way too bright but it'll be dulled down with black washed. Lots of black washes on this.


From above

The main building, entrance and winding tower

Plan view, its 24" by 16" oblong

The marshaling yard at the back, missing two dirty old coal trucks as extra cover.

 Coal, 'we've got lumps of it round the back!'

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Capturing El Shuheeb, BG: Tobruk, play-test

During Operation Crusader, 7th Armoured Division’s advance towards Tobruk is going well, but after a slow initial response, the German panzer divisions are now rapidly moving into position to counter the advance. At a small isolated compound called El Shuheeb both sides are racing to seize the area, led by their reconnaissance troops.

This would be a play-test for some of the special rules, units, stats and the army lists for BG Tobruk. The scenario was a straight forward meeting engagement, because I didn’t want the scenario objectives to skew things, this needed to be a clean fight as a 600pt platoon-sized game.

Once we had both deployed our scout units, the Germans got first go, and from turn 1 the Brits were under pressure. My single LRDG patrol watched on from high ground as the Germans advanced, using their Panzer Marsch ability to get the tanks on fast, and the towed 88 speeding forwards into a good firing position (oh dear). The British response was painfully slow, a grand total of 4 units after 3 turns of reserves. I was forced to put something on the table that would give the Germans some pause, they already had two objectives and the third was in danger if they rushed it before I had the troops to stop them. I used 2 Crusader IIs to try and ward-off his armoured cars and infantry in trucks, but after a brief exchange of fire both were hit and KO’d by AT fire, one from the 88 the other to the PaK38… but their sacrifice bought me time to get my FHQ on, and use his senior officer re-roll to get the Brits arriving faster to make a fight of it. Still, the Germans were well in place and their infantry in trucks were now moving against the last objective (at the compound). This could still all be over very quickly.

The rapid deployment of my two 25pdr guns on the high ground saw the Germans paused, as the gunners started winging HE area fire across the desert and had a few of the panzers pinned. They were doing stirling work and would throughout the game, until one had an ‘Ammo Low’ chit played on it and ran out! Late in the game I towed it away to save me any lost BR from a useless unit.

I sped the bulk of my motor rifles and the 3 man SAS team into the compound, to claim it just before the German infantry, and an infantry firefight developed around the compound, trading Bren and MG34 fire (one sided that). My guys were soon heavily pinned, but the SAS team did good work in return fire with their rifles and the Vickers HMG on the 15cwt truck seriously worrying the Germans and keeping their heads down too (have it!).

My A9 Cruisers rattled on the meet his right flanking Pz III and armoured cars, and over the next few turns lost that duel, all three being knocked out for nothing in return… a 222 survived a 2pdr AT hit! That was the way it was going, a bit of  kicking in the early turns. The A9s proved, well, a bit rubbish.

Things looked bleak, so I decided that only decisive action would change the course of the battle. I send my last 3 Crusader IIs on a bold attack, targeting his weak Panzer IIs on his left. They moved up, firing, and KO’d one, pinned another panzer. German return fire was wild and so my Crusaders heroically pressed on across the open desert.

Things also turned a bit when the SAS Air Spotters called in a P-40 Tomahawk to help me. The air attack’s bombs blew his 232 armoured car sky high with a direct hit and had the Germans worried, as the P-40 turned to come round for a few strafing runs.

The furious firefight at the compound continued, with supporting '88' HE rounds now smashing the buildings and keeping me pinned. MG34 fire wrecked the SAS 15cwt truck and its Vickers, but my PHQ and a Bren section saw off the leading German squad and their MG team. Both sides were taking losses. My last 25pdr also KO’d a Panzer III after switching to AP shells (star man). German losses were mounting at last, but my BR was almost wrecked. But, all wasn’t lost, another Air Attack counter came my way, and the SAS air spotters did the business again, another P-40 buzzed over and released its bombs - 2 aircraft were now in direct support, with multiple MGs to cause carnage on soft skins and infantry. The first P-40’s strafing run destroyed a truck (not great) but it still a counter.  The German player groaned, he’d have 2 strafing runs a turn to deal with next turn and no AA.

On my right the Crusaders traded fire with 2 Panzer IIIs, both sides scoring hits which glanced off (The Crusader’s front armour is surprisingly good against 50mm rounds). I even moved to get a flank shot, hit, and saw that bounce too… drat. The German player was now concerned, his earlier easy stroll was now a tough battle, the counters had mounted for him too.

But, in the end, I couldn’t recover from my terrible and tardy start. I eventually lost one of my Crusaders to a Pz III hit and the resulting chit pushed me to 49 points, 1 over my 48 total. The Brits withdrew back across the desert and the ruined, smoking compound was in German hands. He had reached 29 from 39 BR, so a solid German win in the end.

It was a good game and revealed few things about the army lists and special rules, most of which I liked. The SAS guys are ace (of course), and all round useful. Portee guns are very easily pinned (mine spent all game pinned by long-range 222 20mm fire).

All boded well for BG Tobruk next spring. Here are the force lists and a few photos of the action.

 
British Forces
FHQ in staff car   
FSU - Dorchester ACV       

Motor Platoon (in light trucks)      
PHQ 6 men, 3 x 7 men sections
HMG team

Crusader II tank Platoon (5)       
A9 Cruiser tank Platoon (3)           

2 x 25pdr with loader teams+ tows   

LRDG Patrol
with Vickers HMG + K gun       

Supply Truck         
2pdr AT gun portee on medium truck  
 
Totals                    599 pts    48 BR    4 officers, 2 scouts           


DAK Forces
FHQ in staff car       
FSU - SdKfz 263     
Signals Intelligence

Schutzen Platoon         
In 3 medium trucks

Pz II Platoon (3)           
Pz IIIH Platoon (3)           

FO Team               
2 x 105mm guns (off-table)   

SdKfz 222 AC       
SdKfz 232 AC      
PaK 38 AT gun with tow

Supply truck            
88mmL56 AA gun + tow

Totals                    593 pts    39 BR   4 officers, 3 scouts

 The battlefield and a few German scouts, watched by my LRDG patrol.

 The scouts take up firing positions as the 88 arrives.

 Serious firepower...

 The panzers arrive, each with a infantry squad in a truck (Italian in this case) behind. 


 First Crusaders try to stem the tide, and lasest 2 seconds. 

 25pdrs deployed on higher ground, with loader teams. 

The compound, the scene of the infantry fight. SAS are in the far building, whilst their 15cwt is pinned. 

 On-table counter-battery fire from 105s, woefully inaccurate for most of the game. 

 The 25pdrs dish it out. Resupply truck just topping-up a Panzer III. 

 German right flank, Pz III, 232 and infantry in a truck.

 Direct hit by the first Tomahawk. Two aircraft today, and still I couldn't turn it round. 

Infantry fight in the compound at close range. Germans pinned and vulnerable to a close assault, but the British PHQ got pinned too before they could fix their bayonets and go-in. 

 Crusader II rolls past one of its victims on my far right. By now the desert 'brown-out' was in effect. Thick dust reducing visible and firing ranges.

 My A9s, in flames, having done nothing. One Pz III accounted for them all!