Friday, 19 October 2012


Just a quick post to say that the Battlegroup Kursk rulebook has arrived in the country and been delivered to Plastic Soldier Company. Hurrah!

The book looks very nice, and the printers have done a top-rank job, it's clean, crisp and bright. I have posted a couple of shots, which won't do it justice. Thanks to all who have waited patiently for their pre-ordered copies, it has taken longer than expected, due to some technical problems at mine end and a badly timed family holiday which came just at the end of the project (it was supposed to be after the end when it was booked though). I hope it is worth the wait.

Will is already dispatching as fast as he can from PSC HQ, so retailers and individuals should get their books over the next few days (you might already have them). North Star Miniatures in Notingham have their copies too, I helped unload the lorry. Enjoy, may it bring you all many happy hours of gaming, it will me. Oh, and congratulations to the grand draw winners.

With this project done and dusted (well at my end), I have now moved on to the first Battlegroup supplement, which will deal with Operation Overlord, from the beaches of D-Day and the airborne landings, to the battles inland, and then the pursuit across France. Work is already well progressed, and play-testing has begun on the first draft of the army lists. It looks like being an epic.

I'm sure online reviews will be springing up over the next days/weeks. Articles will also be appearing in Wargames Illustrated, Miniature Wargames, and WSS magazines. I'm doing an interview with Meeples Miniatures for his online podcast (today) so for more information check that out. I'm also working on a Russian tactics primer article for BGK, which I'll probable post here, unless one of the above magazines wants it.

Just a few snaps, as proof of life... (and why that's flipped sideways I have no idea - oh well, you get the picture).

Thursday, 11 October 2012


back bright and early (sot of), we cleared the previous day’s detritus, but left the wrecked tanks in place as cover, and I re-organised both forces with their reinforcements. For the Russians I combined both the battered rifle platoons into one full strength one, and they would be left east of the river, holding the river bank and marshes where they had crossed (gaining them the name the Marsh platoon). To reinforce the defence line the Russians gain two Zis3 anti-tank guns and tows, and off-table but arriving on turns 1,2 and 3 would be 6 more T-34s carry another motorised rifle platoon and a single SU-152. So far the VVS had been totally absent from the battle, but they would now put in an appearance with a timed PE-2 air strike, and additional fire support was available from a timed 152mm howitzer barrage.

 The marsh platoon, getting wet. 

The Germans were reinforced for the attack with a fresh Panzer IVG squadron and a StuG IIIG squadron, as well as an armoured panzer grenadier platoon. Short of AT guns, a K-18 100mm cannon was drafted in, and took up position were the 88 had been (it having redeployed in the night into the village). Additional artillery was available in the form of an off-table 150mm gun battery and the Luftwaffe was also on call with a timed low-level HE-111 bombing run and another timed Stuka attack to aid the assault. 

With that, the players deployed their forces. The Russians digging in, the Germans weighting their right flank, with the StuGs in position to lead the attack, and the panzer grenadiers waiting in the village for the call to rush to river line.

The Storch takes off again as the StuGs and Panzer Grenadiers roll into the village.

The Germans won the first turn and set too. Again the Storch was airborne early, and circling over the river as the 105mm and 150mm gunners opened fire. The Russian left took the dawn pounding, pinning the infantry and destroying an SU-76 in its firing position. The StuGs, carrying infantry support, rolled forwards, sending more HE into the mix, as did the 80mm mortar from behind the village. With most of their left flank ducking for cover, it wasn’t a great start for the Reds.

Yesterday's Iron Cross winners, redeployed to add their fire to today's assault.

The Russians responded with some return long range fire at the StuGs from the two SU-76s, which missed, and mortaring of the village, to little effect. As ever, the turned ended with removing some (lots of) pinning.
The Germans turn two followed the same course as turn 1, more heavy artillery pounding, more mortars, more StuG fire, more pinning, and a second SU-76 taking a direct hit and being blown sky high. The anti-tank defences were being whittled away. The 88 also joined in the fusillade of high-explosive area fire crushing the river bank.

StuGs on their way to the river. The surviving Panzer III offered some ineffective support.

Again the Russians could only hang tough, but could do little in return. There first T-34s and extra infantry rolled in to join the defences on the right, which seems like a mistake, surely all this fire was a German feint, and when the blow came it would come fast, against the weaker Russian left. For now the T-34s returned fire, pinned a StuG with a glancing AP shell, but little else. Mostly, it was an early morning artillery duel. With lots more pinning to remove, the counters were building up already.

The Russian lines under heavy fire, they weathered it without flinching.

Turn three, and it was time for the big guns. The HE-111 roared in low and unleashed its bomb payload on the woods in the Russian centre, causing much pinning and scoring a direct hit on a Zis3 position which, suffice to say, did not survive the 111’s heavy bombs. The Storch’s radio suddenly ran out of batteries, and failed its radio checks, and the artillery ‘hate’ was mercifully halted for a turn. A StuG lined up one of the newly arrived T-34s and scored a clean kill... it wasn’t looking good, the German tide seems unstoppable today. The Panzer IVs were now on the move through the village as well, soon the storm must break...

An unconventional method of close air support. 

The Russians responded this turn, finally with targets close to their pre-registered target point, the Katyushas cut loose, followed by the timed 152 battery. In a hail of heavy explosions which rocked the village, they pinned most of the Panzers. No direct hits though, again. The other T-34s and the SU rolled in, and it shelled the 88, but the hardened crew were used to shelling by now and cared not! In a bold move, on the Russian right the marsh platoon began to advance! Now the PE-2 came diving it, aiming for the centre of the village again, the Russians were trying to wipe it off the map! Only for waiting MG34s on ambush fire to blaze skywards and pin the aircraft (ie drive it off). The crew pulled out their dive and scarpered for home, damn them!

The marsh platoon move up to threaten the village. 

The PE-2's brief appearance. Note smoking engine.

We were hungry and weary, so at that we called a one-hour halt for some R and R and shopping therapy. One chicken pie, a pint of beer and three shiny new M3A3 Sherman tanks later (not for lunch) we were revived (a bit) and back.

The morning had been the Germans, so far they had inflicted 29 morale losses for only 12 of their own. But now the tide turned. The 88 open fire at the SU-152, scored two hits but only glanced off its armour twice (unlucky). The radios continued to be faulty and the artillery just wasn’t doing the business (they must have been low on ammo now). The German infantry dismounted from the StuGs and approached the river through the woods, but the panzers were still stuck back towards in the village. Another tank hit a stray mine (the third) and was wrecked. Somebody clear that minefield! The German command was frustrated by delays, delays, delays. On the inactive German left the K-18 cannon opened fire on the lurking Russian infantry that had started a cautious probe towards the village, using the still smoking wreckage of T-34s as cover. Its shelling pinned two squads.

Finally, the Russian caught a break, their unpinned infantry in trenches opened fire across the river, spotting the German infantry and inflicted sudden heavy losses. A T-34 pinned another StuG, and the SU-152s shelling pinned the 88 crew. The infantry advance crept forward again, and their fire pinned the K-18 gun crew. Things didn’t look so bright for the Germans after all. Their cautious approach had been be-devilled by pinning and mishaps. 

Russian artillery hammers the village as the Panzers push on, but too late.

With time now running out, we decided that enough was enough. With most of the public gone our job here was done. The German attack had suddenly floundered in the face of a resurgent, determined Russian defence. It was time to inspect the battle ratings and count up the damage. From a grand total of 101 (for both days) the Germans had lost 59 points, leaving them 42 points from breaking, still a healthy total. From their grand total of 124 (for both days) the Russians had lost 82, bizarrely also leaving them 42 points from breaking. What? A draw?

No, there is a tie breaker in the rules. In the event of a dead-heat the side with most scout units wins (hurrah for recce). That was also two a-side, another draw!

OK, final tie breaker. The side that inflicts the most battle rating loss can claim a (very) marginal win. So, it would narrowly be the Germans. But they had not been able to drive the Russian away from their Penya river line, so the front lines remained much as they had been two days ago, such is the futility of war!

It was close. Very, very close.

Thanks to Ken (mostly his boards and terrain), Xones and Fuzz for their help and good cheer, even when are energy was flagging on sunday. 

Monday, 8 October 2012


Over the weekend I was running the BGK demonstration game at Derby World Wargames. Thanks to all those who came up to say hello and find out about the rules, it was good weekend, a fine battle (played in two parts over both days), and very encouraging to see something of a ground swell growing for the game.
This is  an AAR in two parts, day one first, with day two to follow soon. 

The scenario was a battle to take place over the small Penya river, on the  western flank of 48th Panzer Corps’ advance towards Oboyan. Here 3rd Panzer Division, diverted from the drive north to act as the flank protection, found itself under repeated attacks from 6th Tank Corps. This would be a two day sustained attack in the vicinity of the village of Sytrveso.

Russian orders were to attack and drive the Germans from the village, as a staging post for further attacks to try and cut-off 48th Panzer Corps spearhead further north. The Germans had to hold the line.

The board, pre-deployment, looking across from the Russian bank to the German-held village.

First deployment, with the Russians on the western bank dug-in to their defences and the tanks behind, awaiting the order to go. They were support by an 82mm mortar battery and two Katyushas. The Germans were occupying the village, with a PaK 40, Marder and an 88 (on their left) out in the fields, watching the river. Their few tanks were behind the village, a squadron each of three Pz IVGs and Pz IIILs (note, no Tiger tanks!).

The German side, with the previous defences of the village now occupied by the Germans.

Russian deployment, first 105mm rounds of the day landing.

Battle commences... 

After a roll off for first turn, the Germans began, and set about getting onto Ambush Fire covering the river. With the Russian build-up recognised, an aerial artillery observer took off from the fields in his Storch and began to circle over the western bank, as the gunners of a 105mm howitzer battery stood too and prepared to begin their days work.

German truck-borne infantry on their way into the village, protected by a 251/17 FlaK

Gunners stand too in a small paddock behind the village!

The Russians wasted no time in preparation, first the Katyusha battery unleashed its first barrage at the village church, but inflicted little really damage beyond pinning a few infantry units and damaging the 88’s tow. Eleven T-34s and six T-70s headed for the shallow Penya, weaving through their own defence lines and barbed wire before splashing down into the river’s marshy banks, all of which slowed their advance. The SU-76 battery, hidden in the woods on the river line, opened fire with long range area fire into the river, and would continue to act as improvised artillery in this harassing role until their HE ammunition ran out.

Meanwhile, aware now that the attack was imminent, the Germans responded by sending forward their panzers. The Panzer IIIs swung out to the their left, into the open corn field, to support the 88 crew - now poised to open fire, and the Panzer IVs manoeuvred through the village in the centre (where one ran over an uncleared mine and was knocked out !).  Their artillery opened fire on the advancing tanks and tank riders, pinning just one T-34.

Panzer IIIs on their start lines.

Russian recce, lurking in the woods and acting as mortar spotters throughout the attack.

SU-76s, avoided the main tank clash and were deployed as ad-hoc artillery support, harassing the village, a nice plan, but not very effective!

Russian 82mm mortar battery, supply wagon and rear defence line. One platoon of infantry sat out the fighting, holding the trenches. Lucky for them.

Here they come, the main assault approaches the river, under 105mm howitzer fire. 

In the Russian turn the storm was ready to break, and the T-34s, liberally using their Stal! Stal! rule surged on at top speed, a heroic sight to warm to heart of any loyal party member! Then reality struck, the waiting 88 opened fire, and its first two shots hit and destroyed two T-34s! Eat-that! The tank battle had begun. The Russians, lacking any Katyusha fire as they reloaded, flung mortar shells into the crop field ahead of the tanks, and pinned the 88 crew. Then, using a 1st priority artillery request, the watching Russian OP, secure in his ‘river-view’ bunker called up to his Army command,  gaining a battery of four 203mm howitzers. These huge guns let rip into the cornfield, but scored no direct hits, but 2 Pz IIIs were pinned, worrying for the Germans now facing the tank onslaught. 

Panzer IVs responding to the Russian attack, they come forwrad to meet it - bold move!

The Marder survived the impact of 45mm shells from a T-70, as did the 88 (by a dire set of rolls for the Russians). Three T-70s burst through the  centre, from the tree and scrub of the river line, intent of wreaking chaos and confusion in the village itself and drawing fire from the main attack. 

The three T-70s head out on their doomed lone attack.

The German response was swift, and it needed to be if the left flank was not to be overrun. First up, a timed Stuka air strike plunged in, hitting the river crossing, causing more pinning, but again no direct hits with its bombs.

88 victims, from great shooting (double 6s to hit). Ouch!

The cause of the destruction, it would survive everything the Russians threw out, at one time passing 11 4+ Covers saves, from 11 dice! How can that be? Lucky, lucky, lucky...

Across the Penya and into the eastern bank marshes as a Stuka dives in. Already casualties are mounting.

The German’s senior officer, loitering in the rear, got on the phone to his 88 crew and used his Tactical Co-ordination special order to get them back in the fight. Loaded and aimed, they opened fire again, and another T-34 burst into smoke and flames. The unpinned Panzer III ground to a halt and smashed more accurate fire into the T-34s and its 50mm gun proved effective enough to knock out another. Four Russian tanks were now burning, their infantry riders leaping clear but being automatically pinned.

Much under-rated, the Pz IIIs duked it out with the T-34s, their 50mm guns prooving good enough in an anti-tank role. Here, incoming 203mm rounds impact all around them.

The Panzer IVs pushed forwards, fearless of the three T-70s just ahead of them, and began to do their work. The squadron officer (also upgraded to a panzer ace), took calm aim, and knocked out a T-70, then another was hit and destroyed by his wingman. The PaK-40, having just re-deployed via its tow to get some shots at the main tank attack, missed at long range.

German deployment to facing the coming storm.

In front of the village the two Panzer IVs and PaK40, plus tow (which was soon to be destroyed in a mortar blast). The panzer ace is the one behind.  The 250/3 is the Luftwaffe officer.

Still, despite initial losses, the T-34s looked like they might do it, with overwhelming numbers. But this turn was not a good one for the Russians. Despite throwing a lot of fire at it, the 88 survived again, only pinned. The Russian senior officer in his T-34 took the lead, brave, but a little rash. The last T-70 in the centre missed, and the Russian mortar fire wasn’t effective. Suddenly, it was the Germans go again, and a lot of AT guns were ready to fire.

Forward HQ,  his transport and signals van. His vital role was keeping the 88 firing.

The 88 was again unpinned by using tactical co-ordination, and with just 2 crew remaining, it turned  the Russian Major’s tank into a fireball. The Panzer IIIs added to the carnage, as did the Panzer Ace commander, as his wingman bagged the last T-70 at close quarters. The tank rush was turning into smoking ruin (again). To add further injury, a 150mm howitzer barrage landed, deviate wildly right onto the following Russian infantry waves (now unpinned) and two direct hits saw two squads cut to ribbons,  with more German 80mm mortar fire adding to the damage. By now only three T-34s and two T-70s were still rolling.

Turn Four, and the Russian looked to their Katyusha’s again, after reloading. They opened fire, destroyed the Marder with a direct hit and wiped out an infantry squad in the village, and the 88 and its tow were again pinned (the crew were having a very hard day at the office). Again though, it survived high-explosive fire from the T-34s, and one bold Russian tanker raced forwards to the edge of village, missed the Pak 40, and a German MG team on ambush fire annihilated all the tank riders still onboard in a ferocious blaze of MG34 fire at close range. 

 In the centre, a T-70 smokes from another penetrating hit.

One success was that the panzer ace officer’s tank was hit and knocked out, as was a Panzer III. The last Panzer IV was now reversing away and found itself rolling over another uncleared mine (sloppy work that by the engineers) and was immobilised as it track was torn off. 

The 88 still in action, with multiple targets.

The ace officer's mount brews up. 

High water mark of the attack, the only T-34 to make it to the village burns outside the barn. Its tank riders were swept away by MG fire.

Turn five, (the last of the day so we could do our shopping and see some of other demo-games for ourselves), saw the last three T-34s destroyed by the last Panzer III, the PaK 40 and (again unpinned) 88. We called it day, the Russians having lost all eleven T-34s and five T-70s, as well as half of both the attacking infantry platoons. The Germans losses included all three Panzer IVs (but we agreed the immobilised one would be back in the line tomorrow) and two of the three Panzer IIIs, as well as the Marder and a few infantry. By a miracle the 88 was still going, blackened, dented and with dead crew scattered about it.
Smoking tanks made it look like the Russian attack was a heavy defeat, but on counting up the all-important battle rating loss, both sides were exactly 35 points from breaking (the Russian had started at a higher total though). It was close. Tomorrow would see the matter decided. 

(That evening, given their heavy tank losses, it was decided that even reinforced, the Russian could not be expected to attack again with any chance of victory. So, as the umpire, I decided that the Germans would have new orders. Overnight, they would be reinforced with new tanks and armoured panzer grenadiers and required to attack themselves, to drive the Russian out of the defences on the Penya river line, the boot would be on the other foot...)

That battle on Day Two to follow soon...

PS: An update on the book. It is now printed and on its way to the UK. ETA 17th October. Some online stores seem to claim that it is on stock, this is not true, unless they have access to a container ship on the Baltic sea! Best not to believe everything you read on the internet, certainly from those that just want your money!