Monday, 15 December 2014

WADI AZ-AZUA, 1178



The blog has been sadly neglected for a while, so I thought it was time to get back on it. Stuff has been happening, wargames have been played, models have been painted, but there just hasn’t been the time to do all the faffing round uploading stuff.

So, this is an attempt to catch-up a bit.

Here is some shots of last weekend’s Crusades game. This was a large play-test game for my own rules, which I’ve been working on (on and off) for the past year. I had hoped to get them finished this year but it seems things have conspired against me, so 2015 will be the year they hopefully finally see the light of day.

Called ‘Soldiers of God’, they use a card driven action system to create a very different kind of battle. It might look the same as most wargames (ie there is a tabletop with miniatures on it, with units facing each other). But, what happens from turn to turn is far more nuanced than in the standard ‘i-go, u-go’. The cards provide a lovely level of ‘dis-control’ (my term for it) but in this system you also have a overall battle plan, pre-chosen before the game, which you can control (like whether to attack on the left, right or centre), but then how that battle plan actually happens is more random. The system has had some very good testing of late and is coming on well. It’s is almost there and this battle proved an excellent run-out for two new players. A big game and it lasted 3.5 hours, from scratch, which is good going.

More information will follow, but for now enjoy the game pics and write-up.

The forces arrayed across Wadi Az-Azua. On the left is the Army of Kingdom of the Jerusalem, complete with the True Cross for moral (morale) support. On the right, Saladin’s saracen host, from foreground to rear, cavalry wing, infantry centre and skirmishers.

The Crusader's chosen battle plan was for an all out attack, with the main strike in the centre, by the mounted knights (of course), looking to smash home and win the day in a short sharp shock charge. Unfortunately, the rocky outcrop was in the way so they'd have to go-round (random terrain generator threw this up). The knights would be supported by steady infantry attacks on the left and right. A very aggressive plan (the game includes about 8 options), the Franks wouldn’t be messing about but getting stuck-in.

On the opposite side the Saracen's battle plan was also aggressive, conducting their own cavalry attack on their left with their Ghulams led by the Al-Halqa royal bodyguard cavalry (elite heavy cavalry), supported by an infantry advance in the centre. Their right flank would be 'refused', with only light skirmishing horse archer and light foot archers to hold it whilst their cavalry swept round.

The scene was set, with both sides looking to go on the attack, it was going to a bloody day at Wadi Az-Azua.

The Saracen's centre, all infantry, the back ranks being all poor militia units. The centre 'Battle's' command stand is in the foreground. Each side had 3 Battles in its army.

 The Saracen skirmisher 'Battle' on the flank on the right, small units (2 stands) of horse archers and light archers.

 The Crusader's left, with armed pilgrims on the end of the line, with some Turcopole (local) light horse archers ready to rush forward and harass the enemy (but they got carried away and made a impetuous charge, which did not end well for them).

Crusader's centre, baggage train and guards, elite Templar heavy cavalry and beyond the secular knights. Behind them is the true cross, a one-off special command unit, useful, but an automatic loss if the enemy captures it ( and the Pope would be most unhappy). 

 The knights strike force and Crusader's left flank infantry, including some Armenian allies.

 A light siege engine backs up the right flank, useful for its range. Behind, the right flank's command stand.

The battle progressed (and I stopped taking pictures to run it), but the Cruasders advance was rather slow. Their right never got going, with the massed Muslim cavalry closing too fast, winging arrows from horseback before charging home with lances.

Ghulams support the charge of the Al-Halqa elites as the men-at-arms desperately try to hold their ground. Bitter fighting saw them eventually overrun and routed.

The Crusader's attack in the centre finally strikes home, having take too long to cross the desert under arrow and ballista  fire. Here both units of knights strike the Saracen's front ranks, but their best royal bodyguard infantry held, supported by the 'poor' militia behind. Neither side could could get the upper hand in bitter battle of attrition. But stalemate was good enough.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders right flank collapsed under the massed cavalry attack (but the armed pilgrims fought heroically well, divinely inspired, before being matyred). On the Crusader's left, their steady advance was into an arrow storm, which whittled them away. As they finally got into charge range, the horse archers fell back and peppered them again, and again. Units started to break and that flank collapsed as well, men streaming back to the rear, looking like hedgehogs. 

It was a big win for the Saracens. They had held in the centre and smashed the left and right of the Crusaders. The Christian commander conceded defeat with his army on the point of routing altogether, only the presence of true cross kept them figthing at all, and it seemed in imminent danger too with Ghulams now closing in. Saladin had another famous victory over the infidel invaders.  


Monday, 10 November 2014

ASSAULT ON CASA SINAGOGA



The game we played was a small action by British forces advancing and clearing the Liri Valley, after the breakthrough at Monti Cassino (yep, Italy for a change). The write-up below is for a more historical scenario based on the actual forces, but in our game we just used the right terrain and selected our own forces, using the Overlord book (with a few small alterations). This was mainly so we could us the miniatures we wanted to (or have just painted) in a pick-up game on a Sunday afternoon.

The British force consist of 2 infantry platoons (on foot) supported by a squadron of Churchills, with off-table mortars and timed 5.5” and 25 pdr strikes to hit the village early. The Germans were veterans from 1st Fallschirmj√§ger, supported by a StuG and a Ferdinand (never used one before, so this was very cool).

Below are a few photos of the game. It didn’t start well for the Brits, as their leading Daimler armoured car was toasted by a Panzerfaust trying to sneak an early objective and their opening artillery did very little (most of the FJ were still in reserve or not in the village, instead pushing forwards in the hedges and vineyards to wait on ambush fire). The British advance was dogged by poor reinforcements rolls, so was very piecemeal and the veterans FJ were fighting hard, causing a lot of pinning with their MGs and then with an accurate Nebelwerfer strike.

As the Churchills hooked right (my left) they crossed the sights of the waiting Ferdinand and in a display of awesome firepower it wrecked two in short order, at very long range – nice!

But the relentless British mortars had found their range. As the FJ arrived to occupy the buildings they came under sustained mortar fire which got their heads down, and pinned the German 120mm mortar team.

The first bold Brits reached the edge of town, but having dashed across open ground into MG fire, there were many left to press the assault further, and they were gradually whittled away to nothing. The last Churchill traded shots at maximum range with a StuG on the overlooking hill, and survived repeat hits, but then... we ran out time! Drat!

Despite the situation on the ground the BR reckoning was close, the Brits were still 10 from breaking, and after a series of terrible chit draws, (4, 5, 4, 5) the veteran FJ were actually only 11 from breaking too. Still, with the Ferdinand re-armed and now hunting the last Churchill, I don’t think the Brits could have taken the village today.

Here are some snaps from the game. A nice change from our norm. Italy has prospects for a good BG book, one day!

First blood - Panzerfaust 1, Daimler AC 0.

 The German artillery support behind the village, werfer and (often pinned) 120mm mortar team

The lurking beast, on ambush fire.


British armoured support moves up the road to take their chances against the very big gun waiting for them. 

Infantry under 'werfer fire and pinned down in the village's surrounding cornfields. (Historically very accurate!)

The Church's trundle up through incoming mortar fire. Slow and steady.



A StuG peaks its gun out from cover on the hill behind the village. Targets approaching.

 Meanwhile, reinforcments rush towards the cover of the buildings (Nebelwerfer marked as reloading)


 The last of the first British infantry platoon dash over the open ground from the fields to the buildings, swept by 3 MG42s. Ouch! The PIAT won't really help much.

 The Elephant's calling card... kaboom! Churchills have good armour -right? 6s to hit, twice - lucky (I am sometimes).

 And this is the historical forces for the scenario.

Casa Sinagoga, Liri Valley, 16 May 1944
After the fall of Monti Cassino, the 78th (Battleaxe) Division is advancing into the Liri Valley to secure Route 6, the major road which leads through the valley toward the Hitler Line - the German‘s last prepared defensive position before Rome.   

The 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles, began their attack on the heavily defended buildings near Casa Sinagoga just south of Route 6 at 0900 on 16th May, supported by Sherman tanks of the 16th/5th Queens Royal Lancers. Having cleared the building they reached the Colle Monache (report line Pytchley) just after midday. They spent the rest of the day staving off small attacks from the Piopetto river on their left flank, before the Sherman tank’s and well directed artillery was able to stop the counter-attack, destroying 4 self-propelled guns (probable Nashorns) and 2 anti-tank guns firing across the river.

Our game was inspired by the events in the capture of Casa Sinagoga by H Company of the London Irish Rifles and their supporting tanks and the successful morning assault. It was played diagonally across a 6’ x6’ board.

Included here are the forces if you want to replay the events with more historical forces. 

British Forces - Attacking
H Company 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles
1 Forward Headquarters’ 
3 Infantry Platoons, each consisting of
1 platoon command section with PIAT
3 Rifle Sections
Heavy machine gun team
Medium Mortar team with Bren Carrier

1 Combat Engineer Section with minesweeper

16th/5th Queens Royal Lancers
2 Troops each consisting of
            3  Sherman 1 (M4) Tanks

17th Field Artillery Regiment
Consisting of
1 Forward Observer team
1 timed  5.5” barrage
1 timed 25pounder barrage
1 Pre-registered target point – somewhere in Casa Sinegoga
Off table artillery fire 2 x 25 pounders

German Forces - defending
Elements of 361 Panzer Grenadier Regiment,
1 veteran Grenadier platoon consisting of
            1 Platoon command squad
            3 Grenadier squads with a Panzerfaust
            3 MG teams with MG42
            1 Medium mortar team with loader team
1 Forward Observer team

Elements of 6 Coy 741 Grenadier Regiment
1 Grenadier squad
1 MG team with MG42

Elements of 95 Fusilier Battalion consisting of
1 Sniper
1 Fusilier squad
1 MG team with MG42

3 timed 80mm mortar barrages
Off-table 2 x 150mm Nebelwerfers 
2 Nashorn SP guns






 




Friday, 31 October 2014

Longstreet continues

Over the past weeks my Longstreet Grand Campaign has continued, we have now reached battle 7, from 9. The last two games have both been Confederate victories, one a sound thrashing after being overwhelmed by determined Reb cavalry, then a very close game in which my assault up Mortuary Ridge was only just repelled by the Rebs, one more turn and I would have had it (how often do you say that in gaming?). The campaign now sits at 3 Union wins to 4 Confederate, so I have my work cut out in the last two battles.

Both were fantastic games, the Longstreet rules system just doesn't allow for a dull game and the campaign system continues to delight. More photos will follow soon from Games 6 and 7, but for now this one will have to do. It's a bit of fun in Photoshop on a friday afternoon, but, like everybody, I'm a fan of Don Trioani and I was wondering if you could make my miniatures look like his piantings (they inspired painting them anyway).

The answer is, of course, no, but I've given it a shot anyway. Here, as the sun rises,  Lt Colonel 'Fightin' Billy' Arthur Samuals (on his trusty horse Thunder) watches over the advance of the 17th Ohio Volunteers at the Assault on Mortuary Ridge. Enjoy.


Monday, 6 October 2014

PANZER LEHR AT LA CHARLEMENERIE



July 11th, and Panzer Lehr launch a major armoured counter-attack against US forces advancing in the Vire river valley. This refight is for part of the attack which branched off the main assault towards the village of Le Desert to seize a crossroads at La Charlemenerie. The US defenders (tank destroyers supporting infantry) fought all afternoon to halt the advance, until reinforced by 3rd Armoured Division’s tanks and USAAF air strikes halted the panzers. 

Here is the battlefield. US at the top, Germans from the bottom. 


Here are the force lists we used for the game.

US Infantry Division Battlegroup
FHQ, 3 men in a Jeep with radio comms net upgrade
Infantry Platoon with; HMG team, Bazooka team, 60mm mortar team, 81mm mortar team.
Infantry Platoon with; MMG team, Bazooka team, 57mm AT gun + Beep tow, 81mm mortar.
2x batteries of 3 M10 Wolverines
Forward Aid Station
2 x Supply Trucks
Forward Observer team, 2 men in a Jeep
2 x 105mm (off-table)
1 x 1st Priority Artillery Request
5 x ToT barrages
Reinforcements, all arrive from turn 2 on a 5+
5 x Shermans
Forward Air Controller team
Totals: 998 pts, 50 BR, 7 Officers, 0 Scouts

German Panzer Division Battlegroup
FHQ, 3 men in SdKfz 251/6
Armour Pz Grenadier Platoon with; HMG-42 team, Panzerschreck team, 80mm mortar
all squads have 2 Pzfausts, all MGs are MG-42s
2 x Platoons of 3 Panthers
2 x Supply Trucks
Marder III H
Artillery Observer Team
 2 150mm howitzers (off-table)
1 Pre-Registered Target Point
1 Counter battery fire mission
Total: 996 pts, 43 BR, 4 Officers, 0 Scouts

The view from the farm, one of two objectives (the other being the cross roads).

The lane along which the German attack will come.

With the US deployed up to halfway across the table, and a D6 units waiting on ambush fire (we rolled a 1, and used it on the Wolverine covering up the lane from the Chapel), the Germans then deployed within 10” of their table edge or up to 30” up the road.

The Germans took first turn and opened up with their artillery on the Chapel, but failed their comms test. Note, neither side has any comms vehicles, which made the off-table support dicey all game.

The ambushing M10 opened fire at the lead Panther, using 2 HE shells for area fire to try and pin it (experience tells that the 76mm gun ain’t gonna do much vs the front armour of the Panther). It was part of our defensive plan to use HE to pin the big tanks (when facing the front), but then the M10s were equipped only with 2 HE shells each, so the plan sort of fell down due to a logistics foul-up.

The lead Panther platoon broke right (left for us) into the open ground. The grenadiers rushed up the road, all still in their half tracks, whilst the other Panthers fought their way through the bocage hedgerow on their left (all hedges were bocage).

 Panther moving left, behind the arty hits the road and the panzer grenadiers.

105s bracket the lane and the grenadiers dive for cover in the hedges.

The US replied by mostly going onto ambush fire, awaiting targets. Our first 105 barrage deviated wildly, missing the Panthers but hitting the lane, resulting in a destroyed 251, dead grenadiers and lots of pinning, a bad start for the German infantry (already thin on the ground).

For the first turns we traded arty and mortar fire, with one lucky 80mm mortar bombs destroying the M10 at the Chapel with a direct hit. The Marder, covering on our far left (OK for the rest of this I’ll assume a US POV for flanks etc) opened up at very long range, and hit, glancing off another M10. The two SP guns traded shells to little effect until the Marder need a re-supply and pulled back. Then a Panther spotted the M10 and turned into swiss-cheese anyway. The Germans debussed the grenadiers in the centre and withdrew all the surviving half tracks out of harm’s way. It had a been difficult start for them, and we were still waiting with all our firepower in the hedges on ambush fire.

150mm shells and mortar rounds pound the Chapel, 1 M10 is knocked out.

On the left, the 3 Panthers got rolling, MGs hosing down our infantry, one tank survived a bazooka hit and then cut down the team with MG fire. Another survived 2 M10 AP hits, and its return fire was accurate, tearing another M10 into scrap (3 down now, to no Panthers knocked out!).

The three Panthers on the left, now in position to dish out the damage.

On turn 4 our Shermans arrived and roared onto the table. Should they go left, were the flank was collapsing fast, go right and meet the other three Panthers about to hit there, or split up. We decided we had to split, but then for the next 3 turns our command rolls deserted us. A 6, a 5 and 4 (on 3D6 with a re-roll each turn!), meant we were struggling to get the Shermans into the game, as we needed to keep up the arty and mortar fire. One 105mm shell finally disabled our first Panther on the left, hurrah! 

 First Panther down.

The Shermans arrive. Not inspiring much hope though.

  
Outflanked, the tank's MG rakes the infantry with fire through the orchard hedge.  An M10's side shot ended the tank's battle.

On the right, the Panthers struck, grenadiers in the hedges opening up with MG-42s aplenty. Our return ambush fire (mostly area) got most of the grenadiers pinned down though, and the first HE shells from the M10s and 57mm gun also pinned 2 Panthers. The forward line had done well, we thought. Then the Germans took 2 counters to unpin and everything was back in the fight.

Our choice now was to fight it out where we where, but we were out-shot by MG firepower, and they had 3 very good (awesome) anti-tank guns to out 3 rubbish ones (including the 57mm, which was firing HE in hope). It wasn’t a fight we thought we could win, so we decided to fire once and withdraw from that hedge. The Panthers would be slowed in pursuit by the bocage hedge, so we felt we could get away by firing once, pulling back and then cutting loose with our priority request on the Panthers, and go for really big guns. It worked well, we got some more grenadiers pinned down again with .30 cal fire, but the 1st priority request was turned down (what!). Those Panthers would be after us.

On the right, the Panthers appear through the trees into a hail of HE fire.

The pell-mell retreat from the forward line, tanks in pursuit 

 USAAF to the rescue, not quite! Note smoking victim though.

The US streamed back across the big field, MG bullets chasing them. The 57mm gun’s tow was destroyed and the gun abandoned. Both the M10s had one-sided encounters with 75mm high velocity shells that ended their wars. The retreat was something of a rout and very costly in BR.

On the left, the last M10 got a clean side-shot into  Panther and knocked it out, 2 down. But the last Panther finished off the infantry with its MGs, endured a barrage of 60mm mortar shells trying to pin (desperate measures that, but it is all we had), they gunned them down too. A single Sherman moved across to meet it, hoping to get the first shot round the building as the Panther emerged, at point blank range it might work. It didn’t, and its hit glanced off, but the Panther crew missed as well, leaving the two tanks staring at each other about 2” apart.

A solo Sherman heading left, through 150mm shell fire, to face off the last Panther.

The Panther 'braves' 60mm mortar area fire to clear its path towards the farm. Lurking round the corner is the Sherman.

 Nose to nose, but neither scored the kill, then the game ended.

The chit pile been building on both sides, and both had about a dozen - it was close. Then we got a aircraft counter and a P-47 swept in, missing the Panthers with all 8 of its rockets (noooo!). Next turn got another air attack chit, and another P-47 arrived (God bless the FAC). It hit a Panther on the right and destroyed it - 3 down from 6. And the chits for air attacks and destruction looked like the Lehr would break. Except that next turn they inflicted 5 chits on the US, destroying a Sherman, an MMG team, our HMG team (who had failed to pin anything all game), our last bazooka team, etc. That was enough, the destruction meant that US had broken, despite still having 2 P-47s over the table, it was just too late to save the day. Narrow win for the Germans (they had 5 BR left). 

Great game, to and fro,the big cats were tough but still it could have gone either way.