Tuesday 25 October 2011

AAR Paras - Advance to the Seine

Friday night saw a play-test game for the British Parachute army list I’ve been working on. It was a Hold the Line scenario, with the Paras attacking and a Luftwaffe Field Division battle group (treated as an Infantry Division) defending, assisted by some captured French armour in the shape of 2 Char-Bs and 3 Somua S-35s (all started as reinforcements). The Para’s reinforcements were their supporting armour: 2 Cromwells, 1 Churchill and an M10 Achilles.

Having set up the terrain and deployed, the Paras first had to negotiate a stream and marshy area that stretched the length of their deployment zone. It was hard going, and they emerged only to be engaged by suppressing fire from distant machine guns and an 88 positioned with a grandstand view from a far hillside. First objective for the Paras was the farm buildings on their right flank and, aided by their Ram Kangaroo transport, two sections just beat a Luftwaffe squad to it. As the two sections occupied the farm they destroyed the lone attacking German squad and then endured a heavy barrage of machine gun fire, mortar rounds and 88 fire, only loosing 3 men (but become suppressed).

The fight around the farm would rage for most of the game, and see the paratroops make a remarkable (flukey) string of 10 consecutive 4+ concealment saves to avoid becoming suppressed by the fusillade of MG fire directed at them.

For both sides the armour was slow to arrive. The Paras’ Cromwells and Churchill first navigating the difficult ground, and coming under long range 88 fire (one of which bounced off one lucky Cromwell). 

Meanwhile, as the farmhouse battle continued, a single recce carrier team had made its way down the opposite flank, found an undefended gap and taken cover in the wreckage of a crashed Waco glider. Form here they took the Luftwaffe’s battle group HQ under Bren fire - a rude surprise for the German commander and 1 man died and he dived for cover. 

At last the German armoured arrived (all at once) and made full speed (no great speed though) up the table, only pausing to destroy the bold recce Bren team. Meanwhile the hillside, along with the 88, mortar team and spotting platoon command squad were under 75mm pack howitzer fire, the 88 becoming suppressed and loosing 2 crew, then the survivors abandoned their gun!

The British armour cautiously advanced, taking the Luftwaffe’s hardened machine gun pillbox under suppressing HE fire, but to no effect. Still the Germans were having by far the worst of it, machine guns teams being destroyed by the return fire of paratroopers, who (still miraculously unsuppressed) pushed on from their farm to assault the orchard opposite, Ram Kangeroo alongside in support. The last defenders were already suppressed and stood little chance in the face of the British Army’s finest...

Then, with the German position already crumbling fast, the USAAF showed up (take cover!) - a P-47 swooping in to rocket a Char-B to destruction (the P-47 was standing in for Typhoon in the lists). The air attack was too much for the German morale and they broke. It had been a solid victory for the Paras, loosing just 9 morale (to the German 27), 10 men and a carrier. Their Achilles never showed up!

The Luftwaffe 88 – the master of all it surveyed! 

The Para’s deployment zone, behind the marsh and stream. Note a section has already reached the farm.

Lurking Luftwaffe troops in the central woods. The pillbox with HMG is behind.

Behind enemy lines, the lone carrier and its target, the Luftwaffe commander.

The USAAF arrives as the tanks wade the marsh.

Death of the carrier – arrgh!

‘German’ armour racing (well not much!) to the front.

The P-47 overflies the hill, having just rocketed a Char-B. Score 1 kill.

End game, in true para-spirit a section assaults the orchard's last remaining (suppressed) defenders at close quarters.

Friday 21 October 2011

House Rules for Kampfgruppe Normandy

Since the game’s publication there have been a few questions asked about aspects of the game which I either deliberately ignored, to avoid over complication and too many ‘special’ rules, or that I did not consider at all. In response to these questions I have compiled a few ‘advanced’ or ‘house’ rules to cover them.

These rules are completely optional, use none, one, a few or all at your discretion, depending upon how much detail you like in the your games (and how well you are likely to remember more rules – a distinct problem as I get older!).

This Armoured Car is Reversing! - going backwards faster
Some vehicles, mostly armoured cars, were designed to travel backwards as fast as they could travel forwards. These vehicles do not have to half their movement when reversing. This applies to the following vehicles.

SdKfz 222
SdKfz 223
SdKfz 233
SdKfz 234/1
SdKfz 234/2
SdKfz 234/3
SdKfz 263
Panhard 178

M8 Greyhound
M20 Utility car

Daimler Armoured Car

A Bridge Not Far Enough – Heavy Bridging Operations
The game only deals with small bridging operations, covering up to a maximum of 6” or 8” of crossings over ditches and streams and the like. Crossing larger rivers would require a far larger bridge than that represented by the light bridging unit included in the HQ Assets.

Should players wish to play a game involving the construction of a larger bridge then the rules for Heavy Bridging Operations are included here. Please note that given the nature of such a task (perhaps taking a day or two of construction) these rules include an abstraction (in time) to allow it to take place over the time period of a game.

Also, actual engineer bridging units were very large. A British pontoon bridge occupied 21 large trucks – which just isn’t feasible in a tactical wargame at 1 to 1 scale.  By necessity this has been drastically reduced to allow players to actually collect and field an engineering heavy bridging unit (rather than it just filling their side of the table with models of large trucks!)

Heavy Bridging Unit (unique)                      22 points     3mv

Unit Composition: 2 Heavy Trucks and 10 men

Add up to 3 additional Heavy Trucks – 3 points each

A Heavy Bridging Unit can build up to 12” of bridge. Each additional heavy truck allows an additional 6” of bridge to be added. So a maximum 5 heavy trucks can build up to 30” of bridge.

A Heavy Bridging Unit is a HQ Asset in all armies.

Trees are Dangerous - Indirect Fire and Tree Bursts
Artillery and mortar shells that hit woods often ‘tree-burst’, exploding in the upper branches to shower shrapnel over a wider area from above, making them more effective.

If an infantry unit, soft-skinned vehicle, a deployed gun or any open-topped armoured vehicle is in woods when it is affected by suppression or a direct hit from indirect fire, then the artillery affects counts as being one level higher than it actual is (so light artillery is treated as medium, medium as heavy etc). The maximum is still Very Heavy. This applies when rolling for damage from a direct hit (but not armour penetration) or when rolling for suppression.

Eyes in the Sky - Aerial Reconnaissance
In Normandy this rule only applies to British and US battle groups.

If the battle group includes an air artillery observer then the battle group will have much improved picture of the enemy’s dispositions and movements, because the observer can see so well.

As well as its normal role, the air observer also gives the battle group a bonus of +2 to its recce total.

Monday 10 October 2011

The World's Beardiest Tank Crew

This post is only loosely related to wargaming, but was such great fun its worth a mention. With the great lodestone of my 40th birthday (too) rapidly approaching I spent a chill sunday afternoon at Armourgeddon (can you see what they did with the name - nice punt!).

Its in Leicestershire, and as well as paintballing and tank driving, the site also run 'tank paintballing', in converted FV-432s (of which they have a dozen runners!). So, I signed up with my brother and friend Russ, and we spent an hour at driver, gunner and loader training, before commencing battle. It was spectacular good fun, 17 tonnes of APC to play with in a big muddy field. Having completed the training course (and each scored 2 hits from 3 on the firing range), we then retired for a pre-battle brief, a tea and to select our best positions as crew. Russ was to be driver (not being 6'4"+ he fitted best in the driver's seat). Ken would be the turret aimer/commander, whilst I was the loader/gunner. As the last team of the day our opponents were to be the site instructors - so not much hope of victory then! But what the hell, we were only firing 40mm paintballs at each other, so no armour-piercing shells would be ripping through the APC to dismember us, and we could all go home afterwards.

The battle game was a 'best of 12 shots' affair. Both vehicles had to race between 6 firing points and engage the enemy with 2 shots from each. At the end the hits would be totalled up to get a winner. The pressure was on, but to be inside a hot, loud, bouncing AFV, with the commander issuing his instruction to the driver, Ken traversing the turret and elevating the gun and me racing to reload as fast as I could to be ready to fire on command was superb.

Twenty minutes in battle flew by in about 30 seconds. In the end the 'impartial' instructor scored it 9 hits to us, 7 to the other instructors, so we won (but I think they let us!). Their last shot hit our turret square in front of me, so soberingly, I'd have been a-goner...

We went away buzzing and happy as Larry. Russ was ready to sign-up for the Royal Armoured Corps, and as well as the battle we had a good mooch through the storage sheds too, where they keep some restored vehicles (mostly WW2).

It wasn't cheap at £87 for 2 hours, but as a one-off birthday treat it was brilliant. The site have bought a Sherman and are restoring it, so if they ever get it running and offer Sherman driving days I'll be going back.

Some photos of the day follow.

Saturday 8 October 2011


The 1st Polish Armoured meet a counter-attack by the ad-hoc forces of Kampfgruppe Frund at the twin farms of la Butte and Haut de Frossard. 

This was battalion-sized 700 pts per side game, using the Into No-Man’s Land scenario. The five objectives where: both farm houses, the centre of the table (marked by a tree), a point on the road to La Butte (marked by a wrecked Panther) and a point in the forested corner (marked by another tree).

POLISH  BATTLE GROUP (British Armoured Division)
Battle group HQ in Humber scout car
2 x Supply Trucks
Dorchester Forward Signals unit
Forward Air Observer in Dingo
3 x Cromwells
1 x sniper
Sherman squadron
Sherman squadron
2 x Achilles
Crusader AA

Motorised Infantry Platoon
3” mortar team in universal carrier
Vickers HMG team in universal carrier
6 pdr AT gun with carrier tow
Combat medic
Forward observer
Off-table 4.5” artillery battery
2 x Counter battery fire mission
2 x high-priority artillery requests

Battle group HQ in Panzer IVH
SdKfz 223 forward signals unit
2 x supply trucks
Forward aid post and ambulance
Sdkfz 234/1

Pz IVH squadron
Panther squadron
Jagdpanzer IV
20mm AA on a half-track
Armoured Panzer Grenadier platoon
Lorried Panzer Grenadier platoon (Fallschirmjager standing in)
Marder IIIH
80mm mortar team
Panzerschreck team (with armoured grenadiers)
120mm mortar team
Forward Artillery Observer
Off-table 150mm howitzer battery
4 Counter-battery fire missions
3 High priority artillery requests

The German attack plan towards La Butte. Diversion with Panzer IVs on the left. Main assault of Panthers and armoured panzer grenadiers via the woods on the right.

The Polish had the advantage here, with their 3 recce Cromwells deployed against the single SdKfz 234/1 armoured car, wisely hiding in the forest and staying there. All the HQ choices were deployed around their farms.

The game got off to an explosive (and slightly disastrous start) as, in the Polish first turn, their battle group HQ called in his dedicated 4.5” battery on the opposing farm at Haut de Frossard, scoring a direct hits on a supply truck and battle group commander Frund’s Panzer IV - destroying both. First shot saw the German kampfgruppe shorn of its command re-roll, a command unit and taking 3 morale counters –ouch! It also meant that the Germans could not respond with artillery in kind, no longer having an observer on the table to call in fire from their 150mm guns.

First shot, and Frund’s tank and a resupply truck burn!

The Polish began moving on. With their recce tanks out front on covering fire Shermans and motorised infantry making their way up drive from La Butte farm as the 6 pdr was towed into the orchard. The Germans began with their left flank attack force arriving, Panzer IVs lead the truck-borne infantry through the woods and behind the ruined building, where the grenadier platoon HQ set up and got their 120mm mortar engaged against the Polish troops on the road (with the sole effect of suppressing a Jeep!). 
 Recce Cromwells in the corn, briefly suppressed by artillery fire.

This diversionary attack began well, the first panzer IV, forced to brave a covering fire shot of the waiting Cromwell, survived and its return fire punched through the Cromwell’s side and left it a smoking wreck. 

 Polish armour on the lane to La Butte.

Meanwhile, the Polish had claimed the objective (marked by a wrecked Panther), and debussed infantry to secure it as the Shermans, Firefly and Achilles moved past to engage the Panzer IVs now firing from hull down on the hill. The Panzer IVs scored a hit, but only immobilised the Firefly, and its return fire wrecked the first Panzer IV. An uneven duel developed as one after another the Panzer IVs were hit and destroyed, even as the German infantry presses to the road junction, Panzerfaust shots flying and destroying an M5 and, eventually, the immobile Firefly was suppressed (so being immobilised the crew abandoned it). The Crusader AA also brewed up from a direct hit by the off-table 150mm howitzers. The diversionary attack had drawn in a lot of Polish troops, and as this fight raged at close quarters the Panthers began their assault.

Close quarters fighting amidst the smoking wreckage at the road junction.

On the right the Germans had established an anti-tank screen, with their Marder and Jagdpanzer IV trading long-shots with the Cromwells to little effect, before the Marder was hit and knocked-out by a lucky hit – drat!

Through this screen burst the three Panthers, the spearhead of the main attack, racing boldly out into the open field to face down the two Cromwells. As the big tanks drew fire, the armoured panzer grenadier platoon forced their way up the extreme right edge of the battlefield through the forest, grinding through the trees turn after turn to reach the far corner (where the Sdkfz 234/1 was waiting for them). This would their jump-off point for their attack to take the objective, the orchard and the La Butte farm beyond (when the Panthers arrived to aid them).

The armoured panzer grenadier platoon struggle amidst the trees towards their jump-off point.

Here they come! The Panthers burst forth, fearless of the Cromwell’s fire. They didn’t get much further!

But the attack stalled, instantly the three Panthers were in trouble. Fire from two Achilles and a Firefly was now winging close-by. The Cromwell (one using a HE shell to suppress a Panther) where now out of ammunition and withdrew back to La Butte to find a supply truck, and thus ducked out of the Panther’s line of fire.

Re-arming at La Butte, the recce Cromwells having both survived their confrontation with the Panthers.

The exchange of long range tank fire went the Polish way, the power of 17pdr rounds making a mockery of the Panther’s vaunted armour, first one, then a second Panther brewed up.

Without their expected tank support the armoured panzer grenadiers never launched their attack, only sneaking forward to seize the objective, but the orchard wall was now lined with anti-tank guns and machineguns on covering fire, and any assault would have been suicidal.

Holding the orchard, a Sherman, 2 Stuarts, a 6 pdr, an M5 and (not visible) an infantry squad too.

 The struggling Panthers were finally finished off by the 17pdrs, but not before destroying a Firefly in return. To add insult to the destruction, a Typhoon came screaming down over the field, rockets impacting around the Jagdpanzer IV, also destroying it. The German armour had been annihilated, and the game was over. The German survivors retreated.

The Typhoon finished off the German armour. Note, 3 burning Panthers and the burning Marder (in the tree line). 

It had been hard fought, but the Polish had always been slightly ahead, and their 17pdrs really broke both the German tank attacks (they fired 28 17 pdr shots in the game). In the end the Polish had garnered 33 morale points, whilst the Germans had broken at 46 morale. That said, I didn’t help myself with a few ‘rookie’ mistakes. I never got my 20mm AA on covering fire, and thus the Typhoon had a free attack run. I didn’t use my registered target point and forgot to use my counter-battery fire missions several times (although they did work twice). In the end I have never known Achilles be so hard to suppress or knock-out, they lived charmed lives and did their own job well.

Note – The Polish actually were short of infantry, not meeting the required 2 platoons, but I gave Will (my opponent) the nod, because he hadn’t finished his other infantry.