Monday 23 December 2013

Barbarossa playtest. Day Two counter-attack

With the holiday season upon us, there has been time for another playtest for the forthcoming Barbarossa rules and lists, and a sunday afternoon visit to my friend Andy’s house. He’d picked 600 pts from the 1941 panzer division lists to face 600 from my 1941 mechanised corps. It would be a straight forward meeting engagement.

The German end of the table with the village and orchard, which would become very hotly contested. Germans arriving from top right corner.

The Russian end of the table, all forest and a marsh.Russians arriving left to right (via the road) and then occupying the tree line.

My plan was to quickly get to the wood line and use it as the jump-off for a strong attack on the village from the left and right. On my right would be the BT-7s carry tank riding infantry. On the left, my 2 T-34s and truck-borne rifle platoon. Pressure from two sides simultaneously should keep the Germans well penned in. In support (off-table) I had a battery of 120mm mortars and a timed 122mm howitzer barrages.  That would hit the village on turn 6, time for the German invaders to get there in numbers and to get my attacking units on the table and up to the start line.

The game began badly, as German 105mm shells interdicted my route of advance (the road), destroying one of my armoured cars before it had done anything. The second armoured car made a daring (dumb) dash for the village, speeding out across the fields with only a 222 to take on. Or, so I thought, until a Panzerjager I appeared from the German table edge and destroyed it with a single lucky shot... both my recce units gone very early.

Deployed and awaiting (the road junction was an objective too). 

Solo 222 heads into the village, leading the German column.

105mm shell target point, ot-oh!

Breaking cover, my second BA-6 meets 47mm AP shell.

The Germans arrived slowly, a Kradschutzen squad racing for the village (good), with a Panzer III and the Panzerjager I. The escalation would continue as the Germans pushed along the road into the village (including their senior officer in his half track, confidently out front to lead the way). My motorised infantry sped along the road in trucks under intermitent 105mm and 80mm mortar fire, causing some pinning but no damage. My T-34s cut cross-country (they are very good at it), waded the marshes and reached the tree line, just in time for a direct hit from a 105mm shell to wreck one tank. My potent armoured strike force was halved in the strength.

 Truck-borne rifle troops and two T-34s making for the wood line
Meanwhile, the BT-7s and their tank riding platoon arrived and massed on my right, ready for the wreckless charge. Long range fire was exchanged and my 120mm mortars got going, only to find my observer was sitting on the target point of a timed 150mm barrage and a direct hit wiped him out messily. No more mortar fire support for this game then!

 BT-7s amassing for the main charge towards the distant church.

On the far flank, a wild 105mm shells ends a T-34's war.

With all my troops on the table and deployed, the wood line was now packed with infantry (and an infantry gun), I realised there was not a hope of having enough orders to launched everybody into the attack at once. Even using the Stal! special rule my attack would not come as the almighty rush I had hoped for. The Germans were still slowly getting onto the table and setting up, the time to strike was now before they were ready and, it was now turn 6. My 122mm guns opened up on the village and suddenly there was a thunderous inferno. German infantry were dying and 6 units were pinned by the thunderous strike. Time to go, go, go!

The village under a heavy barrage before the main attack

 BT charge! Single Panzer III in target rich environment...

Stal! Stal! Stal! My BT-7s all went flat out over the open fields, infantry clinging onto each tank. A single Pz-III was in position to open fire, and missed twice, as 47mm HE shells added to the pinning in the village. It was very dramatic and the German commander looked worried, Mother Russia was striking back. Also, the village was the last objective I had’t claimed. If I could take it, then it was game over.

Of course, it's just not that simple. My infantry debussed from their mounts and charged on, rifles and DPs adding to the pinning. One squad seized the church, others were in the orchard. A 47mm shell ripped through the Pz III and it burst into flames. The village was in serious danger being overrun.

... and smashing their way into the village

Except for the German's fast reinforcements it would have fallen right then. Kradschutzen troops used the road to speed forwards and debuss. Infantry packed every building and a big fire-fight developed as both sides hammered away with everything they had. German MGs (so many of them) raked the buildings and pretty soon all my rifle squads were pinned down. My BT-7s lent support, one hit the 222 and destroyed it, whilst the 251/6 and senior officer rapidly withdrew under fire from BTs, as the Major saved his own skin. 

  Still pushing forwards

A towed Pak-36 deployed to engaged the BTs and immediately hit and destroyed one. Next turn, with the crew pushing it, they changed positons and hit and destroyed another BT. Never has a 37mm gun dealt such damage!
PaK-36 detonates a BT-7. The orchard was swept by MG fire from the Pz-III and buildings opposite.

With the intense fight around the village petering out with about 12 pinned units, my forces still in the tree line kept up some supporting fire with their rifles and DPs, with the infantry gun doing a fine job of keeping the Panzerjager I pinned with constant HE area fire. The T-34 emptied its HE ammo bins doing the same at a HMG-34 team set up and raking heavy fire along the treeline. The T-34 missed 5 times! It turned to AP shells and hit and glanced off the side of a Panzer III! Then, to compound the bad luck, trying to close the range and trusting its mighty frontal armour, it broke down with a grinding of gears and was immobilised. So much for the vaunted new tanks! Out of ammo, can't move.

Still, it didn’t affect the fight for the village. Unpinning as fast as we could (both sides were talking multiple counters for this), the firefight was resumed. A fresh Russian rifle squad assaulted a building and cleared it of an MG team, only for another Kradschutzen squad and MG to wipe them out. My own Maxim Mg was now in place in the church, but it drew a lot of rifle fire and was repeatedly pinned. In the orchard, swept by two MG-34s and tank fire, my two rifle squads and the platoon HQ couldn’t get over the end wall to assault. Only the lieutentent survived from his HQ squad, still shooting back with his pistol. I was suffering for BR. But, so were the Germans, as another MG team was cut apart by BT-7 mg fire and their artillery spotter's radio suddenly packed in, failing for 3 turns to get those 105s firing again, thank you god! No German signals vehicle either, so the game was mercifully free of German arty for several turns as the firefight raged.

 Circling the village, the infantry have just fallen back rather than be wiped out by MG fire.

My BTs, unable to get into the vaillge for burning wrecks, circled it and found another Panzer III waiting for them. It ambush fired and unluckily missed twice and a return shot luckily hit and destroyed it (on a 6). All Panzer IIIs were now burning. With no tanks left the Germans withdrew. His BR total of 41 had been reached with a final unlucky 5 counter. The Russians had reach 37 from 39, the narrowest of wins.

It was great game, a real nail-biter at the end as we both  could see the other must be close to breaking and fought tooth and nail for the village. I caught a ybreak at the end,  don't think I'd have lasted another turn, but thankfully this road east was now blocked. 

Cheers to Andy for the game, a useful playtest too, although I'm happy with the rules at the monent. The Russian feel unwieldy and a bit chaotic, but their numbers and willingness to get stuck in won the game. The Germans were just all round good and anything but a 5 counter would have seen another German turn and almost certain Russian defeat.  

Well, Merry Christmas to all, I hope Santa brings you what you requested. He better have brought my new 28mm ACW Union army on Christmas morning... but that's a biggy for 2014.

Monday 9 December 2013


Just a quick post before the Xmas period kicks in and takes over completely.

Having finished my DAK, I went looking through the 'to-do' bins, to see if there was anything that grabbed my fancy. Found an old Matchbox kit I got from the Derby bring-and-buy for £2, with the thought it would come in handy for my late-war German kampfgruppe for Fall of the Reich. Can't let the £s go to waste!

The kit went together in about 15 minutes, and the rest of the evening was spent brushes in hand. I don't have an airbrush, so all those nice 262 faded camo-schemes seemed a bit beyond me, so I went for something a little bit more achievable with a dry-brush and a bit of light dabbing with a sponge.

One day it might actually show up on a tabletop.

Got to say the 'to-do' bin is looking pretty empty... which is either a good thing, or bad thing. Only a Zvezda Russian 85mm AA gun and crew and a few Russian pioneers left. Plenty of space for next years big project.

Friday 29 November 2013

Rommel's Boys

Back in the summer (on the day Andy Murray won Wimbledon, so I remember) I was at Battlegroup South, at Bovington Tank Museum, when I decided to finally make the start on the Afrika Korps army I’d had my eye on. Since owning Airfix Afrika Korps as a child, I’ve always loved the look of these dusty and battered desert warriors, but amongst the many other periods of WWII I wanted to play, I just never got round to North Africa. I actually have the terrain collection (from my Crusades stuff), so I just needed the models to go on it. The time had come to get going.

Well, having taken the plunge in £s I gave myself the rest of the year to get all my force together, paint it and be ready for a game... against whom I’m not sure yet, but I’ll persuade somebody.

Well, for the pasted 5 months I’ve kept up the project, a few evenings here and there, the occasional full sunday afternoon of sticking, spraying and painting... and I’ve final arrived. Rommel’s boys are ready for action, so here they are. I really wanted a battered look - dusty and battle scarred veterans was my plan, with lots of stowage and captured vehicles, etc.

The Headquarters units; the boss in Kfz21 staff car (Ace kit and Brittania crew), SdKfz 263 forward signals unit (Roden Kit - now long will that aerial last?), dispatch rider and Luftwaffe air liaison officer (both Brittania).

 Infantry; Schützen platoon (mixed Caesar miniatures, Brittania, Foundry and SHQ) and 2 snipers (Brittania)

Platoon's LMG teams (Brittania and Caesar miniatures)

Platoon support weapon teams; AT rifle, HMG team, 80mm mortar, 50mm mortar (all Brittania) and platoon transports (Brittania seconded Italian trucks, Altaya Stoewer car)

Kradcshutzen squad - dismounted miniatures aren't shown. (Brittania)

 Panzer IIIs (Plastic Soldier Company)
 Second Panzer III platoon (PSC)

Panzer II platoon (Revel kits)

Artillery; well the FOOs and their radios (Brittania and SHQ), and supply trucks (Academy kit and Frontline truck? - it's a freebie given to me so I'm not sure, still a spare truck can always find a home). 

Reconnaissance; 3 x SdKfz 222s (Airfix kits with AB and SHQ crew) and SdKfz 232 (Altaya - repainted)

Specialist Support; PaK38 anti-tank guns (Plastic Soldier Company with Brittania and SHQ crews) and the mighty 88 (Revel kit with AB crew). Airfix towed version isn't shown.
Panzerjager I (Italeri kit with AB crewmen), 20mm AA (Altaya and SHQ crew) and a cheeky captured British tow (Airfix - spare from the bits box)

That is not to say I’m done (like any army ever really is). But, it’s enough as ‘phase one’ of the project to get a good sized game from. Other stuff will be needed, especially a desert-camo Stuka and some artillery (other than off table that is), a second Schützen platoon and maybe a second 88. I’d really like to do a few Italian allies too, not a full army, maybe just an infantry platoon and a few tanks, for a change and to expand the force without too much replication. But for now, this project is done... time to think about the next one (maybe some desert Brits? or, a far more ambitious American Civil War army, big job that).

Hope you enjoy, Warwick

Monday 25 November 2013


 The battlefield. US approaching from the bottom, Germans would be deployed in the top half of the table. P-47 overflying pre-battle.

This was an ‘End of the Rat Race' scenario from Fall of the Reich, with the Germans dug-in defending as the Americans probed along the farm lanes towards the rural village of Pfalingen. The scenario begins as the American road column comes under attack, its forward recce (here an M5 Stuart) being hit as it approaches a road block on the edge of the village.

The German defenders (600 pts of them) consisted of an ‘Atypical ‘platoon of regular SS panzer grenadiers, dismounted and dug-in to two 10” lengths of trenches. Supporting them was a dug-in Pak40 (with loader team), a HMG-42 team, a squadron of 3 Panzer IVs, a 222 armoured car and an OP team spotting for an off-table battery of two 120mm mortars (ubiquitous these days it seems). They also had a few timed barrages up their sleeves. BR total 34.

The American column consisted of a platoon of three M26 Pershings, an armoured infantry platoon in their M3s, an artillery spotter with three 2nd priority requests, an M4A3E8, an extra infantry squadron in a truck, a Sherman ARV (as I was bound to lose a tank early doors) and the forward HQ also in an M3 halftrack. They also had a timed airstrike from a P-47 arriving on turn 7 (hopefully the deciding factor late in the game). BR total 42. They had to enter the table in march column order, up the road.

The US would take the first turn, but the Germans were all waiting on ambush fire.

The Germans dug-in on their right.

 In the centre, the Pak-40, in the background is the burning M5.

 US march column arriving and deploying off the road for the attack.

Oh dear, German mortars, werfers and the Pak-40 reap havoc in the first turns...
Well, I won’t got into a blow by blow account of this game. But it started very badly for the arriving Americans. Accurate 120mm mortar fire saw a direct hit lucky knock out the lead Pershing (drat!), and then destroy the following M3 half track, leaving the rifle squad cowering in the ditch, pinned. The mortar fire was followed by the screech of a timed ‘werfer barrage, which added a lot more pinning. The road was suddenly packed with pinned vehicles. The distant PaK40 flung some extra HE area fire at long range, aided by a busy loader team. Shells were going off left and right as the US struggled to get on the board.

The US, unable to get clear of the road for pinning, tried to do what they could as more units arrived behind them, pulling off the road to avoid the inferno of HE. 

Grenadiers move up into the hedgerows to get a few early shots in. 
Under return fire they fell back to their trenches again.

The Americans bad start didn’t get any better when a long range hit from the Pak 40 rolled an 11 and knocked out the second Pershing, so much for the heavy tanks! On the bright side, the German’s lone panzer ran out of fuel, and seeing the Americans massing up the road for the assault the crew lost their bottled and abandoned it. The first German loss and counter.

The deployment was a real struggle through the first few turns, under repeated mortar fire, then a timed 105 barrage, but luckily then the 120mm mortars just ran out of ammo (another special counter) - a blessed rest-bite for the hard hit Yanks. Now they could get on with the task of taking the fight to those trenches.

ARV makes it's way through the smoking wreckage on the road to salvage an M26.

The M3s broke into the open fields to the right and raced for cover in the hedges, with the FHQ getting into position to see the trenches and call in his own heavy guns - only to be turned down for 3 turns (the officer must have been screaming for his fire support by then – I was!). The last M26 got into position to see and engage the German’s first reinforcements, their second Pz IV, but their gun battle was inconclusive as we exchanged AP rounds at range. So far, the yanks had taken 9 counters, the Germans 2. Not good.

But now the game started to turn, good US command and control got the infantry moving, debussing and hitting the hedgerows, .30 cal MGs in place to lay down area fire ahead of the advance on foot. The Germans were struggling for orders, and their mortars fell quiet. The game went into a lull as the German reinforcements arrived and the US got into position to maximize their firepower. The scream of the first 155mm shells finally smashed into the German lines, leaving pinned infantry in trenches and a destroyed 222. The Pz IV behind was lucky to survive the heavy shelling. 

First German reinforcements arrive.

 US infantry work their way up the road, under scything MG fire.

On the left, the M4 Easy8 exchanged fire with the last Pz IV to arrive, and lost... ho-hum... Shermans continue their poor performance. Meanwhile the M26 was out of AP ammo and withdrew to the ammo truck, the last of the US road column to arrive, along with the ARV which hooked up a knocked out and tank and dragged it off the table (getting rid of a counter for the US). Now it looked a bit more even... just 12 counters to 7.

Things took another bad turn for me when the PaK40 found its range against my forward HQ half track, some 53” away!  Not being out of range (something of a surprise that) meant the HQ halftrack became target number one (it was doing the arty spotting) and a lucky 6 rolled was a hit that saw the halftrack destroyed, and all 3 men inside with it become casualties too. That was 3 counters (1 for the M3, 2 for the senior officer), lost me an officer and my re-roll (every turn) for my command dice and the man in place to call in the big guns. Still, the forward observer was now almost in place at the forward hedge to take over that job.

Seeing the Pershing withdraw to re-arm, the two panzer IVs pressed forwards on the left and right, hoping to catch it without any return fire. On the American right the panzer crew didn’t realise that the lurking US infantry squad in their M3 (it had raced forward, seen the tank coming and swerved off behind the woods to get out of the line of fire), still had a bazooka. Now, the half track emerged from hiding and deployed the squad, who scrambled forwards into the hedge and lined up the bazooka on the approaching panzer. Whoosh – boom! A  hit and scratch one tank...

The panzer IV on the American left emerged from around a hedge to line-up the rear of the re-arming Pershing, but rolled a 1 to hit and the heavy tank survived. In its turn, re-arm complete, the M26 crew quickly swivelled round and returned fire, and another duel of AP rounds began.  To be honest, the resupply truck was an easy target for the panzer’s MGs, and it hadn’t reloaded the Pershing yet, so destroying that would have left the Pershing a sitting duck, so I caught a break there. 

Lining up the Pershing's rear-end... and missing - phew. Previous victim still burning.

US armoured infantry debuss and take cover behind a hedge, then let the panzer 
have it with their bazooka. One shot, one kill.

 General Pershing scores a kill. The ammo truck behind was a sitting duck of a target 
but mercifully wasn't targeted.

With only one tank left on each side the Germans were down to just their grenadiers in trenches, blazing away with their many MGs, whilst the US infantry used their M1 Garands and BARs to suppress them back, and a blazing firefight began, in which the US infantry held their own, thanks to ‘Fire Superiority’ from their semi-auto rifles.  When the Pershing finally scored a hit and knocked out the last panzer IV, the battle had definitely switched. The Germans were in trouble. Then it got worse for them, not only did the timed P-47 air strike arrive (but its bombing run went wild and missed the Pak-40 dug-out by so much the bombs landed off the table!), another P-47 also arrived, this time with rockets. Its first attack run saw all its rockets miss though... those flyboys were shooting very wild today. But still it was another counter for being under air attack (a 5 my opponent revealed by his groans), and now the German’s BR total looked dangerously close to breaking. There was nothing in it! It turned out the Germans were just 4 pts from breaking, as were the Americans.  But I had a tank, and an aircraft, and artillery to call in - he had just infantry and a single PaK-40.

 The USAAF arrives in force, hitting nothing but the ground! Damn them flyboys.

That gun became target number one for my next artillery request from my observer who had crawled into position on the front line. His incoming 105s shells thundered into the area, destroying the gun with a direct hit which its dug-out failed to save. Hurrah, but the Germans didn’t break! The P-47’s next attack run saw it miss with all its rockets again (how realistic!) and then take a hit from smalls arms AA fire, which the aircraft’s morale roll of 1 saw it return to base – useless, useless, useless! 

US infantry on the front line. The panzer IV is abandoned due to lack of fuel. 
The M3 was another Pak-40 victim. 

 On target. 105mm shells wreck the Pak-40 dug-out - at last!

The German player’s gloomy demeanour perked up, the air threat removed, and in his turn an MG team’s concentrated fire wiped out one of my rifle squads in the hedge. Disaster, I drew a 4, and my battle rating was done. The Americans began to withdraw, the back road to Pfalingen had held (by just 2 BR it turned out – 1 more counter).

Well it was a really close and hard fought battle for 3 hours. The US got off to a terrible start, and then came right back into it. Another turn and they would have won, I’m sure... but such are the fine margins.  Those grenadiers could thank their entrenching tools for victory, the trenches had saved them and kept them in the battle way longer that the mere hedges my infantry had for cover. Still, if either of my aircraft had hit anything, then maybe it would have been a different outcome, so I blame the USAAF.