Monday 31 March 2014

Union Forever, hurrah, boys, hurrah!

Back at Christmas (seemingly last week) I began my big project for 2014, 28mm ACW to play Longstreet. With the deadline set for the first game at Easter, on April 15th actually, time is running tight.

But, I’m well on the way to completion! This has been great fun... daunting at first, but once I got on a roll with the painting I was away. Working in batches of 20-30 models at a time, I have been steaming along on weekday evenings, taking every short cut I could think of to get them done. For the last week or so I have been basing like mad, and now the first part of my brigade is ready to join the rest of the Army of the Potomac. Here they are, I’m stoked to get their first battle in and blood them. My opponent is almost ready too, although he has a bit more infantry than me, he only has 2 cannons so far.

 The farm boys of the 17th Ohio, on the march to Richmond.

 The new immigrants of the 37th New York, the Irish Rifles, in the thick of the action.

 The 2nd Pennsylvania, a bit shot-up.

 Lt Colonel William Arthur Samuals, ‘Fightin’ Billy’, on his horse Thunder. Not strictly needed for the game but I wanted something to be me on the tabletop. Also, 2 sharpshooter markers and a hero marker, should I need them.

4th New York Artillery. Gun barrels remain unattached and swappable for anything I need. Still got to do their limbers.

The 9th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, just finished.

Still on the paining tray are the last 15 men of the 87th New York, the other 25 are complete. That’ll be my fourth 10 base infantry regiment.Beyond this, well, I have all I need for game 1, but I want my cavalry dismounted as well, and probably three more guns, and then a coloured infantry regiment for later in the war. That should about do it.

All miniatures are Perry plastics and Foundry metals mixed in. Coats and hats in Valejo Dark Sea Blue (over black), highlighted with Dark Prussian Blue and trouser in Luftwaffe Field Blue. After all that blue, its time to get back to dirty green and brown-grey for some WW2 tanks.

Monday 24 March 2014

Back to Kursk

Friday evening saw a few hours (2.5 actually) of wargaming entertainment (let’s face it, tele is rubbish and a game – just about any game- is preferable).  We had the luxury of a choice of three WWII periods to pick from (Kursk, Overlord or Fall of the Reich). Soon this will be increased to 4 with the arrival Battlegroup Barbarossa in April – which technically we could have played as well I suppose. We decided the period at random, and it came up Kursk. So back to 1943. I would be defending with my Russians, the Germans would be attacking, in a 700 point ‘Defence Line’ scenario.

My force was made up of 3 static Zis 3 AT gun positions, 2 in dug-outs and 1 in an earth bunker, with an infantry platoon deployed to protect the guns, as well as 2 Maxim MG dug-outs, 2 82mm mortars and a few other bits a pieces like 2 off-table 122mm timed barrages and 3 off-table Zis 3 shots. In reserve were my 4 T-34s with tank riding infantry, ready to counter-attack. Unfortunately a battelgroup relying on defences and artillery support pays the price in BR, so my total wasn’t great at just 35.

The Germans when for a rather ‘Soviet’ approach. Tanks and infantry. 2 grenadier platoons tank riding on 7 Pz IVs (G and Hs mixed) a single (but ubiquitous) Tiger and no artillery support at all. Their BR was a decent 48, considerable better than mine, but I had the good cover saves with me, and some good AT guns to hit back with.

Here are some snaps from the evening’s game, and very ‘Kursk-like’ it was. I deployed my little strongpoints of AT guns, infantry and MG support, with the FO Team at the back watching over the lot and ready to call in the bigger guns and mortars. The German attack rolled in (after the scenarios preliminary bombardment which left 2 infantry units pinned), 4 Panzer IVs leading the attack with a platoon riding on the back. Intimidated by my overwatching AT guns they skulked into the woods and this would become the main thrust of their attack, straight up the centre. Soon the woods reverberated to the sounds of rifle and MG fire as the Russian infantry fought a desperately outnumbered firefight, which saw two squads wiped out for little in return. The central AT gun they had been protecting was outflanked and overrun by close assaulting grenadiers throwing grenades which saw the crew and loader team run-off. A bad start but, in the plus column, a Sturmovik had arrived and dropped its bombs, which had disabled 1 tank and pinned some infantry. It now circled round looking for infantry targets to strafe.

 The battlefield, Germans entering from the right, Rusians deployed across the central third, with reinforcements due to arrive from the left. The main thrust came through the woods. Knew I should have mined them.

 Sturmovik bombs hit home.

 Russians mortars in the orchard.

 Covering the road, a dug-in Zis 3 with loader team and MG bunker.

 AT gun bunker, on the hilltop with a good lines of sight. The Germans hide in the woods though.

 Pinned by the preliminary bombardment, the FO Team.

 Crashing through the trees, the central AT posion was overrun and abandoned.

  In the centre, Panzers IV press forwards.

 Large bomb impact, no more infantry squad. The dispatch rider had to run away.

 FW-190 zooms in to good effect.

 SS Grenadiers assaulting a dug-in gun.

 Tiger rolls onto the road junction, an objective, now lost.

 Sturmovik goes after the 190, missing with area fire (only fire allowed at aircraft).

 190 returns the compliment next turn...

 Panzer IV lines up the AT bunker, a HE hit caused 1 casualty, and the abandonment of the position, useless.

Hidden from the air attacks, the Germans pushed on through the woods, and more Panzer IVs arrived with more infantry, moving up in the centre they ran into accurate mortar fire, which disabled another tank and wiped out a squad, which broke and ran. Morale wasn’t good today. The Tiger then arrived along the road and rolled up, lashing the Zis 3 AT gun covering the road with HE area fire, whilst return 76.2mm shells bounced off (as always). The Russian position was looking vulnerable, the centre had crumbled away, and redeploying infantry to the centre didn’t look like it would be enough to stop the panzers.

This was compounded when a FW-190 swooped in, released its single large bomb and it fell right into the middle of my infantry squad in a direct hit that saw 7 of them killed and the last man pinned, and thus removed. The battle counters were stacking up.

It wasn’t one way traffic though, a mine strike disabled another Panzer IV and my last infantry squad shot up an MG team and wiped it out, and then sneaked forward to seize a spare objective (I now had all 3, but, as the defender, couldn’t claim the win). I was in desperate need of my reserves, and 5 turns to fight without them seemed like forever.

By now the panzers were right in the midst of the defence zone, and the Tiger tank drove over the Zis 3 covering the road, how rude! The crew ran off (again).

Turn 5, and the T-34s finally arrived, infantry onboard. Rather than throw them straight into the teeth of the panzers and that Tiger, they went wide right, hoping to cut in and get some flank shots before the panzers could turn to face. Also, a lucky hit from an off-table Zis 3 shot pinned the Tiger tank... hurrah.

But, just as the tank counter-attack was about to strike, the Germans had a fierce turn, maxing out on Orders at 17 on 2D6+5. By comparison, the Russian had just rolled 3+1 = 4 orders. Disaster overwhelmed my last defenders as the German assaulted my mortars teams, wiping them out, and my platoon command squad was shot-up as well. Tank HE fire caused a casualty inside the AT gun bunker, and a rolled 1 for morale saw the rest of the gun crew abandon the bunker and exit out the back! Damn them, the last key position was gone and with it, the tank counter-attack was quickly cancelled. Broken, the Russians got the order to withdraw.

Another grim defeat... the Germans had taken just 26 BR lost from their had gone badly, but I had knocked out 4 Pz IVs (all would no doubt be recovered and back in action tomorrow).

 T-34s arrive, prepare to rush in, then get recalled... no counter-attack today, this defence line is given up in turn 6.

Highlights of the game (which was a very characterful one) were the Tiger tank crushing the Zis 3, and the Sturmovik and FW-190 turning their MGs on eachother in a brief dog-fight over the battlefield (inconclusive when the Sturmovik split for home). Also, a timed 122 barrage that scored 3 direct hits on one German MG team, leaving not even a smear. I still have never knocked out a Tiger!

Wednesday 12 March 2014

On the brink of Barbarossa

It’s been a while since my last blog, the reason will be immediately apparent. Battlegroup Barbarossa is complete and to prove it, here are few spreads from the book, which is now with the printers. It been a hard graft for the past two months finishing the production work and getting all the photography done, but it’s looking good and I think it’s another excellent addition to the Battlegroup range. Our first foray into the early war years (but definately not our last), it covers June 22nd to December 1941 (and maybe into January as Operation Typhoon was driven back from Moscow). 

Again, I’ve attempted to get a different feel to these Barbarossa game from other books, and from tester it seems to have worked, with the Russian colossus being intimidating in size, but actually something of a car-crash on the battlefield, suffering from command chaos and a lot of unreliable tanks. The Germans are the all-rounders, good in all aspects, with good command and control, artillery and air support and superior morale. In testing the battles proved balanced fights, even with the Russian problems, so I think we’ve managed to achieve game balance whilst changing the overall feel of the battles. Be warned, playing a Russian commander in 1941 is not for the faint-hearted, but very rewarding when you bring the blitzkrieg to a standstill.

The book will first be available at Salute in April (fingers crossed), and is up for pre-order with Plastic Soldier Company now. Take a look and enjoy.