Monday 3 October 2016

Derby Worlds Demo 2017

We’ll another October and another Derby wargames show, at Castle Donnington. Battlegroup was there, demo-ing the future BG:Tobruk book, due in spring next year, with a smallish desert tank-encounter at Bir Ez Zelb, during Operation Crusader.

The game ran through various players and many watchers-on throughout Saturday and Sunday, (with some breaks for me, but not many). The board was a 6x8, with my now much appreciated (by passers-by) combination of hessian cloth and copious amounts of sand and grits, added to by liberal scattering of clump foliage as camel thorn (this is starting to sound like a recipe). With the cloth falling to make natural looking contours, it does look very convincing as desert scrub (from a distance). Up close, you can see the Hessian-mess too well, so maybe its not the right solution after-all (but the right colours, which helps a lot).

The game itself saw a British armoured unit advancing on Bir Ez Zelb against a screening force of Germans on slightly higher ground (the boards sloped up a bit), with reinforcing panzers on the way. Here are the force lists for the game.

DAK Forces
Initial Defenders
2 x PaK38s with tows        72             4-v
20mm AA with tow           28             1-r
2 x Schutzen squads           56             6-r   
FAO team                           23             1-v    arty spotter
SdKfz 263 radio AC           24            1-r    comms
2 80mm mortars (off-table)    54        0
Captured Matilda II             35           3-r
Sniper                                  10           1-v    sniper scout

5 x Panzer III Hs                 170        15-r    officer
Kradschutzen squad             34          3-r   
Total                                    506 pts    35 BR    1 officer, 1 scouts       

British Forces
First Wave

3 x Crusader IIs                                     91    9-r    officer
Motor Rifle Platoon in 4 light trucks    80    9-r    officer
2 25pdr and tows                                   80    4-r
3 x Cruiser A9s                                     97    9-r    officer, unreliable

3 x Crusader IIs                                    91    9-r    officer
FAO in Dingo scout car                       16    1-i    arty spotter
2 3” mortars (off table)                        54    0
Total                                                     509    41 BR    4 Off, 0 Scouts       

It was a close fought encounter, with the Germans starting well and getting the upper hand on Saturday, but the British had fought back in the afternoon session and having established a fair lead on BR by close of play. Those playing off course were learning the game rules, so it was slow(ish) going as I explained all and got them to roll the dice and push the models about. Still, the British had knocked-out a German 50mm AT gun and the 20mm AA, seen off one infantry squad and scored copious pinning with their 25 pdrs firing over open sites. The Germans had managed to knock out one A9 cruiser in return, but again, their off table mortars had scored various pinning, especially amongst the motor rifle platoon in their transports.

Aerial view as the first Crusaders move up on the British right, and the Pak38 tries to redeploy in front of them, mostly being pinned by 25 pdr fire.

 Sunday morning saw the game resume, and the Germans had something of a comeback, destroying 2 Crusaders and another A9 and pinning the British infantry with MG fire. Their Panzer IIIs arrived and started what would become a prolonged gunnery duel with the Crusaders, both finding their guns well under-powered at maximum ranges to deal with the enemy’s frontal armour (one pinned Crusader crew did abandon though, but only after resisting about 10 50mm shell hits!, mostly they were just deaf and suffering from concussion). The capture Matilda final won its duel with an A9, at PB range… but then its slow movement meant it struggled to get back into the fight with the Crusaders and incoming 2pdr fire soon had it repeatedly pinned too.

The British motor infantry tried to take the hill, but failed under MG fire, mostly being pinned, (one section was wiped out though) and their mortar fire wasn’t too effective in return either. When a Panzer III and supporting Kradschutzen squad turned up as German reinforcements, the hill seemed secure enough for the Germans.

It was the gunnery duel that cost the DAK in the end. The Crusaders started to get the upper hand, aided by suppressing fire from the 25pdr battery, hammering the Panzers IIIs each turn with Area Fire. A few good penetration rolls saw one, then a second, then the officer’s Panzer III knocked out… and the chits mounted. The Crusaders moved up to close the range on the last survivors, still bouncing shells of the Matilda (its side by now though). Then an aircraft threatened to arrive, some RAF support, but instead it just flew on to another target… a small respite for the Germans who could have done with some Stuka support themselves. In the end, another British mortar barrage blew up a soft-skinned tow (for the 20mm AA, knocked out by overwhelming A9 MG fire on Saturday - they are good for something!). That counter broke the Germans and they pulled back. The British where still 9 points away, so a solid win on the road towards Tobruk…

Thanks all that played, watched, cheered the good (and bad) dice rolls and just came up to say hello and talk BG… I remain chuffed that so many have found the game so much fun. Thanks to the guy that said it was the best set of WW2 rule she’d played since the 1970s… I’d have to agree of course!

Next year will be something else, maybe eastern front, with no clearing up sand and grit required. Worth the bit of extra effort for the look though.

Here are few pics of the weekend’s action, not many, was a bit too busy (and the lighting in the hall is weird for cameras).

 A9s, many, many MGs blazing move on the left, up onto the high ground.

The captured Matilda moves to engage the lead A9 as 25 pdr shells land just ahead. The 20mm Flak38s tow is also a captured Bofor's tow. 

 The RAF fly-by but, luckily for the Germans, the P40 buzzed on for another target. 

A9 engages the infantry in the single abode house, with no AT grenades, they weren't much threat even to an A9. 

Reinforcements arrive, and the gunnery duel starts at maximum range.

The horse artillery, unlimbered and pounding out Area Fire at top speed. Their harassing fire would do a lot towards winning the tank vs tank battle ahead of them. If I'd been the Germans, they would have been priority mortar targets...

The tank's line up to engage, to find guns are so good in 1941, glance, glance, glance, it was exciting though, which side would get a kill first?


  1. Can...not...wait...until...BG:Tobruk!

    Great looking game - please come and run a demo in Sydney :-)

  2. Great game report. I cant wait for my copy ;-)

  3. That is a great looking table- really effective. The density of kit on the table looks just right too.



    1. Yes, much underrated by gamers, who too often get carried away with too much kit on the tabletop. Less is more... better games are made with some space for manoeuvre and mobility. One way to fix this is staggering stuff's arrival right, give the earlier stuff time to be destroyed!. In the desert a larger table is preferable, but not always do-able, for those long lines of sight. That's part of the character of the desert war, this isn't close quarters firefights like Normandy.

  4. Not the right place, i know. But maybe it helps,Soldiers of god: Can't Seem to find the point cost for Siege Tower and battering ram ?