Tuesday 31 January 2017

Operation Foxtrot, FotR campaign weekend

Last weekend saw the third Battlegroup campaign weekend, this time at Battlefield Hobbies in Daventry, which provided a great venue. This campaign used the Fall of the Reich supplement and was set at the 'semi' imagined town of Mundenberg, a last Nazi redoubt somewhere in the Ruhr in April 1945. Operation Foxtrot would be the joint British and US attack to eliminate the pocket and open the town's transport network.

Players came either to defend Mundenberg, with a forces selected from the FotR 'Defenders of Reich' army lists, or take it, with either US or British Battlegroups. All were 500pts, and they could be changed between games if the player so wished. Day one would see the Allies attacking the town's surrounding defences, and trying to take a few key locations. The British had the north and west, and the Yanks the south and east, but a lack of available US forces meant that in the end, the Brits took part of the south too. Tommy Atkins would be required to do the heavy lifting here.

Day two would see the last of the husbanded German armour unleashed in the final counter-attack. With only enough fuel for one day in battle, the tanks were not present (much) on day 1.

The players rolled into Battlefield Hobbies around 9am on Saturday for their morning briefing and allocation of sectors (tables). Key to the morning attacks would be the Backsenberg coalmine (for the Brits) and the bridg over the Holtzbach stream (for the US, but now handed on to the Brits). Game winners would earn their side bonus campaign victory points, 1 for a narrow win, 2 for a solid win, 3 for massacre and an extra bonus point if it was a key objective. So, on with game 1 as the guns cut loose.

The Germans deployed their defenders and their defences, and it was a frightening site. Trenches, gun dug-outs, 4 Panthertern and 14 88s, why the town had held out so long was now obvious, it had a Luftwaffe Flak Regiment holding it, it must have been a bomber route further west...

The Allied armour had no choice but to press the offensive and by 10am the games were underway.

By 12.30 the results were in... it wasn't pretty, but not disastrous either, 5 German wins from their fixed positions, and 4 Allied wins. The Brits had won at the Backsenbek coalmine too, but the Germans still held on the Holtzbach stream, and its bridge... due to three 88s covering it! With bonus points for those locations, and +1 bonus for any player that provided extra terrain (whether we needed it or not), the campaign score was Allies 16, Germans 18.

After a brief pause for lunch the attack was to resume. New sectors for each player and a new opponent. The bridge was no longer a  key objective (it had now been blown up), so the key to the south was now the Schelkwerks factory, again the Brits would take over the attack here. To the north, the key location was now the MundenbergstraBe, the main road into town. The morning pressure had obviously taken its toll on the defenders, and things started to crack. With the US players putting in especially good results, and Allies were pulling ahead. But the Schelkwerks proved a very tough nut to crack and saw a German massacre victory, the British Churchill armour failing to break-in in a concerted effort in this 'little Stalingrad'. The British did clear the main road though. It was 4 o'clock and the second round of games was over... the scores at the end of day 1 read, Allies 29, Germans 27. Close, but the Allies had the slim advantage. We'd return tomorrow for games 3 and 4... when the panzers would come out to play.

Day two of Operation Foxtrot, could the Allies push on to victory in the face of the German's last hurrah of the panzers. Key to the German panzer counter was the Backsenbek coalmine again, having lost it yesterday, they wanted it back today, also the Allies would try again to clear the Schelkwerks, where the Germans had handsomely won both games on day 1.

It was bad morning for the Brits, the German armour pounced and mauled them... and they managed only 2 marginal victories. It was the Yanks that saved them, winning all three of their games, the Pershings and their artillery firepower telling... as well as some extra air support. Of 11 victory points won, the US accounted for 9 of them. Thanks Uncle Sam. The Germans had won some games, but not many games by much of a margin, and scored only 9 points... so all close run things and proving the German armour struggles to dominate in 1945. The score going into the final round of games stood at Allies 40, Germans 36. The lead had grown, and it might be enough to force the town's surrender.

Sunday afternoon, and the player's girded themselves for the final push, make or break in game 4. 2.5 hours left to decide the outcome. The key objectives were now the Schelkwerks and the village of Seidenkirchen (soon to be Seiden-no-kirchen, after a British AVRE target the church and brought it crashing down). The US attack on the Schelkwerks was a disaster, their Pershings smashed by a lurking King Tiger in the ruins... they were well routed in a massacre win. But in the neighbouring sector the US won a solid victory in a brutal armoured clash near the Neulandhoffl Farm, that left the lane choked with burning tanks and half tracks, and 3 Pershings wrecked by Nebelwerfer strikes.

So, the results started to roll in, and it was still tight. With just 3 games still being played it could go either way... the first was a British win, a narrow one, but at the key village of Seidenkirchen. They had it, except that the next result was a solid German win, the last game would decide it. That too went to the Germans. Final scores, Allies 52, Germans, 53. Mundenberg would not surrender until the rest of Germany did.

It was a brilliant time, with great players enjoying their hobby, meeting new opponents and playing in a spirit of friendly competition, it's not about the winning, that just a nice side effect. The award for most victory points earned by the Allies went to Carl Hellicar again, he also won back at the Kursk event (including beating me). His US force of Pershings and armoured infantry had taken 4 out of 4 games, the only player to do so. The German winner, with 3 victories from 4, was part of the 3-man Finnish contingent for the Germans (foreign volunteers). Juuso Sepalla took the round of applause and certificate. His closest rivals were the two other Finns, who had provided 26 points to the German cause between them.

Here are lots of pictures of games in progress. Enjoy. I thoroughly recommend these weekends, its gaming like it should be (well to me), with a strong theme, with objectives at stake (but not too much), a drive to win, but not overly competitive and no rules lawyers in sight. In the end, the real prize is having a great time with your hobby, enjoyable games against new opponents... and knowing you did your part in the team's effort (or at least tried).

We shall do it all again at Battlegroup South at Bovington Tank Museum in the summer, with a desert campaign weekend, better get the book finished first (very close now).

Battle commences over 10 tables

 Brits line up for the advance into the Schelkwerks... well, to try

Little Stalingrad, the Schelkwerks, the German's rock, against which most attackers would break

 RAD Flak Regiment in an emergency ground role... dug-in and fighting hard.

 Backsenbek coalmine, scene of 2 early Brit victories. 

 Trenches around the coalmine, but the infantry within had little fight left in them

MundenbergstraBe, held by Pak43 dug-out. Minutes later a direct hit from a Tempest's bomb smashed the gun, with not a shot fired in anger. 

Volksgrenadiers in the hedges, doing brisk business with the Panzerfausts

US heavy tanks on the roll

More Flak troops, more dug-outs...  where the Allies expecting a cake walk?

Equally nasty surprise, Panthertern, hidden in the treeline, and executing 3 Shermans in short order.  Need to get that pinned with some arty stonks... oh., no arty support, then that would mean trouble.

British infantry lead the way in the first attack on the Holtzbach stream, to be repulsed. 

US armoured troops attack at the ruined Schloss Neuhoffland... take the castle!

Trenches, more trenches, dug-in guns, the Germans were doing it right. 

British armour taking a beating outside the village of Siedenkirchen

 The bridge, destroyed after game 1, but the Germans are still dug-on along the stream.

 Game 2, the Flak Regiment haven't gone away. 

 British Kangeroo-mounted platoon storming up the road to the coalmine and taking it.

 Churchills flounder at the Schelkwerks

US infantry have the castle ruins, and used  bazooka to knock out that 88 below them with AT fire. It's what archery slits were made for. 

US troops having more luck at the stream than their British allies. Pershings might held in that. 

British armour crosses the town's railway line

Churchills still rolling, the only Churchill-based battlegroup this time.

The counter-attack is on the way, and the ever popular Puma's were out front (amongst other recce). here, one guards the cross roads at Seidenkirchen.

Heavy armoured cars on the contested Holtzbach stream.

US armour meets the counter and deals out some of the German's own medicine, like US armour usually doesn't... 

Battle at Rabatz Farm, held by the Germans, until flamethrowered by a Wasp.

Cromwells provided the tank of choice for the Brits...

British recce, taking another look at Siedenkirchen

 US' turn at the Schelkwerks

Churchills, lots of Churchills, but they ended up in cautious stand-off with a lurking King Tiger. 

 That one in fact, and his two little Hetzer friends

Old faithfuls, and still the go-to tank for the Germans.

Challenger in cover and on ambush fire. Its shots scored its first kill, a Panther...

On rushing to meet the Challenger, and 17 pdr shell...

Counter attack at Rabatz Farm, now back in German hands. 37mm Flak doing stirling work keeping the Jabo's away (well pinned). 

 Sextons bring the farm under direct fire, aid tent and supply truck close by.

Oh dear, they didn't far from the start line. 

Kangeroos up to it again. Impressive performance for the armoured infantry. 

Coming the other way...

 Games 3 in progress

Scores on the doors (wall), after game 3.

Schelkwerks, counter-attack and big win...

 Churchills at Seidenkirchen

 Shermans at Backsenbek

Sextons on the Holtzbach

The wrecked bridge in British hands

Big cats roaming the fields

A familiar battle, against these US Shermans.

Recce takes a hit

Cromwells follow the railway line into town

To meet the Churchills at Seidenkirchen, but these last panzers were enough to hold the village

Rolling since 1939, a supply wagon arrives at the Schelkwerks.

Bring up ammo for the StuG

Nebelwerfer strike...ouch, but the US still won it.

Graveyard of the Pershings, not so hot now, facing a King Tiger. 

US armoured infantry do great work with their bazookas on the Neulandhoff farm track, and smashing that counter-attack. Another US win...