Sunday 28 October 2018

Donville and the Road to Baupte

Time to play a historical refight scenario, which makes a change from picking armies, to fight with what they had on the day. The weekend would see 17th SS Panzergrenadiers attack Carentan, with the scenario recreating the fight around the Donville Farm and the side road to the village of Baupte. Not played in Normandy for ages. Bring on those StuGs…

The scenario is in the Overlord book, and has the US paras holding with 2nd Armoured’s tanks on the way to rescue them (me) from the SS StuGs and Fallschirmjager’s strong attack.

The early game was just the 101st Paras and some off-table 105 guns holding… and they did this well. The Germans were rather cautious, holding back with lots of suppressing fire and shelling the farm itself with mortars and their 105s. Much pinning, and removing of pinning under German MG fire from the far hedges… my bazooka guys held tight on ambush fire waiting for the StuGs to advance. Only along the road did they push-on far, and my bazooka guys proved rather erratic and missed (1 hit bounced off the front glacis). A single StuG and its tank riders headed north of the farm on a lonely advance (hmmm!).

As my artillery hammered the far hedges and kept some German heads down, so my first 5 Shermans arrived. My plan was simple, reinforce the farm with some armoured infantry (when they showed up) to secure it, just hold the Germans on my right, north of the farm, and strike in force along the road. If I could take the small house to the south I’d have all 3 objectives and win it, regardless of the losses. Worth a lighting strike then, along the road to speed it up.

My first Sherman up the road was KO’d by StuG fire, but the others kept coming, under shifted German arty fire. Following up, the next wave of Shermans arrived as the main strike force to overwhelm his 2 StuGs on my left. It was 6 to 2 in AFVs. The armoured infantry arrived just behind the Shermans and weathered the incoming mortars (some pinning only), to be the final assault force once the house was heavily suppressed.

It panned out rather well, I lost another Sherman on my right to StuG fire, but return fire KO’d it. Long ranged fire from a StuG still back at the start-line hedge was ineffective (he empty his ammo bins without scoring a single hit) and the Marder did likewise, blazing at distant Shermans to no effect at all, then becoming just a machine gun in a tank fight- oops.

The Germans along the road were under pressure, another StuG KO’d by my charging Shermans and the other surrounded, Shermans left, right and behind! I switched my artillery to the target building and it scored a direct hit that wiped out the German Forward Observer - no more artillery fire. Things looked bad for the Hun. Even the surprise arrival of BF-109 bombing my tanks (but pinning them only) wasn’t enough. The last StuG guarding the road was hit and KO’d from the flank, and the other Shermans switched to HE on the building, hammering it to rubble. Within, the FJ were cowering. I pressed on, M3 half-tracks now on reserve move to rush the building then assault it in my turn.

So it went, like clockwork - for once. My infantry raced up and jumped out, to then assault the last defenders. They surrendered rather than fight on, and the last FJ panzerschreck team was wiped out by MG fire from the half-tracks. The building was empty and the objective was in the GIs hands. I had all three, the main farmhouse, the road junction and the southern cottage - so game over. The loss in BR was very close, with the Germans just having the edge (3 special counters helped). But the Germans fell back, having lost 3 StuGs from 6 and about a platoon of men. US losses were 3 Shermans from 10, and about a platoon of men, so also very even, but the Germans hadn’t attacked the main farm in any strength, and had not threaten the road junction objective either, so ultimately paid the price for not fighting for the objectives. Nice to win one after a bit of a loosing streak… nowt wrong with a Sherman tank, and don't believe anybody that says otherwise.

 Donville farm, the Carentan road and the road to Baupte. Germans attacking from the left, US from the right.

Main farm, and an objectives.

 First StuGs on the road. The air identification flag would probably be a bad idea in Normandy.

Pinned infantry in the hedges, with the farm under 105mm artillery fire.

Platoon CO StuG presses on up the road, bazookas be damned (they're pinned anyway). 

Back at the start line, StuH standing in (1 too few StuGs for this game in my collection), with US return arty landing. FJ not prepared to risk the open field ahead. 

 Hello 2nd Armoured. First 5 Shermans rolling on, one gets the road junction objective (marked by the cart).

The field(s) of battle. The house in top left is my target for my armoured assault. 

Hear those Detroit motors purr...  the Sherman waves arrive as 105 fire lands.

 Ouch! First Sherman gets a 75mm-sized hole in the turret front.

 The victory of that duel... but not for long.

 Close encounter in the woods by the road, the HQ StuG fails to spot, twice!. I missed, and rolled right on passed. Odd one that at 5" range. 

 GI armoured infantry reach the farm. Not required to defend it, they had an easy day.

 Pressing on into the teeth of the enemy, but overwhelming them.

Got him, StuG burning.

The StuG is surrounded and soon KO'd. The way to the objective is clear. Go! Go!

 Too little too late, a BF-109 bombs the Shermans, but can't hold the tide of US steel.

 StuG still back on the start line. Captain Miss. Fired 5, missed 5, now empty... gawling.

Captain Miss 2, an ammo-less Marder as well. Doubly gawling. Long-range shots at Shermans in cover probably was not the way to play it with so little ammo and no resupply available. 

Monday 15 October 2018


It’s 1983 and the Russians are coming!

Somewhere in northern Germany the BAOR are facing the advance of Warsaw Pact forces invading West Germany. This was an early play-test game for my ‘Cold War Gone Hot’ rules in development, Battlegroup: NorthAG (WIP title).

Whilst drawing from Battlegroup’s WW2 rules, these aren’t the same game, everything has been tweaked, changed, dropped or had stuff added, to try and get a better feel for a larger size game with smaller models (we play in 10mm, but 6mm and 15mm will be equally fine and dandy I think).

This was the smallest game size (Platoon), with Company and Battalion-sized games included as well. In it, my Chieftains were facing T-64s, backed by infantry and mortars. It was close, but I lost too many precious tanks, and my TOW Lynx - when it arrived - failed to hit anything before being pinned under Shilka cannon fire. The Russian won it when a platoon of airborne infantry dropped onto my frontline objective and seized it in a lightning assault. Lessons to be learnt were that, with the possibility of an airborne assault from mobile reserves, lightly held objectives, anywhere on the table, are vulnerable. In this game objectives are vital - more important than in BG, and mostly only available for infantry units to capture. So, in a big tank fight, the infantry have a specific role, to get to, capture and hold the objectives.  That is where they bump into each other.

The game worked well, I was happy, but it did need the tweaks that followed. Mainly I’m very happy with the new army lists, which have been completely re-written and provided the sort of forces and the sort of battle I think a ‘modern’ game should. Combined arms, task-orientated mixed battlegroups, but leaning towards the tanks for these open-field battles (the game isn’t going to worry overly about purely urban combat). But recce, infantry and artillery all have a role to play. So too the AA vehicles, because airborne firepower on helos and aircraft is frightening, leave yourself open to it at your peril. AA vehicles parked up, just waiting on ambush fire, makes me oddly happy! It turned out in this game that 1 infantry team with a Blowpipe didn’t really provide much in the way of air defence. Another lesson learnt.

Development work will continue, and some of the heavy restrictions I had on artillery will have to go. Atm, it’s just not doing enough in the game to feel like it’s a major factor, and against massed Red tanks, 81mm mortar fire just doesn’t cut-it! They just roll-on with barely a pin amongst them. My Scorpion recce tank did a lot of spotting, but his called mortar fire was largely ineffective.

Later, we also introduced the new gas-attack rules, which are nasty but added a new dimension I like… no tactical nukes yet, but they are defo coming.

Here are a few snaps of the first game in progress, not many, as my mind was firmly on the rules. We also played a second larger game, which was another Red win... a pounding this time as his T-64s overran me. Hard life as Chieftain crew in these rules.

Red Steel. T-34 company giving (and taking) fire.

Russians on the left, BAOR on the right, Lynx choppering in inbetween. 

The Lynx lines up the T-64s.  2 TOWs away, two TOWs miss!

 Some mechanised infantry FV-432s unload infantry teams into the woods (an objective). Once the men are out, these tracks are redundant, so withdrawing them off-table is a good move. This I also like, it feel right. Quick in and then quick out before the enemy tanks starting targeting them.

Sunday 7 October 2018

Humber scout car restoration

A little job, long put-off. My Humber scout car model, made about 10 years ago, has been collecting dust (literally) for about 6 years, broken in places, and a spider was living inside it. Hence the many cobwebs it was under. On a rainy Saturday afternoon I set about renovating it.

I haven't done much 1/35th military modeling, mainly because if I'm painting tanks I want to play games with them, but this scratched an itch to try out various painting techniques (and use an airbrush), like weathering powders. It was a trial piece for a larger project, to make my grandfather's Churchill in 1/35th in an Italian campaign diorama. First, I thought I'd trial the techniques, see if I enjoyed the whole fiddly process and, to boot, get a Humber to add to the diorama in the end.

Well, the Humber was all I got to, and frankly, it took ages, and the thought of doing it all again with a Churchill and 5 crew stalled me. I got back to painting tanks for wargaming pretty quickly, having just dipped my toe into the 'serious' business of military modeling.

Still, the poor Humber was now in urgent need of some tlc... or binning. Time for a restoration job, with much careful dusting, cleaning, fixing of antenna and broken wheels and evicting the spider.

Here it is being restored, interior de-cobwebbed details and all. My only daliance with pure 1/35th modeling so far. I like it, just making it was a bit too torturous for my patiences. The Churchill, 5 crew figures and added detail kits remains unmade in a box in the loft. One-day, maybe.

 Humber scout car, liaison vehicle with HQ Troop, 51st RTR, Italy, 1943. 

 New aerial added, after the last one broke off. Both front wheels had also broken off.

 Interior detail of engine compartment

Crew compartment and former spider's lair. Now cleared out, so you can see the radios again.

 Back to wargaming in future...