Sunday 31 March 2019

Erfundensdorf, Game 3.

Still campaign turn 1, but the third game of the morning’s advance. Table 3 is through the Eisenwald forest, west of town, along a forester’s track, where the trees meets the farm fields that surround the town itself. The Germans have a blocking force in place (defending again), with the US Task Force Hallas of CCA, 3rd Armoured attacking.

Before the start of the campaign both players used a master list of core forces to pick battlegroups for each US route of the advance and German defensive area. The master ‘core’ list was long, over 3,000 points, and some of those forces had to be designated as the reserves, which can be drawn on later in the campaign (if needed), but can’t be used in Turn 1 (you have to have something left to fight tomorrow, even if in the campaign, there is no actual tomorrow). For the Germans these are the forces either still in town itself (no doubt hiding from US shelling) or en-route as extra reinforcements - a unit designated as ‘Panzer Ersatz Kompanie 12’, or Stossgruppe Schulz, mostly trainees from the Paderborn tank training ground (but with the Panthers). That force doesn’t arrive, via Table 5, until campaign turn 2 (the afternoon). If the US forces can breakthrough to table 5 in the first turn (via table 4) they can attempt to incept the arriving reinforcements in a meeting engagement. If not, then Stossgruppe Schulz will make it into town and be able to either counter-attack or help defend the town in the big final battle (turn 3 of the campaign, the evening).

In this game, the US forces of Task Force Hallas were pre-chosen up to 700 points, and any points not chosen could be used for adding off-table artillery support, via any method of calling on the guns they liked. In the end, the US player just spent all 700 points on the following attacking force from his core list, using another one of his six armoured infantry platoons (this time mounted), some Sherman platoons from the full battalion he has to call upon and his battery of Calliope rocket launchers (he only has 1 of them thankfully) and added a supply truck.

My defenders, elements of Kampfgruppe Idlemann, are holding the line in a Defence Line scenario. Infantry is from Fallshirmjager Training Battalion ‘Richter’ (sub-ordinate to Kampfgruppe Idelmann), one of three FJ platoons in the core lists (and one was already all but destroyed in game 1). Added to this from the core are 2 of my Panzer IVs (I have 3 in all), but at last some proper tanks. The pre-deployed defences are barricades (log piles), a gun-pit, some foxholes and my command bunker (on the edge of town). With a few points leftover from the core stuff, I added an off-table battery of 81mm mortars and a single timed Nebelwerfer strike (duel of the MRLs). Time to get it on (and try to win one).

Victory for the US would open up a deployment zone west of town in the final game. If I won, then I could chose to counter-attack here, if I had the forces in campaign turn 3, or just be content that that side of the town was blocked off and I wouldn’t have to face Task Force Hallas and their Calliopes again.

The battle itself was an attritional affair. My FJ dug-in and holding tight, mostly on ambush fire awaiting targets for their Panzerfausts (there were very few for the MG-42 teams). An initial rush by the US for the HQ bunker gained ground, but when my Pz IVs arrived, ‘112’ knocked out the Sherman and my FJ mopped up the few US infantry pinned by the bunker. That objective was saved and secured. Meanwhile, the US moved up through the trees, and my mortar support fire failed to show up, failing 3 comms test in a row (and about 6 in the game)! The Calliope battery moved to the woods edge on my left (we decided they couldn’t shoot from under the trees), and the FOO tank was on the road trying to get a clear line of sight to the main defence line without being targeted by the PAK-40, dug-in on my right. The PAK awaited on ambush fire, and when tanks appeared at the tree line, opened fire, with 3 shots from its loader team - and subsequently failed every spot roll!

The Calliopes roared into action and, well, beyond a bit of pinning, had little effect on the FJ in foxholes. Phew! My own timed Nebelwerfer strike was similar in effect, a bit of pinning on tanks, but no direct hits! Not a banker then.

The US sat off, blazing HE and MG fire into my defenders trying to get them well pinned, with M3s loaded with infantry ready to go when their chance came. My Panzers fire, missed and, with the few hits, glanced off! Good grief. For once no US fighter bombers showed (although 2 counters were drawn, neither dived in). The tank duel just used up ammo, with only 1 casualty, the FOO’s tank on the road being knocked out by ’112’ again, it as fighting this war on its own.

The US had a supply truck in the woods, rearmed the Calliope and then the tanks rolled in to collect more shells. I strengthen my line my FJ pioneer squad, dashing up the road in their truck, which was then destroyed by a 75mm HE shell before it could get away again. The attrition was favouring the US, one of my Panzer IVs had been immobilised by an AP hit and was now also out of ammo. The PAK scored a kill, on an M3 half track, but it wasn’t enough. With his tanks re-armed he finally (after turns of waiting) attacked. Those Detroit-engines roared and the M3s advanced, Shermans adding HE shells to help keep my FJ heads down. A second Calliope strike, well placed, caused havoc and more pinning. A HE shell destroyed the Pak-40 (another 1 rolled for a cover save!). One Sherman was hit in the flank by a Panzerfaust from my pioneers, and his leading M3 suffered the same fate, his pinned infantry dismounting to then be flayed by MG-42 fire, but not wiped out.

Both sides counter stacks had raced up, and my break-point was approaching. Another turn in the assault saw his PHQ half track race up and wipe out my FJ platoon HQ, trapped in the open having been pinned by Calliope rockets. Pintle-mounted .50 cal fire broke them and my battle group… the US were still 12 points away, so another solid win. Crickey! If something doesn't improve soon someone's going to get shot for dereliction of duty!

My FJ platoons had suffered half losses, as had his armoured infantry, both my Panzer IVs would have to be abandoned (both had been immobilised by the end). 3 Shermans were wrecks, but theer are plenty more where they came from. Task Force Hallas had forced its route into town… I’m started to look very surrounded.

On to game 4… can I actually stop the US in any game?

Table 3, Eisenwald Forest, foresters track and farm fields west of town.  US attacking left to right.

HQ bunker's view across the fields and barbed wire.  My main mortar spotter, his radio blew 6 from 10 comms checks... and no re-roll either!

 US probe force, following the trail.

FJ outpost watching the track, MG-42 team and Panzerschreck team.  
Log-piles are 'improved barricades'

View from the US table end.

First US probe, takes out the Pzschreck team and pins the MG before making for the bunker in a lightning 'coup de main', that almost came off. 

 Calliope and FOO tank move up to the wood line

 Resupply truck open for business in the woods just behind.

 Foxholes of my veteran FJ, awaiting on ambush fire. 

Dug-in PAK-40 and loader team with long fields of fire. 

 My first Pz IV arrives from town.

Calliope impact, doing surprisingly small damage. 

US tanks open fire at long range, a lot of AP was wasted and bounced-off,  something you can do it you know the supply truck isn't far away.

The rush for the bunker ends, Sherman KO'd, MG team now low on ammo and pinned. 

Pioneers arrive from reserve, dismount just before their truck is vapourised by 75mm HE. 

 112, my star tank, duel with 2 distant Shermans, and getting repeated pinned by glancing hits. 
Good Krupp steel! Not so tough crew. 

 Meanwhile '113' is immobilised in the fields. Calliope impact ahead.

US attack on my front lien overwhelms them, but not without losses. I can't help but think, the PAK crew running cost me dear here, but then, whilst it was active, the US were not going to rush me. HQ half-track's .50 cal did the final damage.

Sunday 24 March 2019

The Battle of Al’zaafaranah Oasis, with Soldiers of God

Game six of the Soldiers of God mini-campaign and the finale… well, it was already done, but this is added bonus extra, another chance for a final last big bash as my relief army marched to Homs, now sacked. Lord Andrus de Renard’s crusaders came out to meet them, rather than become trapped in the city themselves. The two sides met in the desert scrub at the Al’zaafaranah Oasis. His smaller force, toughened now through the course of the campaign with various experienced units, including two very tough Turcopole units with multiple stat upgrades, that had fought in almost every battle and not yet been destroyed. My force was a brand new one, no experience upgrades allowed, as it had just marched in. My previous army (of Homs) was assumed destroyed or scattered.

Here was my army selected for the battle. Back to basics, heavy on the horse archers on both flanks, ahead of a base force of cheap infantry whose main job was not to die and allow either flank to be wiped out. De Renard’s chosen plan for field battles had so far been echelon attacks with his heavy cavalry smashing one flank to bits, that wouldn’t happen again (hopefully). I had a cavalry centre of Ghulam, with a Loose! card behind them, they’d be more mobile archers that a strike force. The two small Arab tribal units of horse and cavalry were to hang back on my board edge, defend the baggage and again, just be alive in case the main combat units were wiped out, losing an entire battle is so costly in morale it will almost always cost you the game (but you can’t be strong everywhere). But if any units survive, the battle isn’t gone.

Saracen Battle Plan: Hold and Harry - Initiative 0

            Stands    Pts     MV
Left: Advance, Loose!, Retire   
Horse Archers    3 stands    15    1
Horse Archers    3 stands    15    1
Horse Archers    3 stands    15    1
Infantry        4 stands    8    1
Infantry        4 stands    8    1
Infantry        4 stands    8    1
Archers        4 stands    12    1   
Ahdath Levy        4 stands    4    1   

Centre: Loose!
Ghulam        4 stands    28    2
Ghulam        4 stands    28    2
Ghulam        4 stands    28    2
Ghulam        4 stands    28    2
Tribal Horse        2 stands    8    1   
Baggage Train    1 stand    free   

Right: Advance, Loose!, Retire
Horse Archers    3 stands    15    1
Horse Archers    3 stands    15    1
Horse Archers    3 stands    15    1
Infantry        4 stands    8    1
Infantry        4 stands    8    1
Infantry        4 stands    8    1
Archers        4 stands    12    1   
Ahdath Levy        4 stands    4    1
Camelry        2 stands    10    1   

300 points    26 Morale Value

My general plan was to horse archer him to death, archery, archery and more archery… fill ‘em full of arrows! No mercy, death to the infidel defilers!! Death by pointy stick!

Oh, and what battle it was… a 5 hour epic of Soldiers of God, so, so close. Two players giving it their all. The Franks had changed up their battle plan too, afraid of my horse archer flanks (and figuring after 2 defeats I’d go back to basics - its annoying to be predictable!), his plan was to be strong in archery on both flanks, skirmishing archers and those awesome damn Turcopoles at full strength (meet fire with fire!), well he’d meet arrows with arrows. Each Crusader flank also had Knights, for the counter-attack and to be bulwark against being wiped out himself. His centre would conduct a more cautious advance, with a March card behind them. So without any Charge! cards in play, this would be a far more cautious fight all round. Let’s see who can shoot the straightest for longest (I’ll back the Saracens, but I’m biased!).

In brief(ish), the battle started well for me, my horse archer flanks raced up, and won the initial exchange of volleys, breaking a unit of archers and armed pilgrims on the Crusader right, and that flank was looking in trouble. His others archers retired back through their men-at-arms and foot knights, shot-up. They had returned fire and inflicted some disruption on my skirmishing cavalry though, but such was his concern over the possible annihilation of his right flank, that his Holy Order knight’s advance wheeled from the centre and advanced in that direction. His shock force had been diverted. With a wide open and unprotected flank for his best knights (with mercenary Armenia infantry in support), my centre Ghulam could not resist such a target. It had been my intention to attack, but a March using a ‘gallop’ move placed them into archery and charge range of his elite knights flank. A volley of archery followed, inflicting the first disorder. The pressure was really on the Crusaders and initial losses had seen me take the Initiative.

On my right, my horse archers and his Turcoploles were trading a lot of arrows, both wheeling forwards and back, loosing all they could and battering each other. All 3 of my units were soon at 3 disruption points, close to breaking, but hung on. Many cards would have to be played to keep their morale up and not lose that light cavalry fight. It was very even, his 8 shots at 3+ to my 9 shots at 3+ in return, but with my units easier to break. If one side got the upper hand, it would be deep trouble for the waiting troops behind, watching the screening light cavalry duel, that turned into an epic… for turns, neither side were willing to give up a unit and perhaps the flank. Stalemate.

In the centre his open order units had moved into the oasis village, crossbows now in the buildings and dominating the centre. They would pepper my Ghulam with bolts if I let them, but cavalry cannot attack units in buildings. So, Manoeuvre card, one unit of Ghulam dismount into open order. Quick Loose! card to fire a preliminary volley of arrows, and a Charge card for the centre, rushing the buildings, and my Ghulam charged the Hospitallers too, who had, 1 card earlier just started to wheel back to face them. It was a marginal call on a flank or front charge, right on the line, but as I ever prefer to give the benefit of the doubt to my opponent. It was frontal charge, but still, my lances went in and his Holy Order were on the back foot. That melee would be locked until the end, but my Ghulam were doing a great job in keeping his elite strike force tied up as I fought to win the battle on the flanks.

But that didn’t go to plan, and after my initial good start, it slipped. His right flank infantry surged forward, March, March, Charge! and suddenly my lightning quick horse archers were caught in melee and being overrun. His foot knights dispatched one unit, his men-at-arms another, my flankers were gone, with the last unit reduced to 2 stands by a deserters card! His archers were also back, rallied, and lob shooting at them. It was an uneven fight now and my last light cavalry withdrew with all speed, shooting a parting shot as they went of course, back behind the infantry screen which had gradually marched up behind them.

In the centre my dismounted Ghulam fought the Arbalasters for the building, and again, it was classic fight. Challenges made, Fear cards used to taunt, crossbow bolts killing any that tried to force the doors or windows. My Ghulam just couldn’t quite shift them, and kept losing challenges! (in no other game rules I know of can medium cavalry do this, dismount, and fight on foot in open order, changing from close order shock cavalry to foot archers then to infantry skirmishers, all hail the versatile Ghulam).

With all three ‘battles’ now heavily engaged, pressure on your cards is very high, you just can’t do everything, and you just cant keep everything in the fight. Many hard decisions have to be made. This was both our problems, but the my losses now saw the Crusaders back with the initiative. Lunch time.. a brew, butty and a reflection on what had been a gruelling and epic morning so far.

Refreshed and back at it, and instantly things swung back my way. A Impetuous Charge by his mounted men-at-arms (induced by me) saw them attack my last unit of Ghulam, but as only 3 stands, in open order, their charge impact was weak, and my Ghulam, with tribal cavalry in support, smashed them. Mounted men-arms aren;t knights. Then my victorious Ghulam used a Manoeuvre to realign themselves and marched off to the right, to swing the light cavalry fight, still going forwards and backwards, in my favour. One of his veteran Turcopoles units final cracked and fled. His second unit withdrew behind his now advancing mounted knights. Facing a wall of arrows (13 die, and weathering it for only 1 disruption). My own light cavalry pulled back, rather than face a Charge! card, leaving my Ghulam to face off with his knights as the light cavalry engagement became a heavy cavalry battle.

In the centre, I still couldn’t clear that damned house of crossbowmen, whose defence was now legendary, how they didn’t crack I have no idea (actual, many passed Resolve tests helped a lot). I was back in control and well ahead, 11 MV left to the enemy’s 4!

Then it turned again, his Knights charged on the right, smashed my Ghulam and followed up into the support Arab tribal cavalry, who stood no chance, 2 units smashed very quickly. His Hospitallers were also winning now, and my Ghuam, so long a valiant block, where under extreme pressure, I could only just save them each turn at a huge cost in cards (and thus other actions). It was suddenly Crusaders with 3 MV left, and me with 1! No!!!

The last turn was tense (hence exciting) and so close, neither side could risk losing a unit. But my last horse archers on the right (they had had a very long day) whipped passed his victorious knights to peppered his pilgrims behind. A Deserters special card saw 3 pilgrim stands become 2. I had more Loose! cards to finish them too, perhaps even massacre them and win. But another melee in the centre saw his Hospitallers have a good turn and my Ghulam were dying in a massacre too. I couldn’t save them, I knew it it was over for me. It all hinged on those few pilgrims, who, decided fighting my horse archers was better than being shot-up, and produced another Charge! and rallied off their disruption. Last couple of cards, and I’d have the last play of the turn, knowing it would be my last of the game. It came down to a Challenge, my horse archers challenging the Pilgrims, I had to win it and inflict 3 disorder. In the tensest of tense roll offs, I scored a 3! No!, his roll, a 3! My troops were militia in quality, not great, but his were Levy - worse… so I win the tie. Resolve test needed a 6. Fails! Disorder (D3), I roll a 6, 3 Disorder, breaking the pilgrims as their leader was cut-down in personal combat. My Ghulam were broken, breaking my army, his Levy dead, breaking him… final totals, me -3 MV, him 0. Draw, and both of us slumped down in exhausted relief.

It had swung to and fro for 5 hours, in the end we agreed a draw seemed about right… although I don’t favour draws in wargames, in this case, it would have been very harsh on whoever lost it. What a game… one to remember for a long time. 

Oh, I forgot my camera too, so the photos are snaps off my rubbish phone… but enough to get the picture.

Battle Lines draw, my left and centre deployed. Village and woods surrounding oasis in the centre.

 The Ghulam in the centre, a reserve of mobile archers. It did not turn out too much like that.

Horse archer screen on the left, in front of the infantry blocks, whose role was 'don't die!'.

 The same on my right

The light cavalry race off and start a protracted missile engagement with the enemy Turcopoles, just creeping into shot. Cunning, play the horse archers at their own game, then, in a surprise move, the Christians charged in! 

 In the centre, now dismounted Ghulam storm the Crossbowmen's house, which became their mini-fortress. The other house is full of monks! (stand in pilgrims).

Ghulam vs Hospitallers with Armenian spearmen in support. Deadlock for his main strike force, but as the Disorder dice shows, the Ghulam had to weather a lot of pressure. 

 'Can we come in please?' 'No!'

Horse archers now withdrawn on the right, my Ghulam and support are left to face his Knights... and it didn't go well! He had a magic stash of Charge! cards in the last few turns.

Meanwhile, on the left, his foot knights had walked across the table and final charged. That was a deadlock too. My infantry are very poor, but enough of them can weather melee for a few turns at least.

With that bitterly fought stalemate, both sides are forced to withdraw exhausted. De Renard decided he would take his plunder, now all massively enriched, and head home to the County of Tripoli. The campaign had been a Crusaders win overall (4 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat), but brilliant fun. If you have never played Soldiers of God, try it, I do think it’s the best game system I have written, better than Battlegroup (well, edging it). Every game a classic! I look forward to doing it all again.

Time to change games for bit now, back to WW2, or maybe ACW - Longstreet has too long been dormant. Or maybe some sci-fi. Tbd.

Saturday 16 March 2019

FotR mini-campaign, game 2

Second battle of the FotR mini-campaign, on table 2 of the campaign map. This would see US forces advancing on the east bank of the ErfundenSee reservoir, towards the dam, to open up a south-eastern route into town (and deployment for the final game when it comes). It was 400 points, using a Delaying Action scenario.

The forces came from our pre-campaign deployment, Both players have had a central pool of forces to divide up between the tabletops, with the Germans including their Defences. Once both sides had chosen where their forces would be placed, there was then a small number of additional points for things like off-table guns and counter-battery fire etc, that would be available to any force on any table. The forces I had pre-chosen to hold this winding track around the lakeshore were another of my Volkssturm platoons (I have 6 in total for the campaign), supported by both my captured 35S French Somuas and some Hitler Youth. Being a very narrow table, I hadn’t placed many defences here, just the road block, some foxholes and barbed wire. Add to this were off-table 105mm guns and a PRTP to cover the narrow width of the forest. Not much, but a lot of Panzerfausts for the tight fight on the road and in the dense forest. (we revised our ‘forest fighting’ house-rule, this time max range would be 20”, but from 10-20” would be suppressing fire only, only 0-10” could be Aimed Fire).

Coming the other way, the US had chosen this southern-most attack route for their light recon forces. A cavalry recce troops (from the Wacht am Rhein book), supported by 3 M5 light tanks, a M36 Jackson for serious hitting power and off-table 81mm mortar support. They also had a single timed 105mm barrage, so that would prove unpleasant on such a narrow table (actually when it landed it killed 1 sniper, being a bit mistimed).

With the tabletop laid out copying the map, objectives positions, (just 2, the road block and the road where it exited to the dam) and my defences and initial deployment in place, the US started, M5s leading the way.

The battle would play out in two mini-engagements, along the lake-side track and through the forests. The first US probe was up the track, and it soon turned bad for them. My other sniper, hidden behind the log roadblock, did good work pinning the M20 scout car with bullets whizzing overhead (and stopping his main mortar spotter), and when my off-table 105s unleashed the track rapidly became a mess. A M5 was knocked out, then an M8. His M16 AA half track was next, and didn’t spot my Panzerschreck team on ambush fire. It took a rocket on the nose and was destroyed. So far so good for my Volksturm, but then the ‘schreck team had an Ammo Low counter played on them and, finding that was it for their 88mm rockets, the Volkssturm decided they’d done their bit and headed back for town. My best AT weapon had just legged it! Can’t trust these Volkssturm.

In another piece of good fortune, all my reserve forces arrived at once (double 6s!). On rolled the pride of the Panzerwaffe, two 35Rs carrying the rest of my Volkssturm platoon. The Hitler Youth squad arrived too, heavily weighed down by Panzerfausts and moved off deeper into the woods.

It had been a good start for my defenders, holding both objectives and damage done, I was 2 chits to 6 up… but then it all changed.

Finally the US got some mortars firing, the M2 now unpinned, and in doing so they drew a Air Attack counter, then rolled a 5. Oh joy, another ‘Jug’ winged in, rockets ready. The USAAF was putting in a big show at Erfundensdorf and frankly, I’d like to play a game when I wasn’t under P-47 attack! But such is war, in it came, up the lake, its first rocket strike missing and blowing up some trees. It would be back.

The US attack, now a mess of wrecked vehicles on the track had stalled, and the jeeps and another M5 moved into the woods, to get off the road, 3-man recce infantry teams dismounting to avoid taking their Jeeps into battle. Here the infantry fire, mostly suppressing fire, started with my dug-in Volkssturm, who had the better of it. But that M5 wasn’t coming within Panzerfaust range, and its twin MGs would not be silenced. It was now the target of my Hitler Youth teenage tank hunters. They got close enough and fired 2 ‘fausts, and both missed! Then got pinned by returning Garand rifle fire. Then the M5 spotted them twice and unleashed .30 cal machine gun death, wiping out the kids!

Things started to go down hill, the P-47 came round again, and targeted an 35R on the road, 5” rockets smashing it to bit like a sledgehammer to crack a peanut! Next order, the M36 lined up the other 35R, needed a 6 to hit, and did. Ouch! 90mm AP smashed the other 35R into a burning scrap! No more armour. Then, more MG fire from a recce jeep broke my Volsksturm squad who ran - cowards! That left the roadblock objective held by a single sniper. An M8 advanced up the trial, but the snipers ambush fire pinned it. Phew… but my defence line was crumbling. The P-47 would back strafing with its many MGs next turn and all I had was infantry… poor infantry. US mortars also got going again, spotted by the recce troops HQ. In my turn the only unit not pinned was my Forward HQ and his Kubelwagen at the back. Great! Just unpin then. 

In the end, I couldn’t save the day. My Volkssturm had to abandon their foxholes to get a last ‘faust shot at that M5, counter-attacking. he must be close to breaking. The Panzerfaust hit - yes! Then glanced off - what! The M5 survived and then hosed down my squad, breaking it. And that counter was enough, my force was broken and the US had won again. A very narrow one this time, by just 3 BR points, but task Force McLynn had open he forest track into town. Damn those Jabos! 

Some photos of the evenings actions, we played for 2.5 hours, including a tea/loo break, so a quick game. Here are some shots of the board and action.

 The battlefield, US from the left, Germans from the right

 The forests

 The winding lakeside road

 The German end of the track

 German CO and his transport, calling in the 'tank' reserves

 At the roadblock and barbed wire. Sniper lurking. 

Volkssturm in foxholes in the forest

First up the road, M5 and M16, pinned

 Volkssturm squad on the move to the roadblock

 All German reinforcements arrive at once, R35sandn tank riding Volkssturm

Under mortar fire

Ah! Here we go again. USAAF in bound. 


 German artillery hits home on the road.

 Panzerschreck team take-out the M16 as it rounds the corner

Then immediately run! Out of rockets.

The wrecks on the road back-up. M36 Jackson on the way next. 

35R sneaks up the hillock to get a crafty shot at the M36, and regrets the return fire. 

 Both 35Rs gone in 2 orders

 as the M8s arrive to press for the roadblock. Ahead is an inferno. 

 Recce jeep adding its MG firepower in the woods, where the last of Volkssturm are out-shot and forced to surrender or run.

Victory fly-past, the P-47 has wreaked havoc again. 

In the campaign this means, in the final battle for town the US will have deployments zones in the south-west and south-east corners of the table. On to game 3, the attack through the Eisenwald along a foresters track, enough of the lakeside battles. I have some better armour deployed here and better defences, so lets hope for a win… my losing streak goes on.