Tuesday 29 November 2022



Returning to some Battlegroup WWII gaming after a few months away, we’ve decided to play a series of Ostfront games, starting in 1941 with BG Barbarossa and play 1 game for each year, using each book (and also early work for the 1944 army lists when we get to that year, a useful tester). The first game for 1941 is coming up soon and I need to prep an army list. The game will be a meeting engagement at 650 points each. I’m the Russians (I have no ‘grey’ panzer forces - I did once, a very nice one, but I sold it as I got so fed-up fighting the French and getting repeatedly hammered - this was way back using the RF rules, the German panzers seeming stood no hope of winning in 1940!). I sat down to write my army list (pen and notepad, no Apps required), and, given the models I have to fight this battle, christened it ‘Sukharlov’s Tin-Foil Army’.

Here is my force, and why I picked it, and the plan for Game 1 of ‘Barbarossa to Berlin’. The AAR for the actual game will follow soon.

First, the motivation behind these games, as it will inform decision-making. The reason we agreed to do this was get some under-used models out to play with. When we wanted to play a WWII game, the first question was, which army (we have multiple) haven’t you used for longest, which needs some tabletop time? The answer was ‘grey’ panzers, so we went with early war. In that spirit, my first choices would be use models that haven’t seen much gaming of late, or that I finished painting and still haven’t seen in action… which for my Russians is mostly new trucks (whoa!, easy on the power-gaming there!).

First choice then, fulfilling two criteria (minimum infantry and new models) is a Motorised Rifle Platoon all in trucks. Add to this are a full four support choices; a Maxim MG team, AT Rifle team, Infantry gun and truck tow (gets another one on the tabletop) and DshK AA HMG team, also given a truck (to keep up). That AA MG will be handy, because let’s face it – Stukas will be coming.

Next is simple, for armour, and for 1941 I have my two BT-7 platoons, so both are in. It’s what I have, no other option (no KVs or even early T-34s here). Just lots of light tanks.

Now for some more tactical considerations (I am trying to win here, I’m not super competitive about it and I’m not honing a tournament army force to maximise the chance of victory, but I don’t play to lose either, I’d like to give the Nazi’s a kicking!).

So, infantry and armour sorted, on to the artillery. As a mechanised corps the options are limited, but one unit I have and have never actually used is a full 3 tube battery of 82mm mortars and loaders teams. That is mucho IDF firepower, so I included it, time to see some action for the medium mortar battery (my 120’s though have seen much).  The battery needs a dedicated spotter so a FOO team is add as well. His job is to keep those mortars hammering away. But, as he can’t be solely relied upon, and a stray shell could cause his sudden demise at any moment (too much of a risk), I add a Pre-Registered Target Point. That will go up the German end and mean I can always fire the mortars, even for harassing fire, even if I do lose the spotter.

Artillery sorted, how about HQ? A comms team is going to be needed to aid the FOO, so a radio truck, because the ‘communications breakdown’ at 4+ comms tests is going to need re-rolls. The forward HQ too, Sukharlov in his staff car, a useful (if needed) second mortar spotter, and his other benefits too, but mostly a re-roll for reserves arrival. As a meeting engagement (which exact scenario will be randomly generated on the day), and with the ‘Panzer Marsch’ rule opposite me, I don’t want to be rapidly outgunned by the faster arriving panzers. This gives me a chance of matching(ish) the Germans in getting my forces into the game. He’ll be an early priority to have on the table just for that re-roll (I must remember that, Sukharlov leads the way!).

Ok, that all the main force assets, on to the support stuff.

Recce. I go with 3 armoured cars, 2 BA-10s and my new BA-27 (stats of a BA-6 but with a French 37mmL17 pop-gun). First run out for that model. That is 3 scouts, I might add a sniper later, to try and out-scout the Germans, we’ll see, points allowing. 3 armoured cars should be enough, even if we roll a recce screen scenario.

Give the unreliable nature of the BT-7s, I add a repair truck from Engineers (another new truck model). This might be busy. From Specialist Support, an SU-12, I made (converted it) and it needs some game-time, and it looks cool. It is defo in, as extra infantry HE support (on a vulnerable soft-skin, so best try and hide at the back and lob out some suppressing HE fire).

Final few points to spend, and it won’t buy me much. I decide to drop the loader teams from the mortars and used the saved points to get a big hitter, a timed Katyusha strike. I want to disrupt the mass German arrival and slow them down. I might use it early doors and as a harassing barrage to just get many pins. That’ll help buy time to get my forces in place and get to objectives etc, before the Germans do. My big fear (as you can tell) is half my army isn’t here as the panzers roll over me.

Ok, in all, that is 646 points, 43 BR, 3 scouts and 0 officers, with ‘command chaos’ providing the extra D3… let’s hope it is enough. Game AAR will follow soon(ish).

Monday 21 November 2022

Village Assault, with Soldiers of Napoleon

 Testing a new historical scenario, with the French Imperial Guard holdings a village and its church (let’s just call it Plancenoit) under attack from my Austrians (standing in for the Prussians). An very different sort of game, with tough, but small units holding fortified buildings (some of which where already on fire, so not much use). Two small brigades holding against three attacking ones would also be a tough ask for the defenders, down a card from Turn 1 onwards, and also badly out-shot in artillery. In all, the balance seemed about right. It would be close, and in the end very close.

This would be an almost all infantry fight, my attackers had a single 2 stand hussar unit… so, yep, not much use in an assault into buildings, and maybe VPs waiting to happen if I got them destroyed. Best keep them out of trouble.

The 'Austrian' attack would be with three infantry brigades, with artillery support, but mostly line and some landwehr infantry.

Here are shots of the progress of the game as the 'Austrians' fought their way into the village. The French defended the first line of cottages, mostly with young guard’ inside them, skirmishers deployed. The couple of old guard battalions were held back as the counter-attacking reserve. Main attack up the centre and against the closest cottage and paddock below (Austrian left).

The village and central church (and yard). Attackers will deploy from the right side of this pic.

Old Guard hold the church yard, as the church is well on fire already.

More French scattered around the village.

Austrian deployment, the left and centre brigades, both led by a skirmish line, carrying the attack.

Young Guard hold a small cottage and paddock with their skirmishers. It would be the scene of heavy fighting on this flank.

The Austrian centre moves up, skirmishers, light infantry screen and assault columns behind. Supporting fire kept the French heads down.    

Height of the assault in the centre as the French battery is overrun. Their counter-attack would then drive the Austrians back in complete disarray.

Landwehr column is peppered by skirmish fire as they try to advance on the right, but they break and run. The attack here never got going. Landwehr vs Guard in fortified positions... not much hope. Just a demonstration attack then.

Reserve battalion, awaiting the call forwards. Maybe waited too long.

Fierce skirmishing at the paddock as the French are pushed back, Austrian hussars behind harassing the voltiguers back to their parent units (they came in handy). Howitzer fire eventually set the cottage on fire and forced the Guard out.
The assault on the right reaches the paddock and drive in those skirmishers but the assault on the cottage is thrown back, with heavy losses, before it burnt down.

Old Guard advance to counter attack in the centre, but just too late to turn the day. With both sides requiring just a few VPs to break the other the Austrians just knicked it, pulling back with a few good rallies saved them (and obscuring smoke helped). The French finding the small battalions hard to preserve (but good in those fortified cottages). French broke by -3 points, Austrians at Break Point, so a very narrow win. The village will fall. 

Saturday 5 November 2022

Austrian Attack - with Soldiers of Napoleon

 Another Soldiers of Napoleon game, this time testing a new scenario. My Austrians would be attacking against the French on higher ground. Although the initial forces were even (ish), the Austrians had reserves, so the battle would be become tougher for the French defenders as it went on and they were outnumbered. Both sides had two mid-strength infantry brigades, my Austrians though having a lot of landwehr sprinkled with a few regular line battalions and screening Grenz unit. The French had mostly line, with a few reserve units, and one tough old veteran battalion. The French had a slight advantage in cavalry, two brigades, one of line lancers, one of chasseurs. The Austrians single light cavalry brigade was of uhlan and hussars, both sides cavalry were deployed in a screen in front of the main infantry lines.

Time to see if the Austrian attack up this slope can push the French back, or out of the way.

The initial turns did not got too well for my attack. First, the French decided that a static ‘hold the line’ plan wasn’t for them and launched a counter-attack, on their left with the lancers leading and infantry following. I met his lancers with my own, but badly outnumbered, the first cavalry melees only went one way, my uhlan’s counter-charge was thrown back with losses and they withdrew to rally and regroup, beaten, but not broken, they would return. To try and help them, my hussars raced forwards to entice the enemy chasseurs to come out and play, only for heavy cannon fire to see the hussars pulling back to rally too, my cavalry screen had not covered itself in glory.

Meanwhile, as both sides infantry marched up and deployed into columns or lines, and the first ineffective skirmish fire started, a single French column, inspired by ‘Vive L’Emperur!’ advanced at the quick and charged and routed a landwehr battalion that crumbled in the face of French bayonets. Still, that single battalion was isolated and would then pay the price of repeated volleys into the column until it was also in disorder and withdrawing to rally as fast as it could. To help save it the lancers again came forwards to threaten to charge, and using intimidate to keep the Disorder building on the Austrian infantry. When a second battalion of landwehr broke under an artillery bombardment (used as the last card play of the turn it scored 3 hits and broke the battalion, unlucky for me), the lead brigade was looking thin.

The first 3 turns had seen the French get on top and have a significant lead on VPs. But, the comeback was on… as my reserve infantry brigade marched up at the quick and began to swiftly advance past and through the ragged leading brigade to take over the front (transversing the lines I beleive). It was fresh and soon deploying into long firing lines. The French, blocking the lane that ran up the centre of the battlefield, had done likewise, but their veteran battalion was now badly outshot. It would endure a hellish ordeal.  

Now, a great infantry brawl developed, both side’s cavalry skulking behind out of the murderous volleys line of sight. The Austrians volleyed, the French replied, with a nasty withering volley had hurt and saw more rallying required. My Grenzer battalion was torn to bits, turned from 6 stands to 2… and also withdrawn to some safety. On the up-side, both French artillery batteries had now run low on ammo and their constant menace had been greatly reduced (they missed every shot for about 4 turns). The Austrian line kept up the firing, and one reservist French battalion broke and ran… and the veterans only saved by multiple rallying. The VPs were evening up. It was close. He had more, but my Break Point was higher. We both needed about 6-7 points to win it.

Final turns and it became a real to-and-fro struggle. Both side’s infantry were taking damage. The resolute French veterans were reduced to just 2 stands in the musketry duel. One landwher battalion, in column, burst forwards and charged, driving back another French battalion, and it too rallied, just holding on. I couldn’t follow-up. If both French units broke, the Austrians would have it. Then, disaster, another artillery bombards special event, on my poor skulking uhlan, broke them, they withdrew from the field. Try as I might. I just couldn’t score the last few disorder on his infantry to see them off, they somehow survived the turn (by recalling skirmishers, the command stand inspiring and 1 excellent rally roll of 4 sixes - lucky!), both battalions ended the turn equal to their stands, not over, and so did not break.  I lost 2 landwehr battalions as well, in my defence, in a 8 card hand, not one card could rally my Militia quality troops, not one! So the landwehr were doomed. Card luck deserted me…

End of Turn 6 and, as we totalled up the VPs, the French had easily broken the Austrians, the fleeing uhlan and landwehr had cost me. The Austrians had scored 22 VPs, and need 23 to break to French, 1 short. Ah, so close, but a cracker of a close fight. This one, after the initial light cavalry clash, became a real attritional grind of infantry, volleys and skirmish fire, his lancers aiding by repeatedly intimidating all my poor landwehr. In the end it was just enough to hold on despite being outnumbered and out shot when my reserve infantry marched up.  

Here are some shots of the action…

French deployment, light cavalry screen the infantry marching columns, which launched an unexpected counter-attack.

After the initial turns, the front lines looks very ragged. French column in trouble, Austrian landwehr refusing to charge to drive them away for good, attacking with militia troops is hard work!
Austrian hussars advance, taking skirmirsh and cannon fire, they soon came back.

Landwehr attack columns follow a Grenz skirmish screen
The Austrian hussar taunt the French chassuers, but they refuse to play.
Reserve brigade arrives and marches up to take over the front from the ragged lead battalions, now in disorder or routed. 
French veterans take the punishment, whilst line lancers lurk behind and intimidate the Austrian lines.

Another landwehr battalion about to break, due to lack of any usable rally cards.