Saturday 29 July 2023

French Army project, for Soldiers of Napoleon

I began the large project of painting a French Napoleonic army in August ’22, so a year on, I thought I should record my progress. It has taken up 90% of my painting time for 12 months.

I’ve been working to a plan, a unit a month (I’ve actually managed to go a bit faster), working on 2 months of infantry battalions, broken by a month of cavalry or artillery. As I worked on each unit, I usually added a little extra ‘thing’ too, like a command stand, or a hero model, or a limber, etc. So far, I have four brigades, either done or in progress. These are: the main, large, French infantry brigade, of 6 battalions (2 regiments) and 2 line gun batteries, with an allied brigade of Wurttembergers to break-up the repetition of all those French. There is a light cavalry brigade of hussars and chasseurs with a horse battery, and a reserve dragoon brigade of 2 regiments.

I have enough to play a game (of medium sized), but I’m not done yet. The plan is to finish the Wurttembergers with a third line battalion and some of their own artillery. The light cavalry will get their third regiment to reach maximum size, not sure what yet, but most likely some Wurttemberg light cavalry as extra chasseurs. Perhaps the third dragoon regiment, or another 2 French infantry battalions so the big brigade can be split into two smaller, but still effective, ones of four battalions each. I also need a few ammo caissons, a supply wagon and another limber as nice extras, and aim to be done by the end of the year. No rest yet...

But, as it stands, time to get a first actually game in with them… which is an invitation to a hefty defeat if the 'first game' syndrome is true… but we’ll see, soon the Grande Armee will march.

Most of the models are Front Rank via Gripping Beast, much thanks to them for keeping the supply lines flowing, and a few Victrix too, picked up on a whim. 

Leger regiment, 3 battalions and voltiguers, plus a line artillery battery

Voltiguers stands

1st battalion with the regimental tricolour

Third battalion, with red fannion

Line artillery battery

The 'Ligne' regiment

Second battalion with white fannion, brigade command stand, dismounted (for a a change).

First battalion, hero officer and voltiguers

Line 9 pdrs (Ok 8 pdr, typo).

Wurttemberg infantry brigade (WIP), 2 line and 1 light battalion so far, oh, plus a jaeger detachment.

A few German green jackets with rifles... von Sharpe.

The Wurttemberg light battalion

The line battalions, a third one is required, and some guns

The boss, and skirmishers stands, all battalions have their skirmishers to deploy.

Light cavalry and horse battery, hussars and chasseurs

Horse battery, artillery hussars

Brigade command stand, in fancy uniforms

Hussars (6th) and chasseurs, with 1 regiment still to add.

The dragoon brigade

Bit of cavalry hitting power...

The brigade's boss

L'Empereur and aides (and Marengo). Army-level command stand.

General de Division, a few hero models to add in if required.

Wednesday 26 July 2023

Battle of Luzhkova, tester for Battlegroup: Bagration

This 800 point battlegroup game, a tester for the Battlegroup:Bagration army lists, was a randomly generated ‘recce screen’ scenario, so a meeting engagement between my panzer forces and a Russian rifle division list. I imagine sometime around June 24-25th as the Russian burst through the front line defences during Operation Bagration and the Germans sent fire-fighting panzer forces to try and stem the tide… not with much success. My force would be one such, try to stop up a gap at the village of Luzhkova (somewhere west of Vitebsk maybe?).

My force was fairly bland, a Panzer IV platoon (all 5 present) and motorised panzer grenadier platoon upgraded to veterans, off-table mortars support from 120mm tubes, and added extras, a 234/1 armoured car, 250/1 recce team, FHQ in 251/3, a Grille, an AA 251/1, a FAMO, a counter battery fire mission, etc. Total BR 48.

The reds came en-masse, a full infantry company (3 platoons) with a bit of support from an infantry gun, light mortar team, Maxim MG team. A battery of 3 SU-76s. A battery of 2 SU-152s. An on-table battery of 3 120mm mortars, comms truck, 3 horse-drawn supply wagons, a cavalry recce squad, sniper and 3 sapper squads in trucks. A lot of infantry… phew! Total BR 53.

We sorted timed barrages (one timed IL-2 air-strike by the Reds), ammo’d up and the German panzer force rolled for a ‘hinderance’, something that was an issue in their rapid ‘fire-fighter’ deployment. I got poor comms, meaning gaining the Communications Breakdown special rule for the game (and with no forward comms unit for me, so my 120mm mortars now need a 4+ comms test, not 3+).

We then rolled 6 turns for the scout phase and spent it not doing much, a few mortar rounds went down range (one killed a Russian sniper), my 234/1 probed to the bridge and found Russian cavalry lurking and tried to engage them to steal back the objective (marked by a T34/85 wreck), but got pinned by return fire at close range. We skipped quickly through this, neither doing much and got to the first arrivals from reserve. Here they come…

The Russians arrived, running or riding SU-76s and first made for the swamps and woods on their left. pressing here first and meeting the 234/1 (now unpinned ) and my first Panzer IV waiting on ambush fire. They would continue to build-up in the trees and bring a SU-152 over too. Meanwhile, their 120mm battery got set up in the corner as spotters got forward. They opened fire with the cavalry recce team spotting and nailed my first truck, sending the passengers scattering into the cornfield, pinned. That battery would start to hurt, firing 6 dice each turn. I need to slow it down and targeted it with my own mortars, a long spot from my recce team hiding in the farmhouse. They got through and scored 1 pin, not enough, but something. Of course, those mortars would become very unreliable due to my comms issues, so the Russian mortars would win that battle, my counter-battery fire didn’t do much (and never 1 direct hit!).

My troops rolled in, panzers and trucks trying to get forward quick, and weather more mortars fire, causing pins and then a mine strike, which destroyed a Panzer IV… this had not started well! The counters had already added up for: out-scouted, 2 objectives claimed, unpinning and a KO’d truck and tank, with not one less than a 3, and too many 4s. So far, the Russians had just 2 counters and 1 of them was a mine strike - grrr!

Anyway, you can come back, and hopefully I would, once the panzers got busy. Then, a new disaster, 120mm mortar shells (again) scored a direct hit on my just dismounted FHQ, in the orchard by the village, getting in place to spot for some Grille fire. Kaboom! Wiped out, 2 more counters and I lost my Grille’s only spotter. It would be close support now then. The village was hit by a requested arty strike from 122mm guns (counter battery failed) and a IL-2 Sturmovik dropped its bombs, only to kill my sniper with a direct hit, good grief! Can you tell where this is going?

Anyway, luck can change… but it didn’t. I then rolled terrible for orders, getting 6, 5 and 4 total in three consecutive turns and so the reds rolled in and I struggled to do much, my lead panzer IV did nail a SU-76  in the woods - woot!.

A little flanking force of an SU-76, SU-152 and engineers made for the outlying farm, the third objective, and I had to send an infantry squad to hold it, or the enemy would have all three. MGs deployed, they held the farm but also got pinned. Thankfully his SU-152 fired and missed. Return fire missed it too, but it retreated to re-arm.

All in all, the red tide was rising fast… a fresh infantry platoon had reached the church and swarmed down the swampy gully, into waiting MG and rifle fire which did some pinning, but it was 1 squad vs a full platoon with Maxim support. The squad and MG team were lost trying to stop-up that gully, but they did damage in doing so. Not enough though.  

When the second SU-152 appeared in the woods near the church, my Panzer IVs shots glanced off and its return fire smashed the panzer to smoking ruin… that was enough, my BR total had raced up to 49 and my battlegroup, mauled, was pulling back. Luzhkova was soon in Russian-hands, In all, with unpinning and some small damage, the Russian BR total was just 17… so a round hammering for the panzers here. Minsk here we come! The red steam roller rolls on.  

Meet near the church? The Russian infantry moved up through the swamps and trees, with a little flanking attack at the farm, an objective.

Center of the table, the little church on the hill.

Luzhkova, before the storm

First recce moves out up the lane, heading to the bridge.

and finds enemy cavalry holding here, a short ranged fight saw the 234/1 pinned. When unpinned, its fire broke the cavalry and they ran.

Bane of the Germans today (and most days), 120mm mortar battery, far table corner.

Rifle platoon moves up into the woods and swamps, SU-76 for support.

Deploying at the village, AA cover and commanders half-track by the orchard, bad place to stand...

Mine strike... great! Things will get better...

Arty support, only picked because the model has been in 1 game ever. I see why. Cute though.

234/1 pulls back and aid the Panzer IVs which stands guard up by the church.

SU-76 comes forward to take a few shots, most HE to pin. Return AP round found its mark. Small victories hey?

No spotter for the Grille, it rolled up to fire its 150mm shells into the woods.
Panzers move up past Luzhkova and the burning wreck of the first squad's truck, hit by... guess what... 120mm mortar fire.

SU-152 and engineers moving up too.

Rec infantry back at the objective.

On station, on ambush fire. lead Panzer IV near the church fights a lonely battle, only the 234/1 for company.

Sturmovik arrives (oh yeah, the Russian got a air attack too!). AA fire pinned it though. But, it'll be back.

Famo tries to fix the Panzer IV after the mine strike. No dice (well no dice rolling a 6).

SU-152 in the centre, targets the farm, but misses.

No worries, lots of ammo back with the arriving wagons.

Last Panzer IV finally rolls in, too late to do much.

Fight for the swampy gully. Overwhelmed.

It's back, rockets away, and missing, with all 8!

SU pulls back to find a ammo wagon.

Face-off, panzer vs SU-152, traded shots, it won!

Time to quit Luzhkova... with anything still rolling.

Russian take the little church on the hill.