Thursday 28 March 2024

Action at Qadr El Dabah, '42, with Battlegroup:Torch

Part two of our desert trilogy series, 1942 and a Gazala Line game, British armour vs a DAK/Italian combo in a Flanking Force meeting engagement, at 750 points per side. We rolled a random tabletop (using the Tobruk book), with just 3 pieces of terrain: an small area of rocks, a low hillock and the tomb/mausoleum (ruined fortress replacement).

Here’s my force;

Brit Armour ’42

FHQ Dingo        20    3-r    senior off, mortar spotter
Dorchester        20    1-i    comms

M3 Grant Troop    130    9-r    officer
Crusader II Troop    93    9-r    officer
Crusader II        34    3-r    

Motor Rifle Platoon    85    9-r    6 men, 3 x 7 men + trucks

Forward Observer    20    1-r    artillery spotter, 2 men + bren
25 pdr             50    2-r    quad + loader team
25 pdr             50    2-r    quad + loader team
3” mortar battery    54    0    off-table

Humber II        33    1-r    scout, mortar spotter
Humber II        33    1-r    scout, mortar spotter
Rifle patrol        20    2-r    7 men + truck, scout
Sniper            10    1-v    sniper scout

Recovery truck    11    1-r    repair,recovery
Supply trucks x2    16    2-i    resupply

Portee 2 pdr        14    2-r

Counter-battery     10    0    3+
PRTP            20    0
Timed 4.5” barrage    25    0    4 x guns

The game opened with both sides getting on, as it always does in the meeting engagements, and the Brits were faster. Seizing three of the four objectives early, but with a Humber armoured car breaking down due to ‘Wear and Tear’… later the recovery truck (back, by popular demand - and overall usefulness) would get it rolling again (old Bob with his trusty spanner was busy again). The Germans (leading, Italian assault guns behind) tried to land their timed artillery strike at the tomb, but it was stopped by a counter-battery fire (hurrah!). First long shots exchanged, as usual, not much doing, a few pins but it was obvious the gun-power wasn’t a match for the armour here…a lot of glancing shots in this game (but I like that, extends the tank on tank duel).

The Brits moved their Crsuadesr up towards the rocks to meet the advancing German armour head-on, whilst the M3s supported with fire from the right and moved towards the last objective (low hill), held by a recce 8-rad, pinned by 75mm HE fire. If we could grab it, then it would be a quick win. But it didn’t work, one M3 was hit by 150mm IDF fire (a lurking Bison), and KO’d, the other broke down, immobilised (again)… so plan thwarted.

The main fighting ‘hot-spot’ built-up around the rocks, tanks firing away but both found their guns not up to the enemy armour (Semoventas proved tough for my 2 pdr guns, but also found the Crusaders tough back), so it would be extend fight, lots of pinning. My own timed strike was badly placed and hit open desert (one pinned SP gun was all it scored). A timed Stuka strike on the tomb also rolled very badly and missed, or failed to pin anything and resulted in zippo… so much for off-table IDF in this game.

In the centre my 25 pdr battery had deployed, like horse-artillery, and was unleashing a lot of suppressing HE… but found itself out ranged by the single K-18 100mm gun at the far table edde. It was firing back (loader team active too) and pinning my gunners at 68” range (it has 70”). Damn, there was little I could do about it, but get repeatedly shelled and pinned. My 25 pdrs were, for now, out of game.

Until, at turn 7, the dust cloud arrived. Suddenly all the ranges and long range fire was finished. We’d have to close in again (point of the rule really). The 25 pdr battery unpinned, limbered up, and rolled forward to redeploy, did so, and in a fusillade of fire instantly KO’d a Panzer II and a Panzer 1, both looking to take out the gun crews. In return, a Panzer III KO’d a Crusader (fluke) and then a Semoventa rolled 2 x 6s and KO’d another (massive fluke!). The tank battle was turning to the Axis… trouble.

But, my stalwart Matador recovery truck did amazing work (huge fluke), and got both running again, before being ruthlessly targeted as too annoying to live… and got shot-up (being a truck in the front lines is a short life expectancy). Two Semoventas were abandoned by their crews (pinned, then hit again), and the Panzer IIs retreated to rearm, covered by the clouds.

It was a stalemate, neither was doing much damage, the chit stacks building slowly (mostly from unpinning). It was a long game now… but we kept at it. I lost the centre objective when the infantry section holding it were machine gunned by Italian troops in the rocks, who in turn were hit by Humber BESA fire and cut-down. A Panzer III came back and took the objective for the Axis. The annoying Bison then scored another direct hit with its IDF and KO’d a 25 pdr gun, then a Humber AC was destroyed by tank fire (hanging around in tank fight wasn’t a great idea, should have pulled back). That was just enough to push the Brits to their breakpoint… we’d duked it out in a close(ish) game, but the DAK and allies were still securely within their BR total. A win for the Axis… for a while we both thought we just couldn’t do enough damage to actually end this game… so much firing, missing and glancing off armour. His Bison did sterling work as a single IDF gun (it had a dedicated spotter team and supply truck) and my MotM? The recovery truck, fixed an armoured car and 2 tanks… hero. Bob and his spanner will be back. Oh, and I totally forgot I had a PRTP, that might have helped vs the Bison and K-18's fire... command confusion in action...

Qadr Al Dabah, Brits advancing past the tomb towards the rocks. DAK form their lines and also push towards the rocks.

Initial deployment, with recce armoured cars on the flank.

First overwatch firing position

Arrival of the big guns...

M3s advance on the right, trading long range AP fire.

Deployed with loader teams, ready to hammer out HE suppression, the horse artillery...

DAK and Italian armour roll on, towards the rocks.

British infantry claim the central objective, but are wiped out by fire soon after.

Busy recovery truck gets to the immobilised Humber AC.

Crusaders face-up the Axis armour and trade ineffective fire.

Semoventa assault guns join the Pz IIIs in the duel with the Crusaders.

Direct hit from IDF from the Bison, 150mm shells KO's the first M3.

Dust cloud cover means the tanks have to close in to engage.

Recovery truck fixes the Crusader and it's rolling again.

DAK light tanks arrive in the centre, and take 25 pdr fire. Both would be KO'd by it. 

A desert oddity, trial Panzer Selbfahrlafette II (75mm SP gun on half track). 2 were made and lost in North Africa. Here, it's a proxy Marder, and was eventually KO'd by a 37mm AP round.


Wednesday 13 March 2024

Points 96 and 77 - Encounter at the Two Charlies, with Battlegroup: Tobruk

A rare game in the desert, which as shame as I really enjoy this theatre. This one was a 600 pt meeting engagement, Brit’s 7th Armoured Division vs Italian Ariete Division, in late ’41. The game would see a battle for two low desert hills, Points 96 and 77, Big and Little Charlie. Both had objectives on them, with two others, one close the Italian entry corner, and one close the British corner, so, the two hills were really the only ones to fight over.

Here is my Battlegroup:
FHQ+staff car    
Radio comms vehicle - Dorchester
Dispatch Rider

Motor rifle section - 7 men in light truck

A13 tank platoon
Crusader II tank platoon
Crusader II tank platoon
1 Captured M11/39

2 x 3” mortars (off-table)  

Motor infantry patrol - 7 men in light truck
Armoured car command - Daimler Dingo
Vickers light tank VI C    

Supply truck
Heavy repair truck
Carrier section     - 3 x 3 men in 3 Brens
Timed P-40 Tomahawk air strike
1 1st Target Priority Request

It began with the recce clash, both moving towards Little Charlie objective, the Italian motorcycle troops dismounting, the armoured car coming under BESA fire and pinned by the British light tank. That short fight would see the Italians claim the objective first, but then withdraw as the main British forces arrived from reserve and moved in their direction. The British could then reclaim Little Charlie and the initial turns of fighting here died down.

The main forces had started to arrive, at a glacial pace as neither side could roll well. As 1 and 2 units moved on, mortar fire was exchanged, resulting first in the unlucky loss of an A13 to a direct hit, then the Italian commander’s FIAT staff car went up in smoke, the commander himself lucky to escape unharmed. As both side’s traded medium mortar fire, the tanks moved on, with some infantry support, both moving against Big Charlie. The lead Crusader suffered an immediate Breakdown and was immobilised. The leader M13, climbing the hill’s slope, engine burst into flames and the crew abandoned it… ‘Wear and Tear’ rule in effect. Both sides continued their build-up and unleashed their timed air strikes, first a Tomahawk bombed the gap between the hills, only pinning an Italian MG team covering it. The Regia Aeronautica’s fighter bombed Little Charlie and pinned the recce infantry patrol… but both had forced a counter on the enemy – job done.

By turn 5 or 6 the British attack on Big Charlie was underway, infantry had dismounted into rocky cover and one tank reached the top to claim the objective, the others turned right to circumvent the hill, Bren carrier teams just behind, but another Crusader broke down, this time with an engine fire and was abandoned. In the centre, tanks were trading long range fire to the occasional glancing hit, and wasting their ammo. But, both had a supply truck on hand now anyway. The British radios had given up the ghost, with the Dorchester comms re-rolls failing for 3 turns on the trot… useless. No mortar fire then, but it would come back when the Dingo spotter changed position to get a better view, as the desert dust rule took effect. The Italians were building up behind the big hill, out of sight. The crucible of the battle would come here.

The main fight for Big Charlie saw the Crusaders come around the hill and meet the waiting 47mm anti-tank gun and infantry support. The Italians were short on other AT shots, and forced to send their tankettes forwards to meet the Crusaders on top of the hill, one with an anti-tank rifle, the other a flame-thrower. Both got off shots, pins, and then were hit and destroyed by return fire. The Italian infantry were trying to pin the Crusaders with area fire, but having no luck (and you need a lot). The Crusader’s co-ax machine guns kept the infantry pinned and the Bren teams joined them. Losing the 2” mortar team to rifle fire as it reached the hill’s summit. The Italian light mortar did sterling work in scoring pins on two Crusaders in 2 shots. The fighting got hot, and both sides were unpinning, but when the Italian anti-tank gun crew was machine gunned, the defence behind the hill was in a lot of trouble. The Crusaders could now turn their 2 pdr guns on the various Lancia, FIAT, etc trucks parked behind… and started destroying them with 2 pdr rounds through the engines.

Big Charlie all but lost, the Italians put in a brief second attack on Little Charlie, an M13 and more motorcycle troops racing (OK, no M13 races anywhere), up to try and take back the little hill top. But that attack floundered when an A13 KO’d the M13 with a side shot (the only tank KO’d by AP fire all game) and the infantry were pinned down by more BESA fire. That was it, the Ariete had shot their bolt and unpinning resulted in them breaking.

7th Armoured had claimed both high points and won a solid victory. 1 A13 lost to mortar fire, 2 Crusaders lost (breakdown and a mine-strike) and 2 more broken down, so the armour had taken the brunt of the fight. The Italians had 1 of their 3 tanks left, but out of ammo… and withdrawing to resupply

A fun desert fight, we’ve decided to play a few more desert-based games, one for each year, so as we did for the Eastern Front last year, we’ll play one game for ’41, ’42 and then ’43… a mini-series of three games. My guess is, the DAK turn up next for a Gazala fight for ’42.

Shots of the game.



Brits in blue, Italians in red, the fight for the two hill objectives.  Little Charlie bottom right.

Little Charlie sees the first recce clash and a mortar stonk.

Dingo spots for the mortars from the rear, until the dust cloud meant he had to move up.

Crusaders arrive, and the first one instantly breakdowns... it starts...

Tomahawk bombing run in the gap between the two hills.

Recce infantry section in cover behind Little Charlie.

Busiest unit on the field, recovery Matador.

A13 arrive and trade long range fire, to little effect. A stray mortar round KO'd one.

Their target... if you hit, you can't penetrate anyway.

The first Crusader rush, one immobilised, one on fire... not from enemy action.

Recce tank still doing good work with his 15mm BESA... handy firepower at Little Charlie.

Captured M13... too slow to keep up... it wasted most of its ammo.

Tanks reach the top of Big Charlie. The M13 then went up in flames.

Regia Aeronautica bomb Little Charlie... missing.

Italian motorised infantry arrive behind Big Charlie.

The British are moving around the right of the hill, Crusaders and Bren carrier teams.

A13 firing line across the centre.

Italian 75mm artillery hits the rear of Big Charlie, but no effect.

Brave tankette takes on the immobilised Crusader with its flamethrower, and pins it. It would then tactical co-ordinate, to unpin, and destroy the tankette at PB range.

Mine-strike KO's another tank on Big Charlie.

A13 gets a kill, M13 in the side at Little Charlie. Ending the Italian attack here.

Recce tankette's MG fire keeps heads down, the Brits just can't hit it. A nuisance all game.

Friday 1 March 2024

Warhammer the Old World, Project for 2024

 I started playing Warhammer with first edition, after buying the box set on an impulse in a games store in 1983, thinking it was something like D&D (which to be fair, it was back then). We used it for roleplaying, each with our own characters, but, looking back, we were just playing a one-to-one detailed skirmish wargame, going from fight to fight against various monsters. This developed though, with the arrival of ‘Forces of Fantasy’ into a desire to fight battles and get actually armies. This began as a grand scheme to play Middle Earth wargames… with various players selecting a faction each, I was to be Mordor, and bought Citadel Orcs and Goblins (still got them, great models). As kids, this was way too ambitious, I don’t think we ever played a game. But it had started something, and soon five of us were collecting fantasy armies from the Forces of Fantasy box set. ‘Men of the West’ were my choice, knights, men-at-arms, archers, (available from historical manufacturers), a proto-Empire army really. Others had small forces of Dwarves, Wood Elves, Lizardmen and the Giants (only 5 models required). We created our own fantasy world, and drew a big A2 map, hung it on the wall and the five factions with their own realms within it. Again, very ambitious, and it never got going beyond a few small skirmishes. I had a truce with the Dwarves, my brother, so we would not fight each other, a mistake really, as we could game any weekend… but refused to because of the campaign world! I remember losing to the Giants once… with 5 models I couldn’t kill.

By now, second edition (red box) had arrived and so, purchased from GW, with the first 'Ravening Hordes' book to work with, those of us with enough enthusiasm for it all, carried on collecting models, building our armies, painting them (pretty badly) and playing games on our bright green subutteo cloth covered table with a few model railway trees, lichen and home-made cardboard buildings. My Men of the West finally actually fought my brother’s Dwarves, often, with the occasional game against a friends Elves, in which you always got shot to hell. There were not many Warhammer players around back then. Balance was not a thing.

By third edition, we’d dropped out, I think 40K had come along and pretty much taken over all our tabletop gaming for years. We were busy with sci-fi and our fantasy armies languished in boxes. I sold my knights and peasants at a wargames' show bring-and-buy and reinvested the funds in my 40K Squats.

So, we missed third edition altogether (the one version I never played), but were dragged back in by fourth, and the cool looking games in White Dwarf magazine. In 1993, we decided to restart with Warhammer, the old Dwarves were dusted off, and I needed an army. I chose Skaven, they are cool, and began a big collecting and painting project over the next couple of years. I played with that Skaven army (with its one unit of 100 clan rats in the centre) for years. Usually against the Dwarves (by then I had 2 regular opponents, both with Dwarves). I got good at beating Dwarves.

Fast forward, to about 2000-01 and I wasn’t playing much Warhammer anymore, the Skaven had gone into hibernation, so I sold the army for a good fee, and spent the lot on WW2 models and terrain. Most of which I still use.

I restarted with my third Warhammer army for a campaign. Working at GW now, several co-workers wanted to start a campaign and three of them were painting Tomb Kings (it must have been the latest army book out). They need opponents, so we organised three others to paint a Bretonnian army, to fight them in a ‘desert crusade’ themed games, knights vs skeletons in the ruins if Egypt (we bought some ruined pillars, a sphinx, etc. to add to the theme). I bought and painted Knights of the Realm, Men-at-Arms, heroes on pegasus, etc, and we played 4-5 games, all crushing wins for Bretonnia. Interest fell away, the Tomb Kings were not much cop vs the big knightly charges (I wonder, seeing the new release, if it’s got much better for the skeletons facing fast, hard hitting, tooled-up-to-the-nines, heavy cavalry with their skinny boney bodies). Suffice to say, the brief ‘Khemri Crusade’ over as a victory and, well, my part of the Bretonnian’s got sold. [As an aside, that did inspire me to collect actual historical crusaders stuff instead, and later write the 'Soldiers of God' rules to play with them].

Fourth Warhammer army, and it must have been a new edition of the game (5th/6th maybe?), and new plastic daemons were all the rage. I bought some boxes, Bloodletters, and quickly made a 2000 point force for some tournament games, it was a quick army to paint (being largely red) and not many troops, led by a Bloodthirster. It won the tournament, 4 wins from 4 games, because basically the army did nothing but charge across the table and smack the enemy hard (no missile troops, no magic), as the Bloodthirster killed any/everything it wanted. Steam tanks, Wood Elf High Mages on great eagle, a very tough Vampire Lord (almost got the Bloodthirster, 1 Wound away as I remember)… all were crushed by the Bloodthirster (in those days you could tool it up with daemonic gifts, and mine was mean, and expensive). The undefeated red legion of Khorne daemons returned to its box and remained there. It was a bit boring to play honestly. One trick, but very good at it. But I didn’t sell them. I still have them, waiting for the summons…

Along came, I think 7th edition, and the 'Isle of Blood' box set. We all bought it and I’d always, since the first army book, coveted a High Elf army. I read that first book almost cover to cover standing in a Waterstones… anyway, I had new plastic High Elves, loads of them. I collected them all up, buying the spare plastics cheap from those with no use for them, the new Skaven seemed to be more in demand back then. With about 4 'Isle of Blood' sets I set about making my High Elves from them. A leader on a griffon, lots of Sea Guard, Ellyrian Reavers and Sword Masters. I added a few extras as well, and had an army. They fought 5-6 games, did OK, lost a few, won a few (crushed an Orc and Goblin force in about 3 turns I remember), lost to a cheesy Skaven army that turned up to play mostly unpainted (I hate this… a legion of the black spray can, it doesn’t seem right after the hours I’d put in on my models, I'm in favour of unpainted models having a flat -1 to Hit as an official rule). Anyway, it was fun… and along came 8th (and last edition). I played a few games with the High Elves, but interested waned again and into their box they went. There they remained until 2020. No Warhammer to play anymore anyway… and no real interest either. But it's a shame to have painted armies you can’t use. It irks, not to get playing time from the time and work put it.

Then lock-down came. Which was, for wargamers, just extended hobby time. Days stuck in the house, I’ll get cracking on new armies then. I started my sixth Warhammer army… something to fight my High Elves…  I chose Dark Elves, bought a second-hand army and other models for sale on Ebay, to revamp and add to, and cracked on at the painting desk. The Dark Elves did not get finished. By ’21 I had, half an army… not really game-able. Stalled out. I was playing and painting Napoleonics.

This is all a long pre-amble to where I’m at today. A new project for 2024, and the arrival of the Old World rules, a new edition of Warhammer. I was tempted by a ‘new edition, new army’ (Chaos Dwarves look cool), but resisted and decided instead to finish those Dark Elves I already had. That’s currently almost complete. I’ve added some new stuff too… a few new hero types, from 3D printers, because in the time away from Warhammer, this has become ‘a thing’. I was amazed at the choice and quality of these alternative model ranges. Anyway… the main thrust of all this as my project for ’24. French Napoleonic army now ‘complete’ (if any army is ever actually complete), short break and what is next?

I have always, since first edition, wanted to play an extend narrative campaign with Warhammer. Repeat battles with the same characters and units, gaining experience, losing men, taking objectives, with sieges, ambushes, scenarios, etc., and a story to create and tell. The standard ‘mode’ for Warhammer is the one-off 2,000 point tournament-style line-up and fight game. I plan to avoid this, by having a theme and story to drive the campaign, small skirmishes up to large set-piece battles, siege assaults, allies arriving, heroes fighting and dying, etc. Basically, a proper wargaming campaign. So, I’m just going to do it, and now, after all these years, I actually have the armies to provide both sides for it too.

High Elves, with a few new reinforcements units and heroes (they’ll all get names), will fight Dark Elves (once they’re completed, which is about 1-2 weeks off) and they will get some allies, my re-summoned Khorne Daemons, via a daemonic pact with their Master Sorceress. All 3 of my Warhammer armies will fight again.

So, as well as rebasing every model to fit with the new rules (wholly-molly that is a lot of 25mm square bases required and a big dull job), I will write a background for my Elf vs Elf war (not hard, given the Warhammer background pits them as old foes against each other anyway), make-up a setting for it (again not hard, somewhere on the fringes of Ulthuan will work fine) get some themed terrain and create a campaign system so characters and units can gain experience throughout, and losses can be taken, reinforcements arrive, etc. I’ll write it all to work with my army collections, and if, say, for some reason, I find I need a new character or unit, I’ll just get them and introduce them to the on-going story.

I have already made a start, ‘War for Tor Helethion’ will see a merciless Dark Elf invasion of an Ulthuan island, my setting, and each game’s result will build the story of the campaign. Finally, after 40 years, I’ll get to play Warhammer as I always really wanted to. One-off games have been fun, even the tournaments (which I now mostly dislike), were OK, I generally did alright. The one brief campaign only lasted 5-6 games and was one-sided. But one-off games are very limiting to the scope of the game. Hopefully, now, each battle will actually mean something more, and be a step towards a Dark Elf conquest of Tor Helethion, or the High Elves heroically repelling them. Much hobby work to do before the battles can begin, with the last units to paint and about 350 miniatures to rebases!!, oh lord!, and some characterful terrain to sort too. But, by the spring/summer (when the seas are calmer), the Dark Elf invasion fleet can arrive off Tor Helethion, and my Warhammer gaming can resume (and any of the new rules I don’t like will just get changed… it’s a set of rules with problems, always has been, fun, but it needs some nuance or it’s too often just a predictable slug-fest, I have some ideas already, I think I can make it far better). First, just play some games though...