Thursday, 23 January 2020

Club Christmas Games Day

Traditionally the Sheffield Wargames Society has an extended meeting over the Christmas period. This year it was on the 27th December. I went along after lunch and found a number of games running.

There was this rather grand 28mm Napoleonic game.

I'm not quite sure who the Lancers are. Spanish maybe?

There was another Napoleonic game, this time at the other end of the scale being a big 6mm bash.

I was intrigued by the basing as it is very similar to Twilight of the Sun King with each unit represented by two bases (allowing Line, Column and Square to be easily represented).

We mainly played Nicks 'Bush Horizon' which is a fictional modernish game covering Warring factions in an unnamed region. The game works as a mini campaign with a series of small battles as part of a larger set of operations. Note the circular table!

Within each campaign segment, players allocated their forces across a range of objectives. If the force ratios looked OK, then the battles were fought on the tabletop. 

In this scenario the baddies are defending an urban area, mainly with infantry.

My chaps tried to envelop the defenders. Light armour and SP guns on the flanks, infantry in the centre.

My armed jeeps sped around this very pretty water tower.

Later on there was a much bigger battle! Masses of infantry, with some armour support.

More armed jeeps speeding the other way.

Nicks vast collection of stuff to make the force selections from.

Although I'd brought some things to play, in the end we just played this for most of the afternoon. A very pleasant way of spending the gap between Christmas and New Year.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Sollum, 1940

Tim produced another 54mm WW2 game, this time using the WW2 version of 'Fistful of Lead', which I was keen to try out. For this adventure we were off to North Africa and the heady days of 1940 and Operation Compass. Tim has taken the scenario from the relevant Skirmish Campaigns book (I'm a big fan of those). Jerry, Gary and myself were the wicked Italians, while John was the British (the Welsh Guards no less).

The battlefield, a line of sand dunes lies in front of Sollum and the Egyptian border. View from Libya (west).

The plucky Brits, a rifle section and small HQ element (officer and a Tommy Gun toting Sergeant). These are Airfix 8th Army figures.

The somewhat larger Italian force, three rifle sections and an HQ. Figures from a range of manufacturers and very nice indeed. I was particularly taken with the barechested LMG gunner.

Our chaps had to capture the Stucco building rapidly and ideally get off the far edge rapidly, encircling the British. Our setup are was behind the convenient sand dunes. Deploying in a long line seemed like a good idea as speed was of the essence.  Garys section and mine, I was also apparently in command.

Jerrys guys lurking.

And off over the dunes we went, a mixture of walking, creeping and lying down. Sadly the crest of the dunes revealed the British in very unsporting trenches and even worse, barbed wire and minefields across some of the front. Some of our chaps were wounded or pinned by defensive fire, but in the main the British fire was fairly ineffective.

Our return fire went rather better, the LMGs managed to hit one of the dug in riflemen. I rather like the FFoL activation system, you are dealt as many card as active soldiers and the cards activate in value/suit order, but you choose who gets which card an some of the cards have special abilities (like +1 shooting or automatic reloads). So there is a degree of friction, coupled with some tactical decision making, which enlivens what would otherwise be the dull dice throwing contest so typical of skirmish games.

Even better, one of our riflemen managed to get the Bren gunner. That was lucky. At this end of the line, the dunes were very close to the British trenches, so our rifles were well within effective range.

Things got a bit sticky in the centre and some of our men went down.

But LMG fire managed to pin a lot of the enemy (the yellow markers). By this time the Sergeant had put in appearance, blazing away with his Thompson. He was christened Sergeant Bass (fans of the 'The Defence of Bowler Bridge' will be familiar with the character). At close range, the Tommy Gun was quite scary, especially as we were quite bunched up.

Jerry pushed cautiously up to the wire. One of his men was pinned.

My LMG team. They had done loads of damage as I'd made good use of the activation cards, '2' cards let you roll two dice for each attack and pick the best, which meant they'd been able to blaze away with little chance of a low ammo result. The downside of 2 cards, is they activate a lot later than all the picture cards etc.

Jerry was through the wire, covered by LMG fire! The arm waving Italian Sergeant led the way. A very heroic figure.

Less heroic was the British office who chose this moment to skedaddle, are we sure these are proper Guardsmen? Sergeant Bass grimly hung on however.

Garys riflemen pushe dinto the British trencehs, supported by the LMG team. The platoon CO led bravely from the rear (well, he's only got a pistol, but does give a rally bonus to troops in LOS within 12").

As the Italians closed in on the stucco building, Sergeant Bass made a run for it too, and the British officer was pinned and wounded in a hail of bullets.

Meanwhile Jerrys section took the other British trenches, covered by my LMG.

Sergeant Bass heroically fought off his attackers in close combat, but was wounded in the process.

Jerrys soldiers cleared the remaining buildings and the game was clearly up for the British as they'd only got a couple of men away while the Italians had captured the town and still had the required 12 soldiers left to exit the far edge.

The situation at the end of the game. A decisive Italian victory, which in the Skirmish Campaigns system will give the Italians an advantage in the next battle.

Well, that was a load of fun and worked really well. It seemed to move much faster than the black powder version, possibly because there was a lot less reloading. In hindsight I wonder if the British would have been better wiring/mining the closer sand-dunes and putting the Bren out to cover the much bigger open space at the far end. In any event they were very unlucky to lose their Bren team early on, and the carnage wreaked by the Tommy Gun wield NCO indicates how things could have gone for the Italians. Good stuff!

Saturday, 11 January 2020

St Vith, The Fortified Goose Egg

For some reason I had a hankering to do a Battle of the Bulge game, perhaps it is something to do with painting all those US vehicles. Anyway, I'd volunteered to put something on at the club and my attempts to come up with (yet another) decent set of brigade level rules having failed, it was back to good old Memoir 44. After the last game (Kurovtsky) I'd decided to strip out a lot of the chrome, which frankly didn't add much to the gameplay and slowed everything down. I reviewed and simplified the unit types back to something closer to the original concepts (although the endless M44 expansions add ludicrous amounts of chome themselves) and the only real addition I made to my existing mods was to add the support rule from the Napoleonic and Ancients sets, which everyone had agreed last time would be a good addition.

I had a dig around for M44 Bulge scenarios and came up rather short on the Interweb as many of them were 'classified', but I did come across one gem at the end of the original rulebook, St Vith.

Boardgame Geek notes that this scenario is often overlooked, but is actually very tense and well balanced  with lots of options for both sides. I also noted that the Germans get no less than four Tiger units.... a bit of research turned up that this action was modelled on the assault by 18th and 62nd VGD on 21st December, supported by no less than the mighty 506th Tiger Bn, the only Tiger Bn in the entire German Army to have four companies. As this would let me field every single 15mm King Tiger I own, it was too good to pass up.

The battlefield from the north. A rather unsnowy Bulge as I didn't have access to Tims snow boards. St Vith is on the right, and the feature in front of it is a big rocky ridge called The Prumenberg, which the US is defending. Two Regiments of the 106th Div have just surrendered,freeing up hordes of Volksgrenadiers to attack St Vith.

A lineup of Tigers. The 506th had fifty Tigers during the Bulge, mostly Tiger IIs although Pz Kompanie Hummel (of Arnhem fame) still had a few late production Tiger 1s. The battalion had mainly dawdled in the rear of 4th Panzer Army causing massively traffic jams, and had plenty of time to mass for the attack on the 21st.

I reckon each unit of German infantry is the equivalent of half a battalion of VG, so there are three regiments worth in total. I rated the Tigers as heavy tanks with AT weapons, and I also gave the VG a couple of mortar support options, but most of their heavy weapons were already factored in.

Some of the US defenders on the Prumenberg. The remains of 424th Regiment, 106th Div, and CCB, 7th Armoured Div (plus bits of 9th AD). The US had six tank units, a mix of the tank and tank destroyer companies from the 106th and CCB/7.

US Reserves in St Vith. As the Germans were stronger than the original scenario (with proper Tigers), I also beefed up the US. I upgraded their reserve infantry to an armoured engineer company and gave them a battalion of M7 SP guns offtable. I also gave them a heroic leader in the form of Brig General Clarke, who by now had taken over from the disgraced General Jones of the 106th.

A rather scary view from the Prumenberg. I reckoned each pair of US infantry units was roughly a battalion - each being the remains of a battalion of the 106th, reinforced with  an armoured combat team from CCB/7. The US infantry strength was therefore around a regiment, with an armoured infantry/engineer combat team in reserve, plus a couple of tank/TD battalions.

I gave a each side a supply dump/HQ as a static terrain feature. The US one featured my Roco Dodge radio truck.

The action opened with the unexpected arrival of German airpower, in the form of this late model FW 190. Against the dug in US troops, the damage was minimal fortunately, although it drove the US infantry back to the reverse slope.

This was followed up by a wave of VG, supported by a company of Tigers. Pz Ko Hummel no less (Graham Evans old Henschel turret TII which  I picked up at COW years ago and repainted).

The VG pressed on up the slopes.

And forced their way into the US position. The US were handicapped by a small card deck, as the assault was preceded by a massive artillery bombardment which knocked out their communications.

Over in the north, some of the US reserves moved up. This is one of my PSC M5 Stuarts.

The battle for the southern ridge continued to rage, with heavy losses on both sides. The Germans were pushed back again.

German infantry pushed forward in the north into the woods.

And pushed forward again in the south.

A final push routed the last of the US infantry, but the Shermans were still holding out.

In the north the Stuarts led a US counterattack.

But it was beaten back by VG in the woods.

The Germans responded with two companies of Tigers. Ooer.

Unsurprisingly the Stuarts didn't last long.

And the Tigers rolled up the hill.

And over the hills and far away in a magnificent breakthrough attack.

Embedded in the  middle of the US position, this lone Tiger company came a bit unstuck. The Shermans were very lucky, no doubt Telly Savalas was driving.

General Clarke led a heroic counterattack and finished it off.. It really was Their Finest Hour.

The US counterattack continued over the hill, destroying the other Tiger company.

And the Shermans set off in pursuit, pushing back the startled Volksgrenadiers. What a heroic action, well done General Clarke!

Things were looking a bit sticky for the Germans as their right flank was in danger of collapse while the exploiting Shermans rampaged around. The Germans had lost five units now (the  breakpoint was six), while the US were on four.

The Americans decided to clinch their advantage with an armoured attack on the VG in the south. Although it pushed the Germans back, it didn't didn't destroy another unit.

The Germans then responded with this rather unfortunate Armoured Assault card.

The Tigers rumbled past their infantry and rolled up over the Prumenberg.

They obliterated the Shermans and M10s in front of them, seizing victory from the jaws of defeat at the last moment. Note the action dice rolling shot.

With that, the action drew to a close. After a rocky start for the US everyone agreed it had been a really tight game and went down to the wire. I was also so delighted to have got some of my less used toys out, I think the last time I had any King Tigers on the table was a game of the Sandomierz bridgehead some years go. The US counterattack was a stroke of genius and very nearly won the game for them, but the Germans had carefuly managed their troops and victory was theirs. Both sides made good use of combined arms, although both sides suffered from over-impetuous advances at times.

Strangely, the game mirrored reality - the VG surged forward after a heavy bombardment, but it was the intervention of the Tigers following up which swung it. They very unfairly used flares to blind the Sherman crews on the ridge and knocked them out, then half a dozen Tiger IIs festooned with cheering VG crested the ridge  and at that point Gen Clarke decided it was time to pull out. The scenario was very cleverly designed, by putting the tanks behind the infantry, it avoided the usual suicidal tank charge which happens so often in M44 games. 

Great fun, and I think I'll stick with this version of the rules in future.