Monday, 10 October 2016

3 Div on D-Day - Morris

I've been looking for a few representative battalion sized NWE engagements to try out a revised version of 'Battlegroup' by John Armatys. Originally these were a pretty lean and fast playing set of rules, but somehow along the way I've managed to turn them into a bloated monster with endless fiddling and revisions. I went right back to the original set we played at COW some ten years ago, and added in the merest sprinkling of changes based on our experience of playing them in the last decade.

For scenarios, I recetly acquired a copy of 'Mapping WW2' which included various sets of defence overprint maps of the German defences around and inland from Sword beach, so I had another look at 3 Divs drive on Caen, and in particular the actions at Morris, Hillman and Periers Ridge. I rapidly discovered enormous discrepancies and contradictions in the various accounts of these actions, and settled on an 'average' version of these, partly with an eye to giving a decent game.

The first scenario was based on the 1st Bn, Suffolks attack on Coleville-Montgomery and the battery at 'Morris' (WN 16). As far as possible the map was based on the 1944 invasion map with overprints, which clearly show the positions of the company of Ost battalion troops covering Coleveille, but which are absent from most accounts. Apologies for the poor quality of some of the photos, clearly all the explosion were making the camera shake

A general view of the battlefield from the south (which covers roughly two map squares). Morris is in the foreground with the Suffolks forming up area east of Hermanville in the distance. The marshes in the top right are the boggy areas behind Sword beach (which itself is offtable).

We played this as a team vs umpire game, so the Germans are entirely hidden (apart from the known battery position). John was CO of the Suffolks, and Jerry and Graeme his trusty subordinates.

The British formed up to move out. John kept the carrier platoon in reserve, whilst Jerry took A company, the attached MMG platoon and 76th Field Regiment observer to establish an OP and base of fire. Graeme took B, C, and D companies left flanking with the battalion mortars in support to clear Coleveille from the north.

All went swimmingly well at first. The entrenched positions by the road were found to have been destroyed by the RAF and largely abandoned, but some enemy opened fire from trenches along the St Aubin road, and a firefight with B company ensued. 76 FR dropped a regimental concentration on one of the enemy positions, neutralising it.

The enemy were soon pinned by small arms and artillery fire (one platoon from C company also being pinned in the exchange of fire). The reserve platoon of B company, and remaining platoons of C company moved to assault.

The western positions were cleared and D company moved through to enter Coleville. It was discovered that the 'Germans' were actually Azerbijanis and only too willing to surrender once the British got close. The hit platoon of C company proved very hard to reorg though.

D company clears down the east side of Coleville. There wasn't any opposition at first, although they did find a house full of German casualties and medics. Further into the village, some light small arms fire came from a compound to the east.

The enemy troops in the compound were stonked with smoke and HE by the mortars, and a regimental concentration landed on Morris as B and D companies formed up. C company had found more Russians in the woods (who all surrendered) but some small arms fire came from Morris, which pinned a platoon of B company.

Once the barrage lifted, the assault went in. The wire had been gapped by the naval bombardment earlier in the and he artillery positions had largely been destroyed with the surviving gunners only too happy to surrender. A tougher nut proved to be the battery HQ which recovered from being pinned and held off an entire company asasult from their trenches, however B company joined the attack the HQ was overrun in a second attack.

Overall this was a very satisfactory game, and I was pleased with how it went, particularly how quickly the turns were resolved. We'll need to play a few more ties to see if I've managed to restore the rules to their former glory, but it is looking promising. The tweaks I'd made all seemed to work OK, but it is always easier to run games with an umpire, so I need to try an opposed game and also perhaps introduce some tanks next time.

For those interested in 'Battlegroup', the original was published in the Wargames Development Journal:  The Nugget in issue 204.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Simplicity in Practice - ACW

John put on this ACW game using his 15mm toys and the ACW variant of Simplicity in Practice. The scenario was 'Positional Defence' from one of the Charles Grant scenario books. I took the Union and Tom and Tim the Rebs.

My chaps had to deny the Rebs the town, and my units which were out of sight were represented with counters, along with a fair number of blanks. At game start the only units visible were my two artillery batteries. The rest were skulking in or behind cover and out of sight. The sunken road on the right of the town was a very useful terrain feature.

The massive Reb army lined up and advanced in a very menacing manner, mostly in open order.

Over on the right, three regiments of cavalry menaced my rifled artillery battery.

In the centre and on the left my infantry put up a spirited defence. Sadly my artillery battery succumbed to the weight of enemy artillery fire.

Over on the right, things were going my way. One Reb cavalry regiment was destroyed by my artillery, and another surprised by my reserve cavalry and infantry regiment which appeared from behind the hill. My weakened cavalry took on the last Reb regiment, supported by the infantry.

And was victorious. The enemy General scuttled away, and my infantry fell back in open order to move and support the centre.

Over at the rest of the battle, much to everyones astonishment my outnumbered infantry continued to deal out death and destruction, and although one regiment fell back, the other proved completely immune to enemy fire, and the Rebs grumpily called it a day.

And so we came to a conclusion. The game rattled along at a good pace, especially considering how much stuff was on the table, and it was an interesting scenario, with some difficult decisions to be made.The only real problem was that cover seemed to be far too powerful. My infantry in the town was bombarded for several turns by three artillery batteries and several regiments of infantry and didn't take any damage at all. This was mainly because I was lucky with my cover saves (every hit in cover is saved on a 4+), and then proceeded to make saves on the few actual hits which got through.

I am not a fan of throwing huge numbers of dice to resolve things and it can produce some very odd results.One idea we did have was to simply not count woods and wood buildings as 'cover', but then I suspect I'd have been overwhelmed in short order. One thought I did have was to simply halve the number of hits in cover instead of making saving throws, round fractions up for normal cover and round them down for fortifications and similar. Another would be to modify the unit morale test/saving throw; either give the unit in cover two saves, or keep the single save but add one.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Somme anniversary game

Tim put on this rather magnificent 54mm game at the club using Funny Little Wars. He'd previously run it outside, but the new club venue is large enough to accommodate such extravagence fairly easily. In the interests of speed, the action was scaled down to a brigade attack. Jerry took the Germans, and Tim C, Tom, John and myself the British.

The Germans (Jerry) contemplate the defences. Between us we had about 48 feet of trenches and fortifications. The defences blended in well with the dazzle pattern on the floor.

The game was structured into three phases, air recce, bombardment and finally the assault. Here a couple of wicked German planes attack the plucky British observation balloon.

Whilst a British spotter aircraft is hit by Archie (party poppers being used to simulate the  fire).

It was soon time to start shelling the German positions, and a furious barrage of matchsticks took place. Unfortunately many of these fell short or went over, and of the shells which landed near the German positions, many were duds.

The wicked Germans then fired their own counter barrage, observed by this rather magnificent spotter aircraft. 

Once the gunnery was complete, it was time for our chaps to show themselves. Four battalions, each of twenty figures in two lines.

My heroic battalion, only spoiled by my crappy cardboard trenches. Each figure was individually named with someone we knew (members of Wargames Developments or Sheffield Wargames Club).

And over the top we went. It all went swimmingly well until we got in range of the German machineguns, and then battalion after battalion took heavy losses and went to ground. My chaps only got further than anyone else as the Germans concentrated their fire on the others.

And with that we called it a day, stopping only to peruse the casualty lists. It really did make it quite tragic being people we knew, and I am afraid to say that one Sergeant Rapier was amongst the losses.

This was really great fun and I think Tims idea of focussing on the fun bits or flying planes around and shooting guns instead of the boring and bloody assault was quite right. It has made me want to re-visit Drumfire and focus on streamlining the assault phases to something much, much simpler.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Zvezda T26

Another purchase at Triples 2016 were some Zvezda T-26s. I already have some Peter Pig ones, but I wanted some additonal ones so I can do a 1941 Tank Brigade.

I got four of them as you can never have to many T-26s.

A very simple little model which goes together quickly and easily, but with nice sharp detail especially around the running gear.

The sharp edges get picked up nicely by the dry brushing.

I was a bit concerned that they might be a different size to my Peter Pig ones (the PP Panzer IIIs are hugely bigger than my Zvezda ones), but in fact the hull sizes are identical. I should have taken a side by side photo shouldn't I! The PP ones have a different shaped turret so these make a nice contrast.

I just did these in plain Russian Green (Vallejo 894 lightened with a big dollop of ochre as it so dark), mud around the running gear and very light overall drybrush of Iraqi Sand.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Search for Hauptmann Horn

This was a WW2 Airsoft game organised by Comrades in Arms and held in the Brecon Beacons military training area in April 2011. It covered the landing of of Hauptmann Horn aka Rudolph Hess in Scotland and was an encounter between British Home Guard and regular forces and a detachment of German paras sent to get him back. It was only the third WW2 Airsoft game I took part in, I  was a Fallschirmjager for this one.

A degree of fraternisation took place before the game. The British even enlisted these tracker dogs.

The British stand around looking smart. The sergeant on the left is from a film unit.

Some SS paras tagged along with the Germans, evidently Hitler didn't trust the Luftwaffe to do the job.

The British were well equipped with home comforts.

Privates on parade.

News comes in that something is amiss (namely a crashed aircraft in the woods).

Meanwhile Germans are lurking among the steep and heavily wooded valleys.

The terrain was utterly exhausting, here elite German paras take a breather after walking up (another) hill.

The British scoured the woods.

While the Germans watched and waited.

Letting the British exhaust themselves.

After various alarms and excursion the Fallschirmjagers finally laid their hands on Hess, and managed to evade the SS who seemed to have other plans for him. Time to hide up and have a brew before marching to the coast and a U Boat home.

Hess himself, obviously contemplating what Hitler is going to say to him. His somewhat eccentric uniform was the result of a British subterfuge while they had captured him briefly.

Another elite paratrooper. Ahem. Yes I know it is the splinter A pattern and not splinter B on the jump smock, I have subsequently purchased another.

This was great fun, even if it was utterly exhausting. One section of terrain took us three hours to travel a mile, but it was all very atmospheric. To cap it off, the British Army film unit made this rather magnificent film of the whole thing:

Monday, 12 September 2016

Edge Hill - again

We have had a couple of outings at the club of 'Martson Less' by Tony Cullen, a very simple and abstract set of ECW rules, and I was keen to see how they worked for historical battles. We'd already tried Neil Thomas's Pike & Shot for both ECW and TYW, and frankly, they were a little clunky in places. I could see how ML could easily be adapted into a more generic approach, but I also worked up some mods to be able to use them in the Thirty Years War, particularly the earlier period with Tercios etc.

I re-used the Edge Hill scenario I'd done for the Neil Thomas rules, but reworked the OBs to use with Marston Less elements. Tim and John took the Royalists, Tim C and Tom the Parliamentarians. We played the game with my 2mm Irregular pike blocks.

The battlefield, Royalists on the left, parliament on the right. For this scenario each element is around 500 men or eight guns, so the infantry regiments have two stands, cavalry one. ML is a grid based game, each 'line' occupying a zone, with the strength of its constituent elements. Both armies stuck with the historical deployment with Ruperts horse massed on the Royalist right and their infantry in a cumbersome chequerboard. Essex's forces are deployed in  more conventional straight lines.

Close up of the centre. The Royalsit infantry are weaker but they have their guns up on the ridge and able to fire overhead. Troop quality for the infantry units is represented by the mix of blocks.

After a preliminary cannonade, Rupert charged forwards and a bloody melee ensued. At this point the first Parliamentarian line has been overwhelmed and Ruperts victorious troopers have pursed headlong into the second line. ach line can take four hits (indicated by the white crosses) before it routs. At this juncture Essex decided it would be better to attack the ridge than wait to be enveloped by the Royalist cavalry. 

After a couple of rounds of combat, both infantry first lines were routed and the second lines entered the fray. On the flank, Rupert was victorious but failed (twice) to hal this pursuing troopers and they left the table to loot the baggage in Kineton. The Royalist second line was very weak (a single element) but managed to work its way cautiously into Essex's rear. Over on the other flank, some minor cavalry skirmishing developed.

Sadly for Essex, his army broke against the ridge and the survivors streamed off the table. Historically he declined to attack, and that was probably why! So, a strategic and a tactical victory for the King, but the war will undoubtedly drag on for years to come.

I was pretty pleased how this turned out, and the players seemed to find it enjoyable despite the limitations of some of the abstractions. We rattled through the whole thing in an hour or so and I'd like to try it for the Thirty Years are next

If anyone is interested in a copy of Marston Less, they are at Staines Wargamers

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Quarter Master General

I've been wanting to try QMG for some time, and I was very excited when Jerry said he'd bring his copy down to the club. I have always had a fascinating with grand strategic games of WW2, I played Third Reich a great deal, and even have two versions of Hitlers War (the AHGC version and the original Metagaming one).

QMG is an abstact grand strategic game for 2-6 players with units representing armies and navies (like Diplomacy), area movement (Risk/Diplomacy) and a deterministic combat system (ie no dice). The logistic elements and fog of war are generated by the card decks used to drive each countries actions (and they can also add a hidden element to combat). 

I got to play plucky Britain. Here the Royal Navy holds the North Sea, whilst the wicked Jerries and Italians have overrun Europe. The Russians still hold Moscow and the Ukraine, but DAK control North Africa. American fleets patrol the western Atlantic

A more general view of the map, you can see the Japanese rampaging all over the Pacific on the left. Also visible are some of the player cards and force pools. The 'status' cards are permanent modifications to a countries capabilities, and some of them are really very good.

Things are hotting up in Europe. The DAK has been destroyed but Axis fleets still dominate the Mediterranean and Baltic.

In the Far East US Fleets build up, whilst the Japanese hang onto the Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere.

This really was excellent, and although we only got around halfway through as we were still learning the game, it gave a good flavour if it. I was particualrly impressed with the way the card decks had been constructed so that each country felt and played quite differently. I can't even begin to think of how I'd design a game like that, and I'm looking forward to playing it again.