Sunday, 20 January 2019

Bieville (or Periers Ridge II)

Many decades ago I read Tank Battles in Miniature Volume 4 Northwest Europe) and was very taken with the account of the Staffs Yeomanrys stand against 22nd Panzer Regiment on Periers Ridge on D-Day. So, 40 years later, I finally got around to putting on a game about it.

This is the final engagement in my ongoing mini-campaign covering 3 Div on D-Day. The KSLI (supported by the Staffs) have taken Periers Ridge but ran into heavy opposition from 192 PGR so went firm on the ridge while a flanking force pressed on for Caen via Bieville and Lebissy Wood. See the previous account here

Meanwhile, 21st Panzer Div, having been nicely lined up at 9am to wipe out 6th Airborne Div was instead ordered to send its panzer regiment to the west of the Orne to attack Sword Beach via Periers Ridge. Finally by mid afternoon the re-deployment was complete and 22nd Panzer Regiment was ready to roll. The various sources for the strength of 22nd PR are somewhat contradictory, but I am inclined more to Zetterlings version than Jentz, and in the end I went with the figures quoted in the South Staffs war diary for the battle itself (which are about half the operational Pz IVs which 21st Panzer Div had available).

The view from Bieveille Ridge towards Periers Ridge. This the first outing of my new Deepcut Studios green game mat. Very pretty it is too.

John commanded the KSLI. He'd dug out his KSLI cap badge specially.

Tim was Oberst Von-Oppeln-Bronikowski, CO of 22nd Panzer Regiment. Clearly just back from the desert as the old Arika Korps cap rode forth once more.

W Company, KSLI mopping up in Bieville. Sadly some burning Staffs Shermans marked the way. This company was under umpire control. Eagle eyed readers will also spot the first game outing of my new Leven Miniatures bailey bridge, replacing the old bridge blown up by the Germans.

Around Periers the battalion AT platoon deployed for defence. As the guns were deployed, I gave them two groups (each representing three guns) based on the rule of thumb that one AT gun is worth two tanks with the same armament. The burning Sherman was left behind from the earlier assault on the ridge. That battle was covered here: Periers Ridge

The other group of 6pdrs was in Periers itself, supported by a company of infantry in hastily dug slit trenches. The previous occupants (a company of 192 PGR) had vacated the village once the gun battery was taken in the previous game and fell back to join their pals on Bieville ridge.

On the main ridge was the remaining company of KSLI, Battalion HQ and Support company. A replacement squadron of Staffs Shermans had arrived to take over from their pals burning on the road through Bieville. These chaps had survived an unfortunate encounter with some proper 88s (Pak 43s no less) to the southwest, leaving five more burning Shermans. They were happily parked in hull down positions on the ridge now looking forwards to a breather.

The first sign of trouble was a radio message from the Staffs recce troop reporting 'at least 30' German tanks heading towards Periers Ridge. A group of Panzer IVs duly appeared on Bieville Ridge. They were immediately identified as Tigers by John.

They were rapidly followed by a lot more German tanks.  The Staffs war diary recorded it as ' a squadron of 24 tanks'. In fact it was the entire 2nd battalion, 22nd Panzer Regiment plus the regimental HQ. Sadly for wargamers everywhere, they'd left all their Somuas behind and just brought the Pz IVs (each of the four companies had half a dozen Pz IVs, the rest were Somuas).

There was a certain degree of excitement on  Periers Ridge at this target rich environment. Happily 20th AT Regiment RA  took this opportunity to put in an appearance in the form of one of my shiny new M10s. The turret promptly fell off to general hilarity. I must put more blu tak on it.

The Germans were a bit surprised when this recce Stuart made a very high speed retrograde move right around their position heading in the direction of Bieville village. This was the element responsible for the spotting report (quite how they'd managed to get right into 21st Panzers defensive positions is something the War Diary didn't elaborate on). Anyway, faced with half a panzer division, they wisely decided it was time to run away.

I/22 PR shook out into combat formation and moved menacingly into the valley. There are also some panzergrenadiers lurking on the ridge, but they are out of sight.

22 Panzer Regiment HQ. Oberst Bronikowskis HQ troop is the Pz III with the commander, the other Pz III is a BeobWg (observation tank) from the attached SP artillery battalion.  The HQ tank troop still has functioning guns (something the Germans rectified very rapidly after dummy guns were found to be a disaster in Russia) while the observation troop has wooden gun barrels.

1st battalion 22PR now put in appearance ('another squadron of 16 tanks' as the Staffs war diary put it). I suspect this was a company of 1st battalion detached to support the 2nd, as the 1st Bn had four companies of 17 Pz IVs each, whereas 2nd Bn only had about 24 Pz IVs in total. John and Tim were both impressed with the size of my collection of Panzer IVs. This was probably the most German armour we'd ever  deployed in a 1944 NWE game.

The Panzer Regiment set off across the valley.

Over in Bieveille, the remains of the Squadron who had been supporting the assault on Hillman turned up, despatched by the Staffs RHQ in the face of the massed German armoured assault. The War Diary noted that 'they arrived in Bieveille just in time to take up positions covering the natural anti-tank obstacle'.  John adopted a more aggressive posture and they advanced out of the orchards to take 22PR in the flank, observed by the recce Stuart section.

The British AT guns and Shermans opened fire, knocking out the leading platoon of Pz IVs (the regimental recce platoon)

The Germans retaliated with artillery and mortar fire to suppress the defenders. Long range AT fire from the advancing Pz IVs was ineffective, but the mortars destroyed one of the 6pdr groups (there hadn't been time to dig the guns in properly).

The advancing Shermans also came under fire. Oberst Bronikowski even managed to suppress one of the Sherman troops.

In the valley, the positional disadvantage began to tell as more Pz IVs were destroyed despite their superior numbers. Even the M10 managed to knock a platoon out, most unusual for a new model on its first game outing.

The M10 was duly destroyed in turn as a battalions worth of artillery landed on it. With half the German armour destroyed or disabled though, 22 PR called it a day, as they did historically (and then headed off to the sea at Lion Sur Mer). The Germans were a little unfortunate as they did land a number of hits on the Staffs Shermans, but their hull down positions generally saved them.

Ah well, there we have it. In the end it was all a bit underwhelming, which was a shame. The Germans tactical position was quite poor, as to have a reasonable chance of engaging the hull down Shermans they needed to get quite close (there wasn't much point sniping at them from ranges over 1000 yards) and Tim pressed the attack with somewhat greater resolution than his real life counterparts. The Allies had a slight edge in quality as I modelled the Staffs higher cohesion by giving them one model per four tanks, while poor old 21st Panzer only got one per five tanks. I'm not sure evening it up would have made much difference. I'm glad the M10 had some fun though, as did the mass of Panzer IVs I've slowly accumulated. I'd also specially  converted Oberst Bronikowskis command Pz III, not that anyone noticed, but it was fun to put it all together.

In the real engagement 21st Panzer only lost half a dozen tanks written off, and hilariously both the South Staffs and the KSLI claimed six tanks knocked out each and each war diary barely mentions the presence of the other units. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if 20th AT Regiment didn't also claim six kills.  One thing I did note was that the Staffs made particular mention that they'd knocked out 'Mark IV Specials' and it is important to remember that the Pz IV Lang was still a scary tank in 1944. Quite capable of knocking out a Sherman at 2000 yards and with frontal armour thick enough to worry a 75L40. Large numbers of Panthers hadn't been encountered yet, something 12th SS Panzer rectified pretty quickly the next day.

The poor old 22nd Panzer Regiment soldiered on for the rest of the campaign with a few dozen operational Pz IVs, the divisions 200th Stug Battalion with all its converted French vehicles earned greater fame. The division was however given some additional armour later in the form the 503rd Tiger Battalion, with a mix of Tiger Is and Tiger IIs. I covered the latter units adventures in the Battle for Cagny a few years ago. Perhaps that is worth a re-visit at some point as you don't get many opportunities to field multiple Tiger IIs.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Bodged battery

Inspired by my recent Achilles conversion, I thought I'd tackle another project I've had on the back burner for a while - building some medium AA guns for my 15mm Russians. Again, it is isn't exactly a high priority item, but some 85mm AA guns might come in useful for a range of things like medium AA in operational games or 85mm tank destroyer units in more tactical ones.

As I learned back in the 1970s when I did more plastic modelling, the hardest thing about scratch building artillery is the gun barrels, but fortunately those kind people at PSC provide different barrel options for their Zis 76mm guns, and the long 57s are close enough to 85mm guns without too much bodging around. The hard work was done, I really just needed to make some mounts.

Here they are mid construction. I used a Russian 76mm AA gun from Irregulars Really Useful Gun range as a template for the gun mountings.

The gun platform is just a bit of card with the cruciform mount made out of matchsticks. (I said it was a bodge). The feet are slivers of plastic sprue, and the gun mount is also just piece of sprue with various nobbles left on it to stand in for dials etc. Sometimes it is just odd bits of external detail which make the impression - like the feet on the cruciform mount.

I added a gunners seat, also made our of sprue. This provided a home for one of my spare seated Russians. The standing figure is just there for scale. A fixed gunner makes the whole thing look a bit more gun-like I think.

They look a bit more business like with their gunners.

And here are the finished articles, painted and based up, which hides some of the imperfections!

I just did them standard Russian Green, heavily highlighted with a lightened version (VJ 894 plus a big dollop of ochre), plus a couple of spare figures for the rest of the crew. I used some of the PSC women soldier figures as they were quite common as AA crew.

I also had some spare ammo crates, which add to the look of them I feel. The bases are my usual builders sand plus static grass with a couple of bits of magnabase should I feel the need to affix steel SP or status markers.

There we go, job done. Off into the Russian artillery box they go.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

QMG Cold War

Tim had subscribed to the latest Quartermaster General Kickstarter and turned up with the Cold War version of QMG hot off the presses. It is designed to be played with 3-6 players, with three main blocs - NATO, Warpac and non-aligned (China, India etc). With more than three players each block is split in two, with a clever two deck system for each bloc which gives each of the pair differing capabilities but they score together.

It has a global map, similar to the WW2 one. The war runs from 1945 to 1990 and is scored in five year increments.

Naturally Tim hadn't read the rules, so we spent a bit of time figuring out how it worked.

John and I were playing Warpac. My deck seemed to be a bit more on the global revolution side of things, whereas I suspect Johns deck was a bit more warry. In QMGCW, opposing pieces can both occupy a zone, so Germany had both Warpac and NATO pieces in it. I think we'll have to do something about that.  

The various playing pieces. Tanks, planes and nuclear subs. Woohoo!

NATO sort themselves out. Draw decks and prepared card decks. Prepared cards are even more important in this version than the WW1 version as that is how you carry out 'espionage' actions. Many of the espionage actions were really, really powerful but took a bit of planning to make the most of.

My enigmatic Warpac deck. I had some really great espionage cards, including successful revolutions in Cuba, Central America, Africa and Vietnam! Each revolution would give as a supply base (and VPs) and an associated army. I was seriously planning on invading and taking over North America via Mexico. Maybe Trump is on to something.

My somewhat more warlike colleague in STAVKA had different ideas, and we soon kicked NATO out of Berlin and Germany, and even parked some Red Army tanks in Italy. Aggressive actions suffered an 'escalation' penalty so the baddies could do stuff back to you with political impunity, but with our tanks parked on the Rhine, who cares?

Cuba duly fell to Castro, and we even had some short range nukes to station there. Oh dear!

While all this jollity was going on, India, China and various unsavoury nationalists were romping all over Asia. There went my hopes of an early success in Vietnam. Sadly, this was reflected in the points as the non-aligned powers roared ahead.

Over in Europe, Italy was finally ours, through the judicious use of some tactical nuclear weapons, but those d*mn nationalists were all over the Balkans. Fun as this was, we'd have been far better off taking over Africa and Central America.

There was great excitement as we deployed these SS-18s. The little radiation markers and the great big bomb symbol with '11' in it said it all really. These boys go up to 11! That'll deter NATO aggression all right. Even we weren't crazy enough to fire these with the escalation level so against us. Not fire them yet anyway...

The Russian juggernaut rolled over France, but the non aligned powers were miles ahead now as our VP penalties really kicked in. We called it a day in 1960 as NATO and Warpac were outclassed by the new world power, China. Well, that will never happen in real life will it?

That was really good fun,and with the benefit of hindsight, we'll have a much better idea how to play it next time. All out war is a no-no, spreading global influence and stamping on those pesky nationalists is the way to go. I think sadly we were too influenced by the more warry WW1 and WW2 games and forgot we weren't actually fighting WW3. Very clever, and I'm looking forward to trying that again.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Club Games Day 2018

Every Christmas, the Sheffield Wargames Club usually has an extended game day, and this year it was on Thursday 27th December. Around 20 people turned up for the afternoon and evening with several games on the go. The club also laid on a buffet (as if we hadn't already eaten far too much!).

There was this rather grand Shako 6mm game of Quatre Bras.

British reinforcements piling on.

View from the Allied left as 'Ney' throws some dice. 

There was also a 28mm desert skirmish game.

Nick and Jerry were playtesting a new version of Bush Horizon, this particular scenario featuring a circular table!

Jerry was defending this rather grand office building.

Including AA missiles.

We rolled out a Command and Colours Napoleonic game - the Battle of Castricum (to be fully featured in a future game report).

Here the brave French take on the wicked English invaders.

I brought along this nostalgic old game, AHGCs 'War at Sea'. Still a fun game even after all these decades. The Allies decided to contest every sea are on the first turn, while the Axis pondered a response. In fact the Italians came out to play, but devastating British air strikes crippled much of their fleet.

In later turns the shiny new Bismarck accompanied by Scharnhorst and Graf Spee (the Gneisenau had been sunk earlier) contested the North Atlantic.

Allied ASW put paid to all their escorting U-Boats. Ouch!

And in the bloody engagement which followed allied aircraft drove off Spee and Scharnhorst, while the Bismarck was crippled and Prinz Eugen sunk. We called it a day after a few turns as we were all tired, but it still rattled along well. Perhaps we can try it on a club night in future.

All in all a very pleasant afternoon and evening, and a nice way to ease out of the stress of Christmas entertaining.