Sunday, 19 February 2017

Platoon Commanders War hexed

WD Display Team (North) are thinking of taking a game to the Joy of Six show in July. Clearly it needs to be a 6mm game and look nice, so Tim and John came up with the bright idea of converting Platoon Commanders War to use Hexon terrain. In 6mm PCW is a 1:1:1 game (each figure represents a man, and the ground scale is also 1/300th, so each 4" hex represents 33 yards). Using the hexes also allowed me to address my favourite WW2 bugbear, bunching up, so fire from an element hits everything in the hex. A Rifle section firing in enfilade is potentially capable of suppressing an area 100 yards by 33 yards (as the MG beaten zone is two hexes), which is in line with War Office Operations Reports which estimated a rifle section could suppress 100 yards of front.

The scenario was set out as a training exercise, taken from a contemporary training manual, of a platoon assault. This wasn't the very familiar 1944 manual, but the earlier 1940-43 one, so used two sections up instead of one. The attack is carefully scripted, with phase lines indicated on the exercise map reproduced on the table, and designed for the platoon to become used to working as a group.

Above is a view from the British end, with the white scrabble counters showing the various points of interest.


View from the German end. The Germans are holding the ridge, and a machinegun team has been identified somewhere to the left of the building (invisible at present). The platoon objective is the building and the small copse is the objective of a neighbouring platoon.

Our brave chaps line up for the O group. Three rifle sections each of a rifle group and bren team, platoon HQ in the middle, with a very dubious looking 2" mortar man in tow.

I took 1 section, Tim took 2 section, Jerry lugged the mortar and Tom ran the platoon with 3 section in reserve.

Start line was the farm track, two sections up. 1 section is nearest the camera.

As we crossed line B, things got a bit sticky and 2 section was pinned by the German MG. 1 section managed to work forward using fire and movement, but as we began to outflank the gun, more Germans opened fire from the building and pinned my rifle team. What a shabby trick.

My plucky Bren team however managed to pin both the German teams, which allowed all the pinned British troops to sort themselves out.  We kept the Germans heads down with covering fire and advanced by bounds over line C. At this point Platoon HQ and 3 section were coming up from the rear to assist.

2 Section managed to get their rifle group into close combat with the pinned MG team, while 1 section advanced on the building.

The 2" mortar laid a smoke screen bang on the ridge, so my rifle group went left flanking under the cover of the smoke covered by the bren, and as the Germans in the building were still pinned, it was all over bar the shouting.

This went really well, and the platoon attack took about 45 minutes. What I really like about these rules is that Battle Drill actually works. You need to win the firefight, you need to use fire and movement to advance, and you clear the enemy position by assault (ideally from a flank, and ideally with the bren positioned to cut the enemy line of retreat). So hopefully some learning points for people too. 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Gabions galore

Tim as always been very generous with his surplus items, and my latest acquisition via this route was a random collection of Irregular 6mm fortifications. Keen eyed readers may have spotted the Austrians hiding behind them in last weeks APW game. They were unpainted as Tim had literally just handed them to me before the game, and I thought they were just the thing to use as dug in markers instead of the matchsticks I was going to use.

There were half a dozen earthworks reinforced with gabions on one side, and one set of freestanding gabions, the latter are just what I need for a scenario I'm working on.

I need something to use as a temporary roadblock, and these are just the ticket. I was going to scratchbuild some,  but it is much easier to just paint something.

The trench sections are rather nice too. I just stuck the terrain bits down on appropriate sized bases, painted them mid brown all over and then ran an inkwash and a light drybrush over the gabions. They are all on 30mm frontages, so will also do as dug in markers for some of my bigger toys (which are also on 30mm bases). 

From the front, a rather unexciting pile of earth. Apart from the painted gabions, the rest of the bases were just done with builders sand stuck down with PVA and edged in black. At some point I'll add some static grass to the actual base bits.

Here are some heroic French Zoaves somewhat uncharacteristically hiding in a load of earthworks. For Rifle & Kepi games I'll just use one marker in a hex to indicated dug in status, and for other periods and rules they can join my useful heap of bits of terrain.

Saturday, 4 February 2017


I've been working on some revisions to my venerable 'Rifle & Kepi' rules for some time, mainly to streamline the command and combat systems. The activation and movement system from OP14 seemed to fit the bill admirably as it activated each Corps rather than each division and also eliminated the fiddly action point dice roll. That does rather restrict it to multiple Corp sized battles, but hey, I'm a  big battle sort of guy.

I rather liked aspects of the old combat system where you could resolve an entire Corps sized engagement in a single step, but the mechanism of calculating the relative combat power of each division (modified by tactical factors and individual dice rolls) and adding all the scores up, was far too cumbersome. The close combat system in Simplicity in Practice came to the rescue, as a way of generating combat value scores using handfuls of dice instead.

So, with the various revisions at hand, time to try it out on some actual players..... We've done this particular battle before, The Prussian Elbe Army closing in on the Saxons and Austrians near the town of Munchengratz on the Iser in June 1866. It essentially consists of four separate Corps sized commands with no pesky cavalry to mess things up. John took on Crown Prince Friedrich Karl, Tom was von Bittenfeld, Jerry was the Elector of Saxony and Tim landed the plum role of General Clam Gallas, reputedly better at eating than fighting.

The battlefield from the east. The Saxons are over to the left down the Iser, while the Austrians have a cordon out covering their evacuation of Munchengratz, Each hex is around 1000m.

The Crown Prince marches his Corps on and the Saxons move up to cover the left flank of Munchengratz. As it is high summer the Iser is passable to infantry and cavalry.

One Prussian division siezes a bridgehead while the Saxon artillery shells the enemy. Sadly after this point the battlefield became shrouded in smoke and there was no visual record of what happened.

Once the smoke cleared, the remains of the Saxon Army were revealed to be in full retreat, although the Prussians had suffered heavy losses in the process. One Saxon division had routed and the Elector had decided that enough was enough. The Austrian reserve brigade had moved up to fill the gap in the meantime.

Over on the road from Torgau, Von Bittenfelds Corps mounted a frontal assault against the Austrians entrenched behind the river. All very unpleasant. On a diamond, deployed units can't cross obstacles (like steep hills, woods and passable rivers), but the Austrians weren't planning on leaving their comfy trenches.

The fighting was so unpleasant in fact that the Prussian Army became shaken and the troops all went to ground. Having suffered 50% losses, it was understandable.

Corps dither (do nothing except defend themselves) if they draw a spade picture card for activation. If a Corps does dither, the HQ can issue an extra card to one subunit to activate at least a portion of the Corps. The Saxons are clearly unsure of what to do next...

The Austrian brigade south of Munchengratz succumbs to the Crown Princes concentric attack. Meanwhile the Austrians in the town have spent the last six hours (!) digging in (indicated by the little dice). Prussian casualties are around 40% at this point.

Back in the north, one Prussian division rallies and manages to fight its way across the river, supported by artillery. Less than half Von Bittenfelds Corps is left on its feet.

And in the south, the Crown Prince threatens the Austrian lines of communication. Night fell at that point and we called it a day.  The Austrians had managed to keep their communications lines open and inflicted heavy losses on the Prussians, even though the Saxons had scuttled home. So a well earned victory for Clam Gallas, and his Corps can withdraw overnight to meet its destiny at Koeniggratz.

I was pretty pleased with this, it all seemed to go smoothly and although I forgot a couple of things in the heat of the moment, it all hung together OK. Playtesting with people is always useful as it highlighted some ambiguities and inconsistencies to iron out, but the revisions are only minor. The challenge is still to keep the rules to one side of A4, but I seem to have managed it. Once I'm happy with the revisions to the revised version I'll post them as a file download here.

Saturday, 28 January 2017


Many years ago I was struck by accounts of the early fighting in Normandy about the difficulties posed to the British attempts to take Caen on D-Day by the strongpoint codenamed 'Hillman'. The position is still there, located on the 'Rue de Suffolk' south of Coleville on the back route into Caen and Tim visited it in 2004. 

Anyway, after 17 years of planing and research, I finally got around to putting on a game of the Suffolks attack on the position, which followed on from the game I put on before Christmas covering the assault on Coleville and 'Morris'

The game are covered two map grid squares (approx 2km x 2km), and once again featured the plucky heroes of the Suffolks, supported by 76 Field Regiment and 246 Field Company Royal Engineers. Against them was the ominous looking Hillman position, known to contain two German regimental headquarters as well as artillery observation posts overlooking the invasion beaches (Sword Beach is a couple of map squares to the rear).

I ran this with my 15mm toys using Johns 'Battlegroup' rules, somewhat modified by myself. The action kicked off at around 1300 hours on 6th June 1944. John commanded the Suffolks, Jerry reprised his role as artillery commander, Tom took the assault infantry companies and Tim got to push some tanks around.

The battlefield from the south. The Suffolks will form up around Coleville, the previously captured German positions visible in the distance. Over in Hermanville to the west the KSLI and Staffs Yeomany are building up to drive down the main road to Caen, which they can't do until Hillman is cleared.

The Suffolks move out from Coleville. Left flanking covered by bags of smoke. I was a little disappointed that Jerry got out of his nice shiny OP tank and decided to scramble up the church steeple instead.

Oooeer. Ju 88s from KG56 make an appearance. Unlike their historical counterparts who were shot down in flames by Spitfires over the beaches, these actually made it through the defending fighters and the massed AA fire of the Royal Navy, only to dump their bombs ineffectively in the sea. Masterful flying by Tim as temporary bomber pilot.

A squadron of the South Staffs rolls on, along with a stray troop from 13/18th Hussars.  Nice bit of unexpected support for the Suffolks. The battalion mortar platoon and attached MMG platoon are also visible here.

The Royal Artillery lay down some covering fire. Meanwhile German artillery fire covers the exit from Coleville, one platoon is pinned down but rapidly recovers using the stone buildings as cover.

A full squadron shoot from the Shermans is quite impressive. The infantry move up under cover of the barrage.

A German AT bunker opens fire on the Shermans. They respond with massed HE fire to suppress the position.

Over on the left flank, a German pillbox opens fire to no effect, but the German artillery plasters one of the infantry companies. The ditches around the field provide decent cover but the company HQ is knocked out.

A gunnery duel ensues. The artillery bunker engages the Shermans, knocking one troop out, while artillery provides covering fire as the engineers to use bangalore torpedoes to clear the wire and mines (the great big explosion). Some German interval troops pop up and suppress one rifle platoon.

Over in front, things are getting a bit sticky. The German 10cm guns engage and disable another troop of Shermans and catch a rifle company in the beaten zone.  The infantry have fortunately been digging in and are protected by their shell scrapes.

Over in the far corner, direct fire from the AT platoon and HE fire from the atillery has failed to suppress the armoured pillbox. However, the battalion assault pioneer platoon has managed to get through the cleared path, soon to be followed by an infantry platoon.

The Assault pioneers failed to close with the unsuppressed pillbox, but the infantry distinguished themselves by knocking the pilbox out with their PIAT while the Germans interval troops are suppressed by mortar fire.

We called it at that point, as once the British had broken into the position, it was just a question of mopping up each bunker. In the actual battle, the last Germans didn't surrender until 0730 on 7th June as the position was fortified to a similar level as Fort Douament at Verdun with underground concreted tunnels etc.

I think this went rather well and rolled along at a fair old pace. I had originally imagined gaming the fighting to clear the trenches and bunkers too, but it would essentially have been a slow fire & movement slog, so I think ending the game at  the point the British broke into the fortification was the right thing to do. One again 'Battlegroup' worked well and produced a believable result, which is always a good sign. 

Saturday, 14 January 2017


One of the lesser known games in Phil Sabins 'Simulating War' is Kartenspiel, partly because it is buried in the appendices. It is an attempt to model a Napoleonic battle as a card game, in the style of Clausewitz (who observed that war is very much like a game of cards, with its mix of calculation,bluff and limited knowledge).

The game system is designed for ten(!) players, but I reckoned as a minimum I could get away with four. This was good, as I had four players at the club Christmas games day. The battle is abstracted out as four (opposing) Corps sized engagements, and the forces are allocated to each side as playing cards, each representing a division of infantry or cavalry. Initially the CinC holds all the cards, but then allocates some of them to each Corps. Once allocated, they are committed and cannot be recalled so the CinC has to deploy his forces wisely and keep a reserve. The Corps commanders then simultaneously  decide whether to attack or defend, and once all attacks are declared, the battles are resolved. It is only at this stage that the forces allocated to each Corps are (briefly) revealed. Battles are entirely deterministic, the side with the most combat power wins and if they double the enemy, they inflict an extra loss. An attacker can never lose more than three divisions in a battle and a defender can never lose more than two, so combat tends to be quite attritional.

I couldn't resist having a tinker around with it, one major thing missing was any consideration of terrain (something which shapes any battle) and also explicit representation of artillery which was assumed to be factored into each division. I added some simple terrain rules, and also allowed each side a single 'grand battery' which didn't greatly affect the outcome but did explicitly represent the third arm. I also couldn't resist using some toys, so I marked up a battle board into four zones and dragged out my Austrians and French.

Tim and Russell took the French (on the left above), Graeme and Jerry the Austrians (right).  

After a few turns of pounding,this was the French left/Austrian right. Lots of forces sucked into the IV Corps sector, while a couple of Austrian divisions hold a village opposed by the French grand battery.

The slugfest in IV Corps merely resulted in lots of casualties. The French had more luck against the village, gradually whittling the defenders down with repeated assaults supported by their guns. Alas it was in the woods of I Corps that the battle was decided. The French committed all their reserves in IV Corps in a huge effort, but the Austrians opposed them with enough strength to hold them up, while attaining a critical force superiority against the lightly held woods. With no reserves left, the French could only watch as they eventually managed to break through.

The saving grace was that as neither side had any reserves left at all, there was  no French rearguard, but neither was there an Austrian pursuit, so the French just fell back to lick their wounds and reorganise.

This seemed to go swimmingly well, and the rock/paper declaration of attacks/defences and cavalry charges was hugely entertaining as the Corps commanders thumped the table and the respective Army commanders looked on and hoped  they would make the right decisions. Russell actually threw away a chance to take the village on the last turn, much to 'Napoleons' fury, but c'est la guerre.

Thoroughly recommended, and one of the better simulations of mass nineteenth century warfare I've seen, especially the ability of subordinates to utterly mess up the CinCs carefully laid plans, and with not a dice in sight. Great stuff.

This will probably be making an appearance at COW.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Zvezda Pz 38(t)

I felt the need of a spot more early war German armour, partly with an eye to Arras, partly with an eye to Barbarossa. I just could not resist these beautiful Zvezda Pz 38s, after all, who doesn't love a Pz 38, with all those lovely rivets. At £2.50 each (in a special deal) these guys were hard to beat.

I was only going to get three, but then I thought, what the hell, and got six. Coupled with my Pz IIs, Pz IV D/Es and PzBehfl III, that is enough for a whole battalion.

More of a close up of its angular loveliness. As with all the Zvezda kits this snapped together in a few minutes, the only slightly odd bits are the machineguns, but they look fine from a distance.

Engine deck, turret rear etc. The rivets stand out quite nicely here.

For this one I bodged up a commander from a PSC kit and just made up a hatch cover from plasticard. The hatch aperture is pretty small in real life, so I just cut the figure off flat and stuck it down and you can;t see that there isn't an actual hole in the turret.

I just did these in plain Panzergrau over a black, so good for 1939 to early 1943. I used Vallejo Panzer Grey, but it is ludicrously dark so I ended up lightening it with some added white. The turret decals are Battlefront, and otherwise I just heavily drybrushed the tracks and running gear in mud and finished the whole thing off with a very light overall drybrush of Vallejo Iraqi Sand.

These are lovely models and I'd recommend them to anyone. In fact I liked the some much, I then went and bought a load of Zvezda Pz IIs and Pz IVs to replace my elderly metal Peter Pig ones. Oh dear, that is going to be a slippery slope...

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Man who would be Rich

Tom put on this Afghan Wars skirmish game using a variant of the 5Core Skirmish rules. It was set up on the frontier and featured a stuffy and unimaginative British Colonel, a horde of revoltighmn natives and a daring and raffish ex-Lieutenant, Ahem. The good Lt had got it into his head that it would be a great idea to kidnap the Colonels wife, and demand a ransom for her safe return whislt holed up in an Afghan village. The Colonel duly set out to retrieve his wife, whilst various dubious looking Afghan tribesmen assembled in the hills. 

The village in the distance. The cloth, river and hills are my own, the palm trees are mainly Tims and the buildings came out of the club terrain box. The profile mountains are also mine, and the whole thing looks rather smart I think.

The brave Lt and his mutinous gang in the village with lookouts posted. The Colonels wife is in the courtyard with her pet dog.

Rebellious Afghans assemble on the other side of the river.

The Lt leads the Colonels wife out for a parley with the British relief column, only to be gunned down in a hail of Martini-Henry fire! War crimes! Fortunately the wounds are not serious, however I suspect the Colonel will be in for a  bit of trouble when his wife gets home.

The British troops close in from the east and the Afghans from the west. The Colonels wife is left bleeding outside the compound while the Lt is retrieved by one of his men. The mutinous riflemen manage to bring down some Afghan horsemen.

With enemy closing from all sides, the Lt makes good his escape, pausing only to gun down another Afghan as the enemy start to break into the buildings.

Sadly he doesn't run fast and far enough. His accomplice is caught by angry Afghans and the Lt is left lying wounded in the hot sun by long range British rifle fire. Oh dear, we all know what happens to the Remains on the Afghan Plains. 

This was all great fun and very much in the spirit of Flashman et al. The Colonel retrieved his (somewhat shot up and very cross) wife, the Afghans got to chop up some infidels, and the Lt showed that crime really doesn't pay.