Saturday, 20 October 2018

Ponyri July 1943

As I wanted to get my Zvezda Elephants out to play, I dug out the old Memoir 44 'Ponyri' scenario. I've made a few tweaks to my Memoir 45 variant - modifying artillery so that it is less effective against armour or troops who are dug in and adding in leaders and visibility for artillery spotting.
So, off we go to the northern shoulder of the Kursk salient once again... John and Jerry took the Germans, while Tim C took the Russians.


View from the north. Hill 235 and Ponyri are visible in the centre. I've modified the standard scenario, tweaking the OB and terrain to be bit a bit closer to the Command Decision scenario of the same battle (which features 18th Panzer Div). The extra ridges and woods don't have a vast effect on gameplay, but look much nicer. I also scattered a lot of fields around, which allow infantry to ignore one flag result.


Russian right wing. I spread the Russian defences around a bit more than the standard scenario, with a garrison on Hill 235 and some wire entanglements. The Russians also had four heavy weapons options (2 x AT guns, 1 x mortar and 1 x MG) plus a leader in Ponyri. The massive gap in the defences was rationalised s the result of the opening barrage.


Over on the Russian left, much of the armour was pulled back to the baseline with just a dug in tank battalion and some infantry on a ridge behind some wire. The minefields were left as per the original scenario. The T70s are 'light tanks', firepower reduced to two dice at range 2 and 3, and they have light armour, so any AT weapon hits them on stars.


18th Panzer Regiment. irl it was a sngle battalion regiment with two light and two medium companies so I gave it 2 x Pz III and 2 x Pz IV. As per the original scenario they also had two heavy tank companies, in this case Elefants from the 656th. I gave these heavy AT weapons but didn't score grenade hits in assault (as they had no MGs).  The tank commander is a leader, giving a morale and combat bonus. 


52nd Panzergrenadier Regiment (dismounted). I gave the Germans some support options and they took a unit each of engineers, mortars, MGs and AT guns. They also have a leader in the woods in front of Hill 235. As per the original scenario they have a 'tank' in support, which I modelled as a Stug but on reflection should probably have been a SiG33b or similar. I added the railway line as it was a key terrain feature in the battle, and designated Ponyri station as a city hex.


The action opened with a German preliminary bombardment, followed up by a frontal infantry assault on Hill 235. The Germans led with their engineers but the numerous Russian artillery inflicted heavy losses.

After bloody fighting the Germans managed to break through the defences and the Stugs tried to overrun the remaining defenders.


Hill 235 was eventually cleared with heavy losses to both sides, and the Stugs were driven back by artillery fire.


The Russians promptly counterattacked with the best part of two infantry battalions and retook the Hill.


The Germans neatly sidestepped this and pressed on into the heart of Ponyri, taking control of most of the village and gaining two VPs. The Stugs provided support from the edge of the hill.


The Russians succeeded in pushing the first waves of Germans back, again with heavy losses on both sides. They didn't have the strength to retake the critical centre hex though.


The Russian counterattack on their right bogged own in heavy fighting around the cornfields.


Over on the left, the minefields precluded much armoured action. Some of the reserve Russian tanks moved up, and one of the Elefants moved up to support the assault on the village.


The Germans tried to overrun the Russians in the fields with their Stug company.



Whilst it overran the first company, both sides (with exactly 1SP left each) managed to roll exactly the wrong dice and the attack bogged down.


Meanwhile a sneaky German company had managed to take Ponyri station. The Russians counterattacked with only forces available,  an unsupported mixed tank battalion. Not the ideal forces to use in an urban environment.


Although the T70s took a battering, the T34s managed to bludgeon their way into the town, although once again the movement restrictions meant they failed to retake control of the village.


Sadly the German infantry counterattacked in the dense terrain and managed to destroy the T34s in close assault. Coupled with retaining control of the village, this gave them the last VP they needed for victory.

That was a real bloodbath, with repeated infantry assaults from both sides. The Russians were handicapped with a low hand size which limited their scope for manouvre and managed what they did have very well, and the Germans were very pleased to have kept 18th Panzer Regiment intact (irl they performed so badly that the division was disbanded and converted into an artillery division!). I was pleased with the new artillery rules as it prevented some of the silly long range sniping which standard Memoir 44 encourages, and the players agreed that the leaders also added some colour. Amazingly my shiny new Elefants didn't suffer the fate of most new kit and blow up at the first shot either, which was a nice bonus.


Sunday, 14 October 2018

The hills are alive...

Many apologies to Julie Andrews. As with my bridges, you can never have too much terrain and I noticed that in recent years I have had a great deal of use out of some low profile (0.5" thickness) polystyrene hills I picked on the Bring & Buy at Triples. They just seemed to work better for a lot of games than my older 1" thick hills. Perhaps it is because we are playing games on smaller surfaces these days? Who knows.

Anyway, while clearing out the cellar I cam across some bits of 0.5" polystyrene I'd kept from some packing material so I thought I'd make a few more low profile hills to go with the ones I'd bought.



First off I used the existing hills as templates to do this batch. The long thin ones are particularly useful as the sort of ridges so beloved of military manual writers to show how to conduct a covered approach. I cut the sides vertically then chamfered them off into steep slopes.


Whilst I am aware of the mysterious 'hot wire cutters' that some people use for this sort of thing, I just use a (very) sharp knife. I've been using this old kitchen knife in a knife sharpening block for modelling projects for years. It is very, very sharp as I sharpen it regularly, it cuts polystyrene without making lots of annoying bobbly bits.


When I was a kid I used to make hills out of polystyrene ceiling tiles, and they inevitably broke to bits over time. So, the next job is to cover the bare polystyrene in a layer of undiluted PVA, which stiffens them up nicely and forms a hard protective coat.


Once the PVA has dried (both top and underside) it is time for a basecoat of household emulsion.


This attractive shade of poo brown is vinyl matt emulsion, mixed up at B&Q to match two of my brown basecloths.

Finally it is time for some flock, this is my trusty old pot of Woodland Scenics blended turf. It has lasted over 15 years so far.


Somewhat bizarrely my nice green flock came out distinctly brown on these hills, perhaps the basecoat is showing through too much? They aren't a bad match for old hills (bottom left) but are a lot browner than the new ones (top left). Oh well.



Once they'd dried they are almost exactly the same colour as my old hills covered in builders sand! I might as well have done them in cheap sand rather than expensive flock. It  doesn't really matter though, they look a fair bit greener indoors and are good enough for gaming purposes. Right, that is more terrain done to go in the terrain box.



Sunday, 7 October 2018

Almonacid 1809

John  continued his tour of unknown Peninsular War battles with this offering of Almonacid, which evidently took place in 1809 between a French Corps under Sebastiani and a Spanish Corps under General Venegas. As usual, we played this with Johns 15mm troops using Brown Bess. Each unit is roughly a regiment or brigade (grouped into divisions - so a division has 2-4 units).

The French have just crossed the Tagus and Venegas decided to try and stop them.


View from the Spanish right flank. We had to defend the hills for a number of turns and then withdraw intact. Tim G took the Spanish left and I had the Spanish right.


The wicked French in their sinister black uniforms. Robert, Andrew and Tim C.


The Spanish centre was held in depth, with Venegas himself  on Castle Hill. In the face of the French artillery,  a reverse slope position seemed prudent.


Over on the left, we massed all the Spanish artillery, supported by a cavalry division and a weak infantry division.


The Spanish right was held by an infantry and a cavalry division, also deployed on the reverse slopes.


As the French advanced, the Spanish cavalry moved forwards to do battle. These 'French' turned out to be Germans.


Over on the left, more 'French' decided a frontal attack on gun hill would be a good idea. These chaps were actually Polish.


The cavalry melee on the right went as well as expected, with the French dishing out death and destruction.


The Poles seemed a bit unsure what to do and formed square right in front of 'gun hill' while one lone regiment pushed forwards.


The Spanish cavalry engaged the French, supported by a square. 


Meanwhile the Spanish cavalry on the right were routed, so the infantry formed square, which seemed to put the French cavalry off.


The French infantry crashed into the Spanish centre, which didn't go too well for us.


But over on gun hill, the massed artillery did terrible execution with canister and completely destroyed one French regiment.


Soon to be followed by two more. Ouch! 


Another attack came on in the same old way, and was met with unusually withering fire from the Spanish infantry.


Sadly things weren't going as well in the centre. Venegas was starting ot look a bit lonely.


Oops.


Venegas led the heroic countercharge.


Only to come unstuck and die in the ensuing massacre.


The French began to assault gun hill, losing a cavalry brigade and a fourth infantry regiment in the process.


The French meanwhile pressed on into Almonacid itself.


With predictable results. So much for the defensive benefits of buildings.


The square on gun hill was still holding out.


But the square on Castle Hill was blown to bits by close ranged French artillery. Tim C showed great skill in combined arms operations.


The Spanish counterttacked into Almonacid.


But the French were about to overrun Castle Hill.


Thew writing was on the wall for gun hill too as the squares began to collapse. 



Finally, turn ten was reached the right hand Spanish division made good its escape.


Sadly the last survivors of the division holding Castle Hill were pinned in square and not long for this world.


As were the remnants on Gun Hill.

Oh well, no-one expects the Spanish to do well and in the historical battle the Spanish were largely routed, apart from their right wing which withdrew. Amazingly, we managed to replicate this result more by luck than judgement, although irl Venegas was sacked after the battle rather than dying heroically during it.  

The real Spanish victory in this battle were the monumental losses we inflicted on the French, four entire infantry regiments destroyed and a cavalry regiment too. Frontal assaults on massed artillery are a really bad idea, but sadly for us, despite this tactical blunder, the French numbers and quality were just too much for us.