Saturday, 4 July 2020

Fort Capuzzo

This was the next in my sequence of WW2 desert games. I'd been tempted to jump straight to Operation Crusader, but I thought I had to give BattleAxe a go. I'd run the whole battle before using both Megablitz and Rommel, but there was an interesting scenario in 'Benghazi Handicap' covering the battle for Fort Capuzzo. Fairly low density so suitable for the NBC treatment.

Here is the battlefield, right on the Egyptian frontier. The fort was designed to cover the coast road, and the dense frontier wire was a short distance away. The Italians used it as  base for patrols out into the desert to keep down the Senussi. North is right, south is left. 

The protagonists.

The British. 1st Buffs, 7th RTR, a portee battery of 2pdrs from 65th AT Regiment and a batteru from 31 Field Regiment, RA. These chaps had taken the fort the day before and already beaten off a hasty attack by 15th Panzer Div. Simon and John took these.

The Germans. Kampfgruppe Cramer, 15th Panzer Div. I and II battalion, 8th Panzer Regiment, I/104th Schutzen Regiment and a company each from 33rd Panzerjaeger and Flak Battalions and a battalion of 33rd Artillery Regiment. All the German units are understrength after the lengthy siege of Tobruk. Tim, Tim and Jerry took these, with Jerry in overall command.

This was the Germans very efficient planning map. I would expect nothing less from the cream of the Panzerwaffe. The players spent some time beforehand planning, which involved various emails and even some conference calls.

Battlefield from the east. I marked a rough hex grid up with some green counters I'd made.

My 'home studio' for running remote games. A pile of boxes with my tablet on top. This does work but that is about the maximum table size the camera can cope with if I don't move it around.

The panzers set up clustered around Hill 184 supported by the Flak. Tim had cunningly hidden II/8th Panzer in the wadi in front of Hill 184, relying on their veteran driving skills to get out again.

The sneaky Schutzen set up in this wadi, hoping to use it as a route through the broken ground, again, rolling D6 for movement really helped.

The Panzers and Flak set off. II/8th Panzer discovered that wadis can be hard to get out of and got a bit stuck, despite being veterans.

The Schutzen made good progress down the wadi however, covered by the Pak 38s.

I/8th Panzer discovered 7th RTR parked on the road. In the exchange of fire some Pz IIs were knocked out, in a curious mirroring of history (FM Lord Carver complained British tank crews tended to concentrate on the relatively ineffective Pz IIs as they were more satisfying to engage!).

II/8th Panzer made it out of the wadi and set off down the track beside the Egyptian frontier. Being just a desert track, it only gave a minimal movement bonus to tracked vehicles.

Meanwhile I/8th Panzer had discovered 65 Artillery Regiment, RA. Sadly the 2pdrs were rotten shots. The 88s managed to hit some of the Matildas and they fell back in disorder to the wadi where the Brigadier drove over to them in his Dorchester.

I/8th pondered what to do about the 2 pdrs now the Matildas had gone. But with an Ace of clubs, there was only really one thing to do.

Charge! The panzers advanced in fine style firing as they went, and broke into the British AT position with few losses. The 2pdrs fell back in disorder to join the Matildas in the wadi.

Back in the wadi the Brigadier rallied the Matildas and moved over to help the 2pdrs. German artillery landed around the British tanks. There was still no sign of any British infantry.

8th Panzer Regiment closed up.

The British had manged to rally all their units now despite the harassing German artillery fire and the Dorchester ACV set off across the desert.

The Flak moved up from Hill 184 in support of 8th Panzer Regiment, accompanied by Oberst Cramer.

Meanwhile I/104th Schutzen had managed to move right around the fort without attracting any attention. The objective at D1 was within reach!

The Flak set up near the coast road to cover the panzers. The flat desert here was perfect for the 88s.

The panzers pushed as far to south as possible then swung west. Long range fire from the Pz IIIs and IVs hit some more of the 2pdrs and they once more fell back in disorder.

British infantry and carriers finally emerged from their concealed sangars and slit trenches and moved over Hill 192. 7th RTR passed their morale test and tried to overrun I/104th Schutzen.

Oh dear! 7th RTR reduced the I/104th to a single company, but the German infantry had balls of steel and not only passed two morale checks (being overrun by tanks in the open is bad) and proceeded to knock out all the remaining Matildas in the close quarter battle! Blimey!

The last 2pdr was knocked out by German artillery, but 1st Buffs were undeterred and headed for the German infantry.

In this slightly shaky shot they wiped out the German AT company without loss.

And then headed for the handful of surviving German infantry.

Sadly the 88s had other ideas and managed to pick off the Dorchester from a mile and a half away. The Buffs shrugged this off.

Just as they were poised to overrun the German infantry, their nerve broke and they fell back towards the fort. II/8th Panzer saw their chance....

And overran them as they fell back. Their morale collapsed and they surrendered. A very close escape for the handful of German riflemen and a sad end for the British infantry.

Time ran out at the point with the fort still in British hands but the Germans in control of their LOC, so the two surviving companies would have broken out overnight.

The game clock ran out at a suitable point and the Germans were able to claim victory as they'd surrounded for fort and destroyed all the units outside it. Their infantry had suffered brutally, but their armour losses were relatively light. If the Buffs and 7th RTR had been a bit more fortunate it could easily have swing the other way.

IRL the British actually won this battle, Cramer suffered heavy losses and had to withdraw. If there had been a single intact armoured brigade left, the British could have just marched to Tobruk , but of course there wasn't as 4th Armoured Brigade and 7th Armoured Brigade had been shot up at Halfaya Pass and Hafid Ridge respectively. So the British withdrew to Egypt and Churchill sacked Wavell, most unfairly as Wavell had protested about being forced to launch the attack too early.

So, another trip to the desert ends with quite a different set of protagonists to Gabr el Ahmar. Operation Crusader beckons I think.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

QRF 15mm H39

Lockdown has seemingly prompted an upswing in my painting output. There were a few bits and pieces I needed for some scenarios I had in mind, so off went yet another QRF order (with that very generous April 20% discount - they are virtually paying me to take it away).

Avid readers will recall I mentioned making some alternate R40/TACAM turrets for my R35s, but in the end I decided I couldn't be bothered and bought a couple of H39s instead. They look a lot like R40/TACAMs and will do very nicely for both 1940 DLMs and everyones favourite panzer battalion, the 100th  which had such an exciting time in Normandy.

Here they are trundling over the dining table. Like the R35s, these bad boys are absolutely tiny.

They are beautiful crisp castings, obviously from the same sculptor as the R35s. Turret, hull and separate (reversible tracks) with hardly any flash. Just look at the sharp edges on the turret.

Similarly, the engine deck and rear turret hatch.

And like the Renaults, exquisite detail on the running gear. I did seriously think about doing these in sand/green/brown camo as all the ones which fought in Normandy were like that but in the end I went with the same dark green/red brown scheme as the R35s so they can fit in together in 1st Rumanian Armoured Div. Otherwise, the usaul inkwash and light drybrush, and job done.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Plugging the Gap, June 1981

Another lockdown game, another NBC game. The rules seem to work well for multi-player remote play. Tim treated us this time to a trip to WW3, where we haven't been for a few years. He set it in the same 1981 WW3 as I'd been running for my BAOR games (which in turn was based on a standing start attack so everyone was scrambling for position). My own games were using SPIs BAOR game as the basis, although the war scenario was the one used in Threads. An interesting period, no horrible ubertanks  which make the game so miserable for the Russians, and BAOR was experimenting with its short lived Taask Force organisation instead of proper brigades.

Tim set his game further south down in the Fulda Gap.

It started off with a demonstration of the mighty SCUD.

Including one in flight!

Simon and I were the heroic defenders of the Motherland, with a tank regiment and motor rifle regiment respectively, with Jerry as overall CO. The evil capitalists with their plot for world domination were Tim C, Richard and John. I spit on their jeans and rock and roll.

We spent a fair time planning what we were going to do before the game and came up with Plan A and Plan B (which essentially changed the main effort, unit boundaries and objectives depending on how things went). I am sure the US also spent ages on their planning. It was a nice bonus from doing the game remotely.

The action opened with a disordered US cavalry unit charging down the road followed by 1st GTR. It seemed the US had decided to hold Hill 401 in strength!

The cavalry reformed behind the revere slope while 1GTR put in a frontal assault on the defenders of the hill. As they were deploying AT missiles thinned the Russian ranks.

Return fire started to thin the US out too, and Soviet aviation arrived. The US seemed to have some sort of huge SPAA weapon on the middle of their position and it put our pilots off their aim.

Meanwhile more capitalist deviants rolled up and parked themselves across the Autobahn. No doubt busy looking for some workers to oppress. These agents of imperialism seem to have brought some tanks with them.

Back at Hill 401, a battalion of T64s smashed the defenders but took heavy losses in the process.

It fell back in disorder and a good job too as Soviet planes attacked the hex right afterwards...

The US position was looking a bit shaky now. 29GMRR had rolled up and was infiltrating south, its artillery, mortars and Saggers taking the US under fire (hence all those big explosions).

Back at the A66 junction some Cobras appeared, Fulda is burning gently in the background. Luckily the US helicopters had decided to shoot up the Tank Regiment instead of my boys.

Back at my end of things, 20MRD HQ declared that it was time to activate plan B so my Forward Detachment put in an assault on Hill 401 in the centre to pin the yanks, while the rest of the Regiment piled down the southern road led by my T64 battalion and recce.

The weakened US Cavalry fell back before my advance, but the TOWs and Sergeant York hung. Sadly for them I drew a black card so it was a fire then move, mounted assault.

My reinforced MR battalion got stuck in and made short work of the remaining US troops on the hill.

Down south the US HQ fell back towards Dorios while my T64s shot up the few remaining cavalry M60s. To my surprise a load of M113s came out of the woods and parked across the road.

Back at the A66 junction, 1GTR committed its MR Battalion, shot in by Soviet aviation on the hill.

To everyones amazement it defeated the M60s and even squashed the West German police car. They did take crippling casualties in the process unfortunately. Close combat against defenders in good order is pretty unpleasant in NBC.

Meanwhile my leading tankers overran the M113s (the survivors from Hill 401), at which point the US forces bugged out as they were down to a couple of companies.

We still had two completely intact MR battalions to commit and they followed up behind my T64s.

The A66 junction was now firmly in our hands so the way the west was open. Five days to the Rhine!

We called it at that point, the Sovs were fairly tatty having lost three tank battalions, and two MR and one Tank battalion damaged but they still had intact units to exploit with. The US were in a sorry state having lost at least six companies destroyed (they were aiming for a loss ratio of one Sov battalion per US company). I think those fight and run missions are really hard, the temptation is always to hang around too long. Someone wise once said that NATO tactics are fine in theory but very hard to pull off in in practice.

Getting the briefings early worked really well as we could do loads of pre-game planning, in fact I think we spent longer planning the game than playing it. As before the unit-at-a-time activation worked really well for remote play, and having the umpire manipulate the cards and dice also speeded things up. Nice to get back to the Central Front again.