Saturday, 15 February 2020

Lake Trasimine 217 BC

217BC and off to the killing fields of Italy once more. Hannibal is on the rampage and Consul Flaminius sets off to stop him. We are up in the Po Valley today, so the countryside is fairly lush.

Hannibal had been harrying the countryside to goad Flaminus into action, and he duly responded, sending the Roman Army off to pursue. Flaminius sent his troops down a defile near Lake Trasimine, unaware that Hannibals army was lying in wait.

Another CnC Ancients game, Diego and Jerry took the Carthaginians, Tim was Flaminius. We played this with my 20mm Ancients armies (a mixture of HaT, Esci, Italieri and Airfix with a few Newline metals), based up for 25mm DBA (so 60mm wide bases) on my Hexon terrain.

Flaminius leads his column around the top of the lake, Auxiliaries and Legionaries in evidence. The hills in the distance are impassable.

Flaminius's vanguard, Auxlia, Velites and more Legionaries. It was misty and Flaminius had neglected to send out any scouts.

Which was a bit unfortunate as this lot were lurking behind the hills. A load of Gallic and Celtiberian Warband.

The pass in front of th defile was sealed off by Carthaginian medium and heavy infantry, commanded by Hannibal humself.

The Carthos had brought their Spanish allies along with them. Balearic slingers and various Spanish auxiliaries. 

They also had their Numidian and Carthaginian cavalry massed to hit the Roman rear.

A Numidian Prince.

The cavalry were commanded by Mago, as usual. The third chap from the left has a Tanith painted on his shield, the Carthaginian Goddess of Love. Also the name of one of my unfortunate children (I got to choose!). 

Flaminius responded aggressively to the ambush, pushig his own light troops on to the low hills.

Sadly, Mago had the card he'd always dreamed of. Mounted Charge.

And a mass of cavalry poured over the hills and into the end of the Roman column.

It met with some success and a number of the Roman units were routed.

Flaminius pushed his Auxilia forwards aggressively and drove off some of the Numidians, whose own retreat was blocked by their pals.

They also counterattacked in the centre, pushing the Spanish back.

Magio pushed the Celtic Warbands up to support his cavalry (the chaps who have decided not to wear any clothes).

Desperate fighting ensued. The Warband overran some Auxilia but Flaminius counterattacked and almost broke them. It was very disconcerting being faced with a wall of bare buttocks from this angle.

Things weren't going so well at the rear of the Roman column as the Romans were pushed back into the lake.

Flaminius charged the Carthaginian centre, supported by a handful of Roman cavalry. He succeeded in routing two of the Carthaginian units in a heroic action.

The Carthaginians pressed forward again, some of their medium cavalry taking on the victorious Legionaries.

The Carthaginians finally eliminated the last of the Auxilia at the end of the Roman column.

They also pinned the Roman vanguard in place.

The decisive action was in the centre though. The Carthaginian cavalry attacked Flaminius's Legionaries and rolled astonishing dice, wiping them out. Flaminius himself survived, rolling a flag to run away whereas in real life he died fighting with his troops.

With that, the Carthos had accumulated the six banners needed for victory and the game ended. Given their awful tactical position, the Romans fought back well, but the early Mounted Charge had given the Carthos a commanding lead which the Romans were always going to struggle to match. 

That was an interesting scenario, very cleverly designed. The consensus on Boardgame Geek is that this is a tough one for the Romans, although if they can get their troops up on the hills, they have a good chance. In this case, Tim tried that but the Carthos had too many right flank cards to make it viable. One suggestion was to handicap the Carthos by two banners to balance it out (as they have three leaders and a six card hand vs two leaders and a four card hand).

Next up is Cannae, and after that hopefully the Roman fortunes will improve somewhat. I may look at the handicap suggestions for that scenario.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Skoda 47mm AT gun

I have a moderate collection of 15mm SCW figures which rarely sees the light of day, but it occurred to me last year that a lot of the figures would be eminently suitable as stand-ins for various WW2 combatants (Rumania, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Italy etc). I re-worked a few of them to make them a bit more generic, and they are all basically wearing some sort of khaki uniform with helmets or sidecaps supported by various types of guns in varying shades of green so will do for a fair number of different countries. 

To add to my collection of generic interwar/WW2 stuff I've been on the hunt for some extra guns in various calibres, and I was pleased to find a 47mm Skoda on the Bring and Buy at COW last year.

Having stuck the thing together, I realised it is probably a 20mm model rather than a 15mm one! Oh well, I cut down the trails and stuck on the gun shield and it will do as a French 47mm or similar. I do like the spoked wheels.

It could probably double up as an artillery piece, but I think it still looks fairly AT-gun like. I undercoated it black and just did it an overall mid-green with a light drybrush of tan to pick out the details.

The crew are bodged up from the spares box. The standing figure is a Peter Pig WW1 French mortar crewman, and the loader is a PP WW1 German kneeling gunner with his picklehaube filed down. They are both done in a generic khaki with leather webbing and grey helmets.

It is a nice little model and I'm pleased with how it came out. I expect it will next e seen trying to fight off a horde of T34s on a snowy Russian steppe somewhere!

Saturday, 8 February 2020

The Twin Villages

After the fun of St Vith, it is back to the Bulge again, this time for a trip to Krinkelt and Rocherath at the northern end of the Bulge. Avid readers will no doubt recognise this setup from my earlier playtesting post. In the end I gave up with that set of rules, they were just to fiddly, and went with a rather reworked and beefed up version of One Hour Wargames (six hit variant) and incorporated some of the concepts around unit types and interactions I'd already developed.

Battlefield from the south, Krinkelt is on the left, the Westwall on the right.

Two battalions of the 99th dug in covering the gap. These were both green infantry battalions, which reduced their endurance (5 hits). After much fiddling around with handfuls of bases, I ended up plonking them on some old movement trays I had (5"x3"). They are battalions after all and take up a fair bit of space. The big bases also solved some issues around measuring.

Tim, Graham and Jerry deep in thought planning their defence. It is amazing how much discussion six units can generate! In fact that is one of the things I really like about Neil Thomas's approach, the ruthless focus on key decisions. If you've only got six elements, every single one matters.

The wicked Germans (John and Tim) also pored over their briefings.

There was great excitement as we were issued with Sheffield Wargames Society anniversary tape measures. I am sure these will be highly collectable in future!

The German assault opening with a massive barrage form artillery and Nebelwerfers. The first combat outing of my Nebelwerfers in fact.

The barrage was surprisingly effective despite the US trenches. The US battalions each took a couple of hits and with only three hits left, became disorganised. Oooer.

The Germans rolled on over the next few turns with Teutonic precision. Two regiments of Volksgreandiers, followed by the divisional Fusilier battalion and a kampfgruppe from 12th SS Panzer Division (historically this wasn't committed until after the first VG attacks had failed). Jerry focussed on rallying off the hits caused by the barrage, so for the first couple of turns, the US positions were quiet - effectively suppressed by the German barrage.

Back in Krinkelt, the first US reinforcements rolled up. A battalion of artillery and an infantry battalion reinforced with towed tank destroyers ('Heavy Infantry'). Graham commanded these.

Back at the front, withering German fire from three VG battalions inflicted hits on the US, Jerry once more focussed on rallying them off rather than firing back at reduced effect. So those MP44s really do work.

The rest of the Germans marched off around the right flank. Sadly the slowest troops were in front. The ground scale is roughly 6" to the mile, so these guys are fairly bunched up, but not unreasonably so for tactical movement.

The US artillery inflicted a few hits on the VG but not enough to stop them and Jerry bugged out, abandoning their positions in the gap. When I'd playtested this scenario, the US usually fought to the death here.

As the Germans rounded the bad ground, they sorted themselves out and the motorised SS battlegroup moved to the front.

The US trooops in the town had meanwhile been busy digging in. One of Jerrys disordered battalions tried to rally.

The SS meanwhile went on a wide flanking manouvre and were very excited to roll up the supply lines running north from Rocherath. Lots of Coca Cola and ice cream captured here!

They then went on to overrun Jerrys disorered battalion outside the town, but sadly the camera didn't record that for posterity. The Germans closed in on the town and the US forces fell back from the outskirts, worried about their flanks.

The Germans put a heavy assault in and street fighting erupted.

While all this was going on, more reinforcements from 2nd Div turned up.

And piled up the road to support their pals in the town. The fighting there continued to rage (the units were now locked into close combat) and losses mounted.

The SS withdrew to regroup (having superior mobility, they were able to disengage) and the Fusilier battalion piled in. This was enough to finally overwhelm the defenders and the crossroads were cleared.

German losses were also heavy, these VG were pummelled by artillery out in the open.

Before the Germans could occupy the village, US reserves forestalled them and moved into the town. I do like this aspect of the move sequence as there is actually some point in keeping reserves.

The US were starting to look a bit thin on the ground as the reorganised VG surged forward once more, they had quite a way to go to pin the last US reserves and the daylight was fading...

The US reserves in the town were overwhelmed once more. The SS were out of the fight now, but the route to Elsenborn was open!

The very last US infantry unit slipped in among the buildings. Although the VG outside the town had chewed it up, they hadn't done enough to stop it and as night fell the crossroads were back in US hands (abeit rather tenuously).

That was sooo close, and the players all seemed to enjoy themselves. It also followed the historical action quite well as the US defences were outflanked on the right and the defenders found themselves all bunched up around the villages themselves. IRL the SS battlegroup wasn't committed until both VG regiment attacks had failed. This was the incident recounted in Charles MacDonalds 'Company Commander' when his company was overrun by German tanks and infantry northeast of Rocherath.

I think that went pretty well and the modifications seem to work alright, one of the players commented that he didn't even realise it was a One Hour Wargame. I've borrowed so much stuff from Megablitz, NQM and Spearhead that it is quite a different game.

We did have a bit of a discussion about the uses and limitations of artillery in a divisional level action as our professional gunner objected to some aspects of the artillery model. There are a couple of simple additions I can make to model the pinning and suppressive effects better, and it would also allow for counter battery and harrassing fire. I also need to tidy up the treatment of terrain as there was some confusion about  LOS and terrain effects. There was some discussion about march mode vs tactical, but given that the battlefield represented here is only a few miles square, I reckon the divisions are operating 'in contact'. There is a neat idea in Rommel I can borrow to tweak the terrain effects so I can model road columns through dense terrain (this mainly affects armour and artillery).

OK, next time we'll try it out with a proper tank battle, then I suspect that is my COW session sorted.