Friday 8 December 2023

15mm WW2 Desert Italian Pocket Army

 The last of my 15mm Desert Pocket Armies is finished (or as finished as any wargaming project is likely to be). This lot are the Italians, essential for any North Africa game, and I suspect I'll end up using them in Russia, despite the tropical uniforms.

A rather more packed box than the British and German stage one armies. Unlike the British and Germans, stage one for the Italians is likely to be nearly all the stuff I need as I've been collecting odds and ends of Italian stuff for decades, starting with the L3s which have seen extensive service with my 15mm SCW Nationalists. There may be scope to add some more bits (more artillery perhaps, maybe some CNN troops) but not as much as the British and Germans.

The big effort with this army was all the infantry. There are actually only four rifle 'companies' (in Command Decision/Rapid Fire terms), but by the time you've added in the support weapons, HQs etc it all adds up to quite a bit. There are some Bersaglieri bases in there as well, as these are all Peter Pig Figures, they only do Bersaglieri in feathered helmets, not the big hats, so they are a bit harder to make out.

Various odds and ends, some engineers, motorcycles, HQs and some 20mm Solothurn Anti-Tank 'rifles', although tbh, they are more like a shoulder fired anti-tank gun. The Motorcyclist are PP Germans with the helmets filed into a more Italian shape.

The artillery comprise a pair of BPM 75mm guns (although they are listed on the website as 100mm howitzers) and a pair of Peter Pig 47mm guns. The crews are all PP.

Softskins. The larger trucks have been feature on the blog before, but I've added a couple of BPM Saharianas, an old PP Citroen painted sand and the inevitable truck mounted 90mm AA gun. A huge model, supplied by BPM.

Most of the armour I had already, I just added a BPM Autoblinda and another QRF M13. The M13s are all QRF, the Semovente is Peter Pig, the L6s are QRF and the L3s are Peter Pig. I made up sabot tops for the L6s to convert them into 47mm Semovente, the conversion was featured in an earlier post.  

I'll feature some of the individual models as part of the ongoing modelling posts. I rattled through this lot in about 10 days, and realised that I'd really struggled to get the Germans done as I'd still had a touch of Long Covid which had affected my ability to focus. Seems to be much better now anyway.

Thursday 7 December 2023

15mm BPM Pak 36

 Although in popular culture DAK was apparently entirely armed with 88mm AT guns, a significant proportion of the panzerjaeger were actually lowly 37mm Pak 36, certainly in 1941. They were increasingly replaced by heavier guns in 1942, but were more than adequate against the early British Vickers Lights and various models of cruiser.

I bought a pair of BPM resin Pak 36, although I do have some spare PSC ones as well. 

As they are resin, they are lovely crisp prints, just like the Pak 38s. No assembly required and very, very cheap.

The only problem is that they are moulded with the legs very far apart, so far apart I had to put them on extra wide bases, which is a bit of a pain when it comes to putting them in storage boxes. I tried to bend the legs back on one of them, but they just snapped off. Did you know that thin resin is very hard to stick back together? Well I do now.

With metal legs I can just bend them, and the plastic PSC ones I assembled with them closer together. A minor issue but one to be aware of.

I also thought they looked a bit on the tall side, but having added some (PP) crew, I'm not sure sure. I just think the Pak 38s are very low indeed, and don't have the shield extension piece on the top.

Anyway, they are smart little guns and an easy way to add some AT capability. I deliberately did the gunners in more heavily green uniforms so they could (if necessary) be pressed into service in Normandy, shooting a Stielgranate at Lt Winters in Carentan, or bouncing shells off T34s in the Ukraine in 1943. 

Tuesday 5 December 2023

One Hour Mortain

 Although the postcard game on Mortain was OK, I didn't feel inclined to play it again. It was an interesting scenario though and I translated it into my One Hour WW2 variant. I'm working on some changes and will be doing a few test games - the main things are changes to assault, more formal rules on obstacles and logistics and tidying up the combat resolution a bit.

The Mortain scenario doesn't have any obstacles, but hopefully there will be some assaulting going on.

I rejigged the OBs a bit, for this game the elements represent RCTs, Combat Commands and Kampfgruppen, so 2-3 battalions each. 

30th Div became 3 x Heavy Infantry, one with AT guns and 1D6 of offtable artillery support and 1D6 of air support, each with six missions.

3rd Armored became 3 x Tanks - modelling armour heavy combat teams.

17th SS had 1 x 'tank' (The KG centered on the Stug Bn) and 2 x leg infantry

2nd SS had 2 x Heavy Tanks (Tigers and Panthers) representing the armoured elements and 102nd SS Tiger Bn, plus 2 x leg infantry. I figured all the infantry in halftracks would be accompanying the tanks, while the chaps in trucks would be walking. 

I normally play on a 9x9, but the scenario is long and thin so I went with 6x9, Germans attacking down the long angle. The US set up much as in the Postcard game, two Regiments around Mortain in the south and one Regiment (with the AT guns) on the hill east of St Barthelmy.

For this game I'm experimenting with allowing units on hills to see/shoot three hexes. The woods are dense, so impassable to armour unless on a road. The 'open' ground is actually lots of bocage, so should be bad going for armour, but I forgot that at first! If doing it again I should probably make the woods passable at 1 hex a turn.

No stacking in OHW, so the Germans are quite packed in. Given all their armour, they went for a northern attack. I should have restricted them to a two hex move. I'll remember in future. 

The US dropped air and artillery all over them, which will slow them up at least, and concentrated fire on the Stugs as they are easier targets than all the Tigers etc. This inflicted so much damage that the Stugs became disorganised. 

The other US infantry re-deployed, using their interior lines, sending an RCT up to St Barthelmy while the other RCT occupied the crossroads in Mortain.

The Germans opted to plaster the hill with fire from the big cats while the Stugs closed on. The infantry worked their way around the flanks, mightly hindered by those air/artillery barrages as they count as bad going, which for infantry is a maximum of 1 hex move.

The US dumped the planes on the Tigers (who they actually hit), and the arty on one of the infantry units, while the RCT reorganised some of the hits inflicted by the tank fire - so effectively suppressed for the whole turn.

The slow motion assault on the hill continued, while one sneaky German infantry regiment made it into the woods SE of Mortain, where they were shelled.

Battle for the hill. The Germans have managed to get one infantry regiment up onto the ridge while the Stugs reorganise, and the Tigers have moved forward too. The US infantry has taken such heavy losses it is also busy reorganising. The other US Regiments are digging in.

3rd Armored puts in an appearance, also constrained by the difficult terrain, the three Combat Commands lock down the exit roads, and CCA occupies a nice hilltop position SW of St Barthelmy, able to shoot right down the valley.

Too late for the guys on the hill. A mighty barrage from the German infantry, Stugs and Panthers, followed up by an assault by the Tigers wipes then out and puts the Tigers up on the hill. In my revised assault rules, the defender gets a shot (using the assault combat dice) against the attacker, a major deviation from the original OHW. The Tigers shrug it off and obliterate the defenders.

However concentrated fire from the RCT in Mortain supported by CCA (firing at 3 hex range) manage to take out one German infantry regiment. The Tigers are hit by P47s and take another hit, enough to disorder them.

Vorwarts! The Panthers and Stugs push down the valley, while the Germans put in a strong flanking attack on Mortain. The Tigers reorganise - the Germans are limited to reorganising one unit per turn to represent their dire supply situation, the US can reorg two.

The US concentrates everything on the Germans in Mortain, but are hideously unlucky and largely miss.

Up north, the Germans make no such mistake, and the defenders of St Barthelmy are annihilated by massed, concentric fire. Ouch! I need to have a think about how the 3 hex LOS from hills works, but I reckon it is downhill only, so in the situation above, the only possible shot now is CCA vs the Panthers. The Germans will have to move to winkle out the US tankers.

The US air and artillery are exhausted and need to spend a turn reorganising, which absorbs the entire US supply capacity.

The German infantry dash into St Barthelmy, while the Germans turn their attention on the last RCT in Mortain.

Blaaam! This isn't going well at all for the US, as another RCT bites the dust. A ten dice attack needing to roll six hits on a 5 or 6. Hmm, that was quite lucky. Anyway, all the US infantry are gone now, and the Germans still have six units left.

Rumble, rumble. Blimey it is just like the film 'Battle of the Bulge'. The German infantry in the north infiltrate through the woods around CCA.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. CCB and CCR open up on the Stugs, supported by the replenished air and artillery, while CCA assaults the Tigers! This isn't as silly as it seems as all the German units are damaged, while the US tankers are largely unscathed. 

When the smoke clears the Tigers managed to repel the Shermans, but have taken enough hits to become disorganised. The 17th SS Stugs have been completely destroyed however. Suddenly it isn't looking so good for the panzerwaffe.

The Germans are a bit stuck at this point, the US tanks are all mutually supporting that open ground is very unattractive for the German infantry. The Germans also now have two disordered units but only one supply column, decisions, decisions.... The Tigers can't reorganise in any case, as they were assaulted last turn.

The German infantry attacks, supported by fire from the Tigers and Panthers, while one infantry regiment (more useful in Mortain) reorganises. The infantry regiment in the north moves adjacent to the table edge, slowed by the dense woods.

CCA concentrates on the Tigers, with all the air and arty. CCR (the M10s) was badly damaged by the German attack and reorganises, while CCB tries to overrun the impudent German infantry marching through the fields.

The Tigers are badly damaged but not destroyed, and CCB is repelled with minimal losses. Havign been assaulted, the Germans in the open can't reorganise next turn (I've started putting 'shock' markers on assaulted units as a handy reminder).

The Germans concentrate on CCR out in the open as CCA is a hard target up on the ridge, while the US concentrates on the damaged German infantry out in the open.

Astonishingly both CCR and the infantry survive, albeit with grievous losses, so they busily reorganise. The German infantry in the north exits the table, while another regiment marches up behind the Tigers to use the same route.

The Allies fire everything they have at the Tigers, and they are finally destroyed.

And next turn, even though the Germans get more infantry into St Barthelmy, the shattered German Regiment in the open is finally destroyed. There isn't any hope of the Germans exiting five units or destroying all the Allies now, so I call it at that point.

That was a really good game, and felt a much closer result than the Postcard Game versions. The Germans managed to achieve concentration of force early in the game, but later on they were too weak and disjointed to pull the same trick against the US armor formations. If I was going to run the scenario again, I'd have a think about the terrain, as the dense woods were perhaps too constricting for the armour on both sides.

The rules modifications worked well, I'm particularly pleased with the restricted reorganisations and the increased ranges firing downhill. It suddenly makes high ground extremely important both for fire and artillery spotting. I'll reserve judgement on the new assault rules, I need to run some more battles to see how I feel about having both sides fight in one turn as it is contrary to the spirit of OHW. OTOH it is much more intuitive and will make some aspects of the Ancient and Napoleonic rules easier to fiddle around with.

I really need to try a scenario where obstacles are significant to test those, fortunately I have a couple in mind.....

Saturday 2 December 2023

Chor es Sufan, Libya, December 1941

 I wanted to get some of my new 15mm desert stuff into action, but having very cleverly not yet painted any Italians, I was a little stuck! However Scenario 12 in 'Benghazi Handicap' has a nice 8th Army/DAK tank battle featuring Crusaders and Stuarts, so that fits the bill.

I could have done it with NBC, but I've had a few ideas around One Hour WW2, so I converted the scenario for that instead. This battle took place at the end of Operation Crusader as the Axis retreated westwards once more.

Battlefield from the south. PanzerArmee Afrika is off to the north at Agedabia, pursued by 8th Army apart from 22nd Armoured Brigade which is left hooking around the desert to cut them off. Rommel regarded this as an opportunity to give the impudent British armour a good kicking.

Chor es Sufan is this large hill in the middle of the battlefield, which gives it its name. There are three objectives, including this hill, a hill in the northwest and the wadi exit hex in the south. Each side needs to control two of these to win (it is a bit more complex than that but close enough).

22nd Armoured Brigade at around 50% strength. It includes two consolidated Regiments of Crusaders and two more of Stuarts loaned from 4th Armoured Brigade. Overall tank strength is still only 90, rather than a TOE strength of 200. 

3rd CLY, 4th CLY and 2nd RHA. John commanded these and was overall British CO.

102nd RHA, 5th RTR and 8th Hussars. The tank units average 20-25 tanks each. Mark commanded these. 

The various B echelon vehicles I'll use to manage reorganisation actions.

15th Panzer Division, also massively understrength (around 25%). 5th Panzer Regiment has been attached from 21st Panzer, but each entire regiment only has about 25 tanks.

33rd Recce Battalion, 5th Panzer Regt and 1/115th Schutzen. Simon commanded these. At this point the 33rd has a couple of platoons of motorcyclists, a troop of armoured cars and is reinforced with the remains of 33rd panzer engineer battalion (at less than company strength).

8th Panzer Regiment, 2/115th Schutzen and 33rd Artillery Regiment plus some B echelon stuff. Pete commanded these and was overall CO.

5th and 8th Panzer Regiment had recently been requipped with a high proportion of uparmoured H and J model Pz IIIs, which the 2pdr firing  uncapped ammo can't actually penetrate frontally (although the Stuarts 37mm can manage the Pz IIIH). Frontal penetration at battle range is my criteria for rating tanks as 'heavy' so to keep things simple I rated 5th Panzer as normal armour and 8th Panzer as Heavy armour. By the time we get back to Gazala things will sort themselves out a bit.

I also faffed around a bit with how best to mount the SP dice, and ended up putting most stuff on sabot bases. I'll think about that. I might make some special magnetic markers as they would be much easier.

You will note the B echelon vehicles have SP too. I'm going to limit the number of reorganisations by counting them against these numbers and see how that works.

The British went first and surged on fromo the south. Marks Stuarts and 102nd RHA came on from the southwest and Johns Crusaders from the southeast. All were slowed by the rough ground. The 25pdrs drove on and unlimbered in the wadi hex objective.

The Germans also went for something of a dispersed approach. Simons infantry and panzers grabbed the northwest hill while the recce Bn motored onto Chor es Sufan itself.

Petes panzers and infantry headed southwest in a column. Both the German infantry units were heavily reinforced with AT guns from the entire 33rd Panzerjaeger Bn, making them potent AT units.

First clash! The Crusaders and Panzers motored onto opposite sides of the hill and artillery dropped all over the place. The panzergrenadiers set up their AT guns in the wadi at the base of the hill and traded shots with 4 CLY who took up hull down positions in the wadi nearby.

Very wisely 33rd Recce dropped back out of the mayhem.

Meanwhile Marks Stuarts had a go at the northwest hill. The panzergrenadiers stopped digging and started shooting, as did every other German unit in the vicinity. The German artillery ranged in on vulnerable the Portees. 5th RTR took enough hits to disorganise it.

Concentrated British fire from every unit in range, supported by the 25 pdrs, disorganised 5th Panzer Regiment. Ouch!

As the ambulances raced to the rescue, the AT guns on the hill finished off 5th RTR.

In the centre, 8th Panzer Regiment gained the upper hand and assaulted 3rd CLY.

The assault (just) failed, leaving 3 CLY with only 1SP left, but the Panzers had to fall back.

Over in the northwest, 1/115th finished digging in as the British pulled back.

Instead the surviving British mobile forces swarmed the central hill while 3 CLY frantically reorganised.

The artillery on both sides had been firing continuously for several turns and would soon  need resupply.

General view from the south at the end of Turn 7.

And the view from the northwest. The British have apparently 'got there the fastest with the mostest'.

We broke for the evening at that point, interesting to see what happens tomorrow.

There was a  certain amount of deliberation overnight and the Germans boldly decided to go for broke and contest the central hill, pushing all their panzergrenadiers forwards. Obviously there was a risk the British would then just dash for the northwest instead, but they seemed very reluctant to give up their big hill.

Eagle eyed readers will have noted that the last of the panzers have vanished - they were finally removed by massed British tank and artillery fire, but I forgot to take a photo in all the excitement.

Both sides had also run out of artillery ammo, and there was a pause in the shelling while resupply columns stocked the guns up again.

Meanwhile, 33rd Recce Bn had outflanked the hill to the east, crossed the wadi and was heading for the British artillery position!

Von Luck surveys the desert with his binoculars.

The 25pdrs were fully stocked with ammo again and kept an eye on the dust clouds getting closer across the desert. Still too far to make out clearly, so they kept shelling the panzergrenadiers at this end of the ridge. This fire, combined with all three Regiments of British tanks, finally managed to finish off 2/115th panzergrenadiers. Iron Crosses all around, they'd been under continuous fire since turn 2. 

Desperate times called for desperate measures and 1/115 conducted a close assault against the rear of 3 CLY! The Crusaders were fairly shot up already, and the assault succeeded, removing the British tanks. In fairness, they only had one hit left, but it was still exciting stuff.

This left the panzergrenadiers sandwiched between the two remaining tank Regiments.

The British now had two options, dash for the hill in the northwest, or try to clear the central hill. They opted to stand and fight, as I was running with a variable turn end. Although the Germans were damaged, they were left in place.

In a typical shabby Nazi trick, 33rd Recce now drove into the wadis on the hill, while the panzergrenadiers reorganised. German artillery fire was sufficient to disorder 8th Hussars.

The British kept plugging away and finally 1/115 was removed, however 33rd recce still contested the hill. The only other British unit on it was 8th Hussars as 4 CLY were still stuck down in the valley.

The Royal Artillery were firmly in control of the wadi though, despite having fired off all their ammo (again).

On the very last turn, 8th Hussars had three hits left, and 33rd recce supported by the last rounds of German artillery, had three firing dice. It was a pretty long shot as neither were great against armoured targets but they managed to chip two more hits off, leaving 8th Hussars hanging in with 1 hit left.

It doesn't get much closer than that, so with the third objective contested, a draw was duly declared and both sides withdrew to lick their wounds.

That was a really good game, and most of my experimental rule changes worked OK. Restricting the total number of reorganisations was just pointless bookeeping, but only allowing each side to reorg a maximum of two units per turn worked well. My simplified firing table worked OK as well and didn't produce any startling silly results (a benefit of attritional combat systems).

I kept forgetting that units which have been assaulted can't reorganise the next turn. I need to use some sort of temporary 'shock' marker to remind me. I'm also minded to add some sort of benefit for assaulting disorganised units, possibly ignore cover/armour? I don't want to overdo it as disorganised units are already quite weak. I also need to check the rules about recce units, as it strikes me they would automatically fall back if assaulted.

I need to have another think about how units are rated, and I'm minded to have some light infantry units with only one dice (units with no integral heavy weapons). I want to also include obstacles as at the moment I make those up on a scenario basis.

I'm just about ready to do a new draft of the rules incorporating the latest changes.