Wednesday 30 October 2013

Across the Canal Part 1

Followers of my fictional 1981 WW3 campaign may recall that in the previous installment the spearhead of 10th Guards Tank Divison was blunted by Task Force Golf of 4th Armoured Div as it crossed the Mitelland canal northwest of Wolfsburg. Further south the rest of 3rd Shock Army is heading towards the canal in the vicinity of Braunchsweig.

Area of operations. The previous action was to the northeast of here.

Across the canal, June 31st 1981

General Briefing
The rapid Warpac offensive has caught many NATO units still forming up although reinforcements have brought units up to their wartime strengths in many places. South of the Mitelland canal en route to Braunschweig, 3rd Shock Army has been delayed by an intensive programme of demolitions and desperate resistance from Bundeswehr screening forces. The two leading Divisions found the bridges over the canal demolished and prepared to cross before NATO reinforcements could intervene.

British briefing
4th AD is operating in advance of the rest of the BAOR. The failure of the enemy to bounce the canal  at Braunchsweig gives some hope that the canal line can be held. TF Golf is engaging enemy forces to the NE of Braunschweig, and TF Hotel has been sent SE as fast as possible to hold the canal line although it is spread thinly over a 30km frontage. Progress is being hampered by refugee columns.

There is reasonable RAF and Luftwaffe air cover, but the priority operation is TF Golf to the NE. TF Hotel has three battlegroups, one BG is being retained as divisional reserve and the others sent either side of Braunchsweig. Each is believed to be facing an entire Tank Division.

Prevent the enemy crossing the canal and destroy any bridgeheads they may establish.

Forces (D6, regular morale unless indicated otherwise)

BG Charlie Hotel, TF Hotel, 4th Armoured Div
BGHQ, 1 x mortar battery, 1 x Milan troop, 1 x recce troop (Scimitar)
1 x Chieftan Squadron, 3 x Mech Inf Co (FV432)
1 x battery of Abbot in DS
Doctrinally BGs break down into 2-3 combat teams.

Balanced (1 x Mech Inf, 1 x Chieftan) combat teams from BG Alpha Hotel may be available in the event of a major breakthrough.
Heimatschutzen companies are holding the bridge sites at Wedheim and Braunschweig (D12, morale poor) with the remains of the German recce screen (1 x Luchs, D8, good) patrolling.
1 x battery of M109 in General Support (one turn delay).
1 x section of Harriers and 1 x section of Lynx may be available for ground support.

Enter from the north or west edge on or adjacent to roads.

Warpac briefing
The leading tank regiment of the division approached the canal east of Braunchsweig to find that the bridges over the Mittelland Canal had been demolished and it had insufficient infantry to force a crossing.  The divisional BMP regiment has been brought up to sieze a bridgehead and maintain the advance.  Light German forces are covering the bridge sites and air recce reports enemy mechanised columns approaching from the NW.

Cross the canal and establish a bridgehead.
Bridge the canal and resume the advance west with tank formations.

Forces (D8, regular morale unless indicated otherwise)

200 GMRR(+), 12th GTD, Cat I

RHQ: 1 x Mech HQ, 1 x recce Co, 2 x Engineer Co, 1 x AA Co, 1 x GW Co
1 x Tank Bn (T62): 2 x tank Co ea
3 x Motor Rifle Bn (2 x BMP Co)
1 x SP Arty Bn, 2 x SP 122mm how, 1 x Btty HQ
1 x SP Arty Bn (SP 122mm): 2 x SP 122, 1 x Btty HQ attached from Tank Regt.

2 x Mi 24 Hind and 2 x Su-17 Fitter available each turn.
1 x Air assault Bn (2 x para, 1 x Mi 8 helicopter) - pre-plan the drop

48 GTR (elements)
3 x Tank Bn (T64)
1 x Eng Co, 1 x AA Co, RHQ

Set up on or SE of the road from the Autobahn to Groscal. Tank Regt in reserve.

Villages and towns provide concealment and cover (-1 to hit), woods provide concealment.

Hills are rolling and not an obstacle to movement, stationary units may find concealment on them. Much of Braunchsweig has been demolished as an AT obstacle.


The weather is good.

Umpires notes

Game length - until we get bored. Really it should be four hours (16 turns).

Airpower: draw a card for each aircraft each turn (if not on table)

Any but spades = Soviet available from readiness.
Any black = Lynx available from readiness.
Black picture card = Harrier available from readiness.

Once a strike is launched, planes return to airfield, need a card to rearm and move to readiness. They need another card to attack. SU-17s always attack when card comes up, others may choose to and helos can loiter. 

VLB as per engineering rules. BMPs cross the canal as one engineering action.
May repair a damaged bridge with one engineering action, to bridge the canal otherwise takes two.
Refugees delay entry, each road not possible turn 1, turn 2 5+, turn 3 3+, turn 4 OK.

Saturday 26 October 2013

20mm WW1 French (Part 1)

We've already met my 20m WW1 British and Germans, so here are my late war French. The bulk of them are based around a load of Revell figures obtained from Ian Russell Lowell via Tim originally painted up as 1940 French. I fleshed them out with some Airfix and HaT stuff. They are organised for Great War Spearhead but with a view to higher and lower level actions too.

Two battalions, each of four bases, a mixture of riflemen plus an officer, bugler and Chauchat team.

The same figures from another angle. I do like the Revell officer figure.

Various officer/leader/low level HQ types including the inevitable Airfix bloke with a flag and the goofy officer pose. The nearest figure is a repurposed HaT gunner. I like the bugler.

Support weapons; trench mortars and hotchkiss MGs. Slightly awkward poses for the MG crews but at least it is obvious what they are.

Pioneers cobbled together from various figures, Aifix men with shovels and sacks, kneeling gunners etc.

Bicycle troops! The first two are Airfix and the last is one of Ians conversions.

Higher HQs, including the Airfix bloke with pigeon and bloke with telescope figures. The chap with the fine moustache is an oversized metal figure which turned up from somewhere, but ideal for ordering yet another futile assault on the Anthill.
The basic uniform colour for these is Vallejo Mirage Blue, which someone tells me is wrong but it looks like the French WW1 uniforms in both the Imperial War Museum and the Musee d'Armee in Paris, so good enough for me. Brown leather webbing and tan assault rolls. They have mainly been out in divisional strength in games of Spearhead, Square Bashing and my own Drumfire.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Airfix conversions: AA Crusader

We've not had a conversion for a while, so here is another old clunker from the 1970s. This a Crusader 20mm AA built on the Airfix Crusader chassis. The main item being the scratchbuilt turret as well as the hacked around mudguards etc.

Here it is in its Crusadery splendour. The turret was quite hard to do, hence the rather wobbly bits. I imagine someone makes a conversion kit these days.

The gun barrels aren't even level. Oh dear.

I do like the sleek lines of the Airfix Crusader, even if the hull is too long and narrow. Some imaginative stowage on the engine deck, I'm not sure how that shovel stays there nor how it avoids catching fire as it is a bit close to the exhaust!

This particular example is serving as the AA Regiment in 6th Armoured Div.

So there we have it another blast from the past. Again, this was repainted a decade or so ago, this time in a mid-war SCC2 and mid green disruptive scheme and added to my rather ramshackle 6th Armoured Div for use in Tunisia and Italy.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Czarnovo 1806

Tim put this game on at the club a couple of weeks ago, 15mm Napoleonic Command & Colours and the first  outing for his 15mm Russians. Not a battle I'd ever heard of, but you could tell Russians were involved by the quantity of fieldworks. Me, Mark and Kayte took the Frenchies, while  Tim and John were the heroic defenders of the Motherland. Once again the French had to attack over a river and up some hills, but at least this time the river wasn't right in front of the hills.

The Russian centre viewed from the French right. Redoubts everywhere.

French right, Morands Division. Light infantry supported by cavalry leading.

The French left, my chaps, inevitably on the wrong side of a river.

View from behind the Russian grand redoubt. Pavlov Grenadiers visibsle in their pointy hats.

French left again.

French centre, the big hill in front covered in dug in Russians was our first objective.

The French right pushes forward. We had a big command advantage in this, which gave as an edge over the clumsy Russians.

Pincer attack on the Russian centre, my chaps and Marks managed to get a regiment onto the hill at some cost.

Marks assault against the one surviving Russian stand in the redoubt fails (swords don't work against redoubts).

OTOH a lucky long range shot fells a Russian divisional commander (double swords to hit leaders)

Marks chaps conduct an amazing bayonet charge off the hill and completely wipe out one Russian regiment, securing us enough victory points for the win.

Things looked decidedly dodgy for the French for a while as although we took the first hill, the cost was very high. The poor old Russians were then robbed by a run of decent follow up French attacks which knocked off three Russian units in quick succession so this ended very quickly. CnC games usually last a bit longer than this, but it was just a combination of the cards and how the battles went, both sides were perhaps guilty of just throwing their stuff in without a coherent plan and hoping for the best, but that is just how it works out sometimes.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Zvezda Flammpanzer III

I discovered I 'needed' some Panzer III (Lang) for mid 1943 Eastern Front engagements, less down to Kursk than the accounts of the post Kursk battles in George F. Nipe's 'Decision in the Ukraine'. I was struck by the mixture of vehicles in the panzer regiments and the recurring (and ever declining) numbers of Panzer IIIs.I am already amply provided with Panzer IIIs of the short barrelled variety, but I couldn't quite bring myself to use those as substitutes.

A pair of Panzer III, er retrofitted Fs? Ls? I really don't know....

Some brief research that the 15mm market is awash with short barrelled Pz IIIs of various types, but my favourite manufacturers didn't do a single long barrelled one between them. I refuse to pay inflated BF prices, and the most cheap and cheerful option was to bash up a couple of Zvezda Flammpanzers. Quite what posessed Zvezda to make this model, I do not not know, only 100 were made and as a scale model of a Flammpanzer III, it is appalling. The Flammpanzer III was built on the Ausf M chassis, so should have late road wheels, deep wading exhaust system and no lower side escape hatches as a minimum. Instead they have just plonked a Flammpanzer turret on what appears to be an Ausf E chassis.

For my purposes however, that is fine, as I just wanted some cheap 50L60 armed Panzer IIIs. All I had to do was sand down the gun barrels to make them taper, as the flame tube is straight and it is actually quite noticeable. As a kit, these are well up to the usual Zvezda standard, they just aren't very good models of the subject matter.

The anachronistic road wheels are clearly visible, but that aside, this is actually a beautiful model with exquisite fine detail.

Early exhaust system clearly visible. Those nice straight lines take a drybrush well though. Shame about the join on the engine deck. Oh well.

From the front, and at a distance from the side, it does actually look quite like a Panzer III Ausf L.

So there we have them, anachronisms aside, these were a joy to build and they painted up beautifully. I wanted to make them look very high mileage so the disruptive camo was very lightly applied and then the whole thing very heavily weathered with successive layers of mud and dust. Photographic evidence for camo on mid 43 Panzer IIIs is a bit contradictory as most of them would only just have been repainted and many photos just show them as plain sand,  but that would just be a bit too Afrika Korps I felt. I did find a few examples of camo'd ones in the end. Numbering them as 3 Ko. is based on the SS Panzer Regiments at Kursk who organised the third company in each battalion as a light one, and it turned out that many of the Heer battalions also had a third (and sometimes fourth) company of Pz IIIs too.

I rather like the idea of them being real old clunkers retrofitted with 50L60 guns, and for that the Zvezda models were perfect. In the event that sanding the gun barrels didn't work, plan B was to chop them off and replace them entirely with spare barrels from the PSC Sov 57mm AT guns, but as it turned out I didn't need to. Despite the wrong road wheels, I am pleased with how these turned out, and at the price, who is complaining? I am still amazed that PSC and not even QRF do a Panzer III (Lang) though.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Friendly Fire

This was a game put on by Tim a few weeks ago. For no apparent reason, our erstwhile allies and ideological comrades, Svenhasselstein conducted a raid on peace loving Vulgaria and made off with the only motor vehicle in the entire country. Time to teach our pointy headed neighbours a lesson.

The table from Svenhasslestein. The river marks the border.

The Vulgarian army assembles, a brigade each of infantry and cavalry (at half scale for a tabletop game).

Svenhasselstein forces climb out of their boxes.

The enemy column enters the table.

British observer.

Detached Vulgarian forces move to cut the road.

Vulgarian infantry and guns under Johns supervision move to cut off the enemy retreat.

The defenceless column approaches as our troops move to intercept.

While the bridge is firmly brought under fire.

Oh dear, enemy infantry and cavalry appear.

One lot appear right behind the heroic Vulgarians. What a shabby trick!

Fortunately our brave cavalry ride to the rescue on the other flank.

And also turn up to help our infantry.

Leaving the field littered with enemy corpses.

The cavalry screen the flank of the  surviving infantry

On the other flank the cavalry ride off to sieze the car

A stray shell lands right behind the enemy staff car, which certainly reduced the number of wounded to evacate.

Confused melee on the approaches to the bridge

Just a few survivors as more of our troops cross the bridge

On the other side of the river one lonely gunner survives the enemy counterbattery fire

Events ended with the Svenhasselstein survivors being escorted back over the border by the remaining Vulgarians. The Vulgarian High Command is still slightly baffled as to why Svenhasselstein should have risked all out war with Vulgaria for no apparent reason at all, and the engagement proved hideously costly for both sides. The Vulgarian losses were mainly infantrymen however, and there are plenty more where they came from.