Sunday, 19 February 2017

Platoon Commanders War hexed

WD Display Team (North) are thinking of taking a game to the Joy of Six show in July. Clearly it needs to be a 6mm game and look nice, so Tim and John came up with the bright idea of converting Platoon Commanders War to use Hexon terrain. In 6mm PCW is a 1:1:1 game (each figure represents a man, and the ground scale is also 1/300th, so each 4" hex represents 33 yards). Using the hexes also allowed me to address my favourite WW2 bugbear, bunching up, so fire from an element hits everything in the hex. A Rifle section firing in enfilade is potentially capable of suppressing an area 100 yards by 33 yards (as the MG beaten zone is two hexes), which is in line with War Office Operations Reports which estimated a rifle section could suppress 100 yards of front.

The scenario was set out as a training exercise, taken from a contemporary training manual, of a platoon assault. This wasn't the very familiar 1944 manual, but the earlier 1940-43 one, so used two sections up instead of one. The attack is carefully scripted, with phase lines indicated on the exercise map reproduced on the table, and designed for the platoon to become used to working as a group.

Above is a view from the British end, with the white scrabble counters showing the various points of interest.


View from the German end. The Germans are holding the ridge, and a machinegun team has been identified somewhere to the left of the building (invisible at present). The platoon objective is the building and the small copse is the objective of a neighbouring platoon.

Our brave chaps line up for the O group. Three rifle sections each of a rifle group and bren team, platoon HQ in the middle, with a very dubious looking 2" mortar man in tow.

I took 1 section, Tim took 2 section, Jerry lugged the mortar and Tom ran the platoon with 3 section in reserve.

Start line was the farm track, two sections up. 1 section is nearest the camera.

As we crossed line B, things got a bit sticky and 2 section was pinned by the German MG. 1 section managed to work forward using fire and movement, but as we began to outflank the gun, more Germans opened fire from the building and pinned my rifle team. What a shabby trick.

My plucky Bren team however managed to pin both the German teams, which allowed all the pinned British troops to sort themselves out.  We kept the Germans heads down with covering fire and advanced by bounds over line C. At this point Platoon HQ and 3 section were coming up from the rear to assist.

2 Section managed to get their rifle group into close combat with the pinned MG team, while 1 section advanced on the building.

The 2" mortar laid a smoke screen bang on the ridge, so my rifle group went left flanking under the cover of the smoke covered by the bren, and as the Germans in the building were still pinned, it was all over bar the shouting.

This went really well, and the platoon attack took about 45 minutes. What I really like about these rules is that Battle Drill actually works. You need to win the firefight, you need to use fire and movement to advance, and you clear the enemy position by assault (ideally from a flank, and ideally with the bren positioned to cut the enemy line of retreat). So hopefully some learning points for people too. 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Gabions galore

Tim as always been very generous with his surplus items, and my latest acquisition via this route was a random collection of Irregular 6mm fortifications. Keen eyed readers may have spotted the Austrians hiding behind them in last weeks APW game. They were unpainted as Tim had literally just handed them to me before the game, and I thought they were just the thing to use as dug in markers instead of the matchsticks I was going to use.

There were half a dozen earthworks reinforced with gabions on one side, and one set of freestanding gabions, the latter are just what I need for a scenario I'm working on.

I need something to use as a temporary roadblock, and these are just the ticket. I was going to scratchbuild some,  but it is much easier to just paint something.

The trench sections are rather nice too. I just stuck the terrain bits down on appropriate sized bases, painted them mid brown all over and then ran an inkwash and a light drybrush over the gabions. They are all on 30mm frontages, so will also do as dug in markers for some of my bigger toys (which are also on 30mm bases). 

From the front, a rather unexciting pile of earth. Apart from the painted gabions, the rest of the bases were just done with builders sand stuck down with PVA and edged in black. At some point I'll add some static grass to the actual base bits.

Here are some heroic French Zoaves somewhat uncharacteristically hiding in a load of earthworks. For Rifle & Kepi games I'll just use one marker in a hex to indicated dug in status, and for other periods and rules they can join my useful heap of bits of terrain.

Saturday, 4 February 2017


I've been working on some revisions to my venerable 'Rifle & Kepi' rules for some time, mainly to streamline the command and combat systems. The activation and movement system from OP14 seemed to fit the bill admirably as it activated each Corps rather than each division and also eliminated the fiddly action point dice roll. That does rather restrict it to multiple Corp sized battles, but hey, I'm a  big battle sort of guy.

I rather liked aspects of the old combat system where you could resolve an entire Corps sized engagement in a single step, but the mechanism of calculating the relative combat power of each division (modified by tactical factors and individual dice rolls) and adding all the scores up, was far too cumbersome. The close combat system in Simplicity in Practice came to the rescue, as a way of generating combat value scores using handfuls of dice instead.

So, with the various revisions at hand, time to try it out on some actual players..... We've done this particular battle before, The Prussian Elbe Army closing in on the Saxons and Austrians near the town of Munchengratz on the Iser in June 1866. It essentially consists of four separate Corps sized commands with no pesky cavalry to mess things up. John took on Crown Prince Friedrich Karl, Tom was von Bittenfeld, Jerry was the Elector of Saxony and Tim landed the plum role of General Clam Gallas, reputedly better at eating than fighting.

The battlefield from the east. The Saxons are over to the left down the Iser, while the Austrians have a cordon out covering their evacuation of Munchengratz, Each hex is around 1000m.

The Crown Prince marches his Corps on and the Saxons move up to cover the left flank of Munchengratz. As it is high summer the Iser is passable to infantry and cavalry.

One Prussian division siezes a bridgehead while the Saxon artillery shells the enemy. Sadly after this point the battlefield became shrouded in smoke and there was no visual record of what happened.

Once the smoke cleared, the remains of the Saxon Army were revealed to be in full retreat, although the Prussians had suffered heavy losses in the process. One Saxon division had routed and the Elector had decided that enough was enough. The Austrian reserve brigade had moved up to fill the gap in the meantime.

Over on the road from Torgau, Von Bittenfelds Corps mounted a frontal assault against the Austrians entrenched behind the river. All very unpleasant. On a diamond, deployed units can't cross obstacles (like steep hills, woods and passable rivers), but the Austrians weren't planning on leaving their comfy trenches.

The fighting was so unpleasant in fact that the Prussian Army became shaken and the troops all went to ground. Having suffered 50% losses, it was understandable.

Corps dither (do nothing except defend themselves) if they draw a spade picture card for activation. If a Corps does dither, the HQ can issue an extra card to one subunit to activate at least a portion of the Corps. The Saxons are clearly unsure of what to do next...

The Austrian brigade south of Munchengratz succumbs to the Crown Princes concentric attack. Meanwhile the Austrians in the town have spent the last six hours (!) digging in (indicated by the little dice). Prussian casualties are around 40% at this point.

Back in the north, one Prussian division rallies and manages to fight its way across the river, supported by artillery. Less than half Von Bittenfelds Corps is left on its feet.

And in the south, the Crown Prince threatens the Austrian lines of communication. Night fell at that point and we called it a day.  The Austrians had managed to keep their communications lines open and inflicted heavy losses on the Prussians, even though the Saxons had scuttled home. So a well earned victory for Clam Gallas, and his Corps can withdraw overnight to meet its destiny at Koeniggratz.

I was pretty pleased with this, it all seemed to go smoothly and although I forgot a couple of things in the heat of the moment, it all hung together OK. Playtesting with people is always useful as it highlighted some ambiguities and inconsistencies to iron out, but the revisions are only minor. The challenge is still to keep the rules to one side of A4, but I seem to have managed it. Once I'm happy with the revisions to the revised version I'll post them as a file download here.