Saturday, 30 September 2023

Gumbinnen in 54mm!

 Another Friday and another large scale gaming day. We had hoped to play outside but what passes for 'summer' here was a bit wet for that. So inside the Masonic Hall we went.

Gumbinnen was one of the opening actions of the First World War, the ill fated German attack in East Prussia. We've gamed it several times before, but never in 54mm.

View from the west. The rail line runs due east. Ingerburg is closest the camera, and Gumbinnen is the town in the middle. Goldap is off in the distance on the top right. The playing area is about 20' x 20'.

Prussians start to assemble. The 54mm toys are from Tim and Lloyds collections.

A Prussian Reserve Brigade of two Regiments. Each Regiment has 20 figures and it also has an artillery battery, supply column and HQ. These are my old Funny Little Wars 'Vulgarians' in 1870 Prussian uniforms. German reservists wore dark blue in 1914,

In all the Germans had four infantry divisions, an infantry brigade and a cavalry division for this game.

This is the German Corps HQ. A very fine set of beautiful metal figures belonging to Lloyd. As I'm playing Von Mackenson, one of them is me.

The German objective is to maintain control of Gumbinnen and to destroy or rout two Russians divisions. Well I'm sure that will be straightforward.

The Russian Army HQ looks far more dubious!

Three German infantry divisions. That is quite a lot of stuff.... Pete and Andrew were my divisional commanders while I ran things for the Corps.

We were honoured to have PHW, the author of Funny Little Wars attending, and he was trying out some new logistics rules to be administered by the Corps Commanders. It certainly gave me plenty to do during the game, as I very deliberately didn't push any toys around.

The Russians also have a huge amount of stuff, all still apparently in boxes.

The forces are originally concealed, with each Regiment represented by playing cards. Our lead unit (2nd Div) has just made contact with the Russians northeast of Gumbinnen.

This rather unpleasant looking horde of Russian cavalry has also appeared.

The Russians laboriously deploy into line from their march columns while our guys plink away at them at long range. With hindsight, we'd have been much, much better off digging some trenches at this point.

The Russians take Goldap.

View from the south. Our guys start to deploy against the Russians in and around Goldap. Most of our units entered several turns after the Russians, with the preponderance south of Gumbinnen. My plan was to hold Gumbinnen with two divisions, then outflank the Russians on the right with two more. The Reserve Brigade would shore up up the line and the cavalry would screen the north.

These Germans are supposed to line up and link up with their pals deployed east of Gumbinnen.

North of Gumbinnen things aren't going so well. The Russians charge our attenuated line. If only we'd dug some trenches instead of wasting all that ammo on long range rifle fire... 

Somehow my divisional commanders have managed to leave a huge gap between Gumbinnen and Goldap. We've had to commit one the reserve divisions to fill it. A good job given the number of Russians heading in the that direction.

Goldap is thoroughly screened off anyway. We've still got one division left to outflank them on the right.

Gumbinnen is held by the 2nd Div Divisional HQ and artillery! They have made a fair dent in the massed Russian infantry, but there are an awful lot of Russians. The rest of 2nd Div are apparently lying dead in the fields north of the town.

One of our divisions assaults Goldap.

The fighting at Gumbinnen is 'confused'. Our Reserve Brigade holds the north of the town, but the Russians are assaulting the 2nd Div guns as the leading Regiment of our 35 Div deploys.

35 Div assaults the Russians assaulting 2 Div in Gumbinnen..... all completely clear and not in the slightest way a complete mess. Those look suspiciously like Russian hats in the town though.

We continue to hold a line north of Gumbinnen, which the surviving Russians on this flank seem reluctant to attack.

Our assault on Goldap fails. Who knew machine guns would be so effective? Both sides start to dig in here and the front stabilises.

Fighting rages in and around Gumbinnen however.

Back at HQ, my staff and I peruse the messages  which are arriving (all comms was via written messages transmitted through the umpires). Having committed all our reserves there isn't anything I can do to influence the battle now, apart from firing the heavy howitzers at the largest clusters of Russians. Using matchstick firing cannon, it turns out they can fire a very long way indeed.

At Gubinnen, the Russians have taken the town and 35 Div settle down outside to dig in rather than continue the fruitless assaults.

End game. We have a semblance of a line north and south of Gumbinnen. The Russians have a firm hold on Goldap, but something of a salient in Gumbinnen itself. Both sides are frantically digging trenches at this point, so I don't think the front will be moving here again for a while.

In the post game washup, while we have killed lots and lots of Russians, we certainly don't control Gumbinnen, so this is a Russian victory. I can't help thinking we could have taken Goldap to push it to a draw, but thems the breaks. Historically the Germans were defeated here, but obtained a shattering victory later in the year at Tannenburg and the Maurian Lakes.

That was a very entertaining experience, and once again demonstrates that with a big multi player game, you can have tons of friction without any need for special rules. In a smaller game I could have micromanaged the divisional deployments so they didn't on the one hand leave huge gaps in the defences, but also leave insuficient space in other sectors of the front for the assault units to deploy fully.  That all happened quite naturally in the game.

Thursday, 28 September 2023

15mm BPM Bedford OY Lorries

 My new desert Brits needed some transport, as unlike the Italians and Germans, they don't have any existing toys suitable to be pressed into service. I wanted some larger transports and supply vehicles as well as some 15cwt trucks. 

For the lorries I went with these BPM Bedford OYs. BPM do a wide range of Bedford variants, but I wanted the short wheelbase version as they take up less space, and open backs as I (may) want to put stuff in the back for operational games. 

These really are lovely models, just done in the basic APL , not resin. There were a few striations on the bonnets and cabs but easy to sand down. No wheels to stick on either. 

Just look at the beautiful detail on the rear deck, there are even the holes in the tailgate. 

I quite like the 'Tonka Toy" look of the OY. I have a few for my European theatre Brits as well, in metal though. 

I just did these in my standard British desert scheme. Grey undercoat, heavy drybrush of VJ desert sand, a brown inkwash, another drybrush of sand and then a very light highlight of VJ Pale Sand. The ink really got into the planking and doors. 

I did the windows in blue with a white highlight using my Posco ink marker pen. 

Very pleased with those, and hopefully years of service to come. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2023

Little World Wars at COW 2023

Tim put on a game featuring his latest 54mm excursion, this time into the Second World War. I’d already taken part in a few playtest sessions and was fairly familiar with the game. Essentially it is pitched at battalion+ type engagements with infantry companies of half a dozen figures, heavy weapons platoons and individual AFVs and guns representing platoons/batteries. In this it is similar to Little Cold Wars, the main difference being that infantry are represented at company and not platoon level.

Tim briefs the participants.

The game scenario pitched a British infantry battalion supported by a squadron of Shermans, assaulting a village held by units from 12th SS Panzer Division during Operation Epsom (iirc it is a historical scenario). This was the first time I’d seen Tims 54mm WW2 British before, in previous iterations we’d used Russians as proxies.

The Germans.

And the British. All 54mm.

There was a big turnout for this one, and I just went along to observe, but got roped in to command the British Support Company - a 3” mortar platoon and Vickers MG platoon, both transported in carriers.

The British infantry push out of the town. The tanks are over on the other flank. The leading carrier is transporting the mortar platoon to a reverse slope firing position.

The German Panther and AA platoon make an appearance. 

The mechanisms are tried and tested - a card based unit activation sequence to interleave the turn for both sides, small arms fire resolved by dice throws, but gun fire is handled by firing a nerf gun at a target. This had players queuing up to shoot at things, and nerf guns are surprisingly inaccurate, even at a range of a few feet, it did however generate armour casualties at a reasonable rate.

The infantry make it to the first hedgerow, but the British armour is fighting a losing battle.

The actual attack progressed much as the playtest games had - the Allies managed to push into the edge of town but eventually ran out of steam. All the players seemed to have plenty to do, and despite the large scale figures and vehicles, sufficient suspension of disbelief happened to make the whole thing hang together in a very satisfactory way. I expect there will be more outings for this in the future. 

Saturday, 23 September 2023

13 Vendemaire

 We were a bit short of things to do so time for another Table Battles game. I missed the Tuesday session but was around for Wednesday.

Tim found this particular scenario on BGG, so it isn't one of the published ones, and it covers the Royalist rebellion against the Directory in Paris in 1795.

The Republicans are in blue and feature one 'General Bonaparte'! The Royalists are in red, and are led by General Danekin. Neither side has many units, and the infamous guns for the 'whiff of grapeshot' are in reserve. The 'Paris Mob' is an interesting  unit, hugely strong, but it suffers heavy damage to itself every time it attacks! 

The artillery is crucial for the Republicans, it can screen (block) attacks as in the other games, but in this scenario it also inflicts casualties.

General Danekin is also an interesting unit as it can 'hold' dice to be committed to other units.

The usual gang of reprobates in silly hats turned up. Russell and I were the Royalists, and Pete and John the Republicans. The previous evening the Republicans had won handily.

You can see the big piles of strength points against the Royalist units, while the Republicans have something of a thin blue line. By now they have got their guns up and loaded, which forces us to make expensive attacks to soak them off.

There are a lot fewer Royalists now, but the Republicans have lost Bonaparte. The Republicans were hideously unlucky and couldn't keep their guns in action, enabling us to mount a series of charges.

The Republican Chasseurs rout and it is victory to the (rather ragged) Royalists.

In the event that was a bit one sided as the Republicans were very unfortunate with their command dice. Another very clever scenario design which I couldn't hope to replicate, and covering a battle not usually gamed.

Thursday, 21 September 2023

15mm BPM 25pdrs

 Along with carriers, my British needed some 25pdrs. I had quite enough sticking together the QRF (Denzil Skinner moulds) 25pdr models for NWE, so this time I wanted something simpler. Years ago I had some SDD 25s which I stupidly sold along with the rest of my 15mm desert stuff. 

Anyway, I had originally planned to buy some PSC guns, but the price put me off. BPM do some very reasonably priced guns though, in both early and late versions. I went for the early version without muzzle breaks. 

And here they are. I just got two to start with. I'll probably get some more in future along with some 5.5s, but this is fine for now. 

I went for PLA models, and they came printed on a single sheet including the gun carriage, rotating mount, limber and seperate gun barrel. They came off the sheet fine, but like all PLA models, there were a few striations on some of the sloped surfaces. I filed off some of the larger flat surfaces but in general they were fine. 

The gun barrel glued in place easily, and the limber is a single piece print. Very different to the five piece metal ones I assembled some years ago. The gun itself has lots of nice detail on it, which looks much better once it is painted. It isn't as crisp as injection moulded plastic, but fine for gaming. 

The guns don't come with crew, so these are Peter Pig 8th Army Gunners. I was very pleased to see they actually look like gunners working in the hot sun, and are bare chested! I wasn't sure what to do with the limbers, but in the end put them on the bases. Attached to the Quad they just take up too much storage space, but in this configuration they just make the gun bases 10mm longer which is fine. 

I did these the same as the carriers, two coats of desert yellow with an ink wask in between, highlight with pale sand. The gunners helmets are also Vallojo Desert Yellow which is actually a decent match for the British helmet colour. As one of my re-enactment pals said, the helmets should be luminous and visible from space. 

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Advancing Companies - Dwindling Hope

 The last battle in the Red Guards at Kursk mini campaign series features 18th Panzer Div counterattacking 5th Tank Corps. So another test for Advancing Companies, this time with a German attack rather than the Russians. 

Battlefield from the south. There is a marshy stream running E-W, a hill with some woods and a farm to the south, and some crops running up the middle of the valley. The stream is impassable in the middle two squares (blue counter), but there is a ford on the west edge (green counter).

The Russians don't have much stuff. Two rifle and two SMG squads start on table, supported by a single 45mm AT gun and a Dshk 12.7mm HMG (a variable attachment). There are three T34s offtable who will come to the rescue. As this is a hasty German counterattack, the Russians aren't dug in.

The Germans have a mighty force! Four Panzer IVs, two Sdkfz 234/1 armoured cars, four entire squads of armoured assault pioneers in halftracks, armed with satchel charges and flamethrowers! To top it off is an armoured assault pioneer HQ squad riding an Sdkfz 251/10, although the model looks suspisciously like an Sdkfz 250/9. It will have to do.

Well this should be a walkover. The Germans need to exit two tanks or armoured cars off the west side.

The Russians set up a couple of squads in the northern woods to prevent a German end run through the woods. Their main strong point was around the farm, with the AT gun and HMG supported by one squad covering the valley, and another squad holding the woods to the east to prevent an approach from that direction. 

Having learned my lesson from the previous games, the Germans committed a portion of their force and kept the rest in reserve. In the north a pair of engineer squads supported by a Pz IV, and a group of three Pz IV in the centre. I kept the infantry mounted as they were largely immune to the Russian rifles and SMGs in their halftracks.

The armoured mass rolled up the valley, while the Russians watched.

The Russian AT position managed to miss completely! The HMG had some anti-armour capability, but also missed. A mass of 75mm HE from the panzers suppressed both weapons. The riflemen couldn't do a thing against the German armour at range.

Rumble, rumble. On go the panzers. Two pressed on up the valley, one stopped to provide fire support, and the armoured engineers overran the infantry in the woods to the north with their tank support.

The ensuing close combat in the woods was astonishingly bloody, both sides infantry were eliminated, but the panzers survived. Meanwhile the Soviet 45mm gun managed to rally.

The T34s arrived at this point. They had a specified entry area behind the ridge, so on they came and were promptly all suppressed by Pz IVs.

The reserve Pz IV moved up, but the unsuppressed 45mm destroyed one at point blank range. The Soviet riflemen now moved into the corn fields and assaulted the armour.

The soldiers died but another Pz IV was left burning. Umm, that is suddenly not going so well for the Germans.

The T34s were still the bigger threat so the Germans concentrated on them, and destroyed two of them with the remaining Pz IVs.

The 45mm however claimed its third kill. The valley was now full of burning Pz IVs. The Rifle squad which had been in the wood fell back to the farm. I can't recall how it got suppressed. The last T34 was also damaged but still in action.

Now the remaining engineers rolled forwards, hoping to clear the way for the armoured cars as the few remaining Russian infantry occupied the cornfields. I'd removed the wrecked Pz IVs by this point. The DshK finally rallied after several turns.

I put the Pz IV wrecks back on for what happened next. The Russian 45mm and HMG proceeded to destroy all the halftracks, leaving suppressed and dead German engineers all over the battlefield. The only bright spot for the Germans was that they had managed to work the one remaining Pz IV forwards, but unfortuately it was damaged and suppressed by the one remaining (damaged) T34. 

The Germans now had no tactical choices as there were only a couple of turns left. They made an end run up the valley with the armoured cars as it was their only hope of victory.

This went about as well as might be expected as the AT gun destroyed one, and infantry assault in the corn field destroyed another. The Germans did finally rally their suppressed Pz IV and managed to slip it off the end of the table however.

So at game end the Russians were left with a fraction of their force, but their morale held, as did the all important AT strongpoint on the hill. The Germans failed to exit enough armour and lost brutally, game VP Germans 12, Russians 26. That left the final VP total Germans 28, Russians 48 for a decisive campaign win for the Russians.

That was a very unexpected result considering how badly things went for the Russians at first, I still can't quite believe the Germans managed to lose that one. It just shows the power of AT guns against armour. You'd think I would worked that out from the previous games. 

Having played five games now, I'm feeling more on top of these as a rule set, and I think they have a lot going for them. One thing I haven't had much chance to try out is indirect fire to see how that may affect things. Some more playtesting required, in particular that last scenario. I think the Germans should have used their infantry to clear both flanking positions, but it is so tempting to commit the Pz IVs as they generate so much firepower. I'd be tempted to put some Russian infantry in the fields at start as well, as they provided decent cover and the infantry AT assaults were very effective.

I'm also more comfortable with the idea that the units represent Charles Grant type 'sections' - so 2-3 of their real life counterparts. It just works better with the ranges, move distances, unit density etc in my head, even if they look like individual vehicles and rifle sections.

I've really enjoyed playing those games, good to push some stuff around, try something a bit unusual and focus on more tactical situations than my usual grand tactical and operational stuff.