Monday, 30 April 2018

HOLDING THE WALHAUSEN MINE, A FOTR AAR

With my German Defenders of the Reich prepared for the fight, the scenario chosen was High Ground, and I even got the extra defences for free (bunker, minefield, trench).

I’m going to keep this brief, because the game was. I deployed as per my pre-battle plan, with the Volkssturm in their foxholes and behind barricades, my Pantherturm was front and centre with a perfect and dominant view across the river and open field (soggy flood plains all counting as difficult ground for all vehicles), it could not have been better sited.

The Russian would lead off their attack with their infantry riding on the ISU-152 heavies, ploughing forwards across the river and wet-fields. Before they set-off, turn 1 for the attackers began with a artillery bombardment, 2 timed strikes from 122 howitzers and a PE-2 dive bombing. Well, rarely has a bombardment worked so well. The first 122s score 4 direct hits (from 8 dice!) and my Volkssturm were blown away (hard covers saves can’t withstand multiple direct hits). One squad gone, the bunker was hit and the MMG team inside were gone, the PE-2 then scored 2 direct hits in the Pantherturm and it was blown up… I had taken 5 counters already. A terrible start (things would not be getting much better). My front line just collapsed under the Russian bombardment and the Russian attack rolled forwards under some harassing mortar fire, which did little to the armoured vehicles. Any last survivors I pulled back to around the mine and awaited my reserves… the Jagdpanther, flak gun (it wasn’t here to shoot at the PE-2 - drat!), my underground counter-attack - come-on!. So, the next turns were quick the Russian simply ploughed across the wet flooded fields, I fired mortars, put some units on reserve move and ambush fire and waited. Russian reinforcements arrived and pressed on as second wave, as his first wave climbed out of the river valley into the woods. Here my timed 105 barrage hit (I judged it right!) and scored a few infantry kills and pins. My artillery priority checks failed… no supporting fire from the FOO on top of the mine’s winding gear tower. Oh well, so far I had take 6 counters (with 4s and 3s) and the Russian had taken just 1, from unpinning… I was being steam rolled.

The Russian moved up again, gathering for the push against the village and mine. The real battle would be on. Just in time my reserves rolled in, the Jadgpanther got into place and onto ambush fire, and the ISU-152s et al paused, awaiting enough orders to all attack together (he'd had a few dicey turns for orders). This gave me some much needed time to get off one artillery request, and, feeling desperate, I went for (and got) some Corps 150mm Nebelwerfers. The shrieking rockets smashed down right on his attack force and caused mass pinning, and blew up a White scout car and its recce team passengers. With over half their attack force pinned the Russians paused again to regroup and unpin for the assault. I was waiting on ambush fire. When the Russian infantry, now all disembarked did come, my Fallschirmjager MGs did good work re-pinning them, and the last Volkssturm rifle fire added a few casualties. One Russian squad broke, finally my defence was doing something. Then, disaster (again), in a deviating 120mm mortar barrage a single direct hit was on the Jagdpanther, still awaiting those ISUs to emerge to open fire. Yep, the penetration roll as an 11… kaboom, my panzer aces’ career came to an end. Now, of course, the ISU-152s emerged, safe from my potent AT fire, and pounded the village. My Hitler Youth squad had just climbed up from the mine tunnels into one village building and they took a direct hit from the 152 shell, destroying them all as the building came down on them! Ouch! A flanking T-34 rushed out, disembarked its tank riders, who immediately assaulted the next building, being assault engineers their merciless assault wiped out the last Volkssturm squad and a flamethrower attack would follow.

Well, that was that, my defenders broke… it has been a one-sided steam-rolling by the Red Army. His dice had been red hot… mine not so, and my chit pulling was so bad, 4s, 5s, 3s… my guys just where not up for this fight - screw the Fuhrer, we’re off!. The last Fallschirmjager pulled back (ran-off) leaving the mine uncontested and Red Army one step closer to Berlin.

It was a Red Army smack down… a total disaster of a game for me. So much for that plan… the Russians had not even reached half their BR total. Hey, it’s 1945… the Red tide seems unstoppable (it was). It was all over in under 2 hours of play… time for a brew, a biccy and a chat…

 Pantherturm in waiting... it can see everything from the edge of the slope

Red Army pounding begins with 122mm howitzer shells smashing my front line


On table 120mm mortar battery thickening the bombardment


PE-2 dives in, and destroys the Pantherturm without a shot fired. 

 Now the Russians get moving to the river and across flooded fields



View from the mine tower to the river

The mine, held by veteran Fallschimjager - perhaps these guys had seen too much fighting, because they were not up for anymore today. 

Nebelwerfer impact, the German highlight, it gave the Russian a pause in their relentless march to Berlin.

Heavies climbing up for the assault on the mine and village

My panzer ace killer awaits on ambush fire.  

 FOO, busy, but with only 80mm mortars to lob. 

 Oh come on! ... the Jagdpanther is unluckily knocked out, again without a shot fired... sometimes it ain't your day! Let's just forgot this ever happened and never speak of it again!



Sunday, 29 April 2018

FOTR BATTLEGROUP BUILDING, AN EXAMPLE

For a change I thought I’d write-up a brief article about how/why etc, I selected my Battlegroup force for a recent one-off afternoon pick-up game.

Walhausen Mine... a fortress!

The game we had arranged would be using Fall of the Reich, and my opponent was keen to get his under-used Russian out for some tabletop time. They hadn’t seen serious battle for too long, and it’s rather depressing to see all that painting time and hobby £s sitting about gathering dust. Hence, I would be the Germans, which suits me, as I like my motley collection of late war garbage (and some good stuff0. My German collection is, err, eclectic, bits and bobs and stuff I just fancied or got for a specific game… rather incoherent, perfect for FotR, as the messier the force the better in my opinion!

We both know the game rules very well, we play fast, barely looking at the charts etc, so we knew we could finish 700 pts in the 3 hours we had. 700 points doesn’t go so far in late war as in early war, anyway. As a German in 1945 I could chose to be the defender, rather than face-up in a meeting engagement. I did, it seemed only right to dig-in deep and make my last stand. The scenario would be an Attack/Defence one – as yet unrolled for. I would be defending the Walhausen Mine… my terrain piece which I’m yet to fight over. A chance to use it… so why not?

So, time to start figuring out a force. First up, how to play this? Well, I always think you stand the best chance of meeting whatever the enemy throws at you with a balanced all-round force, so a bit of everything. Here, on the defensive, I’d weight it towards infantry, defences and artillery. Tanks would be there, but only in a secondary supporting roll. I had my eye on my barely used Jagdtiger model – 1 run-out in about 8 years ain’t much… I’m thinking Panzer Ace too! A beast that would give the Russians kittens (except it’ll most likely just get pinned and be a massive waste of points). But using the model is part of the fun… it doesn’t always have to make great gaming sense. Really I just want to see the look on the enemy’s face when it rolls on from reserve and opens up with +1 to hit…

Uppermost in my mind here is; poor infantry being low BR, defences bring low (or no) BR, off artillery bring no BR… if I spend too many of my points like this the break rating will be very low indeed, and this battle will be over fast. I need to think around this problem a bit.

Next up, the compulsary infantry platoon required in this size of game. Having looked through the list I was tempted with a Volkssturm platoon, as it’s characterful, but their lack of machine gun firepower put me off. I face German MGs so often, I want some of that pinning-fun for me for once. Volksgrenadier platoon then, well, yeah, but my models are half finished on the painting tray… and I don’t have much time or space for painting atm (building work and DIY come first). They were out, unlikely to be ready, so I turned to the Atypical platoon. My German’s have three Fallshirmjager platoons, for use throughout the war… mostly for Normandy, but some earlier stuff too. I would use one of them, taken as Regulars for the BR. They’d be the heart of my infantry defence and have respectable BR.

Next, some strong defences. The overall plan I had in mind was to turn the mine-head buildings into a mini-fortress, screen it with a skirmish line/ambushers and launch a sneaky counter-attack, with hard-hitting troops via the ‘tunnels’ defence (the mine tunnels underground of course). The counter-attack would be a suicide mission, but it could emerge unscathed in any building and, with enough panzerfausts, should be able to wreak havoc before dying. So on Defences, fortified building, 3+ cover for the mine-head, that’ll mean the Fallschirmjager defenders are tough to winkle-out, even with large artillery. I assume he’ll plan a PRTP on the mine-head, meaning holding it in force will get hot quickly as the accurate IDF falls on all those troops… so, for the close defenders of ‘Festung Walhausen’, a cellar bunker… 2+ cover against the expected IDF fire. Hiding underground, the defenders would get onto Reserve move early, be ready to come running out into the fortified build when the Russian closed in, with Panzerfausts and MG-42s bristling. For longer range defence a anti-tank gun of some sort was called for. With a dug-out and loader team, it all looks expensive. Instead, I have another option, a Pantherturm! I have a model (well dug-in Panther that’s close enough), never used it… time to get it into a game. That, hidden on ambush fire, covering open ground, would be a huge deterrent to the Russian armour, and tough to knock-out in return. At 35 points it’s cheap, but 0 BR again. Concerning. This current force lacks BR badly.

That covers the central defence of the mine-head itself, now for the skirmish screen. These would just be to slow the enemy down a bit and offer resistance before the mine was under direct assault. 2 Volkssturm squads, very cheap (but not so unreliable as Auxiliaries), armed with a Panzerfaust to at least threaten the inevitable Russian tank assault. Out in the open they’d all be dead men, so foxholes and an improvised barricades for them, to try and stay alive long enough to fight back - ambush fire for these guys too will help.

For the surprise counter-attack, I’d use part of the FJ platoon and an elite Hitler Youth squad… suicide troops with 5 Panzerfausts and AT grenades, elite and keen for the assault. These boys would die heroically for the Fatherland, but make a big noise on the way out. They’ll be accompanied by a FJ Panzerschreck team, extra anti-tank weaponry that is reliable when in range. Timing this surprise counter-attack would be crucial, but the men (boys) committed to it would be safe until they arrived. Hopefully they get the jump on Russian armour and gut-it… and being elite, they bring good BR too – yes!

For infantry I had now maxed out. 1 platoon + support plus 3 squads (call it an ad-hoc platoon). That’s 1 officer only… eek! I need the Forward HQ for his senior officer, re-roll and as a spotter too. He’s in. All this infantry needs a BR boost too, the defences don’t offer much in that department. I’d take ‘To the Last Bullet’ to try and compensate.

Time for some artillery support. With platoon officers as mortar spotters, it seems silly to have no mortars to call for, always worth the points just for harassment value. 80mm will do the job, off-table. My problem now was one of BR, the total looked low, and off-table artillery bring none, for serious points cost. Too much off-table artillery to go with the Defences would mean a few bad counter pulls and this defence would crumble very quickly. Instead I’d save points and use requests from additional fire support section. It’s not reliable, and I’d need some comms support to assist in getting any guns firing, so a comms relay team was added and a FOO dedicated to the task. That gave me 4 additional support fire slots to use, all of which went on 2nd priority requests (best I can get in these dark days for the Reich). The comms relay team gives me a re-roll on the comms test (not the priority test of 4+), so I could get serious guns if I risked it on the support fire tables. The whole requested fire strategy is very risky, but if it comes off, well worth the points saved over dedicated artillery guns. Maybe I’d get a big Nebelwerfer strike, one can but hope. I’m at the vagaries of the dice on this one.

The point total was wracking up now, and still no tanks… I didn’t have enough for the full platoon of Panthers I’d like… so it would have to be be single tanks (no officers again). First up my Hetzer, a rarely used model and here was his chance. Next, the Jagdtiger, which was starting to look very expensive… too expensive in fact. I downgrade it to merely a Jagdpanther, still potent gun-power, enough to make T-34s baulk. Panzer ace? … Err, hell yeah. Fear this guy! With only ammo 6, a supply truck would be required, I’d expect my ace to be busy and 6 shots for the entire game won’t cut it. A reload option would be needed and the truck would stick close-by and hope no stray mortar bombs blew him up (to often the fate of my supply trucks)!

Just a few points left to spend, I have infantry, defences, artillery and armour. No scouts… not really the battle for them. I’d take one, just so I might not be out-scouted (but most likely will be). A sniper, cheap and if used/placed well, a pain in the bum for the enemy.

I only have 2 officers, but can’t see an easy way to get an extra, and my BR total is still dangerously on the low side for the points (always likely to be for defenders). I can fix this though, with a forward aid post. 5 BR for 20 points is a great deal, a useful boost. But it’s a Restricted unit, and I already have 3 (the maximum) Restricted units (Hitler Youth squad, Jagdpanther, Pantherturm). Drat, an illegal move. No forward aid post. Instead, I’d go with the ‘Backs to Berlin’ special rule (I am facing Russians), and hope for good dice roll.

Last few points to spend… I’d overlooked AA defence (again). Having recently suffered badly under air attacks, and it being 1945 with little hope of any Luftwaffe aid (I’ll be taking my Me-262 model  along just in case though), I needed something to shoot back with. It needed to be cheap too. A quick scan of my models and I go with a 251/17, 20mm-armed half-track. It’ll be easy on orders (waiting on ambush only) and just cover the defence area. My opponent’s a big fan of the timed air strike, for the free counter draw inflicted if not the damage, and as largely static defender an air strike was likely to be on-target. My 20mm would be waiting to drive it off…

I add up the points and – I’m over… time to lose something, but what? The Jagdpanther? But it’s my killer big-hitter… Defences? The Pantherturm? No, instead it’s the Hetzer, he doesn’t have a defined role in this defence plan, so the little guy is out, benched for this battle. His time will come - one day.

With the Hetzer removed, I have a few points left to spend again. The first is, in the quest for more BR (3 just went with the Hetzer), to upgrade the FJ to veteran. Not for the fighting ability, just for the BR boost. These guys are going to be a tough nut, in all that cover with panzerfausts and MG-42s.

Next, with 12 points still left in the bank, I have 1 additional support slot unused. 10 points gets me… not much, another priority request? No, a timed strike, for variety, 105mm field guns… that’ll do.

So, that comes to 698 points, gives me 32 + 2D6 BR (please roll high), 2 officers (terrible, but I’m most in static defences and intend to use a lot of ambush fire) and 1 scout (the sniper).

OK, time to dig-in and prepare the defence of the Walhausen Kohlenmine… the red tide is coming in! Can we turn it back? The AAR will follow very soon.


Holding the Walhausen Kohlenmine, FotR, 700 pts

HQ Assets
FHQ in Kubelwagen              
Comms Relay Team
‘To the Last Bullet’
‘Backs to Berlin’

Infantry Assets
Atypical FJ Platoon
(from Overlord)
Pzschreck team

Ad Hoc Platoon
Volksturm Squad
Volksturm Squad    
Hitler Youth Squad

Artillery Assets
FO Team in Kubelwagen         
2 x 80mm mortars       

Defences
Fortified Building
Tunnels           
Cellar Shelter           
Foxholes           
Improvised Barricades   
Pantherturm           

Recce
Sniper               

Specialist
Jagdpanther           
Panzer Ace            

SdKfz 251/17           

Logistics
Supply Truck          

Additional Fire Support
4 x 2nd Priority Requests   
1 x Timed 105mm Barrage   

Totals:                698 pts    32+2D6 BR    2 officers, 1 scout




Monday, 26 March 2018

From the Wilds of Caledonia

This is just a quick post as a big thank you to the Edinburgh wargames club, in particular Dave Imrie and Jack Glanville, as my hosts for a visit over this weekend. I was up in the wild north for a photo-shoot for the forth-coming, one-day, soon, ish - I promise, 'Soldiers of Rome'.

The follow-up to Soldiers of God, it'll deal with Rome vs the Barbarians... and they were kind enough to allow me to come up and photograph their model collects for the book. We also had a game, got to really, and it provided both players with a first look at the new cards, special rules, etc. Dave took the place of Caesar and led his Romans (and allies) into a pitched battle against Jack's hairy Gallic tribesmen.

In a ferocious battle, with both players going for aggressive all-out attacks (Romans up the centre, Gauls hitting hardest on their right), it was a short and brutal bloodbath (no subtle here, just charge and get stuck-in)... Caesar veteran legions mincing the Gallic centre and capturing their chieftain, Bagotrix, in about 3 turns of impressively efficient death-dealing from Rome's finest. With pilum and gladius they wiped out the Gallic centre, nobles and all, and held both flanks long enough with auxiliaries and mercenary cavalry to crush the Gaul's morale and send them fleeing for the hills... thus was an Empire built!

My Romans have never dispatched the enemy so rapidly or so bloodlessly... the Gauls did have some bad turns of combat (especially with their noble warriors), and Dave passed a lot of Resolve tests...the Romans were very determined to win today!

Anyway, it was a good weekend, lots of photos taken (and curry eaten)... I've worked on the first picture as a taster...

Caesar preparing to meet the Gauls...


I'm sure many of you know it, but for some beautiful eye-candy of some of the best painted armies around, check-out Dave's blog - Saxon Dog, saxondog.blogspot.com

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Old Ironside vs Centauro

Another Battlegroup Torch tester game, and a chance to get an outing for some of my latest US additions… this time verses the Italian armour of the Centauro division, during a push into/around El Guettar (southern Tunisia).

It was 750 point Platoon-game, using the randomly generated ‘Flanking Attack’ scenario, so scouts would play a bigger role (drat - I only had 2, both MMG armed Jeeps).

Here’s my force list;

US ARMOURED BATTLEGROUP ’43

FHQ in M3 HT        32    3-i    officer, arty spotter

Arm’d Inf Platoon    96    9-i    officer, arty spotter, auxiliary
in 4 M3 HTs        32    4-i

M3 Lee Platoon    150    9-i    officer, arty spotter
M4 Sherman Platoon    140    9-i    officer, arty spotter, restricted
M4 Sherman Platoon    140    9-i    officer, arty spotter, restricted

SP Arty Battery    68    2-1    2 x T19s

Recce Jeep        22    1-i    scout, MMG
Recce Jeep        22    1-i    scout, MMG

2 x supply trucks    12    1-i
M16 AA HT        32    1-i    restricted

Totals            746    49    5 officers, 2 scouts, 3 restricted units   


The enemy, well they had a truck/bus mounted Bersagleiri platoon, 4 Semoventas, a single M14 tank, off-table 105mm artillery, some CV-33s of various types and scouts, 5 of them, Bersagleiri on motorcycles, an armoured car, a sniper and, err… an Autosaharana 20mm-armed truck. They won the roll-off for table edges and chose to be playing along the wider table edges, using both corners.

Having placed 4 objectives (The centre (marked by a palm tree) of the table, the town mosque, and both outlying farms compounds), noted down timed strikes (only his Ju-87) and PRTPs, ammo’d up the tanks, it was time for the off, Italians first due to well out-scouting me.

My quick plan, given the table and my tank-heavy force was not to fight a street battle in the edge of El Guettar, my infantry was auxiliary and not up to it (not allowed to close assault). Instead it would be a tank attack around the town across the open scrub. I’d screen-off the town with some infantry (and a single supporting M3 Lee), whilst the tanks and the other infantry motored around town and tried to seize the other three objectives. He could have the mosque. My recce started in the compound with the mission of deploying those MMGs and just holding it until some relief arrived.

His plan (from our post-battle brew and discussion), was to quickly attack mostly in town, using all that recce, and form a defensive line outside of town, interesting, we’d both come to different conclusions. He wasn’t going to be very aggressive in the tank fight, but let me come and try and hold the line once formed with lots of suppressing fire and artillery.

The game started with the Italians shelling the edge of El Guettar to not much effect as I avoided his PRTP, and got my infantry heavy weapons deployed out front, MMGs and 60mm mortar (then lost to an artillery hit). The screen was soon in place, M3 and a second armoured infantry squad to back them up, enough to hold against his lighter scouts. His armoured car was on a little, worrying, flanking move when a breakdown chit saw in conk-out… good luck for me, as the 20mm worried my halftracks, which I wanted to use for their pintle firepower.The rest of the Italians started to arrive in good numbers and moved up to take an objective in the farm compound. My M3 Lees led the way forwards firing 75mm HE for suppression at long range and then claiming the centre of the table objective. As yet, not much damage to either side from the first sparring.

The reserves continued to roll in, my self-propelled artillery arrived (and vital supply truck), and started to fire harassing barrages across at his table edge, some pinning, no direct hits yet. I did pull an Air Attack chit (hurrah!), when unpinning myself and next turn in swept mu P-38, to unload its bombs, very wild, all into the desert hitting nothing (very USAAF)! He’d be back to strafe next turn, but then got pinned by incoming 20mm cannon fire… not a good day.

Italian artillery fire switched off the PRTP to target my massing tanks, but again to little effect (1 pin I think) and the CV-35(lf) came racing towards my isolated recce troops (on ambush fire holding the farm). Err..  ot-oh… .30 cal bullets weren’t likely to stop it. My Lees tried to hit the little critter but no… it was in range and lit-up one MMG team in an inferno. That thing would take this farm if I didn’t do something. What I did was jump in the jeeps and pullback… it took the objective, but hey, better that than lose the squads and jeeps too… Crazy Guiseppe’s lone dash was on a roll… until a HE shell pinned him, good…

The fight in town was also underway, my Lee scoring repeated pins with 75mmm shells, and then the MMG teams hitting them with aimed fire, which broke both Bersaglieri scout squads and left the mosque vulnerable. I decided to change plan and try and take it, but first the Autosaharana truck with its 20mm had to be dealt with, an M3 half track weaved through the narrow streets to get a shot, and its .50 cal MG blew the truck to bits… in town the Italians were crumbling… a sniper and an LMG team was all that was left. In response the bus full of Bersagleiri (the 12.30 to El Guetarr) raced into town over the bridge and soon the mosque was secured again, my planned counter attack ended there, window of opportunity closed.

But now Detroit had arrived, 6 Shermans were rolling across the desert, I’d lost 1 M3 Lee to a 47mm anti-tank gun hit, and an artillery strike destroyed a Sherman, but my armour rolled on, moving and firing. Pins built, my artillery hit and destroyed his AT gun and loader team and its tow, and a Sherman moved up and destroyed Crazy Guiseppe’s flamethrower tank… the US armour looked pretty impressive, and the Semoventas return fire did a few pins but no damage. With my artillery landing ahead of the attack, my aircraft circled around and strafing again (missing - useless flyboy), the last of armoured infantry moved up behind the tanks (they’d need some infantry support to get the far farm compound). My recce raced back into their farm and re-took the objectives… good job, now safe from being turned into toast.

We’d been going for 2 hours so stopped for bacon butties, tea and a chat. 30 minute recess complete, it was back to it…

It didn’t start well, I lost a second Sherman to an artillery direct hit and then another to a minestrike (my strike, I rolled 1 and got it back!), but the returning tank fire destroyed his M14 tank, pinned the artillery observer, blew up his staff car and that broke the Italians… they hadn’t been up for the fight today, a disconcerting number of 4s had been pulled, breaking their BR at 52… after about 3 hours of battle. My BR was at 39 from 49, but the US armour had achieved it daily objective and captured this part of El Guettar.


All went well, I like the early US armour, Shermans are tough, the Italians didn’t like them much. The infantry is very poor though, with a tendency to just become pinned, don’t rely on them for much, fight with the tanks, infantry in a secondary supporting role.

Great day’s gaming, as ever. A few quick snaps of the battle as it progressed.

The battlefield from the US table edge

US recce occupy the farm objective 

First tanks move around the edge of town



 P-38 comes around for another strafing run

 T19 give fire support, soon to be joined by a supply truck

US combat power, Shermans... nice to have the better tanks for once

Crazy Guiseppe's dash is halted, pinned then KO'd

 US armour pushing on through incoming artillery fire.








Friday, 16 February 2018

Starship Terrain Building

WW2 is my main gaming period, and it could keep you busy for a lifetime I think, but I have a weakness for sci-fi gaming (and movies and books etc). As yet I haven't found the sci-fi game I really want to play, and in the past that's resulted in just writing my own...  that process is at work again, but as BG takes up most of my time, it'll be a slow-burner...

But, it something I really want to do, a sci-fi game, not sure at what size, maybe skirmish, or maybe a full battle game...

So, with a view to this as 'medium-to-long-term' plan, I've started thinking about and collecting terrain and a few models. One thing I've always wanted, back to my first start in sci-fi gaming back with 40K in 1988 (actually we played a bit of Laserburn before than too, which is fondly remembered), is a spaceship. A model of one, as terrain... so you can do a cool spaceport...

So I started one... raiding deep into the shed-bits box, and using a broken nerf gun (there are way too many nerf guns in this house anyway). I've always been a fan of Jerry Anderson, not so much the stories, but the models and design work are tip-top, so taking his work as inspiration I've had two Saturday afternoons with the superglue out, the football on the radio and some seriously glued-up fingers by the end. The joy...

I have a vague memory of doing this, bits-bashing a spaceship, back when I was about 10, trying to make something that looked like it could be in Star Wars... funnily enough I'm no Industrial Light and Magic. Shoe boxes and toilet rolls don't cut it... but I did ask my Mum if I could take the hoover apart, as some bits and attachments would make good engines... funnily enough, with some unreasonable excuse, it wasn't allowed, and my spaceship was rubbish. Anyway, no hoovers were damaged in the making of my ship (so far)... although the side engines are the old thermostatic valves from the radiators.

Still more to add, and huge paint job, but grey spray primer and black washes are my friends here...



Serious depleted the bits boxes... next up a heavy black and grey spray paint.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Battlegroup campaign weekend, 2018, is go!

Each year I try and organise a Battlegroup event weekend, but I'm not really a fan of tournament play... so instead the weekend is a 'campaign' weekend, heavily themed using just one BG book. This year it will be for Market-Garden and see 30 players taking part; 15 Allied, 15 German, to see if XXX Corps can fight their way through to Arnhem in a race against time.

Always a great weekend, with good players fighting it out in the right spirit, trying to win for their side, but not allowing competitiveness to get in the way of a good time. Each player fights for his side and earns it victory points, so you are just a cog in the larger machine of your army. No one player alone can win the day, you need the your fellow commanders to do their bit too.

Anyway, this year the venue will be at the 'Wings' Airbus UK social club, in Broughton, near Chester, on May 12-13th. Our hosts are the Deeside Defenders wargames club, with special thanks to Andy Canham for his end of the organisation.

There will be 3 battles each, 2 on Saturday, 1 on Sunday (then everybody can get a easier trip home on Sunday afternoon). Each battle is 500 points from the required army lists for that campaign - in this case: US Airborne, British Airborne,  British Armour or British Infantry, against German Panzer, Infantry or Fallschirmjager battlegroups thrown in to block Hell's Highway. All games are played at 20mm (sorry 15mm fans), and we try and theme the tabletops too, so it really feels like Holland (expect canals and bridges to feature)

Tickets are on sale with PSC, limited places, so if anybody fancies a weekend of hard fighting in Holland in September 1944, please come along, I guarantee a good wargaming weekend, maybe this time it won't be a bridge too far.


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Raseiniai counter-attack, part 2

The game had reached the critical point with the Russian all on the table, their artillery fire still roughly blanketing the far end of the table and the Germans in position to met them. The prelude was over, enough of the under-card, time for the main event...

The lurking OT-133 came out of woods and lit-up the farm outbuilding, toasting a German rifle squad, who had already pinned themselves trying to launch an AT grenade attack on the KV-1 parked outside, and bottling it. That pause now cost them dear. The Russian infantry tried to rush the farm from the woods in support to meet a wall of MG-34 ambush fire, cutting them down to about half strength in short order. Arrgh!, our big charge had gone, well… rather so, so, no great damage caused.


As it stood... Russians tanks on the way.

I immediately launched my BTs on their charge, tank riders still aboard (but not for long when they came under fire). The tanks covered the ground swift as greyhounds (not the armoured cars), fanning out, but their suppressing HE and machine gun fire did very little. On the opposite side the T-26s continue to mill about, trying to hit Pz IIIs ahead of them and failing. The return fire set a couple of T-26s alight though, the attrition had begun.

This they did, racing to the edge of cornfield (after the timed barrage had landed to little effect, the Germans knew where they were landings and now avoiding it), and again the suppressing HE fire was ineffective, leaving the Pz IV and anti-gun unpinned. I would rue that, as between the 2 guns they destroyed 3 BTs at close range, and  another died to a flank shot by the Pz II (somebody kill it!), 5 BTs down already… but commanding Russian tanks isn’t for the feint-hearted, take the loses and roll on!

The fight for the farm was still going Germany’s way too, although the KVs scored a couple of kills (KV-2 direct hit was the first PzIII in orbit!), but the enemy infantry were immovable, and close range MG fire even pinned the flamethrower tank, which was later assaulted with AT grenades and blown up - messy.


KV-2 re-arming (a lot) whilst the T-26s arrive and begin to duel with the Pz IIIs, well, those that have more than just machine guns. 

OT-133 and infantry lurk in the woods, ready to assault the farm. 

Bit of extra fire support in place to help my tank attack (and usefully holding an objective)

Stal! Stal! Stal! The BTs begin their run past the first Russian armour to come this way (KV-1 and 2 BA-10s, all lost), tank riding infantry starting to pile off. 

BA-10s returning from the farm to find an ammo truck, back up this lane somewhere. 


The Germans had to respond, the 35(t)s swung right to engage the BTs across the table, scoring several hits but each glanced off (almost unheard of on BT-7s). One BT-7 was knocked out by 20mm Pz II cannon fire (these really are made of tin foil). Other tankovik squads jumped off as their tanks got hit, only for MG34 fire from 2 more machine guns to cut a swathe through them too… our infantry were getting pasted by waiting MG fire at short range - the wages of failing to pin those teams last turn. From the table's rear the German 105mm field guns took aim over open sights and pinned a couple of BTs with HE fire. My attack was taking heavy fire, but still rolling, the unscathed second wave of BTs wasn’t far behind and would take the lead next turn, racing past the pinned vehicles.

The T-26s close in (a bit), as the heavy fighting erupts around the farm. 

OT-133s handy work... burn baby burn... rude surprise for the Germans, not having clocked it wasn't another T-26. 

The Russians are coming... T-26s still closing... at walking speed.

It had become a desperate brawl, and then our orders gave out, rolling 9 on 6D6, no re-rolls either - ouch! My last BTs pushed on regardless, one scored a kill on a Pz 35(t), then another… but two more were lost to ambush fire, one to a direct 105mm HE shell hit (joining the Pz III in orbit). The tank riding infantry tried to assault German MG teams and usually failed their experience test, leaving them pinned to be gutted at point blank range next turn. Oh dear!

The Pz-IV and 37mm anti-tank gun dealing the damage in the cornfield.

BTs burn as they reach the cornfield, Pz II on ambush fire behind. 

 
More BTs added to the scrap yard.

Hmmm... carnage. German MGs team still fighting... and still cutting down my pinned infantry in a bit of a turkey shoot.

But we still had more to throw at them. Two more BA-10 armoured cars, having been back to re-arm with a supply truck, rejoined the fray and added some more 45mm shells to the fusillade, scoring another 35(t) kill. Both sides were taking punishment, but in the slugging match the Russians were coming off worse.

The last BT charge, with just 3 runners left, didn’t get any further that the same cornfield again, were the Pz IV awaited on ambush and knocked them out again… it never misses or fails to penetrate!! Its crew had racked up 4 kills quickly and then turned their MGs on my infantry as well. I got his Pz II though with a point blank shot. My repair truck reached my knocked out KV-1 and set-to trying to get it running again.

BA-10s, ammo'd up and on the way back into action.

Reserve motor rifles in the woods, not much help to the tanks.

My repair truck gets to the broken down KV-1, but 3 attempts to fix it all failed. 
Would have been nice and big help to the BTs, but I'm not that lucky.


My poor last BT-7 was forced to pull back, a few infantry fled back over the road to the cover of the woods again. The carnage had been swift… the German line had held out, my attack had been furious but futile.

At the farm, no better news, both KV-1s had been immobilised by breakdowns, whilst the KV-2 kept shelling away (on constant re-arms), but the T-26s had withered, a few MG-armed tanks and 37mm rounds was all that could be mustered. The Germans would not be moved from here.

Despite the losses, we weren’t broken yet, although it was only a matter of time. The battle sort of petered out. We fired off mortar shells at the farm, the last armoured cars fought on, they threw some mortar rounds back, and a Pz III rashly tried to take on the immobilised KV-1 at the farm and got itself KO’d at point blank range… but our offensive power had been blunted. It was almost 5 o’clock, and we agreed that even though it was the last turn both sides still had to take a chit to unpin…if they had any pinned units. That last unpinning chit broke us, taking us to a total of 103, 1 over our 102 total.

The Germans, well they had reached 67 from their 96. A solid victory in a cracking fight. They had scored 16 tank kills, with another 2 KVs immobilised. We had scored 9 tank kills. It hadn’t all been one sided, but my BTs lost 9 tanks from 10 in 3 hectic turns, and some people think the German can’t win (until they open fire obviously)!

The panzer phalanx engaged with the T-26s and KVs, whilst Pz 35(t)s behind turn to cover their right from the threat of the BTs coming around the farm. 

It's not going too well...

But it's not all one way traffic... mostly KV handy-work. 

A bold Pz-III tries to take out another immobilised KV-1 at point blank range... klang! 
Return fire got him. 

35(t)s unable to withstand even long range BT return fire in a furious exchange of fire. 
The 35(t)s hit a lot, and failed every penetration roll they made! Even on 5s.

Last gasp at the farm, under withering defensive MG fire. 

Petty revenge... the Pz IV that had caused so much damage, knocked out with a late minestrike chit. They drew it, rolled a 1, and we played it. Too little, too late. 


Top Sunday fun, always love our big-bashes. After packing up we retired for a post-match debrief and a well-earned feed and brew. For the Russian commanders the gulag was waiting. We had made a few bad mistakes, the right pincer of T-26s had taken just so long and never got close enough to the enemy… why we gave them the furthest distance to cover, cross-country, I don’t know, the speeding BTs should have gone that way and T-26s could have used the farm lane to get forwards faster. Bad planning, and nobody’s fault but mine. The artillery plan had also been flawed. The constant harassment was merely OK, but we left it too long in one place, after 5 turns or so we should have changed the targets, not letting the Germans avoid our barrages so easily. The farm should have been a target, as looking back, it was obvious the Germans would get there first (we had further to travel in slower tanks). The KVs had been excellent, as expected, we’d only lost 1 (to a breakdown), I think we can see why the Russian stuck with those. An initial good start had not been capitalised on. My tank riding infantry had been badly wasted. Perhaps delaying the tank charge a turn to get them off, rather than allowing them to be shot off their rides would have meant they did something, beyond being pinned then shredded by MGs.

Lessons to learn, but in end, all that matters is it was good fun for all.

The post-battle debrief inevitably turned to thoughts of the next one… whispers in the wind were for a big desert fight, maybe Tunisia, as we have Brits, Americans, Germans and some Italians… and maybe a few French in the works as well (full house). Not sure we’ll have a table big enough for all of them… but we’ll try.