Monday, 4 July 2016

BOVINGTON 2016, BATTLEGROUP OVERLORD CAMPAIGN WEEKEND

Well, I have just returned from Battle Group South 2016, at Bovington Tank Museum. This year we ran a Battlegroup Campaign Weekend, with three 400 points games over the Saturday and Sunday (so plenty of time for sight-seeing and shopping too). We had 7 Allied players (5 Brits, 2 US) and 7 Germans (various Panzer, Ersatz Panzer and one Fallschirmjager battlegroup) facing off, to earn campaign points for their side.

Without describing all 21 games fought over the weekend, in the end the Allies had scored a solid win over the Germans, compiling 31 VPs to the German's 16. But, before the German-ophiles cry foulplay over another hefty campaign weekend defeat, at the end of Saturday, both sides had won 7 games a piece, and only a few 'better' Allied victories gave them a slim lead. Sunday, well, the wheels came off for the Germans, losing 6 from 7 games and getting a pasting... I'd say that was the relative experience of the players, the Allies had a few more 'old heads' who knew the game well than the Germans.

My first game was a narrow win for me, only due to some hefty artillery calls to Corps' 155mm gun batteries which caused havoc with some accurate shooting. Until then the game was very close, and my US infantry was badly pinned down by incoming MG fire (as ever), with their M10s losing their gun-duel with the StuGs (as ever). Artillery saved the day. M10s are useless!!

For my second game, I switch forces to a cavalry recce group made up of M8s, Jeep teams and M5 light tanks, to face an all infantry German force (elite, dismounted panzer grenadiers with a lot of MG42s and Panzerfausts, no vehicles). A very different battle, which my light armour (having lost a few M8s to suicidal 'faust attacks) was getting the better of, until the Luftwaffe suddenly showed up. A FW-190 bombing run scored 4 direct hits with its bombs, destroying my FHQ in his M3 halftrack, and 3 Jeeps and with the air attack counter, inflicted 7 chits... that disaster broke my force... with their commander dead, they had to pull back. The Germans had just 2 BR left... defeat snatched from victory.

On Sunday morning I faced a German panzer force in an Attack/Counter-Attack scenario. Eek, my infantry, artillery and M10s were hard put to it against 3 StuGs, a Pz IV and a Tiger II! I lost all 3 M10s again (like they stood much hope verse a Tiger II with Panzer Ace), for scoring 1 StuG kill (at least they got something this time). My artillery caused its usual harassment, but no actual losses... and with the tanks closing in, MGs strafing my all-but defenceless (and bazooka-less) infantry, I was taking my last counter (32 BR gone from 33), when it was a Mine Strike (a last revenge before throwing in the towel I thought). The mine blew his advancing Panzer IV sky high, only for that tank to be his senior officer, and those 2 drawn counters broke the Germans. Pure fluke... but a memorable battle, I had won by 1 BR and a miracle of good luck. My opponent took it very well... cheated by the fickle Gods of War.

Here are some (lots) of photos of the weekend's action. It was great fun, all played in the right spirit. Playing as part of a larger team really kills off the worst competitive instincts of true 'tournaments'. And in BG the match-up are always historical too. We shall do it again, next time, in the desert.

My first game, getting everything onto the table in a Defence Line scenario. The German had a strong position in the houses, which I flattened with repeated artillery bombardments (the US way).  

The StuG reinforcements, too much for my M10s to deal with.  

 See!! This always happens. 

 My frontline, pinned in the orchard by MG fire... the Normandy experience for my GIs. 

Victim of a 155mm arty strike direct hit.  The last straw and the Germans withdrew... phew!
A close one. 

 The other US player (Mick) racing forwards and getting onto deep trouble fast. He only took over, using my models, at the last minute. Green commander... 

 Ouch! Trouble (and Sherman) brewing. 

 Pier's 21st Panzer battlegroup... or the wacky races? We laughed, but then those that fought it found out the hard way that the Arkansas Chuggabug is not to be taken lightly. His Hotchkiss H-39 knocked out a Sherman!! Multiple rocket launcher and multiple mortar halftrack do spread a lot of pinning. 

Sean's Brits and their Cromwell about to 'go-in'...  

 Not forgetting to bring the Firefly with them... of course. 

Gaining ground for their first win. Sean's very well rounded British force (regular infantry, Cromwells (later Shermans) and some mortar support won 3 from 3. 

Churchill were the Brit's tank of choice, and they did well (mostly).  

My cavalry squadron's Jeep teams, dismounting to fight on foot. The Willy's park would be a costly mistake when the bombs rained down (should have got them off the table sooner).

 My M5s on an 'end-run', around the elite Germans holding the farm. Speed and MGs doing the trick to avoid the 'faust.

 Elite Panzergrenadiers holding in the hedges. Get to close, and eat Panzerfaust. A very small but tough force.

As my M8s found out. 2 from 3 knocked-out trying to take the hill (mound) top objective.  

 Last 2 M5s close on the other objective (marked by small tree). 

 But the Luftwaffe's arrival was critical, and devastating... 7 chits in one attack... ouch. OUCH!

Not all Churchills fare so well. Pz IVs and Churchills match up in a eve(ish) fight (makes a change).  

Crossing hedges, it's a slow grind with Churchills.  

US armoured infantry in support of their Shermans... like it is supposed to be done, except don't roll dice like Mick... unlucky sir....

One 'necky' British M5 goes for glory, misses, and so got a Panzerfaust in return... goodbye!  Piers' 1 Pz IV scored 4 tank kills and was never knocked out in any game. Well played sir...

Pier's 21st Panzergrenadiers close in to assault the houses, they switched hands several times in close-range carnage.  

Sean's Achilles scores a Panther kill on his way to win number 2.  

Firefly gets a Mine Strike counter and brews up... gutting... 

And still the Churchills grind on...  

With their infantry helping out... 4 British players had Churchill-based battlegroups.  

Panzer grenadiers take cover in a farm, winkling them out would be a theme of the weekend.  

 Andy T's Humber AC... scored a tank kill... get in! A heroic moment. 

StuGs roll up to face down my M10s.  

With serious fire support from this beast, unstoppable, but I pinned it twice with arty fire... 
that's something! 

 My M10s, with their usual poor performance, three more lost for one kill scored... 

The Battlegroup commander in his Pz IV, nice idea, until he hits a mine and it costs you the battle... an undeserved fate for a well-conducted German panzer assault that had my US force on the ropes all game. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

PATROL PAPA-MIKE THREE-SIX AT ZAILABAD


This was a test game for my modern skirmish rules, loosely broadly on Battlegroup, but with a lot of adaptations and changes, only some of the game’s core ideas are really left. In this game (a medium sized game - from either small, medium or large) at an Orange threat level (from Green, Orange or Red - the worst). The threat level dictates the strength and type of enemy you’ll meet, how helpful the locals are and how easy the mission will be when it comes to retaining public opinion. It also dictates what equipment can be used, so MBTs are Red threat level only, etc. So this game was right in the middle bracket.

Routine Patrol Papa-Mike 3-6 is approaching the village of Zailabad and is going to conduct some searches for wepaon caches… it’s dangerous work, the locals aren’t too friendly and their has been considerable insurgent activity in the area recently. Hence, the patrol has a rapid response unit on call, in the shape of Patrol Victor 5-4, in their Stryker APC, and Apollo 7-7 Blackhawk on-call for emergency evac. They also have contact with a high circling armed Predator drone that can be used to launch up to 2 Hellfire missiles if required. This would need to be avoided if possible, as firing them would significantly effect the public opinion in area (blowing up people’s homes does little to win hearts and minds).


Here is the map from aerial recon… the patrol approaching along the irrigation channel, which we decided was steep and deep, an obstacle to infantry and impassable to vehicles except at the two small bridges.

Zialabad

from the south-west

Patrol PM-36 consisted of 8 men with the following; a SAW, an underslung grenade launcher, a guided anti-tank missile launcher (Javelin) and a sniper rifle. One man was the commander (officer), one man also had a satellite radio kit and one man was the medi-tech, so they were well kitted out. All these men had ‘advanced’ body armour, ‘advanced’ assault rifles and night vision goggles.


The insurgent were a mystery. Amongst the village were dpeloyed the game’s civilian elements, various small groups, of which 1 was pre-designated as insurgents in disguise. 3 single civilans, of which one was a spotter with a remote-control detonator for an IED (its location was secretly pre-chosen before the patrol deployed). There was also a dummy motorcycle rider (just another civilan, but he could be a messenger). Also, watching and waiting for the patrol was an enemy sniper. 

Once contact had been made, the insurgents had reinforcements in the shape of 6 more men in a civilan van, two DshK-armed Technicals and a dummy civilian truck, and there was an off-table mortar would become available via the spotter. 

Both sides had a Battle Rating, the western patrol had 20, the Insurgents 16. The western forces also had a public opinion level, going over which the battle would be lost in the eyes of the locals and the wider world regradless of how the fighting went on the ground. The was set at 13. Unlike Battlegroup, we’d both know this number and it would act as restriction in want the patrol could do and the risks it could take. 

Two compounds in the north of the village

Innocent villagers in the fields? 

The patrol’s approach, watched by the enemy sniper, made its way into the nearest building, where one civilan model was positioned. He immediately headed out of the back door as the other civilans milled around and the decoy motorcyclist kickstarted his bike and headed very obviously out of town. In response, unable to give any fire orders before the patrol was attacked, a few of the patrol’s men went onto 'covering fire' (overwatch). One man pursued the exiting civilian and challenged him (a dice roll), revealing him to be nothing more than a decoy civilan and removing him from the table. 

Freeze! A challenged civilian is revealed as just that... not a spotter then.

Meanwhile, the insurgent sniper had the SAW gunner in his sites, but as yet was holding his fire. The approaching patrol also put my actually disguised spotter in danger of being challenged and revealed, so in the ‘civilians’ turn, he started to move away, trying to look casual… but the patrol pressed on and still challenged him. They passed their test and I had to reveal him as a insurgent by replacing the civilian with the right model. Now we had an impasse, he was a known armed insurgent, but as nothing had fired on the patrol yet they could not open fire on him, there as yet had been no ‘contact’. I wasn’t going to start one with a SAW and 2 assault rifles pointing at him. With a quick bit of 'on the hoof' design, we decided the patrol could request a surrender, and my spotter would need an experience test to not give up. As a experienced insurgent this would be a 2+ (for less hardened troops it would be less but my insurgents were all experienced fighters). He passed, said 'boo-sucks' and ran off into an alley! 

Much of the patrol lurks behind a wall and bushes as the motorcycle rider races off... 

Meanwhile the second half of the patrol moved into the next compound were three civilians were gathered around a blue pick-up, innocent or not? The challenge test was passed and I had to reveal that one man was in fact an insurgent… eek! As it was the end of the patrol’s turn his man was now face to face with an armed enemy, who’s go it was. The resulting burst of AK-47 fire put the challenger ‘man-down’, ie hit, but as yet the severity of the damage was not known. As the patrol had been fired on that meant ‘Contact!’. Weapon’s free, the firefight was on. My sniper now took his first shot, using ‘precision fire’ (a more accurate form of aimed fire but you only get 1 shot), he missed! Useless, he was no hardened guerilla fighter.

In the civilian phase I revealed than 2 other civilans in the blue pick-up’s compound were also insurgents and the motorcyle riders left the table, a decoy ride that had fooled nobody. 

The patrol had a man down and that meant he needed help. The medic came running to check him, and rollling on the ‘man down’ table found him OK, his body armour had saved him… and the man was back in the fight with minor scrapes and bruises. Other troopers ran into the compound buildings and opened fire, cutting down one of the three enemy within, whilst the patrol’s sniper, waiting on overwatched, lined one up and then dropped him too. 2 insurgents down in rapid succession. Elsehwere, the SAW gunner opened up on the enemy sniper, with area fire to pin him and succeeded. My useless sniper was wisely keeping his head down.

My lone sniper, pinned by SAW and return sniper fire (1 marker for underfire, 2 for pinned down)

Insurgents turn, and I requested my first reinforcements. The first to arrive was a truck, which barrelled into the village right at the compound were all the shooting was happening. The patrol’s officer challenged the driver, and I had to reveal it was dummy, just a truck that happened to arrive at a bad time. In the firefight my last remaining fighter in the compound fled the scene, escaping in a blaze of bullets that did little, but at least he wasn’t surrounded by 4 enemy all with lethal intent. He went and hid in the bushes by the irrigation ditch. My spotter sneaked back into the fight and tried to engaged the SAW gunner with a cheeky blast of area fire. I blew it again, failing to pin him was a big problem, as the SAWs heavy return fire dropped the spotter as another ‘man down’. A disaster, I’d lost (for now) my automatic IED detonation and my mortar strikes. I needed the spotter back,which menat getting somebody to him to see how badly wounded he was, but I also needed some more troops… 

The Alamo with 5 of the patrol in it, and one down insurgent in the courtyard

Decoy truck pulls up outside, but it wasn't a big car-bomb! 

The fight was going badly for me, but at least the rest of my reinforcements arrived quickly. The two Technicals  and a van full of 6 more guerilla fighters, including an RPG launcher. The van raced flat-out into the village and deployed all the men, with the RPG guy lining up the SAW gunner, then failing to spot him for the aimed fire shot. The risk you run using aimed fire.

One of the patrol’s men had ventured forwards on his own to deal with the sniper, this was brave, but foolhardly as lone men that  go ‘man down’ aren’t likely to get much aid, and therefore will stay ‘man down’. But he worked his way forwards towards the sniper’s building under the SAW’s covering fire. My sniper became unpinned, took a shot at the patrol’s sniper, and immediately caught a return overwatch shot back, which re-pinned him (here he used the ‘duck back’ rule, allowing a 2+ cover save but causing him to be pinned if he pass the test, it saved his life from a very close call).

My Technicals arrived from random board edges (but not the patrol’s own), and both lined up the compound (now christened ‘the Alamo’) where five of the patrols 8 men were taking cover. Two DshKs with area fire peppered the buildings and caused a lot of pinning… under such heavy fire, the patrol now requested their own reinforcements - bring in the Stryker! Only to fail the comms test and the re-roll for their satellite radio kit… no help yet.  The patrol’s leader though about going for a Hellfire missile strike on a Technical, but as yet, with no actual losses, he’d thought he’d save the public opinion (firing heavy ordnance cost PO, due to the collateral damage). 

Technical arrives, but is quickly marked as under fire.

The Alamo with heavy pinning from DshK fire

Insurgent reinforcements arrive in the village and debus from their van


My first Technical didn’t last long anyway, the SAW gunner set about turning it to swiss cheese, and then the sniper finished it off with a direct hit into the engine. Both crew bailed and ran for cover, only for the driver to be cut down as he ran by more fire from the Alamo. He was critically wounded and bleeding badly. More BR lost for me. 

Technical knocked out... crew running under fire

The second Technical decided to move rather than get more of the same treatment and set off for the irrigation canal’s bridge, laying down more heavy area fire as it went. 

Second Technical crosses the irrigation channel


On the other side of the village my pinned sniper was close assaulted by the lone trooper rushing his building, as he was pinned we decided he should dice to see if he’d surrender before being killed. I rolled, failed, and the sniper dropped his Dragunov and raised his hands, another chit for me. I was close the breaking. 

The final nail in the coffin was the arrival of the Styrker team. The vehicle raced on the table, right where my Technical was rounding the village, and the APC’s remote turreted .50 cal HMG made very short work of an obvious target, leaving the pick-up a smoking wreck and both crew jumped clear but were pinned down. The Styker’s arrival was too much for my ambushing insurgents, they had broken on their BR. The survivors hopped back into their van and sped off, or melted away back into the village again.

Pinned sniper about to be close assaulted

Last civvies make for the mosque safe-house

Victor 5-4 arrives and bye-bye second Technical... the end of the game

Well, that was something of a whitewash… the patrol had lost, erm..nobody… one man lightly wounded was their day’s casualty list. I had lost 2 dead insurgents, 2 wounded and captured and 1 surrendered. Very realistic casualties for a wargame, but a sound pasting for the insurgents.

Much work still needs to be done here. The balance of forces isn’t yet quite right and a lot of work will have to be on how the ‘neutral’ third force of civilians interacts with the game, and how the western forces take BR counters, at the moment they just don’t seem to, but should they lose a man they would then take three (1 for man down, 1 for critically wounded, 1 for died, so losing a man is bad, losing 2 is likely to cost the game!). Not much subtly there. 

Anyway, it was a fun and interesting afternoon’s fight and gave me much to ponder. This game has along way to go yet to be publishable, but some of the ideas are starting to work well. This is far harder than I thought, and far tougher than traditional battles with two sides, but then, that is what makes a-symetric warfare different. Whether is gameable in the traditional two-player way is yet to be seen. 

Stryker team de-bus to secure Zialabad, after a heavy defeat for the guerrillas.