Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Battlegroup Photoshoot Sneak Peak

Last week I set-to on the photo-shoots for the forthcoming 'Battlegroup Operation Overlord' book. After three days work the photos have come out quite well, and I'm pleased with them so far, so I thought I'd share a couple of the images as a sneak-peak, one US and one German.

Still much work to do in January, including a trip to Ireland, but Christmas now seems to be completely taking over. The book is now taking shape for release in Spring 2013, hopefully at Salute in April (but don't hold us to that, but we are trying).

In the meantime, enjoy the images, and have a Merry Christmas all...

Thursday, 22 November 2012

H-HOUR. Amphibious Assault play test game.

Play testing continues for the Normandy book, and as such I had the chance to run through the new ‘Beach Head’ amphibious assault scenario, using two of the odder army lists for the book - the US Amphibious Assault Battlegroup, and the German Atlantic Wall Resistance Nest. It proved a useful game in ironing out a few wrinkles, and a very different and close battle too.

I’m not going into full detail here, its still a WIP, but here’s a few photos of the game.

The tabletop in turn one, as the US forces make for the shore. Armour in the centre, infantry teams on both flanks. 

 Supporting 6" naval gun hits the hill top strongpoint on turn one.

 First to French soil, a DD tank reaches the shoreline.

 DD Shermans arrive at the shore, under mortar fire. LCM now approaching too.

 A HMG pillbox behind barbed wire, a real menace all battle, here pinned by more 6" gun fire.

 The first infantry scurry up the beach, raked by MG fire from the fortified cafe.

 The landings in progress, as an M7 Priest disembarks opposite the dominating fortified cafe.

 The assault boat team cross the shingle sea wall and climb towards their target on the higher ground. 

 DD tank and Priest burning on the sand.

My DD Sherman gets to the road, still shooting the MG pillbox (to little effect). The wrecked Kubelwagen marks an objective.

The LCM goes up in flames.
As a brief overview, the plan is to turn beach landings into re-playable 'generic' scenarios (with all the D-Day character and authenticity you’d want), just like land battles are. So, if you want to collect landing craft, DD tanks, bunkers, etc, then you can use them again and again and still get lots of options and very different games every time. Hopefully, it then becomes worth investing in all that specialist stuff. It makes for great battles too, very ferocious and evocative.

This was a smallish Platoon-sized game, with my US battlegroup consisting off: 2 Assault Boat Teams (each approx 30 men in various squads and teams) all transported in 2 LCVPs. 3 DD Shermans. 1 M7 Priest in an LCM, with a shore fire control party (in jeep) also onboard. Off-table were three timed 6” gun barrages, 2 artillery requests (the guns will be all those big naval ones!), and 2 counter-battery fire missions. 600 pts.

The Resistance Nest I would face is the oddest of odd lists. Few (and poor) infantry, no tanks at all!, some artillery (off-table or in gun casemates) and lots and lots of defences. This first test force consisted of: an Ost infantry platoon with a HMG-34 team added, a 50mm AT gun in a casemate, a 150mm infantry gun in a casemate, an MG42 in a pillbox, a 20mm Flak in an open emplacement, OP team in a dug-out, a supporting 80mm mortar and off-table 105mm guns. Add to this: mined submerged obstacles at the shore, 40” of beach obstacles, 20” of barbed wire, a minefield, and a heavily reinforced house (the Cafe - front and centre) providing a 2+ cover save (effectively a concealed bunker) and 4 timed 80mm mortar barrages. 600 pts in total. It looked fearsome, but had a low BR total, less than half that of the US forces. 

With the tabletop set-up and the defences deployed, it was time to place my attack waves. 2 DD tanks first, then the M7 in LCM and another DD tank, all in the centre. Then on either flank an LCVP assault boat team (see photo).

The attackers began, landing a timed 6” barrage on the 50mm AT casemate, which did little due to all those high 2+ saves (boom-boom-boom). All my landing craft moved forwards as fast as the ‘low swell’ sea conditions would allow. The German response was slow, some ineffective long range mortar fire that splashed around the DD tanks, and some units going onto ambush fire.

Next turn, repeat turn 2. More 6” shelling (a direct hit wiped out the 20mm FlaK and crew and the 50mm AT gun was pinned), more moving towards the shore. The first DD tank made land and immediately opened fire with HE Area Fire on the MG pillbox, which wasn’t affected in the slightest.

Again, not much from the Germans, two timed mortar barrages smashed the beach (a little early them). Accurate HMG fire did some damage to the LCM as it cruised in.

Turn three and things got hotter. Another 6” barrage, this time right on the fortified cafe, that caused much pinning if no actual losses. Then the Priest added to the pinning, firing over the bows of the LCM. The other two DD tanks made it ashore unharmed. It was going well, armour was on the beach. 

Until the German turn, when a mortar shell pinned a DD tank, and subsequent 50mm AP hit caused the crew to abandon it - first loss. More timed mortars hammered the beach and every DD tank was hit, but survived the inferno. More MG fire damaged the LCM, that was now looking rather full of holes, and the 150mm infantry gun opened up, scored a direct hit on a DD Sherman at short range, but failed to destroy it. It was pinned though. Only one tank left operating for my turn. 

In my turn, all the remaining landing craft hit the beach, and the M7 drove down and onto the beach into the mortar blasts, hammering at the MG pillbox with its 105mm shells (it wasn’t pinned though), whilst the shore fire control party in his jeep were pinned and couldn’t disembark, which left them exposed in front of HMG fire next turn (which then easily destroyed the jeep and team in it. Eek!). The first infantry assault team hit the beach, and was instantly raked by MG fire, losing 7 men - ouch. The others ran for the top of the beach, but the flamethrower team was wiped out when they stepped on mine (extra bad luck if you’re carrying a huge canister of highly volatile fuel). The carnage was growing, and the counters mounting fast. The second LCVP (on the right) was pinned, so couldn’t disembark its teams, who hunkered inside from the MG and small arms fire - ‘Go out there? Into that – hell no way!’.

The Germans, after a slow start, now got things going. Their OP was on the phone to his 105 battery, but counter-battery fire from the destroyers out to sea meant his guns couldn’t fire (small mercy). The timed mortar barrages had ended, but the single 80mm at the rear of table kept up its steady fire again. The 50mm AT gun easily dispatched the Priest with a clear flank shot (somebody suppress that gun!), and a DD Sherman took a point blank hit from the 150mm casemate gun and detonated. Only one DD tank was now left. The LCM, now empty, was finished off by more fire and it began to burn, subsiding into the surf. Counters now looked very lob-sided, 10 to me, only 3 to the Germans. 

The US attack was floundering. The DD tank was all alone amidst the burning wrecks, but it did managed to pin the 150mm gun crew with more HE fire (and it was now running low). The infantry on the left were my best hope, they advanced on the 50mm gun bunker, their demolitions team with charges at the ready, and came face to face with an Ost infantry squad at short range. Thankfully, the Boat Team HQ (just 2 men) with their Thompsons blazing pinned the Ost squad to save me from terrible short range fire next turn  - thanks 'LT'.

The other LVCP was pinned again. A bit unlucky that, but those boys just didn’t want to risk the open beach yet. My break point was looming large.

By fortune the Germans didn’t manage too much in return, again their off-table artillery fire was blocked by my second counter-battery fire mission, and the mortar only pinned a unit as it shelled the area around the 50mm AT gun bunker, now being overrun by US infantry. I had got away lightly, no counters taken. 

But this couldn’t go on. I was just 3 points from breaking, not enough to even risk rallying pinned units, so it was all or nothing this turn. 

Finally my second assault boat team disembarked, rushing from the LVCP. Its HQ instantly got on the radio, calling in 1st priority fire from a destroyer’s 4.7” guns (off-table). These hammered the bluffs ahead and wiped out the MG team with a direct hit. Thank you the US Navy! Next, I pushed my DD tank forwards, braving the beach mines to reach an objective on the road from the beach. I couldn’t claim it because the still active HMG pillbox was too close. If I could knock it out, I’d have the objective though. Also, the DD tanks was now out of the 150mm casemate’s arc of fire. Boldly I gave the Close Assault order to my assault boat rifle team on the hill, and assisted by more area fire from their boat team HQ, they came forwards, weapons blazing and grenades flying. In the resulting close assault the Ost troop squad were wiped out, for the loss of 5 of my men (1 was saved by the attached combat medic). Bloody for both sides, but another counter for the Germans. Finally, the demo-team’s charge went up, Kaboom! The AT gun bunker was reduced to rubble and the 50mm gun inside, and crew, wiped out. Another counter, and with that the Germans were done! They had broken, turning and running for the rear, abandoning their positions. The sight of the Americans on the high ground at the smoking bunker was too much, or maybe it was the DD tank breaking through on the road?

 The final straw, the 50mm gun bunker detonates. Breakthrough achieved.

Victory - just! We were ashore (by the skin of our teeth!), in just three intense hours of furious battle. Another close game, despite the big imbalance in BR, but that is all to the good. Uneven forces can work in this system and still give a ‘balanced’ game. The test was also helpful sorting some issues over landing craft movement distances and being pinned, as well small arms vs landing craft (they were just sinking them way too easily, so I changed that instantly), and gun casemate ammo (they will have it, like tanks, but can be resupplied too, because they use a lot having nothing else to do but fire). Notably for the German player, every MG, gun and mortar that could had a loader team, and they never got the extra shot once all game. One shot could have made the difference too.

Now, on to Berlin...

Quick announcement this post.

The Ironfist Publishing website is up and running. It contains information on Battlegroup Kursk (although I'm sure everybody that reads this already has that), the PDF downloads for the game, like the Quick Reference Sheet and Roster, and links to some other BGK related sites (and of course the Guild wargames forum). I'll add more as time goes by, and update the news section, generally when I have some news.

It will gain some Battlegroup Operation Overlord pages too, when I have something worthwhile to put on them.

Please take visit.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Verkazyhi Counter-Strike - A BGK AAR

3rd SS Panzer are advancing towards the Psel river, and remnants of 51st Guards Rifle Division throw-in a hasty counter-attack to delay them, as the SS moved through the small farm of Verkazyhi. 

This is an AAR for a Sunday afternoon BGK game, played (as a novelty) just for our own entertainment. No testing, no rules debates, just a straight game with the rules as published between four friends. It was a standard Attack/Counter-Attack scenario with two 750 pt forces, Panzer Division vs Rifle Division. It was supposed to take place at Stafford Games, but due to a miscalculation by me it was shut for Warfare Reading...oops! So, it was quickly back to take-over my dining room for the afternoon instead. Always check ahead – doh!

My Rifle Division battlegroup consisted of; Forward HQ, NKVD Officer and a radio truck. Two infantry platoons, one with an AT Rifle team and an infantry gun (for supporting fire), and one tank riding with anti-tank grenades and all SMG armed (they would be leading the attack).Tanks consisted of 6 T-34s in two platoons of 3. Artillery was a battery of 2 x 76.2mm Zis3s and 2 x 122m howitzers (all on the table with loader teams but no tows, I planned to just push them on and then leave them) a forward observer team, 2 pre-registered targets points (both around the farm), 2 counter-battery fire missions, a timed PE-2 airstrike (for turn 5), and 4 Snipers (I was testing a plan with that selection). 

The advancing SS were; Forward HQ in his Pz-IV, a dispatch rider, 2 panzer grenadiers platoons (one in trucks, the other walking), one with a tripod mounted MG42 in support (frightening them). Tanks were: 3 Pz-IV Hs, 3 Pz-IIILs and a Tiger (of course). Artillery was an off-table 120mm mortar battery, and a first priority off-table request. There might have been a few others bits and pieces I missed in the crucible of battle. Notable, no scouts at all, conceding the battlefield to the Russians from turn 1. 

Having seeded the battlefield with our scattered snipers, all waiting on ambush fire, we took the first turn and started off by getting our artillery and OP team on the board. The Germans started with mass tanks, all eight of them, and two truck-borne grenadier squads, brutal but simple.

German armour leading the way forwards passed the orchard on their left. Grenadier's trucks are debussing at the farm behind. The trucks then all withdrew off the board to avoid the artillery fire.

Moving fast left, the T-34 platoon and tank riders arrive. The AT rifle team on the road are on an objective.

The build-up continued. Our walking infantry, HQ units and infantry gun moved up through the woods which almost filled our corner of the table, the springboard for the attack. We began by launching some 122mm and 76.2mm artillery across the table at our pre-registered targets, causing some pinning and not much else.
The Germans rolled on, the rest of trucks arriving to disembark their infantry squads into the village orchard, and claim their first objective.  As yet most of the guns were out of range, or the Germans refused to waste ammo on distant targets. They did spot one of our snipers lurking in a crater and tank MGs quickly dispatched him (not really working this sniper-heavy plan so far). 

Field artillery, deployed as artillery not anti-tank guns, just in front of the wood. They kept up a steady fire (even if their loader teams weren't so useful).

Safely behind the wood, 122mm guns and the HQ units.

 The artillery takes effect around the farm. Pinned German tanks.

On turn three, we brought on our tanks. The plan was for three to go wide right and race to take cover behind the low hill. The other three would swing wide left, each carrying a rifle squad with SMgs and anti-tank grenades, to attack the village - but only after the artillery had done its work for a few turns.

The German foot infantry arrived last (probably a mistake that), lagging well behind the rest. The Germans 120mm mortars opened fire, tree bursting in the centre of our wood, and wiped out a rifle platoon HQ, costing us an officer. The early turns had been mostly artillery and mortar fire, as it should be, the tanks were moving into position for the battle to come in the next turns. On the German left was the Tiger leading the 3 Pz-IIIs. On the right, the 4 Pz-IVs (although the one in the centre later moved left, which did leave the right looking a bit weak).

Russian artillery fire continued to harass the village, pinning a few infantry squads and scoring a direct hit on the Major’s Pz-IV, only for it to bounce off. The close shave caused the commander to be pinned though. So far our loader teams had added exactly 0 extra shots, lazy b******s. They would be having a ‘brief appraisal meeting’ with the NKVD officer after the battle if this tardiness continued! Still, the Russians were off to a good start, inflicting 5 counters and taking just 2. But, both side’s units were now deployed and battle was about to be joined in full.

 On the Russian left, the T-34 platoon and tank riding SMG squads take up firing positions along the scrub hedge. From here they fired off all their HE as Area Fire before storming forwards and switching to AP. 

On the Russian right, the other T-34 platoon hide behind the hill, where a Mexican stand-off lasted for about five turns, with the Tiger doing nothing - result.

Seeing our right flanking T-34s race behind the hillock, the Tiger and one Pz-III went on ambush fire, to prevent our tanks cresting the hill and having a free run into point blank range. On the right two Panzer IVs pulled up to the hedgerow across the field and found themselves under repeated heavy HE shelling from 3 T-34s in the hedgerow opposite, causing pinning and restricted their ability to return fire with any effect.  The Russian artillery struck like thunder again, pinning another Pz-IV and wiping out a MG team with a direct hit - score another counter. With the Tiger on ambush, appearing over the hill was tantamount to suicide, so the T-34s waited, content with a Mexican stand-off with the Tiger, it wasn’t actually shooting at us (and for turns this remained the same, neither wishing to push forwards with the other waiting, but I feel we got the best of it, so just left it to continue!). Our little infantry gun made it his game’s mission to fire at the Tiger, launching Area Fire HE at it every turn. David vs Goliath-like, it was a mere gnat annoying an erm... Tiger? To not effect, but we enjoyed the German’s discomfort as we tried to roll a 6.

 The Russian table corner and woods as the walking infantry advance passed the guns and supply wagon.

In turn 5 the battle suddenly took off, and it was not the only thing to. A Confusion counter, drawn by us, was played on the pinned senior officer’s Pz-IV. A roll of 1 and he abandoned his charge! 2 counters for the loss of the senior officer, no more re-roll and no tactical co-ordination for the Germans (gutted – not!). The German player’s heads dropped too, seeing their Major hightail for the rear, and the Russian players sensed blood! For all the previous defeats, it was now time to crush the Fascist Vipers!

 The road to the farm, still under artillery fire.

Our PE-2 arrived, endured a storm of ambush fire MGs to dive onto the track from the farm and unleash its 8 bombs. This wiped out a grenadier squad and pinned two more before climbing away. Our artillery added to the pinning, seeing many of the grenadiers seek cover rather than face the barrages. The T-34 vs Tiger and Pz-III stand-off continued, each patiently waiting on either side of the hill. The other T-34s emptied their bins of HE into the two Pz-IVs opposite and pinned them too. The Germans line was looking heavily suppressed. 

 The PE-2 unloads on the road from the farm, but it was very lucky not to be pinned by AA MG fire.

 Russian infantry advancing in the centre, under mortar and long range MG fire.

They couldn’t do much in return, a few infantry squads and MG teams advanced were they could, scurrying through the barrages. Their tanks fired some HE at infantry, with a few losses, but nothing too dramatic. Their heavy mortar fire was blocked by counter-battery fire, our second mission used up to good effect.
That triggered an immediate German response. With both our counter-battery missions gone they used their first priority request and dispatch rider to call up some 150mm Nebelwerfers, and aiming long, trying to reach our artillery (some on board counter-battery fire this). It worked. The subsequent impact saw 4 infantry squads pinned and a Zis3 blown sky-high, crew, loader team and all. Hard hitting artillery, but a one-off strike we had to endure! Sneaky that, to wait until we couldn’t try to stop the Nebelwerfers.

 The Nebelwerfer strike hits our Zis-3 battery. One gun is gone after a direct hit.

Typical shabby Nazi tricks aside, we were now pressing our advantage at the front. A T-34 on the right got a sneaky side shot at a Pz-III, hit it and it detonated. The three T-34s on the left revved-up and burst through the hedge (using their handy T-34 re-rolls), SMG infantry still clinging on, but with both the enemy tanks opposite pinned it was time to go! An AP shell dispatched one Pz-IV as we raced forwards. The others missed, but our armour was on the way to the farm, with no enemy anti-tank shots left to stop the assault next turn.

On our left, the T-34s push forwards, knocking out one Panzer IV at short range. The other is pinned and in deep trouble. 

Unfortunately, the Germans still had plenty of small arms and MG fire, and this swept 22 out of 24 tanks riders from their steeds in a turn of bloody carnage. Ouch! Still, sacrifices must be made for the Motherland. The tanks were undamaged. In the centre, more MG fire cut down some infantry at long range, and caused pinning, but the Russian general advance had been signalled, all our infantry was surging across the fields in the centre. A 120mm mortar destroyed our infantry gun (boo!), no more annoying the Tiger. Two 75mmL48 AP shells bounced off the front T-34s this turn, a miracle, still no tank losses for us.

The Germans were looking glum, they had 16 counters, we had 7, and it was our turn. The assault continued. The T-34 on the left advanced, MGs blazing into the infantry ahead, whilst an AP shell at point-blank range into the side dispatched the last pinned Pz-IV, helpless to defend itself. One T-34 reached the central objective and claimed it, only dead or burning Germans within 10” meant they took another counter. This gave the ambushing Tiger a long-shot at it, which it duly took, and missing. Right, there was no more 88mm gun cover, so our right flank T-34s appeared over the hill, AP shells blazing. The Pz-III immediately opened fire and its 50mm shell glanced off. Return fire saw a Pz-IV immobilised, but the crew panicked and bailed out. Another counter - and with that the Germans capitulated. The T-34s were coming, so the SS Grenadiers began to fallback fast. 

There could be no advance through Verkazhyi this afternoon. 

In the end the Germans broke on 49 BR. From our total of 52 BR, we had reached just 23. A sizable victory for the Red Army. To be fair, the German’s dice rolls failed them badly at times, AP shots bouncing (needing 5+) and other dice (especially their HMG-42 team, who seemed to be cross-eyed, scoring 2 hits from 32 dice!). Still, you can’t always blame the dice. It was a superb game, no quarter asked or given, but friendly too and the German's bore their ill-luck with only a little muttering (and occasionally groans). It lasted under 4 hours, even with a lunch break, and the Red Army proved itself a match for Germany’s elite.

The German left, late in the game, still the Tiger sits inactive on ambush fire, as a Pz-III brews up from a side shot from behind the hill. Behind, the Pz-IV is pinned, then it was immobilised, then the crew bailed (the final counter that broke the Germans).


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

ST SOUBAIN SHOOTOUT First Normandy Play Test AAR

Last week was a chance to give a first run-out to the forthcoming Battlegroup supplement for France 1944, and dust-off my long languishing American armoured forces. The scenario would a meeting engagement, with my forces advancing to capture the small hamlet of St Soubain, hidden amidst some dense bocage country, as the Germans also moved in to occupy it. There were three objectives, in the village, on a tall hill in the northwest corner and an orchard on the outskirts of the hamlet.

My battlegroup of 2nd Armoured Division consisted of: a Sherman Platoon of 4 tanks (1 under strength), an armoured infantry platoon, an M10 tank destroyer, M16 AA halftrack, led by my commander in an M20 armoured car, a forward air controller in a jeep (fortunes of war please send me a P-47!), a M7 Priest battery of 3 guns with an attendant ammo supply truck, plus a single 3rd priority artillery request (to make up the points). 

The Germans of 2nd SS Panzer would be rolling into town with: a Panzer IV squadron of 3 tanks, veteran armour panzer grenadier platoon in their 251s, a 251/9, a Modelwagen, a mortar halftrack, a 120mm team, a forward aid post, and their commander in his little Kubelwagen.  They also had a 250 recce halftrack out front (the US had no reconnaissance, just big guns).

The game began with the German 250 racing off at full tilt cross-country and climbing up the steep hill, through the woods, to reach the top, claim the objective and have a grandstand view as the battle unfolded below them. After this, they played no further part in the fighting ( i think he forgot about them!).

The German forces followed on behind, Panzer IVs and halftracks moving into the village to occupy it first. The Americans sent in their Shermans first, a column of tanks in single file winding through the very dense terrain. Routes of advance were limited, and the going was slow, but as yet they weren’t under fire. My armour infantry followed on, with the M16 at the rear of the column. Meanwhile, one German Panzer IV, forcing a hedgerow, hit an uncleared mine on the verge and was knocked out. First blood to the US, no shots fired!

The German grenadiers began to occupy the village buildings, MG teams and squads in buildings, whilst one squad and the 251/9 moved right through the village and out onto the German right (US left flank). There they were soon in a stand-off with my M10, neither showing themselves, but all lurking with deadly intent (my M10 would surely win that fight). On my board edge the entire M7 battery arrived, and immediately opened up an harassing bombardment of Area Fire onto the buildings they could just see through the trees and foliage. As the salvo of 105 rounds slammed home, one half-timbered building collapsed and the grenadier squad within was wiped out. So far, so good (unless that was your house of course).

 The hamlet of St Soubain, being well occupied by the Germans.
The German defences were quickly in place, one squad hiding the bocage in front of the village, MG and 251 either side, and a PzIV rolling forwards to join them. It went onto ambush fire facing the orchard, now being occupied by disembarking US armoured infantry. The first Sherman to nose-up to the opposite hedgerow instantly caught two 75mm AP shells and blew sky-high, my first loss on turn 4.

My commander, acting as my artillery observer, was now in place and the Priests cut loose on the village, screaming in rounds. One scored a direct hit on the Modelwagen and it was destroyed. A few pinned infantry units were all the other damage inflicted on the enemy. 

Meanwhile, I had sent one Sherman to cautiously nose-up a sunken lane through a large area we had designated as impassable bocage to everything but infantry. As the Sherman rounded the lane's corner, unfortunately a PzIV was waiting, and its gun hit at short range, but only glanced off – phew. The crew were pinned by the lucky escape though.

I used tactical co-ordination to get that Sherman back in the fight and return fire before I lost it next turn, which would also block the lane into the village. Having pulled a '5' battle counter I then rolled a 1, and in a double whammy the Sherman crew remained pinned. Unsurprisingly it didn’t survive the next turn’s incoming AP fire and the Ronson lit up!

One of the two routes into the village was now blocked with burning metal, although I send one infantry squad off to work their way through the jungle-like vegetation. They soon encountered MG fire from the village and became pinned themselves. The other route was to be my main attack, but ferocious firepower and a tank waiting on ambush meant that to start out my attack without first pinning these units would be suicidal. Instead, my GIs held their cover behind the orchard walls, lashed by MGs using area fire and getting pinned. The other two Shermans lurked further back, ready to spring fowards only when the ‘Go!’ order was finally issued (in the end in never came, events elsewhere sunk that planned attack).

Meanwhile, on my left, my flank protection of a single M10 was doing a fine job, until I moved it to sqeeze a cheeky side-shot at the Panzer IV that had killed my lead Sherman. At which point the M10 broke down, and the crew bailed and ran. Seeing a gilt-edged chance, the Germans immediately pushed the formerly skulking 251/9 forwards, to a firing position where it could clearly see my three Priests (still lobbing shells into St Soubain). The haltrack’s first shot pinned an M7, and the surprised artillery men suddenly found themselves in a tank battle, as the Pz IV began firing on them too (but missing). Suddenly, all my main attack's supporting artillery fire was cancelled as the Priest had to fight back (badly). In the next turns, one was knocked out by the /9’s HE fire, another smashed by the Pz IV. It looked grim, I was very stuck. Then, by good fortune, salvation arrived! Finally an air-attack counter came my way and, with my FAC on the radio, a P-47 swooped in. First target was the dangerous Pz IV shooting at my Priests, which instantly exploded in a hail of 5” rockets. Fear the Jabo!

Actually don’t, because in both its next two attack runs the P-47 pilot failed to spot his target and no attack was made, just buzzing the village at low level (which was no doubt wreathed in smoke from the fires started by the earlier shelling). With no artillery or air support I could do nothing about the firepower still lashing out of the village, or the two mortars hammering down on the walled orchard and hedges, and my pinned men in the orchard just hunkered down, unaware of why their own artillery had stopped firing. When my single probing infantry squad was wiped out by combined infantry and MG fire, I was done. St Soubain was obviously firmly in German hands, so the two Shermans, the last M7 Priest and my GIs fell back. No breakthrough today.

German losses from the engagement had been: 2 Panzer IVs, a Modelwagen, and about 12 infantry.
US losses had been: 2 Shermans, an M10, 2 M7s and about 15 infantry. Notable, no Sherman tank had fired a single shot, most hadn’t risked showing themselves to waiting German guns.

A solid German win then, but in my defence, the terrain was very tight, both routes forward were well covered and all shooting was short ranges and lethal. Getting into the village against all those MGs (man-carried and 251 mounted) was a tough ask for my infantry. The horribly unlucky loss of my M10, which was doing an important job, cost me best hope of victory - my ferocious artillery firepower, because the Priests then had to look to their own defence. Also, my aircraft was, well pretty rubbish!

It was a very different game from all the Kursk battles I’ve played over the past year, much more 'cat-and-mouse', much more cautious (especially by me), and far more use of ambush fire to deny enemy the freedom of movement in the few routes of advance. So, more like Normandy then... its enough to make you long for some wide open space to fight in!

Only have a couple of shots of this one from a phone, as I forgot to take my camera to the game! Still, proof it did happen, if nothing else.

The walled orchard, the jump-off position for my main attack, that never happened. Note Shermans behind awaiting to force the hedge and advance in support. The M3s are stuck on the lane, just out of shot is a burning Sherman, blocking it. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

BGK: Q and A

Whilst busy with writing work on the first supplement, I have taken some timeout to compile some questions (and give answers) that have arisen since BGK was released. I will get these up as a downloadable PDF format, when I have somewhere to put them (in the near future - technical work is progressing). In the meantime, the old blog will suffice.

Feel free to circulate as widely as you like.

1. Can light mortars (50mm etc) use the Indirect Fire Rules?
Yes. But with a maximum range of 20” I can’t see this being very practical, especially give the deviation of IDF. Better to use them for Direct Fire with HE up to 20”, or for Area Fire as Very Light HE (probably their best role). They are the only mortars that can do this.

2. If I take individual medium mortars (80mm etc), as Platoon support choices, can I deploy them all together and use them as battery, for communications tests etc?
No. They were bought separately so act separately. If a mortar battery is bought, then they will all fire together, but single mortars can’t ‘gang-up’ into ad-hoc batteries. They can be deployed together, but each would still need its own spotter.

3. If an infantry unit is pinned when it is attacked by a close assault, can it still shoot back?
No, they are in deep trouble. Pinned units don’t shoot back, I guess mostly they surrender.

4. The KV-2s main gun is listed as the 152mmL29, shouldn’t it be the 152mmL24?
Yes, straight typo. It’s the L24 gun.

5. In the Rally phase, if I want to draw multiple counters to rally 2D6 or 3D6 units, do I have to declare this first, or can I do it one after the other and see how it goes first before drawing a second counter?
Declare it first, ie, ‘I’ll take two counters’. We play nice though, and if a player rolls badly and then wants another counter, I let them take it - who I am to stop them taking counters? That’s our house rule though. Literally, declare it.

6. Valentines have the same stats as the Matilda, but less ammo, yet cost more points, why?
Ammunition capacity isn’t factored in points costs, unless it’s very low. Valentines didn’t feature much at Kursk, mostly reaching the front in later 1943, so they a slight points increase to represent scarcity in this period. Other vehicles also have their points tweaked for this – mostly German ones.

7. When units in (or being towed by) transport vehicles arrive from reserve, does this counter as 2 unit, the vehicle and passengers, or just 1?
1 unit. Only the transport or tow counts. Otherwise, German squads in transport count as 3, which is too harsh (and oddly transported infantry would arrive far slower than foot infantry). Same for tank riders, they come with the tank as one. 

8. When an armoured vehicle carrying passengers is destroyed, what happens to the passengers?
This is an omission. It is the same as for tank-riders, so a D3 men are killed (no save) and the squad (or squads) are placed within 4” of the wreck and marked as pinned. They must take a morale test for the casualties. 

9. Do infantry squads have to have all rifles or all SMGs, or can they mix them?
They can freely mix, but only as the models show. Only Russians should have all SMG armed squads. Many players find it easier and faster to stick to one or the other, but some players like to have their NCOs with SMGs, which is fine. Just remember he can fire more than 10” - but he’ll be better in a close assault. 

10. Do gun shields provide any protection to the gun crew?
No. You could make the argument for cover against small arms only, but for ease they count as in the open (unless they are in some other cover – which would be best). 

11. What is squad coherency? How far apart can I position my infantry models?
Roughly 1”, maybe 2” at a push, but I can’t see that spreading squads out would make any difference, except leave lots of men at longer range bands (where majority rules). 

12. Is there a minimum gun crew to allow the gun to keep firing?
Yes, 1 man, but remember last man pinned is removed, and this applies to gun crews too. 

13. On the QRS it says an immobilised vehicle must take a morale counter, in the book it says test, which is right?
No such thing as morale counter, it’s a typo. It should be Morale test. 

14. If a unit freely leaves the tabletop, does it count as destroyed?
No, it counts as nothing, except it can’t comeback. Sometimes it’s worth just bugging out. 

15. How does the mortars minimum and maximum range work, given the range bands given in gun stats?
Don’t be confused by the range bands, mortars have their own minimum and maximum ranges (see page 29). The gun stats just give its AP effect for a direct hit against an armoured vehicle, which is the same regardless of range. The bombs don’t get any larger or smaller, no matter the distance they travel.

16. How far can mortar teams move?
Light and medium mortar teams are infantry, and move as such. Heavy mortars should be light guns (so best not to move them without transport).

17. There are no stats for the German AT rifle, but it’s in the army list as a platoon support option?
This is an omission from the gun stats. It’s the standard issue PzB39 rifle, and they are the same as the Russian PTRD. Not many anti-tank rifles were left by 1943, most had been relegated to second line units, and even they didn’t use them much, but a few survived.

18. If an Infantry unit is pinned, can it still elect to Fallback!? Also, can a unit Fallback! off the table?
No, a pinned unit can’t Fallback! It can only take the damage inflicted as they duck for cover.
Yes it can, and that would probably be routing! So take a counter for a destroyed unit. As it’s the player’s choice, I suggest you don’t do it!

19. How many infantry models can enter a building?
How many people could you get in your house? A lot, practically maybe a hundred or more at a squeeze? It is not really going to be an issue unless you try to get an entire company in a small cottage. As many as you can reasonable fit in is what we say – 20 to 30 even in a smallish building. 

20. When can I use Ambush Fire, can it interrupt midway through an enemy fire order?
No, do it before or after the fire order. You can interrupt between two fire orders though, or midway through a move, say if a target would appear then disappear from view again, that’s what the order is for.

21. How many ‘Beyond the Call of Duty’ tests can a unit take, and pass, in a turn?
As many as it is lucky enough to pass. Our record is 2 for one very heroic T-34 crew.

22. What is the minimum distance I can move using the Stal! Stal! Stal ! rule?
The tanks must make two normal moves towards the enemy or the enemy board edge. The first normal move, for a T-34 would be the full 12”. The second is up to 12” again, with a practical minimum of 1”, so that’s between 13” and 24”. Remember to reduce this for crossing terrain. This should avoid situations with tanks having to go too far forwards, right passed targets for their MGs. 

23. The Marder II is listed as having a turret mounted weapon, hence 360 arc of fire. Is this correct?
No, straight typo, it’s hull mounted. 

24. There is no option for better Russian infantry. What about Guards units?
Deliberately so. ‘Guards’ was a unit citation, for past service, more akin to calling a British Regiment ‘Royal’. But the men were not trained or equipped any differently, and didn’t fight any better. Thinking of Guards as somehow ‘elite’ units is a mistake, and rather a hang-over from previous wargaming conventions.
All Russian infantry are inexperienced, to characterise them against their German enemy. Of course some individuals would have had lots of experience (not many survived that long though), but we are talking in general terms, and the point is to keep the points cost very low when balancing the two sides against each other, and for that mass-effect.