Sunday, 29 April 2012


Another friday evening, another chance for a Kursk game at my brothers, with two friends joining the mayhem. This time it would be a meeting engagement around a small railway halt - with the Germans threatening a breakthrough, I would be commanding the Russian armoured counter-attack.

My force, picked for mass-effect, consisted of 2 motorised rifle platoons all riding on the engine decks of 10 T-34s. These were support by a sniper, a jeep recce team, a BA-64 (my recce) and a battery of 82mm mortars (on table). My only other support would be a timed air strike from a PE-2, which was to arrive on turn 4 to target the main railway building with its 8 bombs.

The German force consisted of a veteran armoured panzer grenadier platoon in their hanomags, a squadron of 3 Panthers, supported by a MG42 HMG team, 20mm SdKfz 251/17 FlaK, their battle group HQ (in a Pz III), a 233 armoured car, a sniper, a FAMO, and a supply truck. There was also a battery of 120mm mortars off-table for fire support.

With the forces picked, the table was laid out and deployment at table corners randomly determined. There were four objectives: the main railway halt building, the windmill, the abandoned bunker on point 68, and the road where it left the table on the southern (German) table edge (marked by a wrecked staff car).

The table, complete with counter mug, dice tin, and the 'hopeful' Stuka model, just in case. This isn't deployment, just models waiting to get the game started! They are in the right part of the table though. Russians had the top left table corner.

Despite my 3 recce units we lost the roll-off for first turn and Germans began, with only their recce on the table, not much happened, except our sniper (in the windmill) took a maximum range shot at their sniper behind the staff car, a duel that would continue throughout the game in a pleasing ‘Enemy at the Gate’ replay, with neither getting the telling headshot.

This was just a side-story, the main event saw the Germans split their attack. As their forces arrived the main force raced for the high ground at point 68, and quickly occupied the trenches, supported by two Panthers on their left. The rest of the panzer grenadiers raced to the railway halt, supported by the 233. One Panther and the battlegroup HQ (plus supply truck and FAMO) lurked at the rear in reserve.

The Germans advance to point 68, Panthers rounding the hill on their left.

The Russian plan was to a-mass our arriving forces and hold back until we were all here, then unleash the avalanche, all ten T-34s would go straight at their main force! Go, go, go, for the point 68 was the order of the day. Once at the hill the tank riders would disembark to assault the objective of the bunker in overwhelming numbers.

The first turns saw the Russians mortars open fire on the hill, but generally miss wildly (this continued throughout, the gulag for those mortar crew). The Germans MG42 HMG team set up in the trenches and shot-up my recce jeep (must learn to hide soft skins better), and speeding forwards the Germans were soon in position. Meanwhile, our reinforcements arrived promptly (for once) and on turn three were ready to go. 10 T-34s burst forth over the hill, raced past the windmill and made for the railway line. Of course the two Panthers opened up, scoring a hit, which by great fortune glanced off – phew! At the railway line the weight of suppressing HE fire had both Panther crews rattled. The race was on!

Here they come, a T-34 company on the roll.

The T-34s looked like a unstoppable steel avalanche, and the German battlegroup HQ reacted by committing himself and the spare Panther to the hill. At the shortening range the German MGs opened up, cutting swathes through the tank riders, and 120mm mortar fire began to land amidst the tank attack, suppressing more infantry. 

Still coming... the tank rush crosses the railway line, note both Panthers are suppressed (not dead - like that happens!).

The T-34s, HE rounds banging away like they were going out of fashion, pressed closely, and the first motorised infantry began to rush the hill. The first assault saw the MG42 team overrun, but not before taking 6 Bolsheviks-scum with them! The trench line fell in a second, then a third bloody close assault, as we swarmed over them, each time loosing men, but numbers were with us.

The PE-2 arrived, targeting the railway halt, now pleasingly full of Germans, only for the 20mm flak to score a lucky hit and drive-off the dive-bomber attack before we could unload on them! Drat, the air support had failed!

By now the German players were looking pretty down, the Russian tide had risen so quickly it seemed they had no chance, and their suppressed tanks hadn’t done much. Then it changed as they had a few good turns. Unsuppressed the Panthers roared, ripped into the T-34s and 3 were quickly burning, hit at point blank range. German MGs, including heavy flanking fire from the railway halt, saw more red-infantry die quickly, and our counters were building as the squads were wiped out. It was a furious close quarters battle. The 233 boldly joined in with its 75mm HE, suppressing a T-34, and another leading T-34 ran out of ammo on an ‘ammo low’ special counter.

Point blank range, and a T-34 brews up. Infantry are already assaulting the hill top defences.

The red swarm suddenly didn’t look so powerful, with only 3 active T-34s left. These burst over the hill, passed the Germans, taking rear and flank shots, one of which destroyed the HQ Panzer III. Another suppressed a Panther with a rear shot that glanced! (How hard are these things to kill?). The two Panthers left in the fight had, luckily for us, run out of AP ammunition, and changed to targeting infantry with HE, causing more death and destruction at the foot of the hill.

Up the hill, they just keep on coming. Note smoke markers are for suppression.

They Germans had decided that wiping out our infantry would bring them more joy that targeting the T-34s (and they were short of AP shots anyway). They pushed their 251s into the fight, using their machineguns (and 37mm door-knocker – which bounced off the rear of a T-34 – now useless are these guns?). On the hill we only had a few infantry stragglers left, not enough to take the bunker, but it didn’t matter – because the T-34s turned their AP shells on the 251s and quickly destroyed 3, which was enough to break the Germans, who withdrew, conceding the hill and the battle - victory to Mother Russian!

But at what cost? Of 74 red-infantry that started the attack, only 18 remained standing - slaughter! We lost 5 of 10 T-34s, and didn’t destroy a single Panther. 

Chaos in close combat. Note the T-34s now behind the Germans, and the last defender of the trench lines skulking. The battlegroup HQ Pz III has just detonated.

The Russians still had 8 morale remaining, but actually the Germans could have won, because they held 3 of the 4 objectives, and the windmill had just a sniper in it. A quick move, even by the armoured car or a 251 against that objective could have snatched all the objectives on the table. Of course, in the pressure and heat of battle the 233 (which re-supplied twice and kept various T-34s suppressed, not a bad effort) was always needed elsewhere, but we should have left a T-34 behind to guard the objective, because a quick move would have cost us the battle!

In all it was cracker, a real pell-mell tank rush and swirling close-quarters engagement. The Panthers remained stoic (and didn’t break-down), and our infantry suffered from multiple German MGs, which scythed through them like corn. In all the Germans had only lost 14 men, a kill ratio of over 4 to 1 in infantry, and 1 tank, a kill ratio of 1 to 5 in tanks, but the Russians had paid the price for a victory.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


I have started serious work on my 2nd Afgan War skirmish game. I’m starting with the ghazi-rebels, because I always find it easier to start with the larger, more difficult force to paint and leave the lower hanging fruit until the end, when my enthusiasm is waning. So far I have 18 rebels on the paint tray, and 12 khaki-clad Brits to follow.

The idea is to basically transplant a very famous British defence from the Zulu War to Afganistan instead. ‘Ghazi, thousands of ‘em!’.

The plan for them is to play out a short campaign, maybe 3 or 4 battles (we’ll see how it goes), with the British mounting a desperate last-stand defence of an Afgan compound, whilst the Afgan hoards surround them and attack in waves over 3 or 4 days (one game per day). After each game we will assess how the battle went, see which of the defenders was lightly wounded, badly wounded or killed outright, and how much of their ammunition supplies they used, before re-setting the reduced defenders for the next day’s assault. The Brits might get a few reinforcements as more stragglers join them, but by the end there should be just a few hardly defenders left when the final assault comes. Basically, if any British troops survive then they will win campaign.

As well as the models to paint, I also have the last of the terrain to sort. I have the basic desert boards and few buildings for the compound, but need the extra details, compound walls and surrounding rocky outcrops, etc. I also need to write-up the scenario background, and sort the rules too. Actually, for a easy project this has expanded! Models, terrain, scenario and rules to do - just a little work then.  I’ll post the work here as I get it done.

Here are a few shots of the first model WIP, basecoats and brown wash only so far - Perry Sudan infantry and Foundry Hill Tribesmen getting ready for the battles to come. Black spray, covered in Citadel scorched brown as the undercoat. Vallejo khaki-grey, with a small amount of black added, as a basecoat for the Brits. All sorts of colours for the ghazi, oof-whites, browns, reds, blue, yellow, greens, which makes a nice change from the dirty browns, greys and greens of WW2.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


Been a busy time, but I thought I should post something about the release of Normandy Firefight. The book arrived from Lithuania as I was in Ireland, so I had a pleasant surprise on return. It looked good, and having spoken with Nick at North Star Figures pre-sales orders and early sales all seemed very positive, so thanks for that (if you bought one!).

To illuminate a little of the game itself, it is a true skirmish game, really designed for small unit actions, of between 2 and 5 combatants per side, and is very detailed. This is a game which tracks how many bullets you have left, and whether you are standing, crouching or prone. It is based on D100 rolls, for detail, and generally is playable in a couple of hours (if everybody doesn’t spend all game hiding in ditches).

I originally wrote the game about 10 years ago, inspired by the great Dragon model kits coming out, and various first-person-shooter video games which I enjoyed playing but gave me motion sickness. I also wanted to try and build some highly detailed terrain boards. Over the years the boards have been re-worked, and stored in various sheds and garages, to be dusted down for a game every now and then. Although we play at 54mm, there is no reason why the rules won’t work for any size (from Action Men to 20mm), by simply varying the size of the table (from your back garden to a 2’ x 2’ for 20mm).

Since release the most commonly asked question has been - what next? Well, it always is, the thrill of the new and unknown always being more enticing than what already exists. A few ideas have been suggested, including a modern combat version, Vietnam and Stalingrad, all of which sound great, especially fire fights in the ruins of a big tractor factory! I also have a few ideas myself... but I’ll keep them to myself for now. Really in comes down to the availability of models and a desire to make the nice terrain boards. I’ll also have to see how well this one goes first, no point in pursuing it further if the gamer’s reception isn’t good!

Support-wise, there has already been an example of play article in WI, and I have done an interview for Guy at WSS magazine, for publication shortly (I think). I’ll also be running a demo of the game at Partizan in May for those that have any questions or would like to see the table ‘in the flesh’.

Of course, I’ll post an AAR up here next time we play.

Currently I’m taking a break from the usual 20mm WW2 painting to set-to on some colonial stuff. The plan is to play a mini-campaign of 3 or 4 skirmishes set during the 2nd Afgan War. Rules-wise we shall be using my own 'unnamed' homebrew, and the army lists are very simple. You can paint anything you like for the British, but if you do you must then paint two of it for the Afgans!  So far I have 12 pith-helmeted infantry and 24 Afgan hill tribesmen prepped for painting (WIP shots to follow soon).

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Bloody Tilly!

First, before I get into the nitty-grity of the GMG big-game, I should say a big thanks to Piers, Tom, Skip, Cyril, Gary and Brian for their warm welcome, hospitality and good company over the weekend. A great time was had by all, and a top fight on Saturday. Thanks guys, including the other foriegners who flew in.

So, on with the war! Having been shown the board on Friday and given a chance to mull over the German defensive plan (for several hours), it looked fantastic (see shots below). With the responsibility for the defensive weighing heavily upon my shoulders I gave it my best hard-thoughts and, as more players arrived on Friday evening, we got to the briefing and planning and deployment, ready to set-to come Saturday morning. Suggestions of a dawn attack, with the first turn going to the first to arrive, were quickly dismissed in favour of a civilized 10-10.30 kick-off.

So the plan was, in general, to hold Tilly or die trying. Having studied the table and the forces available for the initial defence, with much of our armour (the Panthers) and armoured grenadiers arriving from (perhaps) from turn 4, I decided we couldn’t hold the entire 20’ length in any strength worthy of a defence. So I refused our left flank at the Le Mont farm, sacrificing it to strengthen the line in front of Tilly with smaller sectors for my four sub-commanders. We would begin deployed strongest on both flanks, with Fred and Johan’s STuG squadrons and infantry. Cyril and Skip’s weaker forces would hold west and east Tilly itself.

The key to victory would be the reinforcements. And this was my cunning bit. If the British took the bait and grabbed Limone farm, a tempting free objective, but did not hold it with enough forces, then Skip’s Panthers, grenadiers and pioneers would swoop onto the table and storm it, with the express orders to ruthlessly wipe out the defenders, thus losing them the objective, take it back ourselves and turn the British right flank. From here he would press on fast, hopefully outflanking the British attack on Tilly coming across the fields. Cyril’s Panther force would be flexible. If St Piere looked hard-pressed then they would be committed to aid Johan’s defence, (dubbed plan B). If Tilly was hard pressed, because the centre was our weakest piont, then they would have to reinforce here and launch a spoiling counter-attack up the road towards the farm objective in the British centre. They would probably die, but cause so much chaos and damage in the process any hope of getting into Tilly would be lost.  The proviso to all this was that Limone Farm ( dubbed plan A) must fall quickly. If it looked like the farm was too well held, then Skip’s and Cyril’s forces would combine for an all-out attack in the centre with everything they had (plan C). Which plan was enacted would depend on the battlefield situation and be my call.

Units deployed, with a few worried looks and comments from my subordinates about ceded an objective without a fight, we placed our RTP (central farm) and minefield (Tilly road from Limone) and headed to the pub!

Saturday morning, and the British attack was due. Braced for the onslaught, we hung tough in the face of the opening barrage of mortars and artillery as the British recce advanced. To my (disguised) delight they took the bait, and the carrier platoon and armoured cars raced for Limone, receiving our first mortar fire in return.

The British build up continued, infantry platoons advancing to their jump-off line at the first hedgerows, Shermans rolling on behind. My small bridge defence force (a StuG, 1 squad, 1 MMG, 1 HMG and and a panzerschreck team with orders to hold the bridge to the last) came under heavy fire (it was their RTP), and was blasted to small bits when naval gun fire impact, scoring a direct hit on the STuG which vaporised! Another early loss was my Famo - just reaching the immobile Tiger in time for catch a mortar round and be destroyed. The Tiger would remain immobile, covering the main road into Tilly and denying it to the British, who wisely avoided using it!

On the left Limone fell to carrier infantry teams and a Staghound AC, braving 88 covering fire. The British artillery barrage (and by now it was raining mortar shells of all sizes) built, with 5.5” guns hitting Tilly too (oh for some counter battery fire missions!) In return our Nebelwerfers hit the RTP and caused some death and destruction, but nothing compared with the Johan’s OP’s high priority request and dispatch raider bringing in 210mm Nebelwerfer barrage, which score 4 direct hits, seeing the loss of an infantry section, 2 Shermans and was unlucky not to get the third (the Firefly of course!).The attack on St Pieres seemed to stall, and Johan’s defences behind the river Seulles looked strong.

Turn 4, and Fred rolled for our reserves, and to a resounding cheered scored a 6, plan A was go. With my orders to go, go, go and smash le Mont ringing in his ears, the panzer grenadiers led the assault, leaping for their hanomags, Panthers right behind, MGs blazing. The British put up a brief fight before the surviving armoured car fled the scene. Le Mont was ours, and I thought the British flank might crumble, it just didn’t look up to holding against Skip’s 3 Panthers and fast moving assault infantry. Unfortunately (after optimistically assuring Skip he would win the game for us by just pressing on hard), I didn’t reckon on the British artillery response, with 25 pdr shells hammering Limone hard and suppressing two of the three Panthers. It was the artillery that, relentlessly turn after turn, suppressed Skip’s attack and prevent his breakout into open country, faced by just a few armoured cars and a few Shermans.

Thwarted on the left, Johan was making a great fist of the defence of St Pierre on the right. In another funny moment the Churchill bridging tank suffered a mechanical failure and the crew abandoned it. Only for me not to notice that advancing right behind it was the ARV. Its crew quickly leapt out, rolled a 6 and fixed it. The bridge was soon rolling again towards the river. When it reached the river a waiting panzerschreck team destroyed it, thus ending any hope of getting tanks over the Suelles.

The centre was were the battle would be decided. Peirs, Gary and Will launched their attack forwrads, through the orchard and churchyard. Closing on Tilly behind raining shells. A Firefly knocked out the static Tiger, only for a panzerfaust to glance off the front. Will rolled a 1 for morale, and the crew, lacking any infantry support, made a run for it. We weren’t allowed to re-crew the perfectly intact Firefly and turn its gun on the advancing British!

The Sherman crews showed their bravery by rushing across the Tilly road under 88 covering fire, but ran headlong into deploying panzer grenadiers with panzerfausts and panzerschreck, who destroyed 3 from 4, before Fred’s STuG got the fourth.

Gary’s bold attack saw his engineers race forwards to grab the empty objective building, using their flamethrower against a suppressed Panther. It failed to penetrate, but another morale roll of 1 saw the crew run rather than be cooked inside. The German responded with overwhelming fire from half tracks and machine guns to clear the objective building, and a panzerfaust destroyed their M5 halftrack on the edge of town. That objective was quickly back in German hands, but the hordes of British infantry were now poised to rush the first line of houses, as mortar shells kept the panzer grenadiers suppressed. It was the British final push for Tilly that broke us, another Panther took a 17 pdr hit and burst into flame, whilst the infantry secured a foothold in the town. At which point the Hauptman (me), seeing the writing on the wall and with few unsuppressed forces left to respond in the town, decided he had no choice but to withdraw. Tilly had fallen.

After 9 hours of combat the British had lost 78(approx) morale, the Germans reached 102. A solid win for the British, fair and square.

It was great game, with some memorable moment and played in a great spirit all-round. It had been a hard fight, and for awhile I think we had them worried, but the British artillery, combined with good use of their tanks was the difference. We lost 5 from 7 Panthers, with the other 2 immobilised, but only 2 from 7 STuGs, along with all 3 Pumas (which did nothing!!). Our armoured counter-attacks hadn’t saved us, if only Skip could have pushed on, we might have turned it round. But there are always ifs, buts and maybes...

A good game and a great weekend. Big thanks to everybody who made it so. Just need to recover from the Guinness-poisoning now...

The table top with first units deployed - very nice!

Carrier platoon and recce arriving

British moving up to jump-off lines

Tanks moving up past Hector Farm in the centre

Capturing Limone farm

Engineers approach St Piere

Skip's Panthers and grenadiers overrun Limone farm

HMS Rodney's guns smash the bridge

Lurking panzerfaust squad crawl up the road to destroy a Firefly

The Panthers stalled under heavy arty

Shermans bold dash around Tilly

German armour wrecked on the edge of Tilly. M5 has just debussed its engineers

Lt Chell issuing his artillery fire instructions

Fred's STuGs moving back to Tilly

The main attack, mustering in the orchard

Our 88 covering the road - it missed!

More attackers approach Tilly through the church yard

For Herr Hauptman, the war is over... as is the battle.