Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Capturing El Shuheeb, BG: Tobruk, play-test

During Operation Crusader, 7th Armoured Division’s advance towards Tobruk is going well, but after a slow initial response, the German panzer divisions are now rapidly moving into position to counter the advance. At a small isolated compound called El Shuheeb both sides are racing to seize the area, led by their reconnaissance troops.

This would be a play-test for some of the special rules, units, stats and the army lists for BG Tobruk. The scenario was a straight forward meeting engagement, because I didn’t want the scenario objectives to skew things, this needed to be a clean fight as a 600pt platoon-sized game.

Once we had both deployed our scout units, the Germans got first go, and from turn 1 the Brits were under pressure. My single LRDG patrol watched on from high ground as the Germans advanced, using their Panzer Marsch ability to get the tanks on fast, and the towed 88 speeding forwards into a good firing position (oh dear). The British response was painfully slow, a grand total of 4 units after 3 turns of reserves. I was forced to put something on the table that would give the Germans some pause, they already had two objectives and the third was in danger if they rushed it before I had the troops to stop them. I used 2 Crusader IIs to try and ward-off his armoured cars and infantry in trucks, but after a brief exchange of fire both were hit and KO’d by AT fire, one from the 88 the other to the PaK38… but their sacrifice bought me time to get my FHQ on, and use his senior officer re-roll to get the Brits arriving faster to make a fight of it. Still, the Germans were well in place and their infantry in trucks were now moving against the last objective (at the compound). This could still all be over very quickly.

The rapid deployment of my two 25pdr guns on the high ground saw the Germans paused, as the gunners started winging HE area fire across the desert and had a few of the panzers pinned. They were doing stirling work and would throughout the game, until one had an ‘Ammo Low’ chit played on it and ran out! Late in the game I towed it away to save me any lost BR from a useless unit.

I sped the bulk of my motor rifles and the 3 man SAS team into the compound, to claim it just before the German infantry, and an infantry firefight developed around the compound, trading Bren and MG34 fire (one sided that). My guys were soon heavily pinned, but the SAS team did good work in return fire with their rifles and the Vickers HMG on the 15cwt truck seriously worrying the Germans and keeping their heads down too (have it!).

My A9 Cruisers rattled on the meet his right flanking Pz III and armoured cars, and over the next few turns lost that duel, all three being knocked out for nothing in return… a 222 survived a 2pdr AT hit! That was the way it was going, a bit of  kicking in the early turns. The A9s proved, well, a bit rubbish.

Things looked bleak, so I decided that only decisive action would change the course of the battle. I send my last 3 Crusader IIs on a bold attack, targeting his weak Panzer IIs on his left. They moved up, firing, and KO’d one, pinned another panzer. German return fire was wild and so my Crusaders heroically pressed on across the open desert.

Things also turned a bit when the SAS Air Spotters called in a P-40 Tomahawk to help me. The air attack’s bombs blew his 232 armoured car sky high with a direct hit and had the Germans worried, as the P-40 turned to come round for a few strafing runs.

The furious firefight at the compound continued, with supporting '88' HE rounds now smashing the buildings and keeping me pinned. MG34 fire wrecked the SAS 15cwt truck and its Vickers, but my PHQ and a Bren section saw off the leading German squad and their MG team. Both sides were taking losses. My last 25pdr also KO’d a Panzer III after switching to AP shells (star man). German losses were mounting at last, but my BR was almost wrecked. But, all wasn’t lost, another Air Attack counter came my way, and the SAS air spotters did the business again, another P-40 buzzed over and released its bombs - 2 aircraft were now in direct support, with multiple MGs to cause carnage on soft skins and infantry. The first P-40’s strafing run destroyed a truck (not great) but it still a counter.  The German player groaned, he’d have 2 strafing runs a turn to deal with next turn and no AA.

On my right the Crusaders traded fire with 2 Panzer IIIs, both sides scoring hits which glanced off (The Crusader’s front armour is surprisingly good against 50mm rounds). I even moved to get a flank shot, hit, and saw that bounce too… drat. The German player was now concerned, his earlier easy stroll was now a tough battle, the counters had mounted for him too.

But, in the end, I couldn’t recover from my terrible and tardy start. I eventually lost one of my Crusaders to a Pz III hit and the resulting chit pushed me to 49 points, 1 over my 48 total. The Brits withdrew back across the desert and the ruined, smoking compound was in German hands. He had reached 29 from 39 BR, so a solid German win in the end.

It was a good game and revealed few things about the army lists and special rules, most of which I liked. The SAS guys are ace (of course), and all round useful. Portee guns are very easily pinned (mine spent all game pinned by long-range 222 20mm fire).

All boded well for BG Tobruk next spring. Here are the force lists and a few photos of the action.

British Forces
FHQ in staff car   
FSU - Dorchester ACV       

Motor Platoon (in light trucks)      
PHQ 6 men, 3 x 7 men sections
HMG team

Crusader II tank Platoon (5)       
A9 Cruiser tank Platoon (3)           

2 x 25pdr with loader teams+ tows   

LRDG Patrol
with Vickers HMG + K gun       

Supply Truck         
2pdr AT gun portee on medium truck  
Totals                    599 pts    48 BR    4 officers, 2 scouts           

DAK Forces
FHQ in staff car       
FSU - SdKfz 263     
Signals Intelligence

Schutzen Platoon         
In 3 medium trucks

Pz II Platoon (3)           
Pz IIIH Platoon (3)           

FO Team               
2 x 105mm guns (off-table)   

SdKfz 222 AC       
SdKfz 232 AC      
PaK 38 AT gun with tow

Supply truck            
88mmL56 AA gun + tow

Totals                    593 pts    39 BR   4 officers, 3 scouts

 The battlefield and a few German scouts, watched by my LRDG patrol.

 The scouts take up firing positions as the 88 arrives.

 Serious firepower...

 The panzers arrive, each with a infantry squad in a truck (Italian in this case) behind. 

 First Crusaders try to stem the tide, and lasest 2 seconds. 

 25pdrs deployed on higher ground, with loader teams. 

The compound, the scene of the infantry fight. SAS are in the far building, whilst their 15cwt is pinned. 

 On-table counter-battery fire from 105s, woefully inaccurate for most of the game. 

 The 25pdrs dish it out. Resupply truck just topping-up a Panzer III. 

 German right flank, Pz III, 232 and infantry in a truck.

 Direct hit by the first Tomahawk. Two aircraft today, and still I couldn't turn it round. 

Infantry fight in the compound at close range. Germans pinned and vulnerable to a close assault, but the British PHQ got pinned too before they could fix their bayonets and go-in. 

 Crusader II rolls past one of its victims on my far right. By now the desert 'brown-out' was in effect. Thick dust reducing visible and firing ranges.

 My A9s, in flames, having done nothing. One Pz III accounted for them all!

Thursday, 13 October 2016



Well, it’s just been another Ireland BG ‘Big Game’ weekend over in Kildare, organised by Piers Brand and played at the Hobby Den. I’ve played in four of these games now, and had a hoot each time. I am a lover a big spectacle though, lots of nice toys and superb terrain, I just can’t see how wargaming gets much better (beats small skirmish game any day). This year we had a well researched scenario (by TomG, thx), set during 47th Infantry Regiment’s operation to clear the German town of Langerwehe from 12th Volksgrenadier Division. I was given the task of playing 3rd Armoured Division’s limited aid to the infantry attack, screen off its divisional flank from Langerwehe and avoiding becoming dragged into any street-fighting, whilst assisting with supporting fire. With seven players a-side, the other six US players all had infantry-based forces, footsloggers but with some armoured support. Day one (Saturday), we had instructions to push forwards to the railway line and establish positions here (dig-in) for an attack into town on day 2. Two previous infantry attacks had failed, we were informed. It was clue to go ‘armour first’ that we missed, and didn't!

The six German players each had their own troops and a few AT guns, as well as a few bunkers with MG42s etc. Not much armour, but 116th Panzer’s support could be called on if things got dicey, so the panzers were in reserve.

In such a big game, with so much going on, you can’t really see everything that’s happening on the board, and obviously you have your own sector to worry about first. At the extreme left flank of the US attack, my view of the battle mostly saw this action. On the other flank, well, I had only rough reports but no clear view (most of the time it didn’t seem to be going well though!).

The defended farm at Merebich stood in my way, and not wanting to get dragged into a fight with the elite 9th Fallschirmjager holding it, I delegated the task of clearing Merebich to two other commanders with infantry forces. I would swing wide of the farm and press on fast for the railway line with my armoured infantry (assuming it didn’t bog down, as a scenario special rule had off-road travel in danger of bogging in the autumnal rains and quagmire).

To help the attack we had a lot of timed barrages from 105s and 155s (and a Calliope), but after these, the artillery would be short on shells and might run out at anytime. Also, with very low cloud, all air support was cancelled (oh good!). We had a preliminary bombing strike from two P-47s, after that, zippo. So, into the attack against a fortified position, lacking sustained artillery support and air support and with tanks likely to bog off-road - it did not bode well.

So it proved…

Despite our timed barrages knocking out a couple of AT guns and causing pinning, even though one P-47 was driven off by 20mm AA fire, our infantry set off from their foxholes across the fields. Six infantry platoons were on the move. One found itself in a minefield (despite us having a mineroller, which for unknown reasons- probably forgetfulness - hadn’t deployed yet to clear the way).

On the left flank Merebich Farm was subjected to some heavy 155s shelling and  .50cal HMG area fire that had the Germans well suppressed. The armour slowly arrived, and found the srrounding fields a swamp, 4 vehicles (2 M10s and 2 M4s) had become immobile with no ARV in sight to pull them clear. The infantry assault on Merebich was overwhelming, despite a steadfast defence against the odds. The FJ pioneers gained some revenge for the merciless shelling with a last gasp flamethrower attack, which hurt, but then the buildings were cleared and the GIs moved in in force.

My own armoured column arrived via the road, only to find it mined and the lead Jumbo Sherman was KO’d. My armour became stuck behind it and had to swing off the road, one took a Panzerschreck hit from a suicidal attack which saw its two man team wiped out by returning HE fire, but cost me a second Sherman (of 6). As planned I swung left off the road and got the M3 troop carriers to the fore, racing for the railway line, whilst the tanks kept up rapid HE fire to suppress the 88 watching the road. It kept using Tactical Co-ordination to recover and destroyed one half track before heavy MG fire saw the gunners cut down or running. I had men on the railway embankment and digging in soon after, and tanks behind firing HE over their heads into the town. My platoon’s 60mm mortar even neutralised a German MG team in the church - a first for me! Mission accomplished for day one, except a column of Pz IVs was approaching through Langerwehe. The lead panzer traded fire with my Shermans, and the panzer column stalled, faced by a lot of bazooka’s on ambush fire. They didn’t threaten too hard and pulled back as the game ran to its end on Saturday.

Not so good for the US elsewhere, with darkness approaching the US attack was called off. Only the extreme left and right commanders (George and myself) had men on the railway embankment. We had 20 minutes to redeploy units for day 2 and re-arm tanks etc, so everything was in place for Sunday’s resumption. The day was declared a marginal victory for the Germans.

Sunday morning, with many players slightly the worse for wear after Saturday night.  The US had orders to break into town, except me, who had orders not to break into town. My aid would mostly come in the form of M7 Priest barrages into the town and some long range HE fire from my tanks (we did get one little duel with a StuG that poked its nose out, but neither side scored the decisive blow).

The battle was being decided on the right, which was a blood bath. German armour had arrived, including a Jagdtiger (!), and their fire kept the US troops well off the railway line. Sunday saw no progress from the US forces on the right or in the centre, although the continued attack through Merebich did get over the railway and into town, shot in by M10s and M4s now freed from yesterday’s mud. It was our only slight gain.

So, at midday, with the US’ BR rating for the day already exceeded, we called it a wrap. The US attack was called off and withdrew. Langerwehe was too tough a nut for these forces, time to waste it with heavy arty or maybe a B17 strike! It was a solid German win, well done to them, but it's not the winning, its having a cracking game, and we all had, so we all won (ahh!), its just the US players won a bit less!

Here are my photos of the game in progress; dice, tapes, hands etc in shot. Most are from my end of the table. I did make a few little photo-recon trips around the board, but its was pretty crowded and time was pressing, better to just crack on with the action.

Thanks all that played in the right spirit… and thanks to Piers for the organisational leg-work. Good times, good company, some beer (and a lot for a few) and loads of toy soldiers, life is good! Enjoy...


US infantry start in their foxholes south of Langerwehe, well out of range. 

 German players deploying into the town before turn 1. 

Firs shots fired (OK, bombs dropped). USAAF's only appearance.

Waiting for my forces, the FJ 88 and loader team, dug-in on the edge of Langerwehe. 

Behind it, troops in the ruins. All to be cleared by Sunday afternoon. 

Up, out of their foxholes and advancing, with no sign of their armoured support from reserve (why?).

Arty battery in place. 3 M7 Priests, before one caught a direct hit from a wild 120mm mortar shell. Still, they proved invaluable support.  

The far (right) flank. Shermans have arrived to shell the town.

More 47th Infantry advance on Merebich farm, beyond those trees (mercifully blocking LoS).

Still a long way to go to the railway line. 

First squad reaches the graveyard (handy!). Railway line just beyond, but the area is under heavy MG fire. Hug those walls.  

The only armoured support in the centre, M5s.

Half of Iowa is descending on Merebich farm. That Sherman is in a very swampy field (we are told). Roofs removed from farm so we can see what is lurking and firing at us, for targeting.  

My 3rd Armoured troops yet to arrive (down that road). 

A lone mysterious dispatch rider racing ahead of my troops deployment. What was his role, the umpire would not say! But he raced off into town.

The spearhead division arrives. Jumbo leading the column and kaboom! Hits a mine. 

Column to halt, exposed to 88 fire and FJ in that farm (guns right!). 

Panzerschreck team claims a second tank, then dies, many times!!

Sherman ARV tries to repair the damage, to no avail.

The Merebich attack pauses whilst supporting MG fire does its work. The Sherman is bogged down and will be no help. 

Support fire group flaying Merebich with MG and mortar fire.

M10s arrive to help, and 2 of them bogged down too.  The dog-faces would have to go in alone. 

Go, go, go! They rush the farm. 

My boys are off the road and crossing the wet fields to my left. Objective the railway not far ahead (if you have an M3 to drive in).

Dispatch rider passes on his message 'the yanks are coming!' Yes, we can see that thanks Hans!

My M3s take the lead whilst the Shermans try to keep the 88 quiet.

My M10s lend some HE support too, now that Merebich is safely in US hands. 

Mopping up in Merebich. Final building to be cleared.

On the right, an M10 fires from the hill down into town. 
They would at least get some men on the objective.

M3 firing its .50cal at the 88 crew, before they got off a return shot (tactical co-ordination? - who wrote these rules?) and ruined its day! 

My arty support rolls on, but not enough orders to use it really. That half track bogged down (can you see the pattern forming?). 

My support teams cross the railway line and get ready for the counter-attack. 88s still going, somehow!

First German reinforcements, heading my way, until a breakdown in the lead Panzer resulted in a blockage, then cleared by the Berghetzer. 

and more... Langerwehe is suddenly full of 116th Panzer's tanks.

So my guys dig-in and get the bazookas forward. '88' now gone in a fusillade of MG fire. 

But there are still a few survivors in the church, including the HQ senior officer (with no troops left to command).

Lead Pz IV has few shots at my distant Shermans, no hits from either side. 

Merebich is now secured. The jump-off point for tomorrow's renewed effort to get to the railway and into town. 


The Aunty Jemima mineroller to clear the road, moments before being wasted by the Jagdtiger waiting for it. 

The beast lurking, so much AT fire it's not worth even trying. PaK43, Jagdpanzer, HMG in bunker. Find another way! 

Armour in the centre arrives in force.

 Day two's attack begins in the centre, the Shermans get rolling down hill.

That's more like it... serious Detriot steel.

 Shermans lurk everywhere, shelling Langerwehe. 75mm rounds don't cut it against fortified buildings or bunkers. 

Day two's attack from our left, the armoured column deployed the night before. 

 Now un-bogged, the M10s can support the Sherman advance with long range fire, and proves as useless as ever! 

The road to Langerwehe, is, well, messy! 

Suspiciously empty half tracks in Langerwehe, the panzer grenadiers all now in buildings and dealing out machine-gun-death. 

 But a few have made the railway line on the right.

 More German armour arrives. Eee Gods!

 Panzer IVs firing position in the centre until it was hit and KO'd by an M5! Get in! (small victories, we'll take them).