Sunday, 24 December 2017

Retreat to El Alamein

Merry Christmas all. Here a little something hobby-related to read over the Yuletide break. A swift AAR... can you tells in it's a quiet Xmas eve?

The game was from a few weeks back, it's just taken me a while to get anything posted. Setting the scene, it's the Egyptian desert, 1942, sometime during the retreat back to the El Alamien line. The scenario is the 'bridgehead breakout' (rolled randomly), but with no bridge, instead the river is a desert wadi with a single easy crossing point (the rest is marked by a line of palm trees) and crossable as dangerous ground. This was the British end of the table.

The British are launching a rather desperate counter against the on-rushing panzers, buying any time they can for the retreat. My force, the Brits, are an ad-hoc gathering of Crusaders and M3 Lees with a motor infantry platoon in support, plus some 25 pdr guns. The Germans, well, they are panzers, an 88, motorised infantry and few extra guns (and a timed Stuka strike).

It was a close fought meeting engagement. The Germans raced onto the table first, with their 88 up front to start the engagement at long range. My tanks arrived piecemeal and I kept them back at the wadi until they had gathered in strength enough to attack in force. This was probable a mistake, because the Germans got well up the table, seized the objectives early and then dive-bombed my mustering forces. The 88 got pinned by my mortar fire, but I quickly lost a deploying 25 pdr to accurate armoured car 20mm cannon fire.

My tanks came forwards, got of some ineffective shots and them took the pounding in return. My Crusaders on the left ran into several Panzer IIIs and the exchange of fire soon started to favour the panzers as 1, then 2 Crsuaders started to burn. In the centre my M3 Lees fared better, firing 75mm suppressing HE into the advancing Germans to some effect. I started a quick counter, seeing his weakness on my right (his left) I went that way as fast as my tank's racing tracks could. The little counter did well, took-out his 105mm field gun on his table edge and got the jump on some of his non-com units towards the rear. This included a 37mm shell that unluckily glanced off his CO's little befelnswagen, which then sped away to safety (ran-off to hide), only to breakdown on a breakdown counter next turn (pushed that engine too hard obviously). The 88, using tactical co-ordination, killed the M3 Lee and my little combined tank counter was all but done. The Luftwaffe had, by now, shown up again, with another circling a diving Stukas. My little band holding the wadi where in trouble and close to breaking.  The Stuka finally did for them with direct bomb hit on an M3 that broke my force's BR. The GEramns, well they still had 7 points to go, so closer thn I thought, but a solid win for Rommel's boys!

A good test of the new 1942 desert lists though, which bring a new flavour to the desert war from BG Tobruk. I love the M3 Lees, a neat tank for '42, not a outright battle winner, but that HE shot is very useful.

 25 pdr deploys in the palm trees. Behind the dingo is my mortar spotter - very handy chap. 
M3s just arriving at the back. 

 Rommel's fire support, a 105 and tow on ambush fire at the back on the German table edge. 
An M3 75mm HE got it.

 German infantry arrive with their infantry gun support

 The 88, which spent many turns pinned by mortar fire (and not by accident). 

Tally-ho boys, once more into the breach!! 

 M3s come forward to face off the German guns with some success.

Counter-attack, by 2 tanks, M3 and Crusader II, caused the Germans some worry.  

 On they rolled, pinning then killing that Marder I with a 2 pdr direct hit

Mortar barrage scored a lot of pins. The dingo crew are my man of the match.  

 Unlucky Pz IV, stray mortar bomb direct hit and flukey kill. 

Siren-screams as the Luftwaffe arrive and turn the tide.

 The result, ouch... my M3s are a-gonna...

Friday, 17 November 2017


A school incept day meant I had an opponent at a loose end for a quick Friday afternoon tester game of my developing sci-fi rules. Dragged from the delights of the Xbox to be forced to push toy-soldiers around… how cruel the world can be!

Anyway, the game is a new set of rules, using dice, cards and counters (I defo wanted all three) for sci-fi (space opera really) battles with small(ish) forces of 20-30 miniatures a-side, with 2-3 vehicles tops. No huge hulking war machines here (with models too big for the tabletop), mostly boots on the ground a few robots, battlesuits and light AFVs.

Here are a few snaps of the action, as I take the ‘alien coalition’ forces against the humans and their light tank, on my play-test desert world of Zentauri. In the scenario, the aliens have just attacked and captured a desert landing field and shuttle, and the humans are launching an urgent counter-attack to get it back.

Still much to be done, and the extra ‘zing’ factor to be found… but the basics of moving, shooting and morale are working well. It isn’t a game of mega-destruction, everything on the table doesn’t have to die to win, its more about capturing your secret objectives. Killing stuff helps, but it’ll take a lot of killing to win if you ignore the mission.

The test was useful, I have a long list of issues and tweaks from it, including that current ‘heroic actions’ (only available to 'Heroe's) that are a bit awesome; moving, shooting and fighting on one action is great (for the hero) especially if he’s a well-armed and armoured battlesuit with a jump jets… better reign that in, because after awhile he was just annoying (and he was on my side), too much like as a one man army (I like games fought and won by the rank and file, not by uber-men or uber-units). The light tank was very hard to kill too, but maybe that is right (although if all these guys have wiz-bang super-blasters as small arms maybe armour isn’t worth so much).

In the end the humans had a narrow win, taking 1 of their objectives and almost getting the other with the recce armoured car’s bold dash. Their robot was way too slow and did nothing… another tweak required. My recce stuff was mostly useless, fast, but that just meant quickly dead.

The miniatures are from many places and ranges with various conversion jobs too… I want the game to be about using any miniatures you have and like, why can’t 40K miniatures face Affinity guys or Star Wars or a Beyond the Gate of Antares force in some far distant galaxy in your own dining room?

No publishing plan for these rules yet, still deep in slow development hell, but one day they may see the light of day, if I really like them. As ever, the only reason to do this is to find the rules I really want to play.

Zentaurian desert battlefield, with a landed shuttle, currently in alien hands. 

Recce armoured car lurking, awaiting its moment to rush for the objective.

 Alien infantry and heavy battlesuit in support

Alien light infantry scouts, hiding in the bushes before long range fire almost destroyed the squad. 

My recce drone zips forwards to take cover, shortly before being blown sky-high. 

 Last alien scout, about to pull back out of range to avoid wiping the squad out, which is bad. 

 Human light tank moves up in hull-down firing position over the landing field. 

Alien battlesuits returning fire at the tank... eventually destroying it. 

Human combat infantry, this is their command group.

Pushing up, leading from the front, the command squad close in the landing field, under covering fire from one of their squads. That 'techno-thing' is an objective marker, seized by their gun's blazing assault.

The fast armoured car rushed the landing field, cannons blazing, but doesn't quiet get to the objective.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017


Busy times, as ever, so this will have to be a quick AAR.

This was an early play-test battle for Tunisia. The game was set during Operation Supercharge II, just outside El Hamma in the Tebaga Gap. Here 1st Armoured Division’s breakthrough attempt, to outflank the Mareth Line, was met by a counter-attack by 15th Panzer. I’d take the Panzerwaffe, getting to use some of my uprated DAK with longer guns for the first time. It was supposed to be a tank-brawl, so true to the scenario, I just took tanks, a mis-mash of IIs, various marks of IIIs, 2 IVs (E and an F2) supported by a Marder and the Luftwaffe’s aid, with a forward air controller (come to me those Air Attack counters) and a timed Stuka strike too…

The Brits were tank heavy too, but had some infantry, a whole Bren section (woo-hoo). They had 6 Shermans - eek! and a HQ command Grant. They also had off-table arty from 25 pdrs and the RAF’s forward air tentacle - both of us were expecting some air support.

It was a straight meeting engagement,  a stand-up fight and both sides reinforcements were keen for the fight (no Panzer-Marsch for me though in 1943). I had a few more tanks, but was generally outclassed (except for my 1 Pz IV F2).

The battle began with tanks exchanging fire in the centre, close to the farm houses, with some pinning with HE and little else. My Marder sat at the low rise at the very back corner and sniped away, needing 6s to hit, but scored few (all glances) over the turns, but pinning the crews, useful (and a highly irritating gun). The ammo truck crew were very busy shifting fresh shells to it most turns (ammo 3!).

My Pz IIs and the Pz IV E were a small diversion/demonstration force, designed to take the objective on my right and draw some British tanks away from my main push on the left (up the centre would be too risky, getting fire from all sides). They raced forwards through the orchard (oranges most likely) and started harassing the Shermans with 20mm cannon fire, little real threat but pinning is pinning regardless of gun… they then got some falling 25 pdr fire in return and quickly lost a tank to a direct hit. Those 25 pdrs were likely to wreck all my light tanks. No answer to that.

My Stuka timed strike arrived in the very centre, exactly where 2 Shermans had rolled up behind a low stone wall. A direct hit by its large bomb destroyed one Sherman (very dead!) and a second direct hit only pinned the other, so close! Good return on those points and 2 counters for the Brits (should have been 3).

Meanwhile, the main tank fight at long range was using up ammo and scoring a few pins but little else, until my only Pz IIIL took an incoming 75mm AP hit that destroyed it (losing an officer in the process). Honours even so far.

My right flank Pz IIs had their objective and kept up the annoying suppressing fire, with 20mm ammo to burn, and as both sides took chits to unpin their tanks, the piles were growing evenly… about 5-6 each.

My F2 was the target of much 75mm HE and kept getting pinned and re-pinned, so it couldn’t have the killer effect I’d hoped… my last Pz III reinforcements (all lacklustre Gs) joined the push on the left and added their HE to the suppressing fire volleys… the three Shermans ahead were suffering too, always 1 or 2 were pinned. Once pinned, AP shots followed, so even glances (lots of them) could cause crews to abandon ship. It didn’t work, except for the British HQ Grant, who, pinned by the Pz IV ‘Stump’s’ HE, bailed as 20mm cannon fire rattled off the front glacis. 2 chits, and the stalemate was starting to break… the Brits had lost their senior officer, to a Panzer II… tee-hee.

This small British disaster was soon followed by another, when the Luftwaffe showed up, an Air Attack counter (yeah, I knew I was due) and my FAC was in business. In the Ju-87D came, sirens wailing, to bomb those Shermans and… bombed wild - missing everything, rubbish!. He’d be back to strafe next turn… erm, but what? The British infantry team were just sitting tight in the farm house objective with little to contribute. Just spotting them would be hard. He might have just use suppressing fire and shoot the place up.

Ammo was now the big issue for both sides. The Shermans last volley of fire blew another Pz III sky high, and the others started to pull back to rearm, my supply  truck rushing across the sand to meet them halfway. The British BR total must be close. But he unpinned (maybe not that close then!), but got his own Air Attack counter. The incoming RAF ‘Kittyhawk’ bombed my Marder's nice sniper position, scored a direct hit and my Marder was gone…kaboom! Glad the ammo truck had just moved, otherwise that hit would have been on it and my tanks would have been stranded ammo-less.

The resulting 5 BR chit (argh!) put me 1 from my break point… (double argh!). My next turn saw my Pz IV F2 finally get a shot (well 2), and score a kill, another Sherman brewed up - serious gun-power there. This chit must do it… but no! The British must have pulled chits well, because they didn’t look too concerned (or good poker-face). I figured the next turn would end it for me. Anything pinned would be out of the game. One chit would do it.

Except, surprisingly, the British conceded… pulling his last 3 rolling Shermans back, remounting in Bren Carriers and scarpering the way they had come. Perplexed, I asked why?. No AT shots left in the entire army. Literally not one shot that could damage a tank, no HE left either, and no resupply truck for the last 3 Shermans. He had one 2” mortar to fight off 5-6 tanks! The Brits were just 4 points from breaking, but couldn’t see how to get any more chits off me. One would have done it… but he didn’t know that.

Strange end, but the oft-debated ammo rule had decided it… my tanks would all be back, fully armed up in the next turn or two. Out of ammo to fight with, the British tankers had no choice to to concede the ground. Narrow (very narrow) German win… on a technicality, but I’ll take it.

I’d lost 6 AFVs (2 Pz IIs, 3 Pz IIIs and the Marder). The British had lost 4 (3 Shermans and the abandoned Grant, we could put that back in service). An even fight I’d say.

As a test it was good; much food for thought on German armour… I really like the rag-tag mix of anything that rolls in Tunisia, from Pz I to Tiger and everything inbetween. On reflection, I’d want infantry in as well though, Tunisia fighting feels more like western Europe, so the infantry restriction will be back in I think. It ain’t the open deserts anymore.

A few snaps from the game…

 The field of battle, from German corner, open desert to the farm an its fields and orchard

 The farm, an objective

 From British side

 First Pz IIIs move up

 Marder covering from way back

 F2 in support, before becoming pinned many times

 Shermans face up and engage, end of that wall is my Stuka's pre-picked location

Meanhile Pz IIs through the orchard on the right

 Pz IV E will help out with HE suppressing fire

 Ammo, truck brings up the Marder's constant supply. Luftwaffe spotter has moved in next door.

Pushing on towards the left

Pz IIs enfilading the British tanks, the Grant moves round to engage.

Stuka strike! Good shot! 

Last reserves arrive, the Gs... meh!

 Ausf L up in smoke leading the way.

Firing line formed, with the oh-so pinned F2... soon he will get a shot off.  

Grant abandoned.

 But a Kittyhawks spins in - tally-ho! Bombs away!

Ouch - Marder catches one.

 Re-arming the panzers, one over-worked re-supply truck today.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

8th Army, on review

Several months ago I showed off all my DAK forces for Battlegroup. Built for the Battlegroup Tobruk book, they are now being updated for the forthcoming Battlegroup Torch book, with some later war equipment for the fighting in '42-43. Panzer IV F2 complete, lang 50mm Pz III turrets awaiting some brushwork as replacement turrets.

Of course, my DAK needed an enemy to fight, so I've also collected and painted up my 8th Army force (I like having both sides for a campaign, it helps a lot when designing lists). Again, these were done for '41 desert war, and I'm about to start an updating project to add some later war vehicles. M3 Grants are already done, with Humber armoured cars, a Bishop and a second infantry platoon (using PSC Metals 8th Army - out soon-ish). PSC's forthcoming Valentines will no doubt also join the force, because when/where else are you getting to play with Valentines?

It was always part of the BG plan that one collection should be usable over several books. The core infantry don't change (too much) so, with the addition of a few tanks a collection can easily be updated for a new BG campaign book. I've already done this with my Russians and will be doing the same to 'back-date' my US forces from Normandy to Tunisia. With 90% of the equipment the same, replacing some M4 Shermans with M3 Stuarts and Lees will allow the collection a second lease of life in games that feel very different (and use my desert terrain). Also, suddenly my large American army can fight my DAK force in perfectly historical battles - Kasserine Pass is on the horizon... I'd better work-out some army lists to play some test-games.

Anyway, having shown off my DAK, the 8th Army should get the same showcase treatment. Here is my BG Tobruk force on review... enjoy... maybe it'll inspire or act as an example of what a BG army looks like.

Australian Rifle Platoon (Wartime and Lancer Miniatures) 

Platoon support weapons, captured Italian 47mm AT gun, Vickers HMG team and AT rifle team

 LRDG recon

Other recce, Dingo (Revel), Vickers light tank and sniper team (Wartime). Couple of Hasagawa Humbers to add.

Transports (required for the mobile warfare special rule).
(Oxford Diecast MWDs and Milicast OYDs)

Battlegroup HQ and transport, armoured radio truck and dispatch rider

The tanks (Armourfast Crusaders with AB crew, Valuegear stowage)

More of the same

PSC cruisers tanks, for a change. Already replaced with new Grants for '42-43.

Arty support, 25 pdr battery with tows and loader teams (Italeri kits, AB crew). Also, FOO team.

Recovery truck (Oxford Diecast repainted) and Ambulance (Airfix classic). 

 Bofors AA (old Airfix kits) and on tow. SHQ crew.

 Ozzy Carrier Section (PSC kits, Wartime and Lancer infantry)

 Resupply trucks (Airfix MWD water-bowser, Milicast CMP truck)