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Archive for December, 2010

A bit of candy for Christmas never did any harm.

Just updating a project I have managed to grab a few minutes for (everyone needs a chance to relax at this time of year), I have done more of the train.   Just a few components, and only up to the ‘test paint’ stage (detailing, hatches, rivets etc. still to come …)…

I am looking at constructing some components of a BP 43 train.   I say ‘some’ as the main purpose is for use in operational games, and I would no more expect to lay out an entire train (4 artillery cars, 4 security cars, 2 AA cars etc.) than to lay out all the vehicles in a Panzer formation.

Armoured Trains in NQM or Megablitz:  Armoured Train units were often ‘battalion’ sized, consisting of HQ and Support units, Recce and 2 combat trains.  The two trains would deploy 8 artillery cars (in the case of the BP 43, T34 turrets), 8 medium AA guns, and 2 Katyusha multiple launchers.  The units and the trains themselves employed a large allocation of Machine guns, plus several companies of infantry (who could be delivered into battle riding on the Security Cars).  The following link has an entertaining mix of Orbat fragments and ripping yarns … Russian Armoured Trains

Scaled for Megablitz, I would represent that as an Admin/Transport stand (the loco), SP 1, which is the tractor/tow for the unit; an artillery car (T34), SP 2; an AA car, SP 1/AA1; and a Security Car, say, EP 1, Cap (1 infantry stand) … plus 1 Recce stand (say, a BA20, R) and a foot stand SP 1 (that can travel with the train on the Security Car) …  This represents the whole formation including the back up train, at full strength.  Obviously a single train would be half that SP.  Trains move on railway tracks.  The infantry and EPs should be sufficient to build or repair sections of track to keep the train mobile.   Trains carried plenty of ammunition, and sufficient fuel ish for 100 mile round trips.    Generally, they resupply by returning to their base for LOG.

For PBI: basically each carriage is what it is … the Train is an armoured tow, the T34 car is pretty much a T34, the AA cars are guns.  Armour on trains like the BP 43 was in the region of 45mm.  They are big, easy, targets, but were very durable (you’d have to render the carriage beyond towing, or critically hit the loco, which is a very big lump).  If you take out the loco, the other carriages won’t move, but fight normally as individual AFVs.   I will trial it at some point, with the overall durability interpreted as Armour 8.  We will see if that is tough enough (there are stories of them duelling successfully with platoons of Panzer IVs!).

PBI is great for the movement rules: you should define if the train is one or two squares in length (usually one), then not worry about it overhanging.  It can go backwards or forwards through any squares on the line.  Count all directions as side armour.  Dice for movement for the loco, dice for shooting for the carriages (they could and did shoot on the move).   It will be interesting.  Look for the AARs here!

From Chassis to Artillery Car

The raw materials for my train are some cheap (Ertl) Thomas the Tank Engine clearance items that are, round about, 1:100 scale.  Basically the method is to strip them down into components, and then rebuild in panelled fashion (a fair bit of the new fabrication is from MDF base off cuts – as described in the Garford build story) …

The artillery cars are armoured platforms for T34 turrets.  Regular visitors might recall I culled a T34 turret by converting a BF tank into an SU 122 for this project. Nice when a plan comes together …

From Troublesome Truck to Security Car

Security cars are essentially flat cars used for tools, spare track etc, but mainly there to protect the principal carriages from mined sections of track.  Troops can ride on them as mentioned previously.

There is finishing and basing to come (a whole extra story), and some working of concepts into rules before we are done.  However, I thought people might enjoy some progress pics.

Merry Christmas

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I’m very grateful for some ideas generated by my last post and exchanged on the Megablitz Yahoo Group.

The topic suggested splitting the squares up into smaller areas to make progress through towns and impassable areas slower.  It took me back to some trials we had done a while back with NQM in which the BUAs were divided into contiguous areas that had to be fought for one at a time (slowing the progress and upping the cost).

Thinking about it, I had instinctively set up last week’s table with the towns as ‘the squares’.  On further thought, I now think superimposing a town square on the corner intersections is more what I want.

First up, this means the adjacent squares are cut from 6 to 4.  In itself, this can make urban areas less vulnerable.  Additionally, the town clearly dominates the surrounding area

It also is the first stage of varying the number of squares per area: it might be that the easiest way of increasing the density of other terrain types might be to put additional zones on the intersections … (if we rule that you must pass through/count the middle square in such arrangements, it does add to the movement requirement and create ‘bottlenecks without introducing annoyingly small squares within squares)

I would only allow occupation of any of the imposed upon squares (dominated squares) to the occupier of the town (or, if the square is vacant, as a jumping off point for an assault on the town itself).

Following convention, I had assumed rail and road connections would pass through the middle of the side edges (to allow that traditional modular connectivity) …  this would make the link to the town module at the corner.  I think I can live with that (the town is still on the road, after all).

Industrial Town on Rail Line (surrounding grid lines enhanced)

However, prior to this discussion, I was still having some worries about waterways.  I have previously tried using blue underlay, and moving the tiles apart appropriately – so rivers and waterways are between squares rather than running through them.   This is very useful from a movement point of view (however you manage/penalize it, the effect is on the movement between rather than in the squares).  However, I was pretty much resigned that to go to a modular version of Megablitz, I would need to figure out how to do ‘three way’ squares (i.e. roads, rivers and rail … possibly some squares having the whole lot).

Playing around with the ‘town on apex’ squares, I see how much better this works with rivers as the boundaries of the zones, rather than running through them.  Now, the town sits astride the river (and, indeed, in a very plausible way is the ‘bridge’).  It removes some of the complications of river traffic being physically in the middle of the land forces in the square, and is, I think, quite a ‘tidy’ solution.

As with the suggestion on general occupation of squares, I would not allow the river to be crossed within the four dominated squares other than by going via the town.  Again, this seems to be giving towns their proper historical function.

It may be that larger towns are best represented by abutting two of theses squares (so a paired square dominates 6 areas and/or similar arrangements), and that other terrain types can be tackled in this way.  For the moment, I think I have some more trials to set up.

Many thanks to the contributors on this topic ….

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Megablitz Squared

This is part of an ‘operational games’ project, following on from trying NQM moderated by the Megablitz ‘SMART’ order system earlier in the year (Three Days in the Crimea).

I set up a fairly abstract Eastern Front table with a Rifle Division and a couple of ad hoc armour groupings looking to defend a sector, potentially to counter attack.  Moving up, the Germans had a Panzer Division and a motorised Kampf group with an infantry regiment supporting them.

The basic plan was to play on squares rather than using measured movement on an open table.  The reasons for this are simple.   Both tables I commonly use are already squared – either for PBI, or because, at home, I use a modular terrain system.

I wanted to be able to run games over more than one session, and find using squares facilitates a quick re-staging if you have to put the stuff away (tip: the quickest way to make notes is to take a photo or two).

Further, I had it mind that a follow-up game might shift the axis and/or only retain a part of the original area (again easier to do with a big set of tiles (mapped plans etc. translate quickly onto the table).   Anyway, I thought it would merit a try out.

The second area of trial – and this might be of interest to beginners or occasional Megablitz players, was on notation, markers and hardware.  My 15mm toys are not set up for magnetic tabs, nor do I have a full chopped up set of strength markers.  I do have order markers.  I have thought about various ways of temporary setting up, and for this game opted for very simple ‘old school’ … player managed unit rosters … On your sheet, the player has a list of the stands in the unit (in my examples with the SP listed as a string of ‘0’s ready to be struck out when hit) with its designation at the top.   The current order is written in by the unit’s name.

The ‘report back’ on this aspect was 100% favourable.  The system was intended as a temporary measure, but worked much better than I expected.  I liked the string of order codes building up across the roster for each unit (I have to confess I am not always sharp on which order can follow which – an important feature in Megablitz –  marking them down in this way highlights any incompatibility I might otherwise have missed …)…

Rifle Div on the table with sample 'roster' listing

I also find that working with markers on the bases, I am one of those players who is frequently back and forth to the table, taking a peek, to keep reminded of the current SPs.  So having them on a roster made tallying up for combat etc. nice and simple.

I like the orthodox Megablitz system, and it has the advantage, in a big multi-player game, of it not being necessary to tie up models with sheafs of (probably misleading) player notes and lists (the model takes its info with it).  Great for umpiring big games.

However, it is good to know that rosters work, so you can set up your existing kit for Megablitz as soon as you have the Orbats sorted …

Me?  I am tempted to run with this for a while longer as it was less clumsy than I expected.  We actually played with no markers or litter on the table, but next time I will get players to place order chits where units are adjacent, I think (as it makes it clearer who fights whom).

S M A R T
Light Recce 3(5) 6(10) 8(12)
Wheels 3(4) 1(2) 4(6) 6(8)
Tracks 2(4) 2(3) 3(5) 4(6)
Foot 1 into adjacent 2 2
Horse 2 2 3 4
Amph 1 1
Boats 2 2 2 4
Trains 6 into adjacent 10 12

Movement Chart – distances in Squares (meanings are all exactly as in ‘Megablitz’).

As a starting point, an adjusted movement table was made up, translating the Megablitz rates into ‘squares’.  For simplicity, I wanted to build the movement up from the minimal ‘Unmotorised Foot can attack into the adjacent square and occupy it if they win (A Orders)’ or move one square (M Orders).  The table builds up from that basic denominator.  Of course, the speeds do not translate exactly, so there is a degree of fudging.   As a rough rule, extrapolated from the 15mm figures (mostly on 3cm frontages), 6″ squares and Foot moves … A square is around 5km x 5km, and a turn is about 3hrs.  I will continue to work on this scale issue until I am satisfied that a number of important parameters are balanced.

As a way of simplifying some of the arbitration in movement, we tried the following order precedence:  A can make its first move, or attack into an adjacent square.  Anyone caught by this is affected.  If at any point, a formation on T finds itself adjacent to an enemy on A or M, the T immediately turns to R and retreats as many squares as are necessary to avoid being attacked. Move all Recce, move all R and T orders, then M and any remaining A.  Any troops on R who are unable to move into an unthreatened square surrender.

Recce drop back in front of heavier formations etc, as described in the rules.

The approach to the Rail Head

We conducted reconnaissance as described in the book,  but with the target and results being all the troops in a target square (this seemed quite generous, overall, so might be adjusted as the project goes forward)…

The movement system worked well.  It was not unduly tested, of course, as we had only a single table in use and, being Russia, we did not have any ‘West European style trunk roads’ in play.  The German ‘Leg’ Infantry tried to keep up with the motorised attack by staying on T orders too long.  They got bounced by a Soviet Armoured counter on A orders, and fell back in full retreat on their artillery assets.  Dug in, the artillery position held for a turn, long enough to allow the German motorised column to cut into the Soviet rear.   Nasty.

encircled - no break through

By the Rail Head, the Soviet Cavalry Tank Brigade significantly over matched itself against a Panzer Division (this was meant to be the game’s main action) … The Soviet plan (for, I must confess, t’was I) was to commit the Germans to a pre-emptive meeting engagement, then (having slowed them and bought some time) fall back on supporting troops and dug in assets.  Unfortunately, the tank elements were not durable enough for the task and were wiped out in the meeting engagement.  This fiasco bought little enough time, and left the Tanki’s unarmoured rear echelon completely exposed to the rampaging panzers.

Oops!  Actually they managed to scuttle into the urban areas, but the unit was squandered.

We definitely would have profited from using two tables … and given that we did not, should – inevitably – have played down rather than across the rectangle.  However, we got enough out of the game to see it working, experiment with the various orders and movement rates, and see the squares in action.

Enough to progress with this interesting approach.

Achtung Panzer! The Red Army rear!

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