Archive for July, 2011

PBI 400 point ‘Aufklarungsschwadron’ Company

Some years back, I put together a ‘hollywood’ German list … a little formation so overloaded with weapons it was like a miniature army all on its own.   A wargame army not a real one.   At a second look, of course, it was apparent that such mini armies indeed existed … and were the norm within the Reconnaissance Squadrons.

These were the motorised infantry attached to support armoured car formations.  The armoured infantry were not recce troops … they were there to dig the armoured cars out of trouble (and sustain battle against much bigger enemy formations if needed while a response was organised).  There was a downside … although armoured, the company’s equipment was light (designed to go anywhere the armoured cars could go), so although it packs a punch, it can’t really absorb very many.

In PBI terms, it is also expensive.   All those trucks and tracks … I’m sure a lot of PBI players would prefer to leave them behind, walk to the battlefield and take a Tiger instead.   Still, it’s quite nice to do the drive-by.

Sdkfz 232, Sdkfz 222

(Quality Castings and Flames of War)

Sdkfz 250/radio/fixed MG, Company Commander, Medic,  Sdkfz 250/mortar

(Quality Castings, FoW medic, Peter Pig Command group, Flames of War 250/mortar)

PC’s Sdkfz 250/Pzb, 3 more half-tracks, infantry platoon, sniper

(figures by Peter Pig, half-tracks by Flames of War and Skytrex)

Schwimmwagen, Kubelwagen, Horch, infantry platoon and sniper

 (Peter Pig, QRF and Flames of War vehicles, Peter Pig figures)

2 x Sdkfz 251/7 w. LMG, Pioneer platoon w. flamethrowers and panzerschreck

(figures by Peter Pig, vehicles by Quality Castings and Skytrex)

Note, these guys will get your patrols out of trouble … those bridging ramps are the right size for Armoured Cars.

Everyone ‘bussed-up’ and on the move …

Tabulated Company list:

Late 1944 Aufklarungsschwadron
Company Commander
Sdkfz 250 half track 5 5
CC/PC SMG group 18 18
MG42 vehicle mounted LMG group (cannot debus) 7 7
Sdkfz 251/7 81mm mortar half track 15 15 45
Armoured Platoon
PC’s 250 half track with PZB fixed weapon 19 19
PC SMG group 18 18
3 Sdkfz 250 half tracks 5 15
3 MG42 LMG group 13 39
MP44 Assault Rifle group 7 7
MP 44 Assault Rifle group (equipped with mine detectors) 8 8
MP44/Panzerfaust group 9 9 115
Jeep Platoon
2 jeeps, 3 6
light truck 5 5
PC SMG group 18 18
3 MG42 LMG groups 13 39
MP44 Assault Rifle group 7 7
MP 44 Assault Rifle group (equipped with mine detectors) 8 8
MP44/Panzerfaust group 9 9
Panzerschreck group 10 10 102
Scout Platoon detachment
Sdkfz 222 MG armoured car (gun 4, armour 4) 20 20
Sdkfz 234 8 rad armoured car (gun 6, armour 5) 28 28 48
Pioneer Platoon
2 Sdkfz 251/7 8 16
PC SMG group 18 18
2 MG 42 vehicle mounted LMG groups (cannot debus) 7 14
2 Flamethrower groups 9 18
Panzerschreck group 10 10
2 MP 44 Assault Rifle groups 7 14 90

Quite a long table – because there are so many bits of equipment in the company.  The heart, of course are the MG/Assault rifle squads with Panzerfausts.

The joy of this little army is that it is designed to fight the classic ‘accidental encounter’ Company level battle.  Just right for PBI.  I think it looks nice, too.

The ‘autumn’ basing was to make it compatible for the Ardennes without actually being snowscaped.   The fallen leaves are Antenociti’s ‘leaf litter’ (see review) …



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In amongst the welter of huge events, quite a few regular wargame sessions have been scratched.   We did get a PBI game in last week, however.

PBI: July Eastern Front game

This saw a German Reconnaissance unit roll into a dug in Red Army Motorised Rifle company near some isolated Ukrainian farms.

Sensitive to fashion (‘Flames of War chic’), I’ve captioned the picture using the anglicised Russian (though as they are from a motorised unit, they should be ‘Motostrelkovy’).  The Russians have opted to defend, and have dug-in a platoon of anti-tank guns.  In addition, they have their first Rifle platoon on table, and a machine-gun platoon and second Rifle platoon close behind.  Also off table, they have a couple of mixed groups of armour from their parent Mechanised Brigade.

(click on the pictures for full size)

Marder: the Germans managed to find one of these from somewhere ...

(a ‘Flames of War’ 15mm Marder finished in ‘dunkelgelb’)

The Reconnaissance Squadron has its usual two platoons – one in half-tracks, one in light trucks – plus the support of some armoured cars (indeed, they probably initiated the contact) …  Wary of the presence of Soviet armour, they have commandeered a heavy-gunned Marder from somewhere.   They started with just the company Command and half-tracks on table.

The first turns of the game saw some excellent reinforcement rolling from the Germans (much aided by their numerous vehicles), and a weak response from the Russians (though motorised’, they have left their vehicles some way to the rear and were dicing as leg infantry … nevertheless, with one ‘arrival’ (6) on 22 dice, they were also dicing badly by any standard).   The Germans surged forward.

Both forces wanted this commanding position!

There was a fierce squabble amongst the infantry for some farm buildings, and a table full of powerful weapons proved a grave yard for the light armour …

Soviet tanks get the jitters

(FOW marker drafted in to note a morale failure: the Russian tanks may not advance this turn)

The smoking wreck is actually from T26 Flamethrower tank (though, from the wreck, you’d be forgiven for imagining it had been a little bigger and more advanced than that!).  It was taken out by the Marder, which in turn took a hit from the guns.

infantry anti-tank torch a 232

(a bad gamble by the Germans: they let the infantry get too close – a flamethrower team have survived the machine-gunning!)

Soviet flamethrowers did their work, however … though it was an infantry team attached to the CC that did the work.    Frequently early victims in the firefight, in this game the same team took out an armoured car, then gave the crucial edge in what proved to be the final attack on the farm.

Soviet armour drives past a burning German wreck

(15mm: QRF Russians pass a Quality Castings 232 A/C)

As the game wound down, the Russians were getting the last of their assets on to the table, the Germans were declining (as ever with this powerful but lightly armoured force, Half-tracks were smoking, platoons were looking around for new leaders, squads were dropping back into cover …)..

A good see-saw game.

I will post some pictures of the Aufklarungsschwadron PBI force, which has been tidied up of late …

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I was very pleased to spend last weekend helping man the Battlefields Trust stand at Festival of History (English Heritage’s annual event at Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire).

In amongst my main duties explaining the Trust’s work of preserving and protecting historic battlefields – encouraging the public to support our campaign to protect the battlefield of Edgcote from the HS2 rail link, explaining the great events of nearby Naseby on my battlefield model etc. – I got break periods when I could go off (get rained on!) and visit the various period displays …

As ever, there were a great number of 20th Century groups and a lot of equipment on display.   The reenactors seemed universally helpful and willing to explain and demonstrate their gear (and always willing to pose for photos!) ..

Here’s a quick tour round …

Part of the ‘Trench Warfare’ exhibit

I’m not sure that I have seen this Spanish Civil War group before …

Getting help from Soviet Military Advisors, it seems 🙂

I was very impressed with the overall look of this Desert Airforce zone

Northamptonshire by the Med!

… with a typically robust looking mid 20th century British truck

US armoured Recce troops:

M20 Armoured Reconnaissance Car

US M3 Stuart Light Tank

Ready and willing to demonstrate the various small arms in their armoury

explaining the workings of a 30 cal.

Some of the other weapons they were demonstrating …

‘grease gun’, ‘bazooka’, carbine, Garand, Thompson etc.

Light Mortar in the back of one of their Jeeps

I showed quite a bit of the Red Army kit last year, but here’s a PTRD to add to the gallery:

And here’s some more German kit:

basic platoon weapons

8 Cm mortar

transport for armoured infantry: the Sdkfz251

the iconic if complex motorcycle combination

Of course, not everyone got something as cool as a Kubelwagen ….

Now, of course, I accept that not everyone approves … but there’s nothing quite like a big machinegun to get youngsters interested in military history:

Trying out the Vickers

As well as all this good stuff outdoors, and me with my Naseby display (see ECW Battles …), the Phoenix Wargames Club in association with Warlord Games ran their usual wargames pavillion (this year with a big official sign outside: kudos, lads) …

wargames at the Festival of History

An excellent weekend.

Let’s hope we get a bit more sunshine next year …

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There was no shortage of 20th century games at this year’s COWWD Display Team North provided me with late entertainment both evenings, and I enjoyed my regular COW opportunity to play the Fletcher Pratt Naval Game with John Curry.

Graham Evans put on his much-anticipated Spanish Civil War game (Send Not to Know) with which regulars will be familiar, and Jonathan Crowe presented a neat little session on Villers Bocage … an illustrated examination of the evidence and a micro scale 1:1 canter through the engagement.

As far as ever is the case, Send Not to Know is finished now.  Graham had a full complement of players so I dropped by occasionally to watch the game but was mostly absorbed in the Franco Prussian sessions in the nearby Beech Room.

A Full House for 'Send Not to Know'

Here are some more shots from the game …

SCW: Republican Artillery

I caught this artillery battering the Fascists: a coloured marker is used to tie up the batteries with the barrages they are delivering.  Blast markers are liberally smothered over the target (according to how many guns, how many turns etc.) but the effect of these are only determined at the end of the barrage …

Moroccans under fire ..

These plucky Republicans also tried some experimental ‘combined arms’ operations, going into the attack with the direct support of a T26 … against the odds, it worked and got them some local advantage.

Unitat per la Victoria!: a brave assault charges home ...

The Fletcher Pratt naval game.

I have played in John Curry’s Fletcher Pratt games on a couple of previous occasions, but only with surface ships.  This year John introduced the air power aspect so important by WW2.  The mechanism is pretty much the same – though, due to having to guess a triangulated distance (with the bandits deliberately altering their height to confuse the gunners), the AA can be very random.

the convoy with air missions over head

The underlying mechanism is that players must place a targeting triangle beside their ship indicating the direction of fire, gunnery involved and the estimated distance …

gunnery markers: in this case, sending up flak at air missions (high up over those plinths)

… ship-to-ship, golf tees are placed to mark the splash … (here is a picture from an earlier game showing it working) …

blue tees are water splashes, red tees are hits

So something like this is not good …  (this is what Tim Gow did to one of my brave little cruisers!)

some damage just can't be fixed!

The air missions were printed strips of aircraft pegged (as deceptively as the player can manage) on those big sticks.   The relative illusions worked probably better than shows up in the pictures …

incoming air missions (I have left in the background of the Practical Room so as not to falsify the impression)

As a participation exercise amongst friends, the system worked rather well and felt quite realistic.  Bombers were lethal to ships (lighter planes less so) and heavy flak was almost always lethal to fly into … but in-game play, hitting ships was quite hard, estimating the distances for the AA very random.   You had that feeling that defenceless ships would have been sitting ducks.

In truth, I’m not convinced this game is anything but a bit of fun … it will always go to the best guesser (the best estimator of the distances involved of course, and I’m not saying that’s always guesswork ...), not the best tactician.  And, of course, by the period modelled, genuine guesswork had been taken out of naval gunnery.

However, as a quick start ‘semi rational’ game mechanism it seems to give the right amount of variability without too much rules intrusion.  So, a good game, and a good way to get people thinking.

Villers Bocage

I enjoyed this little game by Jonathan Crowe … 6mm tanks, but 1:1 and personalised …

Villers Bocage: overview

This session started with a short description of how the designer pieced the game (table, positions and orbats) together … including illustrating what the bombers did (making ‘piecing together’ exactly that …) and how he constructed a table effect from google ‘satellite’ images.

Villers Bocage: the miniature layout

(looks good, doesn’t it?  Printed sheets and little toys – smoke and mirrors, almost …)

Then we got turns to take some rolls in the engagement.  Clearly, it starts with Wittmann and co on the rampage, and with the British mixture of tanks and softskins set up like a coconut shy.  However, there are chances that they will make a mistake and places to hide in the side streets (if your tank survives the opening sweeps).

So the game presented a challenge to both sides: to Wittmann, how much can you take out and how long will you stay in the game?; to the Brits … how plucky will you be with what you have left?  Can you find that elusive ‘rear shot’?

In both run throughs, the Germans probably hung around too long, and the Brits were  possibly a little to quick into the ‘cat and mouse’ (that said, there was bravery as well as incompetence on the day) …

a nice side shot!

I got to throw for the last shot of the session, and took out Wittmann’s Tiger at point-blank (still needed a 10, I think, on 2 D6) … it might not have been the last shot had I failed of course) … Still, I had also managed to sneak a Cromwell round the back to snipe on what I thought might be an obvious line of withdrawal …

I wouldn’t say this has changed my decisions about scales … nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by this intelligent and informative session, enjoyed the quick game and liked the little toys.

These are, of course, the first tiny tanks I have featured on P.B.Eye-Candy and the pictures have come out better than I expected …

For more about COW, there is a general report here, on Ancients on the Move

… and a feature on the Naseby visit and game that I put on over the weekend (here, on ECW BATTLES)

See also

Tim Gow’s Megablitz and More (here), (here), (here) and (here)

Bob Cordery’s Wargaming Miscellany (here)

Trebian’s Wargaming for Grown Ups (here), (here) and (here)

Tom’s photopage (here)


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