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Archive for April, 2013

AK 47 Republic

A 01And so, after our warm up games, we progressed to a multi player (well 3 player, after some adjustments) big game.

We were each allowed 550 points, diced and reinforced like attackers, and were given a general objective of securing the frontier crossroads for our movement.

A 02

I got 3 units on at the start, including my Professional helicopter, which flew over the battlefield …

This is what could be seen from up there …

A 03aTreb’s Swamibians (?) are arriving from the west, heading into that defile behind Mortar Ridge …  And Ian was leading a religious movement the name and beliefs of which never became apparent – a religion with no name

My Panto classics were just bundling up the road from the South as if nothing could possibly go wrong …

Well, I had a unit mounted on motorcycles (treat as cavalry) so getting to the crossroads first seemed like a good idea.

A 05Well, actually, I knew it was a bad idea – but sometimes you have to walk the walk.

On the aerial photo you can see Ian had a chopper too … and he was also very pleased to get it on table at the start …

A 04However,  don’t imagine this would lead to any aerial combat or gunship domination…

How should I put it … err … Ian met one of these very early in the game …

A 04a(picture source unknown – all the rest are mine)

The two just don’t go together …   Although you can never rely on them, militia soldiers with an AA gun in the back of a Toyota are capable of taking down a helicopter any time they choose to roll a big number.   So you’d better take them out first or go somewhere else.   Ian’s boys did neither …

My guys managed to get round behind the Swamibians and mess up their tank unit as it passed the defile …

A 06

… before bugging out at the first option …  Still they did their value and more in damage and weren’t shot down …

Meanwhile, Ian’s militia had established themselves in the east village, and were compromising the crossroads with some HMGs which they had set up on the perimeter.

A 07

I pumped mortar rounds into that village for most of the game without being able to shift them – allowing Ian to focus his arriving forces on trying to get even with the Swamibians who had downed his chopper.

A 08

This didn’t really have a direct game relevance, and the banana plantation turned out to be one of those meaningless features you can pour men and effort into without ever getting anywhere.   In AK 47, irrespective of known quality, some troops will just dig in and cost you more than they merit (I don’t think they even failed a morale test all game) …

A 09

Whilst this was going on, I was taking  casualties from a small detachment of regular mortars who has established themselves on that commanding feature I marked as mortar ridge.   By the time my guys got up there and silenced them they had been supported by some cautiously advancing professionals, and as a consequence, Treb lost the mortars, I lost the assaulting regulars.

Still, it took a bit of pressure off the centre, where my tanks had arrived and were trying to secure the objective.

A 10

It was beginning to look like the road to Basra up there – and, yes, most of those casualties are mine.

However, the sun was dropping into the horizon (the game clock was running down) and it looked like I would be able, improbably, to keep the others off my crossroads ….

President Boyo-Boyo even decided to whistle up his Mercedes and bring the ceremonial Panto battleflag to the field in case the world’s media were on hand for some photo ops …

*********

This was a great game in which everybody got all their gear onto the table before the end, most of us achieved some exploits to write about afterwards … and my generous associates agreed I had got the objective – even though, by the end, I only had armour with which to ring it (my infantry having bravely succumbed to machineguns and mortars) …

A 11

(throughout, the soldiers are Peter Pig, the vehicles a mix, mostly Peter Pig and Skytrex.  The table layout was by Trebian, set up in his shedquarters)

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With the Society of Ancients BattleDay and Salute coming in quick succession in this busy Spring, I have had a lot of photo reports to edit.  Although that has slowed down my blogging, it has not stopped the wargaming.    Quite the opposite.

Luckily, locally and at events, in March and April we have played ancients (really, Ancient, Dark Age and Medieval – Armati, DBA and FoG), Marlburian, ACW, RCW, SCW, WWII (PBI and NQM) and Post War (AK47) … to add to the Civil Wars, I have ECW games I am putting on at Naseby and COW (so those toys are also currently out ...) … and Treb is setting up a Science vs Pluck game for the Bank Holiday!

NQM Gazala 1 07(Gazala … great battles in the desert with everyone bundling in)

The Gazala series was great fun, and very thought provoking.   In the desert, Chris Kemp’s free-rolling system was a bit lost – without roads and towns creating a network of distances and locations, it was much harder both for players and the Umpire to keep track of what was where (and when) and which formations could cooperate and combine.   The game needed a clock and a more rigorous ground scale, and confirmed my previous thoughts on using squares to manage the real estate issues.

Although this would potentially give the players more control, it would be a more authentic operational ‘quasi map-based’ control, and it would take lot of pressure off the Umpire.   Otherwise, I think the game demonstrated that what are now quite venerable mechanisms stand up well: the recce rolls, table XII shooting and risk-style close combat all did their jobs well enough.

NQM Gazala 1 08(Free French stubbornly defend the perimeter at Bir Hacheim)

Of course, NQM has always been an event-led system with a certain variability to the bounds … but I think there are ways in which a stricter spatial structure would actually help that more  fluid game turn.   I think squares can also help clarify supply avenues and associated problems.

It is all too easy to allow operational games to degenerate into vast bun fights at the critical point.  Sometimes that would be historically appropriate, but not always.    More anon.

RCW Mar 01a(RCW: White Cavalry pile through a gap between woods and villages in a rush to outflank the Red Army)

We had slipped in another game of Treb’s Return to the River Don … a control heavy game with lots of markers (but fewer than the Perfect Captain, so that’s a relief!),  but a well-honed command system that really has a period flavour.   A game took us two sessions to play, but that is hard to avoid if you want to use a lot of toys and have an alternating activation method (rather than everyone moving simultaneously).

I would like to see this game go to the next stage of evolution.

Meanwhile, on the Home Front, I rejigged the snowy landscape for more PBI.

Snow battle II 02

Richard was bringing up his Easy Company paras, so I replaced the Russian buildings with blown apart European ones (a half-way house to our ‘outskirts of Bastogne’ project).

Ironically, Richard had driven up with all the other toys we needed for a feast of wargaming but left his Band of Brothers behind.   So we kept the new set up, but dropped some veteran Russian paras into it …

Snow battle II 06(Red Army paras: PP figures with some of the heads swapped for tanker helmets which have been trimmed down to flying caps)

I was pleased to oblige as the Soviet paras have been around for while but had yet to be blooded on the table.   I had expected them to be sent up the line in an operational game as emergency blocking troops – but battle is battle,  and tactical combat seemed to suit them fine (rated veteran for the game they were nothing if not stubborn!).

This was a great game also notable for the cork building shells I made up a while back but had not finished.  I thought they might work for this so gave them a very loose spray with grey and while paints, and some snow flock.

Snow battle II 03

You can see it was a rush job, but somehow the abstract look worked very well – I’m never sure if that sort of effect really works in photos.   Cork is a very inexpensive and easy material to work with and is a good alternative to foamcore for some jobs.

Anyway, I drove my Aufklarungstruppen up the road, allowing myself to run into the enemy outposts … then swung support platoons out to the flank, but also tried to force my way up the road …

Snow battle II 04(figures by Peter Pig … Kubelwagen by QRF, truck by Battlefront)

Mimicking the Americans they were standing in for, these Russians were festooned with anti-tank guns and captured Panzerschrecks, and they had been deployed to cover all the approaches.

Snow battle II 05(not a good day on which to drive up in your vehicles)

This is a very heavily armed German unit (MG42s, Sturmgewehrs, SMGs, the lot …), and they are used to being able to blast their way through blockages (as their historical prototypes were expected to do) – but not on this occasion.

Stubborn infantry in buildings or dug in anti tank guns meant I could make no progress anywhere.   And my plan to seize the key positions from which I could converge my fields of fire got nowhere.   So I needed to get lucky.

Snow town 03(a Peter Pig 45mm AT gun tucked away inside one of my cork ruins …)

That didn’t happen, and we chalked up a resounding win to the Americans … err – Russians …  Last time we tried a similar game, Richard was less canny with his use of the terrain, and I was luckier with my firepower.  It wasn’t a very long battle – so turning it round by shrewder deployments was quite a satisfying outcome.   Good on PBI.

And I was very pleased with the new additions to the winter layout – I am inspired to go back and do some tidying up!

Snow town 04

And almost as suddenly, we were playing AK47 again.

The idea came up an we all said yes … there is a second game I will report shortly but here is a taste from our ‘get your toys out’ refresher game (in which we got ourselves back into the swing of the rules)

AK Apr 01(A fine African landscape in Treb’s shedquarters … I have left bodies everywhere, but have parked an armoured car on the main objective)

AK Apr 02(PP figures … a Professional unit with Humvee have dashed to take control of a terrain template …)

AK Apr 03(the kind of resource without which no AK army is ever complete) …

We will return to all of this soon.   We do indeed live in exciting times!

archive red para drop

French North Africa

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Winter Warfare

a German medic rescues a freezing soldier ...

a German medic rescues a freezing soldier …

Subtitled ‘flamethrowers in the snow’ …

A Peter Pig command group reaches an isolated farm … a soldier freezes in the snow … a Battlefront (bailed-out panzer crew) medic rescues a comrade.   Elsewhere a Russian ski raid peters out …  Winter Warfare.

Prompted by an arranged game with Richard’s Easy Company, I wanted to have a winter alternative for my table.   As I got the dates wrong for my game, the winter warfare evening went local, and morphed to the Eastern Front, and a try out for my Ski Troops.

I went in search of some poly tiles that might be suitable for the snow, and came across the last bag of ‘stiples’ (£7.50 for 20 tiles … and I needed 16 for the table, plus spares for modelling) …

'stiple'  effect polystyrene tiles

‘stiple’ effect polystyrene tiles

For the trial game, I laid the basic board with these undecorated.   Asking my players what needed doing, they answered nothing – they liked the stiple effect for snowy fields as it was, straight out of the tile pack.   This seems almost like cheating, but I will go with it as I don’t want to spoil the consistent white look unless I am improving it.

So the table looked like (not all my terrain  is matching white, of course) ..

Ski Attack 02

… but it is something I can work on, now we have what passes for a snowscape …

The game was PBI, with roundabout 400 points per side, but organised as follows … A Russian force of ski Raiders will sweep onto the table attempting to take out an isolated gun position, plus possibly push the German defenders back across the river line taking the bridges.   Backing them up they have a couple of platoons of rifles, some armoured cars and a T40 tank.

Ski Attack 04

(Peter Pig figures, Battlefront and Zvezda vehicles plus a QRF Aerosan)

For more on the Ski Troops (Peter Pig head swaps) see a previous post: Ski Troops .     The Ski Troops, including light gun and (QRF) Aerosan start on table, the rest dice as per the standard rules as reinforcements.  All troops are average.

The attack is to centre on a German 105mm gun battery …

Ski Attack 06(guns by Battlefront, crews mainly Peter Pig figures)

The German force is the gun battery supported by most of my Aufkalungskompanie … the amoured platoon starts on table dispersed in the squares around the guns, the jeep platoon, pioneers and armoured cars are diced for as reinforcements in the usual way.

Dauntingly for the Russian scouts, the presence of the pioneer platoon means there are a lot of flamethrowers, Panzerfausts and Panzerschrecks lurking around.

Ski Attack 05(Peter Pig figures, guns and vehicles by Skytrex, Quality Castings, Peter Pig, QRF and Battlefront)

Whilst the Germans were finding their feet in the deep snow, the Russians swept onto the board and quickly overwhelmed the sleepy gunners.   They left themselves over exposed as the supporting infantry took a while to organise themselves (truly poor reinforcement rolls by Will …) …

German MG42s took their toll when they opened up, leaving the Aerosan isolated and in a square adjacent to some deploying Pioneers with flame throwers … it was quite fortuitous that a sovfoto team managed to get a shot of it before it was terminally engulfed in flames …

Ski Attack 07(QRF Aerosan in action but isolated)

In general, the German reinforcements reacted more quickly, and the pioneer half tracks were good at getting the men up.   Their wheeled armoured cars were hampered by the winter conditions but were able to use the rail bridge to get across the river and take up commanding positions on the right flank.

Elewhere, the Russians pushed up the main road, but only advanced slowly, not wishing to get too far ahead of their rifle support, and not wanting to stray far from the only good surface.

Winter Warfare: the battle develops ...

Winter Warfare: the battle develops …

The Armoured car column did penetrate beyond the river, but were seriously harassed by flamethrowers and Panzerfausts (which did everything bar brew them), but could not persuade their infantry to stick with them … pinned by snipers and machinegun fields of fire.

Meanwhile, the Germans built up their reinforcements in the wood and buildings behind the central position.  The game was freezing up … firepower was detering elan (the Russians were reluctant to push to deep into the nest of vipers, the Germans were finding command and control amongst the trees and watercourses bogging their counter attack.

Phase two:  Russian force A - rifle platoon plus ski troop remanants - holds the left and centre ... force B - armoured cars and rifle supports - stalls in its attempt to push beyond the German pocket ..

Phase two: Russian force A – rifle platoon plus ski troop remnants – holds the left and centre … force B – armoured cars and rifle platoon – stalls in its attempt to push beyond the German pocket ..

At this point, as the clock was running down, the German Company Commander led an enterprising move, personally dashing across the snow to assault the 37mm gun the ski troops had brought up (it was hiding in that central village) … whilst the German armoured cars braved the snows and HMG fire to cut through the centre and take the road behind the Russian patrol (game terms: they had been waiting patiently for lots of APs in order to pay the double cost of traversing the snowy fields) …

Germans cut the road

Germans cut the road

This was by no means strong enough to prevent the Russians breaking through back to their start lines, but was a superficially impressive position for the Germans to park on to finish the game.

Both sides had suffered quite heavy losses, both the German security platoon and the Russian skiers being removed before the end.   The Russians had take out the battery (their first objective) but had lost an Aerosan and a light tank in the attack.  Their push beyond the river had come to little – and in surviving hollow charge and flamethrower hits, with no more than minor damage, they might be counting themselves fortunate …

The players pronounced themselves happy with the terrain and with the simplistic ‘winter warfare’ rules.   The game seemed to have fascinated and entertained them, and there was enthusiasm for more PBI … and I got to put out some new toys.

That’s a tick in most of the boxes!

BA-10 under fire ...

BA-10 carrier takes minor damage from a Panzerfaust (which it later repaired)

Basic adaptations to PBI for Ski Troops and the like …

First on table move for Ski Troops: … all squares are allowed +2AP of movement (i.e. 2 extra AP but only for use in movement) the intention is to allow an action move where the Ski Troops can sweep on to the table taking advantage of the terrain.   I assume this is because they will have chosen their avenue of approach to take advantage of the slopes.

Non Ski Troop foot: … start the game paying double APs for movement (find it difficult to get going in cold conditions) – how many turns can be umpire managed or agreed in advance – in the game we played I actively managed it, keeping the Germans slowed up until I thought they were all alerted and, for everyone, giving them at least one turn ‘knee deep’ for movement.

Aerosans: … Aerosans function exactly as armour 4 AFVs with LMG, but enjoy the turn 1 skier bonus and have no movement penalties for snow.

Vehicles: … tracked (and semi-tacked) vehicles are unaffected by the snow; wheeled vehicles pay +1 AP for movement off road per open or partial square.

HE: … Foot saving rolls against HE from guns, mortars, airstrikes etc. are +1 (for the cushioning effect of the snow).

Nothing particularly complex or detailed in that but it gave the game a different feel – especially on the opening turns …

Ski Troops 01

Other terrain changes …

Boggy ground: for this game we made some of the river squares swollen and boggy: closed for movement effect, partial for LOS/visibility and saves.

Railway lines: railway lines almost always have some degree of building up even if they are not on a causeway as such.   It is clear enough that in NW Europe and in memoirs of the Ardennes, these elevations were sufficient to allow hull down positions for tanks and to block LOS to troops choosing to be hidden.

Experimentally, for this game, squares with a rail line count as partial unless the troops are actually using the line as a substitute road (i.e. using a rail bridge to cross a river), and troops in the square can choose to be unseen by troops beyond the rail line so long as they don’t shoot.  Basic principal … if you shoot you can be shot at, and if there are enemy/LOS issues on both sides of the track, you must clearly show which side of the tracks you are.   Once a side has been opted for, changing sides requires an action or response to happen in the square (e.g. the troops must get a motivation, get pinned, get a morale fail or similar).

Crossing the river: there is no penalty for crossing the river at a road or rail bridge.  Vehicles can use the rail bridge as if it was a road bridge.   Otherwise, all attempts to cross cost an AP (roll a D6 – Foot: 1 or 2, can’t cross; 3-6 river has been crossed … vehicles: 1 the vehicle is immobilised  and cannot proceed until recovered in the usual way; 2 or 3 can’t cross; 4-6 river has been crossed) …  Troops can test as many times as they like, each time expending an AP (failing is meant to quantify delays, not to indicate that the river is impassible) …

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