Wargaming in Hertfordshire

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The club will be holding a table top sale on 18 October between 9am and 5pm at the Scout Hut in Hitchin Rugby Club. Please do call in an have a browse and maybe pick up a bargain. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Battlegroup Overlord - Counter-attack

A couple of weeks ago we had a small game using the Battlegroup WWII rules system; set in Normandy, we used the BG Overlord supplement, with around 450 points and four players involved. This was the first time I’d umpired a game of BG at the club and for most it was their first time using the ruleset. I confess I am an avid fan of the rules and am keen to use them more often for club games.

We used the Attack/Counter-Attack scenario from the main rulebook; the British had an infantry platoon with a medium mortar and two troops of Shermans. The Germans had an infantry platoon, three Stug IIIs and a Panther. I had originally intended both sides to have an extra infantry platoon each, but looking at the size of the board (6x4) we decided to only field one – which was probably a mistake. I should either have removed the Panther and one of the Shermans instead, or brought on the second infantry platoons as reinforcements.

Anyway, it was a fairly simple table, with a road running to/from the diagonals, and a small group of buildings in the middle, each of which acted as an objective. There was a considerable amount of bocage in the middle of the table, forcing the armour along the roads. Again, with hindsight, as an introductory game, a more open table might have been better to allow players to get the feel for the vehicle combat elements of the rules. I think I also slightly mucked up the bocage breaching rues for AFVs.

On to the game; the British proved slightly more aggressive than the Germans, pushing their two troops of Shermans up the road to the first house, while the infantry moved towards the bocage in the centre. The Germans held back, with their Panther on Ambush Fire (i.e. overwatch) covering the road, with the Stugs in reserve as the infantry cautiously advanced.

On the second turn the closed nature of the board became apparent as the Shermans began to back up; one troop decided to dash across the road into the more open left flank. This proved to be rash as the Panther activated its ambush fire; firing twice it missed once and then hit the Firefly’s side armour. Miraculously the hit failed to penetrate and, taking a morale test for a non-penetrating hit, the crew scored a six, giving them a Call of Duty test, which they passed. This allows a unit immediately to take an additional free activation. On this occasion, the Firefly commander opted to shoot back at the Panther, scoring a hit but failing to penetrate. With hindsight he should have perhaps have scarpered into cover.   

One the third turn the Germans again played fairly defensively, placing the Panther on Ambush again, while moving an infantry section up the left flank towards one of the objectives. In the centre both sides took a house, forcing a battle counter to be taken by each side for the loss of an objective. The British Firely in the open then tried to move out of the way, at which point the Panther opened fire again – scoring two sixes to hit – and, to no one’s surprise - killed the Firefly. Another battle counter taken for the loss of a unit. Interestingly this was to be the only armour loss in the game, again emphasising the lack of clear lines of sight.

Turn four saw the Germans occupying the house on the left flank with an infantry section forcing another British battle counter. On this turn the infantry had closed range and began to exchange copious quantities of fire and casualties began to mount. One particularly rash/courageous British infantry section decided to close assault the German section in the house on the left; a brief but vicious fight saw the British section wiped out to a man, while the Germans lost their rifle section. In the centre the British had reached the bocage line, which oddly the Germans had failed to occupy and began to engage targets across the top field and in the other houses.

At this point it became apparent that both sides had lost the majority of their infantry and the armour was stalled along the road. We decided to call the game and, totting up the battle counters it was a very marginal German victory - by one point.  

On reflection, an extra infantry platoon (either at the outset or perhaps as reinforcements) would have given both sides more options, and allowed them to exploit their successes more effectively – particularly the British. The only aspects of the rules I found trick to run was the indirect fire from the two medium mortars – I think we got this right but I need to review them.

Overall, a good game – the BG rules appear to lend themselves to a user-friendly multiplayer experience.   

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Rank and File

Thursday night turned out to largely dominated by black powder (the propellant, not the rules). We had two 28mm games (Napoleonic and American Civil War), a 15mm Seven Years War game and, the outlier, a 1/200th naval game.

 The Napoleonic game was a test run for some rules picked up at Partizan earlier this year - Rank and File by Crusader publishing. We had a force of British infantry (commanded by your correspondent) with a medium gun defending a line of hills against a larger force of French infantry with two guns.

The thin red line
The French came on in column (as ever) and attempted to break the battalion on the left flank by weight of numbers. However, the first column was stopped by a volley and the second was bloodily repulsed in a melee (charging uphill not helping the French cause). Both French columns on this side then retired to lick their wounds.

In the centre, the French sought to bring their two field guns to bear, however their gunners were having a bad day and failed to hit much of anything throughout the battle. Having failed to break the left, the French commandant (aka Colin) tried to maneuver his  force, concentrating his units on the right instead.

Meanwhile the British got a bit carried away and decided to come down off the hills to have a pop at the Frogs.  This was perhaps unwise, and they started to take more casualties. Things heated up on the right, with one British battalion retiring and a second getting involved in close range fire with two more French columns, who they handily beat back, and managed to seriously wound the French commander to boot. In the centre the British line moved up and poured fire onto the largely ineffectual French guns crew, wiping them out in two rounds.

French gunners about to be mown down 
At this point the French had taken over 50% casualties and they decided to retire as their force morale was about to break.

Overall it was a fast and fun game - the R&F rules clearly lend themselves to an uncomplicated and quick flowing game; we picked the basics up very quickly. There are a wide range of optional extras that can be incorporated which may add greater flavour to the game - but importantly it felt accurate, with stout British infantry throwing back the French hordes.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Panther, Panther, burning bright

Thursday night's club meeting was slightly unusual in that we had a guest appearance from a 'big man' in the wargaming world, Richard Clarke from the Too Fat Lardies (TFL) rules stable. Richard had kindly agreed to come up and run a few of us through the TFL Chain of Command rules, which have already proved a big hit at the club. In fact, in addition to the CoC game Rich was running, set in Normandy, the table opposite had the British and Italians facing off in a CoC desert war scenario, and further down the hall was a Dux Britannarium Raiders scenario (another TFL rule set, forming part of an ongoing club campaign).

Richard explained he wanted to run a larger than normal CoC scenario, with the Brits fielding two full infantry platoons and a Sherman troop against a mixed force of Germans defending a town crossroads against an Allied advance. With three of us playing per side, it looked like being a lively evening.

The Allies were uncharacteristically sensible and decided to mass their four Shermans rather than splitting them up in support of the two infantry platoons. The Shermans would carefully push up the road towards the town while the two infantry platoons moved up the flanks to find the German defenders. 

The opening phase turn was fairly quiet, but the British had a knack of throwing double sixes for their command dice, thereby gaining immediate extra activations, and allowing them to get most of their forces on quickly. The Germans began their turn, and brought on what should have been their ace in the hole, a Panther tank. This caused some consternation from the Allies and the Panther raced up the road onto the bridge just outside the town, while the German infantry and MG teams deployed into their defensive positions. 

The Germans prepare 
 A plucky (or perhaps foolhardy) British Sherman gunner decided to have a pop at the Panther as it sat exposed side on on the bridge, hit it, but failed to penetrate even the big cat's side armour. There was a general feeling of resignation on the Allied side that our tanks were going to start brewing up rapidly. Meanwhile the British infantry moved up the flanks towards the objective, with some fire and grenades being exchanged in an orchard on the right.   

British infantry advancing to contact

The Germans then made a fateful decision; rather than move their Panther off the bridge (remember it is side on to the Shermans), it returned fire at the impudent Sherman which had dinged a round off it, and...missed! Much relief on the Allied side. The infantry continued to move, while the other Shermans lobbed HE rounds into the Germans defensive points. And then the unthinkable happened - the impudent Sherman gunner had another pop at the Panther, hit it, and then destroyed it. Immediate Military Medal for that man. There was a stunned silence followed by general incredulity all round - even Rich appeared a little surprised by this turn of events. And it got worse for the Germans, the burning Panther was now blocking the only clear access into the town, and their following armour (a Stug and a Lynx recce car) were forced to go the long way round and played no part in the ensuing fight.

Bang! And the Panther is gone.  
And in case you missed it the first time....
After this, the game was really only heading in one direction. The British, emboldened by the removal of the main armoured threat,  started  to close up on the main objective in the town, but began to take infantry casualties on the left with some fairly bloody house to house fighting - this platoon suffered about 50% casualties overall. They also had a nasty surprise when a HMG team appeared in the house to their front and started inflicting casualties.

On the right, the other British infantry platoon chipped away at the Germans dug in around the edge f the town. However, the four Shermans were now free to form an effective base of fire, out of range of any sneaky Germans with Panzerfausts, and repeatedly blast the German defenders with HE, to the point where some of the buildings were beginning to collapse around their ears.

British infantry being uncharacteristically aggressive (and about to get bloodied for it) 
The all important Shermans
At this point, it was getting late and Rich decided we should call the game for the Brits. The Germans were being gradually whittled down by tank fire and were likely heading for crippling force morale losses. All in all a great game (particularity for those of us on the Allied side), but one which turned on a very lucky Sherman crew.

It was great to meet Richard from TFL and a good experience to be taken through a game by the author of the rules. Three a side got a little chaotic at times, but we had a very effective umpire keeping us in line. Apparently there is a modification in the works to adapt CoC for modern warfare, specifically Afghanistan, so I'm looking forward to seeing that develop.

Figures and vehicles were 28mm from Richard's collection and terrain was provided by club members.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Normandy - Chain of Command

Given it was the 5th of June, it seemed mandatory to have at least one Normandy themed game at the club night. Using 20mm (the one true scale for WWII) and the excellent Too Fat Lardies Chain of Command rules, the engagement saw a platoon of hardy British airborne pitted against a platoon of German panzergrenadiers, supported by a Stug IIII assault gun.

The battlefield - British from the top right with Germans deploying up the road from the bottom right 
Tactically, the British (ably led by Dave) got the better of the patrol phase, containing the Germans in their deployment corner. Both forces had very high morale and counted as aggressive troops, but the Paras were considered elite, which as it turned out, made them very hard to kill. The Germans won the initiative and deployed two infantry sections and the Stug.

The Stug III deploys, with infantry probing ahead in the background 
Perhaps predictably, both sides made a beeline for the houses in the centre of the table, and a section from each side took a building. However the German commander (your correspondent) was taken slightly unawares when the Paras lived up to their aggressive reputation, and close assaulted the German held building with a second section. This opening contact turned out to be very bloody (and involving a ridiculous number of dice); with the Germans taking 50% casualties, but the Paras coming off worse with 70% losses and being forced to retreat (assaulting defenders in hard cover is a tricky thing it appears). 

The Panzergrenadier squad on the left heading for a bloody encounter with the Red Devils 
With both sides reeling slightly from the clash in the centre, the action moved to the German right flank, as the Paras began to move up another section and their platoon headquarters. Unbeknownst to the German Stug commander this HQ team contained a PIAT (Projectile Infantry Anti Tank), which, to be honest, I've always regarded as a bit of a joke as an AT weapon. This is not apparently the case in Chain of Command, as the PIAT proceeded to hit the Stug twice in quick succession. Luckily for the Germans, both hits failed to penetrate the assault gun's side armour, but left the crew understandably shaken and immobile for two turns. 

The lucky Stug, with the PIAT team in the distance
In the centre, the Paras in the house opened up in the surviving Germans from the close assault, and inflicting further casualties, forced them into a headlong retreat to the woods and this mauled German section played little part in the rest of the fight. Meanwhile the two surviving German sections dug into the hedges and shell craters on the right and proceeded to expend a prodigious quantity of lead in an attempt to blunt the British advance. A critical result of this firefight was the elimination of the British platoon commander, forcing the lone PIAT to retreat, removing the immediate threat to the Stug. From this point the fight became one of attrition, as the combined firepower of four MG42 teams began to slowly whittle away at the Paras, and the Stug was able to move up in support and add its MGs to the fight. Despite a huge amount of firepower, the Paras still proved tough to kill. 
The Germans dig in and pour fire on the advancing Paras
Shortly after this we decided to call the game. The Paras had taken control of most of the tactically important areas of the field, but were worn down by sheer German firepower, and lacked an effective means of dealing with the Stug. It was agreed that it had been a minor German victory - at least on points. Terrain and Brits from Dave's collection (figures mostly Platoon 20) and the Germans were supplied by Simon (figures from Britannia Miniatures).

Other games on the night included a fairly bloody game of Dux Britannia, a fight on the North West Frontier, and some Roman legionaries duffing up a group of eastern types (using Impetus).

Roman Auxiliary Cavalry 

Confronting the Eastern barbarians

Dux Britannia 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Delaying action at Marnach - 16 December 1944

As if to prove there is no scale in which we won't play WWII, one of Thursday night's games saw a 10mm game set during the opening phase of the Battle of the Bulge on 16 December 1944. The unsuspecting American infantry company was concealed in the small town of Marnach, and was to be assaulted by Kampfgruppe Cochenhausen (i.e. II Battalion, 304th Panzergrenadier Regiment).
The battlefield - Marnach at the far end.  
The Germans deployed in three companies, with two on the right flank and one, slightly more exposed, moving up the main road to the left. The first few turns were pretty uneventful, with the Germans advancing quickly towards the crestline in front of the town. The Panzergrenadiers on the left, arguably due to a degree of impetuousness on the part of the company commander, cleared the ridgeline, and heedlessly ploughed forwards, seeking out the hidden American forces suspected to be in the town. In short order they discovered a series of American defensive positions,with US infantry waiting in ambush. However the Americans must have been half-asleep as their opening volleys failed to have much effect. This marked the start of several rounds of attrition as the Germans attempted to close with the Americans skulking in their foxholes.

Having located the enemy, the 2nd and 3rd German companies moved up  in the centre and on the right. The Kampfgruppe commander at this point realised he could not see over the ridgeline in order to direct artillery onto the Americans and thus moved macht schnell up the road to a better vantage point. The centre company began to bring fire onto the Americans as the 3rd company on the right flank maneuvered in the limited space available to assault into the town.

Closing to assault 
While the US commander started to look a little queasy at the number of angry men in grey coming towards him, the US defense settled down and began to inflict casualties on the Germans, slowing the left and centre lines of advance to a crawl. This was aided by the dismounting of several machine gun equipped recon teams into the houses behind the main defensive line. The left hand German company was being whittled down and as it assaulted the dug in infantry was quickly reduced to half-strength. The 3rd company on the right fared better, managing to to break into and clear several of the defended houses on the outskirts of Marnach. However this came at the cost of almost 50% casualties. 

At this point we decided to call the game. The US infantry had done well, slowing the German advance to a crawl and inflicting heavy casualties in return for relatively light losses. If time had allowed the following turns would have seen the arrival of two US Sherman platoons and a Panzer company, but it seemed unlikely that they would change the overall outcome of the battle - the US forces would have probably succeeded in delaying the Germans for long enough. 

The game was fought using Battlefront rules from Fire and Fury Games and using Pendraken miniatures (I think).