Monday, 1 May 2017

FoW AAR v4: The Battle for Noyers, Phase II

Hi Folks,

Two weeks ago, I posted about a game I had played using the 4th Edition Flames of War rules (with a few home made bolt-ons) to re-fight a Normandy battle (first post here). The first game had been a bit of a test, and the idea was run something as an introduction to Flames of War for the guys at the club. StiG and Stu were my test subjects, and the game had gone pretty well. So now it was time for the main event - Phase II of the battle and a multi player game for 6 players...

The player handout briefing document can be found here. Martin's blog post on the battle, with more pics, can be found here.

Now, I want to highlight that I did add some stuff to the game - but that had I been playing Flames of War version 3, nothing I added would have changed. I would have had to do exactly the same work as I did under v4. There is no hidden deployment or movement in Flames of War aside from the Ambush rules. There is no 'normal' off table artillery, or random events tables. No matter what version of the game I played, even if I was playing Battlegroup or any other rules set I am aware of, I would have had to add many of these things myself.

One major change was the way I deployed the Germans - to fit the history of the battle, they were deployed in a way I viewed would be more appropriate, rather than being clustered together. Otherwise they followed the same morale rules as the book.

What I can tell you about v4 of Flames of War from my experience of running these two game is that the games flow smoothly, the new players (who had never played FoW) picked it up really quickly, it gave outcomes that a lot of the gamers round the table found to be "what you would expect to happen", it was fast (for a 6 player game...), smooth and in more than 12 turns of my second game I had to consult the rule book only once. And that would about how the recce and scout rules interacted.

Now, I'm not saying I got the rules perfectly correct, but I was happy with how everything went. Accepting that no game is perfect, I'm of the opinion that this is a really nice set of rules. It can most definitely be used to play 'traditional' historical games. Hopefully our game on Sunday proved that to some of the guys!

Anyway, on with the show.

The table was 11' by 5' (I think) and a mix of peoples terrain was used. 

The first allied 'phase line' was the capture of point 126 - the small cluster of buildings in the centre of this picture. The second 'phase line' was the railway station, seen on the left. 

The town of Noyers Bocage lay at the far end of the table - the rather ambitious 3rd phase line. 

The whole setup, with the allies starting to arrive in the bottom right. 

We played on a 11' by 5' table, and with contributions from other club members we managed to get a reasonably dense table. I was a bit concerned with the amount of players and the number of units that things would get a bit 'busy' - and I think at times things did look a bit bunched, but the railway line and the forests also contributed to that. Playing width wise would have given more room, but less depth to the German defences, so I'm not sure what the answer to that would have been.

The allies entered on the right of the photo above. With a nice, long, empty table in front of them.

They had a preparatory bombardment of 2 artillery templates to use at the start, which they places and I noted (in secret) the results from. These also left ranged in markers for future artillery calls. Objectives were the first cluster of small buildings (Point126), the railway station and then the town of Noyers.

I had adapted the artillery system from the last game. Now, the random events were triggered by allied units being within 6" of a counter. There were a couple of entries which effected the artillery options, but the actual artillery availability was dealt with separately. Once a green counter had been used, it switched to a black one. The formation Artillery Spotter could pick these up by moving over them. The player controlling him could then 'spend' a token to roll on an artillery table. There were 8 options on this random table, with 5 Allied and 3 German types of bombardment.

The system worked pretty well, but I think I will adapt it some more for the next time!

The allies advance - 4 players had one platoon of infantry and one troop of Shermans (3 x 75mm, 1 x 17 pdr). One player had the 'funnies' - a Flail troop, AVRE troop and Crocodile troop. The last player had the infantry command, with commanders, OP, MG's and Mortars. 

First blood went to StiGs tanks, I believe. I used the same random event system as last time, which resulted in the StuG being spotted early on. Once the green event markers were activated, they turned to black ones which could be collected by the OP and cashed in to roll on the artillery table. 

The German forward line of defence is slowly whittled down and driven back. It took a little while to learn that the way to get rid of dug in infantry is to assault. Shooting just won't do it!

The assault about to go in! These troops had been too far away to assault, but had gotten a 'lost' event which moved them 2d6 in a random direction - which put them within assault range!

The South Staffs clear out the German recce platoon. 

A couple of close assaults later and the area is cleared up to the railway line... spot the Panther behind the train station!
Once things got moving, they moved quite quickly, with the players working together to overcome the tactical puzzle they had been set. The Panther proved to be a huge nuisance, not being destroyed to the end of the game as it kept falling back and slowing everything up. I found out this evening I had the front armour rating wrong, so it shouldn't have been such a big deal. However, the error actually made for a really great story and I thing the Panthers escapades will live on for some time. As will the 'bypassed' PaK40 that the players kept parking vehicles near...

Encountering HMG's, this beat up platoon decides the cornfields are a better place to wait while armour support is brought up. In the background, a StuG and Panther slow the armour down. 

Panther eye view... the Panther was StiGs and was a lovely model. 

Allied infantry get ready to attack the next objective. 

The Panther starts to get swamped... but keeps being missed (and bouncing shots... oops)

Elsewhere the allies surge forward. Special mention goes to StiG for his aggressive use of his infantry, which must have assaulted over half the German units on the board, and kept getting smaller and smaller as a result!
Allied armour moves up - the terrain funnelling them and the Panthers presence slowing them down. 

The German counter attack begins - 4 x Panzer IV's (with hidden support) start to advance. The Panther holds the gap...

Some of StiGs lovely Panzer IV's. 

Eventually, a plucky move by one of StiGs Shermans gets a flank shot on the Pather, and it is 'brewed up'. A great cheer went up from all the players at this! In the background StiGs infantry platoon moved over a minefield and assaulted/knocked out a Pak40!
Allied materiel advantage making itself known, while the infantry starts to get thin on the ground. Half of the infantry platoons were at half strength or worse. A/T assets were moving forward to dig and and help protect the gains against the inevitable German counter attack... Note also the breached minefields!

Another shot - there had been a '88' and some HMGs defending this hedge line. 

Looking down the table towards the starting table edge. 

A StuG and Grenadiers in the tree line. This was the high water mark and the point we called the game. 

Reinforcements move past the detritus of war...
Lessons learnt from this game included that fact that the events table worked really well. I changed it up from last time, making a lot of the 'negative' entries have options - basically for a lot of them the triggering player could chose a friendly unit to effect. The feedback from the players was overwhelmingly positive - they enjoyed the impact the events had and actively sought to trigger the events - which in turn helped keep them moving up the table. I think, due to the way the deployment went, some of the players didn't trigger any themselves, but all of them interacted with the results.

I learnt that I need more terrain! Especially for tables this size. I've a few more buildings to do, but the whole town concept needs a lot more work. I need to paint up some more infantry, especially for this size of games. Although historically this was a infantry company and armoured squadron attack! I think one of the lessons from Normandy was the lack of infantry assets, and the players were very aware of this, especially as they started to take losses in their 'first wave' of platoons. They became a resource to carefully husband - while the availability of armour led to tactics which favoured the tanks 'bashing on' - just as my reading of the WW2 material on this battle suggests was the actual attitude of many infantry commanders.

Changes for next time will be to increase the options on the artillery table. As controller of the German forces, I felt it was unfair for me to have direct control of the German artillery. So it was on the same table as the British artillery. This also added a consideration to the allies - risk spending a counter in order to get friendly arty, and you might get enemy arty incoming. Next time I'm going to go to a D12 rather than a D8 and have some options where both allied AND German fires arrive. That should keep things a bit interesting. Otherwise, I am also going to allow unit commanders to pick up the artillery counters - but delay the use of counters picked up this way for a turn.

I really enjoyed umpiring this game. It helped that the guys approached it seriously as the tactical problem it was, and they were planning and talking and interacting. Not to say we didn't all have a laugh, but it was nice that they kept it 'real' and didn't try any silly tactics in order to game the scenario.

There is already talk of following up with a Phase III game some time this year. The defence against the incoming German counter attack and then the assault on the town. I'm up for that!


  1. fab day. Honestly if WW2 battles worked like this on the table most of the time I'd have some figures. Think the ideas worked well and the planned improvements sound good. I've noticed in all our portrait oriented battles we get a traffic jam. But that's a tactical problem
    For day 2 of the battle I suggest we have German and British players and maybe turn the table 90 degrees to give multiple points of attack

    1. Thanks Martin. I'll have a think about having players on both sides. It's a bit trickier to do hidden movement and such!

  2. It was indeed great fun... thanks for your hard work James.

    1. Thanks Dave, I appreciated the feedback and encouragement! (And the lift!!!)

  3. Nice AAR James. Looks like it was a fun game.

  4. As usual, very nice report on a splendid terrain...very impressive!

    1. Thanks Phil. The terrain is all a bit of a miss match as I'd borrowed some to be able to fill the table. An area of my collection I need to develop! Oddly enough I had never planned to be able to furnish an 11 by 5 table!


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