Sunday, 29 October 2017

Plans and random Ebay purchases

Hi folks,

I'm making a conscious effort to post a blog this week, as I've been a little lax of late.

Unusually, I've not finished anything painting wise since the start of October. I spent a lot of time this month preparing for the winter. I'm hoping to do the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge again this year, and I plan on focusing on German artillery for 'Gunuary' this year as well as trying to get some German armour painted.

In the shorter term, I have been working on some 5cm A/T guns and 7.5cm Infantry guns for the Germans. While the guns are mostly done, the crew are taking a bit more time than I had planned. I'm unused to painting Germans and the enthusiasm just isn't there. I'm getting there though, just a few final bits to do and the main colours are blocked in.

I've had a couple of lucky purchases this week. The first was a painted unit of HUGE Pak43/41's. These are really massive guns, much larger than the 5cm A/T guns I have - 89. Infanterie-Division apparently had some of these in it's artillery units, and there is photographic evidence of Polish tanks advancing past a knocked out one. I got 4 of these guns for a very reasonable price. While they need stripping and a bit of work, and didn't have the full crew compliment, they will do!

I also got this:

Which is a map printed by the Royal Engineers in 1948 and covers the Operation Totalize battle area. Again, I got this for a decent price. No units or anything marked on it, but I am tempted to get it framed... The immediate area that effects my Highlanders:

154 Brigades objectives were the Cramesnil, St. Aignan de Cramesnil and Garcelles Secqueville area.

You can also see the main Caen Highway running up and down the map - the Canadians were coming from the top of the map southwards on the left, while the Highlanders were on the right of the road. Near the bottom you can see Cintheaux and Gaumesnil - Michael Wittmann's 'last charge' was up the right side of the road from Cintheaux, with Whittmann himself being killed opposite Gaumesnil (most likely by Canadian Shermans in Gaumesnil, as opposed to the belief that the fire came from the Northamptonshire Yeomanry in the woods south of St. Aignan de Cramesnil). 

A visit to Redcar - and Gaming Figures - got me a load of FoW miniatures with a 30% discount due to their Halloween sail. 2 boxes of 88's (the mid war plastic ones), a box of two Shermans (yeah yeah) and another infantry platoon (plastic this time, for Battlegroup and to mix in with my metals). All for far less than I would normally pay!

So yeah - some cool purchases, and some plans that seem to be settling on getting my German AA and some of the armour done over the winter, along with some of my 6mm stuff. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

FoW v4(ish) AAR: The Battle for Noyers Phase IIb

Hi folks,

Yesterday the Old Guards Wargames club had a Sunday games day, with most of the members who attended playing 10mm ACW using Regimental Fire and Fury. While they were doing that, myself and Martin were fighting the next stage in my series of linked historical battles using Flames of War v4 - with a few tweaks I've introduced to cover random events and off table artillery.

Regular readers might remember the large table from back in May (photo taken from the opposite end of the table than the picture above!):

The idea this time around was to have a British night push to capture the 'orchard' (on the left of the picture below - the forest closest to the far away town in the picture above) while at the same time securing the railway station (the large grey building by the railway in the picture above) from a German counter attack.

So this time around, we tried to replicate that section of the original table (the size was slightly out, as we used 3 tables where we should have used 2 - the whole battlefield was 'stretched' by a couple of feet!). So from the railway line to the orchard was replicated.

You can see the British briefing document here. In short, orders were for 2/6th Staffs to hold the ground they had taken during the day, but above all hold the railway station. In addition, they were to capture the orchard for use as a start line for the next attack on Noyers (the next game) by 1/6th Staffs who would be attacking in the morning.

Martin had the remains of the forces on the table in the last game. Two under strength infantry platoons (7 stands rather than 9) and two full strength platoons.  A Pioneer platoon, 2 detachments of 2 6 pdrs, a 4 tube mortar platoon and a single 17 pdr. In addition, he had a Forward Artillery Observer (FOO) with a lot of off table artillery support! This included 2 defensive fire markers and 1 'SOS' (Final protective fire) marker.

Reinforcements for the Brits came via the random events table - which was rolled on whenever a unit came within 3"'s of one of the small green tiddly winks. On a D20 roll, there were 3 possible reinforcements. Martin just kept rolling those numbers, and as such got far more kit than he needed. Something I will need to revise for future games. See the end of the article for the contents of the events table! The collected tiddly winks then became allied artillery tokens.

To make matters more complicated, we were using the night fighting v4 rules, with no option for daylight. I bought a couple of sets of muzzle flash tokens from Charlie Foxtrot Models (don't be put off by the postage price, contact the owner and he will do a better rate on the counters) so we would be using these to denote firing units. Each unit could only see d6 x 4", determined when checking LoS. Unless shooting at a unit that had fired - in which case vision distance didn't have to be checked. units were also limited to moving at Tactical or cross country dash speed. Cross checks were at +1, as was shooting.

Rules wise, this was a v4 game, with whatever tweaks I deemed we required to make the game work with the other changes I had made. I would have had to make similar changes if using v3.

The Germans had initially 4 x Panzer IV's (Fearless Vets from 9th SS Panzer Division, which could only move forward if directly supported by infantry, reflecting the tanks vulnerability at night and the effect that has on the crews morale), 1 fusilier platoon (rifle armed scouts), a 9th SS Panzergrenadier platoon, a 2 gun Heer HMG platoon, 2 Grenadier Heer platoons (from 277th Infanterie Division), a StuG and an OP team.

Later, they were reinforced by a further 4 Panzer IV's from 9th SS and another Panzergrenadier platoon.

German plans were provided by Matt Varnish following a discussion on a paint and chat. Matt kindly dropped me an email with details, which meant he was almost playing the game from all the way in Canada! Failure of this plan was my fault as a GM and scenario designer, rather than an issue with the plan!!!

Movement over the table was hampered slightly by the two defensive German minefields left over from the earlier battle. While some of these had been gapped by the allies, I took the view that in the dark, without specific knowledge of where the lanes were, the Germans would have to gap these fields themselves.

Martins plan was (I believe) to hold the open flank and advance on the side with the cover, attempting to take the orchard. As such, he deployed pretty far forward with his infantry on his left (my right) and had his A/T guns further back.

Early advances and artillery fire saw advancing German troops in the orchard pinned. I was only deploying command teams initially, so as not to give the Germans plans away! The StuG was shifted about quite a bit, due to 'lost' special events being triggered (there were a few of these in the events deck - I thought this fitted a night battle). This meant the unit was moved 2d6 in a random direction.

Martin started to advance, but ran into advancing Germans and lost some troops. Following this, he decided to abandon his forward defence and fall back.

British reinforcements had started to arrive (anti tank guns called forward by nervous infantry commanders hearing tank engines in the night). Two more 6 pdrs and another 17 pdr. Along with an ambulance jeep (auto unpins one unit within 4"'s at the start of a turn). Also of note was Martins 2IC, who received the effects of a special event (officer casualty, closest command stand is pinned). He spend most of the start of the game pinned, until he met the ambulance. We had quite a few things happen in the game using the events that we had some fun making up little stories for. Like the mortars getting lost and going backwards - they were between two railway tracks, and someone in the darkness obviously thought the rear track was the front track... etc.

Eventually, a new front line settled. Here was where a major failing of the artillery system for the Germans came in. My logic had failed, and I need to revisit the whole system. The Germans got no artillery the whole game, which really stymied their advance.

A gunfight ensued between the StuG and the newly arrived 6 pdrs. Eventually the 6 pdrs won, but were then driven off by small arms fire themselves.

On the other flank, the German armour advanced - the plan taking them right over the top of the British SoS fire task marker.

Martin gleefully dropped what's technically known as a 'sh*t tonne' or artillery on the unit, using up a large quota of his artillery counters. While he was disgusted to find the tanks could not be harmed (v4 Nerfs to artillery barrage A/T values), the 'drumfire' of 25 pdr and 5.5" fire killed 5 of the 7 infantry teams. The whole lot fell back the next turn, as the Panzers were also under anti tank fire from the treeline. The remaining two 'fearless' SS Panzergrenadier teams faded into the night (failed motivation and fled), leaving the tanks with no support. A long range gunfight with the 6 pdrs (and a single shot from a 17 pdr) took out the whole unit in short order.

Realising that the Germans were onto a total kicking... I used my GM perogative and brought on another 4 Panzer IV's and Panzergrenadiers. They advanced while the battle was still raging.... All the first 4 Panzer IV's achieved was to kill a Universal Carrier and drive off the rest of the platoon (failed motivation).

I also added a rule here - knocked out vehicles burned on a 4+ (I will revise this in the future to vary depending on the vehicle). A burning vehicle illuminated all units within artillery template distance. We also had mortar fired illumination rounds in effect as well!

Eventually these forces hooked right to avoid the A/T fire from the woods, while Martin took the chance to exploit the empty German flank with an infantry platoon and dismounted carrier section (2 infantry MG teams and a PIAT Team, not a v4 rule, but something have decided to do for these scenarios, as it matches British tactics).

The Panzergrenadiers advanced aggressively, taking out one and damaging another of Martins platoons and almost making it to the station, before being cut down.

Without infantry support, and being hammered by artillery, the German attack petered out and started to fall back. To the rear, British troops moved swiftly towards the orchard, cutting off the Germans retreat!

One German tank tried to run down the road and found it's way blocked by infantry. Assuming they were friendlies in the dark, the crew were shocked to suddenly be hit by PIAT fire. Bailed out, they were then assaulted and captured! The other tanks struggled to cross hedges in the dark, but most of them would have made it back to Noyers...

In the orchard, the British assaulted the remains of the last (pinned) Grenadier platoon (with attached MGs). The MGs were wiped out and the remaining Germans fled the orchard, leaving the start line in British hands. 

Ready for phase III!!!

Things I need to look at:

- Artillery system. The Germans had none all game. The Brits had lots - but I didn't feel they had more than they should have (from recent reading). The German attacks were being broken up by arty fire, which seems to fit the theatre. I had made some decisions during the game on mechanics of the arty system that didn't work... I've some ideas for how to resolve this - mainly having the Germans collect the events tokens as well and use them as well (having their own pool and being able to call in fire - perhaps both sides can spend tokens for counter battery fire...).

- Reinforcements. Fewer options included in the events chart (replicated below). The reinforcements themselves were OK (cooks and clerks and walking wounded would have helped boost the strength of a depleted British infantry platoon).

  1. 1. Delayed – nominated unit cannot move next turn OR next reinforcement roll is ignored 
  1. 2. Covered approach – unit may make immediate move 2d6 in a chosen direction, counts as in cover at end of movement. OR next turn 'Blitz' 4+1D6".  
  1. 3. Reinforcements – Ambulance, cooks and clerks, Walking wounded.  
  1. 4. Lost  unit is moved 2d6 in random direction. Players selects unit 
  1. 5. Enemy spotted – closest hidden enemy unit visible for turn. Player may indicate closest to which friendly unit.   
  1. 6. German Counter Battery fire – remove one artillery counter from allied pool OR Mortar platoon is shelled. 
  1. 7. Battlefield smoke/covered moon – May force an enemy unit to re-roll vision distance 
  1. 8. Wireless failure – no unpinning or remounting for closest friendly pinned unit this turn. Ambulance cancels and allows standard morale roll.  
  1. 9. Lost  unit is moved 2d6 in random direction. Players selects unit 
  1. 10. Covered approach – unit may make immediate move 2d6 in a chosen direction, counts as in cover at end of movement. OR next turn 'Blitz' 4+1D6".  
  1. 11. Commander casualty – closest armoured vehicle immediately bailed OR closest Command or OP team pinned.  
  1. 12. Reinforcements – MG Section, 2 x 6 pdr, 1 x 17 pdr 
  1. 13. German Counter Battery – remove one artillery counter from allied pool OR Mortar platoon is shelled.   
  1. 14. Mechanical failure – closest vehicle is bailed.  
  1. 15. Lost  unit is moved 2d6 in random direction. Players selects unit 
  1. 16. Reinforcements – Carrier sectionInfantry platoon, Pioneers.  
  1. 17. Drifting smoke/covered moon – Umpire may force re-roll of vision distance when shooting at one German unit.  
  1. 18. Fire Support – allied artillery counter can be used without being 'spent' - remains in pile. OR may spend and call in a 25 pdr bombardment without rolling on artillery table.  
  1. 19. Lost  unit is moved 2d6 in random direction. Players selection. 
  1. 20. Choice of reinforcement OR increased motivation for player controlled forces.  

- Re-read the v4 Rules!!! I got caught out by a few things that I was mixing up with 3rd edition.

I think Martin had a good game - hopefully he felt a little pushed, even with his total glut of reinforcements and artillery!

On the other side of the hall, the chaps were going at Regiment Fire and Fury hammer and tongs!