Saturday, 16 February 2019

Battlegroup Fall of the Reich club night

Last evening we played the Hard Road scenario from BFotR.  1050 points of Russians taking on a similar points value of Germans.  The German battlegroup was divided into 3 groups of 350 point forces, one of a Volksturm platoon fully loaded with Panzerfausts, supported by a PAK38 in AT emplacement, an MG34 nest, an MG34 and loader team and an artillery spotter with off table 80mm mortar battery.  The other battlegroups were again Volksturm platoons, but not dug in, one supported by a Stug IIIG battery and the other by 3 Pz IVs.

We drew the hard road scenario and the Russian players drew the table edge with the bigger built up area.  Germans placed the road block as far forward as possible and I deployed my trenches across the table with the PAK 38 facing towards the upper right table edge.  I also deployed an MG emplacement in the woods to the right of the road block.  Will deployed a PAK 38 in the town to the right of the road and I placed an MG34 team with loaders in the building to the left of the road.  Ian had three Stugs deployed in the village and in woods on both flanks.  Steve and Mike had T-34s, ISU-152 and what looked like SU-85s or similar, plus loads of infantry and some timed artillery.  1050 points per side.

The Russians pushed forward into the town and sent T-34s down both flanks, those on the right deploying tank riders to get into the woods in the foreground.  These guys killed one of my snipers, for the loss of 2 men.

Taking the woods on the German left meant the Stug had to bug out or face close assault with AT grenades.

Russian tank riders move into the woods.

More Russian infantry push past the town while T-34s and animal killers carry on a long range duel with Stugs and AT guns.

On the right, the MG dug out, sniper and Stug await the coming storm.

Turn 3 and German reserves arrive - three Pz IVs to contest the right wing with two T-34s in the far distance.

At the end of the game - we ran out of time - Mike decided to recon in force with a T-34, which ran into Faust fire from infantry in trenches on the left - scratch one T-34.  The Stug, relocated from the woods on the German left has been brewed up in the centre, as has the Sdkfz 222 recce.  The PAK 38 in the village has been swept away, although the dug in PAK 38 is still in the game.

The red horde advancing into Germany.

So far so good on the German left.

When we had to call a halt, the Germans were over half their break point while the Russians were significantly less than half.  Both sides could have done with more artillery support.  The Russians played the waiting game, keeping at extreme range, so both sides shooting was spectacularly unsuccessful, although the Russians were getting the best of it.  It was only when the Russian commander had a rush of blood and charged unpinned infantry with a T-34 that they suffered any serious armour casualties.

All in all, too big a game for an evening, but fun and some interesting lessons about tactics and troop selection.  Next time …..!

Thanks for looking.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Vapnartak 2019 - additions to the stash.

Will and I headed out for Manchester extra early in the morning, expecting a clear run, only to find the motorway blocked with quite a bad RTC.  Added 20 minutes to our journey, so not too bad for us, but a bit of a disaster for those caught up in it.  We transferred to Steve motor and, along with Dave, headed off to the show in York.

Dave, Steve and Will, along with Dave of Dave Lanchester books, make up the acceptable faces of the Lance & Longbow Society.  In no time, we had set up the L&L stand, selling an assortment of books and pamphlets concentrating on the medieval period, chiefly the Wars of the Roses, and a participation game "The Battle of Stamford Bridge?", a fictional engagement between Neville and Percy during the Wars of the Roses (pictured below).  Steve and Dave ran this game at least three times during the show, which was great to see as there were quite a few eager participants, including some youngsters.  Will was kept busy running the stall with my willing, but largely ineffective assistance.

We did manage to do some shopping, which for me included picking up a pre-order from Peter Pig and another from Early War Miniatures.  I also managed to get in to the Rapid-Fire stall early on and snaffled some nice Ready-to-Roll vehicles and also visited Grubby for some Britannia vehicles and figures.

The 20mm haul includes 3 Pz IVF2s for Torch, a pair of CV-35s and a pair of Semovente-75s, plus 2 MkVIs for an Operation Hercules scenario.  There are two Sherman dozers to provide some engineering support to a US boat team for a D-day game, plus assorted US and British recce, including 2 Daimler ACs, a Humber AC, 2 Staghound ACs, a Humber light recce car, an M20 and an M, a Dodge command car and a comms jeep.  Then for late war, there are 2 Hetzers and an Sdkfz 140/1, plus some assorted guns including 2 MG tobruks and 2 tank turret tobruks, a redestal Pak 38, a 120mm mortar and a 37mm Flak, as well as a couple of crews for Airfix 75mm Pack Howitzers.  There are also some repaired vehicles from the £1 miscast EWM stand, including 3 Fiat trucks and 2 Fiat Breda AA portees, 2 Humber SCs and 2 Kubelwagens, plus a Dingo SC.  These weren't all from Vapa, but I've worked on them as a batch to get them ready for painting.  In the bags are some assorted Britannia British paratroopers and EWM British drivers and their new and most excellent Germans in winter smocks.  I only bought a couple of packs of the new Germans, but they are lovely and I can see me getting more as well as their new US infantry figures if they are anything like as good.  Crews are all Hat plastics from the US and British tank riders sets that I bought in Sheffield back in October.  Will very kindly gave me some US tank crewmen, and I need to find the last pair of these to crew the M20 and M8.  The Semoventes will need some crew too as they are modelled open hatched.

All in all, a good haul.  I'd missed getting to Warfare and Recon this year, so had saved up a bit of goodwill with the boss and so put that to good use by rounding out a few projects that I've had on the go for a while now.

Not sure when I'll get to paint these, as I've not picked up a brush since before Christmas.  Hopefully soon.  As ever, thanks for looking.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Battlegroup Torch campaign game

Last night Will and I played out another of our Kasserine Pass campaign games, the final Axis turn 4 game for Khamouda.  This pitted 750 points selected from 10th Pz against 500 points of British (Gore) infantry and 250 points of US (Stark) infantry.  150 points of DAK reinforcements arrived on turn 6 and 300 points of Mixed Allies were due to arrive on turn 9.

Table size is c. 8x6ft as suggested for forces of this size and the particularly dense terrain was generated at random using the terrain generator in the Torch book.  The scenario was flank attack. 

The shots show the situation immediately before the arrival of the first wave of DAK reinforcements.  10th Panzer have battled their way to the centre of the table and are about to take control of 3 of the 4 objectives and contest the 4th.  However, this will be achieved at the cost of one destroyed Pz III and two immobilised Pz IV F2s.  The British have 5 Crusader IIIs upper right of centre, trading shots with the 10th Pz armour.  Both sides artillery is pinning tanks to prevent the expected flurry of AP shots if they don't pin.

Sadly for the Germans, who only have a beute Valentine coming on in turn 6, the Allies have a mixed force including Valentines coming on table in turn 9.  We had to call it a draw at the close of turn 7 as it was past 11pm.  The Germans had amassed serious BP chits, while the Allies were virtually unscathed, meaning yet another victory for the Allies, although we each thought we had a chance of victory if we could have progressed to a finish.

That means that out of five Torch campaign games, three decided by our map movements plus scenarios 1 and 2, the Allies have won 4 games by stunning margins and the Germans scraped one very narrow victory.  As these game represent the start of the campaign, when the Germans were historically still achieving victories and advancing, we felt this less than historical.  Even worse, the campaign is just getting tedious, certainly for the German player (me).  The main issues seem to centre on the points system, which allows lots of cheap, but superior, Allied armour, artillery and scouts, compared with expensive, and largely inferior, German versions.  In particular, it only takes one battery of 25lbrs or, even worse, one of 105mm guns to close down the entire German offensive.  Couple that with cheap and fast moving tanks, like the Crusader III, armed with an effective 6pdr, and the German advance stalls.  The campaign needs to be leavened with additional restrictions, which limit Allied artillery fire in the early stages of the campaign, and the points system, while they lead to an historical result (i.e. the Germans lose), does not allow any kind of German attack to develop.  It took the Allies (well the US mostly) until the final battle of the campaign to co-ordinate their artillery into an effective battlefield weapon, but in the campaign as written, they can use it from the off.  This leads to a lack of German success early on and their inability to contest the campaign.

It is interesting to note that the most popular periods of Battlegroup played at the club are Overlord and Fall of the Reich (including Wacht am Rhein and Market Garden), which always seem to offer very playable and nicely balanced games.  Blitzkrieg and Barbarossa seem to offer some nicely balanced games as well, although the scenario that pits German infantry and Pz Is assaulting fortified Polish positions, in the Blitzkrieg book, is unplayable for the Germans.  Sadly, Tobruk and Torch both seem to be so unbalanced that they appear to be neither playable nor fun.  At least one player at the club won't pick up the Tobruk book because they think the rules are so unbalanced.  They jar considerably when compared with, for example, a game of BG Market Garden that Will and I played last year (linky  This game last year was close run and I won it 2 points off my BP, but it was fun.  The recent game of BG Tobruk that I won by a couple of points was most definitely not fun.  Sadly, this must reflect scenario design and/or the points system and any fun game should be winnable by either side, depending on the tactical decisions and luck of the dice, not a foregone conclusion from the start.

I don't think we will turn our backs on Tobruk and Torch, but scenario design will need some significant work to make them fun to play.  Will probably has his own views on the games we have played so far and I am sure he has enjoyed smashing my 251s with his 105s as payback for what I did to his US paratroopers!

As ever, thanks for looking.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

15mm 1980s British battlegroup

This is my mid-1980's British battlegroup, based on a core of a mechanized infantry platoon transported in FV432s, supported by 81mm mortars in FV432s, Milan ATGM firing posts transported by Landrover, an FV438, a Spartan MCT with Milan ATGM, a tracked Rapier ADS, FV439 signals vehicle, Chieftain troop and Lynx ATGM helicopter.

The core of the battlegroup, the mechanized infantry platoon.  These are Battlefront FV432s and infantry, three sections of 5 riflemen with Carl Gustav and 3 GPMG teams, with a command team of 6 riflemen, including a 2 man 60mm light mortar team.

Here we have 6 2 man Milan firing posts, from PSC (formerly Armies Army) with Landrover transports from Butlers Printed Models (BPM).

A better side on view of the BPM Landrovers.

81mm mortars in FV432s, the vehicles are from BPM with spare crew from the Battlefront set.  The two figures on foot are observers from PSC (ex-Armies Army).

Some mechanized ATGM support in the form of a Spartan MCT with Milan (from PSC) and an FV428 with Swingfire ATGM (the 5th model from the Battlefront set).  Another of the observer teams to represent a dismounted observer targeting the FV438 Swingfires from a concealed position.

An FV439 signals vehicle (PSC, ex-Armies Army) and tracked Rapier air defence vehicle from BPM.

A Lynx ATGM helicopter armed with TOWs, another of the great value models from BPM.

A troop of 3 Chieftains from the Battlefront set.  I still have 2 built but not painted, waiting in the "to do" pile.

They look nice, but in their first engagement using the unofficial Battlegroup modern rules they were wiped out in a single round of shooting by T-72s.

Still a few more bits to add, a pair of Scimitars and another of Scorpions, maybe some more infantry.

As ever, thanks for looking.

Monday, 7 January 2019

20mm DAK review

Having gone through my 20mm WW2 Germans, I thought I'd do the same thing for my Afrika Korps forces.  Most of the vehicles have been posted previously, but the infantry seem to have slipped through the net.

I have also realised that, although I thought I had done three platoons of infantry, in reality, only two have been completed.  I used a mixture of Airfix, Italeri and Caesar for the regular infantrymen and Britannia/Grubby for the specialists.  Each platoon comprises a 6 figure command squad with three 5 man rifle squads and 3 3 man MG34 teams.  At the front is a Horch command car with a 3 man command team as FHQ, flanked by two 3 man tripod MG34 teams and two PAK 36 AT guns with 3 man crew.  Behind the FHQ are two 2 man AT rifle teams and two 2 man light mortar teams, while at the very back are three 3 man 80mm mortar teams, a 2 man observer team and some spare teams with AT rifle, light mortar and tripod MG34 for the third platoon.

The Horch command car and FHQ in more detail - all from Britannia/Grubby.

A PAK 36 and crew with a tripod MG34 and second platoon command squad in more detail.

2nd Platoon command squad with three rifle squads and MG34 teams behind.

Supports for 1st Platoon, another Britannia/Grubby PAK 36 and tripod MG34.

1st Platoon, organised as 2nd Platoon, again a mix of Caesar, Italeri and Caesar.

Britannia/Grubby AT rifle teams.

Britannia/Grubby light mortar teams.

80mm mortar teams from the Italeri sets.

Light armour, three Pz IIs, left and centre from Britannia/Grubby, right a diecast.

Early War Miniatures Jagdpanzer I and Befehlspanzer I command vehicle.

Rear view showing crew compartment.

DAK armour.  Front row short barrelled Pz IIIs, mid-row long barrelled Pz IIIs and rear row Pz IVDs and a single short barrelled PzIII.  Pz IIIs without crews and Pz IVDs are Armourfast kits, while the front and mid- row Pz IIIs with crew are Britannia/Grubby and the rear row Pz III is a PSC kit.

Long barrelled Pz IIIs and Pz IVDs in more detail.

Opel Blitz radio truck by Britannia/Grubby.

Sdkfz 222 from Britannia/Grubby.

Airfix 88mm with Britannia/Grubby crew.

Some Italian allied support, an EWM M13/40 tank and Italeri Breda 90/53 AA gun.

Finally, a stretcher bearer team, medic and sniper team, all from Britannia/Grubby.

So, having reviewed what's completed, the most obvious is the missing 3rd Platoon infantry.  I've also got a section of Kradschutzen infantry on motor cycles and will need to do some suitable dismounts for them.  Then for Torch scenarios, I'm going to need some long barrelled Pz IV F2s.  I also have some plastic Italians, which will make up a platoon or so of infantry to act as supports for the DAK.

Thanks for looking.

Monday, 31 December 2018

20mm WW2 German infantry platoon options

With it being the year end and time to look back on 2018, I thought I'd look again at my 20mm German infantry for WW2.  At the start of the year, almost all my WW2 kit was in 15mm or 6mm scales.  However, I had two big incentives to get some completed as a) I had a Battlegroup Market Garden gaming weekend coming up in May and b) I had picked up lots of 1/72 plastic figures, plus some SS infantry from Britannia Miniatures/Grubby Tanks.
The core of my BG Market Garden force was going to be an armoured infantry reconnaissance platoon - actually from the Wacht am Rhein book but allowed as they were used extensively around Arnhem.  I decided to create a unit based on a recce platoon from 9th SS Armoured Division.  This comprised 4 Sdkfz 250/1 armoured half tracks, each carrying a 4 man MG34 squad, a command 250/1 carrying a 2 man command team, 2 man panzershrek team and 2 man stretcher bearer team and a 250/10 mounting a PAK36.  I also provided some additional support units in the form of a PAK 40 with Maultier tow, a tripod mounted MG34 with 3 crew mounted in an Sdkfz 251/1 and an Sdkfz 250/8 with 75mm short barrelled howitzer.  Recce options included sn Sdkfz 222, an Sdkfz 250/9 and a sniper (not shown).  Artillery support was controlled by a 2 man FAO in Kubelwagen and the platoon was supported by up to 5 Stug III Gs (excellent value for money pointswise).  Finally, an Opel Blitz truck provides a supply column.  So, an infantry force but only with 30 figures, including 2 observers and 6 figures manning the tripod MG34 and PAK40.  Up against lightly armed airborne troops they were as good as light armour, albeit a little more vulnerable to plunging fire and the 4 man MG team dismounts could be quite brittle, but the unit puts out a lot of firepower.

The main infantry teeth of the platoon, each 4 man team carries an MG34 and a Panzerfaust.  The PAK36 needs to get right up close to kill and serious armour, but is quite effective against half tracks and light airborne vehicles.  The command team of 2 men, Panzershrek team of 2 men and 2 man stretcher bearer teams are very vulnerable, especially if the transport is destroyed (if the vehicle is lost and the d3 hits are distributed 1 per 2 man team, then all will break due to last man standing and the aautomatic pin caused by the loss of the vehicle - oops, that's 4 tokens to take.

The command 250/1 carrying three 2 man teams, plus the Sdkfz 251/1 with tripod MG34 - which can put out a lot of firepower given the chance.  In the background is the FAO and Kubelwagen transport, Sdkfz 222 and 250/9, the former being much more survivable as it is not classed as open topped in the BG rulesets, which the 250/9 is, despite them having effectively the same turret arrangement.

Stug IIIG support, 2 from Britannia/Grubby, 2 Armourfast and a PSC version.  These are tough little beasts, difficult to kill and they pack a good anti-armour punch as well as effective pintle MG34 fire.  Great for taking on those pesky large US airborne infantry squads.

Fire support from the Sdkfz 250/8 75mm howitzer, PAK 40 with Maultier tow and, at the back, an Opel Blitz supply truck.

Having got to grips with a camo smock pattern that I liked for the Britannia/Grubby Panzergrenadiers, I decided to do a fully Gepanzert platoon in Sdkfz 251/1s.  I used the Armourfast vehicle sets with additional modifications from Early War Miniatures.  The 3 main rifle sections each comprise a 5 man rifle squad and a 3 man MG34 team, carried in a 251/1.  The 6 man command section is carried by an Sdkfz 251/10 with a PAK 36.  They are supported by an MG34 team in a 251/1 and a PAK 40 towed by a 251/1.  At the back is an Armorfast Sdkfz 251/9 Stummel 75mm howitzer, 2 Armorfast Jagdpanthers and three Panthers, 2 from PSC and 1 Britannia/Grubby, with a supply column Opel Blitz truck from PSC.  Front right is an Armourfast Sdkfz 251/1 modified with an EWM kit as a 251/3 command transport, with dismounted FHQ stand using Britannia figures. 

The Sdkfz 251/3 and FHQ command team.

The teeth arm of the platoon, three sections, each a 5 man rifle squad and a 3 man MG 34 team, plus a 6 man command team, all from Britannia/Grubby.

The tripod MG34 support team with 75mm Stummel and 2 Jagdpanthers behind.  Firing long range at targets to their front can be devastating for the Jagdpanthers, especially when lurking in woods or town ruins.

Panthers, pack a real punch and are heavily armoured to the front, but expensive and vulnerable from the flanks!

PAK 40 and 251/1 tow both from Britannia/Grubby, with a PSC Opel Blitz supply truck behind.

Engineering support for either platoon, mostly from Britannia/Grubby.  On the left an Sdkfz 251/16 Flammpanzerwagen, capable of firing flame out of both sides, twice each turn.  I made good use of this clearing a town of 30 corps infantry in the BG Market Garden weekend.  On the right is an Sdkfz 251/7 Pionierpanzerwagen.  Between the vehicles is an engineer section comprising a 5 man engineering team with additional man pack flamethrower and a 3 man MG34 team.

Some assorted late war feldpolizei, including a motorbike despatch rider, motorbike and sidecar, three man team and a feldpolizei directing traffic.

Front left is the "Hitler" vignette, which appears to be based on the last know photograph of him decorating 15 year old boys in uniform, then US prisoners being directed away from the battle area and finally a field execution scene to indicate "Backs to Berlin" or "To the Last Bullet".

The "Hitler" vignette from Pegasus.

This unit could represent grenadiers of volksgrenadiers, in this case transported by an Opel Blitz bus from Britannia/Grubby.  The figures are mainly plastics from Italeri and Caesar, chiefly the Caesar Panzergrenadiers Ardennes 44 set and German Army with Greatcoats sets.

Finally, for now, another grenadier or volksgrenadier platoon, again using Caesar or Italeri figures with a Zvezda command team in greatcoats plus an observer team with scissor scope.  At rear right is a Britannia/Grubby sniper team and on the left an alternative FHQ team.  To their front is a medic figure evacuating a wounded man.

Based on this trawl through my 20mm WW2 German troops, it looks like I'm missing some late war Pz IVs and suitable figures for a Volksturm platoon.  Not shown today are the Kriegsmarine and Gebirgsjager platoons suitable for most of WW2 that I've posted on previously, as well as the early/mid-war Fallschirmjager suitable for the Low Countries/Norway/Crete and DAK suitable for North Africa that I've still to photograph properly.

As ever, thanks for looking and have a very Happy New Year, all the best for 2019.