Battlegroup Overlord (30/04/2016 – David, Adam and Leslie)

Poles dug in on the hill

Poles dug in on the hill

I was back in Belfast for the Bank Holiday weekend, so David and Adam once again set up a game for me to join in using their beautifully painted 20mm Normandy forces. The scenario was based on a Rapid Fire Normandy one where the Poles were trying to prevent a German breakout from Falaise while a German relief force attempted to break in – effectively the Polish were surrounded but only had to stop a certain percentage of German vehicles breaking out to win. Battle group breakpoints were in the 80’s so it was very unlikely that the Poles would be broken so could more-or-less ignore losses and concentrate on being speed bumps.

Firefly and 6pdr covering German arrival points on the road

Firefly and 6pdr covering German arrival points on the road

I joined forces with Adam and Leslie – we took a Polish platoon each and we spread the armour and support weapons among our platoons on the hill. Everything on the hill was dug in, but we decided to take the fight to the Germans and send some troops off the hill to occupy a couple of buildings overlooking the road – this decision probably won us the game.

Polish forward positions

Polish forward positions

The Germans opened the game with a Nebelwerfer barrage which landed pretty well smack in the middle of the Polish positions on the hill. Bad dice rolls meant that only a few units were pinned, though one was an FAO which would cut down on the Allied artillery response. The Germans then sent a Motorised platoon up the road towards the buildings but couldn’t quite get into them, so a brave Polish squad accompanied by a PIAT piled into the building on their turn. Over the next few turns there would be a protracted fight for the building with the lone Polish squad holding out against all the odds for much longer than they should.

The fight over a key building

The fight over a key building

The Germans had supported the infantry with a lone Tiger which trundled up the road – 2 AP shots from a Firefly on the hill both spotted and hit but just failed to penetrate – the Tiger was pinned however, so that was good news for our Shermans. When a truck was destroyed by a mortar, the morale counter came up as a “mine strike” which the Poles gleefully played on the Tiger. The glee soon vanished when a ‘1’ was rolled for effect, which allowed the Germans to move the mine strike to the Sherman Firefly which had just fired – the mine easily destroyed the Sherman. The British duly took another morale counter for the destroyed Firefly, drew another “mine strike” and played that one back on the Tiger. This time there was no escape for the Tiger – it blew up and the road was blocked.

The 2nd mine eventually gets the Tiger

The 2nd mine eventually gets the Tiger

The FAO was unpinned then assaulted and destroyed by a German squad which occupied their dug-out. Every Allied machine gun which could be brought to bear opened up on them, but amazingly 3 survived and crucially one of them had a Panzerfaust. He drew a bead on the nearest Firefly and blew it sky-high.

Couldn't miss at that range

Couldn’t miss at that range

The other Allied FAO on the hill spotted a platoon of Panzer Grenadiers on an out-flanking manoeuvre and called down a barrage of 5.5 howitzers on them. Though I rolled badly for the direct hit, all 3 half tracks were pinned and the Germans seemed to forget to unpin them by taking a morale chit over successive turns – we Allied commanders never pointed it out to them either.

Pinned Panzergrenadiers

Pinned Panzergrenadiers

Also conspicuous by its absence was the next Nebelwerfer barrage, but again it wasn’t our job to point out that surely the tubes must have been reloaded by now 🙂

Firefly and 6pdr covering German arrival points on the road

Firefly and 6pdr covering German arrival points on the road

Meanwhile events had been proceeding nicely for the Poles on the other side of the hill. The German relief force attempted to clear their end of the road, but one of my squads had occupied another house along with a PIAT team, and these troops stopped the Germans in their tracks. The PIAT destroyed 2 Panzer IVs while the infantry kept the attacking German infantry pinned down. Two StuG III then arrived, but before the PIAT team could complete their hat trick we had to call time.

So ended another cracking and eventful game with David and Adam’s 20mm troops and terrain. There seemed to be a lot more morale chit draws which were events rather than BR losses then usual – in fact after 2 Mine Strikes were drawn in a row “morale chits” were renamed to “mine chits”. We’ve pretty much got the artillery rules down pat now, so there was not the usual digging through rule books when a barrage landed – I even remembered that rocket artillery get an extra dice – and I wasn’t even playing the Germans! Questions did come up around house assaults again, so we’re hoping to get these cleared up on the forum.

Thanks to all involved and I hope to get back to Belfast soon for another game – unfortunately Sgt Steiner was posted to another part of the front when this game was being played – hopefully he’ll be around for the next one.

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Salute with Tom (16/04/2016)

This report is a bit late as I’ve been away (where to will become apparent in the next post), but here are a few photos from our day out at Salute. There wasn’t any London Marathon registration or Doctor Who convention this year, just a Wedding Fair and a Buy-to-Let show to get in the food queue with. We arrived by cable car from North Greenwich for a change, which was fun but probably not for those with a fear of heights and easily swayed cable cars 🙂

Nice day for a cable car

Nice day for a cable car

First up are some photos from a game using David Brown’s upcoming ACW rules “Pickett’s Charge” and played by the author. The game was commendable in the fact that, apart from looking brilliant, they were actually playing the game, so we hung around for a while to see if we could pick up anything about the rules. They do look interesting, with less morale checks than General de Brigade and should be available later this year – I’ll definitely be getting a copy.

Antietam using Pickett's Charge rules

Antietam using Pickett’s Charge rules

Antietam using Pickett's Charge rules

Antietam using Pickett’s Charge rules

ECW Siege of Bristol game – the walls looked like they were used in a game of the Siege of Worcester at Salute 2011, but who cares? ECW is still one of my favourite periods which I’ve never gamed.

Siege of Bristol

Siege of Bristol

Siege of Bristol

Siege of Bristol

Winter War – lovely depiction of snow and ice.

Winter War

Winter War

Winter War ship iced in.

Winter War ship iced in.

Vietnam

Vietnam table

Vietnam table

Napoleonics in both 54mm and 40mm – amazing brushwork.

54mm Napoleonics - awesome

54mm Napoleonics – awesome

40mm Napoleonics

40mm Napoleonics

40mm Napoleonics with Sharpe defending the bridge

40mm Napoleonics with Sharpe defending the bridge

I wasn’t sure that there were as many outstanding games as usual – this was probably down to the Steampunk theme which would have encouraged smaller skirmish games. Rules-wise, there were more things I was looking forward too which were released after Salute – Sharp Practice 2 and Dystopian Wars Fast Play for example. I did pick up a few rule books – Combat Patrol (yes, more WW2), the Saga campaign supplement, Blood Eagle (IHMN rules adapted for the Dark Ages) and the Black Powder ACW supplement. Those, plus a few vehicles from Plastic Soldier and Peter Pig and civilian from Eureka completed the shopping extravaganza. Probably not a classic Salute, but despite this I’ll still be there next year – and besides, there’s always a pint of Meantime beer to look forward to at the end 🙂

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Battlegroup Blitzkrieg (02/04/2016 – Tom)

It was not going to be the German's day

It was not going to be the German’s day

This was the first outing for my early war French Armoured Division. It was a meeting engagement against a fast-advancing German Panzer Division, though the French had motorised infantry whereas the Germans didn’t. As the French had 4 Char Bs in their force, Tom naturally plumped to command them – they were accompanied by some H39s, a Panhard armoured car, a squad of motorcycle infantry, a 45mm AT gun on a truck portee and a platoon of motorised infantry in Lorraine carriers. The Germans had 6 Pz38, 3 Panzer II and a Panzer IV along with some SP artillery, a 222 armoured car and a Panzerjager I – their platoon of infantry was on foot, though the supporting infantry gun and anti-tank gun were being towed.

French Motorcycle squad rush to claim objective

French Motorcycle squad rush to claim objective

A fun game ensued, spiced up as usual by the morale counter draws. Just as a French infantry squad were about to assault a house containing a German squad, I lost my 222 armoured car and drew an out of ammo counter, which I played on the infantry preparing to assault. It turned out (die roll) that they had only enough ammo for one more turn of shooting which became their assault, but they failed to wipe out the Germans, leaving them facing a pinned LMG with no ammo and no supply trucks. Revenge was had later on when the French drew an out of ammo counter which was played on another German squad in another house in the contested village – they rolled to be immediately out of ammo, so rather than being overrun and giving an easy morale counter (I was close to my breakpoint at this time), they retreated into an adjoining wood. Next turn the supply source they were withdrawing towards was destroyed by mortar fire, then the wood was well and truly sprayed with fire by every available French unit and the out of ammo squad was wiped out, along with their Platoon HQ who were also cowering in the wood – the 2 counters drawn took the Germans over their breakpoint of 52.

There's a good field of fire here...

There’s a good field of fire here…

My Pz38s fared predictably badly against the Char Bs – my most effective anti-tank weapons were actually the 2 sIG 33 mounted on a Pz I chassis. In the end, one Char B was abandoned by its crew after a barrage of direct fire HE, with another destroyed on a lucky roll of 12. In my attempt to get round the back of 2 Char Bs, I exposed my side armour to  a 47mm ATG mounted on a truck and paid the price with a destroyed tank or two. Luckily I had supported them with a PzII so the truck got sprayed by auto cannon fire and destroyed.

Flank shot

Flank shot

Only one Pz38 survived long enough to run out of ammo and get back to the supply Pz I and reload, but when the ammo carrier was destroyed by mortar fire the game was up, as the self-propelled artillery could no longer be re-supplied. I ended the game with my Pz38 and Panzerjager I too afraid to emerge from cover while the French infantry mopped up as described above.

The only thing capable of denting a Char B without rolling a 12 on 2D6

The only thing capable of denting a Char B without rolling a 12 on 2D6

We had several rules questions, basically in areas we had not played out before – close assault and re-supply. The close assault question was what the attackers did if they won an assault on a house but did not wipe out the enemy. As the assault unit had clearly won, we allowed them to gain a foothold in the house and benefit from its cover, whereas during the assault they had no benefit from cover – I’ve struggled to find any clarification of this on the rules forum, but it seems to make sense so that’s the way we’ll play it from now on. We also played that only one unit could be re-supplied per turn and that the unit being suppled could not do anything else that turn. Looking at the rules forum, we played both of these wrong – the supply unit can re-supply all units near it and then these units can perform their normal orders this turn.

View of the early game - only the 222 is burning at this stage

View of the early game – only the 222 is burning at this stage

German outflanking movement

German outflanking movement

French assault on the village goes in

French assault on the village goes in

Char B crawl towards the village

Char B crawl towards the village

As good as it got - 2 Char B out of action

As good as it got – 2 Char B out of action

Next stop – the Ardennes in 1944 I think, as the excellent “Battlegroup Wacht am Rhein” is out – can’t wait.

Shameless Kickstarter Plug

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My friend David Pentland has launched a Kickstarter to fund publication of a book of his art commemorating 100 years of the tank. David’s art has graced the pages of the Ironfist Battlegroup series of rules and the Plastic Soldier Company kit boxes amongst other things, and I have the pleasure of seeing many of those paintings in the flesh when I visit him back home in Northern Ireland.

Sample spread from the book

Sample spread from the book

If, like me, tanks are your thing then this Kickstarter is a real bargain with the pledge for the book and postcards set at £18 + P&P. Please feel free to pass the message on to you know anyone who may be interested.

Here’s the link to Kickstarter video:-

Thanks for looking.

Kings of War (07/02/2016 – Solo & 21/02/2016 – Tom)

Pharoah

Pharaoh

I was struggling with what to put on my Christmas list, so when I was in Dark Sphere in Lambeth in November and saw the 2nd edition of these rules I picked up a copy on the understanding that my wife would buy me them for Christmas (which she did) – about six weeks later, I’ve gotten around to actually reading them. I had been bemoaning this Age of Sigmar nonsense which killed off the large army form of Warhammer Fantasy Battles without realising that I hadn’t played WFB in the 6 year lifetime of this blog – well maybe I had, but wasn’t actually excited enough to blog about it. Anyway, Mantic were really smart in releasing crossover lists for WFB armies – sure they had Dwarfs in 1st edition but not an Egyptian version of the Undead (my other main army after Dwarfs) so no chariots. With the release of the “Uncharted Empires” army book they have the Kingdom of Dust with Chariots and animated constructs, so it was easy enough to draw up 2 armies to give the rules a go.

Ranks of the Undead

Ranks of the Undead

After choosing the simplest of scenarios (see-who-can-kill-the-most) and a fairly standard set-up (the Dwarfs playing on the defensive), the Undead got to go first. Their first turn saw their left flank units attempting to outflank the Dwarfs with cavalry & one unit of chariots, supported by the Priest and a unit of Skeleton archers.

Flank attack develops

Flank attack develops

An attempt at double-envelopment saw the right flank chariots and Enslaved Guardians moved past the Shrine of the Skull – meanwhile the Bone Giant and Scorpion took it upon themselves to distract the Dwarf cannon & centre troops.

The Undead shooting was pretty pathetic, but magic (which happens in the shooting phase) saw the Pharaoh cast surge to propel the Bone Giant 5″ forward. Most Undead are shambling which means that they can’t double move – however they can be moved again in the shooting phase by the Surge magic spell.

Predictably, the Dwarf’s only move in response was to bring the Steam Tank into charge range of the Undead cavalry. The Dwarf crossbows shot and missed the Undead cavalry though the steam tank caused 3 hits on them – the softening up had begun. There is no figure removal in the game, but at the end of the shooting phase all units taking a wound roll for nerve (morale). There are 2 levels for each unit – waver or rout, but the Undead never waver only rout so adding the number of hits on the unit and adding 2D6 score was unlikely to succeed against rout values of 14 or more. Waver basically makes you miss a turn, while rout removes the unit from the game – subtle it is not, but happily the nightmare of legislating for fleeing units is removed. This would also encourage reserves, as holes are going to appear in the battle line, and having something to fill these holes would be a good idea.

Steam Tank

Steam Tank

The Undead were into combat in turn 2, with the Scorpion & Bone Giant charging the Berserkers and the Cavalry charging the Steam Tank. Everything else shambled forward apart from the catapult and alter.

Giant and Scorpion charge Berserkers

Giant and Scorpion charge Berserkers

Flank attack is stopped dead

Flank attack is stopped dead

In the shooting phase the catapult missed, but the Alter hit the Dwarf Rifles 3 times, with the skeleton archers putting another 4 hits on them. The Rifles were a troop sized unit (10 figures) so they have a low nerve value of 10 to waver or 12 to rout. The nerve roll is 2D6 added to the current hits on the unit – with 7 hits on them and 8 rolled on 2D6 they exceeded their rout value and left the table – first blood to the Undead.

In melee, the Bone Giant and the Scorpion put 8 hits onto the Berserkers, who shrugged them off with their nerve of 22! The Undead also regain hits (usually 1) for inflicting wounds, so the Scorpion regained a hit for inflicting a wound while the Cavalry caused 2 hits on the Steam Tank and also regained a wound. Melees do not carry on over turns in this game – if an attacking unit fails to rout it’s opponents, it falls back 1″ and can be counter-charged in the opponent’s turn. This removes some complexity around pushback and long-running melees.

So, the Berserkers counter-charged the Bone Giant, leading to an interesting situation because the Scorpion has to be out of the ensuing melee (1 unit cannot charge 2 units) – as per the rules, it was shuffled into the arc of the Flame Cannon. On the Dwarf left flank, the Shieldbreakers advanced to box the chariots in, while the Ironguard shuffled sideways to close the gap left by the routed Rifles. The Steam tank was disordered by being in melee so it couldn’t shoot at the cavalry. but it decided to charge anyway as D6+20 attacks seemed more effective than any gun.

Revenants charge the gunline

Revenants charge the gunline

During the shooting phase the Dwarfs chipped away at the advancing Undead along the line, but the big event was the Flame Cannon at point-blank range against the Scorpion. The Flame cannon gots 18 dice hitting on 4+, re-rolling 1s because of Warsmith’s (think Engineer) proximity against the Scorpion, and  though it had a high defence it still took 5 wounds. The Chariots on the Dwarf right, which had been targeted by the Rangers over 2 turns, crumbled to dust, just exceeding their nerve rout roll.

In melee the Berserkers rolled 25 dice against the Bone Giant but only inflicted 3 hits, however the Steam Tank did much better and inflicted 10 hits on the cavalry – they failed the subsequent nerve test and crumbled into dust.

On to the Undead turn 3. The left flank Chariots couldn’t back off so they had to charge the Steam Tank or wait to be charged. In KoW, only the attacking side can cause hits in a melee, so you really have nothing to lose by charging if you are going to be charged next turn. The Enslaved Guardians charged the Shieldbreakers, the Scorpion charged the Flame Cannon and the Pharaoh propelled the Revenants forward 5″,  while the Priest healed 2 wounds on the Skeleton Archers. In the shooting phase, the catapult hit for a change and did 7 points of damage on the Ironclads – amazingly the Ironclad regiment stood.

Catapult hits at last!

Catapult hits at last!

The Skeleton Archers put 3 damage on the crossbow troop though the crossbows rolled poorly for their nerve test and routed from the field. In melee, the Enslaved Guardians hit the Shieldbreakers 5 times but failed to break them while the Bone Giant only put 3 hits on the Berserkers which they shrugged off. The Scorpion got triple attacks on the war engine (reflecting how bad artillery are in melee) and put 7 hits on them, however a low roll of 3 in the nerve test meant that the crew only wavered instead of routing. Finally, the chariots failed miserably against the Steam Tank, only inflicting 1 wound on it so there was no point in it taking a nerve test.

The Shieldbreakers and Rangers charged the Enslaved Guardians, the Rangers flanking them.

Enslaved Guardians go the way of the chariots

Enslaved Guardians go the way of the chariots

The steam tank charged the chariots. Though the flame cannon shook off its wavering status because of Headstrong, they were still disordered so couldn’t toast the scorpion directly in front of it. The rifles fired at the Revenant infantry and put another 3 hits on them. The cannon targeted the skeleton infantry and hit for a change – a massive 9 hits and a nerve roll of 6 returned the skeletons to dust.

The Rangers in the flank of the Enslaved Guardians should have has a -1 to hit because of charging through difficult terrain, but because of the Pathfinder attribute they could ignore this – they doubled their attacks for attacking the flank giving them 24 attacks of which 5 translated into hits. The Shieldbreakers added another 4, and even with a nerve re-roll for the Inspiring ability of the nearby Pharoh, the Enslaved Guardians crumbled. The Shieldbreakers reformed to face the flank of the advancing Revenants. The Steam Tank also got 24 attacks against the cavalry, scoring 10 wounds – only a re-roll from the nearby Priest stopped them from crumbling.

The Chariots backed off from the Steam Tank, allowing the priest to heal 3 of their wounds. The Giant and the Revenants charged the Berserkers while the Scorpion returned to its unfinished business with the flame cannon. The catapult fired at the Dwarf warriors and missed, but the Alter put 4 hits on them – this forced a nerve test on the Warriors which they failed and without a leader in range they didn’t get a re-roll, so routed off the table. The Berserkers were living a charmed life – the Giant failed to put a single wound on them and the Revenants only scraped 1, so they didn’t even flinch. There was some success however, as the Scorpion finished off the flame cannon.

In the Dwarf turn 4, the King and Warsmith got into the action by charging the Scorpion but failed to do much damage to it. The Steam Tank ground the chariots into dust, while the Shieldbearers and Rangers moved to flank the Revenants.

The Giant and Revenants charged the Berserkers’ front again while the Scorpion charged their flank. The Pharaoh in his chariot charged the Shieldbreakers in an attempt to distract them from the Revenants’ flank while the combined fire of the Skeleton Archers, the Alter and the Catapult put 5 wounds on the Ironguard but they stood their ground.

Berserkers stand firm despite casualties

Berserkers are finished off

The Berserkers had 15 hits put on them from the combined assault, meaning they needed double 1 to stand. The first roll was a 1 and a 2, but the re-roll was worse so they were wiped out. The Pharaoh meanwhile put 3 hits on the Shieldbreakers – they failed their first nerve test and they were out of the 6″ radius of the leader re-roll for the King so they headed for the hills – suddenly the game looked over for the Dwarfs. With the Steam Tank too far away to help, the only chance was for the Rangers to take out the Pharaoh, so they charged him while the rifle troop gamely charged the flank of the Revenants. The cannon missed – again!!! The Rangers failed to put 1 wound on the Pharaoh while the rifles only put 2 on the Revenants so the Dwarfs conceded.

Dwarf losses were 720 against 710 for the Undead, so the result was a blood soaked draw with neither side likely to get the 10% winning margin in the time remaining. However, if the game was played out to the end, the Dwarfs were too short of viable units to stop them losing more units to routs, so may well have lost.

What did I think of the rules? I do like the fact that there is no casualty removal, but the rout test makes the game very bloody with gaps suddenly appearing in your battle line. This is not necessarily a bad thing as you do need to keep a reserve to preserve your flanks. I like the fact that it is quick, playing out a game of this size in 2 hours even with the inevitable rules look-ups for a first time play. There are subtle changes from 1st edition – no modifier for firing at over half range for example – illustrating that Mantic have really stripped the rules to the bone. This is evident in the army lists as well, where unit differences are added using just a few attributes – not a bad thing as I always forget these sorts of things if there is a long list! The Steam Tank felt a bit overpowered for the game, reducing chariots to matchsticks and cavalry to dust – I’ll probably draft in some dwarf cavalry on giant badgers to replace it when I get them painted.

In a postscript to this solo effort, my son was home at the weekend so we played another game of Kings of War with much the same forces, the only difference being that the Empire of Dust took Revenants on Worms instead of the Alter. The Dwarf shooting with him rolling the dice suddenly became very effective, with a couple of Undead units being routed through shooting alone. The low-point for the Undead was when the Scorpion charged the Flame Cannon in the flank but failed to break it rolling 16 attacks – it was then charged in the flank by the Berserkers (50 attack dice rolled – ouch) and killed.

I conceded on turn 4 of 6 with not enough units left on the board to stand any chance of winning – here are a few photos from this game.

Undead flank attack

Undead flank attack

Heroic Rangers

Heroic Rangers

Enslaved Guardians under heavy fire

Enslaved Guardians under heavy fire

Clash of the Titans

Clash of the Titans

Rangers clash with snakes

Rangers clash with snakes

The fight in the centre

The fight in the centre

Scorpion flanked by Berserkers

Scorpion flanked by Berserkers

End of the road - the Priest is crushed by the Steam Tank

End of the road – the Priest is crushed by the Steam Tank