Saturday, July 2, 2011

Back on the Horse!

Wow! It's been a long time since my last post! The path has largely been cleared for me to share my miniature wargaming exploits, so let's get into it!

Our local group has been running a monthly Flames of War day, although we skipped June since it seems to be a popular month for birthdays and other family activities (Five parties in three weeks! What is it about September?). Hopefully we'll pick up in July again.

With that in mind, The last Flames of War day took place on May 21, 2011 at The Game Connection. I arrived a little ahead of time to start getting tables set up. I used my winter felt, trees, a mud road, and some buildings by JR Miniatures to create a snow-covered tract of Russia over which to fight. I brought my winter-themed mid-war Grenadierkompanie and hoped to use that, but I had my mid-war SS Panzergrens in tow as well in case I was in the mood.

After a while, Nolan showed up with his winter-themed Tankovy. It was so nicely painted that I couldn't resist taking it on. Unfortunately, it was LW and I had brought two MW lists. Fortunately, Nolan had the Cobra book on hand and I had a few extra tanks in my kit. I built my force from the list that was representative of ad-hoc SS panzer/panzergrenadier companies formed in the wake of Allied advances in France; the concept shouldn't be too far off for the remnants of a force in the wake of Bagration. If I recall correctly, this was my force:

Nick's SS-Panzerkompanie (Cobra)
HQ: 1 Panzer IVH (110)
SS-Panzer Platoon: 3 Panzer IVH (325)
Gepanzerte SS-Panzergrenadier Platoon + panzerfaust (330)
Schwere SS-Panzer Platoon: 1 Tiger IE (240)
Heavy AA-Gun Platoon: 2 8.8cm FlaK 36 (235)
SS-Artillery Battery: 4 105mm (255)

Total: 1495

It is interesting to note that in the new Earth & Steel book this list cannot take a single Tiger in support, but the armored panzergren points have dropped from 320 to 260.

From the book and the photos, I am deducing that Nolan's force was:

Nolan's Tankovy Batalon (Fortress Europe)
HQ: 1 T-34/85, cupola (75)
Tankovy Company: 6 T-34, 2 T-34/85, cupolas (400)
Tankovy Company: 9 M4 Sherman (400)
Light Tankovy Company: 6 M3l Stuart (170)
Tank Killer Company: 3 SU-85 (165)
Air Support: Priority IL-2 Typ 3M (290)

Total: 1500

It was over a month ago so I can't remember the blow-by blow or all the die rolls, but this is how the game basically played out. We went over the terrain quickly and decided to use the winter rules from the Flames of War hardback rule book (HRB). This meant the underlying terrain for the board was difficult going (heavy snow), requiring every vehicle on the board to roll to bog down every time it tried to move. The only exception to this was the road, which counted as good going. These rules were advantageous for Nolan's tanks since his T-34s have wide tracks and he'd be re-rolling any failed bogging tests. We cast the die for a mission and ended up with Free-For-All. If I recall correctly, I was the attacker.

SS-Panzergrenadiers poised to slide up the right flank.

Nolan carefully deploys his Emchas.

Shermans staged in the woods and ready to advance.

When all was said and done, the map ended up like so:

It should be possible to figure out most of the terrain elements from the pics, but roughly the dark brown shapes are woods, the tan in the middle is the hill, the dark squares are buildings, and the brown lines are the roads. Soviet deployments are pink boxes and German deployments are yellow. The deployments were as follows:

S1: T-34 Company, including Battalion CO in a T-34/85
S2: Light Tank Company
S3: Emcha Company
S4: Tank Killer Company

G1: Panzer IVH Platoon
G2: 105mm Battery
G3: Company Command Panzer IVH
G4: FlaK 88 Battery
G5: Tiger
G6: Armored Panzergrenadiers

My plan in setting up was to cover my flanks with (hopefully) appropriate forces--panzergrenadiers assisted by the Tiger (denying the road) on my more terrain-heavy right and panzers on the hilly/open left, where the range of their guns could do some good. The Artillery went in an open are that would give them good fields of fire, and the remaining troops (88s, Panzer IVH HQ) covered some of the open center of the table around the artillery, lest Nolan's tanks advance that far. Also, I was hoping that by positioning my Tiger (with Wide Tracks) and HQ panzer nearer to the center of the table I would have some troops available for a lateral redeployment/counterattack if one end of the board started going south. The big idea was to generally let him come to me, use my decent AT and range capabilities as well as Veteran rating to inflict casualties from the halt and from cover, and then kick of a counterattack on whichever flank seemed to be doing better, possibly shifting the Panzer IV HQ or Tiger to promote a breakthrough or prevent an overrun. I also positioned my observer for the 105s on the hill in the middle.

Nolan also divided his forces, lining up his Emchas and SU-85s against my infantry, and facing off versus my three Panzer IVs with nine T-34s, including some /85s, and six Stuarts. Nolan's center was largely open, but that was OK because so was mine and there were no objectives in the center on either side. Oh, and I rolled "Schnell!" for my Tiger Ace skill. Yay. Let the games begin!

I had the first turn but largely held back to see an opportunity develop. I'm not sure if that is just a symptom of my general lack of a plan or the nature of a free-for-all game. I moved my Tiger up the road (figured that was pretty safe) and cut loose with the 105s on Nolan's T-34s. The furst salvo killed a T-34 and bailing out the company commander! First blood!

Nolan started with a general advance, pushing forward on both sides but being careful to keep the Shermans out of LOS from the Tiger. His first units to run into trouble were the T-34s on my left. They advanced in the open and opened fire, but caused minimal damage. One of my Panzer IVs may have been bailed out, but Fearless with protected ammo meant that didn't last long. As they advanced, I pushed my Company Commander up over the hill and caught the T-34s in a nasty crossfire. The 88 even contributed to the fray with a narrow line of fire between the hill, woods, the buildings. (I'm not sure how I ended up with one... must have been lost to Soviet fire early on.)

Come to Daddy!

Artillery, Panzers, and FlaK make short work of the T-34s.

Nolan kept the pressure up by pushing forward with his Stuarts, but his right was quickly collapsing. His left did not fare much better. The Il-2 Sturmoviks showed up almost every turn but were thoroughly unable to clear the Tiger off the road. Despite this, Nolan pressed his advance!


Emchas! Roll out!

On my right I sent my halftracks to the rear and dug in my panzergrens on the objective. I figured that was their best chance for holding off an armored assault. The remainder of the activity on that flank was a cat-and-mouse game between the Tiger and the Emchas/SU Tank Killers. Nolan had two companies maneuvering for position around my single Tiger. The SUs would push up my right through the woods and threaten some shots while the Shermans pushed around my left, trying to stay invisible in the woods and behind the destroyed buildings, hoping for a flank shot. This went on for a while with some very tense moments and close calls for the Tiger. The SUs stayed safe by keeping outside of the 10" range that the infantry needed to launch an assault. I didn't want to leave the objective open without the guaranteed opportunity to mix it up with my SS foot. Fortunately for me, Nolan was also having some trouble calling in his aircraft at this point. This right flank was locked in a long-lasting mobile battle with a Tiger that never missed a stormtrooper roll. Schnell, indeed!

The other flank, however, was wide open and I went for it with my Panzer platoon. They slid up the flank and onto the objective, with requisite attention to ensure that I didn't present my flanks to the Stuarts. Another tense moment came when I got my first tank onto the objective.

At the start of my next turn, I was poised to hold the objective and win, but in the intermediate Soviet turn, Nolan's T-34/85 commander found his spirit and clambered back in! There was the potential at this point that two shots would knock me off the objective and prolong the game, but also the slim chance that my platoon of 3 could break and run! Nolan fired and scored 0 hits, on par with the rest of his shooting that day. Since the Company CO is an independent team it could not contest the objective (thanks, Will, for pointing this out!), and the game ended at the start of my next turn. An SS-Victory!

What's this? The turret is turning! Fire!

Overall it was a very fun and interesting game. Nolan had a really bad run of the dice firing at my Panzers, and Veterans in the woods at long range didn't help! There were a couple of times where I thought he should have hit something but it just wasn't meant to be. I, on the other hand, need to develop some better tactics than "Wait and see what happens." I seem to rely on that old standby a lot, and this time I lucked out. Nolan was a great opponent, and I can't wait to be on the receiving end of his T-34s and Inomarochnikiy Emchas in the future!

The pictures here are just a small subset... See them all here!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Pirates! And Fallschirmjäger!

Thought I'd post some of my latest figures:

I'm a sucker for a nice figure. When I see some well-sculpted figures I get an urge to paint them. No other way to describe it. That's how I got into WWI, and it's the same with these pirates from Black Scorpion Miniatures:

Avast, landlubber!

Make way for the Royal Navy!

These represent one to two figures from a few different packs (they come four to a pack).

I have halted all other work in order to paint up a raffle prize for Southern Front. I'm planning on contributing a WWII fallschirmjäger unit by Artizan Designs; I've got the first 3 well under way and should finish them today (except for the basing):

The pack came with five riflemen, two submachine-gunners, an MG-42 gunner and loader (with a rifle), and an officer (with an MP-40). The convention is about a month away, so I've got about that much time to get these finished!

Later on!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Normandy, Then and Now

Very interesting series of pictures showing Normandy in WWII and today.

Trench Periscopes

Defense Tech has posted a link to an article about the resurgence of an older piece of technology - the trench periscope.

It seems like there has been a lot of "old is new" going around in the military in the last few years:

  • Counterinsurgency experience has lead the military to issue requirements for an A-1 Skyraider type aircraft. (link)

  • The Marines have issued requirements for a new magazine-fed LMG, similar to the BAR. (link)

  • A company touting the advantages of the RPG-7 has designed an updated American version. (link)

  • Lawrence of Arabia tactics seem to work in the Middle East. (link)

  • M-14s are seeing use again in Iraq and Afghanistan. (link)

  • CH-47 Chinooks are replacing the newer Pavehawks in the Air Force Combat Search & Rescue program. (link)

  • The Marines are looking to M151-style jeeps to carry heavy mortars when transported in Ospreys. (link)

  • The Navy is restarting production of the Arleigh Burke DDG-51 class destroyers to replace the Limited Edition DD(X). (link)

  • The idea of an "arsenal ship," with roots going back to 1996, is being floated again. (link)

I love to see the way that good ideas float to the top. Looks like we have done more than a few things right in the past!

Friday, August 28, 2009

How the Trenches were Taken

So here it is... the AAR from last Saturday's game.

The scenario was set up based on some of my reading on the Battle of the Aisne, which was launched in the wake of the German retreat following the Battle of the Marne. Reports from this battle contain some of the first encounters with German trenches, and so I decided to try and recreate this on the tabletop using Iron Ivan's Price of Glory rules.

The forces were:


  • 1x Headquarters: CO, 2 runners
  • 6x Infantry Units: 1x officer, 1x 2iC, 7x riflemen (of which 1 or 2 per unit were bombers)
  • 2x Chasseur Units: 1x officer, 1x 2iC, 6x riflemen
  • 1x Hotchkiss HMG: sergeant, gunner, and loader
  • 1x Dragoons Unit: 1x officer, 1x 2iC, 10x cavalrymen
  • 2x 75 mle 1897, 4 crewmen each
  • 1x Headquarters: CO, 2 runners
  • 4x Infantry Units: 1x 2iC, 7x riflemen
  • 2x Maxim HMG: sergeant, gunner, and loader
  • 1x FK 96 n.A., with 4 crewmen
I know these rules are supposed to be 1:1, but you play with what you've got...

I set up the board with a town at the far end and a road that ran up the length of the table. The French got a wooded staging area on the opposite end of the board, and there were woods positioned on both flanks of the board, with the central terrain being a mixture of farms, fences, and "dips and folds" (undulations in the ground that provide cover). The French deployed in an array of attack columns, led by officers and their white gloves. The artillery set up on a hill, and the cavalry unit was held as a mobile reserve.

Follow Me!

With the board set up and the figures grouped into units, we assigned players to sides, with 3 French and 2 German. I then gave the Germans some trench sections, barbed wire, and some crates & barrels to use in fortifying the town. In "assault" or "hold the line" type scenarios, I think that the defender really should get to design the defenses since they will not be doing much other than watching units maneuver for the attack for a while. The trenches were stocked, the HMGs dug in (one creatively getting a good LOS diagonally down the board - interlocking fields of fire FTW, hopefully!), and a unit of infantry was held in reserve. The setup is visible in the picture below.

Dug-in and Waiting

Under these rules, the terrain is important in that it is assigned a number (higher numbers for better cover) that both subtracts from the firing abilities of units firing into the terrain and provides a morale boost to the troops sheltering in it. This is one of the things that I had to work out, and here is what I went with:

Trenches: 3
Houses: 3
Bastions (crates & barrels): 3
Dips & Folds: 2
Fields (similar to dips/folds): 2

I chose these values for a couple of reasons. I started with the "light trench" value and decided that sounded good for what I was doing, and also keeping in mind that for this genre the trenches should be on the high end of the terrain cover sacale. I think that 3 was too low and I'll go with a 4 next time. With trenches at 3, and fences 1 (as per the rules), everything else fell somewhere in-between. Forests do provide more cover from the other 2-rated pieces, in that figures can't "see" more than 2" in. With the terrain set up and the units deployed, it was time to begin the attack. To the utmost!

The French plan was to seize the flanks with general covering fire from the central forest, and then to launch the overall assault once the German support (HMG, artillery) had been dealt with as much as possible.

The French moved out on each flank, with cover coming sooner to the infantry units on the right flank. Unfortunately, the diagonally-oriented Maxim had a clear shot into the gap between the forests and a lot of Poilus bought it in the open there. A single unit managed to eek through with a few casualties along with the Hotchkiss, but the other unit was wiped out. In fact, the entire second half of the unit fell to a single burst from the Maxim. The French 75s quickly pushed the crew of the FK 96 off the hill, and the survivors would remain suppressed for the rest of the game.

Follow the White Gloves

Things went slightly worse on the left flank, with a unit each of French infantry and Chasseurs being wiped out on the run to the orchard. The "covering" units in the treeline were being slowly reduced via long-range fire.

The climax of the battle started with the French Chasseur unit's lone assault on the German right, which they pulled off without taking a single casualty (including German snap fire)! The German unit holding the center behind the barrels and crates moved into the house to try to prevent the collapse of that flank. After securing the trench, the Chasseurs pushed into the mansion, suffering casualties but eventually defeating the German infantry. The Germans decided that prudence was the better part of valor, packed up their HQ, and made a break for it. Unfortunately, the Maxim HMG then began firing into the mansion, which was a harrowing experience for the French elites.

Staged for the Assault.

Meanwhile, on the German right, the 75s turned their attention to the Maxim in the house and the other trench. The German left-hand trench was reduced over a few turns by combined effort of infantry rifles, the Hotchkiss, and the 75s, so that when the Poilus assaulted there was minimal resistance. (1 German figure left. Poor guy.)

With the road clear, it was time to send in the cavalry! Their 20" speed really made the difference. They leapt the makeshift bastion and charged straight into HMG fire! (I reminded players of the ranges of the carbines, but they laughed that off! SHOOT with Cavalry? NONSENSE!) They suffered 50% casualties between the HMG snap fire and the assault, but were able to pass their Courage checks when it counted! The HMG fire was also pretty frantic, considering that the CO (who was helping them defend against the assault) did half the work!


The Germans were down to one unit holed up in a house and the French controlled the crossroads so we called it a French victory!

The French Take the Crossroads

This was my first experience running a public game by myself. There were a lot of rules that I thought I knew, but ended up botching sometimes. Oh, well, notes for next time! The main thing was that everyone had a good time, and that did seem to be the case. That is where my greatest sense of satisfaction came from.

More photos on the Flickr Set.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Plan XVII Last Saturday

The French expertly executed an attack by column on Saturday, with 25% of the left flank getting into the town, and even fewer casualties on the right. Unfortunately my home internet is down for the count and I'm waiting on a service tech to come and breathe life into the phone company's hardware. Until then, I'll be holding off on the full recap and pictures.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Are the Russians Back?

I just wanted to divert quickly from the miniatures theme to comment on the recent Sov... er... Russian activity in our (the US) neck of the woods.

First off, the presence of the two Russian subs is about all their navy can muster, and the fact that we know about it shows that our navy is still good at hunting theirs. Information Dissemination posted a link to an article that "[suggests] the Russian Navy is on an irreversible slide toward only 50 ships by 2020 and there is little reason to expect anything but collapse of the Russian Navy."

Sauté their inability to get their new SLBM to fly in butter and garnish it with a gaping disparity in bomber capabilities, and you have a recipe for continued US dominance. Joe Biden has already broken down the facts for anyone who needs to have it spelled out.

Right now, the lead is ours to lose.

Until next time...