Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Rangers at Blickheim

On Sunday I had another, somewhat larger-scale, go at A Fistful of TOWs 2000. As with the previous game, this was a solo attempt at refreshing my memory of the rules and trying to decide if they represent a useful addition to my rules toolkit. 

Using terrain based on the fictional West German location defended by the Canadians in Kenneth Macksey's book First Clash, I pitched a Soviet tank regiment against a US Ranger battalion.

The Soviets had three battalions of T-64A supported by a motor rifle company in BMP-1. The could expect a motor rifle battalion in BTR-70 to arrive in support some time between game turns two and six. They were ordered to occupy with infantry the villages of Kuppenheim and Blickheim and to get tanks onto the Blickheim ridge.

The NATO force consisted of a US Ranger battalion - three companies of infantry supported by six Dragon ATGW teams. The expected a battalion of West German tanks (reservists in M48A2G2s) and a company of Jagdpanzer Kannone. As with the Soviet reinforcements, these would enter sometime between turns two and six.

The field of battle seen from the Russian entry zone.
Kuppenheim on the left edge between the pylons, Blickheim
on the right at the crossroads.

The Soviet tanks advanced with two battalions towards Blickheim (followed by the BMP company) and one battalion towards Kuppenheim. 

It quickly became apparent that the M47 Dragon was not going to dominate the battlefield. One Dragon fired from the front edge of Kuppenheim but missed. The return fire of an entire battalion of T-64s immediately wiped out the launcher team.

West German M48A2G2s on Blickheim ridge

An overwhelming impression I'm left with is that in FFT a stabilised main gun is a huge advantage to an MBT. There seems to be no penalty to firing on the move. If you move an unstabilised vehicle (like the Jagdpanzer Kannone), you will be shot at by moving enemy tanks and probably destroyed before you get a shot of if the enemy tanks have even the poorest stabilisation.

Jagdpanzer Kannone (left foreground)
about to be wiped out

I did quite like the spotting rules in FFT. I think they could probably be ported to CWC. Recon units don't have the benefits that they have in CWC but there is a use for them in drawing fire and/or spotting units ahead of the main force. Units spotted by any friendly force are spotted by all of them.

Soviet infantry capture Blickheim

T-64s move across the ridge

The game ended in a marginal Soviet victory. The captured one of the villages and moved tanks onto the ridge, driving of the WestGerman armour.

Overall I found FFT OK. I think it's worth having it in the toolbox as a system to use for larger 1/300th games. However, I remain unsold as to its benefits over Cold War Commander. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

A Fistful of T-80s

Lockdown, combined with now having a semi-permanent war-games table, is prompting me to have a go (usually solo) at some rules I haven't tried for ages. This morning it was A Fistful of TOWs: 2000

I've only tried these modern micro-tank rules once before - my records say it was December 2003(!) when I ran an Iran-Iraq War scenario for Simon Beaver, Graham Spearing, and the late Bill Hoad. I remember being somewhat underwhelmed at the time. The rules, as far as I recall, worked OK but failed to engage our enthusiasm.

I've just run through a very small scenario - "Bezarin's Attack" from Russell Philips's The Bear Marches West. This features British a squadron of Challenger II main battle tanks supported by an infantry company in Warriors defending a ridge against an attacking Russian battalion in T-80BVs.

The early phases of the action went pretty much as I think I'd have expected if I'd used Cold War Commander. The Challengers started picking off T-80s before the latter were in range to return fire. However, once the Russians closed the range, one or two lucky shots were all it took to cause casualties the Challengers could ill afford. 

Eventually I decided the British would pull back to a reverse slope defence. Three platoons of infantry waited behind the ridge while their Warriors manoeuvred to defend against any flanking move around the ridge and the one remaining Challenger troop waited in the rear.

At this point I thought - should the Russian commander (Bezarin presumably) pause to bring up his company of BMP-2s and assault over the ridge with infantry or should he rely on momentum and charge blindly forward with his tanks? The dice decided that Bezarin's regimental commander wanted speed of advance at all costs.

This gave me the chance to try out the close combat rules as the leading T-80 platoons ploughed straight into waiting British infantry. This required a Quality check for each British platoon to see if they got to fire first. Rated as Veteran (3+), they all passed and we got to see the lethality of Carl Gustavs against side armour (infantry in close combat with tanks are always deemed able to get a flank shot). Two of the three T-80 platoons were destroyed.

At this point I made a Quality check for the Russian tank unit as it had taken 2/3rds casualties. They failed and I decided to call it a day at that point.

All in all it was an OK experience. The only command and control restrictions in the rules are that you must keep elements within a certain cohesion distance of the rest of their unit. This seems a bit bland compared to the tension of CWC's "Do I risk trying to activate this unit one more time?"

I think I'll have another go with a more involved scenario. I might dust off the smaller scenario from my First Clash article in Wargames Illustrated half a lifetime ago.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

A couple of recent games

The blog has previously seen no evidence of a couple of games recently held at Stately Counterpane Manor, mainly because neither of them was particularly photogenic.

A few weeks ago I ran what I hope will be the first of a series of games based on Unternehmung Nordwind - the final major German offensive on the western front during WW2. We used Chain of Command to recreate a typical German platoon attack in the early hours of New Year's Day 1945.  

At Schlietzen Hill just west of the Alsatian village of Rimling, Panzergrenadiers of the 17th SS Götz von Berlichingen Division assaulted positions held by the GIs of the 100th Infantry Division.

The German command believed that they had achieved strategic surprise in launching the attack in a quiet sector of the front. They would achieve tactical surprise by attacking with no preparatory reconnaissance or bombardment, using troops who had only arrived in their attack sectors in the last twelve hours. The men were fired up on alcohol and stimulants to make up for the fact that they mostly hadn't slept in the last 24 hours.

In fact, the Americans were fully alerted thanks to radio intercepts and prisoner interrogation. From units across the sector, accounts uniformly describe the German attackers as advancing drunk and shouting insults in English and German.  I considered it reasonable to field that unusual beast, the Panzergrenadier platoon rated as Green!

The battlefield was largely open. A single low hedge (with a couple of breaks) crossed the hillside. At the eastern end of the battlefield was a single house next to a clump of trees. Near the western end was a small rocky outcrop. Richard P's Germans were attacking from the north with Dex's Americans to the south.

After the patrol phase Richard ended up with a deployment point behind the hedge, another on his baseline and a third a little way up the western flank side of the table. Dex had one behind the house, one on his baseline and one behind the rock outcrop.

Early in the game Richard deployed a squad and an attached tripod MG42 behind the hedge.

Dex had a couple of minefields - one in the clump of trees by the house and one on his left flank between the rock outcrop and the hedge. He quickly deployed a squad in the house and another, dug-in on the rocky outcrop.  

Richard got four squads deployed in positions where they could fire on the GIs on the rocky outcrop.  The second American squad, in the house, were not in a position to make a significant contribution.

Eventually the action bogged down into a static firefight. With eight MG42s available (Richard had bought a tripod MG and an additional infantry section with his support points) the Germans just about had the advantage in firepower. They were taking heavy casualties from the GIs' M1 Garands and BARs hitting Green troops on 3-6 and rerolling ones but the Americans never got a decent crossfire going. In the end the American Force Morale was whittled down to zero.

In retrospect, I think the Americans made a couple of mistakes.  Firstly, they had a very limited choice of useful cover. They'd been able to buy foxholes for two teams and then there was the clump of trees by the house and the rock outcrop (which would both have given soft cover). They mined the woods and put one team in the house but they never had line of sight to the enemy. The foxholes were put on the outcrop, thus giving them room for only one squad's worth of firepower from a covered position facing the enemy.

Finally, Dex rushed to deploy too early. If he'd waited, the Germans would have been forced to advance beyond the hedge line and could have been hit by devastating firepower from American troops suddenly appearing in front of them.

The second recent game was a first try at using Jamie's sixth century Byzantines and Vandals. We set up a very simple action using To The Strongest! We plan to run the North African battle of Ad Decimum (533CE) at the Joy of Six this year (if it happens) and Jamie is providing the armies.

Ad Decimum will get its own dedicated terrain board (my contribution) but for this game we just used my existing 6mm TTS board.

Moorish cavalry

Vandal foot approach the Roman centre

We'd both forgotten a fair amount of TTS and we made a few mistakes so it was good idea to get this practice game in. For the record it was a narrow Byzantane victory, Belisarius's right wing cavalry having seen off the Vandals' Moorish allies and turned their flank.

Monday, March 15, 2021

After the Mist Has Cleared

Last night's game by Skype was successful.  Tom and Simon signed in by Skype and we played the latest episode in the Song of Pavis campaign.

As Tom had run the Lunars in the first game of the campaign, he took the option of doing so again. This meant that for the second time he had very limited information as to what was actually going on in the scenario.

Tom's main character was the Imperial Commissioner for the Census, Jaxarte Whyded. All Tom knew was that Jaxarte had intervened when he'd seen guards at the Old Gate removing a silver amulet from a prisoner. Suspecting that otherwise the amulet would be fenced to pay the guard sergeant's gambling debts, Jaxarte had taken it into protective custody. He was just contemplating how he might establish if the prisoner had legal title to the item when his bodyguard reported trouble in the street outside their office.

Simon's Sartarite rebels, meanwhile, were determined to retrieve the amulet as it was needed to further their future plans. A small strike party, led by Vareena Stonebrow, was to assault the office. They would do this under cover of river mist blown into town by a breeze summoned by an Orlanthi priest.

The game began with Jaxarte in his office, his bodyguard Vanides on the roof checking the security position, and two Lunar peltasts in a guard post near the southeastern corner of the board.

Jaxarte's office is the building on the right with a balcony.
The balcony of the two-storey house is on the left.

The Sartarites decided to enter from two directions. Illaril Oathsworn, a very skilled archer, and leader Vareena Stonebrow would go in through the rear door of the two-storey house opposite, while the steadfast Magar Ketilsson, dashing Grann, and opportunistic Liv Vannasdottir would advance down the main avenue directly towards Jaxarte's office. 

Illaril and Vareena discovered that the rear door was locked but a firm shoulder charge burst it open (the doors rules from Song of Gold and Darkness in use here). 

This attracted the attention of the peltasts in the guard post and a melee soon developed around the forced door.

Vareena has the advantage over the peltasts
even though Illaril has already disappeared inside.

Note that I prefer to use "Disadvantaged" markers rather than laying "Fallen" models down their backs.

In the end one of the peltasts suffered a gruesome kill and his mate fled the scene.

After a considerable amount of indecision on Simon's part (perhaps inevitable given the difficulty of getting a clear picture of events via Skype) Illaril would eventually end up on the balcony of the house shooting across the road outside.

In the meantime, Jaxarte had decided to leave the office with his bodyguard trailing behind him. He was quickly waylaid by Magar Ketilsson...

... who had raced on ahead of his follow rebels.

Jaxarte summoned his Lune and Vanides emerged from the office door so Magar was soon outnumbered and eventually downed by a thrust of Vanides's spear.

As Vanides prepared to loot the body (he has the Greedy special rule), the remaining Sartarites arrived. A fierce melee developed.

For a moment Jaxarte stood alone as the battle ebbed and flowed around him. Illaril chose that moment to loose an arrow from her balcony position. It found its mark in Jaxarte's breast and he fell, apparently dead.

Vanides stands over the bodies of his employer
(represented by the purple heart) and Magar
Ketilsson (red disc).

More peltasts arrive - more targets for
Illaril Oathsworn

At this point, one of the newly arrived peltasts also fell to Illari's deadly arrows. This took the Lunars to the point where the dead and fled outnumbered the living. The resulting morale tests saw a Trollkin watchman (who had done nothing so far) rout from the board and Vanidies retreat from the action.

As Vareena stood guard, Liv Vannasdottir retrieved the amulet from Jaxarte's body. So that leaves us with one win for each of the three factions in the campaign. 

Using the campaign rules in SOBH I rolled to see whether the "dead" personalities were indeed deceased. Magar Ketilsson proved to be only lightly injured and will be available the next time the rebellion needs his services. Jaxarte Whyded is also recovering from his wounds. He will be at -1 on Quality rolls in the next game.

Next time the Cult of Pavis will be back in action, this time against a neutral force. Details to follow.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

A Foggy Day in Pavis

I'm trying to share around the games I run by Discord or Skype at present. This evening Simon and Tom are joining me to play the latest episode in my long-delayed Song of Pavis campaign.

I'll not reveal too much at this time but seems that tendrils of unseasonal mist are creeping through the streets. 

More when the game is done!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

On the workbench - I'm not sure what?

I had a sudden urge to paint something totally pointless; something that wasn't needed for any on-going project. Rooting through the leadpile I found a partly painted horse and rider. It's one of a number of figures I wouldn't have bought myself but that I acquired from a friend who no longer wanted them.

After a couple of painting sessions I'm calling it done.

It's clearly an old Citadel miniature but it was firmly attached to its slotta-base with some kind of rock-hard filler so I can't tell if the casting bore any kind of label.

Jamie immediately identified it as a High Elf but I wondered if it was perhaps a Melnibonean?

I've no particular plan for using him but I thought I'd work out Song of Blades and Heroes stats for him anyway. Using an online Warband Builder I came up with this:

Melnibonean Cavalry
Points 66Quality 4+Combat 4
Special RulesLong Move, Mounted, Running Blow

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

More Woebetides Items

Woebetides productivity continues despite having had to postpone the event from April to September.

This witch-doctor is cobbled together from several sources. It's mostly made from a Victrix Numidian elephant crew figure but with a Perry plastic Zulu head. The feathers are sculpted from Green Stuff and the skull and pot are from Foundry.

I'm also making Deployment Points for the various factions. This one is made from an MDF base with a resin cast pot and bottle that were among the bits Richard Helliwell sent me with his prototype Gloranthan house. The sacks were made as a way of using left-over Green Stuff.

Finally, the central highlands of Grand Woebetide can only be accessed at certain locations that allow access to the plateau. One of these may be via this cave entrance:

It's made from polystyrene on a PVC base with lots of Tetrion and some parts from a Foundry Darkest Africa accessories set.