Bovington Tankfest 2017

I was a very happy camper on Saturday as I joined 11 other members of the South London Warlords in a trip to Bovington for Tankfest 2017, which was Kindly organised by the club. Even a 7:30 start from Dulwich (meaning I had to getup at 5.30) wasn’t enough to spoil the start of the day. The 3 hour drive in the mini-coach passed smoothly enough helped immensely by watching A Bridge Too Far on the on board DVD player, an inspired idea by Dave there.

I had never been to Bovvy before and I was quite excited to tell the truth and couldn’t wait to get cracking. Of course though we had to be civilised as a brew and bacon bap was needed by Dan and Daren before we ventured into the museum – I breakfasted on Pork Pie and Coke, the choice of champions!  – but pretty soon we were in. The place was absolutely heaving with the event being sold out and so I didn’t take too many photo’s as there was usually someone in the way! We made our way round the museum and had an absolute blast, as if we weren’t going to enjoy ourselves really, it is a huge building full of tanks.

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Vickers 6-tonner – just loved this camo scheme
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Yes, the armour wasn’t great and the gun’s a bit pony but there’s just something about a Cromwell!
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Soviet T-26 captured and used by the Finns

So we spent the whole morning wandering round the exhibits getting our tank nerd well and truly on, with each of us coming out with little nuggets of information or being the first to recognise a certain mark. Then there was the shooting competition. I noticed a Bren Gun set up in front of a screen and a young lad ‘shooting’ at it, apparently a Skill At Arms Test Simulator thing. It was only a pound a go and hence too tempting to not to have a bash, so we all duly did. There were other weapons that you could go on too dotted about the exhibits so the Vickers and PIAT were tackled as well – indeed we kept coming back round to where the Vickers was as there was always a queue! It must have been the combination of the boyish joy of being around all those tanks and watching the film on the way down that caused it but it was bleeding good fun even though I was useless!

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Daren giving it some on the PIAT…
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.. and embracing his inner lad as a result!

The Tiger exhibit was well worth it and you can see why people were terrified of the buggers in WW2, they are truly impressive looking machines, the Tiger 2 being comparable in size to a modern MBT. I wasn’t too keen on seeing the ‘Fury’ bit though but as Dan said I suppose they have to take any sponsorship they can get. One thing that I particularly enjoyed was the many Centurions, hands down my favourite tank I reckon.  Just a great looking bit of kit and still has to be one of the most successful tanks that has ever been produced. Good to see the Panzer IV too, a much overlooked tank I reckon and one that we all agreed on is probably the image you get in your mind if you think of a ‘tank’. Some of the ‘odder’ vehicles and funnies were interesting too such as the Preying Mantis and Matilda Canal Defence Light.

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Pz IV, or a Tiger if you are reporting to HQ!
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Loved this Finnish StuG.

So with the museum done and the shooting comp finished it was outside for a couple of beers and to check out the show, where I bumped into ‘Lindybeige’ of YouTube fame which was nice as I like his stuff (fantastically eccentric, check it out). We had missed the morning’s event but got to see the WW2 and Cold War tanks doing the rounds of the arena which was, quite frankly, well cool! I loved seeing the Leopard 1’s (a German a3 and a Canadian C2) belting about and the incredibly squeaky Swiss Pz61 was a nice surprise. Hands down winner though was the Challenger, the speed of the turret traversing was quite frankly scary and it did look the business. We decided to skip the battle re-enactment to have a look around the conversation centre/shed which we all agreed we should have visited earlier as it had some great Cold War kit in – Marder, AMX-13 and AMX-VCI being favourites for me. I was quite surprised that just how big some of the vehicles were, the EBR-75 and 90’s are absolutely massive, as is the Luchs which made the Ferret seem even more ridiculously small!

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What’s better than a Centurion?
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One painted like this!
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Swedish upgraded model in their tricky camo scheme.
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Although a Chieftain in Berlin Brigade camo comes a close second.

As much as I really enjoyed the day out I could have done without the re-enacting. There was just something  a bit off about people pretending to fight battles when there are guys walking about the same venue that have been doing it for real quite recently, I did see one squaddie looking quite despairingly at a couple of geriatric looking Fallschimjager as they walked past him. Having said that though the place was absolutely rammed with people from all across Europe and beyond so they must be doing something right, and the World of Tanks sponsorship seems to have been a success with a long queue at their stand all day.

It was soon time to head back to the coach though and after a sleepier journey home – with the fantastically bonkers ‘Excalibur’ to watch this time as ‘Zulu’ wasn’t working – we got back to London about 8 o’clock, knackered but thoroughly happy chaps. Many thanks to the club for arranging the trip, an absolutely cracking day out. Daren, Dan and I have discussed maybe putting a game on at next years Wargame show so hopefully we can get back down there again.

 

 

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Club Night 12/06/17: Battlefront WW2, 1940 France

I have been visiting the website of the Battlefront WW2 rules for a while now, mainly to use the fantastic Cold War TO&E’s posted there and have been intrigued by the rules too, I was wanting to try them out to see if it was worth having a go at the Cold War version. I finally got to have a go a couple of weeks ago against Philip using his lovely 10mm 1940 French and German kit. Unfortunately I wasn’t really feeling at my best and was quite half-arsed all evening which is probably why it has taken me ages to get this posted.

Details are going to be sketchy I’m afraid but here goes. As the exercise was simply to get used to the rules – Philip had only had the one or two games of them himself as they were new – the scenario was nice and straightforward. My French force was counter attacking the invading Boche and needed to secure a village, they were trying to stop me. To do this I had a Battalion of Char B’s, a few R-35’s and a Dragon Portee Battalion in Lorraine carriers. The German’s had a Panzer Battalion with a mix of Mk. 1, 2, 3 and 4’s and an Infantry Battalion.

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Kick-off. French nearest camera.

I duly advanced on the village whist pushing my nippier R-35’s towards the round wood on the right which Philip started to move round with nearly all of his tanks. I started to trundle some Char B’s across to assist the lighter tanks in fending this threat off as well as placing my mighty 25mm ATG to help out as well. My infantry did manage to assault the Germans in the edge of the village and in the adjacent wood but due to me not supressing them sufficiently before launching my attacks they all failed whilst suffering quite bad casualties. I did manage to thwart the Panzer attack though although neither side lost too many vehicles, the toughness of the mighty Char B’s was a deciding factor.

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En avant! Infantry move out…
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… supported by these chaps.
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Filthy boche get moving too.

The rules were quite enjoyable to play, nice and straightforward mechanics with some nice touches, you only needed a few turns to get your head round the basics and we started to get into the swing of things very quickly. I quite liked the cards that had vehicle and infantry stats on but reckoned a data sheet would be easy to knock up – just not as pretty! Although we didn’t reach a definite conclusion to the game with a couple more under our belts I reckon we would have done, this was probably not helped by me feeling crap too.

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I really like the camo on these.
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Germans in the trees attract la Furia Francais
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Lovely limber model, came to a sticky end unfortunately.

Many thanks to Philip in putting the game on, he is a worse rules tinkerer than me and said that he hadn’t find anything yet that he wanted to change which is high praise for the rules indeed. I’d definitely be happy to give them another whirl soon and if I really like them might invest to be able to try out the Cold War version. I’m really trying hard to resist all of the lovely 15mm Cold War kit available these days, however these seem like a good set to use for that scale so it might just give me the final push into taking the plunge.

 

Polish Armoured Cavalry Division

This is another of my alt-history formations in my FFT3 project. The division is the cream of the Polish ‘line’ Divisions and is rated as a ‘Regular’ formation and is first in line for new equipment. It differs in organisation to the Mechanised Divisions as it has 2x Armoured Cavalry and 2 x Armoured Regiments so it is the ‘heaviest’ unit in the army designed for exploitation and counter-attack tasks. (Pics to follow once I have finished off a last few bits to complete them following a minor tweak to their TO&E!)

  • Divisional HQ
    • 1 Cmnd Sultan/OT-64
  • AD Btln
    • 2 sp SIDAM q25mm adg
    • 1 Starstreak sp sam
  • Art Regt
    • 1 foo VBL
    • 3 Palmaria sp 155mmh
    • 1 APR-21 Mrls
  • Eng Btln
    • 3 Coys
      • 2 Eng (3 ar, rg, lmg, carl gustav)
      • 1 Combat eng (3 ar, rg, lmg, maw, 1 flm)
      • 3 4k-4fa apc
    • 1 Coy
      • 2 AVLB
      • 2 CEV (AVRE)

 

2 Armd Regts  

  • HQ
    • 1 Cmnd OT-64/Ferret
    • 1 Striker
    • 1 4k-7f-GrW120 sp120mm Mortar
    • 1 recon Scimitar
    • 2 Cmnd Sultan (for forming Combat Teams)
    • 2 Blowpipe teams
  • 2 Coys
    • 1 Inf/Bill ATGM
    • 2 Inf (3 ar, ATrg, lmg, Carl Gustav)
    • 3 4k-7f-20 aifv
  • 4 Coys
    • 3 PT-78m (Vickers mk.3)

(One of these Regiments might be equipped with new Tanks and AIFV’s, not sure yet)

2 Armoured Cavalry Regts

  • HQ Coy
    • 1 Cmnd OT-64/Ferret
    • 1 4k-7f-GrW120 sp120mm Mortar
    • 2 Cmnd Sultans (Task Force HQ’s)
    • 2 Blowpipe teams
    • 2 Spartan/BILL atgm
  • 2 Lt Amd Coys
    • 3 Recon Scorpion-90
  • 2 Tank Coys
    • 3 PT-78m
  • 2 Cav Coys
    • 1 Inf/Bill
    • 2 Inf (3 ar, rg, lmg, law, maw)
    • 3 Stormer-20 AIFV

 

Club Night 05/06/17: More FFT3 action

First of all, very sorry for not posting this any sooner but I’ve had a bit of a rough week or so, been feeling down and shite so haven’t had the urge to post owt. Hopefully this has passed now, London is basking in glorious sunshine and it is hard to feel down when that happens aint it!

Righty-o, to the game. It was supposed to be a one to one game between me and Alex so his Soviets were going to be coming up against my Austrians (who need to get on the table again really) but Dan and Daren were without a game so I said to them to join in with us. Unfortunately this meant using different forces as I didn’t think my Soviet kit was right for the second player on their side (OCD kicking in here I think). So, it was back to the Poles against the Lithuanians.

Edit: As requested here are links to TO&E’s, the Polish one doesn’t reflect 100% what was on table but was nearly there.

https://tracksandthreads.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/lithuanian-army/

https://tracksandthreads.wordpress.com/2017/06/22/polish-armoured-cavalry-division/

I set up the terrain loosely based on a quick look on Google Earth of a piece of Lithuanian countryside and as Dan arrived first he got the plucky Lithuanian defenders. I ran him through his forces and he got to marking his positions on a map. Daren and Alex were given their armour heavy force consisting of an Armoured Regiment and an Armoured Cavalry Regiment, so lots of tanks which I thought would enable them to punch through the defence. The scenario was simple, the Poles had to exit off the opposite table edge, the Lithuanians had to stop them. This time though the attack was coming in along the wider axis of the table which meant that the Lithuanians would be spread out and also unable to have any depth to their defence.

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Battlefield from the Polish lines, not much in the way of cover.

The Poles came on with the Armoured Regt under Daren on the left-centre and the Armd Cav under Alex on the right from the stream to the wood on the table edge. They began speculatively shelling the big wood in the centre between the roads and the hills between their start line and the Lithuanians table edge but all to no effect. The first Lithuanian barrage in reply saw some of Daren’s tanks become supressed and this resulted in each of his companies spreading out to their maximum cohesion distances – the first artillery strike managed to cover all 3 platoons of a company so it was good to see someone taking measures to prevent this happening again. Daren shrugged off this slight setback quickly though and he soon had a company of PT-78’s on overwatch on the small hill in the centre. Alex was continuing to advance cautiously along the right flank, expecting an ambush from the trees there he had dismounted his infantry and was combing the wood for any nasty surprises whilst slowly advancing his Scorpion-90’s as well.

Dan was contenting himself with shelling the advancing Poles, again supressing some of Daren’s tanks on the hill but not doing much else to hinder the Polish advance, to be fair he was having problems calling up enough batteries to do any more damage. Then Alex and Daren did something that I’ve never seen before and I was quietly pleased that they did – they had 5 Command Pips to spend and decided to use 4 of them on a counter battery strike, this thus stripped Dan of a third of his available artillery in one stroke. They then gained another 4 Pips in the next initiative roll and did the same again so Dan was down to one Artillery battalion and was beginning to look a bit glum!

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Polish advance spreads out

While this was going on the Poles were still grinding forwards and soon the whoosh of ATGM was heard as Dan started to engage at long range with his Cavalry Squadron’s VAB/MILAN. Obviously trying to keep the Poles at arms length he also opened up with a Chieftain company in the central woods too, making good use of the mighty range on their 120mm guns. Daren started to take casualties in his tank platoons from KO’s and failed quality checks and started to move to the left across the stream to get out of the LOS of the Chieftains, whilst bringing in a big MRLS strike to try to neutralise the threat that they posed – which did result in suppressing some of them. Unfortunately for Daren his potential left hook come to naught as he ran into Dan’s TOW platoon and one of the infantry VAB/MILAN platoons stationed in the wood on that side of the stream which started to score more hits on his units.

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Over on the Polish right though things were going quite a bit better. Suffering from a combination of some effective artillery strikes and the attention of Polish tank fire Dan’s Cavalry Squadron was beginning to suffer with the MILAN vehicle being lost as well as one of his VBC-90 platoons. Indeed it looked as if the Poles were about to break through over there and Dan was worried enough that he started to move his reserve Chieftain company out from behind the big wood to counter this threat (which did however suffer casualties from another MRLS strike) although if the Poles won the initiative in the next turn he might be too late to prevent this from happening. It was then that his luck changed and for only the second time in the game he won initiative and did so with a mighty 5 pip advantage. It was time for drastic action so he decided to call in an airstrike.

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Lithuanian Cavalry Squadron before they suffer payback.

His good luck with the dice held and he rolled up a Jaguar flight with a great load of Heavy Cluster Bombs and Heavy Rockets (basically the best he could have gotten) and his brave pilots managed to dodge the superior Polish air cover and AD defences to unleash their ordinance on the tightly packed units of Alex’s Armoured Cavalry. After the dust had settled from the devastating strike the Polish commanders decided that enough was enough and they conceded the game. Daren’s force had suffered about 40% losses and couldn’t get to grips with the Lithuanians facing them whilst Alex’s command was still reeling from the Jag attack and didn’t feel confident in making it off the table before the Chieftains intervened.

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Boom! Lithuanian Jaguar flight saves the day.

So all in all a quite satisfactory game, it really could have gone either way. Although Daren’s unit had taken a beating Alex’s lads were within a whisker of winning the game, if they had made it to the Lithuanian table edge I was going to say that they would have to pull out. Dan was quick to admit that he was lucky in calling in the airstrike when he did, also that he rolled up the Jaguars and not the L-39 Albatross’. The chaps seemed to enjoy it so that was good too and thanks to them for making it a pleasant experience as usual.

 

Club Game, 29/05/17: FFT3, Battle of Miestą Sankryžos

We had access to the hall that the club meets in for the whole day on Monday so there was a chance to have a proper big game of FFT3. Alan was keen to dust his forces off for a game and Bill wanted to try the rules out so the game was on – unfortunately Des who was slated for a command too couldn’t make it on the day so it would be the 3 of us (once Bill had finished with his Dystopian Wars game!).

Alan would be bringing the 14me DLB so a decent sized force for an all day game with French Divisions being in between a ‘standard’ division and a brigade in size. To counter this force I would be bringing the majority of an alt-history Polish Mechanised Division. This gave about the same number of tank bases each although the French outgunned the Poles by dint of their 105mm armed AMX-10P’s and plethora of Milan atgm.

The opposing forces were as follows:

  • 14me DLB (Conscript)
    • Armoured Regt (AMX-30 & AMX-10P)
    • Light Armoured Regiment (AMX-10RC & VAB/Milan)
    • Mechanised Regiment (AMX-10P & AMX-30)
    • Motorised Infantry Regiment (VAB)
  • 5th Mechanised Division (Conscript)
    • Armoured Regt (Vickers mk.3 & 4k-7fa)
    • Mechanised Infantry Regt (Grizzly, ERC-90 & Vickers mk.1)
    • Cavalry Regt (Cougar/76 &/30, ERC-90 & Grizzly)

Both forces had Jaguar aircraft in support, with the French having Gazelle helos armed with HOT and the Poles Mangusta armed with ZT.3 atgm and 20mm Cannon available too.

The scenario was a classic wargamer friendly meeting engagement: The French had intervened in the Polish invasion of Lithuania (see last game) and the 14 DBL was tasked with finding and stopping the advance of the Polish 5th Mechanised Division as it moved north around the west of Kaunas. We diced to see what table edge we came in on and ended up thus:

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From the Polish side: Miestą Sankryžos is the large town where the roads meet. Villages of Pilkas at the far end and Raudonas nearest, Dvaras to the right.  The darker green lines are streams.

We would be starting the battle with some forces arriving on the table on the first move (1 Regt for the Poles and 2 for the French) and all subsequent units had to be paid for from Command Pips won during initiative rolls. Alan chose to start by bringing his Armoured and Light Armoured Regiments on first, I went with the Cavalry Regiment. Luckily for me I won the initiative for the kick off and belted my column of vehicles down the road, the plan being to get the infantry component into the town along with a company of Cougars whilst another Cougar company and an ERC-90 company fanned out to the left of the town, taking the hill there (‘the Pimple’) to enable observation of the French deployment. The remaining VBC and Cougar companies would be held at the edge of Raudonas Wood on ‘my’ side of the stream as a reserve. The idea was to hold the French up as long as possible and bring on the Mech infantry next to shore up the defence where needed, then counter with the Armoured Regiment once the French had hopefully been softened up.

Alan started off by advancing half of his AMX-30 regiment along the road towards Miestą Sankryžos with 2 companies advancing towards the small ridge to the left of Pilkas (as you look at the above photo) with the AMX-10RC’s advancing to take position along the large L-shaped hill on the right. I feel Alan made a bit of a mistake here as the wheeled Armoured Cars might have made use of their greater road movement and managed to get to Miestą Sankryžos before me which would have really put me on the back foot. However, as I had secured the town I was feeling quite happy as it would, hopefully, take Alan some effort to winkle me out of it.

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French armour arrives..
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.. with their lovely AMX-10RC’s on the opposite flank

First blood went to the French when they took out a Cougar platoon that was on ‘the Pimple’ trying to get eyes on the advancing enemy and Alan decided to spend the Command Pips that he had just won on bringing on his AMX-10P Regiment too so I was now quite outnumbered but not too disheartened. I could have countered this straight away by bringing on another unit myself but I decided to spend my saved Pips on an airstrike as the sight of the French armour arrayed along the road from Pilkas was just too much of a temptation. So the call went in and a Jaguar flight duly arrived belting along the road and dropping its load of iron and cluster bombs on the foremost AMX-30 company. The effect of this strike was amazing, I managed to eliminate the whole company by a mixture of KO’s and failed quality tests but it did come at the price of the brave airmen as I rolled a SNAFU that resulted in my flight being shot down after their run. I had also managed to take out a MILAN armed Jeep company with Rarden fire from the village at this time too so things were looking rosy!

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The next stage in the battle saw the fight to take control of Miestą Sankryžos which seemed at one point seemed to be drawing in every French unit on the table. Alan was determined to take the town and started to pound it with artillery whilst moving his Mech infantry forwards to take it from one direction whilst he also advanced from another with his AMX-10 armoured cars. His tank Regiment was used to clear ‘the Pimple’ which was achieved quickly and resulted in the loss of one of the Polish Cougar companies as I left them in place too long. I withdrew the 2 surviving platoons of the ERC-90 company back to the safety of Raudonas Wood and redeployed them to cover the left flank as I was worried about a French advance there. The remaining Cougar and ERC-90 companies were deployed to the stream from their reserve position in the wood to engage the French Armour from its cover for as long as possible.

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Polish Cavalry before losing ‘the Pimple’ and withdrawing
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Polish Cavalry await the French along the stream.

The actual fight for the town was over quicker than I had hoped but it had wasted a bit of time which helped me as Alan continued to keep the initiative preventing me from gaining the pips needed to bring on my other units, indeed I was starting to wish that I had had done so earlier when I had the chance instead of making the air attack. Luckily for me my brave lads in the companies along the stream, helped by a savage MRLS barrage, were holding their own against the French armour (I was continually lucky with my saving throws and Alan was having awful luck passing quality tests). Alan was also having a terrible time sorting out his units involved in the fight for Miestą Sankryžos, being unable to clear his suppressions, and this helped me no end as I knew my luck in holding the stream couldn’t last forever. Indeed just as it looked as if the French were finally ready to launch an assault on the stream I finally wrested back the initiative and by a 4 pip margin too which meant I could release both my other units which could hopefully save the day.

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Bill was now ready to join in at this stage so he took command of the Armoured Regiment and I took the Mechanised Infantry and a mass of Polish units now moved into view behind Raudonas, armour on the left and infantry to the right and both advancing quickly. This new threat seemed to upset the French as they now seemed to decide to go on the defensive even though they had started to whittle down my defending Cavalry units. The Poles now kept the initiative and brought on a Mangusta attack helicopter flight to further add to the pressure as it sat to the rear of our position looking for targets. Bill had wasted no time in advancing his tanks towards the confluence of the two streams in front and to the left of Raudonas Wood. He started to engage the French tanks whilst pushing forward one of his Mech Infantry companies forwards to outflank the French position on the hill covering the extreme left flank, again aided by a massive MRLS barrage that virtually wiped out the AMX-30 company there.

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I had moved my Mech infantry to the hill to the right of Raudonas Wood and placed my ATGM and VBC-90’s there hoping to engage the French across the stream. I pushed my tank company towards the bridge between Miestą Sankryžos and Dvaras looking to engage the French armoured cars stationed there. The infantry was split with 2 companies heading into Radonas wood to relieve the Cavalry holding out there and the remaining two companies heading for wood near Dvaras to go on a long right hook around the French flank. Alan did manage to inflict some damage on me, taking out  the tanks and armoured cars but elsewhere things weren’t going so well.

Even with his newly arrived VAB mounted infantry regiment taking up a defensive position along the low ridge by Pilkas it looked as if his right flank was about to be turned and Bill’s tanks would soon be free to exploit in the French rear. With his losses to the other Regiments and with the Poles starting to move around his left too Alan decided that enough was enough and before his position turned into a ‘sac de mort’ we called the game as a, albeit narrow, Polish victory.

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Things could have gone much differently though, the heroic (and seriously jammy at times!) sacrificial stand of the Polish Cavalry along the stream really knackered the French plan as did their problems getting the units sorted out after winning the town. In the end I gained enough time to finally win back initiative to enable me to bring my other units into the fray which tipped the balance at last to the Polish favour. It was a tough fight all round and many thanks to Alan and Bill for taking part, I hope that they enjoyed it too.