Jonathan has been living in France for a while now and has slowly but surely been converting a room in one of his outbuildings into his gaming room. He recently finished the work (all bar the roofing and installation of the skylight windows was done by him) and invited me over to spend a few days and play a couple of games. I was booking flights as soon as I had finished reading the email! So, Monday saw a bleary eyed and knackered me fresh from the Ally Pally weekend head off to Stansted for the short hop to Limoges. Jonathan met me at the airport and a couple of hours later we were at his place bang in the centre of the country in the lovely, sunny Allier department. I won’t go on about his abode too much (the memories are just too recent and raw at the moment) but will let the pictures speak for themselves, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and muddle through. I live in Peckham and have come to expect a certain level of noise and grime and I had contend with this for 5 days….
If that wasn’t bad enough Jonathan plied me with nice beer and pastis whilst I was forced to eat lovely food, some of which didn’t even come from the supermarket but some strange place known as ‘the vegetable garden’. I know, right. Then to cap it all I was expected to actually partake in a couple of games of Fistful of TOWS in this space…
Game 1: Soviet vs Swedish 1985 (FFT3 Rules, 6mm)
As Jonathan had just finished painting up the Swedes he was keen to get them on the table for a run out. I was happy to try smiting them with some good old fashioned Soviet smityness so I got busy rummaging through the 4 or 5 boxes of Soviet kit (he’s got a LOT of stuff!) to get a force together while he set the terrain up and pretty soon we were good to go. A quick aside on the terrain: Jonathan is still getting this into shape as it were but as the room was ready he really wanted to get some games in so what we used isn’t the finished article. But, as you can see by the rest of the room I reckon it’ll be very nice once it is all done!
We decided to play across the table so each of our forces would have to cover a scale frontage of 12km (120″) with the Swedes defending and on hidden deployment. So I had plenty of room for manoeuvre as there was no way Jonathan could be everywhere with the forces he had, however, as my mission was to secure the roads exiting off of his table edge he could afford to concentrate to thwart me. To achieve my mission I had the majority of a Category 2 Motor Rifle Division, the Recce Btln and the BMP’s were obviously off doing something else! :
Tank Regiment (Quality: Fair)
- Recon coy
- AD Coy
- SA-9 Gopher
- Off table SP 152mm Btln
- 3 x Batteries
- 3 Tank Btlns
- 6 T-72
- Motor Rifle Coy
- 3 Infantry + BMP-2
2 x Motor Rifle Regiments (Quality: 1 x Poor, 1 x Marginal)
- Recon Coy (in 1 Regt)
- Recon Coy (in 1 Regt, the poor one – a Reserve unit no doubt)
- 2 Jeeps (yeah, my mistake but thought it’d be fun!)
- 3 BTR Btlns
- 1 120mm Mortar + Truck
- 1 Sagger team + BTR-60PB
- 1 AGS-17 AGL + BTR-60PB
- 9 Infantry stands + BTR-60PB
- Tank Btln
- 9 T-55A
- Off table Towed 122mm Artillery Btln
- 3 Batteries
Off table Divisional 152mm Art Regt (This could only be called in by the FOO or Recce stands)
- 3 Btlns of 3 batteries
- 1 BM-21 MRLS battery
- 2 Mil-Mi 24
To face this Jonathan had a full strength Armoured Brigade which we were both keen to see in action as they are kind of an unusual force with mixed companies, lots of jeeps, recoilless rifles and, of course, the S-Tank.
Swedish Armoured Brigade (Quality: Good)
- Bgde HQ
- HQ com stand + truck
- truck + 40mm AA gun (attached div asset)
- Arm Recce Company
- HQ com stand + jeep
- 2 x APC + inf stand
- jeep with 90mm RCL
- jeep + LMG stand
- jeep + inf stand
- AA unit
- HQ com stand + jeep
- truck + Redeye stand
- truck + towed 20mm AA gun
- AT Company
- HQ com stand + jeep
- jeep with 90mm RCL
- jeep + Bantam ATGW stand
- truck + inf stand
- 3 x Armd Battalion
- HQ com stand + Pbv-302A
- 2 x inf stand + jeep
- 2 x Armd company
- 3 x Strv103
- 1 x inf stand in Pbv-302A
- 2 x Mech inf company
- 3 x (inf stand + Pbv-302A)
- 1 x jeep + 90mm RCL
In support this had :
- 1 Off table Brigade towed 105mm Artillery Btln
- 3 batteries
- 1 Off table Divisional towed 155mm Artillery Btln
- 3 batteries
My dice throws for the quality of my units was quite bad whilst Jonathan rolled up a bunch of Viking beserkers which meant my numerical advantage was nicely balanced by the qualitative advantage held by the Swedes. I was allowed a pre-game barrage and we agreed that I’d roll a d6 for the number of moves that it would last, I duly rolled a 1 so this was definitely a hasty attack! This had a bearing on my plan of attack (plan he says!!) as the short duration of the artillery strike and the shite quality of my troops meant any semblance of patience, finesse and subtlety would go straight out of the fenetre! Here’s what the plan was..
The left flank was to be the responsibility of the really crap Motor Rifle Regiment. Initially 2 Battalions would assault the town then survivors would be used to clear the wood on the left, the remaining Motor Rifle Battalion and the Tank Battalion would pass through the town once it was secured and attack up the road between the hills. The town would receive the attention of the Regimental Artillery Btln, a battalion of Divisional artillery and the BM-21 battery during the pre-planned strike just in case it was garrisoned.
Here I was going to commit the Tank Regiment, with the BMP company and the recon lads first of all securing the first wood then crossing diagonally over to the next one to do the same there. The far end of the first wood would be struck by the regimental artillery with a divisional battalion hitting the far one. This initial attack would be followed by 2 battalions of tanks, one to advance on the farm and one to swing round the wood to the left and head for the long ridge (the idea being to help the attack on the left). The remaining T-72 battalion was going to be held as the Divisional reserve once it entered the table.
On the right flank I was, again, going for the hammer like approach. 2 BTR battalions would advance either side of the road, one to clear the hills either side of the marsh, 1 to clear the wood. Again the remaining MR and Tank battalions would be then passed through to continue on along the road past the crossroads. The pre-game stonks here were on the wood and the hill by the crossroad. I was didn’t want to commit the helicopters until I had an idea on where the Swedes were as I was wary of their Air Defence assets. So without further ado, I got the lead elements on the table once we got the initial (frankly underwhelming) initial barrages out of the way.
Over on the left the jeep recce company raced hell for leather along the road and managed to get through the town and out the other side before they got brewed up by Jeep mounted Recoiless Rifles arrayed along the little hill beyond the town, however they did manage to locate a Swedish Air Defence company before they bit the dust – sometimes ‘recce by death’ does work! Over on the right the better armoured recce lads managed to exchange fire with more Jeep/RCL types in the wood there before copping it too. In the centre the BMP assault on the wood was ready to go in. Then things started to unravel.
On the left the jeeps that ambushed my recce lads sat tight whilst an armoured infantry company burst from the wood and raced into the town. The crafty sods had dodged the initial barrage and now held the exit from the town so I’d have to winkle them out, I decided that one battalion should suffice to do that while another one swung round the right to take on the jeepy types on the hill. However, I soon realised that the combination of the better trained Swedish infantry with good LAW’s and MAW’s and backed up by the auto-cannon armed Pbv’s were absolutely too much for the semi-literate conscripts that seemed to have difficulty figuring out which way round their rifles went and pretty soon my assault company was a shambles. To add to the misery when trying to go round the left of the town to try and flank the position the remainder of the battalion came under fire from S-tanks in the wood and pretty soon burning BTR’s littered the place. There was nowt else for it but to start trying to bring artillery down on the tanks and mass the second battalion to try and take the town.
In the centre the infantry dismounted from their BMP’s and advanced into the wood where they were comprehensibly beaten by the rock hard Swedish recce company, who eventually did succumb but only after some danger-close artillery was called in to help convince the survivors to sod off out of it. Then things got even worse as the T-72 company executing the left hook round the wood was shot up by a S-tank company lurking in the swamp in front of the long hill they were aiming for. The high rate of fire of the Swedish tanks (we had bumped them to ROF 3 as we reckoned the auto-loader wasn’t the same as the Soviet one) and the low quality of the Sovs soon saw them reduced to a couple of platoons through either KO’s or quality failure bug-outs and the survivors reckoned that facing the repercussions of retreating were much more favourable than continuing on to certain death so left the field. There was some success in the centre though (actually perhaps the best all day for me!) when I managed to call in a heavy artillery strike on some tanks that had fired on the second T-72’s as they advanced on the farm. These Swedes were holed up in the wood and just didn’t like the stonking they got, 2 platoons retiring due to Quality check failures and the remaining one failing the formation check and also buggering off.
Over on the right the slightly better quality of the attacking infantry and the fact that I was able to gang up on the defenders by more than 1 to 1 odds that the attack on the wood actually managed to eventually succeed and it was cleared after a tough fight, I only had 1 infantry stand and 5 BTR’s left out of 9 each at the end of it. The battalion on the left of the road was slowed up considerably by crossing the marsh but some good artillery shoots forced the Swedes holding the hill beyond the marsh to re-locate to the farmyard where they attracted more artillery attention. With my initial assaults foundering it was time to get the remainder of my Regiments on the field as well as the choppers. I had suffered the loss of one complete T-72 battalion and BMP company whilst one BTR battalion was just about wiped out and about to break whilst another was gutted and combat ineffective, in return I had managed to force a S-tank company to leave the field – not a good return in anybody’s book!
All too soon the initial assault battalion attacking the town on the left broke when it lost another platoon trying to take out a recoilless rifle jeep but the second battalion was now ready to get stuck in and managed to take advantage of the few casualties the Swedes had suffered during the initial attack along and the support of cannon fire from the Mi-24 and made enough headway that Jonathan disengaged the remnants of the defending company and retired back to his line in the wood. I had started a sustained heavy barrage on the Swedish tanks in the treeline beyond the town and this coupled with the threat from the Hinds saw them relocate also. I planned to hold the town with the remnants of the 2nd Battalion, push the newly arrived 3rd Btln into the wood where the tanks had just left and use the T-55 battalion to attack the S-tanks in the swamp as they refused to succumb to Swatter fire from the Infantry support company.
In the centre the remaining two T-72 battalions started a duel with the remaining S-tanks in the wood past the farm whilst moving up to take the farm and hence getting out of the line of sight of the deadly Swedish vehicles, this wasn’t going well for the lead unit who suffered about 50% losses against one platoon lost for the Swedes (the S-tank has a modifier for being in cover that makes them devilishly difficult to deal with!).
Over on the right I had managed to scare off a company that was holding the crossroads and it relocated for to the woods at the rear, and slowly started to grind through the mech infantry company defending the fields behind the newly liberated wood by stonking the crap out of them with artillery. I also planned to use the other Hind flight to take them out and would have done too as their first rocket strike was quite successful, unfortunately once I closed the range to engage the Pbv’s with my auto-cannon Jonathan opened up on it with a Bofors which managed to scare the chopper off! It was about this time that Jonathan brought on his 3rd Armoured battalion forcing me to deploy the T-55 battalion on this side along the ridge by the road to cover the flank of my troops here.
The next action on the left was the deciding one of the day. Things seemed to pick up as I had managed to knock out two of the ‘Swamp tanks’, even though the third platoon refused to quit I was confident that a mass of T-55 attention would finally see him off, but in the woods disaster lurked. I launched my 3rd BTR battalion at the space vacated by the retreating S-tanks and backed them up with the Hind but the lead company ran smack into another mech infantry company that were craftily held back from the edge of the wood behind where the tanks were originally. This company and another company positioned along the treeline to the right completely decimated my attacking units and in short order my last untouched infantry unit on this side of the battlefield was in tatters and broke, routing from the field.
With the arrival of the full strength Swedish battalion in the centre, which was already knocking out T-55’s over on the right with dead-eye long range fire, I decided that enough was enough and threw in the towel. Jonathan said he wasn’t planning on counter attacking anyway so we reckoned that I’d have just about held the town but that I’d probably fall back to the wood on the right whilst maintaining my position on the ridge. My only intact units were the 3rd BTR battalion here and the reserve T-72 battalion in the centre whilst Jonathan had quite a lot of kit left. I had only managed to knock out 2 S-tanks, 1 Pbv-302 and a Jeep/recoilless all bleeding day and hadn’t managed to cause many more quality losses either and had lost 1 1/2 T-72 btlns, about 3 1/2 BTR battalions plus the recce and BMP companies as well. So the Swedes had held the Soviet attack and secured a victory!
All in all, and even with the shiteyness of my troops, it was a great game and a good one to christen Jonathan’s table I reckon, and I think it would have been pretty bad form to beat him anyway!! We decided to leave the terrain as it was and go WW2 for the next game, stayed tuned for the write up sometime this week.