Martlet: Fight 1 – Probe at Fontenay

‘Der Kaiser’ took a deep draw on his pipe and looked around at the faces of his men gathered round in the semi-darkness of the cellar. They had been through a rough time over the past few weeks but they were all ready and he knew that he’d be able to rely on them to do their duty once the Tommies attacked. That they were to be assaulted once more was obvious, they had been suffering one of the worst barrages any of them had experienced since the war had started and last night’s patrolling had bumped into some stiff opposition. Thankfully there weren’t any casualties but it had firmed up his belief that the attack was imminent and so he had called his NCO’s together for a final briefing.

The old man had beefed up his Zug by sending him Huth and his 5 riflemen from HQ, Klopp had come along with them too and they’d agreed between them that he’d go forward first to help keep the fight going while Franz stayed back to help keep the lads moving up to their positions as they might need encouraging through the awful drumfire. Thanks to the patrolling Beckenbauer thought that he had a good idea of where the Britishers would develop their attack. They had gained control over the house on the other side of the road from the barnyard and if he was them he’d also probably sneak up behind the hedge too that ran off away from that house, otherwise they’d have to advance across the wide open fields to the front. One thing that might assist the enemy was the horrible mist that had come down but that would help his lads too.

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Before the fighting started, view from the German lines

He took one last puff on his pipe, tapped it out and smiled at his NCO’s. “Right, lets to it then. Ballack: your boys look after the Barnyard, watch for the Britishers coming over the wall on the left; Huth, you handsome devil, get your team into the trench over the road but don’t expose yourselves unless you see any Tommies coming across the fields; Brietner, put your Gruppe into the house on the right, the pioniere have kindly reinforced it for you so sit tight, watch the fields but pay attention to the hedges and the house over on the left; Klinsmann you get to be the reserve this time; Schu’, I’ll keep you and your Panzer with me back here until we find out where the enemy’s are; Jürgen, you know what we talked about earlier. Right then gentlemen, back to your lads, good luck.”

It seemed like ages before there was any sign of the enemy but eventually some of the silly British helmets were soon seen popping up in the window of the house on the left, then all of a sudden a section of infantry spilled out of the door in front of the house. Obergefreiter Ballack couldn’t really believe what he was seeing ‘Must be new to this’ he thought and turned to his men, “Right boys: into the gateway and open up on the Englanders to our front”. With that his 6 men left the wall they had just climbed over (thank god there were a couple of ladders knocking about) and walked into the courtyard where they opened up with their 2 MG42’s at the khaki clad infantry in front of them. Their fire was accurate and they saw at least 2 men fall as well as the leader whilst the survivors hit the deck quickly. The shock of their attack meant that the return fire from the enemy was not great but one of the men was hit and Ballack quickly told him to head to the rear whilst ordering the rest into the barn and cover. The remainder of the Zug weren’t joining in though, probably due to the still fierce bombardment they were under or the slowly clearing mist obscuring their view. So he was happy to stay put, maybe the initial exchange of fire would make the Britishers cautious, but he’d definitely given them something to think about.

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Ballack’s men pile it on…
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… and duck out of the way (excuse the barn a WiP but needed for the night!)

All of a sudden another section of the enemy appeared at the end of the open ground in front of the position and they moved steadily forwards, unfortunately for them the barrage suddenly stopped and both Huth and Brietner ordered their men to open fire at the clear target that they offered. Pretty soon the poor Tommies were cut to pieces, their NCO was seen to fall as he was encouraging his men forwards and soon he was joined by a few others whilst the remainder were pinned where they were. Soon a couple more of them fell to the continuing deadly fusilade that they were suffering from and things were not looking good for the rest. The enemy response to this withering fire was a couple of bursts of Bren gun fire from the house against Breitner’s position which did no damage apart from an unlucky shot that somehow nicked the short NCO. “Don’t worry about me lads, just keep firing at those poor bastards in the field out there” he shouted “I’ll just patch myself up and be back with you in a minute”.

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Huth’s riflemen shooting up the distant British in the open

The British outside the house also opened up directed by their now recovered Corporal at Huth’s Gruppe manning the trench which offered them such good protection that no harm came to anyone. The big Berliner was just about to order his men to switch targets to return fire on their attackers when the field between them erupted in mortar fire that also covered the barn yard. ‘I hope that Ballack is alright’ he thought for a second then got back to the job in hand, “Keep firing boys, those mortars won’t hurt you”. Ballack was far from alright though. He had been moving his men into the top of the barn so that he could either fire out of the doors and window or move them down the steps at the back if needed when the mortars hit. Two of his men were hit by a falling beam and the rest of them were in a right state, hopefully they would be able to stand it a while longer but for the moment they were pinned where they were.

Back at the command post Beckenbauer was quietly pleased, he’d received a report from the fortified house over the phone that one British section was being chopped to pieces out in the open and was bound to break anytime soon; one had taken casualties but was now inching forwards towards the barnyard, although they wouldn’t be able to go too far as they would walk into their own mortar fire, and a third one had been in the house but hadn’t been seen for a while. No Britisher tanks had been seen or heard which was also good but he was worried for the men in the Barnyard, all infantrymen hate mortars most and he knew things wouldn’t be going well for them especially as the barn was really taking a pasting and looked like it could collapse at any minute. He decided that he’d send his armour forward, the sight of the Panzer IV might just put the wind up the enemy enough to encourage them to withdraw as their morale must be shaky by now what with the pasting they were getting. He ordered Schumacher to keep an eye out for enemy armour and to ignore the infantry, he was sure that they must have some and he’d be foolish to ignore that potentially deadly threat.

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The British slowly inch forward under cover of their mortars

Meanwhile the poor infantry that were being targeted out in the open had finally had enough and the four survivors broke and ran towards the hedges over on the left where Breitner’s men could see some men moving about. The tough Bavarian had patched himself up and though still groggy directed his men’s fire at the point where the escaping men had ran to. Huth’s men still couldn’t see much due to the mortar fire and he quickly kept them busy sorting out their ammo and looking to their front for any more Englanders emerging from the mist. In the barn things were going from bad to worse, Ballack had been slightly wounded and his three remaining men were now in a state of panic, he didn’t blame them after the pasting they’d been subjected to recently and seeing half of their number down, and then one more fell under a piece of roof he knew they’d not hang around much longer. When there was a sudden slackening in the ferocity of the barrage the two survivors grabbed the still dazed NCO and dragged him down the stairs at the back and into the orchard at the rear.

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The unfortunate British section just before they broke
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The British mortar barrage loses a couple of tubes
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Ballack and his remaining 2 men make the safety of the orchard

Breitner had seen the British section that had been inching forwards along the wall rush across the road round the side of the barn as soon as the mortar fire slackened and had got on the blower to Beckenbauer. The Oberfeldwebel then sent forward the last Gruppe to shore up the flank and to counter that move. Klopp went with them to see if he could help and and he quickly started rallying the dazed survivors of dritte Gruppe. Klinsmann had his men line the hedges on the side of the orchard and got them ready to open up on anyone coming round the corner of the barn. Whilst this was happening the Panzer had been targeted with a smoke round and so Schumacher decided to move off to the left to get a better view of things, this movement coupled with another burst of fire from the Gruppe in the fortified house at the enemy behind the hedge seemed to trigger something and soon the most advanced enemy section by the barn was seen running hell for leather for the ‘British’ house and safety and those behind the hedge melted away.

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They had done it, the enemy had retreated. Klopp gingerly entered the frankly knackered barn to check on the casualties from Dritte Gruppe and was relieved to find that they had just been knocked out and would be fit for action after a stiff drink and a couple of cigarettes. The other casualty from Ballack’s men also would be able to return to action immediately and both Ballack and Breitner would be ok to fight on too as their wounds were just superficial.

‘Der Kaiser’ filled his pipe once more as he listened to Klopp’s report, the enemy had definitely lost 5 men killed as their corpses were still where they fell and must have suffered the same again in wounded whilst 1.Zug had come through with a full compliment of men. He hoped the old man would be happy with their work, he was, but he also knew that the enemy would be back and they would have learnt from this encounter. next time they might not be so lucky……

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Well a cracking game to kick off the campaign and even though it didn’t go his way Des enjoyed it as much as I did (well, perhaps not!) .

I managed to get my JOP’s where I more or less wanted them – basically the classic positions for this scenario and Des did manage to get a couple into cover. Des suffered a bit from the mist effect losing a ‘spare’ rifle section and another mortar I think. Whilst I couldn’t get my lads on the table early I was wracking up the 5’s and so quickly built up a COC dice. Unfortunately for Des I used this to good effect when I had a good set of activation dice, hitting his section out in the open with 2 MG42’s and 5 rifles was going to hurt even outside close range. I really don’t know what he was thinking sticking them out in the open like that especially after I had just shot up his first section from the Barnyard. I did get lucky with hits on his leaders though, killing one outright and wounding another and  after rolling badly on the ‘Bad Things Happen’ chart for one of these his morale went from 8 to 6 and so I knew all I had to do was to try and wipe out the poor buggers in the field to try and break him, I’d also reduce his platoon by a third if I was lucky and it wasn’t a support option.

His mortars were doing a good job though and they nearly wiped out one of my sections but I was saved by our new house rule covering mortars. We had talked about how overpowered they were after our last game when I just mortared the crap out of his men and so to help reduce the ‘death from above’ we hit on this idea:

Each time you activate the mortars you roll a dice: 1/2 you get 2 tubes, 3/4 you get 4 tubes and 5/6 you get a full 6 tubes. 6 tubes gives you the standard 9″ radius as per the rules but you reduce it by 3″ for each 2 tubes less. So 4 tubes = 6″, and 2 tubes = 3″.

The rationale is that some of the tubes might be called to fire on other targets that are being called in from other platoons in the company. The idea worked great, his first few rounds of mortar fire was of 6 tubes and this meant that my section in the barn were stuck under the fire and were suffering, however as soon as he rolled 2 tubes the footprint of the barrage reduced enough that the survivors broke and ran to the rear. If they were suffering enough shock to have pinned them they’d have stayed put obviously but if they weren’t pinned and weren’t broken they’d be able to try and leg it out of the way of the blast zone before the fire increased again.

After breaking his infantry section who were stuck pinned in the open without a Junior Leader to help them rally shock off and then wounding his CO when firing on them again when they finally legged it into cover nearby Des’ morale hit 4. With no chance of him managing to run his most advanced section off the table without being chopped to bits by my reserve section he wisely decided to pull out. He suffered 10 casualties as well as a Junior leader dead from his core platoon and his CO’s and men’s opinions of his Platoon leaders can’t be too good after that – we are going to do that before the next game on Monday. Although I did suffer 4 casualties my morale ended on 8 so got them all back due to the difference with his and I reckon ‘Der Kaiser’ will be a bit popular too. I’m expecting a totally different approach from Des next go though.

Des summed up why I love these rules so much on Monday: ‘I hate this game, you have to think about everything you do constantly and the slightest mistake costs you big time. Fucking brilliant!’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief sojourn en France, part 2.

Quick apologies about taking so long posting this part but a combination of not feeling great and some PC problems have meant it has taken a while….

After a quick change of plan when we were about to set up we decided to go for a late war Soviet vs German game using the same table as the last battle. As we couldn’t decide which direction we preferred to play a dice was rolled and we ended up playing from opposite sides of the table than last time. This was going to be an encounter battle with both forces tasked with exiting off the other side of the table, classic wargame style. So after picking our forces and hatching plans we got to it.

I had at my disposal the following:

  • Heavy Panzer Company (Excellent)
    • 3 x King Tiger
  • Recon Company (Good)
    • 5 x Puma
  • StuG Company (Good)
    • 3 x PzJgrIV
  • Panther Btln (Good)
    • 2 coys @ 3 Panther
    • 1 coy @ 4 Panther
  • PzIV Btln (Good)
    • 2 coys @ 3 PxIVH
    • 1 coy @ 4 PzIVH
  • Armoured PzrGren Btln (Good)
    • Pak 40 75mm ATG (Schlepper)
    • 75mm Inf Gun (Truck)
    • Sdkfz 251/2
    • 3 x Coys
      • 3 Armd PzGrens (Sdkfz 251/1)
      • 1 MG (Sdkfz 251/17)
      • 1 Sdkfz 251/10
      • 1 Sdkfz 251/9 section
  • Motorised PzGren Btln (Good)
    • Pak 40 (Truck)
    • 75mm IG (Truck)
    • 81mm Mortar (Truck)
    • 3 x Coys
      • 3 Motor PzGrens (Trucks)
      • 1 MG (Truck)
  • Off table
    • 150mm & 105mm Battalions

 

Whilst Comrade Jonathan Elliski had:

  • 1 x Recce Armoured Car company (Good)
    • 4 x BA64
  • 1 x Assault Gun Regt (Fair)
    • 4 x SU85
  • 1 x Hvy Tank Regt (Fair)
    • 4 x IS2
  • 2 x Tank brigades
    • 1 x 76mm field gun + truck
    • 2 x 12.7mm AA truck
    • 3 x medium Tank battalions (all were Marginal)
      • 8 x T34/76
        4 x T34/85
    • 1 x Inf battalion (1 was Good/1 was Fair)
      • 6 x SMG inf stands + truck
        3 x SMG stands (desant – attached to tank battalion)
        3 x ATR stand + truck
        1 x 45mm ATG + truck

Off table artillery was:

  • 2 x 76mm battalions (on +1 availability)
    1 x 122mm battalion
    1 x 152mm battalion

 

I clearly had the qualitative advantage this time and was hoping that this would help negate the disparity in numbers.

I split my force into 2 roughly equal Kampfgruppe with the Armoured infantry and Panthers tasked with taking the crossroads on the left and then exploiting forwards along the road, they would be led by 3 of the Puma platoons and supported by the 155mm battalion. The truck borne Infantry supported by the assault guns and led by the remaining 2 Puma platoons would go hell for leather for the town and hold it if possible. Whilst this was happening the PzIV battalion was to head across the middle of the battlefield for the lateral road near the enemy’s startline and then exploit either left or right as the situation dictated. The Tiger company was to take position on the long ridge to the left rear of the town to cover the advance of the Pz IV’s and to act as a reserve. I had also planned to put my troops into battle over a few moves so that I could change plans if needed and also to not show my hand too early.

Jonathan and his red horde won the initiative and took a typically bullish Soviet approach with all of his units hitting the table from the off. He had had a similar idea as me it seemed pushing a Tank Brigade down each of the cross battlefield roads, one headed for the town on my right and one headed for the crossroad on the left. His heavy tanks waddled towards the small wood in the centre but apart from them there was a huge gap between the two forces. Pretty soon our respective recce types clashed with mixed results, on the left I managed to get onto the ridge by the crossroads and cause the Soviets to duck into the wood for cover, on the right I got bounced out of the town and passed a message back to the following infantry to deploy across the road and into the woods and get ready for company! The battle now split into 2 battles on the flanks which were quite close run things.

Over on the left the Soviets quickly abandoned the road and the mass of tanks swung round the right whilst the majority of the infantry and the surviving recce holed up in the wood along the road. I managed to place 2 companies of Panthers into position along the ridge and down by the farm just in time to face this massive onslaught, whilst deploying a company of infantry into the wood on the extreme left as a back-stop position and deploying the battalion heavy weapons in the small copse. The remaining 2 Halftrack companies along with the larger Panther company were swung round towards the ridge across from the swamp to try an outflanking manoeuvre but came up against the SU-85’s Jonathan had left here. The fighting around the farm and crossroads was very intense with the awful Russian troops having a very hard time registering any hits on the defending Germans who were happily content to sit in whatever cover they could find and whittle away at the masses of tanks. I had also won the artillery duel over here too with my gunners far out performing their opposite numbers.

On the right the Soviet infantry quickly took possession of the town and my Infantry had shaken themselves out into a line to try and stop a Soviet breakthrough, hoping to buy enough time for the PanzerJagers and Tigers to come up. Things didn’t look to go too well initially with a FUBAR with one of my barrages coming down on the chaps that called it in causing a complete company of infantry in the woods to become suppressed just as the Soviet tanks and SMG wielding tank riders hit them in a close assault. This caused a hole that looked like it would be enough for the godless Bolsheviks to exploit as the are wont to do but they came acropper through a combination of last ditch defending from the remaining infantry, a timely intervention by the company of JagdPanzer IV’s and an absolutely heroic stand by a platoon of Puma armoured cars that swatted off numerous attempts to destroy it whilst taking out T-34/76’s with gay abandon (again helped greatly by the disparity in troop quality).

In the middle my attempt at inserting the PzIV company into the rear of the Soviets nearly came unstuck as the company of IS-2’s emerged from the wood and started knocking out platoons from long range, however after some judicial use of smoke and scarpering off as quickly as I could I managed to get the survivors out of harms way. About this time my King Tiger company had also taken up its post to cover the rear of the advancing PzIV’s and they seemed to entice the Soviet heavies onto them like giant armoured sirens, surviving a long range salvo and causing one of the Soviet behemoths to brew up in the return fire.

It was at this point in proceedings that Jonathan decided that it was pointless to carry on and risking a meeting with the NKVD was better than trying to bludgeon his way forwards. By now he had lost nearly all his tanks and my PzIV’s and flanking Panther company were about to break into the rear of his survivors on the left, I wouldn’t have been able to retake the town on the right from him as my infantry over here were too weak after their heroic defence but once the Tigers had finished with his heavy tanks there was nowt stopping them from trundling into the rear of that position too. So, another great game came to an end (the amount of FUBARS rolled with our artillery during this game was amazing causing some great moments of fun!) and Jonathan’s new table was well and truly broken in. It was good to play FFT3 in a WW2 setting as I’d only done so once before and they did stand up well, showing that you don’t have to fleece gamers by bringing out rules and stats ad infinitum just to make more money (you know who I mean!), just write one good set of rules and bung all the stats you need into one edition. We did have a chat about some things that might be worth trying out in future games, such as a rolling a df10 for Quality tests as sometimes it just seems pointless trying when you’ve got shite troops and infantry will have more of a chance of sticking around too after they’ve been hit.

Again many, many thanks to Jonathan for a great weeks holiday in his lovely place it was truly fantastic. I’m already looking forward to next years trip and hopefully I will be joined by a couple of others so that we can have a some proper big games.

Brief sojourn en France, part 1….

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
    • Brdm-2
    • BMP-2
  • AD Coy
    • ZSU-23-4
    • 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)
    • Brdm-2
    • BMP-1
  • 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

Aviation assets

  • 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..

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Left Flank from my POV

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.

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Centre (unfortunately for me Jonathan is not signing surrender documents)

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.

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Right Flank

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!

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Success of the day 2, clearing the wood on the right flank.

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.

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End game on the left…
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.. and on the right

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.

 

 

General de Brigade: Plancenoit, 1815

A couple of Sundays ago I had the absolute pleasure in having been invited round to Andy’s shed of war for a large 15mm Napoleonic game of General de Brigade. To say that I was looking forward to this game from the moment that I received the invite and the date was set for the game is an understatement. I had heard about the quality of the games that he had put on in the past so was chomping at the bit to be involved. I’m extremely glad to say that I was not disappointed in any way, it was a truly fantastic days wargaming.

As soon as I entered the shed that the game was being played in (I reckon these places should have a snappy name as ‘shed’ doesn’t quite cut it really, does it?) I was confronted with a truly great spectacle. Even if I didn’t know what battle was due to be fought I’d have known straight away from the terrain on the table, it could only be Plancenoit. Andy had done a marvellous job in constructing the bespoke terrain for the refight, really bringing to life all the maps of the area that I’ve studied in the past. The thousand or two figures already lined up ready would have given another clue if needed. Honestly I’m afraid my pics do not do the scene justice!

After a bacon roll and a cuppa, supplied by Mrs T. and very much appreciated, Andy got to the briefing and explained the ADC rules that we would be using to us – we were using standard GdB rules but with house rules concerning ADC’s to activate/change orders – and both sides got their heads together to plan the upcoming fight.

I was on the Prussian team with Del and Martin. We would be taking control of Bulow’s IV Corp tasked with taking the village of Plancenoit and we had 20 turns in which to do so. Del wore the C-in-c’s hat and would be responsible for the assault on the village with 15th and 16th Brigades under command. Martin was to take the right flank responsible for defeating the French to our front with the 13th and 14th Brigades.  I was to take the Cavalry reserve, Corp Artillery and Tipplekirch’s Brigade of II Corps when it arrived, my orders being to support Martins assault on Lobau’s line whilst seeing off the French Reserve battery in the centre with our own Reserve artillery to hopefully open a gap in the centre of the French position to be exploited later. The dastardly French were controlled by Andy, Simon and Des who just had to hold on as best they could and prevent us from taking the village. They were in command of Lobau’s VI Corp with some Young and Old Guard types scheduled to turn up some time or other to make things harder for us.

So with plans made, tea and bacon consumed we got at it. The first thing that we noticed as the Prussians was that we would have problems making our numerical superiority work to our advantage as the terrain and troop density meant that we would have to attack in ‘waves’, passing one unit through another. This was certainly the case for Martin and myself as our units were activated to a schedule so we had to get moving with what we had on hand first and then follow up with the rest when it became available, which was actually quite a realistic problem to have and added to the flavour to the game I thought. Anyway Del started by moving forward to the village and started prepping the defenders for the assaults that were about to start and then continue for the rest of the day and Martin launched his lead Brigade towards the line of French on the right flank. I opened the bombardment of the French battery and started off well inflicting losses straight away whilst my huge Landwehr Cavalry Brigade advanced to support Martins lads by covering their open left flank.

The battle soon turned into a proper slogging match with both Martin’s and Del’s Brigades repeatedly coming to grips with the French defenders before narrowly being beaten back. In the fight for the village Del managed to take the church a good few times but was always pushed out immediately by fresh French units or a swift counter attack from a rallied battalion. Much the same was happening in the fight for the rest of the village, as soon as he managed to defeat one battalion another countered his disorganised men and bundled them back. With the cramped frontages available to deploy in he just couldn’t make his superior numbers tell against Simon’s defenders and when Andy’s Guard turned up it made it even harder. This to and fro action went on all day and showed just how hard the fight must have been in reality and followed the pattern in accounts of many village fights I have read from the period.

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Outside the village Martin soon came to grips with Des’ Division guarding the northern part of the line and here too a tough fight broke out. Des was taking advantage of the terrain and had his men behind hedges which was helping in his defence and Martin couldn’t quite get to grips with the French in a co-ordinated manner enough to break them. This was mainly down to the difference in quality of the units I think with some of the Prussian battalions failing to charge home a few times leaving those that did in the lurch somewhat. All was not lost though as the defending French had been steadily losing men and once Martin’s lead Brigade was hors de combat he committed his fresh one.

Meanwhile I had managed to destroy the French Reserve battery in the centre and had advanced my Landwehr cavalry forwards as ordered and pretty soon were confronted with a mass of French Cavalry that had appeared to the rear of Des’ infantry. I knew I didn’t have the qualitative edge but my idea was to tie them up so as to prevent them from attacking Martin’s lads and maybe wear them down before my Regular Brigades could be brought forwards to help finish them off. With the loss of the French Heavy artillery Simon was forced to re-deploy forces from the defence of Plancenoit to cover the gap I had made and managed to seal it off before we could get any forces forward to take advantage, again thwarted by space issues – we just couldn’t move our units quick enough.

After a lovely lunch that battle carried on in much the same vein, Del and Martin bravely grinding forwards but just not breaking through whilst I had been involved in a cavalry scrap and had charged a couple of Des’ battalions with my Landwehr Cavalry (which nearly went my way even though they were in square!) before they broke and the fight was taken over by the Regular brigades. I did manage to get Tipplekirch’s Brigade on the table but the were stuck in a ‘traffic jam’ of units so it took ages to get them forward, some command and control problems didn’t help either! Pretty soon though it just started to feel like that we weren’t just going to do it and when it got to 6pm we called it a day with the French holding all along the line even though they had taken a battering, especially outside the village.

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The main problem we had, we thought, was that we just couldn’t get our units into the fight quick enough. With such a large density of force on such a constricted front all it took was a bit of friction and everything snarled up, not that I’m complaining about it a game without this sort of thing is just too easy I reckon and wargaming is supposed to be a problem solving exercise as well as fun. The battle also showed just how difficult it must have been to take a village in this time, I’m sure Del was knackered by the end of play! There were also those close calls that luck just favoured the enemy and if they had gone the other way might just have led to a different result but c’est la guerre as those Frenchies might say.

Even though we didn’t come away with the win it was a truly great days wargaming and I can’t thank Andy enough for the invite, and big thanks too go to Mrs Thomlinson for the fantastic hospitality and for keeping us fed and watered all day. As I’ve mentioned before the terrain was absolutely superb and the figures we used from the collections of Martin, Andy and Del weren’t too shoddy either. But, as always, the thing that makes these days really great are the chaps that you share them with so many thanks go to Andy, Martin, Del, Simon and Des in playing the game like true gents. Hat doffed all round, and very much looking forward to the next one already!

PS Some more pics taken by Des can be found here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/247145792126789?view=permalink&id=784110201763676