Thursday, 4 July 2019

684 - D-Day Campaign Phase 2 (Beach Landings)

Well, the pics in this post really speak for themselves: we played a beach invasion game, and it was fun. 
A Tiffie lines up  for the attack run
David and Charlie played the staunch German defenders against the attacking Brits (Fred) and US (Alex) whilst I umpired. And I'm glad I did, because this really was a sprawling chaotic quagmire of a game, with rules fudged and bent left, right and centre in order to keep the action (and the tortured narrative) moving... 
The bigger picture

Went the day well?

What the Allies were up against: Left...
...and Right: what loomed over the American sector.
Yes! The Allied forces made slow progress at first as they struggled up the beach, but their numbers started to make a difference, as did their air and naval support. The Germans' pins didn't help, but honestly their most terrible foe that day was their dice: they were absolutely cursed - especially Charlie's!
First wave.
The floating Shermans are explained below;
more interestingly, the LCI on the right is one of four
I mocked-up for the game out of two sheets of A3 cardstock. 
In the end, the beaches were strewn with burning tanks, but enough allied troops and hardware had made it successfully ashore to start securing the beachhead. With both 88 bunkers destroyed, victory went to the Allies.
The German guns take their toll on the Allied armour...
All of us had a real blast. 

A special mention ought really to be made here for the stalwart work of David and Charlie, whose only job was to blow the crap out of the landing units without really getting to manoeuvre: they both did an excellent job!

How did it work?

A lot of planning.
To keep things moving, the game was essentially two mutually-influencing games running side-by-side with their own dice bags. We also did away with points values, choosing instead to field the following:
  • Axis - as many big, nasty AT guns as we had, along with as many troops, MGs and mortars as would fit in the defence lines;
  • Allies - as many infantry units as we had, with an allowance of one tank for every two infantry units. 
One of my favourite pics of the game: Rangers - Lead the Way!
As the whole 'campaign' is about playing for fun rather than playing to win, we knew this wouldn't be a problem, and of course, it wasn't: it worked fine. We also did away with the rules for landing craft, simplifying it to (1) all the landing craft we had would arrive automatically and unload before doing so again next turn (the assumption was, I guess, that we were only working with those that made it ashore); and (2) all Sherman-style tanks could 'float' ashore to represent DD versions. Yes, I know this was an almost insultingly gross abstraction, but we had a game to play.  

All the sand was rough terrain, so advancing would take a long time, and each of the big bunkers on the flanks had an 88 in it in addition to all of the other medium and heavy AT guns dotted about. for simplicity's sake, all of the Germans on David's side (on the dunes, facing the Brits) were Regular, whilst those on the cliffs facing the Americans were Veterans. Ouch. 

Also, to average-out the effects of the Allied bombing, all of the German units started the game with a single 'pin'.

One of our players couldn't join in, and didn't have his models with him, so we went from a 9' wide front with three objective bunkers to 6' with two (and me just umpiring) but that worked fine in the end, thankfully.

Fun Moments
  • David's 88 immobilizing a Centaur as soon as it left the landing craft
  • Charlie's 88 hitting almost nothing all game - Charlie's Veteran Germans had very hard luck with the dice; very hard luck indeed!
  • Alex's Air Observer wreaking havoc on David's defenders with his first airstrike 
  • Fred's Naval Observer throwing down a huge amount of pins over yet more of David's defenders
  • Alex's second airstrike rolling a disastrous '1' and a rookie pilot strafing one of the Shermans on the British end of the beach. Luckily the damage wasn't so bad, and the rock-hard Commandos easily shook off the pins
  • In the dying moments of the game, when Fred's Centaur - immobilised since the very start - had rallied and took a lucky shot at David's 88mm bunker, destroying it and with it the Axis troops' last chance to keep the Allies away. 
The defenders' view
Burning Allied armour. A very high price to pay.
In Conclusion

This game was really great fun, despite (because of) fudging a few rules here and there...and I would not have had it any other way! Also, I simply could not have done it at all without the help of my players from the club: thanks, All!

- Drax.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

683 - D-Day Campaign Phase 1b (US Airborne Landings)

Wow! Somehow, I'm three weeks late with this one, but here's the OTHER of the parallel games we played to represent the nighttime landings in the early hours of D-Day, 1944.
Osttruppen worriedly edge up the road in the dark...
I believe it's called 'Skirmish in the Dark' (again, from the new Campaign: Overlord' supplement) and it is the kind of game that I absolutely adore: in other words, it was small-scale and very very randomised in terms of what units appeared, when and where, to represent scattered patrols of echelon Germans desperately scouring the French countryside for even more scattered fragments of US Paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st. 
More Paras arrive (played here by Alex's gorgeous US Army)
and the night is shattered further by close-range musketry.
Simply, on a 4x4 table, the US player starts with a group of 5 Paras, and the German has a normal patrol of Heer. From that point on, tow units enter from a random edge each turn, and the players roll to see whether they're US or German...before rolling to see who it is, from a wandering medical team to a lost mortar to a bazooka [useless in this game!] to a squad of brave Fallshirmjager or cowardly Osttruppen. 
Bazooka versus infantry. In the dark. Useless.
As it happened, I was very lucky with my rolls, whilst my opponent, Charlie was not. Mostly, this manifested in way more US troops arriving than Germans, and then it just became a matter of whittling them down. 
A senior German Lieutenant picks his way toward the fighting. Too late.
Pleasingly, no-one shot at the medics from either side. 
This lost British Para Medic is escorted by two US Paras
as they dash across the track. 
Even more pleasingly, an unlikely series of enjoyably lucky rolls on turn one resulted in none other than Capt. Richard Winters rocking up out of the darkness! Whilst a few more rifles might have been useful, and he spent most of the game just watching from the middle (let us charitably call it staying a tactical bound behind', at the end, when needed, he ordered four units at once to converge on the last remaining pockets of Heer troops in the area and send them packing. 

Dick Winters (centre-top, behind the hedge gap) takes charge. 
Another enjoyable random feature was the night-fighting. Every turn a powerful flare might go up and turn the night briefly into day, so it was really risky to move out into the open.
The last squad of Grenadiers, shortly before they were shot and
pinned off the table.
HUUUUGE thanks to Charlie who set up a beautiful table and was - as always - a thoroughly sporting foe: even when the chips were down, he enjoyed telling the story!

Next up, 


- Drax.
(lagging behind, but loving the gaming.)

Sunday, 9 June 2019

682 - D-Day Campaign Phase 1a (British Airborne Landings)

Hello, All,

Last week the local club's approach to a D-Day Mini-Campaign kicked off, with two parallel battles taking place in the early hours of June 6th 1944. This post records the first of them, played by Alex and Sam...

Assault on the Merville Battery

Objective: Destroy the German 150mm battery

Under the staunch leadership of Lt Col Otway, Alex's men of the British 9th Parachute Bn had edged toward the battery perimeter, and Capt Greenway's men had cleared paths through most of the mines, but the battalion had lost way too many of their men and equipment in the landings... 
The Scenario Map from Warlord's Campaign: D-Day 
(used w/o permission. Note the minefields, marked with brown patches) 
Sam's absolutely SUPERB interpretation
of the map. We had to improvise the mines,
so we used brass drawing pins. It worked a treat! 

So, under-equipped and perilously undermanned, Otway decided to forgo the last few yards of breaching, and instead headed round the flank to attack from the road entrance!
The Paras veer off to flank along the road.

This was a departure from the historical battle, but there were some similarities, like - for example - the prompt destruction of the perimeter machinegun nests. 
 Here, the extent of the minefields is clear.
You can see why Alex's Otway went round instead! 

The Paras made great progress up the road (and clearing the buildings) at first, but then, when the inexperienced defenders started to make sense of the dim shapes flitting through the darkness, their fire started to whittle the Brits down.
The Static Infantry Div troops are okay
to start with. 
The Paras are grateful to reach the buildings. 

Ne'er disheartened, the Paras stoically fought on and into the gateway to the battery, overwhelming those squads who'd rushed out to meed them. 

And then, just as they were nearing the gun in the first casemate, all resistance crumbled. As a couple of the remaining perimeter teams fled back through their lines, the stunned men of 1st Bty, Artillery Regiment 1716 and 716th Static Infantry Div put down their arms, put up their hands, and shuffled forward in the dark. 

Otway's men were relieved, to say the least: casualties had been high, but at least the Old Man hadn't made them attack through the fence and minefield. Also, having lost their explosives in the landing, they now had a little more time to work out how to destroy or disable the guns...which it turned out were not the 150mm guns they'd been briefed on, but instead some old Czech 100mm howitzers. 
An RAF photo-reconnaissance shot
of the abandoned battery, 0743hrs.

Still, at least that was one battery which now wouldn't be able to engage the men on the beaches!

By 0530, and under attack now from another German battery, the 9th Bn moved off toward their next objective: Sallenelles.

- - - 

Hearty thanks go out to Alex, Sam and Charlie, without whom none of this would have been thinkable, and Guy, for the loan of guns and scenery. Some of these pics are courtesy of Alex, and Sam and Charlie did a truly MASTERFUL job of setting out the scenery. 

The next post will be Phase 1b: the US 82nd and 101st Airborne randomly scrapping their way through the darkness of rural Normandy... Watch this space! 

- Drax. 

Monday, 27 May 2019

681 - Super-fun Intro Game of Bolt Action

So super-fun, in fact, that I forgot to take enough pictures!
Last week, a new fellow - David - came along to the club in Torbay in the hope of trying out some Bolt Action, so I jumped in on the game that Alex and Sam were going to have and we bumped it up to a 2v2, 1500pts per side game instead, with US and British Allies in Normandy defending three hard-won crossing points over the upper Meuse River from a German counterattack.
Sam had got there early enough to set up a gorgeous table and come up with the scenario: cleverly, there was no set-up (all units had to advance on), but - having won the toss - the Allies got to choose their table edge, and this made them defenders too, meaning that contested objectives would go in their favour.

David had chosen to play Brits, so he took charge of 750 points' worth of my 4KSLI with a Cromwell in support...
...and Alex had his Yanks - including his stalwart Rangers, whom we allowed a pre-game 'run' onto the board. 
Facing them, Sam and I opted for an attack across a fairly broad front - we were very restricted in our movement by terrain, especially a tributary of the Meuse which cut our side in half. The Allies also had two bunkers in one corner, which was bound to make them a very tough nut indeed to crack!

Some of the Germans:
I shan't provide a blow-by-blow account; instead, here are a few of the highlights...

On turn two, a squad of my Heer de-bussed from their Hanomag and opened-up on the unsuspecting Rangers...without a shadow of a doubt this was the best single roll I've ever made in twenty-mumble years of wargaming - distracted by a firefight across the river, the Rangers were slaughtered from their flank, losing ten of the eleven men remaining at one fell swoop:
Shortly thereafter, the plucky British PIAT team snuck-up and blew their Hanomag sky-high with a beautifully placed spigot round. Everyone loves a rare PIAT success, and David was no exception! 
Whilst the opposing tanks flirted with each other and the troops jockeyed for position, the Allied forward observers were setting up to call in their support: the British FOO called in a fire mission on a dense concentration of Germans in the bottleneck on our right flank, whilst the US air observer called in a strike on the Germans approaching the bridge. Sadly for him, his transmission was cut short as he was gunned-down in his OP. Did enough of the target information get through?

Turn four started with the off-table 25pdr batteries raining death on the German lines: some fortuitous rolling from David led to a MASSIVE bombardment of our troops: the 12'' radius caused a huge amount of pins and the loss of another three German units - the sniper, the mortar, and the PaK36 Hanomag.

Ouch. Sadly, no pics.

Then came the roar of engines and the USAF zoomed in...straight at the wrong target! Yes, the AOP's dying message had evidently been garbled, because the 'Jabo' took after its own Sherman and spread around an awful lot of pins. A pity that it didn't finish off that pesky tank, but after the awesome success of the British artillery, the airstrike cock-up did cause much hilarity at least!

The biggest moments after this, really, were the Germans taking the bridge and whiffing another two Panzerfaust shots before being gunned down by the vengeful Tommies, and the Yanks consolidating the ford on their right flank. 

Game over: a secure Allied victory, with them holding two of the three crossing points.

This was an absolutely cracking game, and a pleasure to meet David, as well as playing my old sparring partners, Alex and Sam - thanks, guys!

- Drax

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

680 - 'Mortal Gods' - Inaugural Game.

Well - inevitably - I've played my first game of Mortal Gods. Hosted by Guy, I played my unpainted Thebans against Rossco and his son.

Having not played 'Test of Honour', on which it's loosely based, I didn't really know what to expect, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite being well and truly beaten. 

The 'pebbles' system of activation is really interesting, and a cool change from the Bolt Action/Cruel Seas dice mechanic. I also loved the 'omens', as I'm a big fan of random stuff happening mid-flow!

A couple of things didn't quite sit well with me: most notable was that when my light javelin troops (peltasts) were charged, they couldn't choose to run away; also, for a game wherein facings of phalanxes are important, the triangular bases seem slightly unhelpful...
(I lost, despite the cooler pose.)

...but then, I haven't yet got to read the rules, yet, so these things may well be fully addressed!

If nothing else, it was great to be reminded that UNPAINTED MODELS CANNOT WIN! 

- Drax.