Tuesday 30 May 2017

599 - The Battle of Hamburg, April '45 - Part II

+++ Continued from Part I: here [link] +++
I love this pic...but all in good time, eh?
Turn 1 - Probing the Defences

As I signed off Part I, I left you - my faithful readers - with the inexperienced British 2Lt, wondering exactly how best to fight his way in to gain a foothold in the southern outskirts of Hamburg.

What I decided to do was to push for the eastern half - my right flank. Remember: under the scenario rules I had no idea where the troops were hidden, as their locations were marked only on a sketch map, but I did know that sooner or later my very very squishy lorries or even squishier troops were going to be fired upon - raked by StG44s, MG42s and the dreaded Panzerfausts

My first job was to set up a base of fire, so 3 Section were dumped in some ruins by their lorry. 
So far, so straightforward, and I was now close enough to unveil the start of the nest of vipers: the corner house unsurprisingly concealed a tough SS unit, with their SS sniper upstairs. Boo! Hiss! I'd deliberately not taken any proper HE weapons, so my 'heavy' firepower was literally just the Staghound's light AT gun and the Jalopy's HMG. I was light recce, and therefore purposely ill-equipped to flush veterans out of buildings.
This is where it turns out the Germans were dug in.
The cat was out of the bag now though. With my firebase established, 1 Section and 2 Section were also to be run up by their lorries, but disaster! 2 Section's 3-tonner drove straight into a beaded curtain of lead. 
Whilst it somehow survived, the lorry, which also contained the young officer riding shotgun - took a clutch of pins. With a yelled "Follow me, chaps!" the subaltern leapt out, but his troops figured they knew better and kept their heads down. leaving them dangerously exposed to yet more pins and risk of death. 

"It's a trap!"

Er, yes. I knew full well that it was a trap, but that 88 just spooked me too, too much (and I also wanted the fighting to get up-close and personal!), so I was committed now...
Realising just what kind of a hornets' nest I had just so foolishly committed to, I figured I'd reinforce my faliure(!) and drove 1 Section's lorry up with the intention of jumping the troops out to fire into the building, using 2 Section's stricken lorry as cover. This worked okay, but the infantry didn't put much of a dent into the Germans already in the building, and took a (mercifully light) single casualty in return.

Elsewhere, my more armoured vehicles moved up to try to keep the defenders' heads down and mostly failed to do much at all, given how hard it is to hit units - especially small sniper teams - in buildings whilst moving. The one useful thing they did was to advance on my left in an attempt to prevent Jon's Germans from focussing too much on the main attack. 
Cleverly, Jon sprinted a squad of Krieksmarines across the road into the ruin right in front of them so as to threaten them with their Panzerfausts. Gulp.
The British advance, turn 1.
Turn 2 - Fighting in

To my astonishment, and due in no small part to Jon's bad luck with dice, almost all of my squishy stuff had survived Turn 1, but they were still stuck out in the open. 

This is where Jon's rustiness with Bolt Action stung him. I'd summarised the 'Recce' rule for him briefly , but he'd misunderstood that in 2nd Edition vehicles can't make an 'escape' move once they've acted, and he fired both his Panzerfausts at my two carriers near the corner building the first chance he got. Sadly for him, both used their 'turn-on-the-spot' manoeuvrability to scarper out of the way, and the precious AT capability was wasted. 
Elsewhere for me, the empty trucks bugged-out, the Staghound and left flank vehicles sat tight as a firebase [with the pinned left-hand Carrier failing to act], and the German fire mostly failed to do much damage beyond a few more pins. 1 Section (pinned) failed to act ("FUBAR"!) and 2 section likewise remained hunkered down in their truck, so it was up to the Stalwart 3 Section to leapfrog out of their position and assault into the building in front of the others*. 

With two of my three sections pinned and vulnerably stuck out in the open, they needed to win this assault, and luckily they did, driving the Germans out and occupying the building themselves. 

At this point, and very wary of his friendly units still in the danger area, my FOO called in his barrage (marked in red, below, on a turn 1 map): 
Turn 3 - "Fire for Effect!"

The barrage hit, and it hit just right. 
My FOO, by the way, is that dot by the building bottom-right.
The shells were aimed at the building with the MG42 in it, but I'd suggested to Jon that as it was a double-width building we ought to take just the half that the MG team was in (the end nearest my troops) as the 'building' from which to measure the range of the strike. Luckily for me, the impact was not wide enough to catch my most forward units, but the defenders were not so lucky. The blast caught and pinned a squad of Volkssturm, a squad of SS, the SS machine gun team and the SS sniper team...but the poor Oberleutnant took the full weight of a 5.5" shell to the face**.

So far, the battle had been tricky for the Brits - pinned and stranded as they were out in the open, and struggling to damage the Germans in their buildings - but this was a definite turning point. 

The pins on the centre of the German line affected their shooting enough to mean I could afford to be a little less cautious, and I finally started getting my troops moving into the buildings: with my carriers moving up to give covering fire, 2 Section and the Lieutenant scooted round the back of the eastern terrace. 
3 Section, however, fresh from their successes assaulting the building, decided to take the fight again to the enemy, and nipped across the road to the building recently 'vacated' by the German officer. 

I still don't quite know why I did this (maybe as a 'buffer zone' to protect my foothold?) but it was a stupid idea. The SS in the neighbouring building shook off their pins enough to assault and - although it was well fought - the British section was lost. 
Taken around the time of 3 Section's fruitless demise.

Still, 1 Section took their place in the first won building, and elsewhere the Brits clawed their way forward. On my left flank, the poor, over-pinned Kriegsmarine fluffed their Panzerfaust shots and were gunned down (that HMG is actually quite good!), freeing up my flanking vehicles to move up, and in the centre, I finally killed the sniper...although the pinned MMG ran up to take its place. Up the eastern road, my carriers poured enough fire into the squad that had moved into the end terrace to send them packing too.
The Brits now had their bridgehead...in that I had a section in one building, my officer in its neighbour and a section poised to take the third, but there was still one lingering worry...that 88.
Turn 4 - Endgame

Much as in the real battle (ha!) the tide had now turned against the Germans. Realistically, they were down to a depleted squad of SS, a pinned and reduced MMG, and a depleted hodgepodge of Volkssturm. The MG42 did nothing, the Volkssturm bravely but fruitlessly charged the left-flanking Bren Carrier, and I'd given up worrying about the SS...
...which was beyond foolish, because the bastards charged my officer, and despite him getting one of them on the way in with a Sten burst from the hip, they finished him off. 


Luckily, two brens and a Staghound were on hand to mop up the brave SS-remnants. 
I'd like to think they were taken prisoner, but...
And this left only the 88.

I'd deliberately moved my last section into the third house, to give the 88 crew something to shoot at, and I must say that even though I knew by this point that the day belonged to the British, it was still quite intimidating to see that monumental barrel traversing round to draw a bead on the house!
The shell struck, but when the dust settled, only a couple of brave Toms had died. Phew.

...and at this point, time was called at the club. 

A solid victory, in the end, for the Brits, and one of the most fun games I've yet played. Glorious.


If you've made it this far, thanks! I shall keep it brief. 

In essence, Jon's deployment was absolutely flawless! I would not have changed a thing, but he would've been better off focussing on my lorries and infantry in the two rounds before they made it to the relatively safety of the buildings. He was unlucky with his dice, though, and unfortunate in the wastage of his Panzerfausts.
For my part, I advanced knowingly into a trap, made some foolhardy decisions, and was very lucky with my FOO.
I've gone through it a number of times since, and although it probably would've been better to risk charging the 88, I had given my word that I wouldn't "be a dick", and I felt that investing the terrace on my left flank kinda would've constituted just that. 

Plus, it would not have been nearly such fun!

Thanks, All!

- Drax.

*Actually, now I've typed that, I'm not sure they could've done that. Earlier on in the game we'd explored the rules for troops running out of one building and into another, and I suspect I forgot that 3 Sect were in fact in a ruin, not a building. Bugger.
**Again, thinking about it, I ought really to have rolled to destroy the building he was in too. So be it.

Friday 26 May 2017

598 - The Battle of Hamburg, April '45 - Part I

I've been looking forward to this one, but life has been busy!
A couple of weeks ago I got to play probably one of the prettiest and most fun games I've played in a very long time - the opening stages of the British attack on Hamburg, against Jon's "Last Levy" Germans. Sure, the 11th Armoured Division weren't there, but we fudged that to make stuff work!

First, the table and the forces, and then I'll explain the game...because the mission rules we came up with worked an absolute treat!

Table and forces:

This was what Jon put together for us to play on - stunning!
A 4x4 table, to keep things up-close and personal

Jon's defending Last Levy force, at 850pts, was a characterful mix of veteran SS and inexperienced Volkssturm and Kriegsmarine with a couple of support teams and a whacking great 88...*gulp!*:

Because mine was a recce screen, I went for a very light armoured platoon: three Bren Carriers, three infantry sections in unarmed lorries, and a Staghound and Stuart jalopy for 'heavier' support. This came in at 1000pts - all regular apart from the inexperienced officer.
Arty FOO (L) and rookie 2Lt (R), with my trusty Staghound
and my lovely new Recce Stuart.
Mission and Deployment

The mission was a home-brewed mix of asymmetrical rules plucked from sources such as 'The Battle of the Bulge' and my own head. 

The Brits' job was to gain a bridgehead in two neighbouring houses for a win; a foothold in just one house would be a draw.
The Germans' job was to stop them. 

Essentially, the plan was that all the German troops would be completely hidden, with their locations only marked on a sketch map. The exception was the 88, as it was placed - with brilliant cinematic styling by Jon - plum in the middle of the square. No mistaking that. As with all hidden troops, I'd know where they were when my units got within 6/12" of them, or if they shot at me etc.

Asymmetrical Forces

If you're used to Bolt Action campaign expansions, then you'll be used to unbalanced forces, with defenders in built-up areas usually being given a points deficit - we went for a generous 80%, mostly so Jon could field more toys!

If you're wondering why I'm taking the armoured platoon...well, it's because it fits. It's a recce screen, backed up by a lorried platoon and a couple of heavier bits. At first, it seems massively advantageous, but actually, it's really quite fragile. All but one of my armoured vehicles are open topped - which makes them vulnerable to all small arms fire - and my three trucks can be easily pinned and destroyed by anything...including 88mm AT rounds and Panzerfausts! 

In addition to this, I only had three sections of troops (plus my officer) - that's only four units in total to assault and hold two buildings. Given that troops cannot enter a building on the same turn as they exit a vehicle, this meant that the earliest I could enter a building would be turn two, giving the Germans a considerable amount of time to shoot the crap out of my lorry-borne Toms...

...and I didn't even know where the defenders were in order to avid them!

The Challenges

Here, then, was the tactical challenge for each of us: the Brits didn't know where the Germans were and would have to probe their defences to work out where the hell to fight for their bridgehead. 

The Germans, for their part, were well dug in, but didn't know where the Brits would attack, whether they might feint, or which buildings they'd try to invest.

But the SS and their levy had a great tactical card up their sleeve...

The 88 in the square.
That's me in the background: wondering how exactly I'm supposed to deal with the big gun. Do I advance at the double straight up that broad avenue? - I can do 48" in a 'running' lorry, or 24" if I want to dismount afterwards...

...do I pour everything in toward the 88, in the hope that he cannot possibly kill everything with it? - or...

... do I ignore it completely, refuse the flank and head instead straight for the houses on my right flank, knowing full-well that this is what they'll expect me to do?...

...or do I advance a cross a broad front, probe his defences, and try to work out where on earth I can start fighting into buildings?
The artillery FOO ponders the British options.


Tune in for Part II to see just what the Brits did decide to do and just how well that may or may not have gone for them! 


- Drax.

Monday 15 May 2017

597 - Bolt Action - 4KSLI, 11th Armoured Division - Group Hug!

Hullo, Folks!

I've got a really rather pretty battle report coming up (and some bits for Zzzzzz), but real-life keeps getting in the way. In the meantime, here are some group pics of my first love in Bolt Action: some of the lorried infantry of my 4KSLI collection, with some of their inevitable support elements (of whom more later...!):

NB: That nearest truck - on the right - was not quite
finished at this point. No-one cares but me.
Well, I guess that'll need to do for now. There's much news from this Draxian neck of the woods, and I've just realised that I'm not too far shy of 600 posts now...

...but we'll see what comes up, eh?

TTFN, and happy hobbying,

- Drax.