Friday, 31 July 2015

Tiger Ambush?

Sometimes we tinker with historical scenarios at our peril!
Take last Thursday's Battle Group Kursk game at the uni - I wanted to recreate the ambush of an entire Soviet Tank Corps by 18 Tigers of the 505th Heavy Tank Bn....A historical outcome should have resulted in a table littered with burnt out T34s and T70s, with the half dozen Tigers barely getting their paint burnt. On the actual day, 6th July 1943 - Day 2 of Operation CITADEL- the 505th destroyed 69 tanks of the 16th Tank Corps at no loss to themselves, albeit with artillery support. However, our game did not replicate this wanton slaughter in anyway! And I can't even blame John's tactical expertise, old soldier though he may be, nor his gift of apparently having the dice Gods at his beck and call!
No, the reason was I tried to turn it into a balanced scenario, and clearly got it wrong. So instead of a one sided, but historical game, we actually ended up with an interesting and thought provoking evening's play that seemed to get the most out of the Battle Group rules, although we did not have any infantry on the table.  

Some say that the ability of a much weakly gunned tank to temporarily neutralise - pin - a much more heavily armoured opponent is unrealistic.
And it certainly feels odd for your fearsome Tiger to be pinned by the 45mm gun of a T70! But I simply don't have a problem with it - after all, after capturing an intact Tiger in late 1942, the Soviets went to a lot of time and trouble to research and train their troops in how to score immobilising or disorientating hits on Tigers by aiming at the running gear, periscopes etc. And you do need a 6D6 to achieve a pinning hit, so its not happening all the time.

No, the problem with the scenario was how I had interpreted the terrain. Unable to obtain specific information about the ground over which this ambush was sprung, other than that it happened 2-3 klicks due south of Podsoborovka, halfway between the village and Hill 274, I decided to give the Soviets a chance by providing some lateral dead ground and a balka on each flank of the village, this giving a choice of covered approaches to the attacker.
In the foreground, a covered approach, and in the far background is the balka - nice approaches for fast moving armour...
I suspect that, even if such dead ground had been available, the tankers of the 107th Tank Brigade, rushed in to seal the gap in the line the 505th had caused the previous day, had not had time to scout approaches and were not expecting to meet the 505th so far south, hence the devastating ambush...


As it was, John made good use of both the balka and the dead ground to get up close and then lay down heavy pinning fire at medium range from hull down positions...Whilst enough of a credible force survived the artillery gauntlet in the balka to emerge and keep half the Tigers pinned on the other flank:

The constant need to draw Battle Rating Chits to unpin Tigers was slowly but steadily whittling down the 505th's Battlegroup rating...So that at the crisis of the battle, when the T34's were out in the open and closing at medium to close range and the Tigers were just starting to exact a toll....

My Battlegroup rating fell below zero and the company had to withdraw...

If you feel challenged to produce a better scenario of this ambush, or just get hold of a damn good read anyway, may I recommend Colonel Chris Wilbeck's Sledgehammers: Strengths and flaws of Tiger Tank Battalions in WW2, published by The Aberjona Press, USA 2004.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Ersatz Bergepanther

I bought a box of Plastic Soldier Company 1/72nd Panthers some time ago, but only got around to finishing the pair very recently...The problem is that I already have half a dozen Dragon 1/72nd scale Panthers, which now appear quite diminutive compared to the PSC ones, I think the Dragon ones must actually be closer to 1/76th scale.

So with the 2 that come in the box, I thought maybe I'll retain the first as a company commander AFV, and make the second one up as an HQ or support company element, maybe a Light Aid Detachment sort of thing. I had a rootle around in the spares box and decided to have a go at an Ersatz Bergepanther, the sort of thing that might have been knocked up at a Divisional Workshops out of a running hull and a written off turret.

The gantry was easy to make up out of sprue, and the chains came off a Victrix British Napoleonic Artillery set - the chains that run under the 9 Pounder carriage.

Figures are AB tank riders, now doing duty as recovery mechanics - albeit heavily armed ones - maybe partisans are active in the area!

I'm not sure how it will feature in any wargame - perhaps to mark the point where the LOC leave the table, or an objective marker.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Sidi Rezegh!

Peter points out the location of 22 Armoured Brigade
On Thursday it was a small group of uni players who met to refight Sidi Rezegh, 22nd November 1941, using Blitzkreig Commander rules and a scenario of Peters' devising. He has an ample collection of 1/285th Desert War models, vehicles and guns from GHQ, figures from Adler.
Peter has been working hard to balance this scenario from our earlier game to provide a historical refight, and by accident or design our game really played out historically, at least from the accounts I have read of the 22nd's fighting.

Von Mellenthin in particular recommended the study of the swirling and destructive actions around Sidi Rezegh, which he characterises as having a unique place in the history of war: "We are likely to learn far more from these great 'manoeuver battles' of the desert, than from the later campaigns of the war in which the issue was decided by weight of numbers and weapons'. (Panzer Battles, opening of chapter 5: Sidi Rezegh.) He was serving as the SO1 G2 for the Afrika Korps at the time.

Gunners from J 'Sidi Rezegh' Battery RHA replay the Desert Ashes in Afghan with Aussies from 105 Battery RAA.
Certainly the battle, or battles, have gone down in Commonwealth military legend, as Kiwis, South Africans as well as Brits were involved in this epic struggle to relive the Aussies besieged in Tobruk.

5th Pz Regt - Panzer II, III and a handful of Pz IV - all from GHQ - Schon!
German forces from the 5th Panzer Regiment of the 21st Pz Div consisted of Kampfgruppe STEPAN consisting of 2 platoons of sappers, 2 anti tank gun troops, and two companies of Panzers from the 5th Panzer Regt.

Kaptain Kobold, took command of the 2nd Panzer Company, whilst I retained the use of the 1st Panzer company and the sappers and guns of the Kampfgruppe.

Adler 8th Army inf.

The British for their part had the guns and infantry of the 7th Armoured Division's Divisional Support Group dug in around the airfield, and the few remaining elderly A13 cruisers of the 7th Armoured Brigade were also located there. 

A much more potent force however, consisted of the Crusaders of the Royal Gloucester Hussars, and the 3rd and 4th City of London Yeomanry:

These were initially situated off table, and would represent the arrival to the rescue of the 22 Armoured Brigade from the south. Thus these would need a successful command roll to deploy on the table edge opposite the airfield.

However, unlike the original German plan, I wanted to take care of 22nd Armoured Division first before worrying too much about the piddly 2 pounders and elderly Cruisers around the airfield. We did split 5 Panzer regiment, but with the objective of engaging 22nd Bde in a crossfire rather than the airfield....We duly advanced to contact, with some very encouraging command rolls allowing a fast pace across the frigid desert wastes...

The anti tank guns of KG Stepan, both 88 Flaks and PAK 38s, were soon picking off the British armour at long range...
Whilst our armour jockeyed into a nice enfilading position...
To create a kill sack...
Meanwhile back at the airfield, the Brits, fed up with being picked off slowly by the DAK AT guns, decided that an old school cavalry charge with elderly cruiser tanks against deployed 88s would be the go...But it wasn't....

 However at this stage, rapidly running out of targets for panzers, I got cocky and, in deciding to redeploy them even closer to the 22nd Armoured, went for a unnecessarily complex manoeuvre behind my AT screen, totally forgetting about those puny 2 pounders dotted around the airfield to my rear...

And it was my turn to take incoming AT fire...Even a 2 Pounder can punish a Pz III when firing at its rear at close range...

None the less, whilst I was blundering, Kaptain Kobold had finished off any remaining runners from the 22nd Armoured Bde, and whilst the airfield defences were untouched, both British armoured brigades were destroyed and we called time.

 Another blog of this game can be found on Kaptain Kobold's blog site:

My fellow DAK player, Kaptain Kobold, on the right, tries hard not to gloat...
Thanks to Peter for coming up with a great scenario that really brought out the flavour of the pell-mell actions around Sidi Rezegh on the 22nd November - German 'sword and shield' tactics with a deadly combination of AT guns and Panzers, and we even had a doomed cavalry style charge onto the German AT screen, as well as the disorientation and confusion of blundering too far North into the airfield defences when redeploying. A great game, and a battle I recommend to anyone to investigate.



Tuesday, 21 July 2015

My introductory podcast....

Hi everyone....well it had to happen! I love the sound of my own voice, and now I can share it with my beloved blog followers - poor devils!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Waterloo 200 Blucher game - Sunset in the East


Yes, yet another Waterloo game! Well it is the 200th Anniversary! But this is the last one for a while, honest! So on the evening of the 18th July 2015, the actual anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, after a day of solo wargaming D'Erlon's abortive attack, I wearily but happily wended my way to the uni club to complete my trilogy of anniversary games. But how to play Waterloo, or even just half of it, in an evening?

Unidentified dark masses appear on the French right flank - probably Prussians...
The answer of course is to use Sam Mustafa's Blucher rules!

Looking south over the Ohain road and ridge to Plancenoit

Accordingly I had hastily drawn up a scenario addressing the later stages of the battle on the Eastern flank, principally gaming the Prussian arrival, but also with the potential for the Anglo-Allied remnants to participate in the general advance as dusk gathered...To simulate the battle exhaustion of the Anglo Allied units and of D'Erlon's corps facing them, these units started with some of their elan points already gone. The Prussians however would start the game fresh despite their gruelling march to battle. A copy of the scenario can be found on Sam's forum in the Blucher Scenario bucket:

To be honest, I hadn't expect too much of a visual spectacle, since the terrain was hastily put together, and we were using 15mm figures from our collections which few of us had completed rebasing to Blucher card sized bases. However the net effect was still quite pleasing. I personally don't like using the cards under units to denote status and attributes, but as we still haven't come up with an agreed token or marker solution, it seemed the best way forward. It still looks ok, but presented problems for allied units on the reverse slope - they kept sliding off! Mind you, at that stage of the battle, you can hardly blame them! 
The allied ridge and remants of D'Erlon's I Corps

We played the game 2 ways, with John G playing the Anglo Allies, John T and myself the Prussians, and David the French. Caesar umpired. 
John G launches the Allies forward off the ridge - 'Which way Sir? Why that way to be sure!
A blow by blow account of the action was faithfully recorded by Kaptain Kobold on his blog: Waterloo Sunset so I shan't attempt to replicate his exciting account of the battle. 

The man himself - Papa Blucher - photo courtesy of Kaptain Kobold and SOVFOTO

 However if you'll indulge me, I will pad out this post with a couple of observations about using 15mm figures with Blucher rules.

I should point out before going too far in praise of the Blucher rules that most of us at the uni club were involved in the latter part of the very long play test period. So naturally we all think they're the mutt's nuts! 

For me the very essence of them is their ability to lay on a big, multi corps battle in an evening - hence our choice of these rules for our evening anniversary game. Each unit represents a Brigade, and whilst both this and the suggested base width unit is highly flexible, we had come to think of a unit's foot print as the same size as a playing card. Not, you might think, the ideal base size to cram on a brigade of infantry or cavalry, or, in the case of mixed brigades, a little of both.
The last throw of the dice - the Old Guard is committed!
Particularly since I am nothing if not a 'big battalion'man. I think that a small number of large units has a much greater impact that a large number of small units. I guess I have been influenced by what seems like an excessive amount of my 25 year career in uniform being spent on parade grounds. Some of that has rubbed off, so I have come to see a sad cluster of 12 - 24 figures as no larger than a Corporals' Guard rather than a battalion of 500 plus! 

Gary's Prussians on his mag bases - each base really looks like a brigade of 3 battalions in column!

As this game was the first one in which we were able to field all the units as figures, rather than just the cards, a lot was riding on my future use of Blucher rules - would I have to resort to the dreaded 6mil blobs, just at the time of life when I need all manner of aids to make out detail?
The Old Guard outflank the Prussians who outflank the French...Pic courtesy of Kaptain Kobold and SOVFOTO

Well, I think you can see that not only do the 15mm figures look good en masse, but that each unit can be modelled to actually resemble a brigade - 2 or 3 distinct battalions.  Probably need to work on the terrain though...