Friday, 7 August 2015

Longstreet - the Muleshoe

Last Thursday at the uni we played a game of Longstreet, Sam Mustafa's 'petit-tactical' ruleset. Our resident Longstreet expert, Caesar, was in the midst of house moving so it was down to me to come up with a scenario and provide all the necessary....
 
 
I have really enjoyed reading Ralph Peter's fictional history series, and in particular have always wanted to recreate some of the scenarios he recounts in his account of the Wilderness campaign of 1864, 'Hell or Richmond'...
 
- there are so many intriguing 'what-ifs' when some Brigadier or other stumbles across an unguarded sector and a way to outflank the entire enemy army, only to be pooh-poohed at Division!


But for this evening's gaming something more straightforward was required, so Colonel Emory Upton's imaginative assault on the Muleshoe Salient on May 10th seemed to fit the bill...

After several days of fruitless and uncoordinated attacks against the well entrenched Confederates, Col. Upton sought permission to try a new tactic which would favour speed and concentration over firepower...
 
He would form an attack column of 12 regiments formed into four lines of three regiments each, a human battering ram which would overwhelm the defenders of the western face of the 'muleshoe' salient.  
 
The historic infantry forces both attacking and defending were halved. I wasn't sure how many guns the Rebels had in the Muleshoe, so I settled on 4 light rifles, to on a platform allowing overhead fire to the front of the sector, the other 2 in a lunette protecting one of the flanks.


The confederate player had enough space to line both his regiments in the forward earthwork, trusting to the fall back rules to allow him to occupy the second, or could split his forces between the two. If feeling really adventurous, of course, he could detach one through the artillery lunette out to the woods and outflank the assault - but that force would really have to shift!


In the end Alan - Kaptain Kobold - who did a great batrep of the game here:
http://hordesofthethings.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/the-mule-shoe.html
opted for a straightforward in-depth defence...
 
The game opened with a Confederate artillery salvo, but the Rebel redlegs didn't do too much damage and the boys in blue duly closed without pausing to fire back...

Alan did decide to redeploy the battery in the lunette though - a fairly slow process with Longstreet...
 
 At this stage I had no idea how the scenario would fare - would the Union infantry be blown away as they got hung up on the disordering and bad terrain on the abattis strewn approaches to the redoubt, or would the defenders be overwhelmed in the first combat...


At least it looked pretty before the guns got ranged in properly, as Bryan and Caesar went in with studied precision....


And the good Colonel Upton was able to lay his sword on the Rebel earthworks...
 
The avenging sword of victory, indeed, at least at the first redoubt....Now in the first draft scenario, in seizing the first redoubt, the Union reached its shatterpoint, so the game was a Confederate victory. But Alan, with due Southern courtesy, agreed to play on as we amended the scenario conditions, incorporating the defences into the Confederate shatterpoint calculation....

 
It looked like Alan had been wise to relay those guns, and indeed they reaped a grim harvest...

 
But by now the Union were well into the Confederate defences and the fighting was tough and fierce, as on the day, with the Colour bearer of the 44th Georgia suffering 14 bayonet wounds before leaving the field...
 
Longstreet's combination of dice and cardplay really did add flavour and granularity to this relatively small scale action...

 
The Union continued to fight their way into the defences, bypassing those Rebel gun positions that had survived this far..
 
And were able to take the second earthwork too....  
 
Unfortunately, historically, the gallant Union troops now had to return to the Union lines as the coordinating attacks and reinforcements had been botched. The survivors only had the satisfaction of hearing the Confederate officers fail to get their men to counterattack - the Rebels had had enough!
The final scenario and orbat can be found on the Longstreet scenario bucket on the Honour forum here:http://www.sammustafa.com/honour-forums/longstreet-scenario-bucket/spotsylvania-the-muleshoe-10-may-1864/?PHPSESSID=d7907ccae3ee79ed78da42be42b663f7

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: http://hordesofthethings.blogspot.com.au/2015/07/action-at-sidi-rezegh.html

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.