Friday, September 19, 2014

Squad Leader in Miniature? Yes, it's about time!

I know I said these plastic guys were being based for Crossfire but the other night as I was cleaning up my table I noticed the Squad Leader in Miniature rules laying around and thought this was the perfect time to try out a game.  This introductory (re-introductory??) game featured 5 American rifle squads and 3 leaders attacking 3 German rifle squads, a Light Machine Gun, a leader, and of course a hidden Stug-IIIG in the woodline!

Some of my initial observations on the game you ask?  Delighted to answer that question!  First of all the ranges prescribed are probably written for 1/285 micro-scale games so I doubled ranges for 1/72 plastics and that seemed to work much better.

The game was comfortably played on a 2.5' squared section of my table with modest terrain.

Beside range, there are some very simple things to work out here and once done, the Squad Leader system works extremely well for miniatures.  (wasn't it actually written to be a miniatures game??)  You will have to work out the morale and morale bonuses of your squads and leaders before the game as they are not conveniently printed on your wargaming stands.  Additionally, you will have to work out terrain types to ascertain the cover they provide before the dice start rolling.

Armourfast Stug-III in the woodline!  
 This game was a simple scenario of a very under-strength company attack with each US platoon fielding 2 squads along with leaders.  Think of it as a very simple patrol scenario, where the main line of resistance is located.
Looks pretty good with light dry-brushing and decals applied!  
The defensive fire rules are punishing if you dont use cover or have any heavy weapons to suppress the enemy before you move.  Mortars and MMGs help to break squads and if you can have leadership directing their fire.

In this instance, it wasn't enough to suppress the 3 German squads on the defense.  The ensuing firefight knocked out one German squad (with the LMG!!) but broke 3 US squads in the process.  Lesson learned is use a base of fire element is critical on the attack.  The other lesson is bring plenty of support weapons with you to suppress the enemy, no matter who you are.  (intrinsic squad firepower values, for the most part, include their rifles but not necessarily the LMGs for earlier war stuff.  The higher firepower squads (Americans) include the BARs with their firepower values but the Germans and Soviets are simply bolt action rifles and have a modest firepower of "4")

Move out!  2 American squads move to flank the enemy position at the outskirts of the village

broken American squad!!  Much harder to rally without the leader attached.  It took these guys 3 turns to roll the necessary "6 or below" with the 2D6.

In the background you can see the Company Command stand and the Platoon Leader stand reconnoitering the enemy.

American squad moves up!  Defensive fire is "point blank" and is doubled at this range.  Germans roll a 3!!  NOT GOOD!

And the US Squad is eliminated per the firepower table...

The Stug fires an HE round at a moving US squad and it hits!  Damn you defensive fire!!!  The US Squad routs into cover.

STUG Victory Lap!

Germans end the game still in possession of the village.  Leutnant Stahler commanding!

Germans holding the other building in the village.  No forces had anti tank in this game but the close assault against AFVs still brutal none-the-less.
Considerations: The issue of portage costs and equipment carried comes into play as well.  I only modeled 1 German squad with an LMG because they were the only stand with an actual LMG model.  That's not to say I couldn't use the cardboard counters to throw on a squad as a reminder, or just said they all carried one, but since this was a re-introductory game I figured what the heck.

For stacking purposes, I just make sure a squad stand or leader stand is physically touching another stand and you have an instant stack for firepower and protection purposes.  Leaders also convey their crucial bonuses to units they are stacked with.  Using square Crossfire stands with the smaller leader stands, it's not difficult on the plastic battlefield to tell leaders apart.

The best advice I would give before going down this road is to print yourself a "cheat sheet" with firepower, movement, morale values etc and book-mark in the rulebook sections you want to play.  For example I was hazy on the vehicle HE Anti-Infantry rules so I pre-marked them in the interest of time.

The Squad Leader original rules along with their supplements can be downloaded for free from the yahoo group as well as the Squad Leader in Miniature supplement.

This was alot of fun and I'll have to paint up more troops and vehicles, as well as terrain!  This makes me want to play some scenarios from the first boxed set!!!  Not to mention paint up more GIs and Brits to fight against my battle-hardened Panzer Grenadiers.

Gosh am I glad I tried this out.  I really forgot how much fun Squad Leader was, and in miniature is that much more enjoyable.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Current Projects Update!

Lots going on at Sound Officers Call!  We're not resting on our laurels after 100k visitors!  So here are a few project updates to whet your appetite and give everyone an idea of our current endeavors.

That's right, one of my all-time favorite games is getting a facelift.  In honor of "World Crossfire Day 2014" we're revamping and re-doing the Crossfire forces.  In what used to be a 15mm game, I've taken all of my 20mm troops based individually for "Disposable Heroes" and based them 3 to a stand on 1 1/4" Crossfire bases.
2 Crossfire platoons each, along with their respective Platoon Leaders, the Company Commanders are in the background.
Not only is this a great use of my 1/72 plastic toy soldiers, it's also a great excuse to finally start building, painting up and detailing those awesome Armourfast models I have on the shelf!!

unfinished Stug-III.  I have a TC figure for the commander as well as some stowage to laden this with.  Once the decals get on there, it'll really pop!  

painted in army-painter desert yellow and tamiya red-brown
As summer draws to a close, a report on "The Summer of Horse and Musket" is way overdue.  After some conversations with Ken, I decided on rebasing my Horse and Musket guys again.  Truth be told, there's no reason I can't put 6 troops on a stand.  So even though it will open up more work for me, I think the results will look much better in the long run
"I feel naked without my flock" French commander eagerly awaits a generous sprinkling of green flock on his base.  The horse still needs some highlights added.

Der Anhalt underwent some changes as well, going from 6 bases to 4.  I think it gives a more "densely packed" troop look to it, and is probably more conducive to fighting battles on my modest 6 x 4 table.

To be perfectly honest here, I'm quite happy with 3 stand French Battalions instead of 6.  With this configuration I can field a Napoleonic force for Black Powder, Shako, Warmaster Napoleonics, Volley & Bayonet, etc.  The only force that will stay 6 stands are my AWI and ACW troops as I like the look of a little more space between troops on an AWI battlefield.

An unruly British battalion.  Note the wide variety of poses...
They don't look like it now, but they'll be an Austrian Battalion when I'm finished with them!

Is there an end in sight for my WW2 project?  Absolutely not!  After a huge wave of "birthday reinforcements" this summer we have a fresh batch of new troops and vehicles to paint and base including German Infantry Heavy Weapons, Soviet AT Guns, Soviet Heavy Weapons, German Recce, German "Big Cats" and artillery.  Charles Grant's "Battle" has proven an excellent system to handle large battles on the tabletop, producing realistic results.  That and the Battlegroup series has reinvigorated my desire to get more and more units completed for larger games.

Paint more, comrade.  And this is only half of it...
Keep on truckin!  Soviet trucks rolling off the assembly line.  They will head to the "People's Dry-Brushing Department" before heading off to detailing, and then straight into combat.

German recce.  Game after game of having my 222's blown up without doing their jobs, I decided to reach into my DAK units and get a Panzer II based up for reconnaissance duty.  Hopefully these last a little longer up against T-70s than their wheeled cousins.  

Strength in numbers.  Another 222!?!?!

Mountains of lead.  Here you see a Soviet SMG Battalion, a German SS Company, and the makings of a new Eastern Front Crossfire unit as well...It never ends!!
There are also a few terrain projects in the works as well although not huge priorities for now.  First thing's first need to clean up the hobby area and prep for finishing up some of these outstanding projects from what has proven to be a very busy summer in terms of everything BUT gaming and modeling.

For gaming, I'm very much wanting to try "SabreSquadron" as well as find a rules set and basing convention for my 20mm 1/72 fantasy troops.  Flames of War Moderns has been calling my name as well!  Using some of the home-grown and BF-produced supplements, I would sure like to play some "Fate of a Nation" Arab-Israeli wars, as well as Cold War Hot games with all that 15mm lead and plastic I bought last year.

Thanks for tuning in!

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Well we've reached a small milestone with 100,000 hits here at SOUND OFFICERS CALL!  Thanks everyone for tuning in and sharing your experiences, advice and comments on my humble blog.  I'm looking forward to continuing the discussions about the search for the holy grail of rules sets, painting, modeling, history, and tactics, as we continue to explore the "face of battle" with this wonderful and sometimes obsessive hobby of ours!  Thanks again,



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Big Eastern Front BATTLE (battle report)

Well it seemed like forever since my last posting so I figured I would give a report on some of the things going on here at Sound Officer's Call.  Today I played the first half of a large Eastern Front Battle using Charles Grant's excellent "BATTLE" rules with my own modifications added.

This game featured a Soviet Infantry Battalion with 4 Companies of 2 platoons along with a T-34 platoon in support as well as a SU-76 2 x gun section for infantry support. 
The main Soviet thrust would come from this tank platoon and 2 infantry companies.
Soviet Right flank - this attack was a supporting attack and no the main effort

Soviet objective is the village in the background.  There is a German infantry Battalion in their way
 The Germans field a large Infantry Battalion of 3 Infantry Companies and 2 x PAK 40 sections in support (as well as their organic battalion mortars).

Stands are equal to squads.  

No sexy panzers or slick half tracks here.  The infantry alone would have to hold out against the Soviet hordes!

 The Soviet attack started out well enough with no major issues.  Spotting was a problem as I had no recce units on the table so infantry units would have to attempt to spot themselves.  The Soviet armor enjoyed great mobility but the foot-slogging infantry sweated and grunted to keep up.

Meanwhile on the Soviet right, the "deception" company slowly occupies the first hill.

Germans await the assault behind their defences

Gerry waiting for Ivan.

The Soviets on the right enter the valley and the livestock pen.  Within LMG and HMG range now!  Casualties start to mount.

 On the Soviet left flank, the tanks breakthrough the woods with 1 tank bogging down.  The infantry form a jam as platoon after platoon circle around the huge, impassable rock formation.
BOOM!  1 T-34 brews up - ambush fire from a PAK-40 dug-in. 

And another!  2 AFVs in the same turn.  Great shooting Gerry!

 The Soviet attack on the right stalls out as casualties mount.  Meanwhile on the Soviet left, the armor starts to take fire from dug in AT guns!  The battle is joined!

pouring fire into Ivan!

German AT gun promptly dispatched by a SU-76 assault gun!  Should have known these would be priority targets for Ivan!

The Soviets are starting to make good progress on the right - until they enter rifle range.

Soviet tanks make their way towards the German positions - knocking out units left and right with devastating HE fire!

Morale Failure!  Ivan's right attack stalls and routs.  They would continue retreating for 4 turns before turning around!

Meanwhile the infantry attack on the right fans out.  The lead company starts taking casualties and loses their HMG from accurate mortar fire.  Gerry's maintain radio contact with the battalion HQs since about turn 3!

All that remain of the German right company - this can't be all of us!  Somehow they continue to pass their Morale Checks?!?

Getting nervous, the Battalion commander orders the reserve company to start moving infantry elements to the front.  This brave decision couldn't come fast enough as the single remaining PAK-40 is knocked out.  Panzerfausts vorwarts!  

German reserve platoon in positions outside the town, awaiting the eventual Russian breakthrough.

As the first half ends, Ivan is approaching the German positions!

The medic gives squads around him a saving throw but all of the medical knowledge in the world couldn't save a wrecked PAK-40...

The lone remaining Russian T-34 fails a morale check after the platoon leader's tank is KO and he leaves the battle.

The Soviet left, quiet for a few turns heats back up as the company rallies and begins the assault again.

The German commander, feeling the situation on the hill is stable, moves a platoon off to reinforce his right.
If you've made it this far then congratulations!  I applaud your tenacity.  You have to love "Battle" for its sheer simplicity and flexibility.  As such it's one of my favorite games and one where I do much more rolling and moving than looking things up in a rules book.

This game is turning out to be a real nail biter as the Soviets still have 2 fresh companies to throw in on the German right flank which is just about done.  The German reserves will have to hold out if they break through and as I stated before, there is no armor to save the day!  The Germans must rely on the terrain, their own firepower, and the luck of the dice.

The Soviets I feel are in a decent position starting out.  Their "maskirovka" on their own right flank, if its morale can hold, can pin down those German units that are so necessary to reinforcing the German right but as turn 10 draws to a close, their morale has once again failed as the German LMG and HMG are working hard to keep them back.

Some thoughts on "Battle"  

Some of my modifications have worked well in conjunction with the rules.  The indirect fire mods using the GW direction die and the FO proximity rule (every 15 inches distance from the observing stand or firing stand is an additional D6 added to the "scatter") work very well.  Artillery and mortars are sufficiently deadly if you can score a hit on your target.  

After re-reading Mr Fraser's BATTLE supplements, I found there are HE rules using AFVs and those are basically the same as the rules mods I introduced in my own BATTLE games.  His are slightly more generous when firing at infantry in any kind of cover.  I require a 5 or a 6 depending on the cover to achieve a kill.

I also want to add a rate of fire for both LMG and HMG stands.  So a LMG would get to roll 2 x dice and HMG get to roll 3 or 4 and I dispensed with the range cone, instead opting to select and declare targets you would like to allocate dice to, provided they're within the beaten zone of the firing weapon. (ok a template would work better for determining the beaten zone I suppose).

Morale.  Morale is a problem I find.  Not because there is anything wrong with the rules themselves, but platoons of 4 squads will take casualties very quickly.  1 squad loss is already 25% losses so what to do?  Check morale by Company?  I started the game out that way and it's certainly much simpler however the results are much more severe.  This will take some additional brainpower to solve.  My thoughts go back to the morale from Flames of War where you simply take morale if you have more KO'd units than "alive" units so that's always a possibility here.  Simplicity and satisfying results are the objectives here.

Keep your eyes peeled to this blog for more BATTLE action, and a Volley & Bayonet ACW battle fought this past weekend.