Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Battlegroup Kursk! First Game AAR

I received my copy of Battlegroup: Kursk in the mail roughly a week ago and have been perusing the rules since.  Today I had my first go at playing a small game of BGK.  The scenario was the "introductory" scenario entitled "A Clash of Reconnaissance" and features some recce troops, an infantry platoon per side, and an armored fighting vehicle in reserve.

The Soviets had 2 x T-70 light tanks, an infantry platoon, an MMG section, an 82mm mortar section and their command.  The Germans had an infantry platoon with 1x 222 wheeled recce vehicle, a Panzer IVG in reserve, and a PAK 38 AT gun towed by a Steyr heavy car.

Both sides had an objective to take but Soviet reconnaissance vehicles sped ahead and not only captured the German objective but KO'd the small wheeled recon vehicle.  The crews exchanged fire and the 20mm auto-cannon could not penetrate the T-70s hide on the first go-around.  The Soviets captured the initiative and would have it almost the entire game.

Soviet objective is the crossroads.  The German objective is the small building along the road in the upper left.

Soviet infantry platoon enters on turn 2!  Lucky dice rolling allowed the entire platoon with its support to arrive on the battlefield at the same time.

The 222 knocked out.  You can see the T-70s creeping forward on the hill.

Meanwhile the Russians dash towards the objective - the small knocked out building 

Germans advance!
 The Soviets diced and received all of their platoon at once, as did the Germans on their turn.  The Germans had to advance through a huge open field to get to any suitable cover.  They immediately came under fire by the T-70s.  Luckily for them, Ivan was a lousy shot today!

The Germans deployed the PAK 38 to cover the infantry's advance after the Soviets brought up both T-70s.  Meanwhile, the Soviet infantry is slow to get going off the start line but eventually their squads reach their own objective and the Germans begin to accumulate battle counters, which are random points that, when added up to equal your force's battle rating, force you to withdraw from the field and lose the game!  By now, the Germans have accumulated counters for losing the 222 recce section, having fewer recon units than the Soviets, and the Soviets taking 2 objectives.
For the Motherland!  For Stalin!  The Soviets reach their objective...

meanwhile Gerry deploys his Pak-38 to try and keep those T-70s at bay

Turn 4 sees the arrival of Ivan's lone T-34 and it races down the road to engage all that kraut infantry

Soviets crossing the road

The T-34 is pinned thanks to lucky German "Area Fire" rolling!
  The action heats up as both sides get their armored reinforcement.  Both Ivan and Gerry push their infantry forward.  A lucky HE hit from one of Ivan's T-70s KO's the Pak-38 crew killing all of them, and good shooting on behalf of the Panzertruppen as the Panzer IVG kills the T-34.

Soviet Maxim team reaches the hilltop and scans for Gerry.

This squad was filled with some of the most valorous toy soldiers ever to grace the gaming table, constantly rolling "6" on their morale checks and passing the "beyond the call of duty" test twice!  This enables them to move into cover and pour fire on the Soviet Maxim crew next turn.

Meanwhile, another German squad pinned by the T-70s.  The platoon leader was overheard saying "we've got to do something about those damn tanks!"

Courage was everywhere today.  The German squad breaks from cover and engages a T-70 with suppressing fire!  They got their 6!  
 The Germans are able to push one squad up into the woods just as the Soviets occupy the hilltop to their front.  A brutal "back and forth" breaks out with the Germans getting the worst of it.  The Russians were mighty mad after losing that Maxim team.  Heavy small arms and MG fire rains down into the woods and pretty much destroys the German squad.  Unbeknownst to me, a squad that is pinned and reduced to 1 man is eliminated.  I kept Hans on the table for a little longer than I should have.  But it was a great chance to learn the close assault rules.  The Soviets flushed the forest out with 1 squad from the hilltop taking heavy casualties.  After I realized my mistake, I took Hans off the table, and "regenerated" the Soviet casualties...

Panzer IV shot immobilizes a T-70.....The German PL was hoping for a solid kill but will take what he can get.

The Germans receive another 5 counters for un-pinning a pinned squad and that brings them one away from their breakpoint, with the Soviets 3 away from reaching theirs.  THis is going to be close but you can see which way the wind is blowing!  The loss of the German squad adds yet another counter to the pile.  A 1 is drawn effectively ending the game.

I apologize for the unflocked stands but they were just rebased for Rapid Fire recently.  
Overall, I enjoyed Battlegroup Kursk.  I have to echo what everyone else has said in the avalanche of reviews that are already out there on these rules.  "These aren't my go-to rules...yet."  The engagement system, penetration rules, rules for pinning and suppression are solid and unlike other games, victory is in no way a foregone conclusion.  A clever commander can snatch victory from defeat.  Look at this game for instance.  The Soviets came out on the bottom of almost all the actions they fought in, but still won the game.  (wow if that doesn't sound familiar).

A 6 x 4 table is probably just the right size for a "squad" or "platoon" level game.  With all of the forces on the table, this game was still rated as "squad sized" which is interesting.  With a little book-keeping, solo play is not out of the question but this game is probably way more fun with other human beings to play against.

I also like the fact that you don't have to have huge armies to play a game.  1 platoon with accompanying support functions is more than enough to have an enjoyable 2 hour game no-problem.

Watch out with your infantry as well.  Aimed small arms fire is absolutely devastating if they're not in cover.  And don't drive your armor too close to enemy infantry in cover either.  These rules are refreshing in that "real world" tactics, techniques, and procedures work for your troops on the table.  There aren't too many games that can make that claim.  So look for more, bigger games of Battlegroup on this blog.

Ivan sweeps the forest.
Final dispositions - the Soviets held the initiative for almost the entire game by rolling straight 5s and 6s for their orders while the Germans rolled a "1" or a "2" each time...

82mm Mortar section just finished setting up when the Platoon Leader called the game!

Ivan advancing down the road

second squad and the platoon leadership arrive at the forest as the game ends

Thursday, July 17, 2014

PANZERBLITZ in miniature!

I have often commented on this blog that Panzerblitz would make an ideal miniatures rules set and those of us who cut our teeth on Panzerblitz, Panzerleader, and Arab-Israeli Wars have a miniatures rules set to try out on a rainy Saturday.

Dan Fraser, on his excellent wargaming wiki "Canuck Commander" has posted an re-write of the famous Panzerblitz family of rules for the miniature world.  (found here)

Those of you who enjoy fighting real battles where a unit equals a platoon or a Soviet company will not be disappointed.  SOUND OFFICERS CALL fought a "small" battalion action recently using Mr Fraser's rules and found them to be satisfying and true to the original game.

 The game pitted a German infantry battalion on foot with 2 Stug-III platoons and a Tiger I platoon, along with 2 batteries of 105mm towed artillery and 2 ME-109 bomb-equipped airstrikes.

eager German Landsers cross the line of departure
 So besides some neat pictures what else do I have for you?  Well some observations really.  If you are a fan of platoon-based stands, and like fighting large battles without alot of hassle, then this game is "probably" for you.  If you want to spend 30 US dollars, you could also buy a copy of GHQ's WWII MicroArmour: The Game as it is based off of many, many, many of the same mechanisms and procedures that Panzerblitz was founded on.   (actually, you can download GHQ's WWII rules for FREE in color now from their website...that's right.  Absolutely free.  With the infantry rules and everything).

 Panzerblitz, and Mr Fraser's re-write use a Combat Results Table although I have to admit, I'm partial to Mr Fraser's combat results table over the original game, where engagements can now lead to morale checks with varying degrees of severity.
Soviet infantry platoons dug in are targeted by German artillery!
 Panzerblitz in miniature is clean and the action happens FAST.  With a battle generally decided within an hour or two.  Probably just like playing the boardgame.
Result 1 platoon DISRUPTED.

Air arrived on turn 2 but the bombs missed...Never send a fighter pilot to do a real man's work.
 Okay so this is probably also an attempt to show off my 15mm Germans...again!

recon 223 hit by the SU-76!  The action is heating up.  The lead German elements come under accurate Soviet Artillery fire as you can see in the background.
 Forgive my incomplete painted models.  I'm doing an overhaul of basically all of my WWII Germans...

Soviets await the attack

No man's land as the German battalion advance heats up.  Soviets move more infantry platoons in to reinforce.

mortar platoon and the CP stand.

Lessons Learned:  Oh boy is this going to sound familiar to any of you who actually read my blog...

Combined Arms: Just like GHQ - you have to use your artillery and direct fires to achieve a "disruption" result so you can move in and close assault or over-run the enemy while they are disrupted.  Opportunity fire from Panzerleader and Arab-Israeli wars is introduced so use smoke to obscure movement if you have it!

Slow Infantry:  Did you ever notice, just like a paper defending a thesis, Avalon Hill games always seem to have a "theme" the author wants you to subscribe to.  Squad Leader was basically to move in cover and out of sight wherever you go.  Panzerblitz seems to be that infantry are slower than molasses and should be transported, ideally in armored halftracks wherever you go.  I increased their movement to 4" which was still barely nothing compared to the 16" and 18" movement of my tracked vehicles...

Anyways, this is my daughter's birthday weekend everyone so don't expect too much gaming, painting, or war-like transmissions from this net.  Looks like it's all Peppa Pig and Minnie Mouse for the next 48 hours.

Six Out...

My daughter playing piano at my Uncle's House.  She likes playing on that piano as much as I do!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Middle Eastern Turkey Shoot

Played a fast-moving game of Cold War Commander today, and my first with my new (used) Roskopf models and Middle Eastern buildings.  The tanks have all been newly basecoated but are all unfinished themselves.

The game was a "meeting engagement" or "encounter battle" between 2 armored and mechanized battlegroups.  The Israelis with 3 M-48 "Magach" and 2 "Shot" Centurions along with a Mechanized Infantry company with M106 mortars in support.

The Egyptians with 3 T-55 units, 3 T-10 units, and a mechanized infantry battalion mounted in BTR-152 wheeled APCs.  Neither side had artillery or air support.  Both were tasked with seizing the small village in the center of the board.

Israeli Battlegroup

Egyptian Battlegroup

my desert board in all its glory

1 Command - the CO traveling in style in an M577 

Israeli armor cruising past the village on their way into the attack!

with your fieldglasses you can barely make out the enemy at the outskirts of the village!  tanks online and begin the assault!v  The BTR-50 in the middle of the pack is the HQs for the Armor battalion

Israelis take up firing positions at the oasis

meanwhile the mech infantry occupy the houses while Shot Centurions rumble through the gaps between buildings

enemy spotted!  engaging!

The unthinkable then happens.  A command blunder of the worst kind.  3 mech platoons take 5 attacks each due to trigger-happy troopers.  2 BTRs would brew up with the crew lost.

Israeli dismounts defending the village.   

heavy fire from the T-10 company drives back a Centurion platoon.

found out the T-10 has a 3+ save!  They are tough to kill.
The battle ebbed and flowed.  Each time the Egyptians would try and advance, the opportunity fire from the Israelis would suppress them and stop them cold.  So a new tactic - the Egyptians shifted tactics to engaging the Israeli tankers in a brutal tank knife fight, trading casualties for casualties, with the Egyptians getting the worse end of things as usual in this game.
Israelis are holding on

Eventually the Israeli gunners overtook their Egyptian counterparts, leaving a field of burning tanks to their front.

advance blunted!

After losing some tank units, including a Magach and a Shot, the Israelis start methodically massing their fire and KOing the T-10s before they could close and do some real damage.

Meanwhile, an Israeli bazooka KOs a BTR, killing more infantry before they even get a chance to engage.

Egyptians finally dismount and begin engaging Israeli infantry targets in the village.  A sharp firefight breaks out!
The Israeli M106 mortars got involved and ended the firefight before the Egyptians closed.

Lessons Learned:

3:1 Odds Favor the Attacker
The old saying that the attacker should have 3:1 odds locally to carry an attack are sound.  The Israeli mech company boasted 4 stands all with anti-tank weapons and mortar support knocking out the Egyptians well before they got into position to assault.

Combined Arms Support
The Egyptians would have been well served to include some artillery either towed or self propelled to suppress the Israelis.  Using the T-10s in an infantry support role might have made sense given they are slower than molasses but tough as nails and could have knocked out those stubborn infantry positions as well as exploited a breakthrough, and not to mention put pressure on a flank to divert more of the Israeli armor away from the main attack.

Command & Control
The Israelis took a gamble by not including a Headquarters and instead relying on the CO to do everything.  By doing so they lost their command advantage as the battlegroup was spread out over 20cms from the HQs unit.  while the points were well spent on tanks, a HQs doesn't cost all that much.  Splitting the command would have made more sense in this case.