Monday, September 20, 2021

Tactical Exercise without Troops: Tigers at Caen on the Mapboard!

 Not much time for gaming recently (although I was able to link up with Ken for a very quick game of Crossfire) but I wanted to get some of Norm's "Tigers at Minsk" on the table, although set on the western front with Americans.  

Rather than go through the bother of setting up minis, I felt this would be a good opportunity to try out TaM on the Western Front in 1944-45 with the ole' classic Squad Leader counters.  As has already been shown in previous posts here, the transition was seamless.

American company attack - the "question mark" is an out of command squad (I also realized that the troops are facing the wrong direction within the hexes - the side not a vertex - but it worked out OK)

The mission?  Seize this "lightly defended" village from the Germans.  Here you are given 2 x platoons of American troops, along with an MMG section.  Starting farther back, you only have one hour to take the village.  You will have to balance speed along with risk to meet your objective.  The objective is the large building at the top of the map.  Good luck, Captain!

With such small forces, the turns are pretty seamless and some of the more nuanced changes from Norm's West Front module dont really impact play here.  Both sides have standard command (2 hexes allowed to be in command).

1110 Hours

Both 1st and 2nd Platoons step off from the Line of Departure headed towards the objective.  One of the squads from 2nd Platoon (on the right) is out of command.

1117 Hours

Americans making slow progress through the woods.  The HMG in a stone farmhouse opens fire on 1st Platoon's left flank in opportunity fire.
German HMG marked with an OP Fire Marker from Squad Leader.
1124 Hours

Germans reinforce the front line with their reserve squad.  American OP Fire is ineffective from the 1st PLatoon.  Americans still trudging up to the front.

1132 Hours

1st Platoon's 1st Squad far left goes out of command and the US Company is having a hard time keeping its far flanks in command.  Heavy shooting from the US 1st Platoon and the HMG pins a German squad in the stone house.  The American 2nd Platoon on the right occupies a row of houses in the tree line to suppress the German defenders.  German OP fire is ineffective against them.  Lots of shooting from house/building to house/building now.  

The American Commander is eyeing his watch now...

1139 Hours

The German HMG that was pinned rallies in front of 1st Platoon in the stone house.  The Americans probably should be getting their act together to assault the houses but choose to shoot instead to continue to try and pin the defending Germans.

German HMG rallies - Americans have established their base of fire but have not been able to effectively suppress the defenders.  

1147 Hours

Doubles!  US rolls "men of action" and the Germans roll "HQ Suppressed".  The clock is ticking.  This is perhaps the impetus needed to get those GI's moving across the road and assault that village!

Good US shooting eliminates a German squad on the American right in front of 2nd Platoon but is it enough?

1151 Hours

The US 2nd Platoon is ordered forward against the lone squad on the German left.  They move forward and German OP Fire is ineffective against the 2 squads!  1st Platoon throws smoke to assault the HMG Position in the stone house.  They're out of smoke for the rest of the battle.  The GI's break from cover to assault!  Heavy German fire causes a pin against 1st Platoon in the smoke.

1201 Hours

Time is up.  The Americans at the outskirts of the village are out of time.  I end up fighting both assaults anyways, and both are repulsed!  The Germans win this one.

After Action Report

Lots of fun with this small scenario.  While not balanced in terms of forces, the Americans are starting farther back and must cross much ground just to come to grips with the Germans, who are defending a row of buildings.  Overcoming those buildings proved too difficult for the US commander.  In hindsight?  The entire company should have focused on one single section of the line to breach - probably the stone house with the HMG.  That would have enabled better use of the smoke, and would have increased the odds of a success against in close combat.  In this instance, combat broke down into smaller engagements by-platoon.  A lesson learned for next time.  I'd like to try this with armor as well to see how that goes.  

Some modest progress on teh hobby front as Davout's Corps for Eylau is almost wrapped up and I play more Crossfire.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Field Training Exercise: CROSSFIRE Practice!

 When I was in the Army, I hated field exercises.  Well - the lead up to them, anyways.  I always dreaded changing my routine (and the 36 hour days without sleep, discomfort, and MREs).    When we were out in the field, however, I usually had fun.  The old adage of "we do more things before 9am than most people do all day" certainly held true.  

So this morning around 530am, I found myself in the gaming bunker with a cup of strong black "Army" coffee and figured I could put some very basic forces on the table and practice some basic scenarios over and over again.  Basically these were "field problems" with a platoon attacking and a platoon defending.  These were "meeting engagements" with a force designated as the attacker and one as the defender.

The mission for today's training exercise?  Eliminate the enemy platoon!

Americans moving to contact.

Germans picking their way through towards their objective

And what were those objectives, anyways?  Well there is a basic setup for our field maneuvers today.  A farmstead with a ruined farmhouse, small cornfields, crops, and 2 hills.  The American and German platoons will take turns beating the hell out of each other and I played no less than 4 engagements in a short amount of time.

Both sides have 3 x squads, a +1 Platoon Leader, and a Medium Machine Gun section.  Textbook CROSSFIRE forces!  Note there are 6 terrain features on the map.  I diced for first movement.

The Americans move first and move up the MMG and a rifle squad into the cornfield.  The Germans have positioned a squad as "flank guard" and it opens fire on them.  Lucky shooting suppresses the US MMG and the initiative switches to the German force, who immediately move their force up the hill for overwatch of the position.

Good shooting!  US MMG section is suppressed across the field.

US Forces on the left, Germans on the right.  Note the German "flank guard" squad in lower right of pic.  The US squads are stacked up on the left to bound around the farmhouse and move through the northern cornfield and onto the hill.

Since the MMG is a centerpiece of the US plan, they have to attempt to rally the suppressed MMG in the cornfield.  THe US player moves the platoon leader south towards them, but they are pinned down by fire from the hill!  THe platoon command group, radio telephone operator and all hunker down in whatever cover they can find, trying to crawl up into their helmets, pinned.  Another German squad attempts to react and goes NO FIRE.

Out of ammo?  reloading?  This squad is NO FIRE and cannot shoot until their next initiative.

Platoon COmmand Group, facing left, gets pinned, rallies, gets pinned again, etc.  They're clawing their way towards safety but will they make it?

The German MMG opens up on them and eventually KO's the Platoon Leader and command group.

The Germans on the hilltop have a commanding view up to the cornfield and farmhouse.

German "firegroup" KO's the US MMG!  Nice shooting!

The German "flank guard" squad, suppressed in the field, is KO'd by accurate rifle fire.

US Player rushes the farmhouse and seizes it.  The "newly appointed" platoon leader, per the replace PC/CC rules is behind them.

The US Player is pinned.  The Germans gather combat power on the hilltop to assault the farmhouse.

The German player and the remaining US units trade fire.  At one point, the Germans dash into the cornfield in an effort to get the US player to shoot - he does and misses - going NO FIRE.  This is it!  THe Germans rush the farmhouse!

This is how you take an objective!  The Germans and their PL (+1 for the PL, +1 for an additional squad) win the combat by 1.

Good job, men!  It's hefeweizen time!

I played the same scenario again, same forces and the US player wiped the Germans out due to bad German luck and a very bold US plan.  I eventually played this same scenario another 2 times (4 total) and the results were even 2-2.  Most of the results of the games came down to launching a timely assault against a NO FIRE enemy squad, or excellent shooting from a CROSSFIRE, and blasting a suppressed squad either off the hill or out of the farmhouse.  I had great fun "walking through" and exercising CROSSFIRE today.  I may introduce another platoon on each side, a bit more terrain, and possible some mortar fire missions for each side.  

I was thinking it would be fun to battle for this farm again with multiple rules sets, including Iron Cross, Norm's Tigers at Minsk, and the Neil Thomas "Wargaming: An Introduction" rules.  The Crossfire rules, once staples of mine, came back to me quickly and with no fussiness.  They really are a splendid set of rules that really work - and even more surprisingly - are decent for solo play with a manageable amount of forces.

Anyways thank you for joining me today on this little "Field Exercise".  More to come!

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Bypassing Isigny: A Battlegroup Overlord AAR

 A dearth of gaming this summer but we carved out some time for a small-ish game (American vrs German, 350 points, 23-26 breakpoints) of Battlegroup at Ken's house with his excellent 20mm kit and terrain.  

The scenario chosen was the "Recce Screen" scenario from the Overlord book and featured a reinforced American platoon trying to outflank the heavy defenses at Isigny, in France.  Elements of Company A, 1st Battalion, 115th Infantry are on the move and American forces are keeping the pressure on the Germans in the drive across the hedgerows of Normandy.  

The Germans also have a reinforced Kampfgruppe with recce, an infantry platoon, and a Stug, along with a battery of 105mm artillery in support.  With no shortage of firepower, the Germans lacked for nothing in this game except good luck.

German fusilier recon patrol at the farmhouse!

THe recon phase was an unfortunate 6 turns long- unfortunate because the Americans (Ken and I) skimped on our recon units, choosing a single sniper and a jeep.  Dave's recce force included a 222 Armored Car with a nasty 20mm Auto Cannon, a fusilier squad consisting of an LMG section and a rifle section - 3 units in all - the Americans were "out scouted" and forced to take a chit before the first turn even started!

Dave pushed all of his recce troops up to the farm and the 222 immediately opens fire on the jeep, missing it.  Dave bags the center objective at the farm, causing another US chit pull.  Amazingly, it's a "BREAKDOWN" chit and I play it on the 222.  Dave rolls a 6, which is a catastrophic breakdown.  The 222 catches fire and is a total loss.  Dave pulls a chit now!  Then, on our turn, the jeep bags the objective on the American side and Dave pulls another chit.  Things are NOT going the Germans' way!

US Recce next to an objective

American sniper skulking about - he was absolutely worthless and I could have taken so many other choices

Ken orders me to place the jeep and its .30 cal MMG on "ambush fire" and just in time as Dave's recce section at the farmhouse attempts to open fire on the jeep, we pre-empt him and fire on the LMG crew, pinning it and forcing a casualty.

Note the farmhouse where the German LMG crew has been pinned in the center.

Dave sends the rifle team around to flank the jeep crew.  

By the time the scout battle is over, (Turn 6) Dave's reinforcements march onto the table, singing in traditional German fashion, led by the Stug, who is looking for payback after the destruction of the 222.

Stug trundling down the road followed by Infantry.

Dave pushes the Stug up to the farmhouse, and the infantry fan out behind it, looking to move down into the fields around the house, and also occupy the farm itself.  Dave ensures he brings the FO onto the table to try and call down some pain on the advancing US force but he is not and will not get the orders to do it.  You need an order for the Call for FIre, and an order for each gun.

American jeep's remaining hours are numbered here.

Stug opens fire on the jeep with MGs, destroying the jeep and killing 1 of the crew.  THe remaining 2 GIs fail their MC and run for home.  2  Chit pulls - but amazingly - we pull an aircraft chit.  Dave's been pulling numbers - I've been pulling all of the crazy chits like CONFUSION, BREAKDOWN, and AIRCRAFT.  It's nuts.

Turn 6, US Troops flood the table, including 2 of 3 Sherman tanks and a ton of infantry.
I push the tanks up quick and they immediately get into trouble without supporting infantry.  The Sherman crosses the hedges and takes an "ambush" panzerfaust shot right in the kisser.  Amazingly, Dave rolls "snake eyes" and the Sherman is immobilized.  A mobility kill but he's still in this fight!

The old "panzerfaust through the window" shot!  Gets them every time.

Meanwhile the US platoon storms onto the table!

The  immobilized Sherman next to the farm house starts bringing the hurt onto the German section in the house and pumps HE round after HE round into the house, knocking out ANOTHER German team.  Things are not going the Germans' way this game.  We also end up pulling an Aircraft Chit, and a P-47 Thunderbolt comes in firing rockets at some advancing German infantry, killing 2.  This was a very lucky day for the Americans and a very unlucky day for the Germans.  I dont think I've ever played such a one-sided game of Battlegroup before!

Dave maneuvers the Stug up but is now facing 2 Shermans and I'm continuing to reinforce the treeline as the Americans file onto the battlefield.  This could be the big break that high command needs to breakout of Normandy!

The 2 Sherman tanks ganging up on the Stug at the farmhouse.  Dave's BP is getting pretty high by now.

American infantry breaking through the treeline to get at the farmhouse.
A lucky shot by the Sherman and a high roll on the kill roll knocks out the Stug at the farmhouse and Dave threw in the towel at this point.  I was a bit disappointed because I wanted to play out the infantry battle, and Dave's regulars were closing in on the farmhouse behind the immobilized Sherman.  He'd have been toast if Gerry wouldn't have left the field.

Stug burning and General Bradley gets his breakthrough!

Note the German squad only 1 field away from the damaged and immobilized Sherman!

Americans advance!

So that's it.  A quick, brutal game and Dave was getting very close to his breakpoint at 17.  Ken and I were only at 5 at this point and Dave called the game.  The Stug was the centerpiece of his defense and so without it I guess he wanted to break contact.  Poor Dave had about every bad thing that can happen to you in battlegroup happen this game including a bunch of turns where he rolled 1 for his orders, had  a CONFUSION, and a BREAKDOWN chit played against him, and an AIRCRAFT chit played against him (which statistically is somewhat anomalous).  This was a good refresher game but honestly there was much rulebook(s) flipping (BG Rules, BG Overlord books) since we haven't played the game in awhile.  If I'm honest, it was exhausting.  Had we been playing Flames of War, I think the game would have been over much more quickly given our level of familiarity with it, but I definitely want to explore this scenario more with other rules (like Flames of War or Norm's Tigers at Caen or even Rapid Fire).

  This would be a good contender for the FoW "dustup" scenario which I'd like to try next.  I hope everyone has a great week!  I have lots of AWI on the table at the moment, and more 10mm Eylau painting to do....

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A (posthumous) Unit Citation! Continental Artillery at Shoemaker's Farm

 As promised, I updated my "Unit Battle Honors" page with a new citation issued to the Continental Artillery detachment that fought in support of Heard's Brigade at the Battle of Long Island, a virtual battle put on by Jon F this past Saturday.  

For those that missed the posts, read here, here, or here first!  Then read about the brave exploits of the "Honorable Train of Artillery" and the detachment that held up the British Army at Shoemaker's Farm below.  Here is the entry.  If you'd like to see some other impossible battlefield exploits, check out my Unit Battle Honors pageAlso thanks again to Jonathan for providing the picture of the lads in action by their guns.  This is the first time one of the units receiving a citation is not from my own collection!

The detachment's citation follows:

Unit: Continental Artillery Detachment / attached to Heard's Brigade / Continental Army
Mustered into Service: unknown
Battle Honors: Defensive Action during the Battle of Long Island, August 1776

Photo courtesy of Palouse Wargaming Journal

Citation:  Continental Artillery Detachment attached to Heard's Brigade during the Battle of Long Island is posthumously awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation for conspicuous gallantry for their heroic defense of the Continental hilltop position overlooking the bridge at Shoemaker's Farm in support of Heard's Brigade.  The detachment, with its 6 lb guns, was sited along a high-speed avenue of approach towards the Continental position and defended the northeast portion of the hill from relentless British attacks by regular troops.  Time and again, the detachment beat back or defeated multiple coordinated assaults against their position with shot, and continued their defiant stand even after their infantry supports were forced back.  The detachment weathered more than 6 direct assaults by British infantry battalions against their position, and countless volleys by formed British regulars, but remained in position, determined to protect their guns.  Their courageous stand held up the British advance and bought precious time for a secondary defensive line to be established south of the hill.  Their actions reflect great credit upon Sullivan's Division, the Honorable Train of Artillery and the Continental Army.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Battle of Shoemaker's Bridge: August 27, 1776

Yesterday I was thrilled to participate in my first-ever virtual tabletop wargame hosted by Jonathan of the outstanding Palouse Wargaming Journal blog, with Darren the Duc de Gobin on the other side of the "table."  Le Duc is the author of the excellent "Wargaming in the Age of Cynics and Amateurs" blog and has been a good "virtual" friend of mine for years and while we have played in a cooperative campaign, and unknowingly faced each other at Germantown in Norm's Germantown Play by Email game, this would be the first time we'd match wits against each other at the miniature wargaming table!

Speaking of wargaming table, Jon's setup did not disappoint! I find myself privileged to have been invited, but more on that later!  

Jon emailed a detailed briefing with Orders of Battle and some perspective of the bigger picture of what is going on in the Battle of Long Island.  I played the American commander and Le Duc played the British commander.

Looking at the American side with the hill and Shoemaker's Farm in the center.  The British must cross the stream and their units are just entering the table.  Heard's Militia Brigade is on the table, as well as the Riflemen and Continental Artillery.

I looked at the victory point conditions (not closely enough as it turns out!) and determined that this battle would be all about the hilltop, Shoemaker's Farm, and the Bridge.  Rather than deploy to cover a wide frontage, Heard's Brigade had ultimate responsibility for the hill initially, and to slow the British down by forcing them to deploy.  THe Riflemen would cover the bridge as best they could to also slow down the British and force them into line.  My Artillery, heroes to a man in this game, would initially attempt to cover the crossing with fire.

It's worth mentioning here the outstanding pre-game briefing which Jon had provided to us which was very clear, unambiguous, and left no question as to what our victory conditions were.  Jon also opened the virtual session with a Q&A to see if we had any additional questions or concerns prior to diving in.  

And dive in we did!  Darren's Brigades rushed the bridge in column and took to the field in a spirited fashion, making good speed for the hill.  Artillery opens fire the first turn and the rifles are shocked to see a foot battalion crossing the bridge in front of them and deploying into line.  This is all made that much more impressive with the fact that Jonathan is in Washington State and Darren is across the Atlantic Ocean!

Contact!  British forces deploy and fight on the American side of the stream.

I was snapping screen shots when I could and here you have Heard's Milita Brigade on the hill looking at Battalion after Battalion of British regulars forming to their front.  Nixon's and Parson's Brigades are moving at the double-quickstep coming up the road but it's a lengthy process.  

My "plan" was for Nixon to eventually "swap out" positions on the hill but Darren arrived at our doorstep so fast that they ended up shoring up the American position to prevent us being flanked on my right.  Parson was initially my "reserve" element and was to guard against Darren trying any sneaky flanking attacks against the hill from the left of the picture.  Parson's men were actually fed into the hilltop fight from the left and thank goodness they were there or this battle only would have lasted 4 turns!

Here, Jon is carrying out our instructions on the tabletop as the fight on the American right heats up and the British push the riflemen back into the field behind.  Note Nixon's Brigade traffic jam on the road with his first 2 Continental infantry units fighting right from the march!

My milita units give an excellent accounting of themselves (as best militia can) at the lead edge of the hill next to the stream while Darren deploys to push them out.  Meanwhile his initial brigade storms the bridge and deploys to assault the artillery and face the new threat of Nixon's Brigade who are coming down the road.

Darren eventually surrounds the hilltop and while Heard's Militia are pushed back the Continental artillery detachment survive volley after volley and even repeated ground assault, each time holding their ground and forcing the British back!  It's the stuff of legends as a detachment of guns holds off some of the best units of the British Army!  Also, worth mentioning here, Darren's dice saving him time and again when it counted!  Numerous units with only 1 hit remaining are able to weather the fire and stay in the game.  (proposed new nickname is "Dice Demon Darren" 😊)

Returning to the action, the British eventually seize a toe-hold on the hilltop and push the militia back.  I feed in Continental troops and push 1 British unit off but Darren skillfully puts in fresh units and makes short work of the remainder of Heard's Brigade and elements of Parson's Brigade.  I'm making him pay dearly for every hex he seizes, and at the same time, completely forgetting the victory conditions to exit units from the table!  The Americans are putting up a tough fight, and losing their entire force in the process!
Note the fresh British units coming from the top of the screen.  True to form, the British are gaining the upper hand in the battle, but it's a tough slog!

British storming the creek now and the Guards are pushing their way into my right flank.  Note the Artillery is STILL alive!  Eventually they'd be surrounded in 3 or 4 hexes!

Most of the British force is across the stream now and I'm fighting for my life on the hill.  The fight flank is buckling a bit.  Interesting point here - had i remembered the requirement to get units off the table, I could have funneled a bunch of units off but instead died in place here!  It was a glorious and bloody stand, but it didn't have to happen!  Note the Artillery still alive :)

I think I conceded on turn 9 of 10, realizing my entire force would be trapped.  That said, if it was a campaign, both Darren and I would be up the creek with severely weakened forces so I feel like I gave as good as I got.  Le Duc is a tough opponent and this was a fun, hard-fought engagement.  A seriously great time.

Kudos to Jonathan for crafting an engaging and challenging scenario, and for hosting.  There was much prep work that had to go into developing this scenario and ensuring play went smoothly and I have to say that it did.  Jon's miniatures looked terrific (you all know my penchant for single-based units!) and I have to admit I was really lost in the game.  This had the feel that I was there and I think we owe that in no small part to Jon's hosting skills and preparatory work.  I cannot wait for a re-fight!

 Also, we used the "Fields of Honor" AWI rules which I enjoyed immensely and really need to give another shot.  There were no issues, questions, or finicky problems and the rules played smoothly and in my opinion really brought out the character of the AWI and through the D10s were able to showcase the large variety of units that fought in the AWI.

All in all, an awesome game for a Saturday morning/afternoon/evening [depending on your timezone] and thanks to both Jonathan and Darren!  I cannot wait to play again!

You can read Darren's account and thoughts on the FoH rules from his "the dice rolled 'round the world" [see what he did there?] post here.