Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Halfaya Ridge: WWII Spearhead Action AAR!

Slogged through my first game of "Spearhead" today and what terrific fun it was!  Since I have a plethora of WWII North Africa vehicles, I thought it would be perfect for a small showdown between my Desert Rats and Rommel's tired but veteran Afrika Korps forces.

I used the battle system and planned out both sides' strategy based on mission objectives.

The terrain was very simple.  A small ridgeline with a number of scraggly trees on top was the British position which needed to be defended.  The Desert Rats stuck all their armor behind the ridge for a counter-attack.

The German plan was to approach the hill with companies on line.  The heavy panzer company was to take up Support by Fire positions and knock out enemy armor on the hill while the Panzer IIIJ companies swept up the hill.

A light panzer II Company was to race around in a wadi system to the left of the hill and cut the hill off from the rear.
British Armour swarming around Hill 107 for a counter attack

The other side of Hill 107 - a nasty surprise for the Germans...freshly arrived US Shermans!

Matilda in its fighting positions.  Most of the Brit units on the Hill were in light positions.

Armoured infantry

German attack grinds on!

Panzer IIs of the light company.  Their mobility should not be under estimated.

Slow Tiger platoon of the heavy company.  The Tiger's performance in this battle was below expectations.  He couldn't get anywhere on time and was quickly overwhelmed by the speedy Shermans.

The attack got off without a hitch.  The move system is global so I move all my stuff and then you move yours.  There is no need for "opportunity fire" because stationary vehicles fire first and you can mark the position where you fired at your opponent.  Combats are handled via 1 dice roll.

The British orders were to move up to firing positions aside the hillock and fire at the Germans from those pre-sighted positions.  The Germans would receive hull-down bonuses on the attack with clever use of wadis and terrain along their route of march.

The Germans wouldnt receive artillery support until Turn 4 and onwards.  The British received support in the form of a 25 lb'er which was very well needed but since this was primarily an armored attack, there were no artillery casualties at all to include suppressions for either side.

Once the Germans got into gunnery range things got interesting.  On the German left the Panzer II's ran into a wall of Lee-Grants and almost the entire Company became suppressed.  On the German right, a company of Shermans charged out from behind the hill and engaged the heavy company, almost immediately knocking out the Panzer IVD which would be needed later for attacking any infantry on the hill.  The Panzer IVF2 was knocked out next so the German support by fire position was the Tiger platoon!
Surprise!  Shermans prowling for enemy tanks.

Light Company moving forward.  They are in the Wadi system and hull down.  Note the high silhouette of the Lee Grants in the background!

view from the cupola!  Spotting distance is 18" in the open for vehicles.  Good Morning, Gerry!

German Panzer III Platoon advancing up the ridge engages the Lee Grant knocking it out.  The other Lee Grant loses its morale check that turn and breaks off!  It was run-down by Panzer II's firing into the rear deck.  Game over...


meanwhile the Heavy Panzer Company starts to take casualties...

Advancing up Hill 107.  The Germans rolled for orders change at the Panzer II Company's new orders were to attack up the slope of Hill 107 now.

Situation end of Turn 4.  German heavy company loses its morale check and the Tiger platoon will retreat  next turn.

The Panzer II Platoon advancing to the edge of the "treeline" and fires at the infantry.  They were never able to suppress the carriers and the infantry fought on.

All hell breaks loose in the center with "danger close" artillery falling everywhere.  Eventually  the Germans gained the upper hand in the firefight.  Both British Matilda's were knocked out and the Carrier platoon lost its morale check causing them to break contact.

End of turn 5 the Brits succeed in an orders change and the Sherman company attacks up the hill , knocking out 1 Panzer III platoon before the Battalion calls it quits.  They retire in good order.

All in all a fun game.  I think Spearhead is my new favorite and with the Zvezda modern 15mms coming out this summer, I think I'll try out Modern Spearhead as well.  Both plans were solid I think.  This game was definitely modified to play the Battalion Commander instead of the Brigade or higher.  First of all I dont ahve the room, miniatures, or the time to play a battle that big.  Secondly, I enjoy maneuvering platoons and companies so this was a good game.  The rules are easily modified to support Battalion level actions where the morale checks pertain to Company sized formations instead of Battalion ones, although the Battalion Casualty checks can still apply.

Better to Defend with Infantry!  One great thing about Spearhead seems to be the staying power of the Infantry.  It's not too hard to mount an effective defense if you've got infantry in their fighting positions with armor and artillery in support.  This was almost all armor and the Germans had terrific frustration knocking the Brits out of positions.

Think I need to get squared on the APC/Halftrack fighting rules and making sure Im using the correct values when fighting, but the Carrier platoon was a force to be reckoned with and not easy to root out.  (took almost 2 companies of tanks or 5 platoons to get them to move off the hill).

Use Your Artillery: Although the smaller calibers are not as effective as in the GHQ rules, if you suppress something, it's easier to kill in subsequent rounds.  The artillery may seem subtle, but if there's a chance you can kill something, take it!

Tanks are Tanks!  Spearhead abstracts some details in favor the playability of the engagement system.  So a Sherman is a dangerous opponent, especially against someone who can use its mobility.  The Tigers and Panthers are still super dangerous, but they CAN be destroyed!  Guard against complacency.

Morale's a Killer: Lastly, the morale system is no joke.  Stick to Company/Battalion MTOE (modified table of organization and equipment) because there are set benchmarks for Morale Checks - those which occur when a % of casualties is taken.  So my Lee Grant Company of 2 platoons was forced to take a Morale Check after 1 platoon was Knocked out.  You saw the result and they broke off from the fight.  Same happened with the Infantry so if you're going to the party, make sure and bring everyone with you.  If the Brits could have kept the Lee-Grants around a little longer, they may have made a difference to the outcome.

Notes:  Okay, okay obviously Rommel didn't bring any Tigers with him when he went sweeping into Egypt but the reader will kindly excuse this departure from reality for 2 reasons:
1. Tigers on the board are Awesome and any excuse I have to showcase my models I will take
2. Fictitious game to test a rules set, not a meticulous recreation of the final, desperate lunge by the Afrika Korps into British Egypt.

Can't wait to play with Airpower, more infantry, bigger artillery, and more battalions.  Mission Accomplished!


  1. Cool deal man. Yeah, morale is not to be taken lightly in Spearhead - I assume it's the same as MSH; roll a 1,2,3 or 4 and you're OUT! I haven't played with the optional "retreat for two turns" rule but it is probably worth looking at. I'm glad you enjoyed your game!

    1. Ski,
      Thanks for the encouragement. Spearhead turned out to be alot of fun so I am going to continue to play it.
      I had no idea about the severity of the morale rules... So if you have a small company of 2 platoons, you'd better be careful!
      Game was awesome and I can't wait to play more.


  2. Very nice report; never hesitate to bring out the tanks you want to use--it's all great fun! Good looking table and models, well done.
    How many vehicle models were in this game?

    1. Mike,
      Thanks - I reckon I had about 25 models in total. That's the problem with 15mm troops - when you have too many tanks (as if you can EVER have too many tanks :) the table gets the parking lot effect. That being said, it was great fun charging in with those panzers! Spearhead is a great set. I think i may like it more than GHQ now...

  3. Killer AAR Steven. Great lessons learned sermon as per usual and I love the notes comments.

    No rivet counting here. Well done.

    1. Thanks, Paul. I just wanted to be clear about the tigers! Thanks for commenting, it was a fun game. Looking forward to many more spearhead games.