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.


  1. That battlefield looks strangely familiar.....

    1. yes....it's "Piedmont, Russia" :)

      I switched some of the buildings around and added some telephone poles! Presto!

      Once I find the SD card that found its way into my wife's camera I can post the pics from that battle.

  2. A very nicely presented game, thanks for posting on OSW group.

    1. Thank you, Chris. I was not sure if the post had gone through on the OSW group. I'm glad it did.

    2. By the way, I like your blog! Great pictures and gorgeous miniatures!!!

  3. I enjoyed this. I have a copy of 'Battle' myself - a nice read, but I've never actually played the rules. I'd probably be inclined to modify some of the tank/anti-tank factors a little... I am a little curious about the squad stands. Are they one of your own modifications? It seems to me that maybe using such a system sort of 'builds in' the morale effects as well. The effect is that morale rolls as such become unnecessary, or at least may be more limited in application and effect.

    There are two approaches that might be tried.
    1. Ignore morale except when a unit drops to and/or or below 50% strength (which, you have to decide from play which would work best), and then apply 'loss of morale' penalties automatically. You might want a choice here, ranging from rout or surrender, to becoming pinned down, or even some kind of orderly retreat or fighting on but being unable to advance. This is a very simple approach, but might give you very satisfactory results. For example, if you chose to apply morale the moment the unit is reduced to 50%, a platoon with 4 squads (say), having lost one, is already feeling the heat. As such, its further employment in an attacking role becomes problematic, especially if you are counting on success. In short, without any morale roll at all, the morale of this particular platoon has come into question.

    2. Treat each squad stand as you do an AFV stand, and treat platoon morale in the same way as AFV platoons. Is theplatoon leader is a separate 'command' stand? This won't be the case with AFV platoons, as one of the constituent AFVs will be the commander's. But one of the platoon squads might be the 'command squad.' In that case the 'AFV' method might be workable. But if the platoon commander is separate, then I would suggest (a) that when a squad is lost to small arms or MG fire, say, the platoon commander is diced for; and/or (b) under artillery fire, the platoon commander is at risk insofar as his figure lies under the beaten zone.

    In the first case, there is no real question about whether a unit has lost morale. Possibly we would be looking more to its reaction to losing morale. Ans those might still be a case of fight, flight, or fright (freeze/hide/surrender).

    Just some thoughts.

    1. Ion,
      I am very happy with Charles Grant's Battle system. I have played it a number of times and I like how you can see the influence he has had on a number of modern game designers.
      You should give it a go - the Old School Wargaming Yahoo Group has a great PDF file with all of Grant's charts reconstructed on 2 or 3 sheets for you to game with. One of the supplements also has his sequence of play although I have modified it to flow a little easier and logically (in my mind).

      To answer you first question - the OSW Yahoo group has 2 versions where one stand equals a platoon and another equals a squad. Grant had written the rules where you played with individual vehicles and troops and the game works very well for that purpose, and for squad level as well. Even though I love platoon level games, I don't like a single die roll simply "wiping out" a platoon so I play BATTLE at Squad Level or below (skirmish).

      I like your first suggestion best and think I will give it a try. I will most likely focus on platoon morale for "western" units and company morale for Soviets - taking a morale check at 50%. As the rules are written, a morale check at 25% is required but I think that can be worked around.

      The supplement also has a very elegant morale effect system, much more in-depth than some modern wargames - namely that you can "continue mission" "hold in place for a turn" hold in place for 2 turns" all the way down to "rout" in the same die roll, so modifiers and the location of your command stands are very important.

      I kind of like the rule from Flames of War where you take a morale check when you have more units knocked out than still fighting. It's simple and clear and easy to follow. If I was to go with that though, the modifiers would have to be changed.

      Thank you for commenting, I always appreciate your opinions and like dialogue on this blog. (that's one of the reasons I have it!)


  4. Greta post - like others here I have a copy of BATTLE but have never tried it. I'm too busy playing with the rules I already know but don't get to play enough. Some of the OSW are crackers though - for smaller game you just can't beat Donald Featherstone's Skirmish rules in my book :-D

    1. Thanks, Paul. I really have enjoyed BATTLE the few times I've played it. Battle can be picked up in a flash, especially with the supplements available for free on the OSW yahoo group.
      I have to try Featherstone's skirmish rules sometime!