Friday, March 29, 2013

Soviet T-70 Light Reconnaissance Tank Company

If every day is earth day, then every week is tank week.  Continuing on my Soviet plans, here is a light recon company for Spearhead, GHQ, FFT, BKC, or any other system that likes stands to represent platoons.

You can knock the teeny, tiny 45mm gun all you want.  Last week in a desperate struggle, the heroic Red Army's own 44th reconnaissance platoon of the glorious 2nd tank Army delivered the death blow to a Stug III platoon after an SU-76 crew had suppressed it.  Granted, VERY lucky rolling, and as all you "abstract" gamers out there know, a KO doesn't necessarily mean all are brewed up, but damage, suppression, and casualties are enough to knock the bad guys out.

Okay so back to topic - believe it or not, one of these tanks was painted in model master and one was painted with the cheap, krylon "camouflage colors" dark OD.  After a very light drybrush in tan, I love the way the darker on turned out and will use this OD for all my Russian WWII armor from now on.  Also spray ed a matte finish on them both and am overall pleased.

The TC on platoon 5 is from a battlefront T34 set, and the TC on platoon 7 is from the Plastic Soldier Company kit.  By the way, both models are PSC fast builds and I'm very happy with them.  Huzzah!
scoping out the battlefield in PSC's sexy T-70 light tanks!

Love how the dark OD looks with the tan dry brushing and the matte finish

light rust over metal for the exhaust

TC is from battlefront

This TC is from PSC

This green is from testor's model master "dark green"

which color do you guys think looks better?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Russian T-62A - 15mm Command Decision

Speaking of all this "Modern Spearhead" stuff lately, here's the first of many modern Russian tanks in 15mm: my T-62, which is apparently the "A" model and has some kind of odd applique armor added onto the turret and front glacis.

I could have sworn I ordered just your "garden variety" T-62 and was going to paint it up in Syrian camo for some Arab-Israeli action but alas - here you have it.  More than likely I'll just paint all of my Russian armor like this and use it as scenario dependent.  I'm not sure I am crazy about this model.  From the profile, the turret looks too short and almost up too far, like a PT-76.

This vehicle is from the "Command Decision" line and was a hefty 8 US Dollars...  Still anxiously waiting for zvezda to put out their Hot War Art of Tactic models....

This is a straight drab green with some tan dry brushed onto it, and a matte finish.  Tracks are boltgun metal from GW with a light rust wash.  Huzzah!  Or should I say "Urrah!"  T-80 coming up tomorrow, then back to WWII to showcase my new Russian Recon Company of T-70s.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Semi-Epic Kursk Action: WWII Spearhead Again

I vowed on my day off I would get a game of something in.  I was leaning towards Disposable Heroes WWII or Sci Fi because you don't need alot of terrain for that.  As I was packing up my 15mm T34s, I thought, "here's a novel idea- I have a whole big gaggle of mid war German tanks and a ton of T34s, I'll play some eastern front stuff."  And the battle just kind of happened.

Both sides are on attack orders - so both sides have to keep moving pending an orders change.  This game featured my first use of tactical air support (ahem..) and different artillery with mixed results...

Southern half of the Kursk Salient - 48th Panzer Korps advancing North with a nice sized Soviet tank brigade thrown in to stop them.  Soviets have pre-planned fires to trip as soon as the Germans reach the woods in the center.  Nice plowed farm fields to the Northwest.  About to be churned up by Soviet tanks!
Soviet Battalion moving through the collective farm...

Soviet tanks continue the advance to victory

German Panthers and Tigers wait...  The enemy has not been spotted yet.

Soviet KV-1s.

Meanwhile Tanks of the GrossDeutschland Division grind forward.  Little do they know they're under the watchful eye of the Soviet Tank Brigade Reconnaissance Company.

STUG-III's in the center.  They were the only company from the Kampfgruppe that were not rated as "Veteran"

Soviet T-70 Recon platoon in cover.

Soviets advance through the orchard.  reaching the collective farm.
The attack got off without a hitch for the Germans.  All companies moved until the enemy was spotted bursting through a cornfield to the immediate North, facing the German Panzer IVs.  An orders change would have been nice at this point but the Germans kept advancing.  They would have at least 2 turns to use their long-range gunnery to their advantage.  It only paid off slightly...knocking out 1 T34 platoon before closing into mutual gunnery range.  It was clearly going to be a long day.

Germans wasted their air support on a spotted recon platoon in the treeline to their was part of the plan.  The sortie arrived. The bombs missed..."another glorious day for the Luftwaffe!"

The Soviet air didn't even arrive.  Like at all!  German artillery meanwhile began pounding the recon platoon but to no avail.  Bad rolling plagued the German FO's..

darkness fell on the battlefield as clouds moved in.
Soviet Tank Battalion moves through the cornfield.
 Long range gunnery was nice to have at this point as the German companies were facing down 2 fresh battalions of T-34s with only 3 companies of advanced, veteran armor.  The Recon company opened up with their lone SU-76 platoon and suppressed a STUG platoon so the recon tank platoon joined in, knocking out the Stug with some VERY lucky shooting.  German return fire was deadly and the recon platoon would lose its morale check that turn and leave the battlefield.

As the T34s exit the cornfield they are met by the Panzers and the shooting starts in earnest, with both sides failing to achieve an orders change - madness ensues with both sides advancing towards each other in some kind of medieval duel...
A T34 platoon burns in the distance.  The small yellow bead means that platoon is suppressed.  The small red bead means the Recon platoon is outta here!

The panthers begin to slice through the enemy.  The only damage done to a Panther was a suppression result from Russian 122mm artillery....sometimes there when you need it!

Soviet recon platoon leaves the field.

Panthers moving up through the Soviet line.  Burned out SU to their left.  3 KO'd T34 platoons to their front.

 The duel on the German left ends with the destruction of more T34 platoons, but also of 3 more Panzer IV platoons.  If only they could have gotten a halt order approved!!  But on the bright side, both sides fail their morale and break off from the fighting.  I think that's pretty realistic of a result from a battle like this.  especially during the battle of kursk.

Well everyone looks forward to this part in which I tell you all how to avoid making a fool out of yourself at the next game.  The Tiger / Panther Kampfgruppe was left pretty much unaffected by the fighting, and thanks to their veteran morale, they continue the fight, although the scenario's objectives could not be met now (exit 2 KG's off the northern edge).  Had the Soviets had infantry in the fighting, it would have taken alot longer and probably not been as "clean."  Here are some AAR comments from lessons I learned about this Spearhead Battle:

Plan Your Advance Thoroughly:  If you can build in "Support By Fire" positions where Battalions (Companies in my games) halt and suppress / kill the enemy all the better.  You can make alot of money off of stationary vehicle fire and avoid meatgrinders like I had today.

Pre Register your Artillery!  especially if you're Russian or early war British.  It falls automatically, just make sure you arrange for it in the right place.

Airpower Wont Save You!  It's nice to knock out some tanks here and there, but you aren't guaranteed it will show up, and you're definitely not guaranteed it will kill anything.

"Combat Speed" slows things down:  Once the enemy is spotted, you are forced to move at half speed.  Which slows things down considerably.

All in all, a fun and FAST game.  Spearhead is brutally fast, especially at the level I like to play at.  I like the nice, clean 1D6 rolls for combat and not too many different, various levels of suppression, neutralization to deal with.  It's nice as I can have big, BIG battles and still get a slightly tactical feel to it.  I would like to play some larger infantry battles with smaller armor to see how that goes, but I recommend Spearhead to anyone who likes 1:4 "platoon level" games.  Probably better played with microarmour, lest your games get that "parking lot effect" like the larger scales, but there is something fun about 15mm or even 20mm.

What's everyone's thoughts about who won?  Victory conditions aside, the Russians were in no shape to halt the heavies on the right side.  Then again, the heavies probably would have stopped at the treeline and waited for new orders.

"Gratifying progress, but scarcely blitzkrieg"


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!