Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Guards Counterattack - Urban Battlegroup Practice

Dave was over last night and we had a go at Battlegroup in an entirely urban Stalingrad setting.  We used Norm Smith's "37th Guards" scenario which itself is based on the Squad Leader scenario we all know and love.  I took Norm's OOB and converted it to Battlegroup, points and all.  All sides are "Regular."  Roughly 240 points per side with German breakpoint of 22 and the Soviet breakpoint 18 +1D3.

The Soviets had 2 full infantry (1 SMG and 1 Rifle) platoons, an HMG section, forward HQs, and 82mm mortar battery.  The Germans have 2 reduced infantry platoons, a single HMG section, a single 81mm mortar tube, and an assault pioneer squad.

Layout that is reminscent of Norm's "37th Guards" scenario.  4 largest buildings are objectives.

We attempted to use the Battlegroup: Fall of the Reich urban rules but really never got to....more on this later.

To translate into BG speak we played the Attack / Defense scenario with the Soviets playing the attacker.  The victory conditions are simple.  The winner is player holding the most amount of objectives, although the game cannot end with an "all objectives secured" victory.  Meaning we fight until someone breaks!

Table at H-Hour - note the distance between buildings
Both Dave and I diced for and started with 5 units each on the table.  Both sides have units well within range of each other already and the shooting starts right at turn 1. 

I have to say that this game, while basically being a huge firefight with lots of surprises, was chock full of decision making and tension.  Dave and I used our reinforcements to try and flank each other's position, but it was tough breaking from cover due to the distances involved.

Dave plotting his fires

Soviet HMG crew supporting the 37th Guards' attack!
 Dave gets a bunch of reinforcements who flood the factory building and start pouring fire into the German large building in the southeastern corner (near the chimneys).  All of my forces are in "hard" cover in either rubble or bombed out buildings.
Dave eventually pins the HMG, but the distance from his troops to it are too great.  He risks being caught in the open so the assault never takes place!

Dave's reinforcements go right into the brick building while my HMG and rifle sections hold down the right flank.  

Soviet Forward HQs

Reinforcements pour into the factory!
 In the center, I'm trying to keep the Soviet SMG squads across the square pinned so they don't try and over run the building I'm holding down.  4 teams, including 2 MG34 teams have it locked down for now!

MG34 section upstairs, rifle section downstairs!

My pinned HMG is in trouble - Dave trains all of his rifle squads on them!

scratch one MG34 team after heavy shooting.

German command group for the 1st Platoon.  We need the CO for the extra order!

Dave is reviewing his options.  

My assault pioneers arrive!  But what to do with them?  I'm basically in the same boat as Dave is, now.  I dont want to use them as purely infantry but this is Stalingrad!  You do what you have to do!
 More of my reinforcements finally arrive from 2nd Platoon so I send them around the flank to put pressure on Dave's SMG gunners but there are many, many of them in the big building to my front!

Flanking force on the German left with 2nd Platoon

Dave's Soviets aren't going anywhere!
 Dave pushes reinforcemetns to the building in the southeast and it looks like he's setting up a close assault on my position!  He gets his mortar battery also this turn and boy do my guys in the southeast take a beating.  Dave rolls hot on most of his fire missions, even despite pinning some of his own troops, kills a ton of Germans!

Shooting down into the German southeastern position!

I'm worried about the attack shaping up on the right so I put a reserve section to guard behind them, in case Ivan tries to break through!

Dave has almost a full platoon in the flats in front of the center German position.  So far no one has tried to close assault anything.

Mortar starts to take its toll on everyone.  Note the HMG which "should" be in the upper right rubble pile is gone!  

shooting through windows and mouseholes!

MORE mortar fire missions!  Give those guys a medal!  Dave's rolling with the IDF is pretty good.
 I pull a chit after losing the HMG section and guess what I pull?  Yep, an aircraft chit.  The flyboys from Luftflotte 4 come through!  A roving Stuka decides to bomb the flats in the front of the center position.  My next turn a roll a "6" and they show up.  The accuracy roll is on-target as well and the heavy bomb wipes out a remaining Soviet squad (worth mentioning here that they had already had 4 casualties - Dave almost, almost saved the hits as the bomb scored 9 hits).

Anyways Dave must pull 2 chits now, 1 for the air attack and 1 for the squad's destruction.  It pushes him over BP and we call the game.  However, we are both practically still in our startpoints and the building tally is 2/2 so even though the Soviets called off the attack, no there are still an even number of objectives in German and Soviet possession!  The Soviets will be back!

Stuka dropping his bomb on the flats below.

So that's it!  As you can see, we never got to close assault so we never did get to try out the FOTR urban rules.  The BGK rules for hard cover were sufficient in this case.  This was a great game loaded with excitement and tension and decision-making.  Placement of reserves was super important, as was the fire plan.  Probably also worth mentioning that I never got my flame thrower or mortar into position to use them.

One issue we had was the buildings were way too far apart.  There should probably have been closer  buildings to facilitate an assault and I think if you're planning an urban battlegroup game this would be good to remember.  The game was mostly a huge firefight - which is totally ok for a Friday night IMHO.  Neither side was willing to get caught in the open, and there might not have been enough terrain to support an assault.  Either way this was purely my scenario design issue.

Also many thanks to Norm for providing his "37th Guards" [click] scenario for Tigers at Minsk as the inspiration.  Speaking of which, also planning on playing that very same scenario with Tigers at Minsk very soon.

All in all, a great game of Battlegroup in which we learned a ton.  Here are some questions for the BG grognards out there though:

  • Does an HMG count as a deployed gun?
  • If I'm using mortars off my army list (on-table, bought and paid for) do I still have to do a comms check?  With whom?  the priority check was auto-approved but in regards to the comms check,  Regiment is the lowest echelon in the army list but this still didn't seem right?

Some great gaming coming up, folks.  Huge CCN game next week, and Battlegroup: REFORGER or Battlegroup: MODERN 6mm the following week.  It's gonna be great!  Stay tuned and watch this space.


  1. Very nice Steve, I do like your buildings and agree that having them closer together would help. From memory, when I played this with TaM, I thought the scenario delivered a lot of firepower each turn, which quickly created casualties and drove the morale level down to the critical zero. I am trying to find my notes to see whether that was an early consequence and whether tweaks followed, or whether the scenario as presented retained that problem.

    1. Cheers Norm. The distances, at least in Battlegroup, were significant between buildings and this contributed to the "firepower first" policy on behalf of the combatants :) I probably should have ensured the structures were within 10" of each other or less which would encourage close assaults.

      Definitely a lesson learned and I'd like to play it again.

      Also looking forward to playing it with TAM - I even spray painted 100 pennies gray to make the squares! Stay tuned.

  2. Superb work. I always remember the German MGs can cause havoc in that scenario if used correctly.
    Look forward to seeing this with TaM.
    Is it worth considering Crossfire as an experiment too?

    1. THanks Darren! Yes in this case, both sides only had 1 x HMG and I am not sure they lasted past turn 4! High Value/Payoff Targets all of them!
      Yes - I think with Crossfire would be an excellent game. Thing is though - will need to create "rooms" within the structures for Crossfire to get that truly urban feel to it.
      I am really looking forward to doing this with TAM as well.

  3. Hi-
    Previously put this on the wrong thread. I've been reading your site, and enjoying it. I see you like Neil Thomas' WWII ruled. I've played Battleground and found it slow going. Which set do you prefer?

    1. Hi Mark,
      Sorry for the late reply. I really like Battlegroup but also really enjoy the Neil Thomas World War II rules from his book "Wargaming: An Introduction". I am not quite sure which one I prefer. Probably Battelgroup because every single game is quite different.

  4. Very cool. I have yet to do a game in a high density urban environment, which I imagine is quite different. My mate Alan is doing up some Rubble terrain now for some Fall of the Reich 1945 games

    1. Cheers Paul! It was alot of fun and there is much potential for good, messy urban fights in BG.

    2. Would you mind publishing your converted OOBs and tabletop objectives?

    3. Not at all, Paul. I think I used platoon lists from BGK but I'll look in my book.

  5. What is the movement speed for infantry in BG? I know you can’t make an exact translation, but moving from a building across one open hex to another building cost 1mp (or 1/4 of normal movement in ASL) for the road and then 2 MP (1/2 movement allowance). Would that be one way to translate this scenario from board to table?

    You can see on my YT channel where I’ve tried translating ASL scenarios for Blitzkrieg Commander. I think I translate too literally. Each hex is roughly 50 Meters. That’s pretty big distance in between buildings in real life. I say all this because I really want to translate more scenarios for mini use, so I think about this a lot.

    It’s also tough because a hex can hold 3 squads and leaders and a vehicle. You can’t stack minis.

    1. The movement rate is 5 inches per move. A unit could, potentially move 10" using a "top speed" order allowing it to move twice. Normally you can maneuver and fire, which is a 5" move and a shooting bout.

      There is a guy on the facebook page (the battlegroup page) who has created tons of scenarios from ASL and they are all there for download. He also posted a tutorial for his methodology in doing so in one of the "dispatches" magazines. Well worth your time to look it was very in depth and neat.