Saturday, May 18, 2019

BATTLEGROUP: MODERN Meeting Engagement at Ziegenhain REDUX

Ken and Dave were over today for a playtest game of Richard C's modern Battlegroup variant (don't dare call it NORTHAG - because it's not!) convention game featuring a Soviet breakthrough at Ziegenhain in the Federal Republic of Germany during World War III circa 1984. 

The game units were roughly the same as the last game [click] except with expanded reconnaissance forces.  We were originally going to try and run this at Historicon this year, however with my vacillation and hectic work schedule, not to mention lessons learned from these last x 2 games, we felt more playtesting is crucial and are putting it off until Fall In.

Ziegenhain approach from the Soviet breakthrough at Schwarzenborn
Dave and I were originally going to feature 2 separate companies, although that game would have taken up close to 8 hours to finish and we were looking for feedback on the concept anyways, so we kept the same forces as the last game, and added enhanced recce elements.  More on that later.

We played the Recce Screen scenario from the Overlord book.  It worked well enough for our purposes today but we may design our own scenario for a Cold War hasty attack/hasty defense situation like this would be.

Dave commanded the Bundeswehr forces.
 Both sides had a BR of 35.  Ken commanded the Soviets who fielded a company of T-62 tanks, a platoon of mechanized infantry in BMP-1s, and a recon platoon of 3 x BRDM-2s, and a BMP-1 with dismounts.  Dave had a company-team of 2 x Leopard I platoons, a mechanized infantry platoon in Marders, and a recce platoon consisting of a Fuchs with dismounted patrol, a Jaguar, and 2 x Spahpanzer Luchs armored recon vehicles.  There is off-board artillery in the form of 3 x Self Propelled howitzers for both sides.  M109 and 2S1s.

Ken has the first move.  There will only be 1 x turn for the recon fight.  Then reinforcements will start to march onto the table.  Ken has the initiative and immediately gains the upper hand with high rolls.
Dave's Luchs pinned pinned by 14.5mm fire from a nearby BRDM-2
 Ken fans out his recce to screen the tank company on its approach march.  He also places his FO BRDM in a convenient location to spot on an enemy high speed avenue of approach.  In this game, the artillery was used to good effect by the Soviets, slamming down onto the West Germans each turn.

 It's very important to note that all trees, West Germans, buildings, and the minor road were made by Dave.  He did an outstanding job!
Dave's excellent West German infantry.  I love his basing style.
 Dave's infantry dismounts seize an objective (white bead) closest to his baseline at the outskirts of Ziegenhain and Ken draws a chit.

Recce elements moving up to contact!
Dave's rolling is uncharacteristically bad and 1's and 2's are his best friends today.  He does, however get a bunch of tanks right when he needs them as Ken's T-62s are pouring onto the battlefield.

Leo Is take up firing positions on the Autobahn and fire at T-62s in the distance.  We played in inches this time.

T-62s churning their way towards the Rhine.
 Ken claims the central objective for the Soviets and the objective on the autobahn closest to his baseline.  The majority of his forces go down the autobahn approach towards Ziegenhain, not the more narrow, constricted approach that I chose last game.  Dave moves up his reinforcements as soon as they get on the table, but Ken's rolling (and Dave's horrible rolling) start knocking out Leo's each turn.  Adding insult to injury, Ken starts lobbing 73mm shells at the Luchs from his BMP-1!

Recon team seizing the central objective

Ken nicknamed the central corridor "the valley of tears" to which Dave correct him - "the entire table is the valley of tears!"

Ken's T-62s take up firing positions and screen for their comrades who are still rolling up to the fight

This Luchs is still pinned on the local road.  He would eventually score a kill against the BRDM in the treeline.  They had been trading shots the entire game.

Ken dismounts his infantry in the central woods on the objective.  Dave will have to winkle him out if he wants to seize the position.

All of the Soviets were painted by me.

Staring down the autobahn from Ziegenhain.  I LOVE these buildings!  Dave did a great job on them.

The tank fight on the Autobahn is brutal as Ken's armor starts entering, Dave has Leopards in position to fire on them but he's not getting any hits!  Ken with the inferior T-62s is getting more hits.

Revenge!  Dave KO's the BRDM in the treeline that pinned his Luchs.

Recon elements move forward in an attempt to nip at Ken's flank.

Panzers los!  T-62s in the distance.

Dave's mech platoon shows up.  His best option is to fall back and garrison Ziegenhain.  He is losing the tank-knife fight on the autobahn right now and has only 2 x Leo's that are fully mission capable at this point!

tracking ATGM ammo - 2 shots which failed to hit anything.
The last turn of the game, both Ken and Dave pull aircraft chits but it's all over anyways.  Dave pulled a "3" which put him over the edge and his forces pull out of Ziegenhain.

German attack helicopter!  Looks amazing!  

Burning Leo I's clog the road to Ziegenhain.  The Soviets are going to walk right through the front door.

A lone T-62 burns on one of the objectives.

Cold War goodness!

Soviet infantry in the central woods hustling back to their carrier to move into Ziegenhain!

Latest Observations and things on the To-Do List
Played in inches this time.  In my opinion it sped the game up because the table became smaller and the Soviets and Germans closed much more quickly than last game.  This is a "sustain" for the next time.

Observation and line of sight rules need to be tightened up if we're to run at a convention.  We discussed making the edge of the woods the limit for firing and being fired at/observed within the woods.

Discussed a scenario that is more of a hasty attack/defense scenario with more forces already on the table.  This would speed things up.

Discussed going back to "platoon scale" game (rolling 2D6 for orders) since rolling 3D6 essentially enabled us to do whatever we wanted with all of our forces.  I think Ken only had to choose which forces not to give orders to on 2 occasions.

Need to become more familiar with the helicopter / aircraft / SAM rules.

Dave liked the idea of West German units starting pinned due to the pre assault bombardment.  There are existing rules for this in the Battlegroup Kursk rulebook.

We also discussed structuring the reinforcement arrivals to ensure infantry get into the fight quicker.  Ken observed that the majority of Battlegroup games are decided before the infantry get up to the fight.  We discussed possible mandating in a convention which units would arrive next.  In this manner we will be able to help move the infantry into contact more quickly.

All in all, a very fun game and perfect for a Saturday afternoon.  I am really looking forward to playtesting again.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Battle of Montgomery 1644 - For King & Parliament ECW

So after a dearth of gaming for me, Ken invited Alex and I over a game of For King & Parliament [click] at his house today with his outstanding 28mm figures (watch that pike, sir!  Ouch!).  This is the English Civil War version of the popular "To the Strongest" ancients rules on a gridded table. [click]  The battle fought was the Battle of Montgomery, 1644 [click].  I played the Royalists, and Alex played Parliament.

We played for approximately 3.5 hours when a decision in the battle was reached.  The game was very much fun and I really enjoyed playing on a gridded surface.  The reader will note from the pictures that you don't even notice the grids and it was refreshing not to have to measure or haggle over distances.  I think the grids are liberating, actually, especially in a game with defensive-type fire like this.  The grid really eases play and speeds things up.  I wonder how playing with a D10 instead of the cards would be.

My hard-charging brigade of Lancashire Horse - note how the grids are not really prominent!  I love the gaming mat!

Lord Byron (not that one, Steve, the other one).
 Brian's advice the last time we played this was "Hammer and Tongs" so that's how I played this time.  I rushed in with my Cavalry and was able to knock out a unit of enemy horse!  Knocking out units is not very easy and usually takes a concerted effort and some lucky cards.

Lord Byron would have multiple units shot out from under him, and get wounded, but remained until the end of the game.
 My plan is to advance my infantry in a general line and advance upon the hill, but unfortunately I left "the English Brigade" behind and my large infantry Brigade advanced sans the English Brigade on their right flank.

Alex plotting his next move.

Top of Turn 2.  My infantry (center-left) starting to move forward - 2 Regiments of the English Brigade are still in the rear with the gear.  Not smart considering they're my only veteran troops.
The first few turns seem to be going well but neither side is scoring any impressive kills, yet.  Alex needed to collect 14 victory medals to win.  I needed a similar number.  My plan is to continue to get the infantry up and online as quickly as I can so they can start fighting.  My cavalry plan kind of fell apart as I used up too much "dash"and all of my Cavalry's pistol shots trying to kill Alex's on-table Cavalry.  The pursuit rules when Cavalry destroy a unit are also tough on your Cavalry as you will need to rally them or lose them for a turn or 2.  

Alex was on-track to also receive reinforcing Cavalry which I was hoping to be prepared for.  Also, I didn't account for my forlorn hopes (skirmishers) in my plan and definitely did not use them properly.

My infantry advancing - the line should be 5 units long, not 3 but oh well!  The Cavalry battle is swirling on the right.
 I send one of my "blown" Cavalry regiments into the flank of one of Alex's infantry regiments and they do considerable damage to them which is one of my last successful efforts of the battle.

Flank attacks are rough!
 Right now my plan is starting to come together and the infantry come to grips!  I shoot first and am completely underwhelmed by the shooting.  It's apparent that while shooting has its uses, melee is probably more lethal.

Parliamentary troops standing! 
Can you spot the cross-hair that marks the corner?  

The grinding, slogging infantry fight on the left is going my way until Alex smartly pulls his troops back further up the hill and rallies off some of his hits, something I did not do.  This helped remarkably and gave Alex much more staying power as some of his units were on the ropes!  A cunning trap which I am too happy to walk into!  Alex makes good use of shooting and is slowly causing hits on my best infantry units.  Alex's coup de grace is probably the destruction of one of my veteran Regiments through shooting.  

An enemy forlorn hope is holding back the left-most regiment while I break up the line and move my 2 other infantry regiments into the hole created by Alex pulling back.

A forlorn hope is "guarding" my flank.
 Alex brings on a reinforcing Cavalry brigade and vaporizes my remaining cavalry, who are caught moving back to the safety of my lines.  It's a bloodbath with 3 units attacking them in their flank/rear.

We have lost the battle!
 Alex has a great turn of shooting and that, combined with over-running my forlorn hope, wins the fight by gaining enough victory medals!  It's turn 5 or 6 I think, and about 4:15pm.  Ken and I started around 12:45pm.  Not bad.  The game moves along at a good pace and you get the hang of things pretty quickly.  I wouldn't say the rules are simple, but they are very straightforward and you get the hang of everything in a couple turns.  Ken did a great job of manning the rules and explaining things as they came up.

A wounded Lord Byron at battle's end!
I am very excited to play the ancients version, To the Strongest and possible even get my Ancients re-based on single bases.  The rules seem like they would be great for solo play as well and that's a big plus for me.  I'd love to see other, fan-produced versions that might cover other eras.  I also think these would be good for mass-battle fantasy as well.

Thanks to Ken for hosting a very enjoyable Saturday afternoon game playing in an era I have never played before!  

Make sure you tune in next week when we play more Battle of Ziegenhain using Richard C's modern Battlegroup.

PS if you're interested in the mat, it's from the "Big Red Bat shop" here [click].