Monday, June 8, 2020

Battlegroup: NORTHAG First Play

Ken was over yesterday (yes you read that right) and we played a socially-distant first game of Battlegroup: NORTHAG outside on the patio table.  Readers of this blog will know we've been anticipating this book's publication since we first heard discussions of it 5 to 6 years ago.

The long peace is finally over.  The balloon has gone up and the Soviets are pouring into West Germany
WWIII is on!
Yesterday's game was 500 point, "platoon sized" game with yours truly taking the Soviets and Ken playing his Brits.  Ken purchased the PSC 10mm figures and vehicles and I have to say I'm very impressed and might even take the plunge  (I didn't have so much invested in 6mm and 15mm.)

The battlefield looking from east to west.  Ken would bring over some modern roads and German buildings and I'd take away these 15mm behemoths.
 I used my 10mm Pendraken forces purchased from Jack for his 1960s-era Wolverines campaign, so you could say my forces belonged to a Category II Warsaw Pact Division being comprised of T-62s, BTR 50s (Ken graciously allowed me use of his BTR 60s out of pity) and wheeled AAA.

Ken also brought over some excellent model railroad buildings which fit in perfectly on the table and really provided some great atmosphere.
BRDM skulking about in a farmer's field.
First off there is only 1 scenario in NORTHAG - the encounter.  The steps for developing the battle start out like reading a situational template (or SITEMP - my old S2 days creeping back on me!) on enemy forces from an old field manual.  There is the reconnaissance phase, followed by the arrival of the vanguard and then the main column.  Ken and I discussed the various advantages of investing in recce when building army lists and this turns out to be a fun and fascinating aspect to NORTHAG.
Approaching the store and another objective!
The commander wrestles with how much emphasis to place on reconnaissance.  Do you spend more in recon to outscout the enemy?  Potentially bag more objectives in the recce phase of the battle, securing them for follow on forces?  I can answer that question - having only purchased a single section of BRDM-2 scout cars (and it's a pity Ken brought his, because I wanted to use Jack's BTR-152 wheeled armored vehicles!).  I bag 3 objectives in the first 2 turns but Ken is able to take one back with a great shot from the Scorpion.  You really have good incentive to beef up your reconnaissance forces as it gives you the ability to seize and hold objectives early for follow on forces. 

vanguard!  Jack's T-62s coming onto the battlefield!

Burning BRDM2, falling prey to a lurking Scorpion.

Ken couldn't hit anything with his Strikers almost all afternoon!
  The company orders are neat, and also necessary, for the Warsaw Pact player.  For the cost of 4 orders you can have your company advance and fire, move forward at top speed, and combined with some other tricks, you can really push the Pact player's capabilities on the table.  I should add that there is an option to use 8 orders per turn as the WP player, or try your luck in rolling.  I used the 8 each turn.
Vanguard shows up.

As do the Chieftains....suddenly picking T-62s is starting to look like a regret!  Damn Cat II units!!!

T-62 company surges forward, per the plan.
 My plan is to use a series of timed 122mm artillery strikes and a SU-17 fitter strike at what I thought to be key terrain that would support a defender.  This worked out reasonably well except for almost driving through my own barrage, and a quick check with the folks from the FB group confirmed that I indeed should have driven through my own timed artillery strike... bad staffwork!

Passing the burning BRDM eager to get at, or past, those Chieftains!

Main column part I is the motor rifle company in BTRs..

The Brits see what's up and move to counter.  Ken overwatching this field while my T-62s move up to it.
 And then NATO has ak trick up their own sleeve.  A Harrier is inbound!  The pilot senses that the Soviets are all former Flames of War or Team Yankee players and is eager to drop bombs on their tightly packed formation.  As luck would have it, my ZSU doesn't show up until next turn...

Harrier inbound!

 Some T-62s reach the apple orchard and the next objective and manage to pin the massive British tank.

My trusty ZSU, or should I say, ZPU or just ZU shows up!  Truck mounted!  But I'm using the stats for the ZSU...

The battlefield belongs to these guys.  The British didn't lose a single tank all game

THe Soviets are able to push into NATO's half of No Man's Land, but still have no penetrated into the NATO assembly area.

A lucky T-62 shot takes out a 432 at range.  We find out what happens to transported infantry.
 PS I love the explanations in the rules where some were lacking in the Battlegroup WW2 books.  huge improvement and thank you for listening.

Pushing into, or rather dying, at the apple orchard.
 The Soviets have another trick up their sleeve.  I timed an SU17 Fitter strike at the eastern house, i called it the Gasthaus, but it messes and lands....smack dab in teh middle of the British assembly area!  Oh yeah!  12 medium bombs about to ruin NATO's day.  Or so I thought...

Jack's painted Fitter inbound!

And we only manage to pin 1 single team for the cost of 40 points!!!!
 NATO recovers from the airstrike and is back on their feet.  Ken realizes I also have the "breakthrough" special rule purchased and he repositions his Chieftains to exert maximum payback to Ivan for attempting to exit the table.

The Apple Orchard and western farmer's fields turn into a killing ground for Pact armor and I desperately need to field T-64s next game!
 So the battle of the tanks has seemingly ended with only 3 T-62s reamining on the table however since unfortauntely neither Ken nor I printed out the chits, we're using the WW2 chits in which case we had to substitute for special rules.  We also realized this prolonged the game considerably due to the higher number of lower numbers than NORTHAG (it's not a 1 for 1 swap).

My plan is to dismount the infantry and sweep them on the right flank until they overrun the cornfield and the British assembly area.  It's tough coordinating all of them and we unfortunately have to call the game.  So while the armored fight wraps up, the infantry fight is just getting started and both Ken and I are at 50% of our respective breakpoints (59 for the Soviets and 37 for NATO in this game).

How do I keep these conscripts from looting everything?

Soviet Soldiers standing in awe of western decadence outside a well stocked country store.

setting sun on burning Pact armor!  Can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

So that's it!  We started at 1pm and had to wrap up at about 5pm but it was a great game and Ken and I picked up pretty quickly.  (we also had to unlearn some Battlegroup World War II rules but that's fine - this game feels like an improvement over an already great system.  I like the fireteam concept as it allows for bigger battles).

Ken and I had some questions about multiple MGs in tanks (why would you ever use a lower ROF mg against infantry), timed strikes (can you cancel a timed arty strike), and recce but Ken has put them to the facebook page's "team of experts" who set us right.

This game proved to be an excellent and well thought out game which evokes the right "feel" for a Cold War gone Hot battlefield.  This is decidedly not "World War 2 Battlegroup with bigger tanks" - it is a new game unto itself and presents tons of new challenges for gamers.  I think the most important challenge is to force you, the gamer, to think like your historical counterpart by having a plan, executing, and then figuring out how to adapt that plan on the fly.  I can think of no greater compliment for a set of wargame rules than that.

Hopefully we don't have to wait another 5 years for CENTAG!  You see I've got all these Americans, and West Germans...

This breathes new life into the WWIII campaign I was supposed to probably have wrapped up by now!


  1. A great time. It was nice to play a wargame Above ground as we usually play in each other’s basement gaming rooms! Looking forward to many more games with NorthAG. There is some creative thinking on display with these rules.

    1. Yes it was a great time I am really looking forward to more games with NORTHAG! They really required a thoughtful plan.

  2. Wow - awesome action guys.
    I know you had effectively written this yourself years ago Steve in respect of Battlegroup rules, so must be a joy for you to finally see this.
    I got a copy myself to use with 1/200 Skytrex that I purchased from the guys a few months ago (so many scales, so little time).
    Now, I have a table set up at present, and you've convinced me to try Northag first.
    Fantastic stuff - and the rules look great.
    (And yes I wanted CENTAG first too dammit! Grrr)

    1. Cheers, Darren. I would say the version I came up with was really just "WW2 Battlegroup with better tanks." I also felt the combination of 10mm units was almost perfect so you should find your 1/200 stuff fits really well on the table.

      Do yourself a favor and try it out I think you will like it. There are very subtle nuances in the game like if you win the dice off or out scout your opponent, you decide where to make your starting edge/corner. If you're the pact player and you've purchased the "breakthrough" rule, you'll force a NATO chit draw when you exit units off of the enemy's deployment area. Playing the long way down the table would make it twice as hard to be able to do that so it's in your advantage to play the width. Things like that in the game that force you to plan out your attack and incorporate your Army's strengths and mitigate its weaknesses. You have to think like a commander. I really appreciate that. It's not "just another WW3 game" here.

      Re CENTAG - I get it - home team first. I just hope I dont have to wait 5 years for CENTAG to come out!!

  3. Very nice Steve. Hear here for using out-dated trash tanks. They're a lot more fun, in a masochistic way. Big fan of 54s, 55s, 62s and ol' Type 59.

    Some thought must be given to that WWIII campaign that was floated a few months ago.

    1. Thanks Ski! Hey I love the look of those trash tanks. I did sort of regret it as the Chieftain's gun was slicing through my frontal armor with frightening ease but I knew what I was getting into! They looked damn cool on the table and I almost feel like I should have kept the BTR50s on th table as well!

      Yep, regarding that campaign I had the map done and the commanders chosen. So I need to get cracking!

  4. Nice looking game Steve and interesting that it is ‘not’ Battlegroup! How did you find the new material that the PSC are using for their infantry and vehicles. I watched an unboxing video a few days ago and there seemed to be a few wayward gun barrels that the reviewer thought would need to be corrected (Straightened) with hot water.

    1. Cheers, Norm! My body Ken was part of the pre order and so got "in on the ground floor" so to speak. Sadly my rules have not even arrived yet. I noticed one if Ken's Chieftain minis was a bit bent but otherwise they were beautiful miniatures.

      There were some very unique and novel ideas in these rules that make them a bit different from regular battlegroup. Lots of fun, too. Anyone who is interested in Cold War rules should own NORTHAG.

    2. Norm, the miniatures are generally good and nicely detailed. Some of the barrels are not perfectly straight. I haven’t yet tried to straighten them so can’t say how that will work. The material they’re made of takes paint very well.

  5. Neat looking game, Steve! Loved your jab at other rulesets for packing 'em in too densely. One precise artillery barrage cures most of that malady!

    1. Thanks, Jonathan. I, too, am guilty of bunching up my miniatures from time to time but even when I play FOW or TY i try to space my units appropriately. It's also one of the reasons I like to play FOW and TY in 6mm as the spacing looks better.

  6. Thanks for the write up. I got my copy recently and I look forward to giving it a try. Turns out that my collection of Cold War models is missing a British army and any T-62s for my Soviets. I guess I get to order new models for the new game.

    1. No problem Sean. While there are lots of "rules reviews" out there I didnt find many battle reports or AARs of NORTHAG yet so I decided to post one. We loved the game and will play more.

      You could always substitute models? I didnt want to say that given the group on the FB page, but there's no harm in calling a T64 a T62 etc. I have 60 odd T55s that will be doing double duty as T62s if we ever do a huge regimental attack! So if it makes you hally, go for it.

    2. I do plan to use my T55s as stand in for some of the equipment used in this game. Not a huge deal to me. However, I will be using my US models as proxies for their British counterparts. That is a slightly larger issue, but at least I'll be able to get some games in while I wait for the appropriate models to arrive and for me to paint them.

    3. Sean that's a great idea. Just give it similar stats as a Chieftain and your M113s the same stats as a 432. There is a similar discussion going on over on the FB page at the moment but there are too many "experts" over there for me to want to jump in with suggestions. I'd prefer to just sit back and watch the "theoretical combat experience" man-splaining going on amongst them.

    4. I've been watching the "discussion" as well. I agree; I'll do my thing and leave them to hash out what is right and wrong.

  7. Hi. I found my way over here from Norms blog. Since we all played in the PBEM game I thought I would check out some of the other players blogs. Yours is great! I’m having a nice look around.
    Happy to see someone doing some face to face gaming. The figures and terrain look great. 😀

    1. Thank you, Stew! Much appreciated! This was my first F2F game since the Cold Wars convention in mid March. Welcome to the blog!

  8. Excellent report guys , thanks

  9. oh excellent article, i really enjoyed to read it
    cant wait till i will have the pleasure of playin 6mm Northag

    1. Glad you enjoyed! I liked the game in 6mm. 10mm is also alot of fun. I would like to try the game in 15mm since I have a bunch of 15mm stuff.