Tuesday 19 June 2012

The Battle of the Via Dolorosa

Christian and I had been trying to get together for sometime to have a follow on battle from our last outing, 'The Battle of San Serotonin'. Given that his armoured battlegroup had not been ideally suited to winkling out dug-in and resolute Italian defenders, I suggested that we try the Pursuit scenario from the rulebook. This would be much more suited to said battlegroup as well as reflecting the continual flanking attacks made towards the end of the Sicilian campaign by the American forces.

Scenario Details
Despite the successful defense of San Serotonin by elements of the 28th Aosta Infantry Division, Allied attacks on other units on their flanks have been successful. As a result, the Axis forces are now having to perform a fighting withdrawl along the Via Dolorosa to try and avoid becoming encircled by the advancing Allies.

Scenario 7: Pursuit
Attacker: 3,000 pts
Defender: 2,000 pts

Scenario Details:
  • As per the rulebook p39.
  • The rugged and mountainous foothills are inaccessible to all tanks, half-tracks and wheeled vehicles (this reflects the problems the Allies had through out the Sicily campaign).
  • All rivers are fordable at any point to troops on foot, but count the edges as linear terrain.

Table Set Up 
The Northern end of the table featured hilly and wooded country, representing the foothills of a mountainous area. In the middle were a couple of rocky spurs with a river flowing past towards the fertile areas at the Southern end of the table.
Having played this scenario before, I decided that we would play it down the length of the table rather than across the width. From experience the latter way can make it too easy for the Defender to get off the table and consequently harder for the Attacker to gain a victory. Hopefully this way wold give both sides an even chance, but only time would tell.
The Americans decided to deploy their main force at the Northern end of the table, with a flanking force coming in from the Eastern edge. The Italians deployed two battalions of infantry with support, one on each rocky spur, with a reserve of Semovente assault guns near to the Eastern spur.

The view of the Via Dolorosa road and battlefield.

The Eastern spur with dug-in troops.

The Western spur with American forces to the North.

Turn 1
The main American forces deployed into two groups, on their right flank and in the centre. Both advanced cautiously towards the Italians on the Western spur. The Flanking force chose not to deploy on this turn.
For the Italians, some mortar fire caused a few hits on the US half-tracks, whilst some troops started to retire Southwards on the left flank and in the centre. On the right, some troops re-deployed to face the threat to this flank from the Americans.

The Italian withdrawl begins.

The Americans start their advance.

Turn 1 1/2
As my gaming chums know, our Son Thomas likes to put in an appearance with his Daleks to help brew up a few tanks. In typical Dalek fashion he doesn't take sides, but happily exterminates anything in his way. This game we had some new arrivals in the form of the Judoon and their spaceships. So a few pics to show the forces arrayed against both the Americans and Italians.

If only the Italians had troops like these.

A new Italian wonder weapon?

Turn 2
The American flanking force fails to show up on time, but the amoured infantry in their half-tracks carry on their advance towards the Western spur. The US FAO calls in artillery firein support of the advance from offboard Priests, only to see the Italians make their saves from being dug-in. Possibly a little disheartened by this, the CO fails his command roll.
Maybe taking their cue from the US Co, the Italian commands were less than satisfactory. The one highlight was a mortar hitting a half-track, brewing it up with its infantry still on board. Was this to be a sign of things to come and a repeat of San Serotonin?

The US forces advance as the Italians try to escape.

The effect of Italian mortar fire.

Turn 3
The Americans started with their FAO calling in an artillery strike on the Western spur, which for the Italians was rather inconvenient in that it suppressed their FAO. Following the strike the armoured infantry continued their slow but steady advance. The Shermans in the centre opened up on a dug-in 45mm ATG after opportunity fire had failed to have any effect. The flanking force arrived and quickly brewed up a Semovente after their own opportunity fire had been ineffective. 

For the Italians, another rather poor turn of failed command rolls and blunders. Considering the position they were in, it could have been better.

The American flanking force make their presence felt.

The Semoventes are no match for the Shermans.

The attack on the Western spur develops.

Turn 4
With the American FAO failing, the right flank force blunders, yet manages to move towards the foot of the Western spur. The duel between the Shermans and the dug-in ATG continued, with the latter getting the better of the Shermans, managing to suppress one. Shades of San Serotonin again? Despite the solid resistance of the Italian centre, the right flank is comprehensively attacked by Shermans and Stuarts, with the former seeing of the last Semovente and the latter engaging the retreating infantry, cutting off their escape route.

The Italians seem a bit confused as to what to do, as the left flank continues in its attempt at an orderely withdrawl, albeit at a rather leisurely pace. The dug-in AT guns maintain their fire on the American Shermans, with the suppressed one falling back into the other two, thereby supppressing them. A small glimmer of light in the gathering storm that is threatening to engulf them, no more so than on the right flank.

The American armour sweeps round the rear of the Italians.

US armour cuts of the retreat.

The glimmer of light from ATG fire.

Turn 5
The American Stuarts and Shermans of the flank force flex their muscles and destroy 3 infantry units, then take up commanding positions to threaten the line of retreat. On the right flank, the armoured infantry dismount in preperation to assault the Western spur.

Finally the Italian FAO comes good, calling down a barrage on the armoured infantry, destroying 1 stand and suppressing loads of others. The ATGs continue their sterling work, destroying one Sherman and forcing another back. At least a brief respite from the inevitable attacks that are bound to come.

The left flank holds whilst the right is turned.

The Italian artillery comes good...

... as do the ATGs.

Turn 6
The expected attack on the Western spur materialises, with the Italian FAO somehow surviving being overrun. With the top of the spur in American hands, the Italian positions on the left flank look untenable. With the centre suppressed, the flanking force moved to better positions to further cut off the line of retreat.

With the Italians being threatened on all sides, there was little else to do but seek shelter.

Things look bleak for the Italians.

The Americans take control of the Western spur.

Even the Gods can't help the Italians.


Turn 7
The Western spur falls further under American control as assaults fire from the dominating heights whittle down the Italian defenders. In the centre the remaining Shermans advance, only to blunder into a hidden minefield, leaving them suppressed, despite the ATGs adding their fire to the stricken tanks.

Things go from bad to worse for the Italians as all their HQs fail their command rolls. In a last desperate act, the CO attempts to get the ATGs to fire on the Shermans, only to roll a double 1! (At this point Chris kindly applauded my efforts after a few rounds of below par die rolling). Unfortunately this was a case of too little too late to affect the final outcome, despite destroying one Sherman.

The final act.

The minefield and its effects.

Turn 8
With the American troops in such commanding positions, I conceded the game, as Chris had already achieved a minor victory and would certainly achieve a major one with two turns to go.

Once again another enjoyable game of BKCII, despite the drubbing my Italians received this time.  Chris and his Americans certainly got their revenge after San Serotonin! This time Chris stuck to his plan and it certainly paid off. His Pattonesque flanking force was the real battle winner, as my Italians simply had no answer to this show of armoured force. As Chris said, it was unusual to see his Shermans and Stuarts as the 'big boys' on the battlefield, something that is certainly rare in most games. So well done to Chris for a well thought out and executed plan and a good game as always.

Thursday 7 June 2012

3rd Battle of Kharkov

A month or so ago, Craig and I decided that it was high time that we got out our 15mm battlegroups for a game of BKCII. I remembered that the Flames of War website had had some interesting articles some years back centred around the 3rd Battle for Kharkov. Reading through several of the scenarios, we settled upon the following one as a good basis for converting to BKCII.

During March 11th Das Reich’s Kampfgruppe Harmel advanced from the West and fought it’s way along the Poltava road to Kharkov. At the suburb of Zalyutino they were halted by an anti-tank ditch well covered by Soviet fire. On the night of March 11/12 Harmel sent a detachment of Pioneers over the ditch and took the Soviet positions on the other side clearing the way for the ditch to be bridged and the advance to continue.

SS Das Reich
Kampfgruppe Harmel: (SS-Obersturmbannf├╝hrer Heinz Harmel)
I. and III. Battalions SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment "Deutschland"
III. Battalion SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment "Der F├╝hrer"
SS Pioneer Battalion 2
SS Artillery Regiment 2 (less on battery)
SS FlaK Abteilung 2
1 battery of SS Sturmgeschutz Abteilung 2
SS Panzer Regiment 2 (Only a few tanks still running)
1. Kompanie Panzer Abteilung Totenkopf (on loan from SS Totenkopf Division)

A brief cold snap has frozen the ground again before the Spring thaw fully sets in, allowing the SS Das Reich to continue its advance towards Kharkov. It is imperative that the Division reaches Kharkov before the advance flounders in a muddy quagmire. Therefore the objective for Das Reich is to take control of the village as quickly as possible and advance on towards Kharkov.
Scenario 5: Breakthrough Attack.
The scenario details are as per the rulebook with the following special rules:
  • The attack starts at night, with the first 3 turns as night, then 2 turns of dawn, followed by full daylight thereafter.
  • Night = -2 CV and visibility to 10cm.
  • Dawn = -1 CV and visibility to 50cm.
  • Soviet defender only has minimal defences in the form of an anti-tank ditch or minefield.
  • Use Hidden deployment as per CWC.
  • Use the Random Points modifier from BKCI, also available on the BKC site.
  • Use auto-suppression from artillery.
  • Use building saves as per page 35 of the rulebook.
  • Forces to be taken from the Early Eastern Front lists. The German player to use the Kampfgruppe Harmel list above as a guide.
Once again the passage of time has slightly blurred the actual forces involved, the deployment of said forces etc. So broadly speaking, the Soviets deployed an infantry battalion within the village and some units in the wood on the left flank, with a mobile reserve of a couple of T-34s. The German forces broadly followed Kampfgruppe Harmel as outlined above.

How the game played out.
As per the Operation Barbarossa game in the previous post, the passage of time has erased quite a few of the details of the game. So once again I'm going to have to add a few captions to the pics to give an idea of how the game went. 

The village of Zalyutino looking North.

The anit-tank ditch across the Kharkov road.

The view of Chekhov's Cherry orchard from the German point of view.

The Soviets deploy with the T-34s in reserve.

German forces appear on the Soviet left flank.

Artillery fire suppresses the Soviet CO.

German infantry gun fire suppresses Soviet units.

German forces press the centre and right flank.

German forces press on all sides.

Checkhov's cherry orchard full of German engineers.

T-34s on the move to threaten German left flank.

German vehicles under threat from Soviet armour.

German infantry assault the Soviet right flank.

The German assault goes in in the cherry orchard.

The assault fails and to great cost for the Germans!

German forces press the Soviet centre and right flank.

T-34s try to turn the German flank as the Soviet right flank buckles.

German forces have turned the Soviet right flank.

Soviet forces forced to withdraw under German pressure.

German assault guns move to counter Soviet armour threat.

German pressure is maintained on the Soviet right flank.

T-34s under pressure from sustained German fire.

Thoughts on the Game.
Once again it was a case of some distinctly poor command and control by the Soviets for much of the game. In the first 5 turns, all of the command units failed their rolls! With such a bad start, combined with a lot units being suppressed by German artillery fire, it was going to be a tough ask to rescue the situation.
In contrast the German forces bided their time and just kept up the pressure on the Soviet right flank until it cracked, thereby allowing them to gain a foot hold in the village. With the flank turned, it was just a matter of time before the village and road to Kharkov was in German hands. I therefore conceded on Turn 10 in the face of overwhelming force.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Barbarossa 1941

I came across the following map whilst browsing the excellent warandgame website, a bit of a habit when things are quiet at work. With such a good source of Soviet border fortifications at the time of Operation Barbarossa, I was keen to use this as a basis for a game of Blitzkreig Commander. 

I suggested to Keith, one of my regular gaming chums, that we should give this a try and he was happy to give this a go and duly brought along his lovely 15mm early War Germans to do battle with my Soviets. As a basis for the game, I used the standard 'Breakthrough Attack' from the rulebook, with the Germans having 2,500 pts against my Soviets' 1,250 pts.

Unfortunately this game was fought quite a few months ago so a lot of the details are a little vague to say the least! A very busy period at work prevented me from doing the write up fairly quickly after the event. Fortunately a few notes remain to give me an idea of the forces used and the reasoning behind the table layout. So broadly speaking the Soviets had:

1 x CO
2 x HQs
9 x Conscripts (to represent fortress troops)
4 x MGs
2 x 45mm ATGs
1 x 81mm Mortar
2 x 76mm Infantry Guns
1 x T-26
2 x Two Storey Bunkers
2 x Pill Boxes
1 x AFV Pit
2 x Gun Pits
2 x Trenches (to represent construction shells)

General Layout and Deployment
I tried to be faithful to the map within the restrictions of a 6'x4' table. Some items of the defences were removed due to lack of space as well as keeping within the general points cost for fortifications. The same was true of the troop deployments and support weapons. I used Google Maps to find out the names of the villages shown on the map and the general look of the terrain, but unfortunately I have lost these!

So with the Soviets firmly esconced within their fortifications, Keith chose to deploy his Germans firmly on his right flank, thereby effectively isolating the Soviet right flank defences from the game. Some may say that this was an underhand ploy by the Boche a la the Maginot Line, but I would have done exactly the same thing! 

 "You only have to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down."
As readers of my Blog know, I would normally go into a fairly detailed AAR at this stage. However, the game was rather one sided to say the least, with it effectively being over by Turn 3, but in the end I conceded by Turn 4. To sum up:

  • The Germans just swept over the Russians in a superb display of combined arms operations. The Soviets had no counter to this show of force.
  • The Soviet command and control was wanting to say the least. 
  • Using a historical deployment showed how easy it was for the Germans to isolate each Soviet strongpoint and neutralise it, and thereafter to sweep on past unmolested.
So I have just included pics from the game with some appropriate captions.

Soviet defences in and around the village.

The Germans move off from their jumping off points.

Panzers and Infantry in close support.

The Soviet right flank looks on helplessly.

German Panzers at the vanguard of the advance.

Soviet gun pit suppressed by artillery fire.

Soviet infantry redeploy to face the German threat.

The threat to the Soviet left flank is obvious.

German Panzers stream past a Soviet pillbox.

The German forces in full flow.

Too little too late for the Soviets.

By passing the village and strongpoints.

Wide open spaces beckon.

A German traffic jam.

Auf Wiedershen!

A German stroll in the park.

The Soviet 'autobahn' beckons.

General Thoughts
Using the map for the basis of the game was fun and very interesting, especially with the research involved with regards Soviet fortifications troops. The downside was that although the game was 'historically accurate', if that can ever be said to be the case, it did make it too one sided as a 'game'. With both agreed that with a few tweaks to the Soviet deployment, the game would have been a more even affair and a challenge to both sides. Well we live and learn as they say, and I will use this experience for future 'historical' games.