Saturday 25 May 2019

Push on to Porrazitto - Game 4 of an operation Husky Campaign

The British, having broken through the Italian defences, are pushing on quickly towards Porrazitto, which lies not far from the objective of Catania. The Italians have rushed some troops into the area, this time supported by advanced elements of the German 1st Fallschimjager heavy weapons battalion. They have not had time to prepare any defences nor have any artillery support available.

Essentially we have the same British force as the last game, namely an infantry Battalion with some armoured support and off table artillery and air support. 

For the Axis, we have a reduced strength Italian Infantry Battalion, but importantly supported by the Fallschirmjager and their mortars and machine guns.

Scenario Details
This is pretty much a straight forward Scenario 6: Exploitation scenario. The only thing to note is that the terrain to the South East of the bottom road and stream is classed as Difficult Terrain, thus incurring a -1CV to command rolls. The rocky outcrop is impassable to all vehicles and AFVs.

The Axis troops focussed on holding the two small BUAs, with troops also on the right flank to try and prevent flank attacks. Importantly the Fallschirmjager posted an MG unit on the rocky outcrop to give commanding views of most of the table, which allowed them to sport for the mortar units.

Given the tricky terrain on their right flank, the British deployed mainy in the centre and on their left flank.

An overview of the table.

The Falschirmjager MG unit with its commanding views.

The Axis centre and right flank.

The Axis left flank.

Turn 1
The British got off to a bad start, with a Blunder on their first command roll, which resulted in the loss of an MG unit even before they'd arrived on the table! The armour then failed to show up, but at least the right flank arrived and advanced as far as they could. The FAO, FAC and Recce all arrived at the end of the Turn.

In response, the Axis right flank pushed forward to counter the threat of the British FAO or FAC advancing too far ahead and exposing themselves to Close Assault. The Axis left flank then came into play (CV9) and succeeded in calling down 4 turns of mortar fire on the exposed British infantry, resulting in the loss of 2 Infantry units, 1 MG unit and 3 other units suppressed! Well that's what happens when you have good troops ably supported. I did feel somewhat embarrassed as Dave's first Turn was about as bad as it can get.

The end of Turn 1.

The results of the Axis mortar fire; not pretty.

The Axis right flank pushes forward.

The Fallschirmjager MG unit still has a great view of the enemy.

Turn 2
The British FAC managed to call in his Air Support, with the Hurricane really taking it to 'Jerry', with 4 unit suppressed as a result of his strafing. The left flank and armour both arrived, with a Sherman being suppressed by Op Fire.

Once again the mortars caused a loss of another infantry unit, with others still being suppressed. The Axis ATGs duelled with the Shermans, with them taking a hit apiece. The Axis appeared to be having the better of the opening Turns, in no small part due to the Fallschirmjager mortars.

The Hurricane's strafing run.

The end of Turn 2.

The British armour taking cover behind a wall as they exchange fire with the ATGs.

The British right flank once again receives unwelcome attention from the Boche.

Turn 3
The FAC once again manages to call in his Air support, only to see it driven off by AA fire. The FAO does better, with his artillery suppressing 4 units. It could have been worse, but the saves from the stone buildings in the BUA really helped the Axis troops. The British left flank played a blinder and made 3 moves, including a Double 1. This could potentially Turn the game in their favour. Unfortunately the Shermans failed their command roll and the CO couldn't get through either.

The Axis had a bad Turn, as the Fallschirmjager failed their command roll. the right flank then Blundered, leaving the CI at -2CV for this Turn and the next. Unsurpisingly he was unable to command the mortars. Could this be the turning point?
The end of Turn 3.

The FAO's artillery failed to cause any suppression.

The British left flank has pushed up and is threatening the Axis troops in the orchard.

Turn 4
A quiet Turn for the British, as their right flank manages to advance one move, being careful of the waiting Axis troops in and around the BUA. The FAC called in the Hurricane, but this deviated so much that it strafed open country. The FAO had better luck, with the artillery strike destroying an MG unit. The left flank failed its command roll, but the CO managed to get through and they close assaulted the Axis troops in the orchard, seeing them off after two turns of Close Assault. 

The Axis right flank openend up on the Sherman, which managed to make its save, otherwise it was a gonner. In response, the British armour destroyed the offending ATG. The Fallcshirmjager HQ made his command roll, which was a Double 1. this lead to the mortars once again raining down death and destruction, with 4 Infantry units gone and the 6pdr ATG suppressed. The tide had once again turned in favour of the Axis.
The end of Turn 4.

A knocked out Sherman can be seen smoking in the distance.

The British armour stuck in front of Porrazitto and lacking infantry support.

The Axis troops still firmly in control of Porrazitto.

Turn 5
With the right flank gone, it was left to the British left flank to prosecute the attack, which was becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. As they advanced, the armour attempted to retreat, only to see another Sherman knocked out. The FAC failed to get through but the FAO and his artillery managed to destroy the Axis Pak 40. However, the British had reached their breakpoint and with no realistic opportunity of achieving their goal, we decided to call it a day.
The end of Turn 5 and the game.

The Axis troops firmly in command of the battlefield.

The 'Tommy Cookers' in the distance.

The British left flank unable to make any headway without incurring significant losses.

Post Game Thoughts.
Well the Fallschirmjager certainly made a huge difference in this game. The British also got off to a poor start and from Turn 1 were never reaaly able to recover, although their left flank in Turn 3 caused me some jitters! So as always, some thoughts on the game, the rules etc;
  • The three German mortars and one Infantry Gun certainly won the game for the Axis, no shadow of a doubt. In fact the only other units that fired were the ATGs. They are devastating and its painful to be on the receiving end, as I know from previous games. But then historically they were very, very effective. Having a unit on the rocky outcrop allowed me to call down fire almost at will on the exposed British. In BKCIV, even troops next to Linear Terrain can now be seen, which made it even harder for the British. I think going forward I may revert to BKCII and units cannot be seen from High Ground when in contact with Linear Terrain, unless they move or shoot.
  • Having a good CV of 9 again really helped, as I could do so much more compared to previous games with only 8's.
  • The Terrain certainly favoured the Defenders this game, with the BUA buildings being made of stone, meant that the units inside could only be hit on 6's and had a 4+ Save. This did make a big difference, especially when under artillery fire as normally I would have had lots of units suppressed or even gone.
  • Hindsight is a wonderful thing but the use of smoke could have really helped the British. Simply put we forgot this, but hopefully we will remember for future games. 
  • Post game we chatted about how effective the German mortars were compared to the British artillery. The Germans rolled 9 dice and didn't deviate whereas the British only rolled 6, but had to deviate, which is not much but can make a difference. Sometimes the template can favour artillery over mortars, but experience shows that German mortars are more deadly unless you take 2-3 25pdr Batteries. If you do this then you can swing the game too far in favour of the British. Game balance is a tricky thing that's for sure.
This game brought a natural end to our campaign. We could have carried on but then you get into the rather attritional games of well dug-in units with field defences against large amounts of artillery which are, in my experience, rather dull affairs.
We not have a break of a few weeks due to family stuff and holidays, but hope to resume in June with the Battle of Wavre using Bloody Big Battles as the ruleset. It's a while since we've played these but they are a great set of rules. In the meantime I will be trying to carry on basing and painting units as well as scratch building terrain, which I really enjoy. So until next time...

Saturday 18 May 2019

Siesta in Sortino - Game 3 of an Operation Husky Campaign

With the Italians having managed to cause enough problems for the British in last weeks game, this had bought them time to set up a defensive line in advance of the town of Sortino. The terrain is much more rocky and barren than down on the plain, so the Italians were hoping to take advantage of the high ground.

1 x CO (CV9)
2 x HQ (CV8)
1 x FAO (CV6)
9 x Infantry Units (3 with ATR upgrade)
2 x MG Units
1 x Mortar (gun pit)
2 x ATG (gun pits)
1 x IG (gun pit)
1 x 20mm AA Unit 
1 x Semovente 75/18
3 x 75mm Artillery Units
1 x Marked Minefield 

1 x CO (CV9)
3 x HQ (CV8)
1 x FAO (CV8)
1 x FAC (CV8)
1 x Daimler Recce Unit
12 x Infantry Units
2 x MG Units
1 x Mortar 
1 x 6pdr aTG + tow
2 x Honey Tank Units
4 x Sherman Tank Units
1 x 25pdr Battery
1 x Hurricane Ground Support 

Scenario Details
The Italians deploy first in their 1/3 of the table.
The British deploy using Mobile Deployment.
The Italians can deploy their marked minefield anywhere on the table.
8 Turns 
British Objective to defeat the Italians and breakthrough towards Sortino. The Italians to simply hold on.
The streams are impassable to vehicles. Infantry cound them as Linear Terrain for movement. 
The rocky outcrop is impassable to vehicles

The Italians deployed in and around the small farm in their deployment zone. they put the bulk of the AT support in the centre and on the left wing, in anticipation that this would be the area the British armour would be forced to come through, given that the bridge had been mined.

The British deployed mainly towards their right flank, to allow the armour as much free movement as possible, given the limits of the terrain.

An overview of the table, with the Italian delpoyment zone on the right.

Dave had brought along his pineapple rings in anticipation of having a Hawaiian pizza topping to celebrate his victory. Quelle horreur!

The view from the Italian side.

It was obvious from this where the main threat would come from.

Turn 1
Frankly a rather poor Turn by both sides, with only the British right flank getting up to much. The Italians failed to call in their mortar when they had a clear view to the British infantry in the open! Not a great start.

The end of Turn 1.

The British arrive at a somewhat leisurely pace onto the table.

The Italians despite great views, fail to call in artillery or mortar strikes onto the British.

Turn 2
Another poor Turn, with the British left flank failing completely and their right flank still a tad sluggish. For the Italians it was a catalogue of failed rolls right across the board. Another chance gone to attack infantry in the open. Bugger!

The end of Turn 2.

The strung out British advance.

Turn 3
The British get off to a better start this Turn, with their right flank advancing nicely, but a Sherman is suppressed by Opportunity fire. This does however reveal their position which leads to an airstrike by the Hurricane. The British CO has had to move over to the left flank to goad them into action, which he succeeds in doing. Yet again the Italians fail to take any advantage of the infantry in the open, so have to be content with moving their infantry slightly to meet the expected attacks.

The Hurricane arrives and doges the flak thrown at it ...

... but only supresses one unit.

The end of Turn 3.

The British armour in a good position.

The British left flank finally arrives.

Turn 4
The British start the Turn with some Initiative fire on the dug-in ATG on the hill, but fail to suppress it. Then they and the rest of their flank fail their command rolls. However on the left flank the CO plays an absoulte blinder, moving his units 5 times, including a Command Bonus. This really alters the complexion of things as suddenly the Italians are under threat from both flanks. The British CO moves onto the rocky out crop, which the Italians have stupidly left unprotected, to get a better view.

In response the Italian ATG manages to knock out one Sherman, but is then destroyed by Opportunity fire back, which is a big blow. Under pressure the infantry on the left flank retreat and just when they needed to move, the right flank failed its command roll. Things are not looking good for the Italians.

The Hurricane pilot refuelling before his next mission.

The end of Turn 4.

Despite coming under early fire, the British are in a great position to flank the Italians and also gain the high ground.

The Italians try and pull back to better defensive positions.

The British left flank advances to the stream junction and to the woods.

Turn 5
The British FAC fails again but the FAO succeeds, leading to two Italian units being suppressed. However the right flank and armour fail, with the left flank only moving once. The Italians again fail to do much, largely due to lack of targets. Both sides exchange some fire and cause suppression.

The effect of the British artillery.

The end of Turn 5.

The view from the Italian right flank.

The view from the Italian left flank.

Turn 6
The pineapple rings did their work as the FAC calls in the Hurricane again, leading to 3 units being suppressed on the Italian right flank. This leaves the way open for the British, who in a mix of fire and manouevre, move into the woods on the Italian right flank. Not to be outdone, the Shermans and Honeys move round the Italian left flank, leaving things looking pretty grim for the Italian defenders.

The Italians try to respond, with their FAO finally getting through, only to see the strike deviate and fall on open ground. Again some rearranging takes place where possible, but a Blunder by the CO puts pay to planned movement and shooting.

Biggles is back and this time he means business ...

... with his strafing run being spot on.

The end of Turn 6.

The British armour lined up ready to move or shoot.

The Italian flank obviously turned.

The British hav cleared the Italians from the woods and the flank is under severe threat.

The Italians feel as if they are in a replay of Rorke's Drift, as the Buffalo Horns of the British attack engulf them.

Turn 7
Luckily for the Italians both the FAO and FAC co-ordinated attacks fail to achieve anything, which is a welcome reprieve. However the pressure is maintained from the British armour and the troops on the left flank. 

The Italians respond where possible, with their FAO calling in his artillery which leads to 3 units and the British FAO suppressed. Again the CO fails his command roll, when he could have done with the Semovente having more shots at the British.

The Hurricane fails to achieve anything this Turn.

The end of Turn 7.

The British armour shoot up the Italians in and around the farm.

Small comfort as the British left flank is suppressed.

Turn 8
A glimmer of hope appears when the Hurricane arrives and deviates onto his own tanks, only for the Italian AA fire to drive him off! Oh the irony of it all. The end is nigh as the British armour destroys the Semovente and an infantry unit, taking the Italians to their breakpoint. This they pass but it is a clear vicotry to the British.

Almost a case of Blue-on-Blue as the Hurricane deviates onto his own armour.

The end of Turn 8 and the game.

The British armour in complete control.

The open Italian right flank.

Rorke's Drift.

The British left flank.

The End of the Game
In the end a clear and decisive victory for the British. It didn't seem that that would be likely early on and even at the half-way point, given both sides poor command rolls. Also once again we finished a full 8 Turn game!

Post Game Thoughts
As always some thoughts on the game, the rules and the scenario: 
  • It had been a busy week on the work and home front and I ran out of time to have a proper think about my deployment. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I should have deployed my ATGs either all on the hill on the right, or kept them close to the farm where they could have had good support from the infantry. In the end they fell between both stools. Also on the right flank I simply did not secure the rocky outcrop, which allowed the British FAO to gain a great viewpoint from which to call in attacks.
  • There has been some debate on the Pendraken forum about whether to use the hits stay on or come off rules. It is interesting to note that if we had used the hits come off as written, then the Italians would have comfortably held on to their positions and would have not felt too threatened. This is why I personally prefer the hits stay on option as well as it feeling right.
  • I should have taken more ATGs, which I have, but simply have not found the time to paint. Lesson learnt.
  • Both sides command rolls were really, really poor early on. For the Bitish they could not get moving, with their right flank infantry only making it to the stream over the entire game. For the Italians their failure early on not to be able to call in attacks on the British infantry whilst in the open probably cost them the game. Such is the fickle nature of the Die Gods. 
  • I thought the scenario worked well, but I wasn't too happy with the layout of the terrain. Frankly it was a bit more rushed than normal due to the circumstances already mentioned. It is hard to give both sides a fair chance and terrain can make or break things on this front. Normally I will set the game up a day or so in advance, to give me time to look at things afresh, and then tweak things as I see fit.
  • The Recce rules continue to be an issue, but they always were in BKCII. We like the random movement, but that's about it. More thought required on this, but whether we will be albe to come up with a workeable solution remains to be seen. 
So there we have it. We have another game planned for next week, which I have already started to think about. This may lead to a natural end to our campaign, largely due to having to pick our daughter up from Uni followed by a family holiday, which means I will be hors de combat for 3 weeks or so. So until next time ...