Saturday 29 August 2020

Operation Sealion - Assault on the GHQ Green Line

I don't know when I first became aware of or interested in 'Operation Sealion'. I suppose it must have started in the mid 1970's with the superb 'World at War' tv series combined with some Airfix magazine articles on British pillboxes disguised as ice cream parlours, summer houses etc. Fast forwarding several decades and various Blog and forum posts on the operation must have rekindled my interest, certainly enough for my to buy Kenneth Macksey's superb 'Invasion' book, a fictional account of the German invasion in 1940. In fact I gamed one of the 'scenarios'  before, but as a one off game.

With my planned WWII PBEM campaign stalled for the time being, I began to think of what period I would like to run a solo narrative campaign in. For some reason 'Operation Sealion' sprang to mind. Along side the Macksey book I had some Airfix articles by Terry wise that were informative, along side Wikipedia of course. With plenty of options to choose from, I plumped for an attack on the GHQ Green Line, which was designed to protect Bristol. This would be a diversionary attack and would give me plenty of scope to be creative, plus having the added advantage of fighting on 'local terrain'.

So the past few days I have been making notes and planning a broad outline of the scenarios to be used, the forces involved etc. Whilst details are easy to come by for the main German invasion forces and the British defensive units in the South East, for those further afield there is little concrete information. Not a problem as I will go with plausible options and ones that will fit my narrative and the local area etc.

Rules wise I will be using BKCII, with various house rules and rules from BKCIV. I'm so used to version II that I stick with it because I know it so well. One change I will be making is allowing more command units than normal. I've always found it strange to have one command unit in control of say 6 infantry units and some support weapons. Going forward I will have one command unit controlling 3 infantry units and one or two support units, so in effect giving them command of a Company. I think this will better reflect historical command and control and give a better game.

I have been busy painting up field defences and basing up extras units that have been in the 'painting queue' for far too long. I still need to finish off some supporting armour but won't need these for the first and possibly second games. The background fluff is all worked out and just needs a bit of organising, so in a sense the hard work is already done. Ditto the first scenario. Hopefully I will be able to kick things off in the next day or so and am really looking forward to setting things in motion.

Never Mind The Billhooks

Over the past few years I have given up on buying wargames magazines as, being a 10mm gamer and in my mid-50's, I find there has been little of interest in them to justify the subscription costs. However the latest Wargames Illustrated issue piqued my interest due to it coming with a free set of rules, aimed at wargaming the War of the Roses. This is more up my street than a pack of 28mm Perry Miniatures that, although being lovely, do not tempt me to part with my hard earned shekels.

I had heard about the rules via Facebook and various forum rumblings, but a couple of reviews on You Do Not Know The North Blog and Norm's Blog persuaded me to go and buy a copy. In short I'm glad I did.

The rules cover some 24 pages in a self contained booklet and remind me very much of 'Lion Rampant', but with some nice tweaks and obviously period specific rules. The author also lays out his stall in a small article within the magazine which is nice. There are also some articles on the WotR within the magazine as one would expect and for a relative novice such as myself found them really rather useful.

I think anyone who has played 'Lion Rampant' will feel very much at home with these rules and they  follow what I would call a fairly standard format of units being hit on say a 4+, save on a 5+ etc. So nothing left field which is a good thing in my opinion. Afterall if it ain't broke, don't fix it! The card driven sequence looks to be fun and there are some nice 'events' to spice things up and fit the period. They also look to be solo friendly, which given the current global situation, is a good thing. 

The author prefers individually based figures for removal but freely admits that large bases with multiple figures still work as long as you record casualties. Table size for 10mm would happily work on a 3' x 2' table, but a 2' x 2' based upon experience would work just as well. For myself the question is whether to go with one large base of figures for that dioramam look or, more likely, several bases so that I can use them for other rulesets, such a Neil Thomas' Ancients & Medieval.

These rules while being simple are certainly not simplistic and I can see them becoming a popular set for club games or with friends at home. They are begging to be played as a campaign and with the map in the magazine, I can see some action between the Talbot's and Berkley's forming the basis for a nice little narrative in this part of the World.

So all-in-all a worthwhile buy and certainly a magazine to keep for future reference. I can see the rules being tweaked for periods before and after the WotR and, as the author mentions, Game of Thrones. If you can, buy the magazine or pdf and i don't think you will be disappointed.

Friday 21 August 2020

Balkans 1941

With our planned campaign paused and some newly painted armour for it, I decided to have a game of BKCII to give the new toys a run out on the table. I was torn between France 1940, Operation Sealion or Greece 1941 and in the end plumped for the latter as it was viable encounter between the British and Italians.

Both sides had an Infantry Battalion with mixed armour support. The British had Matilda II's, A10's and Vickers MkIV's, the Italians M11'39's, M13/40's and L3/35's. So broadly an even match up but the British did have a small infantry advantage.

Quite a simple meeting type encounter, with the British trying to exit the table and the Italians trying to stop them.

Set in a fertile Littoral Zone, boarded by mountains on one side and the sea on the other. 

An overview of the table, with the British entering from the left, the Italians the right and top.

The Italain left and centre.

The Italian right and flanking force.

The British right.

The British left.

Turn 1
A random die roll saw the British getting to move first, their plan being to cross as quickly as possible over the bridge whilst throwing a flanking force via the ford. The Vickers MkIV's moved swiftly to cross the bridge and took up defensive positions, as the rest of the left flank moved up. The right flank with the Matilda II's failed to arrive.

The Italians plan was to secure the buildings by the bridge and operate a mobile defence. The right flank with the L3/35's and M11/39's pushed towards the buildings but the centre and left failed to appear.

The end of Turn 1.

The British left flank moves forward.

The Italian right flank responds.

The flanking force of L3/35's and AB-41 arrives.

Turn 2
The advance gaurd of the Vickers MkIV's held their positions as the British left flank slowly advanced, with the A-10's making for the bridge. The right flank and Matilda II's arrived, but at a snail's pace as one would expect of Infantry tanks.

The Italian Infantry in the centre arrived, but the 13/40's on the left flank still failed to appear. The flanking force of L3/35's and the M11/39's with their supporting infantry pushed on and reached the edge of the houses by the railroad.

End of Turn 2.

The British right flank arrives.

The slow advance on the British left.

The infantry in the Italian centre push on.

The Italians reach the buildings and begin to occupy them.

Turn 3
With the A10's engaging the Italian M11/39's and knocking one out, the Vickers MkIV's moved over the railway line to try and turn the Italian flank. The Matilda II's and infantry on the right flank continued their steady progress, crossing over the river by the ford.

The M13/40's on the Italian left flank finally arrived, but the infantry in the centre failed to move. As the L3/35's on the flank consolidated their position, the right flank blundered, leading to an infantry unit assaulting the British recce armoured car and knocking it out.

The end of Turn 3.

The British right flank, led by the Matilda II's.

Both sides are engaged in and around the buidlings by the river and railway line.

Despite the loss of an M11/39, the Italian position looks good.

Turn 4
The British left flank moved over and around the bridge to secure the crossing as well as occupying one of the buildings. The Vickers MkIV's moved over the hill on their mission to turn the flank, whilst the right flank carried on its sedate progress albeit aided by the CO.

The Italian M13/40's seeing an opportunity, moved forward an engaged the Vickers MkIV's and Matilda II's, knocking out one of the Vickers. As the infantry advanced in the centre to support the right flank, the right flank with combined arms knocked out an infantry unit and suppressed the A10's on the bridge.

The end of Turn 4.

With targets to their front, the Matilda II's could do with getting a move on.

The action hots up by the bridge, with the Italians having the upper hand.

The M13/40's engage the Vickers light tanks.

The Italian armour helps gain the upper hand.

Turn 5
With gunfire to their front, the Matilda II's and their supporting infantry moved forward and engaged the enemy. The Vickers MkIV's taking advantage of this, retreated form their exposed position without a scratch, despite enenmy fire. On the left flank the firefight continued unabated in the town, but with little effect.

Responding to the appearance of the Matilda II's on their flank, the M13/40's moved and pumped repeated fire into the infantry tanks, managing to suppress tow on the lumbering beasts. On the right flank by the buildings, combined fire saw two more British infantry units knocked out, along with the a10's on the bridge.

The end of Turn 5.

Despite losing a tank to opportunity fire, the M13/40's gave a good account of themselves, suppressing all of the Matilda II's.

The A10's burn by the bridge.

The Italians in control of the buildings by the bridge.

End of Game
At this point I had called the game and gave the Italians a win. Not because of the position of things at the end of Turn 5, but because of several 'phone call interruptions from our home insurance company, after we had found some water leakage under our floor boards. These calls meant I had lost track of things and so it was easier to call it a day rather than plow on with further interruptions

Post Game Thoughts
Aside from the above calls, it wasn't a bad game and it was nice to have some new toys on the table, which I had been meaning to paint for several years. So as always some thought son the game:
  • For a quickly put together game it was OK, but it did all feel a bit rushed. Normally I would set things up the night before and then in the cold light of day, tweak a few things here and there. I didn't have this luxury and it showed.
  • Related to the above I think I had a bit too much terrain, but it's hard to tell due to the premature end of things. 
  • I missed the game being part of a campaign, which has been the main focus of my gaming this year. The actions had no consequences and this felt somewhat unsatifying compared to the narrative a campaign generates.
  • I think I had too much armour on the table, with the infantry largely relegated to a supporting roll. I didn't mind this too much as I wanted to 'blood' my new toys.
  • Not having off board artillery or air support seemed strange, as normally I would have one or the other, sometimes both. I had planned too but the rushed nature of things meant they got left by the wayside.
  • Recce. Even with the new rules in BKCIV, I never feel Recce real works that well. I find I use them in the first few Turns to help get things moving with the CV bonuses if they can get through, but after that I tend to forget about them. I'm not sure what the answer is. Maybe in certain scenarios they are of more use, but I rarely find this the case.
  • One thing the game did do was spur me on to paint up some of those odds'n'sods that I have been meaning to do for years, so that I can have a good core of units with which to game and then add to these as and when required.
Aside from getting things painted, I'm not sure what I want to game next. My friend Keith is developing some Napoleonic rules which I've been meaning to give a run out, which will be a nice diversion from painting WWII kit. As always plenty of options to choose from, so until next time...

Operation Democracy - a BKC PBEM Campaign

After a brief pause to do other things post our last PBEM campaign, my mind turned to the idea of doing something similar but set in WWII. I was particularly inspired by Jon Bleasdale's Operation Nostalgia and the Dodecanese Campaign, as both are nice and self contained. So with the setting sorted it was then the 'simple task' of getting everything sorted for the chaps to play. Or so I thought...

The background info, fluff and OOB etc were quite easy to do, using the Battle of Leros as a guide. The island of Sodor was simply a matter of going through the Warplan maps and coming up with a look I liked and one that had a good mix of terrain and objectives for both sides.

The island of Sodor.

So far so good. I had come up with broad guides to movement rates for infantry, AFV's as well as objectives for both sides. Sorting out naval and air support was more difficult, but again I had a broad outline of how it would work. With things in place I passed on the info to Dave and Keith who, once again, were happy to take part in my campaign. 
Then things hit the rails so to speak. An 18th or 19thC campaign is relatively speaking easy for the umpire and the players to sort out. Moving things into the 'modern' era transpired to be much more of a difficult undertaking. Truth be told I was having doubts even before Dave and Keith highlighted their busy schedules meant that they would have to delay the start of things. Looking at it after a few days away I realised that I would need to revisit my original ideas as in their current form they didn't really work.

Fortunately I have some campaign books in my library and also Warning Order has plenty of campaign info, so both will be consulted to try and resolve the issues that need to be 'fixed'. Maybe even using a board game would resolve things nicely? Broadly speaking and in no particular order they are:
  • Air Support. How to plan and deal with bombing raids on the map before they reach the table top.
  • Naval Support. As above.
  • Air Reconnaisance. How to factor this into map moves and intel to both sides.
  • Map Movement. This looks like it will involve a lot more detail for both sides, compared with simply moving a Battalion or Brigade as before. For example is the Company the smallest manouevre unit? Probably so but even at this level the command orders would have to be pretty detailed, maybe to the point that the fun has gone from the thing.
  • Off Table Artillery. Easy to do on the wargames table but how far should they be able to shoot when on the map? 
  • Defensive Positions. How long might it take to create trenches or strong points in campaign turns?
So as you can see plenty of things for me to mull over and hopefully sort out. I'm not going to rush it and will do some research before seeing whether it is viable in its current planned form. In the mean time it has inspired me to get back to the painting table to try and finish off the odd unit here and there that I have been meaning to do for several years now, so it's not all bad. Until next time...