Wednesday 17 January 2024

Somewhere In Russia, 1941

I had planned this game in the run up to Xmas, on a 2' x 2' table, to make it quick and easy to set up and take down, given all the usual madness at that time of year. However even with this simple small game, space and time was not on my side, so I put it off for another day. Having received my new mat, like a kid I wanted to give it a run out to see how it looked, so revisited my planned game, moving it up to a 4' x 4' size, to get maximu, use out of the new cloth.

In essence a simple scenario, of a German kampfgruppe based around an Infantry Battalion and a few Kompanies of tanks, attacking a Russian collective farm, defended by a reduced Bonscript Infantry Battalion with nominal armoured support. To add something new to the mix, I decided that the Russians would literally fight to the death defending the Motherland and so dispensed with Breakpoints and fall backs when suppressed. Simple but hopefully capturing the essence of those hard battles that the Wehrmacht fought in 1941 as they 'victored themselves to death'.

So on to the action:

An overview of the table, with the Germans at the Southern edge, the Russians deployed in and around the collective farm towards the Northern end.

Some of the Russian defenders.

A T-35 awaits in the woods.

A farmer's work is never done!

The German left flank, which is to deliver the main attack.

The German right flank, to perform a pinning action aimed at the farm buildings to their front.

The end of Turn 1. The German left flank advanced and was soon engaged by the T-35 in the wood. As the Infantry advanced they came under accurate mortar fire, suppressing them. The right flank advance was patchy and soon the Russians were putting down more mortar fire on the German Infantry. This was going to be a tough fight as the Germans could not spot where the mortar fire was coming from.

As the Panzers advance, the Infantry take heavy casualties from mortar fire.

The Panzers emerge from the maize field and engage the T-35.

The German Infantry on the right flank keep in the cover of the cornfield.

The Panzers come under ATG fire from the farm buildings.

The T-35 can't quite make the best use of its position.

The end of Turn 2. A protracted duel between the Pz III's and the T-35 sees the latter finally knocked out. As the German Infantry push forward on the left flank, they continue to come under accurate and sustained fire from the hidden Russian mortar. Other Russians units open fire and are suppressed by the German mortars. Things are not going to plan for the Germans as the right flank stalls.

The German Infantry continue to suffer as the Pz III's KO the T-35.

German Infantry push past the Panzers to try and flank the Russian positions.

A Pz IV takes post to help shoot them into the village.

Much needed air support arrives...

... and manages to suppress some units in part of the village.

The end of Turn 3. The German left flank continues to move forward, but the Panzers shoot ineffectively into the village, relying upon the mortars to KO a Russian MG unit. The German right flank does get moving and manages to suppress the ATG in the farm buildings. Once again the Russian mortar continues to rain death, KO'ing two German Infantry units. It could have been worse but they ran out of visible targets, but Russian tank support arrived to help out the defenders.

The German left flank attacks but is taking casualties.

The light Panzers begin to move around the side of the farm buildings.

Mortar fire is causing trouble on the right flank too.

Welcome tank support arrives.

The end of Turn 4. The Germans on the left flank finally clear the first part of the village, ready to move towards the church. On the right flank the light Panzers have passed the orchard and bring the troublesome Mortar unit under fire and it is KO'd. Just as the Russian tanks have arrived, confusion reins and they retreat when their presence is much needed!

The first part of the village is cleared.

The Russians in the farm realign themselves as they come under attack from the German light Panzers.

The end of Turn 5. The Germans push forward where they can on both flanks, attacking the church on the left and KO'ing an Infantry unit and on the right the Russians have to reform to meet threats from several directions after their ATG is KO'd. Limited targets and the ability to fight back means little damage is inflicted by the Russians. If only they had those tanks!

The church comes under fire.

The German Infantry on the right flank break cover and make for the farm, but take fire as they move forward.

A view from the Russian tanks as they fail to move forward.

Yet again the Luftwaffe shows up in a moment of need and attacks the farm...

... crucially suppressing two Infantry units.

Suddenly an I -16 arrives, catching the German infantry in the open...

... with predictable results.

The end of Turn 6. Russian resistance is ended in the church and as the Infantry advance, they come under fire from the Russian tanks. Just when the German tanks are needed most, a confused radio message sees them withdraw back towards the maize fields! As the German Infantry try and take the farm, the light Panzers move forward to attack the Russian tanks, KO'ing the T-26! At the worst possible moment all Russian units are hit by a sudden paralysis and fail to act!

Radio comms problems leads to the Panzers withdrawing.

The Germans control half of the village now.

The German Infantry are finding it very hard to close on the farm.

The light Panzers surprise the Russian tanks who fail to spot them.

The end of Turn 7. The German Panzers make a pincer move and KO the T-35 and combined arms leave the Russians with little ability to fight back in the farm.

Germans on the left flank fire into the farm.

The Pz III's having got the correct message move forward and KO the T-35 as the Infantry occupy the church.

The Russian tanks burn having contributed virtually nothing to the defence of the farm.

The bloody attritional battle for the farm is all but over.

End of the Game
At this point I called the game as although I could have played Turn 8, it would not have materially affected the outcome, other than probable total Russian loss of their remaining troops and possibly one more German casualty. However the Russians had achieved their aim of delaying the Germans long enough for a better defensive position to be formed further back. Although at great cost to themselves, the defence put up by the troops had cost the Germans about half their original Infantry Battalion strength in terms of Infantry troops. So a victory but a very Pyrrhic one!

Post Game Thoughts
Well I must say that was an enjoyable game and one that was much closer than I imagined it would be. It was also nice to get back into some solo games at home, something that was somewhat lacking last year. So as always a mix of post game musing in no particular order:
  • The game lasted probably just over two hours of actual gaming time, but around three hours when taking into account making notes and taking photos of the AAR. So not bad and quite good if it were an evening game on a 'school night' too.
  • The scenario worked well for me and as it was solo, I didn't have to worry about it being one-sided etc as I could always tweak it as I went along if required. This is one of the advantages of solo games, but normally I try to avoid these mid-game tweaks if at all possible.
  • The Russian Mortar caused problems for the German Infantry from the off and really hampered their efforts and certainly accounted for probably 2/3 of their casualties. 
  • In the optional rules in BKCII, Mortars can lay down smoke as an Opportunity Fire action, but I feel they should be able to do it as a normal ordered activation. I need to check BKC IV if there has been anything done on this already. It would really have helped the Germans prosecute their Infantry attacks for sure. 
  • The open terrain was a nice challenge and as with the above, some smoke would have been really useful. I deliberately left the Germans without any Artillery assuming their advance had been too rapid for it to keep up, which often happened, hence the Stuka performing the Aerial Artillery role which it did historically.
  • Attacking a BUA, even one made of wood, at this period of the war is really tough, as the weapons really don't have the firepower required for direct fire. If I had made the buildings brick instead of wood, I think the Russians might still have been in teh game right at the end.
  • The above made me realise the Assault Engineers would be useful and I have them based, but like many other units, they need painting! In hindsight I think I had at least one opportunity to make some Close Assaults to take parts of the village, but forgot to entertain the idea as I was caught up making notes and taking photos. 
  • The Russian tanks arriving and then doing nothing really was a tad frustrating, as they were perfectly poised to possibly cause some trouble for the Germans. Not having an ATR's really made the Infantry so vulnerable to tank attacks, but then this was the case early on on the Eastern Front.
  • Making the Russian Infantry 'stubborn' where they ignored falling back and possibly being KO'd worked well for me, reflecting those multiple times that they fought to the death when surrounded, something that the Germans had never encountered before and were not prepared for, For a first go it worked well and I might make some small tweaks here and there, but broadly I'm very happy with how it worked.

What Next?
Well of course there is the ongoing Normandy Campaign stuff, which from a research point of view is pretty much there. So having had a game which was a nice change and having made some new scenery, I think I need to focus on some painting for a while, as I've based up a lot of stuff recently.

I would like to get more regular games in, no matter how big or small, and I'm thinking of 'Wargames Wednesday's', as it's normally a quiet day in the week on the carer's front and often minimal paperwork too. Something to aim for for sure but i'm not going to stress myself over it if I miss the day or it shifts to the weekend etc. It is afterall only a hobby and something we should enjoy as and when the mood take us!

I've ordered a book by Peter Hopkirk called 'The Great Game: On Secret Service In High Asia', a period that has piqued my interest off an on for many a year now. As always plenty of ideas and I'm sure new ones will surface as I read the book!


Tuesday 16 January 2024

Pastures New

I've had my much used and loved GW gaming mat for more years than I care to remember and it has done sterling service in all that time. To be honest it still looks as good as new. But of course things move on and over recent years the advent of printed gaming mats in a wide variety of finishes has given the gamers untold choices that we could not have dreamed of 20 years ago. I've had many a comment about how much people like my terrain, but wondered why I hadn't gone down the printed mat route. 

Now I have considered it but for multiple reasons it's never been a priority for me. However at the recent game at Keith's, I was able to have a good look at his Geek Villain mat and i must admit I was very impressed. I've seen plenty at shows but often they are from other companies and printed onto mouse mat materials etc and whilst looking good, for me I simply couldn't ignore the satin finish and the pixelated images (I blame my former career for this!). 

So when I got home I decided to check out what was on offer from Geek Villain. Now not all of their mats were in stock (a common complaint I've heard) but after looking at those that were available, the Summer Field one seemed to be closest to the flock I've used for all of my terrain and figures. Now a screen image is a good approximation, but not a gaurantee of course, talk less of print run variations. However it seemed the best bet so I placed an order, which arrived in around 5 days.

My inital reaction was that it seemed a bit bright and not quite in focus, but when layed out and terrain added, it looked pretty good to me. I'll leave you to be the judge of that based upon the images below for a game I've got planned:

All set up for somewhere in Russia 1941. The table size is 4' x 4'. It is a bit lighter in the centre due to the lightbulb directly above.

There are some nice patches of varying colour with some rocky bits, which match nicely to my basing scheme.

I've also been making some new fields for use in my Normandy campaign, but also for across Europe from the 18thC onwards. 

Looking at them on the table, they need a slight drybrush to make the crop colours pop a bit, as they look too flat to me.

Having set it all up I'm very happy with the result and even SWMBO said it looked good, a rare compliment indeed! The aim is to get a game in tomorrow of a scenario I had set up before Xmas, but real life got in the way, so it all had to be packed away. Fingers crossed I'll get an AAR in soon and then we can see how it all looks with figures  and vehicles on it. Even though it is called Summer Field, to my eye it will work well for Burma and the Pacific, as and when I get around to those theatres. Of course on must not forget 18thC India, so maybe I'll do a bit of a parade after the game...