Wednesday 28 February 2024

Arnhem 'Tiger' Route - Probing The Germans

So after the last game which didn't go well for the British to say the least, here is the sitrep for the next scenario:

The Germans 2nd Kompanie having made a tactical withdrawal, has now re-grouped and is once again taking up defensive positions across the Utrechtweg. Their aim is to delay the british for as long as possible, but at all costs avoid being flanked and cut off. To their rear defensive positions are being prepared.

Lt-Col Fitch has now been joined by 'C' Company as well as his integral heavy weapons in the form of an HMG and 3" Mortar. Artillery support is not yet available, nor is his 6pdr ATG. 'A' Company is barely combat effective, but is still in the fight, although only just.

An overview of the table, with the British approaching from the top edge, with the Germans deployed astride the road and below the top road junction.

The German postions to the right of the road.

And on the left.

'A' Company and HMG on the British right flank.

'B' Company in the centre and 'C' Company on the left.

The end of Turn 2. The British struggled to get moving and only by Turn 2 did they make contact with the Germans. 'B' Company reached the road and as they crossed it, they came under fire from the MG in the house by the telephone kiosk. After some intense firing, the Platoon was lucky not to be KO'd.

'A' Company slowly move forward.

'B' Company come under fire.

'C' Company move forward undetected by the Germans. They don't have enough troops to cover the whole front.

2nd Kompanie are taking casualties too.

The end of Turn 3. 'A' & 'C' Companies continue to advance, as 'B' Company continues to come under fire, losing the Platoon on the road. Combined fire sees the Germans have Platoons suppressed in the house across from 'B' Company as well as in the woods.

'B' Company loses a Platoon by the 2nd Kompanie MG is suppressed.

The German Platoon suppressed and lucky not to be KO'd. 

The Platoon on the German left pulls back to make sure it is not at risk of being cut off in the right flank is turned.

'A' Company moves forward as the HMG deploys to cover the road.

The end of Turn 4. The British continue their advance but cannot quite turn the Germans right flank, falling frustratingly short as orders fail to get through. Seeing the precarious nature of their position, 2nd Kompanie start to withdraw, but not all units receive the order.

On the right flank the German Platoon makes an Initiative move back to avoid the British that were closing in.

The MG unit fails to receive the pull back order.

'A' Company cannot get the momentum going to threaten the German left flank.

The end of Turn 5. Failed orders mean that the British cannot exploit their favourable positions, but do at least KO a German Platoon. Using smoke from the Kompanie 5cm Mortar, the Germans manage to pull back in the nick of time to avoid being encircled.

The 2nd Kompanie manages to extricate themselves from their precarious position.

Smoke covers their withdrawal but fails to prevent the loss of a Platoon.

End of Game
The British couldn't quite get going when it mattered, allowing the Germans to escape the closing net at the last possible moment. The Germans got slightly the better of the engagement, as both sides lost a Platoon each, but 'B' Company has a Platoon on 4 hits, the same as 'A' Company.

Post Game Thoughts
Well this went better for the British, but frankly it couldn't have got much worse compared to the first game. A few thoughts as usual:

  • Having an almost full strength Battalion helped Lt-Col Fitch to quite quickly evict the Germans from their positions.
  • In this game the terrain helped the British, as 'C' Company could advance unobserved from the off, allowing them to quite easily turn the German right flank.
  • The British 3" Mortar didn't really get into the game much, due to failed command rolls and its limited ability against BUA's. However it did just enough to help suppress and KO a German Platoon.
  • Both sides tried using smoke, but fortuantely for the Germans it came good just at the last moment, allowing them to exit stage right. Without it I think they would have have lost all but one Platoon.
  • The British really need heavy weapons in the form of Artillery, as they simply do not have enough firepower to really threaten the Germans when in BUA's. Given that they are not approaching the German defensive line, this could be telling...
  • Luckily in this game the Germans did not have access to their mortars, but they will next game. This could spell doom for the British given the weight of firepower they can bring to bear...
  • Both sides had their fair share of command failures, but it certainly hampered the British more than the Germans, as when 'C' Company couldn't quite reach a position from which to enfilade the German right flank.

What Next?
At least I now have all the figures painted that are required for this campaign. Having this 'deadline' was a nice way to focus finally finishing off my US Paras. I do need some Jeeps though as tows, which I think I have somewhere, which will be the icing on the cake. I won't have them ready for the next game but I do have a nice stand in instead...

Hopefully the next scenario will be played by the weekend, given that it is still wet and miserable here. Every cloud has a silver lining and all that.

This year I promised myself not to get distracted by potential new projects, but on Disney+ they have just started showing 'Shogun', based upon James Clavell's novel. Having enjoyed the 1980's tv series, the first two episodes  of this series really grabbed me and I've already begun having thoughts on possible Samurai forces. Will this temptation never end...😉?


Sunday 25 February 2024

Arnhem 'Tiger' Route - Reconnaissance In Force

Earlier today I played the first scenario in my planned mini-campaign. Details are as follows.

Sit Rep 17th September 1944
13:00 hrs. 1st Parachute Brigade begins landing to the North West of Arnhem.
13:40 hrs. 2nd Kompanie SS Panzer Grenadier Battalion begins localised attacks on the landing zones.
14:00 hrs. SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Krafft begins to organise a defence along predicted routes into Arnhem.
15:00 hrs. 3rd Parachute Battalion, 1st Parachute Brigade begins to move towards Arnhem along 'Tiger' route.

Uhtrechtsweg, around Hill Oek
Having disengaged from the attacks on the landing zones, 2nd Kompanie has been ordered forward along the Utrechtsweg, making a reconnaissance in force. Coming towards them are A & B Companies of the 3rd Parachute Battalion...

An overview of the table, with the Germans to the South, the British towards the North. The area is largely wooded with a small hamlet in an open area to the East.

The hamlet.

The Germans deployed either side of the Utrechtsweg, advancing carefully knowing that enemt troops are likely to be nearby.

Lt-Col Fitch with A & B Companies, deployed along the road to make best speed possible towards Arnhem bridge. (Note US Paras are standing in for British ones. Oh the shame of it!).

The end of Turn 1. The Germans push forward to the fence line and halt as they see British paratroops advancing along the road. Unaware of any enemy, the British push forward as quickly as they can.

The Germans deploy ready to ambush the British paratroopers.

A Company in the lead with B Company moving into the woods on the left.

The end of Turn 2. The Germans fail to activate, but as the British advance, the German MG opens up on the lead Platoon, suppressing it. At the sound of gunfire, A Company move off the road into the woods on their right.

The Germans spring the ambush.

A Company moves into the woods and out of sight.

B Company have managed to send one Platoon forward into the hamlet.

At the start of Turn 3, the leading Platoon of A Company is KO'd.

The end of Turn 3. After KO'ing a Platoon, the Germans have no further targets and so move a Platoon to their right to cover the hamlet. Shocked by the loss of a Platoon, both Companies fail to activate, but Lt-Col Fitch manages to move A Company forward to the edge of the wood.

The German Platoon relocates to cover the hamlet and their right flank.

A German Platoon lies in wait as the British A Company reaches the edge of the wood.

The end of Turn 4. With no targets again, the German HQ drops smoke from their 50mm Mortar onto the edge of the wood as a precautionary measure. The British manage to get B Company moving towards the hamlet, but they come under MG fire as they cross the open ground. A Company once again require Lt-Col Fitch to get them moving, aggressively crossing the road with one Platoon, which is suppressed as it does so.

Despite having lots of firepower, the British Platoon in the hamlet fails to do anything really to the German MG unit.

As smoke obscures the view on one Platoon, the other comes under fire as it crosses the road.

The rest of B Company moves towards the hamlet.

Turn 5 and another British Platoon is KO'd.

The end of Turn 5. Having KO'd another A Company Platoon, the German right flank begins to pull back in the face of the British B Company advance. The remaining A Company Platoon engages in a firefight with the Germans to their front, but ineffectual shooting leaves them open to opportunity Fire, leaving them suppressed and close to being KO'd too.

The Germans in firm control of the road junction.

The remaining A Company Platoon in a parlous state.

B Company occupy the hamlet.

The Germans begin to pull back to avoid the large amount of firepower coming their way.

End of the Game
Having done the job of locating the British advance and certainly giving them a very bloody nose, the German 2nd Kompanie decides to withdraw and fall back to positions that are being prepared to their rear. Lt-Col Fitch needs to await his C Company and heavy weapons support, as well as re-organising the remnants of A Company, that has all but ceased to exist.

Post Game Thoughts
Well I don't think that could have gone much worse for the British Paras! The certainly took a real pasting, whilst the Germans got barely a graze. So as always some thoughts on what happened and why:
  • When the Paras had a chance to shoot, they simply didn't make it count, in comparison to the Germans who seemed to have above average dice rolls all the time. Even the superior weight of fire of the Paras didn't help them.
  • The Germans certainly benefited from having an attached MG unit, which gave them greater range with which to engage the Paras, before they were in range to respond.
  • The British HQ's didn't perform well, relying upon the CO to step in and at least get one Company moving forward. This stop-start movement allowed the Germans to focus on one Company each Turn, thus concentrating their fire as required.
  • The British need to press forward as quickly as possible, meant they needed to sue the road to start with, thus exposing themselves to German fire early on. In contrast the Germans could play a much more cautious game, which they needed to, given that they had less troops here and could not afford to take heavy losses in this opening engagement.
  • The Germans used fire-and-manouevre very well, shooting and suppressing troops, then pulling back out of sight and relocating to a new, unobserved position.
  • The use of 2"/50mm Mortar smoke worked well, something that I took from the Pendraken forum. I allow each HQ unit to try and drop smoke once per Turn as an ordered action, with the stats of 1/40. 3"/81mm Mortars can do the same, but again I will limit this to once attempt per Turn, to avoid unrealistic amounts of smoke being used.
  • Although this was a rather one-sided action, it did feel historically right and certainly gave me an insight into the challenges faced by the British Paras as they tried to push towards the bridge.

What Next?
Well it certainly looks an uphill task for the British now, given that they have effectively lost one complete Company in the first engagement. The only saving grace is that they will now have access to the MG and 3" Mortar units as well as C Company. The Germans are not yet near their defensive line that is being set up, but yet again the terrain will certainly favour the defence, as they can fall back slowly, fighting as they go. The British on the other hand need to push forward as quickly as possible. 

I have a few more units to finish painting, that may or may not be required for the next game, but whilst they are to the fore at present, it makes sense to try and finish them off. At least the Germans have all they need at present.


Saturday 24 February 2024

Arnhem 'Tiger' Route - OOB

As mentioned previously, I've been working on a mini-campaign for BKCII based upon an article in WS&S Issue 74, namely the 5th Platoon Scenario by Richard Clarke (p 38). Whilst this is more of a skirmish action and for Chain of Command, it is pretty easy to tweak it for a larger scale action.

Reference Books
For more background reading to get a better understanding of the early phase of the Day One landings, I have consulted the following:

'A Bridge Too Far' by Cornelius Ryan
'It Never Snows In September' by Robert Kershaw
Osprey 'Operation Market-Garden 1944 (2) The British Airborne Missions' by Ken Ford

All provide plenty of useful info and so, based upon these, I have come up with the following OOB for both sides:

British 3rd Battalion, 1st Parachute Brigade
1 x CO (CV8)
3 x HQ (CV8)
9 x Paratroopers (3 with PIAT upgrades)
1 x MG
1 x 3" Mortar
1 x 6pdr ATG + tow

This is Lt-Col Fitch's Battalion that advanced along 'Tiger' route from the landing zones. Normally in BKCII the British Airborne Commanders have higher CV ratings, but I have reduced these slightly as historically their performance lacked a certain 'va va voom' on Day One.   

SS Panzergrenadier Ausbildungs-und-Ersatz Battaillon 16, 9th SS 'Hohenstaufen'
1 x CO (CV9)
3 x HQ (CV8)
9 x Waffen SS (classed as Heer Conscripts but deduct one die when rolling for suppression/fallback)
2 x MG
2 x 81mm Mortar
1 x 120mm Mortar
1 x 50mm ATG + tow
1 x Sd Kfz 250/9
1 x Sd Kfz 250/10
1 x Pz IV

This is based upon SS-Kapitan Krafft's 'Kampfgruppe' that famously reacted quickly to the landings, halting the Airborne advance almost at the start. Sources are not clear on the exact OOB, other than it consisted of the 2nd, 4th & 9th Kompanies, with some saying the 2nd & 4th were Infantry Kompanies and the 9th the Heavy Weapons Kompanie, the latter which formed the Battalion Reserve. I have chosen that for BKCII they are all Infantry Kompanies with any Heavy Weapons already assigned out to them.

As they were a Training Battalion, I have classed them as Heer Conscript in terms of stats, thus giving them slightly less firepower than normal, as they were understrangth at this time. However they fought exceptionally well, so have classed them as Waffen-SS, which deducts one die when rolling for suppression or fallback.

In Ryan's book, there is mention that Krafft had a new experimental weapon at his disposal, a multi-barrelled rocket propelled launcher capable of throwing over sized mortar shells. This was not a Nebelwerfer, but witness accounts describe the scream and impact of these oversized mortars. With no other information to go on, I have simply given the 'Kampfgruppe' a 120mm Mortar to reflect this weapon.

Quite quickly armoured elements of the 9th SS 'Hohenstauffen' began to arrive to support Krafft's kampfgruppe as and when they became available. AA guns on half-tracks were certainly used early on and other light guns too, before heavier AFV's began to arrive, most likely in the form of Pz IV's. These certainly bolstered Krafft's defence and aided them in performing a fighting withdrawal as their positions threatened to be out flanked.

Next up will be the first action of the mini-campaign.


Wednesday 21 February 2024

Hobby Update

For no other reason than it's yet another sodding wet and windy day here in Bristol (it has been a very wet Winter😞) I thought I'd do a bit of an update on various things to help still feel connected with the outside World. So in no particular order:

The weather has meant that I've spent a fair amount of time reading, which I love and have done for as long as I can remember. I have a mixed bag of stuff waiting to be read as well as some that I've recently finished.

An absolute corker of a book on a period that I had only passing knowledge of. Wonderfully written and a real page turner, I not only learnt loads of stuff but it also, rather dangerously, had me pondering new periods to game, such as Russians vs Turcomans in Central Asia in the mid-19thC. Highly recommended.

A book I picked up using a birthday book voucher as I've enjoyed all his books I've read so far, plus it was a part of WWII that I've read bits on, but not much detail. A good book but not one of his best to be honest, which may have something to do with the subject matter, which I felt was hard to make interesting. There are only so many ways you can recount the same sort of air combat, ie Germans bounce bombers, American fighters bounce Germans etc. I had considered some WWII air wargames, purely for the fun of painting the various camo schemes, but having read the book, I feel they would be a 'beer and pretzels' offering only. Maybe some WWI combats might be more in order?

Another book voucher purchase, which I've not read yet, but has had plenty of good reviews and is on a campaign that I've long wanted to game. It will be a while before it's read as I'm reading Duffy's book on 'The Army of Frederick the Great', as I like to chop and change periods to keep things fresh.

Paint & Flock
A series of hot Summers, lack of painting etc led to some of my paints completely drying up or getting to the point where I could no longer rescue them, especially the metallics. Also my supply of flock was running low and sadly the Expo Mid-Green Flcok I'd always used was no longer available. There were plenty of options online, but it was really hard to tell which ones might be the closest match. Luckily we still have a good old fashioned modelshop in Bristol (Antics) which is full of loads of stuff to tempt one! A trip there soon resolved my flock problem, with PECO Scene Spring grass being a very close match. They didn't have the length I really needed but now I know what to look for, I can buy this online and plenty of it!

Some years ago I recycled loads of old magazines that I never looked at, but kep a few that had articles of interest that I knew I would refer back to. They are also great for a bit of bed time reading when the brain is not up coping with a full chapter as the head starts to drop as I try not to nod off. These days I no longer buy magazines as I find little of interest and to be honest was really shocked at how much they cost these days, due to the steep rises in printing costs post Covid. £7.00 for a printed mag is way too much for me, given that I can buy a good second hand book or two for that price. Apparently more pdf copies are being sold than printed ones, at least with WI, and I can see this trend continuing. 

An issue that I refer to often, as it has excellent articles on ImagiNations by CS Grant, a 1692 Battle for Britain by Barry Hilton and a series of actions based upon British/Canadian intervention in the ACW by Don Effinger. All of these appeal to me and certainly the latter two I hope to game at some point.

Whilst not a magazine per se, it does have a superb article, or the second part thereof, of an Invasion of Britain in 1744 by the late Graham Cummings. Needless to say with the fun we've had around our version of the '45, this more than piques my interest and again is something that I want to return to and game at some point.

With my recent run of Honours of War games using some 'Old School' classic scenarios, whilst searching my library (well book case really), I picked out the following rules from those Little Wars TV chaps from across the pond. The scenarios contained therein are brilliant but to be honest the sheer number of bases required means I will never play them as written. But it did occur to me that using HoW for the rules, I could quite simply translate the OOB into ones that would work, or at least I'm pretty sure they will. This is on the back burner for a while but I'm looking forward to seeing whether my ideas work or not...

Well worth getting just for the scenarios.

Well not much has happened on this front, as any spare time I've had has been spent watching tv with SWMBO or playing games. Given that there was a distinct deficit of the latter last year, so far I've really had a lot of fun getting the toys onto the table and rolling some dice. However with some planned games coming up (see below) I actually got my paints out today and started on painting up some WWII US Paras, which to be honest are about as easy a paint job as you can get. Without a dedicated painting area, it can be a challenge to fit painting in, given the set up I have to work with in the kitchen, but progress is progress, no matter how small.

Amazon & Peleliu
In the afternoons I try and get a bit of 'me time' tv in, before all the action aroudn the evening meal kicks off. Last week on Amazon I saw a programme titled: '1st to Fight: Pacific War Marines' and thought I'd give it a go. Not a bad programme but I was very pleasantly surprised when they included a fair bit on the invasion of Peleliu, showing footage and still from the action as well as how the battlefield is today. Absolutely perfect info for my planned Pacific War games at some point in the future.

My planned Normandy campaign has stalled due to my lack of painting, despite and early blast of basing and priming at the start of the year. However as part of my magazine bedtime reading, the following issue gave me an idea for something based around Arnhem 1944.

Although the scenarios are for Chain of Command or similar skirmish level rules, it would be pretty easy to scale things up for some linked BKCII games to form a mini-campaign, albeit it on focused on just one days action. Sadly my British Paras are still in the various bags as they have been for many a year now, but with a few additions currently on the painting table, my US Paras will take their place. Heresy I know but it works for me and will allow me to play this out, something that I've planned to do on and off for a few years now. I'm pretty sure I have all the Germans I need and have been checking Kershaw's 'It Never Snows In September' to get some additional info for the campaign. Hopefully this will hit the table in the next week or so...