Monday, 6 March 2017

Bocage Test Piece

I've been thinking about making some bocage for a while now and have seen a number of excellent examples on t'web and at shows; so I thought I'd try out a small test piece to see if my ideas were okay. It's simply a thin strip of blue styrofoam glued to a piece of card (to protect the edges). I've shaped the foam to give more sloping sides then applied a good layer of gritty sand.

Styrofoam is best sliced with a bread knife
Shaped, textured and painted in earth colours
A light garnish of your favourite flock or grass
The earth colours are my usual recipe followed by a mixture of Woodland Scenics clump foliage much like the hedges I made a couple of years back.
Hans posing ... the hedge is about 45mm high
A better height comparison

Further pieces will have more tufts and flowers plus incorporate tree stumps, bushes, fencing, old bits of farm junk, etc. Longer sections will allow for a greater variety of height too - some of the real bocage is 15-20 feet or more! But this was just a 'proof of concept' so I kept it quite modest. One of the future Normandy campaign games requires a sunken lane leading in to a village, so a few feet of this should do the trick nicely!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Our Normandy Campaign Kicks Off!!!

I’m delighted to report that Dave and I have kicked off our Normandy campaign!! We’re using a mix of scenarios from the Battleground Europe Bolt Action sourcebook, adaptations of scenarios from the CoC supplement Kampfgruppe von Luck, and just some of our own ideas.

Ideally I’d like to bring others (I’m thinking Steve, Mike, George, Rob, Dave, etc) in to the campaign so as to have a series of ‘simultaneous’ battles with linked outcomes. My ideas are still somewhat ephemeral at this stage so we’ll see how it goes. Some campaign notes are shown in typewriter font below.

List Restrictions
Forces should be selected based on their approximate historical formations; suitable support options are noted below. Depending upon the scenario, further restrictions may apply.

The Paras are very lightly equipped, so no AFVs.
Infantry sections plus MMG, Medic, Car/Jeep, Light Mortar, Medium Mortar, PIAT, Flamethrower, Sniper, AT Gun*.
*later in the campaign as the guns arrived in the second lift on the evening of D-Day.

The Germans are in a slightly better position in terms of a variety of equipment but access to AFVs should be limited to the later battles in the campaign.
Infantry sections plus MMG, Medic, Car/Kubelwagen, Truck, SdKfz 251, Light Mortar, Medium Mortar, Flamethrower, Sniper, Self-propelled gun**, Tank/Stug**
**later scenarios, as the German bring up reserves and mobilise more decisively.

(If we bring in other allied forces such as regular British or US, etc then I’ll sort out further notes)

Scattered Drop (N)
Due to the dispersed nature of the Para forces they must hold all but N unit(s) in reserve and all deployment morale checks *are* affected by the -1 modifier. Reserve units become available from turn 2 onwards. Any units failing two consecutive morale checks for deployment are considered lost and will not appear in that battle.
Additionally, the ‘free’ Forward Artillery Observer must roll a D6 before checking for deployment; 1-3 Lost in the countryside or perhaps the radio was damaged in the drop, may not participate in the battle, 4-6 Available as usual.

Game One – The Paras Arrive!
Scattered groups of Paras are trying to form up on their objectives whilst the surprised Germans attempt to hold their positions.
Play Scenario One, Airborne Night Fight, from the Battleground Europe supplement.
Forces are 600pts per side.
The Scattered Drop (2) rules apply for the Paras.
The Germans must include at least 2 squads of inexperienced troops (for example, to represent some of the less motivated troops incorporated from conquered territories).

Anyway, Dave and I started with a fairly modest sized game; the Airborne Night Fight from Battleground Europe. Set in the early hours of June 6 1944, this scenario pits an ad-hoc force of newly dropped and lightly equipped British Paras against the German occupiers of a Normandy village.

We assume that the Germans have been alerted to some degree by nearby fighting, so will not all be fast asleep in their beds, but in the absence of orders from senior officers, the German commander is holding his position. The Paras are seeking to drive off the Germans, capture vital supplies and then re-group as more men arrive from the widely scattered drops.

British Forces
In order to represent a small, ad-hoc force I came up with this 600pt list. The only officer has organised his 26 men in to 4 under-strength sections, after all it is likely that they would have come from different platoons and companies which had become mixed in the chaos of the drop.
2nd Lieutenant & NCO
Para Section #1, NCO & 6 men (incl Bren team)
Para Section #2, NCO & 6 men (incl 4 with SMGs)
Para Section #3, NCO & 6 men (rifles only)
Para Section #4, NCO & 4 men (incl Bren team)
Light Mortar Team

German Forces
Dave will correct me if I'm wrong here, but he selected
Officer & NCO
Regular Heer Squad, NCO & 7 men (incl MG42)
Regular Heer Squad, NCO & 7 men (incl MG42)
Inexperienced Luftwaffe Squad, NCO & 7 men.
Inexperienced Luftwaffe Squad, NCO & 7 men.
Light Mortar
Sniper Team
2 x MG42

Here's the quiet (and entirely fictitious) village of Saint-Jean du Grenville.
You can almost hear the Germans snoring!
A little photo fun... Paras sneak up on the enemy.

Right, on to the action! The scenario has three objectives on the table that the Paras must capture, 1 is a draw, 2 or more is a win. So, perhaps a little optimistically, I decided to go for all three ... with my four sections! Below we have a section moving through the orchard next to the stone barn. However, the Germans gave them a warm welcome and they quickly accumulated pins whilst trading shots.

The Night Fighting rules really added an a extra dimension to the game! Definitely enhanced the tension and drama; highly recommended. When troops move they make themselves easier to spot and if the open fire then the muzzle flashes really highlight their position!

Dave had an early success with my free FO. A great spotting roll meant he could just reach them behind a hedge with one of his MG42s. So there'd be no artillery support for this game. Ironically the observer had just failed his spotting roll to rain shells on the MG42 team in the farmhouse.

Below we have an SMG armed section close in on the objective in front of the cafe. Dave had (very sensibly) put a lot of his men in the buildings which made them very tricky targets. So I decided to try to flush them out with bayonets.

Along comes Dave's light mortar (okay these were pretty rare by Summer '44, but shhh!). He promptly makes his night spotting roll to see the Paras and then lobs a shell over the cafe... Dave neatly rolled a natural 6 and three Paras including the NCO were blown to pieces! He also inflicted maximum pins too!

I brought up my Lieutenant and NCO to help steady the men as they recovered from the mortar blast - especially as an objective was so close. But, next turn the remaining SMGs FUBAR-ed, and with enemy nearby, they spun around and hosed their CO with bullets! Miraculously he wasn't hurt but the shooting clearly gave away the SMGs position. Who says that troops always act as you want in BA?

Back over by the barn the Paras and Heer continue to trade shots in the dark. The German sniper in the barn (i.e. at point blank range!) continues to hit absolutely nothing.

The third objective was between the two farmhouses. I had a section of rifle armed Paras approaching from one side, with another smaller section on the other. Between was a squad of Regular Heer. But I just couldn't make the spotting roll to see them!

The last few SMG armed Paras were shot up by the inexperienced German troops (no, really!) and yet another plum shot from the light mortar. The FUBAR had left them in the open with muzzle flashes, so they were easy targets. So the CO and his mate set about taking the nearby objective. To do that they'd need to clear out the MG42 in the upstairs of the cafe....
In the first edition rules, SMGs gave 2 shots in combat, but I forgot that it's different in 2nd edition. I was expecting my two veteran chaps to have 4 attacks compared to 3 German regulars... But Dave set me right. We rolled off and the Paras won the day - but only just - at least the nearby objective was theirs!

At the barn the Paras had despatched the Heer but at a heavy price. Just the NCO and one Para remained. They could hear booted feet approaching in the darkness.

Next turn Dave got the early dice so advanced the squad along the road. We agreed that only the front two chaps with rifles could see the Paras next to the barn. The made their spotting roll and Dave rolled two dice ... two sixes ... to more rolls to wound ... another two sixes!! Gah!?

We played one more turn before Dave had to go. I had one objective (by the cafe), Dave had one objective (by the barn) and the other (between the farmhouses) was contested by both sides. That was enough for a draw. But after the fire-fight in the cafe the Para officer had remained upstairs, so Dave (playing the role of dastardly Hun to the full) moved his light mortar team in to the ground floor to contest the objective. A win by the narrowest of margins for Dave with the last move of the game!

What a great game with a splendid opponent! Thanks matey :o)

Lessons Learned
This is simple. With just four sections I should have concentrated my efforts on just two objectives, even claiming just one would have been a draw. My troops were spread too thin. Although Dave's amazing dice skills did rather help the Axis cause! I did try to boost my forces by getting my youngest, Katie, to help with the dice rolling - I should have done that from the start! Indeed, Dave suggested next time that not only do I get her to roll the dice, she should also do the thinking! :-D

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Bolt Action Battle Report

Following the show in Penarth, Colin and I returned to Wargames Table Manor and, after a fine curry, set to with a game of Bolt Action. I'd designed both sides in this 750pt game so the core of each force was an almost full strength platoon consisting of the HQ plus 3 or 4 sections/squads along with a few little extras like a mortar or an HMG or even a sniper. Definitely no armour for this game either.

The scenario was simple - wipe out the opposing force. The winner would be decided by how many order dice had been lost (a win required a clear margin of two dice). There are only a few photos as the game was quite intense (in a very enjoyable way) so I forgot to take more.

The pic below shows the battlefield after turn one. My plan was to focus my attack on my right flank using the stout walls of the churchyard to give my troops plenty of good cover.

Interestingly, Colin's main attack was also on his right flank as he sought to make the best use of the cover offered by the café and the farmhouse. Both of us put one section/squad on our left flanks in order to slow any enemy advance. I also reinforced my left with the HMG whilst Colin placed his mortar on his left adjacent to the café.

We each had a sniper: mine went in the church tower (had to really!) whilst Colin put his chap in the upstairs of the café. However the sniper duel rapidly went in favour of the Germans - after which he was able to turn his attention to the rest of Colin's force.

Having shredded the one squad on my left, and reduced the HMG to just one crewman, Colin makes a bold advance around the café.

Whilst across the field my chaps are moving around the church. One squad of regulars left the churchyard and moved through the orchard. The idea was to take up a position on the edge of the field and hold up the British advance.

Below, Colin is withdrawing his left flank section as they face overwhelming opposition and were racking up the pins.
In the road you can see a German squad that's been caught in the open! I used my last dice of the turn to move them in to the road hoping to get an early German dice in the next turn to move them over the hedge... But a series of British dice came out of the bag and they got shot up quite badly.

This pic is a couple of turns later. The squad that were holding the hedge have been slaughtered almost to the last man - an amazing series of dice rolls meant he stayed in the fight! 
My flamethrower team had crept through the orchard and hosed down one section in the previous turn, forcing them to run. But here the brave fellow has made a dash towards the jeep and the section by the cafe - the second shot was rather less effective and he disappeared in a hail of bullets.

The last couple of turns saw both of us trying to gain the upper hand with our now rather battered forces. The action went right up to the last dice roll! My Germans had the upper hand with 4 VPs whilst Colin's British had 3 VPs. With a margin of only 1 VP it was, strictly speaking, a draw ... but I'd call that a winning draw ;o)

A hugely enjoyable game that was close all the way from the start right through to the last dice. My thanks to Colin for being a splendid opponent.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Crusade 2017

It's the last weekend in January so it must be time for the Crusade show, hosted by the Penarth & District Wargamers! This year there was a new venue and IMHO it was a massive improvement. The show itself was superbly organised and the club members were hugely helpful in terms of loading/unloading, etc.

As with many wargames shows there were a number of re-enactors. This fine fellow, from the 41st Regiment of Foot, was a pleasure to chat with. Colin and I couldn't resist playing with his musket!
Present arms!!
The musket had to be prised from his arms!!
The show itself was fairly busy throughout the day and it was a real pleasure to catch up with some friends (Hi to Chris, Stu, Scott, John and Dad-John, etc!!). It was also good fun to wander around and have a chat with a few of the traders; having done quite a few shows now you really do see how it's a community of its own!

I managed to have a quick wander around with Chris Harris (see his excellent YouTube channel here) so here's a few pics of games that tickled my fancy.

First up is "What a Tanker!" from Too Fat Lardies. Chatting with the Lard Islanders it appears they've used the CoC dice mechanism to manage the manoeuvring of tanks. It seemed quite detailed (e.g. keeping track of whether your main gun was loaded and with what kind of shell, how far your turret could rotate, etc) but plenty of people were playing and having fun.
TFL tanks rumble across Normandy
Nick explains the game
The Skirmish Wargames Society were playing WHFB using 54mm figures. This was very impressive and the photos alas do not really capture the spectacle.

One game that I thought was stunning was this one, set in the French Indo-China War - no, I didn't know much about it either!?! The level of detail was incredible! Lots of little vignettes, etc.
The intel...
The main gates of the airfield
There were at least eight large aircraft on the table!
Plenty of action in this area
There was even a model brothel!!
The show has a good range of traders too, although I bought very little this time. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to the gamers and modellers who stopped by the Charlie Foxtrot stand.

So... a good day out and well worth attending.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Italian Campaign - The Grand Finale

It's game six of our campaign to recreate the allied advance in to Sicily and north across Italy. With three Axis wins and two Allied wins so far it was all to play for. This scenario represents the Allied attack on a section of the formidable Gothic Line.
The Allied High Command debate their strategy... or wait for some tea!
The field of battle
The above pic shows the field of battle. There are three distinct lines of Axis defence, each with a bunker. This scenario has three 1,000pt reinforced Allied platoons, commanded by Orange Dave, Mike and Steve, facing a single 1,000pt reinforced Axis platoon that has had the opportunity to dig in and lay some minefields.

The Germans (me) were mainly an infantry force with plenty of LMGs backed up by a tank and some light artillery. The Germans deploy first then the Allies attack in a series of waves. The objective was simple... breach all three lines by capturing the bunker in each line. The Allies have 10 turns to do this.

What a fine bunch of fellows, L-R, Steve, Mike, Me and Dave.

The opening couple of turns were fairly quiet with the Allies bringing on lots of transports (a total of 11 vehicles in all!) whilst the German front lines opened up but with relatively little effect.
The Allied convoy rolls on to the table and immediately engages the Germans

The heavy Churchill gets ready to clear the wire for the lighter vehicles

Turn 3 was where the action began... The Churchill fired at the distant Panzer IV but missed, the return fire was deadly accurate! The Churchill brewed up in fine style. This had the effect of delaying the advance by several wheeled vehicles on that flank due to the barbed wire.
The Panzer IV takes careful aim at the Churchill...

... Boom!! Scratch one Churchill

Mike had brought his AEC up to support his advancing infantry and it could now draw a bead on the Panzer. One carefully aimed shot later and the Panzer was toast and the Allies heaved a sigh of relief as the problem of “Tiger Fear” was gone. But… just a few dice later and Mike threw his arms up with a shout, realising that he’d got slightly muddled with the stats for the AEC. Being a thorough gentleman he explained his peccadillo; the shot would not have penetrated the Panzer’s armour. So off came the blast marker and back went the turret – along with a groan from the Allies as they realised Tiger Fear was still in effect!

Turn 3 also saw the first line of German defences fall as Orange Dave’s super tough Maori troops effortlessly slaughtered the Grenadiers in the bunker.
The German first line has all but collapsed

Dave had previously deployed his 25lb-er so now set his sights on the restored Panzer… and promptly rolled a six! The weaker top armour of the mighty fighting vehicle was no problem for the shell and the tank was blown to pieces (again). Once again the Allies heaved a sigh of relief.
Now the 25lb-er takes careful aim at the entrenched Panzer IV...

... Boom!! Scratch one Panzer IV

The second line of German defences had a machine gun team in the bunker but they were soon wiped out by some very concentrated fire on the bunkers. The Allied vehicles (which the Maxim couldn’t damage) rolled up to almost point blank range and hammered the bunker. It's worth pointing out here that the bunkers had the special rue "shoddy construction". They were made by forced labour and were not as tough as conventional bunkers; offering -3 cover rather than -4, so at point-blank range and no other modifiers, attackers could hit on a natural 6.
The first line is breached in several places and the Allies pour in!

There was a veteran Grenadier squad in the sandbagged emplacement next to the bunker so they re-deployed in to the bunker to avoid it falling uncontested in to allied hands.
The second line comes under heavy attack

Again Dave sent in his Maori troops – with predictable results. Although my very shonky dice rolls at the point were probably the real issue!
C-h-a-r-g-e-!-!-! (again)

In the shot above you can just see some of the AFVs that had been hammering the bunker prior to Dave's assault.

Over on the other flank Steve was rolling forwards, using his tracked Bren carriers to clear the wire and allow his Jeeps to bring an MMG forward to pour fire on the third line.
Boom!! The minefield takes out a troop transport.

By turn 6 the second line was firmly in Allied hands and they were bringing pressure to bear on the third and final line. I was down to three units by this point so the dice bag had about 25+ Allied dice and just 3 of mine… It was only going to go one way. I had two slightly battered squads of Veteran Grenadiers and one piece of light artillery left.

The Allies rolled inexorably forward, letting rip with just about everything they could. A combo of Steve and Dave took the final bunker with one turn to spare! Victory to the Allies – the Gothic Line had fallen.
Victory in their grasp!

Well, that was an absolute corker!! A splendid game played in fine gentlemanly spirit and providing plenty of entertainment too. A fitting end to what has been a superb campaign. My thanks to Dave for organising the campaign and also my thanks to Steve and Mike for joining in with the finale. Here’s to many more excellent BA campaigns in the future!