Thursday, August 15, 2013

Another Blenneville or Bust Batrep

All,
    Since I had written it up anyway, I figured I'd go ahead and post another batrep:

Blenneville or Bust! Campaign Scenario 2A, “Avaux”

Campaign Overview: The Americans secured a river crossing in the west, and so the Brits are supposed to make a diversionary attack in the east to bleed off forces along this axis of attack. However, Monty intends on beating his Yank rivals to the punch (Blenneville), so vanguard elements of the 36th Armoured Brigade are moving in force to break through the weak German defenses in the area.

Forces:
Brit:
HQ 1 (Lt Stokes, 2IC, A Company, 1st Bn, The Royal Windsor Foresters, 36th Armoured Brigade)
HQ 2 (Capt Manchester, OC, A Sqdn, 101st Royal Tank Regiment, 36th Armoured Brigade)
HQ 3 (Capt Grimsbly, OC, A Company, 1st Bn, The Royal Windsor Foresters, 36th Armoured Brigade)
A Troop: M4A2
B Troop: M4A2 C Troop: Firefly (looks suspiciously like an M4 76 though)
Rifle Plt 1: Infantry
Rifle Plt 2: Infantry
Rifle Plt 3: Infantry
Wpns Plt: Weapons
Brigade 25 pounder section: Artillery
P47 making MG strafing run on 1D6 roll of ‘5’ or ‘6’

German:
HQ (Hauptmann Starkbier, CO, 1st Kompanie, 1st Bn, 1001st Inf Rgmt, 750th Inf Division
Rifle Plt: Infantry
Attachments:
Regimental Assault Gun Plt: Stug Regimental
AT Plt (PaK40): ATG
Battalion Mortars (Off table 80mm mortars): Weapons Stand
Regimental Flak section (Off table 88mm): ATG, placed immediately off the table.

Situation: UK forces are entering the table from the North (right in photo). Their goal is to exit three platoons off the South (left) board edge via the main road. The gray-green blob in the middle of the photo is a pond. The big, multi-colored squares are cultivated fields, the small, green squares with three dark green dots/lines are trees, and the bocage I hope is self-evident, as are the tan roads. Numerous buildings spread throughout, though concentrated at the crossroads is the village of Avaux.

Overview of Board:
 The British Forces: 3 HQ, 2 M4, 1 M4 76, 3 Inf (4 figures), 1 Wpns (3 figures), 1 Arty (Air Support not pictured; it’s a Typhoon that looks a lot like a P-47…)
 The (very) meager German Forces: HQ, Rifle, ATG (PaK40), Stug, Wpns, and ATG (as off-board 88).
 Initial Deployment (from behind Brit lines, North looking South, poker chips are German blinds):
 On the left (West), the Brits are Rifle Plt 1, HQ 1 (Lt Stokes), Arty, Rifle Plt 2, and A Troop
 In the center, the Brits are HQ 2 (Capt Manchester) and C Troop (Firefly)
 On the right (East), the Brits are Wpns Plt, Rifle Plt 3, HQ 3 (Capt Grimsbly), and B Troop

Turn 1: Right off the bat, air support checks on station! In the center, C Troop and HQ 2 move up the road and, as expected/dictated, C Troop gets smoked by the off-table 88 (this is part of the problem of soloing; I knew the 88 was there with LOS only on the main road. I could have dodged it all game, and for the rest of the game I did, but I figured I should play it out along the idea of a general advance searching out the enemy and running into the 88. Fool me once, fine, but even the Brits wouldn’t keep charging up the road, would they ;) ). As part of its advance, C Troop spotted the German Rifle Plt, which moved to close the distance in order to bring its AT weapons to bear. C Troop was able to react with fire, but owing to having just lost half its strength, the fire was ineffective, and C Troop pulled back out of the 88’s LOS. The German Rifle Plt wisely did the same, falling back into a small hamlet for cover. This would be the first, last, and only action in the center as that sector was covered by a vigilant 88mm gun. The Brits decided to press the flanks.
    On the left, RiflePlt 1 moved up and spotted the German Stug Plt. The Stug got the drop on the Brit rifles and put one hit on the platoon (stands are eliminated at 4 hits), and Lt Bristol decided to drop his men back out of the Stug Plt’s LOS. Rifle Plt 2 and HQ 1 (Lt Stokes) advanced and spotted the German HQ, Hptmn Starkbier. However, the German company commander had his eye on Rifle Plt 1 falling back from the Stug, opened fire, and put another hit on the beleaguered infantry. This leads to a protracted firefight between the German HQ and Brit Rifle Plt’s 1 and 2, and Lt Stokes’ HQ element. In the end, no further casualties are suffered by the Brits, but the German HQ takes 2 hits and Hptmn Starkbier decides his best bet is to join his Rifle Plt in the nearby hamlet. Then the Brits get hot, dropping Artillery fire on the German Rifle Plt, followed by A Troop advancing and eliminating them!
    On the right, Rifle Plt 3, Wpns Plt, and HQ 3 (Capt Manchester) moved up to the next line of hedges and spotted the German PaK40 Plt in a hamlet on the east side of the road, though everyone was out of range. B Troop, deciding to stay as far from the 88-covered main road as possible, shot up the right flank. The last action of the turn was the Typhoon rolling in and scoring a hit on the Stug Plt.

Stug Plt pounded by Jabo.

The Stug Plt commander, Sgt Bock, decided to press the issue rather than simply wait to be destroyed by the Allies’ overwhelming firepower. Bock moved his platoon at full speed ahead and then wheeled to the left in order to take A Troop by the flank, a perfect maneuver! However, the shooting didn’t match the maneuvering (0 hits on 6D10s, needing 7’s to hit) , and served only to anger the feisty Brits, who turn to meet their foe. Several volleys are exchanged before the all the Stugs are dispatched by A Troop, without the loss of a single man! The only high point for the Germans was when German Wpns Plt moved up and put one hit on Rifle Plt 2. The situation is already looking dire for the Germans; all units are on the table, and already two have been eliminated. Hptmn Starkbier has only his HQ and Wpns Plt on the west side of the road, and only the PaK40 on the east side. Of course there is the 88 sighted down the main road, but the Brits seem to have caught on to that little trick. Starkbier is already wrestling with the idea of 1) withdrawing his forces immediately, 2) conducting a fighting withdrawal, trying to save his forces while nickel and diming the Brits, or 3) just packing it in and surrendering. Tea and crumpets aren’t so bad, and beats the hell out of surrendering to the Bolsheviks!

The remaining German forces: ATG on left, HQ in center (w/2 hits), and Wpns Plt on right. The 88 is covering the road running North-South (top to bottom in the photo).

Turn 2: On the right, Wpns Plt and Arty drop fire on the German ATG, dropping it to half strength (2 hits). HQ 3 and B Troop have advanced halfway down the board on the far right, while HQ 2 and the decimated C Troop are moving to follow them. The Typhoon zooms in to pound the ATG Plt, but they’ve made great use of the rubble in the village and suffer no casualties. On the left, the Brits very cautiously advance, knowing they have a wounded but desperate enemy before them. Jerry must know it’s over, but no, the German Wpns Plt moves and takes the Brit Wpns Plt under fire, but to no effect.

The German frontline at the end of Turn 2, slowly being worn down.
 The Brit left:
 The Brit right:

Turn 3: Advance on right, maneuver and counter-maneuver on left. Stokes (HQ 1) and Rifle Plt 1 are able to find and fix the German Wpns Plt, and then A Troop and the Arty become involved, combining for a devastating fire, resulting in 3 hits. However, during pursuit Rifle Plt 1 becomes overextended and the German HQ pounds them in the flank, gaining them another two hits. Miraculously, air support shows again and rolls in to pound the German HQ for another hit.
    On the right, Wpns Plt pounded the German ATG into submission while all other units continued their sweeping right hook, though no enemy units remain on the east side of the road.

The Germans are beat to a pulp, with only the German HQ and Rifle Plt still remaining, both with 3 hits.

Turn 4: Arty opens the turn, eliminating Hptmn Starkbier’s HQ element. Lt Stokes’ (HQ 1) and Rifle Plt 1 are adjacent to the last remaining German unit, their Wpns Plt, and their blood is up. The HQ and Rifle Plt charge into close combat, though the Brit rifles and the German Wpns Plt’s are eliminated.

Casualties:
UK
Rifle Plt 1 (Eliminated)
C Troop (2 hits)
HQ 1 (1 hit)
Wpns Plt (1 hit)

German
HQ (Eliminated)
Rifle Plt (Eliminated)
Stug (Eliminated)
ATG (Eliminated)
Weapons Plt (Eliminated)

Conclusion: Kind of a walk over, with the situation never really in doubt. Come to think of it, while there was some high drama in scenario 1, I never really had the feeling the Allies wouldn't carry the field. Don’t misunderstand, I want to win the battles, and certainly history in summer of 1944 bears this out, but it won’t have been the most satisfying campaign ever if every battle was a push.
    What I need to figure out is, in the overall scheme of the scenario tree, were these set up as likely allied wins, i.e., is what happened what probably should have happened? Or has my use of platoon basing thrown off the balance of forces somehow?
    My respects to the scenario writer, who has done a great job, but I’m playing solo so the use of the off-table 88 ATG didn't really do anything to help the Germans’ cause. From here on it I will handle similar situations as I have off-table arty and mortars; that is, give them an on-table presence which can be better used by the Germans and not ‘cheated’ on by my umpire-like knowledge of the scenario.
    With the British success here, I now move to Scenario 3A. I've set up the board and given a glance at the opposing forces. I’m a little worried game-wise as it again appears to be a very strong Allied force against another ersatz German defense. I understand the concept of ‘breakthrough’ types of attacks with regards to not allowing the enemy to regain his balance, but a series of overwhelming forces against back-ups and scrubs, while fantastic in real life, doesn't make for the most dramatic wargaming. I need to take a look deeper into the book to see if eventually the German lines thicken, or if I need to have an operational setback despite my string of tactical victories in order to ‘help’ the German lines thicken. I’m probably worrying about nothing and just need to keep my head down and keep chargin’!


***Okay, so the last two posts were old batreps that I already had written up and lying around, so I decided to post them.  I actually played the next fight in Blenneville or Bust, took notes, took photos, but I didn't type it up.  This was back in February; I had some 'real-life' stuff pop up, so lost momentum and then by the time I got back to gaming my butterfly instinct took over and I was on to something new and shiny, so don't expect anymore of these batreps.  Don't fret, because the plan is to get more games in and more batreps up on the blog.

    I also wanted to put the two batreps in to give you a look at how I am 'philosophically.'  While I greatly admire the amazing work of many other wargamers regarding their beautiful figures and terrain, mine only have to be 'good enough,' as determined by me, so overall you'll probably see some 'decently' painted figures (as rated by me) and some rather minimalist terrain that is, in my view, not good looking but gets the job done functionally on the tabletop in order to allow me to play with my toys.

    Regarding rules, I don't think I've ever played a game in which I didn't tinker with the rules in some fashion.  That's right, I've never played a game 'straight out of the box,' as the author intended.  It's not that I think I'm smarter/better/more informed than the rules writers, I just think we all have our own biases about what we expect combat in a certain era to look and feel like, as well as we have our own expectations regarding mechanics.

    For example, regarding rules in general, I don't like IGO-UGO systems; furthermore, not only do I like some sort of random activation, I also like not knowing exactly what you're guys will do, i.e., how many actions they will be able to take.  For this reason I like command mechanisms such as BKC/CWC, Black Powder, Bolt Action, and "Song of..." style rules where you roll dice to see how many actions the unit gets to take.  I do think you can go too far; I love TFL, but the problem I have with IABSM is that you have random (card-based) activation, with a decent chance of not activating at all, combined with variable (D6-based) movement.  I'm not saying it's not realistic, but that's a lot of friction for me personally.

    For me, anything larger than skirmish level has to have very simple hidden movement rules, for which I find  TFL's IABSM 'blinds' concept can be bolted onto most any rules.  I don't mind using markers in my games, but I try to be a bit more elegant than what you saw in these two batreps (I don't know why I had 4 red beads up there for 4 hits; typically I'll have something like green=1 hit, yellow=2, red=3, etc...).

    In both my solo and games against an opponent, I like streamlined rules, and so a lot of times my tinkering is more of a "let's get to the point and stop dallying around."  For my solo games I like to be able to play on a small board where I can sit down, and for games against an opponent I almost always use my 6' x 4' table.

    I believe there are two approached for solo gaming: 1) you the player are playing an opponent, he's just not there (programmed), and 2) you the player are the commander for both forces and you play both sides to the best of your ability.  I am firmly, emphatically, and permanently in camp 1.  I want to play a game where I'm the good guy and I'm trying to whoop the bad guy, not be both.  So, as you saw with these two batreps, I throw my forces on the table as always 'spotted' and I start the bad guys off on blinds.  I generally try to give the bad guys varying advantages depending on the scenario, such as larger forces, +1 to die rolls, always fire first when coming off blinds, being able to fire while on blinds (some blinds are 'dummy'), etc...  When I reach decision points for the bad guys I tend to do break out three options: most likely thing the bad guy would do, most dangerous thing the bad guy could do, and dumbest thing the bad guy could do.  Usually I roll a D10 with 1-2=most dangerous, 3-9=most likely, and 10=dumbest (and a lot of times I make the dumbest thing an absolutely super aggressive move, as opposed to something dumb like "move out of the bunker and sit in the middle of a field").

Well, I think that's enough for now.  Thanks for looking.

V/R,
Jack

2 comments:

  1. An interesting read. We are also playing the Blenneville or Bust campaign and played 2A: Avaux as well. However, our game was a German win and we never got the impression it would be an Allied walkover. The difference it seems is the limited intelligence factor that is so hard to replicate in solo games. My German forces were hidden and so the British players had to treat every terrain feature as a possible blind containing enemy forces. Even when spotting at a feature very likely to contain enemy forces, spotting troops in heavy cover at long ranges is difficult. In contrast, spotting the British blinds advancing across the open fields was easy. This allowed the Germans to maintain initiative and engage on their terms in most cases. German MG teams firing on British in the open gutted two infantry platoons, leaving little to scout for the tanks. The PaK was able to consistently shoot before the tanks (due to an attached officer and the ATG bonus). The result was that the British tank platoons were worn down until they could no longer complete their victory conditions. Not a cheap victory for the Germans, who lost a couple of infantry squads, both StuGs, and half the crew of the PaK 40.
    Being able to gain intelligence on your enemy is a really significant force multiplier that is tough to replicate in converting the scnearios to solo play (and virtually impossible to put into a points scheme).
    We've played 3 scenarios from the book so far and have found all three of them to be very well balanced using the IABSM rules.

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  2. Brian,
    Those are great points, and I'm not at all trying to slam the Blenneville or Bust book; it's made for IABSM/TW&T, any issues are strictly my own due to playing solo with different rules. My best bet is probably simply upping the number of forces for the bad guys, though that can get screwy the other way (now it's an impossible scenario!). Nothing beats having a 'real' opponent, but solo-gaming is where I'll be spending most of my time.

    Jack

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