Monday, January 20, 2014

Fights 2-4 (Combined) in NW Europe


Sorry folks, my gaming pause has been brought to you by REAL LIFE.  So it's been awhile, and I'm sorry but I've had some stuff going on.  On a positive note, I've received a huge order from Pendraken, and have gotten it prepped and primed.  The same goes for a small order from Minifigs, and I've got some coastal stuff still in the bag from Dave at PT Dockyard.

In any case, I finally got back to the game table!  If you recall, I'd come up with this idea about coming up with a map, set forces for US and Germans, and a scheme of maneuver for a four-fight, battalion-sized operation, and I played the first fight a couple (few?) weeks ago.  I actually set the table up last weekend, then finally got a chance to fight it out this weekend.

To tell you the truth, I wasn't all that excited about this fight; first and foremost, as I originally set out, I thought the map I chose was perfect for what I was trying to do, but it wasn't working out that way, and I really wasn't happy with how the map was shaking out for my fights.  As always, I like options, and fight 1 was a 'hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle' fight to take a hill; fights 2 and 3 were promising more of the same, and I just wasn't happy with it.

Second, I'm still working out kinks with the rules (which are a modified version of one of my favorites, Blitzkrieg Commander), and so it's kind of a drag doing that, but it needs to be done.

Third, I put a bunch of this stuff online, and two things came out of this: 1) while there were a tremendous amount of folks who were fantastic (in terms of how helpful they were), there were a few folks that were respectful but not helpful at all, and there were some that really aggravated the @#$% out of me, and made me question this whole concept.  And that's the 2); even though some folks were great, I don't know that I feel like investing the time and effort into figuring out how to make campaigns/operations work while soliciting info/help on the internet.  I'm a solo gamer, and maybe I just need to stick with what I know, which is primarily Joe Legan's Platoon Forward (it hasn't let me down yet).

Lastly, I was feeling like I all of a sudden wasn't interested in the scale, that is, battalion-sized operations.  From the batreps here on the blog you can see I'm really a big fan of the smaller actions, i.e., a platoon or two per side, and so I found myself questioning why I playing these big (for me) battles.  Hell, I've really had a hankering for some "real" skirmish, i.e., one man is one man an activates as such, and you can't get much farther from battalion-sized than that.

However, I'm sure glad I played this out.  It helped me work out the rules, it helped me figure out scale issues with the troops and the maps, it's got me hankering for a battalion combat team in NW Europe in 1944 campaign, and it was a hell of a lotta fun!  So thanks to everyone that encouraged me to keep going with this (yeah, that's you again, Ronan)!

Now, stick with me because this is not exactly what you were expecting:

 The table, from north to south.  The north end is the US baseline, the south the German baseline.  This is my *loose* interpretation of the following map:

 The only real change from the map to my table is that I placed two fords, one at the far west (top) end of the river and one at the far east (bottom) end of the river, in addition to the road bridge crossing.

This was my original scheme of maneuver.  I previously played the 1st first fight (box 1), in which the US 'A' Company, with tank support, fought onto the map, taking heavy casualties but overcoming a series of German strongpoints in order to gain a jump-off point for crossing the river.

The plan sketched out above is still roughly the plan, although the crossing operation itself has changed.  The battalion conducted reconnaissance and found two fords (in addition to the roadbridge), one to the east and one to the west.  While neither ford (due to steep, muddy banks) is suitable for vehicle crossing, they are suitable for infantry, and the US Battalion Commander is determined to use them.  So, as opposed to a single axis of attack the battalion has changed to two-pronged attack, with one sweeping to the west (as shown above), and one sweeping to the east (not shown).

The big difference, for those following the original concept, is that I'm not going to play battles 2, 3, and 4 out separately, this batrep is me playing all three of them at the same time.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 View South to North from German baseline, with potential German forces shown by poker chips (my version of blinds).  White are infantry/guns, black are vehicles (the spotting rules are different for each, necessitating a way to differentiate).

 The German force: Company Commander (CC, bottom left), three rifle platoons of a Platoon Commander (PC) and three rifle squads, an outpost team consisting of a rifle squad and a PzSchreck team, a Forward Observer (FO) and two 80mm mortars, one PzMk V Panther, three PzJgr IVs with long 75mm gun, and a PaK-40 75mm gun.

I used a (slightly modified) version of Joe Legan's Platoon Forward blinds system to figure out the enemy forces ahead of time, then I matched each of them up with a real blind and a dummy blind, mixed them up, and put them on the table.  So, I knew ahead of time what the enemy forces were, but not where they would be.

 The US force.  We have the Bn CO, four rifle platoons: 1st Plt, 'B' Company (1/B), 2/B, 3/B, and 1/C, B Co Wpns Plt (only two MGs pictured, but also a PC and two 60mm mortars), two platoons of M4 Shermans, and a platoon of M10 Wolverine Gun Motor Carriages (GMC).  Also, with the rifle platoons, they are not pictured, but I added a bazooka team for each platoon.

You'll notice I forgot to bring B Company's Company Commander...  Also, I don't want to use them, but the remainder of C Company (2/C, 3/C, and Wpns/C), as well as a four-squad engineer platoon are in local reserve.

 Initial US positions, utilizing the ground gained in fight #1 as the jump-off point/line of departure.

The plan is for 1/B and 2/B with 2nd Tank Plt, Wpns Plt, and the Bn CO on the left (east) hook, and 3/B, 1/C, 1st Tank Plt, and the GMC Plt on the right (west) hook.

 Game on!  Looking west to east at US right, 1/C moves up (bottom center) then fails, as does 3/B (in woods at bottom right).  The GMC Plt moves up, but 1st Tank Plt holds up as the infantry didn't make much progress.

 On the left (looking north to south), 1/B bottom left and 2/B (top right) move up, while Wpns Plt (center right) gets its mortars set up and its MGs (and PC) up on top of the hill.  As Wpns gets to the top of the hill, they spot...

 One of the PzJgr IVs back near the German baseline.  You see another black (vehicle) blind at top left, and I can tell you there's another one next to it; part of the hard thing about soloing is not the spotting mechanisms, but the issue of the enemy wanting to come off blinds to get its units on the table.  That blind back there could be a Panther, or it could be a dummy.  In any case, my die rolls told me not to flip any other blinds over...

The PzJgr fired at one of the Wpns MGs to no effect (1 hit, 1 save), and the Wpns PC called in a 105mm arty barrage...

 Right on the PzJgr.  A little harsh, but effective.  If only the rest of the fight were this easy...

 2nd Tank Plt and the Bn CO move up on the left, finishing the US turn.

 This is the eastern hilltop, occupied by Wpns Plt's two MGs and its PC.  The German FO came on the table on the hilltop in the SW corner, and the two German 80mm mortars came on at the back-end of the village.  They immediately set about pasting the Wpns Plt MGs...  The small dice show hits (MGs and officers can take 3, infantry can take 5), the yellow bead shows the unit is pinned.  This finishes the German turn.

 Back on the US right, 1/C moves up, barely getting into the woods before failing its command roll (bottom right, looking north to south).  3/B does better, getting all the way up to the river line, flipping over two blinds: one dummy, and one is the German outpost team, consisting of one rifle squad and a PzSchreck team top left).  You can see the western ford at top right.  3/B and the Germans exchange fire, to no effect.

 1st Tank Platoon moves up towards the bridge, at which time a blind is flipped over on the SW hill; it's a PaK-40 anti-tank gun (ATG, with German FO next to him; you can see all German forces are dug in).  The German ATG has spotted the lead tank and lets rip, KA-BOOM!!!  The other two Shermans can't really see anything and decide to hold up and call in the mortars, which does the trick.

The two 60mm mortars go to work, getting two hits with their first round of fire, then they rolled boxcars on their next command roll (I go opposite of BKC, I roll over instead of under, so snake-eyes are my blunders), getting two more rounds of fire and demolishing the German ATG.

The view above is south to north looking from behind the German ATG on the SW hilltop at the Shermans near the bridge.

 The GMC Plt (bottom center) moves up, flipping over a dummy blind on the German side.  You can see the lead tank of 1st Tank Plt burning up near the bridge, and German infantry just across the river.

 On the US left, 2/B hauls ass towards the east ford, following the river.  I, I mean the Battalion CO, thought this would be the easy route, but two blinds get flipped over and they are two German infantry platoons (1st at top right, 2nd at top center).

 The Germans open up on 2/B, ripping it to pieces.  2/2/B takes two hits and gets pinned, 3/2/B takes two hits, while 1/2/B turns and fires, gets one hit, then rolls a blunder!  They fall back two moves and are pinned (bottom right).  The PC can't unpin 2/2/B, but they manage to unpin themselves before failing their command roll (CR).  3/2/B moves to cover and fires, hits nothing, as does 2/B's bazooka.

I screwed up; now the other German Plt fires, though it should have fired before 2/B did anything else.  The German 2nd Plt puts 3/2/B out, gets another two hits (one remaining) on 2/2/B and re-pins them, and gets a hit on the 2/B PC.

The Wpns PC tries to unpin MG2, fails, and MG2 can't manage to unpin itself.  MG1 fires, but (due to the previous German mortar work) it's down to only two firing dice and the Germans are dug in, so it has no effect, and MG1 fails it's next roll.  Things are looking pretty bleak, until the Bn CO moves up and manages to call in a 'danger close' fire mission on the German 1st Plt, just opposite the remains of 2/B.

 The 105s are on target, and pretty effective on the entrenched German Plt.  However, the barrage causes 3/2/B to run for it!  The Bn CO manages to unpin 1/2/B, and 2nd Tank Plt pulls up, with two of them pumping 75mm HE rounds at the dug-in German 2nd Plt, to little effect.

But guess what happened.  There is a clear line of sight all the way from the SW hilltop (foreground, you can see the burning ATG position and the German FO in the emplacement), and a German vehicle blind could see the 2nd Tank Plt advance in the east, so up popped another PzJgr IV,which quickly put a round into Tank #4's (T4) running gear, damaging it (1/2 speed rest of game).  Tested for crew bail and crew pin, no problems.

With the German 1st Plt beat up pretty well, tanks in the lead, and the German 2nd Plt a little cowed, 1/B decided to break cover and move into the field.  Not a terrible idea, but some of the worst dice rolling in human history meant that...

The German FO, sitting next to the PzJgr on the SW hilltop, calls in a barrage of Nebelwerfer rockets...  I have a feeling this is gonna be ugly, and it is...  1/2/B (which wouldn't have been in the barrage zone except for its earlier command blunder) and 1/B Bazooka are eliminated immediately, while 3/1/B takes 4 hits and is pinned, 1/1/B takes one hit and is pinned, 1/B PC takes one hit, T4 is hit again and immobilized, and T5 is hit, damaging its optics (-1 to hit for rest of game).  I didn't test for bail as I figured nobody would get out of their tank in the middle of a barrage.  2/1/B is the only untouched 1/B unit, so the Germans call in their mortars and get 1 hit and a pin...  This ended the US turn.

The PzJgr IV (off camera at top left) goes after 2nd Tank Plt's T4, blasting it to hell.  T5 and T6 return fire, with T6 (and its damaged optics) getting a hit, immobilizing the PzJgr and causing its crew to bail!

Then the Germans mortars went after 3/B (at the road bridge in the east), managing only two hits and a pin on one of 3/B's squads.  The German rifle squad at the bridge fired at 3/B to no effect, and the accompanying PzSchreck bounced a rocket off one of the M10 GMCs, but return fire from Wpns Plt's 60mm mortars eliminated it.  All three GMC's fired at the German rifle squad, but managed only 1 hit.

Back on the US left, the German 1st Plt PC tries to unpin hit platoon, and passes three consecutive rolls to unpin all three squads (the ones whacked by the US barrage).  A firefight between them and the remains of 2/B eliminates 2/B's bazooka team and puts another hit on 2/B's PC, with no hits on the enemy.

The German 1st Plt PC also manages to unpin his troops, and they lay into the smoking remains (from the Nebelwerfer barrage) of 1/B.  Multiple hits are gotten on 1/B, eliminating 3/1/B, while 1/B and T5's return fire is negligible and the Bn CO fails on a call for fire.  The German 2nd Plt fires again, eliminating 2/1/B.

Things aren't looking so good...

But then, on the far right, 1/C finally gets its butt in gear.  It rolled amazingly well and was able to carry out FOUR actions, getting across the west ford and up the SW hill (bottom center, looking east to west near German baseline), forcing the German FO back (bottom center-right) and flipping over another couple blinds, one of which was the last German rifle platoon (top center).  1/C takes a couple hits from the German 3rd Plt in the buildings.

Meanwhile, 3/B, sets about reorganizing itself for the push across the bridge, while the Wpns Plt 60mm mortars work over the German rifle squad opposite them, reducing it to one hit and pinning it.

3/B rushes across the bridge, eliminating the German squad and spotting another German PzJgr IV sitting in the middle of the town, which fires and gets two hits and a pin on 2/3/B.  The other two tanks of 1st Tank Plt rush over the bridge and then fail the CRs.  Then the GMC Plt moves up; while GMC2 and GMC3 fail their CRs, GMC1 gets over the bridge and fires at the German 3rd Plt in the buildings getting 3 hits and a pin in two rounds of fire.

Back on the US left, the remains of 2nd Plt (ambushed by German 1st Plt) and 1st Plt (caught in open during Nebelwerfer barrage) are consolidated into a SINGLE rifle squad and Plt Commander.  They manage to unpin and fall back into the safety of the woods (bottom right).

Wpns Plt PC once again cannot unpin MG2, and once again they also fail to unpin, and once again the Bn CO fails his call for fire on the German 2nd Plt (center left).  Both tanks open up on the German 2nd Plt and manage to get a couple hits on one of the German squads, forcing it to run.

The cavalry is on the way (please forgive me! This is the first, and hopefully only, time I've ever used non-finished figures in a game).  B Company's CO comes on in an M-20 scout car, leading four halftracks, each carrying a squad of the Engineer Plt.  And...

C Company's CO brings on his second platoon (1/C has been on loan since the start, and just made the successful attack to take the SW hill after crossing the west ford), 2/C, in the east.

Now it's the Germans' turn, and all hell breaks loose!  First, the German FO, still hiding in a ditch at the foot of the SW hill tries to call in a barrage on 1/C sitting atop the hill, and fails.  But then the German Company Commander comes on and calls it down, raining hell (in the form of Nebelwerfer rockets) down on 1/C: 1/C PC, 2/1/C, and 3/1/C were untouched, but 1/1/C took two hits and was pinned and 1/C bazooka took a hit and was pinned (top left).

The German 3rd Plt PC unpinned his 3rd Squad, which turned and fired a PzFaust at 1st Tank Plt's T3, but missed, and T3's return fire eliminated it.  A firefight then broke out between 1/C and the German 3rd Plt, with no hits on the Germans and two on 2/1/C.  Then T2 fired and put 1 hit and a pin on the German 3rd Plt's 2nd Squad.

And then things got crazy.  Sgt Schultz, commanding the German PzJgr IV hiding amongst the buildings in the town center, decided to go for broke.  He moved his vehicle forward and fired at GMC1, destroying it.  GMC2 returned fire, but the round bounced off the PzJgr.  Schultz then turned on T3, putting a round into the enemy tank's mantlet, destroying its main gun and causing the crew to bail.  The Schultz once again edged his vehicle forward to get line of sight, lined up the shot, and blew T2 to kingdom come!  3B moved forward, and its bazooka team put a round into the monster, shattering its optics (-1 to hit for rest of game), while GMC3 crossed bridge.

The pic shows Sgt Schultz' PzJgr at center left, 1/C at top left, 3/B at far right, GMC1, T2, and T3 knocked out at center right, with the 'fresh' GMC3 just to their right.  GMC2 is off camera to right, on the other side of the bridge.

The Germans bring their Panther on!  Impressed by Schultz' Wittman-like run, Sgt Stransky sets off to make his own legend.  The situation is that the US have allowed themselves to be split in two, and are weak in both places, so the mere sight of the Panther between the two forces should.... WHAM!!!  As soon as the Panther moves up to a hull-down position adjacent the German 2nd Plt, T5 slams a round into its turret.  It should have been fine as there's a butt-load of armor there, but apparently it found a softspot as the Panther blew up (2 hits on 6's, 2 2's rolled for saves, hit effect was seven=KO)!

The Panther brewing up greatly changed the complexion, and now the Germans in the east were wary of being outflanked and bagged (3/B was across the bridge to the west of the German 1st Plt, with US Eng Plt on the way to bolster 3/B).  So, the 80mm mortars dropped smoke to cover the withdrawal of their 1st Plt, then went to work on the Wpns Plt MGs, eliminating both.  The German 2nd Plt started shooting it out with the Wpns Plt PC and 1/B (in the woods), to no real effect, until they rolled a blunder, became confused, and fired at their own 1st Plt.

1st Plt then decided it was time for them to make their break, and they got to the top of the hill (where the Panther was KO'ed), then failed their command roll!  The US 60mm mortars then went after them, getting 2 hits and a pin.

Back on the US right with 1/C, the PC tried to unpin the bazooka team but failed, but they managed to unpin themselves and moved up for a shot at Schultz' PzJgr, but missed!  Schultz quickly backed his vehicle out of range, while the German 3rd Plt (at the wall) pinned the bazooka team.  1/1/C then charged down the hill and eliminated the German FO (bottom right), while 2/1/C traded fire with the German 3rd Plt, to no effect.

3/B consolidates, then moves forward from the bridge.  2/3/B fails, then the PC and 1/3/B moved up to the wall before failing (center left).  But the game changer came when 3/B's bazooka crept up and put a rocket into the PzJgr, ending Sgt Schultz' quest for the Iron Cross, which took the starch right out of the Germans...

German situation on US left: remains of 1st Plt (top center right) surrendered, while 2nd Plt (bottom left) fell back to fight another day.

German situation on the US right: 3rd Plt (bottom left), with Yanks knocking on the door to their front and right, surrendered, while the Company Commander (in bldg at top right) fell back, as did the two 80mm mortar crews.

US                                 German
7 rifle squads                  8 rifle squads (5 KIA/WIA, 3 POW)
5 weapons teams            2 weapons teams
2 officers                        3 officers (1 KIA/WIA, 2 POW)
3 M4 KO                      2 PzJgr IV KO
1 M10 GMC KO          1 Pz Mk V Panther KO
2 M4 damaged              1 PzJgr IV damaged and captured.

So, I had a great time.  The only let down was the 'one off' battle; if you've been reading, you know I'm a big fan of campaigns and their narrative, I like having a 'reason' for why this is happening on the tabletop and I like following characters.  I'd like to see the Bn CO have to combine 'A' and 'B' Companies and have to keep fighting, I'd like the the Plt commander of 1/C to have a name and be recognized for getting his men across the west ford to take the key SW hill, I'd like to see Sgt Schultz get his Iron Cross, and I'd like to follow all of them through a series of fights.  So stand by to see some of that.

Having said that, the simple fact of life is there's not enough time to do everything I want to do.  As soon as I finished my fight, I cleaned up the troops and rearranged the table.  Here's a look:

So, what do you figure this is for???  Well, I hope it looks like a good spot to have a Napoleonic fight!  Coming soon.



  1. Real life...blah blah blah...I think we all expect to get more gaming in that we actually do! I have been busy for the last week and so have not had a chance to look at many blogs or emails or forums...real life got in the way :-)

    Anyway, congratulations on finding a way out of your dilemma of what to do with the remaining 3 battles. I would not have thought of playing them all at once - good call.

    And congratulations on another great report. Very intere4sting. It may have been a very different end game if the Panther had not KO'd as soon as it appeared. I was cheering for the Germans until that...then I changed sides!

    I am glad you had a good time as I seem to remember the last few games you just fled there was not enough tactical decisions to be made, unlike this game where is sounds like there was a lot of them.

    One question: You mention that with blinds and solo it is more a matter of when the enemy will deploy off the blinds. Platoon Forward recommend that you deploy off the blind if you get a unit within effective range I am not sure if you are doing that or not - it seems you do (with the At gun) or not (the first AFV blind). What do you do?

    Note: I find working on rules not a drag. I can spend hours just thinking about them, rewriting sections, taking out a modifier and adding it back in a week later!

  2. Shaun,

    As always, thanks for the kind words, it helps to have the encouragement, i.e., knowing someone's reading and enjoying these. It certainly did work out, and is motivating me to tak it further. Regarding blinds, I mostly stick with the concepts from Platoon Forward, but not always. Sometimes it's kind of 'iffy' on whether to bring a blind on or not.

    For example, what about an enemy Type A (infantry) blind in some woods? How close do you let your guys get? I want to win, so I don't want to let my guys walk up to within 6" and get ambushed, but I don't want to cheat and put them on the table at 36" either, so usually I resort to die rolls (sort of a spotting/would the enemy want to bring them on-type of roll).

    Another example is, the enemy is getting beat up on his left flank, and there is a Type C (armor) blind sitting somewhat nearby, but out of LOS to my troops. I can't bring it on for being spotted, but the enemy commander would know his own forces and, in real life, might decide to bring that Type C blind into the fight.

    Same thing with the FO and mortars. If you noticed, I pretty much started the game with the German FO and mortars on the table. My line of thinking was that I didn't want the Germans to get screwed by not putting them on the table until I (as the player) spotted them, when they could/should have been in a relatively secure area (particularly the mortars) pumping out rounds on my GIs as soon as any German force was in a position to observe them.

    I also like messing around with rules, and it's a good thing, but I can't stop myself! Take care Shaun.


  3. Hi Jack! Just started taking a look at your Hell on Wheels campaign. What fun!

    I've been primarily a solo gamer for quite a while now, so I'm very interested in any techniques folks are using. I have a copy of Platoon Forward, but have yet to try it out. It looks interesting though.

    One technique I use for opposing units in my games is similar to the "Blinds" technique you've described. I make up some "pop up" unit cards to shuffle into a deck. The distribution of units is based on the particular scenario. While I put a variety of possible units (and dummies) into the deck, after shuffling, I remove some without looking at them. That way, while I have a general idea of what the enemy has, there's still some uncertainty as to exactly what units my automated opponent has.

    I also allow the "opponent" some sort of reaction move each turn that allows one or two hidden units to break cover before I bump into them. This allows a chance to, as Shaun describes, move or fire a few units to respond to my moves in a particular area of the battlefield.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts...

  4. PT,

    Thanks for the comment, and I'm glad you're enjoying the batreps. These days solo is about the only way I'll get a game in, so I can't recommend Plt Fwd enough, it's fantastic. I have also used the method you described above (and still do, depending on my mood), but I don't use cards, I use poker chips. You don't notice it in the pics because I have the writing face down, but all those chips have something written on them like "1st Plt," "MG," "1st Tk," etc...

    I also like to move the blinds around to react to my moves. The only thing that bothers me is you can never get it perfect; I really hate when I uncover a blind and it's 1) mortars, because I think, "man, they should have been on the table the whole time, pounding me every turn, 2) anti-tank guns, when I uncover them and my forces are pretty close, and the ATG would have had some great shots at my armor at a longer distance, or 3) infantry or machine guns, when I uncover them and my forces are pretty far away, and I'm' thinking "man, they would have been hard as hell to spot in the those woods, and they would have waited to the last moment to spring their ambush.

    Not perfect, but still a lot of fun!