Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Late-War Panzergrenadiers Vs. British Armoured Company

2,000pts Late-war 'Free For All'

I turned up to get seemingly pounded by Reds late-war British reluctant veteran armour, my opponent chosen for me because Lukes Yanks and Aidans Brits haven‘t made the conversion yet so I was the only other late war option. Managed to forget most of the golden rules of FOW, and this combined with the opposition turning up 8 inches away on their turn one, and their luck carrying on from where it left off with XXX Corp’s charge to Arnhem last night. Kickoff was around 19:20 and two platoons down (the 88's and the PaK40's) before I got a shoot off didn't bode well, neither did my Tiger platoons 50% loss ratio. The pioneers then got confused and attacked two platoons of Cromwells and were shot to bits, and the fat lady was tuning up at the end of the Brits turn 2 (German turn 1....). At 20:05 the StuG's were the only thing holding onto the right hand objective (just) and the heavy artillery where about to be squashed away from the left one, with my remaining Tiger looking somewhat panic-stricken and unsure which direction it was needed more.

15 minutes later and the fight back was on as I had decided that I had to bash at least one enemy platoon before conceding or suffer a humiliating 6-1 defeat. Luck sprang to the fore (and managed not to damage its hamstring doing so) as the artillery took two Cromwell’s with them, then my Panzerfaust-toting CO and his buddies swaggered out of the woods to delivery a sound smack across the chops of the remainder of the platoon as well as their backup - 7 tanks burning and one fled. In the centre another nutter with a panzerfaust did the dirty deed to a couple of careless Stuart light tanks and suddenly the opposition were at 50% of their company strength and teetering, three platoons destroyed. The StuG's nearly provided the final push, but a posse of Cromwell’s got behind them and that was the end of that. My solitary Tiger could have made it across to prolong defeat one more turn but at that point my CO decided it was probably for the best that his lot made a quick exit and left Tommie to tidy up the mess. A 4-3 defeat I can live with.

By the second turn I had started to wonder if I should have brought my Panthers to battle rather than my Panzergrenadiers, however that would have probably made for a much more boring match-up with the Cromwell’s forced to try and get a flank shot each time. As it was I lasted until around turn 5 when it looked to be over on turn 2, and with a better setup and tactics I would have been more competitive earlier.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Beware the Yanks…….

Last night I played a combined Allied force of Reds British (Crusaders, Grants and a hellova lot of artillery!) and Lukes Paras, and came away with a draw that wasn’t deserved, and with an urgent need to consult my rulebook over the number of things the Americans can do that I hadn’t spotted before! Here is a short list of observations about some of the American units:

1]. Shermans - Yes I said I thought they were good beforehand, but when your fielding StuG’s you don’t really believe you‘ll come off worse. But when they blow said StuG’s to little pieces without so much as a scratch themselves then you start to panic! The truth is they have armour as good as a StuG, if not better with the side armour of 4, and a gun that is the near equal and easily capable of blowing apart anything anyone at the club fields (even Tigers and KV1‘s at close range), plus the ability to move and fire full rate using their stabilisers.

2]. Armoured Recon Platoons - No I hadn’t heard of them, or taken any notice of their entry in the army lists, so when they appeared and started spraying my infantry with 50cal gun fire I was a tad upset. Particularly when the firepower and anti-tank ability of the 50cal means half-tracks and foxholes are not much protection - Naths Finnish T26‘s and Aidans Italians have real reason to fear them. Finally came the bomb shell that they are not transports, they are tank teams just like the Universal Carriers (shudder), so they can launch into any assault they like and not be pinned down. There is one ray of hope for us, and that is that they have to be accompanied by a number of jeeps, who can be pinned, can’t assault, and can be blown up by mortar fire!

3]. Artillery - Its not until American officers started popping out of the woodwork almost everywhere that you realise there really is no hiding from the Yanks heavy guns. I only just managed to block an attempt to use them to guide in the Brits 25pdrs which would have been disastrous for me! My fortune in the two times I’ve played them is that they only have light guns, and my tanks were fairly safe, although my mortars and one of my 88s didn’t survive as unscathed as my Panzer III’s. When they managed to haul big guns across from the States we’re all in trouble.

4]. Fearless Paras - MORE fearless enemies? And this lot are fearless veterans to boot, making them tough to hit and tougher to frighten away, a bit like fighting the Finns. I am resisting the urge to switch to the SS on moral grounds, but only just….

5]. Bazookas - Its about one per platoon, then 3 come with the HQ, 3 come with the engineers, more with the mortars, more with the HMG’s and so on. I haven’t managed to get close enough to get shot at by them yet, but the first poor soul to optimistically throw a tank platoon into the front of those paras is going to have a long walk home afterwards.

All this wouldn’t matter of course if the person using them was happy to sit at the back and trade long-ranged blows, my Germans can do that as well as anyone (except possibly the Royal Horse Artillery). However our resident Yank prefers attacking. Damn.

3,000pts Panzergrenadier Kompanie Vs. British Light Armoured Squadron (Red - 1,500pts) & US Parachute Company (Luke - 1,500pts)

3,000pts Panzergrenadier Kompanie Vs. British Light Armoured Squadron (Red - 1,500pts) & US Parachute Company (Luke - 1,500pts)

Last weeks military action saw my Panzergrenadiers force a draw against Naths Finnish tank horde, with neither side looking much like making the necessary breakthrough in an ‘Encounter’ mission, although I had the upper hand before time ran out. This week I faced a combined force of British (Red and his Crusaders) and Yanks (Luke with his Shermans and Paras), in a 3,000pt punch-up. We had diced to see if we should play a 3-sided scenario, or combine the Allies vs. my Germans, and I was happy when the dice came up for the latter because my 3k was already prepared. In hindsight perhaps the 3-sided version would have gone better.

The Setup:

My 3,000pts consisted of virtually all of my big-hitters; the 88’s, PaK40’s, Panzer III’s, StuG’s and heavy artillery were there, and the truck-mounted panzer grenadiers were backed up by HMG’s, mortars and two lots of pioneers - one of which was armoured. I was also desperate to bag my first US Sherman after my poor first showing against the Yanks two weeks previous. Slight worry set in when I saw the size of the British artillery battery and the number of British and American tanks waiting in reserve, the enemy infantry looked welcoming in comparison!

The Battle:

An ‘Encounter’ was rolled for the second week running, and the allies started the battle aggressively! Their two universal carrier patrols used their recon move to race down the flanks, and, riding their luck, single-handedly wiped out my PaK40’s and heavy artillery before decimated an infantry platoon. I struggled to contain them, and only after my infantry rallied on the left, and the 88’s got some good hits in on the right did I manage to see them off. A bad start though with a good 400pts of troops lost to the enemies 180, and a further 200pt infantry platoon weakened enough to result in it fleeing easily later. I had also lost the initiative before I’d realised it was there for the taking.

A quiet period of exchanging artillery fire followed while both sides waited for reserves, and saw me lose an 88 and a number of mortars. The main fighting was done by platoon of Paras who made an ill judged assault on my decimated platoon on the left and were hammered by MG and HMG fire, the survivors heading to the rear. Finally reserves started to arrive, and the Panzer III’s were first on the field. However, their central arrival position and the enemy artillery (which I was unable to damage sufficiently) meant their attack up the centre/right was slow rather than daring, stopping to pick off a hidden 6pdr portee on the way. In more hindsight at this point I think Red may have been due a company morale check, but nobody noticed and the battle continued.

Serious bad luck struck my plans as the allies reserves flooded onto the battlefield in the form of Shermans and Grants, and entered opposite the Panzers ready for a fight. 870pts of American medium tanks vs. 500pts of German Panzers was never going to be an equal fight (eight tanks vs. 5, and the enemy had superior guns and equal armour!), and I made the mistake of trying to stick it out and hoping to get lucky. To make matters worse the Brits artillery dropped smoke on my remaining 88, and the StuG’s came on too far away to help. The Brits Grant tanks inevitably flanked my armour, and with three Panzers burning the others retreated to fight another day.

With time running down rapidly I made a final, audacious, attempt to win the game for the Germans (while I thought nobody was looking) by pushing up the left flank with half-tracked pioneers using the roads. Unfortunately this attack was blunted before it had even started when the supporting StuG’s had to head back to the centre to try and stop the victorious Shermans, and the Allied artillery pinned down the rest of the infantry, seemingly ignorant of their armoured status, and further US troops in armoured personnel carriers were followed onto the field of battle by an endless tide of Crusaders to block all attempts.

The final act saw the StuG’s try go toe to toe with the Shermans, and come off dramatically worse as the American tanks used their stabilisers to good effect to close with their adversaries and destroy two and frighten off the third for no losses. Further units of German pioneers and infantry had arrived to dig in around the objectives in a last line of defence but time was up and the game ended in a draw that felt very much like a defeat. As one of the opposition remarked “A pity, we had them on the ropes”, and he was right.

The Analysis:

From the moment the Universal Carriers fortuitously made it close enough to assault my troops on turn one I was on the back foot, not helped by the damage the ’Carriers did to my defences and long-range hitting capacity. I was certainly left pondering if there was an equivalent unit in the Germans ranks (and the answer is no, not really), and how to block out this menace.

I was also left in awe of the Sherman and its variant the Grant, which both combined to easily see off my Panzer III’s and then my StuG’s with more aggressive tactics, hitting me at a weak point and pressing an advantage. An advantage which was held thanks to the Universal Carriers raids and the use of smoke from the heavy artillery. The Sherman certainly has equal/slightly better armour than the Panzers available to me, as well as a better gun, while the Grants proved their worth. Even if the StuG’s had managed to hold their own the Brits Crusaders had arrived, and minus my PaK40’s, 88s and artillery I wouldn’t have been able to stop them.

I think the battlefield may have also been a bit small, with little chance of outflanking the large armies we were fielding, maybe a 6ft by 8ft table would have worked better. Oh, and my motivation tests are seriously starting to drive me towards the arms of the SS in the hope of passing one!

A last thought: I decided before the game that taking the Tiger(s) would be unfair on an enemy with few weapons that could destroy them from any angle. The last time I decided that I also lost, on that occasion to the Finns. Perhaps I’m being too nice?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Grenadier Kompanie (Rick) Vs. US Parachute Company (Luke) Vs. British Infantry Company (Aidan).

Grenadier Kompanie (Rick) Vs. US Parachute Company (Luke) Vs. British Infantry Company (Aidan).

With an uneven number of FOW players at the RGMB yesterday we plumed for a mission of our own creation so that all three could get a game in. This is how we got on. Forgot the camera again, bugger.

The Rules:
A 1,500pts three-way battle. The rules were simple; highest roller picks a side/corner, then take it in turns to deploy a platoon up to 18“ on to the table. Once deployment was complete we rolled to decide who would have first turn. Victory could only be gained by capturing the single objective in the dead-centre of the battlefield on or after turn 6. The mobile battle special rule was also used, no recon moves were allowed.

The Opponents:
The Germans - I had hoped to go easy on the Yanks in their first battle, but hadn’t managed to finish painting the Panzer III’s so was forced (forced I tell you!) to take the StuG’s. They were joined by the usual three grenadier platoons, one of which was pioneers, as well as mortars, HMG’s spread around the grenadiers, and a couple of PaK40’s.

The Brits - An unusual force appeared; Aidan had gone all 8th Army on us! Several infantry platoons (in shorts!) were backed up by mortars, two universal carrier patrols, 6pdrs pulled by jeeps, and the compulsory Matilda’s and Valentines combo in their new desert camouflage colours.

The Yanks - A totally new army never seen before at the RGMB; the American’s were mostly Para’s, and had a platoon of four Shermans to help. Two infantry platoons were also supported by 75mm light howitzers, engineers, and more bazookas than grains of sand on the battlefield!

The Battlefield:
Making good use of the new desert club scenery we placed a village to the left-centre of the 6 by 4 ft desert board, and surrounded it with small and large sand dunes and some rocky outcrops. The objective sat just beyond the edge of the village in an open area of land.

The Battle:
Aidan rolled highest for the Brits and we were off, with British infantry and tanks spreading out in a general wave towards the village in the centre of the board. My Germans went next, and having boasted that I would claim the first ever American Sherman kill I sent my StuG’s off towards them. They StuG’s managed to bail one of the four out, and then turned to deal with a more immediate problem as a trio of universal carriers crashed my party in the village and threatened to do horrible damage to my infantry.

Having roundly failed to save the situation the StuG’s then forgot how to storm-trooper and were promptly caught in the flank by the three other Shermans, ably assisted by a British advisor! With two destroyed the third fled, and with large-scale infantry casualties as well the Germans were generally considered to be out of the running.

The Brits turned their attention to the Para’s, who, having just got off the boat from New York should have realised they were supposed to duck. They didn’t, and many Americans met many English (and some Scottish) bullets very hard. The Brits infantry tanks; 3 Valentines and 3 Matilda’s skirted around the village to the American side, casually machine-gunning their ’allies’ as they did so (ironic? Most definitely), and settled near the objective with victory looking to be at hand.

With their infantry either dead, or hiding in foxholes, the Shermans moved more centrally and started a duel with the Brit tanks in an effect at forestalling defeat. Meanwhile the remains of the Germans plucked up some courage and started to move cautiously into the village, using their mortars to good effect on the Brit infantry and their PaK40’s to wipe out the original troublesome Universal carrier patrol.

The Brit tanks position meant that the Shermans had to advance to very close range to contest the objective, and before they knew it the Brits had gone all Royal Navy on them and broadsides were the order of the day. The Brit infantry, having been stalled by the German and American bombardments now moved up to the village, where they initial success and destroyed the remains of the German pioneers, however the final Grenadier platoon launched itself in and wiped out the Brits at the same time as their mortars struck gold and scared off the Brits 6pdr battery and Company Commander.

The Americans came off worse in the naval battle, losing three Shermans including their platoon CO to the Brits three Matilda’s, however these losses took the Brits to a company morale check, and being bereft of a commander they retreated from the field of battle. The Americans then looked up and discovered that in the confusion the German infantry had managed to sneak up to the edge of the village and into range of the objective. With nothing that could reach them in time the Para’s were unable to contest, and victory went to the Germans!

I am definitely too paranoid about Universal Carriers, and the combination of this, and my inability to storm-trooper cost me a third of my force early on in the StuG’s. At that point I thought the Brits had it all wrapped up with Yanks going down like 9-pins everywhere, however there was definitely complacency in their attack, and by the time their infantry had worked out it should help the tanks they had been whittled down by German mortars and American 75mm guns. The loss of the Brit CO to panic was the perfect example of this. The Yanks did well for their first battle, and their Shermans were aggressive and difficult to deal with even if the infantry went a bit rabbit-in-the-head-lights early on and didn’t recover.

Nice to see some Americans join the fray, and their Fearless Veteran abilities, along with their bazookas, should give a few armies a fright, and the paint job was fairly good as well! Hopefully some pictures next time.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The Vapnartak Report 2010 (like the Cook report, but with fewer episodes)

The Vapnartak Report (like the Cook report, but with fewer episodes)

Below are my thoughts and report on the day and the tournament, readers should note these are my views and opinions, and should not be considered the views of Greater Germany or its people. Neither should they be taken seriously.

The venue itself was very impressive. It took us a mere 2hrs 5mins to drive from the centre of Chester to parking up outside York Racecourse (in Red’s case this was slightly longer but that’s what you get for living in deepest Wales), and it well signposted and easy to find. We were just waved inside without having to wait in a queue and found the FOW area. The building was large, modern, and packed with traders on the first few floors, with the FOW, Warmachine and a couple more Tournaments taking up the top two floors.

Sadly I was unable to make a full survey of how many traders were there, but there was certainly much shiny gaming goodness to be seen everywhere. On a rare walk around at about 10:20 I did notice that there was a queue running out of the doors and a long way around the corner, and was very thankful that we arrived early! It definitely became very busy for most of the day around the traders, with the bring & buy being surrounded by what appeared to be a 40 wide, 3 deep mass of people.

The Tournament

And so to business -

Round 1
: It appeared that the Germans (or Axis, who managed to include two Finns and at least one Italian) outnumbered the Allies 11 players to 9, so some Axis had to fight each other, a situation Nath and his Finns found themselves in for the whole day. I was lucky (!) to end up was an Allied opponent, a Russian in fact that went my the name of John.

Having declared on the drive over that I feared facing a Strelkovy Battalion or a heavy tank company the most, John was fielding a 2,000pt Russian Guards Strelkovy Battalion, with a 5-strong KV-8 heavy flame-tank support- bugger. This was joined by a full-strength Strelkovy Company, a 2/3 strength one and a battery of four SU 122’s. Finally the Russian air force also put in an appearance. My own lot had the Marder III’s, StuG’s, PaK40’s, heavy artillery and three platoons of infantry, supported by mortars and machine guns.

With Hasty Assault the mission I quickly decided that the KV-8’s had to be put out of commission before I even start on the mass of infantry, and with an open enough battlefield to use my long-reaching AT guns I was hopeful. Fortunate smiled and only the KV-8’s and the full-sized Strelkovy Company could start on the battlefield, and I set my StuG’s, Marder’s and PaK40’s the task of killing them off, supported by my pioneers. Unfortunately they badly failed in their task.

The rest of the Russian army turned up and gradually advanced in a ten turn game while everything with a chance of destroying one of the Russian heavy tanks fired repeatedly at the KV-8‘s. By the end I had managed to bail out several, and destroyed the KV-8 company commander twice, but only two Russian heavies were burning for the loss of all of my anti-tank except the artillery, and my infantry were driven far from the objective. I managed to destroy a single SU 122, and around 15-20 bases of infantry (nearly a platoon morale check), but a 6-1 defeat was inevitable (or in the terms of this tournament a 32-0 defeat!). Luckily my opponent was a likable chap, and the pain of defeat wasn’t in evidence as I headed off for lunch.

Round 2: Back from the shops for the second game; the 800pt quick-fire round, and the tournament rules which meant you simply moved one table to your left, which left me with a desert battlefield, and facing Red Brits as an opponent! 110miles is a long way to go to game against someone you play most weeks, but the organiser was disinterested in our pleas for different opponents, and we sat down to slug it out. Having had a dry run a few weeks previously I had adapted my tactics, and some buildings in the centre helped my cause as my infantry and captured KV-1e swiftly made them into strongholds, and they joined by PaK40’s and 8.8cm Luftwaffe gun in shooting up the rest of the enemy who, after a gallant charge towards my AT guns (I lost the PaK40’s and my mortars), were unable to dislodge or damage my centre and eventually retreated from the battlefield. A 5-2 victory, or a 26-6 victory in tournament terms.

Round 3: Thankfully no sign of Nath’s Finns, but plenty more Russians and yet more KV’s! This time it was a mixed tank company commanded by a man named Simon. He brought four KV-1e’s (one of which was the CO), seven T-34’s, seven T70’s, a 2/3 Strelkovy Company, a Sapper platoon and a Katuysha platoon of two rocket launches to the fray. My own force had only the pioneers, the PaK40’s and the StuG’s to combat this wall of armour, plus two more platoons of infantry and some SMG troops, it didn’t look good. It looked even worse when I found out what rocket launchers can do, and my ambush on the T-34’s with the StuG’s yielded only one casualty. The battlefield was heavily covered in scenery, with hedgerows, buildings and woods giving a taste of Normandy. I had hoped to use this dense terrain to ambush the enemy piece-meal, but instead it aided their advance down the centre, and it looked grim with the T-70’s following the KV-1e’s out of the built up area and helping to destroy my retreating pioneers. The T-34’s had headed off towards my far right flank, and the enemy infantry was moving through woods, fields and hedges on its way towards swamping my remaining bastion of infantry and PaK40’s on a hill overlooking the objective.

I had completely given up on victory by this point and simply wanted to destroy a platoon to gain some points and morale! My chance came suddenly when the enemy sappers ran straight into an ambush - my heavy platoon (SMG’s) and a grenadier platoon leap from hedgerows to hit them from two sides at close-quarters, and with no support they were forced back into buildings and wiped out. The KV-1e’s and T-70’s also unexpectedly came a cropper when the StuG’s hit them from the rear and the PaK40’s from the front. My poor luck in killing tanks evened itself out as two KV’s burned and the third fled, while the PaK40’s accounted for six out of seven T-70’s, with the StuG’s destroying the last one. The T-34’s had swept round my flank and secured the other objective, but I had destroyed three enemy platoons (half of their starting six), and despite defeat had my own personal victory which made me feel much better about the whole thing! Around two minutes of stalling would have brought a draw, but the opposition deserved the win and it would have been a bit petty. A 4-3 defeat translated into a 19-13 defeat.

Final analysis:

Slightly gutted to have travelled so far to face one of my own club members, and annoyed at the number of heavy tanks. I counted at least three Russian armies with KV’s, two Finns with the same tank, (I know, even I used one in my 800pt game but it looked nice!). There was also at least one German with a Tiger and two Brits with Churchill III’s, I did hear mention of a Panther army further down the tables. Perhaps I should have realised that tournament play would mean the opposition would bring slightly more powerful armies than my poor Grenadier Kompanie, and my infantry spend most of each battle hiding in buildings or trees, or being gunned down as they tried to retreat from enemies they had no chance killing.

On the plus side I was very happy to receive 14 out of 16 for my painting, although I felt a score of 6 out of 8 for uniformity was a little harsh and probably based upon my PaK40’s being late-war dark yellow. The total of 20 meant that despite losing two games out of three I still ended up on a respectable 83 points overall (with the full 24 points for sportsmanship added - possibly generous of my last opponent because I was getting quite depressed during part of that game!). 8 points were available for background, although I don’t know whether they got added in or not. Hoping the organisers will be putting the scores up online soon so I can find out what place I came in.

Other plus’s were seeing some of the scenery that others produce for 15mm games, and I was particularly impressed with the Battlefield In A Box material from Battlefront which I think I may invest in. I also fought against flame tanks and rocket launchers which I’d never encountered before, and have a healthy respect for then now! I managed to forget my camera, so I’m hoping Nath will be providing the pictures at some point, I will take a few of my army (now its finally painted) and post it up soon. All in all a good day, even if it was spent running from the enemy!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

2009: A Wargaming Review

For me, from a wargaming point of view, 2009 was the year of Flames Of War. Up to the start of spring Games Workshop systems had dominated my modelling, painting and gaming for nigh on 14 years, with 40K standing particularly tall with my Imperial Guard. My Bretonnian’s and undead were relatively successful in Warhammer, and Necromunda, Bloodbowl and Lord Of The Rings also received portions of my time, and FOW had just started hammering on the door in a quiet but insistent kind of way.

Warhammer Campaign: Isle of Chelonis
The year started in traditional style with a Warhammer campaign seeing my Bretonnian’s take a boat trip to the “Isle of Chelonis”, where their nobility were promptly decimated by some dark elves. After this humiliation the peasantry managed to embarrassed some high elves, and defeated a green wave of orcs. A final death match punch-up between Lords turned out to be slightly one-sided when everyone else brought a dragon or a Shaggroth and my Lord brought a horse, and the tired peasants headed for snail land as the Isle turned out be a Kraken which had come up for some air and vanished.

Follow the campaign here: http://www.chester-gaming.co.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=401

Quote of the campaign from the master Mr ‘Shaggoth-Production-Line’ Fazey, on the subject of swords in stones, or this case an altar: “Nurse! The Elves have taken the wrong pills again! Hmm, I like the sound of the altar- but there's a sword in it. So I won't pay full price- 'cause it's damaged.”

The FOW Evolution (also known as “The Story of The Growth of FOW and my Amazing Garage”)
At the start of 2009 my FOW German forces were quite small. Lead by the excellent platoon of 3 StuG’s, it included three platoons of infantry, some 88mm guns, a platoon of Marder III’s and a lost group of half-tracks which I couldn‘t legally use, hardly world beating and barely a 2,000pt force. However, they saw a massive expansion this year, including artillery, numerous platoons of infantry, Panzer III’s, Tiger tanks and many, many trucks. From having a Grenadier Kompanie, I expanded to an oversized infantry company, and a large Panzer grenadier Kompanie which had the option of riding in trucks or half-tracks.

The two main reasons for this expansion was firstly that I was inundated with opponents at the RGMB. Previously the enemy had consisted of a British Guards Infantry Company (Aidan), and a small Russian continent (Red). However by the middle of ‘09 the Guards had gained an Italian arm, and the Russians had turned into a behemoth of staggering proportions, as well as having a sideline in the form of a Desert Rats Motor Company. Even the Finnish (Nathan) turned up to cheer on proceedings, and further support for both the British (Ian), and the Germans (Peter B) was not long in coming.
The second main reason my enthusiasm for FOW was came when I moved house and acquired (sadly only for seven months) an amazing huge garage. By the end of April the first FOW campaign at the RGMB was afoot, and my gaming now took up both Tuesday nights in Chester, and Thursday nights in a garage on the edge of Wrexham. The Russians established themselves as the main protagonist, and an arms race began.

Flames of War Campaign: Liberating Leningrad
This was a ’fantasy’ campaign that was fought over two Axis of Attacks surrounding the besieged city of Leningrad in 1943, it represented the series of attacks that had replaced Operation Citadel after the 6th Army had been successfully withdrawn from Stalingrad (told you it was fantasy). It turned into a slogging match, mostly between Russians and Germans for the town of Novgorod, and the Allies managed to claim a minor victory at the end of everything. Interestingly the Italians were at the centre of each major turn of the tide, and I include their entertaining take on the campaign:

“The sides: Allies: Brits, Russians, Italians
Axis: Germans, Fins, Italians

The objective: The Allies are pushing west to take some random town nobodys ever heard of, whilst the Axis are pushing east for exactly the same reason.

The kick off: After a bit of scrabbling for the ball in the centre circle the flow of play took the two teams west to the German goal line, and came close to a soviet victory. Luckily the Italians turned the tide for the Axis forces, and both teams set off east (in a big unsightly scrum with lots of kickin and punchin) . The German forwards proved almost unstoppable as they ploughed through the allied defences. However just as they entered the penalty box they met the Italians coming the other way(who thought they'd heard the whistle for half time and had swapped ends) and the tide was turned to cries of "Go Lazio!" and "Avanti Savoia!". As the Axis forces were pushed back the campaign turned into an ugly punch up more or less on the centre. When the final whistle blew the Axis had kept the game in the Allied half of the pitch, but had had more players sent off (tho not for lack of tryin on the part of the Italians) . That sound about right?”

Follow it all here: http://www.chester-gaming.co.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=552

Other uses of the Amazing Garage
Included a huge day-long Warhammer battle of good vs. evil, as the Empire and High Elf troops, of Aidan and Red respectively, took on the Undead and Skaven (my lot), allied to the Goblins (Chris Fry) and some Chaos Warriors (Chris Fazey). It all produced a highly entertaining battle which sadly the forces of Evil lost, although not by much. And this being despite a truly spectacular High Elf collapse and the Empire general abandoning his ally!

Read about it all and see the pictures here: http://rgmb-stonebridge.blogspot.com/search/label/Warhammer

To 40k or not 40k….
This was not the year of 40k, despite the appearance of the new, long-awaited, Imperial Guard Codex. I was reliably informed that this codex would right all the wrongs, and put the Guard on a par with their greatest enemies (I might even stand a chance vs. the Necrons!). I rushed down the shop to pick up my copy, and there the excitement ended. The book was excellent, and the rules indeed appeared to do what was promised, but other campaigns and games snatched away the limelight and few games were played.

Months later, and following much playing of FOW, I tried turning back to 40k, but found the experience quite disappointing. Even a huge battle in which I got to use all 8,000pts of my Imperial Guard army was only exciting until I had to start moving the troops, my defeat left me so despondent that not even a battle report was forthcoming! However the imagery remains a strong draw, so despite plans to sell several parts of the army I will probably return to it in 2010.

Tuesday Nights and the end of the year
The RGMB meet on a Tuesday, but in 2009 so did virtually everything else! From birthdays and anniversaries, to holidays, and in particular works meetings. From going to the RGMB every Tuesday my attendance became erratic at times. When even the snow and illness chipped in at the end of 2009 I finished the year with missing five Tuesdays in a row, and this, combined with moving house for the second time in the year and losing my amazing garage ended my gaming season early.

In fact after the end of the FOW campaign gaming in general became quite disjointed because I was missing so many Tuesdays and no campaigns were happening. Late in the year a late-war FOW battle for Caen began, but ended soon after due to the participants work commitments (and possibly because the Germans were winning!). Hopefully this will began again sometime in 2010.

The Prospects of the New Year
2010 looks to have the same disrupted pattern as the end of 2009. I will be travelling to York to take part in the Vapnartak FOW mid-war tournament on the 7th of February, and there is a 40k campaign beginning at the RGMB in late January, but I am due to be a dad for the first time in April, and I’m sure this will combine with work to make it a very quiet year on the gaming front. At least I might get some more painting done!

Preparation for Vapnartak: Day 2

German Grenadier Kompanie 2,000pts 'Hasty assault' Vs. Finnish Tank Company (Nath)

With the Finns once more my enemy we ran through the ‘Hasty Assault’ scenario for the first time to try and avoid nasty shocks at Vapratnak. Both sides used the same lists as the previous week, the Finns because they justifiably felt it worked after their complete victory, and I used the same Grenadier list because I believed it should have done better, and it was my own poor tactics that had helped defeat it. Plus both armies are now registered for the tournament and unchangeable so will have to work or lose!

Scenario rules: http://www.chester-gaming.co.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=858

The had one platoon of five T-26 light tanks, one of four T-28 multi-turreted tanks, one of two KV1’s, one of two Landsverks anti-aircraft vehicles, one of four howitzers, one of anti-tank guns and a pioneer platoon. My own force consisted of 3 platoons of infantry (1 pioneer), 1 of Marder III’s, 1 of StuG F/8’s, 1 of HMG’s and 1 of mortars, topped off by a platoon of two PaK40’s and one of four 10.5cm howitzers.

The Battle:
With the battle being fought lengthways on the table, and the night fighting rules in operation, the Finns reverted to massing their tanks on their right side, and with my superior number of platoons I was able to place the Marders and StuG’s to oppose them. The enemy armour had just reached the StuG’s long range when the sun came up, while the Marders and a unit of Grenadier pioneers had worked their way into a wood flanking the armoured wedge. Elsewhere on the battlefield the Finns pioneers had made it into the buildings in the centre to defend their objective, and my remaining two grenadier platoons were massing on my right in preparation for an assault across open group which would only happen if the enemy tanks were eliminated.

In the dust-up on the German left which followed the rise of the sun I lost my pioneer platoon and all but one of the Marders in exchange for all of the T-26’s and T-28’s. My luck well and truly held as both of the KV1e’s where destroyed by lucky artillery shots, while the Landsverks were destroyed by the StuG’s, who also claimed three T-26’s, a T-28, and several (undamaging) hits on the KV1e’s, while surviving numerous artillery bombardments.

With the enemy armour eliminated my Grenadiers on the right swept from their positions in the woods and assaulted the Finns pioneers, who were already depleted by mortar fire. They cleared the numerically inferior enemy from the buildings for few losses and the opposition conceded.

In a reverse from the previous weeks battle the Finns were genuinely unlucky, while the Germans could do little wrong, and credit to the opposition for sticking it out to the bitter end! Three 152mm gun hits on the roof of a StuG should have put it out of commission, but somehow the assault gun shrugged them off each time, while the Marders survived a hail of low velocity shells which should have easily destroyed them.

The Germans luck extended to the artillery taking out the KV1e heavy tanks, the Grenadier pioneers wiping out the T-28’s, and the StuG’s exceptional shooting. It is also worth noting that if the darkness had lasted another turn the Finns would have been amongst the Germans and I would have been in serious trouble.

From a scenario point of view I had been hoping to race my truck-mounted infantry forwards to take and hold the objectives early, but the darkness prevents doubling so I waited for the enemy to attack and be depleted before I counter attacked, hopefully the opposition in York will do the same! I liked the scenario overall as being a bit different and I think I’ll leave a copy in my rulebook as another option.

German Grenadier Kompanie 800pts 'Take The Hill' Vs. Finnish Tank Company (Nath)

Having finished inside two hours we decided to try out the 800pt scenario too, and set up a hill in the middle with the objective on top. The Finns ran with a list of 1 platoon of five T-26’s, 1 platoon of four T-28’s and their platoon of pioneers. On the German side my troops consisted of my captured KV1e (liking the irony of both sides using captured Russian tanks!), my PaK40’s, two platoons of Grenadiers in trucks and an 8.8cm Luftwaffe FlaK36 gun.

After last weeks experiment of driving the KV1e directly onto the hill so I couldn’t lose I decided to be less boring and sent it off to the right to go through a wood and flank any enemy attack towards the hill. The infantry set off for the hill in their trucks, covered by the 8.8cm gun on the left, and the PaK40’s on the right. Unfortunately the Finns chose daring over caution and it paid off for them. The T-26’s raced through the gap between the KV1e and the hill and destroyed the PaK40's for the loss of one tank, and then joined the T-28’s in assaulting and driving back both of my infantry platoons, despite losing two T-28's tanks to the 8.8cm gun, and a further one to the KV1e. The German heavy tank drove into the melee of troops and tanks surrounding the German side of the hill but was too late to save my CO who was gunned down by the T-26’s and with three platoons gone out of five my troops quit the field.

In hindsight I think it was the poor lines of sight for my anti-tank guns that undid me, and my own sense of sportsmanship! I did rely too much on the PaK40’s gun shields protecting them long enough for their guns to take out the T-26’s. It appears that daring either wins this scenario (which we played out in around 40 minutes), or goes horribly wrong.

Preparation for Vapnartak: Day 1

German Grenadier Kompanie 2,000pts ‘Free For All’ vs. Finnish Tank Armada (Nathan)

My first game for six weeks, and following my efforts to paint everything I’m hoping to take to York I was quietly confident. The enemy was bringing a tank company whose idea of armour made the Marder’s look like hard cases, and the only problem case looked to be the two KV1’s that were certain to appear. I put my faith in a spattering of 7.5cm guns that should be enough to remove them from the equation.

I went with the 2,000pt army I had made up for the first game at Vapratrak; 3 platoons of infantry (1 pioneer), 1 of (3) Marder III’s, 1 of (3) StuG F/8’s, 1 of HMG’s and 1 of mortars, topped off by a platoon of two PaK40’s and one of four 10.5cm howitzers. The Finns had one of five T-26 light tanks, one of four T-28 multi-turreted tanks, one of two KV1’s, one of two Landsverks anti-aircraft vehicles, one of four howitzers, one of anti-tank guns and a pioneer platoon. We had both forgotten to bring the scenario rules along, so a random roll in the rulebook brought a ‘Free for All’ mission, with the Finns technically attacking.

The Battle:
I could almost feel the rust on the cogs grinding as I tried to remember how to play and what the best setup was. My optimism that the Marder’s would get the best of the T-26’s on the left was clearly misplaced as the Finns tanks advanced and used their pop-guns to cut through the tank-hunters with ease. I was forced to bring the StuG’s across from the centre to restore order and shield my two grenadier platoons and artillery from the tanks and pioneers now advancing. My right flank looked shaky with the removal of the StuG’s, their sole AT defence against the KV1’s on the Finns far left being the PaK40’s, and clever manoeuvring by the Finnish tanks ensured they rarely had a shot.

The punch-up on the left cost me the Marder’s, a platoon of grenadiers and, eventually, the StuG’s, although not before the latter had put pay to the T-28‘s advance down the centre. These losses were due in no small measure to the Finns heavy artillery which was a mighty thorn in my side all evening. The enemy tanks and pioneers suffered severe losses, but not enough to stop them reaching the objective and my artillery. On my right the KV1’s had machine-gunned the mortars, but were stalled by the prospect of advancing in front of the PaK40’s, and leaving my third grenadier platoon behind them. Nether the less the German situation was grim.

A sudden ray of sunshine appeared with the surprise revival of my pioneer grenadiers on the far left. Despite suffering 60% casualties they launched back into the fray, clearly catching the T-26’s on the hop and wiping out the last two before moving onto, and finishing off, the last Landsverk. The Finns pioneers had reached, and chased away my artillery, only for the PaK40’s to swing round and reduce them to a single base, effectively destroying the Finns right flank and centre, although for the loss of a huge part of my own army.

The opposition took this turn of events to mean that the KV1’s must finally be risked, and ploughed them into the woods containing my third grenadier platoon. One bogged down, but the grenadiers were unable to take advantage and fled the field. With this I was reduced to below half strength, and in keeping with proud tradition my CO scarpered with the sorry remains of my troops. The battle against the Finns was lost. Again.

So what did we learn:
Marders are fragile! Their weak armour had no chance of saving them in the exposed position I left them in, and I would have been better off hiding them on the edge of a wood and risking the bogging checks. Their loss early on meant the StuG’s were drawn into an area which the Finnish artillery clearly had zeroed! My one platoon of pioneers, although they came good towards the end, were stuck out on one (far left) flank, and lacked impact. The trucks that two of the grenadier platoons, and the PaK40’s, were issued with were unused as I hoped to draw the enemy into my own killing grounds and use the Marder’s, StuG’s and PaK40’s to destroy them before counter attacking with the infantry. As it was I was on the defensive all the time and in the end they were sent to the rear to prevent unnecessary losses.

The enemy had also learnt from their last encounter; the objectives were far apart and difficult for me to cover with my AT guns. The Finns tank platoons split up and went down both flanks, again causing me to divert my assault guns to one side to fend them off. Their artillery was a real shock, having upgraded from the normal two 10.5cm guns, they were now used 15cm heavy howitzers which annihilated everything they touched, and given the excellence of their spotter it seemed to destroy much of my army, from StuG’s to infantry and even my own spotters!

On a final note I’ve spend much spare time over the last 5-6 weeks painting and revamping my Germans, and I was gratified to find they looked as good on the table top as I had hoped, even if I was the only one admiring them as I removed the bases one by one…..

Grenadier Kompanie 800pts ‘Capture the Hill‘ vs. British Light Tank Squadron (Red)

So with the Finns victorious and gone, and an hour of club-time remaining (like Ferguson extra time, but shorter), another FOW opponent stepped forward for a smaller, shorter game. We decided to play the 800pt scenario for Vapnartak - a form of capture the hill, where victory could be gained from turn three onwards, but failure to win by turn 6 equalled a draw automatically.

My Germans took to the field with two grenadier platoons in trucks, a Marder III platoon (2 guns), a PaK40 platoon (2 guns), and my secret weapon; a captured KV1e heavy tank. The enemy (my old adversary, the British commanded by Red) fielded a light tank company from Africa, with three platoons of Crusader II tanks, one of 2 6pdr portees and one platoon of truck mounted infantry.

Sadly my battle plan turned out quite uninventive. The KV1e trundled forwards onto the hill, machine-gunning the portees as it did so, neatly removing the only British unit that could damage it, and sat on the objective. The remainder of the battle saw the Marder’s be shot up by the massed Crusaders, a grenadier unit pop-out of a wood to massacre the majority of the British infantry before being shot to pieces themselves, and finally the British tanks falling over each other to avoid being in sight of the lethal PaK40’s. When time ran out (past turn 6 as it happened) the KV1e was still on the objective slowly shooting up the Crusaders parked around it, while the PaK40’s and second platoon of grenadiers were being gallant and hiding! A draw it was.

Ignoring the fact that I fielded a tank the enemy couldn’t destroy, my tactics were quite boring even for me! My troops spent the whole game hiding in buildings or woods so they wouldn’t get destroyed and cause the KV1e to retreat automatically. If I was playing for a draw it was a success, but an entertaining spectacle it was not. The Marder III’s were once again easily taken out by pop-guns as my attempts at an aggressive deployment failed. The 800pt list will have to be rethought, especially based on the fact that I discovered I was 60pts over the 800, sorry Red!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Can a leopard change its spots?

1999: the year the Euro came into circulation, the world population reached the magic 6 billion mark, Oliver Reed passes into immortality, and SpongeBob SquarePants made its TV debut. It is also approximately the time when I last attempted to paint something which wasn’t based around dark grey, dark green or dark brown.

Ok, I may have had a couple of unsuccessful shots, but look at the evidence - my Imperial Guard copied the early German camouflage of grey, my FOW Germans copied the even earlier German camouflage of grey, and my Bretonnian’s were re-splendour in their dull silver armour and dark green horses (what was I thinking!), while my Skaven followed their roots. Even my Royalists have gone for conservative colouring, no bright feathers anywhere! This stemmed from my inability to paint any lighter colours - reds, yellows and whites never seemed to work and left the model looking drab and extremely messy.

However, with my German army needing to look a bit more the part in mid-late war, and a surge of in interest in Frenchmen (that came out wrong….) I have picked up a brush and some colours and given it another shot. Pictures below of said interesting Frenchman and his German half-track.

Opinions? Derision? Complaints about the lack of Leopards in the article? Make a comment.