Sunday 24 December 2017

2017 A gaming year in review

It's been a productive year and looking back I've realised how much I've managed to complete in the last 12 months.  I started off the year with many good intentions and satisfyingly most came close to completion.  This has been the year of Chain of Command, which has dominated my gaming time.  No surprise then that my painting and modelling time has also been consumed in supplying the figures and pieces we've needed to play.

When I look down the list I realised just quite how big the output has been, which makes it all the more disappointing that the project that started the year was one of the few not to reach completion.  The Great War has always been an interest of mine and I have the Too Fat Lardies rules The Mud and Blood and I've wanted to try out the CoC version of these.  I love the figures available in 28mm, so this was a project I had hoped to start, if not complete in 2017.  The first of these were my Great War Miniatures British infantry platoon, the first miniatures to see a paintbrush this year.

The year started with all the best intentions

All was not completely lost as a few figures did reach completion.

Not all was lost....

Highlights in terms of gaming were undoubtedly introducing a long-time gaming opponent Dave to the delights of Chain of Command and playing pint sized campaigns through to completion - Kampfgruppe Von Luck and Storming the Citadel.  Dave has always been a first class opponent no matter what game he plays and this has given us some very enjoyable games this year.  While I can claim the honours of campaign victories, Dave gave me some serious scenario beatings along the way and I shall avoid gloating, as I suspect honours will be evened up in due course.

My Paras resolutely stood their ground in Von Luck

The Flammpanzer applies the Coup de Grace in Storming the Citadel

The big project for the year was the Australian/Japanese Pacific project and I now have the basic infantry platoons and supports finished off and ready for the table.  A new theatre meant a lot of new terrain and 2017 was the year of the palm tree.

Some Pacific action

Both of the CoC pint sized campaigns called for additional scenery and many of the smaller projects were filling in the gaps.

So in a year where we went from the jungles of the Pacific to the steppes of the Ukraine, it only made sense I should make a French chateau.

While that was going on I was realising how much I'd like to redo or replace some of my earlier figures and so in many small ways I bought, painted and replaced figures like leaders, specialist teams and gun crews.  The release by AB Figures of a range of Russian figures was a real highlight and it wasn't long before these made their way into the collection as well as several extra Germans.

Russian SMG squads

New Russian junior and senior leaders
New German squads

New German senior leaders
German FOO team, painted and waiting for the base to be finished.

There were always additional vehicles and guns, and one of the joys of playing in 20mm is the abundance in this scale (not to mention how much cheaper they are and how much easier to store).  I was particularly pleased with the ambush camouflage schemes on the Hetzer and Jadgpanzer IV.

A work trip to France left enough time to fit in a visit to the very impressive tank museum at Saumur, where I was fortunate to see both of these types in the flesh.

I added a Tiger I in time for the Storming the Citadel campaign.

And for those of you who followed the campaign I don't need to remind you how it came to a rather swift and inglorious end in the third scenario.

The Tigers are burning....

The year has ended with the start of the US army project, which has picked up some momentum, and with a good selection of pint sized campaigns on offer I'm hoping these might see the table at some stage in 2018.

The first US squad waits for their bases to be flocked

Some senior leaders

So, here's what I think I've managed to start, if not complete during 2017:


28mm Modern British (Empress)
20mm Waffen SS platoon (AB)

20mm British Airborne platoon (AB)
20mm Entrenched British Airborne section; British Army section and German Heer squad (AB)

20mm Russian Assault Engineer section (SHQ)
20mm Australian Pacific theatre platoon (Eureka)
20mm IJA platoon (Eureka)

20mm German Volkssturm section and panzerfaust teams (Wartime Miniatures)

20mm Russian infantry senior and junior leaders (AB)
20mm Soviet scout squad (AB)
20mm German Heer squads (x2 AB)
20mm Russian SMG squads (x2 AB)
20mm French Resistance squad and sabotage team (Foundry)

20mm German Forward observation team (AB)
20mm US army squad and leaders (AB) - the start of the whole platoon

Vehicles and Guns

Made, but not painted:

US M4, M4A3, M5A1, M36, 57mm AT gun, M5 half track, M8 scout car
Churchill AVRE
Japanese Type 89 (x2)

Made and painted:

Jadgpanzer IV
Sdkfz 10/5
Tiger I
PzKfwIV F2
PzKfwIII Flammpanzer
M3 Lee (Burma)
Matilda II CS (s-model)
M3A1 Stuart (Australian)
Lanchester Armoured car
2pdr AT Gun (Australian)
IJA 75mm Regimental Gun
IJA 37mm AT gun
Soviet BA64
Soviet 76.2 regimental infantry gun
Wooden horse drawn wagons (x3)
Goliath (x2)

Large trees
Palm Trees

Airfix Jungle Outposts (x2)
Sarissa Russian Church
Sarissa Russian houses (3)
Sarissa Russian Barns (2)
Sarissa French Chateau
Blotz pigsty
Sarissa La Belle Alliance country inn
Wooden fences
Kunai Grass
4' jungle stream

Gaming accessories
CoC platoon boards
German, British, Panzer Grenadiers, British Airborne, Soviet Guards, Japanese

20mm Wounded leader figures

Chain of Command Games
Von Luck campaign
Storming the Citadel
Two games featuring US Airborne
One Pacific game featuring Australians and Japanese
A handful of Normandy games featuring British and German

Started this very blog back in March

Friday 15 December 2017

Chain of Command US Airborne vs Panzer Grenadiers

We had a pick up game during the week using Dave's freshly painted US Airborne platoon once again.  This time we decided to put them on the defensive and have them face some stiffer opposition in the form of SS panzer grenadiers.  We concocted a scenario loosely based on the counter attack at Carentan by 37th SS Panzer Grenadiers against 101st Airborne's 506th PIR and so we put together a table of typical Norman terrain.

The Airborne would defend a cluster of houses near a round junction and the SS would attempt to dislodge them - a straightforward Attack & Defend scenario.  The US Airborne would be an elite force, but we chose to use the new six dice system for elites, whereby a six rolled on the sixth dice will count as a CoC point, rather than another six for determining double phases.  Support points would be 11 for the Germans and 5 for the Airborne.

The Airborne JoPs around the farm buildings

German JoPs placed

The challenge for the SS will be crossing the two open fields that divide the table.  The Airborne have a two squad platoon, so the Germans will want to focus on building superiority on one flank, while maintaining a threat against the other to try to stretch the US defence.  With that in mind I opt to bring in an extra squad of panzer grenadiers, a second senior leader and an MG42 HMG.  I gave some thought to a tank, either a StuG or a PzIV to add HE punch, but decided infantry numbers may be the best answer. This is perfect ambush terrain for the US bazooka teams, not to mention a 57mm AT gun and armour might prove very vulnerable in such close terrain.

The Airborne, much like the panzer grenadiers, can wield a lot of firepower.  As we found when we played the Von Luck campaign, the best way to deal with this sort of force is to try to break it up and not allow it to concentrate against you.  Dave's airborne will want to find a way to focus on individual SS squads and gain fire superiority and I will be trying to do the same.  If I can bring three squads to bear against one Airborne squad I should be able to negate some of the advantages of the Airborne's elite status.  So much for the theory.

The SS started off bringing on a two man team to scout ahead and threaten a JoP.  The thinking was that this would be enough to provoke Dave to deploy a squad in response.  That would leave him with only one other squad to deploy and if I could draw them to his far left flank it might give me scope to threaten along his right flank.

Trying to draw out the Airborne with a scout team

What's the bet there's an Airborne squad lurking ahead?

This doesn't draw a response from Dave who waits to see what else deploys.  The scout team work their way around to the right, while the rest of the squad deploys behind the wall ready to give some covering fire.

While the Airborne continue to bide their time, other Germans appear on the same flank - another squad and the Unterfeldwebel. The squad behind the wall is placed on Overwatch.

My scout team climbs over the wall and makes its way around the side of the ploughed field.  This finally provokes a response. It comes with a vengeance and a double phase for the Americans. It's at this point when it first becomes apparent that my deployment might not be the wisest.

The first Americans appear

An Airborne squad deploys behind the wall and opens fire. They are at effective range and the Germans are behind hard cover, so the American fire only inflicts a casualty and a point of shock. It's not until my squad on overwatch returns fire that I realise the full implications of a firefight with a powerful, elite unit in hard cover at effective range.  In short I need 6s to hit and he needs 5 and 6s. He has as much firepower as me, but twice as much chance of getting a hit. A prolonged firefight is only going to end up in the Airborne's favour.

So just when I'm wondering why I've deployed two squads to this flank the Americans deploy a 50 cal upstairs in the farmhouse. One of my squads couldn't deploy close enough to the wall and while they are tactical this will make no difference as the HMG reduces cover by one level.

The 50 cal has a good line of sight

The Germans take some shock and another casualty and I begin to feel under pressure. In the second phase the Americans continue to fire and German shock accumulates and men fall as casualties.

I need to bring some of my firepower to bear. I want to advance my squad in the open towards the wall. Firstly it will give them some good cover and secondly they will be able to join in the firefight across the field and try to even out the odds. To keep the 50 cal suppressed I deploy another squad into the field behind the hedge to see if I can reduce some of that fire coming my way.  Suddenly I find I no longer hold the initiative and I'm responding to the Americans. So much for my plan to hold him on one flank while I work around the other!

Just when I'm hoping I can exert pressure on the Americans Dave rolls four 6s in his command roll.  The random event roll is a 6, so his FM goes up by one and he goes on to enjoy another double phase.  This is a repeat of his earlier phase and the squad and 50 cal inflict further shock and another two casualties.  At this point I've already lost five men to this fire and one of my squads has accumulated 6 points of shock and is in danger of pinning. Worse than that I've hardly moved.

The Germans finally get a chance to return some fire and while I roll a lot of dice, with both squads now behind the wall, I can only manage a handful of hits.  It's not all bad, as the Americans take two casualties, one of which is the junior leader, who is stunned.

The Sergeant is stunned

With that the Americans make effective use of marching fire to fire off a volley before pulling back from the wall. The Germans take another casualty and more shock.

A blast of automatic rifle fire before pulling back

While Dave has pulled back I suspect it's only temporary. As long as he's close to that wall and there's no way I can move quickly across that field, I know he's confident he can keep me checked on that flank.  A sign of that confidence is the appearance of the second squad, which deploys by the farmhouse.

I've taken quite a few casualties so I pull back the scout team to rejoin their squad. I put some firepower up at the 50 cal and they take some shock, but I sense my attack is stalling.

Dave decides the 50 cal may be better off coming downstairs, with only five men he doesn't want to risk losing them in a firefight just yet.  While that seems a bit cautious he acts very aggressively with his newly deployed squad which moves double quick across the field towards the barn.  He's clearly feeling he can take it to the SS.  These boys are hardcore.

They are not elite for nothing.
This will bring the squad very close to a lot of Germans.

In the German phase the squads look to move to be ready to face the oncoming Americans.

The US squad arrives at the hedge line and in their customary fashion also dish out some marching fire. Yet again the Germans take a casualty and more shock.  It's beginning to feel like death by a thousand cuts as my casualty list grows steadily but surely.

Another squad draws close to pinning
The Germans return fire and even though we are at close range I now have a lot of shock which adds to the difficulty of hitting the elites.  It's not all bad, the American junior leader is a casualty and is lightly wounded.

In the next US phase the 50 cal returns to the upper level of the farmhouse and using marching fire once again, his squad behind the wall manages to inflict another casualty from across the ploughed field.

The fire fight at the hedgerows takes a turn for the worst as the German squad takes another casualty, accumulating enough shock to pin down.

I'm really feeling under pressure and my whole attack is not moving, I need to find a way to break the deadlock.  I deploy the MG42 behind the hedge and bring on my second senior leader to try to rally off some shock.

While the MG is there to provide some more firepower, I deploy my fourth squad on my left flank to  try to find a way to outflank the Airborne squad behind the hedge.  Surely with the number of squads I have and the MG I can find a way to do this?

A move to take the left flank

The US bring on their second senior leader to back up the wounded leader behind the hedge.  Meanwhile the 50 cal, though suppressed with covering fire from the MG42, joins the 60mm mortar in slowly chipping away at the Germans, inflicting more casualties and shock.  Both German senior leaders spend their activations bringing down the shock levels and the squad on the left flank moves very slowly forward, unable to find their way through the woods.  With two of my squads pinned, it allows the Airborne squad to move along the hedge line to meet my flanking move.

I rally off enough shock to then use a CoC die to end the turn and remove the pin markers, but it's really not enough. The next phase sees the Airborne apply enough firepower to inflict further casualties and increase shock and so see the squads pin again.  The 60mm mortar, the 50 cal and the squad behind the hedge do enough to reduce my flanking squad to four men and a leader, at which point I decide to call off the attack.  While German FM was still holding up I was simply running out of men.  I had taken 15 casualties, 40% of my men and had almost nothing to show for it.  Some units had not moved since they deployed.  Suddenly the panzer grenadiers who seemed so invincible had been stopped dead in their tracks.

So, what did I learn? Firstly there is no point engaging in a prolonged firefight with an elite squad in hard cover at effective range - even if you do have two belt fed LMGs. In our experience, up until now at least, the panzer grenadiers muscled their way around the table using their impressive firepower, but it isn't always enough.
                                                                                                                                                                                            I was very unwise to think the approach across the walled field was a good or practical idea.  While the wall offered me solid protection it did the same for the Americans and eventually I was going to have to leave its safety to cross the field. Before doing that I needed to suppress the Americans and that was unlikely to happen at that range. In fact it's not a good idea to try to engage elites at effective range regardless of cover.

I would have been better choosing the left flank. I could have tried fighting through the hedgerows and restricted my action on the right flank to threatening across the walled field with a single squad. An alternative means of approach could have been up the road instead of across the fields and the more I look at the table I think that could have been a more viable option in combination with a flanking move. Ah, hindsight, it's a wonderful thing.

I suspect my choice of supports was not a bad one. If anything was bad, it was my tactics and plan. A tank might have been useful, but I would have to keep it back and avoid a surprise attack from the bazooka team, in that sense it might have been useful for suppressing the 50 cal in the farmhouse. Perhaps it might have given me an edge and driven the Americans back after their brazen move to the hedge line. I'm not totally convinced though.

In terms of the Airborne, Dave made very effective use of marching fire, a really powerful asset that allows fire and movement in a single phase that the panzer grenadiers, for all their firepower, cannot match.  The Airborne could aggressively move to a wall or hedge and deliver fire on arrival.  I may have been a bit unlucky with the number of casualties I rolled for each hit, but it was the constant ability to fire and hit me that slowly degraded my force.  It never drove my FM to the point I had to retire, but it reduced me to a force ineffective for the task at hand.

While it was a frustrating game for the Germans I felt I learned much from it.  I'll find a way to deal with those Airborne day.