Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Normandy Breakout Tutorial: BGC - Part I

The BGC (Battle Group Commander) learning tutorials continue. This time I get the pick of the crop from the 7th Armoured:
  • An Armoured Regiment
  • A Motorised (aka Foot as lorries die on the battlefield) Battalion
  • An Armoured Infantry (Half-Track) Battalion
Unfortunately despite poring in my resources to the Recon phase, a bad set of dice-rolls (here we go a general making excuses already) made my set-up rather limited. (Not as bad as my fellow "learner" who dismissed recon and used his boys as fighters in the front line. The result was a shambles as he had to come in from the baseline probing blind and did not even reach as far forward as my jump-off position. I will always recon!). The infantry dismounted and the tanks hid behind a convenient wood (a German artillery "stonk" on me in the prep-phase would be rather uncomfortable). Armoured infantry to the left, foot-sloggers to the right and tanks to the rear. I have deliberately compressed my frontage to about twenty inches. The foot-sloggers are to cover the flank of the more mobile troops as they race unashamedly down the table edge.

Recon and Allied deployment over the German placed his troops. Two and a bit infantry companies plus a PAK 40 Coy [75mm A/T](see below). I intend to bypass the town, go to the edge of the wood with my foot-sloggers and drive over the hill with my (initially dismounted) armoured infantry and tanks. 

With no targets worthwhile to hit (I had only seen the German platoon in the town and he was in too good a covered position) I chose to lay down a (pre-plotted, as in before I knew where the rest of German units were) smoke screen for the armoured units and advance behind it (see below).

The smoke stayed where it should, covering the German positions nicely and congratulating myself on a good start (always a bad thing to do) the advance began.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Renaissance Reinforcements (2): German Men-at-Arms (Knights)

The horses are under orders:

Damn them for being so big (28mm) and "gorgeous" to paint. Trying to do them fast for this coming Monday but don't see it happening.

I will have to try and 'borrow' some cavalry again, oh the shame of it


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Return of the Painting Tray: Lysander IV

Just a final touch up with the paint brush for silver wing tip navigation lights and a nice (smelly) Humbrol matt all-over varnish, done the old fashion way with a brush (see below):

She stands ready for her first flight in support of the BEF somewhere near Calais:

That will do for now but two little modifications are on a future action list. The first is to drill two small holes, one above each landing light, to represent the fixed machine gun positions (yes thing was actually armed). Second, to fix some small bomb-lets underneath the mini-wings that stick out of fixed landing gear (once I make the Airfix Me109E as the Battle of Britain variant, I can use its spare bombs from the tropical variant). Yes the Lysander thing could actually (well perhaps theoretically in the operating manual) drop bombs too. 

Renaissance Reinforcements (1): Germanic Men-At-Arms (Knights)

High on the adrenalin rush from the last Impetus game (see previous posts), I not only purchased the rules (my gaming luck can now only go downhill after "reading [and not understanding] the rules") and decided it was time to acquire some Renaissance Germanic Men-At-Arms cavalry types (see below) to complement my Formed Pike infantry and Shot Harquebusiers:

Courtesy of Redoubt Enterprises I now have twelve armoured cavalry "brutes" which will be enough to cover two "CP" (aka "Impact" Cavalry) formations. I found out to my cost that heavy 28mm metal is not cheap, but it has to be said they look "the business" and I just hope my painting does the figures the credit they deserve.

A look at the riders (see above) and a closer look at one on the horses (see below)

All I need is some space at the painting table, watch this space ;) 

PS: Another stack/cluster of Games Workshop paints were found dry as a bone and consigned to the waste bin. The change over to other acrylics (Vallejo and Anita's Acrylics continues apace)

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Renaissance Impetus: End Game

Who would take the initiative? Can the Byzantine flip-flop and steal the thunder from beneath the whiskers of the Florentine general?


Initiative to Florence. The Florentine General elects to move the bulk of his army, choosing to keep the Swiss "for best" and starts a gruelling push of pike in the middle which results in the near destruction of both sides heavy infantry in the centre (see below). All the heavy infantry on table are now worn apart from the "Swiss Pike" (evil Florentine laughter fades away ... ).  

The Byzantine turn amounts to nothing much. A dabble of dice hear and a dabble of dice there, but no net effect. Next up, it is finally the turn of the Swiss unit waiting so patiently in the wings. In it goes like a hot knife through butter, the Swiss pike faces a disordered and damaged Byzantine heavy infantry unit (see below), the factors could be summed up in one word as "ow". Note: The base of the Florentine psychopathic knights visible top-right, still looking for more victims but not having much joy.

The Swiss certainly make their "impetus" or "impact" felt, leaving in their wake a trail of Byzantine dead heavy infantry (see below).

Bang goes the first Byzantine heavy infantry unit, spectacularly routed. The Swiss move straight on into another Byzantine heavy infantry unit. This in effect rescues the Florentine left wing cavalry, now rather badly damaged and just hanging on. Despite the scene set for a razzle dazzle of a finish the Swiss fizzle out and barely scratch the last unit. All-in-all it is still enough. The Byzantine army cohesion breaks and runs home. The artworks of Florence is saved by the men of the High Renaissance (yes those psychopathic Florentine Knights and brutal Swiss Pikemen, hmm).

In Summary:

All-in-all a fantastic little game and full credit to the Byzantine General (Yogi) who took everything fate threw at him on that night stoically on the chin (just like his more favoured Roman armies were noted for doing) and thanks to the "on-hand" umpire (Ken) who guided us skilfully through the rules. I am now totally hooked. Time to start the re-basing process (see the lurid card used as movement trays in the pictures, used out of pure necessity) and I need to start painting some Renaissance cavalry figures so I don't have to "borrow" my cavalry wings again from spare club armies.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Renaissance Impetus gets Brutal: Heavy Infantry Clash

The Byzantine's left was in deadly peril. Just a matter of time before the plate-clad good men of standing from Florence (all lovers of the arts), scythed forwards in a blood-letting frenzy into the rear of the Byzantine heavy infantry huddle (see below). Once there was four units of heavy infantry, suddenly there was only three (heavy infantry losing combat to a rear attack is removed from play, not so much impetus but the arrival of the four horsemen of the apocalypse)!

The Byzantine right was looking likewise rather unsavoury as it was stalled with a melee of heavies, the balance of which slowly sliding against the Byzantine. The Byzantine "light horse" had gotten caught between an advancing Florentine pike block and more heavily plate armoured Florentine "artists" who painted in vivid red (see below) and 'evaporated'.

Desperate times dictate desperate measures. The Byzantine infantry must take it to the Florentine (and Swiss) Pike blocks before they were withered by the enfilading fire from Florentine hand-gunners marching up their flanks. One unit of heavy Byzantine infantry levelled, then tipped the cavalry battle on the Byzantine right wing (see below) in their favour. Was there now a golden ray of hope for the cunning and wily Persian (see below)? Looking promising!

The remaining two Byzantine heavy infantry attempted to charge in at the Florentine pike (and at the same time avoid the Swiss mercenary pike block - who wouldn't given the choice) to try and force the issue. Dice were rolled, one unit got in, one unit fell just short. Numbers would not be an issue, it would be push of pike versus long spear with a bit of "impetus". A grinding match ensued (see below) reducing by "the addition of casualty markers" but not killing both units (see below).

So the battle hangs in the balance. Note: the sinister mass of the Swiss pike block to the right middle (see above), the deadliest unit on the field of battle. All now depended on which side gained the initiative in the next round.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Renaissance Impetus Continued: Action on the Wings

The "strategos" looked at each other across the table. The Byzantine decided it was time to be cunning with his "Light Horse". One should obscure the heavy infantry from the attentions of the heavy Florentine cannon I was polishing in the centre on my line, the other would tickle and annoy a pack of psychopathic knight types of the Florentine right wing. The former worked well (see below). The cannon wasted many a ball and barrel of powder trying to tie down this elusive foe.

The latter tactic against the psychopathic knights backfired. It happened so fast that the camera did not catch it, but if I point out that (below) top right is the position is occupied by the said bunch of psychopathic knights with the light horse "missing" presumed all dead, you would deduce the outcome! To be fair as this was a "learning game" and a friendly umpire (well at least to those of a Renaissance frame of reference) assisted by explaining the evade and charge mechanics and the implications on this 'shallow' battlefield. Not wanting to evade and be lost the "lights" ended up with an unequal contest with some "heavies".

One minute the light horse was there, the next it was gone. Meanwhile as the pike slowly advanced in the centre the Florentine left wing psychopathic knights fought their Byzantine psychopathic bow armed knight contemporaries in a slugging match of brutal proportions. The Florentine player was relieved (putting it mildly) to see the second unit of Byzantine knights watching "confused" in disorder and not joining in the melee.

The grist of the battle was soon to forced as the Byzantine player was faced with this chilling prospect (see below)

Blooded psychopathic Florentine knights in the rear of a heavy Byzantine infantry formation.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

My First "Impetus" Game : Renaissance

Renaissance is apt in more than one sense. I am old enough to remember the heady frenzy that struck the wargaming community as DBA took hold back in the early 1990's and I say this in a very positive sense. A gaming system that was quick and intuitive to pick up (barely ten pages of rules) but rich enough in historical with enough diversity and nuance to keep you interested especially with regard to campaign potential and making an army into an affordable commodity.

Impetus is currently doing the same for me (see below for my first game set-up, a 25/28mm unhistorical 300 point match up between a Renaissance Army of Florence (me) and some Nicophoerean Byzantines [I had never even heard of my opponents before which shows my ignorance]).

DBA's flaw to me was that it went big into DBM (and even now DBMM) but somehow the system broke along the way. I know many people who have played DBM and have liked it immensely (toiling through a hard apprenticeship "learning the rules" and the "DBM way"), yet I know many more who turned away dissatisfied with the whole experience. Saddened by the competition niggles or bittiness of a system that does seem to scale up correctly. These are my own opinions/observations and I hold no delusion to any authority on my part in making them. Since them I have been searching for that set of rules that has the balance right, Fields of Glory seemed close but I think Impetus (even after only one game) has it for me, I am hooked.

Impetus to me works well, scaled up form the twelve unit armies of DBA to something well short of the number of elements of DBM, but representing "blocks" instead. Thus above my renaissance army was eight formations (excluding the camp) facing eight, but using less figures than an equivalent DBM match-up. The formations have "factors" which describe the characteristics, pushing it a tab past DBM/DBA in complexity, but the gain is a better feel for how formations acted in mass. (No more the art of getting a single base in on the flank). It also reflects training, command structure and generalship relevant to the national army characteristics. (Below a closer look at my pointy Pike)

All damn good stuff

Note: Basing wise my kit is based up on the DBA/DBM standardised base sizes, for Impetus these stands are stuck to bases which reflect the unit/formation size. As a rough rule of thumb, two bases can sub in for a formation stand.In my Impetus pike blocks above there is a Front Rank, supported by two Rear Ranks, in total six standard DBA/DBM bases. For a better visual effect I am even tempted to double up the Front Rank figures to four bases (you still have keft overs from the old DBM army lists).


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

BGC The 7th Armoured Division Rides Again (Part IV): Time to Tickle a Cat

"Tanks, Tanks, Tanks" comes the frantic cry from the front-line Tommies. The Allied radio net is filled with chatter. The dreaded Panther battalion lurches into view (see below), threatening the British Motorised Infantry battalion's right flank. Without AFV (i.e. armour) support to take "priority" in target selection the long barrelled 75mm guns would be used to devastating effect on the British infantry.A crisis point!

The British commander (me) is in the horns of a dilemma.The Cromwells of the RTR are obviously outclassed to the frontal armour characteristics of the Panther, but desperate time require desperate actions they must engage the threat. The Cromwell cannot stand off for a long range gunnery duel as the long barrelled 75mm is an excellent piece of kit with a BGC range of 18 inches compared to the 12 inch range of the British 75mm. The Cromwells would be pounded to pieces. The range has to be closed but the Cromwell's would prefer the opportunity to out-flank the Germans and come in from the side on the weaker flank armour of the Panthers. As the Panthers are coming across the British frontage there may be the chance of a flank shot (by one or two tanks). A tall ask really as the German player is a veteran well aware of the limitations of the Allied equipment, but can the British artillery asset come to the rescue with a protective smoke screen to hide the Cromwells behind?

Sadly no. A statistically unlikely occurrence (rolling low several times when I only wanted/needed medium-high) means that a stiff breeze blows the protective smoke away across the French countryside, causing some alarm to a herd of cows. For the Cromwells it is time to pay the piper (see above). Two troops burn and one is suppressed, for the return suppression of one Panther platoon. Meanwhile the British Infantry tears holes in the Pak line on the hill, killing one platoon and locking the other two suppressed in hand-to-hand combat.

The tutorial game draws to a close. The German front line is dented but not broken. The German armour will not move through the (next round) smoke screen into an area infested with PIAT armed British Infantry. The Panthers are ill advised to advance as they would see anything until they take a PIAT round in the flank. Their supporting German infantry is going the wrong way. However the British right flank attack was broken up, nay devastated by German artillery and accurate anti-tank fire. On the up-side British have removed a German Infantry battle from play and forced the Germans to deploy his armoured reserve, but collectively it has been a mauling for the tanks. Tomorrow Monty will order another push with two fresh RTR's to wear the German armour assets down. We have more in the larder in the long run. 

Lessons learned: 

I would do it differently next time. I would narrow my frontage even further, ignoring "Gap1" totally. Have confidence in the British Infantry in clearing "Wood1" and bring the RTR through "Wood1" with a protective infantry screen. Then I would have been in a position to take "Hill1" using the artillery better to screen off flanking shots with a smoke screen. The RTR would have been able to use the cover of the wood to mask their advance and choose their moment to emerge. I have to master the art of attacking with infantry a bit better, sometimes getting stuck in is the only way, but I could have husbanded/used my artillery better.

All in all a very good/enjoyable game

Sunday, 7 August 2011

BGC The 7th Armoured Division Rides Again (Part III): Time to Release the Cromwells of War (Almost)

Sensing a breakthrough the left flank 7th Armoured regimental tank commander was getting twitchy. He was hearing through the Allied radio net his compatriot tank commander on the right flank getting a pounding from German artillery and high velocity anti-tank guns. One-by-one familiar call signs were dropping off the net. The action seemed to be going rather one sided with ominous plumes of black smoke appearing on the "British" side of the board (not a good sign). It was time to press Fritz before he redeployed his troops sitting in the town (see below) and "other" assets.

In addition the German infantry battalion in front of the left flank was retreating. If only those damn AT guns could be neutralised. The motorised infantry were soon to be in place to storm the "Hill1" (hence known as Pak Hill) as they exploited their breakthrough. (Note: After the battle analysis revealed that the British commander (me) had missed a trick here, I was using my arty to set a useful smoke screen to stop the Cromwell's from taking incoming fire which was great, however I should have used half of it defensively and half of it offensively, I was over cooking the smoke. You live and learn, the 5.5 inch artillery would have made a lovely mess of those Paks.)

The Cromwells engines were revving eager to pitch in as the but a disturbing buzz was heard from the German radio net and the sound of enemy armour moving up was heard by the forward infantry. One feature of BGC is the 20,000 general view of the battlefield and one cannot help but get good intelligence regarding the enemy's reserves (but as it is after the planning phase there is sometimes little you can do about it, which accurately reflects a commanders dilemma). I groaned as I was a aware that the German had deployed his reserves at me (see below), which technically was a good sign as I was worrying him.

The bad news was that it was a Panther battalion moving out from its safe position behind the town in front of the bridgehead. You cannot help but feel for the Cromwells'!

Next: Time to tickle a Cat

Friday, 5 August 2011

BGC: The 7th Armoured Division Rides Again (Part II)

The opening barrage hits the German in "Wood1", suppressing two German infantry platoons that have the undivided attention of the British left flank battle-group artillery (1 x 5.5inch, 3 x 25pounders). Although in good cover in a wood, the German's heads are kept well down (suppression is represented by a small "mushroom cloud" marker in the photo).

The British infantry surge forward (see above), two supported infantry companies with a flanking (right hand side) infantry company. Two British platoons go down in the first defensive fire from the unsuppressed German infantry platoons to the attacks left. Just showing the potential nastiness of stationary defensive infantry fire (which gets to fire twice).

The Cromwell Tank Regiment is in a rear supporting position. If the enemy had AFV or anti-tank guns spotted then in could have assisted. However the rules do not allow anti-infantry support fire to be fired through friendly infantry. If the battalions were intermingled (as in if I has a specialised Churchill Infantry tank battalion or was German) then they could have shared the front-line together.

A bloody tussle ensues that lasts for several turns the German front-line breaks after fierce close assault. The German battalion turned out to be "Green" and in addition the "suppressed" status of the German platoons meant they were down (-3) in melee factors. To the top right you see a defensive smoke screen that was needed to screen the hill (and the British armour) from long range sniping from that German Pak company covering "Gap1".

"Wood1" is taken (there is a token resistance in the rear-left side of the wood but the German battalion is in retreat) and the objective becomes "Hill1" behind the wood housing that nasty Pak company. The German mortar and AA support elements can be seen retreating across the back of "Hill1" to the left of the German Pak line top-middle above.

Next: Release the Cromwells of War

Note: BGC Yahoo Group can be found at:
Battle Group Commander

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Return of the painting Tray: Lysander III - the Decals

Time to put the RAF markings on.

To my dismay the Airfix decals are as fragile as ever, it is probably why I hate this bit (did I have this plane kit in the store for such a long time?). The side marking "Y" caused me so much grief as it split!

The upper roundels chipped and split so I had to paint over the RAF Blue from a mixture of Tamiya Gloss Black, Gloss Blue and Matt Blue. Not too sure of the result but I hope it evens out after I put the matt varnish on later.

The underside gets the decal treatment. Boy did I have fun and games with one side of those big letters, it was like a jigsaw putting them back together again. Thank goodness for miracle MicroSol (surface treatment) and MicroSet (it helps the decal literally melt into the plastic surface).

In the end, not so bad an experience (I can say that now it is over - I should ask the new Airfix website for some spare decals as I just know I'll need them later), now to figure out how to use it in a wargame. There is still a little painting tidy up (the spinner should be yellow and some silver wingtip navigation lights) and then varnish to go. I better start thinking about painting my 20mm SHQ 1940 BEF infantry and Pegasus 1939 German Infantry for a France 1940 bash.

It is always good when finishing one project serves to spawn several more hiding away in the cupboard.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

BGC: The 7th Armoured Division Rides Again (Part I)

I had the very enjoyable experience of being invited to a tutorial scenario for a WWII land set of rules called Battle Group Commander (BGC) with a fellow rookie player. This is a set of rules influenced by Spearhead, Command Decision, many others WWII sets and a unique operational zone concept (not just the infamous Spearhead arrow that gets HQ's into all sorts of trouble). It has benefited from many large games and many years of rule discussions, holding together as a very nice simulation/game.

This starter/tutorial game was set in 1944 Normandy breakout, by-passing a German held village (strong point), trying to seize a bridge over an important river. The players (two of us) were given identical British 7th Armoured Division forces/battle-groups (a armoured infantry battalion in half-tracks supported by a Cromwell Regiment + divisional artillery) that raced down the left and right flank respectfully.

This is my story of the left-flank.

Above: Forming up for the attack on the reverse slope of a hill, the mostly dismounted infantry battalion supported by a block of Cromwells. My frontage left to right was "Wood1", "Gap1" then "Wood2" before the "Village/Town" we were under strict umpire orders to avoid messing with at all costs (as we were not play-testing Stalingrad). Plans are drawn up after reconnaissance but before the toys were placed on the table (a general rules in BGC is that there is no hidden deployment post the planning stage).

I plan to go through "Wood1" with my infantry, capture a hill behind it, then move my armour through "Gap1", reorganise then push on to the final objective "the vital bridge". My compatriot would be doing something similar on the other flank.

Above: Reconnaissance revealed a platoon from the two Germans infantry companies (enough information to plot an opening artillery barrage that should "sting") in "Wood1".

Above: "Gap1" was covered by a nasty anti-tank company of Pak 40's. Not spotted by the pre-planning reconnaissance (and I am glad I am not charging through there on turn one).

Above: "Wood2", in the lee of the Town/Village that never shall be entered, was held by another German infantry company, a platoon and the HQ unit being revealed in the reconnaissance phase. I did not intend to toy with this feature as it was potentially supported by fire from the town and would over extend my attacking frontage.

Famous Wargaming Maxim: Don't fight where you don't have to.

Two battalions attacking to one battalion defending in cover are not what you would consider overwhelming odds but on the upside I had mixed armour and infantry force facing infantry, plus the greatest 1944 British asset (no not Churchill's speeches) but a mighty big umpf in the form of a battery of nasty 5.5 inch howitzers, plus three batteries of twenty five pounders (with two on table FOOs calling in fire - aka the white counters in my initial dispositions - see top photo).

Next: Over the top