Saturday, October 13, 2018

More Spearhead, notionally in France 1940

Our experiments in playing Spearhead with 20mm figures and models continues. In Spearhead everything should be based on bases 1.25" square. This creates more accurate combat frontages, and troop densities.  The issue is the size of vehicles. Vehicles in 1/72 obviously don't fit on bases 1.25" square. This means that individual models, representing troops of 3-5, vehicles occupy a disproportionately large area on the table surface.

In our last game we played with a scale multiplier of 1.5X. This meant that vehicles were closer to the right densities, although correspondingly infantry on the standard 1.25" bases occupied too small an area. Even though we played on a larger table area, it wasn't 1.5x the standard 6'x4' area that we usually use. Therefore troops moved further, action was joined much sooner, weapon ranges were longer and so more of the table area could be dominated by fire, and the opportunity to develop the game more fully with manoeuvre disappeared as you were on your enemy far too soon.

This time we played with the standard ground scale (this is what we do normally with our 20mm Great War Spearhead armies anyway).

The game was set in 1940, probably in France. Jim defended with a British infantry division defend list, two infantry battalions supported by A13s drawn from an Independent Armoured Brigade, and the divisional artillery. He also had a battery of the Corp 4.5" for counter battery work. Andy and I attacked with two Motorised infantry battalions from the Schutzen Brigade, and tanks from an armoured regiment, all from a Panzer Division. They were supported by divisional 105mm guns, with some 150mm for counter battery work.

The British left flank in defence.

The British right, with three A13s occupying a small piece of high ground
 Jim had taken the opportunity to keep three stands hidden (an option for the defender in the scenario generation system). What were they, and where did he have them deployed?

Andy opted for a heavy armoured thrust on the German right, with a Schutzen battalion in the centre

He gave me an infantry heavy battalion  with the medium tank company cross attached. I had to take the town on our right!!!

Ambush fire claimed one of the Pz IV platoons

The Schutzen battalion in the centre is engaged early by the British armour, supported by a battery of 25pdrs

I try to push the attack on the German right

The 2pdr AT platoon in support of the British left destroys a second Pz IV platoon

The 25pdrs come down hard on the Schutzen battalion in the centre, with lots of suppressions, but fortunately not too many losses
 There is a vicious counter battery battle going on too, with Royal Artillery, and German field artillery, all taking casualties.

The armour supporting the German right is completely neutralised, and the German attack stalled. I start to withdraw after heavy casualties.

Jim's hidden stands were three A13 troops, deployed behind the dominant ridge in the centre. They move forward and threaten both German flanks.

The battle in the centre continues

I continue the firefight on the right, using a battery of 105mm guns, and the battalion;'s 75mm IG to bring pressure to bear on the British

Jim pushes his previously hidden armour forward in support of a company of his centre infantry battalion

Andy manages to change orders for his armour heavy battalion (with a company of infantry cross attached) and swings them around into the flank of Jim's defence

The Panzers put pressure on the British defence with their threat to the British flank

More pressure

The action appears to pivot almost 180 degrees. My forces on the German right are too weak to threaten the British counter attack through the centre

Even with my losses I am still pressuring Jim's left, using my supporting artillery and the infantry gun section

The British counter attack reaches it's high tide. The German flanking movement has become too strong and the British have little choice but to withdraw
Another great game. We agreed that reverting to the standard ground scale allowed the game to develop. There was more tactical nuance for both sides.

Our conclusion is that despite the outsized vehicles, the standard ground scale gives a better game.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

More Northern France 1940 action

Northern France, 1940, and the BEF continues its attempts to resist the Wehrmacht's assaults. This was the second WW2 Spearhead game Andy had played, and this time he opted to command the BEF forces.

Using Keith McNelly's Scenario Generation System, I'd created a British Armoured Division Defend list, and a German Panzer Division Attack list. There were errors in my lists, as I realised a little too late, in particular, I'd taken two British Armoured Regiments at half strength when the system normally allows reduced strength units that have had no more than a third of their fighting stands removed. However I guess as we are the authors of our own scenarios, this was OK.

In this game I layered in artillery, with both sides having access to divisional artillery, and both having corp level guns available for limited counter-battery work.

The battlefield, with BEF defending from the left, the German forces attacking from the right
 Andy deployed one battalion forward holding the most advanced objective, with a second kept back on another objective on his right flank. He was expecting a flank march against his right (German left). He deployed an armoured squadron on his left guarding the bridge which was another objective. The other armoured regiment he kept in reserve off table behind his right flank, again because he was expecting that flank march against his right.

My plan as the German commander
My plan:

  1. Central thrust with two infantry battalions attacking the key objectives in the centre, supported by the heavy tank company
  2. A flank march on my right, timed for the third turn, using one of the two light tank companies (I was in error here as the entry point put the company out of command radius for the regiment
  3. The second light tank company kept in reserve behind my left flank

The BEF second battalion holding the right flank deployed back in anticipation of the flank march

Initial German advance onto the table

The reserve light tank company

The advanced BEF battalion holding the forward-most objective.
 This illustrates perhaps Andy's greatest error, in deploying his battalion largely in the open. Attempting to defend against a well supported German battalion was always going to be difficult in that situation.

The BEF left flank armoured regiment deployed on one of the two left flank objectives

The action opens against the forward most BEF battalion. This is 'ambush fire' as the BEF were previously unlocated, and the Germans lost one platoon, and suffered several suppressions

Turn 2 and the German heavy tank company takes fire, but suffers only a suppression from the British armour's ambush fire.  Andy's die rolling seemed to be up to its usual standards (whew). With the British armour unsupported with infantry I push the advancing infantry onto the hill to apply pressure on the British armour.
 In this second turn, the BEF brings one of its 25pounder batteries into action in support of it's forward most battalion. It causes no casualties, but is promptly located by German counter battery 150mm guns, and both stands are destroyed. Similarly however one of the German 105mm batteries is located and Andy brings down CB fire from his 6" guns. One stand is destroyed, and another suppressed. Not a good day to be a gunner, apparently ...

Action heats up against that forward BEF battalion which takes artillery and small arms fire

The heavy tank company is fighting in support of the infantry, but is engaged by the British armour

The British armour is facing the heavy tank company, and is under pressure form the advancing infantry. Two stands are destroyed by the advancing infantry, and one by the heavy company. The A13s have certainly taken the heat of their own infantry, but at huge cost

Two A13 stands destroyed and another suppressed

The German flank march has arrived ...but on the opposite flank to that expected by Andy
At this stage the British counter-battery fire destroys the remainder of that German 105mm battery... ouch!!

The British armour fails its morale check and begins to withdraw for 2 turns. It takes flank fore form the German light company, but suffers no further casualties
Andy commits his armoured reserve, and manages an order change for his right flank battalion.....

However the action has heated up for the British infantry, with heavy casualties, resulting in another failed morale check. 
The position is lost for the BEF, and withdrawal is ordered. The game ran only five turns, far shorter than either of us expected. The artillery dual was fierce. Andy's unsupported armour on his left, perhaps deployed with a view to trying to hold more objectives that his force was capable of, was a critical issue, as was the infantry deployment in the open.

However, that said, beer was drunk, sausage rolls were eaten, and many more laughs were had. Combine that with pushing cool looking figures and vehicles around the table using one of my fave rules sets, and that's a damned fine evening.

Oh and .. thanks Keith, the SGS yet again delivered the goods... a great game.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Weird World War 1 'magician'

Some things in life are more weird than we think we could imagine. Take for example this piece of acoustic equipment designed for 'sound location', that is, locating enemy artillery using the sound of firing.

This was the inspiration for the 'magician' I have created for the Weird World War 1 British army.

You'll notice that I finally (after all these years) found a use for those two figures from the British World War 1 Infantry set who always seemed to be holding a 'hula hoop' (yes, yes, I know .. it's meant to be a coil of barbed wire).

The figure in the centre with the cables attached to his head was a suggestion made by Andy... NICE!!! The attachment of the cables proved to be slightly 'ham fisted', but as long as you don't look too closely, it all works

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Weird World War 1 ... the British lurch onto the table

It's been a little quiet on the hobby and painting front of late. Life tends to get in the way really. 'Work - the curse of the 'gaming classes'. However I have been quietly pottering with the foot elements of the 'Weird World War 1' British army, the opposition to Andy's Germans. This journey began with the aerial hero, the Sopwith Camel. Then came the Hordes.. re-animated 1914 British infantry, then the Shooters (Lewis gunners with rifle support), and now some Blades... all of these latter are Strelets British Infantry in Gasmasks. The 'vision' for the army is one of reanimated troops, zombies if you like, with a slightly supernatural look/feel. So for example there is no pilot in the Camel.

The blade have just come off the painting table, leaving me with 30 points of finished troops, a playable army for 24 points. The aim is our usual 72 points, given our preference for 72 point Big battle games these days.

The newest Blade bases at the front

The 'Hero'


The aerial hero behind the hordes

The 30 points so far
So, what next? I have the kits for a behemoth and an airboat, but I have been captured by my vision for a magician... watch this space.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

France 1940 ... 20mm action

I love the Spearhead rules set. And I love 20mm wargaming kit. So, when the chance comes around to combine the two, who am I to say no, even though SH is much better suited to smaller scale kit?
Andy has been thinking about how to use a small but growing WW2 Italian force that he originally started painting for Crossfire. Well, yep we could play Crossfire, which we both love. However Spearhead seems like a great alternative too.

When we play SH in 20mm, we use a 1.5x scale multiplier to movement and ranges to try to keep the vehicles a little more in scale.

And so here we were last night, with my two 20mm 1940 armies set for an encounter. I looked at Scenario Generation System points, but also wanted to keep the forces smaller, as the objective was to acquaint Andy with the WW2 Spearhead variant, to see if I could whet his appetite. So while two forces without artillery of any kind is much like the colosseum without the lions, it would suffice to get Andy used to manoeuvring on the table with three manoeuvre units. I did have a pleasant wee surprise for him, of which more later.

The British force was drawn from an infantry division (two battalions), with elements of an Independent Armoured Brigade in support. The German force was drawn from a German Panzer Division, two infantry battalions and a tank battalion.

The initial table set up, British deploying from the left in defence, and Germans attacking from the right.

The British deployed on the high ground and the woods trying to establish a defensive line, the Germans deploying into the attack.

A13 Cruisers deployed in support

German forces on the German left take the first town in their path. The British commander had chosen not to occupy the town.

A tank heavy battalion the result of cross attachment attacks on the German right

The British left waits

Elements of the British Division's cavalry squadron deployed on the far left of the British position - two MkVI troops and a carrier platoon.

The German right pushes forward

Action begins with fire exchanged on the British right

First German casualties

And the forward recce elements of the German right take fire and are destroyed

The British right flank battalion, with armoured support, deployed on the high ground, its own flank secured in the town.

The German right pushes forward against the British left

Initial armoured action is heavy, with both sides taking casualties

The last armoured support on the German left is destroyed

However the Independent Tank Brigade support on the British left is destroyed in a fierce exchange

Add caption

The German right pushes it's infantry forward

The German plan is now revealed when a flank march arrives on the German left, giving overwhelming odds to the main German attack

The German right is still trying to push forward but casualties are mounting

The battle on the British right intensifies as the German forces push to take the town securing the British flank

The German right flank battalion fails morale and retires. Three platoons of the British left flank infantry battalion can be seen  (lower centre) pushing across to support their right wing battalion

The retiring German right flank in the back left of the photo

The British divcav start to push forward

The fight around the British right flank intensifies

The German central battalion receives a change of order, and now advances in support of its far left flank in attacking the British right flank

The German right flank armoured battalion, having retired to defensive positions, responds to a new order and returns to apply more pressure to the British defence

This is getting very intense

A heavy firefight develops between the British right flank battalion and the German centre

The surprise Andy received - air sorties from a flight of Stuka dive bombers. Sorry it is a late model Ju87 .. it's all I have in 20mm. My aim was to show Andy the effect of airpower, IF it arrives.

The Ju87 attacks British forces on the defending ridge ...

... and eliminates the last remaining A13 tank troop, and another platoon of infantry

The German flanking troops close assault the town sector, but ...

The British battalion fails morale and starts to withdraw
The position is lost for the British and a general withdrawal is the only option.

As an introductory game, this was a cracking exercise. The absence of artillery was noticeable for me as a more experienced player. In our next game we'll make sure that artillery, for both support and counter battery, is present. Even without the supporting artillery, the game was another great example of the need to plan, to allocate assets, and then to tactically manoeuvre forces on the table top.  That said, one of the things I love about SH is the 'layering' of weapons systems. That will be even more apparent for Andy in our next game.

I failed to use the capacity of the British armour to count as supporting stands (the main reason for taking the Independent Tank Brigade). However the initial armoured action developed well in advance of the infantry action.

For all that though, it was great to see the 20mm forces out and in action on the table top.