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.