Sunday 27 February 2011

Memory Lane

Rooting around in my wargames storage cabinets (good old IKEA) I found some photos of old games going back nearly 25 years. Knowing that many present day wargamers are of my vintage, I thought it might be fun to share a selection with readers of this blog. Ah, nostalgia! All the photos have been scanned in so a little quality has been lost.

This one is marked 1987. Back in those days I was wargaming late WW2 and occasionally ACW, both with Airfix plastics. Sadly, no photos of my ACW games ever got taken but this shows what my WW2 games looked like. Airfix figures on individual bases, with the odd Matchbox figure added. Note the US Marine bottom left, painted to represent a German radio operator, with plasticine blob radio just as Mr Featherstone's books had recommended. Home made buildings and plasticine trenches. Of course, any gentleman wargamer will recognise the Bellona walls and bridge. The bridge at least is still with me. At this time I was using Charles Grants rules from his Battle - Practical Wargaming book.

The two pictures below date from a couple of years later. I've still got essentially the same figures but new buildings and trees. Dig that gloss painted board! I had begun to branch out into some new resin vehicles, like the Loyd Carrier in the lower picture. The Charles Grant rules got modified and modified again until almost unrecognisable. I only played commercial sets when playing away with other gamers. Eventually I ended up with what were really my own WW2 rules which (I eventually realised) became far too complex.

In a while the board got a couple of coats of matt varnish. The 3 photos below are from a game based on Operation Goodwood. Those Infantry Combat Group figures are still going. Note that I couldn't be bothered to paint them properly - just the detail was painted in (packs, boots, rifles etc). And a pretty basic job on those Shermans and half tracks as well.

Fast forward a year or so (around 1990) and the figures are on multiple bases. Nevertheless, you'll see that most of the German figures are still the WW2 German Infantry designed in the 1960s (and purchased by me in the 60s and 70s) The odd resin building is creeping in, but the ceiling-tile hill contours continue to give sterling service.

Below again: new house, new kit. For a brief few years I actually had a good size loft to game in. TSS tiles were acquired and the old figures were gradually replaced by metal 20mm. Cardboard roads were still quite good enough, however. Still, not a bad looking table I think. The whole 20mm WW2 collection was sold off in the late 90s to make way for my current collections. The ACW Airfix had gone many years before - probably straight into the bin.

Finally, 2 photos below of a Napoleonic game (from 1989-90 I reckon). A wargames buddy had a much nicer set-up than mine, with a hexagonal tile system and really well painted 15mm Napoleonics from the Peninsular campaign. We used WRG 1685-1845 rules. I wouldn't touch those rules with a barge pole these days (though it seems many still use them) but in those days I recall enjoying the games we played, even if they were occasionally rather slow when all the figures were out.

And that's about it. How I wish I had taken some photos in the 70s and early 80s. Only some hand written rules and one or two scribbled maps endure from the 70s, and one or two hand written battle reports with maps from the 80s.

Hope this has been of some interest. Will get up to date with the next post, with photos of some recently painted SYW Hussars. Byee!


Friday 11 February 2011

Kradschutzen Vorwarts!

Inspired to represent an action by German motorcycle infantry (or kradschutzen, see previous post), I came up with the following scenario.

Kradschutzen Vorwarts!
(motorcycle infantry, advance!)
September 1939. German motorcycle troops, supported by a reconnaissance battalion, rush to seize an important bridge before the Poles can claim it for themselves.

German Forces: CO (CV9)

Kradschutzen Battalion: HQ (CV8)
6 motorcycle infantry units (ATR upgrade)
2 MG units in motorcycles
1 mortar unit in light truck
1 37mm ATG unit with truck tow
1 assault engineer unit (ATR upgrade) in light truck

Aufklarungs Battalion: HQ (CV8)
1 Sdkfz 221 (recce)
1 Sdkfz 222
1 Sdkfz 231
3 motorcycle infantry units (ATR upgrade)
1 MG unit in motorcycle
1 75mm IG with truck tow
1 37mm ATG with truck tow

1675 points.    Breakpoint = 10

Polish Forces: CO (CV8)

Cavalry Regiment HQ (CV8)
9 cavalry units (veteran infantry, ATR upgrade)
2 MG units in taczankas
1 37mm ATG with horse tow

Divisional Recce Group HQ (CV7)
1 Wz.34 armoured car (recce)
2 TKS (mg)
3 motorcycle infantry units (ATR upgrade)
1 MG unit in Lazik jeep

Improvised Tank/Infantry Group HQ (CV7)
1 infantry recce unit in Lazik jeep (recce)
2 FT-17 (37mm)
6 infantry units (ATR upgrade)
1 MG unit
1 mortar unit
1 75mm artillery support unit with horse tow

2245 points.    Breakpoint = 15

The map for the game is shown below, using a 6' x 6' table. For a change I decided to make up a basic map in colour using Microsoft Word, which was actually easier than I feared. In fact I was pleasantly surprised at how little swearing and cursing was required to make the software behave as required.
The idea is that the stars of our show, the Kradschutzen Battalion, automatically arrive in column on road A at the start of the game, and have 2 free moves to make for the bridge (command rolls permitting). On move 3, their supporting Aufklarungs Battalion can enter along the same road, but using mobile deployment to arrive.
The Poles can also start to arrive on move 3. One Polish formation is allocated to each of the roads B, C, or D by dice rolls, entering the table in column by mobile deployment.
The German CO can try to arrive from game start on road A using mobile deployment. The Polish CO can be allocated by the Polish player to any road or formation at the start of move 3, but must also use mobile deployment to arrive.
Game length was set at 8 turns. The bridge and ford count as a single objective, and the side occupying the objective at the end of the game wins, unless either side has broken in the meantime. The ford can be crossed by any unit but attracts the dense terrain command modifier.

The Game in Pictures

 The table is set up and ready to go.

 The motorcyclists arrive along with the CO and are able to move forward.

 But there is a delay - the lead unit encounters a stray mine on the road and is knocked out (command blunder with a roll of 5). They managed to overcome this setback but after 2 turns the motorcyclists are still not quite at the bridge.

 The Polish tank/infantry group arrives straight away on move 3. The Poles have a -1 command penalty for ordering combined infantry/tank formations, so the CO accompanies them to keep things moving.

 The cavalry also arrive smartly. They ended up being lucky with their command rolls throughout the game, and they moved rapidly towards the objective.

 The Germans, however, beat them to the bridge and ford. The bad news is that the Aufklarungs Battalion stubbornly fail to arrive.

 The Polish cavalry move forward bravely and deploy to attack the bridge.

 The Germans dismount from their motorcycles and trucks and set up a modest bridgehead.They are able to knock out an advancing Polish recce unit with MG and small arms fire.

 But then there is a mix up in  orders (yes, another command blunder), and the formation falls back a move, handing the initiative to the Poles.

 Meanwhile, on Rollbahn A, the second in command of the Aufklarungs Battalion stares down the road. Where have the buggers got to? Surely they're not lost? Whatever the reason, the recce formation still doesn't arrive.

 Close up of support units from the Polish cavalry regiment in action against the bridge.

 The Polish recce formation was not much more lively than their German opposite numbers. Their arrival  was delayed, and then their movement towards the bridge was sluggish in the extreme. They never got into the fight.

 The Polish cavalry, with further tanks and infantry coming in slowly from their left, form a firing line and pour fire onto the isolated German motorcyclists. The extra firing dice for veteran infantry is of great value to them, and the outgunned Germans lose units continuously.

 The Polish tank/infantry formation moves forward slowly, but steadily. The CO took personal command of the 2 tanks. Eventually the tanks and the 75mm were able to commence shelling the German positions around the bridge as the infantry edged forward.

 At last the Aufklarungs Battalion arrive. But they may be too late to save their comrades. Mortar from motorcycle battalion in foreground.

 A tragic end to a bold advance. The Kradschutzen at the bridge have been wiped out by a storm of Polish fire, and now the dismounted cavalry swarm forward to claim the objective. 

 The German armoured cars come in sight of the bridge, only to see it covered in enemy infantry.

 Close up of the FT-17s and 75mm gun supporting the final cavalry advance.

 The Polish recce formation has hardly moved at all by the end of the game.

 Final move, and a Polish victory. The game went by quicker than we expected, so in the end we played 10 moves. The Poles were pretty much in control of the objective after 8 moves, and during the extra 2 turns they consolidated their advantage. The Aufklarungs Battalion approached the bridge but ran out of steam as they encountered some solid Polish small arms and ATG fire.

 Alternative view of the last move. Well done the Poles!

A pretty conclusive victory for the Poles. The motorcycle battalion was completely wiped out, and the Germans ended the game with casualties of 11/10. The Poles had not suffered badly, only losing 4/15.
The army lists allow some Polish HQs to have a CV of 8 and it was well worth giving this rating to the Polish cavalry, helping them get into the game. At the minor tactical level the best Polish troops were at least the equal of the Germans in 1939, and the Polish cavalry were the elite of their army. For the record, all the Polish horse tows were allowed to move at cavalry speed. Video evidence I have seen on the net shows taczankas and towed 37mm guns galloping around at a great rate with their cavalry colleagues. On the practical side, if you make the horse-towed support weapons move at draught horse speed the cavalry formations become very difficult to use in their historical role.
Both players agreed this scenario would be well worth playing again with the roles reversed (on this occasion I was the Germans). It is one of those games which will be different each time depending on how the arrivals work out. I certainly didn't expect the German and Polish recce units to be so sluggish.
Finally, the evening passed even more pleasantly due to a highly acceptable Le Pre du Moine 2009 Bordeaux provided (as always) by Paul. That man knows his wine!

Thursday 3 February 2011

WW2 - German Motorcycle Riflemen (Jan 1941)

I was pointed towards this video by a post on the BKC forum: thanks to Steve Johnson for the link. The video got me looking up my material on German motorcycle troops (Kradschutzen). Consider this quote from September Storm:

Motorcycle rifle battalions were employed for reconnaissance and as exploitation units. Their high-speed mobility and good cross country capabilities allowed them to take advantage of many situations in which it was necessary to gain a quick advantage, such as seizing an abandoned bridge, securing a vital crossroads in advance of the main body, or screening an exposed flank...

Enough there for at least 3 scenarios. And from Panzer Divisions: The Blitzkrieg Years 1939-1940, concerning the Kradschutzen battalion in the Panzer Divisions:

Its speed and its capacity to redeploy quickly made it the natural spearhead of the Schutzen Brigade, and it was often used in offensive reconnaissance missions.

Hmm.... 'seizing an abandoned bridge'. That sounds fun. Well, the scenario is in preparation for a game next week. Full story and pictures soon after. Meanwhile, enjoy the video.