Playing this solo, I selected the following forces, making this a platoon level action. The numbers after the units indicate points/battle rating.
|The 20mm cannons on the PzIIs are very effective against infantry and gun teams.
The Polish 37mm by the road junction was quickly silenced.
|Polish reinforcements arrive in the shape of three 7tps.
|A tank action develops in front of the rearmost ridge.
The Germans suffered some casualties, but a timely air attack from an HS-123 turned the tide.
|As can be seen, the Germans managed to take the copse and associated ridge feature. Infantry, PzIIs and mortars had
co-operated well. The road junction fell shortly afterwards.
The HS-123 hung around for a strafing run but this had little effect.
|Despite significant German losses (20 /38), by German turn 9 the Poles had exceeded their battle rating
and the game was over. All the Polish armour and anti-tank guns were destroyed.
'Defence Line' is one of the 4 standard scenarios included in the core rulebook. The number of defending units on board at game start, and therefore the number of reserves which will arrive later, are decided by dice roll. This a departure from the more usual procedure of deciding defenders and reserves first, then rolling for the arrival move of the reserves. I thought it was an interesting twist and meant the scenario would produce a different game each time.
The rate of arrival of both German and Polish reserves is also diced for - one gets D6 units per move. I thought this not such a good rule - some command confusion is always welcome, but I felt the possibility of having units arrive in dribs and drabs a bit unrealistic. Formations tended to march together, after all. However, the initial moves of this scenario proceed quickly, and reinforcements are soon arriving. The Germans have the advantage of the Panzermarsch! rule, which means on one turn they can roll an extra D6 for reinforcements. At least, I use this rule, although the rulebook suggests it should only be used for France.
At this point on the learning curve, keeping track of the various campaign special rules can be a problem, but this will improve. I am considering making the arrival of an air attack more probable once the appropriate battle counter has been picked. This is a rare enough event in itself, and allowing just a 5 or 6 roll to allow the attack to arrive seems a bit mean - in fact, for the Poles, a 6 is required. A 4+ for the Germans and 5+ for the Poles might be better.
Game 2 - The Bridges at Zamosc
The background to this scenario, and forces for Blitzkrieg Commander, have already been described. I'll repeat the original map which inspired my battle.
|Map © Miniature Wargames magazine. Thanks Henry.
|The armoured train and its recce draisine move cautiously out of Zamosc station towards the rail bridge.
|Three German units, including a 37mm anti-tank gun, are diverted to the rail crossing north of the bridge,
to stall the Polish train.
|The train dominates the centre of the table...
|...but the German tanks are on their way.
|Unfortunately for the Germans, the Polish infantry and cavalry (including infantry from the assault car of the train) are pushing across the board, and help support the train just as the firefight is at its most intense.
|After 8 turns the Germans have suffered too many casualties to continue (39/35).
The Poles are at 11/38, have both objectives, and so have clearly won.
Despite also being played solo, I enjoyed this game immensely, and was pleased to see that a) workable rules for an armoured train in BGB could be developed, and b) armoured trains could be incorporated into a reasonable size game with success.
Game 3 - High Ground - Kursk
No photos of this game I'm afraid, which used another of the standard BG scenarios from the Kursk book, also to be found in the core rulebook. It was played with my old buddy Paul in Bristol, using his 20mm forces. We both chose simple armies of infantry and tanks, with no scout/recce units or off-table support. The game was played along the length of a 6' x 4' table.
The result was interesting. Tactically, it was perhaps uninspiring - the Germans advanced, engaged the dug-in Russian defenders as best they could, then took on the reinforcing Russian tanks when they arrived. Not much manoeuvre, more of a stand-up fight. But we had great fun, rolling the dice, wearing down the enemy and enjoying the twists and turns of the rules. For example, towards the end of the game my last surviving Panther moved forward, to then be engaged in flank by a T-34 hiding behind a burning Panzer IV. The Panther survived, was pinned, but then threw a 6 for morale, meaning it had a 'Beyond the Call of Duty' result. Accordingly, it immediately returned fire and knocked out the T-34!
The Germans lost soon after, as the Russians turned out to have just enough tanks to win the fight. The higher points values for vehicles mean that a platoon size game in 1943 has fewer units than one in 1939, so choices are restricted. This also seemed to mean that to reach one's battle rating, you have to lose significantly more than half your force, which in this battle gave a situation similar to those Old School battles from the 1960s when only a handful of figures survived on the winning side. This felt less than realistic, but we had plenty of good, knock-about fun.
What I came to realise during this battle, however, was that a well-rounded Battlegroup game depends on using the full variety of unit types and the full selection of available rules - or at least as many as you reasonably can. When I first acquired BGB I vowed not to bother with the ammo rules for vehicles - too much book keeping, I reckoned. Now I'm not so sure. Having to keep an eye on ammo consumption would have added an extra dimension to the game, perhaps moderating the non-stop shoot out that characterised most of the moves. One would have to think about alternative ways of getting the job done, which might increase the amount of manoeuvre in the game or encourage the purchase of off-table assets. And of course the purchase of a re-supply truck or two! I reckon using a couple of mini dice behind each tank to record ammo usage should be pretty painless.
The army lists provide many more alternatives that I should really be making use of - communications teams, off table artillery (expensive), timed fire missions/air strikes (a cheaper alternative to dedicated support), engineers, and logistic support (those resupply trucks). Lots of recce options are available as well.
I'm definitely enjoying these rules. Whether they're just a fairly lightweight WW2 game, or the heavily period specific, thorough representation that the rules introduction seems to promise, I'm not sure. Actually, I reckon it's both. A not-too-serious game which does try and get some campaign-specific character in.
Army Lists - grrr...
One thing I can't take too seriously are the army lists. These seem very precise and are beautifully laid out, but the choices don't always ring true. For example, my Germans can't have a motorcycle recce squad in 1939, but in 1940 they can. And despite 13 staffeln of HS-126s being deployed to Poland, I can't have an aerial artillery observer either. There are all kinds of little details like this. In short, the lists tend to be too proscriptive, and sometimes don't offer realistic alternatives. But this is always the way with army lists, and is the reason why I won't be offering them in my Seven Years' War rules. I'm pretty sure the authors are quite comfortable with people making their own choices, of course, and this is what most informed gamers will do, but it still makes the lists an occasionally inaccurate guide for the newcomer. And we all occasionally meet those misguided gamers to whom the lists are holy scripture.
Despite the pages of lists, actual OOBs of the various formations as they existed are absent. How does a German Light Division differ from a Panzer Division, for example? Or how was a Polish motorised brigade like the famous Black Brigade organised? No info. My own personal view is that such information is worth more than any number of army lists to a player new to the period. In addition, the rules do not require that units from the same platoon operate together in any way. Thus units from an infantry platoon can be scattered all over the table, even if they are the 2 units which are the components of the same 'squad' (e.g. the rifle group and mg group which make up a German infantry squad). For me, all this creates a situation where one gets rather divorced from reality, into a nether world of allowable army list choices.
Things are not helped by the rather interchangeable use of the terms 'squad', 'section', 'group' and 'team' when describing infantry units and their supports. Take the entry for a German infantry platoon on p.37. It consists of a command squad and then:
Anyway, having got that off my chest, I'll say farewell. 'Til the next time!