Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Fuhrer Begleit Brigade

All the way back in 2011 (yes really!) I put on an Ardennes 1944 game at Partizan. It was fought out between a scratch force of Americans and a battalion of German Volksgrenadiers, supported by elements of the Fuhrer Begleit Brigade (FBB). For this game, the whole table and most of the figure bases were covered in snow. Six years on, I have decided to build up a more serious representation of the FBB, without the winter bases.

Why the FBB? Well, the name is quite catchy, but mainly because it was one of those oddball units that I always enjoy playing with. Its composition is a matter of some dispute, but the Flames of War suggestions seem plausible. As you can see, it is quite a mixed bag with a strong but unusual panzer regiment, an equally unconventional panzer grenadier regiment, decent artillery provision and a very impressive Flak regiment on top. Rather than go into too much detail here, take a look at the Flames of War PDF, which is free to download:

I am aiming to do most of the panzer and panzer grenadier regiments, with a good helping of flak and supporting artillery. In reality the infantry component is basically three battalions of infantry with varying modes of transport: armoured, schwimmwagens and bicycles! I will probably do the first two and simply field the 3rd battalion as infantry when required.

First up is the (slightly reduced) 1st Panzerabteilung, comprising two companies of  two Jagdpanzer IV/L70(a) assault guns and a company of three panzer IVs. The regiment's 2nd Abteilung, which was composed of the 200th Assault Gun Brigade, has a total of five Stug IIIs (again slightly understrength). Along with its regimental flak component of a Mobelwagen and Wirbelwind, it should be a formidable force.

The Panzer IVs are from PSC, the Jagdpanzers are from the Ready To Roll range carried by Colin Rumford's Valiant Miniatures. I am particularly fond of this latter vehicle, one of the many German improvisations as they sought to fill the ranks of their armoured units. Here are a few shots of them in action.

Below is the  2nd Abteilung's  Stug IIIs. Whilst not as powerful, it still packs a decent punch. These are also from the ever growing PSC range.

The Flak vehicles are done, but still awaiting their crews.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

WWII Rules: Another Playtest

Hi All.

A couple of old wargaming friends came over to give the new rules a try. Neither had played before but soon got the hang of it and seemed to enjoy themselves. Here is a pic of the starting line up.

If you would like to read the full report, please take a look at my mate Roj's excellent blog. Hope you enjoy it. This is the third game so far and every one has gone really well. Hopefully they are all up for a lot more play testing over the coming months.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

New WWII Rules: A Playtest.

As I mentioned a while back, I have been working on a set of WWII rules that I can use as an alternative to Rapid Fire. As an avid RF user ever since they first appeared, I have , for a while, been looking for something that would allow me to incorporate a card-driven system with a greater emphasis on command and control and troop quality, whilst keeping the simplicity and playability of RF.

Over the last few years, I have become a real fan of the Piquet rules system, both in its original incarnation and the modified Field of Battle (FOB) version. I particularly like the fact that there is no formal move sequence, rather the actions that you can carry out at any particular time are governed, to a large extent, by the card deck that you are using. These decks can be tailored to suit the force that you have.

It really does work. A 1941 Soviet force, is likely to perform very differently (and usually no-where near as well) as a 1944/5 force by virtue of the "action cards" that are included in its army deck. Whilst most armies have the same, or similar opportunities to do the basics - move and fire, although even this can be modified - other actions, usually relating to the command and control side of things can vary widely. Basically at the start of each phase, both players roll their command dice (d4, d6 or d8, depending on overall command and control ability) to decide who has the initiative and by how much. For example rolls of 5 and 2 would mean that the active player may turn and act on 3 cards (the difference between the rolls), before his opponent gets his chance to do the same. The winner of the command roll may surrender the initiative to his opponent if he feels it is tactically advantageous.

One of my favourite cards is called the "Lull" card. Its initial effect is that of being a wasted card, in other words you cannot act on it. This represents the "friction of war" we all read so much about. The less able your command and control functions are, the more of these cards you have in your deck. A well led and well trained army may only have one of these cards in its deck (out of 24-30 cards in total); a really poorly led army by contrast might have as many as six of them!! You thus find that you are unable to do as much as  a better led opponent. Not only that, but each time a Lull card is drawn, both players roll their command dice (a d4, d6, d8). If the non active player manages to beat his opponent's die roll, he steals the initiative by turning and acting on one of his own cards, thereby interrupting his opponent's actions. This can have serious repercussions for the other player, who can find it difficult to "build up a head of tactical steam" as he is being constantly interrupted.

It is a very elegant and essentially simple system, but one that offers a huge variety of results, as you can never know in advance in what order the cards will be drawn (some are definitely more useful than others), or who will win the initiative. There is also great scope for adding "special" cards to spice things up, or to reflect historical factors.

Anyway, a while back, an old wargaming friend, Andy Lawson, agreed to come over and give them a go. I wasn't really sure how things would pan out, as the system was completely untried. Andy was quite happy to risk it and is also one of those people that can spot a flaw in a set of rules a mile away, so he was the obvious choice as guinea pig!

The game was set in Germany, late April 1945 and featured a very mixed German Kampfgruppe against a reinforced Soviet tank brigade. The Soviet objective was to break through the German defences and secure a crossing over the canal, before pressing on to Berlin.

The German defenders were composed of a small "home defence" battalion with a company of Volksturm and another of civilian police. These were rated as pretty abysmal. There was also an understrength German infantry battalion, which was rated as average and a mixed armoured group of company size with Panzer IVs, STUGs and a Jagdpanther. There was also a Luftwaffe "88" battery dug in to protect the bridges.

The Soviets had three understrength tank battalions (3 x T34/85s each) all of which carried a company of infantry as tank riders, with the battalion heavy weapons arriving in their own soft transport. There were also a couple of ISU122s as heavy support. Andy also fielded a strong recce battalion with two T34/76s, a couple of companies of infantry and some support weapons. All the Soviet stuff was rated as above average, being from a Guards Tank Corps.

These two images show the twin villages and the three bridges that the Soviets were aiming for.

After a quick briefing on the salient elements of the rules, Andy started to move on table. The left hand column of his attack unfortunately threw low and advanced very slowly, whereas the other elements seemed keener to come to grips.

An early success for the Soviet tankers.

They didn't have it all their own way, as the Raupenschlepper and its Pak 40 covered itself in glory, knocking out first a T34/85 before despatching a T34/76 from the recce battalion.

In the centre, the Soviets pushed on, not without loss and brought forward their big guns to cover the final charge to the bridges.

The recce battalion meanwhile was forcing its way, against stiff opposition from the German infantry, down the left flank of the German defenders.

In the end, we were both defeated by the clock, as we ran out of time. We left the game nicely poised, with Andy getting ready to launch a major attack on the left of the German line. It could have gone either way, especially as I had a nice surprise, in the form of a Jagdpanther skulking inside the threatened village.

Even so, Andy had plenty of armour left, including the heavy ISUs and his infantry was starting to close on the village (occupied only by the Volksturm), from two sides.

To my delight, the rules seemed to work pretty well and Andy really enjoyed the game. He seemed very keen to give it another go and liked the "feel" of the game and its mechanisms. There is undoubtedly a great deal of play testing and revision to do and now that I know that the game at least works, we can roll it out to the other members of our merry band, who all seem quite happy to try it out. Hopefully there will be more to report over the coming months.

Monday, 30 October 2017

German Armoured Recce Infantry Company.

This is the first instalment of vehicles to give my German infantry a bit of mobility. Here is featured an armoured recce infantry company mounted in 4 x sdkfz 250 APCs. The vehicles are from PSC and are lovely little models. I have added stowage and crew figures, both PSC and from other sources and am quite pleased with the result.

The company is comprised of three infantry platoons, each mounted in a 250, with an attached MMG and HQ group in the 4th vehicle. A mobile force that packs a decent punch. In the rules that I will be using, the figure scale is around 1:10. I usually de-centralise the battalion support weapons down to company level where possible, hence the MMG. The HQ group (2 figures) is there to provide enhanced command and control, as well as to spot for the battalion support weapons. This will take the form of a further 250 kitted out as the mortar variant - the vehicle is finished and awaiting its complement of crew.

I have also done the HQ (37mm gun) version, which is likewise awaiting crew. I am also working on a load of 251s to form an armoured panzer grenadier battalion, along with a number of armoured cars to complete the recce battalion. More to follow.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Raupenschlepper with PAK40

A handy purchase from the PSC is the general utility prime mover, the Raupenschlepper tracked truck. This comes with either a towed or SP version of the famous PAK40 anti-tank gun and two cab options. A really lovely kit. There are two in a pack along with plenty of crew figures to customise the vehicles.

This one recently made its debut in the first playtest of a set of WWII rules that I am working on (report to follow). It performed superbly, taking out a T34/85 and a T34/76 before finally succumbing to enemy fire.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Light Flak

One of the many bargains that EBAY has thrown up, was a number of die cast vehicles, picked up a while back. At around £4.00 each, they were too good to resist. A couple of the sets included a lovely 20mm flak gun, unusually, on its wheeled trailer along with a prime mover (truck or field car). I bought half a dozen! Ever since seeing the closing battle scene in Saving Private Ryan, where the German force included a light flak gun on its trailer being pushed around by its crew, I fancied having such a model. This first one represents a Waffen SS piece, others will no doubt be Luftwaffe or Heer.

Most of the crew are AB, although the guy in the black panzer jacket and the vehicle crew are PSC. This must be my 4th or 5th attempt at SS camo, and I feel I am starting to get somewhere with it.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Add Terrain Boards and Garnish

Following on from my previous posts regarding the buildings, I thought it might be nice to take a few shots of them in situ, with gardens, trees and a few figures added. Hopefully it gives  better impression of what a completed village will look like on the table.

As I mentioned before, the gardens and garden modules linking two or more buildings can be made quite easily and enable the same buildings to be used to create very different looking villages. The trees are on smaller than usual bases, to allow them to be "slotted in" close to the buildings; my usual bases are considerably larger (for stability). The addition of greenery, whether trees or hedges, really brings the buildings to life and makes the village look "lived in".