Saturday, 18 March 2017

Forêt du Marché

My brief from Robert of 2D6 wargaming was "a big hill with woods on one side of the table which the Germans have to assault, a diagonal lengthways road with hard points. Flamethrowers. And smoke. No-one uses smoke in games".

There was a German 105mm battery off-table, too

It was to be a two-pronged attack on the three objectives: the lighter Panzers driving for the Bois du Carrefour on their left and hilltop hamlet near the opposite table edge with the heavy Panzers going straight for the market town itself.

After only a few minutes of action, as luck would have it, a dug-in 47mm AT takes out the commander of the central group of 8 Rads.

The screen of Schneider armoured cars and AMR33s fall back from their forward positions in the fields...

...and exchange fire with the enemy recce glimpsed down the Roman road. Map fire from the 105s pours onto Horseshoe Wood.

Smoke shells are landed onto the AT position from the 150mm SPGs across the battlefield while the fire from another 47mm, the 25mms in pillboxes and P16s is less deadly for the moment.

Taking hits

Switching to the German left now, the Panhards are forced back after losing one of their number to the Panzerjagers nosing out of the wood. Kradschützen swarm into the farm.

A valiant attempt by the French armoured cars to hold back the steel tide.

The 47mm SPGs turn to support the centre.

Before their luck runs out, the PzIVs remember to drop smoke on the pillboxes, AT positions and armoured cars to their front. The Czech-designed light tanks, however, are not as well obscured.

More smoke from the 150mm SPGs!

Time for the infantry to do their bit and enter the maelstrom!

The 8 Rads on the right, attempting a flanking manoeuvre past the blacksmiths, are thwarted by a grenade bombardment.

Artillery barrages & smoke greatly assist the main attack.

Lobbing in some speculative rounds by way of preparation to going in with the engineers, the PanzerJagers draw fire from a pillbox.

Over on the left, the tank & infantry assault is poised like some kind of steel and tungsten animal, the enemy hard points blotted out by mortar smoke rounds.
Panzer IIIs cautiously approaching the crossroads

The French infantry fire & retreat back into the gloom of the undergrowth of Horseshoe Wood.

The engineers & SPGs viewed from the hamlet

The heavy Panzer company lost a couple of commanders early in the battle, making it a bit shaky and forcing it to pause & rally several times during the advance. [Unaccustomed to the use of smoke, I kept forgetting to renew it before it disperses, not after!]

The off-table 105s switch to the wood facing the engineers. Many of the key defenders are now blanketed in smoke.

Huge amounts of suppressing fire are unleashed on the forest tree line just before the assault on the German left.

After firing off a volley, the French retreat into the underbrush...

...undeterred, the German assault charges into the bracken...

...and carnage ensues. Grenades are tossed into the pillbox, the French reserves are routed and the flank is rolled back.

The Kradschützen squirt through the gap in the French line like deadly tomato puree (from a tube, obviously)...

 ...shooting up AT guns and creating mayhem behind the Allied lines.

The Schützen take Horseshoe Wood...

...and the engineers enter the wood to their front, watched by the German HQ.

A rather desperate ambush behind the smithy is easily swatted aside by a Panzer 38(t) & 150mm SPGs. The 105s switch target again, relentlessly bombarding the French at every fallback position.

Following close behind the drifting smokescreen, engineers with flamethrowers torch a pillbox.

From the East

I stopped the battle here.

The almost intact Panzer III, II & I company, supporting infantry and Kradschützen will sweep around and into the French rear, securing the hamlet and market town itself, with all French reserves already committed.

Although rattled, the heavy Panzer company can easily hold Horseshoe Wood, with the 47mm & 150mm SPGs pouring HE on the hapless defenders.

Looking North

From the West

North to South

There were no technical hitches in the game but I did find that with so many units to choose from, deciding which to try activating was a bit time-consuming for a solo player. I am still undecided as to whether I want any player control over the order of activation because I am not sure what this game mechanic would be trying to replicate anyway.

Near-melees in the woods worked OK. Defenders should probably go on alert (to get the upper hand for activation purposes) & fire stationary for one turn at the maximum spotting range within woods of 100m @ 80% to hit. Then fire and fall back 50m (70% to hit) and in subsequent turns continue the fighting withdrawal at 40% to hit. In order to keep the 50-100m engagement distance, the attackers would be on 40% to hit throughout, which seems reasonably realistic to me.

The use of smoke was kind of fun and I'll definitely be using it in most games, now. Besides, it's hard to think of an attacking force not using smoke if it can.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Activation Test Skirmish

I've been activating units by drawing counters up until now, which was nice and random and helps the solo player keep track of what hasn't done anything yet in the turn.

However, after a test run of some of Robert's rules at the 2D6 Wargaming HQ, I wanted to have a go rolling for activation for a couple of reasons:
  • although I am not sure what, if anything it is replicating in the real world, player selection of unit activation priority gives the gamer a feeling of some control over activation
  • it is easier to tweak activation rolls with simple adjustments for unit type & quality and other tactical considerations than it is with card or token based draws, where you can only add extra tokens to increase probabilities
The skirmish itself consisted of PzII, PzIII & PzIV troops plus Schützen platoon vs AMR33, Panhard 178 & S35 troops plus motorised infantry platoon and 25mm AT section. Entry points were diced for and I used the 2D6 Wargaming objective cards (now available in three colours) to generate the German objective of the road junction and elimination of an infantry platoon for the French.

The Panzers swung left immediately to take the dominating high ground as a base to give support to the assault on the hamlet with the road junction. The rest of the German column and the French column (spearheaded by their armour) met head-on at the outskirts of the town, the Panhard armoured cars plugging the gap for most of the game but sacrificing themselves in the process.

The Somuas started a flanking move and found the Panzers. 25mm ATs were sent to the farm to secure the right flank for the Allies, forcing the Panzers into the path of the S35s.

Eventually, the PzIIs made a dash along their right flank distracting a screen of French infantry away, while the Schützen attempted a left hook around the battlefield to drive off the anti-tank guns and to secure the objective. Two thirds of the Allied infantry fell back to the cottages at the road junction.

Morale now starting to crumble, the Panzers were unable to support the Schützen who, although outnumbering the poorly-shooting defenders, could not get a foothold in the hamlet.

Final positions

I will probably now stick to dice activation as it provides more scope for adjustments, is no more time consuming than drawing tokens and makes the game just that little bit more involving for the player(s).

Sunday, 15 January 2017

SdKfz Frame Aerials

I bought a new SdKfz 250/3 from Heroics & Ros to replace the one which was first painted in Afrika Korps Airfix desert yellow (that's how long ago it was!) and the new one came with a frame aerial so I decided to have a go at making some for the SdKfz 223s & 263's. The workbench photos were taken on my phone, sadly.

I've got loads of single strand wire (probably steel) from out of telephone cabinets for model railway wiring (the multicoloured insulation makes it easy to trace it under the layout). About 0.5mm in cross-section it was the thinnest I had.

Some square jawed pliers made it easy to get good corners by simply pulling the wire tight

I tried putting in the slight angle towards the front of the frame but it was difficult and just looked wonky, so I just bent the sections into rectangles, butting together on a short side and a blob of superglue bridged the gap. 

A 1mm drill bit was the smallest I had so I used that in a pin drill to make locating holes for the supports.

The supports initially stuck out perpendicular to the body panels. I realised that if I left the insulation on, the supports fitted the holes better but the wire needed supergluing in place or it could twist within the insulation.

Supports were bent to the vertical for the 223s or at suitable angles for the 263s and reglued where it had come loose.

A good way to get the supports on the SdKfz 223s level for the reasonably horizontal frame was to upend them and snip off the excess.

Frames were perched gingerly on top and half droplets of glue applied (I didn't have the gel variety). (The insulation was a bit long in places but once painted, it disappeared).

The aerials for the 8-rads started off rectangular, then a longitudinal central section was dropped in & glued. Cross pieces between the vertical supports were omitted as they were only about 3mm long and were too fiddly for me. The whole was bent slightly over the curved handgrip of a pair of pliers, balanced atop the support and glued. 

They all got 2 coats of Humbrol 27, an ink wash (1 drop black Windsor & Newton + 8 drops water + drop of washing up liquid) which was dabbed off, Humbrol 26 highlighting.

Trafalgar Models balkankreuz from Heroics & Ros were added where possible

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


Treating myself to a big game as I haven't played for a couple of months. Started off with a low ridge going diagonally across the board with high ground in the other corners. Gaming cloth spread over, roads drawn  in the vallies and saddles and placed a river in a flood plain and a village, which I decided the French were going to defend. A back lane was chalked in as a possible outflanking route and a few pillboxes & casemates scattered about for fun.

Bétonville from the South.

One of the lengths of Fat Frank's road (which were an unexpected Christmas present from Robert of 2D6 Wargaming) was used as the cobbled high street, blended with the dusty country roads a bit at the ends with the oil pastels.

French defensive positions

Sufficient platoons of French infantry and penny packets of tanks were dotted about to cover the diagonal front with one or two in reserve, along with some AMRs. Another gift from Robert was a pack of his objective cards (available through Wargame Vault) which are an excellent tool for any wargamer, let alone solo player. Unsurprisingly, The French had to hold three buildings, one of which had to be the tallest, as well as destroying a Panzer troop.

German on-table forces

With the amount of French men and materiel on the ground, I plumped for light and medium Panzer companies (somewhat under strength as I can't be arsed with all those Panzer Is) and succumbed to the temptation of SiG33, BunkerFlak & PanzerJäger SPGs with several platoons of Schützen and motorised infantry following on. As luck would have it, their objective cards called for the destruction of a tank troop, infantry platoon & AT battery.

Softening up

While the cavalry, recce and light Panzer company cross the flood plain, the BunkerFlak concealed in the woods target Casemate Nord at a range of 350m and the French 75s, just visible to the spotter for the off-table 105s, come under some nasty counter-battery fire.

Medium Panzers & PanzerJägers on table

The 88s make depressingly short work of the blockhouse and turn on the S35s who are shooting particularly badly but are under orders not to fall back without making a few kills. 80mm mortar rounds begin plunging down onto the Panhards on the high ground.

The art of Crossfire

The French cavalry tanks and armoured cars finally get some good kills as the Panzers press on through the crossfire (dropping to a morale level of 45%) towards Pillbox 3 and a 47mm AT position.

Mobile reception

AMR33s arrive from HQ to help stem the oncoming Feldgrau hordes streaming between the woods but the Kradschützen hook around the last wood, heading for the French rear area.
Back Lane

The French field artillery reposition themselves down the back lane in the path of the mauled Panzers with an infantry platoon to look after the flanks.

Very clean & shiny FCM36s emerge from under the tree canopy

Spewing blue smoke from their cold engines, the FCM36s block Rue du Pont like geta lumbering mechanical tortoises, to allow the Panhards to fall back. With their spotter moving up, the German 105mms begin shelling the village.

Motorised infantry are hastily despatched to aid the Panzer IIs peppered by grenade shrapnel.

SPGs rumble forwards

Sole survivor of his troop and possibly rattled by the howitzer rounds detonating all around him, the S35 CO can't seem to hit the oncoming 13mm steel barn doors.

The FCM36s, angling 40mm glacis plates away from the closer in Panzer IIIs, plink away with impunity at the hapless German tanks, helped by a 25mm AT gun and Hotchkiss HMG who is particularly adept at finding vision blocks. The Aufklärungs companie skirt the area while trying to find a weak point in their sector.

The advance is in full swing

8-rads on the skyline!

German armoured cars probe the upper meadows, protected from the FCMs by the slope of the hill, hoping to outflank the strongly defended wood.

All quiet on the Western flank...

Motorcycle madness

Rebuffed by the French in the wood, the Kradschützen are further harried by the AMR33s & R35s. A lone PzB38 team acts as rearguard.

Fox cubs caught in the open

Shaken by their earlier casualties, the motorcycle troops cannot advance any closer. As they try to rally, French cycle troop reserves and the last remaining AMR push them off the edge of the battlefield.

'Surprise butt sex' for the Panzer commander

The Somua emerges from the tree canopy and gets the Panzer company commander in the rear but is one-shotted by the PanzerJägers to his right.

Ferme de Colline

1st Schützen platoon take the farm on the high ground and the assault on Bois Centrale begins.

Pretty woodland scene

But after 25 moves, the Germans have only destroyed three penny packets of tanks and armoured cars, at a cost of triple the amount of hardware to themselves. It is true that nearly all the SPGs have survived to support the as yet uncommitted infantry and Bétonville will be taken eventually but the German advance has unfortunately not gone as swiftly as was demanded.