Sunday, 23 April 2017


I'd just finished a light repaint, putting decals on and weathering all my Scotia Belgian tanks (T15s, T13s & ACG-1s) when I came across the story of the bridge at Briedgen near Maastricht being destroyed in a daring counter-attack by the Belgians. In point of fact it was only a fairly minor canal crossing (the East-West oriented intact bridges at Veldwezelt, Vroenhoven and Kanne being far more useful) and so was rather lightly defended as a result. I did use a bit of artistic licence and threw all my Belgian tanks in, a Fairey Battle ground attack and opted for no German CAP flights in what was possibly a quiet sector of the front, by comparison. 

After a careful approach, the T13s shell a roadside villa near the bridge, 60mm mortars deploy and Belgian motorised infantry fan out across the lavender fields. After reporting in by field telephone, the Flakvierling on this side of the canal scarper before the advancing light tanks.

The 47mm guns on the T13s get a round straight through a window, killing half of the German section on picquet and setting fire to the villa. The suppressed survivors tumble out of the back.

Approaching from the abandoned casemate, the ACG-1s drive off two of the German AA guns.

 The German garrison begins to stir, first the cavalry, the Panzer Is and the Panzer IIs.

The German light tanks, still without their CO and without proper orders, probe towards the sounds of firing.

At the allotted time, a distraction flank attack begins on the German side of the canal. Greatly outnumbered, the second Radschützen detachment in the farm lay low to attack the rear of the passing Belgian cycle infantry column.

Engineers sneak towards the bridge covered by the leading penny packet of Belgian tanks. The Panzer IIs go to seek cover in the wood, only to find it is too dense to enter.

There is a great clattering of hooves in the cobbled market street as the cavalry canters towards the battle.

In the open but in position, the 47mm armed tanks keep the Panzers at bay while the Sappers get to work.

A 'fumble' roll of 100 from a T13 by the blockhouse resulted in a 'bad weather/fog' wildcard, which I interpreted as mist rising from the nearest point of the canal. This was actually quite convenient for the Allies.

The HQ of the left flank, CO of the ACG-1s and another 60mm mortar section reach the grounds of Brughoven Church. The cycle infantry follow more light tanks into the churchyard and what turns out to be an open wood.

A little later than expected, the bombing run from a flight of Fairey Battles goes in on the village, decimating the already half-strength Radschützen platoon (due to the two detachments on guard duty) and taking out a Panzer III and the squadron Panzerbefehlswagen.

Unfortunately, the pre-arranged flight path took the light bombers directly over the three remaining Flakvierling (blue tiddlywinks = AA overwatch). Ginger catches a packet and nose-dives into a field of sprouts.

The plucky surviving RAF crews wheel round to line up their second and final bomb run.

The Radschützen in the farm spring their 'trap' (if you can call it that) but only accounting for one squad killed and another suppressed. In fact, by rolling '100' for the MG34, the wildcard drawn in the Allies favour enabled them to intercept the orders for the as yet unobserved German infantry advancing on the church. 

Near the bridge, like a fox caught in the open, the Panzer IIs are picked off one by one.

French armour draws closer and having accounted for or repulsed most of the light tanks in the centre, begin suppressing the Flak guns and shelling the Panzer company CO. The Panzer IIIs break cover in the back yards of the village shops but are faced by no less than five 47mm tank guns, three of which are in the quite decently armoured ACG-1s.

Yet another 'fumble', this time by the Panzer Is while laying down suppressing fire on the far side of the bridge results in them hearing a garbled wireless message ordering them to fall back to cover. Overrun by the Belgian infantry, the remnant of the Radschützen outpost surrenders (yellow tiddlywink. It is possible that I could devise some scenic markers to blend in more but the danger is that they will not be noticed which would defeat the object of them!).

Now fully aware of the flak positions, the Fairey Battles pick their route into the town to drop their second and final bomb load, causing heavy casualties among the evading cavalry and completely destroying what was the German HQ and staff.

On the way out of the village, though, the last Battle receives a deadly burst of 20mm flak to the belly and it plummets into the trees.

Caught by the ground attack and pounded by the ACGs on the far right, the German motorised infantry are pinned down in the back yards of the terraces.

Suddenly there is a huge detonation at the bridge, which is now a mass of twisted steel and smoking rubble. Mission accomplished!

The North Bank

The South Bank

This was, I am certain, the first time I have used ground attack aircraft and AA in a game using my rules. In fact, the last time I had a bombing mission in a game was with Stukas using the WRG 1925-1950 WW2 rules back in the 1980's and was so unimpressed with the lack of drama or feel of authenticity that I stuck to land battles thereafter!

I'd brainstormed my way through some Air-Ground and AA rules pretty solidly for a few days prior to the game (it was about time I tackled this particular 'octopus-in-the-bath'), trying to find a balance between the devastating effects of 250kg bombs exploding all around ground troops and the 'walls of flak' encountered by Allied light bombers.There were no game mechanic anomalies that I noticed, just the usual dice generated randomness which is to be expected (the German cavalry platoon could have quite easily ended up routing as they suffered half a dozen casualties as each time they were testing at -20% due to the air raid but just kept it together) and the heavy losses by the Allied flyers was entirely borne out by real-life events, too.

A little brushing up on garrison activation, I think, as it took far too long for the Panzer IIIs and motorised infantry to 'wake up'. Possibly just dicing as per reinforcement variable arrival time which I devised partway through the game and applied to the Fairey Battles (1 turn late) and Belgian diversionary attack (on time). Also, demolition rules could be a little more concrete (if that isn't a contradiction of some sort) and a little less fudgy for my liking.

I hope to have the Type A roundels from Dom's Decals on the Fairey Battle fuselages next time around too. You may be able to see that the T15s, T13s & ACG-1s all sport his 1/600th scale Belgian aircraft roundels, variously on tank hull or turret sides, my first totally complete tank troops including troop & squadron markings.

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.