Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Game 56 : Prokorovka, the main game

These are pics from the larger Prokorovka game. In size it was a reinforced Das Reich Panzergrenadier Division fighting the main elements of a Russian Tank Army, based on two tank corps.  The smaller previous game set the scene and this game was just as interesting. The Russians have some discretionary points that are used to "buy" extra troops or upgrade troops to Guards status. In our rules, Guards status makes it harder to be killed and usually imparts a higher morale. When we finally decide troops factors after first contact, Guards tend to only ever better, never worse. The Germans are crack troops throughout their forces. The smaller game saw a fight to a standstill. The Russian Guard tank corps was able to hold its ground against a Regimental sized force of Germans. We were able to see the influence of being somewhat harder to kill. It really becomes a balancing act when choosing numbers or quality!!
Now to set the scene for the bigger game. The Russian chose to increase their forces with their points and included a whole Tank corps as Guards. What happened? To cut to the chase, the Germans were able to eventually exert control over both flanks and the Russians were being pushed back, but not broken. Some highlights are pictured below.
 

Unfortunately for me, the burning tanks are mine! Two Marders and a Pz IIIM. Killed by the Russian air force if you can merit that!! The Russians will fight all day for control of the main hill, but a late in the day surgical air strike by the Luftwaffe and the exposing of the flank would eventually force the Russians to yield the hill.


This is in the centre. This was a bit of a no mans land as both sides had tank heavy flanks. The SU 152s do a good job of scaring the German armour and progress can only be made very slowly and methodically by smoking out the enemy armour when he engages the advancing Germans. Both sides would really end the day at the same point where they started the day.


Longer angled shot showing the action from the previous pic and the action for the hill. Winning the initiative was very important tactically. We find that if both sides are "balanced" against each other overall, initiative becomes critical. It also then leads to the expected backwards and forwards unless one side is lucky enough to get a run on winning the initiative.


Action at the other end of the table where both sides contested a major river crossing all day. The river was crossable by foot troops but not by vehicles. It was here that Tiger tank "perished" under sustained AT fore from 45mm ATGs. Gaining control of one bank of the river took 2 days, gaining control of the far side saw us run out of time.


Towards the end of the duelling, the Germans begin to make steady, relentless progress onto the hill which then quickly fell under total German control. As the Germans had more flexible artillery, namely Regimental heavy weapons, the hill proved a powerful position and created a sort of exclusion zone as its height meant the all enemy troops were visible for some distance and could be engaged as desired by artillery.


Back the other flank and the fight is now across the river where German infantry are infiltrating amongst the Russian armour. It now becomes time for the Russians to retire from this before they get fixed in position and destroyed in detail by the Germans.

 
We all agreed it was one of the better games we had played as the forces were all good kit and both sides had their own specific advantages/disadvantages. We still look like a motly crew!!
Next game will be Prokorovka, take three! We'll see what happens in this one but I have made further "scary" changes for both sides to digest!!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Game 55 : Prokorovka revisited, small scale

This battle sees us back to the Eastern front in 1943 and Prokorovka. There is a largish game planned for the bank holiday weekend and this was a smaller playtest between myself and Graham to ensure that it would work.

The forces involved are the best forces both sides can provide. Troops quality is good and the equipment is good.
The Russians are based on the 1st Tank Army and the Germans are based on Das Reich Panzergrenadier Division, albeit the latter is really a tank formation.

There are lots of choices to be made by both sides before the game starts regards choice of "extras". The aim of the battle is strategic control of the battlefield or the defeat of opposing forces. Both sides have an air component and artillery support.

The battle we fought was a lot smaller but it included a lot of the flavour that is expected in the bigger game. More importantly, Graham and I thought it worked out well and bodes well for the larger conflict.

I won't expand on "who won" or the detail of what happened as we don't want to give away clues prior to the actual bigger game. The pics selected were fewer in number and the explanations are somewhat devoid of detail to keep the fog of war in place.


This pic is just to show that the Russian air force (VVS) does exist! It actually shot down a Stuka being escorted by an Fw 190 (which did shoot down a fighter and damage a second one)



Russian JSU 152s plodding (literally) over the battlefield. They have some naughty 152mm guns and excellent frontal armour. But they must be stationary to shoot. So lots of manoeuvring Germans.


Russian & German infantry contesting the "field" areas. The battlefield still has a lot of visibility cover for infantry, able to sneak up on unsuspecting armour.


Action in our centre with Russian infantry regrouping. There was a lot of backwards and forwards by both sides but I won't say who ended up where.


Troops from both sides fail morale! An eastern front stand off. We played over 2 full days and got a result that we thought was sensible. Both sides had their portion of luck at times and the winning of initiative at the start of a turn played a significant part towards who held the tactical initiative. Needless to say it changed hands many times. I think we played 18 turns, so we were going at a good pace.
The next game will the full version for this set up and will be the next report. Until then!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Game 54 : Weisseritz to Grossgarten : Dresden the Centre : take II

This battle is a second playtest for the centre section of the large Dresden game coming up early next year. The reason for extensive play testing is obvious, it irons out wrinkles in game design and game play. This game was very useful as it demonstrated how massed attacks could work if done with enough planning, but also that they could be thwarted by equally good defensive planning.

The other difference is that the pics come mostly from the camera of Neil, he only took a couple of hundred!! Neil, as any of you know, runs a painting service from the near shores of Bangladesh. An awful lot of the figures on view were painted by his team.

The pics are in no particular order, but they do give a different flavour, especially the high angle shots.

This is a shot from the far south east of the battlefield which is the allied right. The Grossgarten can be seen in front of Brian as he works out how to seize the feature.


This is from the northwest with the city of Dresden in the immediate foreground. Outside the city are the outskirts. The hedges represent Chevau de frisse, a special "terrain feature" for this battle.


A close up of new troops who have just joined the swelling ranks of Allies. These are Prussian line battalions. The Guards and Grenadiers are not far behind.


The high angle shot is of the Grossgarten. It is huge, as it was historically. Roughly two Divisions per side will fit in the feature to contest it. It is played as a garden, not unforming troops, but restricting visibility. Cavalry and artillery are only allowed to enter if they are attempting to use the road network and even then they are not allowed to deploy into a combat formation.


The Russians have committed two Divisions to the Grossgarten, the French have committed one Young Guard Division inside and another one outside.
 

Massed Austrian columns move across the centre to attack the Lunettes and outlying outskirt villages.


A swirling view of the battle raging in and around the Grossgarten. This battle would rage for most of the day.


Austrians assault the first village on their left flank near the Weisseritz stream. It was garrisoned by French Marines, not an easy force to eject.


An Austrian column hits the central Lunette nr.3 Fighting was fierce but eventually the French were driven back. We had a new rules that retreat was not allowed from a Lunette. Morale failure of retreat or rout resulted in the troops dispersing.
 

A longer shot showing the Austrian columns in the main front line attacking as large battering rams. It didn't always work!! I've added a couple of pics from my camera, it uses a tripod so I can get my usual close down type pics


This shows three Austrian columns about to assault targets to their front. Even if they succeed, they have to deal with the French reserves who are in the heart of the outskirts and still having good lines of communication.


I included this pic to give a fell of the action across nearly the whole length we were fighting. It looks like a wall of infantry! Good planning was required to get cavalry into useful positions in this sector.

 
The height of the battle in the Grossgarten. Numbers would eventually tell and the French Young Division very sensibly successfully retired before being consumed by attrition. It would get to refit but the Russians held the Grossgarten. 
 
 
Brian is bemoaning the fact that he didn't have both Young Guard Divisions in the Grossgarten. He is already planning how to wrestle control away from the Russians.
 
 
The usual rogues gallery of players. Even the weather was good!! The next offering will be a series of WII battles, all based on Prokorovka at Kursk, ranging from "encounter battles" to a more serious effort with a Russian Tank Army. Until then!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Game 53 : Weisseritz to Grossgarten : Dresden the Centre

This is another play test of Dresden, fighting from the Weisseritz stream to French left past the Grossgarten. This was a large battle, where sledgehammers were the order of the day!


The above is a view, towards Dresden, from the south west. Imagine you are on the Allied lines, then march along the Weisseritz towards Dresden and there you go. The City walls are shown and behind the city is the Elbe River.


The battle was also unique in that the French had anticipated a battle and had built "Lunettes" to the south which would be facing the Allied lines. There were 5 in total and this game had all of them deployed. Each Lunette had a 12pdr battery within it and the positions were, relatively speaking, heavily fortified. This is reflected in the special rules for the Lunettes


The Grossgarten is a huge feature. Simply put, it was a series of gardens, surrounded by wall, that was over a mile long on each side. This feature would literally gobble up 4 divisions of infantry at a time, that's 40 btns in this game!


The attack, from the Allied lines, from there left which lines the Weisseritz, a secure flank. The village being attacked is the most easily accessible in the French lines with only 1 Lunette really able to offer support fire. You see why I said it was a game of sledgehammers. The above is a small one!!


This is the same action viewed from the French lines, effectively looking south west.


The game was played twice and the above shows the Grossgarten just about to be cleared by 2 Young Guard divisions of 20 btns. The Russian occupiers retired as opposed to be routed out of the feature.


The French attacked from their left, assaulting the extended right flank of the Allies towards a feature called the Landgraben. A big ditch really, but a breakwater to charging troops, especially cavalry


The French secure the Grossgarten and the Allies, Russian line and Guard reform before counter-attacking.


Guard Polish Lancers about to unleash themselves upon some unfortunate Prussian squares. The first square would buckle easily, the second square bounced the Lancers!! Who says it is easy to break squares. This is an ironical comment as some players are convinced breaking squares is too easy with these rules. Try telling that to the Guard Polish Lancers (Morale 8 so there is no mistake).


This is the second game at the Grossgarten where 40 btns are about to thrash around for control of the feature. Why is it important? To the French, control denies about a third of the front to the Allies and funnels any assaults on the city in the centre. Allied control sees the avenues of attack on the city significantly increased and spreads the French defenders more thinly, probably forcing the committing of any central reserves.



This is a sledgehammer of Austrians, plumb in the centre, attacking the central Lunettes.


This is another sledgehammer of Austrians, advancing to the right of the Division above.


This shows a Russian sledgehammer, a Jaeger Division of all things, advancing to the right of the Division above with the Grossgarten to its right. Russians contest the Grossgarten so you can see how control of the Grossgarten allows an avenue of attack on the city.


Round one assaults in the Grossgarten have been resolved. Both sides reform. Ding, ding, round two is about to start. Then we were knackered and sat in the sun and drank beer!!!, well I did the others drank tea!!! Great fun as usual.



Myself and Paul played together whilst our realistic Austrian counterparts, Herbert & Franz, were our opponents. The next game is a repeat play test of roughly the same sector with some slight adjustments to rules and OB restrictions based on our play test experience. Look out for the next instalment of sledgehammers!! 

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Game 51 & 52 : Friederichstadt, the approach to Dresden Sept 1813

 
It seems a long time since I last updated the blog with a battle. Things have still been frenetic at the Situation Room, even if the output has seemed lacking. The success of the Borodino game has "secured" the "juggernaut of a project" continuing with the same pace. The game for 2018 is planned to be Dresden in 1813. It has the importance of Austerlitz, in that had the other battles, the same day, gone Napoleon's way, then the 1813 campaign would have finished as a French victory.
So, the idea was to start play testing elements of the battle of Dresden. As it turns out, I already have all the key terrain features, the city walls, the lunettes and the Gross Garten, christened the "death star" in a previous incarnation!
The reader will have to do some "map looking up" before reading the short account. I decided to do the initial contacts in the area of Freiderichstadt, which is on the allied left flank as they approach Dresden from the south. The allied right of the battlefield was constrained by the Weisseritz stream and the left flank by the River Elbe.
 
As this was an encounter, with the allies having no real idea of what they were facing, it was a good time to test out how approaches might be done and see the difference between aggressive advance and careful methodical advance.
The French started with 3 second class line Btns on the battlefield and a Division of good light cavalry lead by Elite Vistula Legion Uhlans. French numbers would rise to 2 Infantry Divisions and 2 Light Cavalry Divisons, including the start numbers. The allies, all Austrian, would have double these numbers.
 

This is the Austrian advance on their left, Grenzers probing out in front. The French had no troops at all in this area, although a blank tile was deployed at the beginning of the game to invoke some fog of war and uncertainty as to which tiles had troops and which did not, the allied having no idea if they were all blanks or all had troops.
 




On the Allied right, a line infantry Division is advancing on a set of 3 villages, more or less et one behind the other. the centre of the battlefield has a wood, but there is a large open space after passing these features and the Dresden suburb of Friederichstadt. The French cavalry immediately move to engage the formed Austrian Btns. The real objective is for the a French to gain time to allow their reinforcements to arrive ands attempt to occupy the villages and form a solid defence in depth.



The Austrian columns have swept away the initial French defending Btn and continue to advance. It can already be seen that the Austrian cavalry is having problems in deploying in strength as space has already become an issue.


This pic is looking at the French forces, which are spread very thin! However, they are making best use of the space and this is helping mitigate to some extent against enemy numbers.



The Austrian advance, from the right in the pic, has cleared 2 of the 3 villages to their front. They continue to advance at pace, but the third and last village becomes a somewhat prickly thorn.
 


This shot is from the left rear of the third village which is the left flank of the French and the village on the left in the previous pic. It shows the whole battlefield. Nearly wall to wall Austrians advancing between the river and stream, infantry heavy on their right (foreground) and cavalry heavy on their left (background). French reserve infantry arrive in the nick of time to the rear of the third village and stabilise the entire French left flank.


A closer shot of the Austrian left flank. The cavalry have sorted themselves out and are now preparing to attack in successive formations.


The reserve French cavalry has also arrived and the initial French cavalry has had time to rest before the Austrian onslaught begins.


The cavalry of both sides clash. The winner would also win the day, as it would be clear that the other side would need to withdraw to ensure not being outflanked by a mass of cavalry.
 
Its a draw! Both sides manage to hold after committing their entire cavalry formations. We then called the battle, with honours even. The interesting part of the battle was to see how players cope with advancing into the unknown with large forces. The defender has it somewhat easier in that all initial moves are in reaction to the enemy. But cute tactics can gain time, the factor that the defender needs.


The seated men, myself & Graham, were French. Pete & Steve were the allies.
The next instalment will be another play test, this time Dresden fought on a grander scale from the Weisseritz to the Landgrabben, situated on the far side of the GrossGarten (deaths star). You'll see why next time.
As a final plug, the latest Companion book has been published and is available from Caliver. It is called,
Fighting the Russians, Before Russia 1805-1805.
It consists of the battles of Austerlitz, split into the northern & southern sectors, Eylau & Frieldand. I hope you buy it, it is worth the read and is full of maps, OBs and of course many pics from the actual games.