Monday, 6 November 2017

Attack/ Counterattack near El Hamma 1943

Attack/Counterattack near El Hamma 27th March 1943
German Forces
from 15th Panzer Division
1 Platoon Panzer III kurtz (short)
1 Platoon pZ III lang (long)
1 platoon Pz II
1 Panzer IV F2
1 Marder
1 supply truck
1 timed Stuka strike
1 FAC in Sdkfz 250

British Forces
from 2nd Armoured Brigade
Forward HQ in Grant Mk1 gun tank
2x Sherman tank squadron consisting of 3 Sherman III tanks
1 carrier section from 1 The Rifle Brigade consisting of 3 carriers with 1 Bren team 1 2" mortr team and 1 Vickers MG team
FAO in Daimler Dingo
FAC in Humber Scot car
Radio link in M5 halftrack
1 battery of 25 pounders (off table)

We used the attack/ counter attack from the rulebook to represent this typical encounter as the 1st Armoured disision supported by 2nd New Zealand division fought towards Gabes on the Tunisian coast after breaking through the Tebaga Gap. The 15th Panzer Division fought despearately to allow Generel Messe to evacuate hs forces from the Mareth Line before the bulk of the axis forces facing 8th Army were surrounded by the advancing British. Our scenario would represent just such a clash around a farm as the desert gives way to lusher contryside near the coast. Historically these armour counter attacks allowed a PaK line to slow the British advance and the Germans and Italian forces to escape to their next line of defense the Wadi Akarit - 15 miles beyong Gabes. This is not a strict historical refight but an in the style of fight encountered over the period- sudden armoured counterattacks against the advancing British and Commonwealth forces.
The battlefield - German Panzers advance.

AAR The view from 2nd Armoured Brigade HQ
The core of the army was the tanks. I spent all the points I could on tanks from the list. By agreement I used the Overlord lists with heavy adaptions for Tunisia (removing Fireflys, limiting the choice of Sherman models etc). Stats and points for the Grant Mk1 are from Russian Kursk list (Lee included as a Russian option). Carrier section a compromise between the Tobruk  and Overlord books. You have to be creative with the lists and have an understanding opponent to play these sorts of games where the lists haven't been devloped. There is a danger in this kind of pick and mix that you can break the game. However we are both pretty good stickler for historical forces and have a lot of trust that the other.  We had agreed to ignore the minimum infantry rules (as in Tobruk) because we had agreed on a tank scrap and my opponent had alot of new late DAK tanks he wanted to throw inagainst my mid-war US supplied Shermans. I ended up choosing some infantry anyway- the carrier section feels very characterful for these desert games, even though these can be a liability in Battlegroup representing alot of BR chits if used poorly and roughly handled. The DAK brought no infantry at all - I suppose they are all on there way to Wadi Akarit! The supply truck the DAK brought instead proving a excellent choice. 
9th Lancer tanks advance quickly

The second squadron on the flank

The second objective lies just ahead

The lead tank grabs the objective

Terrain set up we decided that the terrain should be denser than that in the Western desert representing the tickly inhabited and well tilled coastal plain of Tunisia. So we included Olive groves, fruit fields a few trees and a small set of colonial farm building with rocky high ground on either side. There where 4 objectives the T junction, the farm, the high ground  east of the farm and the fields west of the farm. Objectives are key to creating movement into games forcing you to move and contest or lose alot of BR.
HQ arrived - a gun tank in this case
The carriers from 1st Rifles advance toward the objective

The tank duel begins 

The lighter Panzers used the olive grove as cover from the Shermans big 75's.

The long range slugging match. One Sherman on the right pinned 

Two pinned by 50mm cannon fire 

My intention was to use the tanks and take on the panzer directly. I would refuse the left and advance on the right and centre seizing three of the objectives. The strength of the Sherman III in this environment with the bulk of the German tanks likely to be earlier models of Panzer 3 was a bit of an unknown.
The Grant observes for the Royal Artillery

The Stuka strike 

The airstrike was not decisive but marked a change in the tide of the battle

Shermans fire from hull down

Pinning the "special"

With the German SPG and 3 Panzer III kurtz on the table my tanks form 9th Queens Royal Lancers arrived in bulk on a good roll  all 6. The  Shermans split into 2 squadrons one headed for the farm and seized the first objective using the road to make good speed. The second group moved left with the low rock hill as there objective.
The support - Humber for the Forward aircontroller. Radio halftrack to ensure contact with the artillery

Pinned again!

The Grants high ammo capacity (14) kept it fighting till it was KOed

More tanks than remaining shots - worrying

Lots of pinning made it hard to advance on the right - the smoke beside a tank represents pinning

Another Panzer III destroyed

Panzer II vs Sherman!

The rest of the German forces arrived. Panzer II rolled forwrd on my left through the Olive grove toward the objective in the field beyond. In my turn the Grant Mk1 which was my HQ arrived with his radio link vehicle  and used his artillery spotter ability to call in the off table 25 poundes of the Royal Artillery. I hoped that the light tanks moving on the left would be threatened by the guns and risked a good chace of being knocked out if they were hit and that the pinning of the barrages would slow their advance. So I decided to use the artillary to help secure the left flank and let the tanks fight it out across the centre and right.
The dingo Forwrad observer took over from the Grant - keeping up the barrage all game 

Another Stuka strike this one a random air attack counter, It proved less deadly then the timed strike. 

A victim of the Panzer IV specials long gun.

Shermans continued to advance by bounds with at least one tank staying put and using Open Fire order and aimed to cover. The other moving tanks firing on the move with HE to pin the German tanks. It slows the advance but worked reasonably well to slow the German Panzers attacks. The RA artillery spotter in his Dingo arrived in the final wave of armoured reserves. Particularly the deadly Panzer IV "special" with it's long 75 gun which I decided represented the greatest threat to my Shermans. The "special" as a result spent alot of time pinned by HE fire.  But as this forced my opponent to take counters and get the tank bak in the game I was quite happy.
The Marder with it's Russian 76.5 gun proved a deadly opponent from its position on the hill. Accounting in the end for two Shermans including the commander of the squadron. The resupply truck parked next to it meaning it kept up a withering fire. The advancing Panzers kept my guns firing at them and left the SPG to do it's work.  Unless the RAF turned up! 
 The tanks of both sides now began a long range tank duel all around the Farm buildings. The infantry carrier section moved up to occupy the farm but in this armoured dogfight only their Vicker MG offer any defence from attacking German armour. So this went on ambush orders incase the panzer approach close enough to be pinned.
Tanks take our second objective 

 My intention was to leave the infantry holding the farm buildings whlst the armour swept on. The German counter fire disrupted the attack pinning tanks. The Marder KOed one tank and the arrival of a well timed and aimed Stuka strike pinned one tank, destroyed another and pinned the infantry forcing me to unpin the tanks and get the attack moving again. In the centre the loss of two tanks put the 9th Lancers on the defensive.  The Stuka strike felt like a turning point in the game it had arrived a a critical moment preventing me from advancing as too much was pinned and destroyed pulling my teeth with only 2 75mm guns able to fire next turn. On the left the artillery slowed but did not stop the advance of the German light armour. The Grant continued to give the Panzers something to worry about it's 37mm turret gun a worry for the light tanks and once one of the Shermans got their range with it's powerful 75mm gun several were pinned and destroyed. But the attack used up ammo and prevented my advance. The arrival of an RAF Kittyhawk and its destruction of the long gun on the Marder could make up for the fact that the tanks were rapidly running out of ammo.
RAF P40 Kittyhawk destroyed the Marder SPG

The Grant destroyed and the Sherman's withdraw out of ammo.

With 4 Battle rating remaining but only a single AP shot left and all the officer dead I opted to withdraw the remaining tanks . I new the Germans must be close to there BR total  (in fact afterward it was revealed to be just 1 point  away) but the armour simply had nothing left to fight with.
Another close run and hard fought game conceded to the German Panzers. A couple a lucky ricochetes off armour from the Panzer III and the lack on a supply trck cost me the game. But you can't complain to much about the luck of the dice - it'll even out over time . The Germans as ever played a perfect game (and a perfectly timed and positioned Stuka strike)without any real errors to exploit and that won them the game.
British final BR total 
The Germans win by a narrow squeak.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Scenario & AAR Battlegroup Kursk Teploye - Trial by Fire

Trial by Fire- Teploye 8th July 1943
An Attack /Defence scenario for Battlegroup
The first to exceed there BR rating. The German player captures all the objectives in the Teploye area. Russian player cannot win an all objectives secure victory.
1. German attacker are from 4th Panzer Division with support from 505 Heavy Panzer Battalion and 3rd Funklenk company and begins in the North deployed within 12" of the Northern Board edge. As usual the German attackers have a First wave In this case made up of all its reconnaissance forces and   additional units of the Germans choice up to a total of 1000pts.
The Second Wave  of the forces arrive on turn three onwards on the North table edge. All units may arrive each turn from  the beginning of each subsequent turn until everything is on the table. 
 2. Initial defenders are from 140th Infantry brigade supported by 3rd AT battalion.  The Russian player  on the South must deploy at least 1000pts of his force on the table in the Russian half of the table.   To represent "Igishev's fortress" on  Height 238.1 a force consisting of up to 500pt in the frontline zone with 12" of the centre line of the table these may have 10" of trenches and an AT gun Dugout and a minefield  in addition to any defences they may have purchased . All these troops must be purchased from the Russian Infantry list. 
Further forces  up to 500pts may be placed on the table from the Reserves but any tanks placed in this way must be considered dug in.  The  main force and there defences  may be placed anywhere within the Russian player half of the table.
3. The defenders  reserve consists of units from  19th Tank Corps is the other 100pts of the Russian force some of these may be deployed on the table (see above) must  be choose from the Tank Corps list and 2d6 may enter from the Russian table edge (South) after turn 4.
4. The defender places 4 objectives anywhere in the Russian half of the table one should be placed on Teploye village.
5. Weather conditions Roll d6. On a roll of 1 there is a sudden thunder storm grounding all air cover . Treat all air cover counters as a 1.
6. Deploy Germans  first wave within 12 " of table edge in German deployment zone.
7. German players take the first turn.
8. 2d6 deployed Russian units may have ambush fire orders.
9. Russian reserves arrive 2d6 units at a time from turn 4 advancing from the South  table edge
10. German second wave all units arrive at German table edge at the beginning of turn 3.

The otherside of the hill. How the battle went from the German Perspective
German Army List 
For command and control each Gruppe received 1d6 + officers orders with extra orders from the 1d6 reserved by the overall commander along with control of the off-table artillery assets.

FHQ PanzerVI Tiger
Wire team
Luftwaffe FO team in Kubelwagon
1x Sdkfz222 recce AC
1xFerdinand Tankhunter
1x Panzer VI tank
2x Pz IV G platoons
2x Px III platoons
1x STuG III platoon 
2x Panzer Grenadier  platoon (1 with armoured )
1x Armoured Pioneer platoon 
2x 120mm mortars
1x offtable 120mm  mortar battery
2x time stuka strikes
3x first priority artillery requests 

We divided the army into 3 Gruppe each around and infantry platoon 

An Asault gun group these had all the supply vehicles assigned because of the low ammo storage on assault gun


A " Sturmgruppe " with the German Pioneer platoon  a stretcher party and wire team and the only recce element an Sdkfz  222. The pioneers had flamethrowers and a Sdkfz251/16 flamethrower for trench and bunker clearance. It also had a Borgward unit attached (not shown in the photo)
A "Flank protection" Gruppe with more Panzer grenadiers in half tracks.
The whole force minus the off table support of 120mm mortar battery 2 timed strikes by Stuka dive bombers, a timed 150mm howitzer barrage and 3 1st priority calls to artillery.

The Borgward and it's STuG III control vehicle pass by the Forward HQ Tiger tank on there way to the Russian trenches
The Panzer IV G (the only model we fielded in this force) cross the wooded stream that marked the German frontline at the start of the game. The Russian made good use of registered target points to pin and destroy the German panzers here as they struggled with the difficult ground.

No place for an armoured car! The Sdkfz222 made good use of it's ability to spot for the 120mm mortars. Throughout the game the German army struggled with the artillery support. the moratrs were the only even vaguely reliable support.
The Ferdinand with a dedicated support truck hung back and blasted the Russians armour. This western end of the board closest to the village of Teploye didn't have much until later in the game just a few SU76 SPG's and enplaced 45mm AT guns. So in terms of points I am not sure it really paid of the huge cost. The Russian player dug in a "dummy tank" position opposite - it certainly fooled us.
Panzer VI G's again advanced bravely to dual with a very real dug in T34. Unknown to them right into the teeth of a Registered target point for the off table Heavy Artillery.
A dug in T34 visible in the distance
The cetre of the Russian position east of Teploye. Minefield infront (marked with a wrecked Kubelwagon). The Borgward attempts to destroy the minefield but was immobilised by an unsupressed AT gun on the hill just before detonation). This was disastrous for the German Panzerkeil as they could not just sweep across the trenched and turn right as planned.
The poor performance of the artillery left the tanks trying to supress the entrenched Russian infantry with MG,s and the AT guns with HE.
The second wave arrives on the table - Infantry and light Panzer III at the back of the Panzerkeil wedge
Panzer Grenediers with a "Stump" Sdkfz251/9 in support
AA defence on a Horsch, a wire team in there trench and the on table 120mm mortars and loader teams our only on table artillery - these where targeted by the Russian FO in aircraft and pinned down for most of the game.
Panzer III M and Pioneers with there SDkfz 251./16 (third vehicle from the front). Intended for assaulting the trench lines they ended the game in a desperate fight with Russian tanks in the wooded stream bed. An illustration of how badly the Germans plans went wrong.
Flammpanzer and the Kubelwagon for the FO radio problems and poor priority dice meant he had a very poor battle
The first of many! The VVS and Luftwaffe would turn up enmasse. This early Stuka attack driven of by 37mm AA fire. The gun can be seen on ambush fire in the orchard bottom left (The puff of grey smoke on the barrel indicates that it has an ambush order). The Stuka's  target was the objective in the village. It would be the only one the Germans managed to capture all game
With Tigers at the point the Panzerkeil crawled forward. Pinning by artillery, the difficulty of crossing wooded wet stream bed and flanking fire from AT guns and dug in T34's meant the panzers crawled forwards instead of racing into the Rusian lines (very Kursk like). The Puff of smoke beside the Tiger indicates that it is pinned

The German centre - note the Borgward preparing to destroy a section of the many minefield covering the Russian infantry. The craters marks a Russian Registered Target point,
The German western (right) flank STuG and Panzer III M cross the minestrewn wheatfield carrying Panzer grenediers toward the village of Teploye
The Germans AA defence pinned many VVS planes. (Again the grey smoke indicates it has Ambush orders). Early on the Russian pulled several Air Attack chits and soon Pe-2 divebombers and IL-2 Sturmovik were straffing and bombing our tanks. Later it would be the Luftwaffe arriving in force with Ju-87 G and Henschel 129 stalking the Russian tanks. So many planes arrived that dogfights started to ensue- a rare thing in Battlegroup.
The Pioneers Stormtrooper still preparing for an assault toward the Russian front line this would be as far forward as they got.
The Panzerkeil at maximum advance Russian trenched in  the distance. Panzer IV try to pin down the defenders whilst the Tiger took on the AT guns behind with some effect.

The view from the AA gun.  A Pe-2 dive bombed the the Panzers.  Warwick looking worryingly confident.
The most dangerous aircraft on the table a spotter plane for the Russian artillery
The Russian reserves arrive T70 lead the charge. It was clear to me that we had not made fast enough progress and hence forward we would be on the defensive on the eastern flank under constant pressure from waves of attacking Russian tanks.

A panorama looking west along the German front line. In the centre the Panzer Grenadier's make a gallant but doomed rush for the Russian trenches. I knew that it was now or never our poor radio communications chacks and my poor choice in not getting enough Comms support in the Army lists meant that the Russian line was not as pinned down as I would like. But with the 19th Tanks Corp now beginning to arrive on the battlefield we needed to break the Russian line. So it was now or never. However, only the use of the (often forgotten) Fallback rule prevented a massacre

The Grenadier's prepare to charge covered by the MG teams trying unsuccessfully to achieves what our artillery refused to do and pin down the Russian infantry. But the high cover save made it too much. The minefields are still intact so the tanks cannot close any further and unless the infantry are dealt with using the minesweepers in the pioneer units will be suicide.

The first of several fall backs prevented the squad in the middle from being wiped out
The Ju-87 G arrives to target the T70 tanks
Having destroyed all resistance in the AT gun position west of the village. The STuG's and infantry have captured the outskirts of the village but house to house fighting ensued for the rest of the game. Eventually the stubborn Russian defence recaptured this objective

The Panzer III M on the left hit a mine. The field was marked by the signpost in front of the church.
The view from the air 37mm cannons made short work of an SU76

The unpinned the Panzer Grenadiers show that the Sdkfz 251 transports can get you out of trouble as fast as they get you into it. It was clear to me that the Panzer's now facing a second wave of T34's would need to re-arm so the infantry began to form a screen to hold off the advancing tanks. Only one Hanomag was destroyed in the retreat. and a liberal use of withdrawal orders got them out of harms way once the infantry deployed back in the stream bed.
The Tigers are now coving a general withdrawl across the eastern (left flank)
The VVS harasses them back to the start line. Tanks running low on AP and a lot of Russian armour bearing down.
Stll harassed by artillery and aircraft
Pioneers deploy into the wood with flamethrowers and AT grenades. They would prove far from toothless as the Veteran status allowed them to pass there close assault role against the Russian panzers.
The Pioneers platoon HQ even they would soon be battling T34 at close quarters.
Pioneers shore up the line held be the retreating Grenediers
The T34's bearing down and the Panzer IV burning all destroyed by Russian artillery to which we had no answer

Pioneers with flamethrowers prepare a hasty defence. In the distance the Panzers burn

The supply column - a Mercedes truck moves up to resupply the Panzers - The remaining tanks now had very little AT ammo left.
The Panzer IV covers the retreat to rearm
A dozen T34's Stal.Stal. Stal following the remaining T70

The Tigers seem indestructible this one was hit by a bomb and survived by the skin of it's teeth. The pinned halftrack will become a casualty og the following T34's.
The Russian view as they suffer a 120mm mortar attack - it hardly slowed them down.
Both Tigers blaze away with there last ammo at the advancing T34's the nearest Tiger was now shooting HE to supress the enemy tanks being completely out of AT ammo.
The dummy tank position it tricked us into an artllery barrage

The Russian FO overlooking the village
The Russian HQ in Teploye. The Russian never felt threatened enough the move it. Although Panzer Grenadiers where only 15 inches away!
The view from the Pakfront - these 45mm AT guns didn't destroy any tanks but they frequently pinned them forcing us to take BR counters to unpin and bogging down our advance.
The T34's race past the destroyed Panzers. A combination to the tanks attacks that kept us under the Rusian guns and the devastating artillery fire  finish us on the eastern flank
T70's utflank the Panzer III this tank also had no AP ammo left and could only reply using HE
In the village the battle still rages and gives us some hope and a reason to defend at the other end of the table
Panzer II M supporting the infantry in the village with cannon fire. Attempting what our divisional artllery refused to do
STuG III do the same on the extreme right of our position
The Panzer III continued to give ground and fire at the T70's. The Russian felt it looked like panic but there was always a plan. The  Tiger and remain STuG are reloading behind this desperate defence.
The HS129 turns up ( every aircraft chit has now been pulled - and successfully appeared). It strafes the T34's with it's cannon helping the defence.
The Ju87G joins it near Teploye. Here the Russians are also counterattacking. Anything to slow the tanks!

The German tide is definatey going out from the heights beyong Teploye.
"Desantniki" attempt to assault the German defence line and get roughly handled

Now battle tanks the Panzer hang on in Teploye but Russian pressure is building here too.
A STuG in the streets of T|eploye
Stretcher party support the pioneers as the destroy a T70 and a T34 with AT grenades in subsequent turns
The Russian infantry debussed from the destroyed tank are pinned in the woods beyond the HQ
More pioneers - carrying flamethrowers-race up to deal with them
The Sdkfz251/16 races out to deal with pinned Russian infantry - the Germans still have teeth!
The Sdkfz 251/9 Stump switch to AP to engage the T34's both of these halftracks are destroyed but cause casualties at close range forcing three BR counters on the Russian before being destroyed next  turn.
The Tiger rearms but time is up. An amazingly close game. Huge damage done by both sides but a marginal victory by the rules. Although the tactical position meant that it was only going to get worse as we had just lost control of the objective in the village as well.
A clear victory for the Russians although the BR ended up pretty close. The problem that underlay much of the rest was the artillery. Most of this fell on my shoulders as I wrote the list. There was some god awful dice rolling but I decided in the lists to go with the priority request approach. I want to keep flexibility  of German artillery but (big but) I placed too much reliance on this method and did not include a lot more communication  support one wireless team used up in Turn one then left us exposed to the vagaries of the dice in a crucial area. On reflection more counter battery and timed barrages would have been more effective particularly where,as here, the enemy is in fixed defences.
The Russians plan was strong (as to be expected from Warwick  and Russ using the strength of the Russians large numbers used to keep us off centre pinning us into a artillery killing zone created by Registered target points. Our intention to keep moving and use our flexibility. Ultimately although we had local successes (in Teploye) the Rusian dictated were the battle was fought and how. That's why they won.

Thanks to all the Battlegroup megagame players Warwick, Fuzz and Russ for a brilliant game. I ended up providing the entire German force including all the aircraft as well as about half the terrain including all the buildings and defences. It was nice to see (almost) all the toys on the table.... lets do it again soon!

Attack/ Counterattack near El Hamma 1943

Attack/Counterattack near El Hamma 27th March 1943 German Forces from 15th Panzer Division 1 Platoon Panzer III kurtz (short) 1 Platoon ...