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".


Friday, 8 September 2017

Even Heavier Metal!!


My usual preference when fighting with a late war German army, is a rag bag of infantry, flak and the odd AFV in an improvised Kampfgruppe, trying to hold off the Soviet/British/US onslaught. I just like the idea of making the most I can out of not a lot, hopefully with the assistance of some helpful terrain and a few good die rolls. So King Tigers are not usually my style. That being said, they can be damned useful. These two are from the Ready to Roll range, part of the Rapid Fire empire (or smallholding?). My only gripe is that there are no open hatches for crew figures, but they are simplicity itself to assemble, as their name suggests.



They are pictured here nosing their way through a German village to head off yet another Soviet breakthrough, supported by a few Britannia infantry.

I am currently working on a set of WWII rules, cobbled together from bits I like from other sets and a few ideas of my own. They will be card driven to inject a bit of excitement and mystery into the lives of my wargaming friends. I hope to report on them and provide some after action reports on the blog in the not too distant future.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Heavy Metal


I have managed to paint enough German infantry to put on a game and thought it was about time that they got a bit of armoured support. First up, a couple of Wehrmacht work horses, the Panzer IV and STUG III. Even in 1945, they could still do a good job defending the Fatherland. Both are from the very impressive Plastic Soldier Company range. At around a fiver apiece, you really can't beat them. Not only are the models themselves very nicely done, they tend to come with all sorts of added extras in the form of crew figures and stowage. They really benefit from the use of an air brush, particularly for the German 3 colour camo scheme.






These models, two armed with the long 75mm and one with the 105mm have been liberally decked out with stowage, some from the PSC stowage box, some from elsewhere. Real campaign models. The Panzer IVs are a bit more clean cut - I don't know why but they don't seem to suit the "cluttered look". As you may have noticed, none of them are sporting any markings. Partly this is because many late war German vehicles tended to eschew such things, but also that I haven't found a way of applying the transfers in such a way that doesn't make them look too obvious. Work to do there! I will almost certainly add crosses at the very least to most of my vehicles in due course.


I have over 50 more vehicles in various stages of completion, but they do take a fair amount of time to do, particularly the weathering. Watch this space.