Sunday, 27 October 2013

Safe Passage

My latest SYW scenario relates to this post from August 2012. How quickly the time passes! But after more than a year I was finally ready to explore another of Barry Hilton's scenarios from his Avila mini campaign, which you can find in issue 298 of Wargames Illustrated.

This time a column of supplies is being shepherded through a gap in the lines of a besieging army. The Austrians are the army doing the shepherding, while the Prussians are trying to stop them getting through. 

Reproduced by kind permission of Barry Hilton and Wargames Illustrated.
Copyright Wargames Illustrated.

Forces and deployment were as follows:

Austria (Barry's 'French Column')

Commanding Officer

Infantry Brigade including supply column
2 line battalions
1 grenadier battalion
3 wagons

Infantry Brigade
2 Grenz light infantry battalions

Hussar regiment (independent)

The main infantry brigade and the wagons are deployed on the road at X. The light battalions and the Hussars form flanking columns either side of the town.

Prussia (Barry's 'Allied Force')

Commanding Officer

Infantry Brigade
2 Freikorps battalions
1 line battalion
1 grenadier battalion

Jager corps
2 jager detachments

Hussar regiment (independent)

Civilian militia (independent)

The Hussar regiment starts at position 1. The civilian militia can be placed anywhere on the high ground. The jager start in the 2 groves or orchards, whilst the infantry brigade deploys at position 2.

Scenario special rules
To win, at least 2 of the supply wagons along with a single fighting unit at more than half strength must exit the table over the bridge at point A. The river is fordable but not by the wagons. I counted the fields and any second level hills as bad going.

Converting Barry's varied Peninsula campaign forces for more regular SYW ones was problematic, and not surprisingly I got it a bit wrong, making the Prussians too strong. So if I play it again the Prussian grenadiers will be left out, and the Austrian hussars increased to a large unit (in my rules, 6 stands rather than 4).

Let's see how things went.

Table setup. New tables under the TSS tiles.

The Austrian supply column is assembled near the town.

I diced for the quality of commanders according to my own rules. The Austrians got 2 ditherers, the Prussians got 2 dashing commanders. Ouch! Consequently, the Prussian main force closed quickly with their opponents across the plateau.

The leading grenz battalion moves across to clear away the threat from the Prussian militia unit. The grenzers easily triumphed in this unequal contest.

You can see here how I made the Prussians too strong.
At this early stage there seems to be no way through for the Austrians. The hussar regiments clash in the background.

The two sides come to grips on the plateau. The Austrians did surprisingly well in the firefight and saw off 2 Prussian battalions. The Austrian line wavered but when the smoke cleared all 3 of their regular battalions were still in business. Meanwhile, the Prussian hussars had won their struggle with their Austrian counterparts, and can be seen in the background preparing to strike the Austrian supply wagons. Eventually they destroyed one wagon but impulsively they wheeled across the front of an Austrian infantry battalion to attack another and were destroyed by close range volley fire.

The Prussians fell back to the edge of the plateau and prepared to try conclusions again with the rallied enemy units. Flank support from the grenz battalions was crucial to the Austrians.

The Prussians are forced back again, resting their flanks on the orchards occupied by their jagers.

Time for the grenzers to engage again. This melee ended in eventual destruction for the Austrian unit.

Once again the Prussians have been forced back, whilst the Austrians pause to reform for the next push.

Attacks have gone in to both orchards but have been repulsed by the determined Prussian jagers. After 17 moves I called it here. The Prussians had held on and the supplies would not get through.

The Austrians had done surprisingly well, pushing the Prussians back across the table until they ran out of time. I was pleased with the way my rules allowed units to fall out of the line and reform, ready to attack again. The Prussians had lost 5 units from 8, whilst the Austrians had only lost 2 of their 6 fighting units, plus 1 supply wagon. Had I been using my own usual victory rules, the Prussians would have broken and the Austrians would have scored a well deserved victory.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

New Tables

For the last 20 years and more I have been creating my playing surface by placing TSS tiles on pasting tables - the same set of tables I bought in B&Q for £7 each back in 1992. These guys have given sterling service, but age (and storage in a damp garage) has caught up with them.

So I trawled the internet for replacements that would be sturdier, more level and not cost the earth. Finally I settled on some ex-hire tables from B E Furniture Ltd. Three tables, plus £30 courier delivery, came to £102. A bit more than the pasting tables, but excellent value when you compare these products to what you can pay.

Service was excellent - the tables pitched up within 48hrs via Fedex (and not some guy in a white van). They are exactly as described - solid, sturdy and providing a level and secure playing surface, using a tubular steel frame supporting a heavy duty plastic top. 

No more need to slip wargames magazines under the terrain tiles to get them to level up! As B E Furniture say, they are a bit scuffed and scratched in places, but they are completely undamaged and fully serviceable for my needs. 

There were also options to explore which weren't available with my cranky old pasting tables. Two of the new tables give a 6' x 5' area. I could put six 2' x 2' tiles on top, play on a 6' x 4' table and have a nice 6" wide shelf on each side for reinforcements, casualties and other paraphenalia. Or, I could use my Games Workshop Battlemats to give a 6' x 5' playing table.

Only problem was, the curved table corners and bevelled edges created a bit of a gap.

Solution - a bit of white tape from the man drawer will keep things in order.
This was just a quick job to prove the concept - a minute's work.

And there you go. I'm pretty pleased with my new playing surface.
Choose the right tape to avoid that sticky residue when you unpeel it.

And of course nine TSS tiles can be placed on top to give a 6' x 6' table. So better tables, and now I have more options as well.

I reckon these babies will see me out, so the cost is well worth it. Many gamers will only need a couple, but I wanted to able to have a larger set up if needed.

I heartily endorse these products!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

A New Project - Conclusion

A long post to conclude this project, with a battle report using the Blitzkrieg Commander rules and including a full scenario and forces. New readers should refer to this post which explains how the whole thing got started and why the events of 10th May 1940 have been transposed to 1st September 1939.

Attack on Danzig/Langfuhr - Poland, 1st September 1939
It is the first day of the German invasion of Poland. Determined to exploit their new airborne forces, the Germans have planned a dawn attack on Danzig's airfield in order to hasten the taking of the city. A combined assault by parachute and airlanding forces, supported by ground attack aircraft, is designed to capture the airfield and nearby communications links before moving into the city to join up with paramilitary and SS units already in place.
The assault will be met initially mainly by low grade Polish units belonging to the local garrison, some of whom are present on the airfield with the remainder located nearby. The airfield also has a significant AA defence. A regular Polish infantry battalion is available a little further from the airfield, supported by artillery.
The aircraft based at the airfield have already been scrambled to intercept the various air attacks mounted by the Germans. They have suffered heavily and the survivors have been forced to disperse to other locations. Polish air attacks on the assaulting Germans will take place in the face of full German air superiority.

Wargames Summary
The name of Danzig's airfield has been adopted for the game to provide a little local flavour, but the game is firmly based on events at Ypenburg airfield in Holland on 10th May 1940. In reality, German airborne forces, and particularly the 22nd Airlanding Division, were not ready or even formed for an operation of this nature in 1939.
The game is scheduled to last 12 moves. It commences with the landing of a parachute battalion on 2 DZs to the north and west of the airfield. The paras are under orders to capture or suppress the airfield defences in advance of the arrival of a regiment of infantry from an airlanding division. Polish defences on the airfield consist of a battalion strength force of low grade infantry and machine gunners supported by an armoured car company and the airfield's AA defences.
On move 3 the Ju52s start to arrive with the airlanding troops on board. The Poles will receive some conscript rated reinforcements on move 3 as well, followed by a regular formation supported by artillery from move 6 (provided the latter can make their command rolls). Polish reinforcements arrive by road according to a dice throw - see map and detailed scenario below. German intentions are to capture the airfield itself (their primary objective), then the associated hangars and buildings, and finally the bridge leading to the city. The latter 2 locations are designated secondary objectives. Victory conditions are summarised in the following table:

Airfield + both secondary objectives
Brilliant Victory
Miserable Failure
Airfield + 1 secondary objective
Airfield only
Both secondary objectives only
1 secondary
objective only
Miserable Failure
Brilliant Victory

The table is 6' x 6', set up as below:

Oh Lord, he's been at the coloured pens again...

German Forces
Flexible tactical doctrine. Full air superiority. Germans take first turn.

Fallschirmjager Battalion (elite)
CO CV 10
9 infantry units
3 mg units
1 mortar unit

Airlanding Regiment 
Regimental HQ
1 mg unit
1 mortar unit
3 engineer units
1 37mm ATG
1 75mm IG
1 m/c unit (recce)

2 Battalions each:
9 infantry units
3 mg units

Air Support
2 Ju87 units (scheduled raid before game start only)
1 HS-123 unit (available once FAC has landed)
8 Ju52 transport units

44 units.          BP = 22.

Fallschirmjaeger Deployment
These arrive in the scheduled phase of move 1. Place the CO in DZ North and the HQ in DZ West. Dice as per normal rules to decide displaced landing positions but use 3 dice for displacement. Allocate units to each command unit by dicing 50/50 and place these on table as per normal rules. Then dice again for each unit: 1 or 2 means misdropped: arrive on the nearest table edge at the start of move 3.
The mortar unit must complete a deploy move before being able to fire.

Airlanding Deployment
Airlanding units are planned to arrive in waves of 4 aircraft. Each Ju-52 can carry 2 infantry units or 1 support unit. The first wave arrives in the scheduled phase of move 3, the remaining waves arriving one per move thereafter.

Planned a/c loads are:
1st wave: 1/CO+mg; 2/HQ+infantry; 3/mg+infantry; 4/2xinfantry
2nd wave: 1/HQ+mortar; 2/mg+infantry; 3/2xinfantry; 4/2xinfantry
3rd wave: 1/mg+FAC; 2/mg+infantry; 3/2xengineers; 4/infantry+engineer
4th wave: 1/mg+infantry; 2/mg+infantry; 3/37mm ATG; 4/75mm IG
5th wave: 1/2xinfantry; 2/2xinfantry; 3/1xinfantry; 4/m/c unit (recce)

Roll 5 D6 and a direction dice from the runway intersection to decide where each a/c actually lands. If this creates an overlap with a previously landed aircraft, a throw of 1 indicates a collision and both a/c are destroyed. Otherwise, place the landing aircraft as close to its landing point as possible.
Complete AA fire against each a/c based on its actual landing point. This counts as initiative fire. KO’d a/c are left in place with all units on board destroyed. Aborted a/c are removed and are added to the next wave. Hits registered by AA on a/c that land successfully are divided between the units carried; roll for suppression as normal.
Units on a/c that land successfully deploy automatically. Place the units in contact with their a/c. The a/c will take off again during the end phase of the Polish player turn on a die roll of 4 or more (provided they have not been destroyed whilst on the ground): those that take off return to the a/c reserve. Those that fail may attempt to depart the next move under the same rules.
A/c will continue to arrive in waves until all units are landed or destroyed, or all a/c are destroyed. Ju-52s have 3 hits.

Replacing German Command Units
Use standard rules, but parachute command units deploy in DZ under rules used at game start. Air landing command units deploy on airfield at runway intersection.

Polish Forces
Normal tactical doctrine. No air superiority.

Airfield and Bridge Defence Group
CO CV 8 (command post available)
Armoured car Company – 2 Wz.34 (mg), 1 Wz.29 (37mm), 1 m/c infantry unit
AA Company – 2 Bofors 40mm, 2 AAmg
MG Company – 3 mg units (conscripts)
Infantry Company – 3 infantry units (conscripts)
N.B. – at least 2 units must be deployed to defend the bridge. All units may be dug in.

Reserve Units

Motorised Infantry Battalion (guaranteed arrival on move 3)
6 infantry units in 3 trucks (conscript)

Motorised Infantry Battalion (arrive from move 6, using mobile deployment)
4 infantry units in 2 trucks
2 m/c infantry units
2 mg units in jeeps
1 mortar unit in truck

Artillery Battalion (deploy off table move 6, FAC arrives same move)
2 75mm artillery units, 1 100mm artillery unit.

Karas Squadron (scheduled attacks on moves 4,5,6)
1 Karas unit, 3 assets

28 units.        BP = 14

Reserve arrival
Dice for the road on which each reserve formation arrives (see map):
1 or 2 = NW road
3 or 4 = SW road
5 = NE road
6 = SE road
Karas can only attack German units on the airfield – write down aiming point in the end phase of the previous turn.

AA Fire
MG units and armoured cars with mgs may engage landing JU-52s, using AAmg stats (1/30). Rules for AA fire were altered to suit our preferences for this game: No AA unit may engage both air and ground targets in the same player turn. However, AA fire against enemy a/c is allowed in both the scheduled and command phases of the enemy player turn, and AA units may then engage ground targets in their own player turn. If they have already engaged aircraft in the enemy turn, they cannot fire in their initiative phase and are subject to a -1 command modifier in their command phase.

Replacing Polish command units
Use standard rules, but replacements deploy on baseline on any road from which reinforcements have arrived.

The Game in Pictures

Table set up. This was my first attempt at using my new camera, so excuse any quality problems.

As in the original battle, the armoured car company started the day deployed around the airfield buildings. To the left is the command post of the CO of the defending forces. To the right is a 40mm Bofors AA position, and in the left background the bridge objective.

Fast forwarding to move 3, the first wave has arrived and German infantry advance to attack the Polish defenders.

Karas attacks on moves 4, 5 and 6 were ineffective, 2 of them being turned away by German fighters before they even arrived over the airfield.

A burning Ju52 near the airport buildings.

The first set of Polish reinforcements arrived conveniently along the bridge road, immediately securing this objective.

More Ju52s arriving. AA fire claimed some, but many were destroyed on the ground before they could take off again.

Transport planes pile up on the airfield. Sorting the airlanding troops out into battle formation and getting them moving towards their objectives turned out to be slow work.

After the first 2 waves, casualties amongst the transport planes meant the rate of reinforcement slowed down. Here, the 4th wave can muster only 2 planes.

The Polish regulars arrived on time on the south western road. Unusually lucky with their command rolls, they deployed quickly to engage German forces on the airfield as well as the remaining paras from DZ West.

An HS-123 strike against the airfield defences witnesses the confusion of burning planes on the airfield on move 7.

On the ground, German troops are making slow progress and have yet to assault the airfield buildings.

The Polish regulars in position at the south western airfield boundary. The German paras were much depleted by this stage. In the background Polish forces can be seen at the bridge.

The German airlanding CO desperately tries to make sense of events in the shadow of the burning Junkers. The Polish armoured cars continue to put up a spirited defence.
We wargamed from 5.00pm to 10.00pm, but still had to stop at the end of 8 moves. As WW2 wargamers will know, infantry-heavy battles tend to take longer than those using mainly tanks, as the details of infantry combat are simply more time consuming, regardless of which rules you use. 

We both concluded that this would be a good scenario to take to a wargames convention where it would easily fill the whole day. As it was, the Germans had clearly secured the airfield itself, had no chance of securing the bridge, but might just have captured the airfield buildings given 12 moves. Interestingly, however, the Germans had suffered 19 units destroyed from their breakpoint of 22, whilst the Poles had suffered just 1 (that's one) unit destroyed! The German paras had suffered particularly heavily in desperate attacks on the airfield defences. We called it a draw.