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Monday, 7 August 2017

Battlegroup Tobruk And The Return Of The Fallschirmjäger

I believe I hinted in my previous post that the ancient-period painting mojo was fading a bit. I'm sorry to say that shortly after penning those words, the mojo packed up completely in the face of a 12-strong unit of Parthian horse archers (hardly a challenging task for most wargamers, I guess).

But as so often happens in our hobby, as one door closed another one opened. Idly browsing the internet, I was reminded on the Battlegroup page of the Guild Wargamers forum that I had been neglecting my WW2 gaming, and that one of the last things I had been considering in that period was the purchase of Battlegroup Tobruk, the latest supplement in the Battlegroup series.



Shelling out £25 on this book was a tricky one. I no longer game this particular part of WW2 (click on the 'WW2 Desert' link at top right for my old exploits), and my sole interest in the book was the rules for parachute and glider landings included in the Crete section, which I wanted to use for some fictional airborne assaults set in the 1939 Polish campaign. Unfortunately no one I knew had the book, so getting photocopies of the appropriate section was a non-starter. I considered a cheeky post appealing for details on the forum or Facebook page, but this seemed rather too cheeky (not to say ungentlemanly). I had previously bitched (justifiably, IMHO) that the rules for Fallschirmjäger should have appeared in the 'Blitzkrieg' supplement, or even better in the original rulebook, so pride was at stake as well. But I had a whole stack of Ju-52s and DFS-230s sitting idly in a storage cabinet, plus a platoon's-worth of German paras purchased ready-painted some time ago. And of course my wargamer's consumerist itch couldn't be ignored forever.

Battlegroup Tobruk
So I bought it - you can get it on ebay for £24.95 post-free at the time of writing, but no cheap deals on Amazon for these guys. Was it worth it? Objectively, not really. Yes, I have the rules I wanted (amounting to about 3 pages), which are provided as part of a Crete-inspired 'Airborne Assault' scenario. They are neat and interesting rules which look like they should play well. Missing are rules for air-landing troops arriving under fire, a situation which featured significantly at Crete, but a simple adaption of the glider landing rules will be straightforward to write.

In addition to the rules, I have the army lists for German paras and glider troops in the early war period. These are important for Battlegroup because you need the points values and Battle Rating numbers to balance the games - or at least, such information is very useful to one's understanding of the game. But together with the rules this still only constitutes around a dozen pages from a total of 200. The extra set of Battle Rating counters and a new pull-out quick reference sheet will come in handy. Nevertheless, most of the book is of no use to me.

But to be honest I don't regret the purchase. These Battlegroup books are always nice to own, being well produced and including some good background reading. Anyone who knows me will be aware I am not really a fan of supplements as a concept, but Piers and Warwick have always struck me as decent guys who are dedicated wargamers and who believe in what they do. A minor criticism here is that no map or maps support the account of the Battle of Crete - the story of any battle without an accompanying map is always incomplete.

So I've paid £25 for a dozen pages of information which I reckon should have been in the basic rulebook anyway, and some air-landing rules are missing - but I'm actually pretty happy. Hmm. I guess that's wargamers for you!

The Bridge At Staruchy, September 1939
Time to check out the new rules in a modest scenario. Although the airborne assault rules were developed for the Crete operation, they seem to me to be perfectly suitable as a representative set for any opposed airborne landing. One of the unique rules for airborne assaults in Battlegroup involves placing 'drop canister objectives' before the fighting starts, and I had to knock up 3 of these from some old oil drum and jerrycan models, which I placed on 3cm square bases (this is 15mm scale):


The scenario is a simple one, for a 4' x 4' table. It is of course entirely fictional - there is no bridge (that I'm aware of) at the tiny Polish village of Staruchy, which was only chosen because I liked the name and it was easily pronounceable in English. The bridge is, of course, to be seized by a small but elite force of German glider and parachute troops, and is defended by a Polish infantry platoon.

The numbers at the edge indicate the die throws for the random locations
 through which Polish reinforcements will arrive

Polish Forces

Forward HQ in PF508 25pts 3-r BR

Infantry Platoon 124pts 9-i BR (including light mortar and ATR team)

2 x MG Pillbox 108pts 2-i BR

1 x AAMG 16pts 1-i BR

Off-table 81mm mortar battery with observer team 70pts 1-i BR

Defences: trenches/foxholes for 3 infantry groups and 20" of barbed wire. 50pts

Total 393pts 16BR 

German Forces

2 x timed HS-123 strikes 20pts 0 BR

1st Wave (4 gliders)
Fallschirmjäger Sturm Platoon 212pts 16-e BR
(including 3 x flamethrower, 3 x demolition charges and 1 x light mortar team)

2nd Wave (parachute)
Fallschirmjäger Platoon 137pts 16-v BR (including light mortar team)
Forward Headquarters 25pts 3-e BR

Total 394pts 35BR

I'll be conducting the game in accordance with the rules in the book, and we'll see how I get on with them. Further interest is added by the asymmetry of the two sides - although equal in points, the Germans have more than twice the BR of the Poles. This is a rather clever and quite subtle aspect of Battlegroup which I enjoy seeing in action, and this is probably the strongest contrast between points and battle rating I have seen in any of my games.

The assembled Fallschirmjäger Sturm Platoon. Platoon command squad of 4 men, 3 rifle teams of 4 men,
3 pioneer teams of 3 men with flamethrower and demolition charge, and 3 MG teams, plus light mortar.

I'll probably play this one through solo - I'll try and post a report on the resulting game. But no promises!