Tuesday 24 November 2020

The Net Closes

This game was a work in progress on a couple of levels, one was learning more about the rules and urban fighting and the other was adding more buildings to the empty spaces as I finished my new arrivals. The game was based on a scenario in the "Road to Berlin" book and was entitled Tank Hunting using the 'enhanced tank hunter' rules which I have yet to set eyes on despite being told a page number. I decided on a large game and friend Matt chose 1500 points of Germans while I had just slightly over that of Russians.

The Germans had a typical force which would have been fighting in Berlin, Army, Kriegsmarine, Volksturm and Hitler Youth with a Tiger, Pak 40, some halftracks and other supports. The Russians hat two T34's an SU122 and mostly veteran infantry squads including Guards, Engineers and Scouts, these were backed by several support units including an air observer. The aim of the scenario was for the Russians to break through the German defences and exit troops from that end of the table, the Germans had to knock out Soviet tanks.

Matt deployed along Behren Strasse, Hitler Youth in the Angleterre Hotel, Volksturm in the Police Station along with the MMG, next door in the Krone Cafe was the Pak 40 covering Bauhofstrasse. St. Hedwig's was poorly defended by a panzerschreck team and a Forward Observer for the mortar, nearby a sniper took up a position in the Koenig Cinema. A tram turned into a roadblock cut off this end of the street. German reserves included the Tiger an army squad and the sailors along with a 251/10 with a light anti-tank gun. The Russian plan was to have the SU122, Guards and Engineers advance through the park for an attack on the Angleterre, an LMG squad would make a move on the Police Station and watch the flank of the main attack. On the right flank a T34/76 along with the Scouts would move on the Cinema while another squad would move toward St. Hedwig's. A second T34/85 would remain in reserve.

The Soviet pre-bombardment was a minor inconvience to the Germans but they did lose their Forward Observer so the mortar would have to move to shoot, the sniper also lost his buddy but he stayed in position. As the Russians advanced a Stuka-zu-fuss opened up (this was supposed to be a Howling Cow but I don't have one, I also cocked up the rule pertaining to this weapon) and hit the main advance making for the Angleterre, the Engineers bore the brunt of this terror weapon and the pins meant they were slowed down for several moves. Once the Russians got close enough to identify the German positions bullets and shells flew among the buildings and rubble. The Hitler Youth squad began to take casualties as the SU122 found them and began shelling the hotel while the Russian infantry closed up, minus the Engineers of course. On the right I had forgotten that the tram blocked the Breite Strasse and although it could not advance past that section the T34/76 could fire into the Koenig Cinema and support the Scouts moving against the German sniper who still held his post. To help him the Kreigsmarine squad entered the battle to shore up the German left flank, the Russians also brought on the T34/85 on Bauhofstrasse and aimed at the rocket launcher.

With the pressure mounting on the Hitler Youth the German commander called for armoured back up, however something was wrong with the radio and the Tiger failed to turn up, the SU122 and the Guards now forced the Hitler Youth to leave the battlefield, having suffered horrendous casualties the survivors fled. The assault gun now turned it's attention to the Volksturm on the upper levels of the Police Station as did the LMG squad. A hail of death flew across Behren Strasse and both sides suffered, the LMG squad and then the Volksturm were destroyed. By now the remaining German reserve was deployed to hold the Angleterre Hotel corner but soon hunkered down and traded shots with the Guards who had arrived at Behren Strasse. Now the Tiger turned up and began duelling with the SU122 who had now added the MMG team to its list of victims, it took two shots but the Russian gun went up in flames. Just before this the brave but foolish panzerschreck team had tried to ambush the T34/76 and failed miserably paying a heavy price.

A look around the battlefield showed the Kriegsmarine moving to St. Hedwig's having chased the Scouts from the field, while the remaining few Germans in the Police Station/Krone Cafe pulled back as the T34/85 and a veteran infantry squad began an assault. On the left the Engineers had at last moved forward and along with the Guards were about to take the Angleterre stranding the Tiger in Rochstrasse, leaving it no choice but to retire. The fight in this particular area of Berlin was over.

Again a very good battle, I still managed to get some of the rules wrong but I also picked up on quite a few others which I had forgotten, once again the game played well, I have not covered all the city fighting mechanics but most of them. No wonder the Russians used so many tanks, assault guns and artillery pieces to bludgeon their way through Berlin, another reason was their lack of infantry, the troops which had been fighting since the Seelow Heights were mere shadows of the formations which fought on the Oder, an epic struggle indeed.

In between building 'Berlin' I managed to finish two SYW limbers for the artillery, one British and one French, next up are some more Prussians for Rob and the big diorama with a cast of thousands. I do still have those two SYW battalions in the ready use locker but they are going to have to wait as I expect some kits to finish (and I use the term loosely) my WWII stuff for birthday/Christmas and yes I am having one.

I have been enjoying Queens Gambit on Netflix and will finish it tonight, I also caught The Good Lord Bird which is a tongue in cheek series about John Brown, the one moldering in his grave and captured by none other than Robert E. Lee. I watched two actual movies with five star ratings which just went to show how political these awards now are as both were average at best, Motherless Brooklyn and Just Mercy (I think). With the next season of The Expanse on the way I decided to try one of the books, I got a second hand copy as I was unsure whether it would be any good and there are half a dozen or so out now with the latest coming next year. I cannot put it down it is excellent, I am now the proud owner of books 2 and 3 as well. It has been a while since I started watching the TV series and the books are very different from what my memory banks show, but I welcome the return of Detective Miller.

Next up for wargaming although I am unsure when I will actually manage it, is a commando style raid by paratroopers which I have buzzing in the back of my mind.

Sunday 15 November 2020

Fight for Martin Luther Kirche

This latest Lockdown has given me a kick in the teeth re enthusiasm, at least in the last one I could sit outside in the sunshine and soak up some rays, it is bleedin' miserable here at the moment and of course no real respite now until May next year. My winter project has also gone for a burton as I finished it in a week, I might get two weeks out of it as I have another set of buildings coming but it's a stretch. I have also decided to call a halt to buying more stuff for now, the suits over at the LMF are not happy with the outgoings this year, and with the new buildings and the boxes to house them all have finally pulled the purse strings.

On the bright side I started my 'training' game of urban combat in Berlin to see how Bolt Action dealt with such heavy terrain. I cannot fill all the spaces so the empty ones I decided were rubble or park, I also decided that anyone moving on the bottom floor of a building would also be in rubble, if on one of the floors this was normal movement but counted as heavy cover if the shots were going across the walls (windows) as opposed to from the open spaces inside.

The Germans had three squads, Kriegsmarine and Volksturm, both inexperienced and veteran Waffen SS (Danmark), also as back up they had a Hitler Jugend tank killer team. I decided to give them two tanks, a King Tiger and an Elephant, other supports included a mortar team, medic and sniper. The Russians had four squads, one of combat engineers backed up by an IS-2, T34/85 and an ISU-152, other supports were a mortar team, flamethrower and sniper. Both sides would have access to one tank for the initial deployment, I then put a blue and red die in the bag, when these where picked out they were trhown again and on a 5 or 6 another tank turned up, at the start the Germans got the Elephant and the Russians the IS-2. For the HJ team I decided I would use the Sewer rules so that they could pop up anywhere to take a shot at the Soviet armour, I might change this and use the dice system next time. Panzerfaust teams should be a real pain for the Soviet armour in Berlin.

I decided the Martin Luther church would be the Soviet objective so with this in mind it was occupied by the Kriegsmarine infantry, a building close by was defended by the Volksturm, the Danmark squad and the HJ were to be held in reserve. I used hidden movement so it was just about impossible for the Russians to register a hit on the Germans at the beginning so they advanced rapidly on their left but more slowly due to the rubble on their right. The Germans quickly managed to get the King Tiger to turn up and it started a duel with the IS-2, neither tank managing a penetrating hit until, bang, up went the big cat. This had the effect of stiffening Russian resolve and all their infantry now made a beeline for the objective. As the engineers moved to get an advantageous position to rush the Volksturm the old men opened up on the flamethrower team trying to flank them, reducing them to one man, two more Soviet squads moved forward towards the church, the German sniper took the opportunity to open up but only exposed himself to the Russian sniper and he bit the dust, the female sniper then took to powdering her nose as she hit nothing again for the whole game.

The Soviet engineers along with the flamethrower were not ready to attack the Volksturm so the German commander brought on the Danmark squad who began a firefight with the engineers stopping their advance, this didn't help the Volksturm Gruppenfuhrer as he became a casualty due to fire from a nearby Soviet squad, however his men held doggedly on also defying incoming mortar fire. On the Russian right their spare squad continued across the rubble and began to close on the church, sadly the remaining Russian armour seemed to have gotten lost, which was a cruel stroke as the crew of the IS-2 couldn't hit the proverbial church door. The Elephant now moved forward and opened up on some Russians in a building opposite the church, the heavy shells began to take effect and for a moment it looked like the Russians would have to pull back, the Waffen SS had cut the Engineers to ribbons and they only just held on behind their barricade. The Hitler Youth squad who had been traversing the sewers now made an appearance and three panzerfausts streaked towards the JS-2, only to fizzle out or fly over the tank, the lads scarpered back underground.

The flanking Soviet squad now rushed the church, the ensuing melee was horrific but as the dust settled only a few Russians were still standing, now the Russian armour decided to turn up, late but just in time to force the Germans to retire.

A very different game to normal, small arms shooting was almost poitless unless at very close quarters, high explosive was king and close support from tanks or maybe even guns is a must. Russian morale was not helped by the loss of most of their NCO's. I had to make some rule decisions as to what or where troops actually were in a building, for instance although the sailors were spread around one side of the walls I allowed them all to join in the melee as no doubt they would have, not sure how someone else would feel about that but I was happy. I also decided that once the tank hunters appeared if they were still there the following turn they could disappear back into the sewers unscathed. I did use the Rubble rules for movement when the tanks were off road but I might have to look at this as I think I got it wrong, both the King Tiger and the JS-2 suffered slightly from this. Anyway, something different and it accounted for several hours of building and playing.

A couple of new map projects being worked on along with the Atlas.

I have painted up the two SYW limbers from the ready use locker but am leaving the battalions for now as I expect the second lot of ruins to arrive next week and won't be able to rest until they are done. Oh, I also got a new car for my scatter terrain, it is the Refugee car from 1st Corps, a really nice piece and although it is 1/48 scale it looks fine on the table amongst everything else. I am tempted to get their Refugee figures as well and have put them on my wishlist.

I have got around at last to reading some of David Glantz's books, well book actually, on the Eastern Front from the Russian perspective and what an eye opener and change from all the 'Hitler lost us the East' rubbish from German generals. I am enjoying 'When Titans Clashed' so much I have now got 'Kharkov 1942' and 'Zhukov's Greatest Defeat' and am very tempted when things settle down to expand my Eastern Front time line to maybe cover Barbarossa to Kursk, but I have to get more games in to use the stuff I already have.

Thursday 5 November 2020

Berlin or Bust

As you know I took a mad decision to build a set of ruins to fight battles in Berlin along with possibly Budapest, Vienna and Stalingrad. I thought with being imprisoned for most of the rest of the year whether in a 'Circuit Breaker' a Lockdown or simply Tier 47 or whatever they dream up next, this project would take me through the cold dark nights. Not a chance, within a week of getting my buildings I am 85% done.

I first sourced a mat, several manufacturers do nice urban ruins mats but I didn't want one with roads already on or one which expected Space Marines and Tyranids to turn up which many do. I settled on PWorks in Italy, they offered a sandstone or grey mat which would suit me, although I was tempted by the sandstone I wasn't sure where I could get spray paint to match, so went with grey, easily picked up in one of the few real shops left in Carnforth. I cocked up the order and went for PVC, the PWork people were very helpful and changed it to rubber. I was a bit unsure when it turned up but now I am very pleased I got this one.

Next up was choice of buildings, there are quite a few to choose from, some are very basic and others like 4Ground and TTCombat are very detailed if a bit pricey should you want a lot, which if you want to fill a 6x4 table properly you will need. TTCombat tend to do bundles so if you wanted one thing from the bundle hard luck, which is a pity as their stuff does look good. In the end I went for a nice bundle from Terrain4Games from Poland to which I also added a Gothic church, a tad 40Kish perhaps but it works. The kits are basic and you can get them with or without pavements, I got pavements. To enhance the buildings I got balsa wood to decorate the walls and coffee stirrers for wooden floors, I overdone it with them and got 1,000, most are still in the box. I now find I need some more buildings not as many as before but a few to give a better look to the table.

Next up was rubble, I already had a bag of bits and pieces from all the other MDF buildings I have built, windows, doors etc. and mate Rob sent me some roof tiles and again some doors and windows. That was great but I also needed bricks, these are very easy to get and I bought a couple of packs of the excellent Juweela products, red bricks and red bricks with cement on them, also a pack of grey bricks, why red when everything was going to be sprayed grey, because they are perfect reproductions. I also got some grey gravel to mix in with the bricks and lastly I would use some sand. Yes, you guessed it, I got too much of both, a small amount of these bricks go a long way.

Scatter was next, I got lamposts, oil barrels and boxes for barricades, I was going to get some mattress' and chairs from Debris of War and may still do at some stage but the postage for two packs was way over the odds, bordering on robbery to be honest. I also got a tram, these were filled with rubble or/and cement and became very effective barriers, I got this from Sarissa, had a bit of a problem with making the sides fit so I botched them and left the roof off, after adding rubble I think it looks good. Also on the cards was a wrecked Opel Blitz, this was a resin piece and not the best but it paints up fine and will do, besides ruining a perfectly good plastic kit to get a wreck is a step too far. I still want to add shell holes etc. which I intend to make myself, I think I need more wrecked vehicles so will look out for cheap stuff to tear apart.

Once the kits were built I first added bullet holes, then I put in wooden floors and the balsa wood ledges, next up I glued bits and pieces of rubble on the floors, I kept this to the edges so as not to interfere with figures standing at the windows etc. For rubble piles at the edges of the buildings I dipped some kitchen tissues into a mix of PVA and water then spread them out on the pavements, once dry I glued bricks, gravel and sand to them and they turned out really good. I finished off with patches of sand on the walls and floor for dust, along with the odd brick on the pavements. The whole building was then sprayed matt black, this was followed by grey primer, a lighter spray than the black, I actually then tried a light drybrush with the first building but it really wasn't necessary so I left the rest as is.

Having no patience I set everything up on the table yesterday and intend to hopefully try a game out this weekend, what else will I be doing.

So there you are, my winter project finished in a week, I also managed to upgrade my Goth warbands with some extra figures, so what next? I have those scatter bits to do and the new buildings to choose and order, also in the ready use locker are two SYW battalions, one French and one Hanovarian, I will really have to take them a bit slower.