Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Battle Report - 3 April 2017/4 Sep 2017 - IABSM "The Battle For San Marco"


 
Split into two halves on two rather separated club nights (largely due to the umpire (me) not having time to build the northern half of San Marco!).

Initial assault (red table area)

The British advanced largely up the right flank, with 7 Platoon in the lead, under cover of a smoke barrage from the supporting 25 pounder. They came under some heavy MG fire from the church, and in an attempt to root that out, their supporting Churchill CS had its 90mm gun knocked out by a StuG III.

Initial assault from the eastern end - note the large smoke
barrage centre table. 7 Platoon close-assaulting across the
road centre of picture.
After a fairly gritty firefight, the Germans, taking heavy losses to the advanced Nr. 1 Zug, chose to fall back across the river, and the British were thwarted by a well placed minefield (just south of the bridge) from following before the bridge was blown up. As the river was somewhat tricky to cross, they elected to consolidate their position and renew the assault after a couple of hours.

Followup assault (blue table area)

Followup action - the calm before the storm. The villa roof
is just visible bottom left.
Some fairly heated discussion at the British O group led to an original plan to feint an attack towards the vineyards and Castello San Marco, while gong for a main thrust towards the church. This (as ever, perhaps) didn't survive contact with the enemy, as initial probes revealed no German forces south of the ford on the British side of the river. (There was a fascinating almost 'pre-game' of cat and mouse with blinds, with a lot of missed spotting rolls, but some excellent use of blinds by the British.)

The Villa, and Castello San Marco
7 Platoon (with a scratch section made up of Nos 2 and 3 sections), thus went in up the left flank via the unoccupied villa, seeking to cross the river by the vineyard. 8 Platoon, meanwhile, pushed across on the extreme right, encountering no resistance to taking the church. A Spitfire dropped its 500lb bomb load roughly in the middle of town, causing some consternation among the Germans but little serious damage.

If you go down to the woods
today...
About the point 7 Platoon splashed across the river, a Tiger was revealed in the woods north of the castle (spotted by a dummy blind that had been advancing up the extreme left and making excellent use of the topography and available cover not to be spotted itself). The Spit, to the frustration of the ground troops, turned for home before spotting it (anything but a 1 would have done for it to stick around). 

The British deployed their armour off blinds (a troop of Sherman IIIs and a Firefly of the Granta Yeomanry), and proceeded to unload on the factory, reducing the chimney to rubble and generally doing a fair bit of damage. 

Over on the right. 8 Platoon pushed into the orchard and came under heavy fire from the building that overlooked it, as well as a well-placed  stonk from the Germans' 8cm mortars. Unfortunately for the Germans, the section defending that flank was the rather tattered remnants of Nr. 1 Zug, who came under a withering storm of return rifle and Bren fire. Meanwhile, the Firefly (after Ash had actually read its stats line and realised that the 17 pounder is definitely a match for the Tiger :D) poked its nose round the side of a house on the south bank and popped off a round at the Tiger. 6 hits to 4 saves - gun out! Jubilation from the British, and it looks like Unteroffizer Honisch will not be getting promoted to Junior Ace this time out. 

Bridge out? No problem!
(Churchill ARK by Skytrex.)
7 Platoon (not for the first time in and around San Marco) take a fair amount of hammer from the factory and an MG in the house by the ford: the scratch section manages to stick around, but No. 1 Section bails (0 actions, lots of shock).  Meanwhile, the German Nr. 1 Zug also bails (its Big Man unpins it and has it retreat), and Nr 2 decides the factory is becoming untenable.  

About this point, another British blind, that's been largely keeping out of sight, deploys at the river's edge - a Churchill ARK, which uses all its actions to drop ramps and provide a river crossing for (what I assume was) Platoon 9, advancing on blinds behind Platoon 7. 

About here is where we called it for the night. The Germans are surrounded on three sides, from 8 Platoon advancing from the orchard, 7 and 9 through the woods to the factory, and the Grantas who will be pushing across the ARK to lend fire support. 

In short, a British victory.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

More on the 15mm PSC Churchill NA75 conversion

Just a quick note: if you're planning on doing this, by far and away the best source for the 75mm parts is the PSC M4A1(76)Wet kit.

Why?

Well:

a) the bits you need are specifically marked as 'not required for this kit'. (Good old PSC 'almost generic' sprues!)

b) the British used the Sherman IIA (aka M4A1(76)W) in Italy, so you can use the rest of the kit.

Problem solved :D

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

15mm PSC Churchill NA75 conversion

OK. I was going to blog one of several outstanding IABSM battle reports, but I'm feeling a bit smug just now, so here goes something else.

Churchill sprue
After the fall of Tunis during WW2, there was a certain degree of dissatisfaction among the Churchill crews, as it was felt that the 6pdr gun fitted was a bit light on range, but more importantly its HE performance was inadequate for an Infantry tank. To this end, Capt. Percy Morrell of the Royal Engineers came up with the devious idea of fitting an M3 75mm gun (from a KO'ed Sherman M4) to a Churchill IV. You can read the whole story (in his words) here, but let's just say it was an interesting feat of engineering.

Battlefront actually make one of these, but that's kind of not the point, since they're probably a tenner a pop after postage, and I have boxes and boxes of Shermans and several spare Churchill sprues from PSC.

M4A2 sprue
The conversion turns out to be very like Morrell's only in miniature. Build the Churchill body, set it aside. You'll then need the marked pieces from the Churchill sprue, and also from the Sherman sprue (I used an M4A2).

Assemble the shell of the turret, and then take a file to the front to flatten off the curve. Affix the trunnion, the (thin) mantlet and the 75mm from the Sherman, then add hatches and commander to taste.

And then, as they say, here's one I prepared earlier. I left the tank off the back, as several other folks models don't have it, and it's a pain to make fit.

Morrell? Got a promotion to Major and an MBE.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Battle Report - 3 July 2017 - IABSM Lite "Les Feuilles Vertes"

Had a request at the club for an IABSM practice/teaching game. From experience, while the first couple of scenarios in the book are good for this,
  1. they don't include everything straight off - I know this is deliberate, but sometimes you also want to teach why combined arms works.
  2. they can take a long time with inexperienced players
I think I'm now a grizzled enough veteran of the game that I can deal with this, so... Time for something a little different: IABSM Lite. 

No rule changes, but the scenario was designed to fit on a 4'x4' with sub-company strength forces and a more tactical approach. 

The British had two platoons, three big men including the company CO and three Sherman V's with a big man, as well as a FOO with two fire missions from a rather busy 25pdr battery (reflected by being 1 pip harder to contact). The Germans, holding the farm, had 1 infantry Zug with 2 big men, an MG42 with another big man, a FOO with a couple of 80mms, and a StuG III. Extra cards were Allied Rally, Allied Heroic Leader, Axis MG Bonus and Axis Dynamic Commander.

Simple mission - take/hold the farm.

Colin (running the Brits with advice from me) rapidly twigged that there was no cover to be had approaching the farm, so sent a couple of blinds by circuitous routes to see what he could spoke while radioing for a nice big smoke barrage to advance behind.

There was quite a bit of 'no, I won't bring any more blinds on yet' going on, which was slightly more cat-and-mouse than some IABSM games I've seen. In the end, he brought two infantry platoons on behind the smoke, and managed to get a good way up the road and across the fields before a flurry of Tea Break cards blew the smoke away.  At which point (having been pre-briefed by both Carl (watching while playing something else) and I, he brought the 2" mortars into play - the German section in the red-roofed farmhouse took a fair bit of tap, but things never quite panned out to get them pinned preparatory to a close assault.

With hindsight, I should have reminded him a bit more than I did that HE pins, and he should probably have brought the Shermans on before the second platoon, to plaster the farmhouse and guarantee some pins behind which to close assault. As it was, when they came on, the StuG (up on the road across the back of the table) picked off first one, then another, in consecutive activations.

The Brits also lost a couple of sections to enfilade fire from the farmhouse, which I think wouldn't have happened had the Shermans been around to do their job. In the end, the infantry in the farmhouse were down to 5 figures and 4 shock, and two platoons went in and basically forced them out in a tied close assault due to excess shock.

We pretty much left it there, not least so we could talk about it: essentially taking the farmhouse had cost the British two Shermans and half their force, but the Germans were down to one section, an MG and a StuGIII which had a pretty commanding view of the battlefield. It would have been interesting.

Thoughts on "IABSM Lite"?

I think it works: the tricks are:
  • Scenario design
    • have a clear tactical objective, and set it around the middle of the table.
    • make it a bit 'narrative' in nature so the players don't forget what it is
  • rationalise some smaller forces - 2/3 company or so.
  • make sure there's a bit of cover around deployment areas :D
  • more big men 
I think this last is pretty key - to keep things moving and make them interesting (and also to show off the 'magic' of the big man concept), you need to have slightly more big men than the normal org chart suggests - I'd even go as far as to suggest that some platoons should have their 2inC on table as a big man as well as the Lt.. Colin was, I think, pretty impressed with the flow of the game, and the way the big men worked - there was a moment were he had a big man hare back down the road to activate the 2" mortar which just felt right.

You might possibly consider, if you go with platoon 2inCs as big men, leaving the actual platoon cards out - I dunno? Thoughts?

I'm toying with a few more smaller tactical teasers like this - I think it could be fun and it can finish in a club night.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Posh Lard 2017

As promised at OML5...

Sunday July 23rd - a day of Lard in the middle of Peterborough, within walking distance of the train and bus stations, onsite parking.

The club will be putting on a BIG (battalion scale) WW2 IABSM game with space for 5 or so a side: if anyone is interested in bringing anything else to demo, please drop us a note (address on the link). Admission is a fiver to cover hall costs, and can be done via Paypal at the link below.

It's very likely we'll decamp to the local Thai restaurant/real ale pub afterwards - I'll try and ensure they have some cooking lager for Rich :D

http://www.peterborough-wargames-club.org.uk/tc-events/posh-lard-2017/

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Published again!

For those who hadn't noticed, permission to blow my own trumpet a little and note that the Irregular column in Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy issue 90 (available online or from any reputable magazine supplier) is by your humble servant. (On the subject of wargames clubs and herding cats - with a tip of the hat to James Morris for turning up with questions at just the right time to be sent a draft for comment!)

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Battle Report - 6 March 2017 - IABSM "Valle delle Marie"

The first game of the club's IABSM campaign, which has migrated from being "Blenneville or Bust" to being "29: Let's Go Large" to "oh, sod it, let's make something up based in Italy because Italy is a) fun and b) not Normandy"! So much fun, in fact, that I only took one photo!

So, check out the table to your right. North to the top, the village of Santa Magdalena nestling under the church, and the remains of the village of Santa Maria to the southeast, having undergone a pretty heavy bombardment from the Allies in an abortive attempt to take it the day before.

It's 26th August 1944, and A Company, the Hereward Fusileers (commanded by Carl, aided by Pippa, Ash and AndyB), have been tasked with taking both villages from the Germans (Gary, with help from AndyM and Tom) before nightfall. The latter had the classic slightly understrength company (which is a roundabout way of saying "I must paint those last two German sections!").

Both sides got support lists to choose from, rather √† la Chain of Command. The British chose a Firefly, two Sherman IIIs, two pre-game stonks, a FOO and battery of 25pdrs, a sniper and a Kittyhawk off the 'cab rank': I suspect rather too much of this might have been in the spirit of 'oo, wonder what this does' (still surprised they declined the Churchill MkV CS - 95mm howitzer on tracks!), and I'm sure I overpointed the P40, as only activating on a 6 when its card comes up makes it markedly less useful, and possibly the stonk. The Germans went for the coldly practical: 4 off-table 80mm mortars, a Tiger, two StuG IIIG's and a sniper.

As umpire and campaign adviser, I stood back once I'd devised the scenario, and before listening to the players' plans, and asked myself what I'd do with both forces: the Germans pretty much agreed with me, placing a Zug in Santa Maria, one in Santa Magdalena, the third in the olive grove/vineyard area. They plonked the Tiger in the ruins of the churchyard, with a nice view of the battlefield, and hid the StuGs.

Were I the British, I'd have bypassed Santa Maria entirely barring a small force to keep the Germans interested (a blind and a platoon, perhaps), laid smoke west of the road into Santa Magdalena and gone for it, foot on the floorboards, on the theory that if I can take Santa Magdalena I can mop up at my leisure.

The British had a degree of internal debate before deciding to go the roundabout route, essentially doing the exact reverse: strike at Santa Maria, push round on the eastern road. To be fair, the initial strike was pretty classically beautiful: AndyB's platoon were briefly pinned by mortar fire in the woods before the platoon's 2" coughed up a wall of smoke across the front of the buildings and all three sections came in from the south side. There then followed a textbook house clearance - Nos. 1 and 2 sections fired on the first building containing a German section, did it a couple of shock, a couple of kills and more importantly a pin, and in went No. 3 section to close assault, winning by one kill and driving them out.

By this time the Shermans had turned up, and one tossed a couple of HE rounds in the other building containing a German MG42, set it on fire, drove them out and pretty much wiped them out. That was the cue for the other German section to bail out of the village towards the vineyard, and it got caught in the open on the way out.

Meanwhile, a dummy blind headed along the wheat field to the west towards Santa Magdalena, and proceeded to make a pain of itself by simply failing to be spotted while not spotting anything either - it did keep the Germans in the village interested though!

7 Platoon deployed on the edge of the woods, in support of the tanks, preparatory to advancing on the olive grove under a 25pdr barrage...

At which point... the Tiger (in the church, with a glorious field of fire) and the StuG in the vineyard deployed off blinds, and it all went horribly wrong for the British. Within about four actions from the two tanks the Firefly's gun was out, one Sherman was disabled, with its crew bailing for cover, and the other went up with a bang. Unteroffizer Honisch in the Tiger is well on his way to Junior Ace.

The British are, understandably, hollering for any kind of support that will turn up: first up a fire mission from the 25 pounders that fails to do more than scratch the paint. It's followed by a P40 peeling off the cab rank, dropping a bomb on the Tiger, just missing and doing some damage to the church that they're going to have to explain to High Command.

The British push 7 Platoon into the olive grove, but it's clear they are now in a position where they're not going to manage to take Santa Magdalena, not with a Tiger on the loose. To quote the post-session summary for the players:
It's a 'winning draw' for the Germans, in campaign terms. The British have a reasonable hold on Santa Maria, though a strong German counter-attack could dislodge them, but they made no appreciable dent (other than a couple of architectural ones) in Santa Magdalena. The German battalion 80mm mortars will be called onto another target, as will the British 25pdr battery, allowing both sides to consolidate as dusk falls where they are, with the British A Company holding Santa Maria and  the southern woods, and the Germans Santa Magdalena and the heights above it. The olive grove, the vineyard and the wheat field on the east of the road are contested no-mans land, as I don't think either side has done enough to claim to actually hold them yet (yes, the British had men in both, but hadn't demonstrated that they could stay there). 
So, gentle reader: how would you have done it? 
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