Friday, 2 March 2018

Operation Goodwood - a BKCII Campaign

I had planned to run a fictional mini-campaign, based in Normandy 1944, pitting my the British against some Fallschirmjager opposition. This was largely to do with the fact that these were the forces I had painted and ready to go. This was to be a stop gap until I got my Operation Market-Garden campaign sorted, which is still in the 'research' phase, or to be honest slightly stalled due to a diversion into some 'Ancients' gaming.

However I was drawn back to the Normandy theatre by these Operation Goodwood videos that had been posted on Pendraken forum. There are 4 of them and they make for simply fascinating viewing, especially as I had read books by most of the contributors. As a wargamer they throw up loads of interesting bits of information, especially in the final video where they review the actual operation.

Now obviously the British did not fight the Fallschirmjager in Normandy, but they did face the Luftwaffe Field Divisions. Rather than a pure re-fight of the campaign, I decided to use it as the framework for a 'what if?' campaign, but largely based upon Operation Goodwood. After much reading of my books and some online research, I came up with the following plan.

Operation Goodwood - the Background
The British 3rd Division has been tasked with securing the left flank of the advance. The massive Air and Naval bombardments have not happened in their sector, but they have been assigned significant artillery and air support. Intelligence suggests that they will face light opposition in the form of Luftwaffe Field units, that are very much 2nd rate. It is expected that there is some defence in depth, but this is not expected to be very deep, maybe 3 miles at the most. 

British OOB
The 8th Brigade is in the lead, with the following units in the vanguard of the advance:
1st Battalion the Suffolks supported by the 13th/18th Hussars
2nd Middlesex Regt 
20th A/T Regt
3rd Recce Regt
33rd Field Regt RA
83rd Group RAF

In BKCII terms this translated as:

1 x CO (CV9)
3 x HQ (CV8)
1 x FAO (CV8)
1 x FAC (CV8)
1 x Recce Carrier
1 x Recce Humber 2 pdr
12 x Regular Infantry
2 x MG
1 x 3" Mortar
2 x 6 pdr ATG plus tows
4 x Sherman 75mm
1 x Sherman Firefly
1 x Churchill Crocodile
3 x 25 pdr Field Artllery Units
3 x Smoke Assets
6 x HE Assets
1 x Typhoon Ground Attack Unit

German OOB
The 16th Luftwaffe Field Division is in the first line of defence, in and around the village of Touffreville, consisting of:
Luftwaffe Jager Regt 32
Luftwaffe Panzerjager Abteilung 16
- 1st Kompanie (Pak 38 & Pak 40)
- 2nd Kompanie (Stug III)
7th Nebelwerfer Brigade

In BKCII terms this tranlates as:

1 x CO (CV9)
2 x HQ (CV8)
1 x FAO (CV7)
9 x Luftwaffe Infantry Units
3 x MG
1 x 81mm Mortar
1 x Pak 35/36
1 x Pak 38
1 x Pak 40
1 x 75mm Infantry Gun
3 x Stug III
1 x Nebelwerfer Artillery Unit
3 x Gun Pits

For the scenario, I would use one from the rule book, but tweak it slightly to reflect the historical actions:

Scenario 2: Assault
Primary Objective. The British are to protect the left flank as they advance, take village of Touffreville and hold it so as to control the road to Troarn. 
Secondary Objective. To secure the road exiting off the board that leads to Sannerville.
Turns. The game lasts for a maximum of 8 Turns.
Reserves. Both sides can keep some units in reserve and can commit these to the battle at any point of their choosing. The units will arrive on their respective base lines, using Mobile Deployment.

Campaign Notes
I decided to use the Campaign system from BKCI, as this has worked well in the past for my normal narrative type campaigns. Using the Random Points modifiers from BKCI, the British gained an extra 10% of points, whilst the Germans none.

The Germans chose a defence in depth, with a screen of anti-tank guns and infantry in the first line, with the second line behind Touffreville and the Stug III's held off table in reserve. The British decided to push their main force up the road and through the hedgerows, with a flanking force on the right to make the most of the open country. They held a substantial force in reserve, waiting to commit it them when they saw where would be of most use.

The village of Touffreville can be seen in the top right hand corner. The British deployed on the left hand side of the table. The road leading North off the table leads to Troarn, whilst that to the East to Sannerville.

The British in their jump off positions.

The Germans in Touffreville.

The first line of German defence.

The second line of German defence.

A view towards the approaching British.

The German FAO in the Moulin Rouge.

The British reserves and the cab rank of Typhoons.

Turn 1
The British attack opened up with a smoke barrage, which masked the German positions. Behind the smoke, the British right flank pushed forward through the cornfield, whilst on the left, their advance was slower. 

With no targets in view, the Germans held their positions and waited for the British advance.

The smoke barrage masked the advance towards Touffreville.

The British right flank making good progress.

The British left flank made somewhat slower progress.

Turn 2
The Turn started with a scheduled artillery barrage of HE on Touffreville, which proved to be very effective, suppressing all of the German anti-tank guns, the HQ unit and many infantry units in the village. The Recce units managed to make contact with the nearest HQ units, giving them a +1 to their CV this Turn. The FAC called in the Typhoon on a German Mortar unit, but it missed it's target due to the deviation roll. 

The British right wing pushed forward (4 successful command rolls) with combined tank and MG fire seeing the demise of a dug-in Pak 40 unit. This was a great result and it removed one of the main threats to the British armour early on. In response, the German mortar unit suppressed one of the supporting Infantry units. In contrast, the Left Wing failed their command roll, as did the Reserves, even with the CO trying to assist them!

The Germans could do little in response in and around Touffreville with some many units suppressed in the village. The German FAO with lots of targets to aim at, failed to make contact with his Nebelwerfer unit. Despite this set back, the German CO was still fairly confident of the situation and kept his reserves back.

The very effective British HE barrage.

The Typhoon fails to find its target.

An overview of the table at the end of the Turn.

The British Right Wing pushing forward to threaten the German flank.

The tardy British Right Wing.

Turn 3
The British switched from a HE barrage to a HE concentration on Touffreville at the start of the Turn. Despite each unit under the template taking 18 die, only an infantry unit and a Pak 35/36 were lost. However nearly all units remained suppressed. As the Recce units pused forward the FAC once again called in the Typhoon, which dodging AA fire from the German Command units, managed to hit the German Mortar unit, suppressing it.

Things that took a turn for the worse, as all the British units failed their command rolls! Fortunately the CO got through to the Right Flank, with them them making a good advance as well as the 3" Mortar hitting the German 75mm Infantry Gun and destroyin it, depsite it being dug-in.

Once gain the German FAO failed to get through to his 'Moaning Minnies' despite a plethora of targets! With the units in the village still suppressed, the CO decided tiwas time to bring his second line of defence fowards to protect the road out of the village towards Troarn.

The British HE concentration results in...

... the loss of only 2 units.

The Typhoon on target this time.

The table at the end of Turn 3.

The British Right wing in a good position, but unwilling to advance.

The British Left wing finally gets moving after some encouragement from the CO.

A Sherman of the 13th/18th Hussars ready to support the infantry as they close in on Touffreville.

Turn 4
Well the British RA Field Regt kept up their good work, with the FAO calling in another concentration, this time leading to the loss of a HQ, Pak 38 and an infantry unit, with a MG unit being suppressed. A bit of a result I'd say! In contrast the Typhoon, once again called in one the Mortar unit, failed to score a single hit. 

Across the board, both wings made good progress, suppressing further units where possible. With the advance going so well, it was time to call in the Reserves. Once again they failed their Command Roll, but the CO gave them a bit of a talking to, leading them to passing 3 command rolls, then blundering, but his leading to a 1/2 move towards the enemy, so in effect 3 1/2 moves in 1 turn!

With the battle at a critical point, the German FAO once again failed his command roll. This repeated failure was really impacting upon the German defence. The replacement HQ arrived on the board edge whilst the CO called in his Stug III reserves. As they arrived, a Sherman missed with Opportunity Fire, only to be knocked out by the Stug III's.

Once again the effect of the Royal Artillery's massed firing in evidence...

... leading to hardly any units left in the centre of Touffreville.

The Typhoon once again fails to hit their target.

The British start to envelope Touffreville.

The British Right wing threatens the German flank as well as the FAO in the windmill.

The British Left Wing and the Reserves pour forward towards their primary objective.

The British set up an anti-tank screen in case of a German counter-attack.

The Reserves push forwards.

The 13th/18th Hussars ready to move into Touffreville.

The end of the Turn.

A Sherman brewed up by flank fire...

... from the Stug III's.

Turn 5
The FAO once again managed to get through to his Field Artillery unit, calling in another concentration on the village, leading to the loss of an MG unit and suppressing naother Infantry unit. This time the FAC and the Typhoon were successful in finishing off the dug-in Mortar unit.

Right across the line, the British advanced and in some places even entered Touffreville. With the little left to counter the British advance, the German CO with drew his troops to live and fight another day.

At last, the Typhoon destroys the dug-in Mortar unit.

The end of the game.

The British massed to assault Touffreville.

Despite having troops still in the village, the German CO decided that it was wiser to make a tactical withdrawal to better defensive positions.

End of the Game
I could have carried on the game, but in reality the British were more than likely to win. I did quickly roll to see what might have happened in the German Turn, and they would only have been able to make one move. In the following turn the British FAO once again got through to the 25 pdr Battery's, which would have made a mess of the German units based upon what happened earlier on in the game. Also the the British infantry and tanks were on the edge of the village and could have easily moved in, securing the Primary Objective.

Post Game Thoughts
Well that was an enjoyable game on many levels as once again BKCII failed to disappoint. I think my enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that I had plenty of time to research the game, think about the units involved, decide on the table layout etc. Importantly this was not a stand alone game, but part of a narrative campaign, which I haven't been able to for several years now.

So as always, time for a few thoughts on the game in general:

  • I don't think I've known a game where the British FAO succeeded everytime in calling in artillery support. Not only that, but the Die Gods favoured the British as they managed to suppress or destroy units each and every Turn. In historical terms, this was quite accurate as the British did rely heavily upon artillery support for their attacks.
  • I'm glad I decided not to use the option of having Bomber or Naval support as actually happened in operation Goodwood. In game terms it would have been too one sided and not particularly fun for either side. There in an option to have a limit to movement by tanks etc over ground that had been heavily bombed, as did happen during the Normandy campaign. In fact as a result of this, they changed the bombs to detonate on impact to minimise the craters caused so as not to slow down the advance of the armour.
  • In contrast to the British FAO, the German one failed at every attempt. A large part of the German defence was based upon the 'Moaning Minnies' really disrupting the infantry and possibly the supporting armour. Without this it became increasingly hard for the Germans to mount a cohesive defence of Touffreville.
  • I think Turn 4 proved a pivotal point in the game with the swift advance of the British Reserves. Up to that point the Germans may have been able to hold out for possibly the full 8 turns. However once they arrived their position started to become untenable.
  • The German dug-in units didn't last as long as I had hoped, mainly due to some very good British die rolls. In previous games they have proved hard to dislodge. It's always a tricky balance to get right, so that it doesn't become too hard for the Attacker.
  • I was nice to get my painted Typhoon onto the table, even though it took most of the game to knock out one mortar unit! I think air support such as this is much better against armour and infantry in the open. However in this case there were no such targets in this game. It would be nice to come up with an effective way to replicate the roving air support that shot up anything that moved on the roads. Whether this is appropriate for this sort of game, I'm not sure, but will have a think about it for future games.
  • It was nice to play a game that is part of a mini-campaign, something that is my plan to do more of this year. For the next game, I have to decide whether to push on towards Troarn, that historically proved a tough nut to crack, or to move on Sannerville and Emieville. The latter is tempting as there were no German reserves after Emieville which would have allowed the British to push deep into the German rear, with all the opportunities and dangers that would have entailed. Something to ponder over the next week or so.
  • What ever I choose to do, I know I need to paint up more anti-tank gun units and armoured support. On the painting table I have some Panzer IV's and a Tiger I, as well as a Tiger II to assemble. On the British side some more Shermans are required and again they need assembling.
  • Post-game I rolled on the Random Points Table, with the British gaining an extra 25% with the Germans 10%. 

So there we have it. A very enjoyable game and one that has given me a lot to think about going forward on many levels.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Paphlagonia vs Latium - a To the Strongest intro game

My plan to try and get more games in in 2018 had taken a knock over the past few weeks or so, due to having to deal with Local Government, which at times felt like trying to get blood out of a stone whilst swimming through treacle. Salvation came in the form of my good friend and gaming chum Keith Flint, who was keen to have a go at 'To the Strongest' ruleset. 

So a pleasant drive through the Cotswolds saw me arrive with the table already set up and some figures on the table. In advance I had knocked up some basic army lists based upon Keith's 'Trimsos' armies, nothing too fancy, so that we could focus on the game mechanics and simply having a good time. Once again it was a pleasure to be able to play a game with Keith's wonderful 28mm figures that are certainly colourful and full of character.

For the first game, we simply chose a good mix of units, including Elephants, Chariots (both light and heavy), Cataphracts, Hoplites etc, in fact anything that grabbed our eye. This game took a while to get going, as neither of us could hit a barn door with our missile troops and our weapons must have been made of rubber. In the end my troops (Latium) prevailed, but the game could have gone either way. 

In the second game, we selected units appropriate to Keith's army lists, so I got the Elephants, whilst Keith had some rather tasty looking Phalanxes and Chariots. This game was brief and bloody, with the cards certainly favouring my Latium troops, as Keith's centre and left flank collapsed in short order. Fortunately he was unable to take advantage of his numerical superiority on his right flank before the aforementioned collapse. Still it was a fun game.

Given that these were test games and very much aimed at getting Keith au fait with the game mechanics, I didn't take any notes. However I did find time to take some pics which will hopefully give you an idea of how things unfolded.

Both armies arrayed for battle, with my Latium troops closest to the camera.

The Paphlagonian Elephants and Phalanxes look somewhat daunting.

The core of the Latium army, their infantry.

The armies advance, with the Latium archers supporting the right flank.

Some failed activation cards led to a broken Latium line.

In contrast the ordered Paphlagonian line.

The infantry clash.

They may only be javelin armed skirmishers, but I loved the shields. Sadly they don't make anything like this in 10mm, so maybe some conversions will have to be done...

The centres clash whilst both sides skirmishers try and gain control of the flanks.

From a Latium point of view, the Paphlagonian centre looks too strong.

However looks can be deceptive.

Nelly feeling somewhat vulnerable.

With the centre gone, the Paphlagonian right flank had no option but to withdraw.

With Game 2 underway, the action happened thick and fast. The Latium right flank quickly gained ascendancy and turned in on the Paphlagonian centre.

This time the Latium 'Nelly' felt confident and proved her worth on the battlefield.

The action continued thick and fast, with both sides losing units, but the Latium troops were marginally on top.

The end for Paphlagonia, as their army had vanish as quickly as Summer mist.

The Latium troops looking for someone to fight.

The Latium army in complete control of the battlefield.

Post Game Thoughts
Both games proved to be very enjoyable affairs, despite the second game being a tad more one sided. Not having played 'To the Strongest' for sometime, I was unsure as to whether I would still enjoy them. In fact I need not have worried. In fact the opposite as it re-confirmed that they have become my current Ancients & Medieval' rules of choice. As always, a few thoughts on the game, the rules and Ancients gaming in general;

  • I need to create a better QRS sheet than the one contained in the book. this is mainly to allow me to easily remember things such as +1 card to be played on Flank Attacks, a -1 Save to units being attacked in the Flank etc. I'm sure this would become second nature with lots of playing, but with erratic outings of the rules it will simply make things easier.
  • A more detailed roster for each army will make game play much quicker, such as adding in Attack and Save details, for similar reasons outlined above.
  • TtS certainly gives a fun and relatively quick game, compared to the likes of 'Hail Caesar!' I no longer think of it as a grid based game, but a game that really allows me to concentrate on my tactics.
  • For my next game I will give the ammunition supply rules a go, now that I have, hopefully, got the game basics nailed down. I'm intrigued to see how this affects the use of Light Infantry.
  • I really need to make some Army camps for both of my planned ImagiAncients armies, so plenty of opportunity for some creativity.
  • The same could be said for adding a few more Generals to my armies, as well as the one use Heroic ones. Time to have a browse of the Pendraken catalogue as well as my lead pile.
  • Of late I have been making some terrain in the limited time I have had, to which I need to add a baseboard. I have some ideas on how to make it work for a grid based game but not look too grid like. Some tests are required to see whether my ideas work or not. I also need to bear in mind that this board will be used with the forthcoming 'For King & Parliament' rules that are due for release at Salute.
  • I thought the rules worked well for units such as Chariots and Elephants, that can in other rules feel a bit clunky or unsure as to what they are trying to achieve. They also work well for ImagiAncients armies as it is so easy to select troops and create balanced armies due to the points cost and Victory Points system.

So I'm looking forward to trying to get in some more games in the near future, using my Viking and Saxon armies. A campaign of some sort would be nice, but I don't want to run before I can walk.