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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Battlegroup Market Garden weekend part 2

Sunday (Day 2) saw us playing only one game, for most of us a basic attack-defence scenario, although the top German player (Steve Hann) and British player (Ian Shaw) were assigned the Hard Road scenario on the table with roads lined by marshy areas, probably typical of the terrain around Elst on "the |Island" between Nijmegen and Arnhem, representing the final Allied effort to reach the bridge at Arnhem.  Again 500 points a side.  I was drawn to play Andy, who was fielding a battlegroup from 30 Corps, which seemed to consist of a motorised infantry platoon in half tracks, supported by a pair of Achilles tank destroyers, a Vickers MMG and some engineers, backed up by a battery of 25 lbrs.  For this game, I rested the SS armoured recce platoon, severely mauled by Warwick's US glider infantry the previous day, and turned instead to a platoon of sailors, which I upgraded to regulars.  These were supported by a sniper, 4 Stug IIIGs, an armoured assault pioneer squad in an Sdkfz 251/1 and an Sdkfz 251/16, backed up with a dedicated 120mm mortar battery, plus a times strike from a battery of 105mm howitzers.


Our table was at the Eindhoven end of Hells Highway and comprised the road (Hells Highway), lined by buildings just to the rear of 30 Corps defence line and a canal on the German right (top of photo).  Andy rolled a 7 for on board deployment and put two Achilles between buildings facing the German table edge, the Vickers in a building on the extreme German left and assorted engineers and command elements in various buildings along the road and around the bridge.  On turn 1, my timed howitzer strike and mortars hit and pinned everything on the board bar the Vickers and some HQ units.  Unfortunately, my Stugs couldn't hit a thing.  Andy couldn't do a great deal, so lifted pin markers for two chits, although his pre-registered target in the woods pinned my sniper - he was to stay effectively pinned for most of the game.   Ambush fire from the other Achilles immobilised a Stug, but then the two Stugs replied and dealt with the Achilles, which burned, the other was pinned again.
 
Turn 3 saw German reserves rushing on in the form of the assault engineers and 251/16, as well as an arty spotter and some sailors.  The sailors advanced through the woods on the German right, while 120mm mortars pinned the remaining Achilles.  The assault engineers pushed their half tracks down the left flank, closing with the Vickers team.  The Stugs advanced to close the range with the other Achilles, while the heavy mortars pinned it.  The British replied with more 25lbr fire and a battery of 4.5" guns (I think that's what he rolled up), plus a timed Typhoon strike, but these only pinned the FHQ and sniper, again.  By turn 4, the 251 carrying the assault engineers was able to hose the Vickers team with MG fire, causing enough casualties for them to flee.  The Stugs opened up on the Achilles, which tried to reply with ineffective AP shots at the Stug using ambush fire - the British commander had to take a chit to unpin for the Achilles to fire.  German reserves came on including 2 Stugs with sailor tank riders, plus some supply train trucks.  Finally, in Turn 5, the Stugs were able to deal with the last Achilles, which left very little AT capability for the Brits.  The two assault pioneers Hannomags went on reserve move, while the 120mm mortars pounded the engineers in the buidlings around the bridge.  The British reserve half tracks also came on but there weren't enough orders to get them moving.  Next turn, the Germans issued a general advance with Stugs and sailors moving out on the right and the assault pioneers half tracks reserve moving up to within range of the remaining British engineers by the bridge.  The German artillery spotters moved the heavy mortars onto the reserve half tracks, pinning 1 and KO'ing another of them, while the 251/16 jetted flame to left and right, incinerating engineers in both buildings.  The British moved the last mobile half track forward and debussed a PIAT team and section, which occupied the nearest building, but only to have them incinerated by the 251/16, along with a handful of surviving British engineers, forcing enough chits to break the 30 Corps battlegroup.  Again, it was a hectic battle and I took very few pictures.

Here, towards the end of the game, sailors on foot and riding on Stugs advance towards the buildings around the canal bridge.


This view shows the 251/16 just in front of the bridge, which has sprayed fire to left and right, effectively neutralising the occupants of both the grey and red buildings.  The 251/1 with assault engineers waits slightly behind in case they are needed.  In the foreground a Stug waits on reserve move, to swing around and line up on the half tracks in the British rear (far left).


The engineers half tracks in more detail.


On other tables:

Mike was issued a King Tiger to augment his battlegroup.  It rolled forwards and destroyed a sniper team, before being brewed up by a 17pdr AT gun.


British paratroopers dug in with the blown up King Tiger in the foreground.


The hard road scenario saw bitter fighting between Ian's Shermans of 30 Corps and Steve's SS Stugs, with the Germans doing just enough to claim victory when time was called.



Will's US paratrooper forces very generously allocated the area on the right in this view for German deployment on the Veghel table.  The limited crossing points were never going to be easy.


Will's US paratroopers dug in in the open spaces within Veghel.


Germans advancing on another dug in Allied defence line, here supported by an FW 190.


Dug in 30 Corps infantry supported by Shermans, being dealt with by a mixed German battlegroup.


Sadly, I didn't take anywhere near enough shots of either the games I was involved in or some of the epic encounters on other tables.  The final tally saw the Germans secure enough points to call a victory, effectively cutting Hells Highway and putting the armoured spearhead of 30 Corps at risk of being surrounded and out of supplies.

It was a great weekend, all the players approached the game in a great spirit and took reversals of fate with a philosophical attitude.  There was very little gloating except when Mr Shaw suffered any reversal of fortune, and that was just the Allied players.  Roll on the next one.

Thanks for looking.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Battlegroup Market Garden weekend part 1

This weekend just gone, 18 keen Battlegroup players assembled for a linked series of games based around attempts by German battlegroups to cut Hells Highway during the Market Garden operation, coming up against determined opposition including British and US airborne and 30 Corps British armour and infantry.  Each game was based on 500 point forces and started with the recce screen scenario, followed by flank attack and ending with an attack-defence game for most, although the top German and British players for the weekend played each other using the hard road scenario.

So, here are the tables on Saturday morning as we laid them out the previous afternoon.  There were 10 in total and they run from just outside Eindhoven (Table 1 below), through to Arnhem (Table 10).

Hells Highway crossing one of the many canals in its path.


Hells Highway with a bridge crossing approached via a ribbon built up area amidst open farmland with woods in the distance.
 

Another fairly open table, broken up by fields, with road causeway flanked by ditches.


Hells Highway running on a ditched causeway, crossing a river.


The town of Veghel, surrounded by canals.


One of the US Airborne landing zones, with wrecked Waco glider.


Detail of the glider wreck.


The hard road.  A crossroads set in marshland - not much opportunity to swing off the road here.


The Waal river and canal.


Downtown Arnhem.


A wrecked tram on the deserted streets of Arnhem.


Somewhere outside Oosterbeek.


My first game on Saturday saw my 9th SS Armoured Recce platoon tasked with dealing with the British paratroopers believed to have landed in the area around Oosterbeek.  The game (recce screen) started with only a single Sdkfz 222 for the Germans and two British recce jeeps for a whole 5 turns.  The 222 headed down the road and swung around the farmhouse, keeping a watchful eye on one of the recce jeeps in the woods to the right of the picture below, while moving on the other recce jeep which had secured an objective in the farm orchard.  Bursts of 20mm autocannon did for the jeep and casualties on the crew caused them to break, heading for the rear.


As the SS reserves began to arrive, the FHQ advanced to the farm and dismounted from their transport, which pushed on down the road to try and engage the other recce jeep in the woods to the right of the road.


The British paratroopers, commanded by Ian, came on in the corner of the table behind the church and rapidly put troops into the church and woods behind, as well as pushing small units towards the wooded area to the left of the church.  Must importantly, he placed a 6pdr AT gun behind the wall to the right of the church and began to take pot shots at the Sdkfz 222.  The British AT gun failed to observe the 222 in several rounds of firing and when it did achieve a hit, managed to roll just about the only score that didn't pin, brew up or immobilise it, a 3 from 2d6.


Very quickly, the German Stugs and Sdkfz 250s began to fan out, hemming the paratroopers into their corner of the table.  On the right, MG fire from the Stugs and the 251 command transport dealt with the recce jeep.  On the left, Stugs and a 250 advanced and secured the Orchard.  The FHQ in the farmhouse called down accurate 80mm mortar fire on the 6pdr AT gun and the paratrooper infantry sections pushing through the woods behind.  The mortars and some vicious 20mm autocannon shots from the 222 did for the AT gun crew.


The loss of the second recce jeep and 6pdr, coupled with the need to unpin various units due to the German mortars, coupled with the loss of 2 objectives, meant that Ian's paratroopers were well on the way to their breakpoint when time was called.  For their part, the Germans had taken 2 chits, worth 5 points.  So, a decisive victory and the paratrooper defenders at the Arnhem bridge were not going to be reinforced today at least.


On other tables, the Germans managed to blow up one of the canal bridges just outside Eindhoven, thereby temporarily cutting Hells Highway.


My second outing of the day was against Warwick's US glider infantry in Veghel.  This game turned out to be a very intense affair, resulting in me getting so embroiled in the game that I completely forgot about photographs.  Warwick's recce, including 2 jeeps and a section of Dutch terror fighters, quickly pushed into the outskirts of the town, occupying some key buildings.  In response, the SS recce Sdkfz 222 took up a position on the flank of town, commanding the objective by the canal bridge there and covering the area that Warwick had to cross to reinforce much of Veghel itself.  The SS FHQ took up a good observation position in a building on the edge of town and began calling in 80mm mortar fire.  Warwick reciprocated in kind with some nasty 105mm artillery, but his on table 75mm battery was dealt with by the 222 and mortars.  The Germans quickly built up reinforcements and filtered a mix of Stugs and MG34 teams in 250/1s into the town and around the flanks.  Losses mounted on both sides, with chits taken and handed out.  The German firepower began to tell though and glider infantry, as well as very robust terror fighters, were blasted out of buildings by combined Stug MG and 250/1 MG fire, while mortars rained down on infantry reserves and 222 autocanon fire attempted to sweep away squads on the left flank.  With just 2 points from breaking for the SS battlegroup, Warwick announced he had exceeded his and withdrew.  Phew, it was a close run thing.  I really regret not taking more pictures, as this was a humdinger.

So, by the end of Saturday, my dice had enjoyed an unprecedented run of success, and my SS battlegroup had seen off Ian's British paratroopers and Warwick's US glider infantry (the latter at considerable cost).  For Sunday's game, which would involve a deliberate attack on Hells Highway, I decided to rest the SS and allow them to lick their wounds, while I called up the big guns.  Sailors, hastily drafted from available manpower in coastal naval bases, albeit better trained than most due to anti-partisan activities.  They would be supported by Stugs scraped together on an ad hoc basis, but they had been allocated a timed barrage from some 105mm howitzers as well as a battery of dedicated heavy mortars.  A single sniper was also acting as a recce screen for the German force.

More on this shortly.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

15mm Brummbar and Grille

Here are a couple more of the discounted Battlefront kits that I picked up a while ago now.  I'm slowly working my way through them!

First up, the Brummbar, also known as the Sturmpanzer 43 or Sdkfz 166, known as the Stupa to the Germans.  This chap mounts a 150mm L12 Stuh 43 howitzer, which used the same ammunition as the Sig33 150mm infantry gun.


Nice model, but the shurtzen were a tad fiddly to get fixed in the right position.  Hopefully, this should bring some much needed support to any German infantry fighting in an urban environment, quite literally bringing the house down.


The Grille was also a nice model and straightforward to assemble.  The vehicle uses the 15cm SIG heavy infantry gun and, like the Brummbar, should provide some much needed infantry support, although being open topped, it isn't going to like moving into urban areas.




I'm looking forward to giving these an airing soon, probably using Battlegroup Kursk or one of the supplements as BG seems to have wiped FoW off the map at our club.

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

BG Market Garden test table layouts and games

Getting ready for the Battlegroup Market Garden gaming weekend this weekend, we decided to test out some table layouts.  This first one is from Thursday evening and shows 4 tables laid out using club terrain and some of Will McNally's ditched roads.  Hell's Highway rather simplistically runs straight as a die along the tables, with a built up area at the far end representing Nijmegen.



Needs more scatter terrain to break up the open table.



We played out individual games using flank attack.  The force I brought was designed for the attack/defence scenario, so only included a single sniper.  Will swiftly dealt with him with a barrage of off table mortars.  Once our main forces started to arrive, things started to swing in favour of the German armour, with first two, then a third and eventually 4 Stug IIIGs entering the table.  A timed 105mm artillery strike also hit the windmill, which was a cornerstone of Will's defences around his deployment zone.  I also positioned a pre-planned artillery marker within his deployment zone, which narrowed down the opportunities for bringing troops on table quickly and them not being where they were needed.


My Stugs began to engage Wills 75mm artillery batteries at extreme MG range, but even with generally less than stunning dice rolls, they managed to reduce his crews and loader teams until they broke.  Will managed to position his 57mm AT gun along a hedge overlooking the canal bridge, but this was dealt with by a combination of heavy mortars and Stug MG fire.  His infantry rushed across the open fields to try and set up some kind of stop line by the hedge and woods.




My FHQ were deployed in the woods on my side of the canal, calling in artillery, but suffered at the hands of Wills off table mortars, but the surviving Stugs and infantry kept firing and moving forwards.



A mortar spotter concealed in woods.



The demise of Will's 57mm lead to my assault pioneer section and 251/16 rushing the bridge to squirt the yankee paratroopers.  Alas, pinning fire from the paras spoilt that plan, as did a bazooka in the windmill, which despatched another Stug.



A Stug and supporting Kriegsmarine try to deal with a pesky Yankee paratrooper recce section in the woods on the German side of the canal, while more Kriegsmarine and another Stug cross the canal bridge to support the engineers.  We called time as it was approaching 11pm, with the US airborne significantly closer to their BP than the gallant Germans.



Then on Saturday we tried out a larger game, more tables and players, using club and personal terrain (the latter mainly Will's).  We also made Hell's Highway a bit more irregular in plan.





Table for 30 Corps vs a scratch Jerry battlegroup.



My plucky 9th SS recce battlegroup would take on Will's US paratroopers (yes, Will again, but tables were allocated randomly on both nights).








Another table for 30 Corps to take on a German armoured battlegroup.




And yet another 30 Corps battlegroup taking on a German armoured battlegroup.



Some gratuitous shots of my scout 250/9.  It may never be seen again as in its' first two on table appearances, it has been blown up on the first turn in each game.  Time to opt for the cheaper 222.  If it's going to get blown up, it might as well be the cheaper option.





Recce screen was the scenario and we rolled for 5 turns, so no regular reinforcements until Turn 6.  Will's airborne scouts quickly fanned out on his side of the canal, taking up good observation positions.



My Germans were to secure the farmhouse in the foreground and set up a heavy mortar OP there as well as to try and get troops into the farm house by the canal bridge and onto ambush fire ASAP.  Alas, it wasn't to be, Will's Daimler rushed forwards and despatched the 250 and passengers with a well aimed 2lb shot, while his two batteries of off table mortars dealt with the 250/9 and pinned a load of my observers.



The game changer turned out to be an aircraft chit which I drew and successfully rolled for an FW190 armed with 8 small bombs and 2 autocannons to come on table.  The first tranche of small bombs scattered wildly and did no damage.



Next turn, bombs KO'd the 57mm jeep tow and put casualties and a pin on the 57mm crew and loader team.  Meanwhile, my Stugs had started to arrive and dealt with the Daimler, but not without loss of a Stug abandoned through mortar fire.



Will drew an aircraft and got a MG-armed Mustang, which didn't do a lot to my armoured vehicles.  It was eventually force to return to base when the pilots bottle went after taking hits.




The game turned out to hinge, once again, on US paratrooper sections crossing the canal bridge and occupying the central farmhouse.  My stunning operational plan was to suppress the defenders and then close assault with one of my MG34 sections.  The suppressed defenders took quite a few hits from grenades and MGs, but saved quite a few.  Then rolled a beyond the call of duty test, unpinned and swept my MG team away with fire.  Subsequent pinning and aimed fire reduced that team to 2 men, but they were reinforced with an engineer squad armed with a flamethrower.  Fortunately, I managed to keep them pinned and noticed Will wasn't spending chits to lift pins, which could only mean one thing.  I shot up another paratrooper squad behind the hedge next to the canal, which broke and suddenlt Will was 2 past his break point.  Not a moment too soon as I was 2 short of my breakpoint.  By the narrowest of margins, Hell's Highway had been cut in our sector.  On my left, 30 Corps had broken the Germans, while on my right, 30 Corps had been repulsed, while on my extreme right 30 Corps had pushed the Germans back.  So, the game ended with 30 Corps in control of the two ends of Hell's Highway, but with a German blocking force cutting it.  No supplies to the forward elements of 30 Corps for their push on Arnhem today.  Iron Cross first class to the gallant flieger in the FW 190 and purple hearts all round to the survivors of the paratrooper squad in the farmhouse who rallied and defeated the SS close assault, possibly candidates for the CMH.

Thanks for looking.