Will and I played out a couple of games of Battlegroup Tobruk over the last couple of club evenings.
First up, to ease us into the game, we tried one of the scenarios from the book, "The Buffs Last Stand". The scenario sees a platoon of British infantry, supported by 2pdrs and 25lbrs (both on and off table), dug in on a slight rise in the desert. They face off against a DAK force with 2 PzIII platoons with PzIV support, an infantry platoon and off table medium and heavy artillery.
We drew lots and I finished up taking on the British. There are no objectives as such, this is a battle for survival, with the Brits winning simply by holding on. I chose to concentrate forming a defensive perimeter around the highest point of the rise. I traded off the threat of artillery against spreading out the defence and risking being defeated piecemeal.
This shows the situation at the end of the DAK activation on the first turn. To the Brits, small clusters of infantry begin to appear out of the heat haze.
By the third turn, the DAK are moving forward lots of armour. My off board artillery managed to knock out a DAK MG team, but the DAK artillery have broken the crews of a 2pdr and a 25lbr. Fortunately, the Quad has moved up and hitched up the gun, towing it away to relative safety. I thought I was doing all right when I used the guns ambush fire at long range (with the DAK artillery raining down it was use it or lose it) and was astonished to KO 2 of the PzIIIs on my right, while an offboard artillery strike had pinned the PzIIIs on the left (I also drew an immobilised chit when rallying pinned markers and played it on the command PzIII on my left.
I was even more astonished when a 25lbr strike on the right knocked out the last PzIII on my right. It began to look like things might be going my way. However, battle chits were building through removing pinned markers and losing guns to artillery fire.
Will rallied the PzIIIs on my left and brought up the PzII and PzIV in support.
The final scene from the British defences. I suspect next time I will disperse the guns more, as the artillery was the big killer in this game. Lots of fun though.
Then this week we decided to be more ambitious and set up a multiplayer game based on the Battleaxe scenario in the Rapid-Fire North Africa 1941 supplement. This pitted a greatly scaled back attempt by 7th Armoured and 4th Indian Divisions to sweep aside the DAK and Italian strongpoints around the Libyan border area and relieve the siege of Tobruk. The scenario involved the inland actions, with 22nd Guards (represented by a lorried infantry platoon and carrier section plus supports)and 4th Armoured (represented by two Matilda II troops) Brigades on the British right advancing on Fort Capuzzo. In the centre, the Crusaders and A9/A13 cruisers of 7th Armoured Brigade (2 Crusader troops and 1 troop of A9/A13s) advanced on Point 208 on the eastern edge of Hafid Ridge. On the British left, the 7th Armoured Division support group (lorried infantry platoon and carrier section, 2 batteries of on table 25lbr and 2 sections of 2pdr portees) advanced into the open flank west of Hafid Ridge.
The British initial table edge deployment, 7th Amd support group closest to camera, 7Amd in the middle and 22nd Guards and 4th Amd in the distance. The Italian strongpoints are just visible in the far distance, Point 206 in the open, Fort Capuzzo beyond to the left and Musaid at the far table edge. Point 208 on Hafid Ridge is just visible on the left hand edge of the photograph.
Historically, the British were taken by surprise by the appearance of a counter attack in the form of 15th Panzer division (in our game 2 PzIII platoons, a Panzer IV platoon and supports) arriving on turn 2, and 5th Light Division (1 PzIII, 1 mixed PzIV and PzII platoon and supports) arriving on Turn 3.
This view shows Point 208, with Point 206 beyond to the right, Fort Capuzzo beyond to the left under the giant hand, which hides the Musaid strongpoint.
Turn 3 and 5th Light panzers advance in the shelter of Hafid Ridge in the foreground. In the distance, beyond Point 208, 15th Panzer are in a firefight with 7th Amd.
5th Light Panzers behind Hafid Ridge (I took this as I really like the way Will has arranged stowage on these vehicles).
The teeth arm of 5th Light.
Ian managed to pick an aircraft chit and rolled a 6 to call it in, so in came an MG armed Hurricane. It attempted to deal with the 15th Panzer 88mm, which was a threat to 4th Amd's Matildas advancing in the open in the far distance - an 88 at that distance struggles to hit, but if it does, the Matilda is very likely to be wrecked.
Fortunately for 15th Panzer, AA fire pins the Hurricane.
5th Light panzers have advanced to take hull down positions on Hafid Ridge, while their lighter forces have moved out around the western end of the ridge. The Pz IIIs of 5th Light have pinned the Support group 2pdr portees, but have taken losses from the 25lbrs of the support group. In the centre, 15th Pz are trading shots with 7th Amd and seem to be winning the firefight.
Shots continue to be traded. The 25lbrs are very potent, even across the table, causing a steady drain on 5th Light vehicles.
Unfortunately, time was against us and we ran out of time. Although not over, the British were finding it difficult to make progress. The 4th Amd and 22nd Guards were threatening Point 206, although the Matildas had been immobile for several turns. The 7th Amd had lost almost all their Crusaders, although they did manage to get an A13 up to the perimeter of Point 208, overrunning an AT gun in the process. The support group had not lost much but were being kept pinned down, except for the 25lbrs, which remained a thorn in the side of 5th Light.
Thanks to Will for supplying most of the kit for both games and for attempting to match an already heavily "bath-tubbed" Rapid-Fire version to the Battlegroup Tobruk organisations, which weren't always simple conversions. Overall, it worked really well.
Thanks for looking.