Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire Peninsular War, but with the odd foray into ancient, medieval and WW2 battles.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Battle of the Brickworks 1944 - A WRG 1925-50 Refight

Today I refought a scenario first published in Miniature Wargames 56, the Battle of the Brickworks.

It concerned an attack by a Canadian infantry company against a defended brickworks to the south of Bagnacavallo.  It is supported by some 75mm-armed Chruchills, which were considered to be a better bet for HE support against entrenched Germans, or those deployed in cover.

Orders of Battle:

Allied:
Inf Coy (from the Royal 22nd Regiment), c.80 men
Tank Pl: 3 x Churchill NA75 from 3 Troop, A Sqn 12 RTR (incidentally the only war-time raised RTR Bn without a full wiki entry)

Support:
6 x Spitfire V (with 2x20mm cannon, 4xMGs)
25lb battery (8 guns - could be reduced to 4 in the scenario for game balance)

There are some engineers finishing a bailey bridge (which I didn't represent); they will finish the bridge in d6-1 turns from the start.

Germans ("The Teds"):
Inf Coy: c.80 men.
+1 x Panther

The Panther was optional: it would enter on the roll of a '6' on a D6 from Turn 6 onwards...

The Terrain:

The large waterfeature is a canal with a pontoon bridge just being finished (top-right); I don't have a massive building to use as the brickworks, so I made an "industrial complex" instead (top-left); time for an order to one of the building manufacturers perhaps?!  The small water features are actually drainage ditches, so are below the surrounding terrain.

View from the German side from behind "The Brickworks"; the dark areas represent the German slit trench systems; all the trenches are linked

And the view from behind the villas

And from behind the Allied lines
 The Deployment:

The German infantry company is mainly in the slit trenches to the left, with the mortars, the Coy HQ and a few reserves in some of the buildings; the Canadian infantrymen are behind the treeline to the left of the canal, on both sides; the Churchills are out of the way (extreme top-right)

And the view from behind the deployed German company

A closer shot of the Canadians at their jump-off point
 The Battle:
Smoke starts landing in front of the German positions...

Until the smoke becomes nice and thick, covering the front of the German positions

The Canadian infantry starts it advance; also note that one platoon is advancing cautiously through the villas (top)

The advance continues...

The German commander cunningly re-positioned a squad and a Panzerschreck team to see any movement to the flank of the smokescreen; they see the lead Canadians and suppress them with rifle fire (good shooting at that distance!)

The main body of the Canadian company is nearing the relative safety of a drainage ditch; the flanking platoon is stuck, not wishing to risk casualties by too much aggressive action

Whoops! The Panther approaches.  The lead Churchill (top-right) actually managed to get off a shot, hit the Panther, only to realize that a frontal shot at c.500m is only likely to knock off its headlights...the crew make a hasty reverse.  Fortunately the Panther misses with its return shots.

Would cowering be too strong a word here?  Of course, what the canny Commonwealth troops are doing is working out if the Panther will advance into PIAT range, or show a flank to one of the Churchills.

Naturally, the Panther crew has no intention of doing anything so silly.  With infantry support and better armour, it dares the Churchills to come out; realizing that there is no choice, the Churchills do just that and sure enough, one is quickly knocked out.
 I am missing a good photo of the tank duel, but the Churchills pressed on, the Panther missed its next shot and one of the Churchills managed to hit with a flank shot and knock out the Panther.
A combination of a devastating air-strike and artillery bombardment destroys the German infantry's morale;  the Canadians successfully assault, although some elements get pinned by LMG fire from the industrial complex.

One Canadian platoon has successfully cleared the trench complex (right) and the German infantry have routed; another Canadian platoon is launching its attack but the rest of the German infantry has routed

The textbook operation is over!  Victory to the Commonwealth...
 
 Game Notes:
Quite an interesting scenario, and the result went more or less historically, with the exception that in real life, the Panther didn't turn up.  The Germans were first forced from the slit trenches and then forced out of the brickworks by HE fire.  However, in the refight, the Panther did turn up, which to my mind meant that the game hinged on the tank fight; if the Churchills had all been destroyed, or the troop had failed its morale check, it is difficult to see how the Commonwealth could have succeeded: air attacks with 20mm cannons and machineguns are totally useless in these rules against Panthers, as is indirect 25lb fire.  Amusingly enough, I forget to check the stats for the 75mm vice the 6lber before play - so I got the shock of my life when I realized that these Churchills were not going to be taking out a Panther from the frontal arc!  This is quite different from the 6lb gun, which does have an even chance under 500m.  However, once the Churchill troop did manage to knock out the Panther, a text book combination of air attack, savage artillery bombardment then whirlwind infantry assault from close range saw off the Germans in short order.  In real life, the artillery fired 25lb HE all the way in and the tanks did much of the work moving through the villas then hammering the defenders with direct fire HE.
I did incorporate a couple of changes to the WRG 1925-1950 rules which I have discussed recently; I rules that static Bren guns could have a second fire at a different target within 50m of a first target, as long as it had at least suppressed that target; MG42s and Vickers could a have a third fire.  And troops with a covered escape route could choose to retire even whilst suppressed.  Both rule changes worked well; hardly changing the flow of the game but probably increasing slightly the realism of the result.

Figures were a mixture of Baccus 6mm and GHQ,  vehicles were all GHQ.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Blocking Action at Neuville 6th June 1944 - A WRG 1925-50 Re-Fight

Issue 50 of Miniature Wargaming carried a very interesting article, the first in a series, on the actions of the US 82nd Airborne Division on D-Day.  This concerned the fight of a platoon led by Lt Turnbull of D Coy, 505 Para Regt to hold the village of Neuville against any German counter-attacks (there is a little information on the action here).



The scenario basically pits a US platoon in defence, supported with a 57mm ATG, against a German infantry company supported by a little armour.  I don't have any US infantry in 6mm, so I used a British platoon instead.  Similarly, the Germans used French tanks and an unidentified SP gun which I don't have, I substituted a Pz IV platoon instead.

Orders of Battle:

The Allies:

British Inf Pl: 
HQ: 1 x Rifle group, 1x PIAT team, 2 x 2" mortars, 2 x Vickers HMG teams, 1 x 6lb anti-tank gun
3 x Rifle Sections: 2 x Rifle Groups, 1x LMG

The Germans:
HQ: 1 x Rifle Group, 2 x HMG teams
1 x Pz IV Platoon (4 tanks)
3 x Platoons:
HQ: 1 x Rifle group, 1 x Pzsck team
3 x Sections: 2 x Rifle Groups, 1 x LMG

The Germans were not expecting resistance so must march straight down the road until they are fired upon or see the enemy.  The German armour must also move straight down the road until they reach the furthest forward German element or are fired upn by an anti-tank weapon.

The Battle:

The battlefield, looking from Neuville towards the crossroads from where the Germans advanced.  In fact, there was a small change made to the terrain before I started: the map with the scenario showed a hedgeline just below and to the right of the bridge (from this view); but the accounts make clear that there was a clear field of fire here, so if the hedgeline existed, it must have been fairly low or in a ditch.  To avoid confusion, I removed it.


With the troops deployed.  The Brit platoon is strung along the hedgerows just above the village on both sides of the road, the Germans are marching down the road in column(!).

A view from the left flank of the British position

And from behind the head of the advancing column of German grenadiers

The Germans march down the road.  The British section to the left of the village has pushed up to the farm besides the road; an HMG has been set up by the junction to observe down the road, and the anti-tank gun is being wheeled into a position to support it from the edge of town

Another view of the German advance; the British HMG at the junction can be more easily made out; the section around the farmhouse are still quite hard to spot!

Another view

The British machineguns crackle into a life and a hail of lead hits the German column.  Mostly the Germans have hit the dirt, but the lead LMG team has been eliminated.

Another view of the same

The firefight continues; some of the Germans try to get into better cover; note the platoons following have broken left and right respectively into the woods to try and launch an immediate counter-attack

This can be seen better in this shot

The fire is too hot for the leading Germans to do much!  The company commander tries to organize the support

A couple more Germans become casualties, but mainly the lead Germans are just suppressed.  However, the German MMGs are about to come into action

A keen eye might spot elements of the 2nd and 3rd German platoons skirting along the edges of the small wood in both directions

The cavalry arrive! A platoon of PzIVs come to save the day


The German HMG fire has made the leading farm too hot to hold; four paratroopers become casualties, the rest withdraw under the cover of a little smoke

Meanwhile the 6lb AT gun crew and supporting infantry keep a close eye on the road; note that the Vickers has been redeployed now to cover the flank

The leading PzIV is knocked out by the 6lb gun.  Most of the leading German platoon has now reached the relative safety of the woods or has been eliminated.  And it is "relative" safety: the British mortars continue a relentless shelling of the area around the top end of the bridge

Discretion becomes the better part of valour; the German panzers are reluctant to advance further without infantry support but the leading German platoon is not really in a fit state to advance; thus the panzers wait for the flank attacks to develop

One can see the German infantry advancing gingerly around each flank; the British have redeployed their second Vickers to cover the right

In an exchange of fire, one of the Vickers guns is eliminated by the Germans

The Germans occupy one of the farmhouses, whilst the remainder of the platoon is in a position to give fire support

The Germans attack! 

Meanwhile, the Vickers on the British right flank opens fire on the advancing German platoon

The British lose this exchange too!  The Vickers is eliminated; however that lead group is about to be hit be very accurate British mortar fire.

There is a very bloody close-quarters exchange of fire at the edge of the wood: both sides take significant casualties; the Bren gun team in the woods is about to surrender

The British Pl, about to be outflanked on both flanks, gives up and heads for home

The remaining troops escape safely enough
 Game Notes: The game resembled real life events quite closely.  The initial ambush proving strong enough to blunt the German advance, but German numbers telling when the double-envelopment was carried out.  The WRG 1925-1950 rules continue to give excellent games; all the reactions really do feel believable, although I am sure that is because I can trust myself to play each unit according to their orders and largely ignore the god-view of the player.  Head-to-head WW2 gaming is genuinely hard to get right!  A few years back on TMP, Too Fat Lardies' designer Richard Clarke wondered why he sold more copies of Kriegspiel to C20 wargamers than Napoleonic ones.  My answer is that the umpired hidden movement mechansims are much more important to a WW2 game than they are to a Napoleonic game (although they are often neglected in the latter).  So although in many WW2 games I use a very good solitaire system to act as the AI, in this battle I didn't feel it necessary.  Once the "geometry" of the action was set up, I felt able to give orders to each side without having to "play" one side or the other.  Plus, although the "Threat Generation System" I have been using for WW2 solo play is very good, I tend to think it works better currently for actions which are a little more fluid.  On the other hand, this would make a perfect Nuts! attack/defence scenario.  Anyway, the rules are quick, easy to understand and are pleasingly realistic.  Infantry platoons spend a lot of time halted in cover, trying to avoid being hit by fire and finding ways to suppress those who are suppressing them. I did forget to give the new souped-up MG rules I was thinking of introducing a try unfortunately, although I didn't notice this until the end.  Somehow it doesn't seem to matter so much in these slightly bigger games.  Incidentally, this scenario gave some good opportunities to use the area fire mechanism for machineguns.  It worked okay, although I thought that 5-6 to hit (i.e 1-in-3) in the beaten zone at 250m seemed a bit ungenerous to the machinegunners?
This scenario can easily be played on a table 1m x 1m at 1mm:1m ground scale, so is very suitable for those players with small tables.  Figures by Baccus 6mm and GHQ, buildings mainly by Leven, tanks by GHQ.