Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Sunday 24 June 2018

Mercy Patrol: A WW2 Skirmish Wargaming AAR

I did another WW2 skirmish adapted from one on Just Jack's blog.  This time our intrepid US squad is sending a patrol to investigate a knocked out US tank, to see if there are any survivors.  The US patrol do not know if there are enemy forces in the area.  As it turns out, there are: a small group of German infantry with an MG42...

The Forces:

1 x Average SMG, 2 x Average Rifles, 3 x Novice Rifles

1 x Veteran SMG, 1 x Average MG42, 1 x Average Pistol (no.2 for the LMG), 1 x Average Rifle

The US patrol simply has to get up to the tank ans spend a turn checking for any survivors (as it happens there aren't, but the US patrol doesn't know that - it might increase the interest (and challenge) of the scenario to dice for the crew's wounds and let the US deal with them).

The Set-Up:

The US patrol enters behind a small, partially wooded hill.

A German NCO having a quick smoke behind an empty farm building.

A German MG42 team stretching their legs.

A solitary German grenadier on patrol.

The whole battlefield: see the US approach from the bottom left; the knocked out Sherman is top-centre.
The Battle:
Half the US patrol enter the small copse to observe the ground and set up a base of fire.

Covered by the others, the remainder of the US patrol rushes forward towards the cover of the buildings.

The German Gefreiter has seen them though...

And opens fire, seriously wounding the US point man

The two advancing Americans break left and reach cover

Hearing the rattle of MP40 fire, the MG42 team get their act together

And the grenadier comes up, towards the cover of another copse

The US attackers decide to go both ways at once to try and confuse the German NCO

One of the riflemen is covering the gap to get the German if he moves

The GI advances slowly, hugging the wall for cover; the trees and a slight dip protect him (unknowingly!) from the German MG42 team.

Another shot...

The GI and the German NCO exchange (ineffective) fire

Which lets the US Corporal charge in...

The German NCO, is surprised, wounded and knocked down

The US pair resume their advance on the knocked out tank; but the German grenadier in the copse spots the lead man!

The shot hits the GI and knocks him out (briefly)!

The US Corporal quickly runs to the tank to check it out: empty.  The crew are obviously dead, prisoners or on the run...he bugs out as quickly as possible to avoid any further fire.  As he does so, the MG42 team open up (they are on the hill behind the trees) but they miss!

The initial point man has recovered enough to start crawling back towards the US lines

One can just see the concealed MG42 team on the hill behind the trees (top-left)

The second wounded GI has recovered enough to run back towards the farm buildings with his Corporal

One of the base of fire team gives the wounded GI a helping hand; the others are firing (totally ineffectually) at the German grenadier

The US Corporal retreats on his proven route

The German grenadier (you can just make him out in the distant copse!) fires a couple of shots as the US pair run across his field of view...but without success

And they reach safety
Game Notes:  Despite a couple of scary moments for the US patrol, they did succeed in their mission, at the cost of one seriously wounded soldier for each side.  Another GI was lightly wounded, although this was actually a mistake by myself: his helmet should have protected him against the light head wound result in the rules.

Don Featherstone's Skirmish Wargaming rules gave another good game, although I felt that this game exposed even more of their weaknesses than the first.  The lack of observation, reaction and morale rules really told.  The shooting and melee rules seem not too bad and although they don't look it at first glance, make hits realistically difficult on soldiers taking appropriate precautions - which is why the two US lead men got hit, it being harder to take cover against unsuspected enemies.  But where they do fall down is in the lack of suppression, so the base of fire team couldn't get the German grenadier's head down, since they had no chance of firing for effect.  This doesn't seem quite right.  I think the rules assume that in dangerous situations the rules suggest, but don't force, the player to make life preserving decisions; but where the risk is low, the soldiers can act almost with impunity.  As an extra quirk, it is the act of firing not the act of being fired upon which causes the firer to be "shaken".  Also, I think that "Veterans" are slightly too strong in comparison to "Novices" in these rules.  There are some double- or triple-jeopardy effects in play which makes the former much much more effective than the latter.  Since there are no leadership or morale rules to affect, Veterans become more like heroic warriors because their bonuses are entirely in shooting and melee. I don't think I will play lots of WW2 games with these rules but if I were to, then I think I would want to do some work in a few areas - although this in itself is entirely in the spirit of a Donald Featherstone wargame.

Figures again by Battlefront and the Plastic Soldier Company.

Friday 22 June 2018

Assault on Point 143: A Don Featherstone Skirmish Wargaming AAR

I used a second scenario from Just Jack's blog to let me get another ruleset I had wanted to try to the table: Donald Featherstone's Skirmish Wargaming.  See the Boardgamegeek entry here.

 As in the previous scenario, I re-themed this slightly from Tunisia in early 1943 to Italy in late 1943, to fit better with my figures and terrain.

The idea for the scenario is a that a US flanking attack to remove an annoying German HMG position runs into a German patrol coming to reinforce that position.  The HMG position must be eliminated to allow the US main body to continue its advance (more details on Just Jack's blog).  The forces involved are:

1 Veteran with SMG, 1 Average with SMG, 1 Average with M1 Garand, 3 Novices with M1 Garand (all with two grenades)

1 Veteran with SMG, 1 Veteran with Mauser 98k, 3 Average with Mauser 98k (all with two grenades);
+1 Veteran with SMG, 1 Average with MG42 & Pistol, 1 Average with Pistol manning the HMG position.

n.b.   The Germans manning the HMG position are assumed to be oblivious to what is happening behind them until they are directly engaged by the US team.

The US forces must eliminate the HMG team to win.  The Germans are trying to drive the US patrol away.

If anyone studies my set-up and the original closely, there are some small but crucial differences due to the slightly more complex relief I get from using a mat rather than free-standing hills.  Again, I just used the tactics chosen in the original scenario, rather than fighting either side "as I would have done it".

The Set-Up:

View of the battlefield.  The HMG position is to the left of the house at bottom-left; the German patrol will enter through the woods (centre-top); the US patrol is coming from behind the thickets (bottom-right).

The HMG position

Sgt Cherry (foreground) waves the US patrol forward

The wooded area between the small rises in the centre of the battlefield

The German patrol is about to enter the wood

And another view of the whole thing
The Battle:
The US patrol advances towards the woods through a small gully

And continues over a small ridge towards the edge of the woods

The German patrol (coming from top-left) and the US patrol (coming from centre-right) are about to collide...

And...CONTACT!  The point men from the rival patrols open fire

Luck is with the GI, and the German grenadier (centre) is felled, seriously wounded by a round to the chest

Another view; note that the German NCO is now in cover on the other side of the tree by the injured German grenadier

The crack of more rifle fire fills the air...a concealed German Grenadier (centre, behind the bushes) fires at the closest GI, but misses

Sgt Cherry leads a right-flanking movement and opens fire on the rear-most German, but his Thompson just puts bullets into the air

The US Corporal and one of the GIs wins the firefight against the second Grenadier, who falls dead

Sgt Cherry (centre) orders the two GIs with him to make a further right-flanking movement (centre-right); note that another German Grenadier has set up in the centre (just top-left of centre)

Difficult to see in the trees, but the German NCO has fallen back slightly and is now just to the left of the dead German (centre)

The next US flank attack goes in, but walks right into the ambush of the German Grenadier...who misses at very close range!!

Proving that luck is much more important than judgement, a snap shot from the GI kills the ambushing German instantly!!!  The other German is hors de combat too, leaving only the NCO left.  The Gefreiter quickly runs away to the rear, hoping to slip back and see if any of his section remain alive once the US patrol has cleared off.

The US patrol resumes, using dead ground to approach the HMG position

Sgt Cherry gets close, then lobs a grenade into the HMG position - the HMG crew are all wounded to various degrees, and a second grenade finishes them.
Game Results: A very successful mission for the US patrol.  Only one light wound was suffered by the patrol, whereas the Germans lost 3 killed and 3 wounded and the HMG position was destroyed.  Sgt Cherry's tactical scheme worked okay, but in the end the simple fact was that the GIs shot straighter than the Landsers.  Outflanking the Germans was a good idea, but the veteran Grenadier missing his ambush target at 10 metres and then being killed by the novice GI in a snap shot return of fire summed up the day.

Game Notes:  The rules worked okay, although they were very, very different from the WRG Infantry Action rules I used for the previous battle, as well as the Nuts! rules I typically use for scenarios such as this.  The Donald Featherstone rules are generic, aimed at covering everything from the Stone Age to 40K-ish worlds and not neglecting Tolkien in-between; so there are no rules for things such as suppression, light machine guns, observation, morale etc.  This isn't fatal to the ruleset, but it does create a very different atmosphere to other rules.  In essence, most troops have a decent chance of hitting targets in the open, especially at quite close range, but relatively little chance if the target is in cover; this encourages a kind of natural caution.  However, if firing misses, it misses and has no effect; so you can't pin anyone by fire, you have to do it by fear.  This encourages WW2 infantrymen to act rather differently than their historical forebears, in that suppression becomes a command risk-reward choice.  The rules do have some suggestions as to how solo play should be done: basically by assigning percentage problems for certain actions and rolling for it.  But I felt that the architecture here was a bit too open, in that observation - reaction - morale seems to me to be such an important part of WW2 tactical combat that I didn't want it all to be left to my judgement during the game. Also, the treatment of individual soldiers is slightly more detailed, so one has to care more about exactly where they are placed in relation to the terrain.  I don't care too much for this, because I think that this makes the games mechanically harder to play.
Obviously it is very early days for this ruleset for me so I reserve judgement.  Overall, it is pleasingly simple, but lacks key areas to make a convincing representation of WW2 combat without putting at least a little work into adding a few house rules - although as far as I understand Don Featherstone's approach to rules, it seems entirely in line with it.  And they did give a pretty good game, which is the key thing.

Incidentally, for this game I gave LMGs the ranges of rifles but the firing powers of sub-machine guns, which seemed a workable quick solution, although if I play many more games, I will re-visit this.  For the M1 Garand's, I ruled that they had the same ratings as the SMLE and the Mauser, but didn't need to spend time to reload.

15mm figures by Battlefront & Plastic Soldier Company.