Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire English Civil War, but with numerous discursions into battles from many different periods. 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.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Hill of St.Giacomo - A WRG 1925-1975 AAR

I have wanted to get WRG's old Infantry Action 1925-75 rules to the table for ages.  In general I am a big fan of WRG rules and I use the 1925-50 set for platoon, company & battalion-level games so I did wonder what Phil Barker would make of this level of combat. 



For a scenario, as a little tribute, I used the first battle in Just Jack's "Blood & Guts" campaign, although I reset it for Italy rather than Tunisia.  This features a strong US squad advancing to clear a position held by a slightly-weaker German squad.  The ground scale is 1"=10m, so the battlefield was about 400m x 200m.

I simply used the plan adopted by JustJack in his game and played it from there, rather than using any specific solo mechanisms this time.

The Forces:

US Squad: 1 x Sergeant w/SMG, 1 x Corporal w/SMG, 1 x BAR gunner, 1 x BAR gunner's assistant, 1 x Rifle Grenadier, 7 x Riflemen

German Squad:
1st Group: 1 x Corporal w/SMG & 2 x Riflemen
2nd Group: 2 x Riflemen
3rd Group: 1 x LMG gunner & 1 x No.2

The only points to note about the weapons was whether to classify the BAR as an "automatic rifle" (the clue is in the name") or as a magazine-fed LMG.  What I went for was to call it an LMG, but to not allow it the bonus for no.2 assistance.

The Set-Up:

The US squad is approaching from the left, in dead ground.  The Germans are occupying the three buildings to the right: 1st group - bottom right, 2nd group - nearest centre, 3rd group - top right

The German 2nd group occupy the building in the foreground; the MG42 team is in the barn (background)

The 1st group (NCO with MP40 & two riflemen) in the isolated building

Sgt Cherry (2nd from right with Thompson raised) prepares to lead four riflemen right-flanking; the BAR gunner, assistant and grenadier are behind them just below the crest of the rise


The support fire group's view; the isolated building is clear, but the other buildings are obscured

 
The US Corporal prepares to lead 3 riflemen left-flanking

Another shot of them (to show the dead ground they are in)
 The Battle:
Both flanking groups start moving...here Sgt Cherry is just dashing across the road...

The US left-flanking movement can be seen in the distance (top-left)


At this point, the hidden MG42 team (in the red & white building) opened fire: they didn't hit anything, but the US riflemen went scurrying back on their belt-buckles!


As the last of Sgt Cherry's riflemen crosses the road, the crack of rifle rounds break the silence on this flank: again though, the fire is without effect

The two German rifleman shoot with more enthusiasm than accuracy

Bizarrely the inaccurate rifle fire causes the US privates to rush straight towards the two German Grenadiers!!!

Another view

With the left-flank path blocked by the fire of the MG42, the US Corporal chooses a route over the higher ground but covered by the trees along the stream

As the US on the other flank charge forward, they receive rifle and SMG fire from their front-right (right)

The German section commander and two riflemen fire on the charging GIs, without effect

This fire reveals their position to the US fire support team...but their BAR and rifle-grenades are equally ineffective!

The view from the support fire group (obviously the GIs in front would be on the deck at this point!!!)

The left-flank group moves off the higher ground into the little wooded valley

Sgt Cherry moves his troops right to allow the support fire to keep going but allowing his own men to fire too

The Corporal breaks out his group into line before tackling the stream...

With Sgt Cherry ordering his men forward, they have got to within 40 yards or so without suffering any casualties


Sgt Cherry gets them into the cover of the garden bushes and launches volleys of grenades, supported by the chattering fire of his Thompson

Meanwhile, the left-hand group, feeling unable to advance in the open against the MG42 in the building, have sneaked into some fire positions in the woods; they are not giving away their positions by firing just yet, however

Another view

The Germans in the building don't give up easily as the fighting continues with grenades, SMGs and rifle-butts...both sides have a man go down

Surprisingly, the fighting goes on for another two minutes at this intensity - both sides have another man hit, but the German NCO is one of them and that knocks the fight out of the third German, who surrenders.

Sgt Cherry gets his remaining men to occupy the building, move in the casualties and guard the prisoner


Sgt Cherry leaves the two remaining GIs in the building, then runs back along the proved route (remembering to crawl near the road!) to grab the fire support group; they inform him that the left--flanking group was stopped by LMG fire and were seen patrolling into the valley.

Sgt Cherry then brings the fire support team forward

Time for a quick "O" Group (what does the US Army call O Groups?!)

Sgt Cherry pulls the second group of riflemen back and gets the fire support group to move forward quietly into fire positions on the other side of the stream

Sgt Cherry takes the Corporal and the three GIs round to the captured building

And then sends them up this gully towards the road

Another shot; this gully is handily in dead ground to the occupied buildings

The fire support group lies in wait...

Sgt Cherry's group reaches the edge of the building's garden...

After the support group open fire, the GIs then attack the building with the familiar combination of SMGs and grenades...

One of the German grenadiers goes down and the other one puts up his paws...

Sgt Cherry briefs the fire support group again, telling them to silently adopt firing positions along the stream to cover the last building


Which they proceed to do

Sgt Cherry moves his troops out of the building back down the slope towards the slope, staying the dead ground (the prisoner has been deposited in the first captured building)



The fire support team in its new positions


Sgt Cherry repeats the same tactical trick...

And launches another attack!

After another short but intense fight, the Germans lose a man and the other surrenders.

The position is cleared
Game Results:
Quite successful for Sgt Cherry, although he seemed to lead a very charmed life on the approach to the first building!  The Germans were getting rounds close but could not stop the sergeant or his men.
US losses: 2 wounded
German losses: 2 incapacitated, 2 lightly wounded prisoners, 3 unwounded prisoners

Game Notes:
I really enjoyed this.  Perhaps because I have a fair amount of experience with WRG rules, in particular the 1925-50 set, most of the concepts felt quite familiar.  It is an "old-school" wargame in the sense that the mechanisms are all pretty straightforward, there are no clever "gaming" mechanisms in there to provide friction, it is all done by write the orders - stick to the orders - change the orders only to halt or with an O group.  The firing mechanism is done by counting up points for the weapons employed (which differ by range) and for the tactical situation; these are then converted into "potential casualties", which are rolled for.  It is not a buckets of dice game, with everyone and everything rolling to hit then rolling to damage.  The reaction table is believable, but does have a fair few factors.  That said, I became pretty familiar with them very quickly.
I chinned off a few things which I thought were a bit crazy (separate figures for each soldier in prone - upright - grenade-throwing poses!!!) but all-in-all, it worked really well.  Fire is realistically very ineffective against opponents using quite basic precautions, but the reaction table creates lots of "halt" type situations.

Anyway, I need to play more games before going into a full review, but I was pretty pleased with the first impressions.  I don't think they can be played very often anymore: there isn't even an entry in Boardgamegeek...

Figures are a mixture of Peter Pig, Battlefront & Plastic Soldier Company.  The barn was from Warbases, but I cannot recall at the moment who made the other buildings.  Anyway, I do need to do a fair bit more work on my 15mm set-up to get it where I would like it to be.

15 comments:

  1. Left a long comment over on TWW, should have probably done it here. Let me know which you prefer. Great game, by the way!

    V/R,
    Jack

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  2. Thanks very much Jack. I have replied on TWW. I don't mind where comments go, it doesn't normally matter much. If someone wants to have a long back-and-forth with me, I suppose it is better coming on the blog. If someone wants a wider discussion on the rules or the scenario, then it is probably better on the forums. But I don't think it makes much difference.

    Which do you prefer BTW - comments on the forum or on the blog?

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    1. Left you an even longer one!

      Like you, I don’t really mind much either way. I suppose if I had to pick I’d say a forum, just because there’s more of a chance if other folks hopping in, and I’m a ‘more the merrier’ kinda guy.

      TMP was actually pretty good for that, but then I went and got myself kicked out, so TWW will have to do ;). In all seriousness, there used to be quite a group of us that discussed WWII-modern batreps on TMP and then TWW (Ivan/Nordic Weasel, Shaun Travers, War Panda, Rod Robertson, Kyoteblue, Victoria Dickson, a couple others popped in and out, but those guys were hardcore regulars, and you joined in there along the way), but sadly most of them have dropped out, so there’s not nearly as much traffic.

      So I hit you up there on TWW to try and gin up some participation for your excellent batrep, and posted quite a bit in hopes of luring more folks into the discussion.

      V/R,
      Jack

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    2. Thanks Jack - and lets hope that TWW hits that critical mass of people posting to get some really interesting discussions going. I know quite a lot of people don't enjoy reading batreps though. On both TMP and TWW I think the level of interest in modern tactical combat and the rules mechanisms to reflect them is reasonably high but less so in seeing how the rules in the actual games work out. That's just my impression, I could be wrong.

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    3. John,

      I'm certainly hoping we can get more folks involved, and I agree, there are plenty of gamers that aren't interested in reading batreps, but I know at least some are. I wouldn't be here gaming if it weren't for inspiration I found in Jeff with 6mm Republic of Prussia (my Cuba Libre concept is a direct knock-off), Ronan and his Spanish Civil War fights with Force on Force, Shaun and his 2' x 2' gaming in small spaces, and Joe Legan and his Platoon Forward blog.

      It is funny to me that I've had several guys ask me to write more about rules mechanisms in my write-ups, when I was trying to get that stuff out and focus more on the narrative!

      Either way, there's plenty of room to talk about concepts and mechanisms.

      V/R,
      Jack

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    4. Agreed. To me it makes sense to discuss them both together anyway, since it is how the rules shape the narrative (and partly the other way around, too) that help to make the game what it is.

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  3. Hi, interesting AAR and commentary on the rules, especially on how written orders provide for a lot of friction. This isn't very popular these days - I wonder if, back then, most players would have thought it obvious through experience and training how to write orders, whereas today most players would probably not have that experience. Perhaps the way forward would be to have (in a hypothetical new set of rules) a simple system for giving units orders?

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    1. Thanks Nick. I'm sure you are right, mechanisms that focus on orders aren't very common now; modern rules focus more on the activation of units as a source for generating friction. On the other hand, I'm not sure that many hobby wargames rules ever have have focused on the actual quality of the writing of orders: I think it is the very fact of writing orders 'at all' that put people off. Plus, I vaguely remember from 80s gaming at a club (as a child), that there was a lot of vexatious argument about what would happen in certain situations...which caused the whole thing to fall out of favour. But including it can make for very interesting games.

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  4. Really enjoyed this. Thank you!
    Took me back to my first games in the late 70s.
    How did you work around the simultaneous fire and movement playing solo?
    Kind regards
    Dave

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  5. Many thanks David.

    To be honest, I never really thought of it as needing a work around. Since I am playing solo, then I know exactly what each side was trying to do and whether there was a valid LOS at any point in the movement phase to enable shooting in the firing phase. I have always thought that simultaneous movement systems were more difficult for face-to-face games. Apologies if I haven't grasped what you were getting at though.

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  6. Makes sense.
    I think I may give this a go��
    We also used to play the Newbury Infantry Action Rules in 20mm back in the eighties. Haven’t seen them in years. They gave a good game but nowadays would be considered too slow I guess.
    I now play Crossfire.
    Please keep the older rules reviews coming. I really enjoy them,
    Thanks again
    Dave

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  7. Oh, I don't think I have ever seen the Newbury infantry action rules - I will have a look out for a copy at the shows. Or perhaps the History of Wargaming project will reproduce them for posterity at some point.

    I will try and keep a steady stream of AARs using older rules coming: I have a reasonable number of ideas for this over the next year or so. I will try and get a few longer reviews written too, although I always feel I need to have 3 or 4 plays of a ruleset before I can do them justice.

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  8. Hello John,

    These were the first rules I ever played! 1979 and I was 14. At school I was invited over to a friend's house and three of us played with these rules he had. It was a table tennis table, 54mm unpainted Airfix figures and I remember nothing about it except a halftrack turned up that dominated the field. So thank you for reminding me about these rules. I never did play them again as I shortly after joined a gaming club and played Tractics for the next 10 years. They do seem like they are a good set of rules (as does their company level rules that you play more often).

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  9. Thanks for that Shaun. In retrospect, I am a bit surprised that these rules didn't make more of an impact, they do seem pretty good. I wonder if the slightly clumsy "3 poses for each man" put people off? Anyway, I am looking forward to getting a few more games in at some point.

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    1. I am surprised too that other than the initial foray in 1979 I have never seen much, if anything, on these rules. They do seem to produce a decent game. It may be that they was not the same sort of low level skirmish gaming - I know we always had 20+ figures on the table and played other rules that were more aimed at having lots of sections or platoons on the table, even if at a very unrealistic 1:1000 scale for 20mm figures. The three poses may not have been too much of a drag if the rules were worthy but I agree it would have definitely been a deterring factor.

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