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 28 May 2023

Villers-Bocage-ish: A WW2 Scenario Playtest

 I had been asked to do another playtest of 'The  Farquhar Version', which regular readers of this blog will be well aware of by now. If not, it is essentially a re-engineered version of the 2nd edition of the WRG Modern rules back into WW2, which was the 'missing link' in the WRG chain of WW2 rules (the 1st edition of the WW2 and Modern rules are roughly equivalent, as is the 2nd edition of the WW2 and 3rd edition of the Modern rules).  Since I have been mainly using Too Fat Lardies' pint-sized campaigns with their 'reinforced infantry platoon' forces, that gives quite a work-out to the detail of the infantry rules but not too much scope for massed armour and artillery action.  


Entirely separately, I have been wondering how on earth to stage an old Villers-Bocage scenario from Miniature Wargames 065: "Wittman's Surprise". 


 The history seems okay (for the time) but the actual scenario seems to fall uncomfortably between a tabletop scenario and a campaign.  The forces imply a 1:1 model:soldier ratio but the distances involved (the 'operational map' covers 18km x 12km) seem to imply a campaign - but there are no mechanisms for how one might do this. As an aside, this type of WW2 campaign is not easy to pull off successfully, because of the potential for rapid movement of separate forces.  It isn't easy for real HQ in real life to execute and track, for that matter.

So, I am busy re-designing the scenario as a campaign, which suits the 'spirit' of the original scenario I think, whilst I have used it as the basis for a more straightforward battle game for this play test:

Orders of Battle:
British - 'Antforce' Battlegroup:
Bg HQ: 1 x SMG Comd Gp, 1 x Jeep
Motor Coy HQ: 1 x SMG Comd Gp, 1 x Rifle Comd Gp (Deputy), 2 x Trucks
Motor AT Pl: 3 x 6pdr AT guns, 3 x trucks
3 x Motor Infantry Pl, each: 1 x Rifle Comd Gp, 1 x 2" mortar, 1 x PIAT, 3 x Rifle Gps, 3 x LMG teams, 4 x M3 Halftracks
1 x Armoured Recce Sqn: Sqn HQ: 1 x Cromwell 3 x Armd Tp: 3 x Cromwell, 1 x Challenger
1 x Special Support Tp:  3 x Centaur, 1 x Challenger
2 x FOO: Scout Car, FAOwR
1 x FAC: Truck, FAOwR
Air support;  2 x flights of 4 Spitfire IX
Artillery support: 1 x battery of 8 x 25pdr in direct support 
British towed 6pdrs have APDS, Challengers don't for the 17pdrs

German - Kampfgruppe Salz
Heavy Tank Coy: 3 x Troops of 3 Tiger I (1 of the Tigers is the Coy Comd, another in a separate Tp is the deputy). The crew of the Coy Comd Tiger I has plot immunity the first time their tank is KO'd and can take over another Tiger I after d6 turns).
Tank Coy: 1 x PzIVH (Coy Comd), 2 x Troops of 3 x PzIVH
Pz Gr Coy: 1 x SMG Comd, 3 x PzSchrk Teams, with 4 x light vehicles; 3 x Pl of 1 x Rifle Comd, 3 x Rifle Gp, 6 x GPMG (each Rifle Gp has a PzFst), 3 x Hanomag
Recce Pl: 3 x 250/9
SP Arty: 4 x Wespe
SP AA: 4 x SP AA platforms
Arty Support: 1 x battery of 4 x 105mm howitzers on priority call, then under direct support.  The battery has pre-registed the small town, the hill to the SE of the town, the crossroads to the W of the town and the village to the SE of the town. 
No APCR for the Germans.
A note on the roads: the roads are all intended to be sunken. An element in the road is hull-down to fire from the flank, but a vehicle cannot get through a hedge from a road (it can the other way around). Line of sight cannot be drawn through a hedge, except if the element behind the hedge is considered right up to it.

This isn't a full battle report - the game/testing got a bit too involved. These are just a few set-up pictures and vignettes from early on to frame and reference a few things I want to discuss below.
The position at the start of the battle: the British are in two columns coming from the North (top); tanks to the West (centre-left), a reinforced Motor Coy to the East with its head in the town (centre)

Two platoons of TigerIs, supported by a section of Wespes and an SP AA gun

The lead Tiger Pl is placed in an ambush position: the Coy Comd is in the woods in the centre, with one Tiger covering each road.

One Tiger in position to ambush the lead British tanks

And another about to open fire on the halftracks and armoured cars leading the British advance down the other road.

A closer look at the small town

The German Panzer Grenadiers off to the south, about to start moving up to their positions.

The German Recce Pl just outside the village to the east

The German PzIV Coy on the high-ground to the south-east. They are considered to be positioned just in the trees/over the ridgeline at the start of the action,

The battle begins with two Cromwells being brewed up in short order.

The rear troop of the column gets out of the road to try and flank the Tiger, whilst everyone else is reversing, hoping that the smoke from the burning vehicles in the road is enough to screen them

The British are in equal trouble in the town, with two armoured cars and an M3 half track (and the infantry section in side it) all knocked out

The Motor Company quickly debusses and deploys its 6pdr anti-tank guns also

The flanking Cromwells and Challenger (top-left) were all quickly knocked out by accurate long-range fire (c.1700m) from the Tiger platoon on the hill to the south-west; whilst the Company Commander's Tiger has knocked out a couple more tanks (road, top-left)

But the lead Tiger has been knocked out (red/orange smoke, top left) by a Challenger coming onto its flank (in the fields, top); the crew invokes its special plot immunity and will turn up in another Tiger in 5 turns.

The plot developing slightly: the leading Tiger platoon has fallen back after the loss of its command tank, but the Panzer IV company commander has given the codeword for the barrage to start on the town

This is the last shot I took in this sequence: the Panzer Grenadiers are setting up in defensive positions to cover both roads, whilst the Tiger platoons are reforming by the Y-Junction (left) ready to counter-attack once the bombardment has stopped - it is causing heavy casualties already.

Essentially not a lot happened after this; the British infantry had taken quite heavy casualties in the artillery bombardment and struggled to get forward. There wasn't much future in the remnants of the Cromwell Sqn pushing forward too hard either.

Game Notes: Plus points - nice to get lots of stuff on the table, the rules worked well and tanks are fun.  Minus points - remembering why I prefer company and platoon games to battalion games; not quite organizing things correctly for this type of game.  All the individual mechanics worked well, especially the artillery. The treatment in these rules is great, although it does mean you have to think a bit about what kind of artillery support is available and what you can do with it.  The tank fire was simple enough - it is more or less the same as WRG 1925-1950 except with a couple more armour classes and less quirks in it.  The way that armour pentration increases at short range is dealt with nicely, in a more granular way than in 1st Ed but in a simpler way than in 2nd Ed. So all good stuff.
However, the game set-up did remind me why this type of gaming can be a bit of a grind.  Taking them in no particular order (since they are all-related), these rules propose using individual soldiers and vehicles with a ground scale of 1mm:2m. And you do need those ranges to reflect some aspects of the fighting, especially German anti-tank deployment...but then the big ground scale (a vehicle is 40m long or so) interacts with the requirement for combat elements (i.e. individual vehicles and soldiers) to act in an individually optimal tactical manner (i.e. it matters which building they are in, which hedge they hide behind etc., which side of the platoon the PIAT is placed on) and to spot individual enemies: this creates a lot of work when there is more than a company maximum on each side.  I'm sure I can get a bit smoother with practice, although the ground-scale issue is tricky.  Perhaps the solution may be to use platoon-based elements and then mark off losses, like Korps Kommander from back in the day.  
In any case, despite a couple of reservations, it was fun and I have left the table set-up to perhaps give it another go tomorrow. Some of my WW2 collection is desperately in need of some TLC: vehicles in this one mainly by Heroics & Ros, infantry by Baccus, buildings by Leven.


Tuesday 23 May 2023

6mm WW2 Figure Comparisons

 Just putting here for now, will re-do this post properly later this week.

From L-R: Irregular US (Vietnam); Baccus Soviet SMGs, 2d6 Soviets, H&R Germans with StG44, H&R 25mm French ATG+crew, Adler French, Scotia Polish, Baccus Germans, GHQ Germans

Sunday 21 May 2023

Partizan 2023, 21st May 2023

I went to the Partizan show today, taking my 6-year old to his first show. He is very keen on model vehicles and toy soldiers so he was very excited! In any case, whilst we were wandering round, I managed to get some photos of most of the demonstration games and some of the participation games (he felt a bit too shy to actually want to give any of the participation games a go: perhaps next time). I didn't have much opportunity to have much in the way of chats or ask questions, so this is my impressions only.  I have some comments on a few of the games I have put in with the captions.

The Boondock Sayntes do something typically exotic and grand: India in 1803. EIC troops attacking some kind of fort.

As ever, the little details are awesome

The game (as always) looks just amazing!

So colourful

A Napoleonic 1809 game, French vs Austrians

An ECW game: Hopton Heath, IIRC. Relatively simple, but effective.  I would be interested in whether people prefer this ground effect or the previous game?

Successors clash. Can't remember the battle - Ipsus, perhaps? Anyway, looks fine.

WW2 game, set sometime during the invasion of Russia

A very nice looking big ACW game (think it was a fictional battle). Everything looked great! I think it exposes one of the visual things about 28mm though - the buildings kind of do dwarf the regiments. Not crititizing, it entirely 'works' visually as a toy soldier battle, just noticing one of those phenomena that gets brought out seeing these big battles.

A wider view. It really did look 'just so'

A 'small' (by Partizan standards) game: Border Reivers. Love the Bastle House (which has a removable roof, so you really can put the livestock in the bottom, defenders at the top). And a very nice chap to explain it all.

Leipzig, somewhere in the southern sector, with the Allies (bottom) resisting the advances of the French (and Italians, and Neapolitans(?)).

So big, my camera can't fit it all in

I consider this kind of game a very traditional staple of the show circuit: a big Napoleonic effort, big battalions, part of a big battle. Hardly ground-breaking, but very nice.

Carentan 1944. American forces move up to support the defence of the town.

I think Carentan is the star of the show here. It feels like a town, but with enough space around it to capture the battle as a whole

US air support attacking the advancing columns of 17 SS Panzer Grenadier. Great-looking game.

Another pic of Carentan, just because. The only thing I want to note is the 'base' of the town.

More Leipzig, this time with Commands & Colors and the northern part of the battle (Mockern).  I think hexes do impose aesthetic limitations, but this set up gets very close to maxing out the prettiness given those limitations (although that said, I think there may be more innovations to come here).

A slightly different angle, but just because I like the look of it so much!

My son picked this huge 6mm WH40K Epic game as his favourite of the show!

There was a lot going on both with the vehicles, flying machines, stompy robots and the grim urban terrain - but all of it was excellent

and there was *a lot* of it

Lots and lots of vehicles, with that slightly WW1/WW2 in deep space vibe

And from the other side!

Gheel, September 1944: very nice looking buildings on a generally pretty terrain, I thought.

A really huge Ancients' game: I didn't get many details, but I think it is Cannae, with the Republican Romans  on the right and Carthaginians on the left! Could be wrong though. The 'absolutely huge Ancients game' has perhaps become a little more common, maybe, over the last 15 years - perhaps a combination of plastic box sets making it a more reasonable financial proposition with rulesets better designed to cope with this size of battle. Taken as a game - and that is by no means the only criteria we should use when thinking about demo games at shows - but huge Ancients' battles on long but relatively thin tables do make sense to me in a way that they don't quite as much for Napoleonic or ACW games in 28mm.

A huge Raid on Entebbe game, so much going on.

Another nice chap talked me and my son through it, there was lots going on, lots for the Israelis to do. My son kept to history by fluffing a Ugandan shooting roll.

More 28mm ACW stuff, part of Gettysburg. I thought the teddy-bear fur was particularly good in this one, it all looked really nice. A very 'show staple' type game.

More niceness. Think I might have another look at my own basemat efforts and see if it could be upgraded.

More huge Ancientsness. Persians and Macedonians, but I forget which one, apologies - maybe Gaugamela?

It really was huge!

TooFatLardies' Oosterbeek. I think the urban area looks absolutely amazing and I will not be taking questions on that. I think I would go so far as to say that they should be really hard to beat for 'Best in Show' games unless someone else can reach this level. Game-changing for this type of thing

I don't need a reason for a wider view of this one! Note the German grenadiers snurgling forward at the edge of the board

The Paras skulking in the gardens

There has been a lot of chat about "What A Cowboy" recently, and this is the TFL game: looked really good, sounded like lots of fun being had!

Another TooFatLardies' Arnhem offering: absolutely astonishing. I don't think I have seen an urban area look quite this good before, ever, for a modern game. The closest I think have been some Stalingrad-ruins games and there have been some other excellent modern ones, but this is just a feast. In other periods, there have been a couple of great port cities, but they have a different, slightly storybook vibe, if that makes sense?

Struggling to see how this could be bettered, to be honest.

I think I spotted the editors of WSS and MW knocking about, as well as Henry Hyde: I would strongly advise you to have a look at one of the proper albums that come out and if you do nothing else, have a look at these.  Think about how great that Carentan earlier looked (and it really was great) - but then, this.

Russians advancing against the Finns in the winter war

2mm Ancients.  Looked both good and doable, although I can't help but prefer the 6mm look to the 2mm look.

28mm AWI action

and a longer shot

Another What a Cowboy game. It looked great, although my photo didn't do it justice. The guy hanged from the tree was a neat if gruesome detail!

A very large and nice-looking SYW battle (I think!). You can tell in this battle more of the 'movement' of a horse-and-musket battle compared to some of the other offerings because of the way the size of the figures interacts with the size of the table.

A genuine big-game flanking movement. A little bit of a pity about the dice markers though, it is definitely a plus point for me if a miniatures game can avoid this.

A huge Wars of the Roses battle with Kallistra stuff I think; one of the most 'doable' battles on show, despite the number of figures (apologies for the photo)

The smaller figures allow a sense of space as well as of mass.

The Battle of Degastan. Small but perfectly formed here from the 'James Morris' stable.

And the other James Morris game: Norsemen and Norsewomen against the Frost Giants. And a Stairway to Heaven!

Giants and allied monsters versus Norse: what's not to like? Looks really wintry too

British and Italian tanks clash in the early Desert War. Looked nice and good fun (think it was "What a Tanker")

A self-consciously 'super-old-skool' game, but very effective for all that. Set in the interwar period  I think, although to my mind the infantry and cavalry looked more 1903 than 1930.

I genuinely thought about going down this direction at one point and the quirky aesthetic with very practical set-up still appeals.

A small but perfectly-formed WW1 trench game

A small ECW demonstration set-up I think (Middleton Cheney?): 15mm on a small board, lovely (*originally put in 6mm in error).

Wings of War always looks good: been on my 'get around to one-day' list for ages.

Another biplane participation game 'Catch the Pigeon' - bigger aircraft, based on the floor, 'flown' from behind the desk. It looked good fun!

Stompy robots, great look.

Sails of War, I think: again, looks great, must get round to it

A Xeno-morph game, I think? Looked good, anyway

Some kind of Doctor Who game. The futuristic terrain looks easy to make but effective!

Apocalypse Now - simple but effective

I think this was a kind of Middle Eastern themed participation game but the details of this escape me - looked simple but effective though.

A busy looking Stargrave terrain, with lots of the bits'n'bobs scatter from IGS (I think).


There were a couple of games which I did look at but for some reason didn't take pictures of: one was a Mahdists-Egyptians clash; quite small-scale but looked pretty good. The other was the TYW battle, Lutter, which I have done myself before. I got so busy talking to one of the presenters (from the Glasgow club IIRC) that I forgot to take a picture! But it was well done, simpler visually than some, but pretty enough and emulable for most interested gamers.

It was good to get a look at all these games, although I didn't get much shopping done. My son was well behaved but some of the crowds around some of the stands were a bit big for him, so it wasn't esay to shop effectively - although TBF, I don't necessarily think that some of the stands are that easy to shop around anyway. So although I had quite a long list, all I ended up getting were a few reinforcements from Baccus.  I think that I generally prefer online shopping anyway, although Joy of Six isn't too bad. In any case, with game and painting time at a premium, I should be relatively restrained in my purchases!