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.

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Kampfgruppe Heller: Battle 12, Poland

This is the twelfth action of the Kampfgruppe Heller campaign, my tribute to Just Jack's original 'Kampfgruppe von Klink' campaign. This part of the campaign is loosely based on the Battle of Kutno/Bzura, although this particular game features a German re-deployment move accidentally blundering into a Polish force which has found a gap in the German defensive cordon...

As ever in this series, I am playtesting a set of rules called Gummipanzergrenadier, by John D Salt.

The Forces:

The Poles:
Company Command: 1 x Section, x Truck
Armoured Platoon: 2 x TKS (with 20mm cannon)
2 x Rifle Platoons: 3 x Sections (BAR & bolt-action rifles), 1 x 46mm mortar, 1 x ATR

The Germans:
Company Command: 1 x SMG  section, 1 x Kubelwagen, 1 x Half-track
Panzer Platoon: 2 x PzII
3 x Grenadier Platoons: 3 x Sections (belt-fed LMG & bolt-action rifles), 1 x 50mm mortar, 1 x ATR
(one of the platoons is 1 section short) 

This is effectively an ambush situation by the Poles. In the original game, a Polish ATR was deemed to have fired accidentally, alerting the Germans; but in this game I played it that the Germans would just have to take their chances (also, the observation rules work differently so it would create some weirdnesses with the Germans still not knowing exactly where the Poles were - more on this later).

The Set-Up:

The German column, Panzers in the lead, moving from bottom-right to top-left.

The Poles are in two separate platoons: one is in the woods (centre) about to open fire, supported by the Coy Comd and one of the tankettes (left) - they are tiny!

The other platoon is on the other side of the road, with most of the platoon behind the treeline (centre-right), but with the Platoon commander, a section and the ATR in the woods nearby (centre-left). The other tankette is in support in the rear (top) (squint!)

Another view

The Battle:

This action diverges quite quickly from the original, as the Polish ATR gunner despatches the German armour in very short order indeed!

He and the other ATR gunner try to destroy the Kubel and the halftrack too, but the occupants, 'more scared than hurt', are persuaded to retire swiftly...

The Polish Company Commander looks on with some satisfaction onto the smoking pair of Panzers...

The German infantry shake out into some kind of order and cover; plus a flanking move persuades the Poles in the treeline to try and withdraw - however, they are pinned and suffering casualties in a heavy crossfire, as the Germans in the edge of the woods (left) hit them as they try and cross the gap (top)

On the right, one can see the Germans working around the flank, pinning down the Poles trapped in the open

However, the mad charge of a Polish tankette throws the German infantry into confusion, despite the presence of a German ATR. Two squads have already run-off...

However, one German ATR gunner remembers he is supposed to a mighty Teutonic hero: a fine shot from the other platoon's ATR (edge of wood in foreground) despatches the tankette - the crew must seek quarter from those they had been terrifying moments ago...

The German company commander moves across to try and rally his wavering flanking platoon (right); however, seeing this, the Polish company commander and platoon on the left decide to launch their counter-attack

The German OC kicks his discouraged troops back into action...

Whilst the Polish platoon and tankette assault the left-rear of the lead German platoon, which had been too engrossed in trying to pick off the Poles pinned in the other Platoon (just out of view, top).

The combined threat of the tankette (however imaginary!) and the actual threat of Polish bayonets causes more Germans to run, although most hang on, even if they aren't doing much

More Germans run or become casualties, but they do at least manage to destroy the second tankette via another ATR (extreme-left, edge of woods)

However, the German OC sees there is pretty much no hope now, and not even much point, so he orders a withdrawal

The surviving, chastened Germans move back to their start lines!

Game Notes: 

Okay, that was pretty different! The original had been more-or-less equally one-sided, but in the other direction. However, since the initiative and observation rules work so differently, the Poles were harder to spot and had a somewhat easier time doing the right thing at the right moment. ATRs are reasonably effective in this game at short-ish range and flimsy armour, whereas small-calibre tank guns are by contrast relatively ineffective (medium machine guns on tanks are great though - which makes the Matilda I and the Vickers VIb, for example, much more interesting propositions than usual in games! The German infantry response wasn't too bad, until the charge of the Polish tankettes. 'Armour shock' is a very real thing in these rules, which gives great power to armour (even when it is weak and vulnerable to ATRs...) - it is quite a different way to think of tanks and tankettes, as weapons primarily of 'shock' value against morale... The German infantry did achieve fire superiority and the Polish platoon was in trouble - but its actual losses were quite light, you have to get in close to kill infantry with infantry (usually, and even then it isn't guaranteed). Really interesting stuff and a good fun game.

Models are a mixture of Scotia, H&R, Baccus and GHQ. I have a jeremiad on this subject on The Wargames Website at the moment!


  1. An interesting set of post game thoughts there. Polish ATR's were as rare as hen's teeth, with many units never having seen them nor fired them at all. A bit strange to me that an ATR is more effective than a tank gun and that the Matilda I et al are more effective too. Still, as long as you enjoy the game, that's all that matters!

    1. Ah, I didn't know that about the availability of ATRs - I will limit them more in future scenarios/replays, I was using TOE. What I meant by that comment was that ATRs weren't too bad against lightly armoured tanks, whereas 20mm guns are not very effective against infantry targets - but a tank's machineguns are very handy (it also explains just why there are so many accounts of German tank crew dismounting to take on Polish infantry in 39 in Zetterling's Blitzkrieg). So the Matilda I then becomes at least a defensible design for attacking infantry. I don't mean that ATRs or Matilda Is suddenly become wunderwaffen or anything!!