Monday, February 25, 2013

CONTACT!! Moscow Winter Offensive...

Ok, here's the deal...

The organizers planned for a 7-table tournament. We hoped that a dozen players would show. We hoped to be able to hand out prizes for best army, best general, etc.  Didn't happen.

Four people came, only three could play, only two did play, and no one brought any money for an entry fee, thus no prize support. 

Now here is the decisive monent.  Do we say "screw it" and go home in a huff?  Do we just march forward with what we have and make the most of it, using this experience to build a new player base?  Well, that's what the 'Front did.  We marshalled up what we had, and made a great day of it!

Ken brought the lion's share of the terrain and loaner armies for new players to use, and that's what happened.  First off, Ken and some of the newcomers squared off in a German "blue on blue" battle, in and amongst the ruins os some non-descript NW European 'burg.

The youngsters were equipped with grenadiers, panzers (Mk IV's and Lynxs), as well as an armored train.  They faced grenadiers, 12cm mortars, Sturmtigers, and me262 air support.

Here we see panzers trying to force their way into the villiage under the cover of the armored train.  It would seem that the train has problems of its own to deal with.

The fighting gets close and intense, as our newest members learn the hard way that tanks are best left out of street fighting.  Let the grenadiers do that job!

On a table further down Bob and Dale sat down to a "blue on purple" fight with Yankee tanks squaring off against Soviet armor in the desert!  Here we see Bob positioning his armor to meet the commie hoards!

Quickly the AP rounds went flying and casualties mounted quickly.  Here we see the Yanks giving the Soviets as good as they are getting on that flank, as Soviet tanks maneuver for flank shots against the US "jumbo" tanks.  It pretty much rendered the Soviet 85mm gun ineffective in the front.

On the opposite flank, Soviet assault guns are making life for US tankers very uncomfortable.  After several turns of airstrikes and exchanging AP rounds, the Yanks begin to buckle under the pressure.

With the first two games over, we decided on pairing up the remainder for a mega-game... 3000 points per side on  double table.  Here we see "Strategy and Games" proprietor Joe maneuver his US armored artillery into prospective firing positions near the church.

This was about the end of the "happy time" for the Allies, as the tank bottleneck in the center came under massed Nebelwerfer and Sturmtiger fire, knocking out the Soviet company commander's tank.  With half the Allied armor immoble, the German fire turned its attention to the US armor on the right.  Heavy casualties there made it very appearant that the Allies were not going to win this fight. 

It was all over but the bragging, and with a good AAR both sides learned how to better conduct their next match. 

A shout out to all who made it to play, display an army, or just to visit.  Special shout out to "Strategy and Games" for hosting the "non-tournament".  Double special shout out to Joe, who suffering an absolutely awful head cold, stuck it out and kept the shop open despite his looking and feeling like "death on a stick".  Hoah Joe!

Till next time!

the Komissar

Saturday, February 16, 2013

CONTACT!!: Beach landing training grounds, southern England...

With the CO pressed into a work gang on a roofing project for the local "Party Boss", (read his Dad), the Komissar had to direct things today. We had a decent turn out at the meeting today. Met some new people and spread the word of the Winter Offensive next weekend.  Talked a bit about the new direction Battlefront is going with their minis, specifically the new plastic offerings.  We also took a look at some WWIII board games, such as "Team Yankee", "Assault", and "NATO".

More significant, was Bob dropping some big cash for the version 3 rules and 6 (yes sports fans) SIX German Elefant tank destroyers. 

Front armor 15, side 8, top armor 2, anti-tank 16, ROF 2, firepower 3+ is pretty intimidating, but present a challenge being overloaded and unreliable.  If used well, they will be a tough nut to crack in any mid or late-war Flames of War list.

Lastly, we sat down to a new game of "D-Day Dice".  It's VERRRRY "beer and pretzels", perhaps even more a "gateway" game to wargaming, but it was a fun change of pace and team oriented rather than adversarial... a little different in a wargame.

Players roll the dice to collect re enforcements, courage, command points, and tools to advance onto the objective at the end.  Roll a red/white/blue combination and recieve extra bonuses.  Players slowly make their way forard, negotiating obstacles, machine-gun fire, mines, etc, purchasing leaders, weapons, and other assistance along the way.  The game ends when all the players reach the objective.  Ken and Bob took it easy on me, and we played the very easy training scenario.  Assaulting legitimate enemy beaches will be much more difficult.

So at the next meeting we are going to help Bob get his Elefants up to muster, and bust those suckers loose on a table!  It'll be as epic as 200mm of frontal armor!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Intelligence Report, FoW list breakdown...

Greetings Komerades, with the Winter Offensive just a week and a-half away, I wanted to take an opportunity to go over Army List construction for Flames of War.  The format for Saturday the 23rd is 1500 points, Late War, to include the "Market-Garden" books and the "To the Meuse" pdf's.

Points, yes, we said 1500 points for a late war list.  Now that is generous for Early War lists, and very do-able for Mid War lists, but this will cramp the style of frequent LW players.  One is forced to make hard decisions, and to focus on threats that an army is most likely to face.  That was very much the case for my Soviets, having to make adjustments and compromises that I usually do not have to make.  Luckily, the Soviets have a bit more flexibility than they are often credited with.  Let me illustrate.

My first idea was to field a Red Army Light SP Artillery regiment.  In essence your combat platoons are a pair of either SU76's, or SU122 batteries (NOT to be confused with the ISU122).  From that point the support options are typical, but with two surprises.  One, the recon forces are mandatory SMG squads, with an optional BA64 armored car.  No spetsnaz, no armored car platoon, no decoy tanks.  Hmmm, a bit of a downgrade but still workable. The second surprise was that there were no tank-killer batteries of SU 85's, lend-lease M-10's, or SU 100's.  Now THAT, coupled with all companies being "confident-trained" instead of "fearless, was a deal breaker.  Going with a Guards SPA Regiment instead of Red Army didn't really change much, as the points costs and motivation levels were unchanged.  Remember, this is a 1500 point list, and this list is just not flexible enough.

My next choice was a personal favorite, the Forward Detachment.  This battalion represents the vanguard of an advancing mobile unit, firmly rooted in its recon mission, but very hard hitting to clear the way for the main-body.  The mandatory companies are tankovy and strelkovy, but the support choices are deep, and nearly everything is "fearless-trained".  Here's how it all came together...

Headquarters:  30 points, I kept this simple and took only the Battalion commander and the deputy commander in lend-lease willy's jeeps.  I declined the commissar as I really didn't have the points to spend, and their use with a fearless strelkovy platoon is a redundancy I couldn't afford.

Red Army Tankovy:  390 points, I'm going with 8 T-34/42 tanks.  Smaller gun, but they are a fast tank, and equipped with wide tracks.  I need these fellows to strike deep and take flanking shots.  This sounds risky, but going head-on against German cats with an 85mm gun is risky also (AT 12 vs FA 10 for a Panther).  As a player, I do know that the tournament will at least have one snow table, with no telling what the ground is going to be like.  Considering that the T-34/85 loses its movement bonuses, I may need the un-bog benefits.  I also wanted some numbers here.  What defeats the US Tank destroyer hotness?  Numbers of cheaper tanks that will still be effective, but their loss will not have a great impact.  In essence, I need to use the T-34's to put deep pressure on the enemy, and to keep the TD's attention away from my SU's.

Tank Riders:  135 points, I gotta get cheap here and am taking only a 7-team tank-rider company.  Now can you see why the Komissar was a little unnecessary?  Granted, 10 points for an extra stand is attractive, with a 1500 pt list I need every point in other areas.  This 7-team unit is a risk, especially without support weapons such as flamethrowers, AT rifles, or heavy MG's, but I see their role as a flank guard or to hold an objective for a turn or two.  What will help, and in a move that I so think is superior if done well, is equipping my "strelk" with PPsh submachine guns instead of making them rifle/MG teams.  Either in the attack or the defense, the added rate of fire even when moving can make a painful difference in an infantry melee.

Light SP Artillery:  170 points will provide the people 4 SU122's.  A very cheap armored platoon, but it carries a breakthrough gun, and a 10 AT rating.  This will clear out infantry nests, and provide a secondary AT capability.  Now it is armored for mid-war guns, FA 5, so I can't "flat-hat" these boys around without a care in the world.  Some caution is needed.

Tank Killer Company:  430 points, I took a risk and chose to field 5 SU100 assault guns.  The AT rating is awesome at 16, the armor is good with an FA of 9, but a rate of fire of 1.  That early 100mm AT round is heavy, relying more on mass than velocity to burst through armor plate.  This will kill Panthers frontally, and could assist in anti-infantry missions with a firepower of 2+, the same as the SU 122.  Again, the drawbacks... it is heavy, overloaded, and slow so rushing them across the field is not an option.  Properly using them will take some planning and foresight.

Wheeled Recon Company:  80 points, 3 BA64 armored cars will spring ambushes and help locate hidden targets.  They have jeep mobility, and AAA machine-guns, never a bad thing.  I just have to remember that the only come into play if they themselves are attacked by enemy air, they can't just spray the air and hope to get lucky.  Hmm, I still can't get over just how tiny these things were.  In my mind I compared them to a German Kfz 222 or something, but it just comes off as a jeep with steel plates welded onto it.

Priority Air Support:  270 points, I gotta have my Sturmoviks!!  The reduced point total  basically takes away my standard 120mm mortars, but I still need indirect support independent of Line-of Sight.  Sturmoviks are expensive, but very durable and yield results more often than not.  Many players question the wisdom of taking air, much less expensive air assets to a battle.  I find value in the points I spend.  First, I see indirect fires as "mistake insurance".  If I really mess something up, mortars and air can help mitigate that goof.  Second, having the threat of air attack forces the opponent to think and move much differently, slowing them down, and making them devote more thought and time to "safe" movement, than effective tactical movement and firing solutions.

One of the basic concepts I try to observe when I design a list is to try to create a list with synergy and redundancy.  Look for things that can work with others, look for things that can compliment, AND compensate for strengths and weaknesses.  My T34s have limited AT capability, but are knarly against infantry.  This anti infantry role is complimented and duplicated by my infantry, the SU122's, the Sturmoviks, and the SU100's.  The SU100's are the primary tank killers, but they are backed up by the SU122's, the T34's, and the Sturmoviks. I also have three transport options for my infantry if needs be.  The idea is that if you lose one part of the whole, the "whole" doesn't break down and become impotent.  Other units can step up, even into missions that aren't their primary role.

So there you have it.  I'm a tad over weighing in at 1505 points, but I look forward to seeing how things go on the battlefield.  Keen eyes will immediately see that I have 5 platoons, and in terms of reserves and such this can be a hamstring for me.  Even so, with over half of my platoons in reserve, I can field over 1000 of my 1500 points on turn 1.  It is a risk... but isn't it the risk that makes it fun and exciting?

the Komissar