Friday, October 15, 2010

WWII Early War Skirmish Game

Been having a few issues with Blogger recently.  The photos last posted don't allow the enlargement option when they are captioned.  I've tried a number of solutions including re-posting and have just given up - too much of a PITA problem.  Very frustrating.

Best solution is another post!

Finished my last uni essay (yaaay!!!) and although at home with the dreaded lurgy at the moment, have enough energy to drag myself to the computer and post something.  So here goes...

Recently I had the good fortune to drop round to a mate's place and have a WWII skirmish game.  The rules were the delightfully titled 'Disposable Heroes & Coffin For Seven Brothers'.   This last bit is based on the derisive label given by Soviet tankers on the US Lend Lease Lee-Grant tanks provided in 1942.   Bloody ingrates I say.  But they were very average tanks - US and Brits just couldn't design a decent tank, unlike the Germans and Russians.

Anyway, I digress - the game!

The scenario was an early war one pitting three German infantry squads and a tank platoon (37mm Czech tankettes actually) against two French infantry and one heavy weapons/anti-tank squads hidden in a village (the infantry), a low hill (the heavy mortar) and a forest (two 25mm pop-guns).  There are reasons that infantry doctrine calls for attackers to outnumber entrenched defenders by a minimum of three-to-one, which we kinda overlooked in this scenario, but I'll come to that later.


This is the French infantry installing itself in the town, hvy M/gun behind a roadblock.  Interesting thing is the amount and quality of weaponry available to the French infantry.  In addition to the Hotchkiss for the M/gun squad, there is this thing called a Berthier - which is kinda like a Bren gun on steroids.  To my surprise the French were easily as well equipped as the Germans, which makes you wonder why they didn't do as well in combat...  but we won't go there OK?

To the left of the village is the hill with my mortar team behind it and a spotter on it!


To the left of them was the forest with two brand new (nice and silver) 25mm anti-tank guns.  OK - they weren't painted but hey, the guys are starting out with this gaming and at the moment I have nothing to contribute (although that may change after last weekend!)


The action started with one German squad taking shelter behind a tank as the mortar zeroed in on the advance.  Once you've successfully zeroed in you don't have to continually roll to do so unless you change target - so look out!  Getting caught out in the open is a real bugger!  My friend's finger is pointing to where the next round is about to land.  Achtung! - that's gotta hurt!


The action hots up in town.  A German hvy m/gun squad is caught out in the open trying to make an end-run around the other (undefended) side of the town.  A reasonably fatal move that proved to be as suicidal as it looks.  We used the 'smoke' cotton wool to mark who just fired each turn.  Once they left the shelter of the trees, the remaining German infantry were neither numerous enough or quick enough to cover the open ground to the nearest building without being cut down.  The m/gun squad got pinned down in the open before they got halfway.  The best idea would have been to go back, but in the 'heat of battle' and everything, once the German's got their blood up, there was no stopping them.  Except a few hundred rounds from a concealed Hotchkiss that is...



Meanwhile, on the other side of town the French 25mm guns get stuck into the German tanks and come under fire themselves - the dice represent the number of hits the Germans got on them - that's 'hits' not damage!  The heroic French mortar had cleaned up the better part of two squads and looking for gainful employment, were lobbing rounds at the tanks.  Not as futile an exercise as you'd think - if you manage a hit you can do some real damage as it'll be the engine bay or top of turret where the armour is thinner.  Penetration with a HE round can be quite nasty.

In the end the little anti-tank pop-guns acquitted themselves well, eventually knocking out two of the tanks and damaging/immobilizing a third for the loss of one or two gun crew.  French pop-guns against German ones really - but that's early WWII for you!


Gotcha!  We used a bit of blacked cotton wool to indicate a 'brewed-up' tank.  This was the platoon commander's tank which was immobilised by having a track blown off in the previous turn.  If fact in over four turns he was hit so many times, with three rounds penetrating (two of them through the turret!), that we nicknamed him 'Feldwebel Shiessenhosen'.  But being typical Germans, rather than abandon the tank once it was stopped (as most Allied crews do) they keep firing as long as the ammo lasts - even Sergeant Fudgie-pants.  The fourth round to penetrate was deemed to have pinged around inside, quietened the crew down a bit and set fire to something.  Eine Panzer Kaput, ja?

It takes a bit to get used to the system for armoured warfare but it makes sense and once you do, the fun really begins.  First time you have to roll to acquire the target, then to hit it (subsequently, once 'zeroed in' only to hit thereafter).  If you manage a hit, you then roll to see where it struck and what effect it had (did it penetrate or go 'ping!'?)  Finally, you roll for damage.

Here's the interesting thing about early war - both the French guns and the German's (or so I'm told) used only solid shot.  A shaped piece of solid steal fired at high velocity - little different in principle to the Napoleonic era!  Sabot ammo only came in waaay after 1940.  Only artillery (and mortars!) had HE (and German 88's - we should have given them one for the scenario).  So the Germans firing on a house was useless as the shot would just knock a few bricks out and usually passed through the building.  So unless you were very unlucky, hiding from German tanks in a building wasn't a bad idea.

Being our first experience with the rules, we took our time and tried a few things.  One of them was to introduce a British Matilda tank with 87mm(!!) armour and an obsolete 2 pdr gun (which also only fired solid shot) - which unfortunately I didn't manage a photo of (apologies for the slight burring but me tripod's broken!)  So here's a picture of a much nicer Matilda from Tamiya (from the Scale Model News site - nice job guys!)

As you can imagine, the 37mm rounds from the two remaining German tanks just bounced off. All except one that is, which blew off a tread and was judged to have penetrated the thin armour behind the tracks rather than ping off somewhere.  Well, the noise certainly put the wind up the driver and as they were no longer going forward, the crew failed their 'gut check' (morale in these rules) - which is rolled for after each successful hit by the enemy.  They decided to abandon their behemoth, leave it to the tank-recovery-johnny's and go and have a nice spot of tea to steady the nerves!


All in all, tremendous fun and once we'd worked our way through the rules and associated reference books for weapons and their effects, the game went quite smoothly.  Nice way to spend an afternoon and take a break from writing turgid uni essays!  The boys are all excited about 'Seven Brothers' now and want to do Japanese vs Australians in New Guinea next (bags not doing the terrain!)

Anyway, WWII 28mm skirmishing - highly recommended!

Cheers,
           Doc