Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cool Picture

So I was fiddling around with Picasa tonight and came across the feature where you can tinker with your pics for effect.  Remember back in the good old days when you had to pay for this kind of software!?

Anyways, this is from a recent GHQ game and I thought it looked awesome.  Enjoy - huzzah!
Somewhere on the Eastern Front, 1944...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kharkov Campaign Part 2 - Poltava Bridgehead

Just recently finished the second battle of my Kharkov Campaign featuring elements of the Soviet 15th Tank Corps facing off against the infamous 2nd SS "Das Reich" forces.  

Using the Blitzkrieg Commander Campaign builder system, I fought the second battle in the campaign today - this battle was a "bridgehead" scenario and boy what a nailbiter!  The Soviets outnumbered the Germans by 2.5 to 1 and featured 2 tank battalions, a heavy tank company, and 2 small infantry battalions attempting to over-run the Germans' small pocket.  

If you look at the terrain SouthWest of Poltava in the Ukraine, you'll notice strange tributaries and marshy areas that intersect the landscape.  I used this to the advantage of the Germans who set up in narrow corridors, forcing the Soviets to deploy and attack down pre sighted avenues in an attempt to break up their forces. 

The Germans only had 1 mech company in 251 halftracks, 1 Tiger I platoon, an a PAK 40 platoon along with 2 batteries of 105mm Artillery to hold off the hordes.

Here is another kicker - I used GHQ's WWII MicroArmour rules, modified for 15mm (add 1/4 to range, sighting, and movement).  
German Infantry Company w mounts holding a Collective Farm

Soviets begin the offensive!   Urrah!

Almost immediately, the Soviets attempt over-run attacks against the German infantry platoons on the edge of the collective farm

Those markers are Artillery targets for next turn...

The Russians go into battle suppressed (yellow beads)

German fire forces an early dismount for the Russian tank riders.

Close combat knocks out a KV-1 platoon!

and a T-34 platoon!

eventually fighting gives way at the fenceline - 1 German platoon is sacrificed as the remaining infantry and half tracks pull back.  It is subsequently annihilated.

German infantry re-deployed near the farm house

Soviet infantry surges forward!

Tiger on the prowl.  This guy would be suppressed for almost the entire second half of the game and still managed to knock out 2 Russian platoons

redeployed to hit ivan in the flank!

now finally on the other side of the collective farm, the Soviets rally and attack with their remaining infantry and tanks on the left flank.  The Germans give more ground...

On the Soviet right, the tanks finally crest the hill and the commander deployed his infantry on the ridge to begin the assault.

Soviet HMG stand deploys to suppress the PAK 40!!

Soviet HMG next to the knocked out T34 - the T34 was knocked out last turn by the PAK 40 down in the glade.

Simple math now.  The T34s move in while the infantry moves down the hill.  You can see the Tiger I platoon and the 251 platoon at the bottom of the hill

view from the fence line at the collective.  To get this far, it cost the russians an entire infantry battalion and most of a tank battalion to seize this field and tree-line

heavy fighting.  The Germans would go on to knock out 1 T34 platoon before bugging out for Pereschepyne and the safety of the West side of the river.  THe battle was over.

Soviets burst from the treeline and assault the farm house

time to beat feet!  let's get the hell out of here!

The Russians move right into the German Final Protective Fire line (the red square) and halt, suppressed.  

Final dispositions - the AT platoon was cut off and eventually knocked out.

view from the German side.

fighting around the Tiger platoon on the last turn

Preparing to over run the last German units - the cotton in the background is a 105mm mission that the T34 braved and ran through, unscathed!  The Red infantry wasn't so lucky.

MAN what a fight.  This battle may have gone the Germans' way if I had deployed them smarter.  Looking at the map, I figured the Reds would have deployed right in the chutes but it didn't work out that way.  The Soviet player decided to get close in and fast in order to pin down the German infantry.  It worked, even though he suffered from the super responsive and accurate German Artillery fire, he was still able to push Gerry from the fenceline and his improved positions and grind all the way to the treeline and the German command post.

Well this battle really had almost everything except air power.  The Russians hastily organized this attack so not even a round of artillery was available for them although I suspect that had they some 122mm artillery or even mortars they would have been able to sweep the Germans alot easier.

That being said here are some things I could have done differently (and, for a change, some things I did RIGHT!)

Task Organization:  The Russians had a horribly low cohesion value - 11 - that means to carry out any action they had to roll an 11 or lower on a 1D20.  The Germans had an awesome cohesion of 16 and found that most of the time they could carry out their orders as required.

If you have a low cohesion or Command Value even in BKC, it's adviseable to form larger groups so when you do carry out an order, you have more stuff that can shoot or move.  The Russians split their task org right down the middle, which was a great idea.  The tank support in the collective farm really helped as did the mutual infantry support there.  Additionally, it was nice on the Russian right flank to have infantry support there to hold the ridge once the tanks got into position.

Mobility:  From past games, my infantry got shredded from artillery fire while moving into position.  Now with those super-fast half tracks you can move your infantry around teh battlefield much fast, and now you don't need big HMG platoons since you have on-board systems on your half tracks.  Half track mortars would have been really nice too - but that's something I'll remember for next time.

deployment - if you know you're up against larger forces, try deploying them echeloned with mutual support.  The PAK 40 could have done wonders covering the withdrawal of my infantry from the fenceline.  Instead my infantry were decisively engaged too soon in the battle and half of my platoons were gobbled up knocking out Russians.  1:1 kills is great but not on the Ostfront.  Your hard-pressed troops need to survive and kill at least 2 stands before you can afford to lose them.

Also - my Tiger I could have been positioned in a much better spot to kill more Russians earlier.  i kept him out of range (can you believe it?!?!) of the Reds until they were both mutually in range.  That negates the Germans' incredible gunnery advantage with the 88mm main gun.

This one went to the Russians - but just barely.  What an awesome game.  Once again, GHQ's rules are crisp and elegant and they are perfectly suitable for large games like this one.  The only beef I have is they are not the greatest for solitaire games like the ones I mostly play.  Reason I say that is there are alot of simple rules that you end up forgetting about since there is alot to do and keep track of.  Playing with other people keeps you more honest (ie the GHQ range (modifiers) and cover rules were conveniently ignored for turn after turn by accident) also forgetting if he attempted to fire or not.  I think I need to use my Crossfire NO FIRE markers...

So next turn will see the Germans fighting for control of the bridge again now that Ivan has kicked them West across the Dnieper.  Not sure when I'll get to play that one but it should be another epic clash!  I am not sure, at this rate, if the Germans will ever reach Kharkov's suburbs or not!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Battle for LZ X-Ray - Planning Considerations

Here are some terrific products I got from the GHQ website.  This is a good laydown of the battle and this is the exact map I'm going to use for the fight.

THe OOB is also pretty similar to what I'll be fielding - modified of course for the Cold War Commander rules set.  (which I will post tomorrow for everyone to see).

From the excellent GHQ Website's "Free Stuff" section - this is the map for the Battle.
The American OOB.  For Cold War Commander, instead of generic "support" stands, I will have HMG stands and will represent the mortars stand at Battalion, under the control of the Battalion HQs.  Additionally I will have 1 flight of F4 Phantoms orbiting for close air support (CAS) with Snake Eyes and Napalm!

The Glorious People's Army - I am going to use GHQ's suggestion and  each Battalion will be independent of one another with a Command Value of "7" because that's all that was available to me.  The support stands will be either 82mm mortars with larger tubes available at Regiment or Recoiless Rifles of which I have 3.


For Scenario Planners some thoughts - During the actual battle the troopers of 1-7 Cavalry were faced with some tough choices especially when conducting the initial Air Assault.  With the lack of enough lift to move all of the men in at one shot, the Battalion was strung out over3 to 4 major lifts and did not have the bulk of its combat power on the ground right away.

The way I will simulate this is to actually USE the 4 flights of Transport helos I "bought" in Cold War Commander to ferry in the troop stands each turn until everyone is boots on the ground.  When you accurately plan it out, the Americans will take roughly 4 turns to get the entire battalion on the ground.  Pretty God-awful if you ask me - especially considering there is an entire Regiment falling on your position!!!

The NVA will be forced to deploy at his entry points as indicated on the map using Mobile deployment.  Here's the kicker though  - once he successfully arrives at the EP, he stops until his next turn to begin movement towards LZ X-Ray.  That should give the Americans a little bit of a fighting chance without having them over-run with only 3 stands on the board on turn 2!!

Another consideration was "how much is too much Artillery?"  Well as a red blooded American I can tell you that there is NEVER enough but in this instance the US Player has at his disposal an amazing retinue of fire support assets from 81mm mortars all the way up to fast-movers.  From a fire-support perspective, you'll use everything in your tool box - and you should!  You are fighting THREE Nine-stand Battalions each with organic mortars and each company is outnumbered at least 3.4 to 1...

I'm thinking 12 turns should accurately represent the battle with enough time for the NVA (PAVN) to win or lose.  same for the US player.  With all of his troops on the board at the end of turn 5 and no hope for reinforcements, He really has 7 turns after that where he must hold at all costs.

To be perfectly honest I cannot wait to play this.  If I wasn't so darned obsessive compulsive, I'd cut out cardboard counters and play the damn game with just them!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Operation Silver Bayonet - The Battle for LZ X-Ray

Recently I was re-reading some stuff on the famous battle fought by the US Air Cavalry in Vietnam for a small clearing known famously as "Landing Zone X-Ray."

Some of my favorite all-time games are games where a defender is desperately hanging on in spite of heavy odds and prevails.  Stories of Gettysburg and the Battle of the Bulge where defenders hang on by their fingernails are the stuff of military legends.

My buddy Dave F and I have explored military history and gaming for a long time now, and both of us very much enjoy Cold War what-if's.  Well the story of LZ X-Ray is an actual engagement where the defenders, a roughly battalion-sized task force, held out for days against a well-armed, highly motivated, and well trained adversary, on his own ground!  What more could you ask for!!
With that said, I am opening the LZ X-Ray Project!  I am going to re-fight the Battle of LZ X-Ray using 15mm miniatures (Command Decision's mediocre Vietnam Range) with Pete Jones' outstanding Cold War Commander rules.

X-Ray has been refought on the tabletop numerous times by some great wargamers like the Club Le Shakko in France as well as on the Junior General Website.  I would like to explore this battle at the Battalion and Regimental Command level where one stand represents a platoon, and all of the integral support assets are available such as artillery, battalion mortars, HMG and Recoiless Rifle stands, as well as helo gunships and tactical air support.
The good news is I only need my dining room table because the LZ wasn't that large!  The bad news?  I have one platoon of NVA and 1 platoon of US troopers barely ready.  Still need to paint up almost 50 more stands!!!!  Yikes!  Looks like I had better get cracking....

Over the next few days, I will publish the OOB, Map, as well as the Points List for using Cold War Commander.  Additionally, I will post updated scenario objectives since the GHQ's site's objectives do not completely translate over to the CWC's victory system.

Looking at the odds and considering most "modern" rules sets, I am guessing that in this case, victory will go to the PAVN this time.  But I have been wrong before...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer 2012 "Progress" Report

If you're a regular here at Sound Officer's Call you've noticed a distinct DROP-OFF in activity.  Instead of boring you with the nuances of my incredibly busy and hectic life as of late, please allow me to fall back, regroup, and offer a small preview of what's to come!

Currently I have a number of projects that I would consider to be "open."

WWII German DAK Infantry Battalion - I have 4 completed stands out of 12 for my DAK Infantry Battalion (or Crossfire Company, depending on how you look at it).  Currently there are 4 stands that just need flocked that will bring me to 8/12.  The rest of the unit is on popsicle sticks with a drop or 2 of paint on them.  The sooner I get them done, the sooner I can start my 8th Army Brits.  Doesn't look like there will be any North Africa battles anytime soon.

Snappy Nappies Project - I have 1 single 18-figure French Battalion painted and based on 3 stands.  I would like to paint up at least 10 Battalions, an Artillery Battery, as well as a Cavalry Squadron and some command stands for a proper game of Shako or a very large Volley and Bayonet game.  This project is definitely underway as I have 1 more French Battalion and a British Battalion in the works waiting for their paint.

Disposable Heroes / Modern Warfare 2 Invasion USA Project - This project just kind of stopped which is unfortunate because I've got the BTR, the Hind, and the rest of the infantry platoon basecoated.  I still need to flock my current Russian squad!

Disposable Heroes Modern (SOCWAD) Iraq Project - all done!  Just need to actually play some rounds to try it out.  I just find that after not playing for a number of months, I tend to start forgetting rules.  I'm currently re-reading the DH rule book and the SOCWAD rules to get the hang of it again.

15mm ACW Project - Still have Cutler's Brigade (with 14th Brooklynn Zuoaves) to complete.  They are base-coated but are begging me for uniforms...Yikes - how the heck can I complete French Napoleonics AND ACW Zuoaves?!?!?  Not going to happen this summer.  More than likely but you never know.

So there you have it - my current painting projects that have fallen miserably behind with work and family commitments, not to mention a little bit of laziness in there as well.

Remember - "a crappy painted miniature NOW is better than an awesome painted miniature 10 months from now!"  Thank you George Patton.


15mm WWII Ostfront Campaign - so far playing my favorite MicroArmour Rules in 15mm turned out to be an overwhelming success.  For some reason it fulfills that "playing with toy soldier" itch as well as the microarmour itch.  Right now I'm supposed to play game #2 of my Kharkov Campaign game.  This will be a massive Soviet counter-attack against teh German bridgehead from last game.  Should be a nail-biter.

DH Moderns - Iraq.  I have all of these nicely painted US troops and a nice collection of vehicles to boot.  I am really looking forward to trying out the DH system with a true moderns game, complete with Strykers, IEDs, helos and wily insurgents.

Guns of Liberty - Seven Years War - I have a ton of SYW painted up in 6mm that I am very proud of.  I recently found a Seven Years War variant for Guns of Liberty and I'm going to play it with them.  Should be an exciting spectacle!!!

DH Moderns - Hue City during the Tet Offensive, ca 1968 - I have the Revell M48 tank to build - then it's off to Hue for some rumbles in the rubble!

So that's it.  Besides terrain and some buildings I'd like to build (mosque, jersey barriers, trash and debris stands, IED stands, etc), I'm pretty quiet on the procurement front.  There is a plan in the works to start purchasing N Scale Moderns but that's definitely on the backburner after last month's awesome vacation and our imminent house purchase coming soon to an undisclosed neighborhood in Pennsylvania.  That and some other things on the way.

Here are my future plans:

Warmaster 20mm Project
Battle of Princeton AWI Project
Seven Years War 15mm Regiments
Austrian Army Nappies Project Started
Purchase "This Very Ground" and paint up some 20mm Woodland Indians to go with all of those AWI 20mm  guys I painted up last summer for some awesome 18th Century North American skirmish action.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

First SHAKO Game! Lots of pics...

Finally played a large game of SHAKO (original version) in 6mm using my Adler DJD painted mini's on my bases.  I shortened the battalion sizes to 2 stands as well the Cavalry to 1 large stand.  Roughly 1 large British division facing off against 2.5 French divisions  (more like Brigades) and a large cavalry "division."  French were tasked with seizing a village on the British right and a farm on the British left.  I played the long-way on the table and this time I got a decent feel for the rules mechanics.

By the way, I had no so-called "experts" or rules subject matter experts with me so please excuse any mistakes I might have made with the rules, and go easy on me!
British occupying defensive positions

British gunners waiting for the order to fire.

French columns deploying for battle.

Behind the French attack.  Can you hear the Pas De Charge?

The French came over the hill, very heavy on their left and using their full Cavalry Division on their right.  The purpose was to skirmish and knock-out the British Cavalry unit that was screening the British left flank.  In a miracle (Shako is conducive to miracles every few turns when the dice are with you) 1 British Cavalry Regiment turned back 2 French Cavalry Regiments and sent them in Full Retreat!
The miracle...Note the kill dice on the 2 French Cavalry Regiments.   Defeated by  lucky rolling - and the British

Highlanders join their fellow Soldiers on the line.  The British commander decided to commit the Reserves once he saw the columns moving over the Ridge!
 I moved the British light Battalion up the ridge to some woods to skirmish with the French and force them to deploy.  The game would have been much more satisfying if I would have painted up some Voltiguers to protect the Ligne troops as they marched forward!  Alas, an entire French Battalion deployed to "deal" with the skirmishers after receiving 1 kill from a lucky roll.
British Lights!
 The French surged forward and were able to stay on track without any significant orders changes.  The British gunners held their fire until the last possible moment, ending in disaster for one very unlucky French Infantry Battalion.  On the British left, a charge by impetuous British cavalry left the French with command of the field.  This game, it seemed like every time a Cavalry unit charged, it was doomed!    I also enjoyed the blown cavalry and reorg rules.

British lights harass the French as they march down the hill
The British moved a light battalion up the hill to occupy some advantageous terrain and interrupt the French deployment.  This worked.  Sort of - I did force one French Battalion to deploy to deal with the skirmishers.  Meanwhile the rest of the attack stayed on track.  Would have been better to deploy more skirmishers to really upset the timetable but I learned for next time.
French Cavalry attempting another charge!

British highlanders in the reserve waiting for their turn to deploy...

vicious fire combat!  The British left holds on despite tough odds from  the olive grove

On the British right the defenders are quickly overwhelmed.

Nice view of the combat

USE YOUR SKIRMISHERS IN SHAKO!  Probably sound advice in any Horse and Musket battle where skirmishers have the ability to be represented.  They are dynamic in Shako and actually quite dangerous seeing as how they can't be over-run.  You can use your skirmishers to score hits against opponents and weaken their capabilities before the actual big battle is joined.

REMEMBER TO HAVE SUPPORTED LINES!  Troops with supported flank lines receive bonuses in combat.  Shako leaves alot to chance and combat is by no means a "foregone conclusion" so you have to take every advantage that can come your way in the "close fight"

BRING THE GUNS WITH YOU If you can bring your artillery along your advance to set up close to your enemy's lines, it's much easier to achieve a break-through.

French Gunners firing on British Positions

Epic combat in the olive grove!  Note those poor, unlucky French on the left who have multiple kills and a stagger.  Not to mention they're sitting in front of the Royal Artillery...

Final moves - French Breakthrough.

Overall I have to say that I very much enjoyed Shako.  I'll admit that I'm treading lightly in the review because I know Arty Conliffe has an almost cult-like following in terms of devotion to his rules.  I'll further admit that I am a member of the Crossfire Cult myself.  That and I own every Spearhead Supplement as well as the rules so I have some license to talk.  So with that said, let's get into it.

Shako allowed me to carry out my plan(s) on the tabletop and was a flexible system.  Even with the command system it still enabled me to react to moves on the tabletop.  I probably could have mentioned the command system in the battle, but was just focused on the battle itself.

While there are many abstracts in Shako, it was still a satisfying (read satisfying as FUN) game that handles many of the complexities of Horse and Musket wargaming with a marked elegance.  I love the unit morale rating and how that handles a myriad of situations.  It took me a few turns to figure out "kills" vrs "staggers" and the whole volley fire-flank lines thing.  Shako is ideal for large battles and unlike other tactical games, it doesn't get bogged down if you take on a larger formation.  My advice to new Shako players is play with alot of units, however, because if you are hedging your bets on a die roll, you could be out of the game quickly.  Shako delivers on most of its promises in the Nappy department and while the rules aren't Arty's best written rules, they do have excellent explanations on the mechanics.  I have many questions about the rules in certain obscure game situations, but I think time and playing with some more experienced guys they will be answered.  This game was simply to digest the core mechanics and learn the rules.  Next time I will take on more complicated situations.  Huzzah!
Final Situation - French Breakthrough and the town is practically theirs.  British withdraw in good order.  The battle ended.