Thursday, 16 August 2018

Operation Battleaxe - Game 1: British Attack on Pt. 208

The first game to be played was the attack on Point 206. by the 6 RTR Group. This consisted of the 6th Royal Tank Regiment (newly-equipped with Crusader Mk. I), with support provided by 2nd Battalion, The Rifle Brigade, the 11th Hussars and 12th Anti-tank Regiment. Artillery suppoort was also available (2x off-table 25-pounders, 4+ Comms Test). The German defenders could count on a solid core of defending Shützen with support from numerous anti-tank guns, including PaK38s and 8.8cm FlaK, and some defences.

Pt. 208, the Hafid Ridge...or at least the first ridgeline. The British would be attacking in a slightly modified High Ground mission. They deployed their Motor Infantry and observers as a probing force, leaving the tanks to come on in the second wave. The Germans forces deployed a thin screen of infantry with plenty of MG, plus a pair of PaK38s and a single 88.

British bottom left, Germans top of the ridge.

A timed airstrike kicked off proceedings, successfully pinning the 88 but not much else.

The British infantry probed forward...

...taking a few casualties from MG fire. Sporadic 25-pounder stonks did little.

British reserves arrive as the Crusaders roar forward. A few Germans fall to long-range Bren and rifle fire.

The attack is split into two...will it work?

A German timed 8cm Mortar barrage strikes near the (far-too-clumped-up) Crusaders and succeeds in pinning one and knocking-out a second!

On the left, the German ATGs open up to deadly effect...half the British armour burns.

Retaliation is swift as 25-pounder rounds bracket the PaK36 and 38, causing several casualties and eliminating a few infantry as well.

On the right, the British succeed in eliminating the 88, but lose another tank in the process while the other breaks-down. A German HMG, down to a single man, keeps the British infantry in place with heavy fire.

On the left, the last Crusader is KO'd by PaK38 fire, but artillery strikes then eliminate the PaK38s and the PaK36 and inflict serious casualties on the German infantry to which Bren and Rifle fire adds more. The German forces take a beating, but they've stopped the armour: can the British force the position with infantry?

As it happens: no. The last British vehicle breaks-down (but eliminates that damned HMG!) and the infantry cannot get moving in the face of MG fire. The British attack is called off: the DAK defense has held...just, with only ten men left un-wounded on the entire ridge!

Again, another cracking game of Battlegroup. Despite losing most of their armour, the British still managed to inflict considerable damage in return but it proved too little, too late. The first British attack on Pt. 208 has thus failed, and they must take Pt. 206 in the next two games to have any real chance of damaging the German defences.


Operation Battleaxe - Turn 1

I have divided the campaign into six turns, a morning phase and an afternoon phase each for June 15th-17th.

Turn 1 sees the British and Commonwealth units assume their real-life start positions while the Axis hold theirs: from there the respective commanders may move as they please (with certain restrictions), though the real-life objectives are obviously worth taking. To win, the British forces must have secured an uncontested line of territories to Tobruk and hold it at the end of the game, or they must secure 10x Victory Points which will be sufficient to cause the Axis to withdraw. The Axis must stop them.

Because the Axis forces have fuel shortages, they may not move their armoured and mechanised units on the first day (June 15, Turns 1 & 2), unless a German strong-point falls to British attack: Rommel is then sure that it is a major offensive and the Panzer and their their precious fuel reserves will be unleashed. If no strong-point falls, then they are automatically released from June 16th onward (Turn 3).

To begin, the British commander moves his units onto the centre map territories with the deployment restrictions indicated on the map: from there he will begin activating units and launching his attacks. The Axis cannot do very much initially as the units occupying the strong-points (Halfaya Pass, Point 206 and Point 208) may not voluntarily leave them. They must in effect weather the storm and wait for the armoured counter-attack to relive them in later turns.

The British staging positions.

The British on Turn 1 have effectively launched three main attacks: the 6 RTR Group will attack Pt. 208, the 7th RTR Group will attack Pt. 206, while the SQ-B Group will do the same as a supporting attack. Any air and artillery assets have been allocated and from here the games will be played.


Introducing "Operation Battleaxe - A Battlegroup WWII Campaign"

The project for the rest of the year for the local Battlegroup gaming group will be a campaign centred on Operation Battleaxe, June 1941 and run by yours truly. We'll be using the Battlegroup WWII rules in 15mm and drawing forces from the BG Tobruk supplement, with a few additions and our usual house rules.

For the campaign itself I've used the map and units from the excellent Operation Battleaxe: Wavell vs. Rommel 1941 board game as a guide and, using a hard copy of that and an electronic version on VASSAL, have worked out simple campaign rules to integrate battle played out on the table top.

Introducing the commanders:

British & Commonwealth

After successfully defeating the Italian forces in North Africa, the entry of German forces to the North African conflict has seen the fortunes of British and Commonwealth forces reversed: Tobruk was surrounded and besieged. The Greek expedition, taking valuable forces from the desert that were sorely needed, ended in failure: Crete soon followed. Operation Brevity succeeded for a short time but then too failed in the face of strong German counterattacks: Halfaya Pass was lost, Tobruk remains besieged yet defiant. The fate of the North African Campaign hangs in the balance.

But all is not lost: at great risk reinforcements were dispatched from Britain through the Mediterranean to arrive in Egypt: new tanks, aircraft and equipment in numbers that will allow an advantage to be gained and a new battle to be fought. Thus was born OPERATION BATTLEAXE.

Yet machines and men are not sufficient alone, for the leadership to effectively wield these forces too must be found...a new hero rises, one who will take command of British forces, relieve Tobruk and drive the damnable Hun from the African shores once and for all.

Mike not that man. But he'll give it his best shot.

The Axis

He was a myth. A phantom. Once here, then gone; an enigma of always-moving menace. An entity with unparalleled instinct for command, said able to change the course of battle at his own whim. Elusive. Cunning. Deadly. Men speak the name in hushed whispers, barely audible over the sound of the raging sandstorm....


...but he wasn't available, so you'll have to do with Charles B instead.

Campaign Special Rules

No Air Supremacy: the British mustered slightly more aircraft for the battle than the Axis thanks to the latter being concerned with taking Tobruk and operations elsewhere in the Mediterranean. Consequently both sides gain Aircraft after drawing an Air Attack chit on a roll of 5+ during the campaign as per the rule book. If the Air Support token is present, this will succeed on a roll of 3+ instead to represent the major air effort being concentrated in that territory.

German Low Fuel Restriction: due to a lack of fuel, Rommel will not commit German armoured and mecahnised units unless he is certain that a major attack is underway. To reflect this, no German tank or mechanised chit may move on June 15, unless at least one of the following territories falls to British attack: (13) Pt. 208, (15) Fort Capuzzo, (9) Pt. 206, or (6)Halfaya Pass. German Armoured and Mechanised chits may move freely if one of these territories falls on June 15, or from June 16 onward.

German Stützpunkt: the Axis territories (13) Pt. 208, (9) Pt. 206, (6)Halfaya Pass and (22) Bardia are considered fortified positions or Stüzpunkt. Units within these territories may not voluntarily move or abandon them, they have orders to hold at all costs. However these territories will gain free fortifications for each battle until they fall, thereafter the bonus is lost even if retaken at a later stage in the campaign.

Bonus Fortifications:

Pt. 206 (& Bardia)
2x Barbed Wire sections
2x Trenches
1x Gun Pit (only if guns present)

Pt. 208
2x Barbed Wire sections
2x Trenches
2x Gun Pit (only if guns present)
Desperate Defence: +1x d6 Battle Rating

Halfaya Pass
2x Barbed Wire sections
2x Concealed minefields
2x Trenches
2x Concealed Gun Pit (only if guns present)
Desperate Defence: + 2x d6 Battle Rating

Restrictions  and New units

Some restrictions and new units may be fielded to better reflect the forces available at the start of Operation Battleaxe

1. You may not take any scout units unless you also have a Reconnaissance chit involved in the engagement. For the British, this is the 11th Hussars and Central India Horse chits, for the Germans, the 3. and 33. Aüfklärungs Abteilung chits.

2. Panzer restrictions - A German force must include fewer up-armoured Panzer III H or J and Panzer IV E than base models (Panzer III G and Panzer IV D respectively).

3. The British may not field any Crusader IIs, Valentine IIs, M3 'Honey' Stuarts, Humber Armoured Cars, Vickers Mk VI C (with 15mm HMG), nor any captured tanks.

4. The British may not field Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) units.

5. The Germans may not field any captured tanks. Max 1x Panzer IV Platoon in any army.

Unit and Equipment Guide

12th KRR and 2 RB - Motor Infantry Battalions, may field: Motor Infantry Platoons, Carrier Sections, 2-pounder and Bofors Portees, 3" Mortars, Breda AA Portee.

1-3/11 and 22 Guards - Rifle Battalions, may field: Rifle Platoons, Carrier Sections, 2-pounder and Bofors Portees, 3" Mortars, Breda AA Portee.

2 RTR - mixed Cruisers, A9, A10 and A13 only: may take max. 1x Troop Vickers Mk IV b
6 RTR - Crusader Mk Is only, may take max. 1x Troop Vickers Mk IV b

4 RTR - Matilda IIs only, may take max. 1x Troop Vickers Mk IV b
7 RTR - Matilda IIs only, may take max. 1x Troop Vickers Mk IV b
4 RTR & 7 RTR - may upgrade Forward HQ to a Matilda II for + 20pts

11th Hussars and CIH (Central India Horse) - predominantly Marmon-Herringtons.

British AT units (12th and 65th) - 2-pounders, Portees, single 18/25-pdr or 25-pdr guns.

German FlaK and AT  units:

1/33A FLAK - 8.8cm guns and 5cm PaK38s
1/33B FLAK - 8.8cm guns and 5cm PaK38s
1/33C FLAK - 8.8cm guns
33. AT - 3.7cm PaK 36s and 5cm PaK 38s

Additionally, any of the above may field a Panzerjäger battery equipped with a pair of PaK36 anti-tank guns instead of a battery equipped with 5cm PaK38s anti-tank guns:

Light Panzerjäger Battery. . . . . . . . . . . . 40 pts 4-v BR  (Restricted)

Unit Composition: 2x 3.7cm PaK36 guns with 3 crew each

Add 3 man loader team . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +10 pts each
Medium Truck tow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +4 pts each
Sd Kfz 10 tow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +6 pts each


Saturday, 14 July 2018

BG Tobruk AAR

With a certain individual visiting for the weekend, a hasty game of Battlegroup was arranged.

Mid 1941, the Western Desert: a DAK Battlegroup has forced a crossing over a Wadi and prepares to expand their bridgehead.

500 Pts from Battlegroup Tobruk. Bridgehead Breakout Mission from the rule book.

The table: The DAK force, having found a crossing point over a Wadi, has established a bridgehead and is racing reinforcements to secure it. The British naturally have other ideas...

German sMG34 and PaK38 cover the advance of some Motorcycle infantry.

Moving rapidly forward they put fire onto an infantry section and 25-pounder, pinning the former.

A pair of Crusaders arrive to lend support but fail to do much, the 25-pounder is soon eliminated.

Meanwhile, DAK reserves arrive in mass, though they struggle for orders.
A shoot by the second 25-pounder KO's the Sd Kfz 222.

More Crusaders arrive and they, along with the infantry, gun-down the isolated German Motorcycle troops before the Panzers can reach them.

Panzers working the flank...

...and Crusaders burn.

More German tanks arrive and the fight heats up considerably.The German right progresses well before being disrupted by artillery strikes which KO a Panzer III. On the German left things do not go so well, but the Bitish cannot advance against the Pakfront.

Both sides are close to breaking: a draw of 3 will see either force retire. Meanwhile, a Boys AT Rifle team sneak p into some rocks...

...and knocks-out a Panzer III with a lucky shot.

The Boys kill is enough to break German Force Morale: a British Victory!

Another excellent game of Battlegroup; very close as they so often are and thoroughly enjoyable. Good practice for the coming Battleaxe campaign.


Friday, 15 June 2018

Battlegroup Desert Objectives

Some objectives I've made for Battlegroup, which will also work as Jump-off-points for Chain of Command in 15mm. Since I had the German stowage bits out, these were all quite German-themed: I've made five for NW Europe and five for the desert, though I still have to paint the NW European ones. In time, I'll also do others themed as British, US or Soviets objectives/JoPs.

BG does not need scenic objectives as the objective is really just a point on the table, or more often a piece of terrain. "Take the bridge" is quite obvious, but sometimes you need a marker in an open field and these suit the purpose. This is especially true in the desert.

My objective are on 25mm washers (i.e. 1 inch): the idea was to build up a core with filler pieces (boxes and crates, a tarp over filler, etc.) and then add details for interest. They became "themed" as one became a repair point, another gained several hand-held AT weapons, etc.

The simple tarps are just tissue paper soaked in watered-down PVA glue (as you'd use for applying static grass or flock), placed over filler, which is just several bit of scrap plastic sprue cut to size and glued to the washer.

I base coated the predominant colour on each pieces by airbrush (because I had it out so why not?), then did the rest of the painting and details by brush. Some smaller bits of scrub were added for interest and colour (Woodland Scenics Olive Green Bushes). Since I model my DAK forces on 15. Panzer Division, I've themed a couple with 15. Pz divisional signs, one ostensibly being a vehicle repair point, the other with a sign perhaps pointing to a staging area? It adds some interest and colour.

Panzer III for scale.

The bare pole is waiting some desert signs, but apart from that the desert objectives are done.


Sunday, 10 June 2018

Afrika Tigers

The new-ish BF mid-war Tigers: a very nice kit, here done as a fairly simple out-of-the-box build.

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