10 July 2017

Forward Command Battle Report

IN my first few posts I mentioned a set of rules I'd been developing called Forward Command ('ForC' for short!), which aim at capturing company-level actions during WWII. Last week I made a rough draft of these available through the Pendraken Miniaures Forum along with some equally raw army lists. These have met with considerable interest, with Ronan of 2 Dés à 6 faces blog being not only kind enough to play a little solo game, but also to publish the results. Merci Ronan! Also Jack of BlackHawkHet infamy has expressed interest in the system and hopes to get some games played in the future. I'm very curious to see which twentieth century conflict he fits them to! Given all this (and also because Jack told me to) I decided that I should write up a batrep myself as a way of introducing people to the system. For those of you who didn't read read my prior posts on this topic, here is a recap of the design criteria with which I approached ForC:

(1) It should be company-level, with one infantry base representing a section, and support weapon/AFV bases at 1:1.
(2) It should be built around each side generating a random amount of commands per turn.
(3) It should amalgamate most weapons into broad groups or "types".
(4) It should treat infantry and armour similarly.
(5) It should merge damage and morale and make them cumulative like "wounds".
(6) All this should fit comfortably onto no more than four A4 sheets.

Happily all of these criteria have been met, which the exception that it has crept onto five pages (barring army lists, of course), but I'm sure this could be solved in the final version by some layout wizardy. I have even gone so far as to mock-up a cover:


Rather spiffy, eh? However, the rules still need some tweaking and so I am offering them to any interested parties who wish to give them a whirl with the proviso that they come back to me with any questions and suggestions. For instance, I am still not convinced by the Orders system and would be interested to hear your opinion on this mechanic and how it might possibly be improved. I shall put links to the rules and the army lists (all 1940 Europe, I'm afraid!) in a gadget to the left of this article. I think that's probably enough of my waffle for the moment: on with the batrep!

Battle Report

Background

This is a fictional encounter, but reminiscent of so many of the fierce engagements that took place in Belgium and France during May 1940 as the Allies fought desperate rearguard actions against the inexorable German advance. Here 11th Pl, B Coy, 2nd Bn, Hampshire Regiment, 1st Guards Brigade, plus various supporting elements has been tasked with guarding the important road junction at Sainte-Barbe, allowing the withdraw of the rest of the battalion. They must keep the German at bay for eight turns to facilitate this. Opposing them are the three platoons of 6.Kompani, Infanterie-Regiment 61, 7.Infanterie-Division with a heavy platoon of armoured cars from Aufklärungs-Abteilung 7 offering support (it seems likely that Aufk.Abt.7 wouldn't have possessed any armoured cars, let alone a Panzer I, but hey-ho - perhaps they were on loan from a nearby Panzer Division!). Their objective is to break the British defense by turn eight to claim victory. 


The Forces 

BEF

CO, B Coy, 2 Bn, Hampshires
Captain Rutherford-Smythe (CHQ, Tier B)
11th Platoon, B Coy, 2 Bn, Hampshires
Lieutenant Hannay (PHQ, Tier B)
3x rifle sections
1x 25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun attached 1st Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company
Ad hoc support section
Second Lieutenant Bell (PHQ, Tier B) 1st Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company
1x Vickers medium machine gun, C Coy, 2nd Bn, Cheshire Regiment
1x 25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun 1st Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company
C Squadron, 12th Royal Lancers
Second Lieutenant Hunter-Irons in Morris CS9 (PHQ, Tier B)
2x Morris CS9s

3x Mortar Strikes

BEF Deployment.

Wehrmacht

CO, 6.Kompani, Infanterie-Regiment 61
Hauptmann Brotz (CHQ, Tier A)
5th Platoon, 6.KO, IR 61
Leutnant Hermann (PHQ, Tier B)
3x rifle sections
6th Platoon, 6.KO, IR 61
Leutnant Wulf (PHQ, Tier B)
3x rifle sections
7th Platoon, 6.KO, IR 61
Oberfeldwebel Koch (PHQ, Tier B) 
3x rifle sections
Heavy Platoon, Aufk.Abt.7, 7.ID
Oberleutnant Nowak in Panzer I (PHQ, Tier B) 
1x Sd.kfz 231 6-rad 
1x Sd.kfz 221

2x Artillery Strike/1x Air Strike

German Deployment.

Note: Off-table support comes in three varieties: Artillery Strikes, Mortar Strikes and Air Strikes and all are dealt with during the Support Phase of a given turn (see below). Both the coordinates and turns Artillery and Air Strikes  arrive on must be scheduled before a game commences, prior to both forces deploying (although this might depend on the scenario). A northern and eastern board edge are designated and the controlling player secretly writes down when and where he wishes his strike(s) to arrive. Mortar Strikes can also be scheduled in this way, but they can also be requested during the game by a CHQ expending 2CPs and again secretly writing down the coordinates. Unless otherwise stated it will arrive during the following Support Phase. In this instance the BEF player decides to schedule one of his Mortar Strikes to arrive on Turn 3 at N26"E11" and keeps the other two to request in-game. The German player schedules an Artillery and Air Strike for Turn 4, at N29"E32" and N22"E32" respectively and the remaining Artillery Strike for Turn 5 at N22"E32".

Each turn is divided into the following phases:

1. Command Phase. Both sides roll for Command Points (CPs - used to issue Orders). The player with the most overall CPs generated - 'Player 1' - goes first.
2. Support Phase. Player 1 then player 2 resolve any scheduled artillery/air strikes.
3. Orders Phase 1. Player 1 issues Orders using CPs.
4. Orders Phase 2. Player 2 issues Orders using CPs.
5. Turn over: return to Command Phase.

Turn 1

BEF CPs = 9
Wehrmacht CPs = 11

The German left and centre Dash forward.
7th Platoon Dashes up the right flank, seeking the relative cover of a cornfield.
C Squadron moves into position behind the houses of Sainte-Barbe.
Oberleutnant Nowak's Panzer I is just in range of the 25mm Hotchkiss in the copse north of the hamlet.
A lucky hit sees the PHQ receiving two Damage Steps (DS), denoted by the yellow token.

Turn 2

BEF CPs = 5
Wehrmacht CPs = 11

Oberleutnant Nowak Regroups, removing both DS. The German advance continues.
The armoured cars target the Hotchkiss.
Two hits cause three DS, denoted by the red token. One more DS would see the AT gun destroyed.
The Hotchkiss Regroups, removing two DS, but there are not enough CPs left for it to return fire.
The CS9s move closer to the hamlet.

Turn 3

BEF CPs = 11
Wehrmacht CPs = 9

In the Support Phase the British Mortar Strike hit the target area squarely.
The disruption to Leutnant Wulf's 6th Platoon is severe. Captain Rutherford-Smythe
hastily requests another strike on the same coordinates for the following turn.
The Vickers MMG on the hillside north of Sainte-Barbe open fire on 7th Platoon in the corn field.
One of the sections becomes Disordered (DS2)
The 25mm Hotchkiss in the copse scores a direct hit on the Sd.kfz 231 6-rad.
The stricken vehicle rallies and he and his comrades pour fire into the wood...
...with little effect!
On the German left flank, Leutnant Hermann's 5th Platoon continue towards the British line.
Leutnant Wulf spends the turn issuing Regroup Orders.

Turn 4

BEF CPs = 7
Wehrmacht CPs = 10

The German Artillery Strike arrives and despite being slightly off target, makes things decidedly hot for Lieutenant
Hannay's Platoon. The Air Strike is a direct hit on the Sainte-Barbe road junction, but to no effect.
The BEF Mortars again land directly upon the hapless 6th Platoon, to pained cries of 'Gott in himmel!'
A section is wiped out in the onslaught.
Nowak leads his Heavy Platoon into the large cornfield by the roadside and pours fire into the copse,
this time silencing the pesky 25mm Hotchkiss for-once-and-for-all.
C Squadron move up to block the Jerry AFVs. South of Sainte-Barbe, behind the poplar row, the
surviving 25mm Hotchkiss is able to draw a bead on Nowak's command vehicle.
'I say Jenkins, damned fine shot!'
'Cor, thanks Sir!'

Turn 5

BEF CPs = 7
Wehrmacht CPs = 8

German Artillery fails to arrive. Undeterred, 5th Platoon moves forward and opens fire on Hannay's 11th
Platoon positioned along the southern road.
With the Hotchkiss gone, the Heavy Platoon motors through the maize and pours a withering fire onto
the Vickers MMG team, neutralising them. The British left is wide open!
With the MG gone, Oberfeldwebel Koch spurs his sections onward. 
Hannay's men pour accurate Bren and rifle fire onto the nearest German section, destroying it.

Turn 6

BEF CPs = 8
Wehrmacht CPs = 8

After a roll off (CP scores were tied) the Brits go first. Seeing that the line is about to be rolled up, Second Lieutenant Hunter-Irons guns his engine and leads his squad in a desperate charge against the German AFVs, necessitated by the
short range of the Morris CS9s only anti-tank weapons -  the humble Boys Anti-tank Rifle. Two direct hist against the
Sd.kfz 231 6-rad send its crew scurrying for safety amongst the corn stalks. 
One of 7th Platoons' sections is able to Assault one of the British AFVs, causing minor damage (DS1).
Combined fire from the remaining German vehicles on Hunter-Irons' command vehicle likewise
causes only minor damage (DS1).

Turn 7

BEF = 7
Wehrmacht = 9

The remnants of Oberleutnant Nowak's Heavy Platoon pull back and fire again on Hunter-Irons,
knocking his vehicle out. Fortunately he is able to retrieve his tobacco pouch before bailing out.
The rest of 7th Platoon join in the Assault, causing the remaining CS9 to become Disordered. 
The 5th and 6th Platoons push forward against the exposed British right flank. Seeing that his position is now
untenable, Captain Rutherford-Smythe orders a general retreat.

Conclusion

There we have it: a narrow German victory. Playing ForC invariably leads me to take issue with at least one of the games' mechanics and one such niggle I had during this session was with the Assault rules (during Turns 6-7), which I intend to change so that they are more likely to deliver a swift, decisive outcome. In this regard I shall don my thinking cap and consider how such a change might best be implemented! Thanks for reading and please feel free to ask any questions you might have regarding ForC.

04 July 2017

German Reinforcements

AFTER a few months of inexcusable hobby inactivity I have at last got the bit between my teeth and got the majority of the German infantry and support weapons completed. This just leaves three platoon and one company HQs and a few more AFVs to paint up before I am finished. Actually, the situation is precisely the same with my BEF force too! I need to grab a few more packs of infantry before I am able to achieve this, however. Once these forces are completed - or nearly complete! - I will start on the French, who I have been greedily eyeing on both the Pendraken and Pithead shops. I like that the Pendraken range has enough junior officer types (well, two...) to create some variety in my HQ stands, something I have found extremely difficult to achieve with their early war Jerries and Brits. In fact I have recently ordered some BEF Infantry from Pithead in order to make the British HQs more interesting.

With regards to the French, I will again be looking to create an infantry company, plus assorted support weapons and armour, with especial attention being paid to the latter as I am looking to recreate some the actions of the three-day Battle of Hannut, the first major tank battle of the conflict, with over a thousand AFVs involved! One aspect about this new venture I am decidedly not looking forward to is painting French AFVs! All I can say is that thank God the Germans did not continue to use Buntfarbenanstrich on their own vehicles, otherwise I'm quite sure I wouldn't have got them painted nearly so speedily. As usual, thank you for looking and feel free to comment. 

15 cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B (Pithead Miniatures)
The beast can be seen in action in a propaganda video below.


Pendraken German MG42 Teams posing as MG34s
Pendraken 3.7 cm Pak 36s
Platoon 1 (Pendraken)
Platoon 2 (Pendraken)
Platoon 3 (Pendraken)