Friday, 20 April 2018

Some photos of Thursday Night

Before the horrendous barrage

Incoming.  LOTS of incoming...

Gas and artillery templates

The few remaining Germans attempt to stem the flow

Its not looking good for the Kaiser

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

WW1 artillery - how it should be used.

Shock, horror - we've been deploying and calling in artillery wrongly for WW1 Spearhead.

I checked the Yahoo sight and the correct interpretation is thus;

Artillery that is integral to a regiment or is attached from a regimental heavy weapons company adds to the morale break point and can be called in by any fighting company.

Heavy and Super Heavy artillery can never be deployed on table.

Divisional artillery of less than 150mm or 8" can be attached to a regiment but can only fire as a direct fire weapon OR

It can be brigaded with a FO and attached in support - it does not add to the morale break point and because it is from division it will be called in on the divisional support chart.

The above line is very important and is the difference from WW2 Spearhead from which we are used to cherry picking divisional assets, attaching them to battalions and expecting a better chance of rolling for support.  WW1 is not the same and the rolls reflect the poorer technology and more rigid lines of communication.  As the rules state, in 1914 no army was able to call in indirect artillery unless you were in communication with fortress artillery or naval artillery.  As the war progressed communications and technology improved to allow calling in of artillery but it was nowhere near as sophisticated as WW2.

So, we need to appreciate that artillery is called in on the chart that relates to where it is organised on the ToE.  Divisional artillery can only be called in by designated FO in a regiment that is part of that division.  You may assign divisional artillery to a particular regiment but it is still called in on the divisional support chart - the only benefit is that you don't get a -1 if the divisional HQ has moved.

Artillery at Corps level is called in on the general support chart - again if you do assign it to a regiment the only benefit is that you do not get a -1 if the div HQ moves.

You can assign divisional artillery to general support, and as the rules indicate, this gives greater flexibility as more units can attempt to call it in.

If you buy any artillery assets at Army level then they must be assigned to general support.

The extra artillery allocated for preliminary bombardments are only available for preliminary bombardment.  The paragraph at the back of the rulebook is to emphasise that army level artillery you may have bought in for a scenario may be used in the preliminary bombardment and then must be allocated to general support.

But what about trench mortars I hear you shout (or before Russ contacts E-Bay)?  Divisional mortars can be attached to the regiments regardless of size BUT they are still called in on the divisional support chart.  OR they can be off table, and regardless of their limited range, can only be used against front line barbed wire or trenches.

In general, we have been looking at WW1 from a WW2 perspective.  Of course we want to attach as much artillery as possible to a regiment and punch through with a single unit - but this didn't happen. WW1 is the first period of warfare in which indirect can be called in but it is limited to where it is placed in the organisation.  The reality is that most artillery is preplanned and we will probably get more success with a well thought out artillery plan.

The other main use of artillery, especially for the heavy and super heavy guns is counter bombardment but that's another post..............

Friday, 13 April 2018

WW1 - Germans vs British. Germans win on penalties

Thursday night saw another WW1 battle between Jon and myself (and apparently Russ who despite being referee kept on referring to the Germans as 'us') vs Mark, Frank and newbie Ben.

British waiting for the battle to start

The Germans were defending a narrow frontage with 3 lines of trenches, wire and a selection of strongpoints.  Rules were Spearhead Great War II which we're all still getting to grips with (artillery seems to be the tricky bit although Mark and Russ now seem to have this fairly in hand.

Mark came up with the British plan (at least that's what Frank told us).  This took some time to get to fruition - meanwhile myself and Jon just took it easy waiting for the action to start.

Field Marshal Haig (aka Mark) explaining to Ben what he needs to do.   Ben is not convinced.

Jon enjoying the lull before the storm.  Russ checking if Mark has added more artillery than he should have and Frank checking the morale-check rules (because they're going to need them)

The action started with a pre-bombardment of 2 days of shelling the German lines.  Jon and I kept all troops out of the front line trench and held our troops back in the second and third trench line until the shooting stopped (then snuck a division into the front line before the end of the second day).  There did seem to be an awful lot of guns on the British side though...

Our counter-fire managed to take off 6 stands from the attackers (mainly on Frank's side).

We didn't lose much at all in the pre-bombardment.  A few troop stands, some barbed wire and a front line bunker.  We lost all the pillboxes in the second line) although the British didn't know that at the time).

Key was the failure to destroy a bunker in the front line (despite the attentions of the massed British artillery).  We quickly put two machine guns into it and waited for the British to come into view.  We also had a horrendous 240mm mortar in the front line which basically killed every time it shot.  And it pretty much did.

Our surviving buker - quick, get the MG's set up!

So once the firing stopped, the British came over the top and charged towards us.  We'd left our 'green' division in the front line and our regular divisions in the 3rd line of trenches.  The green division was just there to hold the British up for a bit before they got routed - inflicting hopefully enough casualties to make the task of winning the battle near impossible for the British.  But it depended on how well the green division could do....

Here they come!

Our thin line of green troops waiting for the inevitable storm

Frank took the British left and Ben the right (with Mark taking the middle).  Frank had already taken casualties but the flood of troops coming over looked impressive regardless.  On my side the MG's in the bunker opened up and as troops in the open are incredibly vulnerable in GWSII Ben started losing troops.  Frank too found the going tough as we'd given Jon all the 7.7cm guns which blatted his troops as they approached.  Our indirect fire was limited - unlike the British who not only had pre-planned

The battlefield from the German side.  Bunker to the right is still intact.  Hordes of British on the way!
As the British ploughed in, they started taking heavy casulaties (unlike the Germans who lost stands mainly to pre-planned artillery).  It was clear that the dug-in Germans were fairly happy trading shooting with the British because they were taking far fewer casualties.  So Mark committed another Division (down the centre) and went for a direct approach - assault the trenches!

This proved to be a sound tactic - the ground on my side of the battlefield had been heavily shelled - slowing the British advance down but providing them with cover.  So the German firing was less effective (even the bin-lid mortar missed!) and the British finally got to apply cold steel to the filthy Hun!

There was a lot of British indirect artillery - so much that questions were asked (by me, obviously)whether the British were using what they were allowed to use OR what they wanted to use!    And also who could call the artillery in.  We had to pull Mark up for trying to call in guns which had just fired on another target and Russ had his hands full trying to keep up with the bookeeping as to who had shot with what and how many shots were left.

We hang on with whatever we can!
We felt a bit frustrated as we couldn't call in our ridiculous off-table big guns in retaliation becasue we needed a 5 or 6 to do so and rolled a lot of 1's instead.

Frank  had got close enough for an assault on Jon (albeit with fewer troops than Ben) and managed to get into the trench line (making them harder to hit with the 7.7's).

This led to a morale check on the green division - which we passed!  Yuk yuk yuk.

So we carried on pouring fire into whatever we could - mainly Ben and Mark's troops - and made some miraculous close-combat rolls (like the bin-lid mortar holding off all comers and the MG's in the bunker slapping away the close assaults).

This forced our own morale check on Ben's troops which was failed!  So we'd seen off one division and badly mauled another two.  My machine guns in the bunker had no-one in range to shoot at!  Which was unfortunate as the remnants of Mark's division ran into my trenches and finally forced another morale check - which we failed.

But the green division had performed well above expectations and had effectively already won us the battle.

We already ordered our other divisions into the second line of trenches - making it look like a formidable obstacle and despite Jon losing some stands to indirect artillery we felt confident that Frank and Mark's depleted divisions would be unable to have much effect on two entrenched regular divisions - especially having to cross a lot of open ground and be in range of on-table 104's and off-table 210's and 150's/.

A good run out for the rules (gameplay seemed to be a lot faster this week) and Iron Crosses First Class to me, Jon .....and Russ.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Austria vs Russia WW1

I finally got to field my Austro-Hungarian army against Mark's Russian hordes.  We used Jono's excellent ACW boards for the battlefield (which I didn't take any photographs of but Mark did and I will post them up when I get them).

It was a basic encounter scenario with a river with 3 fords (the objectives) and woods to one side and open terrain to the other.

Frank, Mark and Jon faced off against myself, Ian, guest player Ben and Russ.  Ben asked to try a game last week so we gave him a regiment.

Me and Ian plan the downfall of the Russians.  Russ in the background at full attention. 

The Russians won the initiative and chose to come through the woods towards the river.  The river went roughly diagonally from the left hand side (where I sat) to the middle of the board and then horizontally across.  So tactically we already held one objective (where I was) and the other two were in the middle of open territory (which from experience of Great War Spearhead is not where you want to be).

Mark and his crew come up with their strategy - which apparently was 'die cheaply'

I parcelled out the forces based on the Army list for the period.  4 Regiments (two of 12 infantry, two of 16 infantry plus MG's and trench mortars).  One regiment was Green, the rest regular.  The Green we kept in reserve.  I took one regiment with attached 76.5mm artillery plus FOO to guard the ford.  Ian took the rest of the 76.5mm guns, the Divisional HQ and a FOO to hunt and blatter anything in the open (as well as command of the reserves).  Ben took one of the larger regiments and Russ the other (together with the remaining artillery - 104's, 150's and a 90mm mortar).

It was later discovered that Mark had not exactly built his army to the same level of adherence to period (1916) or troop quality.  he was asked which of his regiments were Green (in the period 1/3 of Russian regiments would be Green) to which the answer was "Errr harrumph...anyway, moving on".  As he later unleashed a few surprises (see below) I was half expecting to see him bring some T34's on!

According to Mark's army list, this is a platoon

So in order across the table : me, Ben, Ian, Russ.

Facing me was Frank, Mark the centre and Jon faced off Russ.

In the opening moves I moved my HQ forward about 3" to denote the command zone but didn't need to show any troops until the Russians closed.  I also moved my FOO into the 'killing zone' between the edge of the woods the Russians were occupying and where my troops and guns were deployed.

I set up and await Frank's troops.  One of my troops gets so bored he falls asleep...
Frank sets up and await my troops.  You're in for a long wait fellas!

Russ took the heights on our right and parked his artillery with the aim of flattening anything coming near the objectives.

Russ parks his butt and awaits Jon's attack

Jon duly obliges 

Ben moved his troops across the river and into the cornfields and woods next to me (so basically invisible until anything got within 3" of him).

As the Russians advanced, Frank occupied the woods in front of me and set up at the wood edge.  Mark moved ahead into the same cornfield as Ben was parked (ooops) and Jon bumped into Russ' troops.  Jon was saved by atrocious dice rolling by Russ (and I mean pitiful) who failed time and again to call his substantial artillery barrages in but Jon still took casualties regardless from infantry fire.

Here come the Russians!  Keep bunched up lads - it makes the artillery more effective. 

Mark too found moving into a line of infantry and machine guns basically hurts and he started losing troops.  The one bright spark for him was his counter battery fire against Ian's guns was quite effective and he slowly whittled down Ian's 76.5's.

Mark's artillery - the one bright spark in a day of misery

Meanwhile Frank and myself just gave each other harsh glances but neither of us wanted to cross what would be an absolute killing zone.  But as we held the objective we were 1-0 up regardless.

Waiting for Frank : Part Deux  I can hear them breathing...

As the battle progressed, Jon was slowly being whittled down (not by artillery obviously as Russ had a dice which apparently only had 1,2 and 3 on it).  Mark was finding the going tough (especially as Ian dropped some of his artillery on Mark's troops as well) whereas Frank and myself just let the others do the fighting.  I literally didn't move a stand or throw a dice in anger all night (and now I'm known as Stonewall) but the simple threat of firepower over a killing zone was enough deterrence to force the battle elsewhere.  They also serve who stand and wait...

We do a quick audit of the big shells Russ should have dropped on the Russians but failed to call in.  There's another 100 or so round the back...

So the Russians decided to up the ante - first with a bomber strike (which they failed to call in) and then a full cavalry regiment with a couple of armoured cars!  This force made a bee line for the gap between Ben's troops and Russ'.  However, they had to come across the open ground overlooked by Ian's FOO - who called in round after round of HE to blunt the cavalry attack.  Jon was taking heavy casualties in both infantry and cavalry forces.

Russ takes personal command of his MG to inflict more pain on Jon

Ben saw this as a chance to attack himself (against the sage advice of others who said he was in a good position, inflicting casualties on Mark and denying ground to the enemy).  He decided to attack anyway.  He also wanted me to support his attack.  If wishing someone 'good luck' is considered support, then I did my duty!  No way was I going to go into Frank's gun line.

Ben's regiment goes for it.  "It's OK, this corn makes us invisible"

So he attacked alone through the cornfield and thanks to the audacity of the attack and Mark's terrible dice rolling he started to inflict more casualties on Mark and also forced Frank to pivot some troops that way and shoot (albeit his support weapons only as he knew as soon as his infantry stands opened up my FOO would call in a storm of artillery on them).

Face-off between Mark and Ben in the woods
Seeing the danger of the 'gap' opening up between Russ and Ben we pushed the reserves in.  Just in time to be fair although Russ finally managed to start dropping his heavy shells onto the cavalry and armoured cars.  One was about to hose our Divisional Commander with MG fire when Russ dropped 2 lots of 150mm onto it and obliterated it!

We sportingly make our reserve troops easier to spot and shoot but it made no difference.

The cavalry decided to charge the reserves but a combination of artillery fire, infantry fire, mortars and MG's led to a double morale check which was failed. Almost simultaneously Jon's infantry also broke - leaving the two objectives uncontested but our right flank was clear.

Mark was in a death match with Ben (which Ben seemed to be winning comfortably) and was probably not far off a morale check himself.  We called it at 10:30 as a comfortable win for the Austrians.

I like to think my stoic defence was the rock upon which our victory was built - but it was all Russ, Ian and Ben!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

First Board Experiment - PVA and Static Grass

These initial tests of methods and materials will lead me on to get the table done for the Somme game.

I have placed an order for a 4ft x 2ft Noch grass mat from ebay so will have a better idea on how this looks in the week.

Here are some photos of the first trial samples done earlier today..........

I sealed this board and let the PVA dry before applying a second neat coat.
The static has stuck well but you can see a few bald spots. Not bad and the colour is pretty good too and includes a fine mix of sharp sand. The board was airbrushed first with brown.

This is one of my high density blue foam boards that I will be using to make the base table for the Somme. The grass seems to have stuck a bit better to this material than the PVC board above.

Again a base coat of Vallejo Earth brown was applied before the PVA was applied. I did not use two coats of glue here as there was no surface tension like the PVC board above.

This is just a better photo of the PVC board.

I'll give these a proper testing tomorrow when the glue has dried and see how durable they are.

Depending on the grass mat I will decide between the two methods for the Somme table.