November 2018 saw us recognize the end of the so-called "War to End All Wars." World War I ended 100 years ago, and as we do every November, we memorialized this with a Wings of Glory slugfest. Held at our new haunt, the aptly named Tea & Victory, we took over the largest table and transported ourselves back to late October/early November 2018.
Leading the Allies in the initial onslaught was none other than the intrepid aviator, Snoopy (no, seriously...Steve Kastensmidt provided a model of Snoopy on a doghouse which flew very similar to a Sopwith Camel). The Jasta of fighters on the German side was a mixed-bag of hastily thrown together pilots striving to protect a bomber on a critical mission. At one point, we had 13 players each controlling a single aircraft jinking about the skies striving to down their opponents. About mid-way thru, we had a mock demonstration of the Navy's Blue Angels when six aircraft where in such close proximity that it took both umpires a few minutes to sort out the maneuvers, all somehow accomplished without a collision! By the end of the evening, around 2200, four aircraft on each side had been shot out of the sky, but with the fighters tangling with one another the bomber made it thru to it's target unscathed.
During the game, we paused to remember the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who sacrificed themselves for their nations. A toast was proposed, glasses were raised, comments made...but in the end, the fighting resumed.
Waiting in their troop carriers offshore the Special Marine Assault Force ASL sharpened K-Bars while they planned their attack on the island with the newest intel that they just received on the landing beach. This savage gang of hard-core dice rollers plotted death and destruction to the Japanese occupiers.
The Tea & Victory Galley turned out a great meal for the Marines before they headed in, Fish & Chips, Chicken Tika Masala, Fried Baloney sandwich and beer! Making sure everyone was well fortified with their favorite, after hitting the beach who knows when or where their next hot meal was coming from. Or would this be their last…
Naval bombardment started a little late but hit the Japanese hard, raining those heavy shells down on the island, beaches and hard points, pinning most of their first line of defense. Go Navy big guns!!!
The rough seas, the reef and midshipman Murphy, scrambled the Marine carefully made plans to land on the specific Red Dog beaches to work their way through the strong points in the best approach possible. After the initial confusion of landing in the wrong place, a few mumbled about the typical Navy abilities deliver them in the right place, the Marines poured ashore and across the sand looking for Japanese to kill.
The Marines move and shoot kept the Japanese pinned in their hard points and Bunkers as they moved forward up the beach. All the time pouring fire, as if on the training grounds, into the numerous bunkers, trenches and emplacements the Japanese had laid out as they crossed the open ground.
Before the first LVT could get off the beach, with a squad of Marine hunkered down inside, the 47mm antitank gun found range and sliced into the full vehicle. The Marines learned while armored these things aren’t tanks! This knocked out the LVT, but wasn’t powerful enough to impact the passengers. The Marines were forced to disembark onto the open sand, but didn’t take too many casualties.
The Army Air Corp seemed to be more interested in hunting for Zeros or keeping Kamikazes away from the fleet. Every time it took repeated calls from the AO to dial in an attack on one of the Japanese strong-points. Next time bring a Marine or Navy AO who could get a more immediate response for the guys taking the fire…
There were stories, one of those myths that seem to be formed in battle, of a sailor from Colorado who had joined up with the Japanese defenders. If he existed his body was never found, maybe he just sailed away, continuing his journey elsewhere.
Those pesky Japanese kept popping up in the rear and from the sides where the Marine had thought they had cleared everything out. To add injury to insult the FO’s called in artillery bombardment that fell short of the bunker and onto the Marines preparing to assault it. So much for a little help from the Destroyers offshore, the marines were going to have to do this themselves! Shortly they stormed the bunker and cleared out the remaining defenders, silencing the machine-gun for good.
The second LVT turn the corner hosing down a strong-point with a hail of MMG fire but at a cost of having track blown off by the AT gun with before the Marines were able to storm the next line of defense bunker and taking out the pesky gun.
The Japanese snipers began to take their toll as the Marines advanced deeper, pushing to clear out all of the bunkers and stay on their timeline. The squad NCO were targeted by the dastardly sneaky devils! But this did not stop or slow down those hard fighting Marines, fortified with another round of beers that somehow made it ashore. Those Marines are very ingenious in this way, maybe it is how they got that special assault force title, ASL, Always Serving Libations! There were also sightings of some Marines eating a strange rice cake snack that either they had scavenged from an overrun bunker or sneaked from the Tea & Victory galley. One wonders if the Marine unit was raised by emptying a jail or prison somewhere…
True to form the Japanese launched several Banzai attacks as the Marines moved inland. However, they learned charging into smoke cloud against flamethrowers doesn’t end well. The Marines really didn’t need to aim and just let the charging Japanese run into a wall of flames. When the smoke cleared only the Marines were left standing and not smoldering. But when the smoke cleared those snipers zeroed in on the flame boys to even the score…
A crazed Japanese soldier with an antitank mined strapped to the end of a bamboo pole came charging across the scrub towards the demobilized LVT only to be cut to ribbons short of his target. These fanatic Japanese soldiers just don’t seem to care if they live, only looking to die for the Emperor! Or was it the sake’?
The Marines approached the final cave complex, their finial objective. They had taken casualties and had to leave men behind to guard against the damn Japanese that had a habit of popping up in the rear. Moving up the slope they were caught in vicious crossfire from the final line of defense and cut up with LMG and MMG fire seeming to come right out of the mountain its self.
All the time as the Marines were advancing the AO was frantically call in air support to give them cover or at least make the Japanese keep their heads down so the squad could get close enough to assault the caves. As before it took several calls before the fly-boys finally showed up and in the final act of the offensive was only able to blast away at the rock face. When the dust settled the machine guns nests were still there pouring fire out of their holes and crevasse down the slope at the Marines. Keeping them just short of their objective for Day 1, as it became too dark to continue the advance…
It was a long battle, hard fought with camaraderie holding both sides together and the beer was good! Stay tuned, next time the Marines with some armor support will move inland to clear the island of Japanese defenders in round two of island hopping!
Battlegroup has been our go-to rule system for 2018, replacing Flames of War and Bolt Action as our platoon to company level WWII game, having scheduled it for multiple game nights. We'll play it one final time in December, but in September Rob hosted another scenario from the Market-Garden campaign book.
Rob contributed the following after-action to go with our photos below.
We had a large crowd for the September Beer & Pretzel Game Night. In honor of the 74th anniversary of Operation Market Garden this month I ran Battlegroup WWII rules and a scenario from the Market Garden Campaign of the 2nd South Staffordshire Para Glider Regiment fighting through the western suburbs of Arnhem trying to reach the bridge on September 19, 1944. Opposing them were recently arrived 10th SS troops led by Maj Sepp Kraftt.
Some players knew the BG system so we divided them up and got straight into the action. The SS pushed west along the north side of the Utrechtsweg road, with one squad on the south side. The British evenly divided their platoon occupying buildings north (houses) and south (museum) of the road and waited for the German advance.
The player soon learned the value of pinning as the Para light mortar team and rifle squad started to score against the German rifle squad and MG team advancing in the south toward the museum. We made one small error here and were treating the rifle + MG team as one unit but soon fixed that after the first pin and morale test.
The AAA fire into the rear houses and the British 6pdr gun offboard both seemed to invoke more caution than actual results. The StuGs hung back and were not inclined to cross into the LOS of the British ATG. Instead, we all learned the ‘shooting at buildings’ rule as the StuGs consumed their HE rounds shooting into the houses on the north side of the street. One structure took 2 of the 3 possible structural damage points but was able to out-last the German HE ammo supply. The British teams inside vacated regardless due to the implied threat. The museum was assaulted once by a German rifle squad from the reinforcing platoon but was repelled. After both PIAT teams were knocked out by a very well placed German MG-34 team on the NE corner house from the museum, a very brave Para rifle team attempted to assault a StuG with anti-tank grenades but was not successful. German mortar strikes inflicted a few casualties and we applied a building damage opportunity when the mortar bombs struck a house.
I actually cannot remember which side hit their battle rating first, but it was close [I believe the Germans hit their battle rating first, giving the British the win. - ed.]. The players all enjoyed learning the rules better, I don’t think we made any major mistakes after the first small error w/ a rifle team and MG team. I enjoyed getting my Dutch terrain out and seeing the small soldiers do what they do best, bring enjoyment to our gang of players and honoring the many soldiers and civilians who were lost fighting in Arnhem 74 years ago.
We met at Tea + Victory on August 2nd where we tried out the What a Tanker! rules from Too Fat Lardies. William offered to host, originally using his 28mm tanks, but the sheer number of attendees (11, one of our highest turnouts in years) overwhelmed his ability to use his 28mm toys. In best Houston Beer and Pretzel Wargaming tradition, Rob volunteered the use of his available 15mm Western Desert themed tanks and we were off to the proverbial races.
On July 12th we witnessed a major crisis in the South China Sea. Using a variety of ship models and the Bulldogs Away rules, we had escalation of tensions from collisions, fire hoses, failed morale, then gun fire, and finally missile shots. End result, Vietnam and China each lost a missile boat, almost every other craft was damaged. Hostilities ceased under the watchful eye of the USN setting up a potential sequel game. The important Chinese supplies were burned up in a fire on the Da Qing.
Thanks for running this game, Rob.
I had just returned from a fortnight away, my annual holiday, when I decided to call on him. I had not seen him in several months, so was wholeheartedly curious, and filled with some trepidation, to discover the current state of both his mental and physical faculties.
Baker Street was as bustling as ever as I called at that oh-so-familiar 221. Mrs. Hudson kindly greeted me at the door and directed me up, knowing full well I didn’t want nor need to be announced nor directed to the upstairs flat.
I found him pacing, as he often did when he was on a case, with his gaze fixed downward, no doubt studying the minute movements of some as yet unseen arachnid or similar creature. The scent of pungent incense hung in the air, certainly designed to conceal from Mrs. Hudson some far fouler stench.
“Good evening, Holmes.”
“My apologies if I am disturbing you, but I have just returned from…”
“Shhhh!!”, he muttered.
“Er… holidays… er… .sorry”, I stammered.
He paused in his pacing, looked up, and studied me but for a moment. “How was Greece?” he asked.
.”Now how the devil did you surmise I’d been to Greece? Wait, is it the slight smell of some Athenian spice, emanating from my clothes? The particular tanning of my complexion, indicative of Aegean latitudes? Or some other subtle tell?”
A hint of a smile appeared on Holmes’ gaunt chiseled face. “No, no, no, my dear doctor. Nothing quite so cerebral.”
He suddenly presented a card, which he must have subtly palmed off the table as he’d paced by. “Mary sent me a postcard from the two of you, from Athens.”
We both chuckled at this.
“Watson, I… we… have a case.” He began. “I was visited this afternoon by Reverend Edward Cussler, Vicar of Saint Sepulchres, in Snow Hill. It seems his daughter, Abigail, has disappeared and he is quite concerned for her well-being.”
It had been too long since we’d last worked together, so a part of me was quite eager to assist in his efforts, while another part of me was conscious that I had a wife waiting for me at home. “Where shall we start?” I heard myself say. “What additional information were you able to glean from the Vicar?”
Holmes’ smile broadened, “The game’s afoot, Watson. We’ll start by visiting The Holbrook hotel, on Holborn Viaduct, I should think”.
Click on the Read More link to find out what happened.
In May we met for the first time at the new Tea + Victory game cafe on East TC Jester. Matt Zajac hosted and delivered an enjoyable 15mm game between Romans and Carthaginians. Barry, Chuck, and I commanded the Romans while Daniel and Joe commanded the Carthaginians. Matt writes:
"The game played out historically - although I think the Roman center still had quite a bit of punch to it remaining. Their armor capability combined with the highest cohesion of 4 make the Romans very tough - and with a good commander removing hits they have quite a bit of staying power. The loss of the one Roman commander would have had serious consequences quickly - especially if that cohort's units became ungrouped."
Click on the read more link to learn more about the history of this battle.
On April 5th we had a great Battlegroup game at Coral Sword. Good pizza and BYOB made for a fun evening.
Rob hosted as Barry, Paul, Andy, Will, and Rob played the Sons of Son game in the Market Garden book. Two platoons of 101st Airborne w/ some anti-tank and mortar support is defending a Bailey Bridge over the Willemsvaart Canal in Son which is under a German counter-attack by some Panther tanks and two infantry platoons.
It was only our second game of Battlegroup this year and this scenario was good to introduce armor and indirect fire into the game. We jumped right in and learned a few things, and still have some rules to fully grasp and master. We'll end this w/ a lessons learned to reference for our next game.
In this game, the Germans have to commit four timed artillery strikes of harassment fire after the Americans deploy. The US Paras took a beating in some woods that got hit twice by these timed barrages. Cover saves in woods (soft) isn't as good as a building hard cover.
The Panzers led the attack and moved a little bit toward the bridge and stopped, preferring a long range duel w/ a 57mm ATG. Due to intervening terrain, it was really a 1 on 1 duel between a single Panther and the concealed gun as the two supporting Panthers couldn't see the ATG. Not short of targets, the other Panthers shot up the infantry platoon on the objective and in some nearby woods and started piling battle rating chits onto the Americans.
Luckily for the Americans, the British supply trucks arrived on T1 and scooted up the road to the bridge right away. The nearby village buildings offered enough room to hide from the guns of the Panthers which allowed them to all escape off the North edge on T2 and T3 (two trucks got pinned by an artillery strike on the bridge T2). This gave four more battle rating chits to the Germans.
The German infantry advanced aggressively in the South, and were pinned for their efforts by the effective US 81mm mortar battery firing off-table w/ two US commanders able to call fire (usually one was pinned so having two was a good redundancy).
Eventually the 57mm ATG w/ extra loader team (higher ROF) won the duel w/ the Panther and more battle chits went to the Germans. This gun eventually succumbed to a Panther that advanced to it's position, but inspired some fierce anti-tank grenade attacks by supporting Paras which ultimately failed, but were epic.
We finally had to call the game at 11pm as we were tired. The Germans won a narrow tactical victory on battle ratings. The Americans were closer to the break point then the German side. We all enjoyed the game and learning it's finer points.
Pinning w/ suppressing fire and HE is key to taking units out of the game until rally in the following turn (which costs battle rating chits to do). We got some rules wrong, but I've worked out all the lessons learned below and we'll improve our play next time. All in all, we really enjoy Battlegroup as our current goto game for 15mm WWII.
We plan to see more Battlegroup Market-Garden action in September and Battlegroup Wacht Am Rhein action in December, as our 2018 focus on the Battlegroup rules continues.
1a. Artillery Fire Sequence - need to resolve direct hits according to the HE dice and hit value of each gun. We allocated direct hits but did not resolve them correctly.
81mm mortar and Panther 75mm are both HE 4/4+ for scoring hits that require saves.
1b. Artillery Fire Sequence - need to resolve pinning hits according to the Suppressing Fire Effect table according to the gun type. 81mm mortar are light HE, Panther 75mm are light HE.
1c. Artillery number of shots = tubes x2. Panthers roll 6 dice for x3 tubes. US 81mm mortors roll 4 dice for x2 tubes
2. US Infantry have M1 Garands which do suppressing fire as one band higher on table. ex: 6 man Rifle team does suppressing fire as ROF 9+
3. Hits on Soft Skin Vehicles - need to consult the chart for vehicle. SdKfz 7 takes 4 hits before knocked out. Morale Check required for EACH hit (not just on casualty).
4a. Deployed Guns - any rolls of '6' on HE to hit are applied against the gun, not the crew. Gun makes same Cover Save Roll and if failed, crew abandons the now destroyed gun.
4b. Loader team requires a 5+ check to give the extra ROF dice. ROF 3 only if the loader team passes this check during the Open Fire order.
5. 60mm mortar - min/max range is 5"/30". Treat as aimed fire HE Shell weapon. Roll HE 3/5+ for aimed fire effect. Treat as HE from very light gun for Supressing Fire.
Please feel free to comment on what interests you.