As I said in an earlier post, I’ve started to get into modeling mainly as a spinoff of my miniatures wargaming habit. Well, that habit continues, and every now and again I have an opportunity to play a wargame or two – thanks to a very patient wife (wargaming opponents have been hard to come by here in Khabarovsk). We recently tested out a new set of rules, called “I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum!” Lots of fun. Here’s the after-action report.

For the test scenario, we ran a simple hypothetical meeting engagement with two platoons of German Infantry with light mortar support against two platoons of Soviet Infantry with HMG support. The overarching objective for both sides was control of the bridges in the town.

IABSM uses some interesting mechanisms, which add to the unpredictability of the game, and I think add to the interest as well. Firstly, it uses a system of blind movement, whereby units are represented by “blinds,” until those units are spotted or open fire. A blind may be an actual unit (platoon, in this case), or it may be a small recon squad of a few men (basically a “dummy” blind – no combat potential, but able to spot and move). This means you don’t really know what you’re facing, sometimes until you’re right on top of a unit (like in real warfare). In this photo, the Russians advance on the town, using the cover of the buildings and forest to advance practically unnoticed. The dice are used for movement, firing, and spotting, and as your unit loses men, it loses dice, thus reducing it’s effectiveness.

Here, a German platoon with light artillery support is revealed early on, as they advance in the open. Each squad can then move on it’s own, but usually with reduced effectiveness. Blinds receive four initiative dice, but each regular Wermacht squad receives only three. Nte that the squads are represented by four figures for ease of play, and due to the lack of figures in sufficient numbers, especially on the Soviet side. Need to do some more painting!

The Germans advance on the town. The dice next to the unit are it’s reserved dice, which can be used for firing or spotting at any point in the turn.

Here a Soviet platoon takes cover in a ruined building. Note the Maxim HMG in support. The AT rifles are actually substituting for light MGs – again, need to do some more painting – I only had enough LMGs for one platoon! Another interesting feature of IABSM is the use of a card-based initiative system. Cards representing every unit (as well as some special characteristic cards) are placed in a deck and shuffled. Then they are turned over one at a time, to indicate when those units are activated. There is also a “Tea Break” card, which indicates the end of a turn, when all unit cards are reshuffled. What this means is that unit order is not fixed, and it is possible (even likely) that not every unit will activate every turn! In fact, this HMG unit, after taking up it’s position in the building, never once activated the entire game! Obviously new recruits lacking appropriate supervision.

Here we see the deleterious effects of combat. This German platoon has made it to the bridge – but it was unfortunately as far as they ever got. They tried to advance in the open and received withering fire from the Soviets behind hard cover in the buildings of the town. The white counters represent “wounds,” which reduce the squads’ effectiveness. The black counters represent actual casualties. One more casualty on this squad on the foreground, and they will be down to one figure, or zero initiative dice (I used the number of figures to represent how many dice the squad had +1, since even if a squad has no dice, it still has the potential of action, albeit this action more often than not would be to seek out cover – which the two squads with attached platoon leader in the background have already done).

RUMBLE! Close assault usually proves devastating and decisive, and this was no exception. The assault ended with the two squads of Germans in full retreat. This left the Germans with a squad with Platoon commander in the church, and the second platoon taking cover by the bridge on their left flank. However, they had by this point sustained too many casualties to offer effective resistance, and left the field of battle, regrouping for a counterattack on another day.

Overall, the game was really fun, and while it was unpredictable, this added to the “feel” of the game. The ranges in this game seem rather “short,” meaning lots of ineffective fire until you really get close. Artillery was a mixed bag. In this game, there was no forward observer, but IABSM allows for “blind firing” of light and medium on-table artillery. What happened was the German mortars ended up sitting way back on the table without line of sight to anything, and just fired off of map coordinates. Usually, the fire scattered, but occasionally it was dead on, and there didn’t seem to be any difference in accuracy if the mortar unit could see the impact point or not – perhaps I’m reading the rules wrong, and if so, feel free to correct me. This was a bit of a sticking point for me, but all in all, the mortars did not have an overwhelming effect on the game. Overall, the rules are worth a look-see. Check them out at www.toofatlardies.co.uk.

Randy Stoda

 
 
 
 
 

The setting is spring of 1940. A small town in Belgium, where a railroad, a highway and a canal all meet. The Third Reich wants this important road network. The Belgians and the British are desperate to hold it from the German blitzkrieg, but are woefully undermanned and virtually without effective anti-tank weapons. Thankfully, the British have managed to send a company of Scots and a few tanks (Matilda Is and Mk VIs).

Belgian Marines hold the Town

The photos are from a game of "I Ain't Been Shot, Mum!" played on April 17th 2010. We played at UH-Clear Lake, our usual third Saturday of the month.

I wish I had taken photos of the Stugs shelling the buildings of the town and driving the Belgians out by collapsing the stone houses on top of them. I think if the German player had continued to do that, shelling the village, he could have turned that entire flank. As it was, he split the Stugs off to deal with some British infantry.

The German player had some astonishing luck with his divebomber. Three times he hit right on target. Blew the heart out of an entire platoon of Scots, and slowed the only real anti-tank weapon (a 25-pdr) to a crawl.

A Stuka divebomber prepares to strike British infantry

This flank is now safe from the Stuka, with all those Bren guns pointing skywards. But the damage was done. The platoon pounded by the Stuka was half dead, and all discouraged. Other than the Boys AT Rifle team (which banged away gamely at the Stugs), the platoon was done for the day.

British Motorized Platoon pulls up to defend the Canal

Miraculously, at the end of the alloted game time, the German player had not reached the village. I think this was more due to a few tactical mistakes on his part than any particular genius on the defenders' parts. You do not want to leave your infantry out in the open in front of a weapons platoon's worth of medium machine guns! Very bloody.

Also, the card driven system, with random turn ends did not help. Finally, I got a bit of luck with my aircover as well, with the Rare As Fairies showing up twice to strafe the German ATG crews. I have experienced a great deal of frustration while trying to get an attack under way using this system myself, so I can empathize with the German commander.

IABSM! is not my favorite set of rules, though it is pretty simple once you get used to it. My biggest gripe is that random turn end (the Tea Break card). You have to be super careful to get that deck of cards well shuffled so that the Tea Break doesn't happen too early in the turn every time. It is incredibly frustrating when you move the same unit over and over and the rest of your troops are glued in place.

The Scattergun Gamer

 
 
 
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A small game set on the Eastern Front:  Soviets versus Germans.

Hardly had the game begun when both sides advanced rapidly forward in to firing range and began to take casualties.

The Germans, more motorised than their opponents, are able to act more strategically: taking advantage of the hills and forests, and using their armour to cover the advance of their infantry.

The German tanks opened fire on the Soviet armour without stopping to think about it.

But the Russians, not being in the business of pulling back (it is what the commissars to the rear are for), advance using their KO'd armor as cover.

The Soviets go through the woods.

The artillery deployed strategically.

On this occasion, the Germans are a little less aggressive:  all their troops take cover.

With their forward observers in the best position possible.

Soon the tables are turned, and it's the German armour that are taking hits.

Although they want to conserve their troops, they are here to fight and win the battle...which is why, in the end, the Germans decide to advance.

Which is what the Soviets have been doing since the battle began. 

So the gap between the two front lines is shrinking.

And in the end, close combat becomes inevitable.

Because of their excessive caution, the Germans are in a worse position than the Soviets, and are soon getting the worst of it.

In the end, as always happens to us, the game ends in a draw as time has beaten us, and we have to clear things away.

A great afternoon among friends with lots of laughs and fun.

Burt Minorrot.

 
 
 
 
 

Played scenario 10 from the All American 82nd Airborne scenario pack tonight at the SLW club. My Germans took on Ian’s farm boys and tried a double envelopment. Ian was a clever so and so, allowing me to observe certain areas then, once I thought them clear, move up to them. I walked into these and many a tear was wept back in Dusseldorf after the casualty list came in.

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My armour could not hit a barn door (rolled a '1' on almost every HE round I fired). The FOO did a great job calling in support, but the Tea Break card kept turning up before any of my support cards! I did have some luck with the second flank attack and actually reached the village, only for a platoon of reinforcements to arrive!

A very good game and will try it again in two weeks, but I will umpire this time.

Here are some photos.

Desmondo Darkin

 
 
 
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I played a game of IABSM at the club yesterday against a potential new member, Steve who contacted me via the IABSM Facebook group. I created a scenario based upon Scenario Generator No. 5"Breakthrough" in the IABSM rulebook.

Background & Set Up

The British need to advance along the only road towards the village of Ste Madeleine-sur-Fleuve. To do this, the main force has sent a relatively strong mobile scouting group down the road to probe the German defences and hopefully force a breakthrough. This forces consists of two troops of tanks (each with 3 x Cromwells and 1 x Sherman Vc and L2 BM), one section of carriers equipped with Vickers MMGs (L3 BM) and two rifle platoons (one in four half-tracks and one carried as tank riders, L2 BM). The HQ (L3 BM, L2 BM) for this force has an attached platoon of 4 x 3” mortars carried in 4 Loyd carriers and is carried in a half-track. Each rifle platoon has one member designated as a sniper.

Chips

  • British Armour 1 
  • British Armour 2
  • British Platoon 1
  • British Platoon 2
  • British Support 1 (MG carriers)
  • British Support 2 (mortars)
  • British Sniper
  • British Big Men 1-7
  • Armoured Bonus

There is a German defence screen ahead of the village which has been ordered to stop the British advance, to allow time for the Germans to complete their withdrawal towards to major town of Falaise to the south.

The German force consists of two Zugs of Panzergrenadiers (each with L2 BM), supported by two SdKfz 251 Stummel half-tracks with short 75mm howitzers (L2 BM) and two Marder III Ausf. M with 75mm Pak 40 a/t guns (L2BM) and a Zug of three Panther tanks (L2 BM). The HQ(L3 BM) for this force has a section of three Panzerschrecks and two MG42 teams. The Germans are dug-in behind some hastily-built field defences.

Chips

  • German Armour 1
  • German Platoon 1
  • German Platoon 2
  • German Anti-tank 1 (Marder IIIs)
  • German Support 1 (short 75mm halftracks)
  • German Support 2 (Panzerschrecks)
  • German Support 3 (separate MG42s)
  • German Big Men 1-6

Note that neither side has a chip for the HQ. This is because any HQ-attached elements have their own chips. In addition to the Tea Break chip, the bag contains two blank chips which act as a countdown. Once the blank has been drawn 12 times, the game ends.

We rolled a D6 to see who would be the British and who would be the Germans. I rolled higher and chose to play as the German commander.

The terrain is relatively flat with some hedges breaking up the ground, a couple of lines of bocage (marking the German deployment area) and a small wooded area from which the British troops will emerge. There is a small reservoir by the road and a walled potager at the German end of the table. The ploughed fields on the side of the road are designated as soft going (-1" on each movement dice). The temporary German field defences can be seen to the left of the reservoir and the right of the road.

The Game

The British advanced under blinds but two units were soon spotted by the defenders. These were one of the tank troops and the carriers armed with Vickers MMGs. These could fire on the move.

Most of the German defenders were hidden in the deployment area but there were a few units under blinds. One was spotted by the carriers and was exposed as a pair of Marders.

The British tanks opened fire, and one Marder was immediately knocked out by the troop Sherman Vc with the 17-pdr gun. 

The second Marder would soon follow, leaving the road almost open for the British to drive hell-for-leather towards Ste Madeleine-sur-Fleuve.

The Germans began to emerge from under their blinds, with the main threat being the weakened Zug of three Panthers. 

The Panthers were soon in action and two Cromwells were hit, causing them to brew up. One was the tank with the troop commander.

One Panther was knocked out by the Sherman Vc in the tank troop as the 2" mortar with the platoon which had been riding on the tanks laying down smoke to obscure the British advance.

Realising the the British intended to use speed to get past the German defences, which had been across the table in the bocage, the first Panzergrenadier Zug began to advance across the open ground, secure in the knowledge that the British infantry in the ploughed field were pinned by 75mm howitzer fire from the Stummels. Elsewhere, the Panzerschrecks had destroyed two of the carriers, and damaged a third as the British continued their thrust along the road. There were two British units still under blinds. The Armour Bonus chip was helping the British move quickly.

The rear tank troop engaged with the Panthers at short range, but without any luck. The Germans were more accurate and the remaining two British tanks were soon taken out by the long 75mm guns on the Panthers.

The Panzergrenadiers advanced on the British platoon pinned in the field and wiped them out. A Panzerfaust managed to damage one of the Cromwells in the other troop but couldn't prevent the Rifle platoon in the half-tracks (under a blind), the remaining two carriers and the tank troop from getting off the table, with the Panzerfaust and MG42 teams being wiped out by Vickers fire. However, the victory conditions were that four units with at least 50% of their original strength remaining should exit the table and this was no longer possible, so this game ended up as a victory for the German defenders.

Aftermath

This was an interesting game, not least because I had expected the British to advance on a wide front and deployed my two infantry Zugs in a line across the table. Steve, however had other ideas and went for a mad dash along the road. The only unit held back was the mortar platoon, who stayed unused under a blind at the back of the table. Steve was never able to use the firepower of the 3" mortars to suppress the German defence. 

What really mattered here was whose firepower was best and it turned out that the three Panthers were more than a match for the British tanks, excepting the destructive power of the 17-pdrs on the Shermans.

A couple of notes about the way I planned the scenario. 

First, I rolled a dice to see who would be attacking and who would defend. 1,2 or 3 was a German defence and 4,5 or 6 was a British defence. I rolled a 2, so the Germans were the defenders.

Then, I used a dice to select which tanks would be available for the Germans.

  • 1-3 Panzer IV
  • 4-5 Panther
  • 6 Tiger I

Then I rolled again to see how strong the Zug would be. A full-strength Zug is five vehicles. The roll would be as follows;

  • 1 or 2 - full strength
  • 3 or 4 - one vehicle under strength
  • 5 or 6 - two vehicles under strength

I then rolled a D6 to see if the anti-tank unit would be Stug IIIs, Marders or Pak 40-equipped SdKfz 251 half-tracks. I'd already decided that only two would be available. Clearly, Stugs would be the best choice here, but it wasn't to be.

Carole Flint

 
 
 
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 Our scenario  takes place in May of 1943 during what was known by the Yugoslavs as The Fifth Enemy Offensive, also known as the Battle of the Sutjeska or Fall Schwartz (Case Black). By this point, things in Yugoslavia had shown as horrific an aspect as is possible in war. In the words of a British liaison officer who served with the Partisans:

 

It was the nature of partisan resistance that operations against it must either eliminate it altogether or leave it potentially stronger than before. This had been shown by the sequel to each of the previous five offensives from which, one after another, the partisan brigades and divisions had emerged stronger in experience and armament than they had been before, with the backing of a population which had come to see no alternative to resistance but death, imprisonment, or starvation. There could be no half-measures; the Germans left nothing behind them but a trail of ruin. What in other circumstances might possibly have remained the purely ideological war that reactionaries abroad said it was (and German propaganda did their utmost to support them) became a war for national preservation. So clear was this that no room was left for provincialism; Serbs and Croats and Slovenes, Macedonians, Bosnians, Christian and Moslem, Orthodox and Catholic, sank their differences in the sheer desperation of striving to remain alive. 

Basil Davidson

 

From 15 May – 15 June, the 7th SS, Prince Eugen Mountain division (said to have “developed a distinctive reputation for cruelty”) took  part in Case Black aiming to pin Tito's main force of about 20,000 Partisans against the Zelengora mountain, in southeastern Bosnia. The 7th SS was raised from the so-called volksdeutsche volunteers of the region, and augmented by Balkan draftees of only partial German background.

During the battle, the division was ordered to move through the Italian zone and block the possible advance of Partisans towards the Adriatic sea and Albania, and close the south-east part of the encirclement and then advance north over mountainous terrain to crush the Partisan forces.

On May 20 the division captured Šavnik. The Partisans headed by the 1st Proletarian Division broke out of the encirclement, and two battalions of the 7th SS  were moved to cover the left bank of the Sutjeska river and block the Partisan's escape route. In Case Black, the division suffered total losses of 613 men. The German claims for Partisan casualties are hard to translate into pure battle casualties, since they often counted the innocent civilians they slaughtered as “Partisans”.

Our action depicts a small piece of this overall action between Tito’s now seasoned Partisans and their hunters.

7th SS “Prince Eugen” Division Briefing

You are part of a blocking force to cut off the partisans on the run. You have a forward platoon in the village that sits across the escape route in radio contact with the company HQ off board.

The forward platoon has just cleared the village in their normal brutal manner and now occupy it.

You will have two more platoons of infantry and a strong armour platoon coming up if the occupying platoon gets in any trouble.

Once you are all assembled in the village, you will press on further down the road to chase partisan units that already passed this point before you blocked it.

You will have occasional “eyes on” via a Storch recon plane.

Reinforcements will arrive primarily via the north road with one infantry platoon via west edge. The armour element is strong: a platoon of three Italian M13/41 tanks and one heavy French Char-B with a  flamethrower in lieu of its 75mm hull gun.

1st Proletarian Division Briefing

You are being pressed and are trying to evacuate in order, but a single platoon of fascists and their collaborators have occupied and are burning a village on our route.

Your unit already crossed this point and will backtrack to clear the village for those behind, including our wounded, who will enter from the west road and  pass through the village and exit via the south road. You should have the element of surprise, as they will be distracted while they are rounding up the villagers for extermination.

Clear the village of the enemy before any of his reinforcements come up, make time for our wounded to pass through and get further down the road, and then hold up the fascists as long as you can before continuing our retreat.

The Partisan Hospital Train

The enemy is bound to have some armour in the area and we only have a few antitank rifles and a couple captured guns, but the terrain is narrow and rough, which will help.

All Partisans start on the board: four infantry platoons, two MMG teams, a captured Italian mountain howitzer, and a captured German PaK 36 37mm AT gun. The hospital train will enter from the west soon after they hear the attack start.

The Action

The Germans set up their three squads in and around the village square. One squad, with the lieutenant, conducted the work of herding the villagers into the building on the west side of the square and setting it alight, while the other two acted as security. While they went about this horrid business, the Partisan commander watched through binoculars, his blood boiling.  From the bluff on the far south edge, he sighted in his two medium machine gun teams, and waited for his four infantry platoons to creep up to the distracted invaders.

Partisan Machine-Gun Teams Prepare For Action

The Partisans were allowed to set up on Blinds no closer than 12 inches from the security squads. This allowed them to push three platoons fairly close to the back of the building on the east side of the square. At their commander’s signal, the machine guns and a platoon across the marshy wastes on the south end of the village shot up the security squad at the south side of the square to nothingness and the hit the lieutenant’s squad hard enough to persuade them to flee to the north side of the square. The security squad in the east building was swamped by two full platoons at their rear in close combat, with no quarter given.

Partisans Swarm The Village

The signalman in the square crouched next to the truck and sent out word to the captain: help! He was soon unable to carry on any further communication. Orders were dispatched to converge on the village.

Help!

Grasping that they would also be surrounded and destroyed, the remaining five members of the death squad and their leader scrambled out of the village and down the hill, sheltering in the house there.  The Partisans gave up the chase and consolidated their position on the crest,  and loading their captured truck with their newly acquired  guns, ammo, and boots.  

Soon, the German observation plane flew over and confirmed the fragmentary message already received—the village had fallen. The Partisan hospital train was spotted passing through the village and heading south, along with the captured truck.

 A Storch Confirms the Worst

The Nurses, the Wounded, and the Booty

A few turns passed, allowing the wounded to make it through the village and part way down the road, while two platoons of Partisans stuck to the buildings on the edge of the village and carried on a desultory shootout with the death squad at the base of the bluff. One more Partisan platoon still on Blinds edged out toward the north east corner.

Second Partisan Platoon Probes Forward

Soon after, the German HQ platoon and the other two infantry platoons came onboard, sheltering behind the wooded hills on the north edge of the battle area, awaiting their armour to clear the Partisans. The Germans were relieved when they finally saw their armour come on at the north road entrance.

German Reinforcements Start Arriviing

“What is THAT?” wondered the Partisans as the big French Char-B lumbered toward them, surrounded by her three Italian M13/41 handmaidens. They found out as the armour veered left toward the exposed platoon on the east and the Char-B shot a 12” stream of flame into one squad and their lieutenant. They got away with only two dead" amazing luck after the 5D6 fire effect.

Flammenwerfer!

The Partisan platoons on the village bluff took a quick lesson and before the tank platoon could turn back toward them and advance, they scurried away at top speed from the crest!

Discretion is the Better Part of Valour!

The door was open, and the German infantry started pressing forward and the tanks clattered up the hill into the village square before the infantry could catch up.

Tanks in the Square!

In the square, the tanks caught some of the escaping Partisans, but most escaped down the hill and into the woods and marsh beyond, just as the 37mm AT gun and the Italian mountain gun opened up, along with a few antitank rifles. One Italian tank was immobilized by an AT Rifle team.

While their fellows were fleeing, Partisan Platoon 3 boldly counter attacked around the west side of the village buildings, grappling in close combat with the German infantry coming up to support the tankers. The assaulting platoon and the defenders were both bled to a small number, effectively eliminating all supporting German infantry. An untouched German platoon, along with a squad from the HQ company had lagged behind and now were still at the bottom of the hill and of no help for the tank assault.

Platoon Three Counter-Attacks

Close Combat in the Square

Everything in the Balance

We called the game at that point, since the hospital train and captured truck had rounded the bend and were safely away and the Germans could not pursue without heavy infantry support through the marshy wastes and rocky trail beyond.

Had we carried on a few more turns, the puny antitank weapons of the Partisans might have done more damage to the Axis armour, and some more of the Partisan infantry would likely have been roasted by the fearsome flammenwerfer, but the result would have been the same: the Partisans would escape to fight another day.

Partisan Gun Line

Great job Hauptmann Bernie and Lt. Rick, and great job Comrade Captain Lee, and Lieutenants John C. , John M., and newbie Sgt. Chris!

Joe Patchen

German (North) End Positions

German (North) End Positions

Partisan (South) End Positions

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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6mm IABSM game played at Gigabites Café in June 2017

 
 
 
 
 

Comparing my previous after action report to other batreps of the same battle on Vis Lardica, I realised I made a number of major errors:

  1. I played the stream as unfordable
  2. I forgot the Canadians were vets
  3. Also, after a bit of research I figured I had the hamlet a little wrong:  no church and the main road being the 'lower' of the two

Which all add up to a good excuse to play through the scenario again. So...

James Tree

 
 
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Today, Steve C and I returned to our I Aint Been Shot Mum WWII campaign. The Germans had pushed the Soviets back last time, and the battle has moved on to the small town of Sorok which guards a ford crossing.

With the Russian infantry fleeing before the advancing German armour and totally outgunned, the town falls to the German force.

It was not an equal contest - but who knows what is coming next - well, we do because we have looked at the next scenario and the T-34s are back.

Tank fest !

Norseygamer

 
 
 
 
 

Split into two halves on two rather separated club nights (largely due to the umpire (me) not having time to build the northern half of San Marco!).

San Marco.png

Initial assault (red table area)

The British advanced largely up the right flank, with 7 Platoon in the lead, under cover of a smoke barrage from the supporting 25 pounder. They came under some heavy MG fire from the church, and in an attempt to root that out, their supporting Churchill CS had its 90mm gun knocked out by a StuG III.

After a fairly gritty firefight, the Germans, taking heavy losses to the advanced Nr. 1 Zug, chose to fall back across the river, and the British were thwarted by a well placed minefield (just south of the bridge) from following before the bridge was blown up. As the river was somewhat tricky to cross, they elected to consolidate their position and renew the assault after a couple of hours.

Initial assault from the eastern end. Note the large smoke barrage centre table. 7 Platoon close-assaulting across the road centre of picture

Followup assault (blue table area)

Some fairly heated discussion at the British O group led to an original plan to feint an attack towards the vineyards and Castello San Marco, while gong for a main thrust towards the church. This (as ever, perhaps) didn't survive contact with the enemy, as initial probes revealed no German forces south of the ford on the British side of the river. (There was a fascinating almost 'pre-game' of cat and mouse with Blinds, with a lot of missed spotting rolls, but some excellent use of Blinds by the British.)

Followup action - the calm before the storm. The villa roof is just visible bottom left.

7 Platoon (with a scratch section made up of Nos 2 and 3 sections), thus went in up the left flank via the unoccupied villa, seeking to cross the river by the vineyard. 8 Platoon, meanwhile, pushed across on the extreme right, encountering no resistance to taking the church. A Spitfire dropped its 500lb bomb load roughly in the middle of town, causing some consternation among the Germans but little serious damage.

The Villa, and Castello San Marco

If you go down to the woods
today...

About the point 7 Platoon splashed across the river, a Tiger was revealed in the woods north of the castle (spotted by a dummy Blind that had been advancing up the extreme left and making excellent use of the topography and available cover not to be spotted itself). The Spit, to the frustration of the ground troops, turned for home before spotting it (anything but a 1 would have done for it to stick around). 

The British deployed their armour off Blinds (a troop of Sherman IIIs and a Firefly of the Granta Yeomanry), and proceeded to unload on the factory, reducing the chimney to rubble and generally doing a fair bit of damage. 

Over on the right, 8 Platoon pushed into the orchard and came under heavy fire from the building that overlooked it, as well as a well-placed  stonk from the Germans' 8cm mortars. Unfortunately for the Germans, the section defending that flank was the rather tattered remnants of Nr. 1 Zug, who came under a withering storm of return rifle and Bren fire. Meanwhile, the Firefly (after Ash had actually read its stats line and realised that the 17 pounder is definitely a match for the Tiger :D) poked its nose round the side of a house on the south bank and popped off a round at the Tiger. 6 hits to 4 saves - gun out! Jubilation from the British, and it looks like Unteroffizer Honisch will not be getting promoted to Junior Ace this time out. 

Bridge out? No problem! (Churchill ARK by Skytrex)

7 Platoon (not for the first time in and around San Marco) take a fair amount of hammer from the factory and an MG in the house by the ford: the scratch section manages to stick around, but No. 1 Section bails (0 actions, lots of shock).  Meanwhile, the German Nr. 1 Zug also bails (its Big Man unpins it and has it retreat), and Nr 2 decides the factory is becoming untenable.  

About this point, another British Blind, that's been largely keeping out of sight, deploys at the river's edge - a Churchill ARK, which uses all its actions to drop ramps and provide a river crossing for (what I assume was) Platoon 9, advancing on Blinds behind Platoon 7. 

About here is where we called it for the night. The Germans are surrounded on three sides, from 8 Platoon advancing from the orchard, 7 and 9 through the woods to the factory, and the Grantas who will be pushing across the ARK to lend fire support. 

In short, a British victory.

Mike Whitaker

 
 
 
 
 

Rather than immediately clear away the rather nice set up for the For the Honour of France game played a couple of weeks ago (click here to read the AAR, opens in a new window), I decided to use the same scenario for a game that I was umpiring between John and Dave.

Quick background

Syria, 1941, Vichy French versus Australians. The village of Ras Begus nestles astride a road running through a region punctuated by rocky hills that hamper movement by reducing any dice rolled by one. On a nearby hilltop lurks the ruined Red Fort, south of the village is an olive farm. A wadi runs from the southern end of the table right up to the village, providing excellent cover to infantry within it. Tracked vehicles could risk the wadi, but were likely to bog down.

The French were defending the village with a force consisting of three platoons, one of four and two of three ten-man squads (100 total). Mr Clarke, who wrote the scenario, didn’t specify the stats for the French infantry, so as I already thought the scenario would be walkover for the French, I classified them as Good Troops starting on three Activation dice. In addition to the infantry, the French had three 60mm mortars, three MMGs and a forward observer in touch with a battery of three 75mm guns. In command were four decent quality Big Men, and there was an extra MMG team sited in the fort with a Poor Fire Discipline card. In reserve, arriving after a certain number of appearances of the Turn Card, were three R-35 tanks. Formidable.

The Aussies also had three platoons, but each was four sections of eight men each (total 96 men) along with a light mortar and an anti-tank rifle (ATR) per platoon. In support, they had a recce platoon of three MkVI light tanks, five recce carriers (two with MMGs, two with LMGs and one with an ATR) and, as proved very significant, an FOO connected to two 25-pounders sited just off table. The 25-pounders were very responsive: they had a Bonus Fire card in the deck. I decided that the Aussie’s would start on four Activation dice and get the Aggressive bonus in Close Combat.

In today's game, Jon would play the defending French, Dave would play the attacking Australians.

The Game

Unlike Bevan in the previous game, John had chosen to hang back and wait for the Aussie's to come to him. His Platoon 1, the big one, occupied the village, with Platoon 2 positioned along the edge of the wadi in front of the town. Platoon 3 was in reserve behind the town. 

What this meant was that the Aussies had almost a free hand to get onto the table and deploy...which they did, massing just behind the hill.

Being largely out in the open, the Aussie's were spotted fairly quickly. One infantry platoon had headed down into the wadi; their light tanks and carriers had headed straight up the road towards the town; and a couple of Blinds lurked at the back (the Blinds on the far left and far right in the picture below are Dave's other two infantry platoons).

For their part, the Aussie's had spotted the French in the wadi (one squad is still concealed on the other side of the road) and were aware of movement to the rear of the village: John was bringing his reserve platoon across to cover his left flank.

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A Mexican Stand-off then ensued. The French infantry crouching down at the bottom of the wadi were effectively immune from fire from the Aussie carriers and light tanks, but couldn't shoot back. The Aussies were unwilling to advance to edge of the wadi to shoot down at the French: they didn't want to risk getting a hail of grenades into their open-topped carriers.

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Something had to give...and it did: the Aussie FOO picked up his radio and contacted the two parked-off-table 25pdrs dedicated to support the attack and called in their fire. Direct hit on the wadi!

And now the French infantry's defensive position became a death trap. If they stayed where they were, the enemy artillery would just pulverise them; if they left the wadi, it would be to end up right under the guns of the Aussie carriers and light tanks.

A tricky situation!

To give himself time to think, John fired his light mortars into the mass of British vehicles in front of the wadi, luckily scoring a direct hit on one of the carriers: exit carrier!

This brought home to the Aussies the fact that they couldn't hang around out in the open for too long, so with the French machine gun team in the wadi forced to fall back through the damage done by the artillery and a bit of rifle fire, in went the Aussie platoon in the wadi: charging into the mass of Pinned French infantry from the flank.

In they go!

Bounced back!

Unbelievably (I mean seriously unbelievably) the French managed to bounce the Aussies back (largely due to their Big Man: the Level IV Sergeant-Chef Aubergine!) but had suffered serious casualties in doing so. One more round of rifle fire from the Aussies and the whole platoon evaporated, except for Aubergine, who merely fell back to the town to take charge of one of the infantry squads there.

This left the wadi in the possession of the Aussies, who promptly moved their slightly battered platoon forward to within striking range of the town, followed by a Blind concealing a second infantry platoon.

Now it was the turn of the Aussies to get stuck in the wadi. Yes, they were under cover from fire from the French units in the village but, just like the French moments ago, leaving the wadi in an assault would have led them straight into a devastating hail of fire. Stalemate again!

Meanwhile, the third Aussie platoon had moved along the hilltop on the right flank of the battlefield, catching up with the lead light tanks and carriers. As it was manoeuvring into position to attack the village, however, a French Blind appeared at the end of the nearby road and, with a couple of good dice rolls, was right on them almost immediately.

Automatic spotting revealed the Blind as the three R-35 tanks that formed the French reserve:

But had the French tanks advanced too far?

A fierce combat broke out between the tanks and the Australian infantry platoon, attacking from the flank. On top of that, the Aussie carriers and light tanks joined in too.

One French tank was forced to bail, bits were knocked off another, but the MGs on the third tank were reaping a terrible price from the Aussie infantry: one section being shot down to a man.

Whilst that battle was being fought out on the right hand side of the battlefield, the Aussies on the left, in the wadi, had decided that if they didn't get a move on, they'd spend the rest of the game crouched undercover.

Unfortunately, the British artillery, having done such sterling work earlier, had now gone incommunicado, so shifting its focus to the French troops in the village just wasn't happening. There was nothing for it: the village was going to have to be cleared the hard way.

Up popped the Aussie platoon on a Blind, and charged the back of the souk building. The French squad therein was evicted, but the Aussies had lost five men, and were now coming under fire from French troops elsewhere in the village.

The Aussies gathered themselves and cleared another house, but lost more men, and it soon became apparent that they just didn't have enough men to clear the village in the way that they were attempting to do. They really need to bring up their carriers and tanks...but they were still engaged with the two remaining French tanks, whose heavy (for this time of the war) armour was proving tough to crack.

At this point it became apparent that neither side were getting anywhere, and a draw was declared: they had fought each other out.

Aftermath

Both sides sat back and considered the battle.

The French agreed that they had been a bit too passive and reactive: they had given the initiative to the Aussies and then let them keep it. They had let their tanks, which should have been a game-changer, get embroiled with enemy infantry when a bit of distance would have led to the same outcome but no damage. 

On the other hand, however, from the French point of view, the Aussie's hadn't managed to take the town by the end of the game, and had been fought to a standstill.

The Aussies had been suitably aggressive, but had failed to co-ordinate properly between their armour, artillery and their infantry. At the start of the battle, their armour had advanced way forward of their infantry: something that would have been harshly punished if the French had had even one anti-tank gun. At the end, their infantry was forced to assault the town unsupported by either armour or artillery: a very costly way of doing things.

On the other hand, however, the French tanks were almost neutralised, and the Aussies were almost in a position to take the village...almost!

A great game and, as Dave said afterwards "something for everyone and some scary bits for both sides"!

Robert Avery

 
 
 
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James Tree

 
 
 
 
 

After spending an hour first thing softening up the enemy's defences with an artillery barrage, Soviet troops launched their main attack. Before noon, after the first wave of infantry divisions had wedged themselves into the main German defensive line, advanced brigades of the tank army entered the battle to complete the breakthrough. 

Their orders were to defeat the enemy's second line of defence, thus creating favourable conditions for the development of a strategic offensive into the German rear. Specifically, by the end of the day, the tanks had to advance and overcome a small, dug-in enemy unit, getting at least four of their five platoons off the opposite edge of the gaming table, with losses not exceeding half of the initial composition of each platoon. 

The enemy's defensive line consisted of a network of trenches connecting various strongpoints centred on a village. Although their main reserves were still unavailable, the defenders had had time to bring up a small number of tanks as reinforcements.

The Soviet company commander, carefully examining the German positions with his binoculars, determined the location of their troops and concluded that the Germans had prepared good positions around the settlement, therefore limiting his ability to effect a lightning breakthrough. They had also placed an artillery battery on a small hill, supporting their infantry, and designed to repulse any attacking armour at long range. 

On the other side of the village, there was what looked like a reserve of German tanks, doubtless to be used in support of their infantry or to launch a counter-attack. 

Without losing a moment, Soviet troops moved towards the enemy.

The Soviet tanks advanced to the edge of the village, followed by a line of infantry. Meanwhile, Maxim machine guns fired into the German trenches from the flanks.

The German tanks opened the firing, with the Soviets soon replying. Despite the fact that the German tanks were largely hidden by the terrain, one of their number went up in flames.

The German battery on the hill sent a hail of shells onto the Soviet tanks: two of which ground to a halt. Return fire silenced one gun, its crew either blown up or sent scurrying away, but the rest of the battery could not be suppressed despite the weight of fire coming its way.  

As the Soviet infantry approached the German line, one of their machine gunners opened fire and took out an entire German section. The Germans tried to hit back, but the machine gun's crew heroically kept firing.

Suddenly there was a huge explosion as one of the Soviet tanks erupted into flame! The commander of the German tank platoon had calmly waited for the Soviet tank to be clearly visible in hit sights, carefully aimed, and hit the tank dead on. The Soviet tank didn't stand a chance: too many successful penetrations and, as a result, the tank's ammunition store exploded!

Realizing that their infantry could not cross the open ground in front of the German positions, the Soviet tankmen desperately renewed their attack, but their enemy was quicker off the mark. 

The German battery opened fire on the tanks again. One tank's driver is killed and it's engine damaged beyond repair. Meanwhile, the German tank platoon commander is firing incredibly accurately:  another Russian tank burns, and another immobilised. The Soviet infantry hits the deck and lies on the reverse slope of the hills.

To divert the enemy's attention, the Soviet commander directed two tanks to the left flank. The Germans finished off the immobilized tank, then unsuccessfully tried to manoeuvre one of their tanks through the mud to cover the flank. A dry shot and a loud clap - one more kill!

The German battery is bombarded with aimed fire: the battery commander is killed, the gun crews suffer heavy losses, the battery is suppressed...but still represents a deadly threat.

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Under the cover of two tanks on the left flank, the Soviet infantry finally launches their attack. Another German tank is hit, and the German infantry is losing ground: it seems that the situation is stabilizing for the Soviets. 

The German tank ace, not phased by the apparent reverses, changes his position and goes to the shooting range. 

Shot! The shell hits the engine, and another Soviet tank is immobilized, the crew shell-shocked. The Soviet tankers are disoriented: the Germans are acting boldly and decisively. 

Shot! A Soviet tank's gun is jammed! Another shot, and a sharp tongue of flame emerges from another Soviet tank. The second German tank also destroyed another Soviet tank.

By the end of the day, the Soviet troops are convinced that they cannot break through the village and bypass the key enemy defences, and begin withdrawing. By the end of the battle, most of the German forces were remained intact, and the village remained in German hands.

Thoughts

Clear rules make the game move along cheerfully. Activation of units depends on luck, and sometimes a turn ends before every unit has activated. This makes things chaotic rather than strictly linear, and there are also bonus events on top of this. This means you have to think before starting anything that will take more than one action: for example, is it worthwhile sending the infantry forward out in the open if they might get stuck there?

The rules are company-sized, but you can play at least at regimental level. In the game, one soldier equals one man, one model equals one tank: imagine getting a whole German tank battalion onto the table...

This isn't in my opinion, a set of rules made for tournaments: for example, there is no points system covering differences in armament, different skills, the experience of soldiers, list size, etc. In the battle you choose troops based on lists from their nationality. And everything is quite arbitrary: it is possible to change everything for a particular scenario from how a platoon is armed right the way up to the experience of tank crews...provided the scenario justifies it. All you need is the agreement of your opponent. The historical scenarios provided generally suggest fighting off ten tanks and a full company with one anti-tank gun and a handful of soldiers. And the most interesting thing is that even if you have a preponderance in tanks and infantry, you cannot simply expect to win: maybe most of your troops never arrive! 

The game has no maximum range of fire. There is a Close range, Effective range, and after that there are no restrictions. From table edge to table edge, if you see the enemy, you can shoot at him. As a result, an active firefight can begin on the first move of the game. However, to ensure that the game does not bog down to firefights at long distances, missions set specific tasks and deadlines for their completion. 

The game has a hidden movement system, but we didn't test this. Perhaps this has already been considered and I'm wrong, but it seems to me that the element of hidden manoeuvre in the game done this way (paper Blinds on the table) spoils how the game looks. I prefer the "hidden manoeuvre" in CoS.

We were surprised that the game does not require a lot of dice to determine the results of shooting. After FoW with 20+ dice, it seems unusual to throw one or two dice only. And the fact that you have to consult a table to determine whether you hit or not can be a pain.

Sometimes games of this scale lack mechanisms to deal with disabling rather than destroying tanks, or killing an artillery piece's individual crew members, but not in this game. In our game we had a duel between the Soviet and German tankers: after the first shot, the chassis was broken, the engine was damaged and stalled, but the crew was still fighting, not everything was lost! The next shot led to the damage to the gun sights, making it more difficult to hit anything, and the crew was shell-shocked. Another hit and the tank brewed up, the commander is killed. Another time, a tank's main gun jammed:  the tank no longer represented a formidable combat unit and, as a target, was not interesting, but it wasn't destroyed. 

The same with infantry: there is no need to kill everyone. The loss of 2-3 soldiers in a unit greatly affects its effectiveness, which makes it much harder for them to carry out their assigned combat mission. Yes, one soldier can display an act of heroism, but the rule is that one individual trying something in the field does not work very often. 

Some things do make the game complex: you have to constantly keep in mind the number of Actions available to each squad or vehicle. You need to know what strike value each tank has and/or whether a unit has lost casualties etc. The problem can probably be solved by using info cards or by the "friendly" atmosphere of the game (until the furious duel of gambling players of the tankers begins!). But here's what you can not do at all:  it's to show newcomers such a wargame with a historical miniature. They are horrified by all the mathematical calculations and rules. Modifiers, indicators, etc. 

Valderech

 
 
 
 
 

James Tree

 
 
 
 
 

A battle fought over randomly generated terrain, giving us all an opportunity to practice with the rules.

The Germans are hidden near a crossroads, the Americans have been ordered to take the crossing at all costs.

The Americans began the game by using their 105s to bombard the solitary grove of trees in the middle of the table, thinking that that's where enemy troops might be waiting in ambush. They then advanced as fast as possible towards the battered trees.

There they did indeed meet a German infantry platoon, but that had suffered badly from the bombardment (both from shells and splinters of wood) and was wiped out out after a single round of melee.

Whilst the Allied left flank seemed to be secured, on the right flank the advancing Americans ran into an enemy MMG platoon and two StuGs.

This could have been very painful for the Americans, but the initial German fire proved largely ineffectual: certainly not enough to slow down the American advance.

Meanwhile, a platoon of Stuart light tanks tried to get through the gap between a hill and the trees, but the narrow passage was covered by one of the StuGs. In response, the Americans reinforced their light tanks with a pair of 57mm anti-tank guns.

Whilst the American infantry take cover on the hill, the remaining Stuarts decided to gird their loins and heroically charge the StuGs head-on.

At this point we ended the game. This wouldn't have been the end of the fight itself: that would have carried on with the Americans advancing very slowly and the Germans awaiting them in their works. It would have been a real grind! As to who would have won...well, it would have been hard work for both sides, but troop quality (and therefore activation dice) favoured the Germans

Burt Minorrot

 
 
 
 
 

June 1941. A most unlikely conflict has broken out between two former Allies. Vichy French airfields in the Levant have been used by the Lufwaffe to support an uprising in Iraq, and Britain has decided that enough is enough. A task force has been assembled to move north into the Lebanon and Syria to take control of the area for the Free French and safeguard British oil supplies. Unexpectedly Vichy forces resist strongly, fighting for the honour of France.

That’s the introduction to the game of IABSM that Bevan and I played on Sunday evening. An unusual game featuring Australians versus French in the desert.

The terrain was as seen in the photos: the village of Ras Begus nestles astride a road running through a region punctuated by rocky hills that hamper movement by reducing any dice rolled by one. On a nearby hilltop lurks the ruined Red Fort, south of the village is an olive farm. A wadi runs from the southern end of the table right up to the village, providing excellent cover to infantry within it. Tracked vehicles could risk the wadi, but were likely to bog down.

The French were defending the village with a force consisting of three platoons, one of four and two of three ten-man squads (100 total). Mr Clarke, who wrote the scenario, didn’t specify the stats for the French infantry, so as I already thought the scenario would be walkover for the French, I classified them as Good Troops starting on three Activation dice. In addition to the infantry, the French had three 60mm mortars, three MMGs and a forward observer in touch with a battery of three 75mm guns. In command were four decent quality Big Men, and there was an extra MMG team sited in the fort with a Poor Fire Discipline card. In reserve, arriving after a certain number of appearances of the Turn Card, were three R-35 tanks. Formidable.

The Aussies also had three platoons, but each was four sections of eight men each (total 96 men) along with a light mortar and an anti-tank rifle (ATR) per platoon. In support, they had a recce platoon of three MkVI light tanks, five recce carriers (two with MMGs, two with LMGs and one with an ATR) and, as proved very significant, an FOO connected to two 25-pounders sited just off table. The 25-pounders were very responsive: they had a Bonus Fire card in the deck. I decided that the Aussie’s would start on four Activation dice and get the Aggressive bonus in Close Combat.

As I was convinced that the Aussies would have a very hard time of it, I gave Bevan the choice of which force to take (having first voiced my concerns!), but he suggested we roll for it. A die was duly rolled, and I ended up with the Aussies!

The Game

The Aussies began the action by bringing as many Blinds onto the table as possible down the road running off to the south-east. I led with a couple of dummy Blinds, then my tanks and carriers, then an infantry platoon.

Things got interesting very quickly, as I sent a dummy Blind up the hill to my right to make sure that flank was properly clear. It made immediate contact with a platoon of French infantry (3ieme Platoon, three squads) which, as the person running the game, came as quite a shock to me, as I knew the French briefing said that they couldn’t deploy south of the olive grove!

[Why, if I knew that, did I send scouts up there anyway? Well, because my troops didn’t know it, and it was therefore the right thing to do.]

I pointed this out to Bevan, who re-read his briefing and realised that I was right. It was too late to worry about it, however, so I suggested we just carry on and put the mistake down to the fog of war.

Meanwhile, the French had their binoculars out, and had spotted all my Blinds. They had also called in their 60mm mortars…one of which scored a direct hit on one of my light tanks, causing it to bounce up and down enough to disrupt its next Activation.

Even worse, they then called in their off-table 75’s: which arrived extremely quickly and accurately right in the middle of my recce vehicles. One MMG carrier was destroyed by another direct hit, and the others all losing Activations.

Two could play at that game, however. My FOO and CinC called in my artillery, which also arrived quickly and, even if not so accurately as the French artillery, started causing 3ieme Platoon all sorts of problems.

Meanwhile my other two infantry platoons, still on Blinds, and the non-MMG carriers, began bypassing my artillery-stricken armour.

I now realised that Bevan’s accidental placement of 3ieme platoon gave me a great opportunity to destroy a third of his force in isolation. I decided to ignore the French artillery as much as possible, and just use my artillery (firing twice as fast as their French counterparts), the three HMGs on my tanks, my remaining MMG carrier, and 3rd Platoon to pulverise the 3ieme.

All this, however, took time, and before I knew it, a rather ominous French Blind had appeared north of Ras Begus.

No matter, there wasn’t anything I could do about it for the moment, so it was time to investigate the French Blind on the hillside just north of the olive trees.

This turned out to be the 2ieme French platoon…also, it appeared, quite isolated: although the French MMGs, led by the French company commander, had by now moved forwards into the wadi.

Meanwhile things had got petty critical for 3ieme platoon: to the stage where their commander used the French's Heroic Commander card to charge two MkVI tanks on his own!

French Heroic Commander card:  Big Man 4 desperately attacks two British light tanks on his own, but to no avail

As 3ieme Platoon were just about done for, my FOO and the Aussie company commander shifted my artillery onto 2ieme platoon. At the same time, a platoon of Aussie infantry took up good cover positions in amongst the olive trees and began exchanging fire with the 2ieme, with a tank moving up to add the weight of its HMG to the fled flying towards the French.

To counter this threat, the lead French MMG team climbed up the side of the wadi and took up positions on its lip, and prepared to pour fire into the olive grove at point blank range.

The French were obviously on a roll, as their tanks then de-cloaked from their Blind, charging forwards (well as charging as an R-35 can do!) to engage my light tanks.

Everything then happened very quickly.

Firstly, the final Aussie infantry platoon, still on a Blind, jumped down into the wadi and charged the first French MMG team, which was now facing the wrong way. The platoon’s ATR team also climbed the opposite side of the wadi and began shooting into the lead R-35 from a distance of about 25 yards. They couldn’t miss, and despite its thick armour (AC5), the R-35 started accumulating a shock very quickly…especially when the light tanks and ATR rifle from the platoon that had by now dispersed the 3ieme joined in as well. Before it could do anything, really, the R-35 crew abandoned ship, running off towards the town…followed by the other two R-35s who obviously didn’t relish any sort of stand up fight!

The French 2ieme platoon also crumbled: continually hit by artillery fire, the HMG on a light tank, the Bren on a carrier, and some very fine shooting from the Aussies in the olives.

The French were now pinned into Ras Begus itself, with the final French Blind revealed as their final infantry platoon, now reinforced with the two R-35s and the only remaining MMG. The French were also about to lose two Big Men: both the 3ieme’s commander and the company commander were swept away by the Aussie platoon emerging from the wadi as they retreated towards the village.

Up came the British FOO’s card, and I announced that I was shifting the fire of my artillery again: this time onto Ras Begus itself. That was it: the single French platoon, with two tanks and the MMG, now faced three still-strong Aussie platoons, three tanks and three carriers. That meant they couldn’t really take the fight to the Aussies, but had to sit in Ras begus and wait for their enemy to attack. The problem, of course, was that I now didn’t need to attack: all I had to do was watch my artillery turn the village into rubble, then move in and mop up what was left. Although I like to think that the French downed their rifles and surrendered, given the quality of their troops, they probably managed to successfully retreat off the table with only a handful more casualties.

Much to my surprise, victory was mine.

Conclusion

Discussing the game afterwards, Bevan and I concluded that the French had positioned their three infantry platoons too far apart to give proper support to each other. This enabled me to focus on each platoon in turn, using a combined arms approach (artillery, infantry, armour) to hammer each one flat one by one.

I thought the three French tanks would be a deciding factor in the French’s favour (I just couldn’t see how I was going to deal with AC5 armour with ATRs and HMGs/MMGs), but the French hurled them forwards and let me get up close to their flanks with multiple weapons. After the first tank’s crew had bailed, the others spent all their remaining time retreating out of danger, leaving me clear to use my armour on the French infantry with impunity.

Whatever the result, it had been a great game…one that we will be re-fighting in the very near future.

Robert Avery

 
 
 
 

The game is based on action east of Ponyri station on July 8. The Germans have captured the former Soviet positions on 226.5 and are just about to be assaulted by the 3rd Tank Corps. As usual I never know exactly who is going to show up, so had several units ready to go at staggered intervals. The key was for the Soviets to get across the table and stymie any German reinforcements. Didn't happen.

Mark Luther

 
 
 
 
 

Introduction

Earlier this year I arranged an impromptu gaming session with one of my regular opponents. When I asked him what he fancied playing, his response was to ask if we could play an opposed landing, US Marines vs Japanese,  in the Pacific. At the time, my answer was very much "no we can't", as I had neither any beach-y terrain nor any US Marines.

Salute this year, however, changed all that. First up, one trader was running amazing offers on both the Battlefront Amtracks box set and the Battlefront LCVP box set. I snapped up both, then noticed that a company called Tiny Wargames had some lovely beach-based battlemats. Okay, so the mat cost more than the Amtracks and the LCVPs put together (which shows you how cheap they were) but looked fantastic.

I then got lost in Poland (the scenario pack not the country), leaving my purchases to the lead mountain. All that changed a couple of weeks ago, when I came across the mat looking for something else, idly flung it on the table to see what it looked like, then ended up spending an hour or so building the terrain and designing forces for a Pacific beach assault game!

Below you'll find enough information to allow you to run the scenario yourself, followed by the usual epic after action report

The Scenario

The scenario was essentially very simple: the Japanese were defending works at the top of the beach, the Marines would need to land, advance up the beach, and evict the Japanese from their works. Rather than producing written briefings, I ended up letting the players know what the situation was verbally, giving them only a list of their forces and the key stats they would need to play the game. The below should allow you to do the same.

Note that rather than gaming the run in to the beach, the Marines arrive on the table under Blinds as the LCVPs and LVTs hit the shore.

The Cards

Game Cards

  • Tea Break

Japanese Defenders

  • Blinds
  • Big Man 1-4
  • FOO
  • Platoons 1-2
  • Tank 1-2
  • Anti-Tank 1-2
  • MMG 1-2
  • Off Table Mortars
  • Dynamic Commander
  • Heroic Commander
  • Rally
  • Banzai!

US Marine Attackers

  • Blinds
  • Big Man 1-8
  • FOO
  • Company HQ
  • Platoons 1-3
  • Amtrack HQ
  • Amtrack Platoons 1-2
  • Off-Table Naval Guns
  • Rapid Deployment
  • MMG Bonus Fire
  • Rally
  • Heroic Leader

The Terrain

The terrain was based on the rather splendid beachfront battlemat that I bought at Salute from Tiny Wargames. This gave me a nice big area on which to base the Japanese defences, which consisted of a series of gun pits and trenches fronted by a line of barbed wire. There were minefields and booby traps interspersed with the gunpits and, at the back, near the watchtower to the left in the picture below, a command post. At the back to the right in the picture below was the small village in which second platoon were billeted.

US Marines

Company HQ

  • Big Man 1 (Level IV)
  • Big Man 2 (Level II)
  • Naval Liason FOO
  • 3 x Bazooka Team (2 men each)
  • 2 x MMG (5 crew each)
  • in Naval LCVP #01

1st Platoon

  • Big Man 3 (Level III)
  • 3 x Rifle Squad (12 men each)
  • in Naval LCVP #02, #03, #04

2nd Platoon

  • Big Man 4 (Level III)
  • 3 x Rifle Squad (12 men each)
  • in LCVP #05, #06, #07

 3rd Platoon

  • Big Man 5 (Level III)
  • 3 x Rifle Squad (12 men each)
  • in LCVP #08, #09, #10

Amtrak HQ

  • Big Man 6 (Level III)
  • 1 x Amtrak LVT(A)1 (Stuart Turret)

Amtrack Platoon 1

  • Big Man 7 (Level II)
  • 3 x Amtrak LVT(A)1 (Stuart Turret)

Amtrack Platoon 2

  • Big Man 8 (Level II)
  • 3 x Amtrak LVT(A)4 (M8 HWC Turret)

Off-Table Artillery

  • Unlimited fire missions from 4 x 11” Naval Guns via Naval Liason FOO (2D6+8 damage)

You have seven Blinds and three Dummy Blinds at your disposal.

You may land up to six Blinds on the beach at any one time

Stats

  •  It costs one Action to disembark from an LCVP
  •  LCVPs activate on the card of the platoon they are carrying.
  • Marine LCVPs are armed with two MMGs: each fires at 3D6 when beached, 2D6 if the LCVP moves in any way that turn
  • An LCVP MUST return to sea (i.e. be removed from the table) if they activate when empty i.e. have disembarked all the troops they were carrying
  • All other rules for amphibious warfare can be found in the Rising Sun theatre pack

The Japanese

MMG Bunker (left)

  • 1 x MMG (5 crew)

MMG Bunker (right)

  • 1 x MMG (5 crew)

Watchtower (either)

  • 1 x FOO
  • 1 x Sniper

Central Trenches

  • Big Man 2 (Level II)
  • 1 x Type 41 75mm Infantry Gun (4 crew)
  • 1 x Type 89 Chi Ro Medium Tank
  • 1 x Type 91 105mm Infantry Gun (5 crew)
  • 3 x Infantry Squad/LMG (10 men each)
  • 1 x Infantry Squad/Mortars (10 men)

Village

  • Big Man 3 (Level II)
  • 3 x Infantry Squad/LMG (10 men each)
  • 1 x Infantry Squad/Mortars (10 men)

Command Area

  • Big Man 1 (Level III)
  • Big Man 4 (Level II)
  • 1 x Type 89 Chi Ro Medium Tank

Off Table Artillery

  • Unlimited fire missions from two 81mm Mortars

Notes

All units begin the game under hidden Blinds.

The platoon in the village spend their first two activations waking up and getting ready for battle.

Stats

 

The Battle

Somewhat ironically, Bevan, who had been the person who asked to play a beach assault in the first place, was late, so John and Dave took the US Marines (John playing the Amtracks, Dave playing the PBI) and I filled in with the Japanese.

The Marines elected to send in their armour first: intending to use it as both a shield for their infantry and to get it up the beach as fast as possible in order to clear the wire in front of the Japanese positions. The first turn therefore saw a mass of six US Blinds arrive on the beach stretching from the centre of the table out to the marines' right.

The Japanese immediately began spotting, revealing that the Amtracks were concentrating their assault on the far left of the Japanese line (i.e. on the American right) and that the Blinds in the centre were dummies.

The Amtracks ground up onto the beach and immediately took fire from the Japanese artillery pieces in their two gun pits. One LVT A(1) was bashed about so badly that the crew immediately bailed, another just took some Shock.

John was somewhat perturbed to find out exactly what 'Slow Tracks' meant (i.e. -2 per dice used for movement) but decided to slow the command vehicle and 1st Platoon down even further by returning fire. The second Amtrack platoon, however, moved towards the barbed wire as fast as they could.

As there were very few cards in he pack at this point, the next wave of US Blinds appeared almost immediately behind the Amtracks, with one platoon of infantry in their LCVPs being soon being spotted by the defenders.

The Marine infantry quickly disembarked and began to make their way up the beach, trying to keep behind the Amtracks as much as possible.

On the Marine right, 1st Platoon formed line behind the three LVT(A)4s, and advanced slowly forward, their speed limited by the lumbering armour. Behind them were the infantry command element and support weapons: three bazookas and a couple of MMGs. The bazookas would advance with 1st Platoon, but the MMGs would get entangled with 2nd Platoon, on the centre/right, with a traffic jam quickly forming behind the remaining LVT(A)1s. On the Marine left, 3rd Platoon would advance in rushes up the beach, but come under heavy fire from the centre and right of the Japanese line.

All the above was accompanied by a massive amount of fire from both sides.

The LVT(A)1s of 1st Amtrack Platoon were quickly knocked out, immobilised or rendered toothless: mostly by the 70mm infantry pop-gun in the left hand gun pit. That was quickly reduced down to one crew member by concentrated American fire, but would remain a thorn in the Marines' side for most of the game.

The Japanese sniper was doing a sterling job: pinning an infantry squad every time he fired. He would continue to do this until a string of doubles took him off the board.

The Japanese off-table mortars had arrived, but were having difficulty zero-ing in on anything useful...but the threat was there.

Meanwhile, the Marines were having difficulty doing significant amounts of damage to the well-protected Japanese. Their main success was on their right: where the MMG in the bunker had been taken out by concentrated fire from the three LVT(A)4s advancing towards it.

Help was at hand, however, with the naval liaison officer calling in fire from four 11" guns from a nearby battleship. These soon found their range, and began pummelling the trenches in the picture above, incidentally forcing the crew of the Japanese tank to bail out after the huge shells rattled them around like stones in a tin cup.

Battleships can't take land, however, and the Marine advance in the centre was definitely stalled. The big Japanese howitzer was blowing big holes in 3rd Platoon, who by now were really acting as a distraction from where the main US attack was going in on the Japanese left.

The three LVT A(4) Amtracks, along with 1st Platoon, had managed to reach the wire, with the lead Amtracks starting to break their way through.

It now looked as if the Marines would get behind the Japanese trenches, presumably rolling them up with ease...but there were those two Japanese Blinds lurking on the other side of the small patch of jungle at the back of the beach. These were, of course, the second Japanese infantry platoon and the other Japanese tank.

The Japanese infantry charged forward, surrounding the lead amtrak and, with sticky bombs, forcing the crew to bail. The 1st Marine platoon countercharged, and a massive, and bloody, melee broke out. Fortunes swayed backwards and forwards until only one squad on each side remained capable of any actions.

Meanwhile, the second Japanese tank had crept up the side of the jungle and blown one of the LVT A(4)s to pieces...but was now being stalked by one of the Marine bazooka teams.

At this point, unfortunately, Dave and John had to go. We looked at the table and, after some discussion, declared that although the Marines had made great in-roads on the Japanese position, and would probably eventually prevail, as it stood at the moment, the game had to be declared a narrow Japanese victory.

The Marines were slightly frustrated, as they felt that their initial deployment and decision to shoot back rather than just get the Amtracks up the beach as fast as possible contributed to the traffic jam that built up around the right/centre area of the beach, leading to further delays in getting to the wire and therefore stuck in to the defenders.

Aftermath

So after John and Dave had departed, Bevan and I decided to play on for a couple of turns: just to see what would happen. I moved around the table and took on the job of Marine commander, Bevan stuck with the Japs.

Well it was a walk-over for the remaining Marines!

The bazooka team took out the Japanese tank in the patch of jungle with one shot from a distance of about 4", with the remaining Marines of 1st Platoon chasing their former opponents of Japanese 2nd Platoon off the table.

Meanwhile, the second Marine platoon poured through the gaps in the wire now made by the Amtracks, and captured the right hand side of the Japanese trench without losing a man. Next turn, they drove off the Japanese squad on the other side of the bailed out tank. At this point, the table was effectively in Marine hands...which shows you how close John and Dave had been to victory.

An interesting example of how much the mental game effects things. John and Dave were (relatively!) happy to accept that the Japs had held the table and earned a small victory, but hindsight showed that they were really only one turn from a comprehensive victory.

They were keen to criticise their own tactics, but had actually done just the right thing. Okay, so things got a bit tangled and bogged down for a moment, but their battle plan worked, and worked well.

All in all, a great and well-fought game on both sides.

Robert Avery