Flames of War: 70th Anniversary Battle Of The Bulge Mission

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This past week marked the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge fought between Allied and German forces in the snowy, wooded Ardennes region of Western Europe. The six-week German offensive through a frigid December 1944 and January 1945 surprised Allied forces and proved to be costly for all involved. At its conclusion, commanders on both sides counted nearly 100,000 casualties and much of the German ground and air reserves had been smashed as a result of their ill-fated gambit against the Allies.

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The Battle of the Bulge Mission rules from Flames of War

To mark the occasion, several of us met at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY to run through the big Battle of the Bulge Mission available free online for Flames of War. The simple scenario plays out on a huge 6′ x 8′ tabletop with 4000-point forces on either side drawn from the Nuts! and Devil’s Charge books as well as the Panzers To The Meuse PDF. We set our table using a large off-white canvas with roads crisscrossing the forested field dotted with a few small structures.

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101st Airborne US Parachute Rifle Company from Nuts!

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US Glider Rifle Company from Nuts!

On the Allied defending side, I ran my US 101st Airborne Division “Easy Company” list made famous by the book and TV series Band of Brothers. Several special character Warrior figures were included in my list and I also added a hefty group of five M4A3 76mm Shermans and an 81mm mortar platoon. My partner fielded a US Glider Rifle Company, also with 81mm mortars and a 57mm anti-tank platoon. In support, his list was rounded out with M7 Priests, M18 Hellcats and a tank platoon with a Jumbo, two Easy Eights and two more M4A3 76mm Shermans.

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Lehr Panzerkompanie from Panzers To The Meuse

For the armored attacking Germans, both players pulled Lehr Panzerkompanie lists from the Panzers To The Meuse PDF from FOW. Across the lists, a swarm of Panzer IV platoons were accompanied by Panther G and Jagdpanther tanks, Puma armored cars, rocket launchers, Wirbelwinds and two Panzergrenadier platoons. To supplement their massive armored ground forces, the German players also opted for limited air support from a ME 262 A2a Sturmvogel jet plane.

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Initial Battle of the Bulge set up as German players plot their offensive

Per the scenario, the largely infantry US forces were deployed with the exception of our 76mm tank platoon and anti-tank guns which we held in reserve. The US anti tank platoon deployed at the center of the board with their M20 Greyhound scout cars, ready to spring support with the soft but deadly Hellcats to either flank.

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Panzer Lehr forces deploy and move toward the American right

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The German armored assault pushes to the American left

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German ME 262 jet attempts to dig the 101st Airborne out of their positions

The German forces moved quickly onto the board with reconnaissance moves from the Pumas stretching across the table. A mass of Panzer IVs and the Jagdpanthers rolled to the US right. On the American left, Panthers moved to cover in a small wood while the two platoons of mounted Panzergrenadiers pushed down the road toward a US rifle team dug into another woods looking to attack with an armored assault. At the rear, the first run of the Sturmvogel took after the US Airborne in position protecting an objective to no effect.

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The German armored assault on the US rifles in the woods

The German armored assault commenced but was bounced back over the first couple turns with the Americans taking only a few losses from the protection of the trees. Panzer IVs moved in to support from behind the German halftracks and took fire from the Jumbo, Easy Eights and 76mm Shermans sitting in a treeline across the road. The Americans sprang their first ambush, placing anti-tank guns nearby the Panthers. While shots from the US AT platoon were unable to crack the heavy panther armor, their position would go on to strongly limit the maneuverability of the Panthers for the whole game.

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US 76mm tank platoon springs an ambush on the right

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US tanks receive heavy fire from the Panzer Lehr

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US Hellcats move to stop the German armor advance

Over on the German right, the Panzer IV and Jagdpanther force divided around a wooded area and was engaged by the platoon of five 76mm Shermans exposing themselves in ambush. Over the next several turns, armor fire was exchanged as the German tanks sought cover in and around the woods. Three 76mm Shermans were quickly destroyed and the position was quickly reinforced with the US Hellcats deploying from behind a nearby barn. One Jagdpanther quickly bogged and sat stalled over repeated attempts to unbog for the majority of the remainder of the game.

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Panzer IVs are devastated by US armor fire from the woods at the left

Back on the US left flank, the German armored assault was pushed back with most of two platoons destroyed in a crossfire from American rifle infantry in one woods and tank fire from another. the combined fire from the US armor likewise laid waste to the approaching Panzer IVs and Pumas. At mid-game, the American left was holding but the US right was in trouble.

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The ME 262 Sturmvogel takes a run at the US Priests

Supporting fire from both sides proved relatively ineffective throughout the game. The German ME 62 failed to score a hit on multiple runs over the table both to infantry and the rear American Priest platoon. The Priests themselves served to only stall the German armor advance with poor results from multiple bombardments. German rocket fire from their rear also showed little for its repeated efforts once spotting teams were in position on both flanks.

IMG_4840German Panthers are thwarted by smoke rounds at the US left

IMG_4841German armor pushes for the crossroads objective

By the sixth and seventh turns, the game continued to progress steadily on two fronts. At the US left, Panther tanks moved into position after their allied Panzer IVs sat burning all around them. Smoke rounds from two US mortar platoons effectively kept the Panthers out of most of the fight as they crept forward and back in the woods. Finally, a couple of side armor shots from the American anti-tank 57mm guns took a couple of the Panthers out and effectively ended the German threat on one side of the field.

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101st Airborne troops rush forward to contest the crossroads objective

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Panzer Lehr forces attempt to push out the 101st Airborne

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German armor continues to roll to a second objective crossroads at the rear

Things were fairing much better for the Germans all along at the other end of the field. Over several late game turns, the German armor pushed forward, leaving all the US Hellcats in flame and the final surviving 76mm Sherman fleeing the field. The veteran 101st Airborne troops continued to snarl the German advance, remaining static and dug in under wooded cover. With the Americans handily holding their left, two US platoons ran to the right to shore up the defense of two objectives. Just as one platoon of US paratroopers broke, a round of fire from the Priests took out one of the Jagdpanthers. With German armor at one objective and pushing hard at a second, a lot of American troops were poised to go down contesting two crossroads with plenty of mortar support ready to shift their attention across the table.

The written scenario doesn’t call for a turn limit, but after having played for nearly eight hours we called the game at the ninth turn. This was one of the longer and larger FOW battles we had played at the club in Brooklyn in this year. In a year of 70th anniversaries, wrapping up with an exhausting and dynamic Battle of the Bulge game seemed the best way to play some tribute in miniature to the largest battle fought in US history.

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Metropolitan Wargamers D-Day Plus 70 Event Report

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This past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, dozens of gamers came together for three days commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Throughout the weekend, we ran multiple WWII-themed games, including Normandy ’44, I Ain’t Been Shot Mum, Flames of War, World In Flames and Memoir ’44. Dice were rolled, strategies were debated, prizes were won and Allied and Axis forces vied for control of France. In all, it was another great weekend full of gaming at our club’s space in the heart of Brooklyn.

Friday Games

IMG_3586The invasion of France begins with Normandy ’44 at Metropolitan Wargamers

Friday kicked off after work with a few players unpacking a fresh copy of the classic Normandy ’44 from GMT Games. This one-map game covers the pre-dawn D-Day Airborne landing areas, five Allied invasion beaches and the charge to the initial inland objectives. The game scale plays with regiments and battalions with each turn representing one day of action. The small, self-contained game provides a great introduction to game mechanics at this scale with a tight, clear rules set. With a quick look at the game, I decided I’m going to have to personally give this one a shot sometime soon.

IMG_3587 US infantry blinds move toward unsuspecting German defenders at a farm outside Vierville

At the back of the club, we ran a game of our new favorite WWII tactical miniatures game, IABSM  from Too Fat Lardies. In our ongoing campaign of the Normandy scenarios in the IABSM Where The Hell Have You Been Boys? book, our game focused on the battle at Vierville-sur-Mer. With the 116th Infantry Division supported by the 5th Ranger Batallion, the Allied mission was to drive inland to capture and defend the church at Vierville.

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German and US units exchange fire in and around the farm at Vierville

As per the scenario, initial Allied blinds approach a farm outside Vierville where a German blind sits unknowingly in the complex of buildings. With Allied infantry closing in over dense bocage hedgerows and orchards, a firefight erupted and drove the German defenders through the buildings and into the orchard beyond.

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German reserves arrive at the flanks of the advancing US infantry outside Vierville

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Germans reinforcements push the Americans from the farm

As the first force of Germans fled the farm, their reinforcing comrades came on to the rear and flank of the US infantry. The Americans made consecutive moves of firing and moving back to defend at a series of stone walls across the road from the farm. The retreating defensive US actions held off the German onslaught until enough Americans could take up position amid Vierville’s houses. At the same time, the US Rangers moved in at the far end of town to hold the objective at the church.

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Americans pull back from the farm to take position in Vierville

The game eventually settled into a bloody house-to-house and hedge-to-hedge fight along the road leading toward the church. Occasional lucky shots from US Ranger light machine guns at the church also harassed the Germans lying low behind their stone wall position at the farm’s orchard. By midnight, much of the initial American force had been destroyed or was retreating to a final stand at the church held by the Rangers. While the Germans had also lost a sizable amount of their force, their heavy machine guns were still in play as they closed in through the town. This time around, we called the action at Vierville a draw.

Saturday Games

IMG_3603The Americans hit the Easy Green sector of Omaha Beach

The next day kicked-off with a running of a FOW beach landing at Easy Green on Omaha Beach. We have been play testing the FOW scenario over the past two months, tweaking our forces and strategies to cope with the clumsy beach landing rules. In our past games, the US invaders only manage to win about a third of the time. Even so, we decided no D-Day weekend was complete without a return to “Bloody Omaha” on one of the club’s award-winning sand tables.

IMG_3604German defenders hold their positions behind a burning bunker

The opening turns found a lot of US boats on the beach and a quick push to the seawall. So early combined arms fire managed to destroy the main bunker at the beach, but the battle was far from over. The initial US push followed on to the left of the beach, but multiple turns at clearing the barbed wire stalled the advance as the Americans took heavy fire.

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American armor and artillery follow-up the infantry landings

As US armor arrived, several tanks managed to drive off the beach to the minefield position to lay down fire on the German trenches. One tank wound up spending three turns bobbing in the surf offshore only to arrive and bog for two more turns on the beach. As this most inexperienced tank crew in Normandy struggled, the other Shermans took fire from German rockets and reserve tank platoon which rolled to bulk up the beach defense. American artillery also arrived but proved pretty ineffective to the Germans at the trenches. Wave after wave of US infantry pushed to the trenches, eliminating most of the defenders but never managing to clear the barbed wire lines to seize the German position. At the final turn, the Americans just hadn’t made enough headway to control the beach.

IMG_3627World In Flames continued over D-Day weekend

With action raging on the sand table, a group of club members showed up to continue playing their massive World In Flames game. Australian Design Group’s WIF from 1985 is the standard in grand-scale strategic fighting of the entire WWII period. The game’s rich playable detail, dizzying number of 1400 playing counters and sprawling maps makes it a commitment for only the most experienced gamers over many months of play.

IMG_3630Allied forces push from the beaches inland to Caen in Normandy ’44

The Normandy ’44 game from the evening before concluded with a decisive Allied victory Saturday afternoon. Pushing the Germans back from all but Utah Beach, the Allies captured Bayeux and several smaller towns. With German defenders routed from roads leading inland from the landing beaches, the victors rolled in to control half of Caen by the game’s end.

IMG_3625No one was going hungry at Metropolitan Wargamers over the weekend

Saturday also included a lot of other club members down for the usual variety of board, Euro and card games, making for a packed house. As the crowd rolled in, a longtime club member showed up with an enormous fresh-caught fish which he proceeded to gut with a huge military-style knife. With fish on the grill and food ordered in, there was plenty of food to sustain the crowd of gamers throughout the day.

We all took a mid-afternoon break to dice-off in a game, books, DVD and miniatures raffle to raise funds for the club. I was fortunate to score a copy of A Few Acres of Snow from Treefrog Games, and another lucky person picked up an unused copy of out-of-print the Games Workshop classic Dreadfleet.

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Initial deployment of Allied and Axis blinds in our Saturday evening IABSM scenario

As the main crowd thinned out, we ran an evening IABSM game continuing the assault beyond Easy Green. The scenario found initial US forces deployed around a small French farm with the objective of moving men off the table on the roads beyond. The Germans were tasked with preventing the American advance and seizing the farmhouse stronghold.

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Settling in for a contested fight at the farmhouse above Omaha Beach

Using initial blind deployment, Germans quickly moved to the farm along thick hedgerows as the Americans drove into the building for cover. Turns followed with the Americans jumping from cover to fire on the dwindling German force which returned fire over the hedges to unfortunate US infantry hanging out in the open. A US flamethrower attack from the window of the farmhouse decimated another German squad sitting close behind a nearby hedge. Pressing their luck, a group from the farmhouse made a run for the road exit only to be stalled by a reinforcing German heavy machine gun squad. Returning fire, the German MG42s were eliminated from their position in the open field. However, the damage had been done. Although the Germans had not captured the farm objective, the Americans no longer had a sufficient force to push off the table. The night ended with a German victory beyond Easy Green.

Sunday Games

IMG_3620The war continues on the Memoir ’44 Hedgerow Hell battle map

With the first days of Operation Overlord behind us, Sunday’s game focused on the breakout actions. A couple visiting players showed up for the club’s Memoir ’44 game around noon on Sunday. Using the wide Hedgerow Hell expansion map, the Allies beat the scenario odds to win the game in the Overlord scenario. There was much talk of getting larger games of Memoir ’44 back in rotation at the club soon, so hopefully getting the game back on the table will bring some renewed interest in the coming months.

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The initial armored encounter outside Lingevres leaves British tanks in flames

I finished off my weekend as the British at Lingevres using the same scenario I first ran at the club a few months ago. The mission ahead for the Brits was to move into the heavily defended town and take two of the buildings. Historically, the battle played out as a tank duel between UK Sherman Firefly and German Panther tanks, and our game this past weekend played out in a similar way.

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A Panther meets its end at the hand of the British Royal Artillery as a close assault is attempted on another in the woods nearby

At the outset, my first platoon of tanks got a bit overly aggressive and charged into contact with the full Panther platoon at the farm outside Lingevres. With the first Firefly destroyed in the opening turns, my remaining Shermans pulled back as the Panthers rattled to the middle of the field to hold off UK infantry advancing through the woods and bocage-lined fields beyond. One Panther bogged on a hedgerow and another was destroyed in an initial volley from the Royal Artillery in the fields outside town. Several turns became ensnared in attempted infantry assaults on the third Panther in the woods, but eventually the German tank rolled away to deal with the building reinforcing infantry and tank platoon in the fields on the other side of the table.

IMG_3622British Shermans and infantry break across a field toward Lingevres

With the Panthers moving away, fresh British infantry and the surviving Shermans moved to the farm and fields beyond. British artillery fire winnowed and pinned the German platoon in the church over several turns. Artillery fire also sought to keep the reinforcing German spotter pinned to limit the effectiveness of the reserve Nebelwerfer battery which as delayed reserves to the rear of Lingevres.

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The duel between the Panther and Firefly ends with the British tank in flames as the remaining Shermans destroy a Panzer IV platoon in the distance

In the meantime, a multi-turn tank duel had settled in between a lone Firefly and Panther while a reinforcing Panzer IV platoon arrived at the edge of town. Both tank groups traded fire, and in the end, the Panzers were routed with two or their three destroyed and the Firefly fell to the Panther’s gun. Back at the farm field, Shermans traded fire with Pak 40s and destroyed an anti-aircraft platoon defending the town’s flank. With two Panthers left on either side of the church, Shermans on each side of town and advancing British infantry, we called the game a draw.

 Weekend Debrief

After more than 20 hours of gaming over two nights and days, I was pretty worn out, but the interest in the D-Day event had made the weekend well worth it. WWII still holds enormous interest to this day, as demonstrated not only by our weekend of gaming but by the mainstream media’s coverage of D-Day over the week leading up. In the next week, we’re kicking off an FOW Infantry Aces campaign with fresh forces hitting the tables in rounds of Italy-themed WWII games. This fall we’ll be playing out some Market Garden battles and by the winter we hope to host some Battle of the Bulge engagements. It was a pretty special weekend in Brooklyn, but for regular visitors to Metropolitan Wargamers, there’s always the next game in this very unique New York City community.

Flames of War: Dust Up Mission With “Blood, Guts and Glory”

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Although actually made up of a number of battles and assaults during World War II, the post-D-Day breakout actions by the Allies in late 1944 in Northern France has become commonly known as the Lorraine Campaign to military historians. Frustrated by poor weather conditions and weak supply lines, the General George Patton’s 3rd Army push into Germany eventually led to the wintery and more famed German counteroffensive with the  Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-1945.

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Flames of War offers a book outlining the Lorraine Campaign with Blood, Guts and Glory. US lists in the book focus on the powerful tank and armored rifle companies which made up the steely backbone of Patton’s daunting force. For the Germans, the cobbled-together 106 Panzerkorps Felderherrnhalle and 111 Panzer brigade are outlined with forces full of some of the best Late War armor and equipment albeit under somewhat challenging motivation and experience ratings.

A couple of weeks ago at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, two of us had a go at a fictional battle set during the Lorraine Campaign. We play against each other a fair amount, and both of us were looking to switch things up commanding some very different forces. The tabletop terrain was also different with a more open battlefield lined with fields, woods, gentle hills and two farms. All of this was quite a departure from the games we have most played set in the days and months after the Normandy Invasion in June of 1944.

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My opponent’s Panzerkompanie was  full of armor – Stugs, Panthers and Panzer IVs – and  supplemented by an Aufklärungs platoon and a couple Wirbelwinds to chase away any US aircraft. For my US force, I wanted to try out some underused rifle platoons which were supported by 105mm M7 Priests, some Shermans and a P-47 Thunderbolt buzzing overhead. We also chose a different game framework, opting for a somewhat complicated Dust Up scenario from the official Flames of War missions list.

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Our Dust Up scenario with my US forces in the foreground and Germans in the distance

Well, as the game played out, I quickly discovered I had brought infantry to a tank fight. With one of my infantry platoons camped out in the woods near two objectives, my hope was to stave off the German armor advance with repeated bombardments from my Priests and diving runs from the P-47.

IMG_3398US M7 Priest platoon taking up position

IMG_3399US rifles deploy in the woods to guard a nearby objective

Things went well for me in the early stages as Panthers stalled moving through the woods. A Wirbelwind and two Panthers were subsequently destroyed from 105mm volleys , but my P-47 failed to get any traction in stopping a group of Stugs creeping along the table edge. Even so, a couple turns in I was feeling fairly confident my artillery fire would whittle away the rolling German advance.

IMG_3401A German Panther and Wirbelwind are destroyed by incoming US 105mm fire

IMG_3400Panthers make through the woods but one bogs in the terrain

IMG_3402The P-47 Thunderbolt attempts a run at a Stug platoon

IMG_3403More fire from the Priests take out another Panther

My plan fell apart as the first German Panzer IV reserves came on the table at the corner behind my Priest battery and made quick work of the nearly-armorless US mobile artillery. I swung my surviving Priest and supporting Sherman around and engaged the Germans at close range with direct fire, but succeeded in only cracking open one German tank. In another turn, the Priests were wiped from the board and only my infantry platoon remained to defend my end of the table. The P-47 appeared again to control the center of the battlefield, but missed on its run. The US center and flank were crumbling by the time turn four approached.

IMG_3405Panzer IV reinforcements surprise the Priests from the rear

IMG_3406The Thunderbolt tries to stall the German armor in the middle of the field

My reserve Shermans came on the table near a farm and quickly engaged with the Panthers which swung to meet the US armor advance. Shots from my heavier 76mm guns lit up a Panther and bailed another’s crew. The German tanks returned fire, destroying all but one 76mm Sherman as more Panzer IVs showed up with the Aufklärungs platoon close behind.

IMG_3407Reserve American 75 and 76mm Shermans roll on the board

IMG_3409The last of the Priests burn as more Panzer IVs appear

In the fifth turn, my final supporting infantry platoon arrived in their halftracks, dismounted and made a desperate run for an objective in the open field. The infantry on my side of the table also broke from the woods in a last-ditch assault on a mass of German tanks creeping toward an objective but were repulsed. With German armor swarming an objective, the game went to the Axis.

IMG_3410A reinforcing column of US rifles follows-up the Sherman advance

IMG_3413A lone Sherman survives as the US rifle company dismounts and heads for an objective

IMG_3414US riflemen break from the woods in a desperate assault on German tanks at an objective

IMG_3415With tanks aflame in the fields, the Germans take an objective

Clearly, my US plan from the outset was a stretch. Had I taken the more historic approach of Patton in the Lorraine Campaign of 1944, a fully-armored US force may very well have stood a fair chance against all the German tanks shuttling here and there on the tabletop. Balancing history and what-ifs is what makes playing Flames of war so engaging over and over again, but next time I’ll be careful not to second-guess the command decisions made in Northern France some 70 years ago.

Flames of War: Lingevres 1944 Scenario

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By D-Day +8 on June 14, 1944, the British 50th Infantry Division had pressed about 5 miles inland from Gold Beach to the outskirts of Lingevres. Dug in at the town were elements from the Panzer Lehr Division with several Panther tanks ready to force back the looming British attack. With 6-pdr anti-tank guns in tow, the British pushed into town mid-morning following a bombardment by 25-pound artillery and runs from supporting Typhoons above. A ferocious battle commenced between the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards and the German Panthers. When the smoke cleared, several Panthers sat burning as victims of Sherman Firefly and anti-tank gun fire. At day’s end, the British controlled Lingevres.

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British 6-pdr anti-tank gun deployed outside Lingevres, June 14, 1944

The WWPD website has a Lingevres scenario available which two of us adapted for play this past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. Using the scenario as a guideline, we laid out the tabletop battlefield with cornfields stretching outside the town occupying two-thirds of the table. With our 1750-point forces on each side, the Germans began with two platoons of infantry and a heavy machine gun platoon inside two buildings and the church at the center of Lingevres. The British then deployed with their artillery battery, two rifle companies and a recon patrol. All other forces were held off table, with German delayed reserves set to arrive in turn three and British reserves eligible to arrive immediately at the beginning of the game.

Victory conditions as presented were simple — the British needed to take three buildings in the town and the Germans needed to drive the British from the field. How the game played was not simple and once again revealed my need to sink more work into creating accurate, playable scenarios for FOW.

IMG_3163Germans dug in at Lingevres in the town’s buildings while British artillery and infantry deployed from the cornfields in the distance

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Initial movement of British forces into Lingevres with recon carriers moving left and infantry moving into the woods near the church

The first two turns of the game saw the British marching from their edge of the table toward Lingevres. At the town, a German machine gun platoon sat waiting in a building at the crossroads while two other infantry platoons took up position in the church and shops across the road. By turn three, British artillery had opened fire on the machine gunners and pinned them. The first British tank platoon also rumbled onto the table, as did the German Panthers which made way for the center of town.

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Panther reserves roll into the center of Lingevres

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British infantry in the woods take fire and are pinned as armored reserves move from the rear

The first British infantry platoon made way through the woods at the center of the table but were pinned and cut down over two consecutive turns of fire from nearby Germans. The British recon patrol, edging its way through the bocaged fields near the church, was chased away with the appearance of the Panthers.

IMG_3167A British Sherman takes up position to spot for the artillery battery

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British infantry move from the farmhouse across the field

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Panthers destroy a Firefly and the Sherman spotter tank at the edge of town

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British infantry fall back after taking fire from the German half-tracks

On the main road to town, the British ran their Sherman spotter tank and lead Firefly toward the nearby farmhouse. On the other side of the farmhouse, a British infantry platoon moved into position using the building and nearby bocage as cover as they made way for the open field. The heavy British push around the farm was stymied with the arrival of German halftracks which fired machine guns into the field. By turn five, the Sherman spotter tank and spearheading Firefly also lay in flames after some quick shots from the German Panthers.

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British machine gun carriers and tank reserves roll on

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Armored reserves move to support infantry

IMG_3172 British infantry reserves move in near their artillery battery

By turns six and seven the inital British assualt had been repulsed at a safe distance from town. All German infantry platoons remained safely bunkered up in the town’s buildings, and the spotter for the German’s reserve 12cm mortar platoon was now camped out in the church’s bell tower. The three Panthers prowled back and forth at the center of town, and the incoming fire from the British artillery in the distance was the only real agitation to the occupying Germans. The Britsh rolled on their final reserves of machine gun carriers, Sherman/Firefly tanks and a fresh infantry platoon.

Even with all reserves on the table, the British attack was stumped. With one rifle platoon destroyed and a second whittled down, the British had just one intact infantry platoon on the field. One tank platoon struggled through the fields to one side of town, while the second sat idling on the road to town. Clear lines of fire around the church and town center presented open killing zones for the Germans in the town’s buidings and the three Panthers. All the Germans needed to do was sit in place and mow down the coming British.

I love playing wargames for historical scenarios, but our game this past weekend at Lingevres presented some serious limitations to the FOW rules as written. Playing an even match of 1750-point forces per side ultimately did not allow for a satisfying game for either player. What works for a head’s up FOW tournament game or randomly-rolled mission simply does not play well in recreating historic engagements.

In our Lingevres game, the British simply didn’t have enough units to create a critical mass to advance into town under what was sure to be withering fire from the Germans. We decided we liked the scenario, but perhaps the British needed a 50% increase in points, perhaps with additional rifle and tank platoons and a Typhoon providing air support.

With a three-day D-Day weekend being planned at our club this June, we’ve got multiple historic airborne, beach and inland fights to sketch out in the coming months. There’s going to be a lot of playtesting and tweaking to get our historic games to play well. With wargaming, striking the balance between a game that provides both historic accuracy and the potential for different outcomes is the real challenge that lies beyond just the roll fo the dice.

Flames of War: “Desperate Measures” Tanks On The Steppe

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Late in 2013, Flames of War re-launched their Late War Eastern European Front books and models with the release of Desperate Measures. The slim guide to the German and Soviet forces of 1945 is packed with lots of fun and flexibility in fielding tons of armor and mechanized troops slugging it out in the final months of World War II.

My usual FOW gaming opponent at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY has made a sizable investment in Soviet models and Eastern Front terrain. His rural church model in particular looks fantastic on the table with real gold leaf applied to the classic onion dome. Playing from the Desperate Measures book for the first time this past week allowed me to field a bunch of German armor which has mostly sat idle for a year or two as I’ve focused on playing Allied forces in Western Europe.

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My German list was a Confident-Trained Panzer Kampfgruppe with a Panther G HQ, two Jagdpanthers, two Panzer IVs and a Confident/Veteran Schwere Panzer platoon of three Tiger I Es. The Soviets rolled out a Confident-Trained Tankavoy Batalon with a T-34/84 obr 1944 HQ tank, a platoon of seven T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks, a ten-tank T-34 obr 1942 platoon and two four-gun platoons of the heavy SU-100 tank killers. At 1500-points on a side, there was a ton of Soviet hardware sitting on the tabletop against a small, but diverse German force.

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This was my first time playing these lists, so we went with a straight-forward Free-For-All from the basic FOW missions list. The table presented a mix of woods and buildings for cover, and roads and a railway cutting across the table. We placed out objectives, deployed our lines of tanks and the Soviets rolled for the first turn.

IMG_3092Following deployment, Soviet tanks roll forward on turn one

IMG_3094T-34s reach the railway and center with SU-100s in support

IMG_3093Panzer IV’s lie idling in the woods with Panther command tanks nearby

IMG_3096Tigers defend the objective at the middle of the table

With the Soviets beginning the game as having moved, they weren’t able to take any valid shots. The T-34s pressed to the edge of the railroad tracks on their left and the central forested area at the middle of the table. On either flank, the SU-100s sat parked and looked to take advantage of their ability to re-roll misses by firing from stationary positions. I perched my Jagdpanthers in a wood at my left flank and aimed at one platoon of SU-100s in the distance. The Tigers sat at the middle of the table, looking to attack from behind two huts and defend an objective. My Panthers and Panzer IVs took up position on my right, hoping to stall the massed T-34 assault over the railway.

IMG_3097T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks take up position around the central woods

IMG_3099The T-34 obr 1942 platoon is lit up by  fire from the Panzer IVs and Panthers

IMG_3098A Panther explodes with returned fire from the surviving T-34s

IMG_3102With one Panzer IV crew bailed out, the T-34s press the attack

IMG_3104Surviving T-34s burn after closing on the Panzer IVs

The game quickly divided into three main fronts. The Panzer IVs and Panthers dueled over the railroad with the T-34 obr 1942s. In three successive turns, the advancing Russian tanks were hit twice and then fled the field with a failed morale test. Along the way, the Germans lost a Panther from the command HQ and a Panzer IV, cutting German tank force in half on that end of the table.

IMG_3103T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks roll to the center and engage the Tigers

IMG_3105Tigers burn on the field

At the table’s center, the T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks moved into position around the central forest and fields. The Tigers moved in and out of cover, taking deadly shots. By the third turn, two of the Tigers had been bailed by combined fire from the T-34/84 obr 1944s and the SU-100s on either side. Struggling to remount their tanks, two Tigers were destroyed and the remaining tank fled the field.

IMG_3101Jagdpanthers blaze away at SU-100s in the distance

Beyond the church at the German left, the two Jagdpanthers destroyed the SU-100 guns in front of them in two turns. With the flank open and the rest of the table locked in mobile tank duels, the Jagdpanthers fired their engines at the double to occupy the objective beyond the burning SU-100s. With the Germans below half-strength following the destruction of the final Panzer IV, the game came down to one company morale check which the Germans passed to win.

We were both pretty pleased with how evenly matched the game had been on the Eastern Front. The sheer number of tanks kept the Soviets in the game even as the Germans rolled devastating hits in almost every turn. The SU-100s at the railroad, on the other hand, managed to miss most of the game until their combined fire with the T-34/84 obr 1944 platoon ran the Tigers off the table.

I’ve spent the past couple years gaming back and forth across Western Europe from D-Day onward, so a new front and some new forces was a great change of pace. Leafing through the rest of Desperate Measures, I can see there’s plenty of opportunity to run around more tanks and maybe even some poor, unlucky troops on the Eastern Front again soon.