Saturday, March 4, 2017

Engagement at Thurau

Hard to believe that t has been just over a year since we played any Great War Spearhead games, especially considering that the period, and the rules, are my favourites. So this week it was a play test of one of the scenarios form the exciting new scenario book due out soon built around the Tannenberg campaign from 1914.

As my life seems to feature regular 60 hour weeks, it is fortunate that most of the scenarios in the book are around the division a side size. I chose the 'Engagement at Thurau' which saw a Russian division charging into the battle area in road march colliding in an encounter battle with a German division somewhat more sensibly deployed.

Andrew, Adrian and I played the game, using my 6mm armies (figures are all Irregular).
The Russians historically advanced in road column as a result of poor reconnaissance, and the scenario requires them to remain so until contact is made with the enemy.

Adrian and Andrew deploying. Thurau is in the centre of the table

The Russian left wing brigade advances along the road to Thurau

The Russian right wing came on in a shallow flank march, again deployed historically in road march.

The Germans meanwhile advance more sensibly, although Andrew pushed hard up the centre with a regiment in road column, determined to take Thurau, the main geographical objective of the game, before the Russians could reach it.

The German first move on, German division advancing from the left of the photo

By the second and third moves things were starting to develop

The Russian left brigade moving forward to recross the river that divides the table, pushing hard to reach Thurau. A Russian cavalry squadron has just crossed the river upper left in the photo

The Russian right flank brigade, with its cavalry in advance along the road. At this point the cavalry screen had sighted the advancing German regiment facing it

The German regiment in road column has reached Thurau in the centre and is about to deploy.

The German extreme right across the river from Thurau

The Russian left flank brigade has advanced not knowing the trap that it is entering. Those are German troops to the left, right, and straight ahead. 'Valley of death', anyone?

The Russian left flank brigade also pushes out further towards its own left.

While on the right the right flank brigade begins to manoeuvre to form a firing line against the German troops on the heights

The German left on the heights

German troops deploying around Thurau in the centre of the battlefield

Action begins next to Thurau, with small arms fire

With enemy spotted the second brigade on the Russian left deviates form the road, and shifts the weight of threat into the centre

On the Russian right, the 4th Brigade pushes past the right flank of its 3rd Brigade to threaten the German left and attempt to exit the table (one of the ways in which victory points could be gained. To do this Adrian had successfully rolled for an order change

It';s hot work in the centre, with German artillery now beginning to fall amongst the Russian troops, causing casualties

And long range action begins on the Russian right, with artillery on both sides engaging over open sights

Now the battlefield in the centre is really lit up with intense action

And it continues on the right

Gaps are appearing in the Russian left flank brigade as it comes under artillery fire, with German machine gun companies adding to the intensity of the fire

But the Russians are fighting back, here the German extreme right wing position comes under fire

A good overview of just ow intense the action is now. The Russians however have struggled to form an effective firing line because of their attempts to deploy from road columns

However they are now causing casualties on the German extreme right as a regiment of their own artillery comes into action

But that left flank brigade is being pushed back, taking increasing casualties itself, and finally breaks

Even as they are casing more casualties on the opposing German regiment

This was a really interesting action. The Russians are severely limited by their advance in road column. The end result was pretty consistent with the outcomes in the whole Tannenberg campaign in which poor reconnaissance resulted in poor decision making for the Russian army so many times.

However, who can complain when this was our first GWSH game in so long. Watch out for the Tannenberg scenario book (titled "All fine men") when it comes out.

I enjoy the use of the Litko markers to show the action. They really do light up the table, and give a great feel for the intensity of the action. Now to planning the next game.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Not another step back ...

It had been a hard week's campaigning for units of the BAOR. Repeatedly they were being caught out by sudden Soviet attacks that pushed deeper and deeper across the northern German plains. But this was not the Russian steppes, there was no room to trade space and time. The Soviet advance had to be stopped. Nothing less would do if the freedom of the western world was to be defended.

Our most recent game saw another Soviet attack against a British BAOR defence. Keith attacked with four Soviet battalions, while I defended with three BAOR battalions (two mech infantry and one armoured) with cross attachments across all three giving three combined arms battalion groups. I supported these manoeuvre units with Abbots, M107s for counter battery work, and M109s for more immediate heavy support. Keith supported his battalions with a range of artillery, and two flights of Mi24 Hind attack helicopters.

The battlefield seen form the British right flank

The British brigade commander opted to defend forward on his right flank, holding the left flank back behind a river line, occupying a key height on the flank.

His armoured regiment held high ground in the centre, occupying another key tactical feature.

The armoured regiment, with cross attached combat teams.

The right flank British battalion defending forward.

The Soviet attack began very quietly with a motorised regiment pushing forward on their right towards the British left.

Soviet divisional reconnaissance pushed forward in the centre, testing the defences.

The Soviet advance towards the British left

And that divisional reconnaissance
Orders rang out across the radio nets, and the armoured regiment pushed forward towards the still empty Soviet centre.

At tis stage the Soviet plan became clearer. A deep flank march arrived opposite the British left.

And the remaining regiments of the Soviet attack force advanced from reserve straight towards the centre.

The British armoured centre advances to its new positions on a significant ridge in the centre
 At this stage the thud of rotor blades echoed across the battlefield and British troopers looked up to see a flight of Mi24 Hind attack helicopters swoop along the road over the heads of the advancing Soviet troops.

The Soviet centre advance continued.

At tis stage the real actin began. British heavy artillery (M109s) called in by a forward observer struck the advancing Soviet battalion and inflicted heavy casualties. The Hind crews managed to inflict no casualties, and so Chieftain crews began to take a heavy toll of the Soviet T64 armoured supports.

The Hind was initially shielded from the British Blowpipe crews by the crest of the hill. However the Blowpipe teams promptly re-deployed and began to fire that the Hind flight.

In the game context, the Keith managed three die rolls of 1 (the first two against Chieftain platoons) and the third against the Blowpipe team which became its target priority. On its fourth and last turn on the table it finally destroyed the Blowpipe team. However the effect was clear, the team had protected the armour from the helicopter threat.

However the British left flank battalion was feeling the pressure, taking heavy casualties. A fierce artillery battle had developed, with Soviet 152mm howitzers beginning to inflict casualties on the British combat teams. However British M107s began the counter battery battle, suppressing howitzer batteries.

The British centre was exerting pressure on the flank of the Soviet advance. Supported by a FV438 platoon, it dominated the centre to the Soviet cost.

The Soviet extreme left flank...

The British brigade commander now ordered his own right flank battalion into action, and the battalion advanced against the Soviet left which was thinly held. The armoured support was provided by platoons of T62s which were struggling to hold their own against the British Chieftains.

The British left flank battalion was forced to check morale, and passed. It was unlikely they would stand for much longer against the 3:1 odds that they faced. However neither did it seem likely that the Soviet left withstand the attack that was developing against it.

However the Soviet advance had been blunted. There would be not a single step back from here. The game was a marginal victory to Keith as I'd taken an option A while he had not.. there was just the 1 VP in it.

This was a very different play style for me, and it worked very effectively. Previously I had tried to exert the power of the NATO air umbrella, but Keith had worked out his own tactical counter to this. So I was forced to rethink how I would fight the battle. Artillery was more effectively used in support of the fighting platoons (although I still managed to mishandle the Abbot battalion), and I operated a much more mobile defence which featured bolder counter attacks on the table.

I have submitted a piece to for the next SOTCW Journal in which I make some broader generalisations and observations that may be of interest.