Monday, November 24, 2008

The Oasis at Sidi Rezeg

Last weekend DG was down for the Warfare show (see last post) so we took the opportunity to get a game on Friday evening, and for this outing, on the back of successive black powder battles set in the War of Independence and War of the Spanish Succession decided it was time to head back to the sands of Libya - this time carried on metal linked tracks rather than shanks's pony or the four footed beasts of the Camel Corps.. yes, it was time to re-visit WWII and "Blitzkrieg Commander".

I decided that given the last few games of Blitzkrieg Commander had been relatively small, this one would be considerably bigger, so I factored in about a 1000 points a side*. I also take the opportunity to slip in an aspect of the game that we hadn't tried until then, namely off board artillery.

* I'm not bothered about points based scenario's in the slightest, but when the game involves as many different armoured and infantry based elements as WWII games (can) do it's sometimes difficult to put together a balanced game. Blitzkrieg Commander has an interactive tool called "Battlegroups" on their website (click here)that allows you to put together balanced forces quickly. The tool also allows you to pick the theatre of operations, and the fate down to the month so that the two sides are historically accurate. The thing I like most about it however, is that it not only limits you historically to what equipment you can have (so no Tigers in 1941..) but when equipment is made available, it limits the amount of it you can have based on the same time frame (so no hordes of Tigers early in their deployment...) - it's a cracking little program which I've used lots!

Scenario:

Two heavy battle groups deployed on the flanks of their main armies had both been given orders to reconnoitre and hold the oasis at Sidi Rizeg, a small village deep in the desert. The oasis is the only source of water within a 100 square miles, and ownership of the oasis will give a significant logistical advantage to the side that holds it..

OOB's:

We diced for sides - highest chose.. DG won and took the British (he was as keen as I was to see how the artillery panned out..!)

British - DG:

C-in-C - Allied Command Base.
1FAO
1ArtilleryUnit(25pdr)
1Transport Unit (Trucks) - ATG
Infantry:
InfantryHQ
1st Infantry Company
3Infantry Unit
1Support Unit(MG)
1Support Unit(Mortar)
1Support Unit(ATG,2pdr)
1Transport Unit(Trucks/Half-Tracks)-for the ATG
2ndInfantryCompany
3Infantry Unit
1Support Unit(MG)
1Support Unit(Mortar)
1Support Unit(ATG, 2pdr Chevy Portee)
Cruiser Tank Company -integral HQ
4Cruiser Tanks(Crusader2pdr)
Cruiser Tank Company - Integral HQ
3L Cruiser Tanks (A13)


German - myself:

C-in-C - Axis Command Base.
Infantry:
HQ
1st Infantry Company
3 Infantry Unit
1 Support Unit (MG)
1 Support Unit (Mortar)
1 Support Unit (ATG, 50mm)
1 Transport Unit (Trucks/Half-Tracks) - for the ATG
2nd Infantry Company
3 Infantry Unit
1 Support Unit (MG)
1 Support Unit (Mortar)
1 Support Unit (ATG, 50mm)
1 Transport Unit (Trucks/Half-Tracks) - for the ATG
Light Panzer Company - integral HQ
3 Light Panzer Unit (Pz-II)
Light Panzer Company - integral HQ
3 Light Panzer Unit (Pz-III short barrelled 50mm)
Italian Armoured Contingent - integral HQ
4 M13/40


The Table:

Having diced for sides we then diced for table edge I won and chose the right hand side of the table in the following pictures..

The oasis is in the centre of the table marked by the rocky out crop. On either side of this are the houses that make up the village.

All the hills are categorised as soft sand/hard going...

I'd arranged it so that both sides had a disadvantage in terrain on the shortest route to the oasis - DG on the left had a series of hills to thread through, I had some broken ground.

The Game:

Last of all we diced for who moved first - this turned out to be DG, so although I had the advantage of being able to deploy so as to face his forces as they entered the table, DG had the opportunity to move his forces on to the table far enough forward that he would be able to dominate my entrance to the table..

In terms of the table above, DG chose to use his right (ie. towards bottom of the picture) and centre flanks - with the A13's on his right, the infantry in the centre, and his Crusaders on the centre left. When I eventually managed to get on the table my plan was to face his A13's with my Pz. III's and one of the infantry company's, my other infantry in the centre, but I would try an outflanking manoeuvre with the Pz. II's and my Italian contingent.

True to form DG was most aggressive with the tanks, pushing them well forward, and fast... I was saved here by a couple of poor command throws which bought his tanks to a halt after a couple of moves. His infantry came on in two columns either side of the small hills between him and the village but made slow progress. Either way by the time he finished that first move the Crusaders were almost in the village..and his A13's were just past the half way across the board...

It was now time to bring my stuff on to the table, and it started to go rapidly downhill from this point...

In a hideous repeat of the last game it looked again like my dice mojo had departed and left for foreign shores never to return!

I bought my Pz. III's and one of the infantry company's on, and managed to get my infantry in to the rough ground before failing abysmally on the command roll with the ATG nowhere near ready to deploy. The Pz. III's opened fire on the A13's after they had entered but I only got one round of firing off before we failed another command roll (and this was with the benefits you get in Blitzkrieg Commander for German HQ units!) This was enough to brew one of the A13's...

In the centre, unlike DG, I had chosen to put one of my infantry company's in command of the C-in-C, he ordered them forward and I managed to get all my units on to the table, with the ATG deployed just to the left of the broken ground that has "Pz. II" written over it in the map above.. so far so good.

The Pz. II's also made good progress and started to open fire on the Crusaders (looking for flank shots and not getting them) but again failed command throws 'early'. The Italians made it on to the table and that was about it!

On the next turn DG "unleashed hell" with his A13's and brewed all the Pz. III's (gulp)
On the other flank the Crusaders had similar but not quite so much success - I had the advantage of numbers.. he still managed to destroy one of my Pz. II's.

Half way point then - and time for a much needed cup of tea... in terms of breakpoints DG was in the lead with five of mine to one of his and everything looked black and bleak for the Axis.

...and it was at this point my dice mojo decided to return from holiday refreshed and invigorated....!

For ease of reading it's probably easiest if I take each flank in turn from the point, so starting off with the my left flank, it was now my turn to unleash hell - and I threw everything at DG except the kitchen sink. I started concentrating my anti-tank fire on the A13's, one at a time, and in the first move after tea managed to destroy the second one - DG pulled back the remaining one to keep it safe but didn't quite manage to get it far enough back before he failed his command throw. Meanwhile with the Pz. III's destroyed I had spare HQ capacity so split the infantry company in two which allowed me to fire that half of the company separately. I used the extra firepower to start lobbing mortar shells at long range into DG's infantry, and in the same move also bought up my MG.

In the next turn DG failed to move the A13 (command blunder) and I managed to brew it - score 5 breaks to the Axis, three to the Allies. Then I turned my mortars and MG's on his infantry which were deploying into the village and destroyed a couple of them - and by that point it was all over on this flank as I started to move half my infantry company forward towards the village.

In the centre it turned into an infantry fight as you would expect - DG managed to get his infantry into the rough ground around the oasis, but as he deployed on the edge of the oasis I opened fire with my infantry and assets and successfully destroyed, or suppressed his units..

On the right the long attritional battle between the Crusaders and the Pz. II's and M13/40's, carried on. The exchange of fire was long and DG & I were similarly successful, him brewing an M13/40 while I managed to get one Crusader with the additional help of my infantry's anti-tank gun.

At which point DG finally managed to get his artillery spotter on to the table and successfully called in a 'stonk'...

Well - I for one was impressed, and I think DG was as well secretly. Part of the problem for DG was visibility - his spotter had no clear view of any soft targets, just the Pz. II's and M13/40's massed on my flank. The 25pdr is a howitzer as opposed to anti-tank weapon so any damage would be limited, but there was always the possibility of triggering a collapse of morale (called "fallback" in Blitzkrieg Commander). So the barrage was launched.. impact point was called, direction dice thrown, minimal deviation and then out came a quite unfeasibly large blast template (30cm square!). Every single one of those tanks was under it, but after DG had finished throwing dice, and I had finished throwing saves, the sole casualty was the truck that towed the anti-tank gun!

...and I think it safe to say that was about it - the remaining breakpoints went to me by way of another of the Crusaders, and then I started putting damage on the second infantry company, which resulted in the final breakpoints going to me.

See following for end of game situation:



Post Match Analysis:


  • Great fun as a game - even the beginning bit for me and the end bit for DG. I'm not afraid to admit that I waved my chubby little arms in the air at the end, but only because it was the first game I'd won in some time...
  • Blitzkrieg Commander continues to delight as a set of rules - we've enjoyed everyone so far - it has an option for an alternate move system to the one we were using and I think we might try that next time as given the variable length of the moves you can be sitting round for a long time taking damage when the other guy has the initiative. Basically you alternate commands until you've moved all of your commands and then the move starts again...
  • We discussed afterwards and agreed that one of the problems DG had was getting his infantry and support weapons into action quick enough - possibly as a result of those hills and the soft sand DG crept forward in column whereas I swept on in a loose line and deployed my support weapons as soon as I could. First lesson we took away was to remember that for the next game!
  • We think we probably didn't manage the FOO (artillery spotter) correctly, as DG had him in a command of his own - given his low command pips that meant it was difficult to get him going. We need to read the rules but our idea was to attach him to a command with higher pip's so that we could move him around quicker, but we would still have to use only use his own command pip's to call in stonks..
  • Refreshments this evening were suitably oriental being a bottle of "Old Speckled Hen" a fine IPA style ale that DG is partial too (and I never turn down an ale!) accompanied by some spicy nibbles (Jalfrezi mix). We then moved on to the PG Tips (decaffeinated naturally) and the emperor of dunking biscuits, the digestive (Tesco's own brand - they taste nicer in my view than McVities)

2 comments:

  1. Steve - another great post with great pics! Excellent stuff!

    Ian

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  2. Congratulations on your laurels, I'm sure James Mason will play you in the movie after the war.

    Do you have an email address for me Steve, as there was a question I wanted to ask you off blog.

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