Monday, September 24, 2007

..."Take These Men"...

..the title of the post comes from a cracking book by a guy called Cyril Jolly, who was a lieutenant in the Royal Tank regiment in the western desert during the second world war. The book documents his experiences as a tank commander first in captured Italian tanks, before he is re-equipped with the Honey (a.k.a the Stuart) and eventually the M3 (Grant variant) - an excellent read as it gives a really good feel for what it was like to be in command of tanks in the heat and sun of the desert, and fighting Rommel's finest... I only mention it as it's a really nice introduction to the game we had on Saturday evening, which as per my last post was using Blitzkreig Commander, and funnily enough was set in the desert (there's the link!)

Being a first game I put together opposing battle groups of only 500 points - basically three sections of infantry (with transport), attached MG and anti-tank gun supports, and a separate troop of tanks to beef up the assault... to do this I used the "battlegroup generator" on the Blitzkrieg- Commander site. I'm not a fan of points systems as I usually like the offbeat, unequal tussles, that an objective based game can give, but what I like about the generator is that it creates a printout that has all the vital statistics and notes, specific to the units you have selected - everything you need on one sheet of paper - it's brilliant!

Table was set up as above - figures are N scale (12mm) so it didn't need to be huge - this is four foot square, but lots of terrain features to break up line of sight - when you don't have the typical hedges, tree's and vegetation of a European battle field you use hills/dips instead as follows.. double height hills were "dense terrain" (soft sand in this instance); all hills, rock features, and palm tree's block line of sight...

Germans set up on the left of the above (red), British on the right (blue) - we used alternate setup, placing command units in sequence - once these were done we then completed deployment of the units.

When this was finished we ended up with a nice asymmetrical line up - always a good sign as it makes life difficult from the start!

DG (playing the British) had his infantry and direct supports in 1., and his tanks (three Matilda II's - see above right) in 2, with his HQ between the two. I had my infantry in 2., and my tanks (2 Panzer II's and a short barrel Panzer 3) in 1.

Having won the initiative I moved first, and on turn one managed to make enough command decisions to get my tanks moving towards the cover of the rocky outcrop to their front (see right), and to get the infantry moving towards the ditch (see left).. DG wasn't quite so lucky an blew his command roll ont he first turn whilst trying to get the Matilda's moving... {Blitzkrieg Commander uses a die roll mechanism to issue orders - a command unit has a numerical value based on it's quality, the higher the better, every time the command issues orders it throws dice trying to get under this value - it can issue multiple orders to the same unit, but every set of orders it issues reduces the command value by one... so it gets harder and harder to build up an attack..quite clever...}

The German infantry attack on the left was brought to a screeching halt by the British MG - this caused a radical re-think on the German side and in the end I attacked with the infantry through the major rocky feature in the middle of the table. I sent my transports and supports to the right, around the back of this feature, and ordered the German support MG into the rocky terrain that the tanks were deploying around..

On the other side of the table the British infantry deployed their supports almost immediately so as to bring them into action as as possible. The British AT gun ( a 2Pdr) in particular opened up on the Panzers as soon as they came within sight (range was never going to be an issue!) but without any immediate success - though it did manage to shake the tank crews up a bit..!

The major damage to the Germans was caused by the determined advance of the British Matilda's who came over the hill and opened up with their 2 pounders.. fairly soon one of the Panzer 2's (labelled no. 9 in the picture above) was burning merrily...

Not surprisingly, German counter fire against the Matilda's was not good - their massive armour kept them safe, and the remaining Panzer 2 withdrew to get flank cover from the rocky outcrop - the German armour kept up a steady fire on the British ATG, and managed to keep it's crews head down for most of the game..

...time for a tea break (literally) as the German commander decided what he needed to do next..

...what turned it for the British (must have been good tea!) was getting their Matilda's to a point where they could concentrate fire - very soon both remaining tanks were burning, but not before the famed Afrika Korps infantry dealt very summarily, firstly with one of the Matilda's {infantry at close quarters are deadly in this game!}, and then with some of the British infantry that had deployed on the hill to their front... when they also managed to get their MG into action, the British infantry began to take serious casualties, but it was at this point the game ended - see above right for a final view of the battlefield with the German tanks burning in the foreground..

Post match analysis

  • ...first things first - we both agreed it was a good game - and those expectations I spoke about were (largely) met, basically I'm already putting together shopping lists and thinking about the next game - a plus!! J
  • in scenario terms it was a very narrow German victory - which is nice - but I would suggest it was probably more a draw..! Very expensive for the German they lost all their armour...
  • the rules are different, but as it said on the packet, once we got to grip with the mechanics, we fairly whipped along, and played the full eight turns - minimal modifiers, and generic mechanisms made a lot of the rules fairly intuitive - on a couple of occasions we made decisions in the game, that when we went to check were exactly as documented.. a good sign..
  • the only section we had a problem with was the close combat section - having checked the web site today there is an extensive amount of informaiton to explain how it works so I'll print that down and have a careful peruse..
  • we liked the firing which is a simple but effect mechanism of three sets of dice - first to hit, second for saving throw, third for morale effect if any hits remain... brilliant... and only four modifiers which you can easily keep in your head after a couple of run throughs..
  • ..onwards and upwards - the next game will feature some artillery - a major staple of any WWII battle, but left out of this run through to keep things simple..
  • for those who like the detail, the tea was Twining's "Everyday" ("a wonderfully well-rounded tea ... refreshing and full of flavour" - can't argue with that...) the biscuits were Digestives ("The undisputed king of the large diameter biscuits, this is truly an iconic biscuit" - can't argue with that either! J)


  1. BKC sounds interesting, I think I'll give it a try with my 1/300 Western Desert (when I get the time as usual)


  2. A nice account . . . and I like your "Post Match Analysis" (I wish more of us -- myself included -- would do this).

    Unfortunately I'm not really interested in WWII . . . but lots of people are . . . still, I'd rather you were documenting more 18th century conflicts.

    -- Jeff