Monday, July 28, 2008

Battle report - "Alfiyah Pass"

Following the trip to the Eastbourne show, and because DG was down for an extra day, we took the opportunity on Sunday to slip in a game before he traveled home - with so little time, so few visits, and so many interests, it tends to mean that we have to cycle the periods we're interested in, so this time we took the opportunity to visit the red hot desert sands of WWII Cyrenaica for a Blitzkrieg Commander game......

For this game I also took the opportunity to play my first scenario from Charles Grant and Stuart Asquith's book "Scenario's for All Ages". The scenario I picked was the first one "Attack on a Prepared Position", and is an attack and defence game, where the attacking player has to fight his way across a long ridge (with a single pass), and then exit the opposite board edge with a minimum of two units. The ridge is not impassible, but there are the usual terrain restrictions..

Without further ado then, and enough words have passed that it's time for a picture - this is the table:

I then translated the forces in the scenario to the modern era, and decided on April '41 as the specific period. The idea was that Rommel who had invaded Libya to 'rescue' the Italians (Operation "Sonnenblum" - click here) the month before, was pushing back the British so fast, and in such disarray, that they had put together a scratch force to try and stop him and buy them some time.

Using the (quite stupendous) Blitzkrieg Commander site which has a page that allows you to generate orders of battle we ended up with the German attacking force comprising the following:

  • 1 Commanding Unit and 3 HQ units
      These commanded the following:
    • 1 Recce Unit (Motorcycles)
    • 4 Company's of Infantry
    • 3 Support Units (MG)
    • 2 Support Units (ATG, 37mm)
    • 1 Support Unit (Mortar)
    • 3 Light Panzer Unit (Pz-III short)
    • 6 Transport Unit (Trucks/Half-Tracks)
    • 3 Transport Unit (Sdkfz 251)

I took the British, which comprised the following (about half the points the Germans had):

  • 1 Commanding Unit and 3 HQ units
      These commanded the following:
    • 3 Infantry Unit
    • 3 Support Unit (MG)
    • 1 Support Unit (ATG, 2pdr)
    • 1 Support Unit (Mortar)
    • 3 Cruiser Tank Unit (A13)
    • 1 Transport Unit (Universal Carrier)

The British started the game "dug in" - the blue box represents my deployment area. I also paid for trench's out of my points total - as it turned out I could have saved the points and spent better elsewhere, but that's jumping ahead of myself.

I used hidden deployment so that DG had to work to find out where I was concentrated, but basically had the tanks behind the ridge on my extreme right (for no reason other than that flank looked more open and I thought that DG would deploy his armour there).

Moving up the table I then had an infantry company with MG's; a heavy infantry company with MG, mortar and A/T gun in the centre (just below the pass), with two further infantry company's with MG the other side of the pass. See following:

DG took the Germans and started from the left side of the table (the red box was his deployment area) - he came up with a good plan - he loaded his left flank with all the infantry, the MG's, and backed up by the tanks.. in the centre he had his CO with the mortar, and on his right flank he deployed the 37mm A/T guns..

So at the beginning of the game I got lucky in that my tanks were in the right place, and other than one other notable event (see later), that was the only bit of good luck I think I had all game!

The scenario calls for a set number of moves - Grant and Asquith advise making this to be the same as one and half times the number of moves it takes to move from one side of the table to the other - with Blitzkrieg Commander this is a bit difficult as the moves are variable length, but I settled on 9 moves as being something that would cause DG to "push on" a bit!

So how did the fame turn out??

Weeeeeeeeeell.... I may have given you a hint above but suffice to say DG started with the strong push on his left, getting the necessary die rolls to move forward quite quickly (see next picture). His other units also advanced - the CO to the hill in the centre, and his AT Guns towards the village.

My die rolling on the other hand resulted in stalled move after stalled move, and when I finally managed to get the tanks rolling (and I had to use my CO to do it) I then failed to get them to shoot!

My one good bit of luck was on one move with the mortar and MG gun of the heavy infantry company where I brewed two of DG's transports with occupants.

...and that, unfortunately, was that really!

My tanks never got to fire (appalling command dice throws!) before two of them were brewed by DG's armour, and one of them was suppressed. The mortar was then destroyed by effective MG fire from multiple weapons which removed my long range HE ability. Finally DG close assaulted the remaining tank with his infantry and destroyed that:

...he then pushed through with his armour and exiting the table on move 5 in the face of another failed dice throw following one innefectual shot from my AT gun!

Post Match Analysis:

  • After many years of searching for a playable set of rules for WWII, the search continues... no not really.. Blitzkrieg Commander (click here) are excellent. They give a fast, free flowing game, with a unique approach to command - basically your CO and HQ units are given a command factor which you then dice to get under, so that you can activate your units - every time the commanding unit gives a subsequent order their command factor is reduced by one so that it gets harder and harder to give orders - once you fail that's it, you move to the next HQ, or end your turn if that's the last one... Mine had Command Factors of 8's and 9's, so using 2D6 you would normally expect to get a minimum of a couple of activations - purely through abysmal die rolling however, I kept blowing out on the first activation, or worse still getting the dreaded double six which results in all sorts of nasty stuff happening! Some nights you aren't going to shake lady luck though, and last night was one of them.... not the rules fault, just an off night for me... and payback for that last War of the Spanish Succession game!
  • DG had a good plan - and even with some decent command dice I would have had a hard job holding him. What I will say is that we both enjoyed the game - as Mr. Preece has said recently on his blog (click here), the social aspect of the game shouldn't be overlooked!
  • Refreshments on this occasion were of the iced variety - the weather here in the UK is hot and sultry at the moment, and the loft was warm to say the least!!


  1. Not my period bu it looked like a fun game and the write up was excellent. I have to admit to envy for your ability to put games on at home. admittedly I have the clubhouse but it's not available to me at a drop of a hat.
    Good looking game as well.

  2. Yes, a very good-looking game (and very nicely painted figures and terrain).

    I also am not at all seduced by WWII armor . . . it is too modern for my taste . . . but I enjoyed your account.

    -- Jeff

  3. That is a really beautiful set-up, Steve. Lovely toys and the general effect of the terrain is enhanced by its relative simplicity.

    Best wishes


  4. Thanks for the comments guys, appreciated...

    Grimsby - I know what you mean - I'm extremely luck to have the use of the loft which has had a partial conversion. Given it's partial there's still a lot of joists so the maximum width on the table is only 4'; the length is usually 6', but I can make it 8' with a bolt on section... the advantage as you say is that I can use it when I want - I still crave the 8' x 6' monster though! ;o)

    Giles - thanks for the words about the terrain - I notice that you and I share a taste for the TSS terrain tiles - these are the sand ones...

  5. Steve,

    I enjoyed that, great write up - thanks! I like WWII games myself but rules are a bit of a problem so I use my own. What make/scale are your figures? I assume 1/200? My own stuff is mostly Wargames South with a few Minifigs.


  6. Are the numerals on the corners of your bases for your own ease of identification or part of the rule system?

    I looked at gallery on the Blitzkrieg Commander website and some of the figures had labeled bases or open spots waiting for labels, but many did not.

  7. Stryker - I'm using the (excellent) 12mm range from Minifigs; for WW2 I think they are just about the perfect scale for me - big enough to see and have "presence", small enough to be able to model the distances and organisation of WW2... I've tried 6mm/1:300 many times through the ages and just can't get over the fact that to me they just board game pieces... ;o)

    Chris - the numbers are for identification, but I may decide to remove them (for aesthetic reasons) as for Blitzkrieg Commander you don't really need them. I had them for a previous game where I was tracking hits on a roster sheet which is not needed for BC. I think some of the BC players may have weapon stats as a label, or they're like me and re-using troops based for other game systems....