Light Gardening and Light Wargaming

Life has been rather quiet for the past few days.
I have not felt particularly able to do much, but I have been keeping the garden somewhat under control.

Whenever I work in the garden I am reminded of an old “Punch” cartoon dating from about 100 years ago.
Scene: An old man working in his garden. The local vicar looks over the hedge.
Vicar: “Isn’t it amazing what man can achieve with the aid of the Almighty?”
Gardener: “Aye Vicar, but you should’ve seen it when the Almighty ‘ad it to ‘Isself!”

On the wargaming front I have been designing, printing and sticking to blocks more labels for my “Memoir ’44” games.
Yesterday I produced reinforcements for the 1944 US Parachute Infantry and two forces for Poland in 1939.

 


These graphics (produced pixel by pixel using MS Paint) are printed onto A4 sticky labels, then cut out and attached to 13mm square (19mm for aircraft) plastic blocks. They are much easier to handle than cardboard counters and using tactical map signs lends a greater sense of authenticity to the game when playing on what is essentially a map view of the battlefield.

They lack the visual appeal of real painted toys on a modelled terrain, but I do get the games played sooner! Today, for example I played out a campaign scenario involving 13 companies of US Paras assaulting and defeating 2 companies of German Landsers. Not worth a full-blown battlefield set-up, and the whole thing was set up, played, documented and put away within 90 minutes.

Polish uniforms 1939

I have a dilemma, or possibly a trilemma if such a thing exists.  I am watching the DVD “The Battle of Westerplatte 1939” and it appears that the Polish khak uniform is significantly greener than most painting guides suggest – assuming the film makers got it right and my TV colour balance is correct.

So, looking at the title photo on this post, should I:

a. Try to repaint these fellows?

b. Paint their reinforcements as their existing comrades?

c. Use a greener tint and claim it was a different issue or that colour has faded in the field?

A second question. Does anyone know which of the two tents in the photo would be more appropriate as to colour for Polish forces in 1939?

 

Poland – 3rd September 1939

The third day of my World War Two campaign.  This one pitched two Infantry armies against each other on the Polish-Czech border.  I randomised the battlefield using the Memoir 44 board and a pack of playing cards to determine terrain placement and then transferred it to the wargame table.

Forces and objectives were generated as described in the attached report using the Memoir 44 dice.  It turned out to be a very short, sharp battle with – to my mind – an unrealistic ending as most of the German forces were still intact, but they set the Polish objective and then failed to adequately defend it!

So here is the game report.

1939 09 03 Poland

The German strategic turn is ended. Poland now takes the initiative.

Poland – 2nd September 1939

Day two of my refight of the Second World War.  German First Tank Army attacks the Polish First Tank Army.

Forces and battlefield were randomised for Memoir 44 using the game’s dice and a pack of ordinary playing cards.  The units were modelled using GHQ miniatures in 1/285 scale and the map board transferred to a table-top using Kallistra hexagon terrain (some of which was remodelled for streams, marshes and roads), buildings from Total Battle Miniatures, and trees and other scenery from a variety of sources.

The battlefield, viewed from the West, is seen here:

The battlefield with forces deployed.
The battlefield with forces deployed.

German forces for Memoir 44, created by the dice rolls:
1 Heavy tank unit of 1 x PzIII.
3 Half-track units of 3 x SdKfz 251 each.
2 Motorised artillery units of 2 x 105mm gun and 2 half-track tractors each.
1 Infantry unit of 4 x 4 riflemen.
1 Supply truck unit of 3 lorries.

Polish forces are:
1 Tank unit of 2 x 7TP (37mm gun turret)
1 Tank unit of 2 x 7TP (two MG turrets)
1 Tankette unit of 3 x TK-3 (MG)
2 Motorised Artillery units of 2 x 105mm gun and 2 half-track tractors each.
1 Horse-drawn artillery unit of 2 x 75mm guns.
1 Infantry unit of 4 x 4 riflemen.
1 Supply truck unit of 3 lorries.

As an aside, I started to play this battle using Rapid Fire rules using centimetres in place of inches, but gave up because I had not modelled observers or HQ units needed for the artillery, so back to my original plan of playing with Memoir 44 rules.

To determine the number of command cards for each side I rolled one die per unit and added the number of stars rolled to a base of 3. This gave the Germans 5 cards and the Poles 4.
I applied the “Blitz” rules, which give a speed penalty to Polish tanks.
Other “house” modifications to the standard rules for this campaign are:
– PzIII behaves like a Tiger tank in 1944 scenarios (harder to kill).
– Polish tankettes behave like armoured half-tracks without the supply ability.
– Polish 7TP tanks with two MG turrets fight as two attacks with infantry MGs.
– Polish command cards referring to more than one sector are restricted to one sector, representing the lack of radios.
Victory would be achieved by the first player to win 5 medals. Each village occupied counted as one medal, as did the bridge. These were temporary medals, only held while the hexagon was occupied.  Thus the Germans started with 1 medal.

Turn 1.

Turn 1 action
Turn 1 action

The German infantry moved out of the village to the railway station (1). From there they opened fire on the Polish tankette unit and destroyed one of them (2). The PzIII moved onto the road (3), supported by a unit of armoured half-tracks (4). The tank fired at the 7TP unit on the Polish right flank and knocked out one tank (5).
The Poles responded by advancing the two 7TP(MG) tanks onto the bridge (6) and shooting at the PzIII, to no effect.  One of the 105mm artillery units also fired at the tank (7). It scored a hit, but no damage. One medal was taken for holding the bridge.

Turn 2.
(No picture)
On the German right flank one unit of half-tracks moved forwards and machine-gunned the infantry defending the line of the stream. One hit was scored.
A battery of 105mm guns fired at the 7TP tanks on the bridge. No damage was inflicted but the tanks withdrew from the bridge. The PzIII was also ordered to attack these tanks, and fired as they retreated, driving them further back beyond the village. The Poles lost their medal for holding the bridge, but it was not yet taken by the Germans.
On the Polish side the remaining 7TP (37mm) fired at the PzIII but missed.

Turn 3.

Turn 3 action
Turn 3 action

The German infantry moved forwards into the woods (1).   The PzIII moved onto the bridge (2) and fired at the remaining 7TP to his left (3).
The Polish called in an artillery barrage (4) and successfully brewed up the PzIII, blocking the only crossing point for vehicles (5)

Turn 4.

Turn 4 action
Turn 4 action

The German artillery started a bombardment. The first battery (1) attacked the Polish light artillery (2) with no effect, but the second battery (3) forced the Polish infantry (4) to fall back.
The Polish 75mm guns replied and drove one of the German batteries (5) from the battlefield. One medal to the Poles.

Turn 5.

Turn 5 action north
Turn 5 action north

In the north – the German left flank – the half-tracks attacked the Polish tankettes (1) but failed to cause any damage. The Polish tank counterattacked and the half-tracks fled back to the village (3), ironically claiming a medal for occupation. The tankettes opened fire on the German infantry in the woods (4) causing casualties.

Turn 5 action south
Turn 5 action south

In the centre a unit of half-tracks (1) advanced on the Polish 75mm guns (2), firing their machine guns.  The gunners limbered up and retreated, but were caught by artillery fire from the remaining 105mm battery (3) and one team was destroyed.

Turn 6.

Turn 6 action
Turn 6 action

The Germans launched a mass charge of half-tracks across the whole field with machine guns blazing. It had a very limited effect.
On the left flank one unit (1) attacked the tankettes (2) once more with no effect except to lose the medal for holding the village.  In the centre (3) the Polish artillery battery (4) was eliminated, gaining one medal, and on the right (5) the retreating infantry (6) were targeted with no effect.
The Poles replied with both 105mm batteries (7) which hit nothing.  The Polish trucks (8) moved across the field towards the infantry to resupply them.

Turn 7.

Turn 7 action
Turn 7 action

The Germans renewed their attacks with the half-tracks.  On the left flank (1) they finally eliminated the Polish tankettes (2), claiming another victory medal.  On the right (3) the Polish infantry were driven back (out of shot).  The Polish artillery batteries (4) shelled the third German half-track unit (5), causing a lot of smoke and flames but no damage.

Turn 8.

Turn 8 action
Turn 8 action

The German supply trucks (1) moved forward to occupy the village and reclaim the medal for holding the village.  The infantry moved out of the woods onto the ground previously defended by the Polish tankettes (2) while the half-tracks attacked and eliminated the remaining 7TP tank (3) for another medal.
The Polish artillery (4) shelled the German half-tracks in the centre, destroying one (5) and sending the others (6) backwards.
The Polish trucks reached their infantry and resupplied them.  (The mechanism is that one truck is removed to replace one lost base from the unit supplied.)

The Poles were now in a precarious position.  All their units were at the back edge of the board.  The Germans needed one more victory medal which they could achieve by destroying a Polish unit, taking the second village or forcing any one unit to retreat.

Turn 9.

Turn 9 action
Turn 9 action

The Germans hitched up their 105mm guns (1) and advanced to bring them into effective range of the Polish forces.  As nothing on the left flank could cross the stream to reach the village, the remains of the half-track unit in the centre (2) moved across the field towards the target.  The Polish artillery (3) shelled the half-tracks with no effect. (apparently firing duds as there are no visible explosions!)

Turn 10.

Turn 10 action
Turn 10 action

The Germans continued their movement started in turn 9. The Poles on the other hand had far more success, hitting and destroying the German half-tracks (1) and gaining a Victory Medal.  They also moved the two MG armed 7TPs (2) into the village for another medal.

Turn 11.

Turn 11 action
Turn 11 action

The Germans unhitched the 105mm guns (1) and selected at extreme range the easiest target – the Polish supply trucks (2), but missed.   The Polish infantry advanced towards the woods (3).

Turn 12.

Turn 12 action
Turn 12 action

The German infantry continued to move forward on the left flank, entering the woods (1).  Their half-tracks (2) retired to a safe distance from the arriving Polish tanks.  In the centre the remaining half-tracks (3) advanced between the two woods.  The 105mm artillery (4) again missed the Polish trucks (5).   The Polish infantry, replenished to full strength, moved into the woods (6) to threaten the half-tracks.

Turn 13.

Turn 13 action
Turn 13 action

All the action was on the German left flank.  First the half-tracks (1) moved up to the woods and resupplied the infantry who then moved forwards at to speed towards the village (2).  The Polish tanks (3) swung round to attack them, but with no effect.

Turn 14.

Turn 14 action
Turn 14 action

Following their move in turn 13 the German infantry (1) unleashed their firepower at short range against the tanks in the village, causing them to retreat from the battlefield (2). The Germans had won.

The battlefield at the end of the game.
The battlefield at the end of the game.

The remains of Polish First Tank Army retreated east. The strategic map at the end of 2nd September looked like this.

German invasion of Poland.  End of day 2nd September
German invasion of Poland. End of day 2nd September

The next battle will be in the area 6329/6328 between two infantry armies.

Too much to do

It has occurred to me that I have not posted anything for some time.  This is mainly because nothing has been completed.  I have my finger in too many pies.

However, I have been making progress in various directions.  On the reenactment front I have been trying to obtain buttons, buckles and bows for my role as a major in the British army at Waterloo in June.  I have been appointed Assistant QMG to 2nd Brigade Allied Army, despite spending 25 years as a French soldier in this period.  (Not so odd – at my first Waterloo in 1990 the current commander of the British army in the UK was my French sergeant).  The 2nd brigade, one of four infantry brigades on the allied side, including the German brigade and the Royal Dutch Army, will have around 300 muskets on the field.  While small by US (i.e. Gettysburg) standards, this will be one of the biggest European re-enactment events ever staged.

While thinking of Napoleonic re-enactment, I would like to pay tribute to Peter (Tiny) Castle, Sergeant and commander of the 32nd (Cornwall) Regiment, who died last Sunday.  A large man with a huge personality and a commanding voice who will be sadly missed.  A shame he could not make it to the finale.

On the wargaming front, in my World War Two campaign I have the troops prepared for another battle in Poland on 2nd September 1939, but needed some more marsh terrain.  This is nearly ready…

Awaiting a spray of varnish to fix everything, then another gloss coat on the water.
Awaiting a spray of varnish to fix everything, then another gloss coat on the water.

In the bottom left of the picture are two strips (=1 base, 1/4 unit) of “Red” light cavalry being painted.  I hope that by mid May I will have all the necessary models ready for a display of my “pre-Reisswitz” wargame depicting Waterloo at a Town Council sponsored event in Horsham, UK.  Despite restricting the toy uniforms to red, blue, white and black, plus horse and gun colours, these seem to take a long time to get ready.

I have also been preparing for the second Donald Featherstone tribute weekend (21-23 March) at the Wargames Holiday Centre, where we will be playing Arnhem with Rapid Fire rules.  I own the first edition rules, but have never completed a game with them or used them competitively.  I have been toying with some reduced-scale scenarios, but I await the postman with the edition of the rules that we will be using, as if owning and reading the rules will grant me any greater success!

I have asked for command of 130 Brigade, 43 Division if it’s included in the game, as these are the lads from the counties where I grew up.  Otherwise I will take what I am given, Allied or German.  I’me not sure if we are playing just Arnhem or Market Garden, or somewhere between the two.  Whatever, with something like 650 square feet of table to play on it will be a challenge.

I have a lot of literature about the Market Garden operation and last year ran a 3 day real-time PBEM game which was a wonderful but exhausting experience.  However it’s played, this mini campaign reveals how easy it is for plans to fall apart on both sides, and the futility of war.

I hope to post some photos of the Arnhem game next week.

 

 

 

 

Battle in Poland, 1st September 1939

This is the first battle of my over-ambitious plan to replay the whole of the Second World War.  The basis of the “campaign” is the Axis & Allies game, with the 1939 set-up that I found some years ago on the web.  I think it was published by Peter Sides.  Campaign moves are determined by information from two books; “World War II Day by Day” and “The Chronicle of World War Two”.  Whatever happens in the game, history will try to reassert itself.

So, in the first German game turn I have a battle in Poland.  In square 6126 the German 2nd Tank Army is attacking the Polish 1st Infantry Army, with support from the 1st German Infantry Army.  (In an earlier post I indicated that Axis & Allies units might become “armies”).

The strategic situation after the German move on 1st September.The strategic situation after the German move on 1st September.

The terrain was randomised using a deck of cards and a Memoir 44 game board.  The resulting “map” was transferred to a wargame table using Kallistra hexagon tiles, some customised to provide the necessary terrain features.

The basic terrain map
The basic terrain map

The names of the three villages, Cerekwica, Mrowino and Napachanie were chosen simply because I found on Google Maps three settlements in the area with a similar geographical relationship.  I think it’s better than using “Village A” or “Southeast Farm” or similar.
The battle would be won by the first side to achieve seven victory points.  Possession of each of the three villages counted as 1VP and destruction of one entire enemy unit was worth 1VP.

The battlefield viewed from the southwest. Cerekwica on the left, then Mrowino.  Both villages are occupied by Polish infantry.
The battlefield viewed from the southwest. Cerekwica on the left, then Mrowino. Both villages are occupied by Polish infantry.
View of the eastern flank from the south. The village of Napachanie.  The wood to the left is on a hill, not obvious in this view.
View of the eastern flank from the south. The village of Napachanie. The wood to the left is on a hill, not obvious in this view.
The axis of attack for the German 2nd Tank Army.  The green counters represent Polish forces not yet revealed, including some blanks.
The axis of attack for the German 2nd Tank Army. The green counters represent Polish forces not yet revealed, including some blanks.
The Germans began with a reconnaissance flight by a ME109, which spotted and strafed the Polish infantry in a wood north of Napachanie.
The Germans began with a reconnaissance flight by a ME109, which spotted and strafed the Polish infantry in a wood north of Napachanie.
The remaining Polish infantry made a break for Napachanie from the wood.  A second, as yet unidentified, unit moved off the hill to the right of the picture.
The remaining Polish infantry made a break for Napachanie from the wood. A second, as yet unidentified, unit moved off the hill to the right of the picture.
A German armoured car company raced into Napachanie to secure it before the Polish infantry could take possession.  The ME109 came in for another strafing run…
A German armoured car company raced into Napachanie to secure it before the Polish infantry could take possession. The ME109 came in for another strafing run…
...but was shot down by the jubilant Poles.
…but was shot down by the jubilant Poles.
Meanwhile in the northwest German infantry make a pincer attack on Cerekwica, defended by a company of Polish infantry.
Meanwhile in the northwest German infantry made a pincer attack on Cerekwica, defended by a company of Polish infantry.

Normally I try to work without tokens on the table, but sometimes it’s necessary. Each of my units has a small ID card that I can slip under the buildings to indicate their position if in occupation.

Despite a counterattack that caused a number of German casualties the Poles were forced back into the woods.  A German supply convoy arrived.
Despite a counterattack that caused a number of German casualties the Poles were forced back into the woods. A German supply convoy arrived.

Gaming notes
I changed the rule about retreating.   Memoir 44 rules state that a retreating unit must move towards its baseline. With a flank attack in progress I ruled that it must retreat directly away from the major threat.
The purpose of the lorries in Memoir 44 is to “resupply” units that have suffered casualties.  One base may be restored by removing one lorry.  In the event there was no opportunity to do so.

At Napachanie a company of Pz IIs took over from the armoured cars and began to machine gun the Polish infantry.  The armoured cars set off to recce the road to the northwest.
At Napachanie a company of Pz IIs took over from the armoured cars and began to machine gun the Polish infantry. The armoured cars set off to recce the road to the northwest.

Note to self.  “Do something about all those identically broken fences.”

But as they passed the wood on the crest of the ridge, the hidden Polish unit in the wood opened up with an anti-tank rifle and took out two of them.  The third beat a hasty retreat.  Dobry strzał!
But as they passed the wood on the crest of the ridge, the hidden Polish unit in the wood opened up with an anti-tank rifle and took out two of them. The third beat a hasty retreat. Dobry strzał!
The Poles at Napachanie had knocked out one Pz II, but more German armour was swiftly approaching.
The Poles at Napachanie had knocked out one Pz II, but more German armour was swiftly approaching.
The Poles counterattacked.  A unit of TK3 tankettes with 20mm guns advanced, supported by a 75mm gun battery (top centre). Two more German tanks were destroyed by shellfire.
The Poles counterattacked. A unit of TK3 tankettes with 20mm guns advanced, supported by a 75mm gun battery (top centre). Two more German tanks were destroyed by shellfire.
On the western flank things were not going well for the Germans.  Rifle fire from the Poles in the woods was inflicting casualties on the Germans in Cerekwica (left) and the Poles in Mrowino (right) were holding up the advance of the German infantry across the open fields.
On the western flank things were not going well for the Germans. Rifle fire from the Poles in the woods was inflicting casualties on the Germans in Cerekwica (left) and the Poles in Mrowino (right) were holding up the advance of the German infantry across the open fields.
A unit of TK3 tankettes with MG armament emerged from the wood NE of Mrowino in support of the infantry.  A Polish supply unit prepared to withdraw to safety.
A unit of TK3 tankettes with MG armament emerged from the wood NE of Mrowino in support of the infantry. A Polish supply unit prepared to withdraw to safety.
Napachanie: The Polish and German armour begins to "mix it" while some armoured half tracks set off to deal with the AT rifle unit in the central wood.
Napachanie: The Polish and German armour began to “mix it” while some armoured half tracks set off to deal with the AT rifle unit in the central wood.
An overview of the eastern flank from the southwest.  The Polish armour (centre) has chased off the German light tanks (bottom right), with help from their artillery (top left).
An overview of the eastern flank from the southwest. The Polish armour (centre) has chased off the German light tanks (bottom right), with help from their artillery (top left).
The Germans start to bring on their motorised artillery on the eastern flank...
The Germans started to bring on their motorised artillery on the eastern flank…
...and horse-drawn guns on the western flank.
…and horse-drawn guns on the western flank.
In the centre the remaining German armoured car surprises the Polish truck convoy, destroying two of the three trucks.  The German tanks are keeping well to the south of the dangerous wood as they head for Mrowino.
In the centre the remaining German armoured car surprised the Polish truck convoy, destroying two of the three trucks. The German tanks kept well to the south of the dangerous wood as they headed for Mrowino.
Napachanie: The TK3s turn their attention on the German half tracks.
Napachanie: The TK3s turned their attention on the German half tracks.
Mrowino.  The last Polish truck explodes and the Pz II unit catches the Polish tankettes from the rear.
Mrowino. The last Polish truck exploded and the Pz II unit caught the Polish tankettes from the rear.
But the Poles call in off-table heavy artillery to deal with the German tanks.
But the Poles called in off-table heavy artillery to deal with the German tanks.
From the southeast looking along the German axis of attack.  The road is littered with burning vehicles.
From the southeast looking along the German axis of attack, the road littered with burning vehicles.
Napachanie: The Germans begin to deploy their 105mm howitzers.
Napachanie: The Germans began to deploy their 105mm howitzers.
Cerekwica is retaken by Polish infantry, while their tankettes machine gun the supporting infantry.
Cerekwica was retaken by Polish infantry, while their tankettes machine gunned the supporting German infantry.
Cerekwica/Mrowino: The Germans deployed their 105mm guns in direct fire mode.
Cerekwica/Mrowino: The Germans deployed their 105mm guns in direct fire mode.
Despite casualties from the German artillery fire the Poles hold on to Mrowino, but only just.
Despite casualties from the German artillery fire the Poles held on to Mrowino, but only just.
Back in the centre the German armoured car runs from a creeping artillery barrage.
Back in the centre the German armoured car ran from a creeping artillery barrage.
The Polish tankettes eliminate the last of the German infantry around Cerekwica and (behind the village to the left) Polish infantry attack and destroy the German supply convoy.
The Polish tankettes eliminated the last of the German infantry around Cerekwica and (behind the village to the left) Polish infantry attacked and destroyed the German supply convoy.

This marked the end of the battle. The Poles had eliminated five German units, including the ME109, or forced them to retreat from the battlefield, and recaptured two villages for the required seven victory points. The Germans had taken and held Napachanie in the southeast and eliminated two Polish units, a total of three points.
The game took fourteen turns for each player. At the end of turn 9 the victory point score was 4-4, and things were looking desperate for the Poles. Five turns later they won 7-3.

Aerial view from the south of the battlefield at the end of the game with Polish positions outlined in red and German positions in blue
Aerial view from the south of the battlefield at the end of the game with Polish positions outlined in red and German positions in blue

Conclusion.
I think that Memoir 44 works best for set piece battles, or at least those with most of the forces on the field at the start. Because most of the command cards relate to right flank, left flank or centre the battle can become disjointed when trying to feed in troops at specific points. Each player in this game had four cards to select from at any one time, but the Poles got many of the “specials” like off-table artillery barrage. For almost half the game the Germans held three cards for a flank with one unit and one card for the flank with most of their forces.

As a first time exercise I think it worked well. I replayed part of the game later with Rapid Fire rules and it was clear that the firing was less devastating and the German superiority of numbers would overcome the Poles sooner or later.

And so I reach the end of the first day of the replay of the War. It’s only taken about a year to prepare and play. At this rate I will be 2,137 years old before I finish!

September 1st 1939 – still waiting

So much for not holding up the game when I discovered I had missed creating an entire unit (see earlier post).  When I came to set up the battlefield I found I was short by three slope hexagons, so an emergency order to Kallistra was prepared.  At the same time I ordered some new houses from Total Battle Miniatures to replace the Irregular Miniatures buildings I intended to use, which look a bit small against the new troops.  If they don’t arrive before the new hexagon tiles I will press into use some nicely painted American Civil War models I bought at a tabletop sale last year.  They are a reasonable substitute, judging by newsreel film of September 1939 recently viewed.
ACW bulidings from Total Battle Miniatures ACW buildings from Total Battle Miniatures

So now it’s a race.  Will the new hexagon tiles arrive before the buildings? And in the meantime I can start painting the missing unit.

“Order – Counter-order – Disorder”