Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Massacre Outside Dubno

During Operation Barbarossa one of the largest tank engagements of the war took place during the Battle of Brody. It was a massive counterattack by the Red Army with an armored force of as many as 1,000 tanks. The Germans were taken by surprise and caught on the wrong foot while on the move. The Soviet 8th Mechanized Corps had initial success taking the town of Dubno (West of Brody), but by June 26th, the Germans had regrouped and pushed back. 16th Panzer Division first encircled, then routed Soviet tank units of Popel's Group forcing the Soviets to withdraw by July 1st.

I decided to fight a small tank skirmish from this battle using my 6mm Panzer IIIs and Soviet T-26s. I wanted to pick a battle that had the Soviets on the offensive and the Germans slightly off balance. Reading through some of the opening battles of the Barbarossa Campaign, I came across reference to the Battle of Brody and decided it would be perfect.

The game turned out to be a massacre for the Soviets.

I used Disposable Heroes: Point Blank to fight this all tank micro armor game. Point Blank is great for those detailed tank engagements where each player controls a platoon of tanks. It allows for keeping track of ammunition, damage, crew losses, and other details.

The tanks are all 6mm (1/285th scale) from GHQ. I used a ground scale of 3"=25 yards.

Special Rules for Point Blank Tank Battles:

Tank Formations: Tanks can operate in formations, with a set range of distances between each tank. This distance is listed below and no tank can be further than the formation distance from another tank it the unit. Also, the tank formations start the game in either column, wedge, V, or Flank (left/right). Once the battle began, the platoons could move as necessary outside this initial formation shape as long as they maintained the proper formation distance during the rest of the game. The roll for initiative at the beginning of the game also determined which formation a platoon would start the game.

German tank formations (Command Distance) could be anywhere from 3" out to 15" (25-125 yards). The German tanks had radios, could use more open formations, and did not have to be within LOS to act as long as they were within Command Distance.

Soviet tank formations (Command Distance) could be anywhere from 3" out to 9" (25-75 yards). Soviet tanks did not have radios at the platoon level, so they used flag signals. They could also not operate out of LOS of their platoon leader. Any Soviet tank that found itself out of LOS of its platoon leader had to take a Skill Check (Difficult -4) to use Action Points.

I allowed all tanks to share Action Points during an Activation as long as they were within formation. Also, if a unit was moving in column, as long as no tank in the platoon attempted to acquire a target, did not fire, reload, or take any other action, the whole platoon could move up to the column leader's fast speed with the lead tank moving no further than the fast speed and the rest of the tanks in the platoon in a line behind. This allowed for a reserve move (especially down roads), but could pose a danger if the enemy was nearby to exploit the bunching rules in Point Blank.

Lastly, I used the Ammunition Ready Rack rules and gave each tank a select number of rounds in their ready racks ready to go. Any tank that ran out would have to reload their ready racks before being able to fire again.

The forces involved were as follows:

Platoon of Panzer III F/G with 5cm gun. Ready Rack: 8 rounds.

Tank 111* (Platoon Leader)
Tank 112
Tank 113
Tank 114
Tank 115

Platoon of Panzer III F/Gs with 5cm gun

The German crews had the following stats:

Accuracy: 5
Guts: 10 (Lt.), 9 (Sgt.), 8 (Crew)
T&E: +2 (Elite)
Activation Pool: 12

The Platoon Leader tank was commanded by the Lt., while the rest of the tanks were commanded by Sgt.s.

2 Platoons of Soviet T-26 1939. Ready Rack: 5 rounds.

Tank 1* (Platoon Leader)
Tank 2
Tank 3
Tank 4

Tank 5* (Platoon Leader)
Tank 6
Tank 7
Tank 8

Platoon of T-26 1939

The Soviet crews had the following stats:

Accuracy: 5
Guts: 8 (Lt.), 7 (Sgt.), 6 (Crew)
T&E: 0 (Trained)
Activation Pool: 8

The Platoon Leader tank was commanded by the Lt., while the rest of the tanks were commanded by Sgt.s.

The table. A farm outside the town of Dubno. Top is West

The game began with a roll for Initiative. The winner of Initiative would be allowed to choose to go first or second, and would be allowed to set up anywhere on his side of the table within 10" and in any formation. The loser would be forced to deploy first and in column on a road on his side of the table within 10".

The Germans won the roll for Initiative. The Soviets deployed first, and the Germans decided to take the first Activation.

Soviet tank platoon in column.

2nd Soviet Platoon in column heading East from Dubno.

Activation 1: Germans.

Tank 111 moves slow speed down the road to find the Soviet column in his view. The platoon leader tank Acquires the lead tank in the Soviet column, fires, and misses! The crew then reloads.

Activation 1: Soviets.

Tank 1 and 2 move forward at slow speed. Tank 1 Acquires German tank 111, fires, and hits the tank in the track. The round penetrates and damages the track, reducing the vehicle to slow speed for the rest of the game.

Activation 2: Germans.

Tank 111 moves slow speed right, fires at the same Soviet tank 1, and once again misses!

Activation 2: Soviets.

Tank 2 moves slow speed left next to the farmhouse. Tank 3 moves slow speed forward on the road.

Activation 3: Germans.

Tank 111 fires again at Soviet tank 1 and misses for a third time. Tank 114 moves up onto the nearby hill on the left and Acquires Soviet tank 3.

Activation 3: Soviets.

Tanks 5, 6, 7, and 8 all move fast speed in a column, going off road and swinging to the right and towards the hill.

Soviet column moves towards right hill.

Activation 4: Germans.

Tank 111 reloads, fires again, and finally hits Soviet tank 1. The round penetrates and the tank is brewed up. Some of the crew survive, but they flee to the rear.

Tank 114 fires and hits Soviet tank 3. The round penetrates with a catastrophic result! The vehicle is destroyed and the entire crew is killed. Two tanks in one Activation!

The massacre has begun...

Activation 4: Soviets.

With their platoon leader dead, the rest of the Soviet platoon take a Guts check. Surprisingly, the platoon passes the Guts check and continue the fight!

Activation 5: Germans.

Tank 115 and 112 move fast speed onto the hill on the left flank.

Activation 5: Soviets.

Tank 5 and 6 move up slow and medium speed towards the hill on the right.

Activation 6: Germans.

Tank 115 moves up slow speed to the edge of the woods on top of the hill on the left. The crew Acquire Soviet tank 5. They fire and hit! The round penetrates the hull and the resulting explosion sends another fire plume towards the sky.

Activation 6: Soviets.

The loss of another platoon leader sends the second Soviet platoon into a panic. The platoon fails their Guts check and tank 6, 7, and 8 full reverse towards their table edge. On the other Soviet flank, tank 2 passes a Skill Check to Activate after the loss of his platoon leader and succeeds. Tank 2 then moves slow speed into a position to spot the enemy, but fails to Acquire German tank 114.

Activation 7: Germans.

Tank 114 Acquires Soviet tank 2, fires and misses. The crew reloads, fires again, and hits. This time, the round penetrates and another Soviet tank is brewed up!

Activation 7: Soviets.

After also passing a Skill check to Activate, tank 4 moves onto the hill on the right, taking up a position on the flank of German tank 112. The crew fails to Acquire their target.

Activation 8: Germans.

Tank 112 fails it's Acquisition roll to spot the flanking maneuver of Soviet tank 4, so the crew cannot react to this new threat. However, tank 115 moves medium speed across the low depression between the hills on the right and takes up a position on the hilltop within view of the Soviet platoon that was withdrawing from the battle. The crew Acquires Soviet tank 7. They fire, hit, and using their elite crew skill, move their hit result from a track hit to a hull hit. The round penetrates and once more, a Soviet tank bursts into flames!

Activation 8: Soviets.

Tank 4 now Acquires German tank 112. The crew fires, hits, and penetrates with a major damage result to the track. The Soviet crew decides to reload and fire again to make sure their target is destroyed. This time, the round hits, penetrates, and causes a catastrophic internal explosion! The Soviets have gotten their first, and only kill of the battle. This is also the last Activation from their Activation Pool for the Soviets this turn. From here on out, the Germans can Activate the rest of the Activations from their pool.

German Activation 9-12:

 It's pretty much over for the Soviets. The Germans maneuver a few more of the tanks in their platoon into firing positions or towards the objective. Tank 115 moves into a position to Acquire, fire at, and knock out Soviet tank 8. At the end of the German Activations, the game is called.

The Germans advance on Dubno farm.

German positions at game end.


What a massacre!

 Soviet Losses:

Tank 1* Platoon Leader
Tank 2
Tank 3
Tank 5* Platoon Leader
Tank 7
Tank 8

Massive losses, and all but one tank was a catastrophic explosion of the vehicle and the death of the crew.

German Losses:

Tank 112
Tank 111 damaged

The Germans clearly won a major victory here. The Soviets not only lost the Initiative to start the game, but the German gunnery was excellent. Other than the German platoon leaders first few shots, the Germans hit and penetrated everything they shot at. Their 5cm guns sliced through the T-26 likes a hot knife through butter. The only bright spot for the Soviets was the T-26 that was able to sneak onto the flank of 112 and get two nice solid flank shots. The Germans were surprised by the move, but they were otherwise in too powerful a position by the end of the turn for it to make a difference.

There you have it! A single turn of Disposable Heroes: Point Blank as an all tank skirmish using micro armor. Games of Point Blank move fast and the action is furious. This battle ended up pretty one sided. The Soviets just couldn't seem to stand up against that expert German gunnery in this game. Still, they were not completely incompetent. Despite the loss of their platoon leaders, at least a few of their tanks attempted to maneuver and engage. Sometimes, that's just the way combat goes.

I love the early war period, where even a 5cm gun can dominate the battlefield. If only the Soviets had brought along a few of their T-34s. Maybe next time they will when the Germans try to push on past Brody...

For now, the 16th Panzer Division rides forward in victory.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It's Dangerous out in the Wastes...

Hello folks, long time no see! It's been a busy summer with lots and lots of gaming, painting, swimming, hiking, fishing, and generally having fun with the family and little time for posting on the blog. Until now...

I had a chance to get together with an old friend who I don't see often enough, and who is pretty new to gaming outside Warhammer 40,000 (which he hasn't played since 4th edition-nor have I). We have been getting together more often recently and I talked him into a game using my Pig Iron sci fi minis and using Disposable Heroes: Point Blank.

The scenario is an Outlander (previously miners) ambush on a Federalist Militia troops convoy. I wrote the scenario with a random element of determining attacker and defender. Both players roll a D10, add their T&E score and consult a chart. The winner determined who was ambushed and the difference in the rolls determined the set up and starting positions of the forces on the table. This difference allowed for a meeting engagement (on a tie roll) to a perfectly executed ambush with hidden forces and a completely unprepared enemy. Both sides could potentially be the ambusher, though the Outlanders had the edge due to their T&E bonus.

I posted some pics of the forces involved before here.

The forces were the miners (I call them Outlanders) from Mining Unit 454 and the forces of the Federalist Militia. I envision the Outlanders as tough, experienced, and wily opponents used to hardships and brutal life and combat in the wastes. They are expert ambushers and use concealment, subtrefuge, and hit and run tactics to win against their foes. Their weapons are durable, simple, and easy to maintain, though not very high tech. They have no higher support weapons, no communication networks and no supply chain. They are humans though, and though their outward appearance, and reputation, casts them as inhuman mutated monsters, they are actually normal humans. They live a harsh, but noble life and use the fearsome reputation of their savagery to scare their Federalist enemies. A select few of their population are actually powerful shamans who can control the weather and elements of their Outland environment (they are rumored to be able to summon and control the dead-called wastewalkers-but this is unconfirmed). The most powerful of these shamans can cause psychic shocks and conjure powerful winds of the wastes, as well as telepathically communicate with their comrades. Unlike the Outlanders, the Federalist Militia are conscripts pulled from the vast reaches of the human Galaxy. They are often undertrained, underpaid, young, scared, and unmotivated to fight for an empire that is always waging an eternal war across some lonely speck of a planet on the wrong side of the Milky Way. They have the best weapons, equipment, vehicles, and support in the galaxy. Their communications, logistics, and heavy support network located on orbitally based ships is impressive enough. However, at the end of an Outland day on the dark side of the planet, they are still unmotivated troops fighting against a determined enemy on a planet the conscripts never heard of and don't want to die on.

On to the game! I allowed my friend Tom to choose, and he liked the look of the Outlanders, so I took the Militia.

For the scenario, we rolled off and ended up with the Outlanders ambushing the Federalists. The scenario is based on an Outlander assault on a supply convoy. One of the results of the chart is the possibility of a Federalist trap based on a fake convoy loaded with explosives. This result did not come up in our game, but I like the possibility that it can.

The game began with the Outlanders deploying on either side of the convoy which was allowed to be set up by me at one edge of the table along the road running down the middle of the table through the blasted remains of an ancient human town.

Here are some pics of the action with captions to tell what happened. I wish I had gotten more quality pics, but all I had was my phone. Hope you enjoy!

The game was a minor Outlander victory. They captured some of the supplies, but despite some casualties, the Federalists ended up holed up inside the town, most likely calling for reinforcements. The Outlanders beat a hasty retreat to the wastes to fight another day!

 The convoy picks its way carefully through the ruined town, wary of the hills and likely ambush spots. Their scanners are running hot, with life signs coming in nearby...

From their position on the hill, the Outlanders prepare to fire on the convoy...

 The Plasma cutter gunner charges up his weapon and blasts two perfectly aimed shots into the sides of the supply trucks, killing the driver of each truck and bringing the convoy to a screeching, charred, and fiery halt.

The Militia platoon leader issues the bailout order. The ramp drops and half a squad of militia run out...

And right into the face of a mining hard suit attack! The Outlanders have rigged their old mining suits, excellently armored and easy to modify, into armored fighting suits equipped with flamethrowers and plasma drills. The mining hard suit rushes over and easily chops a gaping hole in the cab of the militia Armored Personnel Carrier.

 BOOM! The APC goes up, with the rest of the surviving squad bailing out the back. The Militia Squad Automatic Weapon immediately goes into action against this threat and several rounds penetrate the armor of the mining hard suit. Despite the fire, it's not out of the action yet!

The Outlanders pour fire and merciless shamanic attacks of psychic power at the Militia. Several militia are cut down or suppressed. 

The Shaman then conjures up some of the dreaded wastewalkers to his aid and sends them at the enemy. The Militia manage to cut down a few before they reach their lines, but one gets through and eats an unfortunate Militia whose gun had jammed and who had been suppressed by the shocks of the shaman's attack. Up near the front of the column, the SAW gunner destroys the mining hard suit in a hail or hardened armor piercing slugs. However, his comrades at the rear begin to take withering return fire.

Outlanders pouring fire down into the enemy...

The reason for the ambush? Supplies! The Outlanders pull a truck along side the convoy which had been disabled by the plasma cutter's shooting. They perfected this tactic of using one of their own trucks to pull alongside convoys because the Militia had developed security measures that automatically shut down Federalist systems on board trucks to prevent them from being used by the enemy. A commanding officer could request an orbital system link to shut down any system feared to be captured or used by the enemy. This was also a handy method of calling for direct orbital fire support on the GPS tracked trucks. The Outlanders knew from experience that the Federalists were perfectly willing to fire down onto their own equipment and obliterate any Outlander foolish enough to stick around too long to loot.

"Just pull up here and I'll unload!"

The end of the game. My friend Tom (seen here) wins a small victory over my hard pressed Militia. I cut down the mining hard suit, shot up an Outlander truck (not pictured) that tried to make a dash towards the convoy, and I secured a pretty tough position in the ruins of the town. From there, Tom found there was little chance the Outlanders were going to win the fight by assaulting me. Turns out, they didn't have to...the position of the supply trucks outside the town at the rear of the convoy meant Tom was able to sneak up and steal some of the supplies. However, he was only able to make it off the board with one truck's worth, since the other truck was well covered from the positions in the town and he wasn't willing to risk any more casualties to my fire.

It was a great, tense game with a good friend.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Back to my Roots: Rogue Trader

2012 marked the 25th year anniversary of Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader. This was the game, and the models, that started it all for me. The first time I saw the box of Space Marines (the old mk 6 "beakie" marines), I had to have them.
Holy crap is that cover awesome. It's so 80s it hurts. It almost makes me want to find Bolt Thrower and listen to them again. Almost.
I was thirteen and found them in my local hobby shop "Race O Rama" (for those of you who might be from York PA). About a year later, after having painted them up in the colors of the Crimson Fists, my friend Eric showed me an ad in a Dragon Magazine for this "game" called Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader. We found the rulebook at the local game shop (I forget which shop it was now), and we nabbed a copy. I grew up playing D&D with the original Red Box set, so I knew a little about gaming, but I had no idea you could use miniatures to game. I was completely sold on the idea. I always loved miniatures and models, but never knew what to do with them...until now.

So I saved some cash and bought the first box of opponents I could find for those marines...the Orks! Thrug Bullneck's Ork Raiders. I painted them up and several friends and I tried to figure out how this game thing worked.

25 years later, here I am with my own 5 year old son who knows what Orks are and likes to watch me paint "Daddy's guys".

I played Warhammer 40,000 pretty much exclusively through high school, art school, and up until the release of 4th edition by which time I had long been lured away to historical miniature gaming by my friend Chalfant. Several years of historical gaming later and I have helped develop, write, and publish over a dozen different gaming rulebooks and supplements. Over those years, the Warhammer 40,000 universe became rather silly to me and I thought I would probably never get back into it again...

Then some friends of mine convinced me to consider playing Warhammer 40,000 again. I'm not really sure how. I think it was just that I enjoyed gaming with those guys, and they weren't into historicals. And the new models were kind of cool, and well...the nostalgia factor kind of pulled me back in. We played a game and while I thoroughly enjoyed rolling dice with them, it did remind me how much the rules sucked.

I posted about this a while back and I had even painted up an Ork Warboss to get me back into the mood to collect and paint a new army. It sat on the shelf for a little while as other historical projects distracted me, but the 25th anniversary this past year has really got me back in the mood.

I still pretty much refuse to play Warhammer 40,000. I just can't bring myself to play that horrid system. But it has inspired me to convert Disposable Heroes and Coffin for Seven Brothers (a WWII system I helped create and author) over to Warhammer 40,000. It's a total fan mod and will never, ever see the light of day except on my own private game table with my friends. But it allows me to paint some Orks (and now Imperial Guard) and a friend's Eldar.

The mod is a port over of Warhammer 40,000 3rd Edition, which is fun and all. But the idea of painting 100 Orks is kind of daunting, and the 25th anniversary reminded me of the original scenario in the back of the Rogue Trader book and this reminded how that edition was different than all of the rest. Future editions of the rules were big battles. What I missed were the small skirmishes of Rogue Trader with the tricked out characters fighting cool little story telling scenarios. Psychic powers. Hover boards. Gangers. Aliens. All kinds of cool stuff. I remember turning my old Millenium Falcon toy into a wrecked spaceship and building Orks with chainswords on hover boards fighting against my friend's Terminator psyker who teleported everywhere backed up by a Ratling sniper tossing Vortex grenades around. Those were the days!

So what is the point of this trip down memory lane?

Inspired by the 25th anniversary and the coverage by Games Workshop of the "Battle at the Farm" Crimson Fists vs Orks scenario in the original Rogue Trader book, I started looking for a new Warhammer 40,000 project that would allow me to game those kinds of things again. So I bought and painted some of the Warhammer 40,000 Imperial characters such as the Astropath and some of my favorite Imperial Guard: the Steel Legion. My Ork project is also back underway with the completion of the Nobz that accompany my Warboss.

So here is the project so far:


Deathskull Orks
1 Ork Warboss (Grimjaw Irongob)
5 Ork Nobz

Steel Legion Imperial Guard
1 Captain
1 Lieutenant
1 Sergeant
9 Guardsmen
1 Astropath
1 Imperial Governor
1 Techpriest transcriber looking guy

I'm on my way to having enough models to run a little scenario featuring an Imperial Governor's downed transport and some Orks on the hunt while some Guardsmen rush to the rescue. Just like the Rogue Trader days...

My next Blog post will probably be a battle report. But until then, here are the models I have painted so far.

Da Boss. I always loved the Deathskullz clan for their blue warpaint and their propensity for looting.

I removed the back banner from the model. It was huge and a little ridiculous. I'm saving it for a Waagh banner to be carried by a Nob.

Here are the boyz. The Ork Nobz that the Boss orders around.

The assortment of backplates representing the Nobz clan affiliations.
One thing I used to love about the Rogue Trader period of Orks was their backplates. These were a big part of the Ork background. It demoted clan affiliation and displayed the Ork's personal motif. I always thought it was a cool touch. The current incarnations kind of abandoned that idea, but I decided to revive it as an homage to the old Waagh the Orks, Freebooterz, and 'Ere we Go! books.




(L-R) Astropath, Imperial Governor, tech transcriber techpriest thing...


Steel Legion Squad.

Dark Reaper Exarch.

Eldar Warlock.
The Eldar are old models I painted back when I was still into Warhammer 40,000. I found them in a box of stuff a friend gave me. He wants me to paint up his Eldar Army. I'm not sure I can paint as well as I used to...

Well, I hope you enjoyed the little nostalgia trip. I have been enjoying painting these models. It is a truly nice break from all that khaki and field grey.