Operation Afghan Village – Part Three

Phew! It’s been a busy day on Lard Island. I had promised myself a hard slog, and it certainly was that. I didn’t get as much done as I wanted, but I do feel I have broken the back of the initial build stage. I’m also pleased that what I have done has proved that the modular build will work in practice as well as in theory. Let’s look at what I’ve done.

First up are some of the compound options. We saw in part two how I was combining one large module with smaller ones. Here we see some options in place and a destroyed wall section which is interchangeable.

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Here’s some other variations which show how the larger section of the compound is standard, then the smaller sections add the variety.

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Here’s another shot of some of the wall section variants…

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…and this is how we can configure the odd bits so we get infill sections of ruins to again add variety. The configuration is, again, designed to provide variety.

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Next we have the two smaller compounds, the ones on the rocky outcrops. I’m rather pleased with these as they add some variation in wall height. You can see the Warbases doors which have really save me HOURS of time. Normally I’d be making doors from cereal packets, a tedious task at the bet of times.

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We can see here how the configuration allows for the dried wadi (or live stream) to run between the two.

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Next we have a row of shop units. These will have corrugated shutters but with some signage they should add a bit of colour and a focal point for the settlement.

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Here’s a shot of the rear of the shops. Warbases door again.

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So that’s today’s work done. Here’s an overview of what I’ve built thus far. Tomorrow I’ll be building the mosque which has more detail involved, but already this is turning into a decent size settlement.

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And here’s a shot of that 4′ by 2′ sheet of polystyrene. There’s just over 3′ by 2′ left. On the pounds, shillings and pence basis this has been a cheap build to date. I’ve used £3 worth of blue poly, a similar amount on Warbases doors, £6 on the MDF base and let’s allow a pound for some old blue poly I had knocking about which I used here. Oh, and about five quid on hot glue. That’s a total of eighteen pounds.

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The next phase involved some matches which cost 79p a broom head which I have in the shed but which cost £3 when I bought it for another project. So by the time I finish the buildings it will be less than twenty five pounds in total and with plenty of material left for other future projects such as the irrigation ditches and fields. Compare this with the price of a single resin building in 28mm and I hope this shows how cost effective building your own terrain is.

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Operation Afghan Village -Part Two

Day two, and it’s time to get cracking on one of the large compounds. The whole 18′ high wall issue had to come to a head and it did: I bought the wrong bloody thickness of foam. I really should have got a sheet of 3″ polystyrene as that would have allowed me to simply slice lengths off like a loaf of bread. As it was the only thing I could do was get the saw out and hack away. The result was fine in terms of wall thickness, but the wood saw does leave a very rough finish. That said, look at the picture below. The wall there looks less than impressive when it comes to quality of finish. I’m going to be adding lashings of tile grout and PVA, possibly with some fine sand mixed in to give a more textured finish, so I think I can live with the hand-sawn look.
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Ultimately, I am building a limited number of these larger compounds with the very high walls; the smaller stuff will have 2″ walls, so that will be fine.

Right, let’s look at the build. As we have seen, I marked out the layout on the MDF bases and essentially I stuck to that. Here are the three primary compound walls.

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You can see how I cut this in around the surface rocky outcrops here:

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I wanted to start the build with the main compound walls as that is how I think these things would be constructed. In a somewhat anarchic society your first priority is to build your defences, after than comes the luxury of a roof over your head.

Next was the interior walls. I “cheated” here and bought a pile of doors from Warbases which are ideal for a rustic look across many periods.

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You can see how I built that up in this photo.
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I’ve not decided on how I’ll do the roofs yet. I want them to be “lift-off” so I considered artists mounting board and foam board, but I think I’ll be going with MDF as this is thin but solid. AT this stage I just added some internal support which these will sit on.

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The idea of the modular terrain is that I’ll be able to mix and match two halves of the compound to get variety. Here’s the combination of a larger and a smaller module. You can see that I’ve used the hot wire to shape the wall edges, a job which it does with ease and very quickly.

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This looks very rough at present, it’s just the polystyrene bits. I plan to add some wooden bits from matchsticks as well as some additional small structures on the roofs and then I’ve got some pots and general “scatter” to add some character. Warbases have some nice packs of goats which will look good as well.

Next I’m going to try to crack out the rest of the polystyrene structures before I move on the the other mediums. This is a big build project, so I am taking a somewhat industrial approach. Having put my back out I am finding that I can stand without much discomfort, whereas sitting typing this is bloody uncomfortable! Hence this short update.

More tomorrow.

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Operation Afghan Village – A Project Begins

As 2014 comes to an end, thoughts on Lard Island turn to next year’s projects and, in particular, our games on the show circuit. By the middle of the year we plan to have our rules for ultra-modern conflict, Fighting Season, published. Down in Australia, well known military author Leigh Neville has been working hard on the beta version of the rules and we will be joining him on the project as of the first week of January when playtesting begins with a vengeance. Of course, that means we need new figures and new terrain, so my Christmas holiday project is to build a small Afghan village in time for our first show of the year, Crusade in Penarth in January. (Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda to the lads down there in South Wales, and a Pasg Hapus while we’re about it!)

Normally my approach to any build project is to throw myself in with very little planning. This time, however, I managed to put my back out just before the project started and, as a result, I have had adequate time lying on a hard floor and scanning my iPad, to research Afghan villages fully. There are some great tutorials for wargamers on the web, but I must admit that my time was largely spent scanning Google Earth and watching the Ross Kemp in Afghanistan boxed set of DVDs that were meant to be arriving with Santa. Fortunately my missus took pity on me and let me have them early.

My objective with the DVDs was not to revel in Mr Kemp’s limited selection of liberally applied expletives, but to look specifically at the terrain. I had originally hoped that at least some of my North African houses would make adequate stand-ins, but the truth was somewhat different. What both the DVDs and Google Earth showed was that unlike the majority of wargaming models one sees, the compounds were large open spaces with very little in the way of buildings or cover. This seems to me to be rather important as if the models are jammed into a small space with a tiny courtyard at the centre this fails to present the players with the same tactical challenges as the troops in the ground. As a result, I decided to follow the real pattern and try to create some nasty open ground for troops to fight across.

Compounds

Being flat on my back also allowed me to spend a bit of time on eBay sourcing the best materials cheaply, but the core component was going to be high density polystyrene of which I bought a 4′ by 2′ sheet 2″ deep and a sheet of 3mm MDF which would serve as the bases for the models. A word of warning here. I purchased the polystyrene before I began my research as they make perfectly good 12 foot high walls. The problem is that many Afghan compounds have walls much higher than that, often 18′ high. So how I overcome that problem I have yet to decide. Were I starting again 1′d buy 3″ deep polystyrene as this can always be cut down. Secondly, whilst we Brits went metric in 1971, the truth is that we didn’t and, for most normal people, we still haven’t. This is not just reflected in the fact that children will still tell you their weight in stones and height in feet and inches, but also that most of our wood is still cut in Imperial sizes which they then approximate to a metric size. A key example here is that 120cm by 60cm MDF sheets in Homebase have actually still been 4′ by 2′ as they were cut on the old Imperial machines. Now this is just changing and they are going with metric. So if your terrain collection, like mine, is based on 4′ by 2′ boards, it would be worth your while stocking up on these while you can find them. Which has nothing to do with the Afghan village, but I thought I’d mention it.

Right, so to begin with I got my board of “nearly 4′ by 2′” and marked out my terrain modules. The basic size was 12″ square which would be a large individual building, such as the mosque, or the main part of a larger compound. On the “not quite 12″ square” bits I drew up some secondary parts of a larger compound, some smaller single building compounds. Below that on 6″ square sections or smaller, I drew a mix of small wall section modules, so that sections of walls could be destroyed and replaced, a few small gardens and the odd 6″ length of wall which are always handy. This system would, I hoped, allow for a fair bit of variety. I need to get a second sheet to do the crops and irrigation channels, but that’s for later in the project. For now I completely filled my MDF shape. You can see where the mosque will be.

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Unfortunately, pencil doesn’t show up well in the photos, so I manipulated the contrast on the image below so you can see better what I did.

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The next step was to cut up the board into the individual modules. I used a basic chippy’s saw for this and then cut the corners off with a set of pliers. I find that rounding the corners softens the visual effect and, pragmatically, it avoids bumped corners looking tatty with use.

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Part of the plan not mentioned yet was to make the village look a bit more rugged by the addition of some large rocky areas with houses build on or around them. I also wanted the flexibility for some games of placing the buildings so that a wadi or stream could run through the village, so the rocky areas would help achieve this look. Here I deployed my new toy, a hot wire cutter for polystyrene. I got mine for eleven quid on eBay and it has alll the qualities of something bought for that price. It is horrible cheap plastic and powered by a battery, but it does the job. The more expensive options which were forty quid and more would undoubtedly look nicer, but this is more than adequate. Within moments I was wielding it like Zorro.

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Here you can see the section with rocky outcrops. The top ones are the ones where the wadi can go. They don’t look great, but they will do once we sand them down and apply some real rocks. I stick mine down with a hot glue gun which is perfect for the job.

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Finally, I sanded the polystyrene down and the edges of the boards. I used a sander, the type you do the skirting board with, and this makes it easier than doing it by hand, but it is still a bloody tedious chore. PLEASE do make sure you wear a good mask when sanding MDF, that stuff is more toxic than apartheid and can be a killer if it gets in your lungs. Cheap masks are next to useless. I bought a respirator type mask years ago and that is a worthwhile investment. I also do all of my sanding outside and ideally in a decent breeze.

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With that done, I decided to start at the simple end and just knock out some small gardens and walls. I want to build up to the more complex structure and learn as I go. I also need some time to think about those 18′ high walls and how to crack that nut. Here I used a sheet of blue stuff which was knocking about in my spares box. It’s about 1cm thick and about 12″ by 3.5″.

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I measured this against one of my Empress Miniatures British infantry (undercoated at this stage) and reckoned that about 9/10th of an inch was the right height for the garden wall. That small sheet was just enough to do this lot.

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You may be wondering why the triangular gardens. One of the issues with modular terrain is that it can be very orderly, too orderly for an Afghan environment. Afghanistan is one of the few places on earth not to have been influenced culturally by European colonists and, as a result, they have one of the obsession with order that we seem to have, as a result the very idea of an orderly Afghan village is not quite right. The triangular garden sections allow us to break up straight lines in our terrain, as we see here, with the two blank boards masquerading as buildings.

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I used the hot wire to shape the tops of the walls in an irregular fashion. The tool was perfect for this but for cutting straight lines I’d still recommend a sharp knife. Finally I added some rocks by drawing them on with a ballpoint pen. When we goe later in the process I’ll be adding some real rocks to make this wall look more real than it does at present. Anyway, I reckon it’s time to move on to a larger structure. That should be interesting…

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You Know it’s Christmas…

Cover Small…when the TooFatLardies Christmas Special arrives. And it just has. Stop roasting your chestnuts on an open fire, that’s downright dangerous and could constitute and illegal health hazard under current legislation. Instead pour yourself a glass of something suitable and download the Christmas Special for a whole season full of gaming fun. Here’s what you can find in the 126 page sack this year:

Introduction: A Festive greeting from Lard Island.
Cocking Up Through the Mud and the Blood: We present a merger between Chain of Command and Through the Mud and the Blood. Great War gaming just got even more exciting with this great game system.
Kaiserschlacht 1918: Amid a storm of steel, we present a Great War “Pint-Sized” campaign for Through the Mud and the Blood or the Chain of Command Great War adaptation. Can you win for the Kaiser? Sturm Auf!
Fondler’s Rebels: In the Year of Our Lord 1796, Richard Fondler takes on the United Irishmen and their French friends in a battle to save Ireland for the Crown!
4D6 Shades of Green: Mike Whitaker presents more terrain ideas for the Dux The Raiders.
29, Let’s Go Large! We convert our Normandy Pint-Sized campaign for use with I Ain’t Been Shot Mum and company sized actions.
Catch the Pidgeon!: An Eastern Front scenario for Bag the Hun from Winchester based Ace, Jim Jackaman. Tally Ho Comrade!
The Irish Question: A nautical Kiss Me Hardy scenario to partner with Fondler’s Rebels. Mr Baines, set course for Bantry Bay.
The Roundwood Report: Housewife’s favourite, Sidney Roundwood, chats to Big Rich about maps, and looks into the future at forthcoming releases from Lard Island.
Fighting Season: Respected author, Leigh Neville of Sydney, introduces us to Fighting Season, our forthcoming modern counter-insurgency rules for Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Building the Deutsche Reichsbahn: Star of the blogosphere, Pat “Sliver Whistle” Smith, shows us how to build railways for wargaming.
Last Train to Fischhausen: April 1945, a scenario for Chain of Command on the Eastern Front. Can you keep the trains running on time?
Battle of Britain – Over the Mediterranean: Jon Yuengling of Pennsylvania steps into an alternative reality with this “what if” history of 1940 for Bag the Hun.
Of Mines and Men: Da Nang is DAMN HOT in this scenario for Charlie Don’t Surf from the pen of Abingdon’s finest, Ross Bowrage.
Bloody November: Alfredo Vitaller and Annibal Invictus of Madrid play a home fixture with this Pint-Sized campaign for Madrid in 1936 using Chain of Command España. To Parsaran, or not to Parsaran, that is the question!
The Battle of Mahiwa: Charles Eckart of Denver takes us to Africa and the exploits of von Lettow-Vorbeck, with this Great War scenario for If the Lord Spares Us. Heia Safari!
To the Bitter End: April 1945 and the Kings Own Scottish Borderers are still meeting resistance in the heart of the Reich. This scenario for I Ain’t Been Shot Mum recreates a company sized action on the Elbe River.
Boots & Saddles: Myron Shipp of South Australia mounts up to present some ideas for matching US Cavalry and Plains Indians with Sharp Practice. Additional material from Essex’s own diamond geezer, Simon Walker.
Tweetface with the Lardies: How to get your daily dose of Lard through social media. We provide a guide for the cool kids in 2014.

One thing’s for sure: it may be Christmas, but this ain’t no turkey! It’s available now for just £6 for an immediate download.

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Festive Posting Dates from Lard Island

Postman PatWith Christmas approaching we thought that we should offer some guidelines on when we’ll be posting through December as we always get some delay, for obvious reasons.

We will be posting long distance, to places like the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand up until the 12th of December. Post to Europe and the UK will continue until the 19th of December. After those dates we will not be posting anything until the 5th of January as we have experienced endless cases of parcels sent later than those dates simply being lost. So, if you are looking to secure that Christmas gift, now is the time to buy!

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The Last Ditch at Osmanville – Campaign Turn Eight

So, six games in and the Germans, as we saw in our last resort, had held Cardonville for a second time, despite the odds against them. Of course, with the 175th having overwhelming strength in the campaign and the Germans having no source of reinforcements open to them (at least none they wished to take), this left the valiant defenders facing even greater odds for the next game. In the end common sense prevailed and the German players decided that they would use the option of a planned withdrawal which At the Sharp End, the campaign handbook, allow. That meant they didn’t have to fight the next game, but the US player still took one campaign turn to occupy the ground. This also saved the Germans from any unpleasant campaign morale effects if they lost the game.

All of which meant we moved on to Turn 8 in the campaign and the final battleground at Osmanville. This location, just a mile from the bridge at Isigny, was the last ditch German defences with the site being the former headquarters of their Regiment. This would allow them a decent amount of support to reflect whatever kit being left in the area being assembled there. From a campaign perspective this was a VERY interesting point to be at. If the US player won the game tonight he would capture the bridge at Isigny and win a narrow victory; the Germans having held out for long enough to withdraw the bulk of their forces in the area to behind the Aure. However, the Regimental commander, “Pop” Goode, was not happy. He was insisting that there be a delay to allow the artillery to come up from the beach to support the attack. If that happened the Germans would be handed victory on a plate. Fortunately the US player got on the radio to “Dutch” Cota, the Divisional 2iC, and he arrived to tear “Pop” off a strip and get things moving. Nearly a campaign loss without a fight!

On the German side things had taken a turn for the better, with contact regained with their HQ, now in Carentan. The platoon commander, recommended for an Iron Cross 1st Class received notification that this award had been increased to the German Cross in Gold (thanks to some VRY jammy dice rolling on the awards table). More importantly, they had also been givin the updated withdrawal schedule for German forces crossing the Aure to safety. They now knew that, if they won tonight, their little force would be the only Germans this side of the river and they could elect to blow the bridge and claim a victory, albeit one which saw them go into captivity. If they won this game and the next, they too could withdraw to safety, blowing the bridge behind them. They were set firmly on a win for the Fatherland and then laying down their arms to spend the rest of the war in a POW camp. So, tonight’s game would see a winner, one way or the other.

I must apologise here that the photos have not been tidied up as I normally do; I am heading off for a few days away from the office, so this was done in a degree of haste.

The table shows the environs of Osmanville. As we had done previously with the campaign games, the players had pre-selected their supports so we turned up ready to play. The game began with the patrol phase as usual. The US players pushed aggressively forward with just three patrol markers and got a good initial roll, which allowed them to eat up some ground.
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Probing forward with Scouts, intent on clearing the minefield and dragging a jump-off point forward, the Yanks began to work their way up in a methodical fashion. Chain of Command is all about constructing your attack by playing through the phases and incrementally placing yourself in a strong position before launching the attack. Placing all your toys on the table and charging forward is a sure route to disaster. The US player handled this stage very well, although tormented by a German sniper who obliged them to advance with caution using dead ground.
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The US player very successfully deployed his men forward, a team at a time, a tank coming on to provide a base of fire and covering the Engineers as they advanced towards the minefield.
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The US player then advanced a jump-off point into the house itself and brought up the 0.50 calibre HMG to form a base of fire.
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Despite an ambush by a German LMG team, the Engineers succeeded in immediately clearing the minefield (possibly just upturned dinner plates deployed to trick the Americans), opening a route forward. The German sniper team had worked its way round to try to take out the Engineers, but the speed of their work and a hail of bullets put an end to their plans.
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With the house secured and crammed with troops, the US player began probing ahead again. The Germans deployed into the orchard to protect their jump-off point, but the yanks looked to outflank them.
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Appearing on the flank, a dug in German LMG team wounded the US Sergeant and drove back the squad into the garden of the Mairie. Casualties were high, but they should have been worse. Ambushing a target in the open with an MG42 at close quarters should have been a major blow, but some terrible dice (a theme for the evening for the Germans) saw them clearly jam the MG. As it was just six men were left from the full squad, so bad enough, but not a disaster and not sufficient to hit the force morale.
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The Sherman manoeuvered to get a shot at the ambushers…
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…but the arrival of a Panzerschreck team saw it crash into reverse and head for safety. However, a round of HE on the German dug in position and the attentions of the O.50 cal in the house were just enough to rout the ambushers off the table with their Leader. Morale fell in the German camp.
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Now the US player brought in a barrage onto the German HQ. Remarkably, the only unit in there was the platoon commander. He died as an 81mm shell exploded outside the French windows and a hail of shrapnel and broken glass cut him down. The Germans were, again, suffering from some very unlucky dice and their force morale tumbled further.

The US commander was aware that the Germans, now down to three Command Dice, probably still had troops not yet deployed to the fight. But clearly their numbers would be limited. As a result the plan was t put pressure on the Germans at all points. They could, he reasoned, halt the advance at one point, but not everywhere.
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In the centre and on the left, the US forces advanced, leaning on a creeping barrage provided by their mortars. (Funnily enough, I am just working on a Great War version of the rules for the Christmas Special and watching this advance was very reminiscent of that).

On the right, the Americans rushed forward to seize the only jump-off point outside the barrage. If they could shut that down they could then capture it at their leisure.
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The Germans were obliged to respond, deploying a tripod mounted MG42 to that area and ambushing with a Chain of Command dice. The yanks loct a few men before they were into close combat, but that went badly for them and the defeated men were reduced to a huddle on the road.
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But, again, the US player had done his spade work. The 0.50 cal was on Overwatch to cover the attack and it thumped out its response. The German MMG was reduced to two me, with four points of Shock. They broke, as did German Force Morale, and the tanks rolled down the road into Isigny to seize the bridge. At the end of the day it had been a narrow victory for the yanks, but still a victory.

So ends the campaign. Both sides fought a good fight and to get eight turns in, seven games in total, and have a situation where both sides could still win made it all the more fun. Again, the rules proved that it isn’t about killing your enemy, but reducing his will to fight by destroying his morale. The German players made the key error of not bringing their own mortar FOO with them, as the Yanks crammed into the house could have been very badly mauled by that. Sadly Oscar never got to receive his German Cross in Gold as he died in the old HQ building. What remained of his platoon went into the bag. I was surprised that the Germans didn’t make use of the Hiwis to bulk out their ranks in this, the final game, impressing these former Soviet POWs into their ranks would have dented their force morale slightly, but they’d have got a more robust force out of it. Small teams may well have reasonable firepower, but they are also very brittle. Equally, I have been surprised that the Yanks didn’t make more use of tanks throughout the campaign. I think the early experience with 88mm guns and Marders on the flank taught them to keep those elements protected by the infantry and to use their mortars to shoot in a traditional infantry attack. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

All in all, we had a fun seven weeks of gaming. The duration of the Pint Sized campaigns is designed to keep everyone interested and aware that the end is not too far away. At worst, the campaign could have lasted one more week. What I do know is that I shall miss 29 Let’s Go! Its been great fun.

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Back to Cardonville, Game Six

Last week’s game proved to be a spanner in the works for the US juggernaut which thus far had largely ridden rough-shod over the German defenders. Winning at Cardonville was giving the Jerries a bit of hope, but the fact remains that they are still without any communication from battalion HQ whose whereabouts is unknown, and to their rear they can see a column of smoke from Isigny, although the bombardment has not recommenced.

At the start of this, the sixth game in the campaign, the German platoon defending Cardonville has been reduced by ten men. The Germans have decided to deploy their force as five teams; three with MG42s, one rifle team and one Panzershcreck team. This keeps them relatively strong in terms of firepower, but their ability to do anything aggressive, such a localised counter attack, is almost reduced to zero. As a result they have chosen to spend their six points of support on two minefields, three sections of wire and an Adjutant, thus allowing their Senior Leader to command one of the teams.

The US on the other hand have an embarrassment of riches. They have no shortage of support, having 19 points of it, selecting one Sherman, one 0.50 HMG team, one Engineer wire cutting team, one Engineer mine clearance team, a mortar Forward Observer. additional BARs for the rifle squads (a great option which gives the US squads some real punch) and a medical orderly.

An interesting point raises its head here, one that I think we should address before we cast an eye over the battle. The 29th Division are a pretty Green formation, despite being well trained. They are in their first few days of combat and historically were on a very steep learning curve. As part of the campaign design, we rejected the idea of rating these men as Green troops or reducing the number of Command Dice they roll in each phase, but at the same time we did not allow them to increase their command capability in order to deal with the additional support they were able to select. The result has been interesting to watch as the US player may well be armed to the teeth, to the point where he could be fielding forces more appropriate for “Big Chain of Command” games, but without the command capability to really capitalise on that. On the other hand, the Germans, paupers by comparison, have almost as much in the way of command capability. This makes the inexperienced US force somewhat ponderous and jerky to command, whereas the Germans are very nimble. This really is reflecting very nicely the experiences of both sides in Normandy. More on that later.

The sixth game was fought on the same “pitch” as the last, Cardonville was still the objective, but the addition of the German engineering works after the Patrol Phase made for a very different game. Early US attempts to clear the minefields was met with lots of German firepower which persuaded the Engineers that there was still some important clearance to do on Omaha beach and the covering rifle squad that they’d be better off not standing in the open.

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The US player used his mortars to try to hit the brittle Germans hard, but they had ensured that their jump-off points were dispersed across a broad front in order to minimise the impact in the case of mortars being used. As it was, the yanks shot long and it took time to adjust that to become effective.

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Always a good base of fire, the tank is held deep so as to protect it from any enemy Panzerschrecks. Wisely; over-exposed tanks do not fare well in Chain of Command where 12″ is just 40 yards. Their relationship with infantry is all about mutual support.

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Cleverly, the US player cut off a German team with the mortar barrage and the FO was hunting this down. Moving tactically, the Germans attempted to extricate themselves…

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But the appearance of the 0.50 cal saw them decide that the cover of the farmhouse might be welcome.

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In the end, they were caught in the orchard, but a warning shout of “Take cover!” from the NCO saw them go tactical and avoid the worst of the bombardment.

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With Scotland losing 3:1 in the Wendy Roundball match, The Traitor McKipper was running up the black flag of “No quarter”.

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Now the US forces began to push up at all points. The German player was repeatedly being hit, but withdrawing into the orchards to reform, rally and then come back fighting. It was a tactic which did allow the Americans to push up, but the wire, dominating the centre of the battlefield was still holding them back. A second Engineer trying to break through the wire was routed by a re-appearing MG42 team and more men from the US squad covering them went down.
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THE US tank was providing valuable support in the centre, but a Panzerschreck took out its main gun, really reducing the US ability to crush the orchards with H.E.
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In the end it was the Sherman which crushed the wire and allowed the supporting squad to breakthrough. Their Sergeant was already killed, but the men ran forward to avenge him, seizing a German jump-off point.
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A fresh mortar bombardment covered the US advance on the left whilst on the right a cautious advance was making ground with help from the Sherman’s MGs. Under pressure the Germans again fell back into the orchard.
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With their infantry on the right poised to launch the killer blow, the US player decided to throw in the leaderless sqaud to clear the farmhouse. They were met with a hail of bullets from the OberGefreiter’s MP40 and, with the remains of the squad routing, the US force morale crashed and, on the verge of victory, the yanks withdrew.
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So, a stunning victory for the Germans in a game I thought they couldn’t win in a month of Sundays. Their tactics of using the orchards as a rallying point and keeping their response mobile served them well until the wire was breached.

The US player found that the term I used at the top of this piece, “embarrassment of riches” was entirely accurate. He may we have them, but he didn’t have the command capability to use them, although if his Lieutenant had been on the table that may have been easier. This was not a game particularly lost, the US player went through the phases and built up his attacks in a considered manner; it was a game won by clever use of limited assets by the Germans and a good selection of supports which served to hold up the US advance for long enough and in a costly enough manner for their Force Morale to be reduced fairly rapidly. For the final half to third of the game the US player was coping with only four command dice, something which hampered his ability to use what resources he had in an effective manner.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I LOVE infantry fire and movement tactics and I tend to play my games accordingly. But in this situation, with long fields of fire for the Germans to exploit, I do think there is an argument for simply rolling up the massed Shermans and, combined with the mortar battery, just shelling the Germans to oblivion.

But that is all for next time. The key success which the US player had was to cause ten casualties on the Germans. Unlike the yanks, who can recycle their platoons, the Germans are feeling the loss of men keenly. What sort of resistance they can mount in the next game with less then twenty men in total is questionable. For now, this was a bit of German last-ditch heroics for their players to enjoy.

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Fighting in Cardonville – 29 Let’s Go Campaign Game

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Tuesday evening on Lard Island saw the next game in our 29, Let’s Go! campaign, with the US 175th Infantry attempting to clear the high ground overlooking the road to Isigny where a battery of 88mm guns was located. We began the game with the usual patrol phase as these photos show.

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Some clever jump-off deployment by the Germans showed that had been reading our Talking Tactics series, with the Germans electing for positions towards the rear of the table, forcing the American to do all the leg work. The US jump-off points are shown here in blue, the Germans in red.

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An initial bombardment of some severity was followed up swiftly by the US player opting to probe forward with scouts.

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These he supported from cover with a squad on overwatch.

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The Germans were very keen to deploy their sniper to take out the scouts, but despite a whole host of 1’s rolled the bombardment kept him hidden in his foxhole. To compound matters, the Germans were singularly failing to roll 5’s and so that they could end of the first turn, and, most importantly, the effect of the bombardment.

With the US patrol pushing towards the foremost German jump-off point, the Germans were just able to deploy a squad before it was locked down. Aware that the US squad was covering the area, these troops deployed within the orchard rather than on the edge.

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The US scouts veered off attempting to oblige more Germans to deploy, before swinging back towards the farm while a second scout team was deployed in the centre. Fortunately for the Germans a run of 5’s allowed them to end the first turn with the table looking like this:

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Still very much the empty battlefield. In the next turn the US scouts pushed up towards the orchards on the right, deep into the German half of the table.

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This obliged the Germans to deploy a squad to dispose of them, but the US player had not supported these scouts was too far away to engage them.

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The US player now had his first scout team in the farmhouse, giving him good visibility for his 60mm mortar if it wanted to deploy. Bringing on his Sherman…
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…the US player advanced rapidly with his rifle squad, jumping forward a jump-off point as well…

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…but was countered by a German MG42 team deploying in an ambush on the wall by the foremost orchard. However, the Gods were with the good guys and the Germans must presumably have suffered an inconvenient jam as the fire was largely ineffective and the yanks interrupted the German phase to move into close combat. They too casualties but wiped out the machine gun team.

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However, the Germans were not finished yet. It was still their phase of play and they immediately counter-attacked with the rifle team from the same squad, hurling hand grenades as they deployed straight into close combat.

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The next phase saw the US player use the advanced jump-off point to deploy his second squad straight into combat, and the Germans were clearly caught celebrating their victory and wiped out to a man.

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But the scales were about to tip again. A long range shot with the Panzerschreck saw the Sherman explode, rocking US morale further.

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Now the Germans deployed a tripod mounted MG42 into the farmhouse and opened up. The Americans on the edge of the orchard replied with their Garands and the two BARs the squad had with them. The firepower from the semi-automatic rifles was sufficient for the Germans to abandon their weapon, despite the remonstrations of their platoon command, Feldwebel Gunter Hosen, who narrowly avoided a sniper’s bullet for his trouble.

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The Germans withdrew their infantry into the farm house to form a strong point there. This was risky, but the idea of turfing out a well armed force, supported by the fire of a newly arrived sniper team, meant that the Americans decided discretion was the better part of valour and withdrew to plan another attack.

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So, in the campaign process this victory for the Germans is a significant shot in the arm. It means that next week will be turn 6 of the campaign and we’ll be fighting over the same ground again. It looks like this campaign is going to the wire. The US forces can still win a major victory, but they need to clear Cardonville so they can make the final assault at Osmanville and get to Isigny. The Germans have no communication with their battalion HQ but they have seen, and heard, the massive naval bombardment of Isigny and the flames to their rear. They are desperately awaiting news and the order to pull back, but so far they have heard nothing.

29 Let’s Go is a campaign supplement for Chain of Command and is available for just £3.50 in PDF format. You can find it here: 29, Let’s Go!

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Talking Tactics, Part Seven

7 HeaderMOUT, FIBUA, OU, OBUA, all contemporary acronyms referring to the conducting of operations in an urban environment. But whilst “Military Operation in Urban Terrain”, “Fighting in Built Up Area” and so on do the job, nobody has yet to find a better term than the British Army’s colloquialism “Fish & Chips”; Fighting in Someone’s House and Causing Havoc in People’s Streets. If nothing else it proves that it isn’t just TooFatLardies who can apply somewhat quirky titles, it’s a British disease prevalent at all levels!

In this series we have looked at the standard military axioms of “Find, Fix, Flank, Finish” and “Pin, Pivot, Punch”. These apply just as much to small unit tactics when clearing buildings and strongpoints, but clearly these types of operations require certain specific tactics to develop the general principle to suit the task in hand. As the manual states:

“Fieldcraft does not apply to the open country alone. Int must also be used in villages and towns… The clearance of buildings may be a costly undertaking and it will end in disaster unless every man knows what he is doing and how to do it. A drill is therefore essential.”

Buildings can readily be adopted as strongpoints offering, as they do, relatively solid cover. However, as well as providing some aspects of strength, buildings also have inherent weaknesses, as the following diagram shows.

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Troops within the building are limited to how many men can fire from each point. What is more, their field of fire is limited if they are to remain inside the building as opposed to leaning out and exposing themselves to danger. Assuming an eight man section or squad is manning each of the two houses show, for on each side, only targets within the yellow area can be fire on by all eight defenders, and if one looks to the corners of the buildings it is clear that a man could move up from the side and post grenades through the windows there with almost no risk to himself. It is this weakness which determines the mode of building clearance, whether it is a single isolated house or a street in a town or village.

Fighting in Someone’s House
Clearing a house is a task for a single section or squad. To do the job as efficiently as possible the most covered route of approach should be selected and one which falls outside the arc of the defender’s defensive fire. In the image below, we can see that the section has deployed in two teams; the LMG team and the Rifle team. They have been joined by a sniper as these troops are the perfect support for such an operation.

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As can be seen, the LMG team and the sniper are firing on the front elevation of the house, covering the advance of the Rifle Team as it manoeuvres to a flanking position.

In the next image, we see that the Rifle team are now safely through the danger zone and the Bren has now begun firing for effect alongside the Sniper. The Rifle team manoeuvres to the rear of the house and attacks it with grenades before moving in to clear the building.

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In Chain of Command these tactics are replicated perfectly. The LMG team should deploy outside 18” as it is critical that they keep their casualties to a minimum. As the rifle team advances tactically through the danger zone, they can fire Covering Fire from their position, whilst the sniper team can fire for effect. The great thing about deploying a sniper team in this situation is that the defenders of the house are unlikely to want to waste time scanning for a sniper when there are two other dangerous targets in the area. That allows the sniper to fire without risk. Sniper fire can also be targeted specifically at one team, so the LMG team in the house will bear the full brunt of its fire. The covering fire will, obviously, protect the Rifle team while there is risk, but the LMG can then fire for effect once the Rifle team is safe.

Finally, the grenade is the perfect weapon against troops in a building where, in confined spaces, its effects are multiplied. A couple of well placed grenades can knock the stuffing out of any position, but from their position of relative safety, the Rifle team can always choose the best moment to launch their final attack.

Causing Havoc in People’s Street

“Buildings will always, if possible, be cleared from the back gardens and yards, because these provide the best covered lines of approach”

Extending this up a level, we can apply basically the same tactics to clearing a whole street; however, this should be a platoon task. In the image below we can see that No.1 Section has established itself in a position from which to cover the main street and the frontages of the houses. If any enemy attempt to leave the buildings they will immediately be in a killing ground. In Chain of Command this section can be placed on Overwatch to dominate the street.

With No.1 Section in position, No.2 and No.3 sections being their house clearing drill. The LMG teams move to positions of cover from which they can cover the rear elevation of the house to be cleared. With them in position, the Rifle team can assault the building with grenades.

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With the first house on each side cleared, the LMG team moves up to cover the next house, allowing the Rifle Team to repeat the process. This continues until the street is cleared. Again, we can see that the grenade is the key weapon to be used with the Bren either providing covering fire when required or firing for effect when able.

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By placing No.1 Section to cover the front of the houses the enemy are fixed in place. The LMG team at the rear of the buildings stops any retreat in that area and the grenades overwhelm the defenders.

The Lesson
The principles of fire and movement are used in every tactical situation. To become bogged down in a firefight with men in a house by tackling them head-on is dangerous and unnecessary. There should always be safe lines of approach which negate the strength of any fixed position, use covering fire to protect your attacking party in order to allow them to close safely. The grenade, followed up with the bayonet against a shaken enemy, is the key to unlock even the strongest position.

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Talking Tactics, Part Six

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Resource placement is a broad title to cover a broad range of issues, all of which contribute to a better understanding of how to allocate your resources on the battlefield, from general unit placement to the specific deployment of men within a squad or section. It is the responsibility of any platoon commander to plan and then allocate assets accordingly, un the same way that a Section commander would be responsible for ensuring that his men were best placed to face any
enemy encountered.

Triangular Tactics
An elementary lesson is infantry tactics is to consider the way units were structured and why. By the end of WWII most forces has moved to a “triangular” system based on the number 3. Three platoons in a company, three companies in a battalion, three battalions in a Regiment and so on. The reason the triangular system was so popular was that it was the most flexible structure for combat. As can be seen below, the advancing platoon places one squad or section in the lead with two slightly behind it. When the lead unit makes contact with the enemy, the two rear units can be deployed to the left, right, or either side to face that enemy.

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What is more, if the enemy approaches from a flank, the triangular formation is well equipped for all-round defence, with one unit facing the enemy off and allowing the other two to manoeuvre to support.

In defence, the commander places two units forward with one in reserve. This allows maximum firepower to meet the enemy advance, but also retains a mobile reserve which can be committed as best suits circumstances as the battle develops. In Chain of Command, this third unit represents the section or squad held off table to be deployed at the key point at the decisive moment. It is not necessary for the player to stick rigidly to the triangular formation, but it is worthwhile using the principles of one up, two back in attack and two up and one back in defence.

Squad & Section Deployment
In a real infantry unit every soldier would have his job and know how to do it. Whether the unit was in a file, extended line or arrow-head formation, the man would know his place. In a platoon level game we do not need to track every single man, but the placement of the LMG should be the primary concern as it is this which provides the most efficient firepower. The following diagram shows a British platoon advancing. As the top it is in single file, a formation which is easy to control and ideal for moving along a linear terrain feature such as a hedge. The lead section is deployed with its rifle team to the fore and the Bren team slightly to the rear and offset to allow covering fire if required.

Behind the lead section is the ‘O’ Group with the platoon commander, then the 2″ mortar with the Platoon Sergeant, then are the other two rifle sections. Unlike the lead section, both of these deploy with the Bren at their head, ready to deploy into action as quickly as possible.

6.LMG British

The platoon below is advancing with one up and two back. Again the lead section hs its rifle team forward, this time in an arrow-head formation, with the Bren team to their rear ready to give fire support. The platoon commander is at the centre of the formation, ready to give orders, with the 2″ mortar and the Platoon Sergeant ready to give fire support. To the rear the two sections are deployed with their Bren teams outermost, positioned to fire covering any forward advance, but also ready to engage any enemy appearing on the flank.

The next diagram shows the German platoon undertaking a similar advance. All of their squads have the LMG at their head, even the leading squad in file. Other than that the deployment, with the LMGs best placed to give all-round fire support, is the same as the British.
6.LMG German
The US and Soviet deployment tends to mirror this as well, but the larger US squads will have a scout team deployed ahead of the whole formation. As stated, in Chain of Command we do not need to be over fussy about the placement of individual men, but at the same time soldiers do not run around in chaotic bunches. Ensure that your squad or section LMG team is well placed to face any threat and that will suffice.

Allocation of Support Units
The application of maximum force at the decisive point is a standard military doctrine in all armies, but is possibly best illustrated by the German concept of a Schwerpunkt. To achieve the desired application of force, the Germans would break the battlefield down into operational “corridors”, each assigned to a specific unit. The narrowest corridor would be the focus of the main effort, allowing even an outnumbered force to achieve numerical superiority at the key point. Below we see two platoons, to the left and right, operating in relatively broad corridors. Here they apply sufficient pressure to pin the enemy to their positions, stopping them moving to support their neighbours. Meanwhile the second platoon, in the centre, attacks down a narrow corridor with all of the key support units firing to support their attack.

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At that point the defender cannot resist such an attack, the line fractures and the attacker,s plus any mobile support units, move through to roll up the rest of the positions from the flank and rear, this time with the two flanking units pushing home their attacks. We can see this below:

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The Lesson
Ultimately, careful deployment and positioning of resources will contribute to overall success using the principles of fore and movement which we looked at in the previous part of this series. A focus on deploying key assets to the decisive point, a point determined by careful location of the enemy’s own assets in the manner seen in this series, will allow the gamer to apply irresistible force at the weakest point in his opponent’s line whilst harbouring resources elsewhere by simply pinning rather than attacking at all points. This not only wins battles, it also save soldiers’ lives.

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