Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Eastern Front - 1941

An all dayer saw the might of the Wehrmacht attempt to capture a factory complex somewhere in the Soviet Union in 1941.

The day started with a very civilised briefing complimented by bacon and eggs and washed down by mugs of steaming tea.


A German Kampfgruppe had been tasked with capturing a Soviet factory complex adjacent to a major river in southern Russia.

Speed was of the essence. The initial Russian forces consisted of a depleted independent tank battalion, supported by a weakened infantry rifle regiment.

The rules were Rapid Fire - 1st Edition. Fast play and allow a flavour of the period.


A Russian BT7 tank. Rapid fire rules equate 1 vehicle representing a platoon, and one figure 15 men.

The German reconnaissance Battalion advanced quickly down the main road. To be met by some very effective (too effective due to mis-umpiring) artillery fire. Resulting in some heavy damage and destruction to the armoured car companies.

This set the tone for the remainder of the battle.


The devastated armoured car companies.


A Russian T35 tank waiting patiently at the edge of some woods.

Shocked by the powerful Russian artillery barrage the German commander decided to play his ace card, a Panzer battalion of 65 tanks.


The panzer battalion concentrated on the German left flank, unsurprisingly this too came under fire from Russian artillery, and some hidden anti-tank guns.


A Russian anti-tank battery.


The battery lies in wait for the unsuspecting panzer battalion.


On the German right flank on a low hill was an NKVD strong point. 


Another Russian anti-tank battery, and Machine gun bunker. This was part of the NKVD fortification.


The German commander needed to take the first village along the main supply route, this was protected by a company of Russian infantry, supported by company of armoured cars. This village and the troops within caused the German commander a major headache.


The German commander was not very keen on engaging the troops in the fortified position, so he is ensured that his main thrust, which basically included everything that was under his command, and on the table, was made along his left flank and through the village on the main road.

In reserve he had three German infantry, and one Italian motorised infantry battalion. Along with some Italian light tanks and a German assault gun company.

Two of the German Infantry battalions had supporting SiG33 self propelled guns.

The concentration of the Panzer Battalion resulted in a terrible logjam of vehicles and tanks, despite the best efforts of the military police. This made it a rather tempting target for the Russian artillery battery.

Even the mighty Luftwaffe did not seem to make much of an appearance over the battlefield, and on reflection this may have been a mistake. The German commander had four sorties available to him for the game, but only used one.

In addition, due to the logjam near the village, the German artillery forward observation team found themselves stuck in some woods far away from a clear position from which to direct their artillery fire.

Things were not going the Germans way.


The only Sortie the Luftwaffe were to make that day. They were targeting an infantry company and artillery spotting team in the house on top of the hill overlooking the village. This attack caused significant casualties amongst the Russian troops.


The Russian medical station, on the river.

All Russian reinforcements had to arrive by cargo vessel across the river. This was a major problem for the Russian commander, who only had limited resources to hold the Germans at bay. He did however, have three complete Russian infantry battalions the other side of the river. His only problem would be getting them across the river in time to protect the town and the factories.


The first wave of much-needed Russian reinforcements arrived on turn four. Meanwhile the German attack had bogged down between the village and the first hill.


A German 88 mm anti-tank team patiently await the arrival of any Russian tanks.


Meanwhile an attack by an armoured car company supported by a BT7 tank company causes havoc amongst the German armoured battalion.


The Russian commander used his meagre forces aggressively forcing the German commander to commit some reserves simply to defend his precarious position.

A Russian T35 tank company has suffered some heavy damage at the hands of a German assault gun company.

The German attack never seem to get off the ground, the commander was overly concerned with the risk to the infantry, and didn't bring them on the table. He concentrated his forces, on his left flank, which allowed the Russian commander to do the same.

The German commander felt that the defensive terrain would be too difficult to overcome, and his infantry, if brought on the table, would be slaughtered.


Russian reinforcements take up position in the damaged factory buildings.


Turn seven another Russian infantry battalion arrive on the riverbank. The Germans had still not taken the first village.


Meanwhile the first Battalion to land move up towards the factory complexes.


Russian troops await the powerful German onslaught.

Around 3 PM in the afternoon the German commander admitted defeat. His panzer attack had ground to a halt under the concentrated defence of Russian anti-tank guns and tanks. 

He was not confident at all that his infantry (if committed them to the battle) would survive an assault on the NKVD fortified position, and felt that the defensive situation was very much against the German assault, and that any sensible commander would call off the attack.

The Russian commander felt that the Germans had made a mistake in not committing his infantry, and that by concentrating all his force on one flank and in a small area of the battlefield, had made it easy for the Russian commander to concentrate his assets to stop them progressing up the map.

For the Umpire, he had some sympathy with the Russian argument, adding that he did not feel German commander had utilised his artillery, nor his airpower to full effect.

Regardless, it was an enjoyable day, and everybody has a bad day at the table from time to time. 

I commend to you this after action report.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Battle of the Denmark Strait - Battleships Zenith refight

HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales 1/3000th scale

On Thursday two of my wargaming buddies came over and for 3.5hrs fought the historic battle between HMS Hood, HMS Prince of Wales against the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. Things did not go as history records.

The game was played using the NWS computer moderated rules - Battleships Zenith.

Prinz Eugen and Bismarck

The ships started 17 miles apart, and soon began to close the range, it took 9 minutes before the ships spotted each other.

Battleships Zenith keeps a record of the exchange of fire between the protagonists, and I will use this to aide the readers understanding of the battle.

Both commanders had strict orders and objectives to meet - here are a copy of their briefing notes:

Kriegsmarine operational briefing
For admirals eyes only

May 1941
Current operational orders and situation
Group North

At 08:00 on 20 May 1941, paratroopers, jumping out of dozens of Junkers Ju 52 aircraft, landed near Maleme airfield and the town of Chania, Crete.

The 21st, 22nd and 23rd New Zealand battalions hold Maleme airfield and the vicinity. We have suffered many casualties in the first hours of the invasion, a company of III Battalion, 1st Assault Regiment lost 112 killed out of 126 men and 400 of 600 men in III Battalion were killed on the first day. Most of the parachutists were engaged by New Zealanders defending the airfield and Greek forces near Chania. Many gliders following the paratroops were hit by mortar fire seconds after landing and the glider troops who landed safely were almost annihilated by the New Zealand and Greek defenders.

The battle is ongoing and it is beginning to change in our favour. Group north believe that a sortie into the Atlantic at this time will add to the the pressure on the Royal Navy.
The Fuhrer has authorised Operation Rheinübung.

The current situation

The heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen sailed at about 21:00 on 18 May 1941 from Gotenhafen, followed at 2:00 am, 19 May, by Bismarck. 

Both ships proceeded under escort, separately and rendezvoused off Cape Arkona on Rügen Island in the western Baltic. They then proceeded through the Danish Islands into the Kattegat. Entering the Kattegat on 20 May Bismarck and Prinz Eugen sailed north toward the Skagerrak, the strait between Jutland and Southern Norway where they were sighted by the Swedish aircraft-carrying cruiser Gotland on around 1:00 pm. 

Gotland forwarded the sighting in a routine report.

The ships entered the North Sea and stopped briefly in Grimstadfjord near Bergen, Norway on 21 May where the Prinz Eugen was topped off with fuel.

The two ships set sail for the Atlantic shipping lanes on 22 May.

On the evening of 23 May,  a county class cruiser was sighted by Bismarck and Prinz Eugen in the Denmark Strait, close to the Greenland coast. The cruiser immediately sought cover in a fog bank. 

Bismarck opened fire at a range of six miles but the cruiser escaped into fog. 

It is believed that the cruiser is shadowing the our ships using radar. No hits were scored but the concussion of the main guns firing knocked out Bismarck's radar.


The aim of the operation is for Bismarck and Prinz Eugen to break into the Atlantic and attack Allied shipping. 

Grand Admiral Erich Raeder's orders to Admiral Günther Lütjens are:

"the objective of the Bismarck is not to defeat enemies of equal strength, but to tie them down in a delaying action, while preserving her combat capacity as much as possible, so as to allow Prinz Eugen to get at the merchant ships in the convoy" and "The primary target in this operation is the enemy's merchant shipping; enemy warships will be engaged only when that objective makes it necessary and it can be done without excessive risk"

To achieve the above, the Bismarck must escape contact on a southerly course (South, South east or South west). This will be treated as a victory.

To retire and return to Norway/Germany - she must escape contact on a course of north. This will be treated as a draw.

Escaping contact on an easterly course will take her toward British airbases - and will be treated as a defeat.

Escaping contact on a westerly course will take her towards Greenland and the icebelt, and will be treated as a defeat.

Good luck.

Royal Navy Operational Briefing
For Admirals Eyes Only

May 1941
Current Operational orders and situation 
Home Fleet

May 1941, the Kriegsmarine battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau are at Brest, on the western coast of France, posing a serious threat to the Atlantic convoys. 

There are also two new warships available to Germany: the battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen both stationed in the Baltic Sea.
On 21 May, the Admiralty was alerted by sources in the Swedish government that two large German warships had been seen in the Kattegat. 

This move seems to coincide with a German airborne assault on Crete.

The ships entered the North Sea and took a brief refuge in a Grimstadfjord near Bergen, Norway on 21 May. A reconnaissance flight has confirmed the two ships are Bismarck and Prinz Eugen.

The ships were no longer in this location on 22nd May.

Once the departure of the German ships was discovered, Admiral Sir John Tovey, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Fleet, sailed with King George V, Victorious and their escorts to support those already at sea. Repulse joined soon afterwards.

On the evening of 23 May, Suffolk sighted Bismarck and Prinz Eugen in the Denmark Strait, close to the Greenland coast. Suffolk immediately sought cover in a fog bank and The Admiralty was alerted. 

Bismarck opened fire on the Norfolk at a range of six miles but the Norfolk escaped into fog. Norfolk and Suffolk, outgunned, shadowed the German ships using radar.  

After the German ships were sighted, British naval groups were redirected to either intercept Lutjens' force or to cover a troop convoy.

You have been tasked with intercepting the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. It is 5.37am on 24th May 1941. Both Hood and Prince of Wales are at actions stations.

The shadowing cruisers have been instructed to keep clear of the engagement.

Two ships have been sighted on the horizon.


You are to intercept the German ships before they can break into the Atlantic and attack Allied convoys.

To achieve the above you must sink the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen - this will be treated as a significant victory.

Prevent the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen from escaping contact on a southerly course (South, South east or South west). This will be treated as a victory.

To force the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen to return to Norway/Germany - she must escape contact on a course of north. This will be treated as a draw.

To force the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen to escape contact on an easterly course - which will take her toward British airbases - and will be treated as a victory.

To force the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen to escape contact on a westerly course which will take her towards Greenland and the icebelt, and will be treated as a victory.

Good luck and God Speed.

Sink the Bismark - Motion picture

Description of the engagement

The two opposing forces started the battle around 17 miles apart. I was using the NWS computer moderated software called Battleships Zenith to work out the gunnery sighting and identification of the various vessels.


The Bismarck and Prince Eugen quickly found the range of the Hood and scored several hits, Knocking out her two forward turrets by the third turn, which was actually only nine minutes of battle time. 

The computer moderated rules system prevents players from having an unrealistic knowledge of the damage to the enemy. There is the ability to view what you can see from the bridge of your ship, for example, whether turrets were firing or not, or if the ship was listing and the state of superstructure damage etc.

I think this often results in players behaving more realistically, because they do not know fully the state of the enemy.

The rules also considerably speed the game up, take nothing from the actual enjoyment of playing.

To my surprise the German player allowed the British to close, and it became a gunnery duel.


The British were also causing damage to the mighty Bismarck, and I did expect for her to turn away in accordance with her operational instructions. Although I think a degree of red mist began to form in the mind of the German Admiral, and he played into British hands by entering into a gunnery duel.


The Hood was taking some serious punishment and was in a terrible state, her forward guns were out, she was heavily listing and soon the British Admiral was forced to place HMS Prince of Wales between her and the Bismarck, whilst Hood made smoke and retreated into the cover her smoke gave.

The battleship zenith rules take into account damage control and the retreat from the immediate battle allowed the Hood time to make some vital repairs.

Meanwhile Prince of Wales and Bismarck continued to exchange gunfire.


Sometimes less successfully than was wished by the British Admiral. But he was successful in keeping the Germans at arm's-length and away from the heavily damaged Hood.

The German commander tried to close with the British, much to my surprise, rather than taking the opportunity to make a run for it to the south-west.


Urgent repairs had been successful, and to the surprise of us all, HMS Hood started to turn back towards the battle, still screened by her smoke.


Shells continue to fall around the German ships fired by the HMS Prince of Wales. You cannot blame her though, her crew had not had chance to work up properly.


Meanwhile the might of the Kreigsmarine concentrated all their guns on the dogged HMS Prince of Wales.


By now the Bismarck herself had been subject of numerous hits by heavy shells, and had major superstructure damage, and a heavy list to port. 

We ended the game at this point, and it was deemed to be a British victory because the Germans had not met their operational orders, and Bismarck was in no fit state to break out into the Atlantic.

A thoroughly enjoyable morning and engagement.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Attack Wing evening

A couple of games of Star Trek Attack Wing were played last night. The Federation faced off against the Klingon Empire, whilst a Cardassian fleet tried to shake off the yoke of Dominion control.

The Feceration fleet manoeuvres toward the Klingon aggressors who had invaded this sector.

The Klingon squadron cloaked immediately and attacked.

The two fleets approached and soon phasers were hitting targets. The Klingons found themselves facing four starships to their three Birds of Prey. 100 points for each fleet. I went for generic attack points, quantity over quality, and the first exchange of salvos seemed to vindicate that decision.

The Klingons were shocked by the ferocity and accuracy of the Federation attack as they swept through, and past the Federation fleet. They seemed a little disjointed, and the senior captain made some errors.

There was some close manoeuvring.

The one thing I learned was that my two light ships, a Nova class and a Miranda class could be more than a match for Klingon manoeuvrability.

Captain Mercadai Paul Leet - Captain of the Miranda class starship. He would sacrifice himself to protect Federation citizens.

Federation ships turn to pursue the Klingons. The Galaxy class makes a slow swing to starboard.

The two light ships close in on the Bird of Prey. At this point the Miranda had no shields, and was heavily damaged, her manoeuvrability suffering as a result. Captain Leet fought to keep her in the battle.

The Intrepid class ship, under the command of Captain Strangely Brown found herself bumping off the atmosphere of a nearby planet.

The lumbering Galaxy class took an age to return to the fray. Shortly after this photo, Capt Leet and his ship were destroyed by a salvo of Klingon photon torpedoes.

Despite the victory against the Miranda class ship, the Klingons were in a bad way themselves.

They lost all three ships in quick succession. An excellent victory by the Federation fleet, tinged with sorrow at Leets loss.

It was agreed that the initial errors by the Klingon senior captain had been instrumental in the resounding defeat.

Cardassian v Dominion

The Cardassian fleet attempts to break free of Dominion shackles.

We were a little pushed for time during this battle.

Hediki fighters - they would be a constant thorn in the side of the dominion, even after 50% loses.

The Dominion boasted some powerful units, which included weapons that cut through shields as though they were not there.....

The battle was frantic, with the fighters weaving in and out of the Dominion fleet. A Cardassian Galor class starship was destroyed before we had to call it an evening. The Dominion flagship was also heavily damaged.

However, the renegade Cardassian fleet failed in its mission.

A great evening of Star Trek combat

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Sometimes an alternative universe is what you need

Sometimes, all the ill in the world makes you want to dream of a different time and place.....this is part of the attraction of Star Trek universe to me. Have I mentioned that I thoroughly enjoy Star Trek Attack Wing? - hopefully this will link nicely with the new Star Trek RPG game due out in 2017.......
A Federation squadron on manoeuvres, using my new space mat

A different view

Meanwhile, in a different sector, a Federation science vessel is intercepted by a Klingon scout ship.

It looks as though this Cardassian fleet has its hands full " Resistence is futile "

A research mission to a new planet

Federation war games are being monitored by an unseen ship (name the episode).

A Bajoran scout squadron encounter a new race emerging from the wormhole..........

Wednesday night, will see some Star Trek action.....