I have been to the Alumwell show once before (and came away laden with goodies – some of which are still in their boxes) but have never run a demonstration / participation game at a show, so it was an exciting first for me.
The Alumwell Show
I arrived on time and got all set up for the opening time of 10am, not at all sure that anyone would ‘have a go’ at taking the German bunker.
Could You Take The German Bunker?
The rules for the game, as you can guess from the title of the blog were from the Battlegroup series, this one using units in the Overlord version. I had selected forces with about 350 points each, but as the Germans ‘spent’ so much on defence items, they had very few troops (and hence a low ‘Break Point’ – more on this later). However, they had a very strong defensive set up and more still had a Tiger tank that ‘might just arrive’ if things got too hairy…
That ‘possible’ Tiger was not this big boy of course, this was my pet 1/16th pet that was used as a show piece on the table, which was just 6ft by 2ft (and thus the smallest at the show – see this report).
As you can see the defences were strong, a bunker on the right with entrenchments on both sides of the road, plus two MG pits with MG42’s. As a back up the Germans had a half track with a full squad armoured with panzerfausts.
Above are the attacking forces, the tank destroyer at the bottom coming on if the Tiger arrived (needed 8 on two D6 after turn 5 for this to happen). They had 3 Shermans (one a Firefly) a Churchill Petard and 6dr anti tank gun and a platoon of infantry (which had a Piat and a light mortar). Also, in case they were needed an Engineer squad with demolition charges (useful if they could get close to the Bunker).
BattleGroup and Smoke
As anyone who has played Battlegroup knows there are no rules for the deployment of smoke this being covered by the rules on spotting and hitting. Much debate on this has of course been carried out on the BattleGroup Forum and suffice to say that there are pro’s and con’s. However, this was a demo game and I wanted to play it in a way that would entice people into playing it again, so I gave the player a choice, did they want smoke (to cover their advance) or not? I know that had I been a soldier on the field I would have wanted smoke and so it was not a surprise when they said yes, so we employed some ‘smoke rules, including drifting’ that I had ready.
One of the issues that face any wargamer is the “Have I used that unit yet?” question as it can be very easy to miss a unit or perhaps to give it two orders when only one per turn is allowed. To help here I use a counter that is placed by the each unit, this being turned over once the unit has moved / fired etc. Here we see the orders placed on the units as they advanced up the field.
Infantry in Close Support
It was a brave move, the three Shermans racing up the field with the mortar laying smoke in front of the Pak 40 and MG pits on the right of the German line. BUT there was a dreaded 88 in the Bunker and that smoke did not cover all the angles…
The Tiger Tank Appears….
Thus all three Shermans were lost in quick succession, this despite the 88 missing on several previous occasions. The problem here for the Brits was of course that they could not silence the bunker. They hit it several times, but the saving throws (which equate to an 88% chance of not taking casualties) literally saved the units, only one of the gun team being lost. The Tiger tank also did some damage, but not as much as it might due to poor dice rolls..
The Brits still had their Churchil Petard tank (this being specifically designed to knock out strongpoints with it huge shells), but it was very slow and took sometime to get into range (only 20″ on this scale). It fired at the bunker twice, missing once. But as with the other attacks, the saving throws saved the occupants. The Churchill itself was soon lost too, a hit in the side armour from the Tiger being enough to finish it off.
Things were looking very bad for the British now, but could the 6pdr save the day by rushing to support the beleaugered infantry? Well it managed to knock out the Pak40 crew, but itself was lost to machine gun fire, so it was down to the M10 tank hunter.
Here we can see a ‘hunters eye view’ of a Tiger tank. The good news for the British that gun (the fantastic 17pdr) used in the Achilles managed to knock out the Tiger…
The British Break and Withdraw.
However, even with taking Battlecounters for all the losses (and having to UnPin) their troops the Germans were no where near their ‘breaking point’ of 16, whereas the Brits had reached the end of the road for that day, having used up all their points, so they had to withdraw, the Germans had won this particular day.
You Don’t Have to Annihilate the Enemy to win
Some game rules are all about decimating the enemy, to win you have to ‘kill them all’, but this is not how it was, in ‘real life’ in most circumstances a force that is badly mauled will pull back to re-group and so be able to fight another day. This is the way that the Battlegroup rules work, each side having a level of ‘punishment’ that it can take before it quits the field.
To make it even more fun, the counters that you take (when you take a casualty etc) have random numbers, so you can take a ‘hit’ of between 1 and 5, or if you are lucky, you can take a counter that you can play on the enemy (to their disadvantage).
In any case the Alumwell show was a great success for myself and my fellow WyreForest wargamers.