Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Friday, January 27, 2012

Modern Spearhead Game Report: Czechs vs Poles

Last Sunday I ventured up to Luke's with rules and OOBs for 1979 in hand.  I'm not quite sure what the back story was, but it was not my job to worry about that - my task was simply to follow orders and pit my two regiments of Poles against his two regiments of Czechs in open battle.

Below is a photo of the table, with my orders superimposed.  Two battalions were kept in reserve; one of motorized infantry in the centre and another of T55s on my left.  The plan was for my very large tank regiment (the 18th), with one unit of motorized infantry protecting its flank, to engage the bulk of the enemy forces head-on.  The remainder of my forces would then slam the engaged enemy in the flank, allowing us to sweep towards our objectives: the town in the centre and the river crossing.

That, at least, was the plan.

The crafty Czechs had a somewhat different idea about how to proceed.  From what I can gather, it looked a little like that overlaid on the photograph below...

Luke had three battalions of regular motorized infantry, one regular battalion of T55s, and three green battalions of T34s and SD100s.

The units arrived on the table in staggered fashion (and not just because of the lunchtime beer).  First my recon, then two of my mechanized battalions, which proceeded towards the river and the 'Vodka Gap' respectively.  Luke then brought on two Mot. battalions of his own.  One of these secured his left (top of the picture above) and the other the town in the centre.

 The Vodka Gap.

Elements of 2nd Battalion, 12th Mechanized.

On turn three my other two battalions from the 12th Mechanized arrived; T55s into a reserve position on my left and the Mot. Inf. into reserve in the centre.

Luke then brought on his T55s and the remaining unit of Mot. Inf.  These were both positioned on his right or right centre.

Turn 4, looking from the Polish left.

My recon won the race to the hill, where they proceeded to call down fire from above upon the hapless enemy while mostly avoiding getting hit themselves.  On the Czech left two platoons of T72s got into a nice little firing position on artfully positioned rises which combined with some anti-tank to began causing casualties amongst the BWP-1s and OT 65s on my right.

Czech mates.

Turn five saw my tank regiment arrive on table and the commitment of my reserves.  The T55s on my left were ordered to make for the Czech formations advancing on the recon unit and my infantry in the centre were given timed orders to secure the hill in front of them and later drive the enemy before them.

 My tanks arrive...

Things are looking promising!

It was just at this point that Luke declared he had a flank march to roll for.  It needed a six to arrive this turn.  I laughed.

"Fat chance!" I thought.

Flank march drives in from the rear quarter of my T55s...  
(Photo courtesy of Luke, who kindly signed and framed a hundred copies for me to send to selected acquaintances)

We were now in a pretty pinch.  To make things worse, Luke had managed to locate my regimental HQ using electronic doodackies, and promptly blew the HQ to smithereens with counter battery fire.

In some areas however we were still doing all right.  We managed to successfully order our central motorized battalion to relocate left to fight off the flank march.  The right was advancing steadily - and was giving as good as it got in the fire exchanges - and we were holding our own in the centre (or we were until the fire phase arrived, at which point our recon on the hill found itself in range of some T55s!).

 The recon try to get off that blasted hill, while the T34s deploy in the foreground...

Meanwhile, the advance continues on the right.

The T55s on our left kept advancing in the hope that they wouldn't draw the attention of the T34s to their rear.  Unfortunately, we forgot about that next turn and halted to get stationary fire - with predictable results!

The T55s get their last shot in.

We did have a successful artillery phase just prior to this though, in which a forward observer called down fire  that knocked off seven platoons and suppressed a further two.  It wasn't enough to save our tanks though - they got caught like a sausage in a sandwich.  'The Polish got it wurst', was the call.

The battalion-sized gap where my T55s used to be!

At this point it was time for me to catch the train home, so we called the game.  We had not really got to grips properly on the right yet, but our left was in grave difficulties.  If the motorized infantry could get their ATGWs into action against those Czech flankers we might be in with a chance, but there were more where that came from so it was not going to be pretty.

In the end it was clear points decision in favour of the Czechs.  Well done to them and to their esteemed commander, to whom I shall leave the last word on the battle!


It was a lot of fun, even though we didn't quite get as far through as we'd have liked.  It was great to see so many of Luke's beautifully painted figures on the table, and I do enjoy the Spearhead rules.  In the modern version it can seem a little as if you sit around waiting for the arty to do its work (or it does when your plan fails as badly as mine did!), but Luke's flank march showed that in the end tactics still have their rightful place on the battlefield.  I do wish there were some way to shorten the artillery phase though and to bring more skill into it.  As it stands it's just point, roll dice, and hope.  I suppose though that it does require skillful positioning of recon/FO units, but it still does seem a lottery, and a powerful one at that.  Perhaps smaller games with less artillery are the way to go in the future.

Lessons for me:

Don't be so aggressive; set up firing zones.  Keep getting lucky with calling in rockets and remember that Luke likes to flank march.  Finally, don't commit reserves too early...

Thanks to Luke and family for the game and the hospitality.  It was a most enjoyable day.  I must also thank Keith McNelly and Robin Sutton for their pre-game advice, and apologize that I didn't heed it more carefully!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Planning for a Modern Spearhead game

My wargaming buddy in Osaka, Luke, is putting on a game of Modern Spearhead for me at his this weekend.  We'll be using Keith McNelly's scenario generation system and Luke's newly painted Czechs and Poles, with me taking the Poles this time around.  This will be the third MS game we've played, but the first with figures, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Moderns has not been my area in the past but I've warmed to it and after spending the best part of a week with my army OOB and the rules I haven't any excuse for putting up a bad show.  It's been a challenge working out how the various weapons systems interact, but I'm thoroughly enjoying myself (and feeling like I'm learning a thing or two to boot).

Here's the map that Luke has sent me of the battlefield (click to see a larger image).  Each square is 12" x 12".  We will be fighting over five objectives: the two towns on the river, the two road-junction towns, and (exceedingly kindly!) the hill in the centre of my position.  It will be a meeting engagement, so both sides will be on the attack.

Luke's Czechs will have four smallish battalions of tanks, one of these being T55s and T72s and the other three being obsolete T34s and SD100s.  They also have three battalions of combat teams in OT-64s.   Opposing this my Poles have a regiment of T55s (20 of them!), three battalions of combat teams in BWP-1s and another smallish battalion of T55s.  There is also a Polish recon battalion, but we may dump that to try to make up for the poor quality of the Czech tanks.

Right now I'm working out what support platoons should be attached to which battalions and thinking about what my initial orders will be.

Luke has a knack for putting together beautiful battlefields, so no matter whether I do OK or slink away with my tail between my legs, the game will be a spectacle!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

First figures of the year - caetrati finished

The Old Glory caetrati are now done.  I'm not sure that I'm going to need 48 of them, but better safe than sorry!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Old Glory Spanish on the painting table

I've been working the last few nights on some Old Glory Spanish caetrati and scutari for the Punic War era to get my Carthaginians up to scratch and provide some additional allies for the Romans.  These are some of the caetrati; although they need another couple of things done, they're almost there:

The scutari only need their shields painted and the spearheads done, but it's a bigger job as I've got 48 older figures (ie, from earlier on in my painting career...) that need to be brought up to standard to blend in with them.  It will be good to have these finished and the older figures a bit more presentable.  There should be some nice variety once they're all mixed in together.

Here then are some of those scutari (there are a few other bits and pieces in the background as well, but we'll ignore those for the moment!):

So that's the latest on the table.  I'm trying to get all my Spanish finished so that I can cross them off the list once and for all and get started on other things.

My Tin Soldier Gauls arrived today and they are very impressive indeed - though the horses are massive!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Zama with Commands & Colors: Ancients

Here are a few shots of a Commands & Colors: Ancients solo game I played tonight.  The scenario was Zama, which has the Carthaginians relying rather heavily on their elephants for the victory.

Here are some shots of the deployment.

Overall view: 

View from the Roman left:

The great Scipio himself...

The battle began with both sides advancing light troops in the centre: the Romans to pick off elephants; the Carthaginians to protect them.  Both sides took light casualties, but the elephants were unhurt.

After some re-positioning of units, Carthage made the first truly aggressive move in the sixth turn, pulling out a double time card to move up and attack on their right.

The attack was relatively successful.  A unit of hastati was dispatched and Laelius and his equites were driven off, but there were some casualties on the Carthaginian side as well.  The Romans took advantage of this and counter-attacked with an order three left, dispatching a unit of warriors to even the score at 1 banner apiece.

Laelius leads the charge...

Carthage responded with a second double time, which saw two more Roman units destroyed on their left.  The Romans fought back with another banner, leaving things at 3-2 halfway through turn 7.  On their play though, Carthage delivered a mounted charge, enabling them to bring their elephants and cavalry into the action.

A devastating sequence of pachyderm assaults saw Scipio lose his guard principes to one elephant charge...

...and his guard triarii to another!

The cavalry, however, refused to be outdone:

Thus were four Roman units destroyed in the one turn, thereby swinging the battle in Hannibal's favour, 7-2.

The Romans did not throw in the towel, but while the response was willing...

...they were unable to get passed the elephants, who claimed the last banner in battle-back.

The final scenes of slaughter have, in the interests of decency, been kept from sight, but a last view of the battlefield before the curtain falls shows us that all the action took place on the Roman left - their right did not even move!

It was an entertaining game, but Commands & Colors is not at its best solo.  As a battle of wits between well-matched players it is excellent, but I'm afraid to say that the 'pseudo-historical narrative' pales in comparison to that generated by a solo game of Lost Battles.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A bit of work on my hex mat for Commands and Colors

With a bit of free time today I decided to spruce up my Commands and Colors: Ancients gaming mat, which has been looking so sad I haven't felt at all inspired to play on it.

All I did was use some green wood stain from the local hardware store to outline the edges of the mat.  It will need another coat or two to get rid of some of the spottiness, but as I'm already getting the urge to have a game on it, it is serving its purpose!

Here's a shot of it, but please excuse the poor lighting.  My normal bulbs blew over New Year and I was unable to find any of the same type at short notice.  As you can see, the replacements are not up to snuff.

The mat itself is a piece of carpet spraypainted with various shades of green, brown and yellow.  I now see that it would have actually worked out cheaper (and infinitely more aesthetically pleasing!) to buy a hotz mat, and I think I may go that route if this latest modification does not prove satisfactory...

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 painting review

As 2012 kicks off I thought I'd look back and see how the painting output for 2011 stacked up.  There was quite a bit of progress early in the year, then a bit of a drop off as I focused on the reorganisation and touching-up of some older figures.  After a hiatus while we got used to a new addition to the household (and while my spare time was taken up with email games of 'A Victory Lost' and 'Thunder and the Crossroads'...), there was another wee surge just prior to the end of year.

Let's see how it went...

182 Roman foot and 19 cavalry
24 Greek javelinmen
8 slingers
4 boltshooters and 6 crew
56 Carthaginian foot, 13 cavalry and 1 elephant
3 Spanish foot and 4 Spanish cavalry.

The overall totals for 2011 were therefore 279 foot/crew, 36 cavalry, 4 boltshooters and 1 elephant.  That's a few more than I expected, and as there were also a couple of hundred figures that got retouched, I'm pretty happy with that!

For comparison's sake, the 2010 totals were 64 foot/crew, 95 cavalry, 8 chariots and 8 elephants.

Now of course I need to think about what's to come...

(Readers may note that I steered well clear of tallying up how much lead I may have bought this year!)
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