Tuesday 26 June 2018

Stonne 1940 Big CoC weekend Part 1

This has been in the pipeline for a few months now, the first public Big CoC public weekend at the WHC. In this first post I'll give some idea of the thought process (sic) behind the game and then I'll give you the scenarios and how the game played out...oh, and there will be a few pics.
Warlord and Crusader French
Mark Freeth was very keen to get an early war 1940 scenario together, initially we toyed with the idea of running a weekend with 2 games running side by side, one containing French and the other BEF taking on the invading Germans. While this was certainly achievable, it involved a few more logistical headaches concerning turning the games around, plus simply having to focus on 2 games at once rather than one. So, in the end we plumped for a single set of scenarios with just the French and Germans.
A small problem with running Big CoC games is that the scenarios are somewhat dependant on the number of players attending, and given the nature of the WHC the numbers can vary, Some players book months in advance, but often people will book relatively late so the scenario needed to be capable of being tweaked to fit this in. The nuts and bolts of the game don't alter that much, the idea being that each player will command an infantry (or armour) platoon, then the force as a whole has a degree of support which is then dished out. On the whole this is not a problem, but for quite a while we were looking at having six players (fine, 3 on 3) then suddenly the numbers went up to seven. My initial reaction was one of mild horror because it meant balancing the game for a three versus four. However, when I started looking at the way the Stonne game might play out, the imbalance of 3 platoons  against 4 became more and more attractive.

A little Panhard 178. It bogged in the ditch......
The battle at Stonne took place over 4 days commencing on 15th May 1940, with the Germans having the Grossdeutschland motorised infantry regiment, and elements of the 10.PzD (Panzer-Regiment 8)
They were encountering in these scenarios the 3e DIM (Division d'Infanterie Motorisée), supported by 3e DCr (Division Cuirassée)
Looking at the platoon lists for CoC the 1940 German infantry platoons are enormous. Each platoon contains 2 senior leaders and a 50mm mortar team plus 4 x 10 man sections, for a total of 44 men.
The French platoons are a similar size, with 2 platoon leaders (1 senior, 1 junior) a VB rifle grenade team of a junior leader with 4 men. plus 3 sections of 11 for a total of 40 men. 

So if we had seven players, with 3 on the German side and 4 for the French it wouldn't be too bad. 1 player a side would be playing a tank platoon anyway, so it would be 2 German infantry platoons against 3 French, however that is actually 8 German sections opposed to 9 French, making it less unbalanced than first appears. A little extra tweaking by making the Germans "superior regulars" meaning they treat rolls on their command dice of a single six also as a 5, giving them more CoC dice pips during the game, plus increasing the size of their panzer II platoon to a whopping 5 vehicles would compensate for the additional French numbers. Additionally, each German platoon would start with a full Chain of Command Dice. 

Poilus advance, CharB in support 
So I worked on that basis, and prepared everything with 7 players in mind, Then of course Mark called and said " I've got an 8th player"......So the superior regular, and the extra CoC dice went out of the window, and the Panzer platoon was cut from 5 down to 4, and the Germans went up to 3 infantry platoons to make it 4 a side. Also the Germans would not have a significant advantage in support points when they were attacking, while the french would.

 Even after this we had another couple of guys wanting to sign up, but at that late stage we sadly had to say no, and stick with 8, as I think a single game with 5 a side is really stretching it for this rule set - not saying its not possible, but I think the game might suffer.
So that is the format we ended up going with, having said that I'm pretty sure the scenarios will work fine with seven (or 5 for that matter) players if the Germans are bumped up a bit to cater for uneven forces.

Panzerjeager I supports Black Tree and Warlord infantry

The other aspect of the games that numbers have an impact on is the size of the table used for each scenario. The recommendation for Big CoC is that the table size should be the same as for normal CoC (6' x 4')  with an additional foot width per additional infantry platoon added - you add nothing for the armour.
Well, The main table at the WHC is 24' long by 6' deep, and so we already play on a depth of 6' which I prefer over 4'. The patrol phase gets forces into action quickly enough anyway, and having the extra depth gives players a bit more room without slowing things down.
Just adding 2 feet per platoon gives us a width of 8' x 6 " which is fine, but the centres' terrain boards are 3' each so it is convenient to go for a slightly larger width of 9'. a bit more room both on the table and for player comfort. That meant that it wasn't too tricky to divide up the table into 3 sections - 9' at each end and then utilise the central 6' and 3' of one of the other sections to give us 3 x 6' x 9' areas.

The point of all this meant I could set up the entire table beforehand, and players go from game to game  with no great interruptions in order to maximise playing time. Also I think it looks good!

Stonne from west to east: Game 1 at the far end, game 2 in the foreground, game 3 in the centre. The Germans are advancing from the north, the French, the south.

I also planned to have a 4th scenario, which would have meant re-setting the terrain at one end of the table- it would have been that which was fought over in game 2 so we could do it while game 3 was in progress giving plenty of time. As it turned out, we didn't get in 4 games over the weekend, a bit of a shame but, sometimes CoC games can be like that, some go faster than others.
The table was made up simply from having a look at Google Earth, backed up with some excellent maps in Prieser's "Blitzkrieg Legend"- to  get the overall topography. Generally the village hasn't changed enormously since 1940, although it was rebuilt there has been no development sprawl, The critical points haven't changed, in terms of the woods, the road layout, and the extent of the village.Being able to get down at street view is an amazing resource, it shows just how winding and steep the only road the Germans had to approach the village from the north was, as it approaches the Butte De Stonne at the Eastern end of the village, and how despite it appearing very flat on the map, the countryside to the west and south actually has quite a lot of small undulations, the view south from the village is somewhat restricted. At the eastern end of the village the countryside is more wooded and broken, with the road becoming sunken before it winds down back on itself down the steep wooded slope to the north of the village (off- table)

Map showing the initial German attack on Stonne, May 15 at 0800. Influenced by Eric Denis' work. (wikipedia)
Given the nature of playing 3 or possibly 4 games over a weekend in a campaign format with 8 CoC novices I thought that the first scenario should probably be a bit gentle in order to ease them into it, and allow them to possibly make a few mistakes without getting horribly punished. I also wanted to keep it relatively simple.
Given the nature of the fighting in Stonne (the village apparently changed hands 17 times in 3 days), it lent itself to a relatively straightforward narrative: i.e. Attack and counterattack- So I decided to make the first game an attack/defence scenario with the Germans on the offensive at the eastern end of the table, the second game was to be another attack/defence with the French on the offensive at the western end of the table. Game 3 was to be in the central area of the table with the Germans attacking in an "attack on an objective" scenario.
I planned a 4th scenario which was to be played out on new terrain to the east of Stonne and that would have been the French conducting a flank attack. However, time sadly ran out. I'm sure we will do it one day.

The View from east to west, the broken ground of the Butte De Stonne in the foreground

The scene was set:
8 players, hopefully 4 games, Germans versus French at Stonne, one of the iconic battles of the campaign.
What were the salient features of the battle? The Germans had crossed the Meuse a couple of days earlier and were trying to exploit that relatively fragile bridgehead, the French had rapidly managed to assemble a counter attack force. The massif of which Stonne is a small part doesn't readily show up on a map, but have a look at Google Earth and you can see just how important it was for both sides. The village itself is rather innocuous, just a farming village with two roads entering from the south, however, it is the terrain to the north which both sides were focused on. There is a single road which leads out of Stonne to the north, this snakes down the hillside along a steep wooded slope before reaching the more gentle plain. The entire northern side of Stonne is covered in thick fir trees which extend down the steep slope- there is nowhere in the village itself (other than the "Butte de Stonne") which has a view to the north. However, if you hold the town and can establish OP's in this wooded hillside you have a magnificent vista stretching out 4 or 5 kilometres and more to the north, the German bridgeheads, and the routes they will take as they expand. Subsequently this tiny Ardennes village became vitally important.   

French section enters central Stonne

Sunday 8 April 2018

28mm Village sections

New Russian Villages:
I've made up a few Russian village sections for WWII (although they'd do fine for Napoleonic too) These are mostly MDF kits from "Things From The Basement" in the USA with a few more extra bits from the excellent Charlie Foxtrot models here in the UK
Love these...2 cabins, and high fences
All lovely models, easy to construct, and fun to paint. One of the things which attracted me to them was how there are very few lugs on display - most MDF kits have these rather unsightly points where the various bits fit together- These don't- makes them look so much better- I thought it would be more fun to put these together as based village units, to allow a little bit more detailing and customisation. 
Simple Russian barn, but will do for pretty much anywhere
Couldn't resist this...the little pigsty base is from TFTB, pigs from Pegasus
Small cabin, rough fencing- Warlord Russians!
The bases are all slightly different sizes, but generally about 10' square, big enough to make an impact on the wargames table and to allow the addition of more "stuff" to pretty them up

Larger Villa with small garden
These are for sale....feel free to contact me if you wish for prices etc- I'm going to be making a lot more terrain and buildings over the next few months, if you have a specific request just ask, or keep an eye out here or look for CAC terrain on facebook

Smaller cabin and woodshed by Charlie Foxtrot, Everything else from TFTB. Love the well.

Thursday 1 March 2018

20mm Big CoC at the WHC Gavrus: Part 1

 I've been badgering Mark Freeth about CoC for about a year now, first of all to do it in 20mm, then of course its turned into 28mm. Meanwhile, The group of lads from Huntingdon who do an annual game to remember their sadly missed old friend Carlo were coming to Basingstoke.
Now I knew they had played CoC, and I also recall Carlo being partial to the game, so I thought it ideal to use them as guinea pigs for trying out Big CoC! They were more than happy to go along with it, so a format was put together. As the 28mm stuff is still being painted (nearly done though!) this weekend would have to be in 20mm
I thought that for 8 players, a Big CoC campaign of 4 games over the weekend from Friday night through to Sunday afternoon would work fine. I allowed for an extra scenario just in case things went a bit quick.
What to do?
An obvious choice was Normandy, I had all the kit required, and of course, Mark has his amazing collection of Mick Sewell buildings which were aching for a run out.
I only needed a reinforced company for both British and Germans, plus various AFV options, all of which we had.
 The scenario was to be the action at Gavrus on 29/30th June 1944, when the 2nd battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders came under ferocious attack by the 10th SS 'Frundsberg' division.
The battle is reasonably well documented, particularly in Iain Dalglish's book "Operation Epsom: Over the Battlefield" which includes some fantastic aerial photographs of the area taken just days after the battle, these would substitute perfectly for maps.
I came up with 4/5 scenarios with games running into each other to replicate the fighting:
The first was a bit of a "what if" with infantry companies from each side recce-ing the village of Bougy about a mile South of Gavrus, the Germans supported by an armoured infantry platoon in half-tracks and the jocks by their carrier platoon. Both sides did recce Bougy, but I doubt they did it in such strength or necessarily at the same time, but I thought it would give a good introduction for the players, and set the tone for the weekend.
This was to be a fairly standard Patrol scenario as per the CoC rules, with each side receiving an additional 8 points of support to be drawn from a fairly limited selection
                                                           Main road at Gavrus

                                                          The British briefing:      
                                                   Scenario 1:  BOUGY- BRITISH
This depicts the action between The 2nd Argylls and the 10th SS Frundsberg Division early in the morning of 29th June 1944, around the village of Bougy. This is a patrol action as per the main CoC rules. National characteristics as per the main rules.
7 Patrol Markers will be placed along the respective baselines, resulting in 6 Jump off Points. Vehicles will enter via the Gavrus road.
The adjutant may either: Act as an off table senior leader for 1 platoon. OR for the entire company, in which case he will just add +1 to their deployment rolls
Casualties from scenario 1 will carry over to scenario 2.
British Infantry: 3 platoons, C Company 2nd Argylls, Regular, 5 command dice
 Each as follows:
Lieutenant: Senior Leader armed with a pistol. 
Platoon Sargent: Senior Leader armed with SMG
PIAT Team: 2 men
2” Mortar Team: 2 men.
Sections 1 to 3:
Corporal: Junior Leader armed with SMG 
Bren Team: Bren LMG 3 crew
Rifle Team: 6 riflemen
List 1:  Medic, Adjutant(max 1),,
List 2:  PIAT Team: 2 men, 2” Mortar Team: 2 men.
List 3:  Sniper Team, Universal carrier Bren Team with Junior Leader.

List 4:  6 pdr Anti-tank gun with 5 crew and Junior Leader (max 1)

ELEMENTS, CARRIER PLATOON, 2ND ARGYLLS: , Regular, 5 command dice.
1 x Universal Carrier with driver, 2 man Bren team, and Senior Leader with pistol
Section 1:
1 x Universal Carrier with driver, 2 man Bren team, and Junior Leader with SMG
1 x Universal Carrier with driver, 2 man 2” mortar team, and 1 rifleman
Section 2:
1 x Universal Carrier with driver, 2 man Bren team, and Junior Leader with SMG
1 x Universal Carrier with driver, 2 man PIAT team, and 1 rifleman
Section 3:
1 x Universal Carrier with driver, 2 man Bren team, and Junior Leader with SMG
1 x Universal Carrier with driver, 2 man 2” mortar team, and 1 rifleman, OR 2 man PIAT team, and 1 rifleman
No Support may be allocated to the Carrier Platoon
Total support points.8
Each asset picked must be allocated to a specific platoon for the duration of scenario 1
                                                  Recce half-tracks move up( die-cast vehicles, AB crew)

                                                        The German briefing:

                                                   Scenario 1:  BOUGY -GERMAN
This depicts the action between The 2nd Argylls and The 10th SS Frundsberg Division early in the morning of 29th June 1944, around the village of Bougy.  This is a patrol action as per the main CoC rules. National characteristics as per the main rules.
7 Patrol Markers will be placed along the respective baselines, resulting in 6 Jump off Points.
Vehicles will enter via the western road
The adjutant may either: Act as an off table senior leader for 1 platoon. OR for the entire company, in which case he will just add +1 to their deployment rolls.
Senior Leaders must be allocated to a specific platoon
Casualties from scenario 1 will carry over to scenario 2,
German Infantry: 3 platoons of the 1st Company 22nd Pzrgrenadier Regt, Regular, 5 command dice
 Each as follows:
Obersharfurher: Senior Leader armed with a SMG. 
3 Panzerfaust 30.
Sections 1 to 3:
Scarfurher: Junior Leader armed with SMG 
M42 Team: MG42 LMG 3 crew, 1 Rifleman
M42 Team: MG42 LMG 3 crew, 1 Rifleman
List 1:  Medic, Adjutant (max 1), Panzerfaust 30
List 2: Senior Leader armed with a SMG.  Panzerschreck team with 2 crew
List 3:  Sniper Team, Panzergrenadier team: Junior Leader armed with SMG, 5 riflemen.
List 4:  Mg 42 MMG team and 5 crew
List 5: Sdkfz 250/8 with junior leader, 250/9 with junior leader

3rd Kompanie, 10th SS Panzer  Aufklarungs-Abteilung:  Superior Regular *, 5 command dice
1 x Sdkfz 251/10 + Obersharfurher: Senior Leader armed with a SMG.
 Panzerschreck team with 2 crew
3 x Infantry sections each:
1 x Sdkfz 251/1 Scarfurher: Junior Leader armed with SMG
M42 Team: MG42 LMG 3 crew, 1 Rifleman
M42 Team: MG42 LMG 3 crew, 1 Rifleman
*Superior regulars treat a single 6 on their command dice as a 5. Other rolls are unchanged.
No Support may be allocated to the Recce platoon
Total support points.8
 Each asset picked must be allocated to a specific platoon for the duration of scenario 1

                                             Cautious grenadiers (Elhiem and Adler figures)

Saturday 6 January 2018

Barbarrossa Chain of Command try out at the WHC

Just spent a thoroughly enjoyable day with Mark at the WHC. We wanted to continue exploring Chain of Command, after originally thinking that when Mark puts on a weekend there it would be in 20mm. Many advantages to this,Mark has a vast 20mm collection and a huge array of beautiful bespoke buildings..but, 20mm is very small. Less of an issue maybe when you are fielding 30 or 40+ AFVs and several hundred infantry, but even for BiG Chain of Command you are only looking at having perhaps half a dozen tanks and a hundred infantry a side. It needs to be impressive in order to attract players, and the 28mm stuff is pretty awesome....Well, we thought about this, and talked long and hard...thought some more...ummed and ahhed...and have decided to go with 28mm.
 Trouble is of course that we don't have that much stuff.
 That will change very soon!
I've got enough Germans and Soviets for a decent 1 on 1 but for a multi-player weekend with up to 12 players, with 2 x 3 a side campaign games going on simultaneously we are going to need a lot more...a lot more.
Not an issue of course, any day now a MASSIVE box of kit is expected to land on Mark's doormat! 
Meanwhile, the game;we just wanted an excuse for a duff-up really, get a look at terrain, have a think about size, time, space etc. Big Coc is going to be different but we can still learn quite a bit just from 1 on 1 games.
So we wanted to see how my 28mm kit looked on Mark's table (well, a little bit of Mark's table), and the answer we thought was pretty good!
When it comes to doing a full weekend the plan is to run 2 games of Big CoC side by side, each on a 12' x 6' table, but for today we were just using a mere 6'x 6'
Above is the view of the battlefield from the Soviet side. The bombed out sewing machine factory complex  dominates the surrounding countryside of fields. We were playing a pick up 1941 attack/defend scenario with a 4 section German infantry platoon on the attack, supported by a Panzer 38T, an MG34 MMG, and the Germans benefited from a preliminary artillery bombardment which severely hampered the deployment of the Soviets, who were defending with a big 4 section rifle platoon, supported by a 45mm ATG. Force morales were equal on a 9. There followed a tense patrol phase
 The view from the southern edge, the farm and woodland was a priority for the Germans during the patrol phase, the fields were deemed to be light cover for infantry in them if observed from the flat, but no cover from troops at higher elevations in the factory or on the rises in the NW and NE corners of the table. The fences were light cover but didn't block LOS (unless you looked through 3 of them). Mark ended with JOP tucked behind the wall in the very top of the picture, one behind the little house next to the wood, and another in the farmyard. I managed to constrict him so was fairly pleased
 a view from the German side, good approaches and JOP positions, but difficult open countryside to negotiate in order to get into the factory area
  another view from the Soviet side, 2 of my JOP's are visible 1 bottom left in the bombed out roof and another in the field next to the road and the factory. A third was just out of shot on the left in amongst the fields, but with a somewhat obscured view of the road running back to the German side
Above is the 3rd Soviet JOP with my first deployment, a section hunkering down in the wheat behind the fence line.
The second Soviet deployment, a section tucked in with views over the fields. Why I put it there, I've no idea....should have deployed into the factory, not the field. I think my original intention was to push forwards into the trees, but I never even got started. A heavy crossfire from the front and an MMG in the farm whittled them down, eventually I pulled them into the factory but they were still exposed and took terrible fire.
By having a good look at Mark's 20mm buildings,there are plenty that are perfectly good for 28mm games. Personally I've always found that a lot of 28mm WWII buildings look enormous when they get on the table, but these factory buildings are a really good size even for 28mm, as are the 20mm farm buildings in the picture below.
This MG 34 put down a heavy fire onto the section on the Soviet right
Joined by a German section in a deep ditch over-looking the fields, the 2 together put down a crossfire on the hapless Soviet section.
A 38T moves up. Ahead of it is the German section in the ditch which is on the other side of the wall.
Way off in the distance, the 38T is spotted! A 45mm ATG deploys in the southern field alongside the first rifle section plus the platoon mortar. It opened up, missed and continued pumping shells at the tank. On the 3rd attempt it immobilised it, but the tank kept firing. Finally the 45mm fired and rolled a double 6 to hit! Weak spot! resulting in a KO. The tank didn't explode but it was silenced permanently.
The other section is being whittled down by fire from the ditch and the MMG
eventually it gets the message and retires into the adjacent building.....where it should have been in the first place!
German section moves up through the wood to engage the section in the southern field.
Behind the section, is the JOP and the platoon mortar giving occasional supporting fire
The 38T burns in the road after its exchange with the ATG
Having reached the edge of the woods the German section trades fire with the Russians, and starts  to come off worst. Another section is sent out to reinforce..eventually this gives the Germans  the upper hand.
The section in the ditch continues to lay down fire on the section the factory, which ended the game with a single LMG gunner and its corporal!
Casualties mount in the wood, but the Germans hold firm
A third Russian section is deployed out on the right and attempts to flank right, but it is too late...
In the field the mortar and the ATG have been shot down, and the section has lost a few men..I think its time to scuttle back into the factory, by this time my FM was down to 3, and was going to get worse - the Germans were still on 5 or 6. I threw in the towel.
A fun game, even though it degenerated into a firefight which the Soviets lost. They gave a lot back, but the Germans were more flexible, took the lumps on their core sections rather than having a lot of support teams completely wiped out which hurt the Soviet FM.
The big problem was that my plan was utter rubbish. I just shouldn't have done what I did. I had a fabulous defensive position, high buildings overlooking open fields! So what do I do? try and push out of them....(FFS!) Idiocy!
My reasoning (poor as it was) was influenced by falling into the CoC "psychological tank trap". I became obsessed by the idea of getting the ATG out where it could cover the road any German armour would need to approach from. Subsequently I had to commit to protect it, more and more kit gets sucked in....etc.
There was absolutely no need fro me to do this! I Should have just hunkered down in the factory. Not bought much on at all, rattled through the phases (which would speed up the turn end and finish the barrage), and I could have got some CoC die. Meanwhile the Germans would have to come on and eventually get caught in the open in the fields. But no....Really stupid play on my part. Meanwhile Mark cheerfully shot me to bits! (but he did it very nicely, and, most important of all, we had a great time!