Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Kilokrieg: Thinking About... Uber-simple OOBs?

A while back I was posting what I called 'Uber-simple' Orders of Battle (OOBs), especially for operations level action.  This led to a conversation between Neil Patterson and me as to what constitutes 'Uber-simple).  What I have set out here are some examples of what I have in mind.  This article actually has been in draft I think for the last 2 years at least - possibly longer.  High time, methought, to finish it off and publish.  But I've made some amendments to the article I was going to send.

I have left off the SP values, to be revisited on another occasion.  However, if you go back to my account of BARFist Revolution in Tchagai ('Long Live the Revolution') and the 'Unquiet Flows the Mius' posting, you will see how what I have in mind would work.

It was in the drawing up of the following that I began to think I ought to thank Neil for his 'MHO' as the results are very simple.  I've left of the Strength Points (SP) for the moment, in favour of 
Infantry: 1 stand per company
Armour: 1 AFV per company/ squadron
Artillery: 1 stand per battalion

Panzer Division, mid-1944:

2 Panzer Battalions, 4 Panzergrendier Battalions, Artillery Regiment of 4 battalions (2 of armour, 4 of motorised foot, and 4 gun/howitzers)

Command(1): any sort of command vehicle and CO
Logistics: 1x lorry and/or tanker per 'arm' 
Panzer Battalion: 4 Panther
Panzer Battalion: 5 PzIV (2)
Panzergrenadier Battalion(3) (gepanzert): 4 stands plus armoured halftrack
Panzergrenadier Battalion (motorised): 4 stands plus truck
Panzergrenadier Battalion (motorised): 4 stands plus truck
Panzergrenadier Battalion (motorised): 4 stands plus truck
Artillery SP Battalion: 1x Wespe or Hummel self propelled artillery
Artillery Battalion: 1x 15cm Howitzer
Artillery Battalion: 1x 10.5cm Howitzer
Artillery Battalion: 1x 10.5cm Howitzer

(1) The command element will have the formation's integral AA capability, which may, but need not, be depicted by an AA weapon as part of the HQ element (unit of manoeuvre).  This goes for the formation command elements of all the following.

(2) By mid-1944, the respective panzer battalion establishments comprised 78 Panther and 98 Panzer IV tanks, organised into 4 companies in each battalion plus a reconnaissance platoon.  So it would appear that the Panther companies comprised 17 AFVs and the Panzer IV, 22 AFVs. I suggest 5 PzIVs to the battalion instead of 4 to reflect the numerical disparity between the panzer battalions.

(3)The panzergrenadier battalions - infantry stands count as an integral whole, as though all mounted on a single stand or sabot.  I prefer not to use the oversized stands (shudder), as they have certain problems of their own that I prefer to avoid. The 5 separate stands can be arranged as one likes upon a single grid area, or astride a grid edge or corner signifying the battalion's occupation of both (edge) or all three or four (corner) grid areas.

Soviet Tank Corps:

Command: CO plus any sort of command vehicle
Logistics: 1 lorry and/or tanker per brigade or regiment (ideally)
Tank Brigade(4):
      3 Tank
      Motor Rifle Battalion: 3 SMG stands (tank desantski)
Tank Brigade: 
      3 Tank 
      Motor Rifle battalion: 3 SMG stands, (tank desantski)
Tank Brigade: 
      3 Tank 
      Motor Rifle Battalion: 3 SMG stands, (tank desantski)
Motor Brigade(5):
      Motor Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
      Motor Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
      Motor Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
      Field Gun and/or Mortar Battalion: 1x 76.2 field gun and/or 1x 120mm mortar.
Mortar Regiment: 3 x 120mm mortar plus truck
Artillery Regiment: 3 x 76.2mm field guns plus tractors
AA Regiment: 1 x 37mm AA, 1 x AAMG, 2 trucks
Rocket Battalion: 1x truck mounted BM13 'Katyusha' 
Assault Gun Battalion:
        1 x Su85 or Su100 or Su76
        1x SMG stand
Heavy Tank Battalion: 1x IS2 (or KV85 late 1943)
'Motorcycle Company': 1 M/c mounted SMG, 1 BA32 armoured car.

(3) The Tank and SMG stands together count as an integral whole, the presence of the SMG stand identifying the armoured element as part of a Tank Brigade, as distinct from a Tank Regiment. 
(4) Owing to, and to reflect, the manpower difficulties experienced by the Red Army, the Motor Brigade may be consolidated into a single unit of 6 infantry stands plus 1 or 2 trucks.

German Regular  Infantry Division 1944 (E.g. 352nd Division at Omaha Beach)

Command: CO plus command vehicle
Logistics: Lorries, pack horses or wagons
Schutzen Regiment 914:
     I Battalion: 4 Schutzen Inf stands
     II Battalion: 4 Schutzen Inf Stands
Schutzen Regiment 915:
     I Battalion: 4 Schutzen Inf stands
     II Battalion: 4 Schutzen Inf Stands
Schutzen Regiment 916:
     I Battalion: 4 Schutzen Inf stands
     II Battalion: 4 Schutzen Inf Stands
Fusilier Battalion 352:
     4 Fusilier Infantry stands
Panzerjager Abt 352(5):
      Stug Company: 1x StuGIIIG
      Marder Company: 1x MarderII, III or 38
      AA Company: 1x 20mm portee mounted AA gun(s)
Artillery Regiment 352:
     1x 15cm howitzer, plus tractor
     3x 10.5cm howitzer; plus tractors.

(5) Panzerjager companies were numerically rather weaker than the AFV companies of Panzer Divisions (10 StuGs and 14 Marders, c.f. 17 Panthers and 22 Panzer IVs). However, they were a significant enough part of the Division that they ought to be separately included.  Not all Divisions were so 'lavishly' equipped.

Soviet Mechanised Corps (6):

Command: CO plus command vehicle
Logistics: Trucks or half-tracked trucks
Tank Brigade:
      3x Tank Battalions(7): 1 Tank, 1 SMG infantry stand (tank desantski)|
 Mechanised Brigade:
     Tank Regiment: 2 tank
     Motorised Infantry(8,9):
          Motor Rifle Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
          Motor Rifle Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
          Motor Rifle Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
          (AT Rifle Coy: 1 stand PTRS)
          (Mortar Battalion: 1x 12cm mortar)
          (Artillery Battalion: 1x 76.2mm field gun)
          (AAMG Coy: 1 x AAMG)
Mechanised Brigade:
     Tank regiment: 2 tank
     Motorised Infantry:
          Motor Rifle Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
          Motor Rifle Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
          Motor Rifle Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
          (AT Rifle Coy: 1 stand PTRS)
          (Mortar Battalion: 1x 12cm mortar)
          (Artillery Battalion: 1x 76.2mm field gun)
          (AAMG Coy: 1 x AAMG)
Mechanised Brigade:
     Tank Regiment: 2 tank
     Motorised Infantry: 
          Motor Rifle Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
          Motor Rifle Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
          Motor Rifle Battalion: 4 stands, 1 truck
          (AT Rifle Coy: 1 stand PTRS)
          (Mortar Battalion: 1x 12cm mortar)
          (Artillery Battalion: 1x 76.2mm field gun)
          (AAMG Coy: 1 x AAMG)
Mortar Regiment:
        1x120mm Mortar, 1 truck 
Guards Mortar Battalion:
        1x BM13 'Katyusha'
Assault Gun Regiment: 1x Su76
Assault Gun Regiment: 1x ISU122
Assault Gun Regiment: 1x ISU152 (10)

(6) The Mechanised Corps is a big and powerful formation - almost (as I thought the Soviet Mechanised Brigade under Command Decision rules) the ideal War Games formation.

(7) The Tank Battalions in the Tank Corps and the Mech Corps Tank Brigade were about the size of a full strength Panzer Company.  So all 3 Soviet tank battalions have in this organisation been merged into 1 stand, plus the SMG stand (detached from the Brigade's motor battalion).

(8) Alternatively, recognising that attrition played merry hell with the Red Army's Divisional manpower, each Brigade's motorised infantry may be consolidated into a single 'unit' of 6 stands

(9) Elements in parentheses are optional

(10) Absent the Tank Brigade, all other armour, and the Rifle battalion motor vehicles; substutute assault guns for equivalent towed artillery, and you'll have a 'leg' Infantry Division.

Additional equipment in the way of artillery, rockets, heavy tanks, special assault gun units, engineers, and reconnaissance units, may be supplied, per campaign or scenario, from 'Army' inventories.

Just for the sake of interest, here is a...

Luftwaffe Division:

Command: CO, command vehicle, (optional) AA (see Note 1 supra), (optional) Fusilier Coy of 1 stand.
Logistics: Truck.
Jager Regiment:
     Battalion: 4 stands
     Battalion: 4 stands
     Battalion: 4 stands
Jager Regiment:
     Battalion: 4 stands
     Battalion: 4 stands
     Battalion: 4 stands
Artillery Regiment:
     3 x 10.5 cm howitzer plus horsed traction
AA Abteilung:
     1 x 8.8cm FlaK (in AT role) plus horsed traction

Megablitz or Hexblitz, this isn't.  In scale it lies between Command Decision and those operational level game systems.  I was thinking of calling the system Kilo-blitz or Killer-blitz, but why not go all alliterative...(?)

... Kilokrieg

Possibly more to come...

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Weekend Napoleonic Action - Battle of Jakubovo


Legrand's Division line stretching right 
across the valley defile.  Mark commanded
these guys.

Yesterday, Sunday 27 August, I got to play on one of Mark's (Chasseur) vast Napoleonic battles that I have occasionally featured in this blog. I was invited to bring along my own Russian army - and I'm here to tell you it was a drop in the bucket among the vast host that Matt, my fellow 'Russian', supplied! This action was fought on a 12ft x 6ft table, using overall somewhere north of 1600 figures.  My contribution: fewer than 200.

Verdier's Division (commanded by Paul)

This action centred around Marshal Oudinot's drive towards Saint Petersburg during Napoleon's 1812 campaign against Russia.  For some days, the Army of General Pyotr Kristianovitch Wittgenstein had been retreating northwards from Polotsk, seeming to offer little in the way of resistance. When at last the Russians showed sudden surge of aggression, it came as something of a surprise to Oudinot, who was somewhat ill prepared for such an eventuality. Finding a position around the village of Jakubovo, he chose there to make a stand. 

Occupying the village and the ridge alongside, he extended his line into the woods on both flanks. To the Russians advancing (Matt and me) the battlefield presented a defile maybe between wooded north-south ridges perhaps a little over a verst ( 1 verst = 2/3 mile = 1.1 km approximately) apart. Clearly, this was going to be a battle of attrition. An 'Agincourt position' was what I was thinking.
General Russian advance.  The centre of the 
ridge successfully stormed, and it looks as 
though we have taken half the town as well
by this time.

Matt and I being of like mind, we attacked vigorously all along the front, sorting out the traffic jams as they arose. We took first the northeast quarter of the town then the northwest, then held both against French counterattacks. However, my grenadiers were unable loosen the enemy hold on the southern half of the place. Some light infantry successfully stormed the centre of the ridge line, but was unable to hold there for long. In the east, the light horse, and later the Cossacks, both essayed successful charges against disordered foot, though their attempts to exploit these successes failed, and they were able to draw back behind the local gun battery to regroup. 
General view, looking southwest.  By this time 
the French had restored his ridge line.

Although I didn't quite realise it at the time, although our attacks seemed to making little progress, except maybe on the Grenadiers' front west of the town, our local successes were absorbing a great deal of the French reserves. The French rarely seemed to essay any attacks of their own other than attempts - occasionally successful - to recover lost ground. At the end of the day, I thought it was going to be 'honours even' or maybe a whisker - no more - in our favour. It turned out we had lost four units 'routed' (removed from the table); the French thirteen! I hadn't noticed their reserve line getting thinner and thinner as the day wore on. We decided this was going to be a Russian victory, all right! Marshal Oudinot won't be visiting Sankt Peterburg this year.

I just want to make a comment here upon the rule set we were using: 321 - Fast Play Napoleonic. This is something Mark has been working on for some time - a fast-play set with simple game mechanics that can accommodate large games with vast numbers of figures. To what extent these are derived from other sets, I don't know. Considering the number of figures on the table - though apart from mine they were mounted upon bases of 6 foot or 3 horse - the thing did rattle along at a brisk pace. I believe we got in 8 IGoUGo turns a side in the time we had. The Club opened at 11 ack emma, the table set up, the figures laid out, the game played - with a result - and everything put away and I was home shortly after 4. Five hours.  Pretty brisk!

Units, usually representing regiments or battalions depending upon scenario, are the standard 24-figure line infantry (skirmishers are smaller), 12-figure horse, and 2-gun batteries. The artillery batteries are mounted on one base per gun; the other units upon 4 stands. The whole combat and morale system is geared around this arrangement. My own basing system being different is at least adaptable, but it does make moving stuff around a deal slower. 

The dice rolled for close combat are rolled for the unit that brings it on, 4 dice usually, and the results for and against in the one roll.  Roll sixes, you score hits; roll ones you've taken hits. The basic results are modified by situation, e.g. cavalry don't do well attacking squares; urban fighting is difficult; disordered troops are likely to take more damage.  I saw one combat in which the attacker (our side) rolled 2 sixes and 2 ones. A bit of a blood letting that one! Simple, quick, clean.  

I have to say that the troops presented by Mark, Matt and Paul look magnificent!

My thanks to Mark and Matt for inviting me to join the action, and to Paul ('Jacko') for providing transport for me and my army. By the way, the Woolston Club does a bally good beef burger and fries.

Here is a link to Mark's own account of this action: Battle of Jakubowo.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

What I bought at the Bring-n-Buy

 A month ago, I posted something about 'drawing a line under' the acquisition of new stuff. I was thinking mostly about my Napoleonics, but I had more than half a thought to the rest of my projects as well. I have way too much stuff.

Well: guess what. I didn't really think I'd get much from last sunday's annual bring-and-buy at the Club, but, as one never quite knows what goodies might be found, I permitted myself one hundred Kiwi dollars. Just in case, don't you know. But, things didn't go the way I expected. I was about to say 'planned', but one can't really plan in situations like this.

At any rate, here's what I bought, for just 50 Kiwi bucks...

5 Airfix kits - 2 Churchills, 2 Matilda IIs and 1 Grant tank.  $5 the box.

3 boxes of Zvezda Samurai foot - well, at $5 the time that really is grabbing by the throat and yelling 'Buy me!' don't you reckon? Had there been 5 boxes I might well have bought the 5. I've emptied and de-sprued one of the boxes as you can see.

23 pine trees - Rather loose and wanting more foliage; 6 bases missing. I spent an evening buffing these up and basing them in groups of 3 (2 in one case). The bases have had green paint drabbled over them, and will receive some flocking in due course. These are very tall trees for war gaming, but will go reasonably well with my Army Men project. $5 for these.

I rather forgot to include in the ensemble one item that I was clutching in my little hot hand when I happened upon this pile of stuff (well, directed there by Paul and Tony). It was this - or these:

Four broken-down metal Nebelwerfers.  Another 5 bucks.  All the bits seemed to be there.  I am well practised in repair work: no problemo.  I was little puzzled at finding these chappies had just 5 barrels, being more familiar with the 6-barrelled types.  Turns out these are the 21cm Nebelwerfers - pretty heavy stuff.  Well, for mine, they are just generic German rocket launchers.

Altogether, I am quite chuffed with this score. Plenty to work on here, and all bought with some purpose in mind.  And I spent just half of what I had allowed myself.  I call that discipline, don't you?

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Le Bataillon Carre: The Campaign (2)


We continue the Jena map game narrative from last time, with the French right wing of Soult's IVth and Ney's VIth Corps pushing north to Plauen: Napoleon,with Lannes's V and Davout's III Corps held up around Grafenthal and Saalberg as Bernadotte's Ist and Murat's cavalry push the combined forces of Hohenlohe and Blucher to Schleiz and Auma; and Augereau's VIIth Corps being set to the rightabout by Ruchel's Corps. The above map I have included to help orient the reader in the captioned pictures that follow.  The first action of this new day (Five) involves the Imperial Guard, heavily outnumbered, taking on Brunswick's whole army...

Locations of the corps of both sides at the conclusion 
of the campaign.

After nine days (estimated: I wasn't actually counting) the it was clear that the French would very shortly take Leipzig, and subsequently Berlin.  The destruction of Ruchel's corps had freed up Augereau and the Guard to join Napoleon and the III and V Corps to deal with the still powerful commands of Brunswick and Kalkreuth.  The deadlock that had persisted around Saalfeld would soon be broken.  Overall, then: a French victory.

OK, I'll admit it here.  This little project was not an unqualified success, and - I have to face it - was a bit of a mess. Very tiring it was, too, and set off a number of niggling small ailments that discouraged writing the thing up for nigh-on a week.  

It was too ambitious.  I now think the scale of the theatre was too large for the size of the table - considerably larger, withal, than the Waterloo and 1912 Army Exercise map games I played out earlier.  Having said that, though, it was certainly worth a try!  I think the opening moves of the 1809 campaign might prove a better topic for this sort of project.

A word on game mechanics. As I began this campaign we still hadn't got this quite right. I used priority chits to move each individual command (plus Napoleon himself), rather than the IGoUGo systems of the previous games. The added complication didn't seem to affect the flow of the action at all.

I used my own system of determining hits and losses, with each turn (representing one day) ending with a 'reconciliation' of losses to both sides.  
Hits and losses were determined by dice:
1 = artillery
2 = cavalry
3 = cavalry
4 = infantry
5 = infantry
6 = command
If the command were hit, a die roll (for each hit!) determined whether the general or marshal stayed in command or was rendered hors de combat.
If there were none of a particular arm available to be hit, the result was ignored.  This makes a cavalry corps interesting, because it ignores infantry hits.  However, its own combat dice does include one for the infantry arm.

The number of dice thrown for a given command was the total number of figures, including its command, plus one more for each of the three 'arms' represented - infantry, cavalry and artillery. Napoleon himself got an extra die when present; and so did the Imperial Guard just for being the Imperial Guard.  Not that it helped them much: the guard was a very small corps.

Where a die's pip score was matched by an enemy's, both were cancelled, one for one.  Note that an infantry hit (4 or 5, say) would be cancelled only by the identical score.  A '4' did not cancel a '5' or vice versa. So only excesses resulted in loss of figures.  The following pictures, in which Brunswick scores a significant victory over Davout during the fighting around Saalfeld and Grafenthal, furnishes an example:

From the number of dice rolled, you can see Brunswick's whole army was up, and heavily outnumbered Davout's IIIrd Corps (about 2 to 1).  This was to be no 'Auerstadt'!  Removing duplicates left us with the next picture... 

The French lose 2 infantry, a cavalry and a gunner; the Prussians lose one cavalry. Marshal Davout also took a hit - fortunately not enough to take him out of the fight. 

At the end of each turn (day) the total of that day's losses for each arm were added separately, and both sides received back the lesser of the respective totals for each.  So if in all the day's combats the French lost 9 infantry, 2 cavalry and 2 gunners; and the Prussians lost 6 infantry, 6 cavalry and 1 gunner, both sides would receive back 'overnight' 6 infantry, 2 cavalry and 1 gunner.  The French net loss would be 3 infantry and a gunner; Prussia's would be 4 cavalry.

These returns I distributed as seemed reasonable; I didn't apply the returns on any pro rata basis of who lost what.  

However, I rather botched the thing early on, which is the only explanation I can come up with why Prinz Louis's command survived so well its early drubbing by Murat's cavalry.  I also found that this method so reduced the overall rate of attrition that decisive battles were hard to achieve, as the next day the defeated enemy corps, reconstituted overnight left the victors with it all to do again.  Probably the big victories were Murat's over Prinz Louis, Bernadotte and Murat over Hohenlohe and Blucher,  Brunswick over Lannes, and Ruchel's over Augereau, for which the latter exacted his vengeance a couple of days later.

The attrition among commanders was so concerning that I began half way through to treat them the same way as the losses in other arms - both sides got back 'overnight' the lesser number of commanders 'lost'.  

The attrition rate has gone from the extremely high rate of the Waterloo campaign to the extremely low of the Jena.  Some sort of compromise seems to me indicated. The method I came to is that for each arm that incurs a loss, one such loss is permanent, and only then the remaining losses reconciled as above. Using the suggested example, then 
(a) French: of the 9 foot, 2 horse and 2 gunners, one of each arm is permanently lost, leaving 
8, 1 and 1 for 'reconciliation'.
(b) Prussian: of the 6 foot, 6 horse and 1 gunner, one of each arm is permanently lost, leaving
5, 5, and 0 for 'reconciliation'.
Both sides, then get back 5 foot, 1 cavalry and no gunners.
French net loss 4 foot and 1 horse and 2 gunners
Prussian net loss is 1 foot, 5 horse and 1 gunner.
I think, though, I would exempt commands from this automatic loss of the first casualty.

I'm also thinking of changing the combat roll of '6' to include infantry as well as command. Otherwise, it seems to me that infantry are rather underrepresented in the combat results...

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Le Bataillon Carre: the Campaign

It has been a week and a half since I played out the Jena Campaign map game.  Certain distractions have rather inhibited my writing up an account, and the fact that I took over 100 photos didn't actually help.  I thought this time I will repeat the experiment of a year ago with the 'Action at Malenkovo' related in captioned pictures.  The first couple just show the layout of the table.  The rule set used, a kind of hybrid Portable Wargames/ Command and Colours with some ideas of my own thrown in. 

In contrast to my IGoUGo handling of the 'Hundred Minutes' Portable Waterloo campaign, I added in 'priority chits' to determine in which order formations would move.  Added to this change, I mitigated the effects of attrition by setting aside all losses each turn - representing a whole day - at the end of which (overnight) both sides would receive back per arm the lesser losses incurred by each side.

For example, if the French lost 4 infantry, 2 cavalry and a gunner, against the Prussian losses respectively of 3, 3, and 2, then both sides would receive back 3 infantry, 2 cavalry and 1 gunner. The net French loss would then be 1 infantry; the Prussian net loss, 1 cavalry and 1 gunner. If during an action a formation lost its gunners and was forced to retreat, the gun would still go with the rest of the corps, and would be lost only it the formation received no gunners back 'overnight'. 

Having said all that, two issues cropped up during the course of the campaign:
1.  What to do about 'losses' to commanders?  In contrast to the Waterloo campaign, and given the amount of action in this one, Corps and Army commanders were dropping like flies. About halfway through I decided to treat 'General staff' casualties like the other arms. Only the excess of 'GS' losses by one side over the other would be totally lost - in necessary, the unlucky wight(s) being chosen by a die roll.

2.  The overall attrition rate seemed under this system to be rather too low.  A badly defeated force might well get reconstituted overnight back to full strength. This happened to Prinz Louis's command very early on: almost completely wiped out at Hof, but coming back at near full strength to oppose Soult's push towards Leipzig.  

My tentative solution, not used in this campaign, is to subtract one figure per arm from the overnight returns. In the example above both sides would get back 2 infantry, 1 cavalry and no gunners. French net loss would be 2 infantry, 1 cavalry and 1 gunner; Prussian net loss 1 infantry, 2 cavalry and 2 gunners. I should note that once events gets pretty lively, the daily losses are a deal heavier, but so are the returns. The only compulsory losses amount to one element only of each arm that incurs a loss.
The campaign begins: French columns traversing the 
Thuringerwald into the plains north.

For the rest of this posting, and probably the next as well, I hope a coherent and comprehensible narrative will emerge from the captions in the pictures I have posted.
The same from Prussia's point of view.

Just how disastrous was Augereau's defeat near Memmingen, south of the Thuringerwald?  Has Napoleon himself biutten off more than he can chew?  How are the right wing formations progressing? 

To be continued...