Sunday, November 10, 2019

Command Ops 2: The Stolberg Corridor

Lately, I have been very interested in the fighting around Aachen and the Westwall campaign. Fortunately, Command Ops 2 has an entire module titled appropriately enough “Westwall” covering this period of the war along the German frontier.
As the US VII corps advanced towards Germany in September of 1944, the Stolberg corridor was the likeliest approach from the southeast of Aachen towards the Westwall through a gap in the line of mountains and heavily forested terrain there. German intelligence knew this but had little in the way of reserves to reinforce the line ahead of the American advance. A small kampfgruppe from the 9th Panzer Division was formed along with the remnants of a Panzer brigade. The 12th Volksgrenadier division would be the follow-on force and their staggered arrival is represented accurately in the scenario reinforcement schedule.
Given the defensive challenges facing the Germans, I have decided to play that side.
This AAR contains the orders I issued as the German commander on the first day (the scenario is nearly four days long). I will continue to post AAR’s for each successive day. I will also include some thoughts on important CO2 rules (i.e. rest and resupply) and a mix of historical commentary from a very good book that I am reading about the campaign titled “The Battle for the Rhine,” by Robin Neillands as well as the U.S. Army military studies about the Siegfried Line campaign.

Situation: It is 46 degrees Fahrenheit, with moderate fog and muddy terrain. The day is September 17, 1944.
German written Orders:
0500: 89 Inf Regt ordered to move 5km south to Gressenich to establish a defensive position. This unit, part of the 12th Volksgrenadier division, is at 75% establishment with a 40% training rating. The VG troops in this scenario all have particularly low training levels and model correctly the manpower issues Germany was having during the late war.
0505: 2 Panther tanks ordered to reinforce I BN 89th Inf. My armor is at a minimum and with two armored Task Forces approaching my lines I need to be careful about the application of my tanks.
0550: I Bn 48th Inf Regt ordered to probe 3kms south of Langerwerhe to Heistern village.

0727: 3 Landesschutzen Bn ordered to withdraw 4kms east, pass through Eschweiler and proceed 6km south to Mausbach and establish new defensive positions there. The 2nd and 3rd Landesschutzen battalions assigned to this part of the front are rear area security forces, with low training, minimal experience and, practically no aggression.
American forces have been sighted southeast of Schevenhutte.
8:06 AM  1 Kompanie 9 Panzer Regiment ordered to probe American forces around east of Verlautenheide. Again I am being very careful employing my armor.
The fog is lifting.
8:34 AM I Bn 27th Fusilier Regt attack southeast in orchards outside of Verlautenheide.
9:16 89 Gren Inf Regt completes the move to Gressenich.
10:35 Static positions south of Stolberg began to fall to American forces. 
11:06 3rd Bn 32nd Armored regiment sighted moving along the highway from Vicht into southeast Stolberg.
3rd Landenschutzen begins to reorganize for an attack on Mausbach from the NW. Their training and aggression levels make the success of this attack improbable.
12:10 I Bn 27 Regt abandons the attack and begins 1km withdrawal into Wurselen.
12:35 12 LW Festung Bn forced to abandon defensive positions along a 5km line of Dragon’s Teeth.  Move 4km north into woods to regroup.
I believe the line of Dragon’s Teeth that this battalion is abandoning is called the “Schill Line” but this isn’t labeled on the map. Perhaps incorrectly, this unit is modeled with limited weaponry. From my reading, Fortress battalions were better armed than the standard 1944 infantry battalion, but that isn’t the case with this scenario.
II Bn 12th Artillerie Regt supports the withdrawal of 2nd Landschutzen from the southern end of Stolberg towards Donnerberg.
15:15  Under pressure from a mixture of armored and reconnaissance forces, II Bn 27 Fus Regt withdraws 4kms east along rail line towards Eschweiler.
16:50  II Bn 48th Regt moves 6km west from Langerwehe to Volkenrath into a reserve position.
12th Volksgrenadier Division reinforcements begin to arrive.
16:58 II Bn 89 Inf Regt arrives as reinforcement at Inden.  Ordered to move into position at Werth 8kms south to their position.
20:00 I Bn 48 Inf Regt ordered to rest at Heistern.  Their fatigue level has spiked from 30% to 45%.

20:41 I Bn 27 Fus Regt ordered to make a night march to Aachen airfield 5kms to the east of their position in Wurselen.
20:58 II Bn 48th Inf Regt ordered to rest with fatigue levels at 34%. Within the game, units that remain stationary will rest automatically. Units that are given specific orders to rest, reduce fatigue levels more quickly. While unit fatigue is tracked, I don’t think there is any specific mention of its impact on units within the rulebook. My guess is that it is significant, which is why I am always monitoring fatigue levels.
21:03 Two hours after sunset, supplies begin arriving across the sector to my various units.
A moderate fog sets in over the battlefield, the mud is still a factor.
I will post my Day 2 AAR this week…

Friday, August 16, 2019

Panzer Battles Demo 1.01 Preview

Plus “Nobody wins at Komarovka” an AAR
Good news!
Wargame Design Studio is publishing very soon an update to their FREE DEMO, that includes:
  • Five new scenarios covering the actions in the Perekop area in the Crimea in 1941
  • Two new scenarios covering actions in Narva Estonia in 1944
  • One new scenario covering an action at Cassino Italy in 1944
  • There are now twenty-five (including variants) scenarios in total.
I am excited to say that I designed these new scenarios and David Freer polished them up for the demo.
The demo update will also include:
  • New graphics for all theatres
  • New sounds
  • Also, some code changes and scenario updates
Here is a look at the briefings for two of my favorite scenarios:
“Cassino Station”
Cassino, Italy: February 17, 1944:  The 2nd New Zealand division headquarters has assigned the 28 Maori Bn with a night-time mission of seizing the train station south of Cassino.  Behind the Maoris, engineers with Bailey bridges will move forward and repair the destroyed bridges preventing American and British armor from moving into the town and the valley beyond.  As the Maori commander can you take and hold the station?
You should play as the Allies in this scenario.  What the Maoris achieved was almost impossible and incredibly brave.
“Perekop - Across the Tartar Ditch”
Across the Tartar Ditch:  Having beaten back a Soviet counterattack on the 25th and with the villages of Perekop and Chervonyi Chaban firmly in German hands, Hansen resumed his attack on the 26th. Eager to avoid the heavily fortified position of Fort Perekop in the center of the Soviet defensive line, he attacked along the western section of the Tartar Wall on the morning of the 26th. SS Pioneers from LSSAH, supported by Stossegruppen from the 46 and 73rd infantry divisions, moved forward behind the protective screen of smoke to breach wall and seize the vital crossroads village of Armyan'sk less than two kilometers away.
Because they are in a very tight spot, my preference to is to play as the Soviets for these Perekop scenarios. 
“Nobody wins at Komarovka” an AAR
“Holding Komarovka” is a short, very bloody scenario that makes either commander choose between bad tactical options as they try to win the battle.  In my opinion, this battle is more interesting to play from the German side.
Scenario briefing:
Komarovka, Estonia: 5th March, 1944. (Scenario Size: Regiment. Head to Head or Human or either side vs AI) The German army is retreating across Estonia to the strong point of Narva and it's medieval fortifications. In early March, the III SS Panzer Corps is fighting a series of rearguard actions as the defensive line is fortified behind them. At Komarovka, 10kms east of Narva. 6 Coy II Bn of the 47 SS Gren Regt is conducting a reconnaissance in strength with a platoon of Tiger I tanks from the 502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion.  The new II battalion commander Major Alfons Rebane is leading the probe when they run into the forward elements of a mixed force of Soviet rifle infantry and armor from the 2nd Shock Army.    Complicating matters, the lead Tiger has run out of gas just outside of the village. Rebane, a native Estonian, decides to hold his ground against the Soviets until the Tiger tank can be removed to the rear.  His plan is to occupy the old German defensive positions here and hold them indefinitely.
Turn 1:  The Soviets close very quickly.  The disabled Tiger is in the village and the remaining tanks in the platoon have fanned out south of the village to provide a screen of the main road, while Rebane’s Company 6 gets into position.
Turn 5: The Tigers are holding steady as the Soviet forces converge on Komarovka from two different directions.  Soviet troops are in the outskirts of the village.  Four T-34s are destroyed by a combination of the Tigers and some “off-board” artillery support.
Turn 10:  By Turn 10 the pressure on the objective is building. Rebane’s HQ unit is under the threat of overrun by 8 T -34s that ultimately pass them by.  Visibility is worsening and so the dug-in German units to the south are forced to move into range onto the small bluff behind the village.  I have two Tigers left.  The immobilized tank that made this village suddenly significant is in flames.
Turn 15: Rebane’s done his job, sacrificing his infantry platoons to save two Tigers, six field guns and slow the Soviet advance while the defensive line behind him is stabilized.  It doesn’t feel like a victory though, as he retreats on the final turn for Narva, while the remnants of two of his platoons are surrounded.  
Rebane’s successful defense of the village, gives him a major victory at a heavy cost.  Soviet losses are even higher.
The final battlefield screen:

Monday, August 12, 2019

Command Ops 2 Tip: Rest your units in cold weather and maintain supply

Cold weather and massive Russian attacks that encircle units are things to worry about in “The Korsun Project” data pack.

How weather impacts rest

You might not know this, but the weather in Command Ops is a gameplay factor beyond visibility, air availability, and movement; cold weather can impact a unit’s ability to recover from fatigue.  So, on the Eastern Front, where cold weather is likely, and prolonged periods of fighting are the name of the game, resting your fatigued units over longer scenarios is critical.  What’s more, resting them in the rear, urban areas is a must.
From the manual:

“Whenever units are stationary and either resting, defending or waiting, their fatigue will reduce. Resting troops recover fastest. In cold weather, your troops will recover faster in urban terrain.”

Admittedly, in shorter scenarios, fatigue is less of an issue.  But in longer scenarios, where time is measured in days; accumulating fatigue impacts almost everything a unit can do, so keep the cold in mind as your unit fatigue levels rise from prolonged combat and have a plan to withdraw formations from the line to rest whenever possible.

At Korsun, initially finding urban terrain for resting though will be hard to do for the Russians, as most units will start in open terrain and any urban areas they enter will be in or near the combat zone and make effective rest nearly impossible.  German commanders, however, will be able to cycle troops in and out of the frontline, sending them kilometers away to relative safety.


Maintaining supply is another critical task for battlefield commanders.  In the screengrab above, Russian units are encircling German formations at a frightening pace.  You will find as the German commander that keeping your supply lines open or moving units back into supply is a full-time job and something I believe you need to micro-manage and not leave to the AI.  

1) To see units and their supply lines, mouse over “Cmd” in the bottom toolbar until it says: “Display lines.” 

2) Next, click on the button to change to “Sup.”  This will display supply lines from bases to units in the field.  Red lines indicate a unit is out of supply and green lines indicate a unit is in supply.

If you see red lines, consider moving the impacted units as their inability to receive supply will soon become an issue.

Keep in mind though, this supply line report is not real-time and may contain hours old data. 

From the manual:

“Also note that the status is not necessarily current. It is based on the time the supply line was last determined for the units. This may be several hours old and the situation may now be different – eg. it may show as open but now it is obvious they are cut off. (The reason why current data is not displayed here, is that the processor load to determine the different supply routes would slow the game down inordinately.)”

Having fresh supply data will prove critical for planning purposes and strategic decisions, so make sure you have it before you make a major move.  

At Korsun, I have struggled to keep my supply lines intact in the longer scenarios where more Russian forces are brought to bear.  Perhaps the main reason why is that Russian unit density per square kilometer at Korsun is higher than any other Command Ops scenario that I have played and the terrain is relatively open, which makes blocking every Russian thrust forward nearly impossible.  

Looking ahead

I am getting closer to releasing the second and third scenarios from “The Korsun Pocket Project.”  They are:

“Konev Feints” – A fictional scenario set on Jan 22, 1944.

“Konev Attacks” – A historical scenario set on Jan 25, 1944, detailing the 389th’s defense of the German line.

To play the first scenario, “Lang’s Challenge,” please go here on STEAM or download this scenario directly from dropbox here.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Command Ops 2 Tip – Play slow

Revisiting the Battles for Normandy using Bie’s excellent ‘XXX Corps’ Right Pincer”

I learned something interesting about Command Ops 2 recently, that I never really appreciated despite logging 400+ hours on the STEAM version of my game (admittedly a lot of that time is devoted to designing scenarios). 
Playing scenarios over many in-game days at regular speed builds a nervous tension that can be palpable and hard to replicate in any other digital wargame that I have played (CMANO, Flashpoint do a good job of this too).
For one thing, slower play causes you to absorb the game rather than react to it. You can see units’ fatigue rise as the fighting progresses, you watch units suffer casualties, fall low on supply or not move fast enough for your liking.  That slower cycle also gives you time to evaluate what is happening and plan accordingly, which is really the strength of this game in my opinion. 
Command Ops 2 also has an effective night and day dynamic, with the darkened screen and fewer visible units when the sun sets.  Just imagine a nail-biting scenario in Normandy after the Allied landings. You are the German commander, entrenched in Bocage country waiting to receive a massive attack. You can’t make decisions about the disposition of your troops because you are waiting for dawn and some decent visibility. Time drags on and the tension rises.
Which brings me to a free scenario worth downloading…
“XXX Corps’ Right Pincer”
I am playing a final D-Day scenario, in honor of the 75th anniversary, made by “Bie” in the CO2 STEAM workshop called “XXX Corps’ Right Pincer,” covering the four days of fighting in Normandy from Jun 10-14, including the Battle of Villers-Bocage.
I recently played the John Tiller Software’s Panzer Campaigns’ scenario for Villers-Bocage, enjoyed it greatly but found it less satisfying because it didn’t come close to the historical result and was less tactical than the Panzer Battles game (which I also played but didn’t blog about).
This CO2 scenario is a zoomed-out view of the same battle, same real estate and encompasses more time. The scenario designer “Bie” has done an amazing job with the map. The graphic tones are perfect, and the detail finely given. He has also created new terrain types not in the original game like “Bocage.”

The screenshot above shows my German defensive line at the start.  By the end of the first day, the extreme left objectives will phase out and the new German objectives of Noyers, Point 213 and Villers-Bocage will appear on Day 3. 

By Day 2, the attacks are escalating along my front line, and my right flank is starting to bend inward. I am shifting units from my left to my right, but my defensive buildup is slow going, as I am having to break contact, reorganize and then shift my men. I am playing at regular speed and watching attacks develop over time and the tension is building. I know how the historical attack develops and so I am cheating a little with the disposition of my troops, waiting for the historical hammer to fall. 
And because I am playing slowly my strategy expands from a handful of predetermined moves and reactionary moves, to a series of speculative moves; probes and counterattacks you wouldn’t see and be able to develop at a faster speed.

As I said, playing slowly is “new” for me, as I haven’t played at regular speed since I first purchased CO1 Battles from the Bulge.  I was always too busy to take the time, which is a real shame now that I look back at the hours I’ve devoted to the game, because the game is better when it isn’t sped up.
Back in April, I polled game speed on my “Command Ops Fan Site” FB page and realized the way I approached the game was different than most, which is when I decided to start playing the game on regular speed again.
Since then, I have played a handful of scenarios at this speed, including this Bie scenario. If you don’t normally play Command Ops at the regular speed, do yourself a favor and give this Bie scenario a chance and take your time. 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Command Ops 2 – “Lang’s Challenge” – The Korsun Pocket Project

Leading 3rd Panzer Division on the first day

This is the first scenario of The Korsun Pocket Project.  I was brought into this project years ago by Miquel Ramirez, BG in the old Matrix Forums, to help assist with the development of scenarios for CO2.  BG was one of the lead developers of the game at that time but has since parted ways with Panther Games.
The original project never got off the ground and BG’s Korsun work was essentially forgotten.  With Miquel’s permission, I have kept things alive and very slowly built upon his original map, his original establishment file and created three scenarios for CO2 fans to play.
This first scenario is titled “Lang’s Challenge.”  It portrays (I hope!) the tactical challenges Oberst Lang, 3rd Panzer Division commander on Jan 25, 1944, must have faced as he grappled with the Russian onslaught and an incredibly challenging battlefield that morning.
To play this scenario you will need to download a new map, a new establishment file, some graphic images for the scenario (signatures and SAM file), and the scenario file itself.
The new establishment file is detailed and models Russian Regular + Guard Divisions and their weaponry quite well.

The scenario briefing:
On January 23, 1944 German commanders began to observe a build-up of enemy forces in the 389 ID sector of the frontline.  Artillery barrages were called down upon the massing columns of men and vehicles and messages were sent to XI Corps HQ.   Aerial reconnaissance was ordered by XI Corps commander Gen. Wilhelm Stemmerman over the area of the buildup, but the direction of the likely attack was hard to predict.  As a precaution 8th Army General Otto Wohler, after receiving Stemmerman's report, ordered the 11th and 14th Panzer divisions into a reserve position behind the frontline. 
On January 24, Russian forces began a deliberate reconnaissance of the German lines on the eastern and western sides of the Korsun Salient in anticipation of the next day's offensive.
On January 25, at 05:00 Hrs the 2nd Ukrainian Front launched a massive attack against the 389 ID, sending 14 infantry divisions and 3 tank corps against the German positions.  The division, stretched over a 19km front, broke apart.
Desperately, German commanders scoured the frontline units for reserves, barely getting into position a battlegroup from SS Wiking and the 676 IR from the 57th ID.  The Russian advance slowed and by 10:00 Hrs (when this scenario starts), the Soviet forces have advanced only three kilometers.  In response, Front Commander Konev ordered new attacks south of the 389 ID position against the German defenses east of Ositnyazhka and Reymentarovka.
Scenario note: This action covers the German defense of this southern portion of the line by the 3rd Pz Division commander Oberst Rudolph Lang.
Lang's (your) challenge is to maintain his connection with the southern end of the 389 ID line at Ositnyazhka, while launching a counterattack in the direction of Burtki in the face of long odds.
Lang’s specific orders:
Maintain a connection with the 389 ID at Ositnyazkha.
Defend your present position.
Counterattack with the 6th Pz Regt towards Burtki in relief of the 3rd Aufklarung Bn.
Withdraw 3rd Auflarung Bn towards Reymentarovka to establish a new defensive line.
Order 106 Pioneer Battalion to prime the main road bridge at Martynosh for demolition.

This battlefield is 362.7 square kilometers.  German unit strength and Russian unit strength is evenly matched.  The weather is poor and deteriorating.  Air support is limited.
Good luck!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Re-fighting the Battle of Vimeiro

Wellington’s positioning was as good as Waterloo and Bussaco.

I’ve redesigned this battle many times using the core scenarios from the John Tiller game “Bonaparte’s Peninsular War.”  This time though, I’ve updated the map, decreased the size of the map and focused on Wellington’s positioning by relying upon the first-hand accounts of the battle rather than the JTS original setup.

I’ve concluded that even if GD Jean Junot had attacked in a unified fashion against Wellington (instead of the piecemeal fashion that he did), Wellington would have held his ground with the three brigades he had in and around Vimeiro: Fane, Ferguson and Anstruther (with Acland’s as a late reinforcement); against the entire French Army of Portugal.

Redesigning the Map

Above is the new battlefield map.  I’ve focused on Vimeiro and the eastern approach that Junot took and I did not include Ventosa Farm and the upper valley that Solignac and Brenier’s brigades blundered into.

I’ve added elevation figures on the prominent hills, added farmers’ fields, reduced the forest hexes that were on the original map, and added in labels for Vimeiro Hill and the Church which figured into the battle.

This image is the battlefield today, which hasn’t changed all that much and was very helpful to designing the map:

I grabbed this image and the first-hand accounts below from the Napoleon-series website, which has much more detail about the battle.
Re-fighting Vimeiro
I’ve created three scenarios:
1)      Vimeiro - The First French Attack:  The historical scenario featuring four different attacks against Vimeiro. 16 turns length. No reinforcements for either side.
2)      Vimeiro - Full French Attack:  This fictional scenario includes the historical starting positions, but only two attacks against Vimeiro by the regular French infantry and then the combined reserve infantry (converged grenadiers).  16 turns length.  No reinforcements for either side.
3)      Vimeiro - Full French Attack – Army of Portugal:  This fictional scenario includes Junot’s full army (Brenier’s and Solignac’s brigades are a part of the combined attack).  Both French infantry divisions + the Reserve division attack at the same time and the cavalry division is committed later in the scenario.  16 turns length.  British off-map reinforcements include Acland’s brigade because they historically protected the left flank of the British positions in Vimeiro.
Victory conditions:  I’ve eliminated victory points for killing enemy soldiers (these can sometimes wildly skew results in JTS games).  Victory points are instead assigned for securing objectives:  100 points for securing the center of Vimeiro proper and 25 points for securing the crossing over the Rio de Alcidrichella.

Wellington’s tactics at Vimeiro
Wellington is known for his use of reverse slope positioning at Waterloo.  His mastery of understanding the battlefield also extended to the Peninsular battles of Talavera and Vimeiro among others.  He often encouraged his troops to lie down to protect them from withering enemy fire (at Talavera on Cerro de Medellin for example) and he liked to position men in battlefield lowlands, hidden from the enemy line of sight (see below). He did both things at Vimeiro.
First-hand accounts of Vimeiro, mention concealment:
A Scottish soldier in the 71st Foot, which was part of Ferguson's Brigade, wrote of the fighting:
"We marched out two miles to meet the enemy, formed line and lay under cover of a hill for about an hour, until they came to us. We gave them one volley and three cheers — three distinct cheers. Then all was as still as death.
General Anstruther who commanded one of the brigades on Vimeiro hill:
"Ordered the 97th, who were concealed behind a dip of the ground, to rise and fire; after two or three rounds they (the 97th) began to advance from the position,”
Choosing the ground to meet Junot:
Reconnoitering ahead of his army, Wellington chose a good piece of real estate for a battle.  Vimeiro is on the eastern side of the Rio de Alcidrichella.  It is protected on either flank by streams and a hill (160 feet of elevation) that protects the southern and eastern approaches to the village.  Overshadowing the village on the western side of the Alcidrichella is “Hill 280” which towers over Vimeiro Hill with an additional 120 feet of elevation.  Wellington placed two brigades on Hill 280 initially, Ferguson and Bowes along with supporting artillery.
The eastern approach, which Junot historically used to attack the village was blocked by Fane’s excellent light brigade, and a battery of guns.  Anstruther’s 7th brigade was ordered to lie hidden beneath Vimeiro hill to the south in a lowland out of sight, protecting Fane’s right flank.
I’ve wondered before if Wellington could have held this ground against the entire French army with these troops.  His unit quality was higher, his artillery was well-placed and the terrain he chose minimized the danger from the larger force of French cavalry.  French unit quality was also very poor in the Peninsular in 1808.
 RELATED READING: “The 1805 Army Is Dead”

Fighting the whole French Army:
To create the final versions of these scenarios, I’ve probably played some combination of them two dozen times.  In my final play-through, I took on the full Army of Portugal.  The French AI attacked in concert, coming against the British lines multiple times before finally faltering (see below). 

Historically, the Allies (Brits and Portuguese (not part of these scenarios) suffered 720 killed, wounded and missing.  The French suffered 2,160 killed, wounded and missing.  In comparison to the historical result, it is exact on the Allies side, and more devastating to the French.
Final positions:

To download these three scenarios and the new map, please click here. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

New Mius 43 Gold scenario

I am playing Mius 43 Gold by John Tiller Software (JTS) and the Wargame Design Studio (WDS).
This free scenario uses the free Mius 43 Gold demo from JTS and WDS.
I have created a sub map of the stock Mius map that is 10km x 24km.  It focuses on the town of Alekseyevka.  I have updated the map with an additional layer of detail that was missing from the original map.
New map:

This scenario covers 48 hours of the battle that lasted more than three days historically.  It focuses only on the southern end of the GE 336ID’s line at Alekseyevka.  Two Russian divisions, well supported by stockpiled artillery and reinforced by a Guards tank brigade will cross the Mius here and assault the German line of defense; complete with mines, pillbox networks and tank obstacles.

The reinforcement schedule is manageable for both sides and includes units that were historically nearby and available to front and army commanders.  I have given each unit a 100% probability of arrival but this can be adjusted in the editor.

Both the German and Russian armies have been provided with air support.  The Russians have a clear advantage.

Artillery units on both sides have been stockpiled and starting levels of fatigue have been added to the frontline German units who have been in contact with the advancing Russian forces for months now. Casualties have also been applied to the Germans and multiple German units have been disrupted by the initial Russian artillery bombardment.
I created this scenario because I wanted to push less counters in a JTS game, while still maintaining some of the tactical considerations smaller unit micro-management provides a player.  I have combined the German companies into battalions which reduces full strength battalions from 4 counters to 1.  Reinforcements can be at battalion or company level, but are minimal for both sides. 
I have used the historical starting positions from the JTS setup and given the Soviet AI a plan.  This scenario can be played head to head.  If soloing, it is best played as the German player.

In the same folder you will also find a larger scenario that I created for the Mius demo, but not quite as big as the stock scenario.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Colonel Wittmann I am clearly not

Colonel Wittmann I am clearly not
Gaming the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

I am playing Normandy 44 Gold by John Tiller Software and the Wargame Design Studio.

Yesterday, I played the “Proving them wrong” (June 13) scenario about a half dozen times as the Axis and didn’t come close to replicating the historical result for the Battle of Villers-Bocage.  I suffered major defeats, lost half my tank strength and never inflicted more than eight lost vehicles on the enemy.  My best scenario result was a draw (I seized both objectives and held them because the Allied AI regrouped and ran out of time). 

My not reaching the historical victory of 30+ destroyed vehicles could be because of my command ability, (Colonel Wittmann I am clearly not), but I think it has more to do with the limitations of this operational game.  Wittmann’s advantages came from the application of his force on a tactical level, achieving surprise and German tank superiority.  The combination of these factors enabled Wittmann and his platoon to destroy 12+ tanks in under 15 minutes.  I barely managed 8 destroyed tanks in 10 hours.  Maybe the results can be adjusted by improving the Tigers’ even more, or by lowering the unit quality of the Allied forces even more.

That said, I played the hell out of this scenario and almost achieved a minor victory.  I just didn’t come anywhere near the historical combat result.

Some other thoughts
I am a fan of smaller scale JTS Panzer Campaigns scenarios due to my personal limitations on gaming time.

“Proving them wrong” is a short 5 turn (10 hour) scenario.  The map is 12km by 10km (postage stamp sized really), and the highest elevation points are 200m.    You can see below that the French bocage country is well represented with the graphic choices by the game designers. 

The Germans have a superior but smaller armored force (reflected in the Victory Point totals below).  Wittman’s tanks are “A” quality and 7th Armoured’s Fireflys and Cromwells are C quality.  There is no artillery support for either force.  The German infantry has an advantage in quality and quantity.

As I said, I tried this scenario multiple times and the best combat result that I achieved was when I isolated, then disordered the defensive force on Hill 213 before finally assaulting it. 
During that play-through my Tigers spent the first few hours of the battle pounding the Hill from 1-2km away (Tiger range is 2 hexes) while I moved 3.130 Abt. from Panzer Lehr into place.  The assault pictured below occurred on turn 3 and it took two more assaults to reduce the force on 213, but I ran out of time before I could secure the objective.

If I was going to play this scenario again, I would attack Hill 213 first, rather than attack the town of Villers-Bocage and Hill 213 simultaneously (this was my strategy for every play through).  

Concentrating and then attacking with that much infantry and Wittmann’s supporting tanks should yield the 50-point objective with minimal loss.

During your planning, keep in mind that Villers-Bocage is only worth 20 victory points and is vulnerable to forces occupying the higher ground west and south of the town. 

The map included within the game for this scenario has omitted the label for Hill 213, even though it was a key part of this battle.  I have added the label, and you can download the revised map file here.

You can also read the actual scenario description below:

Villers Bocage, west of Caen: The 13th of June will forever be remembered in the annals of armored warfare as the day when so few defeated so many near the little Norman town of Viller-Bocage. Elements of the 4th City of London Yeomanry, of the 7th British Armoured Division, the famed "Desert Rats", had halted for mid-morning tea after executing a left hook in the drive for Caen. Unfortunately for them they were about to face a small battle group of the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. But this was no ordinary battlegroup! This was the famous German Tiger Ace, Michael Wittman. A Veteran panzer commander with 117 tank kills on the Russian Front. Wittman was not a man to worry about odds in an attack and as he seized the opportunity is said to have stated "They're acting as if they'd won the war already. We're going to prove them wrong". [Size: mini; Length: 5 turns]

A related, much larger scenario of comparable length is the 7 turn “Caumont Gap” scenario pictured below.

I intend to play this scenario, but for my last D-Day anniversary post, I am going to switch games and share my thoughts on a user-created scenario for Command Ops 2 covering the same battle called “XXX Corps’ Right Pincer.”

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Panzer Battles Kursk - Revised Maps

A zoomed in shot of the NEW "Getting Started" scenario map.
A zoomed in shot of the NEW "II SS PzK July 5" map for the July 5: SS Attack scenario.

Maps matter to me in wargaming and are often the difference between immersion and disinterest.  Maybe I am not alone in that.

The map detail for the Panzer Battles series has been steadily improving, but the original maps for the Kursk - Southern Flank title are lacking in my opinion.  I believe that they are the original Panzer Campaigns maps converted to scale for the Panzer Battles series.

What that conversion does is create oversized villages, massive forests and other map features that don't look anything like the present day villages and woods, let alone the 1943 version of these places.

Here is a good example of the difference between a stock map and it's revision:

The stock Berezovka map.  Russian villages don't look like this.  They are built-up along the existing road nets and look like stick-like versions of these villages.  Behind Russian homes are small fields, hedges, sheds, barns, stone walls and stands of woods.  

The NEW Berezovka map.  The kilometers of  cultivated fields surrounding these villages that you see from satellite photos of the current day have been added in (these villages still haven't changed very much from the 1940s).  Tracks have been added to isolated barns and orchards.  The villages have been reduced from massive clusters of homes to homes that border roads and tracks.  Plots of land, hedges, etc have been added as borders to these villages.

This is an ongoing project, but one you can borrow from as I add maps.  To download the Berezovka, II SS Attack July 5 and Getting Started Maps go to my dropbox here.  You can just replace the existing maps in your Kursk "Scenarios" folder.

I am editing the maps of the scenarios I like first, but will eventually get to all of them.  A stickler for detail might notice that sometimes the same village will look differently on the maps that overlap.  That is because I am not going through the process of editing the big maps and recutting them.  I thought this would take longer and wanted to play on edited maps sooner.

If that's a problem for you, then these aren't for you.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

As I fumble: Graviteam Tactics: Mius Front

Three minutes into my Mius Front quick battle and this Pak-40 has it's hands full.

In case you didn't know it, Steel Division 2 is coming out on May 2.  I have been watching it develop over time and have found myself magnetically drawn to it the closer we get to launch date.  But as I fight the pull of this shiny new game, in the corner of my mind I have had a nagging feeling that I should retry Graviteam Tactics, and so I did.

It turns out I might already have my East Front tactics game, without the gamey elements of Steel Division 2 (the red territory possession line and phased combat).  And bonus: I suck at it, which actually makes me happy.

The first attempt:

Deployment on a Graviteam map might be the most important part of the game.  As you can see, my Germans decided to spread their defense of Hill 277, so I lightly defended it's flanks and summit and didn't have the concentrated firepower I needed to hold ground.  Zoomed out that kind of deployment doesn't seem too bad pre-battle, but in-game the distance between units is often the difference between success and failure.

Zug Rasch is a long way from Hill 277.  On the right flank where Rasch begins, the sounds of battle are distant.  Insect noises and bird calls fill the air and as all hell breaks loose up there, I can feel the soldiers stomachs turning as they march towards the sound of the guns.

The end result of this battle, after seven minutes, is that I realize I don't know shit about how to defend an elevated position against four tanks.  The light Soviet tanks (I think they were T-70s) overran my lines and started mowing down my units at will with nothing bigger than an HMG to stop them (even though I small AT guns nearby).

Attempt 2:

This time my Pak-40s will actually fire a shot.  I dig in the platoon with decent covering arcs atop Hill 277.  I have my mortars on the reverse slope to defend against the expected Soviet attack, my Forward Observer is up top, as well as two HMG sections and two platoons of infantry.  My StuG platoon is to the rear out of sight.

A platoon of T-70s supported by infantry attack the hill.  

The fight is well underway when I realize my reserve tanks are too far back.   

Six minutes later a Soviet T-70 is engaging one of my tanks atop the Hill.  It's immobilized right behind a destroyed T-70. Lesson learned:  don't deploy your tanks fifteen agonizing minutes behind your position.

High above a Soviet howitzer barrage.  Down in it, all hell is breaking loose.

The tactical map at 30 minutes in.  The Soviets are pinching my defense inward.

35 minutes into the battle and my infantry are still clinging to the spine of the hill.  Two of my tanks have been knocked out.  Three Soviet tanks have been knocked out (they have 10).  You can see in the distance that Burkhalter's deployment was too far back.

The end result of this battle, is that I survived longer.  I had a better defense of the hill, I actually preserved a good bit of my infantry and my tanks did do a decent job beating back the first wave of Soviet armor.  The second round of bigger tanks will finish my remaining tank off.

I don't know how to use artillery, but will figure it out eventually (I don't read the rules which is why I fumble around quite a bit). Combat in this game happens at a distance which is why remaining hidden or being well positioned is critical.  I swear that mastering the deployment map might be the hardest part of this game.

And how you ask did that Pak-40 gun do?

Next time these guys are digging in along the tree line.
It was knocked out.  In fact, that whole platoon of AT guns was.  Damn.

The good news though, I still have $39.99 in my pocket and I am going to give Mius Front another try later this week.  And because I clearly have more to learn, I can't wait to play again.

Command Ops 2: The Stolberg Corridor

Lately, I have been very interested in the fighting around Aachen and the Westwall campaign. Fortunately, Command Ops 2 has an entire modul...