El Alamein Mini-Campaign 2 – Push for “Woodcock”

We played our second battle in our El Alamein Flames of War mini-campaign last night. We have brought forward the last battle to next week on account of my mate being interstate for a work conference.

Background

On the night of 26 October 1942 elements of the 2nd Armoured Brigade was ordered to circle north around an area of resistance known as “Woodcock”. They would then strike south while the 2nd Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps would also attack the point. The units were moved forward under the cover of darkness. Unfortunately the lack of light made going slow and units lost their position. By daylight, however, Commonwealth forces continued with their orders to take the point and regroup.

Battlefield and Mission

I selected the mission Breakthrough for the scenario. The objective would be the large hill opposite the canyon through which the road leads. My mate (the attacker) would deploy in the quarter with the canyon and I (the defender) in the other two quarters without the objective.

The Forces

01 - German Force

German (all proxy again, except the Panzer III Ns)

HQ with two Panzer III Js (late)

Three panzer platoons with three Panzer III Js (late), except for the two Panzer III Ns (one a piece in two of the platoons)

One Flak 88 with extra crew.

06 - 1st Armoured Division

British (yes this is the image from last time, just imagine a Hurricane IIC is also in it)

HQ and two heavy armour platoons each with three Shermans

Light armour platoon with three Honey Stuarts

Hurricane IIC limited air support

Order of Battle

I deployed the Flak in one quarter near the central line on the long edge and one platoon of Panzers behind the building and scrub in the other quarter, the rest of my force had to be kept in reserve. My mate put down two platoons of Shermans, including his HQ, and his Honey Stuarts in the canyon, the last platoon of Shermans was kept in reserve.

The battle began at dawn and under the cover of darkness only movement occurred. One platoon of Shermans moved up the road while the others swung around the cliffs. The Honey Stuarts stayed put, likewise the immobile Flak 88. My Panzers moved up ready to strike.

Turn two and day broke and with the sun’s rise so came the roar of Hurricane engines as a full sortie was successfully called in on my Flak 88. Thankfully no reserves showed up for the British. The Shermans moved up again and the command platoon took out the Flak 88 before the air strike hit. The other Sherman platoon knocked out one Panzer III. My Flak’s command team survived the bombing run and I just kept his head down. I also scored no reserves, much to my dismay. My Panzers opened up on the Shermans and actually managed several hits, but all were saved with ease. I stormtroopered them back to lead the Shermans on.

Turn three and still no British reserves, but the Hurricanes returned, this time swooping for my Panzers. The Shermans continued to move up and the command platoon opened up its machine guns on my Flak command team to no effect. The Sherman’s shooting was equally ineffective and I thought I’d get out of the turn ok, but then the (single) Hurricane blew up one of my Panzers and the final tank lost his nerve and reversed out of there. In my turn I managed to score some reserves and I decided to come in to swoop at the side of the Sherman platoon that’d emerged from the canyon. I scored a single hit which managed to bail a Sherman. Not good.

Turn four and the Hurricanes stayed away, but the final Sherman platoon arrived and drove straight onto the objective, which was to be expected. The Shermans and Honey Stuarts moved up across the field. My mate ignored the Flak command team this time, but the Sherman platoon that had just pivoted opened up on my Panzers – knocking out two of them. The Stuarts, unsurprisingly, did nothing. My turn and some more Panzers arrived, but by now it was too little too late. I couldn’t get in range and what little shooting I put into the Shermans in the centre of the field missed its mark.

Turn five and the British had secured the objective. Another crushing defeat for Axis forces in North Africa.

Aftermath

It was an even worse showing than the last battle for the Axis, having only managed to bail a single tank in two separate turns. My force distribution was quite poor and I really should have run two larger Panzer platoons, rather than three small ones. I think fielding my air support would also have been a better choice than the Flak – I’d have interceptor capability and good tank knock out power (especially because my mate tends to group his tanks closer than I do). Still, it was a good game if for no other reason than it was visually awesome. I really do love my desert board and the view of tanks rolling across the desert and flaming wrecks exploding is really quite fantastic.

Next Time

Next time the points go up again, but we’ll be running “just everything” lists. This means my mate will have four Churchills which don’t actually fit into the Heavy Armoured Company force organisation chart, but hey, it’s for fun and he’s already won the campaign anyway! I’ll have to give more careful consideration to what to field, but I might see about cracking open the box of Plastic Soldier Tigers I picked up last weekend…

 

Our next battle is next Wednesday (2 March 2016), but then it’ll be a drought till late April because my mate is off to the US for a holiday. I’ll be busy painting things though, so you might see some of that, otherwise look forward to the next mini-campaign which I plan to be three games of Bolt Action set during Operation Barbarossa! Happy wargaming!

 

 

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El Alamein Mini-Campaign 1 – Counterattack from Hill 28

Welcome to the first of three battles in a Flames of War mini-campaign my mate and I are doing. It will be an escalation campaign with force size increasing in each battle. Our theatre of operation is North Africa with our battles set during the Second Battle of El Alamein, which took play in late October and November of 1942. The battles will be loosely historical based, by which I mean I’ve selected mission types and objectives that are in line with the order of battle, but no attempt has been made to ensure terrain and force composition is accurate. And please excuse some of the photos, quality wasn’t so great this time round.

Background

24 October 1942, the previous night the Allies initiated Operation Lightfoot – the first stage of the Second Battle of El Alamein. Infantry were sent forward first under the cover of darkness to clear laneways through extensive Axis minefields through which the armoured divisions would attack. Over the course of the day this operation continued, but mine clearing was taking longer than expected and significant resistance was encountered. At dusk the 15th Panzer Division and Italian “Littorio” division mounted a counter attack from a feature known to the Axis as Hill 28 and engaged the 1st Armoured Division in the first major tank battle of the Second Battle of El Alamein.

Battlefield and Mission

I selected the Counterattack mission from the Flames of War rulebook for this battle. This mission calls for deployment in opposing table quarters along the long table edges, with the defenders reserves entering the battlefield from the long table edge of the table quarter diagonally opposite the defenders deployment zone (so the one adjacent the attackers deployment zone). The 15th Panzer Division’s objectives are either of the two ridges on the opposite side of the battlefield.

Forces

05 - 15th Panzer Division

15th Panzer Division (everything bar the Panzer III Ns are proxies)

HQ comprised of two Panzer III Js (late)

Three Panzer platoons comprised of:

1st – Three Panzer III Js (Late)

2nd – Two Panzer III Js (Late) and a Panzer III N

3rd – Two Panzer III Js (Late) and a Panzer III N

06 - 1st Armoured Division

1st Armoured Division

HQ comprised of thee Sherman IIIs

Two heavy armoured platoons comprised of three Sherman IIIs each

One light armoured platoon comprised of three Honey Stuarts.

Order of Battle

The 1st Armoured Division deployed one platoon of Shermans at the back and centre of their line and the second platoon on their right concealed behind the ridge. The Sherman command platoon and Honey Stuarts were held in reserve. The 15th Panzer division positioned one Panzer platoon front and left (next to the scrub), the second back and right (behind the hill) and the third front and centre the with command platoon behind it.

 

We, or rather I, made a fantastic mistake right off the bat. Probably because of how much Infinity I’ve played (where the player setting up first is almost always going first), my mate (the defender) went first when it should have been me (the attacker). Whoops! I’ll say more about this mistake in the aftermath, but I don’t think it really would have altered the outcome of things everything else remaining more or less as it was. The battle taking place at dusk, my mate rolled for night and the light held. The Sherman command platoon rolled on from reserve while the other two platoons shifted forward. The command platoon fired on the Panzers on the German right flank, knocking two out and seeing the other one reverse and high tail it home. Then on the left two more Panzers were knocked out, but this time the third stayed put. Meanwhile in the centre, two Panzers bailed but nothing went boom. Not a good start for me!

In the German turn, only one bailed Panzer remounted (but I forgot protected ammo, which likely would’ve seen the other remounted). I then rolled for night and the darkness descended on the battlefield. I was hopeful that I would be able to use the cover of night to advance more cautiously and force my mate to come to me. My Panzer crew’s night vision was, however, as bad as the shooting of those who actually could see. I did manage to bail a couple of Shermans in the centre, but it wasn’t much consolation for a brutal turn one. I Stormtrooper my command platoon up, but have the rest hold.

British turn two and the Command platoon moves up to set up a nasty pincer move. The Shermans on the British right stay put but the ones in the centre remount and move up a little. Thankfully the cover of darkness, poor shooting and Krupp steel saw my remaining Panzers through the turn safely. I decided to pull my one Panzer on the left back with the intention of repositioning to the centre. My other Panzers moved forward, with all tanks now remounted – I was aware of the danger of the pincer, but figured the aggressive move was worth the risk. Unfortunately my bad run of luck continued. My command platoon couldn’t see past the end of their main gun while the other platoon hit what Paddy shot at.

Turn three and the Stuarts showed up. They were wholly irrelevant however and made their way towards the unguarded objective, which is all that needs said on their behalf. The Command platoon moved up and the platoon on the British right swung toward the centre too – the Bulldog’s jaw was now poised to bite down on my Panzers hard. In the centre things went pearshaped with the Shermans blowing apart my command platoon, the other platoon remained intact though. The other Shermans failed to spot any targets.

In my turn I pulled what was probably an illegitimate move, but hey, all my stuff was going boom and the day was clearly ended badly for Germany so it didn’t bother us. I moved my Panzers in the centre in and through the Shermans in the centre to open up rear armour shots for two of my tanks. The lone Panzer moved towards the centre through the scrub. My Panzers in the centre opened up and managed to destroy a single Sherman. Germany: 1, Britain: 7 – oh dear.

Turn four and the Bulldog’s jaw closed. On the British right the lone Panzer is blown sky high after I forgot to Stormtrooper him the turn before. In the centre the Command platoon helps out the centre platoon by taking out one Panzer while the central platoon out the final two Panzers.

24 - End game

Aftermath

In the actual counterattack that took place on 24 October 1942 some 100 tanks were deployed by the Axis and by the end of the attack over half were destroyed with no ground gained. Our battle most certainly replicated that!

While we did make some errors, notably me having the Defender go first, my rolling was pretty atrocious throughout the game. I also kept forgetting to Stormtrooper things, which is something I’ll have to remember for next time.

That said, however, we both enjoyed the battle immensely. I think the best part was probably the visual spectacle of it all. I am really pleased with how the board turned out and the scene of wrecked tanks littering the desert was just fantastic.

Our second game is in two week’s time and will see the 2nd Armoured Division engaging the 15th Panzer Division while circling the point known as “Woodcock” in a breakthrough mission. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this AAR and look forward to the next one. Happy wargaming!

 

Desert Board

My mate and I are kicking off a three game El Alamein Flames of War mini-campaign this Wednesday. I’ve got myself into gear to do up some desert roads and an 1800mmx1200mm desert board.

Simple stuff: sheet of 1800×1200 MDF (I think it is 6mm thick, I forget). Glue on sand and sealed with watered down PVA. Wasn’t the greatest idea sealing it because it warped fairly significantly. When I painted it, however, it dewarped quite a bit. I used a base of chocolate brown interior house paint and made sure the coat was pretty comprehensive. The second coat is a desert yellow colour that was mixed to match Tallarn Yellow (I think that was what it was called, an old GW paint). The second coat isn’t comprehensive and is deliberately patchy to let some brown show through. Both the first and second coat were done with a small roller. The last coat was a bone white colour (again, all the paint used is interior house paint because it’s much cheaper than craft paint) drybrushed on.

End result looks great and my terrain blends in well with it – although it isn’t quite perfect because the brown I’ve used in my terrain is noticeably redder.

Although the painting process saw it dewarp quite a bit, I still need to flatten it out completely. To do so it is facedown in my garage (my garage has been converted into a room so there are carpet tiles). I’ve gone over the back with a damp mop over which we’ve placed towels. Then on top of the towels are sheets of MDF (600×1200 x3 so the whole thing is covered), then an upside down table then a rather weighty amplifier. Hopefully that should flatten it out sufficiently over the next couple of days.

Look forward to the El Alamein AARs in the coming weeks. It will be my DAK (Panzer company) against an 8th army heavy armoured company.