I realised during a game of Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist last year (last year being the year ended last night, 2010 – Happy New Year 2011 to regular readers!) that when I deploy my beefy 120mm Mortar Platoon, I’m meant to have a Fire Control base accompanying it. I decided to get rid of some loose figures by making up the required base, plus use up some of those Italeri German motorcycles by making up bases of FAOs on motorbikes.

They were all finished yesterday – the 40 degree celsius heatwave we had here drying out the last paintwork extremely quickly. Here are some photos of all three bases together – front:  and now rear:  .

Close-ups of the Fire Control base – front:  and rear:  .

Motorcycle-riding FAOs – front:  and rear:  .

Glad to finish them…they’ve been sitting around taking up space and effort.

The figures are a mix – Italeri, Revell and Pegasus Hobbies.

The logs that the binocular-wielding FAOs are propping themselves against are worth mentioning. Regular readers would know that I choose real sticks & twigs from nature, paintstakingly saw them using a tiny sawblade and then use them unpainted in my bases and terrain. This time I decided that I couldn’t use twigs from nature as I didn’t have anything suitable in my hobby room and aren’t sure at the moment where to look for fresh supplies. Also, if I did find real twigs they were going to have to fit under the height of the raised leg of the FAO figure – even harder to ensure. I wondered if the two plastic logs supplied with the Hasegawa kit MT30 ( 31130 – GERMAN INFANTRY ATTACK GROUP) would suffice…

I dug them out of a spares box and found that the middle of the big log from that kit would be suitable! I cut the big log into two, filed its bottom so it would sit nicely on the bases and then added the rest of the features. Painting the log to make it look realistic was going to be a real challenge…wood that’s fallen is different in colour to living wood – so I used both a fresh wood base colour, then an aged wood greyish-brown and finally a drybrushing of plain grey. Then I glued some bright green flock onto one side to represent moss (you can’t see it very clearly in the photos above, unfortunately).

They turned out really well and look great in real life.

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I’m over halfway done with those Matchbox 1/76 Wespes I won on Ebay last November, plus some railway buildings I’ve tinkered with over the months. The decals for the Wespes went on an hour ago and then it’s cammo time. Next come the final fiddly details, then weathering, Dullcoting and at last they’ll be ready for war.

The setting for the second Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist game of 2010 was reasonable enough – somewhere in the Leningrad oblast during Spring 1942. The Germans had to cross a small stream and capture a major village, the Russians defend it.

As Peter and I had agreed via email prior to the game, this was to be an infantry clash. The force I chose weighed in at about 2300 PV, Peter’s force coming in at around 1500 PV.

My force was comprised of two companies; an infantry company and an infantry gun company. The infantry gun company allowed me to use the IG-18s that I worked on earlier this year on the table (onboard) while keeping a battery of 150mm FlaK 18/36s  offboard. It was a learning experience to select and account for it, as I realised in previous games I had purchased Forward Artillery Observers (FAOs) but no Battery Fire Control unit to actually follow their orders and make sure the shells were fired! This oversight was rectified and I learned something at the same time…as well as realising I have a lot of extra little modelling things to work on in the months to come, like bases to represent the Battery Fire Control staff, some more FAOs and the like.

I elected to give the gun company FAOs some wheels, so the three of them ended up in my two kubelwagens and solitary schwimmwagen. This has given me some impetus to paint up the remaining BMW R35 motorcycles and their accompanying figures from Italeri so that I can have FAOs on motorbikes, which is the cheapest motorised option for them. Anyway, hopefully the FAOs riding in cars would let them go forward and into good positions quickly so that my artillery could rain death and ensure success for my brave footsloggers.

The infantry company was the standard maximised option I’ve used before, except this time I elected to buy two FAOs on horseback to assist the 120mm mortars that I took as Support from the Battalion. The 120mm mortars were towed on the back of Opel Blitz 4X4 trucks – they had to be, they couldn’t be moved forward by hand like the IG-18s! The infantry company 81mm mortars could fire smoke shells as could my whole infantry gun company. My plan of attack was thus to use smoke where possible to blind the Russians and allow my infantry to get as far forward as possible before they might take serious losses. A rolling barrage of smoke shells with infantry advancing behind would be a textbook and perfectly historically accurate plan of attack.

All this looked great on paper. We set the board up and it looked great – see these three photos:

As Peter needed a little more time to decide how to deploy his forces, I opted to roll for the Weather.

I rolled a 3. This meant that the ground was muddy and the sky was overcast. Not great, but not terrible. I then rolled for Wind. Gale force winds heading South.

That was the end of my textbook attack. No smoke during gale force winds! Also, the mud was going to slow my kubelwagens and schwimmwagen down to the same speed as my infantry, so their benefit was nullified. They may as well have been on foot! Even my FAOs on horseback would move quicker.

Thus,the die was cast (pardon the pun). Here’s the ‘history book’ setting: after the heavy gale the previous day, a German force in the Leningrad oblast had to try to continue a somewhat stalled advance and take an important village. While the rain had stopped, the ground was still very muddy and gale-force winds continued to scour the battlefield.

Turn One – As the Germans entered from their own board edge, they immediately came under fire from 76mm artillery and from more devastating 122mm artillery. You can see this in this photo –  – that blue die of Peter’s is functioning as the centre for the 76mm artillery barrage; the radius projecting from it already chews into my ranks.

1st Platoon lost a section and it’s Platoon HQ, but I roll 10 for Morale and the rest of the infantry company are fine. All my troops do is advance. My 150mm artillery perform map fire but to no effect. As it is only firing for one round, I then have to wait three turns for it to fire on a new map reference.

Turn Two – I continue to advance. This time, the Soviet artillery causes no harm to my troops, some of whom have side-stepped out of the Beaten Zone Radius or simply kept low as they went forward  .

Turn Three –The Russians now try to call down artillery fire, shifting its position, but to no success.

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Turn Four – The Ivans successfully call down fire but only kill one German team. The Germans continue to advance, many now approaching copses which would provide some shelter  .

Turn Five – Everything happens at once!

Those in the front of the advancing German infantry forces sight onboard Russian artillery and infantry . His infantry includes some sections of PM M1910 (Пулемёт Максима на станке Соколова, Pulemyot Maxima na stanke Sokolova or “Maxim’s machine gun model 1910 on Sokolov’s mount”) which are classed as Medium Machine Guns (MMGs) in Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist. Lead sang and the Germans lost 6 teams to them, but the Germans gallantry replied with their own MG-34s (LMGs in Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist unless tripod-mounted) and manage to silence two guns . The Soviet onboard artillery tried to wipe out my 120mm mortar teams who were still setting up, but fail.

On the left, my IG-18s are still out of the battle so far but have not suffered any inbound fire . My 150mm map fire artillery have their order cancelled (otherwise I was going to hit my own troops) so they begin setting up to fire on map reference number 3.

Turn 6 – It was obvious I wasn’t going to reach either objective in time. This turned out to be both Peter & I’s fault – more about this in a moment.

Three of my four 120mm mortars are silenced by 122mm artillery. More Soviet infantry are revealed . There was small arms fire between the two infantry forces  and that resulted in the last surviving team from my 1st Platoon dying. I make a Morale test for the rest of the Company…and get a 3. Retreat.

This was pretty disappointing as the two previous Morale Tests I made were 12’s (the maximum) and I’d started off Morale Tests so well with that solid 10. Still, it was 11pm and it was logical to end the game – my IG-18s weren’t going to win the game for me, not against all that Soviet might.

What did I do wrongly?

Firstly, I purchased Smoke Grenades for each and every infantry team/base I fielded, adding some 206.25 PV to my force. Upon discovery of this (ie. when I told him that the Gale had ruined my ‘advance behind smoke’ plan), Peter pointed me to p. 13 of the rules, where it states that only assault engineers/pioneers may use smoke grenades. This was some PV that I had thought of using to instead buy some AA vehicles to add to the game…I was keen to use 20mm cannons to chew up his infantry. So, in a way I partially handicapped myself with this as I later realized didn’t really have a big enough force for the night. (I have just read that I should have 2-3 times what Peter fielded…I should have had 3000 to 4500 PV. What an addition to this PV handicap! I should have bought more offboard artillery and put troops in trucks or halftracks as well as field all 3 AA vehicles I have).

Secondly, I didn’t have a backup plan. I didn’t think I wouldn’t be able to have my smokescreen.

Thirdly, I once again deployed right into his artillery fire. However, you can never predict this, can you?

Fourthly, both Peter and I had neglected to check that the Objectives I set were reasonable. For an Attack/Defense scenario, objectives should be anywhere in the middle 40% of the board – I went and set them in the last 20% of the board. There was no way I could reach that in 10-12 turns on foot, even if not a single solitary Russian tried to stop me. A second handicap.

With all this in mind, I’m not so worried about this loss. It was effectively an impossible scenario.

Still, not having a backup plan was foolish.

On a different note, all that new scenery was displayed and garnered praise from viewers.

Here is a new thicket with an old thicket:  .

Here’s a new thicket with the river sections:  .

Here are the final two new thickets:  .

Hopefully the next game will be as soon as August, and will be an action from Kursk.

This was a return to infantry vs. infantry, but with one side being mobile…in this case, Peter’s Soviets were a Guards company and they were riding in Lend-lease U.S. M3 Halftracks.

Here’s the map, looking from East to West: Map – a kolkhoz on the very edge of the Soviet Union or a hamlet somewhere on the Eastern Front,as the Germans slowly withdrew back to Germany. Date: 1944. Nine buildings, with the roofless building with white walls (and black floor – a terrain item still being painted) being the objective for the Soviets.

A 6 was rolled for winds – Gale force winds! No smokescreens today, then. The winds were heading to the East (direction was diced for using a purpose-made polyhedron).

TURN ONE: The Guards Company came onto the board from the Northeast and immediately began deploying some artillery. Those Guards riding in halftracks quickly sighted Germans: Guards sight the enemy early

This was my Third Platoon, who had a 81mm mortar section attached to it. I needed 8’s to hit the Soviet artillery with the mortars 81mm mortar section killing some Guard artillery – I rolled a 9, a 15 and an 8 – one of four artillery guns was thus wiped out. Peter tested Morale, but was fine.

TURN TWO: The closest halftracks raced in, Moving into CQC trying to get into close-quarters combat (CQC).  The others advanced. Third Platoon got to shoot as the Soviet forces approach.

Each section in the platoon could fire a Panzerfaust 100 each turn. At point-blank range a 10 is needed, modified to 11 because my troops are Veterans. Only one of three hit; for damage, a 13 was rolled – an Immobilizing result (if I’d rolled 14, it’d be destroyed!) Panzerfaust hits! . The halftrack’s crew and passengers roll low for Morale and so bail out – the rest of the Soviets’ Morale is fine.

The Guards now returned fire Guards begin to open fire . 5 LMG bases and 8 SMG bases is a total of 58 fire factors. Peter then rolls a 4. The Germans are prone but not in cover. 4 German teams are lost.

Overall, the Germans lost 5 teams and the Soviets lost 4 teams.

The surviving squads of 3rd Platoon now test Morale – one is Shaken for 6 turns, the other is Shaken for 4 turns. The whole platoon is then tested and the result is that the whole platoon is Shaken for 1 turn, but that doesn’t over-ride the individual squads’ tests. This means the troops who count most are pinned down for a long time while the rest of the platoon is only temporarily hitting the dirt.

All Soviet Morale is fine (as is usual).

Both my mortars and his artillery fail to add to the carnage. Here’s what Third Platoon now looked like on the board: Bitter CQC severely weakens 2rd Platoon . A few individual teams plus the mortar section.

TURN THREE: I mused aloud my strategy for this new turn – Peter kindly reminded me that the M3’s had HMGs (heavy machine-guns) on them – thus I decided that Platoons 1 and 2 would stay put and wait for the Soviets to come to them…they wouldn’t leave their positions to try to assist the remnants of 3rd Platoon. 3rd Platoon commenced its forced Withdraw 3rd platoon are forced to withdraw but more teams are gunned down, including one of the two mortar teams.

I had to test Morale again for these latest deaths and it was going to be even more important I succeed, because a whole platoon of mine had now been  destroyed. I roll a 4 – the whole company is Shaken. Normally, I would botch this more dramatically – but Peter confirmed that once his AFVs come within 40cm of my troops, they would Flee. Since that would be next turn, it was Game Over at the end of Turn Three.

I did better this time – but should’ve purchased a FAO for my mortar section prior to the game. Silly oversight on my part. Overall, I’m improving.