Sunday, 4 May 2014

10mm hex based WWII AAR (updated 6th June)

As a follow-on to the recent 'wargaming on a pinboard' type posts, here is an AAR using the terrain and forces discussed in those posts (plus a couple of new items).
The rules used are my own and this post follows a playtesting session of a new scenario for inclusion in the rulebook based on an action during the Kursk campaign (Russian front) in 1943.
The post explains and discusses some of the mechanics used in the rules and highlights how quite a lot of action can take place in a relatively small gaming area.
Please note there are major additional edits added to the foot of this post.

please click on the below link to read the rest of this post.

Breaking the Line - 7th July 1943, the German 20th Panzer Division begins the day at 0600 hours by attempting to break through the soviet defences between the villages of Samodurovka and Kashara. The fighting is tough and this scenario represents a renewed German attack after a short lull in the mornings fight. The German player wins by exiting at least 3 units off the Soviet edge of the board. Any other result is a Soviet win

The game starts at 0800 hours and will end at 0920 hours. The German player is player 1.

The Germans (attackers) set up first in this scenario (in any hexes along their baseline - i.e. the bottom row). The Russians then set up and may start in any of the hexes on the board that are not adjacent to a German unit. This way, the Russians can plan their defence against a known German set up.
Above - the battlefield using the Kallistra hex system. The eight tiles are able to sit inside the confines of a large pinboard. This has the advantages that the 'tray' can be moved, so players can drag it towards them for easier access or a solitaire player who cannot reach the other side can just rotate the board during play.

System notes - The rules class terrain as either giving cover or not giving cover (i.e. except for fortification there is just one cover class) and terrain either does or doesn't block line of sight. The exception is rough and scrub, which MAY block line of sight. When a unit wants to fire through rough / scrub type terrain, a die is rolled and the result will either give or refuse line of sight on that specific occasion. In this particular scenario, the destroyed woodland also behaves in exactly the same way. The idea being that this terrain type allows for some fleeting glimpses of the enemy rather than blocking the view altogether.
Although the game is played in turns with a structured sequence of play, a game clock is also in use. At the end of each turn, two dice are rolled and this advances the game clock by that number of minutes. The clock drives events such as the arrival of reinforcements and makes the length of the game (i.e. the number of turns) a little random. Losses push down morale. When a side reaches a morale level of zero, every friendly unit must test individually to see if it falls back 1 hex. The test is a morale test based upon the terrain the unit occupies.
This makes it less likely that players will be able to do the unrealistic tactic of fighting to the last man or unit and prises units out of positions of advantage. Each loss thereafter causes the same test, tending to dissolve the fighting capability and cohesion of that side - note both sides could reach this status.

During a players Action Phase, each unit that is in command can perform one action, such as fire, move, attempt to remove a pin, remove an opportunity fire marker etc.

At the start of their turn, a player puts 1 hex into automatic command plus any two adjacent hexes to that same hex. This part of the battlefield is getting the commanders prime attention. All other friendly occupied hexes on the board must test for command. Units that are out of command basically cannot do anything except opportunity fire.

Units have low movement rates to reflect cautious movement in a dangerous environment. Everything moves just 1 hex, even vehicles, but a unit moving into an open hex that is not in an enemy line of sight can move one more hex (for a maximum of two hexes). Units on a road (not used in this scenario) have unlimited movement until they enter the line of sight of an enemy, at which point the unit stops moving.

Setting up - The Germans have a strong starting force in this scenario and they spread their units out right across their baseline to prevent creating 'target rich' hexes and to keep all avenues of attack open as possibilities to exploit. The platoon of Panzer IV's set up on the left with four of the panzer grenadier sections, no doubt signalling attack intentions to the other side. The remaining five sections set up on the right, with the MG42 HMG located in the field with the stone wall.
In response, the Soviets cover that potential line of advance against their right with the 57mm A/T gun (hidden), a minefield, a Maxim HMG and two rifle sections. The remainder of their forces cover the centre and the left wing of the battlefield that includes placing the other HMG and a rifle section in the hamlet, which has good fire lanes against enemy units trying to exit the board. The artillery observer takes position on the hill (hex A6). Below - the artillery observer is a very small base (triangular to look different) with plenty of cover, to show that they can always claim cover.
First turn - 0800 hours. German morale 6, Soviet morale 4.
Fire errupted from the German lines signalling the resumption of their attack. The familiar sound of the buzz saw (MG42) sounded out, pinning the Russian section in the hamlet, while their infantry advanced, hugging whatever cover was to hand.

Just to highlight some of the mechanisms and the turn sequence, the turn 1 descriptive will have quite a lot of detail in it.
As player 1, the German chooses which hex will go into automatic command. Hex F2 is chosen and that allows the two adjacent hexes of F1 and F3 to also be automatically in command. This ensures that the German infantry can secure the lower woods hex and that the tanks can get going. Everything else must pass a command test. The result is that only one German squad fails to get command this turn, limiting their actions to being opportunity fire related only. This is a good start for the attacker.

Next is the Action phase, in which all 'in command' units can act and the enemy will be able to use opportunity fire at moving targets. A Panzer IV starts by laying down fire at the woods in an effort to pin the enemy infantry. The 75mm gun rolls two dice when using high explosive shells and like other anti-infantry fire, will hit on a 5 or 6 if the target is not in cover and on 6 if the unit is in cover. They score 1 hit and the target is marked with a pin marker. A second pin results in an elimination, so in their Action Phase, it can be critically important for players to remove pins in preference to firing (in effect reflecting the impact of a pin by reducing unit capability).

A German squad advances from F3 into the woods at E3 and immediately a Russian Maxim HMG opportunity fires from the rough in hex B3. The HMG does not manage to cause hits, but because at least one of its fire dice was a 1 or a 2, it retains its firepower, rather than being marked with an opportunity fire marker. This special advantage to opportunity fire is only available to HMG and anti-tank guns.

The 57mm anti-tank gun in B2 cannot see any of the panzer IV's yet because the woods are blocking the view. The fields do not block line of sight but they do give cover to infantry in the summer months. The German infantry create smoke and advance one hex under its cover, they test and the player retains smoke making capacity - for now!

A panzer IV advances into E1 and comes into the view of the 57mm A/T gun, which fires. It needs 7 or less to harm the tank, but misses, however, like the HMG, it rolls a '2' and so retains its ability to opportunity fire again against further movement.
A Russian section in C2 fires into the smoke filled E2 hex, the smoke creates cover (so sixes are needed to hit), but there are two German infantry units in the hex, so it counts as being 'target rich' and so the firer gets an additional dice. The Russian section is marked with an opportunity fire counter, so will not be able to fire again until a subsequent action is spent to remove it during a friendly action phase.

On the right flank, the Germans mix forward movement with supressive fire. The Maxim in the hamlet makes opportunity fire but does not roll any 1's or 2's, so is marked with an opportunity fire counter. To make matters worse for them, their hex suffers two pins and one is allocated to the maxim. Now in their turn, the maxim will need to choose whether to remove the opportunity fire counter or the pin, they can't do both (that would be two actions and thus two turns). It is better to remove the pin, because if they collect a second pin, they will be removed from play.
A Russian squad tries to fire through the devastated woods at a German squad beyond, they test for line of sight, but don't get it, so the fire doesn't happen, though the unit is treated as though it has taken it's action (HMG and anti-tank guns would not be treated as having fired for failing such a shot). Note that panzer grenadier sections had a second LMG, so they get an extra fire dice in this game.
In their part of the turn, the Russians put C2 into command, plus B2 and D2. The Maxim HMG in the rough fails the command roll, but this is an essential position to the Russians, so they surrender the advantage chit to the German player in return for that unit getting command. The sole function of the Advantage Chit is that the owner can return one unit back into command, but they then hand the chit to the other player, for whom it has the same capability. Player two always starts the game with the chit and sometimes players would rather not use it than see it being given to the other player.

The Russians spend most of their actions attempting to recover from pin results. The 57mm A/T gun fires at a Pz IV and gets a hit, the penetration table gives a 'stun' result. A stun means the tank cannot do anything until it passes a recovery test. The Germans also lose an infantry section, this loss reduces their morale by 1 point.

Admin phase, roll two dice and advance the game clock by that many minutes.

Turn 2. time 0810 hours German morale 5 Russian morale 4.
The Germans advance, the Russian 57mm fires, misses and gets an Opp. Fire marker. Russian units at the hamlet recover.

Turn 3. time 0815 hours, German morale 5, Russian morale 4.
The MG42 scores two hits on the hamlet but breaks down in the process. HMG breakdowns cannot be fixed in the game. This loss is a blow to the German player. One of their sections makes it into the devastated woods. On the left, two panzer grenadier sections enter D2 and engage in close combat with the lone Russian section. With all those automatic weapons, the Germans get 6 dice to the Russians 2.

The Germans clear the hex and Russian morale drops one point.
A second Pz IV falls victim to the 57mm A/T gun, getting another 'stun' result.
In the Admin Phase, the clock is advanced, but doubles are rolled, so the Random Events Table must be consulted by each player. The Russians get 'a minefield is revealed' event, they place the mines in D2, where there are two German sections, both must test for harm. The one that already has a pin is hit and removed from play. The Germans get a sniper result and they hit the already pinned infantry section in the hamlet, which is removed from play. Any hits taken at the hamlet will now fall on the Maxim HMG alone.

Turn 4. time 0819 hours, German morale 4, Russian morale 2.
The Germans have two Pz IV's under stun markers and the third is out of command, so they look to the right flank to get things moving. The infantry lay smoke, but lose their smoke laying capacity in the process. The 57mm A/T gun knocks out one of the Pz IV's. Two more German infantry sections are lost, one to the maxim HMG in the rough and the other from heavy fire entering the devastated woods from several directions.
In the Admin Phase, the clock causes a scenario based event - the Soviets get another minefield to place, they put it on the German right, it does not cause immediate harm, but it is in a nuisance of a place for the German player.

Turn 5. time 0828 hours, German morale 1, Russian morale 2.
Panzer Grenadiers storm through the wheatfield to assault into C2 (below), but they are repulsed and suffer a pin. The 57mm A/T gun knocks out another Pz IV, which burns, creating smoke.
The game is paused, the German morale score has reached zero, so all German units must test for 'fall back'. Amazingly all units pass their morale checks and hold their ground.

Turn 6. time 0835 hours, German morale 0, Russian morale 2.
The Germans try to get their line back into shape by recovering from pins. Further loss is going to really strain their force. The Maxim in the hamlet, knocks out a German unit but the HMG breaks down while firing. The hamlet is now effectively undefended and suddenly looks a good prospect for the German force to exit the board via that route. HMG's are powerful weapons and the breakdown rules are there to give caution to them just constantly firing - simply because they can.
The game is paused for the Germans to once again check morale as they have suffered further loss. Two units fall back, but everything manages to stay on the board.
The 57mm A/T gun takes out the final Pz IV and once again, the Germans all test morale. Two more units fall back, the German situation is pretty dire. The Russian artillery observer calls down a strike in the fields at E7. They fail their accuracy roll, so a second roll is made to see whether the other player takes control of the deviation. They do and the Germans move the stike safely to an empty hex. As the Russians only have one artillery mission, the observer is removed from the map.

Turn 7, time 0846 hours, German morale -2, Russian morale 3
The clock brings in reinforcements for the Russians in the form of two T-34's and their morale increases by +1 accordingly. They arrive on the high ground on the Russian baseline.
Turn 8, time 0849 hours, German morale 1, Russian morale 3.
The clock brings in German reinforcements in the form of 1 x Marder II, 1 x Pak 40 A/T gun with Sd kfz 251/1 to tow it and 3 x panzer grenadier sections. Accordingly, German morale increases by +3 to make their rating 1. The arrival brings a hail of Russian opportunity fire, who fear that there will be a sudden movement towards the vulnerable hamlet in an attempt to exit the board at that location.
The 57mm A/T has to change face to fire and penalties associated with that results in a miss. The two T-34's fire but fail to 'see through' the devastated woods. However, the Maxim in the rough ground gets two hits on an infantry section, once again taking the German morale down to zero. They test and another unit leaves the board (though units falling back off the board reduces morale further, it does not actually trigger another fall back check). German fire from the devastated woods removes a dug in Russian squad from the top of the hill, further making this right flank look to have the best prospects for exiting units - however, things are looking very grim for the German player and surviving rather than exiting has the players attention.

Turn 9, time 0857 hours, German morale -1, Russian morale 2.
A panzer grenadier unit makes a dash for the hamlet, but is cut down by surprisingly accurate fire from an entrenched Russian section, once again the Germans have to test for fall back, and three units retreat. Another German unit is knocked out on the hill on their baseline and this time the fall back takes away most of the remnants of the German force, who flee the board. Without any prospect of achieving their victory condition, the German player has to concede defeat.
Conclusions. I like the game that these rules give (though as they say, self praise is no recommendation). They seem to give a decent game with a strong narrative. With the latest revision being specifically written for the smaller hexed battlefield, the relationships between the various sub-systems and scenario are not put under strain and it is surprising how much action in different parts of the board can be squeezed out of such a small playing area.
Clearly the scenario needs some tweeking, but that is what playtests are for. The Germans did suffer some unlucky die rolls (especially from their strong infantry sections, that could have performed better with that extra LMG that they carry) and the Russian 57mm A/T gun had hot dice throughout, though the A/T gun was well placed to start off with and perhaps the avenue of attack chosen for the Panzer IV's was somewhat uninspired and a choke point.

The extra minefield being revealed (random event) was a nice touch, as a character of these battles was the problem of German forces regularly stumbling into minelfields, which were thickly sown at Kursk. The early loss of the MG42 was felt by the Germans as this fire base should have been able to free up the infantry sections to concentrate on moving forward and over on the left, the failed attempts of the Pz IV's to recover from their early stun results, left them as sitting ducks to the 57mm A/T gun.

So there are some possibilities to see the Germans get a better game out of the scenario as written. However, some tweaking is needed. The scenario would probably be improved if the German reinforcements arrived before the Russian reinforcements (I did originally have 4 x T-34's arriving !), to create a bigger sense of crises at the other end of the board and give the Pak 40 a better opportunity to deploy. The order of battle also needs some fine tuning.

The scenario is the longest (in game clock terms) of the five that I written for the rules so far, giving enough time for the German player to get supressive fires down, rather than simply having to race to the enemy board edge, so some more thought about prep fire or perhaps some mortar support to help deal with that 57mm A/T gun position might be a consideration.

Anyway, plenty to think about. The scenario remains an interesting action, it just needs some adjustment to help play balance.

Second edit - (dated 8th May)
Before tweaking, I decided to run the scenario again, just to see how the range of game variables influenced play and I got a much tighter game, though I still felt that the scenario may need pulling a bit in favour of the German player.
I went with a slightly different set-up. The Germans put 5 rifle squads on the left flank and the Panzer IV's in the centre this time. In their set-up, the Russians responded by putting the 57mm A/T gun in the centre of the back row (next to the trees) and putting a minefield to the left of the devastated wood.

This proved to be a clever deployment of the mines as it meant that to advance, the panzer IV's had three options. (1) go left onto the hill, but the change of facing to get there would offer their weaker flank armour to the 57mm A/T gun. (2) go through the minefield, but suffer a potential stun result, which would leave them as sitting ducks. (3) attempt to go through the devastated woods - but vehicles have to pass a die roll to enter woods, so they could potentially get snarled up.
Going through the woods turned out to be the lesser of the three evils and so that is what they did and there was some snarling up as expected. But what a very different game to before. The 57mm A/T gun opened fire as opportunity fire. It missed and also failed to retain its fire. One of the Panzer IV's replied with high exlposive, needing a 6 to hit. they rolled double 6 and took the anti-tank gun out altogether. Suddenly the way seemed open for the Germans to exit 3 units off the map in the centre.

There was mild panic in the Russian ranks. Their artillery observer on the hill brought in off board artillery fire against the tanks, which had no effect. Then the 0820 hours, a scenario event gave the Russians a minefield, which they placed ahead of the tanks.
This forced the lead tank to instead close assault an emplaced Russian section in an effort to by-pass the mines. In close assault the Russian rifles get 2D6, plus they count as being in cover (they are hit on sixes only). The panzer IV only gets 1D6 and did not attack from cover (they will be hit on fives and sixes). To make matters worse for the Germans, the Russians rolled against their Molotov rating and passed, so they got an extra 1D6 for that. The dice got rolled and the Russians did not suffer any hits, but the tank got one hit.

As close assaults generate pin results via hits and pins cannot effect armour, all such hits in close assault against tanks are converted into anti-armour attacks, as though a panzerfaust type weapon had attacked from cover - the tank got lucky and 'only' got a 'stun' result. This meant the tank could not do ANYTHING until it recovered - not even falling back in a failed close assault or fighting back when the Russian section carried on the close assault in their part of the turn. This is what happened and the panzer IV, now a sitting duck, was destroyed.

Whilst all of this was going on, the Germans lost five rifle sections to other fire and their morale crashed to zero, causing a fall back check. The MG42 retreated off map and one of the panzer IV's dropped back a hex, everything else held.

On the left flank, the Germans had been pushing hard and were close to a breakthrough, so despite their low morale, this game was getting tight. As the game clock moved to 0849 hours, the two Russian T-34 reinforcements arrived on the map and immediately deployed on the map behind the rough ground, to block the German threat (see opening map for layout - repeated below right).
In the following turn, The German player got reinforcements, which moved their morale up into positive territory, but the T-34's knocked out the Marder II and one of the panzer IV's, again crashing German morale, forcing two more German units to retire from the board.

It was at this point that I realised I had a rule oversight, the rules did not cover what happens if a firer's line of sight passes through more than one 'rough type' terrain feature (hooray for playtesting), which I have now clarified as being always blocked by a second such hex.

 Anyway, from certain angles the T-34's could not be seen, but neither could they see the enemy. Over the course of the last few turns, both T-34's suffered stun results and then one was knocked out.

The Pak 40 had deployed onto the hill (row E) and the last surviving panzer IV was getting flank shots against the T-34's. So things were still looking possible for a German win, but the Russians had managed to stall the advance for long enough - the game clock timed out and in reality, it would have taken a few more turns for the Germans to get on the Russian baseline.

The game took a couple of hours to play and was actually more exciting and tense than the first game. Some starting positions changed, but the real difference was that the Russian 57mm A/T gun was taken out very quickly. In the first game, it dmanaged to destroy the entire platoon of panzer IV's. I will keep the tweaks smaller and run the game again and see what comes out of that.

The session was also useful for adding bits and bobs to the rules and clarifying some points, so that cycle of rule improvement continues. By the way, Russian morale was sitting at '1' by the end of play, so they were getting close to fall back checks and that could have seen off the Russian tanks, as I had left them on the baseline ..... Doh!

Third edit (dated 9th May)
I have made the following changes to the scenario, ready for a re-run.
German positive - they get an 80mm mortar plus observer and their morale goes up to 7. The mortar may be too much and might need reducing to a 50mm mortar. They are a fickle weapon. The 80mm gets two fire dice but any roll of '1' puts them out of ammo for the game, so their use needs to be carefully considered. The increase in morale is made by the formula of force size adding the mortar causes this increase, but it is also welcome in this scenario, as the Germans do appear to need some help with their morale rating.

German negative - to represent the casualties from heavy fighting earlier in the morning, three of the Panzer Grenadier rifle sections are being swapped out for three standard rifle sections. The difference is that these units will have two rather than three fire dice.

Soviet positive - they get an extra off board artillery fire mission, but retain the use of a single artillery observer.
Taken together, these will increase the historical flavour of the scenario, while the effects will be gentle enough not to push the tweaking too far too fast.

LINK - here is a link to the scenario as it stands at the moment

Fourth edit (dated 4th June)
The updated scenario as reported above has been played again. However, a month on and play also benefits from some rule changes as well, with the result that I had a tighter and more interesting game than previous runs.

The Germans changed their setup again. This time the Pz IV platoon were on the far right flank and the reduced sections (new feature) were placed there as well. I did wonder whether this was a good idea since I wanted the main thrust to be on the right, but I also wanted the left flank to be a potential breakout point and keep the Russians fully tied up, so the full strength panzer grenadier sections and the mortar went to the left flank.
The Soviets responded by putting mines and the 57mm A/T gun opposite the German tanks and supported this with two entrenched sections and a HMG in the hamlet. The other flank had a Maxim HMG in the rough as this had previously proven a good location.
The opening turn saw instant action of action. The German HMG in the walled field fired at the 57mm A/T gun, getting a pin result. The first Pz IV also fired at the gun, hoping to see it off, but without effect. The pin made it harder for the 57mm to give effective fire and so the second Pz IV decided it was relatively safe to move forward. This is a common tank tactic, part of the platoon would engage the enemy while the other part advanced, in leap-frog fashion ........ THUD, despite the pin marker, the 57mm got a shot off that knocked out the moving Pz IV. The third German tank decided to hold back and fired on the gun, getting a further pin result, which removed the anti-tank gun from play. The way seemed open for an advance on this wing.

The whole German line got to row D and then stalled as the Russians were too strong for the Germans to risk leaving cover. Two close assaults to clear the woods on the left failed. This time, the Germans decided to halt and use some of their time allowance in this scenario to put down some good prep fire. In previous playings of the scenario, the German player had not taken advantage of the time available on the game clock to do this.

This went well and the Soviet morale level starts to fall away. I repeated the mistake of leaving troops on the back line, so that when the first enforced fall back checks came (as Soviet morale collapsed to zero), a couple of units left the board. The Soviet left had dissolved, there was nothing to stop the Germans pushing in that sector, but on their other flank, Soviet infantry were dogedly defending against a strong Panzer Grenadier attack.

A Pz IV and two infantry sections were pushing for the board edge on the right in front of the hills when the two Soviet T-34 reinforcements arrived. They had a real dilema as to where they could be placed. With the Germans about to exit, they needed to get into fire positions but that either exposed their flank to other units or would make them have to test for entering woods (which might fail to bring them on) or brought them adjacent to German units, which would likely destroy them in the subsequent turn.
In the end, they chose to come on behind the rough ground in the hope of getting some cover. The Soviet infantry in the woods manage to get a pin result on the panzer grenadiers in A6, this was the only thing that could have stopped the germans exiting 3 units in their next turn and it worked, giving the Russians breathing space. They also roll sucessfully to enter the woods with one T-34, so that they had a line of sight into the critical parts of the Russian baseline that the Germans were using to exit from.

The game felt tight, it really could have gone either way, but in an instant, it all unravelled. A Marder II in E1 had been over looked by the Soviets and it fired across the fields into the flank of the second T-34 (below photo - left tank), destroying it. This triggered a Soviet fall back test and their two remaining units in the woods (A4) failed their morale and were forced to abandon the board - the Germans won at 0905 hours, with 15 minutes of clock left to spare.

I thought I would continue the game as though the Marder had missed, just to see what would happen next as things were so tight. The T-34 turned within the hex to fire back at the Marder and despite the penalties for turning before fire, knocked it out - this caused the German morale to hit zero and resulted in a fall back check. The German infantry on the small hill failed and they fell back one hex, taking them away from the Russian baseline and providing real respite for the Russians.

In desperation, a lone Pz IV (the other was out of command - Doh, what a moment for that to happen) fired on the T-34 in the hope that a knock out would trigger another fall back check, taking the Russians off the board - but this last German shot of the game failed to do any harm.
The Soviets in their part of the turn removed a German infantry section from play, which triggered another fall back morale check and this time most of the German units fell back. The Game clock advanced beyond the end of the game time (which was 0920) and the game ended - in version 2 (the play-on), the Soviets just managed to stabilise the line in time.

This was a very tight game. As can be seen, two quite different outcomes just depended upon whether that Marder II was going to knock out the T-34 or whether that duel would see off the Marder and collapse German morale. I like the way these little nuances show up so regularly in the game and adds to the sense that a lot of exciting play can be made to happen in a small space.

Overall, I am much happier with this scenario now and the way the rules are shaping up. I will run the scenario again this Friday night in a face to face game, giving my opponent the attacking side.

5th Edit (final edit to this post) 6th June
Tonight we played this face to face. Mike took the German attackers and immediately threw me by splitting his tank force. Two to the left flank and one to the right. I could only cover one of those threats with my anti-tank gun and likewise my one and only minefield would only block one avenue of approach. The face to face aspect did also allow me to use hidden set up for the anti-tank gun.
Our first game collapsed fairly early, Mike could barely roll a six and his forces were gradually ground down to morale breaking point by my forces that rolled well, including one 3D6 attack (artillery mission) that produced three sixes - ouch!

We halted play and set up again. This was just one of those rare games that will just falter simply through critically bad die rolls. This was particularly peculiar in this game because most of Mike's forces could roll 3D6 being panzer grenadiers with their extra LMG. However the 'typical' game should see enough openings to keep things fluid, so I am happy that this example is something of a 'one off'.

The next game was very tense and another playing that went down to the wire. The Russian HMG firing from the hamlet, broke down and the anti-tank gun was destroyed after only knocking out one tank. Russian morale collapsed at 0831 hours (the game started at 0800) and most of the remaining units failed their fall back tests, dropping back onto the baseline. Another test soon followed and two bases retreated off the board.

The Russians had just one unit remaining in play. For any chance of victory that unit had to hold out until 0845 hours, when the reinforcements would be released. The game clock ticked slowly from 0831 to 0837 and then to 0843. Each clock die roll held me in suspense as I so desperately needed my 0845 reinforcements ....... but it was too late, the Germans were ready to exit the board and did so on the turn that the reinforcements arrived (Germans go first as player 1).

Again the scenario went close to the line, though this time the reinforcements did not get the chance to save the day. Anyway, it was an enjoyable game and there were several times that each of us held our breath, such as when my artillery was dicing for accuracy against a rather packed wood hex, or at the end when advancing the game clock and it's nice to see these moments of emotion enter the game to keep things both exciting and tense. Both games together only took a couple of hours to play.

I feel this scenario is now working as intended, giving a fair representation of the action that inspired it. It can be signed off and added to the rulebook. I just have to go through the same process with scenario 4 - 'Tigers at Minsk' and everything should be just about ready. Thanks to everyone who has followed this rather long post.


  1. Hello there!

    Found your blog via a post over at TMP, must say its been a fascinating read. Are you planing on making the rules you used for this AAR available, either commercially or for free? They sound most intriguing.

    Regards - Russ

  2. Hi Russ, thanks for posting. I have hit a bit of a crossroads with the rules, they do have a commercial potential but at the is stage, I am more inclined to get them out as a free download. They are pretty much ready to go, but I would like to get the scenario support and some artwork finalised - but things are close. The rules have been around for some time in their various guises, so they are fairly tight and hopefully, I have edited out any ambiguity.

    1. Good show. I shall look forward to being able to have a gander. Your pinboard posts have been quite inspiring, especially for someone like me that has enjoyed WWII gaming but has been a bit jaded of late and have been looking for a fresh take on the period.

  3. Updated 8th May with a second playing of the same scenario.

    1. Really enjoying these reports, Norm. Please keep posting them. Have you thought about naming your rules yet?

      Also, what do you think it will take for the Germans to be able to win this scenario? To me the report seems to suggest that they are up against it and need a good run of dice to get through.

      Regards - Russ

  4. I have finally had a chance to read it (and after the 8th May update at well. It does all come together quite nicely. The board and the figures look fantastic, and the rules seem to play very well. With a smallish amount of forces, I think some luck of the dice can drive the game to seem more grossly unbalanced than it is (possibly the early loss of the HMG in the first game and you mention the loss of the Russian ATgun in the second), but (as you are doing) nothing a bit of playtesting does not fix and it seems the scenario is close to becoming balanced already.

    Well worth the effort on your behalf and much thanks for posting your journey. I even dug out my ten year old grid based WW2 rules and now have a(nother) backburner project to use them, my existing 6mm collection and put together a "travel pack"!

  5. Russ, the rules are called Into Battle. The scenario is meant to reflect the grind of getting through defensive belts at Kursk, so the uphill struggle feels right. Reducing Soviet forces will not work. I have done a few tweaks (see third edit), the most important being the consequential increase go German morale.

    Thanks Shaun, with your wide experience of rules and systems, I would be interested on your views once the rules are ready (soon). The travel pack sounds interesting. A TMP'er was doing something similar recently.

    1. I would not say I have that much experience in rules although I have played a lot of ancient ones! For ww2, I have read a lot of them, played a few and do have a list of 20 or so I am planning to play over the next few years. I do really enjoy seeing the mechanisms that authors apply to simulate battles. I can see some interesting one already in your AAR. Reminiscent of other games occasionally but it is really how they are applied that is important and it looks as though you have brought it all together nicely. And I really like the morale rules! I should be able to fit in a play of two of them when they are ready.

      I have seen the travel pack thing on TMP, and Bob's portable wargame. As I mentioned in a previous post, I jump from a 4x5 grid to a 8x8 grid and cannot make up my mind! Until I do, it may just have to wait. Leaning towards 8x8 although 6x8 (as per your setup) is looking like an excellent choice too.

    2. Shaun, I have a representation of the battle of Prokhorovka that can be played on an 8 by 8 grid (with 6mm figures) using my "Hurrah Stalino" rules.

    3. Norm, I'll be interested in seeing the results of the May 9th tweak played out. I agree that weakening the Russians is not the answer.

    4. I think I looked at Hurrah Stalino a little while ago. They are 1 stand = 1 company/battalion? I haven't managed to get myself interested in playing at this level yet. I much prefer a battalion a side in total (figures/stands are a squads/platoons), and am actually working my way down to enjoying a lower representation company a side! But thank you for pointing me to the rules and a scenario,

    5. They are indeed. These days I too find myself drawn to the 1:1 scale games of the kind Norm is working on. I started at that scale with the old WRG micro-armour rules and I have sort of come full circle representation-wise. Norm's AAR jelled far more with battle accounts I have read about than any of the 1 stand = a platoon/company/battalion (take your pick) rules that I have come across including (unfortunately) my own. Hence my interest here.

  6. I have added a link to the 9th May update to my Dropbox so that readers can see where this scenario design is up to.

  7. I have added a 4th June update to the blog, which gives an AAR of the revised scenario.

    1. Norm, I find myself nodding in agreement with your notion that you can have exciting battles in small spaces (though I'm biased as I live in a bungalow too). I think the narrative of the battle is far more important than its size and I would be inclined to argue that the small space battle can produce a more potent and involved narrative than big table play.

      To illustrate my point, I have been involved in Napoleonic battles with upwards of 4000 figures on 20ft+ long tables and, to be honest, you spend so much time pushing lead around and waiting for the other guys to have their go that you lose the thrill of watching an engrossing story unfold before your eyes.

      It was very interesting to see how the outcome of the battle hinged on a single engagement and I liked that you continued play just to see what would happen and got a different outcome. Looking forward to another edit as a result of Friday nights game.

      Regards - Russ

  8. Russ, I like the sound of that 4000 figure game. I have played the face to face game and made a 5th edit - all very interesting. I was a bit bothered about the failed game but i think all things can be subject to the extremes of particularly bad rolling, but the replay showed that for the most part, an 'average' game would deliver fairly consistently.

    I am really enjoying these rules and hopefully thet are close to being 'ready'.



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