Tuesday, 11 May 2021

WWII Scenario book - Forgotten Battles.



Forgotten Battles from France to Germany, January to April 1945, covers 23 hard fought actions on the western front at the end of the war. Written by Peter Heath and published by Anschluss Publishing.

Described as Module 2, it is the first scenario book to follow the release of Peter Heath’s WWII rules called ‘The War on the Ground’, but the scenario book is not specific to his rules and with a current popularity in various rules at this level, there will likely be broad interest in them.

The rest of this post will cover my initial impressions of this Perfect Bound 88 page module and include an overview of a small infantry / artillery action. Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post. 


Firstly I should say that Peter Heath gifted me this scenario book in recognition of a piece of work that I did for him. It is therefore the first time ever, I think, that I find myself writing on this blog about something that I have not paid for. However, I hope the reader will take the following comments at face value.

The book cover
Those who have bought The War on the Ground rules will immediately recognise the look, format and size of this module, though note, module 2 is a bigger volume than the rule set and the format has grown from 60 pages to 87 pages and the type font is smaller, reinforcing an initial impression that this volume is just oozing information.  

The front cover says that the module is ‘designed for all rules and scales’. That does have to be seen in the context that bigger scales will mostly need bigger tables. 

Also, in the introduction, Peter Heath emphasis that these scenarios are well researched and historically accurate rather than being particularly balanced for equalised play.

This should mean that your chosen rules should be fine with these scenarios and the only real variances will be how various rule sets ‘reflect’ the subject matter. For example, The War on the Ground rules do allow for their artillery to be used pretty much continuously if circumstances and planning allow.

The author has chosen actions in which, despite the speculated near collapse of the German army, some of the hardest fighting of the war was witnessed and in that respect, these late war scenarios should prove interesting to both sides.

The physical quality of the module is nice. The contents are black and white, printed on good paper stock and heavily illustrated. Some of that illustrative work actually presents new vehicle and troop stats that expand the War on the Ground rules, so will be less useful to other rule users.

The scenarios are grouped into three categories. There are 6 stand alone scenarios from across the campaign area, each independent of the other. There are 5 scenarios that are built around the actions in and around the town of Gambesheim. The second half of the book has 12 scenarios in Northern Germany, between Hamburg and Minden, with a focus on the area in and around Rethem. 

The stand alone scenarios follow the format of those scenarios in his rule set, that is, a decent section on the background of the battle, special rules, orders-of-battle and a map. The other scenarios do similar, but their background story line runs through as a thread between the various scenarios, with a general situation map of the campaign also included, so that the player can put each of the actions into context of the bigger picture.

For owners of the Peter Heath rules, along the way, additional rule stats are included, so there are things like the fire tables for the infantry units, such as German Marine sections and British Commando sections. In addition vehicle and gun stats that gamers have likely been waiting for, show up, such as Tiger I, Hetzer, Elefant, flak guns, Comet, Easy Eight and Chaffee etc. which are included as they are required by some scenarios.

For the benefit of all readers, there are organisational charts that show typical company structures, including 'one off' ones such as Kampfgruppe Brenner.

The immediate impression that you get when you open the book is that it is chock full of material and there is an interest to be had of just reading the various action accounts, which by their nature are written with the sort of tactical content that will grab the interest of the wargamer. At random, I have just selected this paragraph as an example;

‘It was a while before an effective way to bypass the village was found, the right hand side of the railway line, beyond the embankment providing suitable cover for 2/FF Yeo and hull down positions, beyond the range of panzerfausts, from where they could provide supporting fire for the Herefords’.

The map sizes are given in centimetres, which accord with the maps from the original rules that favour the 12mm figure scale and using a ground scale of 1 Centimetre equals 10 metres. The largest table is 120cm x 200cm, but the rest are smaller, a good old mix with 100cm x 80cm, 100cm x 140cm, 120cm x 120cm etc. The battle for Husum, which is a village fight is just 100cm x 100cm and chock full with buildings. 

There is even a 75cm x 50cm game, Assaulting the Waterworks (8th January 1945), which gives the Americans 3 infantry companies and 4 Shermans (with a special rule that off road movement may bog a vehicle) against a German force of a company of Volksgrenadiers, plus their heavy weapons company.

Just to keep my hand in with the rules, I set up a small action (scenario 14 - The assault on Strongpoint Strassengabel, 10th April 1945) on a 120cm x 120cm table that just has a company of infantry per side (9 infantry sections, 3 platoon HQ and a company HQ). In addition the Germans get a 20mm FlaK and a PaK 40 anti tank gun. 

German positions. The British enter at the top
marked 'X'.

This looks a tough situation for the British, but they do have a battery of 25 pdrs and a battery of 5.5” guns, which are available throughout the game, unlike the Germans who have 105mm guns, but they can only fire for 4 turns.

The British objective is to capture Strassengabel, a small group of buildings bounded by roads and a fence (marked above by 2nd Platoon), but with a German platoon holding it and being flanked by a platoon to both their left and right, the British will be advancing into a wall of fire! The terrain is described as open, with clear views, fields and no hedges.

The view from the woods towards Strassengabel,
occupied by 2nd Platoon and a machine gun and FlaK.
The British platoons advance from position ‘X’ onto the table edge, by platoons, but with the company HQ following up last of all. The problem for the British is that the Company HQ is needed for artillery spotting, so the sooner that can be on the table the better.

German left flank (1st Platoon) with a PaK 40 and FOO
they are dug in with an excellent field of fire.
On Turn 1, 1st British Platoon enter the table from the road, inclined towards the left flank, aiming at the flanking German 3rd Platoon. The Germans score well on their spotting rolls and the British come under combined devastating fire from pretty much the entire German company frontage and suffer very heavily.

In ‘The War on the Ground’ rules a player can get to fire twice during the turn. Also, combined fires can easily see fire power values reach the maximum strength column. By the end of this first turn, 1st Platoon have evaporated!

[all figures are 10mm Pendraken].

German right flank (3rd Platoon), dug in and closest
to the British arrival point.
Turn 2. the British bring on the rest of the company, but move towards the right, away from the harsh fire. They take some casualties, but fortunately for them, German artillery has fallen too short and to a small degree obscures their view, that mixed with poor German spotting rolls gives the British a much needed breather.

Turn 3. The British company HQ, call down artillery fire. The targets are the nearby German’s (3rd Platoon) to the British left and the building complex ahead. The 5.5” guns make an accurate hit on the buildings, but the 25 pdr’s overshoot the German flanking platoon by 250 metres and …….. the fire zone lands slap bang on Strassengabel . 

The result of this is that without further correcting, the full weight of the British artillery will pummel the buildings.

But 2nd and 3rd British platoons are still taking fire from German dug in positions to either side of Strassengabel and then to add to their misery, the German artillery starts to fall amongst them.

The entire German company frontage can hit the British
Despite the carnage that will follow the British artillery bombardment at Strassengabel, C company is so weak, with 1st Platoon lost, 2nd Platoon 'Faltered' and 3rd Platoon now taking fire, that it seems most unlikely that they will be strong enough to physically take the building complex from the Germans and with that decision - the game ends …… early!

This is a tough scenario for the British. Historically, their first attack stalled as they became pinned, but renewed, it succeeded in capturing the buildings, only for them to be ejected by a German counter-attack. ‘C’ Company eventually re-took Strassengabel in a fresh attack.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that today the British attack fell apart, though taking two rounds of fire per turn over open ground against a dug in enemy of equal strength makes me interested in how other game rule systems would fare in these same circumstances. 

For this scenario, the artillery rules are probably central to the British having any chance of getting their objective, but I felt that ‘The War on the Ground’ rules have some ambiguity / vagueness in the artillery rules and like some other areas of the rules, just need some extra text to more fully explain them. 

I quite clearly should have used the pre-game bombardment option against German positions, but I was left wondering whether the original plotted fire is subject initially to accuracy roles and therefore subject to inaccuracy even for a short part of the bombardment. Also, the rule seems to imply both that this fire is pre-game (i.e. you do not use up any game turns) and that you can fire for as long as you want. I was unclear on that, as that meant that I could simply pick a spot (say the fortified building complex) and just keep firing and firing and firing! until all the enemy were KO (knocked out) ….. surely not! But there aren’t any rules that I could find to curb such excess.

Once the game starts, spotters can call down artillery fire at the start of the turn (Turn Action Joint Phase), but it is not clear whether there is any built in delay to arrival of a barrage. The sequence of play suggests it happens in the first part of the same turn, but for Defensive Barrage (not Opportunity Barrage) the rules state that type of fire happens in that sides NEXT fire phase, but each Turn Action part of the sequence of play has 2 such fire phases and it is not clear whether the reference is to the Joint Initial Action Phase artillery action or one of the two Fire Phases in the Turn Action Phase. I am sure that the solution is perfectly simple, it’s just not obvious and leaves questions.

Due to these questions, I did not use Pre-Game Barrage and I may have got the ‘in game’ barrage sequence wrong. I’m sure that pretty much cost ‘C’ Company the game. 

So while I continue to fight a bit with the rule book, it must be said that the scenario book is rather good. Just like the four scenarios we met in the rule book, these are well researched and demonstrated, with a wide variety of actions to suit various collections, gaming space and available playing time.

It is an interesting scenario book for its own sake as a good read and the very full content is worth the cover price. Gamers that use rules focused on game systems set around company to battalion structures will find the contents both interesting and useful.

Again, I would thank Peter Heath for proving an opportunity for an early look this scenario book.

Resource Section.

An earlier post that looked at the ‘War on the Ground’ rule set. LINK

http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2021/03/new-wwii-rules-from-anschluss-publishing.html

My sister webspace COMMANDERS is being rebuilt to look at ongoing projects and series rule sets that I like. Link.

https://commanders.simdif.com


18 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review Norm and I can see these scenarios working very well for BKC, with a bit of tweaking. The 'small' table size is also very attractive and eminently suitable to mid week games on the dining table. Off now to have a look for them:)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Steve, BKC is an interesting thought. The table size in today’s battle would ideally suit, though a straight transfer in this scenario would be difficult with just a single company per side and a single PaK 40 and Flak 20mm, but it could be used as the base for inspiration and some of the other scenarios with a full infantry battalion or several platoons of tanks would certainly be worthy of consideration.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Norm, a very useful review given I am just exploring the O Group rules and wondering how I can go about finding possible scenarios for actions at this level.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, from the videos I have seen, this would be a good source for O Group. The scenarios are written as …. 1 vehicle is 1 vehicle, an infantry base is a section (typically 3 make a platoon and 9 make a company), a weapon base is a single gun etc and the ground scale is 1cm to 10 metes. I am advised that there are other books to follow, so for anyone liking them, they are likely to become a rich vein to tap.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you so much for a usefully review sir. Have a lots of 10mm British and have to try someday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Michal, another rabbit hole to be pulled into :-)

      Delete
  6. Looks like a useful book for people looking at small scale late war actions Norm - a very informative review as usual from you!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks Keith, I have not really looked much at 1945 actions before, thinking they would be too one sided, but this collection does reflect some tough fighting for the Allies.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very informative write up, not sure how they would play out in 20mm on a 6x4 but one to mull over. The actions in 1945 were very bloody at times a fact that was glossed over for the folks back home, reading "Theirs the Strife" at the moment the Germans could certainly still bite despite the inevitability of defeat.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks Phil, I must admit that looking at all of this has made me think about the futility of lives lost in those final months - not a bad thing for a wargamer to reflect upon every now and then.

    As for scale, i think infantry bases in 20mm are not hugely bigger than the 10 / 12mm scale, just fewer (but nicer) figures probably. The problem comes with those scenarios that use more than a few vehicles because of the associated footprint ……. Never-the-less, I shall try it :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Very enjoyable battle report, Norm. To me, these likely are not only forgotten battles but never heard of battles! Which rules would you recommend to fit the scale of these scenarios?

    ReplyDelete
  11. thanks Jonathan, as a scenario book, I think the gamer is getting something new and interesting.

    As for rules, I don't really have a straight forward recommendation. The new O' Group from the Lardies Reisswitz Press will be a popular solution for many, though from the videos I have seen, I am not so sure how straight forward they are, but as I have and like the other Dave Brown rules, I will likely get them at some point.

    The War on the Ground rules by the author of the scenario book should be the perfect fit, but I have struggled a bit with their clarity and some processes like remembering who has observed who can get a bit cumbersome in the opening rounds of play.

    Blitzkrieg Commander are a popular set, but they are aimed at 1 level higher of organisation (an infantry base is a platoon), so scenarios that have say a single panther that was problematic to an attacker and which tells the story etc are not straight forward to replicate without tweaking or fudging etc, but gamers usually find a way around such things.

    But anything that can handle single sections, vehicles and guns etc should work, even converting things like Squad Leader. There are of course my own Tiger at Minsk rules and perhaps this scenario book might speed up my task of converting them from being hex based to open tabled or perhaps I could use them as they are with the scenarios converted to a hex field, that would interest me.

    One of the things that my scenario replay did make me think about was that historically, despite hold ups and hard fighting, 'C' Company were able to take and re-take the stronghold, but in my game, that initial turn of fire was so powerful that it took an entire platoon out of the game. Really to replicate the situation 'C' company need some help in dampening down fire values against them or in some other way reducing the effect of fire such as allowing partial cover, depending on what rules are being used. 'C' Company need to remain viable long enough for their artillery to come into play.

    Part of the reason was that TWonG rules allow for combined fires that can put a ton of devastating fire down. But of course when I look at my own TaM rules, as I have previously stated, they best work in an environment where there is not too much firepower generated, otherwise in the first few turns, casualties are so high that the force morale value crashes through he floor and effectively ends the game early.

    So in short for me, I am not sure, but for those already supporting a rule set, they should just be able to get on with it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Norm, for the detailed response. This helps a lot. Speaking of TaM, how is the conversion hex going? I remember very well that in some of my TaM games, larger battles produced a great amount of firepower and casualties. Have you been pondering how to address this or are the rules solid as written?

      Delete
  12. The port over is initially rules as written, with conversion for measurement and the sort of changes that need to cover things like blast areas, which are not longer designated by hex and command checks, which likewise are not hex bound.

    In some regards I like the system so a port over has things I like, but increasingly I think their strength lays with a hex regime and that if going to an open table, there are better ready made off the shelf rules - Battlegroup being an example.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nice job on the overview Norm. Sounds like a nice collection of well done scenarios. And isn’t it fun to get free stuff in the mail! 😀

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks Stew, it is an interesting read with some good material. I do get offered some things from time-to-time by traders, but I generally take a principled (read possibly pompous!) stand that stuff written about on the blog is there because it has been paid for and that favour is not owed.

    However, in this instance, it was gifted to thank me for some work and sometimes I think one needs to just accept things in the spirit that they are given. It was a generous gift.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Sounds like a really good resource for late war ,no matter what system, I remember reading that the casualty rates in 44/45 were pretty much the same for the British as trench warfare in WW1, I guess it wasn't as prolonged and clear progress was being made, in light of which you can see the appeal of Market Garden can't you?
    Best Iain

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks Iain, indeed, anything to shorten the wearying war, though I suspect each of the generals wanted to be the first to Berlin, while all soldiers just want to get through the next day!

    ReplyDelete