Saturday, 27 February 2021
Wednesday, 24 February 2021
As expected and in reality the ill-trained FJ parachute drop came to nothing with them being dispersed and captured and the fighting on the front around Elsenborn and Monchau proving difficult for the SS units to make much progress.
The area facing the 6th Panzer Army offers a tantalizing opportunity for the SS units to break through past the US defenders on the Elsenborn Ridge to take the towns of Elsenborn and hopefully Monchau before pressing on to the next key line of Malmedy, the fuel dump on the Malmedy Road and Eupen beyond. However the US units on this front present a tough opponent with rapid reinforcement should a breakthrough fail to materialize and despite my best efforts using SS Kampfgruppe Peiper and the 12th SS to open up the main road on their respective fronts, which with Peiper was managed, the fighting to do it left no opportunity to move other units forward to secure key points.
The 12th SS attempted to break the line around Monschau with a 5:1 attack on the weakest part of the line only to have their attack aborted by a Time on Target US artillery strike on their forming up positions that completely unhinged and stopped the attack, (US artillery on the defence most commonly lowers the attack ratio by one or two levels but has to be treated with caution, as with a '1' rolled, as Steve managed, they can get a TOT barrage) whilst Peiper on the road with 1st SS failed to clear US blocking units, forcing me to throw in Panzer Brigade 150 with their disguised US armour to help the attack.
The afternoon of the 17th saw US troops pushing forward engineer battalions into key towns just behind the front line as their comrades further forward sought out blocking positions in forests close to main roads to force follow up German units to deal with them before pressing on to their key targets.
So with half the German objectives achieved in the first two days of Operation Wacht am Rhein and with the first truck loads of US Airborne troops arriving from Paris it would be all to play for on the 18th December to grab the other five key areas and hold on to them as US reinforcements are rushed forward.
Saturday, 20 February 2021
|The Battle of Trafalgar - Montague Dawson|
|One of the display cabinets about two-third full, seen last year and now with only one shelf left to take the last few models!|
|The British collection on show for Naval Wargames Day last year complete with additional brigs and sloops that will not be on the table for Trafalgar|
The scale of these models, especially when painted in the style of their historical predecessors and fully rigged really makes a feast for the eye as you take the time to scan the look of the different fleets with their own peculiarities and the line ups help to give an idea of the look of the table when all the models are out in full battle array and amid gun-smoke markers.
|From the other end of the lines with the diminutive French brigs to the right|
Trafalgar is one of those games that I think occupies a spot on the bucket list of many table-top gamers and has certainly been on mine since my first years in the hobby but I never really felt that the smaller scales were able to quite create that 'Grand Manner' look established by the late, great, Peter Gilder who epitomised that style of game with Napoleonic land battles and the pictures of his games that appeared in the books and magazines of the seventies.
|HMS Victory next to the Royal Sovereign and with the mighty Santisima Trinidad and Santa Anna just behind, stand out dramatically from the more numerous third rates|
|The penultimate group of six models are on the stocks at the time of writing.|
Finally I would like to record by thanks and gratitude to the chaps at Warlord Games and specifically Gabrio Tolentino who heads up the Black Seas project and who perhaps is responsible for the fact that a lot of age of sail naval gamers are getting into 1:700th as a scale these days, with the additions on the 3D printed circuit showing the popularity of this scale, and with the Warlord offerings of high quality and readily adaptable to scratch building and other modifications as I have shown here on the blog.
Tuesday, 16 February 2021
|The counter artwork is nicely captured in the Vassal module with the usual stats of Attack-Defence-Movement familiar in other games allowing a ratio of attack factors versus defence factors to be calculated|
The size of the game illustrates well why Vassal is such a great platform to play on, having allowed us to play about a day's action of US and German turns each evening, leaving the saved copy of the game ready for our return a week later to pick up where we left off with map and counter graphics beautifully displayed making it so easy to immerse ourselves in it.
As with all Bulge games the situation presented to both players is what it was historically with a large number of German units looking to barrel along the few roads that run against the grain of the country, namely gaps in the mountains and hills and across rivers to eventually get out into more open country before crossing the River Meuse and on to Antwerp, leaving the shell shocked American defenders to do their best to slow the Germans at those choke points to allow their powerful reinforcements time to get into position to stabilise the offensive before pushing it back.
Thus we approached the game on that basis focussing our attention on working towards those objectives whilst learning the game play as we went, which is generally how we get to grips with all our first game plays, after a read through of the rules and a sharing of our learning, and in the end we decided to play the six turn scenario (ending December 18th) which focusses on the early German drive to secure key towns (ten) together with, if possible, exiting the first German spearhead units off the map.
My basic plan to start the offensive would have to be to get my infantry on both sides of the River Our that runs along the German start line parallel to the West Wall fortifications bringing overwhelming force where possible to the US forces holding that line, ideally near to key bridges which I hoped to capture to allow my armoured and mechanised units to start to break into the American rear areas.
On the right of the German line in the red area occupied by Dietrich's 6th Panzer army spearheaded by 1st and 12th SS Panzer Divisions, the river was not an issue but here the road network up to Malmedy is more limited in the number of approach routes and with stronger US units in position with others close by ready to reinforce via Eupen and Monschau.
As it turned out, a combination of massing large attacks of four and five to one using the copious amounts of German artillery on the first day of the offensive together with my die rolls being blessed by the Devil with numerous '1's' and '2's' (low rolls are good in Ardennes'44), Steve's defenders were rapidly pushed back or destroyed on the 7th Army/6th Panzer Army Front with victory point towns of Echternach and Clervaux taken on the first day and routes opened up to three others (Ettelbruck, Wiltz and St Vith), with the capture of ten such towns giving victory to the Germans in the six turn (16th to the 18th December) scenario.
|The Germans are blessed with 'Big Cats' and Panzer Grenadiers, but you still need to get them to where they are needed in country not best suited for driving a Tiger II around.|
However the desperation built into the very planning of this offensive is well modelled as the German player discovers the limited capacity of dragging forward his artillery to support further attacks across the River Our and a limit placed on the number of artillery units able to reactivate on the succeeding days due to limited stocks of ammunition and the reduced ability to bring them forward; as well as the hold ups on poor roads in bad weather caused to German follow up units waiting to use the limited number of river crossings, and if that was not bad enough, the road blocks the US player can start to lay down ahead of German spearhead units, simulating the occasional Allied air attack or other similar hold ups.
Artillery and armour are key to German attacks in that they help shift a two or three to one attack with column shifts up to four and five to one and US units left in their wake are taken care of by the slower moving infantry and Volksgrenadier regiments who look to isolate them and attack the weaker units or cause the 'low morale/straight off the boat' units to surrender.
As my lead infantry units sought to consolidate river crossing points to facilitate the forward movement of the panzer units, I started to discover the need to push the Americans well back from them as Steve managed to blow a few bridges after I had crossed them but having failed to get his infantry further away from them, leaving them open to infiltration attacks - oh well, did I mention about learning the rules as we played!
|With German units on the road to St Vith and Bastogne and with KG Peiper in Bullingen, can the offensive keep going before the US reinforcements move in?|
In Part Two, we'll see how well the German offensive continues on into the 17th December as Steve's American front line attempts to recover from the shock and early success of the German attacks.
Next up: The Trafalgar Build project is coming to a conclusion as the last twelve models await work in JJ's shipyard and I take a look at the collection to date and further ideas about putting together a 'big game', post-pandemic restrictions on social gathering.
Saturday, 13 February 2021
|Not the greatest of years ended on a high for me, managing to get my six additional British generic third rates finished, and taking a big chunk out of the models left yet to be built and keen to get started on the French in 2021|
Generic 74's Pair One
|Jacques-Noel Sane, chief French ship designer of the era|