Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Leipzig Smash and Grab - a Team Yankee Firestorm Battle Report

So I'm currently a few reports behind on bringing over battle reports from the Team Yankee Firestorm campaign.  This is a battle report from last week that didn't quite go as planned, but we did a replay that ended up being a better game.


Preamble

Guardian Games regular FoW / TY night was bumping yet again with one TY game and two FoW games (the V4 guys have a tournament going on this weekend). I brought pretty much the same army I had last time as I wasn't able to finish my infantry in time for the game... and boy did I miss them! They would have been a big help this time around.

Ryan was out with his very balanced U.S. Mechanized Infantry force, which is difficult to dig out at the best of times, worse with NVA tanks with their fairly weak frontal armor that can be impacted by just about every hand-held American missile out there. Ryan wanted to play in Leipzig, so we went ahead and used the dust up mission for that theater, even though I'd played it the previous week. It is an entertaining mission, but I figured it would be much harder to dig out infantry.

To say that this game really didn't go to plan is a bit of an understatement, and I ended up winning the game on an oversight... which wasn't really satisfying for either of us. So we ended up rolling the game back and starting over for our second game of the night. This report covers the first battle, look out for "Return of the Mechanized Infantry!" for the far more interesting, and bloody, second battle.


PERSONAL JOURNAL OF MAJOR ERICH KRIEGLER, NVA


Despite the "violence" of our counterattack, the Americans continue to prosecute attacks in this sector and we have been unable to completely drive them back to the West German border. My orders remain clear - I am to push back any enemy forces in this region with extreme prejudice. My own forces consist of a formation of T-72 tanks and a formation of T-55 tanks with supporting anti-air, recon, artillery, and anti-tank AFVs. Our infantry still has not arrived. I asked command to send them forward with all speed, but received a terse reply in return...


My own forces are as ready as they can be, but I am concerned that American mechanized infantry is in the area. If they manage to dig in on our objectives they will be exceedingly difficult to remove. Even their hand held rockets can damage my panzers from the front, which is something our Soviet friends generally don't have to worry about.

As we move out toward a crossroads where the reconnaissance teams have reported American Activity, I'm informed the entire T-55 battalion and one of my T-72 companies are still refueling, and can't set out immediately. However, my orders are clear, I can't delay. I order the anti-tank armored car team to remain behind and cover the refueling panzers, and head out with the rest of my force.


As I approach the crossroads, I realize control of it will allow us to completely cut off the American advance in this sector. Given the Americans are coming from the southwest, there is a choke point where the key crossroads can be controlled. I set up a forward communications center and my artillery sets up its own command center. I assume that there is an American forward base in the vicinity, but I still can't see the enemy at this point. I order the Shilka battery to take up position behind a small wood, while one company of T72 tanks is prowling the area for targets. The 2S1 battery takes up position behind another wood. The recon squadron has managed to find a path behind a forest to the West allowing us greater freedom of movement.


Forward observers report American infantry in the woods near the crossroads. Blast it! Our ranging in behind the house near the choke point will be useless at this point! It looks like a Mechanized Infantry Company from my vantage point. I also have reports of helicopters in the area, but they aren't close enough to be a problem yet. I don't see any enemy armor, but I figure it is merely a matter of time before it puts in an appearance!


Just as I begin to order my forces forward to close with the American infantry, I see rocket plumes erupt from the crossroads slamming into first company's tanks! Two are destroyed in spectacular fireballs before I even know what is happening! I order first company to break off while second company begins working its way toward the objective. The 2S1 battery manages to range in on the American mechanized infantry, but from my vantage point, it doesn't seem to have been particularly effective.


Given a lack of targets, the American missiles go silent, and repeated bombardment of the American position at the crossroad continues to be futile. Local radar and SAM positions report incoming American helicopters which should be upon us in minutes. At the same time the second T-72 company indicates that the crossroads objective appears to be very lightly defended with the infantry out of place if attacked from the flank. I give them the go ahead to begin to work their way toward the objective, but to watch out for incoming fire from American helicopters as they'll be well outside our anti-aircraft umbrella.


The T-72 tanks reach the junction and open fire on the American infantry with their main guns, while they are supported by the BRDM platoon. Though an amazing hail of fire is poured into the woods, the Americans hold firm as their casualties appear to have been very light. Our T-72 tanks are in a good position, but the Americans and their APCs are still in the area.

The deep thrumming of rotors announces the arrival of American helicopters which open up on second company's T-72 tanks. One is destroyed in a spectacular fireball. Then, almost inexplicably, the American APCs move out and engage the BRDM group destroying one. The American infantry, however, does nothing...


WELL THAT WASN'T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN...

At this point we're at the beginning of Turn 3 - the NVA tanks are sitting on the objective, and Ryan hadn't realized that his infantry wasn't within 4" of the objective, so unfortunately Game 1 is over just when it promised to get interesting. My T72 tanks were in a good position, but he'd just had two helicopters pop out along with an Abrams unit. I had 3 Shilka remaining, so it would have been a dog fight from here on out - though I think we were calculating the "to hit" number for his helicopters incorrectly - I'll have to go back through the rules this week.

My lack of infantry support for this list - especially against enemy infantry - is something that continues to be a concern. Hopefully I can get them painted and based this weekend as they are close and I finally have all of their transport vehicles at least assembled.

This is also the first game that Ryan played with the new Scouts rule. It really helps out the American forces quite a bit. Originally the woods were not in the American deployment zone, and their being able to move into the woods and load it up with missile-equipped infantry created a huge zone of denial in the middle of the board.

Be on the look out tomorrow for the sequel to the battle report - the far more interesting battle where my biggest concerns about this particular list are confirmed and more tanks lose their tops than... well... if you've been to Mardi Gras you get the idea!


FINAL NOTES AND BATTLE HONORS

I thought I'd be able to push Ryan off of the objective from my position on his flank. The only thing that could hit me at that point was his helicopters, and I hoped to deal with them on Turn 3... maybe hope springs eternal, but that was "the plan" anyway. Ryan was a good sport about the mix up, and since we'd only used up about 45 minutes of time, we went ahead and rolled back and hit it again.

Anyway, since the T-72s at least did what they were supposed to do, despite trying to die like mayflies when presented with American missiles, here's a brief video on the T-72 in NVA service! Enjoy!


Friday, September 8, 2017

Blunting the Spearhead in Leipzig - a Team Yankee Firestorm After Action Report

Here's the latest from the front lines. We're entering a very exciting phase of the overall online Firestorm Campaign with the Americans being able to draw on their reserves from Stutgardt and force a breakthrough near Hof. Will they achieve a major breakthrough and open the road to Berlin? Let's find out!

Preamble

Another great evening of gaming at Guardian Games in slightly less smoky Portland, OR. Earlier in the week the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge blanketed the city in smoke and ash and even began to approach the eastern suburbs of Portland itself. Fortunately the wind changed direction, though we still drastically need some rain!

We had a total of 3 tables of gaming going on tonight with two Team Yankee games and one V4 FoW game being played. I was playing Scott tonight, who I'd played earlier in the campaign. I finally got the first 50 points or so of my DDR army together, and I mean "together" in the most tenuous sense of the word. I generally leave tracks and wheels off for painting and attach them last, so I had to use a generous helping of blue-tack to hold the force together, but it held!


We played the very new Leipzig Dust Up mission for a change of pace... so without further ado!


PERSONAL JOURNAL OF MAJOR ERICH KRIEGLER, NVA

When I first read the news I was stunned and simply couldn't believe it. Americans? Near Leipzig? Driving toward Berlin? Impossible! Sind sie verrückt?!?!?!? Do they not understand the depth of our reserves? Well if the Americans want to put their heads in the noose, far be it from me to dissuade them.

Our orders were clear!

Our plan was relatively simple given how dire the situation was - move south and intercept the American spearhead driving northeast. We should expect some support and help from the Dresden sector, including 2nd and 3rd echelon troops. I prefer my T-72 tanks, but additional panzers of any type are welcome.

Battle situation near Leipzig

I can't help wondering if our Soviet friends haven't been so focused on their Maskirovka to the north that someone forgot to close the barn door in the south. Yet our successes on the northern front have been spectacular - Denmark conquered, northern Germany in our control, gaining control of the Netherlands, and the British trapped in a pocket in the Ruhr. If we can squeeze that pocket, the British will effectively be out of the war - no Dunkirk for them this time!

However, the fact that the Americans could launch such an attack gnaws at me. We've been mauling their forces around Frankfurt since the War started. Their forces in the Fulda Gap had to withdraw immediately, where are these reserves coming from, and how did they break through the Hof Corridor? Latest intelligence indicated we'd strongly held that sector.

My own forces consist of my core of T-72 tanks with three short companies. Though we have seen victories in the north, our losses have not yet been made good. Our tanks are good tanks, but it seems our Russian friends keep the very best for themselves, none the less we can make do. My reconnaissance section of BRDM armored cars will provide valuable intelligence on the battle ahead while the Shilka should keep the American Air Force off of our backs.

I'm told when I reach Leipzig I'll be reinforced with a battalion of T-55 tanks, some Spandrel anti-tank armored cars, and a Carnation battery. Hopefully they'll be of some use in the coming battle.

While our forces are great in number, they are fragile and we must find a way to counter American mobility!

Our scouts report that the approaching American force is a small spearhead unsupported by infantry - which is just as well as our infantry is still mopping up to the north and I've been told there are no Mot-Schützen Bataillon available for this action either. Maybe it's just as well, I've been told our RPGs and other hand-held anti-tank weapons are useless against these new American tanks anyway!

The Americans use terrain to their advantage

I'm surprised the Americans are committing so much armor, but given there are few lighter vehicles for my forces to attack, I'm therefore forced to overwhelm their tanks with sheer numbers, but our armor is thinner than that of our Soviet friends. I may have to wait for reinforcement to have a chance - I fear a head to head encounter - even with weight of numbers - will go poorly...


As we deploy the horizon appears to be empty - our reconnaissance company has identified a usable road which they believe they can keep open for our reinforcements - accursed American Air Force bombed many of our main roads to rubble making transport difficult! I order one small company of panzers to support the reconnaissance element behind an agricultural field. The Amerikaner wouldn't try to come through those dense woods, would they?

An inauspicious start!

Mein Gott! Those American panzers move through the woods like deer! Before I know what is happening, they're on top of 2nd Company and two panzers are knocked out with the remaining one badly shaken! One of our BRDM scout vehicles is also blown into next week by long-range fire. Their gunnery is excellent, and if this level of mobility in the forest is any indication, its no wonder they managed to outflank us with a large contingent in the Hof Corridor! I order both formations to withdraw so we can regroup. The Spandrel platoon has radioed that they are in position, but don't have good shots at this point - I order them to hold!

New plan - everyone hide!

I order first company into the woods in front of us to cover the approach for any American reinforcements, while the lone remaining tank of 2nd company along with the surviving BRDMs make their way behind a low rise taking them out of visual range for the American guns. They lack the punch of our guns, but we lack the armor our Soviet friends have as well. The Carnation battery manages to damage an enemy panzer, but it is soon back in action.

We now engage in a game of cat and mouse with the enemy tanks, with neither side able to cause any lasting damage to the other. Our artillery manages to range in well, but their shells lack the punch to cause any lasting damage to the enemy panzers. In an effort to keep the artillery off of his back, the American commander orders our observer vehicle targeted, which is destroyed in short order.

American light anti-tank vehicles arrive and begin a run toward the enemy command post to provide static defense. My intelligence reports indicate those vehicles are extremely stealthy and even when they fire a missile at you it may be impossible to zero in on their position. If they reach the enemy command post, they will be a massive thorn in our side.

Spandrels break the stalemate!

With reinforcements finally arriving in the form of third company's T-72s, and the Spandrels reporting they have side shots on two enemy panzers, I feel the time is right to start the counterattack in earnest. The Spandrels knock out two enemy tanks, and the T-72 company begins to move around the flank.

With the loss of two panzers, the American advance begins to falter, but not before they finish off second company. Shots at third company, which had worked their way around the flank, but failed to hit any thing, destroyed one tank, but the a second T-72 managed to deflect the shot. At this point the T-55 company finally arrived and we were able to overwhelm the M1 tanks in the forest on the right flank. At this point the company commander and anti-tank unit retired from the battlefield.

The cavalry arrives!

Our brave Volksarmee forces achieved a great victory today, yet I can't help wondering if the enemy panzers have such awesome mobility, where else are they slipping through our pickets? Had this advance gone unchecked it could have been a complete disaster. So I await further orders... I will not rest until the imperialist Amerikaner are pushed out of Germany - all of Germany!


Final Notes and Battle Honors

I was a little surprised Scott decided to try an almost all tank force - of course that meant my artillery was practically useless, my Shilkas were of limited utility, and my recon force was only really useful for Spearhead... which didn't work out so well initially either. He handled his tanks quite well and was generally able to keep their noses pointed in the right direction. If I hadn't managed to get some side shots on the Abrams knocking out two of them, I think he could have played a delaying game with the six tanks and done a decent job of whittling down my force and at least achieving a draw. Given how fragile the armor is on the Volksarmee tanks, you really have to be cognizant how much return fire you're likely to suffer whenever you poke your nose out! I ended up using more movement orders (blitz & shoot and scoot) this game than ever in the past, and really felt like I had to husband the T-72s especially since they're the only tank that has a chance against the Abrams from the front!

Battle honors!

First to Scott for playing a heck of a game. I left myself wide open with deployment and he suitably made me pay for it! In terms of unit effectiveness, the Spandrels pretty much stole the show coming through with two kills and reducing the amazingly accurate fire I was starting to receive. So in honor of their contribution - here's a fun little video showing some BRDM-2 variants - including the Spandrel (okay they're Hungarian, not East German - but it's amazing to see the real thing in action regardless!).


Warsaw Pact WINS!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

An All too Hasty Attack at Amsterdam - A Team Yankee Firestorm After Action Report

So yet another batrep from the ongoing campaign - this one, well, let's just say it wasn't my finest hour and leave it at that!

Preamble

Guardian Games was hosting a Fighting First launch party today, and had three tables set up for people to come out and try the new American lists. Afterward, we'd set up for another Team Yankee game since I didn't get to try the Amsterdam mission on Thursday. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to reset the tables with European terrain, so imagine if you will the Netherlands via Algeria... it could of course be the legal recreational pharmaceuticals merely making it LOOK like the desert.

I'd promised Ryan a return match since the last game went so poorly, and while this one wasn't a mirror image of the other game, it came close in a lot of ways. I ended up being far too aggressive with my armor - forgot the range on my Shilkas - and in short made a lot of rookie mistakes. Ryan, being a capable student of military history drew upon his Bonaparte - "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." The game ended up being a 4-3 victory for the West Germans, but I picked up some slop points near the end once the game was already pretty much decided.

So in the spirit of accountability... our report follows!


Summary of the Court Martial Proceedings of Major Ivan Yakovlev

Accused is asked, "You are charged with gross dereliction of duty and cowardice in the face of the enemy, how do you plead?"

Accused pleads "Not Guilty"

Accused is asked to describe the planned attack in detail...

My armored battalion had broken through north of Amsterdam, but British, West German, and Dutch resistance was increasing and threatening to push us back out of The Netherlands. My group, on limited rest, was ordered to attack south toward Grijpskerk and Bedun north and north west of Groningen. We had set up temporary command posts at Kloosterburen and Waffrum, and it appears that NATO forces were targeting our command centers as we were targeting theirs...

Soviets attempting a deep penetration attack

Accused is asked, "What forces did you have available to you?"

Accused indicates that his total forces were three short companies of T-64 tanks, one Shilka battery, and a reconnaissance platoon of four BMP-2. His T-64 tanks were not armed with missile guidance systems, only guns. However the BMP-2 were scouting to the east and were not available immediately, and two of the three companies of T-64s were being re-armed and re-fueled when the attack order came.

Accused is asked, "Why were your forces in such a poor state of readiness? I'm told your Shilka battery failed to detect and engage enemy air power until they had already decimated your first company!"

Accused indicates that his armor had been fighting a running battle for several days and while the logistics company was working as quickly as possible, only one of the three tank companies had been readied for immediate deployment. He offers no excuse for the failure of the Shilka battery to immediately engage when they heard the rotors of the enemy helicopters.


Accused is asked to describe available enemy forces.

Accused indicates he was facing a mechanized infantry formation which was dug in near Grijpskerk while the approaches to Bedun were covered by Jaguar Jagdpanzer platoon. All of these troops appeared to be Bundeswehr. The ground forces were covered by patrolling PAH anti-tank helicopters, but it was unclear whether these were German or Dutch.

German forces in The Netherlands - don't let the terrain fool you!

Accused is asked, "You saw no other forces, no armor support? No additional mechanized infantry?"

Accused responds that he suspected that there was at least one more platoon of mechanized infantry and some armored support in the area, but no intelligence was available on the exact disposition of the enemy forces. He had hoped to secure one or both objectives before the enemy could call on reinforcements...

With limited forces, the Soviet commander tries to play a waiting game...

Prosecution states, "So you started the battle in passive positions, with your anti-air assets sitting ON their 'assets,' what, hoping the enemy would come to you?"

Accused states, "Given the strength of the enemy anti-tank weapons, I felt it prudent to conserve my forces until I could bring more strength to bear. The enemy was dug in and held excellent defensive positions, and their weapons outranged my own, to assault openly at this juncture seemed like suicide."

Prosecution states, "And yet you were already in range of the PAH helicopters, and didn't even know it! You nearly lost a company of tanks before you even moved a centimeter!"

Smile! You're on candid missile targeting camera!

The accused indicates that while that is indeed true, at this point the action seemed to turn around. The Shilka battery surged forward shooting down one of the enemy helicopters...

"After they'd destroyed one of your precious tanks!"

The accused offers no excuse, but continues, "this forced the remaining helicopter to withdraw and cover the mechanized infantry, ultimately allowing us to begin our advance."

Shilkas attempt to redeem themselves

The prosecution continues, "So the Shilka battery manages to finish off the enemy anti-tank flight, and the two tardy companies of T-64s arrive in theater. What did you do at that point."

The accused states, "At this point I believed I had enough armor to begin a general advance toward the enemy positions at Grijpskerk. Our initial advance was somewhat wary because we believed that there was enemy armor in the vicinity. However we could not be too wary because the enemy infantry was equipped with Milan missiles which were capable of defeating even the armor of a T-64."

The prosecution states, "So you were faced with a command decision, a decision an individual in your position is expected to make daily!"

Soviets begin an advance on the right flank - right into the teeth of Milan fire!

The accused offers no excuses, and is asked to continue...

"After no enemy reinforcements arrived, I ordered the three companies forward in hopes of securing the objective before enough enemy arrived to dislodge us, we managed to destroy their Milan missile teams and were ready to close in on the mechanized infantry themselves when..."

"DISASTER!"

"Yes Comrade General, disaster..."

Good sights on those Leopards, eh?

"Would you care to explain to the Court exactly how three Leopard tanks got behind all of tanks, and knocked out four of them, with one more damaged before you were able to react? Where were you during this exchange of fire!?!?"

The accused mutters something unintelligible.

"I'm sorry, I didn't hear that, will you repeat clearly for the Court!?"

"I was covering the approach to Waffrum, our entire right flank was exposed at that time..."

Prosecution states, "... but you already had radio reports from your reconnaissance team that they were on the way and could cover either flank."

"I was... unsure they would arrive in time..."

"Yet they did, and what were your orders for them?"

"I believed they could get close enough to outflank the Jagdpanzer as their side armor is weak."

"And DID they?"

"They got close enough, but..."

"Yet ANOTHER disaster???"

To quote the old Batman movie, "where does he get all those wonderful toys????"

The prosecution continues, "so you threw away a perfectly good unit of BMPs to no good outcome, leaving what? What exactly, Comrade???"

"One company of two T-64s and my own command tank," the accused replies.

"One of which is soon destroyed by the Leopard 1 platoon you've failed to dispatch."

"Yes, Comrade General, but we ultimately do destroy not only that platoon, but the second platoon of Leopard 1 tanks as well before the last company tank is destroyed by a Jagdpanzer."

The prosecution asks, "How could you let the enemy armor outflank you so readily?"

"Comrade General, intelligence had indicated that the enemy was in disarray - they had no ready reinforcements, much less that their reinforcements could pinpoint the best possible position to assail our forces from."

"Are you blaming poor intelligence for your failure of command!?!???"

The accused offers no excuse...

Revenge is a dish best served cold... but from what I hear it's not exactly "cold" on the inside of a Soviet tank...
The prosecution continues, "So yours was the last remaining tank... the last remaining vehicle... the last remaining crew out of your entire command. What did you do next?"

"Comrade General, I fell back to our command center near Leer, gave my report, and turned myself over to the appropriate authorities..."


Final Notes and Battle Honors... or Horrors in this case...

Well that didn't exactly go to plan - too cautious in the early game, too aggressive in the mid game, and too little too late in the end game. At the end of the day I'd lost well, pretty much the entire bloody force, but I'd taken out his Helicopters and both platoons of Leopard 1 tanks. I honestly thought I had at least one company positioned to where all he could get were frontal shots on it if on the off chance he rolled that "1" or "2" on his scattered reserve roll... which of course he did... and of course I'd badly muffed my armor angling as well. Ryan's luck came through again with that "5/6" roll for the second Leopard platoon, though honestly their butts were hanging out wide in the open and that was a really bad call on my part.

So now you can be the judge and convict or acquit the Major!

So at the end of the day, it was the Leopard 1 (which is one of the true unsung wonders of Team Yankee) that carried the day for Ryan (playing Zeke's) West Germans. So in honor of their contribution, here's a short video of a Leopard 1 at Samur from 2013...



Friday, September 1, 2017

Soviet End Run at Frankfurt - A Team Yankee Firestorm After Action Report

The Red Thunder Firestorm campaign has entered its third phase, and while the Warsaw Pact has made strong inroads in the north, but the advance has bogged down in other areas. Complicating matters, the Pact push into the Netherlands has met with strong resistance with NATO currently holding a slight edge in that theater. It was another great night of pushing army men around at Guardian Games, but more on that in the Preamble. If you want to go and rate the actual battle report itself, hit up the main campaign site

Preamble

The regular bunch met up at Guardian Games again last night for another great evening of Flames of War and Team Yankee. My friend Ryan (Lazarus) was there and brought some of the new T-64 tanks and some of his U.S. Mechanized Infantry. We went ahead and tried the Frankfurt Gauntlet mission, although we both had a few reservations about it - especially since he didn't take one of the new scout formations for the U.S. Turns out the mission is very difficult for a U.S. player if he or she doesn't actually have spearhead, and we'll likely be playing a different mission this weekend. As always, Ryan was a great sport and always brings his A game to the table.

Frankfurt Gauntlet Forces

American Force

M113 Mech Combat Team – (1 point)
M113 Mech Platoon – full with Dragon missile team (7 points)
M113 Mech Platoon – full with Dragon missile team (7 points)
M901 ITV Anti-tank platoon (3 points)
M1 Abrams tank platoon – 4x M1 (32 points)
M109 Field Artillery Battery – 3x M109 with bomblets, minelets, laser-guided projectiles (10 points)
M113 FiST – (1 point)
Total:  61 points


Soviet Force

T-64 Tank Battalion – 1x T-64 (6 points)
T-64 Tank Company – 3x T-62 (13 points)
T-64 Tank Company – 3x T-62 (13 points)
T-64 Tank Company – 3x T-62 (13 points)
BMP-2 Recon Battalion – 2x BMP-2 (6 points)
2S3 Acacia Heavy SP Howitzer Battery – 3x 2S3 Acacia with Krasnopol Projectiles (7 points)
BMP-1 Observation Post – 1x BMP-1 OP (1 point)
ZSU-23-4 – 2x Shilka (2 points)
Total:  61 points


Major Mikhail Tupolev’s Personal Journal

Saturday, 10 August 1985

After securing Marburg, I ordered the men to maintain and re-supply all of their equipment in anticipation of continued combat in this sector. Despite strong gains, the Americans and West Germans were still putting up stiff resistance, and our push to the Rhine and beyond has been delayed yet again. I was just sitting down to breakfast when new orders arrived via staff vehicle.


Given the urgency of the situation at the front, I had little time to say my goodbyes to the men and congratulate Alexi on his promotion. I, however, leave knowing that the unit is in good hands and that they will go on to great success.

Arriving at my unit, I realize how desperate the fighting around Frankfurt has been. A battalion of advanced T-64 tanks has been reduced to ten operable vehicles, with a further three or four in repair. While we have reconnaissance, AA, and artillery support, I'm informed the infantry was decimated in the last attack and will be unavailable for the upcoming battle. Inspection of the surviving tanks shows they are in reasonably good condition, but are not equipped with the guidance systems for the Kobra missile meaning that NATO tanks will likely still out-range my forces. Second Echelon forces are on their way, but have not yet arrived at the front.

My orders are to push through a gap between Marburg and Frankfurt, this should open the road to Wiesbaden and Mainz allowing our forces to encircle and reduce Frankfurt and its airport. We can then push on to the Rhine and into Belgium trapping remaining NATO forces in Germany in a pocket in the Ruhr with no easy source of supply.



11 August, 1985

We move out before dawn and head southwest. Our reconnaissance squadron indicates that American forces have been active in the area of Nieder-Oberrod, and that there may be a key supply dump and forward communication center in the area.

Table Layout Courtesy of Boss!  Thanks for getting in early!

As we approach the town, it appears that an American mechanized infantry company is in the vicinity, but has moved away from the town. Perhaps they had been moving out to attack our forces further south at Frankfurt? Either way this represents a key opportunity to disrupt the American rear lines and pave the way for a breakthrough in this sector. Apparently alerted to our presence, the Americans have turned around and will not simply let us waltz in to the city.

Tactical map at Nieder-Oberrod showing locations of key untis

The Battle at Nieder-Oberrod

American forces were well-deployed to cut off our advance toward the city. American anti-tank AFVs were well-hidden in a row of trees overlooking several agricultural fields. We could also barely see one of their heavy armored artillery vehicles at the edge of the woods as well. At least one company of mechanized infantry supported by four M1 tanks is poised to move into the town itself.


Our own forces consisted of ten T-64 tanks, a Shilka battery of two vehicles, a reconnaissance team of four BMP-2, and a battery of the heavy 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled howitzers. If we are able to get into the town and secure the objectives, we should be able to hold off any counter attack, but if the American mechanized infantry is able to infiltrate the town, the house to house fighting will invariably subject the flanks of the T-64 tanks to attack by infantry anti-tank weapons. We must drive to the city as fast as possible.


The reconnaissance unit leads the way for two of the reduced-strength tank companies to approach the town. I hold the third company in reserve in case the American tanks try to circle around and trap our armor in a crossfire. The improved stabilizers on the T-64 is a welcome upgrade as it allows me greater flexibility in deployment.


The Americans advance on the city, but their M1 unit splits to try and deal with the two reduced companies of T-64s along the way. The reserve company of T-64s was apparently identified by an artillery observer as rockets fired by their 155mm howitzers begin falling in our area. Fortunately no hits are scored, and it alerts me to the more immediate danger. Their anti-tank AFVs fire missiles at our formation, but the one hit scored glances off the hull of one of our tanks.

We start to move into the town to first secure the supply dump. American forces in this sector have been hard pressed over the past days, and it is unclear whether they have received any reinforcements yet. If we can secure their forward bases of operation, they will have no choice but to give ground. The reconnaissance team fires missiles at the enemy anti-tank team and observer team. The missile fired at the observer team goes wild and ends up in some trees, but one of the missiles strikes an AFV. From my vantage point it didn't appear to destroy the vehicle, but the crew evacuated the vehicle and the second vehicle withdrew.


With the enemy heavy artillery announcing its presence, our 2S3 Akatsiya battery was able to zero in destroying one of the enemy guns. Our other forces continued their way toward the town. Given the lack of American air power, I sent the Shilka battery on a flanking run to harass the enemy softskins and artillery, but now with their mechanized infantry working their way into the city, I wonder if I haven't made a poor decision.

Counter-battery fire finds its mark!

The Americans continue their advance toward the down trading shots with their Soviet counterparts, costing us one T-64 destroyed and another shaken. The battle-weary company asked for permission to withdraw, but I ordered them to hold as they had substantial support. Our forces finally make their way into the town and locate a small supply center in the north eastern zone. The sentries attempt to check our advance with small arms fire, but they have nothing which can damage our armor.


We are able to bring a couple of their APCs under fire destroying two, but it appears all of the troops make it out alive. As expected, the Americans are going to try and turn this into a city fight with their infantry taking up firing positions in the buildings around what intelligence is calling a communications center. We have to be very careful not to expose our sides to their anti-tank teams or we'll be forced out of the city.

Mechanized infantry moves in, but to AFVs are lost!

The American M1 tanks push their way into the city and open a hellish volley of gunfire. I'm certainly glad the Americans are still using the old British 105mm gun - I can't imagine how effective these tanks would be with a 120mm! A second T-64 is lost, this time from 3rd company, and 1st company takes such a pounding all three tanks are temporarily out of action. I immediately radio the commander and order them to hold at all costs, we are in a position to completely outflank the American armor if they can hold. The company quickly recovers and is soon active again.

With American infantry beginning to infiltrate through the town, the key is to eliminate the American tanks as quickly as possible, the infantry will then likely break off rather than be overrun by our forces. At this point my T-64s are in a position to envelop the American tanks, destroying three of them. The remaining vehicle flees allowing us to begin to secure the supply depot. The American infantry begins to withdraw from the town leaving us victorious.

With the loss of armored support, the American infantry begins to withdraw

While we are now in control of the town awaiting further orders, I remain concerned that we were not able to eliminate the American infantry. Our total losses were a mere two tanks, but my companies are already vastly understrength. Enemy losses were somewhat higher, but our goal is a lightning victory - not a long war of attrition. We must push on further and faster to complete the final liberation of Europe.


Final Notes and Battle Honors

This was the first time I've used the T-64 formation, and I didn't equip them with the Songster missiles. Overall I liked them - they are a bit more flexible than a T-72 because of their higher speed. There was only one opportunity that having the missiles would have come in handy on this mission - because of the victory conditions, this particular game was destined to come down to a knife fight anyway where having a lot of long-range firepower in your core units was less important.

Speaking of the mission - if you're the NATO player, you really need to have something with Spearhead, because if your opponent has it, you'll start the game with one hand tied behind your back. Even having pre-ranged in artillery isn't enough of a boost to keep Warsaw Pact forces scraped off of the objective long enough for you to whittle them down and push them back.

Ryan was an amazingly good sport during this game as his key rolls generally came up poor while my key rolls generally came up good. I'd fully expected to sacrifice one or two of the T-64 units to destroy his Abrams platoon and use the third with the commander to hold the objective and keep the infantry backed off. I benefitted from no small amount of good fortune which resulted in the 6-1 victory.

Battle Honors!

Again, this was pretty much a team effort with only the Shilka battery uncharacteristically contributing nothing to the game. While the T-64 tanks did the lion's share of the heavy lifting, the BMP-2 recon team was what 1) allowed the T-64 companies to be in a position to quickly move on the objective and 2) scored a lucky hit on an M901 bailing it which led to their early exit from the game - otherwise they were in a perfect flanking position. So in honor of their contribution, here's a video on the BMP!


Monday, August 28, 2017

Spam - or How to Max/Min your Army Without Even Trying

Once upon a time a long time ago, there was a canned meat product called "Spam," that turned out to be easy to deliver to American troops during World War II. It became ubiquitous during that conflict and its popularity continued post-war. Eventually "spam" referred to more than just the branded product and ultimately referred to various canned meat (or "mystery meat") products. Then in the 1970s, the British comedy group Monty Python took up the call...


In honor of this sketch, with the advent of the internet, unsolicited emails became known as "spam." Not to be left out, the gaming community (online and otherwise) adopted the term for any repetitive action or repetitive use of an item - usually to create some advantage in the game.

One of the beauties of Flames of War in V3 and earlier was generally players were required to build their force from a single army list. Because the force levels in any particular list were fixed, it became very hard to "max/min" lists to gain an advantage in the list creation step. This began to change in the Team Yankee rule set which permitted players to take multiple formations, and has been carried through to Flames of War V4. Now players are not limited to one or two force organizations and can instead bring, theoretically, as many as they like as long as they meet the minimum requirements for each force.


From a game design perspective, this makes it very hard to balance the respective forces. While an overall single formation list may be balanced, enterprising players will find ways to take the minimum number of points for multiple formations to maximize their firepower on the table. In general this technique is referred to as MSU, or "Multiple Small Unit" (no offense to my fellow Mississippi State University alumni!).

For example - a single unit of three Leopard 2 tanks costs 33 points. Playing East Germans, I could use multiple small formations to create the following list:

T-72M Panzer Battaillon
1x T-72M (3 pts)
3x T-72M (7 pts)
3x T-72M (7 pts)
3x T-72M (7 pts)

T-55AM Panzer Battaillon
1x T-55AM (1 pts)
3x T-55AM2 (2 pts)
3x T-55AM2 (2 pts)
3x T-55AM2 (2 pts)

...and still have 2 points to play with to use for Spandrels, AA, or recon...

While this is an extreme case (among the most expensive NATO MBT facing off against the least expensive Pact MBTs), in a larger tournament or campaign, it wouldn't be unreasonable for a player to go such a route. While it is accurate that Pact forces typically outnumbered their NATO counterparts, it wasn't by that large a degree.


In a tournament setting, such lists are often self-correcting. Because they contain many small units, they will "bleed victory points." It will be hard to get 6:1 victories because you will almost always tend to lose a few units. That being said, it will likely be easier to win with such formations, and if you're good (and fast), you may be able to stave off enough casualties to score well.

So what is the solution? Well, honestly to pose a solution there has to be some consensus that there is a problem. While you may be able to get more individual units at 100 points by using MSU, you're not going to get more space to deploy them - which means you're going to run out of space in some missions. Quantity also has a quality all its own - large units can be hard to break. So an argument can be made that one or two formation lists can be equally effective.

In the end I think we're going to need a fair amount of data to understand the actual impact of MSU on game play. I'd hypothesize that they will be more effective at small point values - especially if the opponent has taken high-priced units - than they would at larger point values. That being said, I do think we'll see some tournaments experimenting with limiting the number of formations allowed in lists.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

DDR BMP-1 OP - or - Advanced Moldeling Syndrome "Hold My Beer, I'm Gonna Try Somethin'" Edition - Part 1

It's an innocuous enough unit in Team Yankee, the BMP-1 OP. It serves as an observation post for any of your artillery units. It will pretty much sit there the whole game unless your opponent truly has nothing else to shoot at, or needs to find a way to nerf some particularly effective artillery - which is fairly rare. However, if you take a look at the stats or card for the unit, you'll notice something a little unusual:


The picture of the unit shows a normal BMP-1, though it has a few additional "dot" abilities at the top of the card. However if you look at the weapon entries, or in this case entry, surely there has to be something odd going on. There's no 73mm 2A28 gun. There's no AT-3 Sagger missile. So what's up? Well, it turns out there's a good reason that the OP version only has the machine gun armament - it's a different variant of the BMP-1.


The most common command and control variant of the BMP-1 is the BMP-1KSh (pictured above).  (EDIT:  ... and I've since discovered that the artillery units generally didn't use it, instead they had an alternate vehicle used for observation... more on that in a future blog - this baby's still getting done even if I just use it as an objective!)  You'll note it does away with most of the armament of the BMP-1, though it does retain a 7.62mm machine gun for close in defense. So I decided, "what the heck, why not convert one." I mean, after all, how hard could it be? Well, there's a reason this is called the "Hold my beer..." edition.


Using photos of the real thing along with images of a few 1/35th and 1/72nd scale kits as reference, I began to map out the project. The first thing I needed to do was remove the rear top doors and a few other details. The turret also needed to be re-worked a bit so I sanded it and then used Mr. Surfacer to fill any remaining holes. I also began work on a couple of stowage boxes (to the right of the photo above) which will end up on the back edge of the vehicle.


Once the Mr. Surfacer had time to dry I sanded it back ended up with 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper for a smooth surface. As this variant also uses the BMP-2 hatch, I got it ready to attach to the vehicle. After sanding I went ahead and glued on the turret, which is fixed in this variant.


Another key feature of this version is the very tall antenna mast which I'm modeling stowed as raised would be a foot tall or so! Some of the mast appears to be held in brackets on the top deck, so I used styrene rod and tubing to create it - capping the ends with circles punched from sheet styrene.


Once I had the ends on, I used some scrap photo-etched brass to create the brackets:


Then the fun truly began, I started putting it all together and working on some of the detailing I first had to build a small bracket for the middle stowage box (which you can just see underneath it).  I also added some tie downs for the turret itself (I've seen pictures where tarps or other bags have been attached to these - though the number and placement seem to vary greatly).


Once the mast was added to the rear deck, I began work on the front antenna. This was built with a combination of brass rod, aluminum tube, copper wire, and sheet styrene carefully punched and sanded to create brackets.


In the photo above you can even see what appears to be a winch to raise and lower the mast assembly. At this point I'm working on the last part of the forward antenna (seen in the photo below - the green putty will need overnight to dry), and I still have to build a few more detail items yet.


All that being said, this one is actually getting fairly close to being done and into the queue with the rest of the Volksarmee "stuff" which is awaiting paint. Stay tuned for "finished photos" of this fun little conversion, which has taken way too much time but I've enjoyed every minute of it.