Over lockdown, Mike Everest reached out about holding a big game in the barn. This event was a big success and got Mike back into the Flames of War seat leading to a small resurgence in former v3 players in Brighton dusting off old armies or starting new ones.
The culmination of all this was, as lockdown started to be lifted, a “breakout to the Seine” big game that, whilst fun, led to an inconclusive result (as big games are want to do).
We put our heads together and decided to try something different for the next event; a three table “round robbin” event to pit three allied players versus three Axis players over three rounds of late wargaming.
Riders and Runners
Gavin –Irish Guards Armoured Squadron
Mike – Desert Rat Armoured Squadron and Infantry Company
Nathan – M5 Stuart Tank Company and Tank Destroyer Company
Duncan – 21st Panzer Assault Gun Company and Beach Defender Company
Fez – Panzer IV/70 Tank Company
Lee – Panzer IV Tank Company
Lee’s – Breakthrough vs Gav’s Irish Guards
Gav’s force consisted of a Sherman HQ, three troops of Sherman/Fireflys, a four-tank Stuart recce patrol, a pair of M10C, a 25pdr battery and an understrength rifle platoon. The Guard’s card made the armour “unflappable” meaning they would have a last stand of 3+. The large number of 17pdr in the force certainly made me somewhat nervous, though the table offered few long sightlines to let Gav really bring them to bear.
We both elected to attack which ended up with me defending in Breakthrough. The large hill in the centre of the table made for some indecision on which two quarters as it would leave my force split but I figured the hill could be made to cover my advance into whichever quarter held the objectives. I placed the infantry in the wooded hill to give it a covered route onto the nearest objective.
The Panzer HQ and Pumas held the left flank, planning to link up with me reserves whilst the small PzIv platoon went on the right with the Ostwinds to advance onto the far objective. The Wespes went hull down on the hill on the right flank to try and disrupt an anticipated right hook through the open fields. I left space between them for the StuG ambush to appear if this became the main advance for the British (which proved to be Gav’s intent).
Gav’s right flank push fell foul of long-range panzer fire, with both the Shermans and Stuarts losing half their strength in the first volley as the StuGs ambushed. Dealing with this did leave my small Panzer IV platoon with its rear-facing the flank march reserve zone after I failed to scoot and Gav rewarded me for my incompetence by thankfully only killing one of them.
On the left flank, the Panzer HQ got knocked out without firing a shot after I failed to blitz but the Pumas and my reserve platoon were able to tie up a Sherman platoon and the M10, eventually destroying both for the cost of the two Puma and two of the five PzIV.
Gav had two chances to win the game in the sixth turn; an assault by his HQ troop versus three MG stands holding the central objective or by killing two Stugs with a single PIAT. The HQ Troop assault was a valiant effort, but the Panzerfaust infantry claimed both, leaving Gav’s force broken (we actually played one more turn before we realised that nothing was left of his main formation!)
Gav was a little unlucky with his firepower rolls though he did leave his left flank to get distracted by trying to kill my panzers. If the Sherman troop and the HQ troop had rushed the objective, with the M10C holding back my reserve unit, they may have won the game for him. Equally, failing the firepower rolls on the turn his reserves arrived saved my own incompetence in not covering for them turning up.
All in all a good game to blow the cobwebs away.
Fez’s – Free For All vs Mike’s Desert Rats
Round one saw me pitted against our gracious host, Mike ‘The Schedule’ Everest with two newly painted armies on his beautiful ‘Trains of War’ board. Both attacking, we rolled Free-For-All, which suited me fine as it was simple enough to not get in the way of my first ever game with this list!
With the almost obligatory objective in each corner, I had to choose how to split my tiny force, choosing infantry, Pumas and the Panzer Grenadiers on the left flank, and Whirblewinds and Pak 43’s on the more open right, backed by my HQ IV/70s on the middle.
First rounds went well, killing some Fireflies, but the Pak 43’s hit all three scout Universal carriers, only bailing them!
Mike’s aggressive push against my right flank paid dividends, his infantry clearing the PAKs despite being scared into sitting still for a few turns by the Whirblewinds, until the remounted Universal platoon PIAT’s and .50 cals killed them. The infantry then scared off the HQ platoon, scoring him the victory before I could get a company break on the left flank.
Lessons learned – It’s a good list, just be careful about overextending the support elements. That right flank could have done better with infantry support, freeing up the HQ platoon to put all six of the 70s on the right flank.
Meanwhile, Duncan’s game versus Nathan bogged down into a draw as the two forces ran out of steam.
Lee’s – Encounter vs Mike’s Desert Rats
Mike surprised me by opting for a manoeuvre stance which ended in us playing Encounter. Delayed, scattered, reserves! Yay!
I opted to put the StuG, Ostwnds and Infantry on the left flank as I suspected the V1 launcher would encourage Mike to try an attack there. I placed my armour, after a spearhead with the Pumas, centrally to either rush the right objective, cut off Mike making a rush down the bridge against my right objective, or reinforce the left objective. Rushing Mike’s 25pdr did not feature in my plans!
On the left flank, Mike’s infantry was scythed down by the Ostwinds, who had a great game and went on to claim a Stuart recce troop later and then stayed bailed for most of the game, eventually making an attempt to assault a bailed StuG but forced to fall back by its partner. The Carriers and their two PIATS did claim a StuG with the second eventually falling to a Firefly shot but the final one went on to avenge his fallen comrade and helped hold the line.
In the centre, Mike smoked the town to limit my fire whilst killing the Pumas, after that it descended to a game of cat and mouse between the Cromwell Troop versus my CO and Panzer platoon. Eventually, only my CO was left, and he had been de-horsed once! The AA troop made a dash across the bridge, bailing a Wespe with their 20mm guns but the Wespes returned the favour with their 105mm, with interest.
Mike’s armour formation was eventually forced to quit the field, largely due to the efforts of my CO, and, with his infantry running out of steam and no PIATS left alive to stop my approaching tank assault, he conceded the game.
This was an excellent game, probably my favourite of the three, especially the fraught tank dual in the town centre. Mike’s reluctant troops did cost him the game as he likely could have forced the left flank if his infantry would have just unpinned!
Fez’s – Dust Up vs Nathan’s US Stuarts and Tank Destroyers
Oh my, that’s a lot of green vehicles…
I chose attack vs Nathans manoeuvre‘, meaning the mission was Dust-Up, corner to corner action.
My reserves were the PzIV/70 platoon and the Pumas, leaving me to castle on the hill and objectives with the Panzergrenadiers, HQ tanks and the PaK 43s. Counting all the hedges as short terrain made anything not blocked by the wooded hill in the centre fair game to the PAK’s on the hill, however there were just so many hulls attacking!
The M10’s were a little off putting, however trusting to my hit-on-4’s and FA 9, as long as they were at range it was ok. I held Nathan off long enough to get my reserve platoon to put pressure on his unsupported engineers on his objective (Even if I did have to bum rush M10’s with a Whirblewind!).
The PzIV/70s pushed the infantry off the objective in assault… or I thought they had, except for some reason I placed the objective sideways, meaning a single infantry stand was still within 4″ denying me the win. Instead, Nathans millions of reserves turned up and we ended grinding each other into a paste with only a handful of understrength platoons being left on the board.
In a hail mary assault to get the formation break, I lost my last few stands of Panzer Grenadiers and it was another loss for the Panzer Lehr!
Lessons learnt – PLACE THE OBJECTIVE ALONG THE BOARD EDGE
Meanwhile Duncan’s beute panzers faced off vs Gav’s Guards, the latter coming out on top.
Lee’s – Counter Attack vs Nathan’s US Light Armour and Tank Destroyer
Having already beaten me once with this force, I had some concerns going against Nathan! He opted to manoeuvre and ended up defending in Counter Attack. I used Spearhead to move most of my force into the neutral quarter, risking a shot in the rear to get on the objective as early as possible. The StuGs held the right flank to protect the Wespes from any marauding Stuarts and help keep the flanks of the main force clear.
What developed was a swirling furball around the neutral objective. The Pumas, OP and 2iC were early casualties but the Panzers lived charmed lives initially, surviving long-range rear shots from the Shermans and poor marksmanship from the M10s. The Infantry, being reluctant, got pinned by Nathan’s Scotts and mortars, then slowly taken apart, playing no real part in the game.
The Ostwinds and Wespes were reduced to firing over open sights, trying to kill Shermans, M20 and Cavalry troops. Eventually, the Shermans and most Stuarts were knocked out, but at the cost of the large Panzer platoon. The M10 and remaining Stuarts were eventually accounted for by the CO, platoon leader of the small Pz platoon and the StuGs, who survived the game unscathed. Eventually, the surviving Ostwind, who kept passing his last stand checks like a (Hugo) boss, killed the cavalry patrol holding contesting the objective, winning me the game.
The terrain really forced the fight to be up close which benefited the Stuarts but brought the M10s in close, costing one platoon quite easily. Nathan got a little unlucky with 37mm firepower checks, and certainly with 3” fire, but I think shifting my force with the Spearhead put him in a tricky position that he couldn’t easily recover from.[Eddie took on Gav and managed a win, making for a good turn for the Axis side].
Fez’s – Breakthrough vs Gavin’s Irish Guards
Oh boy, three games of Flames of War in a day! Attacking against Gavin’s manoeuvre meant we rolled Breakthrough – Objectives live on turn 6!
I placed my objective on the bailey bridge, because why not? My half-tracks were scouted forward by the Pumas, with the Pak 43’s, Whirblewinds, and HQ keeping his deployed platoons in check.
Putting good pressure on the objective, I was fairly confident until the Panzergrenadiers failed to dig in, and were then shot/assaulted by the reserve Stuarts and Shermans. My favourite moment has to be the vengeful Puma; after his commander was killed by an M10, he passed his 5+ last stand to drive right into the face of the attacking M10 only to miss his 5cm shot. The return fire from the M10 also missed, even at point-blank range, leaving the Puma to again pass his last stand, then blitz broadside of the M10 and explode it! Obviously, after such heroics, the Puma left the next turn to collect his Iron Cross from HQ…..
My IV/70 platoon fell foul of a being flanked by a Sherman platoon arriving from reserves, however, the HQ managed its dreaded cross-checks to move up and put pressure on the bridge objective. A turn earlier, my whirblewinds had snuck up the right flank to press the right objective, which was good as it accidentally kept me in the game as it already turned turn 6!
The bridge fight dwindled down to Gavin throwing a hail mary, driving his Stuarts off the objective to get double side shots against my last HQ PzIV/70, however, he missed and therefore handed me the game.
Lessons Learnt: Don’t forget the mission! Where and when are the reserves arriving, what turn can you automatically lose the game if you aren’t close enough to the objectives??
Elsewhere, Duncan lost his final game versus Mike.
Allies – 4 Wins, 4 Losses, 1 Draw
Mike’s Desert Rats – 2 Wins, 1 Loss
Nathan’s M5 and M10s – 1 Win, 1 Draw, 1 Loss
Gav’s Irish Guards – 1 Win, 2 Losses
Axis – 4 Wins, 4 Losses, 1 Draw
Lee’s PzIV company – 3 Wins
Fez’s PzIV/70 company – 1 Win, 2 Losses
Duncan’s 21st Panzer – 1 Draw, 2 Losses
A clean sweep! That was unexpected.
Whilst the allied players were all relative newcomers to v4, they were old hands at v3 and Mike and Nathan had played more than enough v4 to blow the cobwebs away. I think this is reflected that all three games were close and bloody affairs; Gavin would have won but for a better assault, Mike was slowed by reluctant troops and Nathan really suffered from his M10s having dodgy sights!
The switch to a Panzer IV company seems to have been the correct move. The local “meta”, leaning to more historical forces with less emphasis on heavy armour, makes the Panther fearsome but also largely redundant. Ultimately a PzIVH can kill a Sherman or Cromwell and withstand the return fire, greater numbers making up for raw performance.
My surprise performers for the day were the Ostwinds. They reaped a fearsome tally of Infantry, Stuarts, recce vehicles and even a Sherman (to Nathan’s displeasure). The AA platoon also survived all three games which is more than can be said for the Pumas, who had one good game but after that generally died or ran at the first sign of trouble.
Going forward I’m hoping that the German bulge book may allow PzIV and PzIV/70 to be in the same company as I can see a platoon of three of those being a useful answer to the appearance of the Jumbo in the US book, plus a greater number of FA7 mediums with the M4A3(76) and Comet appearing. I may also have to get another two Ostwinds and run a full strength platoon!
Finally got to enjoy games again! What a great day, and what a fun list. The PzIV/70 really is the flat panzer of champions. That gun is amazing, just don’t let it get into a wood or make it cross a wall! All in all, I don’t think I need to change the construction, just more practice to learn what works where and how to deploy to maximise its efficiency. Patience is needed, along with precise aggression to maximise the shock and awe this list can bring.
The Panzer Grenadier Lehr platoon is actually one of the first FoW models I ever bought, so it’s great to see them back on the table after being rebased, and they are such a solid choice I’m happy they are a formation platoon.
Well… that went well…
I am really struggling with my Germans at the minute; getting the balance right and their usage in my head. I knew I wanted to use the 21st Beute StuG company, as I’d got it completed over lockdown, but I didn’t appreciate that, because of the force structure, that I would be having to pop almost the entire formation off-board should I have a mission that required reserves. This was quite a mistake as the Beute StuGs really don’t appreciate having to overly move and so they tended to not last very long in the face of aggressive Allied players.
I seem to have run into a bit of a mental block with the Germans, especially for D-Day at the moment, but that didn’t affect the fun I had running them in these games. It’s always interesting playing new people and new armies and just playing games at the moment is something to be enjoyed and to be thankful for!
Anyway… back to the Americans I guess… unless I start on those Soviets… hmmm…
Finally, a big thanks to Mike for hosting and providing Cola and Sausages, Seb for acting as the tea boy (and bringing Custard Creams; food of champions) and Tayce for providing a welcome selection of morning snacks.