Best of Three – Northern Front

More gaming, less organising… for me

 For the past half decade or so, I’ve been the organiser of the majority of Flames of War events up here in Scotland; not counting the excellent and enjoyable events run by D.W.A.R.F. club, most recently organised by Richard Hardy of this fine site.
 This has meant that my chances to play have been few and far between, with the few that I have been able to play in being as a ringer, or spare player, rather than a competitor. 
 But thankfully, due to the new event partnership between Breakthrough Assault and Battlefront, and the fact that Mark G. also spends a good amount of time north of the border now, means that there are more events being organised by others: a welcome change for myself.

The first of these events was Northern Front; a 100pt Mid-War tournament hosted by Games Hub in Edinburgh. Games Hub has been the home to a good number of Scottish players for a couple of years now, and it was only fair to get this excellent wee venue into the mix.
 Mark G. took advantage of the new relationship with Battlefront to lure 12 players to the event (13 if you include fellow BtA writer Richard Hardy, who stepped aside to allow others to play), which for Games Hub meant a capacity event!

An Iron Fez

The tournament was your standard; Red v Blue, Swiss style event, but there was a twist: another member of this motley writing staff Eddie ‘Fez’ Turner introduced a rule/suggestion at his inaugural event earlier this year (Flames of Fez). In which players are invited to bring along three different lists (retaining nationality), to field throughout the day.
 These lists will be randomly selected every round, but only used once.

My choice for this one was my old go-to; British Infantry. The first list being a Rifle Company, with the Guards Command Card. This list was sadly missing the British staple; the OQF 6pdr, a discrepancy which came back to bite me in the game this list was used for.
Second list was the highly popular “Death or Glory” Squadron, with the must-take Command Card ‘Death or Glory’. Fielding a full-strength Squadron, and not taking this card is madness. 4pts to make 4 units in your Formation pass Last Stands on a 2+ is great value for points; especially since two of those units (if you choose to field two), have a measly Front-Armour 4; Crusader IIIs.
 Lastly,  I went for a list that seems to be receiving mixed results from players; Churchill Squadron. Naturally, fielding a full Squadron would eat up points quickly, so I elected to field a Sherman Troop as the second compulsory choice. Though not as heavily armoured, the Shermans are armed with a slightly better weapon; same Anti-tank, but that 3+ firepower pays for itself in sticky situations.
 (Disclaimer; my memory can be spotty, so the following events may be slightly inaccurate, or improperly ordered)

Game One – How many armoured cars is too many?

Game one was against a fellow player from Glasgow; Craig Melville. Craig has been playing Flames regularly since V4 was launched, and is a constant feature at the tournaments and events up here in Scotland (Also my driver for the day, thanks again Craig)
 His list was the flavorful, but rather annoying German Armoured Car company. Featuring no less than 4 Armoured Car patrols, a Heavy Armoured Car Patrol, and a bloody Tiger, his list was rounded out with a platoon of Grenadiers, and some captured 7.62cm Heavy Anti-tank guns. Our lists were determined randomly, and the one list he really didn’t want to come up against was the Churchills. Making it as fair as possible, I called on Mark G. to pick a list for me to use, and wouldn’t you just know it; Churchills it is.
 The mission was Counterattack, and I was the attacker. Naturally the first thing that went in reserve for Craig was his Tiger, accompanied by the Heavy Armoured Cars, and the Dianas (forgot to mention them, didn’t I).
 Across the table sat his Schleppers, infantry secreted away in buildings, and every armoured car that you could possibly cram into one corner of the battlefield. Into ambush went, naturally, the 7.62cm Anti-tank guns, who no doubt were just itching to get sights onto my Churchills.

Schleppers are going to be the bane of my life this game

 The game began, with almost my entire force re-positioned into no-man’s land due to some spearheading Universal Carriers, who were going to go on a long journey throughout this game.
 They pottered off into the distance to wheel round towards an objective, whilst the infantry attempted to get going towards a building, but instead decided that Blitzing (Veteran Brits when?), was not on the cards today (this was going to be a theme for the day). The Churchills held fast, while the Shermans moved to a better position, away from any potential Anti-tank. From the skies came the Hurricanes, intent on making the Schleppers pay for sitting happily in the open on a ploughed field; what harm could a couple of MG shits from the nearby Armoured Cars do? A shot down plane, and some missed MG shots later, I had my answer, and thus, the planes decided that tea at home was a better shout, and stayed away.
 German Turn One- Of course the Tiger rolls onto the table, right up behind the Shermans, and makes a mockery of their thin side armour. Schleppers reposition their bombardment to show the Infantry the error of not moving, and the Armoured Cars come streaming down the main road.

These 17/25pdrs were going to do precisely nothing this entire game…

Next turn rolled round and a few German cars were lit up by 6pdr shots from the Churchills (still avoiding the Big Cat). The Shermans decided staying still and making themselves a harder target was the call of the day, and the infantry decided that 15 MGs was 15 MGs too many to risk crossing the road into the building, and would try to weather the bombardment.
 Cue the rest of the German reinforcements showing up; Heavy Armoured Cars chasing Universal Carriers through wheat fields, while Dianas join the party and put some hurt on the Shermans.
 The bombardment begins to whittle the infantry, while the MGs from the cars ping a team off. It was getting a little unpleasant.

 Brits up again, and somehow the Shermans remain on the field, picking off a Diana, while the Churchills begin to move slightly, with a plan in mind as the Armoured Cars whizz by, unable to do much to the heavy armour. The Universal Carriers slip out of the field into a forest near one of the objectives, leaving one of their number bailed behind them The infantry begin to play Gin-Rummy amongst themselves as shells rain down on their head, one of the gun teams abandon their gun to join in; one less menace for the Tiger to face, and less when the Dianas finish off the Shermans.

 The Armoured Cars continue to ping away, and sensing some blood, the Grenadiers finally break cover to catch the Universal Carriers in a pincer… bad move, Jerry.
 The Churchills lumber round the back of the armoured cars, paying them no mind as they open up with their MGs, the Grenadiers realising the error of their ways far too late as they are picked off to a man.
 “Ah ha!” Declares Craig as four LARGE GUNS appear on the crest of a nearby hill. If only we had remembered they were LARGE GUNS at the time, they might have been less scary as they appear 4.5″ from the front of the Churchills. Thankfully, the fates were paying attention where we were not and they managed an almighty… 2 Bailed Out. “Ah ha!” Declared I, gesturing to the held objective the Churchills had sneaked their way onto, despite the best efforts of the LARGE GUNS.  

 All in all though, a closer game than the re-telling makes it, with the Brits coming out on top 8-2.

Wait for it… wait for it… RUN!

Game Two – Mamma Mia!

 Game two was against another Glasgow player, Kenneth Alexander. Kenny started playing at the same time as Craig, and seems to be cursed by the Dice Gods with the worst luck a man can carry. Maybe he’ll fare better as his ‘Legions of Rome’ list, accompanied by nineteen L6 Light Tanks, takes on my Poor Bloody Infantry, and their 3 Shermans. 

 Sadly, my phone (and thus camera), stayed in my pocket for this one, so you’ll just have to make do with descriptions.

 The mission was once again Counterattack, I was once again the Attacker, but I switched things up a little. In the previous game, I deployed across the short table edge and used Spearhead to move across table, this time I deployed across the long table edge and expanded my forces in form; two units of infantry deploying in buildings, ready to make a break for the objective in the fields.
 I was facing a lot of poorly trained, poorly motivated infantry, but they were still Hit On 4+, making them a nuisance to shift. And worse was the Light Tanks being Fearless buggers… and there were nineteen of them.

 Turn one and the leading infantry, accompanied by the commander; bagpipes blaring, advanced into the field to hold the objective, while the Shermans moved down the flank towards the other at the rear of the table. No shots were fired, and soon came the Italians.
 Artillery halved the infantry on the first salvo, and that was the start of the problems. Both 100mm Howitzers and Mortars were raining down on them. A platoon of Light Tanks rolled up to continue the misery, their MGs rattling away. A calculated risk on my part, and boy did I miscalculate.

 Long story short, the infantry platoon, and Command Team failed to Dig In three times (again, Veteran British when?), and were decimated in good order. The Shermans advanced down the table, shrugging off a few half-hearted attempts at them, until they rolled up on the Italian Infantry hiding in a forest. Here, they rolled in, MGs blazing and tracks grinding, forcing them out, and pushing back the Mortars. It was the beginning of a rampage.

I lied, Mark G. took an in-game shot (note the remaining two infantry in the fields)

 The Shermans caused all sorts of headaches down the flank for Kenny, avoiding the line of fire from his Howitzers, while picking off a couple of teams here and there with MG fire, and assaults.
 The late arrival of Kenny’s Panzers could have caused a problem for the Shermans, but by the time they did, they were out of range of the tank killing weapons.

 It all came down to one calculated assault; rolling through the backfield (visible under Kenny’s arm in the picture above), the Shermans risked a shot from the Howitzers to push the infantry off the objective. A few counterattacks here and there, before finally the tanks broke the stubborn Italians, and held the objective for the win.

 A close game, very close, but again I was let down by British Infantry being ‘Trained 4+’. this left them open to abuse from the artillery. Admittedly, if I’d have played it again, the second they failed to Dig In, they’d have been back-tracking towards their starting positions in those two huts.

Game Three – Death or Glory!

 My last game was against a player I’d never played before; Dave Reekie, and what a pleasure it was to play against him. Dave has been a Flames of War player for a few years, but only plays in Edinburgh, so it was nice to finally get over and give him a game. He’s not had much V4 experience by the sounds of things, but that didn’t stop him giving me another good, close game.

 This time the mission was Bridgehead, and 3 out of 3, I was the attacker. As you can see from the picture, below, you’d imagine that Dave’s dug in German Grenadiers would be a tough nut to crack, given the nicely positioned buildings defending the objectives, and the minefields cutting off the good angles of attack. But, read on and we’ll see.

A lot of Death, maybe a splash of Glory.

 Another chance to Spearhead with Universal Carriers allowed me to push armour down the left flank (behind the red factory, just in shot), letting me avoid the PaK40s that were arrayed around the block of houses in the middle, and avoid the inevitable Marder ambush. The HMGs and 25pdrs ranged in either side and pounded all-game long on the PaKs and entrenched infantry, with the Hurricanes making up for prior games by finally showing up 5 turns out of 7, and putting their guns to good use against the PaKs.

 Dave’s reinforcements came in the form of Infantry Guns and a Platoon of Assault Pioneers, who stormed onto the table, pushing back the advance of my eager infantry. However, the Universal Carriers managed to get some choice shots against the Infantry Guns, wheeling round behind the gunshields and picking the 15cm ones off before they could do damage. They were less successful against the 7.5cm ones, who managed to snipe a Crusader, and finally broke the Carriers with well-placed shots.

 Deciding that enough was enough, my infantry advanced and assaulted in kind, taking out a good number of Pioneers, before being driven back. The Valentines pushing forward too, springing the ambush from the Marders, and paying for it (the line of burning ones, centre-left of the image). However, this allowed the other troops to throw some shots their way and finally whittle them down. The bombardments were beginning to pay too, as the infantry and guns were slowly wiped away.
 The last point of call was an all-or-nothing assault from Dave’s remaining infantry, who were soundly beaten back by the armour, before they were pushed off entirely, with the game ending a very kind 7-3 to myself.

Prizes and wrap-up

I had an absolute blast at the first Flames event I’ve not had to organise myself, and it got better at the end. I ended up highest Allied Player, and winner of the Iron Fez challenge.

Someone teach me to pose, please?

Presented with a Golden Churchill, I went away rather happy, and am eagerly looking forward to future events at Games Hub with the rest of Flames of War Scotland, and of course the continuing partnership between Breakthrough Assault and Battlefront!

Thanks again, guys.