Today Martin brings us not 1 but effectively 5 After Action Reports! Well, I’m back home from the war, at least from the UK Nationals 2023 and what an event it was. There were 32 players battling it out across some truly excellent and interesting tables the majority of which players had brought with them for the occasion, meaning a wealth of different and interesting tables to play across. An additional things to note was for the UK Nationals Battlefront had kindly agreed to allow Mark to share with the players a potential new scenario pack that the studio have been working on so there were a few some new scenarios available in the Extended Battle Plans matrix, assuming both players agreed to use them and most did. This was a great leveler as no one had had any chance to practice with them as we only saw them on the Thursday evening before the event. Due to the trial nature of these I can’t explain all the table set ups as I might normally, these are still a work in progress.
My event kicked off on Saturday morning with litteraly my first game with the Huszars! Yep I hadn’t played a single practice game, let alone a game with the army I took – not normally what I would do at all. This was going to be a weekend of relying on my experience and just seeing how things went and learning how to play with them. I honestly had little real expectation for the Huszars, lets be honest the number of successful large scale cavalry engagements in WW2 isn’t exactly big and I didn’t really have any expectations that it would be any different in the gaming world. After all there are quite a few things cavalry can’t do compared to other infantry teams, Dig in, Assault Tanks, shoot effectively and they have the handicap of all being on large bases so are tricky to conceal and lastly they have to take cross checks.
My first game was just what I didn’t think I needed, playing against Rob (from Valley Gaming) with his all tank team British with a Force comprising a Grant Formation with a Humber Armoured Car Formation, the good news no artillery the bad new everything was a tank! Oh, and Rob has been practicing hard with his list (all lists) We played the game on one end of Rex & Shirley King’s brilliant 12×4 winterised rail yard table, this went on to win the prize for the best table layout. We both chose Attack and played one of the new scenario’s where both players had to move to capture and hold onto the objectives to win the game. Rob broke up his Formations manouvering round the rail yard terrain as they headed for the objective on his left whilst I concentrated on getting my limited AT assets into covering poisitions on the left objective and my Motor Rifle platoon sought to get onto the other objective or at least close enough to one of them to stop the Armourd Cars capturing it without a fight. My cavalry were basically kept to the rear as a reserve whilst I worked out a way to briung them into the game.
The game turned when Rob advanced his HQ platoon against my (somewhat ahistoric) Italian allied Semovente 75 platoon amongst the limited space between the rail cars, this move left them poorly positioned and isolated from his other platoons and his shooting on the move duely failed to inflict any significant damage, just a lot of bailed out results which all remounted (having a 2+ remount is rather useful in Mid War where you get more bailed out results due to lower FP values). I returned fire with devastating effect destroying all of the platoon with a combination of Semovente and 40mm anti-tank guns firing Kerngranite. Being last stand 5+ even when I didn’t destroy tanks outright getting double bailed results were still resulting in permanent tank losses even with HQ rerolls. My Pak 40’s despite having only brewed up two of his other Grant troop, did enough and they also scarpered leaving him just a unit of Honeys facing the majority of my armour which despite a lot of my teams being only AT6 number of shots eventually proved more than a match for the small 3 tank troop of Honey’s and Rob had lost his entire Grant Formation in 2 game turns for very little return. He still had his Armoured Car Formation but now couldn’t realistically contest both objetives effectively and my Csaba and Nimrod platoons supported by my Huszar howitzers sought to enagage them from range whilst they duelled with my Motor Rifles for the other objective. Rob realising the game would be lost on Turn 6 concentrated his efforts on my small platoons and managed to knock out the Csaba and Nimrod Platoons and do some damage to the pressing infantry. This forced me to move my Panzer 38t to enage them from closer. Robs Daimler Armoured cars redeployed and managed to get them down to having to take a last stand test as they burned or failed to remount which, I duely failed giving Rob 3 platoon kills and me an opening 6-3 win.
This time I was drawn to face off with Battlefield Hobbies very own Hammy and a Soviet Hero Motor Rifle Formation with the obligatory BA-10 Formation luckily Hammy had decided against taking any KV-8 flame tanks and had instead got a unit of Valentines and some overkill versus me SU-85’s. I again choose Attack whilst Hammy went with Manouver and we played Valley of Death. I had to try to capture the objectives in the centre of the table whilst Hammy’s forces were arrayed on either flank with his tanks in Reserve and 45mm guns held in ambush. Rather oddly we played this game on my desert themed table dominated by two groups of buildings and a large wadii (a dry rocky riverbed) which left me with a very narrow column on one flank of open ground I was able to attack down without having to risk my Cavalry getting stuck in the wadii. My cavalry looked rather great all lined up in columns but it made it hard to create any real attacking impetus against the larger Soviet platoons even with my 6″ move to contact benefit. The game turned into a slog fest with neither of us able to make any real headway. I knocked out the entire BA-10 Formation in one go where I luckily got 7 killing hits from 7 dice in one turn and Hammy’s 45mm AT guns fell as well for the loss of my Panzers, Csabas and Nimrods and the game though interesting pettered out in to a 3-3 result as time ran out.
This game was against Paul, a foe of old. Paul had an American Armoured Rifle Formation supported by Shermans, Stuarts and M10s (more overkill vs my FA4 tanks). Paul chose manouver and I kept with Attack and we rolled up another new Meeting Enagement style scenario where we moved to capture the objectives in no mans land table quarters. We both made use of the Spearhed opportunity to expand our deployment areas and Paul brough up the larger of his ARP’s, Armoured Mortars and M10’s whilst I used it to position my Huszar howiters with better fields of fire down the table. Due again to limited lines of sight the game started quite slowly with us both using smoke bombardments to position our forces around the objectives. I used mine to move my 40mm AT guns closer to the M10’s when they couldn’t shoot back and Paul to advance his infantry over the objective. Paul sent his Stuarts forward against my Howitzer position but failed to do much damage killing just 1 covering Csaba whilst in return I killed all 4 Staurts. On the other flank my AT guns which had dashed forward behind the smoke opened up on the M10’s which had focussed on picking off my Panzer 38’s resulting in the loss of the entire platoon after a failed last stand test. This allowed me to bring my concealed Semovente platoon forward to support my remaining Pz38t’s against the ARP which had dismounted onto the objective. Realising he had to do something Paul sent his Shermans and remaining infantry against the other objective being covered by my Howitzers and Pak 40’s and now supported by my Motor Rifles and Cavalry ready to run down the Americans, once they got out of their half tracks! Pauls Mortars and T-30’s attempted to bombard my Pak 40’s but failed to range in (Green artillery proved hopeless in a meeting engagement) he picked off one of my Nimrod AA tanks and the other duely failed its last stand. My turn 4 proved decisive as I knocked out the Shermans caught in crossfire from all my AT guns leaving nothing able to contest the objective, the short ARP supporting them lost all its heavy weapons teams and 2 vehicles to my massed infantry fire leaving just a few garand teams facing the entirity of my Cavalry Formation. My combination of Panzer 38t, Semovente and 40mm AT guns then smashed through the dismounted ARP which had failed to dig in, forcing the few remaining doughboys to fall back on foot from my armoured assault their vehicles left behind as smoking wrecks. I now held both objectives and Paul just had 3 small platoons left on the table whilst I had lost just the Nimrod platoon and the game was over with a huge moral boosting 8-1 victory.
So Day 1 ended 2 wins and a mutual loss with maximun points (a.k.a. “a draw”) that was pretty good but I hadn’t really had much opportunity to make use of my Cavalry’s mobility, in game 1 they were of no real use, whilst in game 3 I never really got them into a position to do anything much. In game 2 I was hampered by the terrrian – narrow frontage isn’t really what I needed. Oh well there is always day 2. I was surprisingly near the top of the field but some 7 tournament points behind the over night leader – which I considered a lot to make up in 2 games. I went to bed feeling happy with my day hoping I got to play on a table that better suited my horsemen on the ‘morrow.
Sunday dawned bright and clear, always a good thing and I returned to Battlefield Hobbies. My first game was with Charles and his German Grenadier Formation with a mixed Panzer III & IV support. Charles went for the Defend stance – possibly not his best option as he had 3x 5 man infantry platton vs my 7 team Cavalry platoons. Charles ended up in the middle of one long side with the Panzers in Reserve and Pak 38’s in Ambush with minefields covering one flank but my Forces split either end of the table had 2 hills to place my “artillery” units on which overlooked their position and I used my ranged in markers to cover the buildings by the closer objective, Charles elected not to occupy these with small platoons this wasn’t a bad choice, just not a good one as it allowed me the opportunity to capture these easily. I was able to Spearhead to cover the long table edge and was able to pivot the attack on to the two open sides away from the minefield. My cavalry finally had some room to manouver and rapidly closed the gap whilst my artilery set about pounding the defensive position and weakening Charles counter battery fire. The highlight of the battle for me came in the form of my Pak 40 unit which Charles had relised were key for him to eliminate as this would allow his Panzer to dominate the battlefield when they came on from Reserve. Despite spending 4 turns under a bombardment template I managed to either save them or pin down the targetting artillery so it couldn’t fire. When the Panzers arrived they were exposed to cross fire from my Semovente 75 now positioned behind the minefield and the Pak40 unit still on the hill even at long range this was far too much for the four tanks and they were all destroyed in a single round as they attempted to recapture the forward objective. Meanwhile my cavalry dismounted under cover of my smoke bombardment to assault the grenadiers and ambushing AT guns duelling with my Panzer 38t holding the objectives. After a few rounds of assault combat numbers told and the Germans fell back leaving me holding the forward objective and victory was secured. Unfortunately for Charles despite killing many teams he had failed to kill any of my platoons being unable to concentrate fire on any one of them. Another 8-1 victory. Sure I had some good fortune here with the Pak40 unit but that’s part of tournament play, knowing how to maximise the advantage to yourself when you have some good fortune.
This rather decisive result coupled with results elsewhere meant I was now rather worryingly near the very sharpe end of the rankings and in danger of a significant placing!
My final game was against David all the way from the USA with another Soviet Hero Motor Rifle Formation, this time no BA-10’s but KV-8’s and a big unit of FA6 Valentines, ouch! This looked a powerful force and not one I really expected to be able to beat without a solid plan and possibly some good fortune. Again I went Attack and surprisingly David went for Manouver resulting in a game of Rear Guard with the Soviets defending and needing to hold on to turn 8 for a win. Getting to turn 8 would prove challenging with two big armies so there was a fair amount of encouragement from Mark to play as quickly as we could to get to a proper result. To be honest 3-3 would haven’t been a bad outcome for either of us but facing nothing but big Soviet platoons that would still require a major effort with my Force, especially as the strategic withdrawl rule would allow weakened platoons to be withdrawn making this harder to achieve. We played on Marks Temu teddy bear mat table (you may have seen photo’s on our Facebook feed with the new MicroArt Studio buildings). David interestingly chose to defend the side oposite the buildings, maybe not the wisest choice on reflection. I deployed my armour on one flank and my Cavalry on the other with my Howitzers and Pak 40’s holding the center in a refused centre type formation.
The game was pretty cagey after a rather unexpected start. David made a surprise early attack against my gun position with a platoon of Soviet Scouts which crossed the centre of the table chased by my Nimrods and assaulted my gun position. I managed to stop the initial assault with defensive fire – the Howitzers are pretty rubbish vs armour but they are ROF2 which meant I got 8 dice in defensive fire vs Hit on 3+ infantry and stopped the assault with a nice average dice roll. I moved my 1 HMG team to cover them for the next assault if they again chose to attack the Howitzers. I concentrated on weakening the large Soviet infantry platoons in my turn. The Scouts rallied and moved behind me to assault the unprotected Pak 40’s pinning down his KV-8’s in his backfield area.
David only had 3 teams left but they charged home against the Forward Firing guns, only to miss with all 3 attacks, in my second display of outragous luck over the weakend the Pak’s motivated and hit back killing 1 team the remainder then failed to Motivate and were forced to break off before failing their last stand test on their next turn. I chose to essentially ignore them with the guns to concentrate on the things that prevented me advancing on the objectives. I used the bonus of the consolidate move to move away from them and closer to the KV-8’s trying to implement my plan to push them back away from the objective they were covering or face getting shot up.
Here I will digress to talk aboiut an important aspect of any sort of gaming and especially tournament gaming. Have a plan, the image below shows my pregame notes I made about how I wanted to try to direct the paly of this game, they don’t always work but do at least mean that you have some idea of what you are attempting to do from the outset. I write these on the back of my army list which I proint out 1 copy of for each game. Over the years I have ammassed a large collection of these notes which I go back and read through from time to time to remind myself of things I’ve tried over the years of playing, which certainly helped me this weekend not having managed any actual game time with my Force.
The strategic withdrawl rule was now starting to have some effect and the Soviets were starting to withdraw units coupled with the loss of the Scouts David had to make a choice as to which objective he wanted to protect more solidly. Electing the one facing my tanks he moved the Valentines further across to cover my flanking position and a protracted fight broke out on this right flank resulting in the destriction of my Panzer 38t unit for the loss of a Soviet PTRD platoon and more importantly for me distracting the powerful Valentine unit in the process. While all this was going on on the other flank I had manged to move my 40mm AT up into effective range and rather amazingly within 4″ of the objective, the KV-8’s not wanting to face off against a possible 8x AT12 shots in total had moved back allowing me to keep me moving forward (he was essentiallu trying to negate some of the hit on 2+ weakness of the KV-8 but this created a gap between the infantry and covering protection of the tanks. I think the failure of his bold move in the opening turns of the game with the Scouts made David more hesitent of using these powerful tanks aggressively and allowed me to dictate the flow of the battle on this flank.
Seizing the oppportunity and moving my cavalry at fullest speed coupled with finally making some sucessful Huszar moves (Follow Me) I got close enough to launch asssults with both platoons and the Csabas against the now isolated Hero Motor Rifles holding the objective. My Howitzers now stopped firing for effect and dropped their smoke bombardment across the Soviet position negating a lot of their defensive fire and my first unit struck home pushing deep into the Soviet position before being forced to break off failing a counter assault roll. Under normal circumstances the HMR would fall back away from my other units but because they were the only unit contesting the objective this wasn’t an option for them thanks to the 40mm guns. Now the Csaba attacked killing a couple more teams and the Soviets this time gave up some ground to maintain platoon cohesion, but it still left 3 teams in range of the last of my Cavalry and the objective. A glorious charge drove home killing a Soviet team, David made his motivation test but with no Kommissar they failed and broke off, leaving me holding the objective victory was secured. All thanks to the 40mm AT guns which had moved a grand total of 24″ across the table to start that critical turn within 4″ of the objective! The result a hard fought 6-3 win.
So that was a very respectable 31 Tournament points accumulated. I had some good fortune at times and my opponents didn’t, in my view, always make the best choices available to them but that’s all part of tournament play sometimes things go your way and when they do, hold on and be ready to make the most of them. Time for the results to be announced, and I was more focussed on putting everything away than the actual outcome having accumulated 14 points on day 2 I had done very well but there were several people ahead of me at the start of the day so I was hoping to finish somewhere near the top. Well as is traditional we started with the prize for the player upon whose shoulders we all stood by being kind enough to finish in last place, Stuart of 3 Colours Painted collected his award, then terrain and painting trophies followed, Rex & Shirley (terrain) and Symonz (painting) who had actually brought 2 awesomely painted forces! Mark then slowly proceeded up the field and finally we are at the sharp end of it all. It turned out I had managed to secure enough points for the narrowest of tournament successes, taking the top prize (Thanks to Battlefront and Battlefield Hobbies) for 1st Place by a single point, having overhauled David and out run Fez who both amassed a total of 30 points. Victory in the final game had proved a defining outcome, propelling me from a 5th place finish to 1st. As it turned out I had played 4 of the next 5 placed palyers only our own Fez wasn’t on my opponents list, full results are on Facebook.
So overall it was a great weakend playing five great players in a great setting on fabulous tables with games full of fun, laughter, skill and sometimes shear good luck! If you haven’t played at a tournament/event I really would encourage you to to give it a go. Next time it could be you riding to victory, which was quite literally what happened in this case. Martin