Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Clarifying Mechanised Orbats

When a motorised battalion of infantry with integral transport goes into battle, one of the bases (usually a Support (S) base)  can be an integral part of the transport base. In addition, the transport may carry other bases (usually  Fighting (F) bases) that ‘deploy’ when the stand attacks or defends.  The following scale should provide a rough guide but is not prescriptive :

No  extra bases per jeep or motorcycle combo
Up to 2 bases extra per light truck  or  halftrack eg Sd Kfz 250
Up to 2 bases extra per half track (an empty halftrack carries up to 3 stands)
Up to 3 bases extra per medium truck
Up to 4 bases extra per heavy truck
2 wheel trailers may carry 1 base
4 wheel trailers may carry up to 2 bases

If there are a mix of fighting and support bases in the stand, it can be given a hybrid designation, such as  FS, CF, CS, or even CFS.
This is different to the case of a marching infantry unit that happens to be transported in trucks that are not a normal part of their orbat. For marching infantry, the truck(s) can be accounted for separately as a Logistic (L) stand.
In retreat, all your troops will fit onto the trucks up to a maximum of double the usual extra stands, but no support weapons, so support stands become rifle stands.

Pz Gren Bn    1 Comd Sd Kfz w 37mm PAK + 81 or 50mm Mor (CS3)  which would normally travel with the Bn comd Sd Kfz, 2 x [Sd Kfz with MG + 2 Rifle bases @ (FS3)] (Rifle stands may have integral AT Rifle or Pz Faust  capability).


So a panzer grenadier battalion has 3 halftracks (each CS3 or FS3 light armour with an integral machine gun  or PaK 37). The 250 will always have an integral command base or may have an integral command/support base (MG or Pak), and probably also has a dismountable support base with it in the shape of a mortar. Each 251 has an integral support or gun base. Regimental gun support can be simulated by modelling the gun on the transport e.g. the Sd Kfz 250/10 or  Sd Kfz 251/10, or as a towed gun, as shown in the picture above.

In total up to 6  dismountable rifle or support bases could be carried by the 3 battalion transports with their integral non-dismountable bases. You could use as few as 3 or 4 dismountable bases to reflect the often-reduced fighting strength of these heavily used units.

Mot Rifle Bn  Comd Car + 81 or 50mm Mor (CS3)1-2 [Trucks or 1/2 tracks with integral mg support stand + 1-2 Rifle bases (FS2-3),  (Rifle stands may have integral AT Rifle or Pzfaust  capability). A total of 6-9 bases per battalion including the vehicle bases, in line with infantry battalions is about right, making a total of 3 stands, as shown below.


In total up to 6  dismountable rifle or support stands can be carried by the 3 battalion transports with their integral non-dismountable stands. Any regimental guns will be towed in this orbat. If a truck does not have an integral support or fighting base, count it as (L1)

Please note that this does not in any way seek to replicate the actual carrying capacity of these vehicles; rather it simulates the functions of a battalion, whilst still allowing a modeller to produce signature equipment in his orbat. The orbat also gives flexibility without being too prescriptive. If you disagree, run your ideas past your opponent and reach an agreement for an enjoyable game.

“Orbats are for Beginners”

The title quote is one that Jim Wallman is fond of trotting out at appropriate moments. There is a kernel of truth hidden away there.
NQM started using 20mm figures and originally, 3 infantry bases, each with 1 strength point (s), formed a stand with an output of 1 combat unit (CU). When I changed to 15mm, a single stand gained (s3) and put out 1 CU.  This was useful for divisional battles, but became unweildy when corps took to the field, so it is time to go back to basics and restate some beginner orbats. I am starting to roll these out on the orbat pages. It is the most significant change that I have made to the written guidelines in 30 years as it reduces infantry strength relative to armour and artillery.


Each of the 2 stands in the photo above put out 1 unit of fire (CU). the command stand on the left has three strength points and the support stand on the right has two.

As before, a stand fights and fires as normal until each base has a pin in it. the first extra pin overloads the stand and removes it: this means all three bases in the case of the command stand, and both bases in the case of the support stand.
If the two stands reorganise, there is no longer a need for black pins. Any permanently damaged base is removed. Vehicle stands that use one vehicle to represent three strength points continue to use black pins as normal.


Megablitz – France 1940 – Part 2

On the front line, French divisions continued to hold stubbornly, die bravely, and counterattack as the opportunities presented themselves. There was no hiding the fact though, that the speed of the German advance had short-circuited the French command structure.

Panzers stream past RACHELLE. Ground crew and a fighter squadron can be seen heading west.

Such French air missions as there were struck targets deep in the rear of the advance rather than supporting the defenders in the front line. The air situation was oftern chaotic, and in the picture below, Bombers heading east to attack targets can be seen passing fighters escaping west from  NICOLE.


Fighters returning from missions found themselves struggling back to overcrowded aerodromes in the rear, or landing on strips abandoned by ground crew in the face of the advancing enemy.

air11Burning fighters litter the dispersal bays at CLAIRE, long since abandoned by the ground crew.

Yet more aircraft had to be destroyed on the ground for lack of fuel. Nevertheless, L’Armee de l’Air struggled on until the end, losing aircraft to advancing enemy, dive bombing attacks and lack of fuel and spares. Individual groundcrew units made harrowing and heroic treks across enemy held territory, only to arrive at strips that were being abandoned in turn.

A bomber sortie from YOLANDE catches Korps assets in a stroke of good fortune.

YOLANDE in particular was defended long after CLAIRE had fallen, yet the airmen were frustrated by orders to pull back, rather than support their army colleagues.The final act came as mon General obeyed orders to fly out from SUZANNE, escorted by his two surviving fighter squadrons. Someone compared it to the scene on the ice planet from ‘Star Wars’. I can see now where Lucas got his idea from!

GENEVIEVE comes under heavy air attack.

Bout de Souffle gallantly takes a squadron into combat to buy enough time for surviving bombers to fly off south. He is not heard of again.

It was perhaps illustrative of the ferocious speed of the German advance that  a thrusting Korps commander, General Guderian (Phil Steele), arrived at SUZANNE, hotly on the heels of the departing French army staff, only to be dive bombed by his own Luftwaffe! Much firing of red and violet flares ensued and one can imagine the General calling his air liaison officer in for a long ‘interview without coffee’ afterwards. By then of course, General Rommel was paddling on the channel beaches, so all was forgiven.

Exploding supply dumps, approaching Germans and burning bombers frame mon General’s hurried departure from SUZANNE. Life as a French commander is never dull!

Managing the Air Game.
I had planned to be more formal on the logistic side in this game than the last, That plan survived only one minute of contact with the enemy, when it became apparent that to keep 19 other players engaged, I would have to fall back on the tried and trusted narrative approach. Rather more time was spent with the French than the Germans in a reversal of normal umpiring practice. The Luftwaffe game was relatively simple – one attack per day with every servicable aircraft. I would roll up with the flying circus, invite a handy French and German player to roll a few dice, then leave the ‘planes for photo opportunities.

YOLANDE was the last surviving airfield in French hands. By then all the aircraft seen above had flown west.

The French needed more nurturing to keep their spirits up, although they remained remarkably chipper and stoical throughout, and the narrative above reflects this. The main principle that getting the player interactions right was more important than the game mechanics held good.

I was , however, more formal than Tim’s admirably concise brief obliged me to be ;  “Just make it up as you go along!” This even extended to looking at what the rules actually said, which was a bit of a departure for me, I must admit. My life was made immeasurably easier by the excellent spirit in which the players approached the game.

Megablitz – France 1940 – Part 1

Tim Gow’s latest Megablitz game was held at the Defence Academy’s Tank Sheds again. He offered me the role of Air Umpire once more, in the mistaken belief that it would “keep me out of mischief”. Unsupervised with Luftflotte 2 and l’Armée de l’Air! What could possibly go wrong? This time, after pre-game pestering, Tim brought ground crew along, but I added a few 20mm trucks of my own and left them with Tim afterwards (‘cos he clearly does not have enough!).

A sleepy day on an aerodrome somewhere in France ‘NICOLE‘ SE

The French Général de Corps Aérien Bout de Souffle got off to a splendid start by deciding to name all 6 airstrips under his command after wives and mistresses. Unfortunately no-one else understood this, so referred to them by their locations of  north (east, centre, west) and south (east, centre, west). In general fighters were staged to the east and bombers to the west. The command structure, which proved key, imposed an extra level of command on the French compared to the Luftwaffe.


A plan for air patrols was agreed in principal, and business of the day was concluded. Bout de Souffle had people who could handle that level of detail and headed  to PARIS for some well-earned leave. Mon General Bassett was astute enough to realise that orders issued one day in advance would be useful and two days even better. So when the first Luftwaffe airstrikes came in, the impotent French pilots could only watch from their deckchairs, with no orders to intercept!

The first heavy Luftwaffe strike of the day onto 53rd Infantry Division. NICOLE can just be seen to the top left of the picture

Home for beer, bratwurst and medals!

The Germans were dogged by the need to channel all requests for air support through HQ West and had decided early on to concentrate air assets rather than penny-packeting. This meant that when the Luftflotte turned up, it at least had some effect, but was limited to one sortie a day per unit. It wasn’t long before cries of  ‘wo is die Luftwaffe?‘ were heard across the advancing German panzer park as it rolled over the northern French plains at a brisk tempo previously unseen in modern warfare.

In the top left of the picture on day two, a Fieseler Storch recce flight struggles to keep up with the advance. In the lower centre, ground crew at CLAIRE (N Centre) destroy fighters prior to retreating.

This caused the Germans some problems, as the Luftwaffe recce reports sometimes ran along the lines of  ‘The town and bridge are full of panzers heading west!‘  The air traffic was not all one-sided on the second day, as a lone squadron of Bloch MB 210 bombers with fighter support caused havoc and delay amongst the supporting Wehrmacht infantry korps, if not actual casualties.

The ‘Landser’ scatter under air attack as bombers lumber overhead and air aces duel for possession of the sky.

Friday, 9 August 2013

The Defence of TAMBOV Rail Junctions (Fall Gabel AAR)

295 Infantry Division overrun the positions of 55 Rifle Division after a bitter fight.

295 Infantry Division overrun the positions of 55 Rifle Division after a bitter fight.
This battle was fought rapidly over one evening at Trebian's 'Shedquarters' in two hours rather than the six that  I had originally envisiged. Present were Messrs. Graham, Phil, Will and Harvey, a newcomer to NQM, but by no means a novice gamer. Graham took command of Soviet 5th Army. Will and Harvey took command of 2nd Panzer Korps. Phil turned up slightly later and took control of the southern armoured thrust of 4 Panzer Division and Gross Deutchland.

Other newcomers to the game were the new casualty markers. Once the players had become accustomed to them, they speeded the combat sequence up significantly, and Graham deserves the credit for pressing me to actually do something about the ****** pins that rarely fail to draw blood at least once in a game. Contempory gamers are clearly made of less stern stuff than John Sandars, but we all appreciate the increased game speed!
The plan in my own mind was for two infantry divisions to fix the Soviet infantry position around the rail junctions with probing attacks, then outflank them to the south with the panzer divisions. Von Wyler had other ideas* and attacked due west down the railway on  a two-division front supported by korps artillery. I was explaining to Harvey the tradition of black heavy dice rolling low numbers, when Graham and Will immediately proved me wrong with some demon dice.

As a veteran NQM player, Will preceded his infantry attack with Korp-level artillery bombardment and an airstrike by the Luftwaffe. The PVO Strany was up to the challenge and had some success in fighting off the attack. I was probably a bit generous in allowing the Soviets to switch army artillery targets early on, but by this stage of the war, they were beginning to  develop the ability to put tactical doctrine into practice.

The German attack began to  cause and accrue some very heavy casualties. Notice that 296 Infantry Division is still on its movement tray. It was easier to do this than explain to Harvey that unit formations are not desparately important at this scale, and usually stay in base contact to count as organised. I needn't have worried. Harvey picked up what was going on very quickly, like the seasoned campaigner that he is.

For this game I limited the number of stands in a division able to initiate a firefight to six, as we were using one-third strength divisions. Even so, the German attack by 295 Infantry Division began to bite into the northern defensive position of 55 Rifle Division, although 296 Infantry Division had less success against  56 Rifle Division, being repelled and only making headway when 4 Panzer Division cut its deep hook short and turned north into the attack.

I had expected Phil to outflank the Soviet 5th Army and cut into their supply line with his armour, perhaps even disrupting West Front Headquarters, He is normally pretty reliable in this respect, but he judged that the infantry attack needed support and shortened his hook to attack 55 and 58 Rifle Divisions directly.
Gross Deutchland break into the positions of 58 Rifle Division from the south

Gross Deutchland break into the positions of 58 Rifle Division from the south.
The cost was heavy to  4 Panzer Division, which got caught by Soviet army-level artillery. Phil was using his own 22nd Panzer** to represent an understrength 4 Panzer Division. Eventually the continual hammering drove the Soviet defences in. They survived a number of morale checks, giving ground grudgingly and responding to 'stiffening' by their commisars (roll another die to pass a failed morale test and deduct that number of hit points from your own side. You can do this as often as you want until you pass or run out of troops!)
The destruction of 4 Panzer Division at the hands of 56 Rifle Division with supporting army level artillery

The destruction of 4 Panzer Division at the hands of 56 Rifle Division with supporting army level artillery.
Graham by now had issued an entertaining series of predictions about the inevitibility of socialist victory that saw his 55 Rifle Division gathering its second wind and counterattacking  295 Infantry Division to drive it back . In most other aspects though his pronouncements and the course of the battle coincided only tenuously***.
55 Rifle Division reorganise  at Rail Junction 1 prior to counterattacking 295 Infantry Division

55 Rifle Division reorganise at Rail Junction 1 prior to counterattacking 295 Infantry Division.
The arrival of 4 Tank Corps from reserves put any thought of further German exploitation on hold. Off-table manouvering from 2nd SS Panzer Division and 297 Infantry Division to the southern flank was countered by 20 Guards Rifle and 7 Motor Rifle Divisions, allowing Southwest Front headquarters to escape further east.
4 Tank Corps engage the right (eastern) flank of Gross Deutchland.

4 Tank Corps engage the right (eastern) flank of Gross Deutchland.
The real Soviet victory though, as 5th Army withdrew, much reduced but still in good order, was that they had fought four German divisions to a standstill and given time for West Front headquarters to pull further east as the first drops of the Rasputitsa began to fall.
5th Army withdraw with little real fighting strength left, but 2nd Panzer Korps is in no shape to pursue them either.

5th Army withdraw with little real fighting strength left, but 2nd Panzer Korps is in no shape to pursue them either. East is to the left of the photograph.
My thanks go to the players for fitting a lot into a very short space of time, and putting up with arbitrary decisions made to speed the narrative along. A few Heroes of the Soviet Union will have been made from the bitter defence of the  TAMBOV  Rail Junctions by 5th Army. For this battle, an infantry division had between two or three six-stand infantry battalions, so in other words, they were fighting at regimental strength. At this stage of the war this is not much of an NQM scale-down. I did however, leave a good deal of the supporting and logistic stuff out. two hours did not give enough time to consider supplies and ammunition.

4 Panzer may be receiving some new panzer IVs over winter, as it left a trail of burning Pz38(t)s strewn in front of the Soviet positions. The strongest unit that never made it onto the table, with three full panzer battalions was 2nd SS Panzer Division. Perhaps another day?

Footnotes :

* Often, it's the same idea :  "I can see the enemy in front of me, so let's all attack frontally!".
** Reputedly the worst panzer division on the Eastern Front. Phil is almost magnetically drawn to this type of unit as an antidote to the massed ranks of Panthers to be found elsewhere on the web. I'm not criticising Tiger/Panther armies,  just saying.
*** Phil called it 'trash talk' but I felt it showed an understanding of Soviet mentality - Stalin didn't care who he annoyed and felt that everyone was 'out to get him'. For the record, the Germans were out to get him; the Umpire wasn't.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Fall Gabel (Fork)

Fall Gabel (Fork)
Fall Herbst

As the Rasputitsa drew on from the South in Autumn 1942*, German forces in the area of YELETS, East of KURSK made one last attempt to unseat Soviet 5th Army guarding the strategic rail junctions West of TAMBOV. Capturing this area would also dislodge or destroy the headquarters of West Front.
Rumours of Soviet Forces deeper in the East were picked up by the Abwehr, but surely the bottom of  the Soviet manpower barrel must have been reached by now? The plan is to fight this over at Shedquarters as soon as Graham, the WHELKs and I have a free Tuesday evening. In the meantime, I’m painting up more Soviet infantry.

German Forces :

HQ 2 Pz Korps :
Comd Car (s3), Signal Bn Radio truck (s3), Tac Air Liaison Truck (s3), Korps Field Hospital Bn Truck (s3), Korps Arty Bn HQ Truck, Korps Arty Bn 155mm (s3) + Limber (s3), Rear HQ Workshop Truck (s3), Korps Rear HQ Fuel Truck (s3), Close AA Flack Bn 20/37mm (s3) + Limber (s3). Rifle Bn Comd (s3), 3 Rifle stands (s3), MG stand (s3), Mortar stand (s3)

Gross Deutschland Grenadier Division, 4 Panzer Division, 2 SS Pz Division

Supporting From XLVI Korps : 295, 296 Infantry Divisions (North Flank), 297Infantry Division (South Flank)
Supporting From XIV Motor Korps : 47 Motor Division (South Flank)

Soviet Forces :

HQ West Front :
1 Comd Car (s3), 1 Signal Bn Radio truck (s3), 1 Tac Air Liaison Truck (s3), 1 Front Field Hospital Bn Truck (s3), 1 Front Arty Bn HQ Car, 1 Workshop Truck (s3), 1 Fuel Truck (s3), 1 Ammo Truck (s3), NKVD Rifle Bn Comd (s3), 3 Rifle stands (s3), MG stand (s3).

Artillery Division : 2 76mm guns (s3), 2 122mm howitzers (s3), 1 152mm gun-howitzer (s3), 2 120mm mortars (s3), 6 tractor limbers (s3).

PVO Anti-aircraft Division : 37mm Anti-aircraft gun (s3), 12.7mm DShK MG (s3), Quad 48 MG (s3). 3 limbers (s3).
7 Motor Rifle , 4 Tank, 20 Guard Rifle Divisions

HQ 5th Army :
1 Comd Car (s3), 1 Signal Bn Radio truck (s3), 1 Army Arty Bn HQ Car, 1 Workshop Truck (s3), 1 Fuel Truck (s3), 1 Ammo Truck (s3). NKVD Rifle Bn Comd (s3), 3 Rifle stands (s3), MG stand (s3).

RVKG Anti-tank Brigade : 2 Anti-tank rifles (s3), 45mm gun (s3) + limber (s3).

55, 56, 58 Rifle Divisions

* In my fictitious NQM Eastern Front campaign.

Massive Moritz – Rommel’s Captured Dorchester ACV

The Dorchester armoured command vehicle was a unique idea. Other nations converted tanks and armoured cars for this purpose, so when Rommel captured three? of these spacious vehicles he pressed them into immediate service.


Now that Zvezda make the Matador truck, on which it is based, the obvious thing to do would be to build one up from card using the chassis as a starting point. However, I own a hotwheels Dodge Ambulance that has been used only for the odd AK47 game. Never been raced or rallied and it looked ‘close enough’ for me to start glueing bits of card on to see if the concept had any legs.


Whether it did or not you can judge for yourself. The cam net hides most of the bits that don’t look like a Dorchester and I’m hoping that hiding it in DAK will disguise the overscale nature of the beast. The captured Dorchesters went through a number of  overpaints. The original Caunter dazzle camouflage could have been a number of colours, but I went with slate green rather than blue. I’ve seen a number of model schemes and although the blue version is the sexiest, the green does actually look like camouflage and accords with newer research. I still like the blue though!