Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Never Ending Battle

The last couple of weeks have been kind of quiet for me on the gaming front, not having gamed or really worked much on anything.  While the Ukraine war has rather cooled my jets on Cold War gaming for a little while, I've certainly not lost interest in the hobby, and have been sort of taking inventory of where things stand with my various projects and interests.

Despite having significantly purged projects and periods a couple of times in years past, I find that I now game more "periods" than ever, and functionally have interest in adding half a dozen more to the list.  A lot of the priods are interrelated, providing for some overlap in terrain, buildings, and armies; for example, gaming the cold war in two scales and over four decades, yields eight periods of play and building at least portions of 48 different armies and four sets of terrain.  

In all, there are 39 periods or subjects of play that I hope to ultimately put on the table.  And yet, I struggle with understanding that I need to somehow reduce the overall scope of what I game due to space and time limitations.  

I've come to realize that I derive less enjoyment from gaming post Cold War, third world subjects, such the Irag and Afghan wars, as my immersive style of play is not well suited to playing Taliban, Al quida, or ISIS types.   This was not something that occurred to me, while building armies for these conflicts, and I also always saw the use of the allied armies in other hypothetical settings.

I could cast off a few of these armies as a result of this realization, but it would only rid me of maybe three boxes of figs.  Less than a cubic foot of storage space opening up, as my Soviet-Afghan Mujahideen and African imagi-nation armies make up half of the forces, and none of the terrain used in those "ultra-modern" conflicts is unique to them.  Also, little work remains to be done for them, so my "to-do" list would not shrink either.

It would take some greater purge, such as deleting a period and scale entirely, eliminating 15mm WWII or 6mm Cold War would make a big dent, but would feel like losing a family member.

Additionally, it would mean getting rid of periods for which I've done the most work and that are the most complete.  To shorten my "to-do" list, and reduce the heap of unusable figs and stuff, it would make more sense to eliminate near-future sci-fi, post apoc, fantasy, or other 28mm periods and projects.  They take up a lot of room, require the most intensive work, and in their current state offer the smallest gaming options or chance of immediate return.

But then there is the consideration that I most enjoy working on 28mm figs and terrain.  For me the larger the scale, the more fun the work.  Eliminating the most enjoyable part of creating the game doesn't seem like a wise choice.

The fact that I've made more progress on the smaller scales is a function of time and gaming dollars available over the years.

And then there is the passion I feel for the various projects.  Giving up World War II, the Cold War, or my African imagi-nations would feel like amputating a part of myself.

So I ponder how to reduce my gaming footprint, while eagerly awaiting an order of 15mm PeterPig late war British infantry to use as the base for my 1958 British Cold War infantry, and look forward to next weekend's model kit show, in hope of finding more aircraft for 20mm Vietnam.

For this battle, there is no end in site.

Recent additions for my 20mm Vietnam gaming.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

AAR-2B WWIII 1958: First Big Clash (Part 2 of 2)

This is the part 2 of 2 of an after action report about my WWIII battle set in 1958 West Germany; part 1 is located here.

The setting is June 1958, a little west of the inner German border, the Soviets have attacked Germany on the day before NATO was planning launch an attack on East Germany to relieve West Berlin from a total blockade.  Links to back story for my alt-history timeline is located here.

The battlefield centers around Sottmar West Germany and involves the Soviet 10th Guards Tank Division attacking 6th UK Armored Division.  It is early afternoon with a low overcast and intermittent light rain and mist.

Thus far Soviet forces have forced the withdraw of British forces east of, and inside of Witmar in the northeastern corner of my table.  Soviet losses have been heavier than expected with destruction of a T-55 battalion for the expence of only about half of a UK tank squadron.  Soviet artillery have been controlling the flow of the battle otherwise.

Part 2

The T-55 battalion to the south advanced behind walls of artillery smoke, while the T-10 battalion in the center was still forming up.  The remnants of the northern T-55 battalion, now joined by a company of T-10s began to advance as well.

The situation from the Soviet view looking east.

The British forces in and around Sottmar waited for the Soviets to move into range.

British armor in the field immediately north of Sottmar watch for 
Soviet tanks to appear out of the haze

As the T-10s in the center and T-55s to the south advanced, a wall of smoke began to form to protect them from long range British fire.  This would help to ensure that the Soviet tanks would enter the fight at optimal range from enemy forces.

Sovet artillery laying smoke in front of the advance.

As the Soviets closed, the withdrawing forces from Witmar moved into position to support the defense from Sottmar.  The British straddled the town with armor both immediately north and south of the town itself.

Withdrawing British forces reposition near Sottmar.

Finally the Soviet tanks began to take form out of the mist and the shooting was resumed, initially the British had better luck, killing a couple of the attacking force, but as the range closed to under 1200 meters the T-10s started to have an effect.

Conquerors were still nearly impossible to destroy, but even mobility hits would in time functionally kill the target, as a British withdraw would be forced.

British forces take casualties at Sottmar.

As the British and Soviet armor immediately north of Sottmar beat each senseless, to the east of Sottmar proper, T-10s began to appear out of the artillery smoke, which was starting to dissipate.  

The battle for Sottmar begins.

To the south of Sottmar, the T-55 battalion closed on the British infantry in the treeline.  The infantry held their fire, as their only anti-tank weapons were M20 bazookas.  The T-55s came under fire from British armor on the hill north of the treeline, behind Sottmar.

T-55s approach the British held tree-line.

An overall British view of the situation at this point. 

As tanks exchanged fire into and out of Sottmar, the Soviet T-10s continue their advance, with British artillery dropping high explosives on them to little effect.  

Soviet forces close on Sottmar.

As the Soviets closed in on the town, British tank losses started to mount, and as Soviet artillery fell first on the field west of town and then on the town itself, remaining British forces had to withdraw.

As the Soviets came into range, they began to receive fire from the hill west of Sottmar, but the Centurions located their simply could not penetrate the T-10s at such a range.  This fire drew the attention of artillery dropping white phosphorous, and then guns, rockets and heavy mortars delivering high explosive onto the British forces on the hill.  Losses were taken from both tank gun fire and the artillery, and finally the British gave the order to break off the fight, with British forces withdrawing through the next line of defense.

Soviet artillery falls on the field north of Sotmar and on the hill 
west of it.

A view of the British perspective of the situation.

Southwest of Sottmer, a now reduced T-55 battalion closed on the treeline, blindly firing a few high explosive rounds, but not really seeing or hitting anything.  Finally at only 400 meters, the Soviet tanks finally began to spot the British infantry and engaged directly.

T-55s engage British infantry.

With a mix of cannon and machinegun fire, the T-55s began to engage the British troops, who fired back with small arms and three M20 bazookas (which all missed). 

Then one of those odd little moments in a big battle happened.  The southernmost T-55 fired on and missed the British rifle section in front of them, and the section, believing they had no other option, close-assaulted, and destroyed the T-55.  

T-55 (in cloud of smoke, foreground) is destroyed in infantry 
close assault.

Another T-55 was eventually killed by a bazooka, but in moments, the infantry broke, and tried to escape.  The T-55s followed and destroyed the retreating vehicles.  The surrender of the surviving infantry was not accepted.

British infantry attempting to flea from the advancing T-55s.


The battle ended as the British withdrew and the attacking Soviet forces, which had lost about two thirds of their engaged battalions, needed to regroup.  In all about a regiment of tanks had fought, and only about a battalion remained alive, roughly half or which was immobile.

Though there was no mutual infantry engagement, the British lost nearly half  (about a company) of their infantry, and Soviets lost about a third of their infantry battalion to British artillery file.

The British destroyed two batteries of artillery with counter battery fire.  

British recce had light losses, while Soviet recce losses were about 50 percent, including an instance where a T-55 ran over a BTR-40 in a bank of artillery smoke (I accidently set a T-55 on the BTR-40 under the smoke during movement, so called the BTR a loss).

Some Thoughts and Observations

I really screwed up by not forming up all of the Soviet battalions uniformly for the advance.  Trying to cheat and exploit the roads lead to a piece-meal attack, that could have been much more effective if the center had been passing the northern UK units by, while the northern T-55 battalion engaged them.  The British would have either had to withdraw earlier of get encircled.

The British armor achieved an almost 2 to 1 kill ration in armor, which wouldn't have been good enough had the real thing happen.  The Centurion III's 20 pounder was just not quite enough gun against the T-55 and nearly useless verse the T-10.  In 1959-60, they would be been up graded to the 105mm L7 guns, and in that case, more than a match against those same adversaries.  

The Conqueror was an absolute beast.  None were destroyed outright, and all Conqueror losses were from mobility hits, that later had to be abandoned.  The other armored regiments in 6 AD don't have these, and I imagine this battle with all Centurion IIIs would have resulted in losses proportioned at more like 1:1.2 in favor of the British force.

The rules are homebrew, and I cranked all the numbers for the Soviet guns, but even so, I was surprised at the limitations imposed by the earlier Soviet ammunition.  Still, useful engagement ranges were roughly twice what I am used to in most WWII games, and more like half of what I am used to in all those mid-1980s Cold War games that I played many years ago.

No ATGMs.  Given the longer engagement ranges of the tank guns, getting infantry involved is going to be an adventure.  I'm going to have some learning curve there.


Generally, for this battle and campaign, I am relying on army Lists from MicroMark / Mark Bevis.  These are the most comprehensive of all of my sources for this period, for which I am finding a lot of variation in TO&Es from various sources.  For this battle the Soviets were built around the 1958-64 Russian Tank Division, and British forces based on the 6th Armored Division 1956-1957.  

I made some minor changes to Soviet air defense vehicles, mostly replacing BTR-40A with BTR152A, as I didn't have the BTR-40As in miniature.  

Of particular note is the peculiar organization of the British tank squadrons, incorporating a single Conqueror heavy tank in three of the four troops in each.  The presence of the Conquerors proved to be very important in this battle, as there were only nine of them present, and they accounted for nearly half of the Soviet tank losses.  The troops are otherwise equipped with three Centurion Mk III, armed with 20 pdr as mentioned above

British forces in the late 1950s saw a lot of evolution and changeover in hardware.  One change I made from the published army list was to replace the infantry pltns M-3 halftracks with Alvis Saracens, figuring that this had been in production since 1952, and that upgrading might have been rushed, given the events in my timeline.  In this game, I don't think they mattered much, maybe saving a couple of artillery kits verse what they would have seen int he M3 halftracks.

I also have considered that British reorganization of divisions may have been postponed on the eve of a third world war, and decided not to institute changes that started to happen in 1958.

That's all I have for now.   Be well and stay safe.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

AAR-2A WWIII 1958: First Big Clash (Part 1 of 2)

After the initial contact with Soviet ground forces just east of Semmenstedt, British recce withdrew a few kilometers west to positions north and south of Remlingen-Semmenstedt.  Contact was again made, though without incident, and divisional recce withdrew again through regimental recce which spanned a line from the forested hills north of Wittmer south through Dorstadt.

Both armor and infantry from 6 AD was deployed in the woods north of Witmar, in the high ground three klicks west of Witmar and in and around Kissenbruck.  British forces hoped to bloody the Soviet 10thGguards Tank Division here, fall back across the Oker, and do it again.

The Battlefield

The battlefield runs slightly north of west to slightly south of east, with the Soviets entering from the East end.  The British are deployed in the hills north of Witmar, generally diagonally, on a line to the southwest in Kissenbruck.  Most of the battlefield is open and flat with the high ground to along the center north edge, and center near the west edge.  There are no notable water obstacles, and the there is still a low heavy cloud deck with possible rain.

Spotting was hampered in all instances, and limited to no more than 1600 meters due to the rain and mist.  The low clouds and rain also limited availability of aircraft for observation or attack.  Most successful spotting occurred at 800m or less.

The table measures 5400 meters by 3600 meters.

The Soviet view looking west.

British view looking east.

British forces had the benefit of hastily made defensive positions (not represented, as I've misplaced a box of terrain bits).  Because of the odd circumstances of the attack (the NATO advance being planned for the next morning, very few mines were deployed in the area.


British Forces consist of 3rd Carabiniers Armored Regiment (HQ Sqdn & 3x Tank Sqdn), 2x inf Company & HQ of the 2nd Motor Btln, and 4 batteries of dedicated 155mm guns supporting.  Air and additional artillery support are possible.

British forces, infantry are in the plastic cases.

Soviet Forces consist of most of 10th guards Tank Division, including 2x Tank Btln with T-55.  one of these also included a company of 10 SU-122; 1x Hvy Tank Btln with T-10, 1x Motor Rifle Regiment in BTR-50 (one T-55 btln is part of this regiment), both regimental and divisional recce platoons,  other assorted supporting elements of BTR-152As, ZSU-57/2, 85mm guns, 82mm mortars, and 16 assorted batteries of rockets, guns, and mortars, mostly 122mm, but including 160mm mortars, and BM-14 rocket launchers.  Possible additional air and artillery support.  For more information on TO&E/OB, see my notes at end of AAR part 2.

Soviet forces, the infantry regiment has been split between two 
advancing elements.

UK Deployment

From north to south the British deployed as follows:

One Squadron of tanks, supported by two platoons of infantry in the wooded hill along the north edge of the table immediately east of Witmar.  

British Centurions and Conquerors looking to the south,
deployed on the wooded hill east of Witmar.

A second Tank Squadron in the overgrown field and town of Sottmar slightly west of Witmar and roughly centered on the table.

British forces in and around Sottmar, facing east (left).

The third tank squadron, supported by two platoons of infantry in the wooded hill west of Sottmar near the west edge of the table.

British armor, infantry, and command elements on the forested 
hill west of Sottmar (looking east).

A view from the east of Sottmar and the hill to the west of the town.

Two platoons of infantry along the tree lined road, south of the forested hill on the west end of the table, north of Kissenbruck (just off table).

British infantry in the tree-line north of Kissenbruck.

British armored cars of their reconnaissance sections advanced to points of cover ranging between 1000 and 2000 meters ahead of the British main line.  As units made contact with the Soviets, they would fall back to secondary positions to keep track of the advance until withdrawing behind the main line.

Soviet Advance

The Soviet 10th Tank Division entered at three points from the east edge of the table. Recce platoons consisted of either BTR-40s, BRDM-1s, or PT-76 light tanks bounding along reconnoitering likely points of resistance.  The rain and mist offered some degree of cover in largely open spaces.

Soviet armored cars and light tanks advance along the southern (left),
 and central roads, while to the north, they have barely entered the
 table about 8oo meters behind their comrades in the advance.

With the exception of the BTR-40 that spotted the British armor in the wooded rise to the north, Soviet recce elements were spotted before their British counterparts.

British recce spots Soviet Recce in the distance.

This resulted in British artillery being called in the Soviets, which scored some killed on the light armor.  But, the Soviets responded by calling in their own more numerous batteries on terrain features that might offer hiding spots for the British.  This allowed the Soviets to continue their advance.

Artillery giving recce a hard time on both sides.  
North is to the top of this view.

During the artillery duel to the south, the Soviets opened up on the British armor in the forest to the north with six batteries of guns dropping white phosphorus.  The barrage chased the British armor out of the woods, which advanced towards the Soviets, rather than withdrawing for a later fight.

White phosphorous can be seen beginning to land 
in the upper left above.

British losses were actually quite light with only a couple of APCs and a few squads actually being destroyed.  For the most part, the infantry were able to mount up and escape to the west.

As the British received the barrage, the lead T-55 battalion, including a support company of SU-122s veered to the north to meet the British coming out of the woods.  As they closed, the T-55s received cover of friendly smoke.

T-55s advance behind smoke top right, while the other 
T-55 battalion advances at the bottom of the view.

By this time, most Soviet recce had tried to take cover, the second T-55 battalion advanced to the south supported by a motor rifle company in BTR-50s, and an assortment of other elements.

A view from the British side.

Some of the most westerly T-55s were spotted, and two batteries of British 155mm guns began to harass them during their advance.

T-55s began to break through their own smoke which clung close to the ground, given the weather conditions. Centurions and T-55s exchanged shots with mixed results, many shots hitting, some bouncing.  And there were the Conquerors, firing their massive 120mm guns and consistently smashing T-55s at a range no greater than 700 meters.  

T-55s fire at the Conquerors was futile, resulting a couple of mobility hits, but no kills.  In time, a few Centurions were destroyed, but the Soviets lost tanks at nearly a three to one ratio.

The Soviets burst through their wall of smoke into a bruttle 
short range battle.

The British armor held their ground, despite being out-numbered, and in time, the number of functional T-55s dwindled, only to be "saved" by the massive JSU-122s.  But both sides quickly learned that the WWII vintage JSUs were no match for the Centurions.

Again, a view from the British side.

The few remaining T-55s did score a few more hits, and a couple of kills, and eventually the British Squadron had to withdraw, abandoning the two immobile Conquerors in the process. 

As the Soviets lost both company and battalion HQs, the attack faltered, allowing the British to escape to the west.

The T-55 BHQ attempting to save the day, shortly before 
expending itself.

To the south, PT-76s continued searching for the British, followed by the second T-55 battalion.

Soviet recce and T-55s advance to the south.

The platoon of PT-76s were spotted by both the British infantry in the tree-line on the southwest corner of the table, and by British armor on the southern fringe of Sottmar in the center of the battlefield, and were directly engaged by the a Centurion and a Conqueror to devastating effect.

Pt-76s found British tanks in Sottmar.

Behind the PT-76s, the T-55 battalion was forming up for the advance, at the same time that the T-10 heavy tank battalion was entering the battlefield on, and either side of the center road.

The second T-55 battalion prepares for the advance.

T-10s enter the battle, bottom center.

The T-55 battalion that attacked to the north was intended to contain the northern British force and prevent a flank attack on the center of the Soviet advance.  Given that the battalion was destroyed and could not confirm the status of British forces to the north, a company of T-10s was sent north to supplement the few remaining T-55s.  

The other two T-10 companies struggled to form up for the advance in the center, and fell somewhat behind the T-55 battalion to the south.  All Soviet forces were directed to push the attack with the utmost haste, rushing past defenders if needed, and allowing follow-up forces to mop up overrun enemy forces.

The British view of things.

The T-10 company advancing to support remnants of 
the T-55 battalion.  The British armored squadron can 
be seen withdrawing to Witmar in the distance.

By this time, Soviet artillery had started to hit Witmar and had driven British infantry and command elements out of town.  The British tanks made their way into Witmar just as the bombardment was ending, and with the threat of being shot by their own T-10s, the remaining portion of the T-55's BHQ managed to rally the few remaining T-55s, which again began a slow advance.

British armor pulling back into Witmar.

As the British moved through Witmar with a couple of Centurions covering the withdraw, the T-10 company moved through the debris that was a T-55 battalion, and they began to exchange shots with the Centurions as they vanished in Witmar.  This exchange resulted in some mobility hits, as the T-10s had a hard time hitting the British, and the 20 pounder guns of the Centurions couldn't penetrate the T-10s.

There were a small number of British infantry that were separated from their force by the white phosphorous barrage in the woods earlier.  One element of that infantry was a M20 bazooka team, who fired at and destroyed the only vehicle to come within range, a ZSU-57/2.  It was one of very few instances of infantry involved in the fighting.

The British M20 team just before destroying the ZSU57/2.

This ended the fighting in and east of Witmar along the north edge of the battlefield, the British infantry and armor withdrew from Witmar and moved to reinforce Sottmar in the center of the battlefield.  The M20 team would soon be listed as "Missing in Action", as they began their journey through what was now enemy territory.

Part 2 of this AAR will be posted in a day or two.