Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Portable Wargame Book WWII Eastern Front Battle (Part 4) - Re-Fight III "End Game Over-run"

Heartened by the destruction of the Panzer IV the Soviets regaled their T-34s to "super human patriotic efforts" and charge and break the German centre. Supported by artillery (it was deemed to be a fresh close combat as the PAK crews had just returned to the fray) and other units the PAK was destroyed. This left a Commander alone in the hex and the T34 mercilessly advanced, tank tracks squealing in "Cross of Iron" fashion (see below): 

We had a brief conversation regarding what to do with a solo command figure alone in close combat and we decided that it was an auto kill - alternatively it could have been roll a "6" for it to hit the T-34, but the latter auto kill seemed more fair (maybe it was getting late). The German Commander went to Valhalla (see below, the Germans are approaching their Exhaustion Limit having lost a Pz IV, a Pak 40 and a Commander - 3 towards their 4 limit, whereas the Russians despite losing three infantry and one tank - are only 4 towards their 7 limit):

The one remaining hope for the Germans was their Mountain Artillery piece, now firing over open sight could brew a T-34 but alas the T34's armour was too strong. Almost inevitably the German front ruptured; Soviet direct fire returned the complement to the German Mountain Artillery and a hit made it retreat (crew not the guns, just like the PAK). This effectively brought the German forces almost to the point of "Exhaustion" - no further movement for offensive action. However the rampant T-34s kept coming (see below, the German artillery crew can just be seen bottom left corner):

The close combat although not killing the Germans (still tenuously hanging above their exhaustion point) hurled them away from the safety of their fortifications and opened up the rearmost T-34 to perform exploitation right into "the enemies backfield" (see below):

The veteran T-34 (veteran as in "model", not as in quality of the unit, as it was painted last century in the 1990's was about to claim it's "wargaming moment") did not need to be asked twice and promptly 'overran' [again I can hear those tank tracks squealing - that remorseless metal on metal sound ] the retreating Mountain Artillery crew. Again after discussion we deemed the German crew were in no position to defend themselves (perhaps "6" to hit would the T-34 have been as appropriate - but what with?) This was sufficient to break the Germans or rather make them reach their Exhaustion Point (see below - no more offensive movement for the Germans from this point on):

With the Russian infantry moving up and two rampant T-34s in the German rear (not forgetting another positioning itself to charge from the front) it was 'game, set and match' to the Soviets. The only question now was, "Could the Germans could get anything off in good order?" or was it a complete rout. Answer: It became a rout as another German Infantry Platoon was eliminated and all the other units forced to retreat "pell-mell" off table (see below, the final position):

This certainly was a comprehensive Russian victory. The game was over in just over an hour, with plenty of time spent in interesting conversation to add to the enjoyment of the proceedings. In fact I have played much longer games of DBA, so it was a quick game for sure - with the previous "run through" and this game done in the same evening. Note: I definitely want to re-run the scenario using Step Points (SPs) instead of the "instant kill" option to see the difference it makes - I expect a prolonged resistance but a Soviet victory.

Thoughts on the rules: Noting we just played the 'basic version' from the Portable Wargames book, not the additional features from the Developing the Portable Wargame. We seemed to get "most" things right, but I think we allowed direct fire (as opposed to close assault) from adjacent hexes at certain points. The more I think about it I am more inclined to prohibit this and force the player to either stand back or go in close and dirty. I am also assuming initiating close combat is "optional in your turn" if you are adjacent to an enemy unit. Regarding weapons characteristics, both the T34 - Pz IV - Pak 40 were OK as they were evenly matched. Throw a Tiger or a JSII into the mix then I think some "relational" modifiers would be appropriate (medium gun versus heavy armour implies a six or the tank could get a saving throw). Likewise for this period of the war, infantry anti-tank weapons justify the danger in T34s or Pz IVs attempting to overrun infantry, early war that would not be teh case. Things I personally want to introduce would be (and these are borrowed from many board game other rule-sets):
  • "Pinned Status" for troops that are fired upon and go "hunkered down" [Bob has read my mind with this additional feature in the follow on book: Developing the Portable Wargame].
  • An "Over-watch" action [placed defensively on units that don't move/fire that allows them to shoot at enemy that move into LOS/range next turn].
  • Playing around with vehicle characteristics to be more historical without becoming a "rivet counter".
  • Armour (AFV) attacking infantry in the open - overrun, then moving on after a successful attack.
  • Period Adjustments - for example 1940's "tank fright", here the Panzer Leader, Squad Leader and other Avalon Hill/SPI games are fertile sources of rule inspiration.
  • Special one-off troop characteristics (Stalingrad Militia high morale for example) 
  • Soviet "Tank-Riders"
  • Ammunition shortages [probably best dealt with in a scenario briefing]
All-in-all a good rules run out and I look forward to many hours of enjoyment spent tinkering along with these rules. That's the beauty of Bob's system, he doesn't explicitly demand you 'kowtow' to him but rather get started in an interesting conversation and how it could work out. Personally I am particularly looking forward to replaying the Colonial scenario and exploring the Ancients. Bob has also published a naval variant and is currently working on a Napoleonic set.


David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

I really enjoyed reading these posts and the end result felt right (I liked the recurring Cross of Iron imagery....). As a long time fan of Bob's rules you have hit the nail on the head in respect of using the core mechanics and tweaking to your own personal taste or for a specific scenario. In fact, it is safe to say that I have rarely used the rules as written as I am an inveterate tinkerer.

It is testimony to Bob's rules that they can stand any amount of tweaking and still work as well.

The naval book is my favourite of the series so far and I am also looking forward to the Napoleonic version in due course.

All the best,


Archduke Piccolo said...

Enjoyed this series of postings. I like your 'over-watch' proposal, something I have considered for my 'Lonely Brain Cell' rule set for 18th C grid war games. They owe a great deal to Bob Cordery's concepts (I hope he will forgive my 'Lonely Brain Cell' working title), Memoir '44, and a few of my own ideas.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Cheers David and Archduke ;)
The feeling is mutual with your posts :)

I will have to a some point try the naval rules too ;)

Jozi Patrick said...

I just found your blog and am embarking o some Portable Wargames myself. Great looking stuff and inspiring!

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Thanks Jozi,

There are lots of little rivets and buttons to tweak in the rules
In addition you don't need that much stuff to get cracking
As easy (or easier) as DBA to get started with

Best Wishes

Kaptain Kobold said...

I find most games end with units adjacent because of the confined space they are played in. So I allow ranged combat from an adjacent position. This may not work for all periods, but if you have pursuit then there is the decision between close combat with a possible pursuit and extra attack, vs simply shooting - safe but no way to take ground.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Agreed KK,
It is interesting when playing the game or rather a game sometimes reading the rules literally trumps rule zero which is "play the period and what can be done rather than what is allowed"

Close combat is the more risky option as you may be damaged yourself but does allow you to take the ground with an advance after combat - shades of squad leader here ;)

Kaptain Kobold said...

For my in-progress ECW Portable Wargame I am trying to strike a careful balance between shooting and going into close combat. At the moment I'm trying to reduce the effect of shooting a little to make the riskier close combat option more enticing - what I want is shooting as option when you just want to wear the enemy down a bit, but the push of pikes being the way to get a final, decisive, result.