Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Pennsylvanian in France and Germany, 1944-1945


I thought I would post something a little different today. I was going through some old pictures of mine and found some of my grandfather from WWII to show some relatives who had been asking about his service. Since having those discussions, I thought I would share a little bit about him here.

My grandfather, Francis F Stine, served in the 95th Infantry Division, 378th Infantry Regiment under Patton's Third Army. He was a Technician 4th Grade with one of the Division's 105mm artillery battalions. He received the Bronze Star while working in the fire control center. When I asked him about this, he remarked "Bah! They handed those out like candy!" and added that he was just doing his job (one of the most common remarks you hear from WWII vets). He wasn't all that impressed with that citation. But, what he was proud of was his service as a FOO for the battery. Because of this, he qualified for the Combat Infantry Badge. The Army forgot to give it to him, so he had to file for it with the War Department. Beyond that, and the interesting stuff he brought home, he never talked about the war. He was a notoriously quiet man, though he loved to laugh at my grandmother's dirty jokes.

Anyway, here are some of his pictures and items from his service you might find interesting.

95th "Victory" Division

The 95th was nicknamed the Iron Men of Metz for their actions in France 1944

Pappy, center, with his M3 Grease Gun, somewhere in Germany

Pappy, first standing row, 2nd from right. I don't know anything about this picture beyond him being in it. He brought back two large Nazi fags from the war, but neither of them seem to be the same size as the flag in this pic.

The citation

The Combat Infantry Badge for his service as an FOO

 Hope you enjoyed these pics! I would like to some day take pics of some of the other stuff he brought back, including his Luger pistol, and an SS dagger.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

15mm Kursk Preview for Barrage 2018...

Hello everyone! I recently ran a test game using my newly painted 15mm late war German and Soviet minis. The minis are all from Battlefront (FoW) and plastic. I painted two platoons of Panzergrenadiers with halftracks and a company command team, and a Soviet rifle platoon with two 57mm Zis-2 AT Guns and a Maxim HMG team, plus company command team. The Germans are painted to represent the Grossdeutschland division.

The scenario I ran is a test for the game I will be running at Barrage in Havre De Grace Maryland September 28-29. The convention will be covered by the members of Army Group York, such as yours truly, who bring you Little Wars TV! If you're in the area, come on out!

The scenario is an assault towards the Psel river by the Grossdeutschland division during Operation Citadel. The game will feature the forward elements of a Panzergrenadier company supported by mortars and HMGs against a Soviet rifle platoon hastily dug in along two low sets of hills anchored by a farm and a village.

The test game went will and will only require a little tweaking to balance the game. I will be writing up a full report once the convention is over and leading up to that, I will posting about some of the ways you can run big multi player games of Disposable Heroes II. For now, here are some teaser shots of the test game. Buildings are the excellent kits by Things from the Basement. Lovely little kits from their Eastern Front 15mm range. I hope to post a more full review of them as well.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

15mm Tank Battle Demo

Hello, and welcome back! This week I bring you a tank on tank slugfest using 15mm tanks on the Eastern Front. Here I will demonstrate some of the basic concepts and mechanics behind vehicle combat in Disposable Heroes II. The vehicle rules in this edition are a streamlined and updated version of the original vehicle rules (the Coffin for Seven Brothers of the original edition). They are, however, built on a very solid foundation provided by Chalfant Conley when we wrote the first edition so many years ago. The work he put into that system with regards to armor values, hit locations, weapon penetrations, and crew are still present. For his work, I am eternally grateful. The best thing about this is that no new vehicle data cards were needed for Disposable Heroes II. It was intended that all of the original vehicles from the first edition would be usable as is. Yet there have been some changes to the way vehicles play. I hope you find the changes to the original system quicker to play, and streamlined in a way that keeps the best parts of the original, while allowing for fast and challenging tactical games of armor combat. If you are new to the system, I hope that these changes make for a fun and challenging game based on years of feedback and development. 

Best of all, when you use Disposable Heroes II for tank on tank combat you don't need to be a Tanker and buy a whole separate vehicle rules set. Disposable Heroes II doesn't just allow you to add a few vehicles to your platoon level infantry games, it adds a complete armored combat system that works great for all tank battles in a variety of scales, whether that is 28mm, 15mm, or even 1/285th (6mm) scale!

This game takes place on the Eastern Front in 1943, pitting a platoon of German Panzer IV Hs up against a platoon of T-34 76/Ds. The crew qualities are slightly different, but balanced for a good head to head meeting engagement. Hopefully this will show off the rules, without vast differences in armor and guns getting in the way of showcasing the mechanics.

So button up your hatches and head to the front!

Here is our battlefield for this engagement. A typical Russian village and farm near Prokhorovka, possibly near the Psel River.

Here we have a platoon of Panzer IV Hs from the 1st SS under the command of a Lieutenant with a Guts score of 9 and a T&E of +2 for the platoon. The 9 Guts scale represents a platoon that is showing signs of fatigue, but has had excellent training and tactical skill, allowing it to have two Push Activations a turn.

Here we have a platoon of T-34s from the 24th Guards Tank Brigade under the command of a Lieutenant with a Guts score of 10 and a T&E of +1. This represents a motivated unit with a high morale due to being on the counterattack, but with a lower quality in training and tactical skill

And here are the various German Deployment Points, from 1-4 (the 5th is not pictured but is a far right flank position behind some woods which the Germans decide not to use).

Deployment Point 1 (skull) is on the far left German flank and has a nice view across to the enemy deployment zone, but whose view of the village is blocked by a small wooded rise in the middle. 

Deployment Point 2 is towards the middle, with the wooded rise immediately to the front. 

Deployment Point 3 is on the road into the village with a view partially disrupted by a bend in the road that goes around a spur on the wooded hill. 

Deployment Point 4 is behind the farm, but with a good view towards the village.

On the Soviet side, Deployment Point 1 (not pictured) is behind a large woods. Deployment Point 2 is an open area slightly behind and to the left of the village, which also looks across to the farm on the German side. Deployment Point 3 is on the main road through the village leading to the farm.

Deployment Point 4 is in an open area with a good view to the farm and the wooded hill in the German center, but also features a large wood on the right that blocks the view to the German left.

The German deployment. Two Panzer IVs deploying from Deployment Point 1 (open area on the left), the platoon HQ tank from Deployment Point 2 (right up the road), and the remaining two Panzer IVs from Deployment Point 4 (behind the farm).

The Soviets deploy a T-34 from Deployment Point 1 (on the far left behind the woods), two from Deployment Point 2 (between the woods on the left and the village), the platoon HQ tank from Deployment Point 3 (also right up the road), and the final T-34 from Deployment Point 4 (on the far left behind the woods).

The turn begins with a roll for Initiative, which the Germans win.

On the first German Activation, two of the Panzer IVs share Tactical Points to move together towards the left flank, with one tank covering the other from a slightly concealed position behind some light scrub and trees. In Disposable Heroes II, tanks can share movement by sharing Tactical Points. Unlike infantry, which when sharing Movement Tactical Points, may move the same distance, vehicles must spend a Tactical Point for movement for each speed and each tank moved. In this case, the German player moves one of his Panzer IVs Slow Speed (4", costing 1 Tactical Point), and the other Panzer IV Medium Speed  (8", costing 2 Tactical Points). The Germans also decide to immediately spend one of their Push Activations to get the jump on the Soviets and push their left flank into a forward position overlooking the Soviet center and right. The two Panzer IVs move the same distance as before and do a bounding over watch to their new position.

For the first Soviet Activation, a T-34 decides to push the far left flank and use the woods to screen its move. The T-34 moves Medium Speed (11", costing 2 Tactical Points). This places the Soviets within striking distance of the farm on the German table edge.

The Soviet player decides to share the 3rd Tactical Point with another T-34, which moves Slow Speed  (6", costing 1 Tactical Point) and noses around the corner of the woods within sight of one of the Panzer IVs. The T-34 decides to try and Acquire the target. In the original Disposable Heroes, every vehicle had to Acquire their target before firing. This is carried over into the new edition, but has been made easier with a new set of modifiers. The Accuracy of all tank crews in this game is 5. The modifiers to the Acquisition roll are +1 for the target being a vehicle and +1 for being within coaxial MG range (48"). Target Acquisition is a free action, however, if a player decides to spend a Tactical Point for Acquisition, they also receive a +1 to their ACC for that Acquisition attempt. In this case, since the Soviet player had already spent their three Tactical Points, they try to Acquire the Panzer IV for free. This roll fails, but the Soviet player puts down a blue marker to indicate their attempt, which in future rolls will gain a +1 for each previous attempt (up to +3). This is a risky move by the Soviets as the Activation turns over to the Germans.

For the German's 2nd Activation, one of the Panzer IVs locates the T-34 nosing around the woods, Acquires the target and fires, hitting the T-34 in the gun mantle (the weakest point of the T-34's armor from the front). The round penetrates the location...

But the German player rolls a 1 for effect! This means that even though the round penetrated, it was an ineffective hit. However, because it was a penetrating hit, the T-34 crew must make a Guts check (which they pass).

So how did the German player determine where he hit and how much armor his shot penetrated? It's a fairly simple process. Each vehicle in the game has its own vehicle data card. 

This card details all of the information needed to use the vehicle in game. Speed, armor, crew, weapons, and any special rules or other information are all here. The player then follows the steps below to resolve his tank's firing and the result of any hits.

The process is as follows using the German players results:

Roll to Acquire: D10 roll of 7 (5 ACC + 1 for coaxial MG, and +1 for vehicle target).

Roll to Hit: D10 roll of 1. Hit!

Roll for Location: D10 roll of 10, location hit using the T-34's data card is a turret mantle.

Roll for Penetration: D10 roll of 7 using the Panzer IVs 7.5cm L48 chart, resulting in 116.

Compare Gun Penetration to Armor Value: Penetration! Penetration 116> turret mantle AV 56.

One of the criticisms of the original DH is that while this process allows for a lot of accuracy in technical detail for vehicle combat, the series of rolls can slow down game play. That is a valid criticism, and an effort has been made to simplify this in an effective, but realistic manner.

In Disposable Heroes II, once a vehicle has Acquired its target and then hit, the gun is Zeroed In. This means that the next time that vehicle fires at the same target, it will automatically hit. No need to roll.  This represents the gunner laying in the gun onto the target, and with the exception of either vehicle moving more than Slow Speed, the gun will automatically hit the target when it fires again. Also, on each additional hit, the player may then select the location on the target vehicle is hit. This represents the gunner fine tuning the gun to hit a weak spot in the enemy vehicle's armor.

Vehicle combat in Disposable Heroes II is decisive. The tank crew that acquires their target first and gets off the first (and subsequent) shots will have a much better chance of knocking out an enemy tank. This also means that maneuver becomes important: once you are an acquired target, it makes displacing quickly or out of LOS important, and potentially life saving! Movement and flanking become very important in Disposable Heroes II, and tank vs tank games will be a very cat and mouse affair, with both sides trying to outmaneuver and out shoot their opponent. Your vehicle's facing will become important (as the front has the best armor), and each roll will become the difference between life and death.

On top of that, crew quality matter, and can play a role in the outcome. Players may decide to add or subtract their crew's T&E to their location roll to change the location hit, or they may add this to the penetration roll to depict the crew having access to special AP rounds. Most of all, the T&E bonus for Push Activations really gives those crews the edge they need to outpace and outfight the enemy.

Anyway, let's get back to the action!

On the 2nd Soviet Activation, the T-34 that was moving up the left flank abruptly turns and attempts to engage one of the Panzer IVs on the opposite side across the open fields running down the middle.

The German 3rd Activation finds the German player attempting to bring more of his Panzer IVs into the fight. By Activation and moving his Platoon HQ tank onto the hill, the German player hopes to prevent the Soviets from making a dash towards the farm and cutting the road. Cresting the hill, he spots and Acquires the flanking T-34 by using his free Acquisition attempt. This is a critical moment, and the German player decides to use his 2nd (and last) Push Activation to fire onto the flanking T-34.

The Panzer IV moves up...

Takes aim, hits, and penetrates! (the 5 in the pic is the hit roll).

The result on the Penetration Result Chart is a 10!

Vehicle brew up! The T-34 explodes in a column of smoke. The crew are either dead or bailing out, and this T-34 is out of the battle. First blood to the Germans.

In the following Activations, both sides attempt to maneuver into positions where more than one tank of theirs is firing on only one of the enemy. There are also many cases of players backing their tanks out of LOS to the enemy or moving behind terrain so that the enemy loses Acquisition.

This is also where sharing Tactical Points becomes important for firing. Since each tank may only fire once during their Activation (with the exception of vehicle mounted AA guns), sharing Tactical Points to Fire on the same target allows a tank platoon to concentrate their fire on a single target and take them out of the fight quickly. Real tank tactics are rewarded here!

The game continues with the Germans Acquiring multiple T-34s and hitting, but failing to get high enough penetration results. Those sloped T-34 hulls are tough! The angle of plate and armor thickness are accounted for in all of the vehicles in Disposable Heroes II. Treadheads will find a lot of crunch in this game, but in an easy to use system for resolving guns vs armor.

Another failed penetration result!

The Soviets are concentrating on two flanks at once using the cover of the village and the woods to remain in defilade to one enemy tank while engaging another.

The Soviets brew up one of the Panzer IVs near the farm.

The Germans respond on their left flank with a salvo of 7.5cm L48 fire from two of their Panzer IVs.

One of the Panzer IVs fails to Acquire, but the other hits and brews up another T-34.

The war is over for this crew...

But the Soviets have plenty of fight in them! the T-34 on the right flank turns the corner of the woods and charges in, gun blazing. This T-34 makes use of a point blank firing rule. If an enemy vehicle is within 12", the tank Acquires the target automatically. This means no risking an Acquisition roll failure...but this sword cuts both ways. If the enemy tank is within range, so are you, and they will also automatically Acquire you as well. So you better make sure you hit and brew up your opponent before he does the same to you...

In this case, it works. The T-34 gets off a perfect shot and brews up another Panzer IV.

At this point both sides have sustained a loss of two tanks each. The Penetration Results have so far all been brew ups. But, there is the possibility of damaging vehicles (increasing likelihood of a brew up on further hits), killing crew, immobilizing a tank with a track hit, and suppressing a crew so that they lose Tactical Points rallying instead of taking other actions. All of this can be recorded easily on a copy of your vehicle's data card.

Armor combat in Disposable Heroes II is fast and it is intense. Every decision and every roll matters. It is a game that rewards maneuver and tactical finesse by close coordination of your tank platoon. Your crew quality matters, but your armor and weapons do too. It is a game that rewards skill and risk. But tank combat is a cruel and brutal affair, and sometimes those rounds just bounce harmlessly off...or the most shaken crew rally and get their tank back in action just in time to put a round through their enemy's weakest armor.

If you like armor combat and care about the details of armor values and gun performance, but also about tactical skill and use of historical tactics, you will find Disposable Heroes II is a great system that seamlessly provides both.

Next time, we will return to the Eastern Front for a full on Panzergrenadier assault with supporting pre game artillery and tank support. Pushing towards Ponyri station, Soviet resistance stiffens...

See you next time!

15mm miniatures by Battlefront, painted by me. 15mm MDF laser cut buildings by Things from the Basement LLC, also painted by me.