Sunday, 22 February 2015

Road to Breakthrough Assault 3 - The Beginning of the End

Next week I head back to where it all began for me in Flames of War, Bournemouth!  I am taking part in Breakthrough Assault's yearly 2 day Late War event.

Over the past year I have had a great time playing in tournaments, have made some fantastic new friends and even been interviewed on the odd podcast, not bad for an utter noob, eh?!

Although I had played Flames of War occasionally before last year it was only when I started playing in tournaments that I began to really learn the game. What blew me away was the depth to what is, on the face of it, a deceptively simple game.

So with the tournament rapidly approaching I had to settle on a list to take. Having just moved house made this a more difficult affair as I was effectively constrained into taking stuff I already had. No buying and painting new toys at the last minute for me.

What I really like about this tournament is that whilst not themed it does restrict what lists are available. In my opinion Late War has now effectively split itself into 2 periods; Early Late War with books such as Grey Wolf, Overlord and Red Bear and Late Late War with Blood, Guts & Glory, Desperate Measures and Nachtjaeger.

For this tournament the choices would be restricted to the following books, as well as a host of associated PDFs:

Atlantik Wall
Red Bear
Grey Wolf
Road to Rome
Fortress Italy

With a total of 1650pts to spend it would not be as simple as I thought. My experience at the Derby World Championships in the Grey Wolf/Red Bear tournament showed that I struggled taking out the big Soviet heavies with Panzer IVs so a change would no doubt be needed.

I do really like 1650pts however and it my favourite Late War points level as it forces you to make some really tough decisions as to what to take.  The higher points values such as 1800pts make it too easy to build a balanced force in my opinion, I enjoy having to make compromises and then seeing how it works out.

Initially I thought about the Herman Goering Panzer company from Fortress Italy.  The idea of re-rolling Confident morale checks and a platoon 4 StuH42s just seemed too good to pass up.  However I just couldn't make the points work into a list that clicked for me.  Below is my best attempt

I decided not to take any infantry and instead go for another platoon of Panzer IV Hs.  Attacking wise I think the list would be fine.  I'd have the weight of Panzer IV Hs to dig out the enemy and some StuH42s to get rid of pesky gun teams with their breakthrough guns.

However I would really struggle against the Soviet heavies and in defence I'd have to be careful.

There was simply too much uncertainty there for me to make it a comfortable fit.

So my eye turned to the US forces from Overlord.  I like the Auto Attack and Spearheading of the 2nd and 3rd Armoured companies but they seemed too "vanilla" in their choices for me.  My experience last year of using 2nd ID was still fresh but I didn't want a camper army, I like using tanks and dictating the pace of the game.

I then looked at Road to Rome.  I like the idea of using Veteran troops as I can't make Trained troops work for me; being hit on a 4 up instead of a 3 up makes all the difference.

I found the US Armour list too expensive for the points and therefore settled on my old favourite, US Armoured Rifles.

Several bouts of playing around and the odd practice game against my regular opponent, Matt, and I settled on the list below.

I went for a plain jane Headquarters with no support options as I wanted to concentrate my points on where it mattered.

I am a big fan of 2 full Armoured Rifle Platoons in any Armoured Rifle Company list.  They really are miniature armies with their 14 stands.  The big punch comes from the 5 Bazooka teams however the Light Mortar can be very effective in digging out enemy gun teams with its 3 up Firepower.  The Rifle teams are great at shooting either on the move or in defensive fire with their Automatic Rifles, one of the most under rated rules in the game in my opinion.

The anti-tank punch comes from the Sherman platoon with its 2 M4A3 (Late) and 2 M4A3E8  EasyEights.  Hopefully the AT13 shots from the EasyEights will help me deal with any heavy armour.

I quiet enjoy being aggressive in my games and there is no better US tank for assaulting than the Stuart I think.  With its 16" move and stabilisers it can quickly nip into the enemy's rear area (oo-err missus!) and cause havoc if he isn't careful.  

For recce I have gone with a Trained Cavalry Platoon from the 92nd.  Hopefully having them as Trained will make me use them as recce rather than be tempted to use them as fighting troops.  Their job will be very firmly to hide behind terrain using cautious movement and then lift gone to ground from enemy troops.  I'll also look at using them to shut down the enemy's opportunities for placing ambushes.

Artillery-wise I have gone with a platoon of 3 Priests.  I like having Armoured Artillery as it is more difficult to pin them.  They also come with the "ninja" Sherman OP. 

Speaking of OPs I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take an AOP.  The ability to fly around the battlefield and spotting targets of opportunity is too good to pass up.  I have kept the points down by not taking the Column Security option as I very rarely use it.

Having seen the Runners and Riders it looks like it'll be good fun on the day.  The breakdown is as follows:

9 Infantry lists, 11 Mech lists and 12 Tank lists.  It's good to see a nearly even split amongst the company types. 

The full breakdown is as follows

1. Ben C– New Zealand Armoured Squadron (Road to Rome)
2. Martin C – US Armoured Rifles (Overlord)
3. Ben D – US 8th Infantry Division (Citizen Soldiers)
4. Graham W – Tankovy (Red Bear)
5. Dazza – British 7th Armoured (Overload)
6. Carl J – Rota (Red Bear)
7. Nigel E – Nissi (Veteran) (Road to Rome)
8. Chris W – US Armoured Rifles (Road to Rome)
9. Cid – Tankovy (Red Bear)
10. Matt P – British 50th Infantry Division (Overlord)
11. Army Dave – Guards Heavy Tankovy (Red Bear)
12. John B – US 3rd Armoured (Overlord)
13. Mike K – British 3rd Assault Division (Overlord)
14. Steve C – Airlanding Recon (Overlord)
15. Maz – Tankvoy (Red Bear)
16. Skip – British 11th Armoured Lorried Rifles (Overlord)
17. Winner Dave – Tankovy (Red Bear)
18. Marc A – Armoured Rifles (Road to Rome)
19. Mat B – British 51st Infantry Division (Overlord)
20. Paul W – US Armoured Rifles (Overlord)

1. Fez – Panzer Company (Grey Wolf)
2. Jim M – Armoured Pioneers (Grey Wolf)
3. Jersey James – Italian Infantry (Fortress Italy)
4. Adam C – 26th Panzer (Fortress Italy)
5. Robin S – Tiger Company (Fortress Italy)
6. Paul F – Hungarian Tank Company (Grey Wolf)
7. Steve H - Gepanzerte Panzergrenadierkompanie (Fortress Italy)
8. Viking Mike – Gepanzerte Panzergrenadierkompanie (Grey Wolf)
9. Alex H – HG Aufklärungsschwadron (Fortress Italy)
10. Toby M – Panzer Lehr (Atlantik Wall)
11. Andy C – Grenadiers (Grey Wolf)
12. Kevin P – 26th Panzer Grenadiers (Fortress Italy)
There's a good chance that I'll be attacking as often as I'm defending therefore I went for the balanced combined arms option and I'm glad to see it paid off.

Mission wise we'll be playing the following

Game 1 - Breakthrough
Game 2 - Dust Up
Game 3 - Fighting Withdrawal
Game 4 - Cauldron
Game 5 - Free For All 

With an entirely mechanised army I'm not looking forward to anything that has Mobile Reserves and sees me defending.  That aside apart from my hated Free For All mission it is a good mix and will certainly make for some interesting match ups.

Anyhow if you're there please come and say "Hi".  Matt has got me and the other Breakthrough Assault guys some natty new polo tops to wear and I'm sure they'll be modelled in force during the tournament so I should be fairly easy to spot!

Anyhow wish me luck and I'll be sure to throw up an AAR of the event just as soon as I can.


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Corrivalry 2015 - After Action Review

Corrivalry 2015 - After Action Review

I should confess straightaway that I didn’t take any pictures at the tournament, I know poor show!  However I hought I’d take a moment to run through the list I took and the games I had.

Corrivalry 2015 was a 1800 points Late War affair.  Interestingly it had the option of a 450 points swap out where you could modify your list by 450 points to create an A List and B List for games.  The provision was that you got to see the table, terrain and the mission and your know what type of company your opponent was fielding before you decided what list to use.

With that in mind I set out about creating a force that had both an anti-tank and and an anti-infantry list.  

I have always had a thing for fast aggressive German armour lists therefore I went for Panzers to the Meuse Panzer Lehr Tank Company.  Auto attacking, spear heading armour what’s not to like.

My A List focussed on killing tanks and as such had the Panzer IV/70(V) in it which I think is one of the best German tanks in the game.  The thinking was that it would prove useful in taking out the Soviet heavies and give me an option to deal with Jumbos or King Tigers.

My B List focussed on taking out infantry and swapped out the Panzer IV/(V)s which would be wasted on killing grunts and instead bought in some more Panzer IVs and another Puma patrol.  I love a Puma, with its Jeep movement and decent main gun it certainly isn’t a threat to be taken lightly.

Central to both lists were a core of Panzer IV platoons to assault infantry and deal with armour.  An Aufklarungs platoon to seize and hold objectives.  Their MG Panzerfaust teams could possibly come in handy to bounce both armour and infantry in assaults.

Nebelwerfers were there to provide smoke and cheap artillery and pin those annoying infantry blobs.  The Me262 Sturmvogel was going to be used for sniping enemy armour and pinning his artillery.

Well that was the plan anyway, turns out like most plans they don't quiet work out when confronted with the enemy!

Both the A and B lists assembled, Panzers Marsch!

Nebelwerfers, the must have have unit for German players.
Auflklarungs Platoon, 7 MG Panzerfaust teams of awesomeness.  I love the dink size of the SdKfz250/1s as well

Pazer IV/70s - point for point the best German tank in the game

Me261 Sturmvogel, I loved painting this model.  Spoiler alert - it did sod-all throughout the entire tournament

Panzer IVs, the workhorse of any German tank list.  The schurzen make assaulting infantry a realistic prospect and their main gun is still good enough to take out Shermans.

I made up the list and gave my regular opponent, Matt, a few games which no doubt filled me with some false optimism!  See here for his overview of the games.

My objective as ever was to either win two games or not go down 6-1.

Having never attended Corrivalry before I was quiet surprised by the venue, the Icon Innovation Centre in Daventry, it is a professional exhibition space and as such had everything you needed on site and most importantly was very clean and well lit.

As a bonus I also got name badge which made identifying other players so much easier.  Unlike other tournaments I had been to each table was already allocated with missions which meant that everybody was playing something different every game.

The draw was announced and off we went.

My first opponent was Rob, a really nice guy, who was playing in his first tournament.  I got a sudden sense of deja vu as I was in his position only a year ago.  Rob was fielding British Commandos which was a list that I had never faced before so I selected my anti-infantry list.  The mission was Breakthrough so therefore I was attacking.

Rob deployed as well as he could and put his Sherman’s in reserve.  We then went for it and he was quiet taken aback by the speed of the Spearhead move before the game started.  My turn came and went and I was sat on the objective by the end of the first turn.  Rob tried his best to move his infantry into position to force me off but in the end he didn't have the speed or the mass and ended up getting machine gunned to death.  He did take a platoon of Panzer IVs off me though and so I got a 5-2 win.

Round 2 took rather a while to be announced, over an hour, due to a glitch with the software they were using to allocate the match-ups.  In the end when we finally got started everybody was starting to feel a bit tired and cranky.  I ended up drawing Szymon who was fielding a Polish Parachute Company, yay more fearless veteran infantry!  

The mission was Counterattack and the table was an utter nightmare for my mobile force.  It had lots of cratered road and some real big woods which made moving round an utter nightmare, if anything there was too much terrain on the table to make it fun.

We slogged it out and went hammer and tongs at each other, it was avery tense game.  Szymon is obviously a very experienced player and it showed.  In the end I was sat on top of the objective having lost 4 out of 6 platoons and he was not contesting anymore.  The day was mine apart from the small matter of a company morale check.  I rolled my check and promptly failed it, turning a 4-3 win into a 6-1 loss.  Dammit!

Round 3 was announced little bit quicker than Round 2.  I drew Tony, who it turned out was local to me in London.  It was also Tony’s first tournament but he was a very experienced gamer in other systems.  Tony was running a Panzer Company therefore I opted to take my anti-tank list for the first time that day.  

The mission was Cauldron and as there was no deployment area for the attacker my spearhead move wasn’t an option.  We went at it and my main concern was his King Tiger which it took me about 4 turns to kill with a side shot from the Panzer IV70(V)s but not before it singlehandedly accounted for a Panzer IV platoon.  

His reserves took a while to arrive but when they did it turned into a knife fight in one of the wheat fields.  He broke my infantry platoon.  I took out his Company Commander and Company 2i/c and then focussed on breaking his company.  Eventually I forced a company morale check which he automatically failed therefore given me the win and a 4-3 victory, again a very tense game.

Saturday night saw the obligatory night out and beers and for once I woke up on the Sunday not feeling too bad.  My oppo, Matt, however was absolutely hanging!

We arrived and I got drawn against one of the organisers, Hammy, and his filthy dirty Battalion Pucasi.  Again I broke out my anti-infantry list and we went at it.  The mission was Pincer.  

The table again was very busy with lots of terrain, almost too much again.  I went straight for him on one flank and my assault with Panzer IVs was bounced by his massive 25 stand infantry blob, the fact that he jammy rolled their rating as Confident Veteran probably helped!  Then his T34 platoon turned up in ambush and that was pretty much it.  A combination of terrain and dug in gun platoons meant I now had no hope of seizing an objective let alone breaking him so I played for points and focussed my energy on his T34s.  I got them in the end but it cost me dear and the game timed out.  A 5-2 loss for me.

The final game was announced and I was nervously wondering who I’d draw to salvage some honour on the field.  The draw came and it was Fez.  Fez had some Reluctant Veteran US Armour from Bridge at Remagen and assessing that Jumbos were likely to be present I went with my anti-tank list.

The mission was No Retreat and the terrain was much more favourable to my spearheading.  We went at it very aggressively from the off and I focussed everything on seizing one of the objectives.  My Gepanzerte Aufklarungs Platoon went racing up to his dismounted Armoured Rifle Platoon, debased, and then died.  My Panzer IVs went in and managed to push them back and I was then on the objective.  His reserves rolled up and he tried everything he could to get me off it but in the end I held on and got a 4-3 win, phew.  It was my favourite game off the weekend and it showed with the complete friendliness we both treated the game.  I was so chuffed when Fez won Best Sport, thoroughly deserved.

Again I learnt lots and for the first time I won 3 out of 5 games, result.  Importantly though I placed above Matt and Fez which all counts towards our Breakthrough Assault podcast challenge.  Jersey James outdid all 3 of us however with a good solid performance.  In the end I placed 57 out 96 players and I felt ok with that.

All in all it was a good tournament and it was certainly good to go to the largest one in the UK.  Was it my favourite to date, no it wasn’t.  At times the tournament felt like too much hard work and I just wasn't feeling it.  Some minor admin niggles contributed to this however hats off to Hammy and Nobby for running it, it certainly looks like a thankless task and I doubt many could do better.  However overall I’m glad I went, it was good to play some new opponents and it certainly sharpened up my game.