Monday, 13 October 2014

Warhammer Historical: Great War Practice

It's been an absolute age since I've played a game of Warhammer - 40K or Fantasy - so I am dipping my toe back in the waters with a few small games. I decided to try the Blitz scenario from the rulebook, with 1914 Germans trying to push through the BEF and reach the 4' marker of the table. About where the two British artillery pieces can be seen. For the BEF I took the bare minimum of infantry, a single company of two small platoons (E and D) and one Company Command Section (B, hiding behind two pillboxes of dubious historicity), and augmented them with 2 HMGs and 2 18lb artillery pieces. I fully expected the German to overrun the BEF without much trouble.

On the German side, I used the Guards list, which is superior in close combat, while every infantryman has grenades, aiding him in assault. Some of my choices here were influenced by the comparative paucity of German models in my collection. I deployed a Colonel with a General Staff Officer and a full Battalion Command Section (1), a single HMG (2) and two off-table 77mm pieces (3, marked on table in accord with the rules), with which to support the attack. The left flank (1st Company: two platoons, 4 & 6, and a Command Section, 5) and the centre (two platoons, 7 & 9, and a Command Section, 8) were to advance, hopefully soaking up some damage, while the right flank, featuring a heavily reinforced platoon (12), a normal platoon (10) and another Command Section (11) was what I was hoping would do best by virtue of its superior numbers.

It was a very instructive experience. Having been used to the Imperial Guard, I'd never been accustomed to regarding Flak Armour as useful ere now, but when your basic troops don't get a save unless they are in cover or accept being pinned (unable to advance) in the next turn, it really brings it home. The German right flank got shot to pieces by artillery, while the central machine guns knocked out most of the attacking force in that area. The left flank advanced almost to contact before I abandoned play, and was probably going to push through the BEF platoon on that flank. The German HMG was useless, mainly because of my spectacular dice-rolling abilities. Turn 1: eight dice in sustained fire, requiring a 4+ to hit. None hit. No lesson to be learned there, aside from not letting one's infantry block one's fire. Things improved slightly, but not by much.

The German artillery was ineffective, which was my own fault for trying to take out the two pillboxes with the HMGs. I should have been better served firing on the infantry behind the walls. I erred in taking the walls to give a 3+ save when it was a 4+, and in failing to realise until the very end that the German artillery, being off-table, gained the Indirect Fire trait, which meant that the infantry shouldn't have had any save against it anyway! One round did miss the pillboxes and take out most of the Command Section, the officer legging it back up the road toward the artillery for one turn before he regained his composure. German rifle fire was ineffective, which is to be expected. With one shot at 12" if infantry move, they were never expected to do much. The BEF infantry was predictably good at shooting as the Germans closed the range. The problem for the BEF is that their basic infantryman is so very expensive. I've never been sure if the points value is adequately reflected in battlefield competence.

I think when I come to replay this game I'll pare the Germans down to two large companies of troops and a pair of off-table artillery pieces. The artillery will engage in a bit of counter-battery fire, as the Royal Artillery did some murderous good work, then focus on the infantry. On the British side, I will either remove one artillery piece and spare crewmen, and buy a third platoon for the defenders, or just trim down the spare crewmen and slightly enlarge the two platoons. at 1,000 points for the Attacker and 500 for the Defender, there really isn't a lot of room for anything else. Next game will be a bit different, anyway, as I plan to use my newly constructed canals, which will give the BEF less to hide behind, but may cause bottlenecks for the Germans.

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