So, a while back we all traveled up to our regular mid year event, Panzershreck. As always its a great trip, filled with Korean BBQ, Burger Fuel, beers, scotch, hilarity and somewhere in the middle, a series of doubles Flames of War games. The regular attendees were there from all over, including the usual pack of reprobates from Auckland, the TCOW (That Club Out West) guys. This year was different as we all got to play against them, with Pelarel and I conspiring to beat 'King' Dan Linder and Bob Pearce, and Tank and McZermof heading up against Aussie Greg and Damien 'Mad as a cut snake' Reid.
It got me thinking, that is was great to catch up with these guys. The other thought I had was that we, as Wellington based wargamers, don't often travel for other people's tournaments and this is doubly true since Nick passed a couple of years ago. These thoughts coincided with the TCOW guys announcing that they were hosting Flames Con again at the end of October. Well, says I, it would be awesome if I could go and represent the Wellington fellers in the big smoke.
Permission was asked and granted from my lovely wife, and preparations began in earnest.
As we know, Flames has taken a bit of a back seat for the Regiment over the last couple of years, but Panzershreck reinvigorated me for V4. The half of the list I ran at that event included a trio of Mr Churchill's patented German Barbecuing tank (The Churchill VII 'Crocodile'). They were surprising good and well worth their points. Many opponents were unable to deal with them and the 15 shots of flamethrower each turn meant when we picked a target, it did not stick around for long! I wanted to do more with the Churchill, and when I found out Flames Con was a Late War event at 1500 points, I started planning on lists that included some Churchills.
To my mind, the Churchill was not a very effective tank in Late War prior to V4. Too slow, too weak a gun, three tank troops, Front Armour 9 not being quite high enough and to top it off, being Trained meant that they were mince meat for average antitank options. Even artillery would over power the Top Armour 2. Under V4, however, the Churchill has the option of moving faster with the movement orders and are quite a bit more impervious to Top Armour attacks now artillery and aircraft have been 'nerfed'. With the 'Cross Here' order, they are an auto pass for cross checks.
The list I settled on was a Nachtjager 51st Highland (British) Rifle Company:
Rifle Platoon w RAM Kangaroos
Rifle Platoon w RAM Kangaroos
4x 4.2" mortars
3x Universal Carriers
Tank Platoon (2x Churchill VI, Churchill IV)
2x M10c Achillies
Quite happy with this. Visions of WASPs flaming Jerries while Night Attacking with platoons of Jocks driving up in their RAM Kangaroos. Luvvly! The Core and Weapons platoons (CHQ, 2x Rifle Platoons, AT guns, mortars and 2 carrier patrols) meant that I would not have to worry about my force breaking before I win the game but would all contribute effectively to the game plan. The first problem arose though; I did not have the Churchills, WASPs, RAM Kangaroos or M10c's painted (I was missing an Achillies as well!). I was going to have to slot these into my already full painting schedule (check us out on Facebook - Staghound Garden).
After having a play around with other lists, and thinking back to my musing on how much better the Churchill was in Late War, I had a crack at making a proper Tank Squadron. Veterans were out, simply because the points would not allow them to make a decent list, the Guards were likewise - although I was to rue the lack of the Guards reroll for morale during the competition - so I put together a list for the 2nd Tank Army from the Overlord book.
CHQ: Churchill VII, 2x Churchill V CS
Troop: Churchill VII, Churchill IV, Churchill VI
Troop: Churchill VII, Churchill IV, Churchill VI
2x Churchill VII Crocodiles
2x M10c Achillies
51st HD Rifle Platoon
51st HD Carrier patrol (w 3x .50cal)
The two IV/VI tanks in each troop were up-armoured to FA9 and the entire force was Confident Trained, except the two 51st HD units who were Reluctant Veterans. Now, while I was obviously struggling to paint the extras in the first list, I was completely unprepared for this list. No worries because my fairy tank mother, Mr Russell Briant, came to my aid. I recalled he had tried a similar list a few years ago (unsuccessfully?) at Call to Arms. A quick email confirmed that he had, and did, and yes, I could borrow them! Righty-oh, list was sent in, no practice games organised and plane flights were booked. Another great feller, Mr John Hutton, also lived roughly 10 minutes walk from the venue (the Onehunga RSA) and another quick call confirmed that I could avail myself of his and his wifes spare room for the weekend.
Arriving at the hall early I got in and met up with the people I knew and had not seen in ages and the new people from the local group.
|Shot of the hall. The comp had two competitions; Flames of War with 20 players and Team Yankee with 8 players|
|Holy shit. A bar AND a fan (there were four fans around the hall and two bars!). The fans came in handy later in the day as it got real fargin' hot.|
Warning: I think it's fair to say that when I play in a competition, I can be quite intensely concentrating on the game, so while I had the best of intentions of taking a heap of photos, I did not.
Game 1: No Retreat, attacking versus Nigel (Mishmash panzergrenadiers)
We were using the More Missions document so selected out postures. This was Nigel's very first game of Flames of War and he had traveled up from Christchurch to attend. That made it somewhat awkward for me as I was here to play, and play to win. I'm not a dick, so while I ruthlessly crushed him, I was also running through the game so he understood how he was being beaten.
It sounds mean, but I think I was fair! Nigel opted to defend to make it a bit easier in learning the rules (he had a good base understanding from watching FoW games on YouTube, but they were mostly V3 games), so he placed two minefields either side of a wood in front of the lead objective I placed, while he placed his objective near the rear (in the photo above, his reserves arrive from the right and the two small bits of paper are the objectives - we both did not have any!). My assault concentrated on the rear one. Nigel deployed a panzergrenadier platoon on the lead objective, a grenadier platoon in the buildings on the left and the panzer HQ of two PzIV covering them, wait, whut? Yep, about two turns in I realised his list was illegal. We decided to play on as we were moving quite slowly due to the learning curve.
Anyway my plan worked out as, well, planned. A strong assault by the Scots supported by the Crocs cleared the grenadiers out and the M10s and a troop of Churchills killed the Panzer HQ and the first reserve on the table, four more PzIVs. That left the objective unguarded and the rest was history,
An 8-1 win, with the lost of two rifle teams.
Not many photos taken due to the time constraints. Afterwards I help Gavin redesign Nigels list into an Armoured Panzergrenadier list with MkIV supports.
Game 2: Dust Up, attacking versus Rob Sadler (Brit Para recon squadron)
Rob and I have had a few games over the years, with a pretty even score between us. In this mission he had already given up a bit seeing I outnumbered him 11 Churchills to 3! The photo above shows my two troops of Churchills picking off Robs two Archers (!) and pinning down his 6 pounders (all of which had deployed Spearhead with one recon troop). With my Infantry guarding the objective and the Churchills reasonably untouchable by 90% of his force, he did not make any headway to capture them.
The game came down to the race between my reserve and his Churchills getting back to cover his objectives. My recce won the race, shooting up his contesting HQ unit of White Scout cars with their .50cals.
Another 8-1 win, this time with no losses at all!
Game 3: Dust Up, attacking versus John Lee (Soviet Tank Destroyers)
John is a great guy and got my sporting vote for the weekend, even though he was one of about five players fielding Russians AND SU100s! These bastard tanks are FA9, AT16 and 100cm range.
I was on a hiding to nothing in this game. The table was very flat and had little cover so the SU100s dominated the table. My only chance was to split his fire and hope my reserves (Crocs, HQ troop and Carriers) could sneak in through the woods near the objectives. I managed to get one troop to join them, while the other swung wide around the other side. There they ran unto John's reserves, SU85Ms. These aren't the usual AT12, FA5 jobbies, these little bastards have FA9! My poor troop was stuck between them and the SU100s and were ventilated in rapid succession.
On the other flank, the reserves showed up late, but managed to kill John's Command T34/85 and whittle down, then force back the infantry on the objective. By that time my M10s were dead (one bailed, did not remount and promptly ran away), and 9x T34/76 were sitting on an objective. One turn earlier and things may have been different...
A 1-8 loss to a well prepared opponent. Many losses this time :(
|Thanks Greg, you knob.|
So Day 1 over and I was sitting in third equal with Rob and a very surprised Nigel! John was quite rightly on top with 22 points, followed by Mike 'Surfboard' Haycock.
Flames of War:
That night back at the Huttons, John and I played a game of Avalon Hill's Hannibal, Rome versus Carthage. Simply the best two player game I've ever played. Just like the average 90's AH game, it has a mapboard and many counters, but the level of complex options are handled very easily by a card and dice system. Balance the political and military option of either Rome or Carthage. I, as Hannibal, smashed the Roman republic under Scipio Africanus.
Game 4: Bridgehead, attacking versus Lee Reygate (Soviet Tankovy)
Language! (its late now typing this)
Another list with SU100s. Lee also had 10x Stuarts, 20x T34s, SU76s and some heavy mortars. In an effort to not face these head on, I elected to use manouvre as my mission option. I ended up as the attacker in Bridgehead.
The 3" guns on the Churchill Vs manage to pin the Russian mortars and kept them that way for the entire game. They also handily bailed out and killed some SU76s. The Stuarts charged out in an effort to get to my M10s covering the central troop on the road, but were gunned down by the M10s and the Churchills.
Things went south from here. The SU100s opened up on the flanking troop with their 100cm range, killing the IV and VI instantly. In the same volley, the VII took a hit and with FA13, 14 at range versus AT16, anything but a .... oh fuck. Dead VII and wiped out troop. Next to feel the pain was troop two on Lees next turn. Three hits again. Again the VI died, but the IV was bailed out. The VII took the last hit, and again anything but a ... GODDAMIT! Another dead VII.
Things looked ominous. By this time the infantry had weathered 20 hits of MG fire from a reserve T34 platoon, unpinned (! Reluctant, remember!) and had advanced with the carriers to contest an objective. On my turn the sole remaining IV on the road remounted and passed his Last Stand test. "Bugger it" I thought, "it's now or never". The infantry moved forward and the carriers and 3" guns shot up the defenders, pinning and causing casualties. The IV passed one cross test to rock through the ruins in front of it, then in the assault step passing another cross test to contact the defending mortars. One hit in the assault killed the closest team. Lee rolled the die for a counter attack but rolled a 1! The Soviets fell back and I held the objective! That last Churchill IV was the game winner.
An 8-1 win to start day two. having only lost the one Churchill troop it did not count against my losses.
|Final shot of the last ditch assault (Lee had already cleaned up his troops by the time I remembered to take the snaps)|
|The view from the flanking force, plenty of burning Churchills.|
Game 5: Breakthrough, attacking versus Mike Haycock (German Pumas)
Surfboard is a good player. A very good player. We've played a few times over the years, but not for some time. The last time we met, I beat him in the Masters when he was running a similar force. Breakthrough has changed in V4, now the defender has reserves as a normal mission. Mike was left to ponder what they would be as I only had to have one platoon in delayed reserves.
I set the objectives up so one was in the far corner for my reserves and one was right slap bang in the middle of the table. That's the other thing about his new version, the attackers objective can be right up against the centre of the table! Mike deployed a three gun platoon of PaK40s on the objective, a trio of RoF2 88mm guns protecting his flank, another platoon of four PaK40s in ambush and a Fail Tiger (the breakdown Tiger II - fail a skill test when moving and it becomes Reluctant and cant move again) and his CO Puma near the lead objective.
Here is where things got interesting. We talked it through and realised that I did not have to deploy anything and could have my entire force in reserve! Sure it would be delayed, but the look on Mike's face was enough to convince me to do it. While I left the carrier and the infantry on table to make him deploy something to protect that objective, everything else went into reserves. Three turns flew by. Mike got his infantry on quickly and ran them to the rear objective. He also deployed his Paks from ambush on that side and pushed them forwards. The Fail Tiger passed a couple of skill tests and moved back to cover the guns and infantry, while the CO puma moved up to the original AT guns to lend them a hand.
The Crocs arrived from reserve and started to flame up the defending infantry - ineffectually as it turned out. At this point I decided to push the lead objective with the carriers and infantry. Mike had been plinking away with the guns and the CO Puma to try and whittle down my infantry to no avail. The carriers whipped out and with 9x .50cal dice scored 5 hits on the guns, pinning them! The infantry took their chance and assaulted the guns and Puma, braving the inadequate defensive fire. They only scored one hit in assault however and with the CO's help the guns and he counter attacked. Three swings and two misses. Now the reluctant infantry had to counterattack back, a 4! Not enough under V3 rules, but the new British Bulldog gives a +1 to the counter attack roll so they went back in! another dead gun and the CO Puma bailed out. The last gun broke off then in the start of Mikes turn failed the last stand test, leaving me on the objective at the end of turn 5.
|The finale. The 88s and Nebelwerfers look in impotently as the Scots hold the objective|
Another 8-1 win. Again I only lost one platoon saving me from a points loss.
|The decoy Crocs burn. The crews made damn sure that Jerry would not capture them alive or the tanks intact. Brave boys.|
Game 6: Counterattack, Defending versus Jon Carryer (German Jagdpanthers)
Jon chose to attack and I to manouvre. Unfortunately, this worked against me in that I ended up having reserves and Jon had his full force (HQ 2x jagdpanther, 1x jagdpanther, 3x StuG, 3x Wirbelwind, 6x 8cm mortars, panzergrenadier platoon). On table I had the two Churchill troops, the M10s (ambush) and the infantry. The table was unfortunately nicely dense, meaning Jon had plenty of cover to move and I had nowhere to ambush.
I tried though. The M10s popped out, moved and fired two long range shots into the rear of the single Jagdpanther, penetrating it automatically. Result of firepower test? a 2. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Fuck. It gets back in. The German infantry assault the M10s bailing one. The other M10 counter attacked and killed a stand and the Germans fell back on a failed morale test. The other two Jagdpanthers shot the living bejesus out of one Churchill troop killing them all. While my reserves turned up (the Crocs) and started plinking away at the StuGs, the M10s failed to remount and promptly failed their Last Stand test. Double Fuck.
Things were bad. I managed to kill all the StuGs and the CO Jagdpanther, but as he had two in the HQ platoon, he transferred over to the other tank. The Jagdpanthers then hunted my other troop down. They had hit the VII earlier in the game and the bastard failed three consecutive remount tests on a 3! The only morale test I passed all game was the counter attack of the sole M10 to try and save his companion.
1-8 and strangely calm about choking at the last hurdle.
Here comes the twist in the tale!
About 10 minutes later, Gavin (the TO) had done the count back to split John and I. Neither of us realised it (as we did not bother to read the player's pack) but the count back process was quite clear:
Tie breakers will be decided by (in order): List received on time with no amendments needed, Best opponents (opponents total VP and/or most wins), Top Dog (you beat other players who tied with you), Best Wins (most 6’s, 5’s etc...), Sports votes. If time and funds allow, we’ll also look at handing out spot prizes.
Thanks to Richard Steer and Russell Briant for the list advice and the loaner, thanks to TCOW Gav and Greg, and thanks to you, dear reader, for reading a very very long post.
|Jaffas. But good jaffas. Aussie Greg (l) and Gavin (r)|