Saturday, October 28, 2017

Solo Saturday Skirmish

There is something delightful about a Saturday with no obligations or commitments.  I decided it was time for a solo game. It seemed like a month or more since the last one but its actually only been 3 1/2 weeks  and 3 weeks with no game at all prior to Thusday's game! Not usual for me these days.

I had an urge to get my 54mm Britain's out but fresh from reading Bob Kettle's 1/72nd Cold War battle report, and the Archduke's 1/72 Western Desert Portable Wargame Sittingbad, it was on my mind that I had yet to try the Advanced Mid-20thC PW. I decided to grab One Hour Wargaming and my 1/72 Cold War forces and have a quick game.

An hour later I had my table cleared of the various bits of junk that seem to creep on it if left alone. An hour after that I had a scenario and forces selected and the game laid out. Finally I drew a card, looked at the table and thought "Nope! Not enough tiny little guys to get me interested."

Hmmm. "More troops?" Not what I had in mind.
"AHA!" Its been over 4 years since they've been out but I still have a box of Khaki 54's and a few tanks and guns in the back of the cupboard! Big enough to see and mid-20thC. Done!

The Red Patch Rebels clash with the Royal Green Helmets.

I had had an urge to do Sawmill Village but wanted something less familiar so I flipped open  OHW Wargaming to a random page and got: #16 Advance Guard. OK inspired by a PanzerBlitz scenario but essentially Not Quite Sawmill Village. Call it fate.

I didn't have a background for this conflict so I sorted out my Airfix and Atlantic WWII Canadians from the various Herald and Crescent figures, rolled up forces then divided the equipment. By the end of the game I had identified the Not-Canadians with their Red 1st Div Patches as some sort of Socialist Republican rebels leaving the 1950's guys to be the loyal defenders of the Duke of Somewhere's Commonwealth.

The Green Helmets had a CO, 3 infantry companies supported by a mortar, a Sherman and an SP Recoilless Rifle. The Red Patches had a CO, 4 infantry companies, a B.A.T and a Sherman. To claim victory one side would have to have sole possession of the town at the end of 15 turns. Both sides had an Exhaustion Point of 9.
The fighting rages near the 1/2 way point.
Before too long, both sides had rushed infantry into the town and they were locked in combat. In no time everyone was pinned. They couldn't move away or assault so all they could do is stick their heads up blaze away needing 6's to hit then duck back down. Then the Red Patch commander had the bright idea of outflanking a unit of pinned Green Helmets in the town and pushing them out of the town with an assault. It didn't work too well, they missed and were soon pinned down in the open by RR rifle and tank fire and wiped out in a few turns.  The Socialist tank followed in short order. Added to the losses in town the Socialist troops were exhausted by turn 10 but clung to their positions in town while the BAT did its best to remove the threat from enemy armour whenever they came in range.
Things look grim for the Socialists.
For most of the game the Ducal mortar had been pounding the town to little effect until the Socialists sent over a flag of truce to point out that they were in contravention of the rules of war which stated that Mortars could fire over adjacent infantry which were spotting for them but didn't say that they could fire over one town block to hit another.  The mortars had to pack up and shift to the flank but it didn't help their aim much after all.

Finally, as the clock started to wind down, every Ducal unit that wasn't pinned or destroyed was sent forward to try to get a line of fire on the last houseful of Red Patches. The BAT soon took care of that though and the Ducal losses also brought them to Exhaustion.  Only one Red Patch remained in town and only one turn to remove him by fire alone from the mortar and one battered company of infantry.
So close to a draw! With the last die roll of the game a 6 cut down the last Red Patch in town, leaving the town in the hands of the remnants of one pinned Green Helmet company.
So ended a close and absorbing game. There are still a few rules I need to get straight in my head or need to make a house ruling on. For example, a pinned unit cannot move, but can it change facing? For that matter, I seem to recall doing infantry drills for all around defence when on exercise and don't quite see why an infantry unit can't adopt such an all around posture if it doesn't move, at very least if it is defending a town block.

I was surprised to finally notice mid-game that the rule for infantry fire at tanks says they cannot "destroy" them, not that they can't inflict any hits at all.  Given the 1950's setting allowing them some AT defence at 2 squares seems reasonable. 

The other main thing I need to double check, then make my mind up on, is the effect of a retreat result on a pinned unit. I understand that a pinned unit cannot move voluntarily  although it seems odd that tanks can't withdraw under fire even though they are not exactly "hitting the dirt!"  Part way through the game I decided to double check the rule saying that pinned units can't be pushed by a retreat result   but suddenly couldn't find it. I'll need to look again more carefully (Update: found it! Its up front not in the 20thC rules themselves) but am leaning towards adopting a house rule saying that a Pinned unit may not move voluntarily but will obey a retreat result if otherwise able to. This will avoid the several situations I encountered where adjacent opposing units were both pinned meaning neither could retreat or rally until one of them was destroyed. It doesn't sit right with me that retreat, even under cover, would never be an option once you take a hit when close to the enemy so allowing an involuntary retreat seems like a good compromise. In addition, this rule makes Elite troops no better than Militia once they are pinned while adjacent. If I keep to the no retreat rule I'll have to borrow the basic game option of asjusting SP's up 1 for Elite's and down 1 for Militia.

In any event, I think I need to tidy these lads and their friends up and see about some new equipment  and a proper back story. To paraphrase MacArthur: "They shall return!".


  1. Two 'pinned units' facing each other actually makes sense. The officer is what causes the 'pinned' unit to move away for rally - or just leave them in place as a block while other units are moved. More than once I have seen an infantry company stay 'stuck' in a reasonable defensive location - while better avenues for advance or enfilade fire could be taken, the junior officer or (most often) corporal was just as happy staying put and exchanging meaningless fire with the opponent.

    To borrow from Squad Leader the unit once in a hard target location (like a stone building) will not move without a leader present unless an unbroken enemy unit is adjacent. (next hex over) or less than 6 meters away. As silly as it sounds two squads can be stuck in the same building right next to each other and neither one can move nor rally without an officer changing the 'Mexican standoff'.

    1. I have no problem with a unit getting stuck in cover or with not taking offensive action but not taking a safe retreat route under cover regardless of how hard pressed you are seems odd.

      Adding a house rule allowing a senior officer to override the rule by joining a pinned unit which is adjacent to enemy and allowing them to rally retreat might be enough.

  2. Delightful troops. As for pinned. Certainly in an attack / defence situation, it seems counter-intuitive to allow pinned units a benefit of actually becoming better defenders by increasing their resolve not to be prised out of their positions by ignoring retreat results. Going with a wording that uses 'can't voluntary move' and 'must retreat on a retreat result' seem to adequately address that.

    I think most tactical rules that I have come across use the pin / suppression result to remove a units offensive capacity i.e. they won't advance / assault and either can't stick their heads up to fire, or can but are penalised.

    A unit so badly pinned that it can't even retreat without risk, might be ripe for surrender tests!

    1. I can see infantry not retreating into the open but retreating into cover seems like a reasonable option. It's going to take more games and some thought before I decide on whether or not I adopt a house variation.

  3. I enjoyed your AAR of this brisk action, Ross. I could just about imagine it an action between my Panandean People's Republic and Gran Bolivaria... There are several points you raise here, to which I feel like responding. In no particular order:

    1. The rule on pinned units having to take the hit instead of retreating is in the section on 'Pinning and Unpinning' (p69 of my copy of PW, 5th bullet point). It took me a while to find it and all! But that was one I did remember during my game.
    2. That a close combat could degenerate into and ineffectual sniping away at each other with 6s required AT BEST, I found frustrating during my Sittangbad game, but the manner of its resolution was all the more satisfying.

    Having said that, I'd be inclined to allow armprotected troops to retreat when pinned, but not unprotected. By 'protected', I mean armour in the face of infantry; or troops in (area?) cover - towns and woods and such - provided they don't lose their protection. I can imagine armour finding itself 'pinned down' by anti-tank fire (suggested by accounts of Allied tank actions against German anti-tank screens, e.g. Faid Pass and Sidi Bou Zid). In urban situations, defenders seem to me likely to have means available for withdrawals under cover.

    The thing is, though, whether by including house rules of this type we might not be overcomplicating the rule set. It might be a case of 'suck it and see'.
    3. I noticed the rules on infantry (etc) being unable to destroy tanks (etc) in the fire phase, but can in the close assault. That seemed reasonable for WW2, as, apart from anti-tank rifles, infantry portable anti-tank weapons didn't have the range that would permit them to reach into a second grid area. That was how I interpreted it anyhow. Once you get into the wire TOW and SAGGER (I have always rather liked that appellation!) type ATGWs, then its a new ball game.
    4. Can pinned units change facing? In my Sittangbad game, although the question occurred to me, it didn't actually come up. I imagine the critical situation in which this question arises is when a pinned unit is not actually under close assault (that is, has no enemy adjacent), but, before it has a chance to unpin, gets hit in the flank. Alternatively, hit in front and flank, the defenders have repulsed the frontal attack, though at some cost, and has now to deal with the flanking attack.
    This is one of those 50-50 sort of situations.

    On balance, I'd be inclined to allow, possibly even force, the defending unit to turn and face, partly owing to the likelihood of an all-round defence stance. Even supposing the unit had been focused upon its front and was disorganised by recent action, it would retain some prospect of responding to a flank or rear attack.

    1. Thanks Ion. Its definitely going to take more games before I adopt a house rule. I get infantry not retreating in the open but it seems like falling back into cover might be an option as a combat result at least.

      I have no problem with infantry not being able to destroy a tank unit with fire, I was just surprised that they can damage it at all!

      Whether or not a stationary turn counts as moving is also going to take some thought and some rereading of Bobs battle report to see if they throw light on his practice (or I could ask but its interesting to check the printed word).

    2. I had no problem with infantry being able to damage tanks in 'close assault', especially late in the war with bazooka-type weapons. Before their invention, there were anti-tank grenades, but I agree with you: early in the war, infantry in the open especially had no real answer to tanks. That situation came up early on when one of my German infantry companies were caught in the open by armour. They didn't actually damage the tanks, as it happened, and, undamaged themselves, managed to break off and eventually got in amongst the palm trees.

      I'd consider here an amendment that "tanks moving into contact with, or following up retreating, infantry, engineers, cavalry and transport units add 1 to their close combat die roll."

      Although units moving adjacent to an enemy must stop and, if the sole contact is to a flank, turn to face that enemy. Nothing is said explicitly about a unit being so contacted. Maybe that needs to be looked into.

      Here's a thing, though. A pinned unit's firing and close combat die rolls are reduced by 1 (p69). A flanked unit in close combat also has its die roll reduced by one (p75). Such a unit can not damage the enemy at all. Meanwhile, a unit assaulting a built-up area that becomes pinned, also faces a 'double penalty'.

      As it happened the German rifle coy defenders in Bir Isen had their commander with them so were at least capable of inflicting damage. I can half see a situation in which two pinned units are in contact and therefore in close combat, both get pinned, and the neither able to damage to other nor break off.


    3. I had no problem either way, I was just surprised that I had read the rules several times without catching the difference between "can't cause hits" and "can't destroy".

      As for adjacent units, based on MY understanding following an email discussion with Bob last winter, being adjacent affects your movement options and allows close combat but does not force it. Being adjacent also does not prohibit shooting instead of initiating close combat which is actually reasonable given that, based on ranges, each area is something like 150+ yards across. There is just no bonus for shooting at closer range.

      Disallowing shooting at close range would certainly make fighting in towns tricky, as pinned units cannot initiate close combat. In retrospect that might have helped as both sides may have ended being unable to move or fight until rescued by outside forces. The thought did cross my mind during the game to impose such a rule.

      I rather like the idea of allowing a Commander to unpin units even if adjacent. (at least while he lives....)

    4. Good points. I think I was working on the assumption (inference) that fighting between units in adjacent grid areas was close combat. You're quite right, one ought make no such assumption. Certainly in that case, one would have to declare that the combat die one is about to roll represents shooting, and not close combat, with the implication that the defender doesn't immediately get to shoot back.

      Now you've got me wondering whether I like the sound of that!

  4. I'm not versed in the details of the rules, but one convention I've seen for "pinned" troops is that there are degrees of being pinned. So you might convert retreats for pinned into another pin marker or perhaps even a hit.

    As for the game report, I found myself impressed by two things: 1. The shift to moderns (nice range!) 2. That there still sermed to be an element of "toy soldier" charm to the game, something that often gets progressively shed, post 1914.

    1. Thanks Ed. The WWII portion are survivors from my 54mm Rapidfire! days at the turn of the century but the Green Helmet lads were built around veterans of my childhood games and more ore less demand not to be taken too seriously.

      The game certainly has high levels of abstraction which make it easier to not get too caught up in details.

  5. Ross Mac,

    Another great battle report, and I will be referring to it in a forthcoming blog entry.

    I love the 54mm figures, and I only wish that I had more of my own. Perhaps I might make a foray ont in eBay to rectify that ,..

    All the best,


    1. They do take up quite a bit of room....... especially the vehicles! 1/43 or 40mm with Solido or Corgi vehicles would be nice if the budget stretched that far.

  6. Cracking stuff Ross. Are you going to be adding any more enemy troops?

    1. Not in the foreseeable future, (though there are more figures in the cupboard). The closest Herald did to enemy was to paint their "modern" (ie late 1950's) infantry grey.