A couple of weeks ago we had a small game using the Battlegroup WWII rules system; set in Normandy, we used the BG Overlord supplement, with around 450 points and four players involved. This was the first time I’d umpired a game of BG at the club and for most it was their first time using the ruleset. I confess I am an avid fan of the rules and am keen to use them more often for club games.
On recommendation from Piers at the Guild, I used the Attack/Counter-Attack scenario from the main rulebook; the British had an infantry platoon with a medium mortar and two troops of Shermans. The Germans had an infantry platoon, three Stug IIIs and a Panther. I had originally intended both sides to have an extra infantry platoon each, but looking at the size of the board (6×4) we decided to only field one – which was probably a mistake. I should either have removed the Panther and one of the Shermans instead, or brought on the second infantry platoons as reinforcements.
Anyway, it was a fairly simple table, with a road running to/from the diagonals, and a small group of buildings in the middle, each of which acted as an objective. There was a considerable amount of bocage in the middle of the table, forcing the armour along the roads. Again, with hindsight, as an introductory game, a more open table might have been better to allow players to get the feel for the vehicle combat elements of the rules. I think I also slightly mucked up the bocage breaching rues for AFVs.
On to the game; the British proved slightly more aggressive than the Germans, pushing their two troops of Shermans up the road to the first house, while the infantry moved towards the bocage in the centre. The Germans held back, with their Panther on Ambush Fire (i.e. overwatch) covering the road, with the Stugs in reserve as the infantry cautiously advanced.
On the second turn the closed nature of the board became apparent as the Shermans began to back up; one troop decided to dash across the road into the more open left flank. This proved to be rash as the Panther activated its ambush fire; firing twice it missed once and then hit the Firefly’s side armour. Miraculously the hit failed to penetrate and, taking a morale test for a non-penetrating hit, the crew scored a six, giving them a Call of Duty test, which they passed. This allows a unit immediately to take an additional free activation. On this occasion, the Firefly commander opted to shoot back at the Panther, scoring a hit but failing to penetrate. With hindsight he should have perhaps have scarpered into cover.
One the third turn the Germans again played fairly defensively, placing the Panther on Ambush again, while moving an infantry section up the left flank towards one of the objectives. In the centre both sides took a house, forcing a battle counter to be taken by each side for the loss of an objective. The British Firely in the open then tried to move out of the way, at which point the Panther opened fire again – scoring two sixes to hit – and, to no one’s surprise – killed the Firefly. Another battle counter taken for the loss of a unit. Interestingly this was to be the only armour loss in the game, again emphasising the lack of clear lines of sight.
Turn four saw the Germans occupying the house on the left flank with an infantry section forcing another British battle counter. On this turn the infantry had closed range and began to exchange copious quantities of fire and casualties began to mount. One particularly rash/courageous British infantry section decided to close assault the German section in the house on the left; a brief but vicious fight saw the British section wiped out to a man, while the Germans lost their rifle section. In the centre the British had reached the bocage line, which oddly the Germans had failed to occupy and began to engage targets across the top field and in the other houses.
At this point it became apparent that both sides had lost the majority of their infantry and the armour was stalled along the road. We decided to call the game and, totting up the battle counters it was a very marginal German victory – by one point.
On reflection, an extra infantry platoon (either at the outset or perhaps as reinforcements) would have given both sides more options, and allowed them to exploit their successes more effectively – particularly the British. The only aspects of the rules I found tricky to run was the indirect fire from the two medium mortars – I think we got this right but I need to review them.
Overall, a good game – the BG rules appear to lend themselves to a user-friendly multiplayer experience.