Sunday, October 30, 2011

2nd Santa Cruz

In October, 1942 the Japanese and American navies clashed at Santa Cruz in the fourth great carrier battle.  Though neither side saw any combat effective opponents, the surface ships could have engaged each other.  Here we assume Kondo has detached a group to make a night run at the US carrier force, planning to arrive at dawn.  Rules are Naval Thunder, please click to enlarge photos.

The Japanese force, "battleships" Haruna and Kongo; heavy cruisers Nachi, Myoko, Kumano; and seven Kagero class destroyers entered from the far left long edge in two columns.  On the left the Nachi and Myoko and four destroyers; the battleships, Kumano and three destroyers on the right.  The Americans entered on an intercept course with the heavy cruisers Northampton and Pensacola, followed by the South Dakota and light cruiser Omaha with three Mahan class destroyers on either side.

On turn two the respective forces came into view and opened fire with some ships.  The dice were hot and the Japanese quickly learned that any hit from the South Dakota was a penetrating one.  Two shells landed on the Haruna knocking out port secondaries.  One 8" shell hit the Urakaze knocking out a turret.  In return the South Dakota took three 14" hits, one of which managed to penetrate her armor and explode in the engine room.

The next turn the Japanese began to lay smoke and take evasive action.  That left the Americans with just one Japanese destroyer in the open and the Maikaze was quickly ripped apart.  In return the Mahan took a hit that knocked out on of the forward 5" turrets.

Turn 4 the Japanese cruiser column turned sharply with the intent of passing behind the battleship column and double up the Americans.  Unfortunately the turn was too sharp and near collisions and confusion reigned for a time.  In the shooting phase the Haruna took two 16" hits that started small fires.  Three 8" shells hit the Kongo with one penetrating.  Another 8" shell hit and with other damage put the Urakaze down.  In return three 14" shells hit the South Dakota which bounced off her armor though a fourth knocked out a secondary turret.

Not much success for anyone turn 5.  The Northampton took a 14" hit that caused some quickly controlled flooding, while the Kongo took another 16" hit and the Myoko suffered her first damage with a 6" hit from the Omaha.  During damage control the Haruna put out one fire.

Turn 6 saw a lot of hitting from the Americans as the first three destroyers began a run on the Japanese line.  Two 16" hits on the Kongo and three 8" hits on the Haruna added to the damage list, and the Myoko took four 5" hits which her armor shrugged off.  In return the Japanese only landed one 8" hit on the Perkins which of course penetrated.

Torpedoes filled the water turn 7 and both sides cut loose.  The golf tees on their sides indicate attacks and targets.  During shooting the Japanese put a 14" round into the Northampton causing a major flood and reducing her speed.  The Cassin, Perkins and Mahan were sunk, but not before their torpedoes were launched.  For whatever reason, the Japanese battleships gave up on the South Dakota and concentrated on the American heavy cruisers.  Probably to increase the chance of a successful torpedo attack from the destroyers still working through.  Meanwhile a 16" shell hit the Kongo.  Nine(!) 8" shells hit the Haruna, though only one penetrated, causing a bridge critical hit.  A hailstorm of 5" hits were scored, but the big attack was the torpedoes.  Kongo was hit once, though her underwater defenses softened the blow.  Myoko took two torpedoes at short range, one of which worked through her anti-torpedo bulges.  Not so lucky was the Nachi.  She took three torpedoes and sank quickly.  Only the USS Tucker survived the attack from the initial three, but now the second wave was reaching position.

Turn 8 saw a LOT of hitting on both sides, though the cause was clearly against the Japanese now.  The Tucker put her helm over, cut behind the Myoko and fired her unused starboard torpedo bank.  Myoko fired back as well.  Pensacola took one 14" hit and the South Dakota three.  Northampton and Omaha took 8" hits.  Shaw took her first damage from a 5" shell and the Downes was smothered by the secondaries and tertiaries on the Kongo.  The South Dakota missed completely for the first time all day, but the Kongo took minor damage from three 8" and three 5" hits, none of which penetrated.  Natsushio was sunk.  Hamakaze took major love from the Omaha and the Tucker completed her great day by putting not one, but three torpedoes into the Myoko.  Far more than this fine cruiser could handle she rolled over and sank.  The torpedoes from the doomed Downes could score no revenge as all eight torpedoes missed the Kongo.

Still, the day clearly belonged to the Americans.  Both battleships were severely damaged, though their main guns still operated.  Two of the three heavy cruisers were down, as were three destroyers.  The South Dakota, while slowed was still combat effective.  Northampton was slowed and fighting a flood but the Pensacola had a lot of life left as did the Omaha and remaining destroyers.  With two cruiser scalps to her credit the Tucker made off in a badly damaged state.  The remaining Japanese destroyers made smoke and with their speed untouched, the Kongo and Haruna quickly pulled away from the Americans.  With the carriers successfully screened Admiral Kincaid was content to let them go.  With the American radar rated unreliable, various land masses and many unexpended "Long Lance" torpedoes, it was a wise decision.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Poking Polk

The field seemed a natural for a defensive battle.  Stone walls for cover, rough fields to hinder the enemy advance, high ground on either flank...  Yep, this should do fine.  To Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, this was a natural place to firmly stop the pursuing Yankees.  The 1st division of his corps under B.F. Cheatham, along with Anderson's brigade from Wither's division should do the trick.  Now if he only knew where "Fighting Joe" Wheeler and his cavalry were, he would be set.
The Reb center and early advance.
Meanwhile George Thomas eyed the Reb position and quickly came to a plan.  From left to right Brannon's third division would be the decisive element, flanking and upending the Rebs.  2nd division under Negley would press the center but in a controlled advance, while the 1st brigade of 1st division along with a brigade of cavalry would keep the Rebs honest on the right. 

In all, 30 Yankee infantry and five cavalry regiments with seven batteries prepared to attack 24 Rebel regiments with five batteries.  Wheeler was a wild card that might or might not show up.

Despite their numeric inferiority, on the right the Rebs stepped off to bottle up and contain the Yankee brigade and cavalry.  They were largely successful for the balance of the game in doing so.
The Yankee right.  Dismounted cavalry in the front.
In the center the Rebs perhaps deployed one wall too far forward.  The usually effective Reb artillery did little damage as the Yanks approached and got ready for a firefight.
On the left the twelve regiments moved quickly, using woods and hills to mask their approach and minimize the Reb artillery positioned on a hill.  Those guns would have to be taken out of the equation before the main attack could be launched.  Otherwise they would enfilade the main attack.
Brannon advancing (slowly).
On turn 4 the attack on the left was set and two regiments launched themselves at the Reb guns in a supported attack.  Another brigade topped the rise and began to march towards the flank of the Rebs on and around the stone walls. 
Over the hill and (not so) far away, the prize.
Double canister tore through the attacking Yankees.  Ten casualties to the lead regiment and five to the trailing.  The lead regiment faltered and then broke, but the second carried forward in a disorganized mob towards the unsupported guns.  The sudden impact of the mob forced the gunners to abandon their pieces and fall back, shaken by the experience and minus some of their men.
Panting and victorious, but facing new foes.
Sensing what was coming the Rebs began to fall back from the forward walls but on turn five a brigade sized charge was turned loose. 
Yankee center observing the retiring Rebs.
In one case the target of the two Yankee regiments had already routed (they started the turn shaken and had lost a stand in first fire) so with no one to possibly contact they halted their attack.  The other two regiments were able to hit the flank of the Reb line.  Although the holding unit turned a stand to face, it could not stop the Yankees and they began to roll up the line.  At the end of the turn, although disorganized the Yankees were pumped full of adrenalin and looking hungrily at the dangling line of other Rebs. 
"Keep at 'em boys!  Don't let 'em catch their breath!"
Turn six each commander rolled a single d6.  Thomas rolled higher than Polk so Wheeler did not show up.  The subsequent charge by the disordered Yankees hit the flank of the shaken and disordered Rebs (several had previously disengaged and had no opportunity to reform).  Whole regiments threw down their arms while others scattered.  At this point the no doubt shaken Polk decided to send the two wings of his force off while allowing the Yanks their objective, control of the two roads exiting the center of the table.

As was so often the case in western theatre among the Confederates, there was much ballyhooing afterwards about what could have been done differently.  Among the Yankees they quietly congratulated themselves on a relatively bloodless victory and the continued pursuit of the damned Butternuts.

Rules were Johnny Reb III, alternate resolution system for charges, six players, started pushing lead around 1:30 Sunday afternoon and finished at 4:30 with various distractions for World Cup Rugby and Packers football. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hill 213

On the 16th a Flames of War action was fought loosely based on the events on and around Hill (or Point) 213 outside Caen in 1944.  Dan "New Guy" Wideman hosted us on his 16' table for the experience.  Dreams of mega battles just beyond the ability to control danced in the minds of the Old Grognards present.

Initially the British fielded a company of infantry and a company of Shermans on the right with a full-strength 25 pdr. battery in support.  The left had two platoons of infantry, a squad of engineers, a weak Cromwell company, a Sherman company and six models of 25 pdrs. in support.  All were rated Confident/Trained.  They were tasked in this scenario driven battle with capturing Hill 213 and Hill 112. 

The Germans of the 12th SS "Hitler Jungend" division (fearless/trained) started entrenched and concealed with an assortment of big anti-tank guns and a wealth of Panzerfausts among the command stands.  I'm not sure of their infantry strength, but would guess it was two companies, each one charged with holding it's hill till the cavalry arrived.  The cavalry in this case was a platoon of Tigers, a pair of Panthers, a company of PzMk IVh, and a bunch of StuGs.  Artillery was very limited for the Germans, no mortars and only a pair of 150mm howitzers.  Air support was sporadic historically so the Allies could get a flight of Typhoons on a 5-6 on a single d6 and the Germans on a 6.

A pre-game bombardment from a 6" gunned cruiser did little damage to the dug-in 88s, but gave the Germans a taste of what artillery could do later.

A favorable wind allowed the British to lay a smoke screen down that negated the feared 88s for several turns and meant that the early advance came under little fire.  While doing no direct damage, the wind and smoke meant that the British could effectively approach to close assault range undamaged.

On the left and right, tank formations began a sweeping movement intended to isolate their target hills while the infantry made a direct approach.  The speed of the Cromwells was extremely valuable in making this possible.  Three Churchill tanks plodded along with each of the infantry companies, pleased that there was actually something slower than themselves.

The German advanced posts were over-run with ease as the infantry prepped for the assault.  The "bullet proof cover" offered by the entrenchments is a huge liability to overcome and even if you push the enemy out they magically fill in as they leave.

On the German half of turn 3 they got to dice for the arrival of ALL their tanks.  To our joy they did not succeed.  Although at that point many of the Cromwells were in a position to engage any German medium tanks at appeared, as were the Shermans on the right.

Turn 4 the 88s on Hill 112 were overrun or destroyed and many SS troopers learned just how bad tank treads can mess up your uniform.  The objective on Hill 112 was almost ours!  On Hill 213 the Germans bitterly contested it, but seemed to be getting worst of things.  Artillery no longer needed to fire smoke and the rules for an 8 gun battery are intense. 

As the German armored horde poured on table, we found that the Tigers and Panthers were on the British right along with the StuGs, while most of the MkIV panzers were against the British left.  They went to work quickly with the...  "interesting" Tiger Ace rule resulting in us hearing comments like, "what tank shall I kill now?".  All in good fun. 

Both sides received air support and the Typhoon and Fireflys combined to make life difficult for Tigers and Panthers.  While not stopping them, losses put a serious hitch in their goose-step.  On turn five the British took the objective on Hill 112 and dug in.  Tanks on both sides began brewing up and some serious morale checks were required.  The dice were fairly impartial as both sides experienced some "pick up" situations.

Turn six the British still controlled their objective on Hill 112 and contested 213.  In theory the game could have ended there, but we decided to play out the full turn.  In the end, despite destroying (and losing) more tanks, they could not make a dent on Hill 112 and we called it.

Seven players and heaven only knows how many points played the game in about three hours not counting set up time.  Pretty reasonable considering we had to look up a lot of things, being only part-time FoW players.  (And them with so bloody many "updates" to the rules.)  It was enjoyable to use proper tactics and be rewarded with the results.  Flames of War is a goofy-ass set of rules with some bizarre twists, but as a wise man said, "FoW is an unrealistic set of rules that gives realistic results."