On The Table: Winter War 2018

On The Table: Winter War 2018
With Mark Nisbet

Usually, when it comes to tournaments and events, you’ll find me at the Tournament Organiser’s table, sorting out pairings, adding up numbers to determine standings, or floating round the tables taking pictures for AARs, and flicking through rulebooks to solve rule related problems.

This time round though, I actually get to participate in a tournament. Richard Hardy, (a fellow writer for Breakthrough Assault), has in recent years taken over the running of the Flames of War and Team Yankee part of Dunfermline Wargames and Roleplaying Fellowship’s (D.W.A.R.F. for short) tri- annual events. This one is Winter War, a charity event in aid of CRUSE Bereavement, which ended up raising £2000 on the day.

On to the business of the day; the event was a standard Team Yankee tournament, to the tune of 75pts. Recently, I have been building up a French Force from Free Nations and thought this would be the perfect baptism of fire for them.

On The Table: Winter War 2018

I went for a solid core of AMX-30, with my fear of the French 5+ Morale making the decision for me to make the platoons fully complemented. Supporting this solid core of medium tanks was a ‘take all comers’ mix of anti-tank, anti-aircraft (which when pressed into action could double as anti-infantry, and anti-light vehicle), some AMX-10 RC for their Spearhead rule, and finally the very exciting Gazelle 20mm with the ‘Gunslinger’ rule, which would attempt to swoop in and clear out some of the key assets hiding behind the enemy line.

Game One: The win that wasn't
My first game of the day was against an East German T-72M Battalion, with a bit of everything in support, commanded by Mark Taylor, who took part in the Scottish Nationals a few weeks ago. His force consisted of a few thick units of T-72Ms, a supporting unit of T-55AM2, and almost every support option that is included in the main formation; Spandrels, Carnations, BMP-mounted infantry

On The Table: Winter War 2018

On The Table: Winter War 2018

The mission was Contact, with my force defending, and the horde of tanks rumbling slowly towards my lines as my reserves arrive piecemeal.

My opponent threw large numbers down both sides, with one of the Companies of T-72s wheeling down towards my infantry in the forest, while the other headed down towards the artillery huddled behind a hill.

This was no issue though, as the Mephisto were in ambush, and ambush they did, firing off missiles into the tanks approaching the infantry. And here, we run into one of the handicaps of the French force: Cross Checks. The Mephisto has a Cross of 5+, most other things have a slightly better Cross of 4+, meaning French should always try to be behind cover, but not in it. 

 On The Table: Winter War 2018

This proved to be true to form, as after firing off their shorts, the Mephisto tried to Shoot & Scoot, with only one passing the Cross Check, leaving three of them to face the music. 

The strength of the French though, like most NATO forces, is the 3+ Skill. This proved to be a killer point as the AMX-30s were able to Blitz about, keeping their improved Rate of Fire, and slowly pick off NVA Tanks as they stuck their head out. But not before a platoon or two were brewed up, their armour like paper against almost everything you’d bring to bear against a tank.

 Eventually, two brave AMX-30s managed to roll their way up the flank, survive a few reaching shots from the Battalion Commander, before wheeling round his side, and putting the game to bed... or so I thought.

Whether through mis-communication or whatnot, my opponent reported the game as a 3-3 draw (despite only knocking out two platoons, with the 9-unit rule making it a 5-2). My tanks were on the objective, nothing had position to throw them off, but alas the 3-3 was recorded and it would prove costly at the end of the day.

On The Table: Winter War 2018

Game Two: Don't count your chickens
In Game Two, I was drawn against Shaun (3rd place in the Scottish Nationals), and yet more East Germans. This time it was the slightly weaker (but not by much) T-55AM2 Battalion. And as soon as the mission was decided an impending feeling of dread kicked in. We rolled ‘Bridgehead’, and I was defending. This wouldn’t be too bad, as the French appear to be a rather effective defensive force. However, Bridgehead has the rule ‘Deep Reserves’, which means I may only place one unit on the table with Front Armour greater than 4. This is a big problem for my force, being tank-focused. Regardless, I pressed on and deployed on the table;

  • The infantry and their transports in a village covering the left approach
  • The AMX-10 RCs, utilizing their Spearhead move to push open the other flank
  • The AMX AuF 1 artillery battery, behind a tree-line
  • The Gazelles, loitering off-table, waiting to strike
  • A single unit of AMX-30 in Ambush, choosing them over the Mephisto, due to their higher Rate of Fire.

I knew I messed up almost straight away. In the mission the Defender also gets to deploy a Minefield for every 25pts of their force. So, playing 75pts gave me three Minefields. I should have placed one or two down the left flank and cut off the very narrow advance onto my flank. In the end, this didn’t prove to be much of an impact, but it would have forced Shaun to consider his deployment and Spearhead more.

My trepidation about this Mission comes from the experience that NATO tank forces on the defensive suffer badly from having not much on the table and with reserves potentially not showing until Turn 3, the game can be over rather quickly if dice rolls don’t go your way. My advice; stay Gone to Ground, or hope for Night Fighting to give you some breathing room.

On The Table: Winter War 2018

On The Table: Winter War 2018

In the first turn, Shaun’s shooting proved decisive in knocking out some Artillery pieces and forcing them to break. Until we remembered that T-55AM2s have ‘Slow Firing’ and required an additional +1 to Hit. With that taken into account, the Artillery survived this early scare to wreak havoc later on.  

My first turn led to some panic amongst the Germans, with the blob featured in the picture above suffering casualties, and with ambushing AMX-30s also appearing, the two Companies of tanks were quickly dealt with. The flipside to this luck was the Gazelles sweeping in to pepper some brave Shilkas who rumbled their way towards my hunkered down infantry in the village and succeeded in

bailing out one of them... and in return getting absolutely destroyed. Lesson learned, though it’s tempting to go chasing AA with your Gazelles, they are probably best put to use hunting down ATGM carriers, artillery, and anything else that might hide in the back-lines.

On The Table: Winter War 2018

On The Table: Winter War 2018

The point where the battle could have turned entirely in my favour (as Shaun wasn’t getting very far, throwing almost everything at the infantry, and only managing a hit or two per turn), was Turn 3, when three of my reserves steamed onto the table. The unit of AMX-30 DCAs rolling on and peppering the second unit of Shilkas standing proudly on a hill, before obliterating the Spandrels hiding in the woods. While the two units of AMX-30 that showed up made a good effort of whittling down the third company of T-55AM2s that were deployed on the other flank.

Eventually units began to get broken down and fall back until Shaun deemed it safe enough to assault my pinned down infantry. Reduced to 3 teams (one of which was the anti-tank missile team), the NVA infantry rolled in, before getting soundly beaten back. The second unit followed up to try to shift the stubborn French, managing to knock a team off, before losing one in return and breaking. Their job done, the French infantry also fell back, and at that point I called the game a 4-3 loss. I could have prolonged it, but I was there for a good time, not a long time.

A lesson in not counting your chickens before they’re hatched, or in other words; don’t assume a loss before the shots start flying.

Game Three - Breakthrough assault grudge match
Another game where I had a niggling feeling it wasn’t going to go well for me. Richard was TO, but he was also Team Scotland Captain for the ETC. He’s got a good record of wins behind him, and with me defending again, it wasn’t going to be an easy one for sure.

A good old game of Encounter was the order of the day, and despite the mission being set up that no-one is really the attacker, with the amount of opposing forces on Richard’s side of the table, there was absolutely no way I was going to go chasing an objective, and instead had to hold my own against the onslaught.

Again, Reserves were in place, and with my tanks actually on the table this time, I was warier of exposing them to shots and missiles that ignore their armour completely. This meant a lot of Blitzing, Shooting & Scooting, or even just holding fire and Going to Ground forcing 6’s or even 7’s.

A good early bombardment from the Artillery stalled the infantry advance on my left flank, with the Autoloaders it doesn’t matter if you can’t see what you’re hitting. That pinned them down, and they spent a good few turns pinned. Meanwhile, I made the same mistake as last game; the Gazelles swooped down on the Shikas, doing precisely nothing to them and getting wrecked for their troubles. Looking back on it now, I reckon the armour 0 Spandrels should have been my target, but live and learn. 

A good early bombardment from the Artillery stalled the infantry advance on my left flank, with the Autoloaders it doesn’t matter if you can’t see what you’re hitting. That pinned them down, and they spent a good few turns pinned. Meanwhile, I made the same mistake as last game; the Gazelles swooped down on the Shikas, doing precisely nothing to them and getting wrecked for their troubles. Looking back on it now, I reckon the armour 0 Spandrels should have been my target, but live and learn. 

On The Table: Winter War 2018

The game progressed, and Richard’s infantry companies were slowly advancing their way across the table, using the cover of the buildings to their advantage, with my tanks throwing out the occasional Brutal shot to dislodge one or two teams.

And then came a moment that should have been a moment of complete mad genius, but instead flopped tremendously: A pair of brave BMPs rolled down the flank, threatening my artillery and the objective on the hill they were behind. I knew what I had to do; I Blitzed my artillery out, turning their massive 155mm Howitzers on the APCs, a hit from a 155 would have torn through the paper armour, and with a Firepower of ‘AUTO’ left them a smouldering mess. But no, of course not, 1, 1, 2, when only 3s were needed. It’s the old adage of the dice do what they want. For their troubles, the artillery were destroyed by the irksome BMPS, and only later when my reserves rolled onto that flank were they dealt with. The AMX-13 DCAs not shooting down a single aircraft the entire day, but really doing a number on light vehicles with their cannons.

On The Table: Winter War 2018

By the end of the game, I had a few units still functioning, with Richards forces also being reduced significantly. However, a single good round of shooting would have finished off my Core, and left me utterly destroyed. I was happy to concede another hard-fought 4-3 loss. A few better decisions here and there, and it would have been a different story, but as the saying goes; you can’t win them all.

Final Standings, and I did win something
With everything wrapped up for the day, we gathered for the final standings... which I’m not going to go into great detail over, as I am aware Richard wants to do a full write up of the event for Breakthrough Assault which will come later.

I can tell you that I came in a respectable third place, despite my lack of wins. Add into that I scored the ‘Second Best NATO Player’ as one of the other NATO players finished above me by the narrowest of margins.

What else did I win? Well, rather surprisingly (though the others say it wasn’t much of a surprise), I won the Player’s Choice Award for Best Painted Force. I will admit I put a lot of time and effort into this one, and really wanted my force to stand out with their a-historical colour scheme. There’s only so much black, brown and green you can paint before you get bored of NATO Tricolour. Needless to say, I’m humbled that the guys thought my force was the best on the day.
~Mark

 
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