Sunday, March 14, 2010

On To The Next Project

Well, it has been a lot longer between projects than we would have liked. Our initial project, Berlin 1945, has been postponed indefinitely. Everyone in our group has several projects they want to work on individually so it really does not make sense to start something as big as Berlin. We will eventually tackle Berlin, but not this year. For myself, the project I have selected is an alternative history from the Rapid Fire Battle of the Bulge supplement. Recall that Project Foy came out of this book as well as a mini-project we worked on for this years convention schedule, Stoumont.

For my next full size project I have chosen to work through the alternative mini-campaign at the back of the Rapid Fire book. I have always wanted to complete a campaign and this one seems to build nicely off the two previous projects I have worked on. I especially like the Bulge period because it featured primarily US forces and was the biggest operation of the war for most of the units involved. I am also fascinated by the "what-if's" of this period. Studying the German analysis of Allied dispositions before the offensive, it is striking how right the German High Command was. They struck at precisely the weakest link along the front, the discourse they speculated that would develop between the US and British commanders in fact occurred, and had it not been for the super-human effort of a few key pockets of resistance the offensive may well have succeeded.

So, my project sends us to the beginning of the offensive - 18th December 1944. What would have happened had Kampfgruppe Pieper not been stopped at the Neufmoulin Bridge? From there only 30 miles of road and one more bridge lay between Pieper's powerful force and the Meuse. Beyond the Meuse we know that forces were sparse.

Actual Events
There was only a small squad from 291st Combat Engineer Battalion that was stationed at the Neufmoulin Bridge. They had orders to blow the bridge at the first sign of German forces. Behind them, the 2nd Battalion of the 119th Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division was moving into positions where they could protect the assembly areas of the 82nd Airborne Division. Although originally assigned to Bastogne, the 82nd had been redirected to Werbomont after the 101st Airborne had reached Bastogne first. The 143rd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion was also headed to Werbomont. The US had begun to use the 90mm guns from these units in an AT role.

Our Alternative
At the insistence of the Fuhrer, Panzer Brigade 150 was to lead the spearhead of Pieper's column. PB 150 was made up of captured US equipment and manned by German soldiers in Allied uniforms. Although annoyed by the delay, Pieper was counting on the extra gasoline that would come with waiting for the special unit to catch up. By December 18th, PB 150 was ready to lead the Kampfgruppe. At Neufmoulin Bridge, explosives had been in place for several days. The demolition party guarding the bridge had orders to blow the bridge at the first sign of German forces. It was late in the day when they saw an American Jeep racing towards them. It looked to them that the Jeep was carrying casualties. As they moved out into the road to offer assistance, a sudden burst of small arms fire cut them down. The Jeep raced across to the other side followed closely by a half-tack of SS Panzer Grenadiers. Pieper had his crossing out of the Ambleve Valley. (this account is abridged from Rapid Fire! Battle of the Bulge, Marsh, Richard and Rumford, Colin, 2007, Rapid Fire Publications Ltd, York, UK, pp 59-60.)

The campaign itself is four separate games where the German forces roll surviving units from one game to the next. Reinforcements are added along the way as the Germans face different opposition from the US forces. I have chosen to recreate only three of the four games for my campaign - Werbomont, Hamoir, and Amay. I am omitting a small scale battle at Soheit Tinlot because it did not seem to me to add much to the overall campaign. Also, for a convention, I could see running Game #1 on Friday, Game #2 on Saturday morning, and Game #3 Saturday afternoon/night. I also have both the Foy and Stoumont games that could fill in. Stoumont would be a prequel to the Werbomont battle and Foy would be an alternate ending if the German forces turn south at Hamoir instead of continuing west.

So, Game #1 is Werbomont. Werbomont is played on a 8x5 table. It represents Kampgruppe Pieper's first objective after crossing the Neufmoulin Bridge in the early evening of December 18th. Apart from the first few moves (a die roll will determine how many), this game takes place at night.

A recent order to Dave at Britannia has arrived with all of the figures and some additional vehicles for this game. You can see the order of battle in this photo.

I am waiting on another order from Hovels for a selection of bridges. I ended up ordering 28mm bridges, but that should not matter much. Once the order arrives, I will be starting the terrain pieces. I will be creating six 2.5 x 2.5 sections for this game. The terrain is going to be dominated by high ground on the river end and in the middle. There will be a road leading up the south (left) side of the board and another road twisting through the high-ground. Here is my sketch of the terrain layout.

From the OOB you can see that the German force is very strong. The US has a bunch of man-portable AT weapons though. Remember that the result of Game #2 hinges on how well the Germans can avoid casualties in the early stages. The loss of a few Panthers will make the next games more difficult. Victory conditions will certainly include something about the amount of casualties inflicted for the Americans.

I will probably hold off on my next post until significant progress has been made on the terrain. We have a local game coming up to test some of the rules and then Little Wars is our first convention of the year in April. After that we start detailed planing for our own second annual Day of Days Game Day scheduled for June 19. Slow and steady progress is the word for Werbomont, set to debut at RockCon in October. Check out our website ( for more details on these.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Kampfgruppe Bohm At Legends In The Spring

We now have some pictures (thanks to BfH memeber John Cusack) from the Kampfgruppe Bohm game at Legends In The Spring. I will have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive when it came time to start making it "snow" on the gameboard. From my small scale test, it was pretty clear we would not be able to take the snow off again very easily. The method we used was simple. We just set the board up in it's entirety. Then we took the Woodland Scenics Snow canister and started shaking it out all over the board. I tried as best I could to shake upward and have the snow fall more naturally over a wide area. I did not pay any heed to keeping it off buildings or roads. This actually ended up producing a very neat effect with snow collecting in the bombed out buildings and on the roofs. I ended up using an entire container over the 5'x6' board. I had an extra container but did not use it.

I mentioned early on that the snow covered evergreens looked a little out of place with the unfiunished board. I thought they would look perfectly at home once the snow was on the ground. I think that is indeed the case:

Here are some more pictures from various angles. You should be able to go back and compare these against some of the in-progress pictures to get a good sense on how the board ended up.

Now it is time to start seriously planning for the first annual Battlefield Hobbies Convention gameday. It is called Day Of Days Con 2009 and will be held on Saturday, June 6, 2009 in Menomonee Falls, WI. Go to our website to find all the details. This will be your next chance to play Kampfgruppe Bohm. We will also run the game at Rock-Con in Rockford, IL this coming November. After that, KgB goes on the shelf and we are on to our next project- Project Berlin!!

If you are interested in more pictures, you can find them at the Battlefield Hobbies Picasa site

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

KgB At Legends In The Spring

Over the weekend, Battlefield Hobbies presented the inaugural running of "Kampfgruppe Bohm: Race for the Muese" at Legends In The Spring in Wauconda, IL. I hope to have pictures of the event shortly. I will also post a full AAR. The final terrain turned out well. It was our first usage of "snow" on a large scale. Overall feedback was positive. We also identified several opportunities for improvement.

KgB will be featured at our own Day of Days Con gameday on June 6, 2009 in Menomonee Falls, WI (see our website for more details). It will also be on our Rock-Con 2009 schedule this coming November in Rockford, IL.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Project Foy - First Full Playtest

Well our group has been extremely busy of late putting the finishing touches on our Project Foy board. Early in February we made the decision to skip Little Wars this year. The early dates just really did not line up for us. We attended the show as spectators and played in one of Loren Haberkamps games, but did not run any ourselves. This gave me a welcome respite from the Project Foy board. Even with the extra time, I had to get started on the vehicles and figures to be done by our absolutely for sure debut of Project Foy at Legends In The Spring in early April.

Over this past weekend, we got together as a group for the first full-scale playtest. With a successful playtest, our development project has transitioned into an official convention game:

Kampfgruppe Bohm: Race for the Muese
The Meuse seemed to be within reach. Christmas Eve, 1944 finds a vanguard of the 2nd Panzer Corp within five miles of their ultimate objective for the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes: a crossing of the River Meuse. The American 82d Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and the British 29th Armoured Brigade have been given orders to block any further German advance. Can the cut-off German advance forces hold out long enough for the bulk of 2nd Panzer to arrive and continue their push? Or will the American and British forces be able to push the Germans back and secure the vital routes to the Meuse?

Our game began with the German forces deployed in prepared positions in and around Foy. 82nd Armored had been given instructions to drive all German forces out of Foy and to hold secure the main routes to Dinant from the north and north-east. British 29th Armoured had orders to secure Foy and the Dinant approaches from the north-west and south-west along with the vital crossroads at Boisseilles.

Two recce troops from 82nd Armored led the way for the Americans. A-Troop approached from the north under the command of Major Dave Himm. B-Troop, under Captain Gary Paul made a dash towards Foy from the north-east. Major Himm quickly occupied the crossroads at Sorinnes, finding no opposition. As Captain Paul approached a roadblock just north of Foy, a concealed Panther scored a direct hit on his lead M8 AC, which burst into flames. His green troop was thrown into disarray. The trailing elements of his column backed up to their orginal jump-off point while a bazooka team and a mortar team dismounted and started making their way up a steep incline towards the Panther.

Meanwhile, the British had begun their assualt from the north-west and south-west. C-Company advanced cautiously toward Boisseilles with Major Sir John Cusack in command while B-Company (detached to Captain Paul) rolled through the Sorinnes crossroads heading toward Le Fort Beau. In the distance they could both hear the action to the east, but all was quiet in front of them. This quiet was shattered as the lead C-Company Sherman advanced into town. A concealed German 234/2 AC opened fired and scored a devastating hit. This was followed in rapid succession by AT fire from a Pak40 position east of town that knocked out a second Sherman. The British gunners tried desperately to return fire but could not find the mark. A short gun duel ensued with a German SP75 HT joining the fray. This was enough to knock out the remaining Firefly. Major Cusack had in the meantime raced forward with his HQ Company. He was just entering Boisseilles as C-Company ceased to be an effective fighting force.

Back in the north, Major Himm pushed south from Sorinnes with his Light Tank Company. A short distance into the countryside he encountered what he believed to be a reinforced German infantry company in prepared positions lining the main road to Foy. Pulling back slightly, Major Himm brought his M5 Stuarts on line and proceeded to pour HE fire at the trenches. At just about this same moment the detached tanks of B-Company rounded the corner at Le Fort Beau and headed down the main road towards Foy. Inexplicably, this caused the German infantry to panic. They made the fatal mistake of attempting to retreat along the road towards Foy. They were mercilessly mowed down by the machine guns of B-Company. Only 30 of the 120 men were able to reach Foy. Major Himm sensed that the western approach to Foy was now wide open.

In the east, the bazooka and mortar teams from B-Troop continued to climb their way towards a concealed Panther near Mahene Farm. As they appraoched the crest of the hill, they heard the Panther engine start up. They were just in time to see the huge machine backing out of it's hiding spot and start down the road towards Foy. The teams continued on down the hill and took up positions in the Mahene farmhouse.

Other elements of the attacking force now began to stream towards Foy from the north. A-Troop of 82nd Armored passed through the Light Tank Company and drove south bypassing the now empty German trenches. The Light Tank Company in turn pulled back and headed through the heavy forest between Le Fort Beau and Mahene Farm towards Foy. They were followed by the Motor Company of 29th Armoured. B-Company continued down the main road while the HQ Company of 82nd Armored followed closely behind. Major Himm called in air support for their final push on Foy. He was told a squadron of P-38 Lightnings were enroute but would be slightly delayed by weather. The attack seemed to be moving forward right on plan.

B-Company and the Light Tank Company were poised to enter Foy from the north. As the lead M5 from the Light Tank Company crested a small hill just outside of town, accurate autocannon fire from a German 234/1 AC put it out of action. B-Company was able to return fire from the main road and knock out the 234/1 before it could inflict any further damage. In the confusion, B-Company failed to notice a Panther poised at the Foy crossroads. Luckily, it's first shot caused only minor damage to a B-Company Firefly and the second shot screamed overhead. A Sherman from B-Company was able to get off a snap-shot at the Panther and, incredibly, scored a devasting hit. The Allied forces had no way to know it, but the remaining Panther moving down from Mahene Farm had run out of gas before reaching the crossroads. Foy was about to be overrun.

On the far western flank, A-Troop of 82nd Armored was making good progress in a flanking manuever. Suddenly, their lead M8 exploded in a tremendous fireball. They had advanced straight into a minefield! Major Himm called a halt to the advance and ordered his troop to stay on course but proceed cautiously. He needed his troop to cut the road out of Foy to the south as soon as possible. A-Troop was able to pick it's way through the minefield with only slight damage to their other M8. Their bazooka and mortar team reversed course though and would enter Foy from the main road.

The scene greeting Major Cusack in Boisseilles was utter chaos. As he and his lead Sherman manuvered around flaming hulks of C-Company tanks, they found themselves in a point-blank duel with the German SP75 and 234/2 AC. The lead Sherman lost this duel and was quickly added to the list of casualities. With nowhere to go, Major Cusack reluctantly gave the order to withdraw out of Boisseilles to the west and regroup.

As darkness approached, the battle for Foy moved towards a draw.

The Germans still had an intact infantry company in prepared positions southwest of Foy. 29th Armoured had failed to secure the vital crossroads at Boisseilles. The 2nd Panzer Heavy Company had only lost their SP75. The detached 234/2 with light damage had joined them in their defense of the crossroads. Foy was about to be overrun by 82nd Armored. However, the HQ Company of 2nd Panzer had been holed up in the church at Foy. Since A-Troop had failed to cut the road out of Foy, the Germans had their avenue of escape open. Even though out of gas, the Panther in Foy was in a commanding position to cover this retreat. Also, a German Flak Company was positioned southeast of Foy along the escape path.

Official Victory Conditions
W - Hold Foy
D - Escape to southeast with 12 figures + 4 vehicles

W - Destroy German force
D - Capture Foy

Given these conditions, the game was clearly a draw at the point we ended.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Project Foy - Finishing Step II

Our gameboard is nearing completion. We have been trying a new road surface that seems to be just what I was looking for. I need to do some final finishing steps and then I will share the result. In the meantime, we have been finishing off the detail work and adding details to the board like sandbags around prepared positions and fences. We are also working hard on painting all the buildings for this scenario.

One of the ways to make your boards more intersting an realistic is to add small details. I like to simply take a branch or twig and snap off random pieces, letting them drop to the board. I have also started placing fallen trees in some of the more heavily forested areas. Then I place the plants collected from my yard with lichen and moss in groups that look natural. I try to fill-in areas with lots of foliage rather than placing small clumps everywhere. A wooded skewer works well to make a small hole in the base. I try to trim the foliage so that it forms a natural "stem" that goes into the hole. When that is not possible, a little Tacky Glue does the trick. IN any case, if excess glue squeezes out, I toss some dirt around the hole and then brush off the excess when dry. Here is a wide angle shot of one such area completly finished:

And then a close up of the "fallen trees":

You can see that these little details add a lot to the realism.

The Rapid Fire book gives a great suggestion for creating the wire fences so predominent in NW Europe. Matchsticks can be used along with unshielded copper wire (12 guage is what I used). Cut the matchsticks into 1/2" lengths. Shave one end into a point (makes it easier to push into board - suggestion from John C. from the BF team). Start with one stick and wind the wire around twice just above center. Layout another stick 1"-2" away and wrap the wire around that stick clockwise at approximately the same height. Loop the wire over the stick and wrap the wire around again counter-clockwise. Repeat this procedure for whatever length fence you need and again for the top strand. Finish with a double wrapping on the end post. Make sure all of your "loops" are on the same side of the fence. When you are done, you have a very nice wire fence.

This is a picture of my prototype, it is essentially unpainted. I would finish this section by painting the posts weathered wood (prime flat black, dry brush brown oxide, highlight brick red or light grey, black wash if needed) and then lightly black washing the wire leaving some of the copper exposed.

When I started the project, I did not own any 20 mm buildings. I ordered several buildings from a couple of different suppliers. Sentry Models has some great items but they are expensive and come unpainted (the US distributor also has to order from the UK so lead time can be long). Hovels has my favorite items and they also offer both painted and unpainted prices. Finally, Monday Knight offers what seems to be a re-branding of some of the Sentry line. Their items are inexpensive and delivery was quick. The models are not as detailed (f.e. no interior), but for the price you cannot go wrong. Dave H. from the BH group has been helping me get the painting done on these. For our scenario, there are 11 buildings in all so plenty of painting practice. I may share some of my lessons learned on these after the gameboard is 100% finished.

If you look backwards at some of the earlier posts, you can clearly see how this section of the board has evolved:

Our next post will talk about creating prepared positions like the one you see in the middle of this picture. We will also introduce a "new" (for me) method for creating brick and stone walls. That should just about do it then for the Project Foy gameboard. We have this game scheduled to debut at Little Wars in Lincolnshire, IL the first weekend in February, so look us up if you are in the area and want to see the board close-up.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Project Foy - Timeout Result

This past weekend I helped our junior terrain makers finish their school project. Their 6th grade Social Studies assignment was to re-create something from ancient Egypt. Many of the kids picked the obvious "pyramid made from sugar cubes" project, but my son came up with the idea of picking a famous battle from that time period and building a terrain board and rule set for it. He volunteered my help, but I wanted them to come up with the ideas and, more importantly, to do all of the work.

After digging around on Wikipedia for a while, they settled on the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BC. This was a battle for the fortress of Pharaoh Psametik III and took place in the eastern Nile delta. The boys did a great job of doing the research and deciding what the board needed to look like. I can't say that their idea for the fortress exactly matched the historical account, but we all make allowances in our projects to make them fit our time/space/budget.

The boys used a lot of the techniques we have already presented:

Honestly I was not sure what we would do for figures, but I was hoping to find a set of plastic Romans at least to pass off for Egyptian warriors. As luck would have it, our favorite hobby store, Greenfield News and Hobby, had not only Romans, but Egyptians too. We were also able to pick up some cheap palm trees to add character. They look a little cheesy: if we had had more time, I would have gotten the procedure that John uses to scratch build them and had the boys make them. Similarly, the boys ended up only having enough time to mark the bases of the figures to indicate what side they were on. I am hoping they will be interested enough to go back and take a stab at painting them up.

For the Nile River tributaries, I showed them how to blend a variety of colors going from darker to lighter as they moved out from the center. For such an advanced technique, I thought they did a very good job. I finished the river sections off by brushing on Liquid Water after the paint had dried. I just wanted a shiny top-coat. I was not going for the depth that we normally use for rivers and ponds. Overall, I was very pleased with the effort and result.

I did stumble across one new technique as we were trying new things. I found that a Burnt Umber wash over the spackling compound rough coat results in a pretty good river bank. In this case, you want to go easy on the sanding/smoothing.

If we can get it on the schedule, I am going to try and convince my son to run a full-fledged game at Little Wars in February. We play-tested their rules on Saturday night and it seemed to be a reasonable game. But, finally back to Project Foy!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Project Foy - Timeout

Well, it's been about a week or so since I have had a chance to complete any significant work on Project Foy. My son was assigned a project at school on Egypt and he thought it would be a great idea for his dad to help him make a game board depicting a battle from ancient Egypt. This is a group project so it has meant several sessions of the "project team" coming to our house for the design and build. It has been very interesting to see them go through the same build process that we are.

Originally they came up with a design that covered 4'x5'. Within the Battlefield Hobbies group, we take turns playing the VOR role. That is the "voice of reason". It is funny that even at 11 years old, your project build plans wildly exceed reality in the early planning stages. So, after I stepped in as the VOR (did they realize a board that size takes about 30 hours to build?), their design shrunk to a more manageable 2'x2.5'.

The team has gone through most of the design and rough construction work. This weekend we will put on the final finishing touches. They are also planning on putting together a rule set so they can do a short playtest for the class.

It has been a real experience for me as I step back and allow the boys to create their own vision. I have helped with suggestions and demonstrating techniques, but I am doing my best at resisting the urge to step in and clean up their work. So far, I have limited that to just the most difficult cutting operations.

Anyway, we should be able to get Project Foy back on track next week. I have a series of finishing photos that need to get uploaded before we show the final stages.