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Probing Seelowe Heights, 1945


The Second World War, Battlegroup: Fall of the Reich, 20mm

I came along to the Edinburgh club without a game lined up, but Bart Zynda invited me to take part in this one – an Eastern Front game using the latest of the Battlegroup rules. I hadn’t tried this group of rules before, and didn’t really know what to expect. The first of them was Battlegroup Kursk, produced by Iron First Publishing. I didn’t buy them, as I was already quite happy with the rules I use, and I couldn’t justify the expense of another set of glossy hardback rules I probably won’t use. Since then Battlegroup Overlord and Battlegroup Fall of the Reich came out, both using the same core rules as Kursk, but with added chrome for that particular phase of the war. Apparently to play Fall of the Reich you need the original rules set, or else a small booklet Iron Fist publish as a bundle, containing all the essentials from Kursk. So, I was delighted to get the chance to try out the rules with someone who uses them regularly. In this little game – loosely based on a Soviet attack on Nazi positions outside Berlin – I took command of a small force of Russian T-34/85s.The rules work on a 1:1 figure ratio – so essentially its a large-scale skirmish system. It uses an “I go, You go” approach, with both sides getting a number of command dice to use as they see fit each turn. These let you activate units (such as infantry squads or vehicles), and you can then move and/or fire. Firing can either be Area Fire to pin a target, or Aimed Fire to destroy it. One is obviously easier to achieve than the other. Our job was to let the infantry pin the enemy, while we swung round the flank and delivered the killer blow. At least, that was the plan my fellow Soviet commander Ray Neal devised. Colin Jack commanded our “expendable” Polish allies. Team Nazi consisted of Tim Watson and Campbell Hardie. We also had our artillery to help us, but the guns were controlled by a very distinctive spotter, whose appearance and his lend-lease DUKW attracted a lot of German fire. He spent most of the game pinned himself, and unable to call in the “stonk” we needed to clear the Germans out of the hamlet.Rather rashly we decided to send in a scout car – a BA-64 – and amazingly it survived a flurry of panzerfaust fire, and riddled the nearest building with its LMG. That suppressed the defenders, and let out infantry advance towards the village. Over on the far side of the table – the Soviet right flank – our IS-2s were having a tough time of it, skirting a marsh and roiling forward in support of the infantry. One was blown up by a lurking King Tiger, but the second one held on, pinned the enemy Tiger, and forced the other German tanks on that flank to dive for cover. The village was pretty well defended by dug-in panzer grenadiers, but we cleared the first building, and moved on to the next.Over on my flank my two tanks knocked out a German 88mm gun, which left us free to roll forward. My brace of T-34s swung round to the south, and shot up whatever targets they could see – a Hanomag, a squad of German panzer grenadiers, and a section of support weapons. This was all great fun, largely because the Germans couldn’t do anything about it – their whole wing was propped up by that 88. On the penultimate turn our pleas for air support were answered, and a Sturmovik appeared over the tabletop. Ray took charge of it, and ignoring the fire from a German flak tank it attacked and destroyed one of the German tanks, and pinned another.By that stage it was time to pack up. Progress had been slow because most of the players were unfamiliar with the rules. I have to admit though – most of the time I’d no idea what we were supposed to do, and kept bombarding poor Bart for information. As all the other players were doing the same he did well to get through as much of the game as he did! While they have their quirks, and have a tendency to bog down in places, I’ll certainly give the Battlegroup rules series another go if the opportunity comes up.

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