Monday, November 04, 2013

Book Review: The Devil's Adjutant

I read The Devil's Adjutant by Michael Reynolds while on a recent business trip. Even though it purports to be a biography of Jochen Peiper, its really about the battle group that he commanded (Kampfgruppe Peiper, or KGP) during the Battle of the Bulge. There is a chapter on Peiper pre-Ardennes that describes his time as a Nazi who served in the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolph Hitler throughout the war, and fought in many battles on the Eastern front. Leibstandarte translates as "bodyguard", so he was originally part of Hitler's bodyguard, and the 1st SS Panzer division was drawn from that cadre. There is also a chapter on his post-war life, where he was convicted of war crimes, served 11 years in prison, lived in France, and was eventually murdered by French Communists. However, the bulk of book is a day by day, blow by blow account of the fighting centered around KGP's attack during the battle.

The author does a really good job of correlating official histories and personal interviews with many of the combatants. The author spent a lot of time using both American and German sources, and its quite interesting to see how the two sides viewed the same action. He was also able to interview veterans from both sides. The author was unable to interview Peiper, so his commentary was taken from post-war interrogation, some of which should be taken with a grain of salt. The book has excellent maps and a very comprehensive order of battle for 1ss Panzer and the American 30th Infantry Division, both of which make it easy to follow the battle. You end up with a pretty solid picture of the "campaign", even if it only lasted a little more than a week.

I was inspired to pull out my copy of ASL's KGP maps and scenarios when I got home! I compared the KGP maps with those in the book, and they are pretty similar. I took a quick look at the scenarios, and they seem reasonable, too. The book was published after KGP was released, so it wasn't used as a reference for the game.

I think that Avalon Hill could have published a KGP III that focused on the battles around Stavelot. There were quite a few battles over multiple days, both over the bridge and the villages to the west. I also think that you could do an interesting game focusing on the entire campaign, either at a platoon or company level. A TCS module would be very interesting, although you would need a lot of vehicles. I am planning on putting together some scenarios based on the action, although I'm not exactly sure what rules set I'm going to use.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stooge Con 2013 - Part II

I described my army lists in Part I of this post. Now I'll give a short report on each of my games.

Game 1 vs Ming Chinese (Jim Naughton). This was my first game in a couple of weeks, and my rust really showed. It was made worse by the fact that a) the weather was mist and b) Jim really has my number. The board had some steep hills on my right flank and a small patch of rough going on my left. Jim set up his cavalry on my left flank, his gunners in the steep hills on the right, and his big gun line in the center. I set up my knights and cavalry opposite his cavalry, my spears opposite his gun line, and the Dailami opposite his gunners.

I felt pretty good about the setup. I figured that I could use the mist to screen my guys as I closed. However, I didn't realize that it would force my commands to roll pips independently. Ugh. Still, I figured that I'd be able to drive the right groups forward and delay out of range until I got some pips. Sadly, it didn't work that way. The allied command was unreliable, and, of course, the cavalry command also got 1 pip. Instead of hanging tight, I decided to press on, figuring that things would work out. Dumb, dumb move. The attack sort of stumbled forward. The allied command activated, then promptly rolled a 1. The knights ended up right next to the rough going, and a Ps ambush killed two of them. That meant that they hit the cavalry line a bit disorganized, and I lost another two, breaking the command. On the other flank, the Dailami hit the gunners and started taking casualties. His light horse then hit my bows supporting the attack and quickly disposed of them. Another couple of bad rolls and the Dailami command broke. I had lost one or two other stands by then, so the whole army broke. What a beating...

Game 2 vs Teutonic Order (Dave Shepps). Once again, the weather played a critical role in this game. I decided to go with the B List in this game, as I didn't want my Kn(F) fighting the Teutonic Kn(S)! Dave set up with the knights in the middle and bows and light horse on either flank. I put my spear in the middle, the Dailami on my right flank, and the cavalry horde on the left. As the game started, I pressed hard with the cavalry while soft pedaling with the other two commands. Several bounds into the game, it started to rain. Knowing the that bows were now at a disadvantage, I attacked aggressively with the cavalry and the Dailami. The Dailami tore into the bows, and I keep feeding them into the melee until all of the bows were dead and the command was broken. On the other flank, the Cv(S) survived one bound of ineffective bow fire and then slammed home, quickly killing them. My other cavalry and light horse attacked the opposing light horse, finally killing enough to break that command, and therefore breaking the army. Luckily, I was able to avoid direct confrontation with the knights. Those guys were scary!

The cavalry attack the Teutonic left wing...
...while the Dailami attack the right.

Game 3 vs French Ordonnance (Jim Wood). This was the first game that I played on Saturday. Jim was playing French Ordonnance. Once again, I wanted to avoid the Kn(F) vs Kn(S) matchup, so I went with the B List. There was a large woods on my left flank, but the rest of the table was wide open. I put the Dailami command near the woods, the spears in the center, and the big cavalry command on my right flank. Jim had three fairly similar commands consisting of artillery (S and I), bows (S and O), and knights (S). He deployed them on the half of the table with the woods forming a semi-circle around his camp. It was an intimidating sight, but I had a plan to attack it.

The main attack came from the cavalry wing. I used the light horse to screen the guns, then took the Cv(S) on a wide flanking move. The rest of the Cv(O) moved to 10 1/2 inches away from the guns and stopped. I was able to maneuver the Cv(S) into favorable overlaps against the Bw(S). It took several turns, but I was able to kill most of them. That freed up two units on the edge, and I was able to break the command by killing an Art(I) organ gun. There were still a few scattered units, so it would be a while before I'd be able to get into the flank of the next command.

The second part of the attack involved the Dailami. I moved the light horse from that command into a screen position while moving the Ax(S) in column through the edge of the woods towards the guns. They were able to approach without getting shot, but then Jim moved his dismounted knights (Bd(S)) to cover them. I was able to hold them off using the woods, then drive a few pairs of Dailami into the bows and guns. The Ax started to slowly grind them down, killing a Bw and Ax. But they were both S units, so it took a lot longer than I had hoped. Long enough for us to run out of time, since the cavalry was on the other side of the board, and I still needed to kill a few more units to break the command. In the end, I broke one of his commands and he broke none of mine, so it was a minor victory.

Game 4 vs New Kingdom Egyptians (Dave May). I decided to go with List A for this game, hoping to send my knights against his warband. As they say... "Be careful what you wish for!" There were some steep hills in the center of my setup area and a few rough patches in his. Otherwise, things were pretty open. I set up my three Arab commands slightly back, allowing the ally command to set up anywhere in front. The spears refused the left flank, the cavalry was in the center, and the Dailami were on the right. Dave set up all of his units in the left half (relative to me) of the board. He had a blade and bow command on the far left, followed by the warband block in the center, with an extended line of blades and bows on the right. He also had a pip dump command consisting of a general in a chariot and a bunch of Ps(I).

I was able to set up my knights across from the warbands and sent them straight in. It was a glorious attack... that completely failed! I lost a stand of knights in the first bound and two stands of light horse in the second. In retrospect, sending in the light horse to guard the flanks was a mistake. Anyways, it took a few more bounds before he was able to kill another stand and break that command. I was a bit bummed... five bounds in and I was down a command.

I sent the cavalry after the extended bow line. I used the light horse to screen, then attacked with double ranked Cv(O). It took a few bounds, but I was eventually able to grind down the bows and break them. I had been marching the Dailami like mad, and they were able to provide a bit of support in the attack. Dave attacked them with his pip dump general and managed to kill an aux stand and its supporting psiloi on my flank. I was then able to surround him with Dailami and their cavalry general and kill him. Of course, it wasn't enough to break the tiny command, as he made sure to allocate two pips to it next turn. Sigh.

The Egyptian chariots hold off the Arab cavalry.

Now we each had one broken command, and it would be a race to see who could break a second. Rather foolishly, I inched my spears forward after the knight command broke. The warband slammed into them, quickly killing two, but the attack stalled after that. I was able to delay them using the general and a light horse stand from the broken ally. In the center, I had to make my way through some broken chariots and blades. By the time I did that, a group of unbroken chariots arrived to prevent my cavalry from getting into the flanks of the warband. I think I would have been able to overwhelm them, but I had to kill way too many to break the command. In the end, neither of us were able to break the last command and the game ended in a draw.

The Dailami butcher some skirmishers, but don't make it to the camp.

Overall I went 2-1-1, so I was happy with the army's debut. Interestingly, I had better results with the three command "hammer" list than the four command "rapier" list. I do think the army is a winner, but it does so very slowly. It doesn't have any troops that can quickly kill opponents, but it is very resilient. The biggest enemy is time, so its worth working on ways to attack more efficiently. I'm definitely going to use them again in tournaments later this year.

I had a great time at the event. Thanks to Howard for running it, Legions Games for hosting it, and all of my opponents. I'm looking forward to playing them all again. (Well, except for the Ming. I hate those guys... :-)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stooge Con 2013 - Part I

My local club sponsored a DBM event this past weekend. I have been working on an early Arab army and was eager to try it in competition. The tournament used an open format using either the DBM or DBMM army lists.

I decided on the Umayyad Arab list (III/31, DBMM) set in 680 AD. My A List was the one that I used the most during play test. It consisted of four commands, three Arab and one Central Asian Ally, and was designed for maximum mobility:

Reg Cv(O) - CinC
9x Irr Cv(O)
3x Irr Cv(S)
6x Irr LH(O)
19 EE - Breaks on 7

Reg Cv(O) - SG
8x Reg Ax(S)
4x Reg Ps(O)
4x Irr Bw(O)
2x Irr Ps(O)
16 EE - Breaks on 5.5

Reg Cv(O) - SG
12x Irr Sp(I)
6x Irr Ps(O)
16 EE - Breaks on 5.5

Irr Kn(F) - AG
4x Irr Kn(F)
4x Irr LH(F)
6x Irr Bw(I)
15 EE - Breaks on 5

The theory was to use the allied command and the CinC's command to double team one of the enemy's commands. The spear would anchor some part of the line, and could double as a pip sink, since it wasn't designed to do fancy moves. The Dailami command would dominate bad going and be a threat to light troops and bows.

The B list was a hammer to balance the first list's rapier. It consisted of three large Arab commands:

Reg Cv(O) - CinC
14x Irr Cv(O)
7x Irr Cv(S)
3x Irr LH(O)
25 EE - Breaks on 9

Reg Cv(O) - SG
4x Irr Cv(O)
8x Irr Bw(O)
9x Reg Ax(S)
3x Irr LH(O)
25 EE - Breaks on 9

Reg Cv(O) - SG
16x Irr Sp(I)
8x Irr Ps(O)
21 EE - Breaks on 7

The theory here was pretty simple. The spears anchor the center, the Dailami attack through terrain on one flank, the cavalry attack in the open on the other. The big commands assured that I could take a lot of punishment before breaking. The huge cavalry command would give me a good shot at dominating one of the flanks. The biggest downside, of course, was that the commands were pretty clumsy. Looking down 21 cavalry stands can be pretty scary, but I often found that I could only engage with half of them, so I had a lot of guys standing around doing nothing. That said, losing all of the Cv(S) wasn't enough to break the command, so it could fight for a long time.

I'll describe my games in the next post. Slight spoiler, things did seem to go according to plan, except for the game that was played in the mist! :)

The Sultan orders his troops forward!