September has provided something of an opportunity for some games of WWII Spearhead. Further with one of my opponents having recently completed his 1940 French the period of our game was almost predetermined.
While previous games set in 1940 have involved engagements between British and Germans the French would provide additional challenges. For example the French in the early period use random morale. That is the morale of any particular French battalion is determined randomly when they come under fire. This certainly provides challenges for the French commander, though the larger French forces create plenty of challenges for the Germans.
Equipment wise each army has its strengths and weakness. The French tanks for example can be a mixed bag. They can range from Great War era FT-17s to more modern and powerful Somua and Char B1s. Above, French Somua tanks advancing in our most recent game.
The Germans are not free from challenges either. Their Panzer Battalions each contain a large variety of vehicles, from Panzer I and Panzer IIs to more efficient vehicles.
In addition to the Panzer Battalions I have also taken the opportunity to use more unusual battalions. One such is the Aufklärungungs-Abteilung or Reconnaissance Battalion, shown above. This battalion is terribly light on offensive firepower, yet it has been entertaining to use. If you are interested you can find some thoughts on these battalions and their use on the wargames table here.
Perhaps most importantly I have taken the time to record our most recent encounter, complete with a selection of photos, here. Certainly the game was a little different, yet I trust it is of some interest.
Like many in the world the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed my regular gaming. Gone were the weekly DBA gaming evenings and the larger Friday evening games and multiplayer events. But what did I replace my evening games with during our very restricted lockdown?
Well like many my painting increased and more units marched off the painting table into my various armies. However, one of the most interesting aspects was our Friday evening virtual wargame video meetings. Friends around the New Zealand, and from overseas, joined to discuss painting projects, books as well other wargame subjects. Some of my favourite topics were the in-depth presentations.
These included the history of wargaming in France, which looked at developments from the 19th Century, to the 1980s – truely fascinating! This was followed by the equally fascinating presentation on depiction of World War II in French cartoons, all published in 1944 and 1945. Finally, there was most interesting look at the Battle of Bir Hakeim drawing on French and German sources which will soon be published in France by the presenter, a professional historian.
Anyway, feedback from those joining the video conferences each week was that they were all very successful.
In addition to these virtual meetings my son and I played a number of DBA games during the lockdown using Skype. Starting as something of an experiment we quickly found the games worked well, at least for experienced players. A summary of some of these games can be found here.
Finally, I hosted a multiplayer Spearhead game that ran over several weeks. Involving nine players from around the country it provided a rather unique gaming experience. If you are interested in reading more about the game you can find a report here.
All these initiatives provided a little distraction in what is a very challenging time. Fortunately I live in New Zealand, and with the situation improving here finally I find my gaming also returning to normal. However, for those readers still in the thick of the pandemic I hope that your hobby is providing you with something of a distraction, even if friends aren’t catching up in person. Most importantly I hope you can enjoy your hobby without compromising your safety.
This year has seen considerably less Spearhead games than I would have liked. In part this was due to moving house and all that comes with that. Christmas holidays have finally allowed me the opportunity to deploy some miniatures.
But which armies should we use? Well, having made significant progress this year on painting a good number Soviets I was particularly keen to use them. Given I have been painting both early and late war formations even then the choice was not straight forward. The Soviets certainly have have some interesting early war vehicles and within Spearhead provide some command challenges. But the appeal of T-34s in the late war rolling forward is also appealing.
After some discussion we finally opted to use two armies from 1944. The T-34s would soon be moving across the table as, most likely, the Soviets would be on the offensive. But of course, what is likely can’t always be counted on. Instead it was the Soviets who were on the defensive and the Germans were conducting a counterattack.
If you are interested a few photos and something of a summary can be found here.
Over the last couple of days my son and I have deployed our 1941 Soviets and Germans for a series of challenging Spearhead games. In both games the Germans have been restricted to relatively small but well motivated formations. In contrast the Soviets have fielded numerically larger formations which have been significantly hamstrung by defensive requirements and completely inflexible command and control.
The games were both generated with the Scenario Generation System and to the German commanders relief both battles found the Germans on the offensive. I remain nervous of facing a massive Soviet counter-attack!
As regular readers will know I enjoy gaming several different periods but one ruleset I particularly enjoy is Spearhead. In particular the World War II version. Spearhead has for me an excellent balance between command level challenges and technology. Further, the rules are not too complex, meaning a player doesn’t feel exhausted at the end of the game.
For some years my Spearhead games have been focussed on the and 1944, in part because I was in the process of rebasing the early war collection and painting extras. Over the last year I finally completed the first phase of this rebasing project allowing me to finally breakout my miniatures for a series of cracking good early war games.
The fascinating thing about this period, for me at least, are the challenges the various armies had with doctrine and technology. Lessons from the Great War had been learnt but their application on a different battlefield was not straightforward and continued to be refined sometimes due doctrine and on others due to limitations around rearmament. Obvious examples are the British light, infantry and cruiser tanks, as well the various early Panzer I and II tanks of the Germans. Of course all nations had similar challenges. On the battlefield what do you actually do with a Panzer I or a Vickers Mk VI?
The technological challanges were very evident in our most recent game. However, with Spearhead you actually need to focus on the coordination of various arms realising you will pay the price when you can’t achieve these sufficiently.
Of course all these interesting technologies, combined with trying to achieve combined arms, are made even more interesting by the tactical situation and two players duelling to place their opponent at a disadvantage. What a great way to spend an evening!