Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Solo Project - Operation Battleaxe

I'm finally getting around to posting the initial battle reports from my Summer Solo Project.

Just to recap, my choice was to play tank actions from the World War 2 Western Desert Campaign using the Hell Hath No Fury (HHNF) rules from Two Hour Wargames. Because the HHNF rules only cover the European Western Front, I had to come up with stats for the tanks and force availability tables for the missions.

I will do a full review of the HHNF rules in a different post, but as a quick overview the rules are similar to a lot of Two Hour Wargames rules in that they are quick-play, use d6s, and units (tanks in this case) are rated for Reputation which determines how well they take actions during the game. The game system is fairly interactive, giving each side a chance to keep in the action. The rules are also very solitaire friendly, with tables for determining enemy actions and forces.

I decided to use Operation Battleaxe as my starting point and got all the tanks ready to go for a mini-campaign. The recommended play area for HHNF is a 3 foot by 3 foot space divided into 9 squares. I have an old DBA desert board, which is 2 foot x 2 foot. and decided to use that as my play area (I reduced the movement ratings appropriately for the smaller space).

Operation Battleaxe:
This operation was launched to relieve the forces in Tobruk and open up the coast road by retaking Halfaya Pass (aka Hellfire Pass). Historically the battle was fought over three days. The area around the pass was heavily contested, while away from the pass British forces made some headway on the first day, then were forced on the defensive on the second day, and narrowly avoiding encirclement on the third day.

I decided to cover the tank battles away from the pass using 3 missions that essentially each covered a day of the historical operation (I had the option for a fourth mission if things went really well or really bad).

My core unit for the campaign is a troop (platoon) of three Crusader I tanks. I used a Rep 5 for my troop leader/tank commander (higher Rep is better) and randomly rolled for the Reps of the other two tanks in the troop and for the crew of my tank. Everybody ended up a 3, except for the loader on my tank, who came up Rep 4 which really helped out during the fighting.

Mission 1 - Breakthrough
In this mission my troop was on the attack, with support from another troop of Crusader I tanks. I put out some terrain, randomly determined my entry side and moved my tanks onto the board. Then the PEFs (Possible Enemy Forces) were placed.
Overview of the battlefield for the first mission. My tanks are on the left with the PEF dust clouds in the center and right
My troop was trying to move up the center to get to the big ridge, but there were a couple PEFs nearby. You don't know what the PEFs are until you make visual contact.
Dust clouds on the horizon as see by my tanks.

The Germans won initiative on the first turn and the center PEF moved up to the narrow ridge in front of my tanks. The PEF turned out to be a Panzer IVE (Rep 4). I diced off the sighting test, narrowly wining the first shot. I hit the Panzer IV, but unfortunately, I couldn't get a good penetration roll.

In HHNF, most attempts to do an action (other than basic movement) are rolled against your Rep. Usually you roll two dice and check the number of passes (dice equal to or less than your Rep) to determine the result. But when checking to see if you destroy an enemy tank, you take the difference between gun penetration and armor value to check for successes. My gun's penetration was a 4 while the German armor was 3. I needed to roll two 1's to destroy the Panzer IV or one to disable it.

The Germans did a reaction check, passed and fired back, but also couldn't get penetration. we kept firing on reactions, until our loaders failed their reload checks.
My Crusaders face off against the lone Panzer IV

On my turn I activate my troop, moved to get around the side of the German and let my other tanks fire.I was able to get a disabling roll that put the German out of action.

I was a little worried at this point, because the second PEF was moving up on my right. But when the PEF came into sight, it turned out to be a false alarm.

On the left, my supporting troop moved up to a hill and saw that the third PEF was four Panzer IIIFs (Rep 4, 4, 3, and 3). 
This doesn't look good.
The supporting troop was able to draw the attention of the Panzer IIIs, while I moved my troop around the flank.

In the end, I was able to flank the Germans and catch them in a crossfire to successfully complete this mission. I only had one of my troop's tanks get disabled, while the supporting troop had two disabled tanks. I was able to recover my tank and return it to service after the mission (Yes there are tables for checking on that). I also checked for any Rep improvement and got my gunner to up his Rep to 4, which would be a definite help. With the offensive starting out well, it is was on to mission 2.

Mission 2 - Seize and Hold
I randomly rolled for my next mission based on the success of my first mission (I made up my own mission flow charts for this mini-campaign. For the base rules you just roll randomly). In this mission my troop and another supporting troop were supposed to take and hold a small oasis on the map.

My supporting troop moved up one side of the map and quickly ran into a group of three Panzer IVEs (all Rep 4).
Not a good position for the Crusader tanks
The Germans made short work of the supporting troop as my troop tried to move up the middle to the objective. 

I sighted the other PEFs. The first group turned out to be three Panzer IIIFs (Rep 4, 4, and 3) and the second was four Panzer IIIFs (Rep 4, 4, 3, and 3). Badly out numbered, I decided that it would be better to make a hasty retreat. 

I was able to retreated with my command tank, leaving behind one destroyed and one disabled tank from my troop and three disabled tanks from the supporting troop. Needless to say, this mission was not successful. However, I was lucky enough to get my troop back up to full strength for the next mission. I also checked for improvement on my tank, but no one moved up in Rep this time.

Mission 3 - Defend
For mission 3 I was on the defensive. I had another supporting troop, but they would not arrive until the 4th turn.

I watched the PEFs advance across the map and moved to try to engage them one at a time. The first PEF turned out to be a false alarm. The second turned out to be four Panzer IIFs (Rep 4, 4, 3, and 3). But because I was on their flank, I was able to take them out fairly quickly.
Flanking the Panzer IIs
The supporting troop showed up to help block the final PEF, which turned out to be two more Panzer IIFs (both Rep 4). Between my troop and the supporting troop we took out the remaining Germans with no losses.

Luckily I was only facing a recon unit this time and was able to stop the German advance.

Mini-Campaign Outcome:
Because I didn't win or lose all three missions, there was no fourth mission. 
With two successful missions, I considered the overall operation a success from my standpoint. That said, it looked pretty historical in the results.

Overall it was a pretty fun mini-campaign. Each battle took two hours or less (so the rules really lived up to the company's name). With a couple more weeks until the traditional end of summer, I expect to get in a few more battles with the rules and tanks.