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"First Time on the Table: Battlegroup AAR" Topic


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Miles Dei03 Dec 2019 10:25 a.m. PST

My eldest son (13) and I have been slowly collecting and painting a couple armies, as well as building various terrain pieces, over the last couple years. We have never actually put anything on the table, rolled the dice or otherwise tried engaged in a game with our units. That ended over the long Thanksgiving break…

We played two games of Battlegroup using 400 point German and American army lists from the Overlord supplement. Neither of us are experienced modelers or well-versed in WW2 history, but we have had a wonderful time together learning about both topics. The battles themselves were extremely fun – one a roadblock scenario and the other a hill defense scenario – though I am positive we "got the rules wrong" many times.

Below are some images that I wanted to share. They are a bit out of context as my second eldest son decided to pose some of them for the photos, but I think they still give a sense of the quality of models, paint and terrain. I am writing this post for a few reasons:

  1. To encourage others afraid of modeling to jump into the hobby. I have nearly zero artistic ability, so I never seriously tried to enter the miniatures wargaming hobby even though I was always amazed by it. I simply thought "I could never make a little army guy look as good as those others I see online!", so I never even tried. As I hope you can see in these photos, while our paint jobs on these 15mm figures are not worthy of exhibition, they look very good on the table…and even pretty realistic in a close up photo! I am certain that our tanks and infantry are not historically accurate (missing or additional bits, wrong paint, etc.), but they look accurate enough for us for now…and we can always upgrade and improve them (or others!) in the future. The Germans are my 13 year old's army. While I helped him in the initial stages of putting the models together (cutting them from sprues, using plastic cement to bond the arms to the bodies, picking paint colors, etc…), he has done everything himself. If this 13 year old and a non-artistic man can get an acceptable model quality, I assure you that you can, too!
  2. To recommend the Battlegroup rules. I am not a wargaming expert, especially regarding miniature wargaming. I have played plenty of war boardgames, especially Advanced Squad Leader, and have relished in the small unit actions which I have been able to play in various systems. However, I do not have any real depth of knowledge about WW2 (i.e. my research is limited to masterpieces such as Saving Private Ryan, Patton, Enemy at the Gates and A Bridge Too Far). Thus, any time I played a board wargame, it was always just a game of "how do I get these little cardboard pieces over to that gray hexagon". With miniatures, I was able visualize the battle from a soldier's perspective and actually care about that soldier moving out of cover to cross a road in order to enter that building. And, with Battlegroup, I was able to do this with a fairly simple set of rules that appeared to enforce realistic actions with realistic complications and restrictions. I am sure we missed some rules, we fudged some things which confused us, etc…but we had fun. It was a very different experience from what I am used to. In ASL, for example, you know there is a rule for everything, so many times the game is a "my rules knowledge versus his" thing….which can be great fun. But Battlegroup seems to take a different approach which I would characterize as "use these books as guidelines, agree to things with your opponent before (e.g. terrain) and during (e.g. line of sight) the game, and remember to have fun". I thoroughly enjoy this set of rules…everything from how battlefield visibility is abstracted (e.g. smoke) into the Observation roll, to the elegance of AFV ammo loadouts (e.g. "Do I take this low odds shot and waste one of my only AP rounds left?"), to the general ethos of the "be a good sport and have fun". I highly recommend this set of rules to anybody starting out in the hobby.
  3. To warn other beginners of their impending cash defecit. I say this tongue-in-cheek, but I now have the following to consider in regards to my engagement with this hobby:
    • I need more models…so many more models. I can only proxy a halftrack as a supply truck so many times.
    • Be careful who you game around, because you will likely infect them with the hobby. I now have at least 2 other boys in my family that need their own armies. My 11 year old has shown slight interest in the models in the last 2 years, but never seeing them in use has been a deterrent. Now that he's seen a game, he wants in! And my 7 year old who has always been fascinated by games and these miniatures is probably old enough to do something now. So, that's at least a British army and Russian army that we need to do. Plus, probably some German reinforcements, some Italians, etc., etc., etc… And that is to say nothing of my wife and 9 year old daughter now needing more flock, static grass, 1" foam, foamcore, Elmer's glue, etc…to make more terrain.
    • I need more tablespace, so I assume that's at least another $50 USD there… I love our dining room table, and the wife encouraged us to use it…but it is an awkward size (3' x 5.5') and shape (rounded at the ends) that did not allow us enough real estate for the game. Hmmm….
  4. To explain that your costs can be controlled. As a counterpoint to the above, it seems this hobby can cost as much as you want it. There seems to be a fairly high startup cost such as purchasing the initial units and basic materials (paints, brushes, glues, etc.), but much of this can be had at a lower price point than it seems at first. For example, the modeling paints by Vallejo are great quality for my needs and at a decent price point…especially considering the amount of paint required for any given figure/army. I have yet to replace a single dropper of paint even though we have painted over 300 infantry and 50 vehicles. Also, things can be proxied if necessary…if you want a supply truck in your game but you only have halftracks or Matchbox cars, then use the halftrack/Matchbox car! Sure, it may look goofy on the table, but the Miniatures Wargarming Fun Police are not going to come knocking on your door! If you want some awesome hilly terrain, then just throw a green blanket over the top of some books or oddly-shaped objects… Voila! I say all this as a beginner on a shoestring budget (7 kids, my wife is a homemaker that homeschools our children…no real disposable income to speak of!)…you can get some great models on an attractive table if you are creative and look for discounts or ways to double your usage of something (i.e. a US Sherman and a British Sherman are, to my eyes, identical…2 tanks for the price of 1!).

As for the "AAR" portion of this post…both games were a loss for the Americans due to the commander's poor battlefield awareness and the uncanny accuracy of the German rifles and machine guns.

  • Game One: scenario is a hill defense. The American infantry platoon, supported by three M10 Wolverines, held a commanding position in a fortified bunker atop a large hill. Instead of simply holding the position and allowing the Germans to walk into cross-fire expertly contrived by the American officers, the Americans decided they should charge out to meet the Germans! The Americans gave up their strong defensive positions in order to engage the Germans because….reasons? :) Honestly, as the American player, I am not sure what I was doing in this scenario. This was absolutely a "learning game", so I was very interested in learning how things like movement, line of sight, observation, etc…played out. However, I did so in such a wreckless manner that the game ended in about 2 hours with a resounding German victory. However, this game definitely whet our appetite for more and brought no less than 6 family members around the battlefield to watch!
  • Game Two: crossroads roadblock scenario. I believe this setup actually came out of the Wacht am Rhein book; the scenario in that book included Americans defending a roadblock at a crossroads. We reversed things and had the Germans defend. The Germans were deadly accurate in this game, and my son's tactics of "suppression fire first to pin them, then aimed fire second to eliminate them" worked wonders. There were 4 primary positions on the battlefield in this game:
    1. "Death Hill": a large hill in the American setup area that was intended to be the primary sniper location, position for a mortar spotter, and a MMG team. However, nearly everybody was wiped out on this hill thanks to a German MMG and Pak 40.
    2. "Peek-a-Boom Ridge": a small hill near an objective with line of sight to a large German-controlled building. The name "Peek-a-Boom" comes from the fact that the first American MMG team that peeked above the ridge was summarily elimiated, and every other "peek" by an American unit (armor, infantry, or otherwise) was quickly "boomed" out of existence.
    3. "The Giving Tree": as in, this tree miraculously gives my MMG and PaK 40 cover from all sides and angles. There was a small hill in the German setup area where my son put an MMG and Pak 40. There was a single tree on top of this hill which we treated as providing no cover to either unit, but did obscure them when being observed. These guys must have passed at least a dozen Cover Saves IN THE OPEN… none of these units took a casualty, suffered a pin or otherwise did anything but eliminate American units from long range.
    4. "The Building": as in, the 3-story building which housed a German squad on ambush the entire game. The real importance of this area, though, was the orchard outside the building which housed some German units and a tank that were able to "boom" anything that "peeked" above the ridge mentioned above!

Now, for some action photos of our second game…

German halftrack pulls up next to a small cottage as the squad prepares to disembark to overwatch an objective.


An American rifle squad races down the road to contest another building with line of sight on the objective at the crossroads.


The German armor prowls around a hill, looking for a shot on the American halftrack.


The Pz IV scored a hit on the halftrack! However, the American private with the bazooka survived, made a "call of duty test" and eliminated the tank with a well-aimed shot!


Meanwhile, the forward HQ unit on the summit of "Death Hill" (so named due to the huge loss of life for the Americans at the hands of the German MMG and PaK 40)…

…see their opportunity and race towards the rear of the engagement. This "tactical retreat" was supposed to somehow inspire the M10 Wolverine (who had been without ammo from the very first turn of the game due) and position themselves to spot for artillary…

…but really they were just racing as far away from the Germans as possible!

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2019 11:00 a.m. PST

Congratulations on your first game. It looks much better than my first game.

pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2019 11:10 a.m. PST

You poor, poor man. Bitten by the miniature wargaming bug and dragging your family along with you. And welcome to the fraternity! I've been gaming for nigh on 30 years, and you do get better artistically with practice as you observe others.

You are articulate and reasoning in your approach, and I predict you will have much fun in your gaming endeavors. Bravo for encouraging your sons, and having the patience to do it well, it looks like. Have you taken them to a gaming convention yet?

I really like the Battlegroup WW2 rules, too, for exactly the reasons you stated.

Keep gaming!

d88mm1940 Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2019 12:18 p.m. PST

Well done! The family that wargames together…
Be careful not to assign boring terrain painting to the females. I've found them to be formidable is given the chance.
I too, have a distinct difference with boardgaming to miniatures rules. Board games are almost always complete; the rules, the units needed, the scenarios, a map (terrain) usually a nice backround history and even designer notes. Miniature rules are usually sparse. You are lucky to get an index! There are some modern exceptions but almost always you have to buy Everything else, including dice.
Happy gaming in the future. Also, it will be easier around birthdays and Christmas…

MiniPatton03 Dec 2019 1:24 p.m. PST

I can say that the games I play with my soon to be fourteen year old are my favorites. We get a chance to talk about history, tactics, and all kinds of stuff. He's started painting Space Marines this year and is dragging me kicking and screaming into 40K and Kill Team…never thought I would see the day.

Fantastic job on your first game – way nicer than my first attempts.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2019 2:22 p.m. PST

Congratulations on your first couple games! Your toys look great, and looks like the first couple games were a roaring success. As mentioned above, your first attempt looks much better than mine did!

My boys aren't as old as yours, but we've been playing for a few years now, off and on. Tremendous amounts of fun, can't wait until they get older.

V/R,
Jack

Bismarck08 Dec 2019 1:07 p.m. PST

Miles,

Thank you for your post and aars. Your points of encouragement to bring others into the hobby, particularly the first, also work for us "old ones" who due to age, health or eyesight have not taken up a brush in years.

It is great that you and your son are enjoying your entry into the hobby. You are looking forward to years of fun.

thanks again,

Sam

Wolfhag09 Dec 2019 10:54 a.m. PST

I got my son started when he was 4 and going to conventions when he was 10. He got into a group of 40K players and we ended up painting about 300 figures. He painted a Space Wolf army, his name is Wolfgang.

When he was in the Marines he had to go see the Colonel for pissing off some senior NCO's (something he excelled at). The Colonel saw his named and asked him if he had ever heard of the 40K Space Wolves. It turns out the Colonel plays 40K with his 10-year-old son. Wolfgang said the 13th Chapter was his favorite which the Colonel thought cool because he's the commander of the 13th MEU at the time.

They both read the 40K book series too. What was supposed to be a thorough chewing out turned out to be a 3-hour discussion on 40K games and books. They decided to start a little book exchange and kept in touch.

During the deployment, the NCO's he had a problem with finally screwed up big time just like my son had warned everyone. They were pulled mid-deployment and sent home. He said his strategy was to tell warn everyone about these two NCO's and talk s--- about them knowing it would get back to them. They'd write up a Page 11, he'd sign it taking credit for it which would send it up the chain of command warning everyone in the MEU about this guy.

When he got back to the states the Colonel personally thanked him and his CO tore up his three Page 11's.

Never underestimate the power of the Emperor.

Wolfhag

Bismarck09 Dec 2019 11:37 a.m. PST

Wolfhag…ooohrah!

like father like son!

Semper Fi

Sam Lemonds

Grumble8710627 Dec 2019 7:29 p.m. PST

Thank you for your enthusiastic write-up and photos! True, there is nothing like getting those troops out in a game the first few times. I remember collecting figures and vehicles for several years before I discovered the actual rules for using them on the table. (This was in the 1960's, and it was Don Featherstone's books such as War Games and Advanced War Games that opened this field to me.)

I don't have children, but a nephew of mine discovered wargames -- board and miniature -- through my interest.

Good luck and happy gaming to you and your family! Hope this season of gift-giving has brought a few reinforcements to you and yours.

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