Sunday, 7 November 2021

SCW Campaign Turn 4 - Republican Spoiling Attack

Earlier in the week I managed to play the other action of our campaign Turn 4, namely the Republican spoiling attack South of the ridge. Whereas the Nationalists had put all of their effort in terms of assets on the attack against the British International Brigade to the North of the ridge, the Republicans has chosen to use their assets for this spoiling attack.

As before, information was supplied to Norm and Jon and after some exchanges of e-mails, I had both of their plans as follows:

Republican Plan
My overall aims are to take the BUA and guard my flanks and to wage attrition against the enemy to spoil their offensive capability.
  • The bomber to bomb the BUA
  • 2 x Ground attack to hit Littorio positions on my left
  • 2 x Med & Heavy artillery to hit Littorio positions on my left
  • 75mm artillery and my integral battalion artillery will hit the enemy cav / armoured cars on my right flank and continue to harass them.
  • My main attacks - A and B companies, plus all armour and 1 MMG to attack the BUA capture and inflict heavy loss. Guard against armoured counter-attack from the road (going into the woods)
  • C company plus 1 MMG to hold my left and give flank protection from Littorio activity.
  • 2 x 45mm A/T and 1 x MMG and 81mm mortar to guard my right and deal with the cav / armoured cars
  • Once the BUA is secure, the company that has suffered the most will hold it, while the other company (together will the available armour) will redirect their attentions to the most pressing task they face, which will be to;
  • Assist with holding off Littorio on the left (PREFERENCE) OR
  • Assisting the weaker company to hold the BUA OR
  • Counter-attacking the enemy armour (can the 45’s afford to be released to assist?) OR
  • Dealing with the cav / armoured car threat to my right, but only if that is threatening to move on me.
  • If enemy numbers build to such numbers that I am losing more than I gain and a tipping point has been reached, everything will fall back to C1. 

Nationalist Plan
As set out in the image below:

Table Set Up
So with the orders in I then went about deploying the troops as best I could in accordance with their wishes. Sometimes base sizes mean that I have to tweak things a bit, but nothing too much in this case.

An over view of the table looking North towards the ridgeline.

The Italian Cavalry and Armoured Car support ready and waiting.

The Blackshirt Companies with the head of the tanks hoving into view.

A very long armoured column, with shades of the Ardennes 1940?

The Littorio Companies deployed with commanding views over the battlefield.

The Dimitrov Battalion with, from left to right, 'C', 'B' & 'A' companies with armoured support.

The Republican air support.

Let Battle Commence
As of late, the captioned photos should give an idea of how the action unfolded. So without further ado...

The Republican bomber makes its approach run on the BUA...

... as the I-16 fighter bomber makes its attacks, to be followed by a medium and heavy artillery barrage.

The BUA has well made houses that minimise the damage done, but all units in it are suppressed.

Another artillery barrage hits the Cavalry, but fails to do much damage, but more importantly they are suppressed, meaning they will be unable to respond to any Republican units that arrive in the first Turn.

The I-16 and artillery cause mayhem on the ridgeline, but some units are not suppressed. Local AA helped minimise the effectiveness of the air attacks.

An overview at the end of Turn 1. 'C' Coy moved forward to take position to guard the left flank and took incoming fire as they did so, but less than expected due to so many Littorio units being suppressed. 'B' Coy moved up to the right of the road whilst 'A' Coy had a great start (double 1). They managed to assault and KO on Cavalry unit and then another unit was KO'd by combined tank and infantry fire. They took some fire in return which only caused one hit.

In return the Nationalist could do little due to so many units being suppressed, no line of sight to the enemy, but at least some of the tanks began to arrive.

'A' Coys great start where they cleared the enemy from their front.

'B' Coy in the middle.

'C' Coy move forward but are still exposed to fire from the ridge.

The ATG's move forward and take up position to support the attack and have KO'd an armoured car to their front.

The Littorio Coys begin to recover from the initial attacks.

The situation in and around the BUA.

The Pz I's begin to deploy as ordered.

The view from the BUA.

The AFV's moving up to support the defenders.

Turn 2 sees another air attack and artillery attack along the ridgeline, with local AA again limiting the amount of damage from the I-16. No units are KO's but many are close to their break point. As before, many units are suppressed.

An overview at the end of Turn 2. The Republican FAO managed to call in his artillery on the remaining Cavalry unit which was KO'd, but then another attempt on the Brigade 75mm artillery blundered, but the strike deviated just enough to miss his own troops! On the right 'A' Coy moved forward as they faced no opposition, whilst in the centre 'B' Coy advanced and came under fire from the BUA, with a T-26 being suppressed and some infantry taking hits too, but their own fire managed to KO the MG in the BUA. On the left 'C' took fire once again, with one unit becoming suppressed, but in response their MG managed to KO 1 x MG & 2 x ATG's, all of which were close the their break point already.

In response, the Nationalist failed to capitalise on the many targets presented to them, only managing to suppress one infantry unit on 'B' Coy. At least their armoured support continued to move up but struggled to deploy in the traffic jam around the BUA.

The Ft-17's take post to support the advance.

'B' Coy come under fire from the BUA.

'C' Coy in position to protect the left flank and the MG has deployed and raked the ridgeline with very effective fire.

The Littorio line begins to thin.

The traffic jam.

The Blackshirt 'A' Coy has moved units across to support the armour on the left flank.

An overview at the end of Turn 3. The Republicans began to consolidate somewhat as 'C' Coy was in a good position, but the MG was suppressed as it moved to gain more targets. 'A' Coy only managed one move on the right and in the centre, 'B' Coy lost a T-26 to opportunity fire but the FAO managed to call in his artillery on the BUA, leading to the loss of an ATG and the Nationalist FAO was only saved by the structure of the building he was in.

In response, the Nationalists had a better Turn, with combined artillery and infantry fire suppressing 4 x infantry and a T-26 tank from the Republican 'B' Coy. The BUA was going to be a tough nut to crack at this rate.

'A' Coy slowly move forward, unaware at present of the Pz I's by the BUA.

'B' Coy come under a lot of fire as they approach the BUA.

The armoured support continues to arrive, bolstering the defences around the BUA.

The L3/35 tankettes take post on the right flank.

An overview at the end of Turn 4. With 'B' Coy beginning to take casualties and the BUA still some way off, the Republican CO ordered all units to begin withdrawing, as the spoiling attack had achieved many of its objectives. The FAO called in artillery on the Littorio troops on the ridgeline to help cover the withdrawal, leading to an infantry unit KO'd and another suppressed.

In response, the Littorio troops moved back off the ridgeline to be out of sight as well as the fact that they couldn't reach the enemy with rifle fire. The Blackshirt's 'B' Coy continued to inflict losses on the Republican 'B' Coy, with one infantry unit KO'd and another suppressed. 

'A' Coy withdraws along with the 45mm ATG's and are covered by the Ft-17's as they do so.

'B' Coy struggles to disengage.

The Littorio units pull back off the ridgeline.

More armoured units arrive and move out to the flanks, which are now very secure.

An overview at the end of Turn 5. A Turn of further withdrawals, with most of the Republican units managing to exit the table, but 'B' Coy takes more losses from combined rifle, mortar and artillery.

The Republican troops as they exit the battlefield.

'B' Coy battered but unbowed.

The BUA still safe in Nationalist hands.

The final butcher's bill. As can be seen, the Nationalist came off worst despite holding onto the BUA.

End of the Game
Both sides could lay claim to a partial victory, as they had both achieved their objectives as it were, but certainly the Nationalist paid a much higher price.

Post Game Thoughts
Yet another very interesting game thrown up by the campaign and certainly not the standard sort of scenario one would normally play. As mentioned before, this is one of the benefits of a campaign and this one certainly has delivered the goods on this front. So as always, some thoughts on the game in no particular order:
  • Attacking BUA's is a tough ask in BKC, certainly more so during this period when you don't have the specialist support units that you encounter later on in WWII. Despite the bomber attack at the start and the artillery strike as well, the Blackshirt units inside managed to survive for most of the game. The buildings were classed as brick and as such gave a 5+ which, after a 6+ to hit, does make a difference. An assault on the BUA even if it had happened early on before the Nationalist armour arrived, would have been a bloody prospect at best.
  • The I-16 and Medium and Heavy Artillery attacks in the first two Turns allowed the Republican attack to gain momentum, as most of the Littorio units were suppressed and therefore unable to respond, rather as happened in the previous game and the British International Brigade along the wood line. Things might have been worse had the I-16 been able to drop its full payload, but the local AA from the Command units managed to reduce it enough to probably save a few units from immediate destruction.
  • As in many previous games, mortars can be really devastating and the Republicans were fortunate that the Nationalists were unable to make the most of these due to either poor shooting (ie bad die rolls) or lack of units with which to call in their support. If they had then they could have suffered early on in the open.
  • As with the above, both sides artillery, when called in as opposed to scheduled, failed to do as much damage as might have been expected. Again the Republicans probably benefited from this more.
  • The High Ground of the ridgeline gave the Littorio units a superb view of the battlefield, but a mix of suppressed units and loss of long range support (MG, ATG & Artillery Support) meant that they were unable to use this advantage to its full effect.
  • The Republican 'C' Coy MG unit really had a good Turn of shooting which is putting it mildly, as in 3 successful orders, it KO'd an MG and two ATG's with hits on pretty much every die rolled. Most units already had quite a few hits, but this really stopped the Littorio from being able to hit the Republicans in the flank as they advanced.

Going forward I need to have a good think and look at the units left for both sides as to whether either side have any realistic offensive capability left, given the losses in the two games of this Campaign Turn. With the Republicans firmly ensconced and in some places dug-in in C1 as well as having the large BUA which they can defend, my gut feeling is that the Nationlists will lack the heavy support required, given the problem the Republicans encountered attacking the small village in this game. I need to let the dust settle a bit, amend the OOB to take into account of recent casualties and then have a chat with Norm and Jon and see what they think.

On other fronts I've got a hankering for some Lion Rampant or small Medieval games and to this end I've started painting up some units I've had based for quite some time. More on this to come hopefully in the next few weeks, if I can maintain focus and not get distracted by other projects, which is always tricky to do!

So until next time stay safe and keep healthy!


  1. Thanks for all the photos and the clear narrative very interesting to follow. I was struck by how hard it is to take a BUA and also how much armour the Nationalists have, though I am not sure how good the Panzer 1’s are.

    Brigade Diary - Today, the Dimitrov Battalion launched a spoiling attack against Nationalist forces, which can be claimed a total success in terms of what a spoiling attack should do. After days of retreating in front of the enemy and having part of the line overwhelmed with heavy losses to the British Brigade, it has helped the morale of the troops to see us take the initiative and take the fight to the enemy.

    We must remember that it was the sacrifices of the British Brigade, who drew enemy forces towards itself, that allowed us attack against a sector that might have otherwise been stronger. It is with some confidence that I am able to write that today will be viewed as a turning point in the Republican fortunes in this sector.

  2. Thanks Norm. Pz I's and L3/35 tankettes are very vulnerable to tank and ATG fire and have no AT capability. However, when used in groups as here, they make very useful mobile armoured MG posts. With no AT rifles, infantry struggle against them, so either have to retreat, rely upon their support weapons (which are few) or try and Close Assault them which is hard to do.

    BUA are very tough nuts to crack, even in WWII with massed artillery etc. You need the die Gods on your side, around a 3:1 advantage and some flamethrowers and SMG armed troops as well based upon my experience. Hence in this game the Dimitrov Battalion had to retreat as the bomber failed to cause enough casualties to allow any reasonable prospect of clsoing in to take the BUA.

    As always, the Brigade Diary entry is excellent!

    1. Thanks Steve, I think as the player, the situation gave you a good game, which ultimately is the goal of the campaign, plus it has given Jonathan and myself much to ponder - all good.

    2. Indeed! I think these games have provided very interesting situations for Steve to play out.

  3. This battle is a wargaming spectacle, Steve, and it looks fabulous. Excellent photos.

    Seems to me, the Republican artillery and air are ALWAYS plentiful, ALWAYS arrive, ALWAYS for multiple missions, and ALWAYS on target. Nationalists have great difficulty even getting one mission to land. No way to overcome that. There will be many questions at HQ especially concerning the failure of Nationalist armor to counterattack as the Republicans withdrew.

    1. Thanks Jon!

      The Republican Air & Artillery in Turns 1 & 2 were scheduled as per the Nationalists Air strikes in the previous game, hence their guaranteed appearance and hitting the target. The Nationalists did have some artillery hits on 'B' Coy, but not as effective as one might have wished for.

      As for the Nationalist armour failing to counter attack as the Republicans withdrew, their command rolls were failed across the board. Also their MG's would have been of little use due to limited range and no AT capability.

      In campaign terms, the Nationalists have more integral artillery and armour plus more air support, but the Republicans have a slight advantage in artillery.

    2. Steve, I just re-read the battle report (maybe for the fourth time at least!) and am simply amazed at the work you put into this project. Tremendous presentation.

    3. Thanks for your kind words Jon! I've really enjoyed all of this project, especially as it has taken place whilst Covid cases are still high here, which has meant us staying at home for the most part to help keep our son (and us of course) as safe as can be. The scenarios created have all been unique and not the standard fair one would normally play. Hopefully going forward this can be repeated again, either in WWII, the ACW etc. Something to ponder for sure.

    4. Another SCW campaign would be welcomed too!

    5. You are a glutton for punishment Jon;)!

  4. Another great battle report Steve.
    Did you have any terrain items that weren’t on this battlefield? πŸ€”It sure looks “crowded”. Of course, I suspect that from an infantryman’s perspective it would be a blessing with plenty of things to provide potential cover.
    You sure do have a lot of armour too. It’s always good to see lots of our “toys” on the tabletop. Your SCW forces are very impressive - I’m jealous.
    The Spanish Civil War does allow us to field plenty of figures in a wide variety of uniforms, especially the International Brigades and assorted militias and so there are plenty of figures to pick from the various Pendraken packs.
    How big was this particular battlefield?
    It would be nice, when the campaign is finally finished, if Norm and Jonathan could give an “overview” of why they made the decisions they made, what their thinking was, what they had to consider etc… plus any reflections about anything they might have done differently with hindsight. As you’ve suggested before, when the campaign is still on-going then there are clearly good reasons not to fully explain everything to everyone, as you need to maintain the “fog of war”.
    Overall - lots of well painted toys on a well presented battlefield. What more can we ask for? (Apart from “more, please”?)
    Take care, keep safe.

    1. Thanks Geoff! Not all the terrain was on the table;). TBH, some of the terrain has no impact on the game, such as the ploughed fields which are there purely to make the table look nice. The biggest impact on the games, aside from the BUA and woods, are the walls, which block line of sight and provide hard cover. It's always a balancing act in getting just enough but not too much to adversely affect either side. Normally I set it up the night before and then tweak things with fresh eyes in the morning.

      A quarter of the armour were command units but still, 12 tankettes/light tanks is a lot, but they have limited use, but used en masse like this they are a threat for sure.

      The table is 4' x4' as I find that provides enough area for solo games or a Battalion plus supports such as this. Anything bigger on a 6' x 4' becomes a bit of a drag when playing solo, as there is a lot more stuff to concentrate on. Much easier when you have a FtF opponent/s though.

      I hope to have a post campaign wash up from my perspective on what worked, what didn't and what could have been improved. I also aim to provide all the map movements, but that's a lot of digging through e-mails for orders etc, but will put things into perspective for sure.

  5. Terrific game Steve. Very interesting. I love how the table looked - I often 'fill' my tabletops with terrain that has very little game effect, simply because I like how it looks. Well done.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Curt:). It's always nice to have some low level terrain to add visual interest that in most games doesn't have any effect. I've got some more to make but as always I really should paint more figures!

  6. Blimey, loads of detail and lots going on, a great looking table.
    Thanks for sharing Steve,

    1. Thanks Pat:). Given it's part of a campaign and running both sides for Norm and Jon, I try to give an idea of what happened so that they can see how their plans worked, or not, as the case may be, hence more detail than may be required for a normal AAR.

  7. Steve - did you make your own terrain, or is some “ready made/commercial” stuff? I suppose if you make your own terrain then you can make sure that the base colour/texture properly blends in with the colour of your tabletop.
    Some of your crop fields look like coconut matting/door mat, but I’m unsure about some of the other crops. The ploughed fields look very well made (commercial? But it could just be that you are just very good & neat in building terrain). In either case, your lovely terrain is certainly “setting the bar” rather high. Well done.
    Finally, if you do make more terrain then I’m sure your readers would appreciate a “masterclass” of how-to.

    1. Hi Geoff,
      Aside from the buildings, which are from Leven Miniatures and are excellent IMHO, all the terrain is made by myself. The crop fields are door mats, stuck onto hardboard and then finished off with my normal basing mix. The ploughed fields are again door mats, covered with pva glue and then grit added, which once dry, is painted up. I've seen other people paint it directly with textured masonary paint which is frankly much quicker.

      I must admit to having a bit of an advantage as I spent my working life in the design and prototyping industry, so making this stuff is easy to me and second nature to be honest. I might do a step-by-step guide for some of my stuff in the future, as it's pretty easy to do, if you just follow some simple steps, assuming there's enough interest of course!

    2. Excellent. Many thanks Steve. πŸ‘πŸ‘

  8. Another great SCW game Steve and good to see "the right side" in the ascendency for a change - giving those Fascist bstrds a bloody nose! (Of course, they do have the cooler uniforms and kit, but thats not enough to offset their political views!)

    1. Thanks Keith! I couldn't possibly comment on which side is 'right', but the Nationalists certainly do have the ultra cool L3/35 tankettes;)