Poor Bloody Infantry by Peter Pig WW2 in Bournemouth 2012
1943 Germans vs 3rd Shock Army Russians, Early War French then US Infantry vs Polish Partizans
The lists for my 1943 Germans and US Infantry can be seen here
Poor Bloody Infantry by Peter Pig is a set of company level WW2 rules. The scale is 1 to 1 and the game is played on a 4 foot by 4 foot grid, split into 6" squares. The game uses about 80 figures and a few tanks per side. There genuinely is no measuring - the grid takes care of all of that. This means the player can concentrate on broad tactics and moving sections and platoons into the right places, rather than directing shooting at "that man there" or positioning individual tanks "kinda half behind this wall so you can't quite see them from there". There is a more detailed explanation here on the Peter Pig site
Bournemouth is home to the Sttab club and close to Peter Pig in nearby Weymouth. It's also home to one of the small but loyally supported PBI competitions each year, and this time around I was able to get down there to attempt to remember how to play (my last game was at Portbury in 2009) and more importantly, to wheel out both my 15mm WW2 figures for the first time in a while, and even better, to give a first ever outing to my new US infantry and tanks
The competition allowed use of a couple of army lists - one allied, one axis - to allow all the games to be fought without any blue-on-blue action and I had picked two vanilla average companies - 1943 Germans and 1944 US infantry, the latter of which were newly painted. There was nothing particularly gamey about the lists, the main objectives were to deploy the new Yanks and get a couple of previously unused StuG's on table - so I was fair set for success on that front just by turning up.
The first game saw me facing the 3rd Guards Tank army - hordes of "raw" Russians, and a load of snow-camoflaged whitewashed tanks. This meant 2 things - firstly my Germans would be first up for deployment, and secondly we would both be rather confused by being drawn on the "Jungle" terrain table.
Joachim was hung over. This in itself was not an unusual phenomenon for the dour-faced boy from Bad Salzuflen in his fatherland's industrial north. But this time was different as it was not down to alcohol. In any case, there had been scant little of that to go round recently, or indeed scant little of any other of the corner-store-full of unnecessary but welcome supplies that a canny logistics officer could beg, borrow or steal to make the life of his German soldiers in Russia a small step closer to bearable. Thhings had been bad since von Paulus' army had been routed by Zukhov back in the ides of May, but even so there had still bee opportunities to get blind drunk and blot out the nightmares he had witnessed in the Russian hinterland.
But no alcohol was involved today. No, Joachim's head hurt from the constant, irregular rattle of the railroad car he and his platoon had been travelling inside for the past 3 days, as they were shunted back and forth across the Russian hinterland by a railmaster struggling to identify where the front lines were, never mind where the reserves should be directed to. The constant rattle and screech of the primitive soviet-built railcars mingled with the comforting smell of his colleagues sweat, and the rather less endearing reek of their latrine in the darkest corner of the boxcar, giving Joachim a facsimile of a hangover, but without the benefit of a memory of drunkeness to take off the edge of his pain.
The game map had lots of "closed" and "partial" squares and so, lacking in practice I decided to try and defend - which ended up being matched against a rabid attacking Russian stance as they wanted to attack.
in PBI you always have unbalanced forces to start with, and can end up with anything from your entire force on table at the start to just a couple of platoons or or weapons sections.
The dice-off went badly, and saw me with just 1 of my 3 platoons of foot, plus a pioneer platoons with 3 flamethrowers and a couple of LMG teams starting on the table, but dug in behind a load of extra defences. At least I wasn't as badly off as the Russki's, who would be sweating it out in their long overcoats in the tropical heat...
Suddenly the door of the carriage cracked open, letting in a flood of daylight for the first time in almost a week. the men of Joachim's platoons blinked and shrank, as if vampiric, away from the light that they had craved for so long, but which now burned their eyes as if an enemy to their new-found stygian nature.
"Everybody out" shouted an unfamiliar voice, as an equally unfamiliar assembly of smells assailed the troop. The rising heat they had felt for the past fw days suddenly revealed itself in a vista of green vegetation and clear blue skies. Jan-Klaus, always the fastest to react to the new suddenly cried out - "we're in the damned Jungle lads - grab yerselves a banana!" and hurled himself from the carriage and started toward the jungle.
"Not so fast Soldier - this is no holiday. The Russians are coming, and you and several thousand miles of Eurasia are all that stands between them and Berlin" barked an short, but somehow imposing officer standing in the back of his staff car by the siding. "Time to start digging - you have only an hour before they are expected".
Joachim sighed. Days trapped in a box car with the stink of excrement was not going to be traded for life in a tropical paradise. As always, every bad transit experience was followed only by a swift reaquaintance with his entrenching tool, and Russian bullets flying low overhead. He might as well have stayed in Kharkov.
The Russian infantry carefully picked their way through the unfamiliar mix of European trees, plastic cake decoration palms and foliage salvaged from the bottom of a fish tank and wondered what precise brand of non-religious international socialist hell had their General inflicted on them today....?
The Germans had only started with one platoon of infantry and a Pioneer platoon on table - the rest were reinforcements expected to arrive shortly. This gave the Russians carte blanche to advance into close range on my left flank, as the Germans pioneer platoon was equipped with three flamethrower teams and a couple of LMG's. The LMGs were deadly against massed infantry, but only 2 would struggle to interdict a whole flank, and the flamethrowers could damage both armour and infantry ... but only at one-square range. Here a T34, obviously fuly apprised of these aspects of the rules, starts to race past the German defences where the flamethrowers occupy a trench line
The small German force had not enough men to post more than a token force in the forewardmost line of the fortifications they had deployed, and had quickly sacrificed the first trench line to a tide of Russians. Here German infantry hunker down in the second line of defences to try and stem the tide as Russians return fire
Seen from above, the white-based Russians have already captured one of the three German objectives (the crashed Me109) and are swarming past the thin, short line of Germans on the left where the Germans have nothing with ranged AT capability with which to stop the Russan T34's. To the right the Germans still hold 2 objectives as the Russian commisars are struggling to push their men forward. They have obviously found a nice safe built up area in which to hide, and do not seem motivated by the exhortions of the political appointees to die for Communism by charging out of safety towards an MG34 team hunkered down in a bunker...
In PBI it takes more command points to get your men to move OUT of squares with dense terrain than into them. Once they are there their saving throws become a lot easier, which is why they often don't want to come out into the open again
The Germans LMG teams move up to firing positions in the dense terrarium terrain, hoping to stem the tide of Russians who have gotten themselves somewhat pinned and bogged down in a couple of buildings that dot the table. The Russians are in the ascendancy, but the Germans are holding the line relatively well... if only their reinforcement unts were on their way...
The Russians, already occupying the objective, pour close range fire into the German LMG and flammenwerfer teams hiding in the hastily dug trenches to try and unseat them and so continue their relentless advance
A couple of bayonet-point assults later and both sides have been essentially wiped out, only one base of Russians is left on table. The only thing the Germans have to fall back on is a sense of vague superiority in that their casualty markers are of a higher standard than the green lego-style blocks of the Russians. But that is not really much good when you are left to defend half the table against the entire male population of Novosibiersk with just 2 guys hiding at the bottom of a fish tank.
If trying to move out of cover is hard, assaulting the enemy in PBI is really hard. Russians and Japanese find it much easier though, and these armies tend to favoour that tactic as a result
The T34's - being both "veteran" and "unopposed" make a speedy move and suddenly are running around in the rear of the German lines - and the Germans have still yet to make any serious inroads into their reinforcement pile either, as for round after round they fail to throw more than two 6's out of 35 dice...
The reserves all sit in a pool off-table, and each turn you throw (looking for 6's) a number of dice per unit to see how many bases are potentially ready to come on. You are then often faced with an agonizing decision - bring on an understrength platoon NOW, or wait another turn to see if more men are able to start - but when they may be too late. Once a platoon is committed to the table, anyone who has not passed the die roll cannot come on at all....
By now the Russians have effectively reduced the Germans down to one platoon, and have overrun the trenchline on the left - and still no sign of the German reserves...! A couple of MG34 teams are holding out in the bunker and trenches across the central road, as the Russians are still proving unwilling to leave the safety of the row of cottages near the Russian start line. In the meantime, the handful of Pioneer flammenwerfer operators have retreated from their trenchline back into the woods, as Russians start to loot their original trenches, having long overrun the objective markers on that side of the table
Desparation was in the air, mixing with the stench of cheap, unburnt Russian gasoline liberated from a Russian Major's car almost a week and at least half a continent away. Joachim cursed the flammenwerfer and its failure to either flammen or werf this particular morning. The initial excitement at seeing such unusual arboriculture had been somewhat tempered by the wave after wave of Russians who had all been very much out to spoil his day, and to add to his misery the guys from the second and third platoons had managed to avoid both digging and in many cases an early death by being held back at the railhead by an overzealous transport officer with one form too many to fill in.
Joachim had lost track of many of his comrades in the pell-melll retreat back from the trenchline they had only just finished digging when the Russians arrives, and was now lost in the woods, deciding whether his malfunctioning flammenwerfer was worth atempting to repair, or if he was best off just hiding from the russians and the many tropical creeping and crawling insects which had not yet learnt the lessons of their European brethren, namely that 3 month old German uniform sweat was a very effective insecticide.
Setting the flammenwerfer across his knees, Joachim inspected the rather over-engineered piece of machinery which already seemed to be attracting rust in the damp, warm climate. "Ah - thats the problem!" - he had spotted a small hole in the covering of the pressure line, a regular failing on this model. Patching it up with a field dressing he shouldered the fuel-filled tank and lurched off into the jungle - looking for tanks....
The Werfer refuses to light as the Russians survive an exchange of fire at close range - although maybe firing a flamethrower when you are yourself in a forest is maybe not the best idea in the world?
The Russians expose their greater knowledge of the rules and deply a lone Sniper, next to their T34's at the rear of the German lines.
Some nationalities get the option of snipers as an additional asset (others get Artillery strikes, brave platoon commanders or the possibility of Batallion-level commander over-ruling your orders..). Snipers can be deployed anywhere in a non-open square behind your furthest-forward unit. Which in this game, was anywhere on table for the Russians, as their tanks were on my baseline.
The Russians, with so many troops to command, had forgotten that the Germans still had a couple of Flammenwerfer teams alive and lurking in the plastic woodlands to the rear of their tanks.. The two sets of flammenwerfer men spring out of the forest and unleashed an ineffective but graphically vaguely spectacular torrent of fire onto the upper decks of the T34's!
I know it's hardly "Pixar Studios for Wargamers" but this has pushed the boundaries of my HTML coding to the limits and beyond. So, please try and be grateful and spare a thought for just how much effort this piece of animation has taken!
Even as the German Pioneer Platoon commander gives orders to his men, the Russians surge forward into the trenches he has just vacated...the pincer is closing on the last remnants of the Pioneers
This is an overview of the board at this stage. Germans are surrounded, occupying only four squares with just 6 bases of infantry - none of their reserves have come on as yet, as the reserve dice rolling continues to fail as now almost 100 dice have been rolled with just eight 6's recorded - none of their reserve platoons are up to the job of coming on just yet. The Russians have T34's and a little armoured car thingy roaming around the German back line, but their infantry have been decimated in the attack on the German left, and on the German right they have become bogged down, pinned by MG34 fire from the trench and bunker line
The woeful state of the German reinforcements is laid bare - the bases up against the flags are able to come on, the rest sat behind them are members of the same platoons, still awaiting a decent dice roll and best off remaining a little longer in the pool. Ahead of the flags the German casulaties now outnumber the ready-to-go reserves
A desparate Russian assault as the Soviet Commissar makes a few summary executions to motivate his subordinates and the Russians have captured the second objective - the German-held bunker is now facing fire from close range
The SMG-armed German officer is more intent on directing the flammenwerfers than worrying about a lone base of Russians to his rear, but luckily for him their shooting is wayward and he lives to werf another day
The Werfer gets a hit! OK, it's on the smallest, crappiest AFV known to man, with less armour than a BMW-era Mini, but they all count! One AFV down!
Elation washes over Joachim as the Russian BT bursts into flame, momentarily forcing the pain of insect bites and exhaustion from his mind. The Russian tank burns brightly from it's engine compartment, and a thick plume of dark smoke rises toward of the jungle canopy, disturbing a flock of parrots and causing a troop of monkeys to flee chattering simian obscenities at the rapidly immolating soviet vehicle.
One tank may well be down, but Joachim knows that at least two more T34's are out there, and he has no intention of becoming the hunted rather than the hunter - hard as it is to fade into the jungle carrying 80 litres of gasoline and a still-smoking 8-foot long metal tube.
He shoulders the werfer once again, and continues on his quest
Spurred on by this amazing facsimile of success, the Germans bring on both of their StuG's. This represents a calculated risk, as the StuGs arrive on table at the end of the German move, facing directly forwards. As fixed-gun AFVs can only fire at targets in the "V" of squares to their front, this means the T34's will enjoy a free, side armour shot before the StuGs can return fire. However, with time running out and frankly no other reserves even remotely close to being deployable, that's the situation the Germans find themselves in right now.
The Russian T34's have superior technology - their cunning designers added "turrets" that can "turn" to the basic "armoured box + gun" design.... so they can fire at the StuGs even without moving. If they can manage to see their way through the fish-tank foliage in time the Germans will be back off table before they have even settled in...
A third T34 races straight down the road in the middle of the board and arrives on the scene to ping a few more shots at the StuGs - who fortunately survive !
The Germans follow up this vague approximation of good fortune with a good roll for reserves, and a second fairly understrength platoon of infantry turns up in the rear of the T34 unit that is itself in the rear of the German lines. Now the T34's have to worry about Flammenwerfers, Panzerschreckers and Panzerfaustiers!
The other platoon also gives up waiting, and turns up with just three bases worth of men in a desparate attempt to get some points on the board (by occupying some of the squares near their own original base edge) before the game times out. Here an MG team takes cover behind one of the StuGs as a Panzerfaust jogs into position as well. The Russians respond by throwing liberal quantities of smoke around, making life difficult for everyone not intimately involved in the sale and distribution of
There are by now no Germans left anywhere on table save for their own rear edge - the Russians human wave attacks have taken a real beating, but they now hold all of the three objectives.
In one final flurry of activity the Germans infiltrate forwards back towards their own initial positions, allowing them to retain a modicum of credibility as the game ends
The Germans now occupy enough squares to at least claim some points, and lots of Russians have given their lives to recover the rather warmer than they anticipated Motherland... In the original scoring system this works out as a narrow German victory, however with the Russians killed and fled "Poor" infantry bases regraded as only 1VP each instead of 3VP under the "Veteran Battle Commander" modifications, the Germans slump to a massive defeat....
The Result is a crushing defeat
Post Match Summary from the German Commander
The match was just as tough as we thought it would be, and despite us losing I felt we showed typical German resilience, a 'never say die' attitude (other than for the stands of infantry who, well, actually died) and fought bravely throughout.
I was fielding an inexperienced squad of soldiers here, with little time to practice together since the last tournament and all in all I felt we showed maturity particularly in the second half, but also clearly we can still improve. Despite having numerous chances our flammerwerfer men lacked the killer instinct particularly in the first half, which would have made it easier had they put away some of their chances. Once the Russians started to get down our flanks I felt I needed to make a tactical change, however our strong bench of substitutes simply did not find time to warm up to a point at which I would have been happy throwing them into such a fast paced game and that led to a lot of nervy moments, as once the T34's were into the scoring zone we knew that one wrong move and we could have gone out without scoring at all
I expect the next game will be very different as the French play in a totally different style to the Russians. They always try to defend in depth, and to take the tempo out of the game. My scouts know them well, they have at least a couple of big heavy tanks that they will try and shove forward and put pressure on us, then catch us on the counter attack. The onus will be on us to take the initiative and take the game to France - probably through the Ardennes forests where they are historically weak and unprepared if truth be known.
Obviously, it's extremely disappointing to lose our first game and morale is low in the immediate aftermath of course, because we had to accept that Russia were that bit better. The new scoring system did count against us, but even so I have to accept the result on the night
Montgomery Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Well, that was pretty damned poor even if I say so myself. In terms of military intellect, you made the most basic of mistakes that even a simpleton would struggle to recreate in a laboratory setting. I suspect that your brain is so minute that if a hungry cannibal cracked your head open, there wouldn't be enough to cover a small water biscuit.
Aside from the obvious lack of huge quantities of artillery and a three week softening up of the opposition before a cautious yet deliberate and well executed advance, can you really imagine starting anything - a game of football, or maybe perchance a war - with no idea of what might constitute a "victory" ? Without knowing the victory conditions you can have no plan, no end game, now means of deciding which directions in which to push your men? With this lack of clarity, it is no wonder that most of your troop declined to participate, as lets face it, participation in a debacle is hardly up there in most soldiers panoply of ideal afternoon activities.
You really were lucky to have any men left on table at the mid point of the battle, never mind the end. Blind luck garnered you a handful of points, and only the cheapness of malfnctioning Russian ammunition saved you from having to tow two blazing StuG's back half a continent to Berlin as well.
A war hasn't been fought this badly since Olaf the Hairy, High Chief of all the Vikings, accidentally ordered eighty thousand battle helmets with the horns on the inside!
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition
That's the end - so why not go back to the Match Reports Index and read some more reports?