Saturday, 3 December 2011

KGN (Kampfgruppe Normandy) - Battle Report

As you'll already know, I treated myself (with permission) to four sets of rule from GWH's 50% off sale. What with one thing and another, I haven't got too far with reading these just yet.
  • I haven't touched the Gladiator rules, but have found some old 28mm figures to suit - so one day I'll have a go.
  • I've skimmed through the OTT supplement for The Great War and these look OK - I needed to reacquaint myself with the main rules before I could get the most from the supplement.
  • With Waterloo I can't get past drooling over the pics.....so haven't got into the mechanisms just yet......
  • However, with KGN I have actually read the rules through and I liked what I saw.
I've seen an awful lot of the petty bitching and sniping on TMP and similar forums and I didn't think the rules deserved this amount of negative attention. Needless to say most of what was on the forums appeared to have been written without the benefit of any form of research.

Now I'm the same as the next guy, I don't like some of the cynical ploys used by GW to part gamers from their dosh, but something inside me wanted to like these rules and give them a go. I'd shown my copy to Si who was tempted just like me, and bought himself a copy the next day. We decided to give them a go and settled on the Disaster at Villers Bocage scenario on page 105 to test them out.

As the date for play-testing drew nearer, imagine my surprise to see the very same scenario played out as a demo game at Smoggycon! Spooky!
Disaster at Villers Bocage in 20mm at Smoggycon '11

I'd visited Middlesbrough with Colette to see our daughter who's at Uni there. As I would be missing Reveille at Bristol due to the visit, I was allowed to go to Smoggycon "as long as I didn't spend all day there"! Good show, good venue. I'd recommend it to anyone.

The game was being played by two guys who, until then, had done most of their WW2 gaming with Rapid Fire in 20mm. They had found the new KGN rules a pleasant change and were happy with the way the game played out - a British win due to the German's dropping below 50% of their Morale value and withdrawing. This left me enthused and looking forwards to our own game planned for Thursday.
British Infantry de-bussed and taking cover in a lane
We chose to play the game in 15mm as this is what figures we both have, and stuck with inches rather than trying cms. This made ranges, moves etc. look a little better than I think they would have at 20mm and allowed us to get away with a smaller table. The forces were as detailed in the book's scenario except that M4 Shermans would have to double up for Cromwells as neither of us have any.
An M4 cautiously advances to return fire while a Firefly plays it careful in the Town
The Germans get first move and started firing. As you'd expect the Brits take casualties straight away- which is, I guess, historically accurate. The firing mechanisms in the rules weren't as slick as we'd expected - not helped by neither of us photocopying the weapons stats so we had to keep referring to the very heavy books balanced on our knees! Once we'd finally got through the firing phase it was the Brits turn. They had no additional command points as their senior officer isn't present so it's just 1D6 worth of actions per turn. To be honest the game went downhill from here.
Firefly hiding amongst the ruins of Villers Bocage

Once the tanks in the lane were brewed (which was always going to happen - Tiger Is vs. Shermans) there's nothing the infantry can really do.
"Tigers! 10 O'clock!"

They had a six pounder gun that they deployed, but this was swiftly suppressed. All they had left was a PIAT, HMG and rifles, and all 20" away from the enemy armour and little in the way of cover in between.

Burning Shermans and panicking infantry in the lane exposed to German fire
The remaining British armour in the town put in an appearance, but quickly went the same way, and to be honest we didn't bother dicing to bring on the reinforcements because they'd end up burning as well. All-in-all a bit of a disappointment. Was it the rules or just not a particularly good scenario? We decided to give the rules the benefit of the doubt and play another smaller game while there was still time.
British Infantry advance towards the enemy held village.
This time we thought we'd try a purely infantry action to try the rules out for this type of game. Now I know that the author says in his design notes that these rules are aimed primarily at tank action, but they've got to handle infantry as well if you're to have a balanced game. Both Si and I play BKC and these rules can successfully handle infantry only actions so why shouldn't KGN?
One squad attempts to outflank the enemy HMG in the garage
The scenario was basically a British infantry platoon of two squads advancing to contact against an enemy held village. The Platoon had an HMG and a PIAT in support and a Platoon HQ value 1.
The Germans had a squad of three in a ruin and an HMG in a garage at the end of the road the Brits used as their axis of advance.

This game didn't go well. We both would usually use Crossfire rules for this type of action which promotes the use of historical tactics and cover. KGN just didn't seem to work out for this type of action. At this point we called it a day and discussed our disappointments. Some of the observations we made following our brief foray into KGN are below. This isn't an exhaustive list as I couldn't remember all of it, but it may be of interest to other existing/potential KGN players;-
  •  When first reading the book I liked the "laid out wargames table" illustration for the scenarios. However trying to then interpret them for your own games is difficult. With hindsight, I think I'd prefer good old-fashioned maps!
  • Interestingly none of the scenarios in the book appear to have hills?
  • There doesn't appear to be any differentiation between different types of linear obstacles i.e. a hedge is a hedge whether it's around someones garden or fully fledged bocage?
  • The rules for infantry don't promote use of correct tactics. If you are in a building and engage an infantry target in the open <8" away then the firer will also take one casualty every time they fire,  due to the "Close Assault" rule? So (as in our 2nd scenario) a small group of three infantrymen in a well protected position like a ruin, will still be wiped out after three rounds of successful fire against an enemy target that was actually in the open but had slightly more figures?
  • There don't seem to be any real dedicated rules for Infantry fighting in BUAs - making the provision of detailed terrain pieces relatively important.
  • The Covering fire rule - how did I miss this?! Probably because the details are on page 27 along with anti aircraft fire, and as we weren't using airpower, I hadn't bothered reading this section!?
  • All the dice throwing for what? Does a rule set really need you to dice for observation? Many don't bother these days - just lay down the conditions in which things can be spotted and leave the rest to the gamers to decide between them. 
  • Similarly, does the save roll really add anything to these rules or is it just there to satisfy ex.FOW/WH40k players?
  • To be honest, we found the direct fire rules overly complex. I thought KGN were going to be a cross between Rapid Fire and FOW and was therefore surprised by the actual level of technical detail in the anti-armour process. 
  • Should you need to spot every time you fire at the same target in a single turn? or am I missing something?
  • Do you need two (maybe three) steps to resolve suppressing fire? Step one seems completely superfluous.
As I said at the beginning, I really wanted to like these rules. Maybe I haven't read them through and understood them enough? Perhaps a different type of scenario would work better? I'd like to try them on a bigger game perhaps using 10mm, so I could find out how indirect fire works out, but after Thursday's attempt I'm not sure I'll find an opponent to do so!

Whatever happens I still love the book. The production values are fantastic and the scenarios/campaigns will be of use for other rules sets. So I don't regret spending my £24, I just wished the game had played as well as some people appear to find it does, on other forums......perhaps they haven't played BKC or Crossfire yet?