Houston Beer and Pretzel Wargaming

Beer and Wargaming...Pretzels?...Not so much...

The Green Inferno

Posted by Rob on December 23, 2015 at 12:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Continuing our Christmas game tradition, I ran a Bolt Action game set on New Britain in Dec. 1943 during the Battle of Cape Gloucester, known in Marine history as The Green Inferno.

The Black Labrador's Churchill Room as our setting had been freshly remodeled/expanded and decorated w/ natural evergreens and lights, giving it a nice Christmas cheer feeling.

Andy and Andrew brought their boys, and my Dad (USN vet) joined us for the evening.  Pre-holiday date reschedule may have hurt attendance but we had a great game.

The scenario was adapted from the experience of a diversionary landing at Green Beach by 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines.  The landings on New Britain were unopposed and the airfield at Cape Gloucester was taken easily, but sizeable Japanese forces were elusive to find and pin down in the dense jungle.  Terrain described on maps as damp flat was actually swampy dense jungle making for miserable conditions to move, survive, and fight in.

2nd Battalion setup a perimeter to block the retreat of any Japanese forces and was hit by night-time banzai attacks on Dec. 30 which were held off w/ great heroism.  Our scenario changed the result to a Japanese breakthrough and began w/ a fighting withdrawl by 2 Marine squads being pursued through the jungle to the beach by 3 Japanese squads w/ a Ha-Go tank, infantry gun, and HQ unit in pursuit.

The Marines elected to push aggressively toward the beach, while the USN LCM attempted to land a 37mm ATG to engage the tank which was restricted to trails and beach terrain only.  The LCM HMGs engaged the tank and scored pins, but the tank scored an immobilization hit on the LCM.  Meanwhile one of the Marine squads got caught by a Japanese squad using fire and maneuver and lost the ensuing close combat leaving only the USMC HQ and one squad in the final dash to the beach.  

The USN LCVP raced to the beach to pickup the surviving Marines while it's LCM cousin drifted ashore in the surf and landed the 37mm ATG.  The Japanese dropped a sniper hole (Pacific themed house rule) in front of the Marine squad and shot at but missed the LT.  The Marine squad over-ran the sniper scoring an easy kill.

As the climax loomed, the Marine ATG fired at the tankette and stunned the crew, but was then wiped out by the samurai sword wielding Japanese command group.  The LCM gunners returned fire killing off most of the HQ unit but were stuck on the beach in their immobilized LCM.  The surviving squad reached the LCVP, and was caught in close combat by a Japanese squad on their heels, but won the assault and consolidated into the LCVP.  The LT was killed by another sniper hole and the platoon sergeant jumped in the LCVP which then escaped from the tank which was still firing from the beach.

In the end a half squad of Marines survived, and the LCVP picked up the sailors who swam off the immobilized LCM.

A victory for the Emporer as the Japanese captured a 37mm ATG, and a damaged LCM.  Thanks to all who came out and enjoyed Beer & Pretzels in 2015.

Elsenborn Ridge - December 2014

Posted by Andy on February 23, 2015 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (2)

You'd think that after all this time I would have learned my lesson?

Early last year, when we were planning our game night calendar for 2014, we knew we had to return to the 1944 Ardenne for our annual December romp in the snow.  In the last few years we've used Bolt Action and 28mm figures pretty successfully, prior to that we'd used FOW and its 15mm figures, although in the last few years FOW has fallen out of favor with some active members of the club, including yours-truly.

My plan early last year was that we would use my ridge/hill terrain and play a microcosmic engagement of the struggle to control Elsenborn Ridge, with German forces trying to make it up the ridge, in the face of dug-in American defenders, using Bolt Action and 28's.  What happened in October, however, changed my plans...

A business meeting in Berlin gave me an excuse to visit a couple of German game stores.  I stumbled upon a copy of the Battlegroup rules, written by Warwick Kinrade (Iron Fist Publishing) and written for the Plastic Soldier Company.  In addition, the Battlegroup Overlord campaign book was available as well.  Having read good reviews about the game, I bought the books, hoping they would be a viable replacement for FOW, as I own quite a few 15mm FOW minis, both painted and unpainted, but got tired of buying more books from Battlefront.  Thus, I thought it wouid be cool to try these new rules for our annual December fling.  Did I mention not learning a lesson?...  

The lessons I should always remember are that December is usually our biggest turn out (12 guys were there this year!)  and with that big a group it's generally not a good idea to try new rules.  Also, because the group can be big, its always best to ensure that there are either no reserves, the reserves come in quickly (from the first turn if it looks like the first turn might take an hour to play), or if there will be a delay in their arrival, that all players are encouraged to take responsibility for something on the field at-start, so guys who came to play aren't waiting around with nothing to move/shoot.

The table was laid out, about 6' x 4', with a steep ridge and ridge top dominating one end of the table and a small town, woods, and roads covering the rest.  Lots of cover and lots of avenues of approach, from the German Fallchirmjager deployment zone at the other table end.  One objective was placed on the ridge and then each side placed another objective (we basically played the Battlegroup scenario High Ground, with the ridge as the principle objective for the Germans).  The US infantry were dug in and waiting.  Half of the attacking German forces started on board, with the other half entering on turn 4.  Half of the American GIs started on board, with the remaining half entering from turn 4.  1d6 of the American units were allowed to setup in Ambush (basically what these rules call Opportunity Fire).

The Battlegroup rules are similar to both FOW and Bolt Action.  This is a reinforced platoon to company level game, designed for 15mm or 20mm.  Units are fire teams or individual vehicles and gun crews.  It is point based and the two sides were relatively balanced.  Basing is flexible.  Units are killed one soldier at a time, so if you base individual soldiers on a stand you can easily remove casualties, but then at a company level game, you're moving a lot of infantry stands around (unless you use some sort of skirmisher movement tray).  We used FOW based figures and used small red dice to mark casualties on each stand.

The rules are IGOUGO and command and control is represented by a side rolling a certain number of d6 at the beginning of its turn to determine how many units can be activated for orders.  For this reinforced platoon sized game, both sides got to roll 2d6, but then also added one for each of their officers.  Once the number of orders had been determined then a commander activates one unit for each order.  For example, an order to move a halftrack up and stop, with its riders dismounting adjacent is one activation.  The dismounted infantry can then be activated to do something, using a second order.  Units can only be activated once a turn.  Units can be given an ambush fire (overwatch) or reserve move order with one of these activations.  This allows that unit to interrupt an opponen'ts action later in the turn/game.

Possible orders include:


  • Move and Fire
  • Fire and Move
  • Double Move
  • Double Fire
  • Others... (engineer functions, call for artillery, repair, replenishment, etc)


Movement is standard fair.  Infantry move 5" and can pretty much ignore most terrain.  Vehicles have movement listed in their profile.  Infantry that come within 5" of an enemy can close assault that enemy.  Close assault is resolved immediately, before moving on to the next order.

Fire combat is pretty simple.  SMGs have a range of 10", rifles have a range of 30".  You can conduct Area Fire where you are just trying to put a pin on a target (with the occasional killed soldier) or Aimed Fire where you really try and hurt the other side.  Rifles have a ROF = 1, SMGs = 1 (2 under 5" range), LMG = 2, MMG = 5, HMG = 6.  Add up a team's ROF.  

With Area Fire, a typical German 5 man team might have 4 x rifles and 1 x SMG for  ROF = 5.  Shooting at infantry out to 10" needs 3+ to hit on 1d6.  ROF = 9+ out to 10" would need 2+ on 1d6.  So ROF, range, and target type determine To-Hit on 1d6 for Area Fire.  If a hit is rolled then the target gets to try a cover save.  Infantry in the open save on 6+, soft cover is 5+.  Save failure results in a pinned unit.  Rolling a 1 also results in a single casualty.

With Aimed Fire, first the shooter must spot or Observe the target.  Roll 1d6.  Infantry in the open firing are Observed on a 2+, infantry in the open on a 3+, obscured infantry on a 4+, etc.  Then total the shooter's ROF and roll that many dice.  Range and the type of weapons firing determine To-Hit.  Small arms to 5" hit on 2+, out to 10" on 3+, out to 20" on 4+, out to 30" on 5+.  Any hits are rolled for their cover saves.  Failed saves are removed as men down, forcing a morale check.  Failing a morale check can result in pinning or routing.

The Battlegroup rules also have an interesting system for dealing with army morale.  Each unit in the game is given a Battle Rating, which measures how relatively important it is to its side.  Total all these ratings up to get an army list's overall Battle Rating.  Then, during the game, when units are destroyed, or a side comes under artillery or aircraft attack for the first time, or a senior officer is killed, or a commander wants to remove pin markers from 1d6 of his units, he draws a Battle Counter from a container.  Values on the counters range from 0 to 5, with a few special events thrown in.  When a side's drawn total equals or exceeds its overall Battle Rating, it surrenders.  Thus, you never know how close your opponent's army is to breaking.

For our game, the elevation of the ridge really made the attack difficult for the Germans, as the Amercian commanders had LOS over nearly everything.  The Germans tried moving through the town, along the backs of some of the buildings, rather that hopscotching from building to building, and got shot up pretty badly.  Unfortunately, a late start, having to explain the rules, and the slowness of playing new rules for the first time, didn't allow us to get very far.  I hope I learned my lessons this time.  Next December, no new rules.  No reserves.  Back to Bolt Action, I think, or these rules with no reserves.

In true Beer and Pretzels fashion, the highlight of the evening was watching Chuck shell his son's German unit.  Even after failing his artillery rolls, miraculously, Chuck preservered and kept rolling till he got though to Battalion.  His son got the artillery pasting Chuck was so sure he deserved! :-)

Grieving Over Blown Bridges

Posted by Andy on March 4, 2014 at 2:05 AM Comments comments (0)

I call myself a wargame facilitator.  What can I say, I love organizing games and events for others to enjoy.  I think it started back in the day when I'd rather be "Dungeon Master" over "Dungeon Explorer".

I work hard to organize and prepare a fun game for those who choose to play in one of my events.  And when its over, I breathe a sigh of relief, hoping that everyone had as much fun playing, as I had in game mastering.

When the latest game is over, I relax a little, and start thinking about the next event.  Which means many times I find myself temporarily burnt out, and subsequently unable to find the energy or desire to take the time and write a proper after-action report for this site...

That's my excuse, and I'm sticking too it...

But it doesn't bode well for a site that needs new blog entries for visitors to read, to keep them coming back to these pages...so...I'm sitting down tonight...and catching up on some blogging.  Hopefully these articles will give folks out there something interesting to read, and provide a little recorded history for our  informal game club, so we can look back a year or two from now and say, "oh, THAT's what we were playing in 2013 and 2014".

Last December was the last game I ran that needs an after-action report, so what better place to start on this cold March night then to recap our simulation of those cold Belgian battlefields of 69 years ago.  Using Bolt Action, a large group of us, including Rob and his dad, John and his son, Brian, Matt, Chris, Stephen, Kurt, and my son, got together to recreate the iconic scene from The Battle of the Bulge, where several Operation Grief German commandos, dressed as American MPs, are confronted by a US tank crew and a nasty firefight soon commences.

We were able to use my figures, Kurt's Fallschirmjager, and his armored vehicles, together with my forest/road/river terrain and his ruined buildings.  All told I think the table looked pretty good.  The game began with the disguised German squad in the center of the table, just across a bridge, facing a single Sherman tank.  The remaining forces on each side entered out of reserve, including two Panthers and a German track and some FJ, and two more Shermans and more US infantry.

The German side got bonus VP for exiting forces off the Allied end of the table.  Both sides got standard VP for killing each other's units.

The terrain was dense and led to lots of cover for the infantry.  The tanks pretty much stayed to the roads and the Panther's made pretty good work of the Shermans, as to be expected.  The Germans tried a flanking move across the cemetary and fields, but in the end the Americans were struggling to hang on to the buildings on the very edge of the table.  The victory pretty easily went to the Germans, and everyone seemed to have a good time.  If we run this scenario again we'll have a better idea about tweaking it to make it more playable and more enjoyable.

As always, Rob provided some great post-event feedback, which I am including here so we don't lose the "paper trail" on stuff like this.

Things we got right:


  • "Assault of vehicles w/ SMG/shotgun does not get you two attacks. p. 50"
  • "Measure from muzzle of tank guns for range. p. 80"
  • "Small arms fire against that half track worked exactly right. p. 98"


Things we got wrong:


  • "Side armor for vehicle shots is a 45deg arc to either side of front, not a 180 front facing. We have to re-train our FoW thinking. I think both sides missed a lot of flank shots due to our misunderstanding of this rule. p. 84"
  • "Enter buildings at a run, not advance. This seems strange and we could house-rule that advancing into a building is ok, but as written its a run order only. p. 100. Note you can exit a building at advance or run. p.101 I'm trying to make sense of this but that's how it's written. I think it allows you to enter buildings faster. We should just play as written and get used to it."
  • "Assaulting into a building- we got this totally wrong last night, probably to the German's disadvantage. I blame last-turn/late night fatigue. p. 104 shows how to do it. The entire squads fight even though it's only one window. Makes it more bloody/decisive. The German squad could've thrown a lot more dice than the small US squad in the building and probably won that fight."


Changes to the scenario for future running:

"US reinforcements: Make it more random. Have the US roll each turn on a pool of tanks, artillery barrages, or bazooka armed recon units. Make a basic table to fit what you have available for the game and give one option for 'no support this turn' and another for 'US player chooses' on the extremes of the chart. This would be more of the penny-packet flavor that the Bulge was than a rush of US support flooding in on turn 2. Advantage to US is that they can respond to the German attack axis with reinforcements instead of early committal of assets like last night. The US squad in the woods and at least one US tank were totally out of position to counter the German attack on the opposite side. Having delayed reinforcements would help this. Would also allow the Germans to close the range and get into a point blank fight at the high tide of the assault - good drama."


All in all I'd say a fitting end of 2013.  We'll no doubt return to the Ardennes next December, and return to Bolt Action as well.  Rob and I are already planning.  I'll try extra hard next year to avoid the post-game-the-holidays-are-upon-us doldrums and get the after action report written in a more timely fashion. :-)

SALUTE Patrol Report

Posted by Rob on September 29, 2013 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

From:  1st Squad, 1st Platoon Co B 1/7

To:  C.O. B Co. 1/7

  • Size - Reinforced infantry platoon
  • Activity - Patrolling N toward Co B lines
  • Location - Map Grid L-4 or L-5, Dir S, enemy main line of resistance.  2 bunkers
  • Unit - elements of Oka Brigade
  • Time - 0745-0830 local
  • Equipment - 1 Heavy Machine Gun, 4 Light Machine Guns, standard infantry small arms

Enemy Main Line of Resistance spotted and marked.  Friendly casualties KIA, WIA, and MIA.  Full report ASAP.  Enemy casualties:  KIA 5 squads.  No enemy prisoners.

Buchholz Station - Stoppen Sie Halbkettenfahrzeuge!!

Posted by Andy on December 29, 2012 at 2:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy holidays to all our Houston Beer and Pretzel Wargaming members and all you visitors to these pages!!


On December 17th a very large group of us gathered at the Stag's Head, for a little Christmas cheer, good beer, and wargaming.  The game on this occasion was a continuation of our Battle of the Bulge theme, started last December with a game based on Lanzerath Ridge, using Flames of War. 



This year I raced to paint eighty new 28mm Victory Force WWII soldiers (40 German and 40 US) so we could try out the new Bolt Action rules, in a scenario based very loosely on the old Squad Leader scenario Buchholz Station.


"BUCHHOLZ, German border, December 16th, 1944: The original German opening for the Battle of the Bulge was somewhat subdued.  German infantry, with little armor, was to seize key road junctions early so the armored formations could quickly pass through and exploit a breakthrough.  One sucjh key place was the town of Buchholz, which sat alongside an abandoned railroad.  It was held by a company of American infantry who were lined up for chow outside the town when a company of the German 27th Fusilier Regiment came down the road.  Neither side had expected to find the other here and there was a moment of mutual surprise as both sides scrambled to deploy.  The fighting opened about 7 a.m. with neither side able to gain a decisive advantage.  Losses were given and taken and the battle would probably go to the first side to receive reinforcements."


I used the 28mm winter terrain I had, borrowing some scale buildings from Kurt, and set about fashioning a winter scene for the two sides to fight over.  Rob, Rob's dad, Sandy, Brian, and Joe were among the guys commanding the German attackers, while Daniel, Tatya, Chris, and Barry were among those defending.  The Americans had five squads, an HMG team, a bazooka team, commander, and halftrack on the table at start, defending three objectives on their back third of the table.  They had a Sherman in reserve, also borrowed from Kurt together with the M3 halftrack which became the focal point of the game.  The Americans started with one pin marker each to reflect their unpreparedness.




The Germans had four squads and an HMG team with which to attack and began the game off table.  They began the game by moving on table across a reasonably broad front, centered on the road that connected the two sides' long table edges.  Brian came in on the German left flank, Sandy next to him, Rob came in near the road, just to the right of it.  Joe and Rob's dad to the right flank of the German line.


With their early actions the Americans pushed their HMG armed M3 halftrack down the road  and into the central crossroads, and into the crosshairs of the German center and proceeded to shoot up Rob's infantry.  Other American first turn movement saw them recover from pin status fairly quickly and begin heading for or setting up in the buildings they could reach.




The second turn saw the Sherman arrive on the right flank of the Allied front but its machinegun was not initially as effective as feared.  German attention remained focused on the halftrack, which was eventually destroyed after several panzerfaust attacks and an assault over the course of the third and fourth game turns.  Despite destroying the halftrack the Germans were never able to secure an objective in the five turns we played and we called the game at that point, Brian's German squad having gotten pinned down and chewn up and most of the other German squads also taking a beating.  We witnessed a couple of bloddy assaults over the buildings in town as well as the halftrack as both sides gave as good as they got.


I think all of us enjoyed the Bolt Action rules and they seemed to work well for Beer and Pretzels.  We had nominated one overall commander for each side and assigned various squad/vehicle commands to the individual players.  The commanders would take each order dice drawn by me from the festive Santa's Hat "bag" and assign each dice to one of his subbordinate players, or he could choose to use it to command his own officer figure and his staff/escort.  It was up to the player receiving the order dice to decide, given the circumstances, how to use it.


Many of us found the assault rules a bit harsh.  One expects an assault to be a one side wins and one side loses affair, but in Bolt Action, if one side takes more casualties than the other in hand to hand combat, the rest of that losing side is removed from the table and considered defeated.  Thus you could have six fighting six and if one man dies on one side and no man dies on the other, the surviving five soldiers throw up their hands and are defeated and the six soldiers win.



I was running this game as a playtest because I plan to run it at OwlCon in February.  We realized there were some real flaws in my choice of forces and scenario.  With the balanced forces I was using, the Germans had too hard a time tryng to take objectives.  I needed to have fewer Americans or more Germans to give the Germans a fighting chance.  The Sherman was also too much for the Americans to have, although funny enough it really never played much of a factor in the game.


For OwlCon I plan to have more troops painted up and will drop the Sherman and add the US jeep with .50 caliber found in the original Squad Leader Buchholz Station scenario.  The unit count will be kept at a ratio of 1:2 to that of the original Squad Leader scenario.  So half as many squads as in the Squad Leader version.  This is to keep the game manageable and because I won't have an entire company for each side painted before OwlCon.   I'll also be changing the scenario from the Point Defense one in Bolt Action to Maximum Attrition.  The sides will still remain balanced, as they are in the Squad Leader scenario, whose victory conditions were also largely attritional, not objective based.  Finally, both sides will start with one squad on table and the remaining units off table.  All units will receive two pin markers to reflect their mutual unpreparedness at encountering one another and while the US troops will all be regular, the German troops will have the Green trait as well as the Volksgrenadier special rule.  So look for this game to appear in the OwlCon game listings shortly.




"Aftermath: Surprisingly, it was the Americans who reinforced first, when both Co K and a section of M-10 TDs arrived to bolster the position.  The Germans promptly withdrew.  Tactically, it was a draw with moderate casualties taken by both sides.  Strategically, it was another of the small American victories that would add up to German frustration in the early hours of the Battle of the Bulge."

Battle of Lanzerath Ridge - The Aftermath

Posted by Andy on January 5, 2012 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

On December 19th we celebrated the holidays Houston Beer & Pretzels style, in style, with no less than nine guys showing up, with eight hanging around until late playing our ode to the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of Lanzerath Ridge.



Using Flames of War and forces and terrain drawn from Robs and my collection, we set up and ran a custom scenario, based on a new Roadblock mission I created, to recreate one of the iconic desparate and stubborn American defensive efforts that occured on December 16th, 1944.


Rob led a German contingent of three commanders against Chris, Sam, and three other Allied commanders as elements of the 3rd Fallschirmjaeger Division assaulted and eliminated the American I&R Platoon defending the Lanzerath crossroads, while another FJ platoon started climbing the nearby ridge.



American infantry behind the ridge rallied quickly from their initial surprise and began moving forward to meet the German threat.  Meanwhile, the German forces saw the early arrival of a pair of Pumas, forming the vanguard of Peiper's follow-up SS forces.


As one platoon of FJ completed clearing Lanzerath, the second on the ridge came under an early counterattack, and eventually succumbed to the assaults of an American Rifle Platoon and recently arrived Sherman platoon a couple of turns later.


In short order, the first of the SS Panzergrenadiers began arriving, the first group riding on the back of a StuG platoon, latter infantry hopping rides on a Panther platoon.  By turn five the last of the SS arrived in the form of a King Tiger, and this signified the onset of Dusk.  Two turns later we were using the Darkness rules and by game's end there was a tank duel near the rear objective, between Panthers and the Tiger II and some Shermans, including some 76mm Jumbo's, that eventually resulted in a broken American company.



Everyone had a great time, got to enjoy some good company, good Saint Arnold's Christmas Ale and other libations, dinner, and, overall, a wonderful evening.


Here's to a successful and enjoyable new year of Houston Beer & Pretzel Wargaming in 2012!!!

Battle of Lanzerath Ridge

Posted by Andy on December 11, 2011 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (2)

The Battle of Lanzerath Ridge during World War II was fought on December 16, 1944, the first day of the Battle of the Bulge near the town of Lanzerath, Belgium. It was fought between 18 men belonging to two American reconnaissance squads, four U.S. Forward Artillery Observers, and a battalion of about 500 German paratroopers. During a day-long confrontation, the platoon of Americans inflicted dozens of casualties on the Germans and bottled up the advance along a key route the 1st SS Panzer Division, spearhead of the entire German 6th Panzer Army, which had been selected to make the main effort.



Come join us for our Holiday game, Monday night, December 19th, 2011.  We'll be in the Oak Room of the Stag's Head Pub from 7:00pm.  There Rob and I will be hosting a  multiplayer Flames of War recreation of the Battle of Lanzerath Ridge, across an 8' x 6' snowy table. 


Come enjoy good fun, good food, and some festive seasonal beer at the Stag's Head with Houston Beer and Pretzel Wargaming!  We'll also have a number of Battle of the Bulge wargames with us, in case Flames of War isn't your thing, and we'll run Henry Fonda and Robert Shaw's Battle of the Bulge DVD on the TV.