Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Assault on Kalukin, Part 1 - 'O' Group AAR

For one of his weekly wargaming nights, Ted set up a game of O Group, recently released by Reisswitz Press and TooFatLardies. It's a battalion-scale WWII set of rules and something that's recently caught my attention. 28mm, platoon-sized or smaller games are relatively easy to come by, but my real passion with wargaming comes from the smaller scales and larger engagements. 

It's been a shame that I never found a set of rules to use my 15mm Flames of War collection with. Looking at the articles and interviews from TFL and Dave Brown, I hoped that 'O' Group might be the rules I've been looking for. 

While this was my first experience with the rules, Ted, Will, and Steve had already played this scenario and had practical experience (which was great, since they had already worked out some of the potentially confusing rules, like Combat Patrols).

Ted used a modified version of the introductory scenario included in the rulebook. While he kept the Germans largely the same, he used his Russians in place of the attacking British. 

The Russians had 16 turns to either capture two of the four BUA sectors that made up the village of Kalukin (marked Cristot in the original scenario), or inflict three FUBAR markers on the Germans. FUBAR markers are gained when a battalion loses four sections from anywhere in the battle. 

The attacking Russian battalion consisted of three infantry companies, a reconnaissance platoon, a machine gun company, a cannon platoon of two 76mm infantry guns, and two platoons of SU-122s. They also had three artillery missions.

From what I can recall, the defending Germans mostly followed the scenario and had three infantry companies, a machine gun platoon, two panzerschreck anti-tank sections, a Pak 40, a Pak 38, and a StuG III/IV. They had two artillery missions.

Thanks to the Russian's Rigid Reserves doctrine, Steve and I (who commanded the Russian Battalion) had to assign our supports at the start of the game. The Germans, with their Flexible Reserves doctrine, could assign their reserves as they came onto the battlefield. 

Our plan was to hold C Company in reserve, with the infantry guns attached. We would mark the farm just outside of the German's forward defensive line as our first objective, which would let us deploy the reserve company from the farm if we occupied it. 

A Company, with the infantry reconnaissance platoon and one of the SU-122 platoons attached, would be used to capture the farm, then move onto the woods on the Russian's left flank. From there, A and C Companies would move in to assault Kalukin, while B Company held the Russian right flank.

We hoped that by massing two of our companies, we could hammer any Germans between the farm and Kalukin, and so either cause enough Fubar markers to win or throw enough firepower at any defenders in the village.

At the start of the game, the battle begins with an artillery barrage, which can potentially delay the defender's reserves or remove assets like a platoon or an HQ order. However, the Russian's artillery was ineffective and didn't do much. 

The German Crosses and the Allied Stars are Combat Patrols, which are an interesting and important part of the games. It's sort of like the Patrol Phase of Chain of Command, but instead of being it's own separate game-within-a-game, Combat Patrols are constantly ranging out, scouting ahead of the battalion and recycling as they're either used to deploy lighter elements of the battalion like infantry or light guns, or fired upon and removed. 

The game started with the Russian's A Company moving up around the farm. The infantry encountered a Pak 38 hidden in the woods, and opening shots were fired. 

As it turns out, the Russians' poor training meant that a platoon's normal dice pool of 6 was decreased to 3 when they move and fire. However, the four-stand unit in the picture is a platoon with an attached machine gun, which allows as many rerolls as there are rifle stands in the unit. 

A Company secured the farm, which allowed C Company's commander to post up and start ordering his units forward. Two platoons and an infantry gun deployed and angled toward Kalukin.

A Company then moved on to it's second objective, the woods on the far left of the battlefield. After knocking out the Pak 38, they focused on an German infantry platoon that deployed from a Combat Patrol. They were assisted by an attached platoon of SU-122s, the assault guns' howitzers blasting into the trees. 

However, A Company's deployment was mostly in the open, which made it easy for the German FO on the high ground beyond the village to consistently call in mortar barrages. The mortar fire was enough to knock off a section from two of A Company's platoons. 

The Soviet left flank was pretty well developed by this point. You can see the FO scrambling up to the woods on the far right to get a better view of the battlefield. Meanwhile, A Company continued its assault on the woods and Ted's isolated German platoon, which had been reinforced by a Panzerschreck section and an out-of-frame StuG. 

By the time we called the session for the night, it wasn't looking great for the defenders. Both remaining German elements were heavily suppressed and surrounded. 

The Russian FO was secure in the woods and most of C Company (including the second infantry gun) were deployed, though they had to deal with the German mortars. 

Meanwhile, Steve had decided to take B Company on the offense, deploying an infantry platoon with an attached machine gun and the second SU-122 platoon. In response, Will deployed a German platoon and the second panzerschreck section. While the Germans had the advantage of cover, the Soviets could also call in their mortars from the FO stationed in the middle of the table. And this ended up with the panzerschreck section quickly removed. 

As we had run out of time, we put the game on pause and decided to pick it up again next week. While the Russian assault seems strong enough, the Germans still have a decent amount of reserves that had yet to make themselves known.

I'm looking forward to this continuation. I'd like a chance to get my head around the rules some more, but it's looking more and more likely that my 15mm collection will go up for sale to fund a new collection in a smaller scale!

I should also note that 'O' Group seems to capture the Lardies' "empty battlefield" effect that I've heard them talk about. This is not Flames of War, where tanks and infantry are crowded onto the table. I enjoy that, as it does make it feel like we're playing over a large area instead of smashing as much as we can into the smallest space possible. 


  1. Nice AAR and good Russian tactics it would seem. Looking forward to part 2.

  2. Hi Brian, I've enjoyed both of your O Group AARs. That empty battlefield thing is an interesting concept - one might say realistic, but what's the point of painting all those figures and models if they're not on the table? I myself tend to opt for rules that allow the units to be on table (which makes playing easier as well as showing off the models), whilst restricting what they can do in various ways. Alternatively, using dummy markers of some kind can work as well, but I like to limit that kind of thing.

    Best wishes, Keith.

    1. Thanks for reading, Keith!

      I think this scenario may be a little skewed to looking empty, since so much of the German force was waiting in the town. Had we played something more like a meeting engagement, there would have been more to see.

      I plan to make my Combat Patrol markers as small dioramas using troops, bikes, horses and cars which should help.

      The "empty battlefield" concept, from what I can tell, seems to derive from a studies about both the ratios of space in warfare and lethality. For example, a study by T N Dupuy noted the increasing amount of space per soldier in warfare. On the battlefield in the American Civil War, that ratio was "1 man per 257 square meters." By WW2, that had increased to 27,500 square meters!

      So games like Chain of Command and O Group stand in contrast to Bolt Action or Flames of War, where units are almost lined up shoulder to shoulder in what is a "normal" battlefield on the table. The Lardies rules do this by using blind and markers that let you deploy units on the table at any point during the game, unlike games that have you move from table edge to engagement. It cuts a lot of the early game waffling out.

    2. I should also say that I guess it's mood dependent! Looking back through my blog, I've recorded plenty of games that are all about the spectacle of moving beautifully painted miniatures around the table. But O Group definitely scratched that more complex itch that I sometimes get.