Home Forums WWI TFL mud and blood HMGs

Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
  • Author
  • #158420
    Avatar photoMaraviglia

    Hi all,

    I’m quite a fan of the Too fat lardies “Through the mud and the blood” but I have a few questions. I’ve tried the Lardies own forum but there’s not a lot happening over there at the mo so thought I’d cast a wider net! If any other players could offer ideas it’d be much appreciated.


    About HMGs and a couple of their rules – section 8.2.1 (p17) there’s an apparent clash of rules. The sustained fire explanation includes an entire paragraph about what happens if two targets enter a sustained fire lane at the same time and how to apply stoppages but the next part (8.2.2) says sustained fire HMGs don’t suffer stoppages. Obviously the last part would be easiest to play but the fact there was such a detailed explanation of multiple units and how to apply stoppages makes me wonder if that was the correct rule. Any ideas?

    Also on sustained fire it says a HMG may choose to go on sustained fire at any time but then remains in that mode for the rest of the game unless an enemy comes within 12 where it can switch back to direct fire. My first question is simply – why? I can see needing a suitable big man to change the mode but not why it’s either “on or off”.
    Additional to that would they change on their own card or will it require and officer to change their fire mode? Thinking about that does their card even need to be in the deck while firing sustained? Either way I can’t see the change to direct fire being automatic.

    Jumping on a bit to section 10.5 (p25) and MG barrages, when and how do they work? I assume they’ll be scenario specific but I can’t remember ever reading of one in a pre-written scenario and they don’t appear in the support generator (even as an unusual British only one).

    And finally section 10.6 and off table sustained fire – I understand these being in a fixed role the entire game (with or without stoppages) but I’m a bit confused on their set up. It says “… mark two points on the table edge, one of which must be within 6″ of their own front line.” So is it two different table edges and the fire lane is drawn between the two? That seems to make sense to me but in that case what is the “within 6″ of their own front line” part for? Is it you choose a part of your “home” edge and another edge to aim towards but the fire terminates 6″ in front of your front line? I really don’t understand this part as any marker placed within 6″ of your front line won’t be on a table edge and the two edges seem vital to planning the fire lane.

    (I’ve had a reply to this one saying that you can put the markers on board edges other than the one “behind” your own line so you get enfilading fire from other parts of your own lines which does seem to make sense).

    Any help or thoughts much appreciated.

    Avatar photoRobert Dunlop

    With respect to stoppages and sustained MG fire, the concept only applies when two or more Groups enter the designated MG fire lane. An individual enemy unit may benefit from a ‘stoppage’ but every unit must be fired at individually regardless of whether a ‘stoppage’ occurs for one or more units. IMHO, 8.2.1 should take precedence over the last sentence of 8.2.2. in terms of understanding how stoppages work with sustained MG fire.

    As to the question of HMGs having to remain on sustained fire, this was their standard way of operating. HMGs were set up to fire along fixed lines to create a fire lane (at close range) or a beaten zone. Direct aimed fire was used in response to specific threats, hence the 12″ proximity rule enabling an HMG to come off sustained fire. My Grandfather was in the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps and he talked to me a lot about how the Vickers MG was used. It was rare to use direct aimed fire. A change to direct aimed fire could be made by the NCO in charge of the MG section and did not rely on the local infantry commander to order such a change.

    Machine gun barrages were not unique to the British army, though these barrages were used far more by the British than the Germans. The French used them too. The barrages were used to interdict the movement of reinforcements. I would not recommend using them on-table in a game like TMB. If you think about the ground scale of a TMB table then a machine gun barrage (i.e. a beaten zone created by several MGs firing by the map in indirect fire mode) would be 5-10 tables away, at least.

    The idea of sustained fire MGs relates to the more usual way that HMGs operated. There were a few examples of MGs being set up in the front line itself and firing about knee height in a straight line. This approach was used in some of the 1915/16 battles in French Flanders, where trenches were built above ground and MGs were positioned in hardened nests within the sandbagged trench line. These MG nests were extremely difficult to spot and they were set up to fire along the face of the trench line in enfilade, not across No Mans Land to the enemy trenches immediately opposite.

    More typical was for MGs to be located further back or, if in the front line, to fire laterally onto No Man’s Land in front of a neighbouring unit. By this means, interlocking zones of fire were created with one sector being responsible for covering the MGs in another sector. This process was counter-intuitive to infantry commanders, who wanted MGs to focus on the front to which they were assigned in the same way that riflemen did. Hence the move to create separate commands for MGs in all armies.

    Off-table sustained MG fire represents by far the most common way that MGs operated in the scale of TMB. The MGs would be situated several table widths away most likely, firing onto the game table in pre-determined lanes of fire or onto beaten zones. The starting point for a lane of fire is within 6″ of the point on the table edge where the friendly trench line meets the edge but between the friendly trench line and the enemy trench line or far table edge if there are no enemy trenches on table. This is designed to represent the MG fire entering the table in enfilade from a MG(s) positioned off to the side of the table, not firing from behind the table. The other point of the fire lane can be marked on the opposite table edge or along the enemy rear edge.


    Avatar photoMaraviglia

    Thanks for that, it’s good to read a bit more information that agrees with (and expands on) what I knew and had heard since I asked about this. I definitely think I’ve got a handle on the positioning of off table MGs and their use now.

    It does still leave a couple of game based questions, though I don’t doubt anything you said about their use.


    So first is the stoppages part. As I understand it when you fire on an action die you get 6 shooting dice and if more of those are 1s than 6s there is a stoppage and the NEXT action dice used have to be to try and get a 5+ to clear it. On the turn you roll a stoppage you still apply the other results but have to unjam the weapon for further uses.

    If a weapon is firing at every unit that enters its line of fire and doesn’t have to wait for it’s card how does it ever get opportunity to have action dice to clear it? Possibly with 2 action dice on the snifter card but that leaves a potentially very long time for a “sustained” weapon to be unavailable. Even if the stoppages are a thing in sustained fire and they are diced for on the snifter card what is that line about sustained fire guns not suffering stoppages for?  Perhaps rolling for stoppages per target is literally just for that target and it automatically “unjams” for rolling against the next target(s)? If it said that sustained fire guns don’t roll to unjam and so only suffer stoppages for that particular action dice’s worth of fire that could work.

    I could see the lack of stoppages being representative of several weapons covering the same area and might be worth considering as an optional rule but it’s written quite vaguely.

    And again in game terms if a gun is on table and firing sustained when an enemy comes within 12 is the change to direct an immediate change on their initiative? On the snifter? On the orders of their immediate big man? On the orders of the most superior big man? Any big man?

    In regards to HMGs being used for direct fire being quite rare I imagine it would be but the game can also be covering scenarios where lines are a short distance apart and the MG is pretty much on the front or very early/late situations where the mobility of the sides has brought the guns closer to the action.

    As for the barrages, I only said it was a British tactic as I have a faded memory of hearing of British troops using similar tactics in WW2 but mostly because the Mud and blood rule book says “and were peculiar to the British army…” but I could certainly imagine other nations developing similar methods.

    Regardless, despite the mention of this there’s no example of how this could be implemented in a game other than to say it would prevent any movement in the affected area except for armoured vehicles. Even then though this raises questions of how vulnerable armour is to HMG fire. The AT table gives armour piercing MG ammo 1 strike dice (which I assume is 1 per hit from the 6 normal dice) but I’m not sure how common AP ammo is and if it should be considered a factor in direct, sustained or, potentially, barrage fire.

    So thanks for your reply but I’m still a little blurry on things in gameplay terms.

    Avatar photoRobert Dunlop

    FWIIW, I read the issue of stoppages during sustained fire as meaning, if there are multiple targets in the fire lane, a stoppage is cleared automatically after each incident. It is very rare to read of incidents where men on the receiving end experienced any let up that could be attributed to a prolonged stoppage.

    When an enemy approaches within 12″ of an on-table MG that is utilising sustained fire then the change to direct fire is automatic. This reflects a command decision by the not-so-big-but-bigger-than-his-colleagues-on-the-MG man.

    When lines were close together then MGs were not risked in the front line at all. It would have been the most restrictive option for an MG to be used that way – no line of sight; no field of fire.

    My comments about indirect barrages related to the comment that you quoted, not to your mention of these being a British tactic. I have studied the other nations and there were definitely instances of German indirect barrages, for example during the Battle of Langemarck in 1917. And the British trained French machine gunners in indirect barrage fire too.

    To be honest, the armour-piercing German SAA (Spitzgeschoss mit Kern or S.m.K.) used in machine guns had very little effect at all on the functioning of British tanks. The Battle of Bullecourt saw the use of British MkII training tanks with soft steel armour plate. Although the Germans shipped in stocks of the AP ammo ahead of the battle, the accounts of the tank crews indicate some damage from small arms fire but the effect was limited. Later marks were almost impervious, with spalling being the worst effect. AP rounds were only used in direct fire, not in sustained or barrage fire.


    Avatar photoMaraviglia

    Ta, that sounds quite useful. The stoppages part is probably the least defined part about this whole section. I definitely think that as written they’re supposed to be a constant state after they occur until cleared with another action dice but I dont know how appropriate that would be in some circumstances. I think I’ll just write up a pair of house rules and use whichever seems most fitting for the scenario being played.

    Similarly I think I’ll just ignore MG barrages unless plotting out a multi game campaign where the barrage can be essentially used to cancel out one game by denial.

    As for changing fire mode I think you may be right that no big man is needed but I think it might be right that with the use of one, even if restricted to the most senior  one around, that the gun could change mode where appropriate. I certainly think one should be required to start sustained fire as he directs the lane of fire.


    And with regards the tanks I’ve been reading a bit on these and found a few accounts of things like MGs ripping through the sides of British tanks, bullet splash incapacitating multiple crew members and even an officer testing a French tank with his pistol and the shot going straight through the front! Admittedly these are all single source accounts and I couldn’t find much to conclusively back up any one story but it did paint a definite picture of tanks not being as invulnerable as the crews would no doubt have wanted!

    So would you say AP ammo was common enough to be considered standard for all crews using direct fire in game terms? And from when would it be issued? I can largely sort this with some form of “supply roll” for appropriate teams in a game but I’m always keen to KNOW if I can.

    Again, thanks for the input.

    Avatar photoRobert Dunlop

    That seems a sensible suggestion for an indirect fire MG barrage.

    There are definite examples of a ‘big man’ requesting a change in targeting for MG teams that accompanied infantry forwards to consolidate captured ground. There was an example from Westhoek, in Third Ypres, where a Vickers MG section had gone forward and was laid to cover a potential line of counter-attack. An infantry company commander spotted the Germans coming from a different direction and pointed this out to the MG section NCO, who changed the point of aim.

    There are accounts such as you describe but what I have tried to do is to marry such anecdotal accounts with what actually happened to the overall performance of the individual tank as a whole weapons system. I will see what quotes I can pull together to illustrate.

    It was common if there was warning of the attack coming. SmK rounds were in relatively short supply because of the hardened steel core. The development of the T-Gewehr anti-tank rifle was due to the failure of SmK ammunition.


    Avatar photoRobert Dunlop

    This series of quotes, mixed with some of my comments, is from ‘Bullecourt 1917’, by Kendall:

    “Eleven Mk IIs set out to support the infantry attack on 11th April 1917. They were divided into three sections: right, left and central. The right flank section comprised four tanks. Two of these tanks were to stop German counter-attacks from the Quéant Line, which formed the eastern edge of the German reentrant. ‘Both tanks were the focus of German machine gunners’. Despite this attention, ‘the right-hand tank commanded by Lieutenant Puttock experienced clutch problems, forcing it to return to the railway line’. The railway line was at the start of the attack, so the German machine gun bullets failed to stop the tank. The second tank ‘…was hit by German [shell] fire and abandoned…’. The remaining two tanks (799 and 586) reached the Australian first objective line, which was the trench known as OG1. Tank 586 got stuck at one point. An infantryman observed:

    ‘I remember a chap standing next to it, with a short piece of iron from amongst the big cogs beneath the wheels, and cursing like a bullock whilst the bullets were rattling like hail on the tank itself.’

    The tank got moving again but was then taken under direct artillery fire from the German second line of defences. It was put out of action.

    Tank 799 reached OG1 and then moved on. It came under shell and Minenwerfer fire. Leutnant Schabel fired more than 1,200 armour-piercing MG rounds at the tank at a range of 150 yards. As the tank turned, the last three bullets hit the fuel tank. The explosion incinerated some of the crew. The others were captured.

    There were three tanks in the centre section. One was hit by a shell, which broke a track. The second tank got stuck in the barbed wire entanglements in front of OG1. A shell hit the fuel tank, causing an explosion. The third tank was also hit by a shell, which decapitated the driver. The tank was abandoned.

    The left section was tasked with getting into the village of Bullecourt. One of the tanks was hit by a shell, which tore a hole in the roof. After the tank was abandoned, the crew returned and restarted the engine. The tank was withdrawn back to the starting line. A second tank ‘worked… along the German trenches towards Bullecourt and inflicted casualties. The tank was hit by German shells on two occasions with everyone inside receiving wounds. [It] continued the fight and took out a German trench mortar.’ This tank remained in operation until all the ammunition was used up. The third tank was late in arriving but entered Bullecourt, where it was ‘subjected to heavy German machine gun fire. Little flakes of metal were flying around inside the cabin as the bullets pelted the tank and slightly wounded some of the crew inside. [It] cruised around the village, shooting any Germans visible. The enemy fled in disorder.’ The tank became held up by a crater, whereupon it came under indirect Minenwerfer fire. The crew abandoned the tank and made their way back to the British lines. The fourth tank was hit by German shell fire soon after crossing the start line.

    Note that shell fire was the killer of tanks. Note also that the Mk II had the weakest armour, by far, of all the British heavy tank versions. The Germans machine gunners had liberal supplies of SmK ammunition during the Battle of Bullecourt, as you can tell from the record of 1,200 rounds being needed in the one case where a tank was incapacitated by MG fire.


    Avatar photoRobert Dunlop

    As for French tanks, I wrote up an After Action Report of our replay of the Battle of Matz, 1918. This was a major counter-attack by the French, supported by Schneiders and St Chamonds. The descriptions include quotes from various German regimental histories relating to the experience of facing French tanks:


    There is one description that gives credit to Scharfschützen and other heavy machine gunners for knocking out some tanks that advanced onto an exposed reverse slope but the killers were the field guns, not the machine guns.


    Avatar photoMaraviglia

    Ta for that lot. Definitely food for thought.

    It seems in most situations I’ll just have to decide things based in what seems most likely to fit the scenario being played, which is quite sensible anyway really.

    Avatar photoMaraviglia

    In the absence of any more definite answers these are my house I’ll be using for now. I’m sharing them here in case anybody else reading this thread finds them useful (and thanks to Robert Dunlop for the help getting this far) –

    HMGs in an off table support role can choose a position on a “side” table edge up to 6 inches ahead of your front line and across to any other edge as representative of enfilading fire from supporting friendly positions forward of your own.

    Off table HMGs can only fire sustained on a predetermined path.

    When on sustained fire remove the HMG’s card from the deck. The card is unnecessary while firing sustained.

    Ignore the line that says “HMGs on sustained fire do not suffer stoppages”
    Where appropriate, say off table HMGs represent multiple guns firing, stoppages can automatically unjam on the snifter card.
    Other sustained fire HMGs can attempt to unjam on the snifter card with 2 action dice. If it unjams on the first dice then it may fire on all units in its path as it normally would.

    A HMG that wants to change from direct to sustained or vice versa can only do so on the orders of a big man at the cost of one initiative.
    A HMG that has enemy within 12 inches or has been ordered onto direct fire has it’s card added into the discard pile ready to be shuffled in next turn. When it’s drawn it can change to direct fire without the need of a big man if it wasn’t already ordered to do so.

    HMGs should be considered to have AP ammo as appropriate for the year and supply of each army. They will only use AP ammo in direct fire.
    Changing the belt from one type to another takes two actions – one to remove the current belt and one to load in the new one.

    HMG barrages can be largely ignored as they would affect an area as large or bigger than a M&B gaming table. They could be integrated into a series of games or a multi table set up where the barrage can be used to effectively “cancel” one game/table by denial.

Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.