Monday, 20 November 2017

The Men Who Would Be Kings for the 1912 Balkans War

Martin and I drove across to Warfare at Reading on the Sunday with my 1912 Balkans War game. I'd previously demonstrated this period using Chain of Command, but this year I was using The Men Who Would be Kings by Dan Mersey. Although the rules a written for 19th century colonial conflicts, I've found they work very well for the early 20th century as well. The First and Second Balkans Wars, with their huge variety of troop types and qualities, are easily covered with these adaptable rules. Later in the day we were joined by Henry to help out and allow for some wandering time/loo breaks.

Instead of the usual 6x4 table, I was playing this on a 3x3 area, using the skirmish version of TMWWBK (which uses half sized units). Although we were on the show listing as a demonstration game, I was intending this as a "soft" participation game, if anyone showed interest in how the rules worked for this period, they would be invited to join in and see.

It was a simple scenario, there were 3 objective points that needed to be scouted, which ever side scouted the most was the winner!
The Greeks had 4 units (1 elite, 2 regular and 1 irregular volunteers) and the Turks had 5 (2 regular, 2 militia and 1 irregular volunteers).

                                                                  The battlefield
                                                             A view from the other side
                                                              The 3 objectives

We played the scenario three times in the end, and every game had at least one passer by joining in. I'd planned the scenario to last for about an hour, including time for explaining the rules and that seemed to work. Allowing for lunch and shopping trips, as well as a lot of chatting to interested passers by, 3 hours gaming was just about right before everything started to wind down. Out of the three games, we had one Greek Victory and two Turkish.

                                                                Turkish Militia
                       Greek Regulars - The Italian Legion: Garabaldini Redshirts for the 20th Century
                                             Turkish Regulars and Militia prepare to advance
                                                        Greek Irregular Volunteers
                                                               Turkish Regular Cavalry
                                             Turkish Militia seize the central objective
                                    The situation at the end of the game, another Turkish victory!
                                                          Finally, a win for the Greeks

We had a great time and chatted to a lot of interesting people, both visitors and those running nearby games. I didn't spend very much as the one trader I wanted to buy from wasn't there this year!

An added bonus for me was when a father and son stopped by to admire the game and ask questions, when I turned to answer them I realised it was my old friend Nigel, who lives on the Isle of Wight and I hadn't seem face to face in years. We'd first met at a reenactment event about 25 years ago, when we got very, very drunk. It's a small world.

An extra thank to Martin who stepped in at the last minute to drive me and the game over, despite having attended the previous day with a 54mm ACW participation game.

I've also now got Alan's report on the Saturday (unfortunatly no pictures for this one).

Martin, Ian R, and I took our 54mm ACW participation game to the Warfare 2017 show on Sat Nov 18th. Warfare is a regular slot for us, the guys from WAR always put on a great show and we really enjoy going along.

Once again, the show this year was well attended, and we were kept busy right from the start and most of the day. As we had seen at Milton Keynes earlier in the year, there was a lot of interest in our participation game - a simple skirmish might-have-been scenario, which we envisaged as taking place on the early morning of July 2nd 1863, somewhere near the Peach Orchard on the Gettysburg battlefield.

Our use of 54mm figures for the game drew a lot of attention, and many visitors to our table were keen to know where we had obtained the figures and whether they were available for sale at the show. Unfortunately we had to disappoint them, we didn’t see anyone selling 54mm figures at the show, and Martin and I had picked ours up at a museum in Atlanta on our ACW tour trip last year. However, we received numerous favourable comments about using  the larger scale on a 5x5 table, and it proved very popular with the gamers who gave it a try - something we will definitely be taking into consideration when planning our show offerings for next year.

Over the course of the day we played the game about a half dozen times, with plenty of time for chatting with the gamers and passers-by as well. Several had commented that there did seem to be fewer participation games on display this year, which is a shame, although there were some beautifully-crafted large-table games on show as well.

An added bonus – we were approached by a gamer who has recently moved into our area and is looking for a club, so we will look forward to welcoming them to  one of our regular Friday evening meetings.

Overall, a very enjoyable day, and a big thank you to the guys at WAR for organising a great show.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Games Day November 2017 - WWI Big Chain Of Command

For the November all-day game Henry, Ian, Graham, Mark, Martin and Colin (me) played a WWI game using rules adapted from Big Chain Of Command.

Belgians are defending a town against an onslaught by the Germans.


Belgians - Henry & Colin
One Regular Infantry Platoon
Half an Elite Infantry Platoon
Supports - MMGs and Field Guns
Reserves - 2 Mounted Infantry units - arrival Point to be randomised when brought on.

Germans - Ian, Martin, Graham & Mark
3 Regular Infantry Platoons
Reserves - Cavalry

The town area, designated by the grey felt cloth, offered Soft Cover though-out. The town buildings have all been scratch built by Henry. The green cloth is open ground with various terrain features.

The Belgians could deploy anywhere in the town.
The Germans had normal Jump-Off Points pre-positioned for the scenario by the umpire. Basically they were near the base line - one on the left, one in the centre and one on the right, and offering cover to troops deploying there.

The Game

Graham deployed one German Platoon on their left, Martin in their centre, and Mark on their right.
Ian had control of the German Reserve.
Martin starts his deployment deep in cover in the German centre.

 The Germans were rather slow to start, being very cautious of the open ground in front of them and not knowing what Belgians were going to appear where. They slowly moved forward as far as possible while still benefiting from any cover offered by the terrain.
From their start positions the Germans move slowly forward
to take advantage of any cover that is going.

In response, Henry deployed the Belgian Regular Platoon opposite Mark and Martin, and Colin deployed the Elite half platoon opposite Graham.
Henry's Regular Belgian Platoon in hard cover faces
two platoons of Germans.

Graham built up a good fire base against the Elite squads but hitting them in hard cover was proving to be difficult ...
Part of Graham's fire base in the early stages.
Two MMGs in support of  infantry.

... so he made good use of Covering Fire to reduce the effect of incoming fire from the Elites which were using the large building at the edge of the town and a trench on the flank. This gave the Germans time to take up advance positions while still gaining cover.
The Covering Fire on the Elite Belgians in the house and trench
severely reduced the effect of their fire.

On the Germans right, Mark had drawn a lot of fire from Henry's Regular Platoon and forced most of the Belgian Support units into the fight. Unfortunately for the Belgians the Supports became isolated and picked off, greatly reducing the Regular Platoons Morale.
Not a good photo, but shows the isolated positions
of the Belgian gun pits against the wire at the edge of the town.

Mark brought on a Field Gun against the Belgian Regulars.

For a while the Germans could not co-ordinate their attack, perhaps due to poor communication or lack of the good activation dice. Some piecemeal attacks were made.
Graham attempted to advance a couple of squads against the Elite Belgians
while they were under Covering Fire but could not reach the wire.

Eventually the Germans managed to co-ordinate their attack and most of them used the slow Tactical Move to gain extra cover as they moved across the open ground towards the wire lining the town.

There was certainly a lack of communication by the Belgians, which meant Colin hadn't
known about the poor state of Henry's Regular Platoon, and before he realised it they were on the point of breaking.
Ian was champing at the bit to get his German Cavalry Reserve onto the field and had quickly made ground between the slow moving German infantry up to the town.
Ian's Cavalry Reserve break into the town and look intent
on breaking the Morale of the remaining Belgian Regulars.

The Belgian Reserves were called for too late. By now there was only a 50/50 chance they would arrive each phase, and the arrival position of the Reserves was randomised. It took 4 turns to bring on the Reserves and they came on behind Graham. Initially they had great local success because they came on straight into Combat and defeated three German units. Then a fist-full of fives meant no activation for one phase.
Belgian Reserves (top right) arrive behind the Germans
and had great success initially.
Then a fist-full of fives meant no activation for one turn.

This enabled the Germans to respond to the threat in their rear and finish off the Belgian Reserves.
The luck of the Belgian Reserves has run out.

Meanwhile Henry's Belgian Regular Platoon had broken under the onslaught leaving the Elites stranded on the flank.
Repeated Close assaults on the building finished off the resistance there ...
Repeated assaults on the Elites defending the building
finally met with success.

...and the rampaging German Cavalry Reserve had swung round to the rear of the Elites in the trench.
German infantry to the front and a cavalry attack from the rear
 spells the end for the Belgians.

With Martin and Mark sweeping their German infantry through the town the end came quickly.

It is possible that the Belgian Elites could have offered more support to the Regular Platoon early on, but not much really. They had their hands full dealing with what was in front of them while Martin's German infantry in the centre was making good use of cover (they were scared to come out) so there weren't many target opportunities there.

We all had a good time with everyone involved in the battle.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Vikings and Saxons with Sword and Spear

I've played a couple of games of Sword and Spear, but they were a while ago with too long between games to remember how the rules work. So Colin is organising a couple of games for me to pick up the rules and the first one was at the last Tring meeting with his 9th century armies. I commanded the Saxons against his ferocious Vikings.

We lined up facing each other, I had a wood splitting my deployment area so I put two units of select fyrd with the Captain on the right flank with 3 units of thegns and my General, backed by the last unit of fyrd across the centre of the table. Out on either flank I put my skirmishers, a unit of slingers and one of javelinmen. The skirmishers on both sides were to be totally ineffective and didn't actually hit anything in the entire game.


 With these types of armies there isn't a lot of room for fancy manoeuvring, so the two battle lines clashed head on.

Colin very helpfully hit my my main line piecemeal and didn't leave enough room in the centre for his third unit of huscarls to make contact. By pulling my General back to chivy up the reserve unit, I just managed to pug the gap between the wood and the end of my line before Colin flanked me with a sneaky move.

The first combat went well for me and I routed a unit of huscarls, but then crap dice sent one of my fyrd units scurrying off after them!
I eventually managed to bring my flanking fyrd around the wood onto the end of the Viking line, forcing a unit to turn to face them.

Once everything was in contact everything started to go wrong for me. The dice gods were definitely against me, I could not roll the command dice I needed to move or attack as I wanted and when I did get in combat  I scored an incredible number of 1's! After about 4 turns of bashing away at each other, we had both lost 2 units of close combat troops (even-steven so far). But then I lost a third unit and then in a single turn two more! My army was shattered routing and I had to concede. It was a fun game and it certainly helped my to get a better grasp of the rules.


Other games at the club that night.

20mm WW2 Rapid Fire in NW Europe

The Men Who Would be Kings, the first game in the new club league.

28mm WW2 Chain of Command (with an impressive Russian church).

And a 6mm WSS Black Powder game.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

10mm ACW Bash

At a recent club night I ran an ACW game using Black Powder. The scenario was a fight over a bridge, the Union were attempting to outflank the Rebs and had sent a supported division to secure a vital river crossing. The Confederates has rushed troops up to try and block the Yankees and deny them the bridge that they would need to resupply their advance. The river was fordable to infantry, artillery could only cross at the bridge.

The Confederates had 3 infantry brigades and 4 batteries. One brigade was all standard infantry, one classed as Reliable (+1 to Command) and one had ferocious Charge (re-roll all missed attacks if they charged that combat round).

The Union had 4 infantry brigades and 6 batteries. They also had a brigade classed as Reliable, plus 2 units of Sharpshooters (re-roll 1 missed shot) and 4 units of  Tough Fighters (re-roll 1 missed attack in combat), split between 2 brigades.

Each side started with 2 brigades on the table, with the rest arriving in turn 2 and 3. The reinforcements could either enter the table in march column, or delay one turn to deploy into lines.

The Confederates reached the bridge first, as they started closer, and formed a firing line along the river bank. The Union advanced was slow at first (the artillery were very tardy) and allowed the Confederates to secure the river along the whole length of the table. The Union high command (me!)
planned to hold the flanks and pound the centre with the leading brigade and the bulk of their artillery, then throw the reserve brigade in to sweep away the weakened Rebs.

The plan never really took effect, because of the delayed arrival of the artillery. By the time the guns were in position my plan was obvious the the Confederate commander (Mark) and he launched all out assaults on both flanks.

One his left flank, the Ferocious brigade should have easy broken through but my troops put up a good fight (lucky dice) and after the Confederate attack we both had 1 unit routed and 1 unit retreating. My counter attack however, was devastating , throwing back 2 more Reb units. Now, out of 6 Confederate units, 1 had routed and 3 were Shaken and Disordered, the brigade was Broken and forced to retreat.

The attack on the other flank fared very similarly, I held the initial assault then broke the brigade with my counter attack. With two thirds of his army, Mark conceded a Union victory!

                                                      It was a busy night at the club..... addition to our ACW battle, there were two 40K games (one with some very nice scratch built ruins....

....a Chain of Command WW2 game with Russians facing of against Japanese in Manchuria...
                                                           ....a WW1 Wings of war game....

                                                       ....and a Victorian era zombie game.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Battle Of Corinth - Games Day October 2017

Report by Alan

Our club Games Day in October 2017 saw us re-enact a battle from our study of the American Civil War’s western theatre. Five of us participated in a re-enactment of the battle of Corinth, which occurred on Oct 3-4, 1862, in north-eastern Mississippi. We used 15mm figures, terrain from a mix of sources, and the Fire & Fury rules.

We had re-fought the battle of Iuka a couple of weeks previously, at our regular Friday meeting. In that battle, the historically-aggressive Confederate initial attacks had been something of a damp squib, allowing the Federal side to make early gains. Although the battle evened out and then see-sawed back and forth as each side’s reinforcements arrived, it was clear by the end of the battle that the Rebels, despite having done much better than historically in terms of casualties, were in danger of being trapped, as Union forces closed in on their escape route.

1 – The crew for the re-enactment of Corinth
L to R, Colin, Alan, Kieron, Ian, and Bill

Historically, the Confederates under Sterling Price had evaded this trap, allowing them to link up with other Confederate forces under Earl Van Dorn a few days later. The Confederates were under orders to prevent reinforcements from Ulysses Grant’s and William Rosecrans’ Union armies being sent to aid Northern efforts in Kentucky, so Van Dorn, now in command of all Confederate forces in Mississippi, came up with an elaborate plan to strike north into Tennessee and isolate Rosecrans, who was guarding the important Federal supply depot at Corinth.
Our game therefore began with the historic poorly-coordinated Confederate attacks at 10am on the rifle pits north of the town, and it was soon clear that the Rebels were intent on revenge for Iuka; Lovell’s Mississippi Divn immediately attacked McKean’s Divn on the Union left flank, hurling it back in disorder. Abysmally poor Federal dice throwing soon saw an undamaged brigade skedaddle the field without firing a shot! Their left, already undermanned, was suddenly up in the air, and the Rebels were quick to exploit the weakness.

2 – The strong assault by Lovell’s Divn on the Union left

To add insult to injury, the remainder of the Federal left flank now came under attack by  the Confederate Maury’s Division, the next to arrive in the poorly coordinated Rebel plans.

3 – Maury’s Division attacks the Federal rifle pits

Once again however, disastrous Federal dice throws saw the Union defenders thrown back from the front-line rifle pits, after inflicting only minimal losses on the attackers. It was not yet 11.30am battle time, and the Confederates had already all but destroyed the Union left flank, and captured the rifle pits facing their right for virtually no loss.
It was about to get still worse for the Federals. As Davies’ Divn in their centre prepared to face the onslaught from Hebert’s Rebels, they could not ignore Maury’s Divn, which was now also pressing in on their left. The Federal centre was about to get rolled up by overwhelming numbers in a combined frontal and flank attack.

4 – Maury’s Divn starts to roll up the Federal centre

Over on the Federal left, Lovell’s Divn continued to make spectacular advances for the Confederates, with their attached cavalry brigade taking out a Union battery, leaving them uncontested in the centre of the field.
It wasn’t going entirely the Confederates’ way, though. All of the work thus far by Lovell’s Divn had been achieved by just two brigades and their cavalry; their Louisiana Zouave battalion steadfastly refused to get engaged. Moreover, the remnants of the Federal left were putting up an increasing stiff opposition, and their one surviving brigade, together with some of their divisional artillery, finally succeeded in stemming the tide of the Confederate infantry assault on that flank.

5 – The Confederate attack on the Federal left runs out of steam

Bad luck with the dice continued to dog the Federal efforts however. By 12 noon, Davies’ Divn in the Federal centre was fully engaged. Hackleman’s Brigade, outnumbered almost 3:1, made a gallant stand supported by some of their divisional artillery, but it was in continued danger of being flanked from its left, and eventually it was also forced back from the rifle pits.

6 – The Federal centre makes a brave stand

At 12.30pm battle time, the Federals got almost their only good news of the day. With the Louisiana Zouave battalion apparently too timid to fight, Lovell’s Divn on the Confederate right was short of reserves and unable to press its attack. Their attached cavalry had gone off on a wild ride through the woods, looking for the Federal centre, so the remnants of McKean’s Divn were able to stabilise the Federal left, and the action on that flank ground to a halt.
Over in the centre however, it was a very different story. By 1pm battle time, Davies’ Divn defending the Federal centre had been forced back, and the remnants were facing overwhelming odds in a desperate effort to stave off a complete Confederate break-through. As the Rebels advanced, Hamilton’s Divn on the Federal right also faced being flanked on its left, and was forced to pull back to conform to the rest of the Federal line, such as it was.

7 - The Federal centre-faces overwhelming odds
to prevent a break-through

By 2pm battle time, it was all but over.  Federal dice-throwing throughout the game had been abysmal, and the Confederates had successfully taken advantage of it to roll up the Union forces in detail.
Of the ten infantry brigades the Union forces started with, six had been virtually destroyed, along with three artillery batteries. Confederate losses had been a small fraction of their opponents’, and virtually the only thing standing between the Confederates and their objectives of the town of Corinth and its crucial railroad junction, was the remaining Federal artillery, Stanley’s two-brigade division which had been posted in the earthworks west of the town, and the two brigades of Mizner’s cavalry division, which had dismounted to defend the abatis just north of town.
Under the circumstances, the Federals were obliged to concede a complete victory to their opponents. Not only had the Confederates achieved a stunning victory which completely reversed the verdict of history (and in a single day, instead of two), they had moreover done so with far fewer losses than in reality.
If this had been the historical outcome of the battle, then the impact on the war effort, both north and south, would have been immense. We can speculate that Van Dorn, by effectively destroying Rosecrans’ army, would have completely changed the Federal fortunes in western Tennessee.  Although the Federals still had more men in the field, they were widely scattered, defending supply bases and communication routes. At the least, Ulysses Grant would have been compelled to look to his own defences, leaving Buell to defend himself as best he could in Kentucky.
And that raises a most interesting what-if for us to ponder. Could a stunning success at Corinth have inspired Braxton Bragg to produce another one at Perryville in Kentucky five days later? Two military successes in the west might have done much to nullify the effects of Robert E Lee’s strategic defeat at Antietam and the end of his Maryland campaign in September, and with it Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, which effectively ended any hope of foreign recognition for the Confederacy. Both Britain and France were on the verge of proposing mediation and an arbitrated settlement prior to Antietam, so the potential consequences of further Confederate military victories at this point in the war will always be rich pickings for historians to consider.
One thing is certain – the Confederate campaigns in Maryland, Mississippi, and Kentucky in Sept-Oct 1862 were the closest they ever came to coordinated combined operations. Grant, at least, saw the significance, and he sought to emulate it when he became Union Commander-in-Chief in 1864.
Historically, the triple failure at Antietam, Corinth and Perryville in the fall of 1862 sealed the Confederacy’s fate, although its significance certainty wasn’t recognised then.  Even today, the Iuka – Corinth and Kentucky Heartland campaigns are considered secondary, almost a backwater, when compared to the war in the east.
Perhaps at the time, that myopia was understandable. The capitals were in the east and barely 100 miles apart, the eastern states were the most populous, and the brilliance of Confederate leaders like Robert E Lee  and the sheer dogged persistence of the Union Army of the Potomac, captured the attention of all who read about them.
However, a century and a half of hindsight lend us a different perspective. With conflict in the east so often at a stalemate, the Union had to prevail in the west in order to win. The fact that they did so, almost from the beginning, was hardly recognised at the time. The Confederacy simply never had the manpower or resources to defend the vast distances of the western theatre, so it lost in campaign after campaign, and was obliged to surrender territory at almost every stage.
By mid-1862, the Confederate heartland was being penetrated by Union gunboats patrolling the major rivers; by mid-1863, it was literally split in two, following the capture of Vicksburg; by mid-1864, Sherman was at the gates of Atlanta.
It was Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan brought to life, and it was most successful in the west, where the Confederacy was always at its weakest.