Monday, 21 September 2020

THE BATTLE OF RIO-PEQUANO

Another Soldiers of Napoleon play test game, a few adjustments from last time, and this battle would see my French force facing a Spanish army. In this ‘medium’ sized game, both commanded four brigades, three deployed and one in reserve. My three brigades were a Provincial Infantry brigade on the left, screened ahead of them by a light cavalry brigade of a hussar and chasseurs-a-cheval regiment (and a horse artillery battery). The right was a brigade of Poles and German troops, better infantry and they would be my main strike force. In reserve, marching up, were another weak provincial infantry brigade - the last scraping of the baggage guard and malingerers. I wasn’t expecting anything of them.

The arrayed Spanish were an regular infantry brigade, screened by their light cavalry brigade of a composite hussar regiment (various squadrons thrown together) and another ad hoc unit of lancers. They had the Spanish right. On their left was a militia brigade, of local militia’s and a unit of guerrillas, backed up by a single provincial grenadier battalion to stiffen them.

Having deployed, the Spanish’s orders were to defend, and hold their lines. The French would be in all-out attack. That attack would see a diversion on the left with the provincial troops, to draw in and pin his better forces their, for the main assault on my right (his left) by the Polish legion against his militia, sweeping them from the field should see me win the day - well, that was plan.

The game started with the light cavalry all in action, facing off, both deployed their light guns and opened the cannonade. The Spanish guns were in furious action, rapid and accurate - ouch!, and my chasseurs took the brunt of it, recoiling backwards in disorder. My hussars, regardless, went boldly forwards and launched a fierce charge at his hussars, driving them back in disorder. His lancers came forwards to counter, and found the French 1st Hussars a tough outfit, as they too were driven off, then pursued and routed from the field… the French were getting ahead in the early light cavalry dueling. But those Spanish guns had started very well, destroying my German battery as well as sending the chasseurs back, but they were now rallying though, as were his hussars.

With his cavalry neutralized, I sent out with my ‘demonstration’ attack, the provincial infantry marching in column for his lines, as his skirmishers came forwards and started the sniping. I’d was a bit slow to get my voltigeurs out and took some losses… poor command that. The lesson is, to stop their skirmishers, send yours.  His skirmishers were also harassing my hussars, who responded by sending a squadron out to attack them which saw most scampering back to the main bodies and safety. One role for light cavalry in the rules is to drive in enemy infantry skirmishers, which is special ‘attack’ for light cavalry only. In the meantime, his ragged hussars were back for another go and round two of the cavalry melees followed as the two hussars regiments duked it out with sabres and pistols. The French won again, but they were in ragged order now, exhausted from the hectic start. They did force his horse battery gunners to run for it though. The chasseurs came forwards to help and were again driven-off by cannon fire… damn them! The 1st Hussars were left to fight it out alone.

The Spanish reserve brigade now turned up, 2 dragoon regiments rode in and quickly launched themselves forwards, overrunning my battered hussars and then their supporting horse battery. The Spanish cavalry counter-attack on their left had some of my infantry forming square and the ‘demonstration’ attack came to halt and ended in exchanges of skirmisher fire at range.

Time for the main assault, with his reserves committed, the Poles and Germans rushed in column at the so far inactive militia and the action switched to my right flank. Through shot and shell the four columns came on and the veteran Poles charges home, a la Bayonet! The militia broke and ran before the assault, and his grenadiers came forwards to block the rout. It was hectic… multiple melees, but the French were winning. On his right, the Regimento del Rey dragoons was trying to break an infantry square and failing, but the square was very shaky and failed to rally well. Harassed by his best dragoons, the provincial infantry would not hold out too much longer.

It was very close on victory points, in fact too close. By the end of turn 7, both sides had broken… the Spanish army was now at -1 morale, the French at -2… a bloody draw on the flood plain of the Rio-Pequano.

It was great fun, a cracking fight, lots of action. The Spanish stood up well, (except predictably the militias), but they were faced by some veteran infantry (my best). His cavalry counter-attack had me on the ropes on my left with little left to respond. In all, it took 4.5 hours, which for big(ish) game isn’t too bad, but I’d like it to be quicker and will work on ways to speed up game play. There were lots of tough choices to make, which adds to the ‘ponder time’ - should I rally hear or press the attack here, fire the artillery or send out skirmishers, etc. You can’t do it all at once. … which I enjoy in a game. It is tough to command perfectly and you can’t get it right all the time. The cards can sometimes be kind, and others times, well, not so much. Need a card to rally shaken militia - good luck with that! In this game with Spanish started with 3 ‘Intense cannonade’ special events and hammered my lines, but then, characterfully, his main foot battery was low on ammo, so became far less effective.

Here a few pictures of the afternoon’s action. Very happy with the progress of the rules so far. 

 The Spanish sun shining on the Vistula legion's columns, ready to attack on my right. They'd have to wait sometime before the order to go arrived.


 
Facing them, the Spanish militia brigade, aided by some guerilla bands and a grenadier battalion.
 
 
My right, light cavalry and their horse artillery battery out front of the infantry columns.


 
Facing the Spanish equivalent, hussars in front of lancers, their small battery started on limber.


 First clash of cavalry as both advance. French 1st Hussars earned some glory today.


 
The diversionary attack set's off across the table. A grand sight. My chasseurs have rallied and returned to lead them in. 


 
The Spanish left under heavy cannon fire as the French 'come on in the same old way'.


The main attack finally gets some orders and set's off to break the Spanish lines.


The French reserve infantry arrive, but no orders for them, too busy elsewhere.


 
Regimento Del Rey harass my infantry in square.


 Forward the Vistula legion! Dice show disruption, it's building up.
But veteran troop's main advantage is they rally far better than militia. 





Saturday, 5 September 2020

The Battle of Wadi Al Suluq

A game of Battlegroup Tobruk, set in 1941. The randomly generated scenario was a recce screen, with 600 points aside. The Italian infantry division list would be used for a motorised column attempting to circumvent the British front lines near Mechili, via a narrow route through the Wadi Al Suluq. An ad-hoc British armoured battlegroup would be hastily dispatched to intercept them (that’s me).

The Italian force was led by its recce troops, a brand new AB41 armoured car, a sniper team and two Auto Saharian AS.37 trucks mounting 20mm Breda cannons (lots of firepower). The British recce, coming the other way, was a Vickers IVC and a Dingo, command armoured car, in touch with the off-table 3” mortar battery, ready to make the Italian advance uncomfortable from turn 1.

The first 6 (max) turns of the recce phase saw the armoured car and MarkIV trading ineffective long range shots, whilst the Dingo crew was on the radio calling in the mortars, which bracketed the the lead AS.37 and left it a smoking wreck - first blood. The Italians though had out scouted the British and seize two of the three objectives, so had the early lead in counters. One of those counters was an aircraft, and having taken the ‘Low on Fuel’ special rule against the Italians, I played it as a low fuel event on the armoured car. It had 1 move then would be immobilised. It did take its revenge, as the Mark IV moved in to get closer for its 15mm Besa, it bounced rounds of the AB and its return fire KO’d the Whippet. Drat! Win to the Auto Blinda.

The recce phase over the British reinforcements start to roll in, slowly, the fast, a A9 and Bedford MWD with a rifle section onboard. Ambush sniper fire from the lurking Italian marksman saw him hit and the MWD twice, right through the engine block! Dead light truck. The infantry piled out, pinned as they hit the deck from the accurate shooting. That sniper would have to be found. The A9 raked the high ground with MG fire to get him pinned first.

The Italians started their move up the wadi, lead by their old M11, the only ‘tank’ they had! (as well as 3 CV33 tankettes). Behind followed a long trail of various soft-skins, a mess of Fiat’s and Lancia trucks and cars and a ‘locally-sourced’ Benghazi bus! Ahead of them my first timed 25 pdr bombardment crashed in, but just some pinning was the total damage. No 6s!

As the Italian column paused with heavy artillery fire across its route down the wadi, more British A9s and the captured M40 (Beda Fomm prize) rolled in, behind followed the motorised infantry platoon in their trucks. The lead A9 miraculously spotted the lurking sniper and more MG fire saw him silenced. The battle was on, but then the dust cloud, no doubt from the repeated 25 pdr strikes thundering in, caused all the ranges to close and -1 to all spotting. Through the dust, my first infantry sections had scrambled up the slopes to take the high point objective - now the sniper as gone. One counter inflicted and just in time, the Italians had moved up to take the other (centre table) and would have had all three! The Tommy’s on the high ground set up their Vickers MG and began blazing down into the wadi at maximum range, pinning anything they could see moving. Down there were a lot of infantry debussing and running about, dragging 47mm anti-tank guns into place. The A9s traded shots with the M11 - a clash of garbage tanks, and rounds ricochetted off both side’s ‘armour’. The M11 was then KO’d by a direct hit from a 3” mortar bomb, leaving it smoking.

The Brits were all here now, just in time for the Regia Aeronautica to arrived and bomb them… the closest target to the PRTP, my forward HQ and his Tilly truck… whose driver dived into the rocks for cover - pinned. A close call for the boss, no damage. The Bofors gun was still on tow, not yet set-up, always good to have the AA ready one turn after the air strike hits! The Bofors would go on to suppressing fire role down the wadi, and did hit and KO a CV-33 with its 40mm AP rounds. Some redemption for the crew.

The Italian now had their FOO in place (he had to move up due to the dust cloud) and his early comms problems had been solved by the arrival of his radio van (known now as the ice-cream van). Their 100mm guns opened up, with much pinning of my carrier section, waiting in reserve to move-up and counter-attack the central objective, once the mortars and A9s had done their part and made it less of suicide mission. One A9 was lost to an unlucky mine strike, then another to a 47mm elephant gun hit. Drat! My captured tank was also in action now, trading fire with a second elephant gun it couldn’t hit, and it couldn’t hit him either. Meanwhile, I’d drawn another aircraft counter and used it for a CV-33 to run out of fuel. Real problem today for the Italians.

My mortars continued their harassment, the Dingo spotter now aided by the Dorchester comms truck to keep the fire falling on the Italians, with lots of soft-skins getting pinned and risking easy destruction. The Italians began to pull them all back down the wadi and about 5 got away, including the Benghazi bus service’s finest!

As we stopped for lunch, it was close. 10 counters on the Italians, 11 on me. I’d drawn 2 aircraft though, the enemy a mine strike…

Back at it after a pause for tea and a bacon butty.. very British tanker.

The resumption saw the Italians still hammering away with their 100s, but still failing to score any direct hit, thank god. My bren carriers moved up and added to the fire down the wadi with their, err, brens! This saw a 47mm gun crew flee as their loader team was cut down, then his FOO, lying in the rocks was pinned - good result. Unfortunately, his forward HQ just took over artillery spotting duties and the 100mm guns final hit something (it had to come), wrecking my Bofors gun and its tow in the big explosions. 2 counters taken, and I was now on 37 total from 39. 1 more chit would see it over for the Brits. No more unpinning then.

That was until my 3” mortars hit his deployed 75mm howitzer, and its crew also broke and ran for cover. The same mortar stonk pinned the last survivor in a 4 man LMG section, holding the centre objective and those 2 counters broke the Italians, now scoring 36 from a 35 total. Phew.. a narrow win… but so close.

It was a brilliant game, great fun with the early tanks. Man of the match was the Dingo crew mortar spotters, never failed a radio check! Those 3” mortars must be damn hot by now. The Italian column at Wadi Al Suluq can be reported as halted and in retreat. We might escape from Mechili after all.

Here are a few pics of the battle as it progressed. Next up, we’ve decided to do a WWII desert trilogy, so on to 1942 at Gazala, get out my M3s. Then, into Tunisia in ’43. 

 


A -Italian main advance. B - Italian recce. C- British first attack.
D - British second attack, A9s and bren carriers. 
 

Wadi Al Suluq from the British end.
 

British forces 1 - the armour and HQ
 

British forces 2 - Motor Rifle Platoon, portee gun and Bofors
 

British forces 3 -Dingo and Vicker's MkIV recce, and carrier section.

Vickers and AB41 exchange fire before both retreated out of sight. 

AS.37 hit by mortar fire.  First kill.

Reinforcements, MWD hit by sniper fire and KO'd, so all out, pinned. A9 takes aim at the high ground and the sniper.

Italians start to arrive, first move up the wadi.

Mine strike. Scratch the lead A9. The Vickers ahead is also hit by Breda fire and KO'd - not looking good for the British armour.

Regia Aeronautica bombing run. 


A9s heading right, led by the command tank. Dingo is behind, spotting into the dust cloud.
 
 Captured Italian armour moves up to take on the anti-tank guns.

Infantry take the high point, where the immobilised armoured car is a constant pain. Oh, for an anti-tank grenade! Vickers team did good work until the Breda cut them all down.

Last A9 opens fire across the wadi at the Italian armour. Hull down.


Italian 'armour' burning in the centre of the wadi. FOO team in the rocks, calling in the arty fire. Need to stop him, but in the dust cloud there is little hope of seeing him. 
 

The result, 100mm shells wreck the Bofors gun and its truck tow.

The British end of  the wadi strewn with wrecks and smoking ruin... but they hung-on to pinch it.








Saturday, 22 August 2020

THE BATTLE OF COLINA DE LAS ROCAS

An early play-test game for the ‘in development’ Soldiers of Napoleon rules… Napoleonics! Which is back to where it all started for me, my first wargames with models and dice and Charles S Grant rules were Napoleonics, with plastic Airfix men. I think we do a do a bit better these days.

In this Peninsula battle I took control of the Anglo-Allied forces, with 3 brigades. On the the right, the Portuguese infantry, behind earthworks as I chose a defensive deployment, 4 battalions and battery of 6 pdr guns. The centre, on the hill and either side of the big rock, was a British infantry brigade, 4 battalions and a battery of 9 pdr guns. My right, a light cavalry brigade of light dragoons and hussar with a horse battery of 6 pdr guns. I had a reserve brigade, off-table, ready to move up, of a heavy dragoon regiment. They would arrive on my left from turn 2.

Facing them, Le French!. On his right, a weak provisional infantry brigade of various un-enthusiastic German and Swiss battalions and an artillery battery. In the centre, a French infantry brigade with an artillery battery and attached small regiment of dragoons. His left was a light cavalry brigade, hussars and chasseurs with their horse battery. His reserve brigade was 2 grenadier battalions, marching up in the centre to reinforce his main attack on the British-held hill. They were slow though, only arriving until turn 5, so didn’t play any part of the battle.

The rules, card-driven as per other ‘Soldiers of’ sets, but with a lot of major changes, are in early testing. But the ideas are working, even if it taking a lot of tweaking to get the balances right.

In this game, which lasted 4 hours not including the lunch break, the French main attack was straight up the middle, columns coming on in the same old way. My red-coated lines facing them. He would have small supporting attacks on the left and right, but the centre was his biggest brigade and the best, they either took Colinas de Las Rocas and won, or failed and lost. My plan was to hold, then counter with a left hook by cavalry into his centre. The line must hold long enough for the cavalry to come to the rescue, and break his attacks momentum either with charges or forcing him into squares.

It did not turn out so… his main attack was heavy and despite my cannon fire and excellent skirmishing musketry, his veteran infantry broke through and pushed up the hill. When my light dragoons tried to swing right to aid, they were counter-charged by his small dragoon regiment, which, aided by good special cards and better dice, routed by light cavalry who fled along with their horse battery. The arrival of my heavy dragoons sent his dragoons running, but then artillery pounded my heavies and skirmish fire from the provincial battalions light companies, lurking in the cornfields raked them. They lost men and time rallying from the Disorder… and so their attack lacked any impetus. Meanwhile, the French columns had won the centre, breaking my Scottish and Irish battalions and then the Nottinghamshire lads as well… that was the battle. My Portuguese had contributed, erm, some cannon fire? … and his light cavalry had done, nothing, not moved a single inch. We'll look at that, doesn’t seem quiet right… but a good start, and here are some quick snaps of the action. A fun afternoon's gaming… but much work to do.

Skirmishers out, the two centres facing-off about to start the bloody business of the day... British skirmish line reinforced by rifles, of course.


Watched on by my commanders from the hill and their 9 pdr battery making the French pay for their boldness. 


Portuguese brigade on the left, second line secure behind the earthworks.  


My light dragoons move up on my left to swing in, only to meet very determined French dragoons coming the other way. Dice show the amount of disruption on a unit. 


The French centre's four column attack ans 12 pdr battery, hammering the hill with annoying accuracy.

 

French light cavalry, having the day-off as bystanders. 


My heavy dragoons ride in on the left. Their impact was - not so much... certainly not decisive as I hoped.


Sunday, 5 July 2020

Nam ’68 WIP

Play-testing in these times of lock-down has been, well, all but impossible and that’s a problem with a new game system that needs to be played to see what it throws-up but also, just how it feels when the dice are rolling and models moving on the tabletop. This has set-back my work on Nam ’68 for a few months, oh well… can't be helped. It'll get there in the end.

I have though co-opt my eldest into trying a few games with me to test the rules as I have them. It was useful, first a brief history lesson, that could have been entitled, American Foreign Policy Blunders, 1960-1973. Second, in game terms, it caused me to do a fairly major revision on the ‘actions’ system, which whilst OK in small games, was just too slow and clunky when there were more models on the table. Detail I want, but the game mechanics as-was just felt time-consuming to me, especially in a ‘fast-paced game of close-up firefights and ambushes’. The counters set was revised to, as the values were just too high, making the game feel too random and possibly too short. But, the scenario generation system worked well.

The first game was a small, 1-squad affair, but in a high treat environment, so the VC were tough, well equipped and up for the fight. The second was a larger game, 2-squads from the platoon plus support, but in a low threat area, with only a few local VC guerrillas to worry about (plus all the booby-traps and lurking snipers, etc). Nowhere near as determined though.

The intention is that the scenario varies by size, by location (first was in jungle-scrub, second in marshes/wetland), and by threat level, so either low, medium or high, and that sets the VC forces that will be encountered. Better equipped and larger forces in higher threat than low.

The mission in the first game was a stand-up firefight, where the VC were determined to make a fight of it, and they did. The US patrol got something of a bloody nose. The veteran Platoon Sergeant was KIA, bled-out as the medic reached him but couldn’t save him. Another fire team's corporal was also hit by bolt-action rifle fire, clean head-shot and thus going home in a body-bag. Having been refused armoured support (twice), the US patrol pulled back, called in for air and watched the grid get napalmed. Bad day at the office. The body-count was not one to make Battalion HQ happy.

The second game was a patrol sweep through a small fishing hamlet, with search points to locate and clear. It was held by a few local VC and a sniper in his hideout, who was something of an ace, as he quickly put 2 GIs down, one dead, before a WP grenade posted into his hidey-hole finished him off. The village itself was weakly defended, but the search points revealed nothing. In the end, with the LT and RTO calling in mortar fire, the few VC ran for it rather than be shelled, leaving just 2 dead behind - the cooked sniper and one VC with a PPsH hit by M16 fire. Not a good body-count day again.

That felt like a good game, very Nam, the med-evac rules got a run-out and two wounded GIs were lifted out of the marshland reed beds to hospital during the game, which was fun side-story in the overall battle. 

With the right sound track playing in the background, it all felt very 'Vietnam War'… and work will continue to make it ever more so. The game's campaign system is up and running - Tour of Duty sees a player run through 12 months in action with a single platoon to control. My test platoon (1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1/18th Infantry) have had a tough few months. So far, 5 months in, they are claiming 25 enemy KIA for their body-count, with 6 KIA, 6 WIA and 7 NBCs lost. Kill-Ratio of 4.1-1 is good… and morale remains OK, not great, as the loss of the Platoon Sergeant was a heavy blow. Some R and R is due… but not forthcoming, so the next mission is an airborne one, so in ‘Slicks’, a chance to use my Huey model.

Here are some quick shots of the two games.

Game 1's small but highly determined VC National Force, including 2 small bunkers

Game 1's US patrol, 1 squad (2 fire teams), support M60 team and the platoon HQ

Hidden in the undergrowth

The 60 in place to give suppressing fire, medic lurks behind, out of LoS until needed.

Hunting Charlie, trying to get close enough to the small LMG bunker (top right) to throw a grenade. 

Game 2, skirmish line advances on the fishing village.

Man down, sniper fire from a hidden bunker. 
One man runs to move the wounded out of the line of fire and hauled him to the chopper. 

 Med-evac chopper arrives and circles down to the reed beds, clear enough to hover.

Pouring on some fire into the village from the trees. Little coming back.

Slick hovers over the reed beds (all obscuring cover in this game), as the two wounded and lifted onboard. 

The fishing village is mortared, causing some pinning, but that's enough of a fight for the VC today, they run-off. The US search finds nothing of any importance, except some fish. The 3 civilians that started in the village all soon ran off too.














Thursday, 28 May 2020

NEW BIG PROJECT

Lock-down has meant time for miniature painting has dramatically increased, as for many gamers I'm sure. This though, has meant a few old projects have been finished, along with the back log for Vietnam skirmishes, a new 20mm German infantry platoon and few other 'shelf queens' cleared out. I found myself without much to paint (disaster). I am not one to have huge numbers of unpainted miniatures piling up (obviously, we all have some). So, after a few weeks off from painting, I've decided it was times to start with something fresh. Something new, something I'd only attempted in these strange times. A new army for a new period.

My earliest wargames, back in 1982-83, were using Charles Grant's Napoleonic rules, photocopied from the back of a library book and using Airfix soldiers bought in the toy shop. They were the first games we ever played on a table, with dice to resolve the action (rather than rolling marbles). We were young, the games were terrible, but a small group of local boys were all busy buying and daubing Airfix men for Napoleon's battles (many were not actually Napoleonic soldiers, we had ACW cannons, Bedouins on camels, some French foreign legion troops!).

So, back to Napoleonics. I've avoid it for years, mainly to concentrate on WWII as my main period and getting everything I wanted for that. But my WWII collections are massive now, so, after just 38 years, its time to go back to fighting Napoleon.

I was tempted to just collect my first wargaming army again - British, for Waterloo. There are lots of plastics now, good ones too, and it would be pure nostalgia for me, but I've be doing my research and reading David Chalmers' 'Campaigns of Napoleon', a hefty tome suitable for lock-down. Inspiring stuff, I decided to rethink. British are a well trodden path, always popular with Anglophile wargamers (and we won). I went off the idea and started to lean towards something else. It couldn't be the French, which would have been my first choice, just because you get some much use from them and can fight everybody, but my main opponent already has a large 28mm French army - he's collected it for years. So no French, and 28mm is a must.

In the end, it came down to one of two, Prussians or Austrians (all very Germanic). Caught on the horns of indecision, and wanting to get on with it whilst I had the time, I flipped a coin... here are the first results, as I test out my painting plan for mass production. A lot of painting to do over the next 8-9 months, I'm planning 200+ infantry, 50 cavalry, 10 guns. That should get me a fight-able force for 2021... when campaign season opens.




First batch of Victrix Austrians as a test, various ways of getting a quickly shaded white base. Working on 50 at a time, and 2 months for each brigade to get finished. First battalions well on the way.

Rules of course have already been started too.