Tuesday 28 January 2020

Across Hope's Field - Longstreet 6

Game 6 of the Grand Campaign, end of 1863, and after their poor showing at Mellor's Ridge, the South was to attack across the Hope farm's fields, in an Outflanking scenario. I finally won the choice whether to attack or defend, first time in this campaign, and chose to defend this time, for no other reason than I attacked last time. Let the Reb's come!

I deployed first and was conscious that, given you set-up first, go second, the attacker has the initiative and always chooses whereto attack, which objectives to go for, to feint for, etc. For my part, in defence, I didn't want to be too static, the plan was for a more mobile set-up. I have 3 cavalry units on my roster so can afford to be. These would be more mobile infantry, starting all held in reserve and moving to reinforce as extra riflemen. My front line was bit weaker, as I kept 2 regiments back as infantry reinforcements and 1 artillery battery limbered too, to move to meet the biggest incoming threat. 2 batteries started deployed ready for the on-going and never resolved counter-battery artillery duel. For the first time all campaign I had more guns than the South.

In the centre, Hope's cornfield, I deployed back, out of LoS, but a short move for the recruits and the guns (prolonged) would bring them into LoS, but it meant the enemy guns couldn't target them until I rolled forward an inch, waiting for his attack closed in. On my right, the ground was good for me. I had woods (cover) to deploy in, fronted by a swamp to slow him down. My best, but small, eager-veteran unit went here and, on turn 1, dug-in. They'd take some shifting, and by then, my reserve cavalry would be in behind them to block the route to the objective.

On the 'refused' left, my second battery, my Ohio boys, the senior veteran regiment of the brigade and 1 cavalry unit were ready to move out and take the objective beyond my deployment zone. I couldn't let him have a clear march to that, but again, did I have the men to stop a major attack - probably not, but the limbered guns and, in extremis, the extra cavalry could be sent to help if dire need called and his entire force came that way.

He deployed, and the guns roared to the usual call of 'counter-battery fire'!

The Rebs tried to attack in various strengths in 3 places, nothing more than a feint on the left, not pressing hard, with only 1 small regiment against that objective, so hey, my cavalry could hold them and galloped of to do so. In the centre, his big unit, but all fresh-faced recruits, marched in and formed up into a firing line, only harassed by some skirmishing fire back from the woods, than did nothing. That situation looked dangerous, I had no units that size, so sent 2 smaller ones to the woods to stop him, including the reserve Zouaves committed in turn 1... at the double!

His main attack was on my right, through the swamp, which is an odd choice, but if you play cards, it doesn't slow you down. His now dismounted veteran cavalry waded into the water, along with his best veteran infantry, and my single 4 stand unit, behind their log barricades looked well out-matched. But they hung tough, volleyed away and, aided by a timely 'Like a Stone Wall' card, the defended log barricades and my Preacher, saw off the first Reb charge. They'd be back. My guns in the cornfield were pushed forwards  1 inch to open up with hails of canister fire on the Rebs in the swamp, and casualties started to mount fast. Still, my boys would need help soon, the spare cavalry to the rescue! As is, of course, required, just in time.

Actually they weren't required, because my veterans did well, before finally being thrown back from their barricades, but not wiped out. His attack stalled, aided by an 'Old Rivals' card. to much Southern cursing. On the left, his feint had petered out, my dismounted cavalry having seen the threat off with good skirmish fire, and in the centre, well, we traded fire through the woods, but his charge again failed to drive my boys back... a bad day at the office and some not great dice and cards cost him in this crucial melee. With that, and my artillery getting the upper hand in the counter-battery dual, 2 guns KO'd to 1, he retired. The Rebs pulled back to preserve their force rather than press what looked like a hopeless position any further. A solid win for the boys in blue... and now a head in the campaign too. Looking good ... 3 straight wins has seen my brigade commander race up the ranks. Next time, we move into 1964, with a Meeting Engagement, something to look forward to in February. The Reb's really need a win to raise morale.

A few snaps of the game in progress, and my current brigade roster, as it stands after this battle and it's campaign turn. This is so much fun!

Deployed, this i s my refused left, behind is Hope's cornfield in the centre, and the reserve cavalry in columns ready to move from the centre rear, left or right. 

The centre, my dedicated 'counter-battery' guns at the back(he had a hill for his guns, so LoS wasn't an issue, just trying to roll 6s was!), I out range some of his small howitzers, with reserve Zouaves. The front line is across the cornfield. 

 12th Maine Cavalry, off to secure the floating objective on the left. 

 His main attack, cavalry just dismounted, approaching the swamp... time to bet wet feet. 

The fight for the wood lot in the centre goes my way, his recruits were pushed back after their charge. Zouaves have joined the line and helped keep up skirmish fire through the trees.

12th Maine, now without their horses, hold the objective (marked by the camp fire). 

Lt General Dupont's brigade.

Monday 20 January 2020

Sunday Drivers - Gaslands

This about my 7-8th game of Gaslands now, this time, instead of a race, we when for a straight fight, Death-Valley arena, with 3 cars per side, 2 enemy destroyed wins you the dual.

It was fun, playing more like a dog-fight game, as we wheeled and turned to get our weapons lined up (except the few with turrets).  But, and maybe its just me, the core mechanics of Gaslands are starting to bug me a bit. One, you build up so many hazards early on, going up the gears, that its hard to do much manoeuvring when you get to speed, without just wiping out and having to start all over again. The more dice for handling you roll, the greater the risks of something going wrong, and that means the performance cars are handy-capped over the trucks, because the trucks are stable, 2 handling means you'll never gain many Hazard counters, and thus, never wipe out. This means that trucks, being slow, with lots of hits, can afford the luxury of pulling more, harder, turns than the faster cars. So, you performance sports car is good at going straight, but can't out manoeuvre a truck?  This has been growing on me in the last few games... our gun-trucks always do well... they are in the fight, lots of guns, lots of hits dished out and taken, ramming things, and never above 3rd gear... whilst the performance cars, and even normal cars for that matter struggle, gain loads of Hazards, and whilst in higher gears, just end up wiping out and going back to the start. It's a bit frustrating and a repetitive cycle... I'm not enjoying it that much.

The core mechanics, the handling dice roll, is good, but I feel need tweaks... I might give performance cars all a free 'Shift' for each manoeuvre... see how that works. The balance doesn't seem right, I'd rather use a slow, low handling heavy truck, which is tough to  kill,  won't wipe out and has lots of shots per turn from its many crew, than faster cars... the game rules lack for a feeling of speed... that speed and manoeuvre matter more than firepower (as in any good dog-fight game), its about getting into position... that's the fun of the game... not trundling around as stable gun platform. Its like a bomber being the best aircraft in a WWI dog-fight game... that would be odd. Surely its the fighters... speed, agility, that is at the heart of the game.

I'm pondering a few others fixes too... like banning trucks from hair-pin turns... so they don't out turn smaller vehicles.

Also, what are the rules for lasers?? Can't find them, and the special rule for weapons that are 'Electrical', did they get missed out? Plus, harpoons, they seem insanely accurate, never seen one miss. Its a sure fire hot ecah time.

Anyway, beyond these niggles... and maybe it is just my rule pedantry, our game ended in a draw. After a first pass and lots of skid turning, with all vehicles taking lots of damage, including his flamethrower dishing out extreme punishment - being 'on fire' is well, just terminal... a double ram, tail-gated, then head-to-head, resulted in my targeted gun-truck exploding, taking both rammers with it... end of game, 2 lost vehicle each, a draw then! Next time, I'm fixing my rules issues, to see if it helps the games overall feel.

 A close pass at speed. Enemy gun-truck rounding the central mesa. 

 The cars after the first head-to-head pass.

 Trying to get those MGs to bare. 

 In slow pursuit.

Crash - Bang! The final collision, destroying all three vehicles. Incoming is my performance car, a bit of let down, just can't really ever get going fast for long.

Saturday 18 January 2020

Nam '68 project

A project for 2020 is to develop a Vietnam war skirmish game, and to start with well you need something to play with. My first units are taking shape, here are just a few of them. The plan is to paint a US platoon and some light support, and a bunch of 3-man VC teams with various weapons, AKs, rifles, PPsH, etc... and then a few light support weapons for them too, an MG team, a sniper team, etc.

I have already completed 16 civilians, as I plan that they will feature in the game.

The game itself will be a low-level skirmish game, 'man with assault rifle vs man with assault rifle', with US fire teams (4-5 men) vs VC fire teams (always 3 men), jumping out of the bushes. Lots of ambushes, and US search patrols walking into trouble.

The initial idea is to set the game at 3 'threat levels'. Low threat game will only encounter minimal resistance, a few local guerillas (more like armed civilians) and maybe the occasional booby-trap. Medium threat games will encounter more enemy, from the VC Local Force (its militia), better armed and more determined. High threat level games will be more like full battles, against the VC National Force, with their best equipment and things like their own supporting fire (mortars). I'm planning on using a force generation system that means the US player can never be too sure exactly what he'll be facing today... so will it be a few snipers and a light mortar stonk, or a full VC National Force offensive? Should keep it exciting.

Work has started, I have a tonne of notes, and have already read a few Vietnam War books to get a better picture of the fighting. Rumour of War is excellent.

I don't see this being game involving lots of armour, the occasional tank might be available for the US player, or reinforcements might be available in an M113 APC or a Huey... but most of the work is on foot, patrolling, even for Airborne troops.

I really want the game to work as a campaign system as well... so a 12 month Tour of Duty through various threat levels and encounters, and see how your platoon survives. Some game might be a single squad, others include the full platoon in the midst of a full battle. Anyway... all idea atm... but the models have to come first.

 Fire Team 1

Fire Team 2

 VC opponents

 Specializing in hiding in the bushes...

Sunday 12 January 2020

Mellor’s Ridge, Longstreet campaign, Game 5

Mid-1863, with the Hill Top scenario, and, having lost the roll for Scouting, I (the Union) would be attacking. The Rebs would be on the high ground of Mellor’s Ridges, deployed to hold both objectives, strongest on their left (my right) with two veteran infantry regiments on the forwards slopes and cannons above on the hill top. He also had 2 cavalry units as his mobile reserve. These, especially the largest one of 7 stands, right in the centre rear, behind the ridge, were my first problem. Unable to touch them with my guns, any direct assault in force enough to carry the objective would bring that unit as reinforcements, either with a spoiling counter-charge to stall my attack, or as extra veteran dismounted infantry. Where ever I attacked would quickly get them, and shifting the infantry holding the objective would be hard enough work, the extra big cavalry unit would be too much. So, how to avoid this happening? How to remove his reserves and stop them holding those objectives.

My plan was to launch a strong enough distraction attack to get the reserves attention and draw them out of the main battle. Looking at the deployment, surveying the ground for the day’s assault, I decided his left was strong, and therefore would not be the main target, I’d go for the objective on my left instead, in force, and only demonstrate on the right. I’d use my cavalry for end-runs on both flanks (the joy of two cavalry regiments, the first time I’d ever had this option - well worth the painting time over Xmas to get the second regiment ready for action). The best unit would be on the extreme right, where undefended woods ‘blocked’ the route, but if you’re willing to pay the cost in action cards, woods don’t slow you down in Longstreet. I’d just pay, move my best cavalry, the 12th Maine, (Eager Veterans and Old Reliables!  – like the special forces of Union cavalry), in column, galloping at 20”  per turn, they'd be through the woods and behind the hill and its defenders in 3 moves. Just go-go-go, at full speed. With only his outflanked guns on the hill top objective, he’d have to use his reserves to answer that threat, or lose the objective to my sabres-out charge (once my cavalry had changed formation for action not fast movement).

To stop his infantry interfering here, I’d use my best infantry unit to distract them, advance through the Mellor’s Farm cornfields, use skirmish fire (they have Sharpshooters attached so are best for the job anyway) and keep his best infantry busy enough for the cavalry to do their thing behind. That way, his mobile reserve veteran cavalry would be his only option to respond.

With the plan for the right decided, I piled everything else into the left assault, 3 infantry regiments and my largest gun battery, which would first have to be towed up onto the high ground, but could then use their rifles across the shallow valley for counter-battery fire against his howitzers on that objectives. My accurate guns could win that dual.

I thought my 3 regiments, including my Zouaves, would have enough weight to overrun his blocking regiment and my second cavalry could get round the extreme left flank, meet his second, but far smaller, cavalry reserve at the charge, win, and be on the objective, winning me the game. Deployed, orders issued, all was set for the assault, and my heavy rifles opened up the day’s blood-shed at long range with counter-battery fire, long shots (literally), but out of range of his return fire. If your artillery out ranges the enemy’s, use that range, artillery officer’s 101. I can hit him, he can’t hit me.

Time to sound the bugles and go. Here are some photos of the action.

 My right, the ripe corn of Mellor's Farm, merely a demonstration attack here. 
Mellor's Ridge, before the Reb's arrived to secure it. 

 and here they are, two units of veterans in the cornfield on his left.

 My Ohio-boys moving up to engage them. Sharpshooters out, Hero (on horse) attached. 
It would be skirmish fire here unless we got close, and I had no intention of getting close.

All that is left of the New York Irish, 3 stands, up the lane into the farm, 
to help out the Ohio boys as best they can and try not to get involved in any volley firing. 

On my left, Reb guns on the hill top objective, infantry down on the slopes below. 
This was the priority target of my attack, win here and win the day.

 The Union main force deployed for that assault on my left, 
after the supporting guns got up to the high ground and deployed from their limbers.

 The big Reb veteran cavalry reserve. They could be anywhere he needed them, 
to charge or dismount and block my route to the objective. Wherever I attacked in force, 
they would be...

 His veterans dig-in to face the Union advance, giving them a defended obstacle, 
but they are badly outnumbered.  Zouaves into the teeth of their fire. More glory...

Supporting fire from rifles (and one Napoleon), target his artillery, and, when his small cavalry reserve rode up the hill to the crest, an accurate volley (good dice for once!) cut a swathe through them.

For Ohio! Little happening at Mellor's farm - good.

 In the centre, my Pennslyvania recruits swing round the woods and attack his Virginian recruits, 
and win, driving them back up the slope, and unexpected gain, but welcome.

Meanwhile, on the right, the 12th Maine Cavalry are round the back, formed into line, and advancing up the rear slope. Here, they charged his outflanked guns and overran them, before facing the counter-charge of his cavalry, which he had to commit to save the objective. The plan worked... my cavalry would be driven back, but with only light losses, but his cavalry were fully committed at the opposite end to the field to my main assault. Mission accomplished.

 The left assault, cavalry are round again, and my infantry have bayonets fixed. The following charge drove the Rebs back, out of their defended obstacle. 
The two guns (1 lost to counter-battery fire) turned to face the cavalry threat, but too late.

 Here they come, my cavalry swing round as his own unit moves up, gets hit by my cannon-fire and are then decimated by my charge. Only the guns to hold the objectives. The gunners tried to hang on, but with my infantry coming up the slope as well, the situation is hopeless.

How it played out. Cavalry end run via the woods on the right gets behind him, whilst the Ohio boys skirmish in the cornfields. On my left, the main assault sweeps round against his weakest point in the line. His cavalry advanced, but then had to go back to meet mine.

That's the bones of it. Longstreet again shining, the cards were kinder today and my assault went, largely, to plan. It was bit of crushing defeat for the Rebs, the survivors streaming away down the hill. So, the campaign is now 2 wins each with 1 draw, so close. But I'm ahead on 'Epic Points' (a terrible name for the abstract concept that is the campaign's 'victory points'. Why not just call it 'Glory'. Whoever wins more 'glory' wins the campaign in the end.

Today, the glory was for the blues. Next time, its late 1963, and the Rebs will want revenge for Mellor's Ridge.