Sunday, 17 September 2023

The Plains of Al Qa'lat, with Soldiers of God

This was a pick-up game, a one-off large field battle with 'Soldiers of God' rules. The terrain was randomly generated, and we got one piece, which was rocks - wow!. So a flat open plain, a few rocks, but nothing to impede either side's cavalry. The bare desert plains of Al Qa'lat.

The Crusaders had picked to 'Advance and Harry' as a battle plan, with his main strike force in the centre, Knights, Holy Order Knights and some supporting infantry (and armed monks). Their left was turocople horse archers, with foot archers and some armed peasants and a small catapult. It was largely deployed in skirmisher formation. Their right flank was men-at-arms, crossbows and a unit of dismounted knights (didn't spot them too late), a solid infantry block to hold the line here.

This would face my Saracens, having picked a left echelon attack plan. I had changed up my usual horse-archer heavy list and attack plan, using lots of skirmishers on the flanks to win the battle with archer, to go for a heavy cavalry attack from my left, four units of ghulam, led by the elite Al-Halqa guard cavalry and with single supporting unit of horse archers (that might try a sneaky flank ride). This was my strike force. The centre was a lot of infantry, nine units, ahdath levy screening out front (sacrificial), backed by better Sudanese mercenaries, mujahideen fanatics and the Al-Halqa infantry, with more cheap, poor infantry in support behind them. This would have to absorb the crusader's central attack, hopefully they had the depth to. My right flank was weak, archers and Arab tribal warriors, all skirmishing with javelins. They would hold and harass, take on those dangerous turcopoles in a missile duel. Still, I looked out-shot and out-manoeuvred, it would be tough here.

Deployment complete, my plan simple, smash in with the cavalry. Try to get his knights into the ‘swamp’ of my infantry and tie them up killing low value troops, whilst I hit hard and overrunning his right. After deployment, I slightly altered that, my Al-Halqa could easily intercept his Holy Order Knights, a mega-clash of elite heavy cavalry, which was my best chance of defeating these tough Christian fanatics. The cavalry would angle into the centre and go head to head - that would be epic. This would be the main point of attack, the other ghulam cavalry on the left would now by a diversion/holding force against his right, just stop them getting involved.

Time to go. ‘For Allah! Death to the Infidel’. Cards were dealt and the Saracens would play first.  

Both side's plans, and how it actually went, with some to-ing and fro-ing.

As the cards were played, the Crusaders made the first advances, the turcopoles charging forward at the gallop to get into range and start the archery duel. The centre also advanced. My right flank was instantly under pressure, as the turcopoles rode in, loosed and fell back – a strange reversal of usual form that (but turcopoles are very handy troops too often ignored by the crusaders). My mountain tribe infantry countered by rushing after them and unleashed a javelin volley. It had started, neither keen to get into melee, all being largely a bit rubbish at it.

This is the were the fight would be in the first turns, as my cavalry moved up and the crusaders largely stalled in the centre, lacking cards to get going. It wouldn’t be long until the fight was joined as my al-halqa cavalry closed in on the knights hospitaller.

They got the charge and battle was joined, and I swung another following ghulam unit round to come in from the flank, now the knightly order were pinned in the place, a gang-up of 3 unit against his 2 (the armed monks behind would support his knights, until, being mere levy, they panicked and broke on a 'levy panic'). Meanwhile, on my right, the incoming archery was hurting and had to rally, and expend cards to keep my archers in the fight. I couldn’t afford to go under quickly here, because the centre would need time to win their fight against the toughest opponents. On the far left, the ghulam moved up to threaten his static infantry, I wasn’t sure if I needed to charge in here, or just hold in place (out of crossbow range, obviously).

The melee between the big boys was even, I got a slight advantage, but a rally saw the hospitallers easily safe. It would require lots of work (and cards) here to force the win, or might just be a stalemate, in which case, I was in trouble.

Over the next turns, both sides inflicted some more pain, turcopoles routed an ahdath levy unit with a single volley and began peppering the Sudanese infantry behind. My archers returned fire and the after moving up, forced the horse archers to quickly withdraw back or risk being charged. The tribal infantry got another javelin volley in, but returning arrows broke one unit. I was losing on this flank.

No time to waste then, I had to get busy elsewhere. On the other far flank I decided to throw the ghulam in and they moved up and charged – what the hey, we came to fight. Things turned my way, inflicted a lot of damage on the crossbowmen and, with bad dice, the hospitallers were also in trouble. My al-hlaqa scored lots of hits and then won a challenge, slaying the order’s leader in single combat for 3 more disorder… and the hospitallers suddenly broke! Big swing, suddenly the crusader's centre was in trouble. But so was my right, as archers broke. In desperation I got a charge in with the last tribal warrior unit and they reached the turcopoles, holding them in melee would be one way of neutralising them. More archery broke my pin-cushioned Sudanese mercenaries as well, and the MV totals had plunged, with the crusaders now just in the lead, but by only 2 points.

The ghulam continued their onslaught, broke the crossbowmen, but found themselves stalled by arriving dismounted knights, who extracted revenge and broke one ghulam unit back. This was a side show, but an expensive one, because the enemy men-at-arms also broke... carnage. The centre saw his knights finally charge (after breaking another ahdath levy unit with their fearsome reputation alone), they’d been starved of the card they needed, but ran into my best infantry, the al-halqa infantry withstood it, and with a rally, held, now my numbers could be bought to bare. His knights were in deep trouble as my heavy cavalry closed on their flank as well. Next turn they would charge. My right had final buckled, my last archers fled leaving my brave tribal warriors struggling against turcopoles. In a lucky challenge (another one) they won it and the turcopoles, their leader cut down, fled as well.

The MV totals in the end phase were Saracens 1, Crusaders 2 left – so, so close. Next turn would be the last, who could do the most damage with the cards dealt?

The Saracens. The cavalry in the centre charged in, destroying his knights in a flank charge and a gory massacre, as well as mopping up some armed peasants, also caught in the flank and rolled up. The crusader centre had been wiped out, only the command stand remained. On my left I lost the last ghulam unit to the foot knights, a solid rock here that my attack had shattered on. And that was about it. Crusader's MV had been reduced from a starting 26 to -12. Saracens from a starting 29 to -4. What a fight? Both sides throwing everything at it, and its was close all the way through. Both executed their plan and had the other under severe pressure… but in the end, losing the entire centre, after the sudden collapse of the hospitallers turned it - you don’t win many battles if your centre is destroyed.

Great fun, 4.5 hours of a real blast, so many tough calls on card plays… I really enjoy that, when 1 card is useful in 3 ways and you are really on the spot. A memorable game.

Saracen cavalry strike force of ghulam and al-halqa cavalry, horse archers lurking at the back, out of shot, hoping for a gap to ride through, or a sneaky flank ride.

The turcopole horse archers close in and trade shots, as the Arab tribal infantry respond and rush up to launch javelins back.

Knights stall in front of the ahdath levy screen, but without a charge card, they use their fearsome reputation instead to break the panicking levy. Run-away!

The al-halqa cavalry close in on their target, and arch-nemesis, the holy order knights (and supporting armed monks).

Horse archers tried to rush through a gap (for the crusader's baggage train), but got intercept by their allied Armenian infantry, and that stalled them for the rest of the game.

Ghulam close in on the Crusader right, levelling lances and with the handy charge card to plow into those crossbowmen and break them.

The turcopoles are countered by the Arab tribes and also pinned in a melee. Behind, the archers continue to pepper the melee with arrows, bad for both sides.

Charge! The clash of the heavy weights beings in the centre.
Only the dismounted knights are left standing on the Crusader right, a empty space were my ghulam once were.

The centre, and the hospitallers have broken, the Saracen cavalry begin to roll up those left.

Still, by Allah's will, battling it out, having beaten the turcopoles, only the command stand left to kill.

The end in the centre as it is destroyed, the knights flanked by the al-halqa and massacred.
Glory to Allah today!

Saturday, 29 July 2023

French Army project, for Soldiers of Napoleon

I began the large project of painting a French Napoleonic army in August ’22, so a year on, I thought I should record my progress. It has taken up 90% of my painting time for 12 months.

I’ve been working to a plan, a unit a month (I’ve actually managed to go a bit faster), working on 2 months of infantry battalions, broken by a month of cavalry or artillery. As I worked on each unit, I usually added a little extra ‘thing’ too, like a command stand, or a hero model, or a limber, etc. So far, I have four brigades, either done or in progress. These are: the main, large, French infantry brigade, of 6 battalions (2 regiments) and 2 line gun batteries, with an allied brigade of Wurttembergers to break-up the repetition of all those French. There is a light cavalry brigade of hussars and chasseurs with a horse battery, and a reserve dragoon brigade of 2 regiments.

I have enough to play a game (of medium sized), but I’m not done yet. The plan is to finish the Wurttembergers with a third line battalion and some of their own artillery. The light cavalry will get their third regiment to reach maximum size, not sure what yet, but most likely some Wurttemberg light cavalry as extra chasseurs. Perhaps the third dragoon regiment, or another 2 French infantry battalions so the big brigade can be split into two smaller, but still effective, ones of four battalions each. I also need a few ammo caissons, a supply wagon and another limber as nice extras, and aim to be done by the end of the year. No rest yet...

But, as it stands, time to get a first actually game in with them… which is an invitation to a hefty defeat if the 'first game' syndrome is true… but we’ll see, soon the Grande Armee will march.

Most of the models are Front Rank via Gripping Beast, much thanks to them for keeping the supply lines flowing, and a few Victrix too, picked up on a whim. 

Leger regiment, 3 battalions and voltiguers, plus a line artillery battery

Voltiguers stands

1st battalion with the regimental tricolour

Third battalion, with red fannion

Line artillery battery

The 'Ligne' regiment

Second battalion with white fannion, brigade command stand, dismounted (for a a change).

First battalion, hero officer and voltiguers

Line 9 pdrs (Ok 8 pdr, typo).

Wurttemberg infantry brigade (WIP), 2 line and 1 light battalion so far, oh, plus a jaeger detachment.

A few German green jackets with rifles... von Sharpe.

The Wurttemberg light battalion

The line battalions, a third one is required, and some guns

The boss, and skirmishers stands, all battalions have their skirmishers to deploy.

Light cavalry and horse battery, hussars and chasseurs

Horse battery, artillery hussars

Brigade command stand, in fancy uniforms

Hussars (6th) and chasseurs, with 1 regiment still to add.

The dragoon brigade

Bit of cavalry hitting power...

The brigade's boss

L'Empereur and aides (and Marengo). Army-level command stand.

General de Division, a few hero models to add in if required.

Wednesday, 26 July 2023

Battle of Luzhkova, tester for Battlegroup: Bagration

This 800 point battlegroup game, a tester for the Battlegroup:Bagration army lists, was a randomly generated ‘recce screen’ scenario, so a meeting engagement between my panzer forces and a Russian rifle division list. I imagine sometime around June 24-25th as the Russian burst through the front line defences during Operation Bagration and the Germans sent fire-fighting panzer forces to try and stem the tide… not with much success. My force would be one such, try to stop up a gap at the village of Luzhkova (somewhere west of Vitebsk maybe?).

My force was fairly bland, a Panzer IV platoon (all 5 present) and motorised panzer grenadier platoon upgraded to veterans, off-table mortars support from 120mm tubes, and added extras, a 234/1 armoured car, 250/1 recce team, FHQ in 251/3, a Grille, an AA 251/1, a FAMO, a counter battery fire mission, etc. Total BR 48.

The reds came en-masse, a full infantry company (3 platoons) with a bit of support from an infantry gun, light mortar team, Maxim MG team. A battery of 3 SU-76s. A battery of 2 SU-152s. An on-table battery of 3 120mm mortars, comms truck, 3 horse-drawn supply wagons, a cavalry recce squad, sniper and 3 sapper squads in trucks. A lot of infantry… phew! Total BR 53.

We sorted timed barrages (one timed IL-2 air-strike by the Reds), ammo’d up and the German panzer force rolled for a ‘hinderance’, something that was an issue in their rapid ‘fire-fighter’ deployment. I got poor comms, meaning gaining the Communications Breakdown special rule for the game (and with no forward comms unit for me, so my 120mm mortars now need a 4+ comms test, not 3+).

We then rolled 6 turns for the scout phase and spent it not doing much, a few mortar rounds went down range (one killed a Russian sniper), my 234/1 probed to the bridge and found Russian cavalry lurking and tried to engage them to steal back the objective (marked by a T34/85 wreck), but got pinned by return fire at close range. We skipped quickly through this, neither doing much and got to the first arrivals from reserve. Here they come…

The Russians arrived, running or riding SU-76s and first made for the swamps and woods on their left. pressing here first and meeting the 234/1 (now unpinned ) and my first Panzer IV waiting on ambush fire. They would continue to build-up in the trees and bring a SU-152 over too. Meanwhile, their 120mm battery got set up in the corner as spotters got forward. They opened fire with the cavalry recce team spotting and nailed my first truck, sending the passengers scattering into the cornfield, pinned. That battery would start to hurt, firing 6 dice each turn. I need to slow it down and targeted it with my own mortars, a long spot from my recce team hiding in the farmhouse. They got through and scored 1 pin, not enough, but something. Of course, those mortars would become very unreliable due to my comms issues, so the Russian mortars would win that battle, my counter-battery fire didn’t do much (and never 1 direct hit!).

My troops rolled in, panzers and trucks trying to get forward quick, and weather more mortars fire, causing pins and then a mine strike, which destroyed a Panzer IV… this had not started well! The counters had already added up for: out-scouted, 2 objectives claimed, unpinning and a KO’d truck and tank, with not one less than a 3, and too many 4s. So far, the Russians had just 2 counters and 1 of them was a mine strike - grrr!

Anyway, you can come back, and hopefully I would, once the panzers got busy. Then, a new disaster, 120mm mortar shells (again) scored a direct hit on my just dismounted FHQ, in the orchard by the village, getting in place to spot for some Grille fire. Kaboom! Wiped out, 2 more counters and I lost my Grille’s only spotter. It would be close support now then. The village was hit by a requested arty strike from 122mm guns (counter battery failed) and a IL-2 Sturmovik dropped its bombs, only to kill my sniper with a direct hit, good grief! Can you tell where this is going?

Anyway, luck can change… but it didn’t. I then rolled terrible for orders, getting 6, 5 and 4 total in three consecutive turns and so the reds rolled in and I struggled to do much, my lead panzer IV did nail a SU-76  in the woods - woot!.

A little flanking force of an SU-76, SU-152 and engineers made for the outlying farm, the third objective, and I had to send an infantry squad to hold it, or the enemy would have all three. MGs deployed, they held the farm but also got pinned. Thankfully his SU-152 fired and missed. Return fire missed it too, but it retreated to re-arm.

All in all, the red tide was rising fast… a fresh infantry platoon had reached the church and swarmed down the swampy gully, into waiting MG and rifle fire which did some pinning, but it was 1 squad vs a full platoon with Maxim support. The squad and MG team were lost trying to stop-up that gully, but they did damage in doing so. Not enough though.  

When the second SU-152 appeared in the woods near the church, my Panzer IVs shots glanced off and its return fire smashed the panzer to smoking ruin… that was enough, my BR total had raced up to 49 and my battlegroup, mauled, was pulling back. Luzhkova was soon in Russian-hands, In all, with unpinning and some small damage, the Russian BR total was just 17… so a round hammering for the panzers here. Minsk here we come! The red steam roller rolls on.  

Meet near the church? The Russian infantry moved up through the swamps and trees, with a little flanking attack at the farm, an objective.

Center of the table, the little church on the hill.

Luzhkova, before the storm

First recce moves out up the lane, heading to the bridge.

and finds enemy cavalry holding here, a short ranged fight saw the 234/1 pinned. When unpinned, its fire broke the cavalry and they ran.

Bane of the Germans today (and most days), 120mm mortar battery, far table corner.

Rifle platoon moves up into the woods and swamps, SU-76 for support.

Deploying at the village, AA cover and commanders half-track by the orchard, bad place to stand...

Mine strike... great! Things will get better...

Arty support, only picked because the model has been in 1 game ever. I see why. Cute though.

234/1 pulls back and aid the Panzer IVs which stands guard up by the church.

SU-76 comes forward to take a few shots, most HE to pin. Return AP round found its mark. Small victories hey?

No spotter for the Grille, it rolled up to fire its 150mm shells into the woods.
Panzers move up past Luzhkova and the burning wreck of the first squad's truck, hit by... guess what... 120mm mortar fire.

SU-152 and engineers moving up too.

Rec infantry back at the objective.

On station, on ambush fire. lead Panzer IV near the church fights a lonely battle, only the 234/1 for company.

Sturmovik arrives (oh yeah, the Russian got a air attack too!). AA fire pinned it though. But, it'll be back.

Famo tries to fix the Panzer IV after the mine strike. No dice (well no dice rolling a 6).

SU-152 in the centre, targets the farm, but misses.

No worries, lots of ammo back with the arriving wagons.

Last Panzer IV finally rolls in, too late to do much.

Fight for the swampy gully. Overwhelmed.

It's back, rockets away, and missing, with all 8!

SU pulls back to find a ammo wagon.

Face-off, panzer vs SU-152, traded shots, it won!

Time to quit Luzhkova... with anything still rolling.

Russian take the little church on the hill.