Monday 27 February 2023

Sanguis Arvum, Britannia, AD46 – with Soldiers of Rome

A big, one-off, pitched battle using 'Soldiers of Rome' as my legion faced the ever-troublesome Britons. There were a lot of Celts, thousands of them…a hairy, half-naked, horde.  

After some thought and one selected army list and a defensive battle plan that was ditch in favour a simple one. I would play to the Roman strength in heavy infantry, to grind it out, go on the ‘all-out attack’, with 10 (all we have) Legionary Cohorts, deployed 3 on both flanks and 4 in the centre, supported by small units of auxiliary archers and blocks of spearmen, either flank would have a cavalry squadron to guard it and try to quick engage skirmishers, who have a tendency to run away faster than the cohorts can advance. That was it, led by my Legate, Minimus Decimus Meridius, their feted commander. So, go forwards, as fast as heavy infantry can, march and charge, and get into them as quickly as possible. I was expecting a lot skirmishers, slings and archers etc, and so, being engaged in melee would be the best defence. So the order was simple, drive forwards and kill anything ahead, no prisoners…

The Britons plan was to harry both flanks, with many slingers backed by warriors and, on their left, fanatics. Their centre was their strike force, allied mounted nobles with chariots, lot of them in support and more warriors with dismounted nobles too. It filled the table edge in a mob of Celts, and was led by their fearless queen, chariot-mounted, red-hair flowing, a chosen champion of the Gods. She had to die – bring me her red-haired head!

The first turns saw both sides advancing towards the centre of the tabletop, on the Celt’s right, their horde of stone-throwing slingers unleashed volleys and the first Disorder began to build, but Roman armour can resist stones. In response, the auxiliary cavalry did their job and, at the gallop, spurred in (no spurs actually, I know) and charged some slinger-youths, routing them. Worth it, but the accurate returning stones and arrows from the village overwhelmed the cavalry and they couldn’t be rallied and saved and also broke. But, they had bought some respite from the hail as the legion cohorts crawled forwards. The Celts in the centre seemed less keen to get to grips, as the Roman line of steel approached. Their leading cavalry paused. On the Roman right, the advance also saw the other auxiliary cavalry have to deal with some scary dogs… javelins at close range eventually did for that annoyance, but again, the slingers took their toll on the cavalry and they had to rally. Over here, the marshy ground was impeding both sides advances.

The big clash in the centre was approaching, whilst on the left the Celts, having rushed forwards, now fell back into the village, behind more arrows and sling stones. Then, with an ‘impetuous cavalry charge’, played by the Romans, the Celt’s chieftain cavalry charged… into the veteran praetorians, too eager. Now, the big fight in the centre was on. In melee now, the Celts decided to go for it and rushed their chariots up in support as the other allied cavalry charged in too. Suddenly, javelins and pilum flew and both side’s gathered Disorder down the line. Furious spending of action cards followed, as the Celts rallied to fight again. The Romans, cohorts like immovable objectives, started the grind – rotate those front ranks, step-on, stab, step-on, stab. Could the best the Celts had hold the cohorts? Tbf, they had a damn good try and forced an important Rally on the centre, but the discipline was good, and the cohorts held the initial impact. That was ominous, because in a long melee grind, the cohorts really excel.

Break for lunch, tea and bacon butty, and the Celts were, it was agreed, looking in some trouble. The Romans were on the attack and had seen off the worst of his skirmishers without too may losses. The cohorts were either in a melee, or close to it. The Celt's Disorder was building fast. The afternoon’s play would see the true carnage though.

It did, as all along the line the Romans were fully engaged in melee, left, centre and right were spending cards to rally, charge, melee, loose (often into the melees by the Celt slingers and my own archers behind). It was no holds barred for a few turns. Crisis’ came and went. The Celts brave chieftain cavalry finally broke, leaving the chariots to fight on, but in the Roman centre two of four cohorts also broke in the mayhem, a big dent in Roman morale. It was close and the Celts, from looking in trouble at lunch, had clawed it back. Heavy use of Fear cards had helped them, a strong suit for the barbarians.

But Roman steel is tough… and the veteran cohort on the left was holding against his mercenary warriors, more warriors in support and a flank charge by slingers. Almost surrounded, they held on. The chariots were now losing in the centre and soon, they broke too, but not before his leader had seen a chance at glory and charged my Legate, leaving them in one-to-one combat. Neither side wanted to lose that fight, it would be costly, and so cards were expended to stay in it. She hit me, I hit her, and then both rallied it off. Why won’t she die? On the right, my cohorts were mired in the marsh, fighting naked men, and not doing too well. But, the handy auxiliary spearmen, having already dispatched more dogs, got into the flank of the Celts and turned the fight my way, when the fanatics died, in a bloody massacre, the writing was on the wall. The Celts were very close to breaking. Except, so were the Romans because, using her 'fearsome reputation', the Celt’s queen scared off my Legate! What? … he ran-off!  So much for the ‘feted leader’, his loss was costly in MV, leaving the Celts with 2 MV left, and the Romans with just 4. It would be a tense last turn then.

That turn was, by good fortune on the cards and dice, for the Romans – Mars was with us. The cohorts did their gladius-work, and broke more of his warriors. It had been very close, but it ended with the Celts fleeing and Romans with just 2 MV left, a narrow win. But bought at a cost, we had lost our feted commander… and three cohorts had been broken (along with some less important auxiliaries). What a fight… I was exhausted… the Celts had fought tooth and nail and pushed my Legion to the brink of defeat, but in the end – Roma Victor! (just). We can add this little part of Britannia to the empire.

Shots of the action… 

The bloody field, the Celts have their village and crop fields, Romans coming to get them.

The mob in the village, slingers, archers, warriors and armed civilians.

Celt's centre, a fast moving strike force of mounted chieftains and chariot support.

Celt's right, more slingers and fanatics, with more chariots, they love a chariot...
Roman right and centre, cohorts backed by small units of archers, for supporting fire, even into melee.

Far left, cohort with cavalry support, to chase off the skirmishers, who run away faster than the cohort advances.

Far right, same as the left.

Roman advance begins and the cavalry, having already seen off some slingers, take the brunt of the incoming shooting.

The hairy horde on the Celt's left wade into the marsh - they ain't got no clothes to get wet anyway. 

Slingers, caught by the Roman advance and massacred... a good start, lots to go though.

Steel wall in the Roman centre, rumbles forwards, a steady advance, no gaps...

Approaching the village as the Celts fall back (run-off).

The centre all kicks-off, after a rash cavalry charge. One in, all in...

Auxiliary cavalry javelin dogs to death, they are very annoying, scaring the horses.

The Roman right about to engage, just one more charge card required.

Charge! The spearmen deal with more dogs, before getting into the exposed flank.

Your small wattle fence won't save you...

Big melees in the centre, both with 'Charge!' cards behind them, so the fighting is fast and furious. Four cohorts engaged and spearmen in support. 

Struggling in the marsh, this cohort would eventual be broken by the fanatics crazy attacks.

My Legate makes the rash decision to get stuck in...

And finds himself in one-to-one combat with the Celt's queen (on her chariot of course).

The centre's work is almost done – enemy cavalry, dead. Enemy chariots, dead. Now on to these guys, more tribal chieftains, and their noisy horns. 

The Celtic queen's 'Fear' card sees my legate run... but it's not quiet enough to win the day. Behind, Praetorians still at it, archers lending support, but the Celt's centre is largely gone.

Tuesday 14 February 2023

The Horns of Hammad, 1179 - with Soldiers of God

This would be a large field battle, over the twin rugged desert hills, the ‘Horns of Hammad’, as the Saracens troops of the Ayyubid Caliphate lined up against the muster of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Having selected our forces, both had gone for similar battle plans. The Saracens would 'Hold and Harass', with twin flanks of horse archers whilst the centre held the line, backed by archers, ghulam and ballista. The Crusaders would 'Harry and Harass', matching the mobile flanks with their own turcopoles horse archers on their right and skirmishing archers, with crossbowmen, war engines and men-at-arms on the left to repel the horse archer waves. Their centre was their strike force, two units of knights and a third of the Holy Order of the Hospital of St John. Once all were deployed, it looked like an even fight. The Marshal of Jerusalem was wary enough not to have weak flanks against the horse archer threat and to have plenty to shoot back with, both flanks would likely be fierce archery duels. In the centre, well the Saracen’s line of levy infantry screened their own archers and ghulam (all bow-armed). The heavy cavalry would charge and try to break them, a simple battle plan really, go hard and fast with the heavies straight up the centre whilst the flanks hold back the enemy light cavalry. Mine was the opposite, attack hard on both flanks, whilst the centre holds on and tries to shoots those knights to ruin. Let the bloodshed commence…

Saracen right flank, horse archers in open order, reserve ghulam behind.

The lines in the centre, archers and dismounted ghulam behind a levy screen of 'expendables'. Mounted ghulam wait at the rear again. Each 'battle' had one of these units, a alst reserve to counter-attack. 

Horse archers on the left, with arab light cavalry behind. I thought I might send these on a flank march, but never got the card. Instead, they joined the horse archer' advance.

Crusader right, skirmishing archer lines to match the horse archers and crossbowmen.
Meet fire with fire...


And it did, from the first card play the knights advanced, and the horse archers on my left set out at a gallop for the enemy lines, eager to get the arrow storm underway. The knights followed with a fierce charge and clashed, at a gallop themselves, into the unit of horse archers, lances levelled. By fortune, I had a Skirmishers Move card and those horse archers immediately wheeled away from the melee and retreated, to then regroup and avoid being destroyed in the first clash. They’d recover and continue to harass those knights with arrows for turns to come. A lucky early escape.

On the left, the Crusader’s turcopoles also advanced and loosed the first arrow volley, and so it started, my horse archers returned fire and Disruption began to mount, but as yet neither side routed. This would a close, tit-for-tat exchange.

On the opposite end, with cards in demand elsewhere, the crusader’s skirmish archer line advanced, but the horse archers didn’t respond, they’d wait to counter when the cards suited them better. No messing around in turn 1 then. One unit knights was already almost upon my line, the others following on across the central valley’s floor.

Turn 2 continued it, the knights advanced again, closing in, moving faster in open order but they held onto a Manoeuvre card (from turn 1) for use later, when the charge card turned up, they’d be able to close-up and quickly spur-in. My archery was largely ineffective in the centre and, on the right, the turcopoles had a great turn, hammering my horse archers before withdrawing, and causing me to have to Rally them. Hmmm… my horse archers where getting their own medicine here, and losing so far. Still, rallied, they’d stand and behind them the supporting ghulam moved up, they’d charge if the card came up and see off the turcopoles with lance and scimitar. I had the that option, but the turcopoles didn’t.

Turn 3 saw the knights charge (they got the card), and all three units smashed into the front rank of my infantry line, an expendable screen of ahdath levy that would die, and I had no qualms about loosing all my archers into those melees as well. The ahdath just had to hold, a turn or two (all they can do really), and let me get more shots in. It would have worked if my archers could hit anything, a hail of short range arrows resulted in more damage to my units that to the enemy. 

Horse archer duel about to commence as the turcopoles advance to meet them.

Knights close in on the centre's front line.

Bit of skirmishing archery, back and forth on my right. 

Combat all along the centre's front, as the levy infantry take a beating.


On the right the horse archer duel continued and we traded shots, but a extra Loose card gave the turcopoles the edge and I had to expend a few cards to prevent losing a unit, and then a deserters card saw 1 stand flee anyway. Still, my counter-attack, of ghulam and supporting tribal arabs cavalry was in place, and I held a Charge card in hand. If I could get a March card, I could storm forwards, through the horse archers, and slam into line at full gallop. My plan was to destroy this flank, it was his weakest and I had the edge in troops (if not the rolls and cards, so far). If the centre held, I could win it here.

The left remained quite, a few skirmishing archers shots was all, so far I hadn’t committed to the advance. It would come, and the horse archers would inflict heavy damage on those pesky archers in return. But it is hard to be busy with all three ‘battles’ across the table, cards get sucked up elsewhere. Still, that is the ebb and flow of the battle, quiet here whilst all hell was breaking loose in the centre and on the left.

That centre was creaking, the knights keeping up the slaughter of levy, breaking one unit, the first lost so far. In return, a levy panic card saw the crusader’s armed pilgrims flee without a shot being fired at them… best try a pilgrimage to somewhere else. I send my ghulam storming forwards, but found his turcopoles quickly pulling back after another flurry of arrows, then another (he had an extra Advance, Loose and Retire card, and it hurt). My ghulam were shot to destruction, dying in a bloody massacre under the arrow storm. Arghh, best laid plans and all that… but that meant I wouldn’t win a melee battle so I had to out shoot him. This I did, the last play being my horse archers ripped off volleys into his turcopoles and two units broke as the laws of probability snapped back into place and they failed most of his resolves tests. The flank was in big trouble, only 1 unit left (and the command stand). Kill them, kill them all!

Whist his flank had cracked and could only now try and retreat and fight a last stand action, beset by horse archers and javelin throwing Arabs, his knights carved blood ruin into the centre, my ahdath were all routed and he had another Charge card (no!) in hand. The knights slammed into my line of archers next, they would not stand long. Only the ghulam , still shooting into the melees would be left. It was a race, flank against centre.

Except, now I launched the right flank forwards, time to give the crusaders new problems and extra pressure on their cards. In another missile duel his archer-skirmishers broke and fled as the horse archers pressed into range. Behind them, their own supporting ghulam turned and moved back towards the centre, they be needed as a emergency reinforcements. If only I got the cards to move them quickly enough. I didn’t, and they didn’t manage to intervene, but the threat was enough to turn some of his knights to face them, after breaking the archers and killing the centre’s command stand as well.

By now the victory points had really added up and, I was just 2 points from breaking. In return, the crusaders were also 2 points from breaking. It was close, so very close. This would the last turn surely. We dealt cards and pondered our options hard.

As it played out, more shooting on the right left his crossbowmen about to break, by 1 point and they could be saved by expending a card, but that card was a Challenge, that could allow the knights to break the dismounted ghulam in the centre. Was the loss worth the gain? A tight call again, given that his flanks command stand was also being defeated in combat, and could go out in the blaze of glory, taking the Arab cavalry with them. In the end, the knights issues a challenge, boldly going for the win in heroic 1-to-1 combat (saving the crossbowmen would have made it a draw, we worked it out). The knights then lost the final challenge as the ghulam champion rolled a lucky 6, and the extra Disruption broke the knights instead, a freakish result.  That left the VPs total heavily in the Saracen’s favour, my force broken by 1 point, the Crusaders by 10… but the plaudits are for going for it and not taking the safe option of a draw for chance to win it. Very tight, tension on those dice rolls, a great game, so close to the end and the cards made for hard tactical choices through-out.  I real fun wargame, hard fought down to the very last dice roll. 

The levy hang on, whilst being mercilessly shot by their own side.

The flank light cavalry swarms about to meet, who could out shoot the other?
The crusader army is capable of matching horse archer firepower with their own, if they include these often over-looked troops.

Dismounted ghulam's turn to hold the knights for a few turns, and die trying.

The crusader's right is turned, at a cost, but very costly in VPs.

The Arab cavalry finish off the crusaders right flank command stand.
The last reserve of the centre, ghulam about to face the relentless charge.
The old foes fight it out, with not much left in the Saracen's centre, slaughtered,
but expended to buy the victory.

Friday 10 February 2023

Barbarossa to Berlin - Game 6 with BG Fall of the Reich - Roadblock on FreidhoffstraBe

The final engagement of our series of Ostfront games – game 6 in 1945 would be an Attack/Defence, with the Germans defending, naturally. The random scenario rolled was ‘End of the Rat Race’, with the Germans as the roadblock force across FreidhoffstraBe, en route to Berlin. They started dug-in behind their road block (at the farm), with panzer reinforcements due. There were just 2 objectives, one at the farmhouse, the other where the road exited the German table edge. They held both to start with.

Here's the Russian force:

Rifle Company    188    16-i    
(3 x platoons + Company HQ)    

SU-76M Battery    75    6-r    

SU-100 Battery    156    6-r    

ISU-152 Battery    145    6-r

2 x 82mm mortars    44    2-i

PRTP            10    0

2 supply trucks    16    1-i

Repair truck        12    2-i

Total            646    39 BR,    7 officers

The Russian would start in column on the road and move on from the road (or just either side of it). The first vehicles were deployed lined up one behind the other, led by  ISU-152s  (I figured these had the best chance of surviving the first ambush shots).

The first turns saw the Russian arriving in good numbers, but with so much foot-slogging infantry (a full company), it would take time to get into the thick of the action (even using Ura! rule). The initial trading of long range fire didn’t do much damage, a timed 80mm mortar strike pinned a few of my squads and the SU-100 tank killers move left to the wood, to await targets. The first of these to arrive was a King Tiger, and both traded missed shots at maximum range.

With little in the way of IDF (two on-table 82mm mortars), I as relying on my SU-76s and ISU-152s for direct suppressing HE fire for my infantry, but these soon started to run low on ammo, notably did the ISU-152s (ammo 2!). The resupply trucks, two of them, got busy, and would be heavily overworked all game, I needed three really.

The infantry moved up, under suppressing HE fire from a dug-in 105mm howitzer and 75mm infantry gun, which caused regular pinning, and I was taking counter to unpin early. First success was getting the German infantry in the farmhouse pinned down by SU-76s fire and get moving up to assault the house and wipe-out the squad in it, thus taking a objective too.

Still, the Germans had had the better of the first turns, 6 counters to just 3…

But the red horde was large, and I rolled well for command and control, so it was coming fast. The German reinforcements were desperately needed and these fed into the large house (call it the hotel) in their corner and got their MGs onto ambush fire to with. Also, a Panther rolled in, which the waiting SU-100 missed, only for return fire to hit and destroy it… damn! But no worry, a repair heavy truck was on the way to try and fix it. Taking the counter, it was an Air Attack, and it arrived, a bomb-armed IL-2 buzzed down and, immediately got driven-off in hail of 20mm flak fire, and damaged. The pilot would circle around for another run at it. When he did, the same happened (good flak gunners) and damaged it again, it was getting shot to bits… but I’d defo risk a third run though, which then managed to pin the King Tiger before the IL-2, out of bombs, headed home full of holes, before being shot-down.

The main attack, up my centre/right with 3 infantry platoons pressed on (Ura!). Around the farm and towards the farm lane. MG fire and DPs traded shots and casualties mounted for the Russians. The tank fight saw the Tiger score its first hit (it had to come) and brew-up an ISU-152, even at long range. Then the Panther scored another kill on an SU-76… I was losing that fight as my SU-100 emptied its ammo bins to score zero hits… the resupply truck head off across the field, under incoming HE fire to re-bomb it. The repair truck was also at work, but failed to fix the SU-100 three times and so gave it up as a right-off.

A third German tank had arrived from reserve, along the road it came, a mighty Panzer I (dragged from a  training depot, no doubt). It survived mortar fire to machine gun more of my infantry… obviously machine guns are never obsolete.

After all the hard fighting, my counter stack had grown rather, but the Germans were worried, the hotel was under a lot of fire (including my mortars now) and only weakly held by MG teams and the Forward HQ. The 105mm howitzer crew broke and ran under small arms fire and 75mm infantry gun was destroyed by a SU-76s HE shot that totalled the gun behind its wall. But the Il-2 leaving left the flak gun free to lower its sights and blaze away across the fields at the infantry. I lost 2 squads here to the combined MG fire and those counters put me close to breaking. How could I inflict maximum damage? Well, with infantry now facing the Panzer I and the King Tiger which had joined it (put was pinned by 152mm HE fire from the last ISU), it was tough. My SU’s were reloading and so I had little HE support. Mortar fire did wipe-out a 50mm mortar team in its foxhole, but with just 1 counter inflicted the Germans were well in the lead.

Their last turn of firing saw another infantry squad, holding the farm house, wiped out by MGs (that damned Pz I!), and that chit was it for the Russians. Broken, we’d pull back from FreidhoffstaBe and shell into next month before trying again… a solid win for the defenders, their tanks were tough and my sniping SU-100s had failed to hit even one of them (one job to do!)… the Germans were still 9 BR from breaking, so 3-4 counters on average, so a solid win.

That concludes this little sequence of Ost-front gaming, the Germans with a 4-2 result, but all had been excellent games and fun to get different models out and use them. We might do it again, but from Omaha to the Ruhr, or in the desert, from Tobruk to Tunis maybe. 

Russian moves in red, German positions blocking FriedhoffstraBe, in blue.

Russian columns deploys along the road, with tank riding first platoon.

Volkssturm dug-in across the fields, soon to be aided by the King Tiger.

105mm gun in gun-pit, effective HE pinning, notably against the Sukas. behind the stone wall, a 75mm infantry gun adds to the HE fire.

Next wave of Russian vehicles arrive, the SU-76s. Ahead, 80mm mortar shells rains in, in a timed strike.
SU-100 gets round the copse and lines up the King Tiger, hunting big game.

Call up the resupply truck, first of many re-arming jobs today.

Infantry move up to assault the farm house.

Tiger needs re-arming too... horse and wagon resupply... old school.

IL-2 arrives, hurrah! Into a storm of accurate 20mm flak though.

Two infantry platoons lead the way up and then past the farm house, heavy HE support from the ISU's, when not reloading. The burning BA-64 is terrain... part of the scenario.

Panther joins the fray, and first shot, nails the distant SU-100.

Infantry briefly pause from running across the fields, at the hedge, before making the next bound.

Repair heavy truck gets to the smoking SU-100, but the 6s needed to fix it alluded me... of course!

Two mortar teams lurk at the back as the rest of the attack presses on, with HE fire whistling overhead, in both directions.

The lead infantry platoon reach the pond, and take-out an auxiliary kreigsmarine squad dug-in by the lane. They had already pinned themselves.

SU-76s in need of more HE shells.

Unharmed Volkssturm (and pinned sniper), as the Pz I clanks up the road, proving itself still useful.