Saturday, 18 February 2017

Battle of Wijnendale 1708 - Beneath the Lilly Banners

Chas took us back in time to his youth in Queen Anne's army, running a recreation of the battle of
Wijnendale, to the excellent "Beneath the Lily Banners - 2nd Edition" rules.

League of Augsburg - Beneath the Lilly Banners

In 1708 Marlborough had the city of Lille under siege. He relied on supplies being brought up from the port of Ostend to his siege lines by cart.

A convoy of seven-hundred wagons was en-route with a strong guard of 7500 men, when the screen of dragoons spotted a French army over 20,000 strong marching across open country towards the road. The one hundred and fifty British dragoons aggressively harassed the French, forcing them to deploy. This allowed the convoy guard to form up in three lines between two large woods, in the open fields flanking the road. More infantry was deployed in the woods on either side of the Allied line. The scene was set for the start of our scenario, with the French coming on in force towards the Allied lines, which stood between them and the vital convoy.

Chas and Steve M took the French (boo !), whilst myself and "Lucky" Andy commanded the Allied contingent.

The French gun line fired a volley, before the infantry masked their fire. The first casualties fell on
some luckless Dutch infantry. The French infantry stepped forward, leaving their cavalry on the flanks and rapidly fell to "first fire" from the steady allied ranks. Several French units retired, causing
discomfort and disorder to the successive lines behind them.The next French line re-ordered and
stepped up to take fire, but now the casualties were starting to mount in the Allied first line and the
French pressed on.

The French command looking very happy with their day

Both sides were now struggling to get fresh units into action, without ruining the discipline of their new troops. A melee was fought in the centre and both sides suffered badly, with several French units
routing or retiring. Meanwhile the Allied troops in the woods stared at their opposite numbers, with the Allies unwilling to leave cover and the French unwilling to step into the woods. The Allied right
exchanged fire with their opposite numbers, but on the left both sides sat out of effective range.

The convoy crawled slowly past the scene of carnage.

The second lines of infantry clashed and both sides took losses. Now an Allied unit was cut down and
one retired. Seeing a chance to force the issue, the British dragoons charged a reduced and shaken
French battalion. The French suffered, but stayed locked in combat. Now French horse joined the fray
and musketry rippled along the line. The dragoons broke, as fresh Allied infantry moved from the
woods towards the centre in an effort to support the third line.

Lines of French horse were now visible through the gaps in their infantry line. The Allied third line of foot stood ready, as they eyed the fresh horse and a fresh Allied battalion from the woods fell into line.

There we called it a day. An honourable draw and a very close fought game. The main problem suffered on both sides was that the close terrain made getting shaken troops out of line and fresh ones in, was no easy matter.

Many thanks to Chas for making the refight a balanced contest and to all involved for playing in a
"gentlemanly" style. I let the side down with my dice rolls, but Andy more than made up for it. He
threw a bucket full of sixes at every asking. Last I saw Steve was still inspecting the dice he was

As a footnote, General Wade's Allied force suffered 900 casualties and inflicted 4 or 5,000 on the
French, who quit the field. For his efforts, Wade received the thanks of parliament and the queen.
Some years later he was set aside from command for "being a Scotsman". No one said life is fair.


Sunday, 12 February 2017

Battle for Stonne 15th - 16th May 1940 - Fireball Forward

One of the games played at this month's gathering of the DWG was this 1940's clash in the Battle of France when French tanks counter-attacked the Sedan bridgehead at Stonne, 14km south of Sedan overlooking the Meuse river valley.

As German armoured spearheads carried out their charge to the channel it became imperative for the German infantry to move into the Sedan bridgehead to secure the German lodgement and protect the supplies that would follow.

German infantry was still the foot-slogging, horse powered entity that had entered the first war and it would take time for them to catch up the rapidly moving motorised elements thus providing an opportunity for French forces to counter-attack before the German lodgement could go firm with the infantry defences in place.

The town of Stonne with it's strategic position overlooking the Sedan crossing soon became a focal point as 10th Panzer Division along with Gross Deutschland (GD) Panzer Grenadiers were quickly moved to secure the area in the face of significant French forces including their heaviest tanks.Ɵdeutschland

Over the course of several days of heavy fighting, the town would change hands several times as both sides struggled for dominance and with the German attack in the west very much in the balance on the outcome of this battle.

In the end, despite French heroics culminating in the single handed attack by French tank commander Captain Pierre Billotte in his Char B1 who penetrated the German defences destroying two Panzer IV's, eleven Panzer III's and a couple of guns whilst receiving 140 non-penetrating hits on his tank, the town was held by the Germans when Stuka dive bomber support was brought to the defenders aid.

Our game was representing one of these attacks as French infantry having been forced out of the town were back on the offensive as they were joined by yet more French infantry supported by tanks.

In the town was a company of Gross Deutschland (GD) infantry with company assets including an HMG, light mortar, infantry gun and anti-tank gun platoon.

At some stage they could expect reinforcements of a StuG company and a further two platoon company of GD infantry.

The table for our game showing the initial set-ups and moves together with German reinforcement points
The rules we were using were second edition 'Fireball Forward!', a set I had seen in action last year at the Devizes wargaming show and was keen to try out, being more familiar with the Lardies, 'I Aint Been Shot Mum' thus keen to compare and contrast.

Fireball are modelled on the next level up with bases of infantry representing sections and companies as units, but as far as I could see they would be easy to use at the IABSM level of groups and platoons.

Activity is driven by drawing out playing cards from a standard deck with red and black suits determining which sides forces get to activate, thus four black suit cards, followed by a red suit card would allow the German player to activate four units(companies) one after another unless interrupted by use of a limited number of initiative grabbing chits. The initiative would then revert to the French and continue for every further red card drawn and so on until all units had activated.

Our game was time limited to eight turns to put pressure on both sides to be holding the majority of the built up area on the northern edge of town held by the GD infantry at the start of play.

The French attack began with the French infantry that had been pushed out of the town earlier by GD infantry, moving to a hedge line on the western approaches and whilst taking infantry gun fire and light mortar attacks pushing over the road into the first block of houses opposite the grey house held by GD 3rd Zug.

French infantry move in of the western edges of the town
Eager to try out a combined assault the GD with a combination of three activation cards laid down yet more mortar/IG fire on the French suppressing three of the four French infantry bases, before launching a close assault by the GD 3rd Zug from across the road.

The GD got the worst of it as they came to grips in the houses and were repulsed a platoon leader and section/squad lighter as the survivors fell back towards their company HQ.

Meanwhile French heavy tanks deploy on the road to the south
With all the fun of infantry close combat going on in the west-end of town, French heavy tanks entered stage right or on the road from the south, moving slowly and rather cautiously.

Knowing the difficulties my anti-tank gun assets would have dealing with the French monster tanks and the likely ill-effects my infantry in the buildings might suffer from their 75mm guns, the GD wisely held their fire.

French infantry come under well directed artillery and mortar fire from the GD company support platoons
The Char B's were soon followed up by lighter but no less formidable Hotchkiss models with French infantry following.

My French opposite commander was conducting a French infantry tank attack, with his armour moving at infantry speed to stay in close proximity to his foot troops but buying the Germans much needed time.

Yet more French armour arrives in the wake of the heavy tanks soon to be supported by French infantry
With the defeat of the GD 3rd Zug, the forward defences under 2nd Zug started to come under sustained and heavy tank fire as the French tanks "brassed up" the buildings in front of them.

In return GD replied with small arms and HMG fire aimed at the French infantry following the tanks as the 75mm IG and mortars bombarded the French infantry trying to move through the houses in the west of the town.

As German small arms and heavy machine gun fire rake the slow advance, casualties mount on both sides
However by turn three with weight of numbers favouring the French and with the three GD infantry sections and a platoon commander destroyed the German company was looking decidedly wobbly as the French threatened to close with the defenders.

The French attack was carried out slowly and cautiously
Relief couldn't have come at a more opportune time as with the fourth turn German StuG's drove into the town from the west shelling the buildings on the road and destroying two French infantry sections in the process and forcing the  others to fall back to the forces attacking from the south.

The counter-attack by the StuG's had relieved the German company commander of one headache allowing him to redirect the fire of his IG and mortars towards the French main-force attack.

As the French attack closes on the town a German Pak At gun opens fire by the grey house in a desperate attempt to stop the Chars
The StuG's now had control of the road running across the face of the French attack from the south and threatened any French units from the flank that attempted to cross in front of their guns.

A Char B attempted to deal with the threat by firing down the road with its 37mm gun only to see the shots bounce off the StuG's heavy front armour.

Relief as StuG's clear the west of French infantry and stymie the French attack into the town from the south
Following close on the heals of the StuG's a second reduced strength GD infantry company (Two Zugs with AT Rifle and HMG support platoons) arrived on the northern outskirts of town having climbed the steep road up from the valley below.

These infantry reinforcements allowed the GD to move in to secure buildings on the eastern and central sectors of the town backing up the forward elements of the initial defenders.

Suddenly a French tank explodes as a German Pak finds its mark
As the French tanks and infantry edged ever closer to the the forward buildings manned by the GD, the German AT guns held their fire waiting for the best opportunity of surprising the French tankers.

One of the two gun teams had little choice but to open up frontally as French infantry closed in on the grounds of the grey house held by 2nd Zug.

They managed to squeeze off two rounds which bounced off the oncoming Hotchkiss before succumbing to the fire of the approaching French infantry.

All the GD defending infantry could do was hunker down and keep firing
Throwing caution to the wind and with the eighth turn rapidly approaching the French went for it, standing off with the Char B's to provide covering fire on the buildings occupied by 1st and 2nd Zugs, the Hotchkiss tanks and infantry moved against 2nd Zug.

The battle reached its crescendo as the French and Germans fought bitterly in hand to hand in the house occupied by 2nd Zug. Clearing the ground floor the French took the fight upstairs as the lower floor was then counter-attacked by 1st Zug GD infantry from the house behind.

With the Hotchkiss tanks now presenting their flanks the last of the German PaK's opened up from an orchard on the eastern town-approaches and gained an early success as the first target exploded sending its turret up in the air.

The French tankers ignored the surprise fire and their armour shrugged off further insult as they poured their fire on the buildings to their front in support of their own infantry.

Despite the early success the German AT gunners kept seeing their shots bounce
The game was called at the end of turn eight with the grey house still contested and little chance of the French making further headway in the time allotted. Thus GD were deemed to have done enough to secure their hold until the next French attack.

The high-water mark for the French attack as the grey house remains contested at turn eight 
This was a great scenario with the battle in the balance for much of it as the weight of French fire battered the Germans and the French infantry threatened to overwhelm them. Perhaps if the French had moved some of their tanks forward more rapidly and closed unsupported, the German defence might have been unhinged by the follow up attacks.

The rules play very well and both Tom and I were soon getting our heads around the different dice combinations used to calculate hits from the various weapons. I particularly like the use of D20 or D10's to randomly determine effective range from one fire to another thus preventing the predictable, "I'll stop my advance right here to be just outside of effective range" approach to gaming where weapon ranges are constant, but allow that unreality of combat to occur.

Our playing of the game for the first time was greatly enhanced by having Si B as our game-meister for the day and thank you to him and Tom for a very fun day.

Sources referred to for this post

Sunday, 29 January 2017

In a Galaxy, Far Far Away.......... Star Wars X-Wing

If you aren't aware of the phenomenon that is Star Wars X-Wing by Fantasy Flight Games then you must have been living in another galaxy far far away.

Although the Devon Wargames Group is very much aimed at enjoying historical wargaming we are known to vary the diet with other genres with the caveat that the games need to be nicely presented and no silver surfers (unpainted miniatures) on the table. 

A couple of the chaps, Steve L and Mr Steve have built some really nice collections of the Star Wars miniatures and rolled them out in this impressive stellar dust up as one of our three games this month.

The guys even managed to draw my eldest son over to the "dark side" as he, spurning the chance to play Napoleonics, eagerly belted himself into a X-Wing and sped off into the void only to come up against a veteran TIE Fighter Jedi, Jack, who started to tie the young Padawan up in knots.

I present some pictures of the action taken as I dragged myself away from a very entertaining Peninsular War set to accompanied by an AAR by Mr Steve.

This game really ticks all the boxes of being nicely presented and with the stunning models from Fantasy Flight - enjoy. 

Return to the Twin Moons of Whipton – an X-Wing adventure

After being defeated at the first battle of Whipton Moons, Darth Vader gave orders for what remained of his fleet to fall back and regroup, he then gave instructions for an extensive ship building programme to be started immediately; he wasn't going to fail a second time.

Unfortunately the Rebels realised that Darth Vader was probably the type of homicidal megalomaniac that might hold a grudge and so they too greatly increased their ship building and ship acquisitions as well.

The previous game that we had put on at the club saw a total of twenty five small ships and one large one on the table (280 points a side) and whilst it was very enjoyable we thought that with a little more effort we could do much better.

So this game was played with forty ships (620 points each), the Imperials supplied by myself had twenty-two ships, mostly Tie’s of various types, the Decimator from the previous game and two of the new Huge Epic ships.

Steve Land supplied the eighteen Rebels, a mix of various fighters along with three large ships and one Epic Tantive IV

Imperial Raider plus various toys and crew
Imperial Assault Carrier
4 x Tie Advanced (includes Darth Vader)
8 x Tie Fighters
3 x Tie Interceptors
1 x Tie Defender
1 x Tie Punisher
2 x Tie Bombers

Tantive IV plus toys and crew
Millennium Falcon (Han Solo)
VCX-100 ‘Ghost’
6 x E Wing
6 x X-Wing (Luke, Wedge)
2 x ARC-170

If you want more information on any of these ships then I recommend looking at (see link below)

Given the size of the game and also that it was very likely that some of the players would probably not know the game very well, we decided on a few guidelines when picking the forces.

1. Not too many additional toys (special abilities, missiles, elite crew etc) on the ships as people wont know what they do and will most likely forget about them (which is actually what happened along with also completely forgetting to use their various pilot abilities as well).

2. Don’t make the Epic ships super powerful and don’t use their ability to fire their main weapons twice per turn. We hadn't used them in a game before and were unsure how devastating they might be, getting a potential three shots per turn seemed enough.(1 x main, 2 x secondary weapons).

3. No deliberate ramming of other ships with the Epic ships, (results in an automatic destruction), accidental ramming would be allowed but only if you could make it sound really sincere.

4. One minor tweak was to allow the Assault Carrier to have different fighter types.

We split the Imperial forces into two, I took the Bomber flight, a Tie section (1x Tie Advanced, 2 x Tie Fighters), the Imperial Raider and the Assault Carrier which had Darth Vader along with two other named Tie pilots slung underneath. On my right, Jack had two Tie flights, a Tie Interceptor flight, the Decimator and the Tie Defender.

As for the Rebels, it’s probably best to look at the attached pictures; all I could see was a huge wave of ships all of whom seemed to be heading straight at me.

As most of our fighters had no shields we needed to present a massed front to prevent getting picked off as we came in, Jack's elite Tie Interceptor flight leader being ahead of the rest found this out the hard way and was the first to explode under intense Rebel fire.

We also discovered on the first turn that we were greatly out skilled by the Rebels (order of firing is decided by Pilot skill). I had a bad feeling about this.

My one good idea (only idea) was to fly the Assault Carrier right into the thick of the fighting hoping that its numerous shields and large hull would keep it alive long enough to allow me to drop Vader’s hit squad onto the Rebels at point blank range and with their high Pilot skills they should thus be able to fire first and do a lot of damage in one go.

As it happened Steve decided to concentrate his fire on my fighters which allowed the carrier and the Raider to lumber forward in the centre without too much trouble whilst my fighters and bombers hung back. Conversely out on the right hand side where Jack and Tom were fighting it out, it was point blank stuff with twenty ships inter-mingled and going in every possible direction, the Millennium Falcon with Han Solo on board was bravely leading the way, (not a good spot for a ship with limited evade capabilities).

Jack had kept the large Decimator towards the back and was using it to finish off whatever got past his fighters. Eventually both of these two large ships lack of saving throws would see their destruction however by that time Jack had gained the upper hand over Tom and with the occasional bit of help from the Huge Imperial Raider, the Rebels were fast running out of ships on this side.

Over on my bit of the universe it was Vader time, the front screen of Ties all of which were by now damaged to various degrees had speed past the first wave of Rebel fighters so as to engage the large ‘Ghost’ ship that was following up behind.

The Bomber flight now realised that they were never going to make it past all of the E-Wings/X-Wings and engage the larger ships as I had planned, instead they started to drop their Bombs on any suitable target that presented itself. This luckily coincided with the Rebel fighters turning back around after passing through their opposition and flying straight back into the explosions. Fortunately for Skywalker he still had most of his shields still up but it wasn't much fun for some of the others including one of Vader’s attack team who unluckily got finished off by his own side. (for unlucky, read stupid move)

Still, the plan had worked, after dropping from the carrier the hit squad finished off a damaged ‘Wedge Antilles’ along with a second ship and then joined in the long process of wearing down the large ‘Ghost’

By now, Steve’s original ten ships were looking a bit thinner, He had diverted the huge Tantive along with the two older ARC fighters across to the other flank to try and help out Tom; and three of his E-Wings along with Luke’s X-Wing, after passing through the Tie fighters, had turned around and were now trying to head back towards the main action.

This was taking place around the ‘Ghost’ which was surrounded by Tie ships of all types,who despite the rain of fire being put into it couldn't quite finish it off.

What turned out to be the final turn saw the Millennium Falcon blow up along with another of Tom's E-Wing’s and at last the annoying ‘Ghost’s’ luck finally ran out as well, The Ion cannons on my Raider had been slowing down the ARC’s movement leaving them in the middle of the table and three of my Ties had broken off and were already starting to shoot into the rear of the Tantive.

The rebels decided that they never really liked the Twin Moons of Whipton and so ordered an immediate evacuation but they made sure that the unarmed transports completely disregarding the vast dimensions of space and flew directly towards the Imperial fleet whilst making their escape.

Good job we are such bad shots.

Thanks to Steve Land who was the Rebel leader and supplied the Rebel fleet and also to Jack and Tom.

This has been a Mr Steve production in association with 21st Century JJ.