Sunday, 10 December 2017

Gus Murchie Memorial Game - AWI, Muskets & Tomahawks

General Nicholas Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany - F.C.Young 
Traditionally at the Devon Wargames Group our December meeting has only one large game, instead of the three or four we would normally run, where all the club can come together to play in one game.

If you look back through our archive we have had some great club games covering the Dark Ages, Wars of the Roses, American Civil War and and the Glorious Revolution to name a few.

This year we decided to set our chosen game in the American War of Independence and loosely based on the Battle of Oriskany fought during the Saratoga Campaign of 1777.

Battle of Oriskany 1777

The chosen rule set was our 'turn to' big game set of skirmish rules for black powder games, Musket & Tomahawks.

In addition our end of year game has now been re-titled, this year, the Gus Murchie Memorial Game in honour of a former member of the club who sadly passed away a few years ago and whose banter and passion for the hobby is a great loss to our club and is sadly missed by all of us who knew him. I know Gus would have thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck in with our big game yesterday.

Happy wargamers anticipating a day of fun and with a buzz of chatter as the toys get sorted

Another tradition has been to place the organising of this kind of game, which requires the skill of a cat herder to get the figure lists drawn up and the terrain requirements, not to mention who might be appearing on the day to play, in the hands of an expert, but as we couldn't find one we relied on Chas to get things sorted out, and what a fine job he made of things.

Troops still getting put out as players get their heads around their particular force mix
Chas doing a bit of cat herding

On arrival in the morning the tables were rapidly arranged with cloths and terrain to replicate a section of road leading through the woods of up-state New York simulating the route our American supply column was following en route to relief the garrison at Fort Stanwix.

The American column starts to take shape
Et voila - a supply convoy en route to Stanwix

Nothing too complicated here with the American team simply trying to defend the road and get their supply wagons through with the forces of the Crown determined to prevent any such thing.

You're kidding me, British troops attempting to join the end of the American column and they don't look very friendly
The militia with riflemen to their right shake out to defend the rear

The mechanism of Muskets & Tomahawks lends itself perfectly to this type of multi-player game where we had about twenty players at the table each with a mixed force of the different types of units, regulars, irregulars, provincials etc, that meant that with the use of a single card deck, managed by our gamemeister Chas, the card revealed would enable all players with that troop type, either American or British, to activate the unit class simultaneously.

As units were activated according to the card draw the deck would be used up and then reshuffled signifying the start of a new turn.

With the ambush sprung, American troops fan out from the road to protect the wagons
British troops head for the edge of the tree line to start peppering the column with musketry
British troops moving up on the unsuspecting column

With the method of play described, we happily rolled through the turns, blazing away at each other and in my sector of the table managing the American column rear-guard even exchanging sabre cuts as both sides cavalry got stuck in.

Keep moving chaps, don't stop for anything
With redcoats in the trees the American column shakes out into battle line.
I think those highlanders are ours - don't you just love those early patriot flags! 

It can be great fun playing on one large table like this, never really quite knowing how the battle is progressing a few chairs down from your sector of the battlefield until someone starts putting musket rounds into your troops from a totally unexpected direction.

Now they are definitely British
Not sure if these chaps were fighting or just desperate to be somewhere else 
British redcoats seemed to be everywhere!

Speaking from an American perspective, those pesky Brits and their Indian allies made full use of their ambush position, softening up the column good and proper from the cover of the tree line before advancing out on to the road to chop things up and finish off the defenders.

What did I say about Brits everywhere, Royal Marines looking particularly well turned out, but dress those lines Sergeant the Indians are watching!
"Why us Sarge? Because we're here sonny, now face your front and mark your target"  - Different film, but you get the idea.
"View haloo, here's to today's fox, what!"

At the rear of the column three continental units managed to string a firing line together only to see British light dragoons and Provincial light cavalry come stomping down the road backing up a unit of highlanders with Indians operating on their flank in the tree line.

If the Jocks would just get out of the way we might get this finished today
What you might call an abundance of cavalry
The thin brown and blue line - doesn't have quite the same ring!
Could that be Herkimer organising the rear-guard as the British cavalry bear down on his line?
"Steady, steady - let em have it boys!!"

Despite valiant resistance the American units started to get picked off one by one, leading to gaps appearing among the line defending the road.

Right you lot get over there and deal with those Brits while I just see how the wagons are getting on
I'm so glad we didn't get posted to Gentleman Johnny's command, I'm not sure he is up to the job.
By god sir, those look like regulars!

The British cavalry closing on the rear of the American column looked likely to overwhelm the American line forming to protect it.

Mind where you are walking Jock, these donkeys tend to loosen up when they get excited!
What happened to all that cavalry that were leading the way? Never mind we've got plenty more coming
Time to take stock and discuss what Santa might be bringing

It's amazing how all the fun can create an appetite, but we like to have that covered at the DWG.

It's amazing how hungry you get when the dice start rolling!

The British didn't have things all their own way as the American light cavalry made their mark with a dramatic charge that helped ease the pressure on the rear of the column.

Just when you need them in come the American dragoons - hoorah and down with the tyrant King George!
Things are looking bad for the rebel cause with large gaps starting to appear along the road
The shrinking American rear-guard has little rear to guard. 

Despite the odd success here and there along the route the British pressure just kept coming and one of the wagons was dragged off the road as property of his majesty the king.

Is that an American wagon parked up in British lines?
Emboldened British troops start to move out of the trees towards the vulnerable wagons
The last of the Americans go down fighting
At least the Xmas presents will get through to Stanwix

With four o'clock showing and things getting 'dimpsey' outside (that's a Devon expression meaning fading light) well actually it was dark, the Americans reluctantly conceded the field of battle to the forces of the Crown with a few of us quickly marched off to spend Xmas aboard a hulk in New York harbour.

The DWG excelled itself with another great end of year game with lots of good natured banter and laughs together with plenty of drama on the table.

Many thanks to all those involved for making the day and particularly to Chas for organising and managing the game.

We hope everyone who has seen and commented on the games at the club this year has enjoyed this window on our activities and will continue to follow the fun next year and as always we extend a welcome to anyone in this part of the world who would like to get into the hobby by coming along and joining in.

We wish everyone a happy, peaceful Xmas and look forward to bringing you some new games in January 2018.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

WWI Air with Wings of Glory

Our fourth game this month was hosted by Mike who as a regular member of the 'Drome' likes nothing better than "to climb into his kite and take it to heaven and back five times a day", to quote Lord Flashheart, and that's the family version of that quote!

Lord Flashheart - Mike's other persona
Back in the day, WWI air was a regular feature of games played at the club and a large collection of 1/72nd, mainly Airfix, models were assembled using Blue Max as the game engine with our own hex mat of the Western Front.

Of course things move on and today anyone wanting to get into this period of gloriously painted war-birds wheeling over the trenches of Flanders need look no further than Wings of Glory who produce the stunning models in Mike's collection seen in action at the club and there are as you can see beautifully created mats for the game.

I love the passion that surrounds those into collecting the various squadron and jasta markings that characterised the aircraft of this period and Mike has a stunning collection with just a fraction of it here on show.

The rule system for the game is very slick and intuitive and makes for an easy play entertaining afternoon's gaming.

I was playing on the Dux Bellorum game but am lined up to have a play myself in the New Year and with a love of air-games in general might easily get a bit distracted with something like this.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

A Rumble in the Desert - Battlegroup Tobruk

It’s not unusual to have ‘Steve’ put on a game in the club, but this month it was a rare sight as my
WW2 desert armies made an appearance!

I've built up fair amount of 8th Army, DAK and Italians over the years, and they have appeared
previously on these pages, but my ‘go to’ set of rules has always been FoW. These are not particularly favoured within the club, so the figures have not seen the light of day for probably a couple of years and I've not even considered version 4!

The release of Battlegroup Tobruk by Iron fist publishing, made me think that maybe I could redress
that, so I purchased the rules a few months ago, had a play around with a bit of a solo game and
committed to putting on a club game.

I’ll not go into a ‘rules review’, just give an overview of the game and some thoughts.

I wanted to get a mixture of ‘toys’ onto the table, to see how the rules handled things, so didn't go
for an historical scenario or forces. Love them or hate them, Battlegroup uses a ‘points’ system, so I
put together forces of company strength, equal to just under 900 points, based on an armoured battlegroup.

For the 8th Army this consisted of;
Forward HQ in a M3 Honey
Forward signals unit (gives a re- roll when calling in artillery)
2 x platoons of 3 x M3 ‘Honeys’
1 platoon of 3 x Crusader II’s
An infantry platoon, with an HMG, medium mortar and towed 2pdr a/tank gun
A recce platoon of 3 x Vickers Mk IVB’s
A carrier section of 3 bren carriers
1 x Valentine
1 x 2prd a/tank portee
A Forward Observation Officer (FOO) with 2 x 25Pdrs & 2 x 3’’ mortars off table

Additional fire support consisted of a timed 4.5’’ barrage and a timed 6’’ howitzer barrage, which
have to be pre registered on the table, and a turn of arrival declared. There was also a ‘counter
battery’ fire mission available.

For the DAK;
Forward HQ in a Panzer III G
Forward signals unit
Platoon of 3 x Panzer II’s
Platoon of 4 x Panzer IIIG’s
1 x Panzer IVD
Infantry platoon, with HMG, medium mortar and towed 37mm a/tank gun
A recce platoon of 2 x Sdkfz 222’s
A Panzerjager platoon of 2 x towed 50mm a/tank guns
Platoon of 3 x Italian M13/14’s (25% of a DAK battlegroup can be Italian)
FOO with 2 x 105mm howitzers off table

Additional fire support of 2 x timed 150mm barrages and a ‘counter battery’ fire mission.

The scenario was the ‘Attack/counter attack’ scenario taken from the main rulebook, with Nathan &
Jason taking the DAK, and Si and Chris the 8th Army.

The DAK deployed their Panzer II’s, III’s & IV on their left flank, while the Brits deployed the Honey’s to counter. On the DAK right, the 50mm anti-tank guns came on and deployed at long range, soon to be supported by the M13/14’s and the infantry platoon with supports. On the British right, both 2 pdr anti-tank guns and the Valentine tried to keep out of sight behind the hills, while the Crusaders deployed in the centre, followed in the later stages by the infantry.

The main combat took place between the Panzers and the Honeys, with the Honey’s generally getting
the worst of the encounter. On the other flank, the 50mm took long range shots at anything in range, while the Crusaders took long range pots at the M13/14’s. Consequently not a lot of damage was done.

The German timed barrages were effective, taking out the FOO and the carrier officer who was also
able to call in mortar support. Unfortunately the 8th Army were not quite so lucky!

Force cohesion is based on the total ‘battle rating’ (BR) of each force, with each unit contributing its
own BR to that total. Reduction of that BR is based on drawing a ‘chit’ each time a unit, or objective
is lost. Each chit is numbered 1-5 and when one is drawn, it reduces the Force BR by the associated
number. When a Force is reduced to 0 it is adjudged to have lost its battle effectiveness. There are
also ‘special’ chits which may cause an enemy unit to breakdown or run out of ammunition, or a
friendly unit to carry out an ‘heroic act’. We had some of the former, but none of the later.

Because I wasn't keeping detailed notes, exact details of what took place are a bit hazy, but by the
time we called it a day, each Force’s BR was only down by about 50%, so maybe a company level
game is too big for a club day? Although both sides were doing a lot of long range shooting!

I enjoyed putting on the game, but didn't know the rules as well as I thought! The basic mechanics
are simple enough, calling in and firing artillery appeared quite involved, and against armour took a
bit of working out.

Once everyone got familiar with the basics, turns flowed quite quickly. Spotting every turn before firing takes some getting used to, and we weren't sure if some of the factors were totally effective.

There’s no ‘automatic’ spotting of infantry, even if you’re right on top of them and no ‘tank assault’. This was one of my bug bears for a desert game, as I like to think I'm quite well read on this period. The rules even make comment on infantry vulnerability in this theatre.

Nathan did think there was a ‘gun shield save’ when shooting at a/tank guns, but we couldn't find it in the rules and I think that’s from FoW.

Overall, I’d give them another go, not a perfect set of rules in my opinion, but maybe a few ‘home
grown’ amendments in the future?

Thanks to Nathan, Jason, Si & Chris for playing in the spirit, and putting up with me spending most of the time with my nose in the rulebook! It was good to get the desert stuff on the table again. Most
of the armour is Battlefront, with a smattering of Skytrex, mostly pained by JJ. The anti tanks guns
are all Battlefront, again by JJ. The infantry are a mixture of Battlefront, Skytex and Peter Pig, mainly
by yours truly – Steve M