Sunday, 19 November 2017

Battle of Dushak 1918

I knew I should have been suspicious when Chas invited me to join him on a slow train to Dushak (in modern day Turkmenistan). He told me that it would be a pleasant journey to Transcaspia, where we would meet a cosmopolitan mix of people from all over the world. He neglected to mention that the train was armoured, mounted a 75 mm field piece and three HMG's and that the people we were going to meet were Sikhs and Turcomans of the British Malleson Mission.

We deployed towards a line of trenches defending Dushak, I led my Cheka force into a wood on our left, supported by Bolshevik cavalry, Bolshevik infantry lined the trenches, whilst railway workers deployed in the town supported by HMGs and field batteries. Naturally Commissar Chas remained on the train with three of his Red Army companies.

At dawn the British attacked the trenches. A battalion from the 19th Punjabi regiment led the advance. They were supported by three batteries of artillery and an HMG on a hill to their right. A troop of the 28th Light Cavalry was on the same flank, with Turcoman infantry and cavalry, supported by White infantry and guns on the left.

The battle opened with the Punjabis making short work of a company of Bolsheviks in the trenches and engaging their supporting 75mm battery at close range. The 28th Light horse routed their Bolshevik opposite numbers, whilst the Turcoman and White infantry advanced on the other end of the trenches.

As the Punjabis pressed on, they came under effective fire from the red field pieces and HMGs on high ground, leading to them seeking cover in the woods. On the other side of the field, entrenched Bolshevik infantry were attacked by White infantry and Turcoman cavalry. 

Encountering a force of Cheka in the woods, the Punjabis soon saw them off, but their own casualties to red heavy weapons were starting to mount. Similarly the 28th cavalry were forced to dismount and seek cover in the trenches, as 75 mm shells burst amongst them. British guns attempted to relieve pressure on the Punjabis, by firing on the Bolshevik guns and succeeded in driving one battery off the hill.

With the armoured train 'beasting' the Punjabis with fire and three platoons of Red army infantry supporting the right hand trench, the Turcoman and White attack was driven off and the Punjabi infantry's advance slowed.

Fire from the train and red units in the town had forced the Punjabis to go to ground and neither side looked capable of sustaining a sensible attack. The commanders agreed a local truce and both sides withdrew from the field.

As usual Chas provided an entertaining and obscure battle for the scenario (who has ever heard of Dushak?), which was played to "Setting the East Ablaze - Back of Beyond Rules" in 28mm. The rules gave a fast paced game, with some simplifications that are needed in such a large game.

Setting the East Ablaze

Historically the British force drove off the Bolsheviks, inflicting over a 1000 casualties, whilst taking a quarter of that figure themselves. Most of the fighting fell to the Punjabi battalion, with the local Turcoman forces proving next to useless, only joining in when the day was won.

All in all a good day out and Chas's "croupier rake" was much in evidence to clear up the casualties.

Many thanks to Chas and Steve H for providing the figures and running the game.


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Dux Bellorum - Arthurian Wargaming 367 -793 AD

One of four games played this month was a very large game of Dux Bellorum fought using the lovely figure collection of Nick who offered to run the game following a conversation had about these rules for use in Dark Age battles.

Several of us in the club have collections of Dark Age figures and we have played various rule sets for this period including Dux Britanniarum and Hail Caesar amongst others, and with a few of us having these rules but not having played them it was a great opportunity to see how they translated to a game on the table.

A standard game of Dux Bel. is based around an army design of thirty-two points with a number of units of figures from anywhere from half a dozen elite quality troops to about ten or twelve units in an average force of cavalry and infantry.

There are eight army lists in the rules that cover Late Roman, Romano-British, Welsh, Saxon, Pictish, Irish, Land Raiders and Sea Raiders with other options to be seen designed by players on the Dux Bel Forum.

Dux-Bellorum Forum

As with many modern rule-sets, the units can be stylised around your own bases with any number of figures with the proviso that opposing armies are based the same and that units have the same width or as close as, with movement and ranges worked to the chosen base width.

There are various troop types defined, based around how they fought, with both cavalry and infantry characterised as either formed troops (warriors and riders) or open order types (foot and mounted skirmishers). The warriors and riders are further defined as to quality and commitment, with the both either defined as ordinary, noble or companions. To the formed infantry types can be added a further classification identifying their preferred fighting style of fast moving, hard hitting warriors or more deliberate and stoic but no less fearsome shield-wall types.

For yesterday's game we fielded four typical Dux Bel armies, two Saxon and two Romano-British which in 28mm presents a compelling spectacle of a game when both lines of figures face off across the table.

Each of the armies was commanded by a player with two of us on each side commanding our own groups looking to coordinate our activities against the common enemy and was fought as a simple line em up and fight scenario looking to break the other side first, just to see what the rules produced as a game.

The structure of the game is based around identifying who is the 'Aggressor' and who is the 'Repeller', Attacker and Defender in English, either determined by a specific scenario outlined in the rule book or by adding an army specific 'aggressor' rating to a die roll to see which is which.

This determination directs the deployment stage of the game with the Aggressor starting the process of phases which sees the putting of troops on the table, first with foot skirmishers, then mounted skirmishers followed by the non-skirmish types, with each phase seeing the Aggressor place first followed by the Repeller, being placed as per the scenario or between three to five base-widths from the table centre line.

Units of the same type can be deployed and moved as individual units or together in groups, which enables a quick deployment  to positions bar terrain getting in the way, that can break up groups; but also facilitates mixing better quality units in with lower types to enable the formers willingness to advance on the enemy to influence the group as a whole to advance.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the design is the use of Leadership Points (LPs) that represent the ability of the Commanding General to impose his will on his army to move, fight and defend and is described as representing those sub-commanders within a given army who work to make the commanders plan a reality during the battle.

In the pictures of our game you will see white/red (Romano-British) and yellow/blue (Saxon) discs placed behind various units representing the deployment of these LPs with a maximum of three being able to be placed against one unit and with each of our player commanders having eight such LPs at the start of the game.

The LPs use was up to the player to announce at a given time but commonly were used to negate casualties inflicted in combat or to add dice when throwing to cause casualties, but could also be used to make it easier to move or grab the initiative in a phase of play.

The LP's are however, the kernel to this set of rules, in that with each unit destroyed in play an LP would be removed from that armies pool and thus the difference in ability to fight the battle between forces with dramatically different LP pools became more and more obvious as the game progressed; giving the player with a lot more LP resource the ability to deploy them in numbers to affect particularly important areas of the battlefield.

In addition with games finished without a clear victory established, the difference in remaining LP serve as a ready indicator of the victor in any close run fight.

Thus as our game progressed the placement of LP became a game in itself as both sets of players tried to gain an advantage in a particular fight within the larger battle or to guess where a fight was likely to occur in the upcoming round and to make sure key units were suitably provisioned with added benefit.

Th other aspect of Dux Bel that struck me, was the modelling of skirmish units, with some armies such as the Picts for example having large numbers of this troop type.

Skirmishers are quite fragile in their ability to take casualties, usually no more than two, leading to their removal. They do not find it that easy to get out of the way of formed troops and thus simply sticking them out forward of your line is a good way of getting them written off for very little payback.

Not only that but their loss contributes to loss of LP so choosing where and when to use your light troops becomes an art in itself.

The strength of the skirmish elements are to support your formed chaps by getting them in behind the enemy once gaps have opened in the line. They can then support combats with attacks from the flank or rear and shoot up enemy formed troops busy facing off against their enemy opposites.

Not only that but a well placed skirmish base might cause an enemy formed unit to become uncontrolled seeing them barrel forward unsupported only to be taken out by your nearby multiple groups of formed troops supporting your skirmishers.

The other thing to mention is that although loss of skirmish elements reduces LP they do not count as units lost for the 'test army morale' thresholds of 50% and 75%, but the LP effects demand using them thoughtfully.

The turn sequence is pretty straight forward with the Repeller starting the process of laying LP followed by each side firing and moving, followed by close combat and morale checks.

The movement sequence is further segmented into the Aggressor moving first followed by the Repeller with the sequence of skirmishers, mounted and then foot troops.

I think, for me, this was perhaps the least satisfying aspect of the game in that movement became a bit gamey with a thought process of trying to assess the likely response to the various move options given that you knew that that would be the sequence. This was slightly  relieved by the fact that LP could be spent to alter that with a particular unit buying the right to move first always providing that the other side didn't out bid the bidder, with a simple die roll being the decider once both sides had thrown three LP's at the problem.

I think I would prefer a more random sequence of move activation similar to Augustus to Aurelian, with all the factors of better command ability built in and I think that would be something to look at.

That said I really enjoyed my first outing with Dux Bel and we soon had the rules rocking along with LP play becoming a very interesting game within the game of bluff and counter-bluff.

Our two lines went at it and after a lot of fighting, gaps started to appear among the units and between the amounts of LP held by each of the four commanders.

These gaps offered opportunities to exploit with sudden envelopments of key parts of the lines coupled with multiple LP used to add more combat dice rather than to defend against a weakened enemy.

Eventually forces were reduced to 50% of the units they started with causing morale checks on those still on the field with failure causing their removal and with a 75% loss deeming the whole army breaking.

For those interested in who won, the Saxons grabbed the day but not without a major fight and many casualties going up against a lot of British cavalry and infantry shield-walls.

Dux Bellorum gives a good game with plenty of fun and characterful options that make a Saxon army quite different from a British, Irish or Pict force and also produces a big battle look on the tabletop.

Many thanks to Nick who set up the game and provided the two armies and to David, Jack and Mr Steve for a very entertaining game of Dux Bellorum.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Devon Wargames Group - Club Banner

Yesterday was Armistice Day which coincided with our monthly club gathering so at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day the Devon Wargames Group observed a minute silence in memory of the fallen of two World Wars and since.

The day was also special in that the club has been growing quite rapidly in recent months and with new members has seen an increase in the games being run which saw four games put on yesterday which was really great and added to the 'hubble-bubble' of the banter and conversation of happy wargamers doing what we do best.

Finally there was a task set last year at the club's Annual General Meeting to produce a club banner to be displayed at the events we attend and put on games and this was a matter that was not completed in time for this year's review of last year's minutes.

The situation was remedied within a month of this year's AGM and Devon Wargames Group can now present its new banner, which was on display at yesterday's meeting.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Target for Tonight - Rules Availability

Following the numerous enquires here and on other forums about the availability of these rules following the game reports posted here in September and October, I have some good news.

My investigations finally paid off and thanks to various parties I have managed to contact Mr Thomas ,the author, who has kindly got back to me to let me know that a free PDF of the rules will be shortly available from John Curry's, 'History of Wargaming' site.

Thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoy Target for Tonight.


Friday, 3 November 2017

15mm Russians v Ottomans 1768-1774

Rules used: Koenig Krieg v3
Figures: mainly Old Glory with a few By Fire and Sword
Armies: 1000 points each

My wargaming projects normally run over a two year cycle and this year I was supposed to finish off my two new 15mm 7YW armies of Russians and Ottoman Turks and also get my 20mm Sikh wars stuff onto the table. Well one out of two isn’t bad, the Sikhs I am afraid suffered from that perennial military problem of project creep and has had to be rescheduled.
On the plus side at least I don’t have to draw up and present a recovery plan.

So first time on the table for the new boys and these armies have a few toys we haven’t seen before such as skirmishing light cavalry , light infantry and people with knobbly sticks and really not a lot else , didn't anyone tell them that its never wise to bring a knife to a gun fight .

Decision Time : are those  Tarters or Cossacks?
Onto the game and so I set the scene:

As far as wars go this one hadn't been too bad thought Pasha By, the Governor of the small Bulgarian town of Ohmygodski. True the overall war wasn’t going very well but there was no way that any blame could be attached to him and he had so far managed to avoid being in any real danger .
Fortunately the Russians had spent all of the winter across the other side of the Danube and by all accounts had been ravaged by the plague; with no signs of any movement in the near future then hopefully it would all slowly drift towards a peace treaty and he could go home and tell of his great exploits and maybe even a promotion.
Yes, things had turned out much better than he had hoped as he lazily reached for his sherbet and stretched out his legs onto Nathan, his favourite vibrating footstool.
  Just then an aide disturbed his tranquillity accompanied by a man heavily covered in dust,
 “A thousand pardons effendi but Imperial cavalry have just arrived and their leader Mustapha Leak insists on speaking to you”
 “ My compliments Governor but I have orders from the Grand Vizier , the Russians are across the river , they have split into 3 columns and are attempting to encircle our forces , one of these columns is coming this way and you are instructed to hold them at all costs “
 “But how? My forces are inadequate for such a task, they are only local units and militias, I cannot possibly hope to stop the Russians”
 “ Don’t worry  Pasha , I have brought additional forces to assist you , along with my Siphais which I will leave you , there will shortly arrive some Janissary's and other regular infantry , the Grand Vizier has even spared you some artillery from the reserve , I suggest you start making preparations immediately , Good Luck” 
“Oh, and Governor, I need not remind you how failure is rewarded “ 
Suddenly it didn’t look such a good day after all.

The Objective of the game was for the Russians to leave by one of the three roads and for the Ottomans to stop them.

With the bulk of the Ottomans Tarter allies hurriedly returning to the Crimea to try and stop a second Russian army from annexing it, this left them completely out scouted so the Turks  had to set up all of their forces on the table first.  Azzars and Feudal troops garrisoned the Town and the cavalry were placed out on the left flank with Janissary's blocking the crossroads. The remaining Brigade of Sekhan infantry along with some guns were stationed in-between so as to be able to react quickly. The dice roll for the Grand Viziers artillery turned out to be another Light piece and so disappointingly I had to put all the siege guns back in the box.

The Sekhan Infantry Brigade

The Russians had to concentrate and so they chose to attack towards the crossroads, their infantry massed for a big push flanked on their left by Dragoons and by swarms of Cossacks to the right.

The Russians massed on the right flank
Seeing the Russian infantry block heading towards the crossroads, the Ottomans had to somehow slow them down enough so that reinforcements could be hurriedly sent across to help the Janissary's, this job was given to the Provincial and Imperial Siphais who bravely dashed out towards the advancing green and red masses.

The Jannissary's looking a bit isolated, fortunately soup is on the way.
Like most wargaming rules KK allows you to make double moves as long as you are a set distance away from the enemy and the advance of the Ottoman Cavalry soon reduced the Russians to their normal movement.  Over on the extreme Russian right, the Cossacks had rapidly moved around the farmstead and on though its woods and were trying to flank the Ottoman cavalry. This didn’t go that well , Koenig Krieg’s key point is initiative , you roll off each turn against your opponent to decide who moves a brigade until everyone has taken an action , the same applies for units in combat . The key is in deciding if you or your opponent should make a move when you win the roll , do you wait and see what they are doing or do you need to jump in.

Provincial and Imperial Sipahi's try to slow down the Russian advance
Let me give you some examples : Your cavalry has a lovely open flank to charge , as you won the dice roll you send them in however your opponent hasn’t activated that brigade yet, when it’s their turn they could move away or turn around to face . If you pass the turn over then maybe he still doesn’t move this brigade and picks another or he might turn them around and charge you . Melee is a separate phase and after everyone has moved or fired then all those units still in close contact get new activation markers . Here the initiative is even more crucial , if for example you force your opponent to activate a unit then they must either pass , or charge . Infantry & guns can fire defensively if they have an activation marker so you can fire as they come in, if they decide to pass and so pick up their activation market then you can charge in without being shot at if you still have your marker.  Who has the initiative and when to use it is the main point you have to grasp when playing Koenig Krieg.

I don't think they have seen us
Back to our game, the Cossacks had the initiative and decided to try and sneak around the Ottoman cavalry, unfortunately they still their activation marker and in their turn they moved into close contact range. Things looked grim for the Cossacks, however they could still use their special ability of evading as long as they won the initiative and moved first. They didn’t, despite the Russians having a +1 advantage on all initiative rolls ( better General) and so the Imperial Sipahi charged in, it was a slaughter of biblical effect, not handicapped by the mounds of dead Cossacks the Sipahi risked exploiting ( passing the mandatory ‘‘cavalry go Loopy roll’ ) and hit the line behind with the same effect , risking again going un-controlled they used their 2nd exploitation to run down a unit of dismounted Cossack light infantry as well.

Azzars and Feudal infantry leave the town

Elsewhere Ottoman Infantry poured out of the town and columns of dubious infantry rushed as quickly as possible towards the key crossroads. The Russian infantry plodded on with their battalion guns now starting to fire on the annoying cavalry to their front hoping to make them retreat . In this era infantry can face off cavalry as long as they are not too badly beaten up so they kept going ever forward. Eventually the Ottoman cavalry had no choice and they charged ; to the great shame of the Imperial Siphai they failed their morale (casualties had reduce an automatic pass down to 1-5) and stopped dead , next turn wasn’t a lot better as although they managed to pass the morale roll this time they now failed to break in past the bayonets ( with lance , 3-6 ) and fell back. The Russian infantry continued to blast away emptying more saddles but using up more time , Both Siphai squadrons did eventually get into melee but now reduced in strength and totally surrounded they went down fighting , the Provincial cavalry being somewhat less brave ( morale of 4 as opposed to 6 ) retired back onto the Ottoman left wing .

Charging ? No problem, you need anything but a 6
Job done the Provincial Siphai wisely head to the flanks

Reinforcements had now got to the crossroads and started to line up in support of the Janissary's plus the first units of Feudal troops were just appearing on the crest of a small hill and were looking down on the advancing Russian infantry.

Who needs guns when you have pointy sticks
The Russians moved on and the Bashi Bazooks charged down the hill to be met by a volley of defensive fire from the nearest Russian regiment, undeterred they pressed on and an inconclusive melee took place. Ottoman artillery now started to play on the Russian infantry with balls bouncing through multiple targets trying to weaken the imminent attack on the Ottoman troops holding the crossroads

The Russians were now finally in position to launch their infantry in a mass attack to sweep away the Ottomans blocking the crossroads, who would get the initiative?

Sorry guys its time to go home
It didn’t matter as we had run out of time, The AGM had gone on far longer than normal and we had lost almost an hour of play.

Who won? Well the Russians are still on the board so I guess it’s the Ottomans but I would have liked to seen what happened when all those infantry attacked .

This was a tricky game for the players as only one of them had played the rules before and we also had some new troop types on the table that we  didn’t really know the right way to use properly so didn’t get the full benefit.
You do however get a lot of Ottomans for your points so I can see them being a bit of a nuisance as long as their army morale holds up . Also if I had bigger armies then an extra Russian Brigade appearing on the far road leading to the village later in the game might have caused some mischief.

Thanks to all those who took part and allowed me to try out my new toys.

Koenig Krieg v4 with campaign rules and a WSS supplement is due out soonish and will be available from North Star in the UK

So whilst I am waiting for them to be released I better think about what do next, should I expand these armies by 250 or 500 points or do I instead get the British Household Cavalry for my allied army? Or maybe an Austrian army perhaps, they could fight the Ottomans. Hmm , what to do.

This has been a Mr Steve production