Saturday, 25 January 2014

The American Civil War, a Mr Steve Production - Fire & Fury

Union Briefing
June 1863

Somewhere out in West Virginia the Union Governor is pacing the floor of his office, thanks to your political influence back in Washington you have finally managed to secure your own command, it’s just that it’s not quite what you think your considerable talents deserve.

Its been six months now since you arrived and everyone knows that soldiers need to be kept busy yet all the plans you submit for action keep coming back un-approved, its obvious what needs to be done to win this war and yet no one listens to you. Fools

You have a plan, a Great plan; if only the Rebels will continue marching North then you can make your move with the forces you have without waiting for those blundering idiots in Washington to give their approval.

By pulling in all the garrisons from the outlying areas you can make up four small divisions, more than enough to strike a blow that will win you the respect you deserve and to be recognised as the true military visionary that you know you are.

The troops themselves look a decent lot, nothing special but competent enough and it didn't take you too long to mould them into a crack fighting force using your innovative and groundbreaking training methods. Some still cannot salute smartly enough to meet your necessary level but that can be picked up on the march.

Then there’s your subordinates, apart from your Nephew the rest of them seem a little ... docile, its almost as if they had all been specially selected by their former commanders for this posting. Never mind as fortunately you have "The Plan" and all they will have to do is follow your orders and they appear competent enough in that regards.

Finally you get the report that you have been impatiently waiting for,  Lee and his Rebels have left the Shenandoah Valley and are heading further North into Pennsylvania;

Now is the time to strike.

You shout for your aide to quickly come in and you take out a pen and paper ….

At first things went just as you expected, heading quickly South to Front Royal  you passed through the Manassas Gap and swiftly cut the Rebel lines of supply meeting little in the way of organised resistance. If only they had listened and given you those extra brigades you requested then you could have marched on Richmond and ended the war in one stroke. Instead you would have to settle for occupying Culpeper, the Rebels main rail hub and supply centre for both the Valley and for Lee’s army. Once in place you can demand Washington send you those extra brigades and another Star.

However on the road to Culpepper you run into a blocking force of Rebels , its probably only just militia and partly raised units flung together in a last desperate measure to stop your daring thrust . Maybe I should have raised that cavalry regiment my nephew kept badgering me about and they could have been scouting ahead, still I cannot see a few old men and recruits holding of my brave lads for long now that we have brought the saluting up to standard and it of course it does give me the opportunity I need to show I am gifted tactically as well.

We stop and the men start to file out either side of the road, the enemy are spotted approaching under a flag of truce and the Rebel general is shown into my tent, I throw him a snappy salute to show the type of force he is dealing with and politely refuse his offer of a Mint Julep, we agree that the battle will commence in one hour and that the battle will be fought in a Gentlemanly manner.

Confederate Briefing

June 1863

It had been another long hot day when the courier galloped up to the Mansion in a cloud of dust, but then again every day was hot in the South, when it 
wasn't cold that is and always long apart from the shorter days. Maybe I won’t have another Mint Julep .

“Mint Julep?” I said
“Urgent Orders from Richmond “ he said , never even getting off his horse and galloped back the way he came .

Putting down my drink I opened the orders, apparently I was to head immediately to Culpepper with all possibly speed and take command of whatever forces were available to block a damn Yankee force heading that way. It appears that Lee had taken all the other Generals with him to win the war in the North and had somehow forgotten to tell me about it, still I had slaves to pick and cotton to beat and the Mint needed harvesting so I had kept myself busy until that time came when I was once more called upon to serve my State.

And that Time had come.

I read on:
Richmond would in the meantime divert whatever forces they could urgently scrape together, be it state militia or units in the process of re-fitting for my use. If the enemy hadn't already reached Culpeper then I was to move towards Front Royal until I encounter them. Richmond also said that it was essential that I held up the enemy long enough for them to transfer a proper General from another theatre.

The only forces in Culpepper when I arrived were ours, no sight of the Yankees so I called an officers Council to see what we had available.

It appears all the other officers had also somehow missed the call up for Lees Great War winning Invasion, We all agreed that he obviously wasn't as brilliant as the papers made out and that he had far too many limbs to be counted as a proper General.

As it was vital we got on the road to locate the enemy as soon as possible we agreed a four Mint Julep maximum and divided up the forces at our disposal. Richmond had managed to get us four experienced units that had been refitting nearby and added to the State militia and some local recruits we had enough to field four small divisions.

We set out and about eight miles out of Culpepper we spotted the enemy. Being a true Southern gentleman I rode up to the enemy under a flag of Truce and asked to see their commander. He was a smartly dressed man who gave me a crisp salute, politely refused my offer of a Mint Julep and we agreed that the battle would commence in an hours time.

I rode back to my lines and start to array my forces. I am confident that if all things go as planned then we will have thrashed those Damn Yankees long before whatever play that other General is watching and cannot be bothered to leave has finished.

This is a Mr Steve Production

Every so often we round up all the Steve’s in the club and herd them into one corner to play a game by themselves, this is mainly done for the comedic effect of watching them work out whose turn it is but also more importantly its so that we always know were they are and we can keep an eye on them. 

This time it was for a 15mm ACW game using Fire and Fury Brigade Rules
I used the excellent F&F random Unit Generation Tables to roll up the forces in advance with a maximum of 100 possible bases per side.

So enough preamble, here are the initial Briefings and the forces for The Battle of the three Steve’s. (Plus me as umpire).
Short Battle Report: as most people have played F&F I will skip the rule explanations this time.

The Union deployed reasonable evenly across the board slightly favouring the centre where the majority of their guns had been placed, the Rebs massed two divisions on the right and one each in the centre and left wing.

The Union right cautiously advancing slowly shot down the Rebs facing them as they in turn heroically tried to advance into a hailstorm of fire in an attempt to get to grips. One unit did manage to get in a charge but wasn't strong enough to break through just by itself, The Union counter charge pushed back the Reb brigade and on their next turn the Rebel brigade couldn't rally sufficiently enough to escape, so their inevitable doom closed in upon them with a fresh Union brigade attacking from the front and another charging in from the flank.

Nothing could save them.

Now my eerily mystical powers over dice are legendary, suddenly my vision blurred (possibly through taking my glasses off) and somehow I knew in advance how the upcoming melee dice would fall, Foolishly the unbelievers scoffed at my prophecy and low it came to pass, the attackers rolled a 1, the defenders rolled a 10. To their credit the Union players took this fluke roll with dignified good grace, as did the Confederate general, if you call running up and down the hall screaming like a little girl dignified. In the long run it did no good as weight of numbers eventually told and the Rebel left flank collapsed onto their centre which hadn't been so adventurous and were still holding the centre hill waiting for their right wing to swing the game.

Over on that wing it was tougher going as the Union forces were defending a chain of small woods and stoutly resisted the repeated waves of confederate attacks. A lone Union brigade of Zouvres held the extreme left all day against all-comers and even when their flanking unit were routed by dint of the mighty Reb ability to throw a 9 against a 1 (less girly screaming as by then it was too late) still continued to resist.

In F& F the best method of frontal attacking is to have a single line backed up by two attack columns all within 1”, as long as all three units pass their movement dice then you should outnumber the enemy giving you from +1 to +3 on the dice. Even this didn't work.

Reb casualties were now piling up faster than I could put them back in the box up and with the Union right turning in and advancing against the centre it looked all up, which it was.

Victory for the Union, handshakes all round and off to the pub for well deserved Mint Juleps all round.

Thanks to Numerous Steve’s.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

East Front - West Front, Chain of Command

First club meeting in 2014 saw us getting started with two games of Chain of Command staged by Jason and Nathan, who were very much involved in the play testing and development of these rules. For the rest of us, this was our first go at them and we were at the bottom of the learning curve, all be it , that we had all seen the marvellous video demonstrations staged by the Lardies on their You Tube presentations.

So the game I played was set on the Eastern Front 1941 with a German Infantry platoon vs a Soviet Rifle equivalent. Our German platoon was beefed up with an extra Rifle section and an MMG section, but no specific anti-armour capability. The Russians had a couple of T26 tanks and Flamethrower team.

The East Front table looking from the German edge
So our first game had a meeting engagement with both sides patrolling forward towards a small village. When the markers were finally locked the German Jump Off Positions allowed them to occupy most of the village with the Soviets in the hills and woodland beyond.

All quiet on the Eastern Front
The German force had first phase and decided to deploy two rifle sections into the village with a MMG team on their left flank at the crossroads. The Soviets deployed two rifle sections, one on each flank and a T26 tank on their right, German left flank. This caused a certain amount of consternation in German ranks with nothing better to take on a tank than grenades and determination. Oh well it's early East Front, how sad never mind.

Germans set up in the Village
The Soviet forces on the German left were ensconced on a small wooded hill and proceeded to open up a barrage of small arms fire into the village aimed at neutralising the MMG team, killing one and causing a shock. The MMG team fired back killing two Soviets. Then the T26 edged onto the road looking right along the German position in the village.

Soviet Flank Attack
With their flank turned the German infantry were forced to clear the road, and start to move troops out to the left to deal with the threat posed, but having to keep troops available to watch the other Soviet force on their right. More small arms fire was directed towards the MMG team and they were dead.

Soviet Pinning force
The German response to the T26 on their flank was to use their "Handgranaten" characteristics and launch a close assault from a wheat field close by, under cover from smoke from their 50mm mortar. The attack wounded the commander and shocked the vehicle into shut down for a turn as they tried to recover their composure. With the threat of the MMG disposed of the Soviets brought up a second Rifle section  on to the hill and started to lay down a fusillade of fire onto the next German section in the village causing a few casualties but more shock.

Command Dice allocated
Meanwhile on the other flank the Soviets advanced their rifles to the edge of the village taking care to keep out of sight as a threat in being, and bringing on a second T26 which advanced down the road towards the crossroads.
Hellfire Corner on the German left
Next phase saw the German commander try to finish off the first Soviet Tank but only succeeded to cause more shock and kill the gunner. Meanwhile more German infantry were killed by Soviet small arms fire, although the German return fire killed the section leader and half his squad on the hill top. In the Soviet phase the pressure continued with a maxim MMG being brought up on the hill to add further fire support and a surprise attack from a Soviet flamethrower team from the opposite wheat field to where their tank was being attacked.
Smoke and close assault armour
The flamethrower killed a couple of German troops, wounded the Junior leader, and caused two more shocks before being wiped out in a hail of return fire.

Oh no more tanks!
With all the incoming small arms the German force was becoming pinned down and unable to remove shocks, which with the drip drip of mounting casualties was starting to impact on unit and force morale.

The pressure grows on the German position as casualties mount
The pressure finally took its inevitable toll and with two German sections collapsing under the fire the platoon fell back from the village a broken force.

Flame thrower attack


Out flanked and time to leave
Thanks to Nathan for hosting our game and to Chas, Vince and Ian for a very entertaining afternoon.

Chain of Command really lived up to expectations for me. I really liked the way they model this scale of action and the use of kills and shock to model casualties and morale as a joint result of combat. The ground scale works well for 20/28mm and is perfect for use with 15mm which is a big plus for me. When time permits, I will put together specific sets of figures to run my own games. If you haven't tried these rules yet but are thinking of doing so, give then a go, they really are very good.

Meanwhile on the Western Front.
I didn't play in the Normandy game, but gather the Yanks got beat. So here are a few pictures of Jason's collection of figures and terrain, which I think you'll agree look splendid.

The MDF look really works for this period
Sherman and hedgerows tells you where this is
It takes a brave man to drive a Stuart down a boccage enclosed road
Mortars set up
The Yanks are in town
'Lost Germans' mark a Jump Off Position