Friday, 26 August 2016

Bleneville or Bust - Scenario 4B: Near Avaux

Jagdpanthers in Normandy
The third game featured at the August meeting of the club was an 'I Aint Been Shot Mum' scenario taken from Robert Avery's campaign booklet 'Blenneville or Bust', staged by Ian with his collection of Normandy WWII 15mm figures and followed with a report on how the game played out.

Blenneville or Bust - Too Fat Lardies

The scenario called for Fallschirmjagers but due to their unavailability for this mission the SS
stepped in to the fray. These were still classed as elite to avoid unbalancing the scenario, giving them
four initiative dice.

The British objective was to remove all enemy opposition to travel along the main roads. This was
achieved if the Germans had no on-table units which could shoot with more than two initiative dice,
which meant degrading each German infantry unit by 50% - a big ask!

The German hill-top position viewed from the allied lines
The terrain favoured the defenders as all hedges were considered bocage and terrain in between
(the fields) were broken terrain - this severely restricted British movement. Visibility, unless on top
of the hill or in the buildings, was restricted from one hedgerow to the next – dense stuff this

The German left flank looks to be covered, but what about the right?
Although facing two troops of Sherman tanks with a company HQ (ten tanks) the Germans had plenty of powerful anti-tank capability; namely a beast of a Jagdpanther, two PaK 40 and two fearsome Panzerschrek teams. The Germans also had the opportunity to deploy a ‘forlorn hope’ of one rifle gruppe and one of the Panzerschrek in the wood in the NE corner, close to the British edge; which would have caused havoc being deployed off a blind with the four actions!

What did I say about that right flank!
Apart from the ‘forlorn hope’, the Germans had to deploy south of the hedge in the NW quarter and
west of the main road. In reality, they deployed quite away back in the east-west spur road; behind
the east-west southern hedge and with the Jagdpanther as the backstop with the Kompanie HQ (less
one Panzerschrek) close by! The German starting positions are marked on the map above.

The British armour takes full advantage of the opportunity presented
Due to the rearward deployment of the German forces the British, who could bring on three blinds
each time their card was drawn, had a fairly free run. The British entered the first three blinds with
one on the road with one in the fields either side. These blinds benefited from the rapid deployment
card, which appeared with regularity. As a consequence these blinds reached the west most
northern hedge and the houses undetected.

On their way in they managed to successfully recce the hedges at the road junction revealing the FOO and half of Zug One. Due to constricted positions of this Zug and the FOO, German reconnaissance was poor. Ultimately they identified one of the blinds in the houses to be a dummy and the other to contain British infantry. What a shame they didn't take the opportunity to occupy the houses on their first activation. This would have given them all round visibility making spotting so much easier – but fear of being targeted deterred the Germans from carryout this manoeuvre.

The German defenders are bundled out of their forward line
With few troops on the table and hence few cards, the tea break card made regular appearances –
as did the British blinds card. As a consequence the blinds were ‘flooding’ on to the table.

With the defence hard pressed the German command struggle to hold the line
The Germans in the spur road did eventually manage to spot a blind on the British right, which
turned out to be a platoon of infantry. The sight of this platoon caused the cautious Germans to pull
back the half Zug, retreating towards the southern hedgerow but leaving the machine gun and PaK
40 in the lane. The British, still making good use of their rapid deployment card, quickly deployed off
a blind and poured withering fire into the PaK 40 crew, causing four points of shock and pinning it.
Unable to move and with no Big Man nearby to remove shock, this ultimately sealed the fate of the

The British attack momentum doesn't let up
The British also made some useful employment of their off board 25 pounders causing various
casualties and shock. However many times the Tea break appeared the British air-support card just
failed to appear – maybe the weather gods were trying to give the Germans a chance! For the
Germans, they did not take any opportunity to unleash their powerful off-board 12cm mortars.

Meanwhile, on the British left flank the blinds were making rapid, unopposed movement but one
was eventually spotted revealing a troop of tanks. The Jagdpanther took a shot at the Firefly but
regrettably for the crew they missed. Retribution was not long in coming. The next time the British
armour card was drawn it only took one round of Firefly shooting to destroy the German behemoth!

The rear-guard prepares to sell themselves dearly as retreat is inevitable
With the British now starting to overwhelm the German infantry, and with their prized asset burning
like a roman candle, the Germans admitted defeat.

On another day, with the Germans feeling more emboldened, I am sure the British would have to
pay a high price to achieve their objective.

Thank you to Nathan and Steve for playing the game and to Nathan for the loan of a rather ‘fragile’
Jagdpanther and a grounded Typhoon!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Welcome to Zugamba - Fast and Dirty Skirmish

A small dusty provincial town is rudely awakened by the beating rotors of several Mi 8 transport helos. The oppressive regime of President for life Ndango has received intelligence that Joshua Limgabi, leader of the local Popular Front Political Cell, is in town for the night. The government airborne battalion has been tasked to arrest him. A follow up force from the local brigade will aid the extraction.

Unfortunately for the government troops, the local brigade elements were detected moving out of their barracks. Limgabi therefore tasked Comrade Maximum to lay an ambush on their approach route even before the approach of helicopters alerted the rebels.

On hearing the helos, Limgabi and his lieutenants immediately got on their toes, bomb bursting to confuse the pursuit. The airborne platoon engaged and killed one fleeing rebel and gave chase to the other two. They managed to detain the first, but the second ducked into the mosque and evaded capture.

By now the local militia were beginning to organise. A particularly alert unit piled out of the mosque, straight into a brawl with the airborne arrest team. In a brutal short range fight, several rebels were killed but Limgabi was released, somehow surviving the crossfire.

By now the unsuspecting relief column was moving towards the town. Moving in a rather untactical
formation and having forgotten to deploy scouts or an advance guard, they unsurprisingly drove straight into Comrade Maximum's ambush. For his part, Comrade Maximum had been leafing through Sean Bean's top tips, deploying his forces in the well rehearsed 'circular' ambush. This ensured that although some serious damage was done to the convoy, many of the ambushers found themselves under fire from their own comrades across the track.

The ambush zone quickly became an attritional firefight, the column being too long to catch entirely in the killing area. The rear elements deployed and eventually the 14.5 cannon on the BTR made its presence felt. It allowed Lieutenant Vinbaba to direct a left flanking attack on the ambushes from a safe distance in the rear.

Meanwhile, back in town Captain Chadhobi and his airborne platoon began to realise they'd properly kicked a hornet's nest. As rebels appeared all around, their superior training meant they quickly dispersed the rebel groups, but they didn't have the numbers to sustain casualties and keep fighting. With Limgabi on his toes, making for the shanties on the edge of town, all they could hope to do was wait for the column.

Lt Vinbaba had dispersed Maximum's ambush groups and then gathered his last intact section to move into town. Too late to help the airborne, the last running Unimog from the column would have a few spare seats on the trip back.

Rules used were 'Fast and Dirty' by Ivan Sorensen. The activations are card driven and the mechanism gives quick resolutions to most situations. Troop quality is a major factor, hardware being less important. The game meant just about all circumstances arose other than indirect fire. We'll save that for next time when the government returns on a punitive expedition.

Fast & Dirty Skirmish Rules

Much fun was had by all and everyone was very patient with the occasional erratic umpiring. Steve H displayed an uncanny ability to roll for the random arrival of his rabble militia putting them right in the thick of it every time, making life very interesting, as the Chinese curse would have it, for Chas.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

To Defy a King - Scots vs New Model Army,1651

One of the three games staged at this month's Devon Wargames meeting was a late English Civil War clash between a Scots army bent on crossing the border and joining with compatriots to the the south, which would eventually culminate in the Battle of Worcester, and a New Model army sent to prevent their progress.

The resultant clash of the two forces was set up as a meeting engagement somewhere on the borders, hence the rolling open terrain interspersed with light woods, boggy ground and a north-south road from which the two armies had shaken out into battle formation.

The collection of figures is Mr Steve's growing host of 15mm figures from various manufacturers including Minifigs, Peter Pig and even a few classic Mike's Models. The rules were a set Steve and I first encountered at Attack in Devizes a couple of years ago, "To Defy a King" and was only our second go at them, which proves they must have ticked a box to make it through to the "lets have another go at them" stage of rule playing. My part of the days festivities was to provide the terrain, command the Scots and was ably supported by Steve M who led the New Model.

For previous posts about the rules, just follow the links

The two forces deployed for battle, Scots on the left and New Model on the right
Steve did the army selection using the process set out in the rules, which for me is one of the big stand outs with these rules.

The armies during the English Civil War were very non standard one to another and the quality and training could be very different according to year and locality. The establishment by Parliament of the foundations of a professional English army, namely the New Model Army was a major step to eradicating that huge variability.

The rules seek to model this in a rather pleasing way that moves away from the lists by year and points costs, standard approach and instead generates forces in a much more variable process that produces forces that an army commander might well have had to make do with rather than what he would have chosen. It reminds me of the old Gilder system of writing brigade cards of various sized units and quality and then drawing a number of cards to suit the size of game and getting on with the force you have drawn.

The lines seen from the New Model right flank, with the Scots infantry massed in the centre looking to force their way south along the road.
Thus the forces deployed were quite different one to another with the Scots, the larger of the forces, having two infantry brigades of four and three regiments, all of different strengths and quality and two cavalry brigades like wise. The Scots ended up with some very large veteran units of infantry and cavalry which would prove a challenge to the New Model.

The New Model deployed an infantry brigade of five regiments (two small veterans and three larger trained) and two cavalry brigades, as with the Scots, one on each flank. The problem for the New Model at this period was that their officer cadre was not as good as in previous times with many of the best having quit the service. Their troops however were formidable.

You will see that we dispensed with artillery this time around as we were deploying off the march and moving to contact. The artillery in this period was not very mobile and quite feeble and we decided to dispense with its use (you can imagine it limbered up on the roads behind waiting to move on) and cut to the chase with the more mobile elements of infantry and cavalry.

For a more detailed coverage of unit capabilities you might want to follow the link above to previous games reported here on the DWG and links to the 'To Defy a King' web page that links to more explanations and the rules forum.

The different types of cavalry fighting techniques are illustrated with the sword wielding types (veterans) to the front in a single line and the pistol in your face types (raw) who fight double ranked to their rear
So with both lines deployed we were off with the initiative changing from move to move but with the Scots getting a hold of it for several key moves as the lines started to close.

The problem facing the Scots as they sought to advance on the New Model and exit the table from their lines was that the terrain of open woods and boggy ground interfered with the movement of large bodies of troops. Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

The New Model Infantry bar the road south -note the variable strength of the units. Three of these regiments were trained to use Swedish volley fire tactics that effectively allowed them to fire twice in a single round of combat -ouch.
The worst effects of the terrain were suffered by the Scots cavalry on the right flank who emerged from a wood in disorder and were unable to reform before being caught by their New Model opposition and forced to fight very much at a disadvantage.

On the Scots left the weaker cavalry brigade sought to take advantage of a hill top position to fight the New Model cavalry and the veteran Scots regiment to the front, though greatly outnumbered managed with the support of a raw unit of pistol cavalry hold up the combat for most of the game before routing away at game end. (I have covered this combat in more detail towards the end of this post.)

With more infantry to hand I decided to mass close to the road looking to force my way through the New Model lines, whilst hoping my cavalry protected the flanks.
As the cavalry got stuck in, the Scots infantry methodically closed on their opposites and clenched their buttocks as the New Model troops prepared to deliver their fierce, Swedish style, volley fire. This however, through rather unfortunate dice rolling proved fairly ineffectual.

The Scots let out their battle cry and charged in pushing the New Model trained line back in the centre as their veteran infantry held firm on the flanks.

The Scots cavalry are badly disordered (to right with red markers) having got held up in the woods and are desperately trying to sort their ranks as the New Model cavalry seek to take advantage of their discomfiture. 
Steve is gradually aligning his collection to the rules with little marker holders which at present show the morale grading and will eventually record starting strength (nearest camera is 'R' raw Scots infantry, ahead are 'T' trained comrades)  
Veteran New Model infantry flank the trained regiments in the centre
The fighting for this period seems well modelled by these rules as it takes a series of combat wins and push backs to cause units to break and thus the combats generated took multiple moves before we could see where the momentum was favouring one side or the other.

This got quite interesting on the Scots right as their cavalry, caught disordered, suffered initially but through a combination of fortuitous dice rolling and eventual support from comrades in the rear started to reverse the combat.

Both sides were liberal in throwing in commanders to the combats and these rules are quite deadly when casualties are dolled out and commanders have to test for being caught up in the fighting, having a 50:50 chance of getting wounded or killed outright.

The two lines close as the Scots emerge from the close country to their front
The infantry are arrayed with pikes to the centre, able to fight in multiple ranks of bases. This trained regiment are able to drop two bases of musketeers into the second rank whilst manoeuvring between the wood and the bog.
The cavalry close on the Scots right and the pistol shots fly
As the battle reached its climax or rather the day came to an end with the bar beckoning, the Scots infantry looked likely to force a break in the New Model lines but with their cavalry beaten on the left flank and New Model cavalry pinning the Scots right it was doubtful if the Caledonians could have forced the situation and the New Model would probably have lived to fight another day, leaving the Scots somewhat chastened by the experience.

On the Scots left the opposing cavalry fight for control of a small hill that offers a little extra help to the hard pressed Scots and produced an interesting challenge to the rules.
Whilst the cavalry are otherwise engaged the Scots infantry look to press home their advantage in numbers.
So what are my impressions of these rules?
There is something about "To Defy a King" that is really appealing and I think it is the feel of the period expressed in the design, together with the army generation that really captures my imagination. I like them even though my appreciation is tempered with a frustration that they are a set of rules not quite finished in the clarity of the explanation and meaning of particular rules.

This was highlighted in the previous game when we couldn't divine how a particular cavalry combat should be resolved and a question to the forum generated a reply that suggested the players should decide on their own resolution.

That is all well and dandy, but requires a significant investment in time between friends to agree a common house rule on the situations where these considerations crop up. You would hope that rigorous play-testing prior to publication would have ironed out these seemingly straightforward situations beforehand.

The Scots lancers are still disordered and poorly place to support their comrades as the infantry press forward
This particular game threw up another situation when a Scots cavalry brigade changed their orders from advance to hold, seeking to hold the hill they were tasked with controlling.

With one unit forward and the other close behind in support, they were charged uphill by the enemy. The front unit was able to counter-charge taking advantage of their uphill position, but the other unit was not permitted to advance in its move phase to occupy the previous position held by its comrades (so not moving any further forward than when the hold order was actioned) and thus maintain support range because the brigade, had "hold" orders!

The rules seem unclear as to whether we are applying brigade or unit orders as the implications of a hold order implies that a supporting unit of cavalry could not move forward in support of a combat being fought in the position its brigade was ordered to hold, namely the hill, after the lead unit had counter-charged enemy cavalry attacking up the hill. Why? Because a hold order prohibits the unit from doing so. This implies a hold order, literally means 'don't move forward' even if that movement doesn't take you away from the position the brigade is to hold, which seems a bit daft.

An example of what I think a 'Hold' would look like might be:
• Defend/Hold
Attempt to hold current positions. You may return fire, but may not charge/attack enemy unless
in compulsory pursuit, have an attached officer, are mounted or wishing to perform a counter-charge.

Thus with the example orders above, the unit could support by manoeuvring accordingly, within its current position.

Surely a brigade commander should be able to fight his brigade as he chooses, within pre-defined limitations, provided he does not take his brigade away from the position it has been tasked to, in this case, hold. Thus on repelling an attack he would be forced to rein in and fall back to his position.

The rules seem to imply a much greater limitation in the ability of the units to manoeuvre and initiate combat against units attacking the position they are on or in.

I say seem, in that this is our second go with these rules at club and the last time was few months previous, so perhaps we have got the wrong end of the stick. Mr Steve has tasked himself to see if we can get some clarification.

The two infantry lines meet as the New Model troops let fly with their fancy firing, fortunately for the Scots with minimal effect
Scots infantry lining up for a go at push of pike
The situation outlined and the previous one are not unsurmountable to a house-rule revision and agreement but it is a frustration that these situations are not better defined.

The pressure builds as the Scots get a push on in the scrum. The 'three' counter indicates the New Model, having lost in a round of melee, have been pushed back three inches.
So there we are, another interesting game of To Defy a King which produced a very good little set too with two very different armies. Steve has plans to produce courier figures to better represent the position of orders moving between commanders along with the other markers mentioned and has produced a lovely looking collection.

Thanks to Steve M and Mr Steve for a very entertaining afternoon back in the 17th Century. I look forward to the feedback from the forum.

Monday, 1 August 2016

15mm Old Glory 7YW era Ottoman Cavalry

The final two bags I have to show you are of the two types of Ottoman cavalry I bought , I only got 2 of the 5 types available as these are the ones that I will using the most off , Siphai and Tartars.
Plus I can show comparison pics of some Siphai I had already bought  from "By Fire and Sword" ( through Wayland Games) , I am hoping that I can use figures from their Ottoman and Cossack Renaissance range to cover gaps in the Old Glory 7YW range. 

Ottoman Siphai
 The pack comes with both Lance and Sword armed figures which is a bit annoying as I wanted all my Siphai to have lances , or at the very least 75% , which would have been Ok. The Command figures are also a little disappointing as you just get an officer and a flagman.  
Close up of Types
 Next are the Alternatives I looked at from By Fire and Sword , they have 2 versions of European Sipahi available , with or without Lances , I needed to find some figures I could use to represent Provincial Cavalry which in the KK army lists don't have Lances ,so I bought the no lance version. What I could do is to transfer some of the OG Swordsman into this unit and maybe use the Donnington samples (see below) .

3 x Base, 9 Figures, Flag and flag pole

Rider close ups, quite a few variations
By Fire and Sword have recently changed their packs sizes from 18 figures to 9 ,  I got caught up in the middle of this and eventually I received 2 packs of 9 , the contents are similar in each pack apart from the flag design .The one problem I have with these figures is the man to horse size ratio , The horses are big , I have some comparison pictures against Old Glory but I am not sure I get across the problem very well .

Left Old Glory : Right By F&S
I think the horses are too big for my taste as they tower over the OG versions , so when I went to the Devizes show recently  I bought a handful of Ottoman Sipahi cavalry from Donnington so that I could look at their horses as a possible substitute , the picture below shows the same By F&S rider on 3 different horses

from L to R : Old Glory, By F&S , Donnington

What I might do is get my hands on a batch of Old Glory horses and re-mount whatever By Fire and Sword cavalry I pick up. Whilst a unit all riding the same size horses wouldn't stand out on their own, they will look out of place amongst an army.

Finally for now are the Tartars , these are from the 7YW range as Timecast didn't have any of the Renaissance versions in stock which prevented me from doing a quick side by side comparison , these look Ok for what I want ,probably a few too many bowmen if I had to be picky , I would have liked a few swordsmen/pistols for variation.


That's it now for (who shouted Hooray ?) until I start the Russians sometime in the next 9 months and as there are no pictures available for this range either , I will try and remember to post something up when I buy the figures . I did however buy one pack of Russian Musketeers which I am currently painting up , first impressions are that the figures must be reasonable new molds as they are quite crisp.