Saturday, 21 March 2020

Southern Ukraine 1919 - Red Actions.

Originally billed as an AWI game, after a quick figure count I realised I couldn’t field enough troops for four players. I’d intended bringing John Bull/Patriots to the table. After some head scratching, I decided the best solution was Red Actions, similar rules and long overdue an outing.

The scenario came from the generator in the rule book, ‘Is that the Chattanooskaya Choo-Choo?’ The attacker, the Whites in this case, need to secure the rail station before an ammunition train arrives in order to capture it intact.

I rolled for the forces as per the scenario generator, the Red defenders getting 180 points and the White attackers getting 260. This gave each Red player three companies of five platoons, all Red Regulars, an MG each and a field gun each. They also had a squadron of Red cavalry and a spare MG.

The White players each had two companies of six volunteer platoons and a company of five Colour infantry platoons. They shared out four MGs, an FT17, one field gun and an Austin-Putilov armoured car.

Since I was not as familiar with the rules as I’d like and the players were all new to the game, I avoided Commissars and other complications. As a house rule, we decided action sequence by dice roll. Each player rolled a handful of dice, one for each element with sixes being wild. Dice were then allocated to an element in numerical order. Ties were re-rolled and sixes could be used whenever the player chose. This seemed to work well and at a couple of points made for some interesting twists.

The Reds set up around the rail station making use of buildings and what cover they could. The Whites entered from the far edge, a little further back then the scenario suggests, to give players a turn or two to familiarise with activation and movement.

There didn’t appear to any particular plan on the part of the Whites, other than ‘You go up that side, I’ll go up this side.’ A clearly inexperienced White gun commander quickly discovered that a limbered gun on a sky line makes a good target. After beating a hasty retreat, a more cautious approach then followed. The Austin AC was similarly incautious, but the hapless crew didn’t get a second chance. The Red gunners were on their game.

On the Whites’ right a steady advance brought them up to the trees overlooking the sidings. Under covering fire from the FT, the Colour infantry attempted a flanking manoeuvre. At the first attempt they were beaten back by rifle and MG fire, whilst the Red field gun duelled with the FT.

On the White left, some order was being imposed and slowly troops, MGs and the field gun were positioned to win the firefight. The Whites scored a major blow when they managed to rout the crew of the Red FG, who routed away before they could be rallied.

Back on the Whites’ right, a second flanking attempt by the Colour infantry was forced back by the threat of the Red cavalrymen. This cost the Reds a platoon but held the flank for now. However, after several turns of duelling, the FT eventually got the better of the Red FG.

About the same time, a White volunteer company finally gained a foothold in the church, forcing back the Red company. The Reds had a very nicely placed MG behind the church, which had very effectively enfiladed the Whites flanking movements for several turns, whilst being out of sight of the Whites fire support. The loss of the church made its position untenable, unlocking the right flank for the Whites.

The Whites were now massing in the centre and having knocked out both Red FGs, had a decisive advantage. The Reds we’re slowly getting prised out of their positions, left and right.

Having played for four hours, we called it at that point. All the players enjoyed the rules, even if I made a few mistakes in application. As a first game with the rules it worked well, players running their sides of the table with minimal refereeing. The rules are pretty simple but have considerable character. I really like the similarity in basic principles with John Bull which makes switching period much easier with minimal relearning of rules. 

All figures are Peter Pig, buildings are Ironclad miniatures or scratch built and rolling stock by Siku toys. Railway from Battlefront/Gale Force 9. Great to see the toys on the table, it’s given me the enthusiasm to paint my Red sailors, Cossacks and Tachankas. Hopefully more to follow before too long.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Devon Wargames Group - Future Meetings Cancelled until Further Notice

It is with regret that the members of the Devon Wargames Group have decided, in the light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and recent guidance from government recommending not to attend public gatherings and clubs, to cancel planned future meetings until further notice.

As a responsible part of our local and national community the club is keen to support the efforts to bring a speedy and positive conclusion to the current situation and to not put anybody at greater risk and thus we have decided to halt our normal schedule of meeting dates.

We still have some game reports to publish here on the club blog, so those will appear in the time being together with any other appropriate club news between now and what we hope will be a short intermission to our normal output.

We wish everyone to remain safe and to stay in good health and look forward to a return to more normal circumstances.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

The Battle of Pelennor Fields - War of the Ring

The Year is 3019 and the date is March 15th in the Third Age of Middle Earth and the War of the Ring is reaching a climax as Sauron, Lord or Mordor launches the full might of his forces against Gondor, before the walls of the great city of Minas Tirith that would become known as the Battle of Pelennor Fields.

The Devon Wargames Group tends to focus its gaming activities very much in the historical gaming section of the hobby, but every now and then, it's fun to broaden the diet into the fictional, fantasy, science fiction area and so we have featured other fantasy and science fiction genre games before; but yesterday thanks to Mel, Lee and Jamie who travelled to the club all the way from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, bringing their amazing collection of Lord of the Rings models and terrain, a few of us were able to enjoy a really spectacular rendition of this very special part of the fantasy gaming part of the hobby as seen below.

Additionally it is worth remembering that Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of Lord of the Rings and an expert philologist, steeped in the knowledge of the languages and stories of Anglo Saxon, Norse, Finnish and other major language groups and their traditions, from which he created many of his fictional themes, also indulged in a bit of wargaming in his time, no doubt encouraged by another legendary name in the hobby, Brigadier Peter Young, see the link below.

Our table for the day was a real feast for the eye, with the walls of Minas Tirith under heavy assault, with siege towers in place and the defenders struggling to repel breaching parties of orcs and trolls as the Witch King swooped over head casting spells of despondency and terror among the defenders.

Just as the Witch King was preparing his exclamation that 'the time was his', with an impudent cock, crowing in the background, to announce the break of day, the forces of Mordor became aware of the sounding of many battle horns as the 6,000 strong Riders of Rohan rode on to the battlefield lead by Theodan King, extolling his men to ride forth and crush the foul creatures of Mordor that lay before them.

The vista of our table for the day with the walls of Minas Tirith under attack as the forces on the field of battle prepare to fight the decisive part of the action, before its walls.

The rules we were using for our game was the initial rule set launched by Games Workshop back in the day which I bought for my two lads Tom and Will when they first got interested, following the films.

I remember at the time thinking what a good set of fantasy/wargaming rules they were and was surprised to find many years later, when I looked at the GW offerings again that the whole concept of massed battles, which is what Tolkien is all about, had gone and the focus shifted almost to a skirmish level of playing the battles, which I and I think many other traditional gamers find very unsatisfying

So when I saw we were going to use this rule set for our game, together with a few added home rules for better group play-ability, I jumped at the chance of reacquainting myself with them. Not only that, but the sight of lovely terrain and beautifully painted figures, done by Mel, in large multiple warbands of thirty two figures in the case of the orcs, really captured the film like appearance of our smaller section of the battlefield and really added another level to the game as a whole.

My command for the day was a little known Ranger called Strider to many of his acquaintances, but Aragorn to those in the know, and his companions Legolas Greenleaf, a Sindarin wood elf and son of the Elven King Thranduil from Mirkwood and Gimli son of Gloin, a dwarf warrior from Ered Luin in the Blue Mountains.

Alongside them four companies from the Army of the Dead keen to make amends for their previous dishonour in a past life and sworn to support the returning King of Gondor.

Aragorn waits in the wings to lead forth the Army of the Dead

Aragorn and his comrades would sit out the first turn of our game as Theodan led his Riders of Rohan onto the battlefield as the forces of Mordor turned to meet the new threat, all the while still fighting hard to cause the city to surrender.

The walls of the city under fierce attack as the battle unfolds before them

The Army of Mordor are unaware of the threat about to be unleashed on their flank as they mass before the city walls

On another wing of the battlefield the forces of Sauron also had another force at hand timed to arrive soon after Aragorn's entry, in the rather large form of a Mumakil, quite capable of crushing friend and foe alike if not carefully directed to where its enormously powerful presence was needed.

Thus our table was set up to refight the climactic battle, in fact the largest battle of the War of the Ring that, with luck, if luck you call it, would see the return of the true King of Gondor.

The mighty Mumakil set to even things up during the closing stages of our game

With horns blaring out, the Orc hoards turn to face the new threat from the approaching Rohirrim

The battlefield is already littered with the corpses of the fallen from the previous fighting

Our battle began with the classic charge of the Rohirrim as multiple groups of armoured horsemen crashed into the serried ranks of orcs and supporting trolls, gradually gaining the upper hand, though without loss and driving the Mordor hoards away from the city wall as the flank was turned onto its supports.

First contact as the Rohirrim crash into the Orc hoards and their Heavy Troll support

As Theodan and his guard roll forward, the Witch King flies overhead astride his Fell beast

With all thoughts of pressing their attack on the city wall abandoned, the Orcs of Mordor turn to face the new threat

'Arise, arise, Riders of Theoden! Fell deeds awake, fire and slaughter! Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered, a sword day, a red day, ere the sun rises. Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor! '

As the Rohirrim pushed the orcs back a new threat entered from the left as Aragorn led Gimli, Legolas and the Army of the Dead up from the banks of the River Anduin to be met by more orcs supported by archers who did a steadfast job of holding back this new threat before Aragorn finally managed to overcome the archers, though suffering the disappointment of seeing the dead struggle to overcome their orc adversaries.

The orc hoards brace themselves before the crash of horse and spear, as Aragorn and comrades behind struggle to get onto the battlefield.

'Come not between the Nazgul and its prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where they flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.'

Overhead, the Witch King did his best to sow despondency and terror among the ranks of Rohirrim and Gondorian warriors, but it seems that rumours of women and hobbits among their ranks was causing him a little concern - fools, didn't they know that this was his time!

And still the fight to control the wall continues!

Prince Imrahil joins the fight before the wall, leading from its gates the Knights of Dol Amroth or Swan Knights to fall upon the hard pressed orcs.

As the orc horde reeled under the attack of the Rohirrim, disaster struck as Theodan King went to join his father in the Great Meade Hall and command shifted to Eomer, just as their ranks were bolstered by a charge out of the gates of the city by Prince Imrahil leading forth the Knights of Dol Amroth in full battle panoply.

The pressure builds on the forces of Mordor

The battle in full sway, seen from the Nazgul eye view

Surely the battle was lost to Sauron, but still his minions kept on fighting and the dead and wounded grew in numbers littering the battlefield in heaps of sorrow and misery.

Theoden King at the charge, with his sword 'Herugrim' in hand as the Rohirrim smite their enemies

The flank is turned as the orcs are driven away from the walls by the furious Rohirrim charge

With the forces of Mordor driven from the walls, things look hopeless for the survivors, but wait what creature is that approaching from out of the dust and haze of battle?

The last rearguard of orcs attempts to hold back the allied cavalry as support appears in their rear.

The fighting is desperate as the battle hangs in the balance

Just when it seemed all resistance from Mordor was hopeless on rolled the lumbering Mumakil crashing towards the Knights of Dol Amroth in an unstoppable charge, just as Aragorn cleared the group of orc archers before him leaving his path clear to launch a charge of his own with Gimli and Legolas in support of the Swan Knights.
Enter the Mumakil!

As the orc rearguard go down fighting taking out the remaining army of the dead, Aragorn and his comrades together with  Prince Imrahim and his, charge in to engage in the final act of our battle.

Aragorn died as he would have wanted with Anduril, the Flame of the West, his famous sword reforged from the shards of Narsil in hand, alongside his companions from the fellowship setting too among the crewmen of the howdah atop the Mumakil and with Gimli and Legolas causing the beast to roar in pain as great gashes were rendered upon its hide amid multiple hits from Legolas' bow.

Disaster! Aragorn, Gimili and Legolas kill two of the Mumakil crew and inflict two wounds on the mighty beast itself, but are killed in the process as the Knights of Dol Amroth close in to add more woe for the beast.

With the beast roaring in pain and pierced by the first strikes of knights and their lances, it careered off through the serried ranks of Rohirrim and Orcs still contesting the battlefield leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake.

A rampaging Mumakil ploughs its way off the battlefield taking out Rohirrim and Orc alike

A fitting and climactic end to our game and straight out of the annals of the Red Book of Westmarch that came down to the Men of the West via the Anglo-Saxons of Wessex who settled around the city of Escanceaster, known today as Exeter, the county town of Devon.

The end of the Battle of Pelennor, left to the dead and dying, and with Minas Tirith saved from the forces of Mordor it was time to head to the pub.

Great fun had by all and many thanks to Mel, Lee and Jamie who travelled a long way to bring their collection to the club and provided a lot of fun with the game they produced, which all involved enjoyed thoroughly.

As someone planning to visit Sir Peter Jackson's Pelennor Fields, among other places created in the film, later this year, I know I will carry memories of this very fun game during my trip.