Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Near Tlaliscoya, March 1862

So I've been wanting to have another go at Sharp Practice since watching the latest Let's Play video from Beasts of War and I rather fancied seeing if I could run a game using the few 1860s Mexican figures I have so far.

Now, I only have two units of eight Contra-guerillas, twelve Republican guerrillas, and a few assorted Leaders.  Could I possibly make a working scenario out of so few figures?

I'm currently reading La Contra-Guerilla Francaise au Mexique: Souvenirs des Terres Chaudes by General de Kémtry and as far as my schoolboy French can determine, there was an interesting little action near the beginning of contra-guerilla operations that would probably work.

In March 1862 Colonel du Pin's men marched into the dense forests around Vera Cruz to attack the guerrilla stronghold of Tlaliscoya.  At one point they engages in a firefight across an apparently impassible river gorge.  For the game I posited the idea of a small portion of the main column getting separated in the dark and landing up in the same situation but on a smaller scale.

The Contras start with a unit of skirmishers (6 men and a Level 1 Leader sergeant) and part of the main column (8 man contra-guerilla infantry unit with a Level 2 Leader lieutenant).  Opposing them over the river gorge are two groups of Republican skirmishers with similar leaders.

I made the table simply by positioning four of my 2 foot squares with a gap in the middle to represent the gorge. Each side a Deployment about 12 inches back from the river.  Both sides would be able to recycle casualties as soon as they had enough to form a whole new unit.

In addition the Contras had a Moveable Deployment Point that started adjacent to the main point.  It could be moved as usual until it reached the riverbank.  After that it would take 4 command cards to move across the river.  This was to represent some other Contra stragglers finding a previously undetected crossing point.

The initial clash was between the Contra skirmishers and  unit of Republicans hiding behind some bushes.

Then another groups of guerrillas appeared...

As casualties (and shock) began to mount, the other Contra unit arrived, led by the brave Lieutenant Lebrun.

Lebrun's men unleashed a volley at the righthand unit of Republicans and inflicted some serious shock...

The next volley was even more effective, killing a couple of guerrillas and lightly wounding their officer Don Diego Gomez.  However a random event saw a pall of dense powder smoke settle across the main unit's front.

I decided to move the Contra main unit left into the space recently vacated by the skirmishers, who'd been forced to pull back.

This proved entirely the wrong thing to do.  Faced by two guerrilla units the new Contra group took enough casualties to force it to withdraw. It fell back through the skirmishers giving them more shock and causing them in turn to rout. And so it went with the two Contra units successively falling back through each other and causing further fallbacks etc etc etc...

Victory to the Republic!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Joy of Six 2018

Saturday morning was interesting.  Having got up early to make sure I had everything I needed to take to Joy of Six, I managed to fall from a chair I was standing on to investigate the contexts of a box.  As a result, I arrived at Sheffield Hallam University with a badly swollen little finger, a bloody toe-nail, a sore biceps, and assorted scrapes and bruises.  I mostly managed to forget about the damage, though, as Joy of Six was a genuine pleasure.
We, the Cold War Commanders, were putting on three games under the “Wesel-Cubed” banner.  The idea was to fight a similar action three times in three different time periods.  I’m afraid I didn’t get very many photos; I was too busy playing and talking to the punters!
Looking north-east from above Wesel, 1973
We had three five-feet-square tables each depicting the north-eastern approaches to the German town of Wesel.  In each case, a hasty attack on the town was being mounted by a Soviet Motor Rifle Regiment and in each case a British mechanised battalion with armour support was defending.

On the first table it was 1959.  Andy Taylor’s British seemed to be doing a pretty good job of defending Wesel from Richard Phillips (who was using Mark Julian’s Soviets).  Andy’s defensive efforts were aided by Richard’s ability to roll command blunders at key moments.  On this table the Soviets had T-55s and T-10 heavy tanks and they were opposed by Centurions and Conquerors.  This period saw the last hurrah of the heavy tank concept.
The outskirts of Wesel, 1959. The tanks near the green
die in the foreground are Conquerors.
High water mark of the Soviet advance in 1959; Richard P
moves his T-10s through the woods.

The centre table depicted Wesel in 1973.  Here, my Chieftains and FV432s were up against Neil McCusker’s T-62s.  Pretty much just T-62s it turned out; Neil forgot to bring the BTR-60s for his infantry to ride in so the conscripts had to go in on foot.  This didn’t cramp Neil’s style too much, though, and although T-62s died in droves, he had enough the whittle away at my meagre stock of Chieftains.  By the end of the day he was in a position to sweep around my left flank.
1CHESHIRES at Wesel, 1973.

C company advance up Route 70
Near the end in 1973; Neil's T-62s cross the stream.
Over on the final table Ian Shaw’s 1989 Soviets (with T-80s) were faced by Andy Canham’s Challengers.  This table saw another British victory with the Soviets failing to cross the stream that ran between the two forces.

The public response to the game was pleasing.  Several people mentioned that is was a good idea and there was much praise for the terrain (most of it by Richard Phillips) and the fact that it changed slightly from period to period.

As always, we didn’t get as much actual game play in as we would at a Cold War Commanders gaming weekend but that was only because there were so many interesting people to talk to.  It was particularly nice to talk to veterans who had served in the Wesel area, some of them at the times covered by our games.

Oh, and nice to chat with Neil Shuck and to meet the famous “My other mate Dave”.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Mexican Progress

As a I said a while back, I'm inspired to have a go at producing a Sharp Practice force for the Maximilian Adventure.  When last we touched base I'd just bought a box of Perry plastic zouaves.

Time has moved on and I've managed to get a pleasing number of them converted into contra-guerrillas.  The first unit of eight are in a marching pose....

As is my practice these days they are painted to a standard that I consider good enough for wargaming.  They aren't going to win any painting competitions but they aren't going to sit unfinished in the box either. 

The only converting involved here was cutting down the baggy zouave breeches into overall trousers in line with the figure on the extreme right in this illustration...

... oh, and one of the guys has sandals rather than shoes.

Next up is a unit of skirmishers...

A rather more complex picture here.  Firstly there are three of the Perry plastics, this time assembled in the "charge" pose with the same conversion job on the trousers.

Then there are three guys from the Artisan Designs "Plains Infantry" bubble pack.  I've done head transplants to give them zouave-style caps which I think gives the unit a bit of coherence despite the fact that two of the figures are wearing the old, grey jackets initially worn by this unit.

Finally, the officer is an unmodified Wargames Foundry metal figure.

Also for this project I've got a wagon on the workbench...

It's a 4Ground general purpose wagon and I'm sure it'll add considerable character to my battle scenes.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Stolzenau, April 1945

Ron and I played a nice little game of Chain of Command on Saturday.  I've been wanting to have another go at those rules for a while and I've also been reading Patrick Delaforce's book on the 11th Armoured Division (the formation in which Delaforce himself served as a junior officer in 13 RHA).

Not knowing how many players I'd end up with, I selected 8th Bn, The Rifle Brigade's action at Stolzenau in the early days of April 1945.  This would allow me to field enough toys to be able to do a four player Big CoC game if necessary.  These were the Briefings I ended up with:

British Briefing:
Stolzenau, Westphalia, 6th April 1945.  British forces are pushing into northern Germany. If they can reach the Baltic Sea they will cut Germany in half. Only two major waterways now remain to be crossed; the Weser and then the Elbe.  In some places the advance is almost unopposed, in others the Germans fight desperately for every yard of ground. 

11th Armoured Division can claim to be one of the most effective formations in what has now been designated British Army of the Rhine. The Division’s Motor Battalion, 8th Battalion the Rifle Brigade (8RB) has crossed the Weser in assault boats and established a shallow bridgehead around the shattered highway bridge at Stolzenau.  With no ability to ferry across vehicles, the Rifles must hold their shallow bridgehead while Royal Engineers try to build a pontoon bridge behind them under shellfire and occasional air attack.

German Briefing:
Stolzenau, Westfalen, 6. April 1945. For two weeks the highway through Stolzenau was choked with soldiers, alone or in groups, POWs of various nations with their guards, foreign workers and people fleeing before the advancing Englanders. All of them express only one desire, to go home.  

Yesterday, engineers of Pionier-Sperr-Regiment 1100 blew up the highway bridge over the Weser.  Last night the British crossed the river with light forces and are holding the river bank either side of the wrecked crossing.  Your platoon from SS-Ausbildung-und-Ersatz-Bataillon 12 Hitler Jugend is ordered to destroy the enemy force north of the bridge.

I gave Ron the choice of sides and he decided to be the Germans.  I'd rolled a 3 on 2D6 for the level of support! Ron would be running a green German infantry (not Panzergrenadier) platoon with six points of support and I'd have an average British motor platoon with a measly one point of support!

The battlefield was planned by reference to Google maps and looks like this:

The Weser is off the left-hand edge.  After the patrol phase the British ended up with Jump Off Points in the brick-built shed, the black-and-white farmhouse and the semi-detached pair of yellow-rendered cottages.  As per history, the Germans would be attacking across dangerously open ground.

Post-Patrol Phase showing British (white
star) and German (black rectangle) JOPs
I didn't know what Ron would pick as his supports and I was concerned that I could be up against as many as two armoured vehicles with only a single PIAT to hold them off.  I decided to go for a sticky bomb in case that happened.

And happen it did!  Ron's Hitler Jugend would be backed up by a PzKfWg III Ausf L:

The game began quietly.  With the higher Force Morale (9 to Ron's 8) I took the first phase but contented myself with waiting to see what developed.  Ron then got a flurry of repeat phases (three I think) and began to push forward two sections towards my extreme right flank.

A lucky movement roll could have seen a German section threaten the Jump Off Point in the yellow cottages so I was forced to deploy Corporal Wiggins' section in the clump of trees alongside the cottages (there being no windows in the end wall).

I also deployed my 2" mortar team in the garden over the road.

With an MG42 and a larger rifle team the Germans would have had the advantage in the firefight but their green troops were less skilled in using cover (Green troops are easier to hit in CoC) and, assisted by the mortar team using their entire allocation of HE bombs, the British section was able to nullify the threat from Ron's left flank section.

At this point the German armour put in an appearance and started to "brass up" Wiggins' section.  Ron pretty quickly decided that firing both hull and coaxial MGs was better than the fairly ineffectual 50mm main gun's HE.

As this this was going on Ron decided to launch his second section directly towards Wiggins' weakened section in the trees.  This was risky as I had Corporal Smith's section in the yellow cottages.  Surely I'd get in a couple of rounds of firing as a German assault came on?

Well, no, not if the Germans run really fast...

With an impressive sprint, the Germans crossed the open ground and there was fierce hand-to-hand fighting in the little clump of trees.

Four Germans and three British were casualties and the Germans were forced back.  Both sections were reduced beyond the point of effectiveness and both section leaders were wounded.  A burst of small-arms fire from the British section in the cottages completed the job and Ron's Force Morale dropped to four whilst mine was on seven.

Ron now decided the time had come to push forward with his tank.  With only two small sections left I wasn't confident of victory even when further long-range fire wiped out a German MG team and reduced his Force Morale again to just three.

I deployed the PIAT team into the, now thoroughly blood-soaked, trees.  One shot sailed just over the top before a second stuck  glancing blow that ricocheted off the German armour.  The third shot struck firmly but failed to penetrate.  The tank crew must have been rattled, though, as they immediately withdrew a few yards back up the road.

All this time, Ron had been cautiously edging his third section in a right flanking manoeuvre to ty and get behind the red-brick shed.  This would potentially threaten my undefended left flank Jump Off Point.

They had been under fire all the time, however, from the British section in the black and white farmhouse.  Shock was building up and slowing their advance.  At a key moment, an unlucky burst of fire saw the two remaining members of their MG team killed.  Ron's force morale dropped to two and he decided that it was time to withdraw.

At the end I still wasn't confident that I would have won.  Yes, with only two remaining command dice it was difficult for Ron to keep his tank and his remaining section moving forward but with only two small sections left I was going to have to redeploy significantly to meet the German threat.

The big bonus was that my PIAT team had managed to find some more ammunition at the Jump Off Point.  If I got lucky and took out the tank I'd probably scrape a win.

All in all great fun and it was nice to play rather than umpire for a change.  Must do more Chain of Command.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Where did you get that tile?

Something to do whilst watching the World Cup...

Very therapeutic. When it's finished it'll be a Westphalian farmhouse for late WW2 Chain of Command games.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Somewhere in the Med

I went over to Chris's house last night to pay a first game of What a Tanker!  Four of us took a tanks each to fight over Chris's very nice Mediterranean terrain.  I had a M3 Honey, Simon a Valentine Mk2, Chris a Marder II, and John a Panzer II.

We picked up the rules pretty quickly (Chris and, I think, John had played before at Partizan) though I threw a few sabots into the machinery by assuming some rules were the same as Chain of Command.

There's only so much you can do, tactically, with just four units on the table so the game was pretty much about finding good firing positions.  This wasn't easy to do in such dense terrain.

In the end the Marder's big, powerful gun was just too much for the British.  First my Honey was knocked out...

And then Simon's Valentine was surrounded and hit in the flank at point blank range with inevitable results.

It was a fun game and I'll certainly play What A Tanker again given the chance but I wasn't so enthused that I'll be dashing out to buy myself a copy.

Oh and Chris's 28mm tank models are very nice!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Somewhere in the Known World

Tom and Rob came over yesterday and we had a game of To The Strongest using my newly completed collection of 28mm troops for the Punic Wars.

Actually this was the first time I've had to whole collection out on a table at the same time and I was quite please with the look of the troops en masse.  I'm particularly please that I've managed to achieve this in about 13 months of building and painting!

The Roman army:

And the Carthaginians with their Numidian allies:

The scenario was a straight line-up-and-go-at-the-enemy job.  I prepositioned the armies but let each player have a bit of a switch around of units before we started.  I know that Rob repositioned his elephant and moved his Carthaginian general to be with one of his two units of Gallic warriors.  This was probably a good move as a big warrior unit backed up by a hero and a general is quite a powerful striking force (or it would have been if Rob's ability to draw the wrong activation chit just when it mattered hadn't come to the fore).

Tom, as the Roman commander Marcus Gaius Piso (on the left in the picture below),  moved first and threw his Roman cavalry forward on his right flank whilst his mercenary slingers moved towards the bad going forward on his left.  His centre was a bit slow getting moving.

Rob, meanwhile, as Carthaginian general Hanno, pushed forward the Numidian light cavalry on his right wing but was unable to get the Catrthaginian centre moving at all! It seems the trumpet signal for a general advance was misunderstood as, "Let's wait here and see what happens".

I had warned the guys that this was a game in which units could melt away a the drop of a hat if things went against you. Sure enough, the first offensive action of the game saw lead slingshot from the Romans' mercenary slingers caused a unit of Numidian light horse to flee the field.  More shockingly, they left behind the corpse of Prince Arabio, Rob's allied commander!  From now his army would be far harder to control.

[In act it would have been even harder to control if I'd remembered to apply the "out of control" modifier to all of the Numidian command's troops for the rest of the action.]

The shot below shows the Gallic horse on the Carthaginian left.  You can see that I used a variety of means including single trees, grass tufts and small piles of cat litter rocks to mark out the corners of the square grid that these rules require.  This seemed to work nicely without being too visually intrusive.

Command and control continued to prove unreliable for both sides.  The Latin allied legion (background in the pic below) moved forward aggressively but the Roman legion (foreground) seemed reluctant to move.

In the pics above and below we can see the Latin allied legion nicely lined up but further forward than the Romans proper.  Also in the pic below some allied Bruttian javelin men (left) are about to clash with the Carthaginian citizen levy (right).

At last, a clash in the centre!  The Romans finally get moving and their Velites throw javelins at the Carthaginian spearmen while the aggressive Bruttians go in to close combat....

On the other flank, a confused melee develops.  Numidian light horse threaten the Roman left.

In the centre a breakthrough looked possible as a unit of Gallic warriors drove off some Roman Velites and pushed forward into the gap they left in the Roman line.  Unfortunately Rob struggled to get them to turn into the flank of the adjacent legionary maniple.

The Gauls are old Lamming 25mm models but I didn't feel that their lesser stature was too noticeable as we were playing.

The confusion on the Roman left continued and as the Roman saying goes, it came down to the Triarii.  In the picture below, Numidian horse threaten Arius Marcus Scorpio, the Tribune in charge of the Latin allied legion (foreground) whilst Roman horse threaten the Numidians' flank!

Marcus and the triarii are all that stand in the way of the Numidian sweeping into the Romans' left flank.

At about this time, the Carthaginian elephant, galled by Roman javelins, panicked and rampaged through the Carthaginian lines.  Fortunately Rob had left a space for this to happen and no further damage was done.

Throughout the battle, Rob had been taking a steady trickle of casualties.  In the centre a Roman legionary unit destroyed their Carthaginian spearmen opponents and split the enemy battleline in two.

Although Rob had finally managed to turn his victorious Gallic warriors into the flank of a Roman maniple, Carthaginian morale was faltering...

... with the loss of a unit of Numidian spearmen somewhere on the right, the Carthaginians had suddenly had enough and their army broke for the hills.

The picture below shows the final position.  On both flanks General Hanno had superior cavalry strength but in neither case could Rob manage to draw the right chits at the right time to take advantage.  The loss of Arabio to a misfortunate slingshot in the first moments of the battle was crucial. Alive, he could have led his light horse to cause chaos in the Roman read. Dead, he was an early drain on Rob's store of Victory Medals from which he was unable to recover.

I'm pleased with how the game went though we didn't really get to try out the new rules for the Polybian legion's line replacement ability and of course the fancy new units (elephants, I'm looking at you) didn't perform as advertised.  Wargaming rule number one, the newly painted unit always fails miserably on its first outing!