Friday, 23 December 2016

Battle of Brockham - ENDEX

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Played a few more turns and got to a reasonable conclusions. The German attack on the left across the golf course took a lot of casualties but managed to get as far as the bridge, but realistically without enough strength to push across - particularly as the Brits have move dup most of the Carrier Platoon and remaining tanks to cover it. In Brockham itself the Germans had cleared the brits from the buildings south of the Green, but again didn't have the strength to force a crossing of Borough Bridge. So time to call a halt. Given that the Germans had about x1.5 - x2 the strength of the Brits that validates the old adage of never attacking a prepared position at less than x3, and that extra strength would probably have been enough for the Germans to carry at least one bridge after a preparatory bombardment.

As the last post suggested in the end the rules and game played out better than I thought they would after the first few turns. I still need to decide how much info goes on the unit cards and how much on the A5 rules cards (loving that approach - trying it now for ECW and SLS).

The original plan had been to follow straight on with a 1980s scenario on the same ground, but not enough time before Christmas (particularly as I'm trying to show-horn in Edgehill!). In the new year I think I'll start with BattleGroup/Coldwar Commander and see if that is actually closer to what I want. If it isn't then I'll come back to CWO:1980 and try and refine the rules further. Certainly works well to play over terrain you know as helps to anchor the rules and game in reality.

Germans try and force the Golf Course Bridge

The Wehrmacht pushing through the S end of Brockham

Auster's eye view of the two bridges, both still in British hands

The Endex situation on the Golf Course Bridge - a very battered Pz Grenadier unit!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Battle of Brockham Continues

After a busy couple of weeks finally got back to the Battle of Brockham. Was dreading it a bit as was finding the rules quite fiddly, but this session went a lot more smoothly - although I do need to make hit percentages higher. Otherwise the German's are being suitably damaged on their way in - the 25pdr battery, Comets and 6pdrs causing havoc on the Panther and MkIV Panzer Kompanie and particularly on the SdKfz251s of the Panzer Grenadier Kompanie. The German's managed to take the Comets out (or force them back) and missed artillery has blinded the 6dpr so they are now going hell for leather across the fields and golf course (!) to get into the gap and seize the western bridge over the River Mole. Elsewhere the centre "B" Kompanie has gone firm in Strood Green, whilst "C" Kompanie is getting into Brockham round the back through the old council estate (which wouldn't have been there then) but both sides have been trading mortar rounds (the Brits spotting from the church) and are now in hand-to-hand combat. Oh and two Typhoons came in to take out the Panzers but one was lost to the 251/17 and  the other missed!

On about Turn 10, so 25 minutes in in "real time". Couple more sessions should bring to a reasonable conclusion.

Sounds a lot better as a narrative!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Contact: Wait Out - playtest in progress

Finally really got my playtest of the latest incarnation (and now named) set of mechanised warfare rules. They're still not really jelling for a whole bunch of reasons, some of which may be due to the rules but many are I think symptomatic of the period and what I would like (but keep failing) to get out of it.

1) What's the right scale/force size? I played Skirmish Sankin at squad size earlier, and Chain of Command at platoon sized. What I really want is full combined arms, and for that you probably need at least a Battalion Group, which is what I'm playing here. SS worked pretty well, but I think CoC was stuck between being a real skirmish and proper combined arms, and felt a bit too "gamey" for me. With the latest version of Contact:Wait Out I've upped it from a Coy Gp set to a Bn Gp set, and its closer but I think the sheer variety of arms in a combined arms game can rapidly make it too bitty (not complex, just bitty as every weapons system is different). Perhaps next I'll try a "simpler" set of rules, perhaps Cold War Commander which seems to get good reviews.

2) Indirect Fire. It does seem that on most battlefields for the last 60+ yrs that indirect fire rules. You come under fire , your weapons can't kill a well protected enemy, so you bring in the fire support, from 25pdrs to Apaches and A10 - not much or a wargame. You can postulate a scenario where IDF is not available, but then you really are back to the very small scale and it's all about use of cover so has to be platoon or less.

I'll play this one to completion, but then I think back to some simpler ECW and Napoleonic gaming, and then maybe try again with CWC in the New Year, or something like Western Desert tank battles!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Carneddau in (early) Winter

Nice trip up onto Pen yr Ole Wen on Sunday. We missed the glorious weather of Saturday, and the snow was softer and the cloud more prevalent, but we still got some great views once up on the ridge, and the descent was thigh deep snow in places.

Friday, 25 November 2016

SLS for ECW Playtest

Ran a playtest down at the club on Friday of the ECW version of my SLS rules. The melee mechanic is changed a bit (well really just how the troop type DMs are shown), and musketry is back in, but otherwise the same core mechanic. Appeared to play pretty well and fast - we got through an 18-19 unit game in about 2.5 hours.

I think I've also found a nice way to do the quality markers and trotter/galloper markers for the rules. In ECW-SLS they are rolled for during the game as each unit first needs them - so you're never quite sure how good units are going to be. We were using mini-post-it type labels for now, but I want something better. I'd tried using 5mm dice in dice holders but they are just too fiddly, but I've not got some square 4.8mm/5mm plastic tubing which I can cut to a slightly longer length. It also means that you could put an equal selection into a bag for each side and have them draw them out - so you know that both side would get the same average capability - will try for the next game.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Grid based Wargaming article in MW404

The first of my 2-part Grid Based Wargaming article is in this month's issue of Miniature Wargames (not longer with Battlegames!). The first issues looks at the generic issues, advantages and practicalities of playing on grids (mainly hex), whilst the second part will look at converting 4-5 standard wargame rule sets into grid play. As blog readers will know I almost exclusively play my wargames on grid.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Almost doubled my ECW Army

My mate Alan offered me his ECW army at the weekend. He hasn't used it in decades since a wargame of Edgehill and the figures are old Irregular Miniatures or Heroics, so whilst a bit smaller than my Heroics they'll be fine on the table.

The figures were on simple strip bases, so spent the last couple of days moving them to my standard bases. The cavalry also all had silver helmets and cuirassier, so replaced those with dark/black steel.

Here they are on the new plain bases, next task is to paint and flock the bases, and then get them on the table for the Edgehill battle I've got planned for later this month.

It also just so happens that Dale, another old wargaming friend, recently posted an image of the show guide and entry for that game of Edgehill that Alan used the troops for back when he was a teenager!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Brockham for 1/300th

As part of my testing of the latest iteration of my mechanised warfare rules (now called "Contact: Wait Out!") I've decided to model the area around my home village, Brockham in Surrey. As a kid I remember starting on a similar model for my 1/300th tanks based around 1 ceiling tile = 1 sq km. The model is one 10cm hex = 250m, so I suppose 1mm:2.5m or 1:2500.

Here's the area modelled on a 1:25000 map:

The reason for doing this is that fighting over an area I know intimately gives me a far better sense of how things like distance, visibility, occupancy and cover are converting to the rules and the table top.

I'm first going to play through a "late Sealion" scenario with Germans attacking from the south and trying to secure at least one bridge over the River Mole, but everyone has 1944 era kit. Defence force will be a about battalion group strength, attackers twice that.

Then I'll do a Cold War Gone Bad scenario with the Russians invading!

Just for fun I put out a mix of 1/300th, ECW, Napoleonic, WW2 and Modern to see how they look. As you might guess one of the things I really want to get is for the rules to let me do heli-borne assaults (a legacy of my time in 24 Airmobile Bde no doubt!)

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Liphook - Jena Wargame

Half of the middle table!

Sunday as Liphook Historical Wargame Society's wargame of Jena. Having done all the Bicentenary Battles up to Waterloo we're now cycling back through 210th Anniversaries (Jena was 14 Oct 1806).

Three huge tables were set up, although only 2 saw use. Figures were 25mm with a 1:50 figure ratio and a 1mm=1m ground scale, and used the clubs Art of Command Rules (very old skool).

Some lovely Saxon cavalry

I started the game as von Prittwitz, which meant in reality being von Cerrini commanding the 1st Saxon Bde. My orders were to hold the French between Lutzeroda and Closewitz, the former being in bounds, but to give way once heavily pressed so as to save my good quality Grenadiers and let the French fall onto our main Prussian defensive line behind.

And matching infantry

The Saxons did quite nicely, the two battalions in Lutzeroda slowing the French nicely. But the real stars (and unofficial "unit of the match") were the Lecoq Grenadiers who ended up fighting about 10 rounds of melee and seeing off half a dozen or so French battalions. The star turn though was when there was a mutual pull-back after a drawn combat, so the French decided to fire on them to force a moral check which they would certainly lose. But I then played an "Ignore Morale Check" card, so they got to fight yet another melee.

The last stand of my Lecoq Grenadiers

By then it was time to leave things to the Second Line, so my Brigade pulled back to fill the line just E of Isserstedt and I handed over command.

My next appointment was at von Ruchel, bringing on his Corps from Weimar. We were tasked with reinforcing the Prussian right flank, just W of Isserstedt. The Imperial Guard were pushing our 2nd line hard E of Isserstedt but we were just holding firm. As the game ended by Corps had actually positioned itself in enfilade against the French left flank so I was already to roll their flank up and give them something else to worry about!

The battle developing in the centre

Overall a good game, the rules meant that as ever it was not particularly fluid, but at least it had a bit more movement than some of the games have managed.

There are acres of polystyrene under all that felt! All Trevor's hard work

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Battalion and Brigade level Mechanised Warfare Rules

Test game of MechWar in progress - I love the hex basing, works well on big or small hexes

I've been trying for ages to write a decent set of mechanised warfare rules to support 1/300th wargaming. I grew up on WRG's 1950+ plus rules, which got more complicated with each edition, and I was always after something simpler, but which maintained a good level of realism ( I hate bunched tanks!). The last time I had a go a few years ago I was still trying to do something with squad or section sized manoeuvre units, but when I started looking more at WW2 actions and at the old 1980s North German Plain battlegrounds it become obvious that to capture the sort of encounters I'd like I would need something that let you put a Battalion or Brigade on the table, and have the table covering 5-10 miles - particularly if you wanted to model helicopter ops (which I did having served in 24th (Airmobile) Brigade.

So I'm now having another go, building on some of my old ideas but also making some radical changes - some of style, and some of substance. I'll write more as things mature but some of the guiding ideas at the moment are:

  • Platoon or company manoeuvre units except specialists support wpns
  • Anti-tank fire based on separate to-hit and to-penetrate rolls, and minimal of chance of penetrating if your gun is underpowered
  • Small arms fire/damage based on more of the damage/CEF model I use with Steady Lads Steady
  • Similar activation, command points and morale mechanisms to SLS
  • Easy to use Indirect Fire model, with option for plotted Fires
  • Simple suppression/neutralisation model (and really all small arms fire is assumed to be suppression first, damage 2nd)
  • Overwatch is always on, no need to specify
  • Turns  are 10 minutes
  • Ground scale is 1 big hex (10cm) = 500m (maybe 250m) or 1 small hex (4cm) = 250m
  • Elements are based on 4cm hexes (just look nice!)
  • All element data on unit cards - minimise the tables on the QRS
  • Replace the QRS with  a set of A6 cue cards  - easier to find and keep front of mind the bits you are really using (might also try that for SLS)
Sample Card

More later...

Friday, 16 September 2016

A French Battalion at 1:1

Seeing as I had a load of 6mm units out for Maida I thought it would be interesting to see what a battalion looks like at a 1 figure = 1 man ratio. And this is it. The bases already have figures in 3 ranks, 15 men to the base, so I only needed 30 bases to get 450 men in 3 ranks. The 15mm house is there to give some sense of relative scale and the hexes are 100mm.

Here's couple of other views.

And finally the same troops in an attach column of divisons.

Would be fun to play a 1:1 game one day!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Battle of Maida - 4 Jul 1806 - 6mm

6mm starting positions, British on left

In just the same way that Mad Mac used Maida to test different Napoleonic wargame rules I thought I'd use Maida to compare scales. So having fought the battle in 20mm I thought I'd also give it a go in 6mm.

Now the ground scale is staying the same - 1:1000 (1 x 100mm hex = 100m), but the figure scale is increasing from 1/72nd to 1/300th (6mm), so this means that there is only a mismatch between ground and figure scales of 1:3, quite unique for any Napoleonic game I've ever played (its usually 1:14), so I was  hoping to get a far better perspective on ground and movement. It also meant that since there were now 90 figures in  a battalion (6 of my standard 6mm battalion blocks) I only had a figure:man ratio of 1:5 (for a 450 man battalion).

To make the game slightly different I decided to have the French attack in column, not line, but nothing else was different.

The 90 figures of the Combined Light Battalion, 1:5 figures:men

The change to column made a big difference from the start. Both Compere and Peyri's leading battalions managed to close with the defending Brits and get into melee (they move faster, so less artillery/musketry, they get a +1 on resolve and 1 +1 in melee against line, but effectively lose the power to fire on the way in). The 42e sent the 81st reeling back again, but the Light Brigade managed to eventually win their melee and send 1/1e Legere back, and then 2/1e. Oswald again move forward to help fill the gap left by the 81st, and the 78th Highland were also now in melee with the Poles. On the left flank the 23e Legere of Diagonnet made far faster progress in column round the thickets, and the Chasseurs having corralled the Grenadiers and 27th into square held of the attack until the 23e could arrive.

By the end of turn 4 (about 9.20) the 1/23e had gone in against a 27th weakened by the fire from Griois' guns and routed them. In the centre 1e Polish failed to go in against the advancing Swiss of Oswald. However Dyneley's battery managed to rout 2e Polish, which then took the French Swiss with them. Oswalds 58th then fell on the flank of the halted 1e Polish, sending them home too.

Two battalions of 23e Legere in Column of Divisions

Technically it was now game over as the French had two broken brigades, but I was keen to get the 20th onto the table so let the game play on. I soon almost regretted it as Raynier was first out the deck and used a command point to rally 2/e, bringing Compere's Brigade back under control.On the left flank the 20th failed to materialise and so 1/23e Legere charged into a now weakened Grenadier square and routed that. Turn 6 and the 20th are still not there. 1/23e failed to charge in against Dyneley's battery which had begun to rake the French on the left flank. Likewise the 58th failed to go in against Griois battery which had placed itself in a commanding position on  a small hillock. 2/23e managed to push Watteville's Swiss back, and Acland and Oswald were struggling to build a defensive line on a much refused left flank. On the right things were also not looking good as a rejuvenated 2/1e pushed the Light Brigade back and took the gun battery.

Final positions

On Turn 7 the 20th finally turned up, right onto the flank of a weakened 2/23e. 2/32e routed immediately from this surprise flank attack, and took the unformed and battered 1/23e right next to them with them. Game over.

Endex as the 20th Foot goes in against 23e Legere

Interesting how a change in tactics resulted in a far more bloody and close fought battle. Given my comments last time I do wonder if perhaps I need to up the impact of musketry, need to dig out some detailed casualty figures again, to make it harder for the columns to go in, and also to make more of an incentive to stop and fire.  One other minor change I made was to force morale tests when units retreat past you (a lot more common then rout - which was the original condition) - think that worked well.

Playing with the 6mm really did give it more of  a "battle" feeling, 90 figures not 18 per battalion. The ground coverage looked quite convincing, although there wasn't too much of  a sense of unwieldiness that I was expecting with long lines as there were in reality on 2 hex wide (would have been interesting on my 40mm hexes - then 6 hex long!). It's certainly something I'd do again, and it may be a ideal job for the MDF Napoleonics.
So overall another cracking game and a nice scenario.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Battle of Maida - 4 Jul 1806 - 20mm

Reynier's 1ere Legere advances on the British Combined Light Bn

Next up in my decadal battles series was the Battle of Maida, 4th July 1806. This was the only major battle the British fought in Italy, and was part of a small, and highly successful, operation aimed at disrupting the French plans to invade the British defended island of Sicily. Richard Hopton's book is the go-to information source - I picked mine up at a show for £5!

Stuart had landed with about 5000 men just up the western Italian coast, 80 km from the Straits of Messina. Reynier marched with about 6000 men to meet him. As Stuart marched up the flat Maida valley (as in Maida Vale!) Reynier descended, possibly unwisely, off the valley side to meet him.

The nice things about this battle is that it's about 8 bn a side, the British have two small batteries of 3/4 pdrs, the French just one. The French have a regiment of Chasseurs, and that's it. Here's a nice map from NapNuts:

Given the small size I decided to play this scenario twice. First in 20mm with 18 figure battalions (so about 1:33), and then in 6mm (1/300) with the same ground scale with 90 figure battalions (so about a 1:5 ratio). In the latter case since the ground scale is 10cm = 100m (using hexon hexes), so 1:100, it means we have only about a 1:3 error between figure and ground scale. I used Steady Lads Steady as usual, but given the small numbers I decided to also allow musketry (which is usually wrapped in with the melee/charge rules), but used the existing firefight rules to do it.

Initial Deployments - British on left
Both sides start deployed in echelon and in line, as was historically the case. This meant that the first clash was (bottom half of image) between the British Combined Light Battalion and the French 1ere Legere. The firepower of the British line and the gun batter was enough to see off the first French battalion. Alongside, 2/1e Legere came up against the slightly untried 81st who flinched and withdrew. But that left 2/1e momentarily stranded and Wateville's English Swiss in the reserve Brigade marched swiftly up and into the flank of 2/1e who retreated back.

Whilst this was going on in the centre the French Swiss (yes, both sides!)  and Poles marched steadily forward but again the fire from the second British battery and the 78th Highlanders they were unable to make an impression on the British line, and were soon withdrawing with losses.

On the British left flank the French fared better since the Chasseurs could come forward and force the British grenadiers and 27th into square. But the French battery of Griois (who provided one of the best eye-witness accounts) was too weak to make any impact unless it could get really close. The French 23ere Legere also came forward in support, but the scrub on this flank really slowed things.

That was pretty much the first hour/3 turns.

Returning to the British right flank the Light Battalion surged forward against the two weakened and one full strength (but disordered) battalions of Compere's Bde, forcing them all back and sending the Brigade into Compulsory Withdraw orders. In the centre Oswald's Reserve Bde pushed forward through Acland's disrupted Bde of the 78th & 81st and started chasing the Poles and Swiss back. That brigade (Peyri's) was also soon into Compulsory Withdrawal. But before the turn could end (and it would then be game over since the French had 2 of their 3 Bde's withdrawing) Reynier was able to use a command point to rally one of the Polish battalions and stave off the end of the game.

On the left flank the Chasseurs unwisely decided to charge the Grenadier square but were beaten off and had to withdraw. This meant that the Grenadiers and 27th could come back out of square and advance, helped by the 20th Line who had just arrived on the table (they were late marching up from the beach having been involved in a diversionary attack elsewhere).

The 81st advance - but bring up the rear after initial losses

In the closing turn - #7 - Oswald finally made contact with Peyri's fragile Poles and Swiss, and that was it, game over as both the battalions exited the board.

The subtitle of Richard Hopton's book is "15 Minutes of Glory", and the real battle lasted about 8.30 to 10.30, so the wargame was about the right duration, and gave the right result!

Curtains for the Poles, who performed better than in reality

The really interesting thing for me though was that in the whole wargame there was not a single melee! In each case when someone went to charge either their charge faltered or their opposition fell back. Reading Hopton's book this appears to be exactly what happened in the real battle. Hopton says "It was very rare that two lines of infantry charging with bayonets fixed would in fact run into each other....Maida has in the past been offered as an exception to this rule... [but]...bayonets did not cross at Maida ..[and]...Dyneley [commanding one of the British batteries] confirms..that the French 'turned tail' and fled before they reached the British bayonets".

Indeed Hopton highlights that the fact that the casualties were extremely low. He reports that the British lost only 45 soldiers (including one officer), and had 280 wounded. French  losses were around 700 killed/wounded and 1000 prisoners. This all seems in line with what the wargame showed. He also notes that the highest British casualties were in Acland's Brigade, as in the wargame, and that they were saved by Watteville's Swiss - again as in the game.

The end state

When I wrote Steady Lads Steady I had this issue of bayonets rarely crossing front-of-mind, and designed the "assault" rules accordingly with a three phase, but quick, firefight-resolve-melee sequence to try and capture this and have a fairly high "resolve" threshold. It's always worked pretty well in bigger games, with many charges either not going home or having their target evaporate, but this is the first battle where NO assault resulted into an actual melee, and it was nice it did it on a battle that is documented as one where exactly that happened.

So the 20mm figures can be put away and the 6mm one's brought out!