Sunday, 22 April 2012

A Scenario For All Ages? (part two)

Thinking it might be interesting to try the same scenario in two very different periods, and having completed a very enjoyable game in the SYW period, it was time to have a go at WW2. Readers of the previous post will recall that this was scenario 37 from the Grant/Asquith book Scenarios For All Ages, entitled 'Night Attack 2'. I kept the terrain the same as for the first game, except for substituting built up areas of a more modern appearance and smaller scale for the second battle, which would be fought out in 15mm between Polish and German forces of 1939. Rules used would be Blitzkrieg Commander

The advice from the scenario book is,

'For the modern period, [...] take units as troops or platoons, or for 1/300th scale, companies and squadrons'. 

It was quickly apparent that converting a Horse and Musket 'unit' into a company would be the best approach for a BKC game, cavalry of course becoming tanks. A company would typically be 3 infantry stands or 3 tanks in BKC, with one stand or vehicle representing a platoon. The units from part one therefore became the following:

Poles (defending the ridge)
5 units of foot: becomes 3 infantry companies, 1 support company, 1 anti-tank gun company.
2 units of cavalry: becomes 1 independent 7TP company, 1 independent TKS company.
1 unit of artillery: becomes 1 on-table 75mm artillery battery.

In detail, the Poles therefore were:  CO (CV8)

Infantry Battalion (+) HQ (CV7) (may be dug in for 'hasty defence')
9 infantry units with ATR upgrade
3 mg units
1 mortar unit
2 37mm ATG units with truck tows
1 75mm artillery support unit with horse tow

Independent Tank Company HQ (CV8)
2 7TP (37mm)
1 7TP (mg)

Independent Scout Tank Company HQ (CV8)
2 TKS (mg)
1 TKS (20mm)

Points 1425, Breakpoint 11.

Germans (attacking)
Northern Force (B1 in the scenario)
3 units of foot: becomes 2 infantry companies, 1 support company
2 units of horse: becomes 2 panzer companies
1 unit of artillery: becomes 1 off-table artillery battery 
Southern Force (B2)
4 units of foot: becomes 3 infantry companies, 1 support company
1 unit of horse: becomes 1 panzer company
1 unit of artillery: becomes 1 off-table artillery battery

In detail, this became:  CO (CV9)

Northern Battlegroup
Motorised Infantry Battalion HQ (CV8)
6 infantry units with ATR upgrade (trucks)
2 mg units (trucks)
1 mortar unit (truck)

Panzer Detachment HQ (CV9)
1 PzIV, 1 PzIII, 2 PzII, 2 PzI

Southern Battlegroup
Infantry Battalion HQ (CV8)
9 infantry units with ATR upgrade
3 mg units
1 mortar unit

Panzer Detachment HQ (CV9)
2 PzII, 2 PzI

Off Table Artillery FAO (CV8)
2 105mm artillery batteries
4 assets

Points 2390, Breakpoint 16

The Germans therefore had a bit more than the 50% advantage in points recommended in BKC for an Assault or Deliberate Attack scenario. However, I decided to keep to a fairly strict interpretation of the book scenario to make it an honest test. I also guessed from the first run through that things might not be as straightforward for the attackers as the forces and deployment might suggest. The map below will serve to confirm the limited nature of my artistic talents:

The Game
Once again I was lucky enough to play a daytime game at the weekend (with wargames buddy and all round good egg Paul). Often more relaxing than an evening game, I find.

 So here's the set up. Once again those nasty Germans are attacking.

 A quick close up of the Polish 75mm artillery support unit behind the ridge.

 As dawn breaks, the thunder of an approaching armoured battlegroup greets the Poles.

A scheduled bombardment hits the empty north village, whilst the northern German group starts to penetrate behind the ridge. They soon start to chew up the less concentrated Polish forces attempting to react to their unexpected appearance.

Overview around mid-game. The Poles are re-positioning gradually. In the background the CO has moved to the western village to get the infantry and anti-tank gun on their way. The infantry battalion HQ concentrates on moving troops into the east village, where the German southern battlegroup is closing in. 

 The east village was a registered target for the German artillery (having been the subject of scheduled fire on move 1). Thus German units could approach the outskirts of the village confident that their supporting fire would be accurate. The red dice indicate the reassuring effects of the auto-suppress rule. But with everything set up for a close assault, the final command roll failed!

 Behind the ridge, the German tanks are heavily engaged: tanks from the southern battlegroup have moved round to reinforce their comrades. Meanwhile the motorised infantry try to extend the outflanking manouevre firmly into the Polish rear. The TKS tankettes deploy gallantly and their machine guns put a temporary halt to the German advance. For non-BKC players, those red mini-dice indicate suppressed units.

 Overview as the game was ending. The Germans did finally manage a close assault on the village, but they were flung back after desperate fighting. The slogging match behind the ridge finally ended in the Germans' favour, as it always seemed likely to. After 8 moves the Poles had exceeded their breakpoint, losing 12 units. They therefore had to make a command roll of 7 to continue, but a roll of 9 meant victory for the Germans, who only lost about 7 units.

Last move. After receiving many turns of fire, it takes a close assault to finally eliminate the Polish artillery position. There was no question of the Poles retaining a reserve. The speed and ferocity of the German attack meant the Poles had to throw in everything (including the kitchen sink) to stem the tide. At least that's my excuse.

Points to Ponder
The second edition of BKC improved on an already excellent set of rules, but this game highlighted 2 aspects that can be a little frustrating. Units dug-in or occupying built up areas are really hard to shift. The Poles in the east village could only be hit on a 6, and still had a 5 or 6 save on any hits received. Then it still needed a further 6 to suppress (unless using artillery and the auto-suppress rule). Perhaps a little too much in game terms.
Secondly, close assaults can be a little complex if you aren't fully familiar with the rules. Still, correct tactics of suppressing your opponent then assaulting with superior numbers will usually work, if you can make the command rolls.

As for the scenario, once again it produced an excellent game. In the WW2 period it did feel a little weighted towards the Germans, but a single game is only a limited test. Certainly the Germans (Paul) won fairly easily in the end, despite a succession of unlucky command blunders and the refusal of the German dice to produce the required number of 6s!
8 moves were played in about 3.5 hours of gaming.

What's Your Favourite?
I've noticed on a number of blogs recently the preference of the owners to illustrate their battle reports mainly with close up photos of the action, which show off the miniatures nicely but make it hard to get an overview of the game. This is often compounded by the lack of a map, or photo of the overall set-up, to give the reader his or her bearings. As any reader of military history will know, trying to describe a battle without an accompanying map is like... well, ... it's like doing something rather silly. Choose your own metaphor. This blog will continue to champion the cause of giving viewers the whole picture!

A 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon was in use throughout to help things along. Despite the trade name of 'Rusty Goat', this New South Wales wine proved to be an excellent accompaniment to wargaming.

And so farewell 'til next time. 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Dayton Painting Consortium - you've gotta love those guys

My order cancelled post seemed to strike a chord with some readers, so I just wanted to highlight the pleasure of dealing with Richard Masse at the Dayton Painting Consortium, who currently produce and market the RSM range of figures which I use for my SYW games.

Determined to add at least a few new figures to my collection, I ordered half a dozen artillerymen and a quartet of mounted buglers. These were received in a couple of weeks from the US. Nice, clean, elegant figures as usual. And the cost? Artillerymen 57p each at current exchange rates, mounted figures £1.42p. And the postage charged was just $3 (that's £1.90p).

You can buy a painted unit of 36 foot figures, with flags, officers etc, for $108, which is about £68. Less than £2 a figure! Judging by what I have received in the past, the painting quality is what I would call a good solid wargames standard. I think I will be investing soon, what with my aversion to painting.

Why doesn't everyone buy their SYW stuff from these people?

A Scenario For All Ages? (part one)

I know what you're thinking. Here we go, another battle report to add to all the other battle reports you've read (or more likely just skimmed through). The problem with battle reports is that they often have little meaning to anyone outside the players actually involved. One way to avoid this is to give some background to the reports to add interest, or offer an angle that might give the report some relevance to the hobby as a whole. 

Of course, some reports are worth looking through because of the outstanding scenery, wonderful figures, or the grand scale of the action. Or maybe they're played by some wargames personality with a new ruleset to market. Being unable to offer any of these attractions, I find it worthwhile to use my battle reports to point up some aspect of the hobby, to try and make the reader think about how the hobby works, although usually in a small way.

So what's the angle here? Well, the game to be played uses a scenario from the Asquith/Grant scenario book Scenarios For All Ages. One meaning of the title is that the scenarios within can be fought out in a wide range of periods. The scenario that took my fancy recently was number 37, 'Night Attack 2'. 'Suitable for any period', it says in the opening paragraph. So I thought I would give the claim a try, and fight the scenario in the SYW and WW2 periods. This post is about the SYW battle.

The first problem with multi-period play is that the forces used are clearly based around a Horse and Musket setting - they are detailed as units of infantry, cavalry and artillery. The authors realise this and offer some advice on translation to other periods in the introduction. For my SYW battle, however, it would be easy to use the units exactly as specified. The author's choice of a 7' x 5' table as a 'standard' is another minor problem - this is hardly the most common size of gaming table. However, conversion to a 6' x 4' table presented no difficulty.

The scenario itself could more accurately be entitled 'Dawn Attack', as it involves an attacking force that has used a night march to outflank a defending force. The attackers have lost their way a bit overnight and have split into 2 forces, one of which has mistaken a more distant village for the actual target of the manoeuvre. Anyway, the set up is as shown below, identical (as far as I could manage) to the map in the book. You can see I have had some fun with the coloured pens:

The Austrians ('red' force in the scenario) are deployed on the ridge facing south. They have 5 infantry units, an artillery battery and 2 cavalry units. One infantry unit is in each of the 'villages' which anchors each end of their line. The Prussians ('blue') deploy on the east side of the table: their units are as shown. The Prussians must attack and destroy the Austrians; the Austrians must try to re-align and see off the attacking Prussians. 

The Game

My good friend Steve came around to play out the scenario and give me some feedback on my rules, which we would be using to play out the game. Looking at the set up, the Prussians seemed to have it made, and we wondered if the scenario was really properly balanced. We should have had more faith in Mssrs. Asquith and Grant!

The left of the Austrian line is held by Loudon's 'Grenadiers' defending the east village.

Brigades from each side move alternately in my rules. Here the left hand Prussian infantry brigade has got off to a good start with a double move. Steve begins to wheel his infantry brigade off the ridge in reply.

The Prussians make steady progress. The left flank Austrian cavalry haven't yet got the message about the approaching threat, having failed a command roll.

View from the Prussian lines as the infantry approach the village.

Following some preparatory artillery fire, Prussian grenadiers launch a desperate assault.

By a miracle of unequal dice rolling, the Prussian grenadiers succeed and take the east village. This overview shows the Prussians pushing the Austrians back along the ridge. In the foreground the cavalry have clashed, with one unit on each side lost.

Last move fever grips both sides as the game comes to an end. Units move forward into close range for some climactic volley combat and the cavalry charge each other. Looking good for the Prussians (I thought foolishly), but it was not to be.

Prussian disaster. Four units are broken and destroyed ('Done For' as my rules put it) and the Prussian force as a whole has lost 7 out of 12 units. Goodnight Vienna! The Austrians lost 2 units out of 8.

Just to rub salt into the wounds, Steve had managed to keep one infantry unit in reserve in the western village throughout the game.

And in conclusion...
...avoid final move fever. If you want to win, of course. But final move fever can be rather fun, throwing caution to the wind with everything hanging on the roll of the dice. I had only lost 3 out of 12 units until the last move, and could probably have managed a draw at least. But never mind. It was interesting to see that the scenario was in fact very well balanced - that village placed north of the ridge hampers the attacking player's deployment, and having to fight along the table prevents the attackers bringing all their units to bear at once.
Steve was good enough to compliment my rules and we didn't have any real snags. A few minor clarifications have been made, so if you want to check out the most up to date version of the rules, v.5 is here. And while I'm at it have a playsheet as well (the playsheet is just one page - ignore the blank page 2). Don't pay any attention to the previews of both items - the preview function doesn't seem to cope with my tables! The downloads seem to be fine.
Hope to have a report of the same scenario set in WW2 in a week or two.
Peace. I'm out.