Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Republicans and Austrians

I was anxious to play with my newly recovered Austrians and another player has a Republican French army based on Marengo that needed table time so we put together a small game, using our favorite system, Empire.

The French were organized into two divisions, under the over-all command of Joubert, with heavy and light cavalry in support.  The French infantry at this point is 90% veteran line and above.

The Austrians, under Belegarde had four brigades (one of grenadiers) in their column.  As a "regimental army" in Empire we had far less tactical options once battle was joined.  Plus our regular infantry were all rated as conscript.

The Austrians attacked on the right and defended the left, though the grenadier brigade somehow didn't get the word and continued to pick nits out of their bearskins.  Cavalry advancing engaged the troops and stopped further movement during "Grand Tactical."

The situation on the Austrian left.  Mostly defending in shaky lines while the French advance in column prior to deploying into line.

In the early cavalry clashes the Austrians typically held an advantage but could never rout their foes.  The French always were able to fall back in good order.

On the left the French got themselves into line and used their cavalry to force the Austrian infantry to square up in front of them.  With no infantry in close proximity it was the safe move.

As the French attempted to attack on the Austrian right the Schwartzenburg Uhlans had an opportunity for a devastating charge and scattered most of the Consular Guard.  With their best troops routed, it took all the steam out of their attack.

Slowly, the Austrians began to put serious pressure on the French.  Despite being thrown back in the first attempt, the threat was very real.

Seeing the trend, the Austrians came out of square and began to advance across the front.  The large Austrian battalions, while of weak morale, are hard to get to the point where they are testing.  A battalion in line rated conscript would have a 58% chance of routing on their first required test, but they would also have to lose six of eighteen castings.  So it provides a measure of balance.

And we called it a game.  The French could no longer attack with any reasonable chance of success and the sluggish Austrians cannot catch them in pursuit.  So mission accomplished for the four of us who played.  We enjoyed "new" old troops back in my collection and the French got on table.

For our first Empire game since the Waterloo spectacular in April we found we were very rusty and had to look up a lot.  The problem with playing so many different games.  Now to finish my 1806 Prussians!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Aw nuts!

Sunday, June 28th was our regular "Ranger" Flames of War game at Adventure Games in Oshkosh.  I had only been back in the USA for three days, but despite feeling like I was still at 20,000' and flying at 300 knots, I went down to try out my Americans.  Hopeful of getting more players we agreed on 2500 late war points.  In hindsight, a mistake.  Mission was "Hold at All Costs" so the Germans had half their force off table while I had all of mine, but they were dug in and had a unit in ambush mode.

When I arrived we had a new player (1st game) name Kyle who brought his Soviets.  He wanted to play with them so I pulled off stuff to allow for some of his mass of armor to play.  In retrospect, we had too much stuff crammed into a 4x6' table.  Made the defenders task easier.

Over-crewed Panzerwerfers await.

Initial set, Soviets on the left.  Looks promising, nicht wahr?

Able to take out some Panzergrenadiers early and pin the 88s.

Italian campaign TDs don't get to teleport, so they wait for good
targets to appear.  Air support is frequent, but ineffective.

A Panther platoon ambushes the Soviets from cover.  Hen and Chicks!

Some token success, but motivation tests succeed and Soviets are
quickly eliminated.

Moving on an objective as, in one of his few dice failures, Paul
doesn't get reserves immediately.

US engineers in the center use their HMGs to combat the 88s,
eventually killing one.

With the Soviets all dead or run off, aircraft can ineffectively

German reserves begin to pour on and take a heavy toll.  The
German dice were hot to say the least.

Italian Semoventes in German service advance.  US TDs fail
to stop them.

With the objective contested, Panzers assault.  Copious bazookas
miss or are saved against.  We are driven back.

My TDs are eliminated by stationary fire.

And so I conceded the game with no reasonable hope in sight.  Hard fought we got to use lots of new stuff.  We also met another new player in the area, Roy.  Very experienced player also with Soviets.  We look forward to lots of Eastern Front games in the future.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Waterloo 1815-2015

It was my great pleasure and honor to partake in the 200th anniversary event in Belgium this year.  I would need a dozen posts to relate all that happened, both in the event and with the time we spent in Paris and Brussels and the Ardennes as part of our vacation.

We had twenty-one Americans traveling over, together or in small groups to participate.  We joined our parent regiment, the 21eme Regiment d'Infanterie de ligne on the Thursday before the festivities.

Combined we had 72 in camp and our combined battalion fielded 194.  Around 6000 infantry, cavalry and artillery participated in  total.  We drilled for hours on end and found that the distance between camps precluded visiting for all but the hardiest.  Having put many, many miles on my bad feet being a tourist, I wasn't inclined to add more mileage.

When we marched out for the evening "spectacles" (to maximize profit for the organizers) we were confronted by tall barley fields that hindered movement and huge numbers of allied troops.  Not wishing to be exclusive, one could see British, Dutch-Belgian, Prussia, Russian, Austrian and Swedish troops.  Plus probably some I missed seeing.  Here are some scenes from Friday night.

The Lion's Mound, wreathed in smoke

A square, nestled in the barley

We arrived back in camp about 11:30pm and with "la Diane" coming at 7:00am there was little partying.  Saturday was more of the same, though the "spectacle" was far more enjoyable.  There were many things about the event that strongly differed from ones in the US or Canada.  We were given tins of sardines, bags of peanuts and chips, and cans of vegetables for "rations."  Fortunately the 21eme had a meal plan in place.  If you wanted to use the clean facilities it cost a Euro.  Food and beer (especially) could be purchased fairly cheaply however.  Saturday night was very exciting.

Not mine, didn't write down the artist's name

Photo by Andrey Popkov

Photo by Andrey Popkov (I can be seen in the back left)

Scots Grey and I exchange sabre blows, photo by Andrey Popkov

Photo by Andrey Popkov

As we retired from the field the allied cavalry got very aggressive.  Very aggressive.


The cost was very real.  Tragically, there were four fatalities at the event and the ambulance was a familiar sight around camp and on the field.  While many handshakes were exchanged when we assaulted Hougomont or la Haye Sainte, the open field melees were more like a rugby scrum and firing was done extremely close to one another.  Strangely enough, the reaction to the deaths in Europe was, "with so many involved that is not bad."

Having done battalion drill a few times in Europe now, I can say that as a wargamer most rules make battlefield evolutions too easy.  I'm very proud of our battalion for how well we performed.

Photo by Jean-Francois Schmitz
On Sunday we all went to the battlefield marker for our regiment.  It notes our engagement with General Pack's brigade.  Our flag and Eagle were presented to us by the modern day 21eme.

Vivandiere and Lieutenant

On Monday, despite Belgium being closed on Mondays, we took a short tour the the Ardennes, visiting Bastogne, St. Vith, and la Gliece.  My high school history teacher fought with the 101st throughout the war.  506th, I Company.  God bless you, Mr. McGowen.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Some Days the Bear Eats You

We decided to change things up a bit and play a mid-war Flames of War game last weekend.  With four players anticipated we opted for a 3,000 point game.  Dan and I drew up the appropriate Soviet v. German company lists.  Knowing that Dan had mostly armor painted I went with a Panzer company, though decided (wrongly it turned out) to take a list where I could put lots of things on the table for the first time.  The mission I randomly rolled, Counter-Attack was bad for my list.  I could only have one platoon on table with mobility.  Anything else could only be on if they sacrificed transport for the game.  So I took the 150mm battery, single 88mm gun (extra crew), panzerpioneers (at least they have a good AT rating), priority air support and my platoon of 3 MkIVg panzer.  Reserves would come in on the opposite corner section.  I commented "we should just declare you winner and start something else" but I wanted to play it out.  Oh well.

Nothing but tanks with air support.

Feeling a bit naked.  My MkIV tanks are in ambush mode.  Maybe
I'll get lucky.

The Soviets wisely wasted no time assaulting and killing the pioneers.

Ambush sprung!  One hit for a bailed T-34.  Sigh...  Storm-troop back.

T-70s assault the guns.  88 stops one assault, T-70s win theirs.

Killing some Soviets but no reserves, no effective air and terrible
rolls doom us.

I must be in Alabama, 'cause it is "roll tide, roll."

One reserve of Marders comes on but cannot engage in time.
So with the Soviets sitting on an objective already on turn five, no air rolled and my reserves a long ways away we called it.  In this case all armor beat combined arms, though the scenario, which was also a disaster for the defender last time we played it, determined a lot of  the result.  Add in the abysmal dice rolls for both Germans combined with the hot rolls from the Soviets meant it wasn't as close as it appears.

But I made mistakes too.  I should have kept the pioneers back so the Soviets couldn't get to the on the first turn.  Dug in around the guns (we were allowed prepared positions) I might have been able to put up a better fight.  Congrats to Dan and Kevin for giving me the worst spanking I've experienced in Flames of War.  Next time comrade!  <grin>

Friday, June 5, 2015

Steam and Black Powder

Strategically two Confederate blockade runners need to break out, sell their goods and bring home valuable supplies.  Of such importance was the mission that the ironclad CSS Baltic and a trio of gunboats would escort the Banshee and Robert E. Lee to open water.  A random group of Union vessels awaited them.  Getting one runner off table would be a marginal victory, two a strategic and two plus driving off the blockaders would be a decisive victory.

CSS Baltic at top leads her column.  Runners bring up the rear.

Yankee squadron of two rams plus USS Varuna and John Paul Jones.

In another channel the USS Chillicothe and Tyler.

Yankee view of the channels and islands.  Where will they come
through?  Will the islands help or hinder?

Early shooting is extremely ineffective.

The two sides mix it up and shots begin to tell on the wooden
or lightly armored vessels.  Only the Baltic shrugs them off.

Pro-rated movement reveals a double ram.

The Baltic looks for someone in arc to shoot at.

The outside pair of Yankees get into play just as the runners
come into range.

The rammers sort themselves out as fires break out on Reb ships.

Same turn, another angle.

CSS Gaines grapples with the Tyler and Chillicothe in the foreground.

Gaines took a beating as the Robert E. Lee burns and settles.

Baltic and Varuna exchange hits as the Selma glances off the Monarch.
At this point things looked a little promising for the Rebels.  The Gaines and Selma are lost and the R.E. Lee is going down fast.  But the Banshee was breaking for the open sea.  Only a lucky hit could stop her.

USS Tyler has the angle, but the Banshee has a 3 knot speed
advantage and the Tyler's guns are short-ranged.

The table edge beckons and Tyler's guns are now out of arc.

Meanwhile, back in the channel...

We wrapped it when the Banshee exited the table.  Two Confederate gunboats were sunk or sinking and  one of the blockade runner was down.  Many Union ships had taken critical hits but they rolled better than their counter-parts.  The only real ironclads, the CSS Baltic and USS Chillicothe were pretty fresh but the reason for risking combat had passed.  Unfortunately the Banshee had taken a waterline critical earlier and was slowly flooding out.  In the end she sank somewhere off table.

Rules are Steam and Black Powder by Neil Stokes, published in MN by the St. Paul Irregulars.  A fun game that gives results instead of just shooting and plinking off the armor.