Saturday, April 4, 2015

SYWA Con Games

I played in three and contributed to a fourth game at the Seven Years War Association Convention in South Bend, IN last month.  My contribution was making a plan for the Battle of Bungerpat.  I then rode off on my elephant to sample the exotic pleasures of India.

First up for me was the Battle of Cowpens using Guns of Liberty, run by Mike Wedding.  Our group has been dabbling with GoL so I was particularly interested to see if we were playing things the same way.  Happily, we were.  Mike had set the scenario to start as the serious action was being joined.  By a roll-off I was on the British side, which frankly suited me.  Had I been alive in 1776 I suspect I would have been a Loyalist.

The rebel militia held up better than historically so the Continental regulars advanced to form the battle line as my boys swept around to threaten both flanks.  There were many attempted charges but only one actually went home and fought during this refight.

The militia finally collapsed and created a cascading effect.  The British cavalry kept trying to get into the fight but no one would stand against them.

The Highland battalion did great work though finally were so shot up that they relocated precipitously to the rear.  However, that that point it was only a moral victory.  Morgan was dead and most of the rebel army was in rout.  A perfect place for the British cavalry to be, so we called it.  

A fine time with some nice gamers.  Mike kept the game flowing along and the tabletop and miniatures were most impressive.

Next up was a naval game based on the 1759 action based on the action off Lagos between Boscowan and de la Clues squadrons.  I got to try out Jeff Knutson's new (to me at least) system for large actions, "Admirals."  Aptly named because the focus is at a higher level than most with an eye for resolving fleet actions and not worrying about the little things.  For game balance it was assumed that the French fleet had not separated during the night and were formed for the run into Cadiz.

The larger British fleet is in the foreground with the French, holding a less favorable wind, are towards the top.  My commander, who isn't allowed to talk to me about the game, signaled me to "Engage the enemy van" with my trailing division.

The models are just amazing.  Made from paper they are still highly detailed and extremely resilient as Jeff demonstrated by tossing a frigate about the table.

My commander was displeased with me as I chose to conform to the line one more turn, anticipating a clever French maneuver to both gain a better wind heading as well as to force us into a bad one.  Arriving as a blocking position I backed sails with my squadrons and was able to fire freely without receiving return fire.  All movement and fire is done from "point to point."  This keeps it simple and poses some planning problems for the players.  Win-win.

Near the end where four French ships of the line have fouled themselves while attempting to maneuver out of the trap.  The remaining ships would have to fight their way through my lines, which was likely to happen.  So it was assumed that we would take these four plus the Souverain which was a straggler.  I certainly endorse this game as one that lets you be an admiral without needing to worry about loading chain or double shot in your guns.

Finally I played in a game of Final Argument of Kings with the author Dean West and Alex Burns.  Always a pleasure because the miniatures are gorgeous, the table breath-taking and they always attract a nice bunch of players.  The premise of the game was a "Maxen" like scenario where a first-rate Prussian force has found itself surrounded and outnumbered.  The historic action was at Altenbrunsler and was quite small, but as the number of players grew so did the scenario.

I found myself with four smallish French battalions and two large Austrian with a heavy gun facing four Prussian battalions and a medium gun.  Two of the Prussians were twenty figures and significantly out-classed my boys.  In looking at the table I remarked, "if they are going to try to break out it will have to be through me."  And I was right.  About the attempt at least.

Broad view of the table.  The Prussians have been surprised and are surrounded on all sides.  Break out, or consolidate and hold?  An impassable "river" (except at fords) aids the defense, as does some swampy, broken ground.

Looking through the ranks of my brave boys as they await the Prussian onslaught.  Two Prussian grenadier battalions out of frame have been sent to attempt to flank my position.

A new Prussian force has marched to the sound of the guns.  A blocking force of Austrians bars their way as most everywhere else we press with some success.

Except on my front where I'm locked in a struggle with the attackers, the French and Austrians are advancing everywhere.  Here after crossing a significant water obstacle.

The Prussians, chastened by our staunch defense retire and look for another break-out point.  There was none.  Here we see the Prussian grenadiers marching away with half the remaining force facing me.  Let the grenadiers get another move away and I will attack.  My opponent Skip did not have any miniatures experience but did a good job, suffering from a bad string of dice throws.

And so the Con came to an end.  Dr. Duffy's talk, as mentioned previously was excellent.  I spent some money in the vendor row, picking up some miniatures, inks and flags.  A nice dinner with good friends finished the day.  After a good nights sleep we headed home, highly satisfied with the weekend.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Seven Years War Association Convention - 2015

March 27-28th in South Bend, IN 102 enthusiasts gathered to celebrate all things 18th century.  ;-)  Every hour saw a fine selection of land and naval games to be had.  One of things that struck me most was not the beautiful figures or the creative scenery, but the friendliness of the games.  Now I only played in three, but I never saw any sign of "that guy" or any of his associates.  Everything was collegiale and upbeat.

Scenes from the Battle of Bungerpat.  A series of loosely connected games over the years in which a steady string of French/Allied victories have driven the British and their lackeys from India.  Now, in a desperate attempt to eliminate the Bungerite Cult, they have returned in strength.

So many elaborate games with nifty terrain and systems to eliminate book-keeping.

A view of the main hall.  Something like 9,000 sq. feet of space for gamers, vendors and people just looking to converse or relax.

A lot of naval games were featured, a refreshing change in my mind.  I played in one game (write-up to follow) and there were many more to choose from.

I don't have any scientific data to support me, but it seemed like a high number of games featured Russians as the main opponent.

Games featured 10mm, 15mm, 28mm and 40mm figures over the weekend.  All ones I'd be proud to have in my collection.

The skirmish level games tended to feature the most elaborate terrain.  Eye candy all around.

And of course the grand finale, the talk by Professor Christopher Duffy on Culloden and the recent attempts at restoring the battlefield.  Always filled with interesting facts and pithy remarks, it is not to be missed.

Next year the convention returns to the Waterford Estates on March 31-April 1st, 2016.  I've made my arrangements, I encourage you to make yours.  For just a $25 fee for the weekend it is a bargain.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Waterloo warm-up

We decided to do some practice games for our upcoming 200th anniversary refight.  This game between six players featured three Prussian "brigades" (anyone else's division) and a Brunswick division take on three French divisions.  Each side got a brigade of cavalry.  Click the photos to enlarge.

The starting positions below.  On the left the three French divisions of nine castings per battalion and their cavalry on their right.  The hedge would disorder anyone charging over it.  Fields are cosmetic and the woods are open.

Opposing them are the Brunswickers in the foreground, cavalry and the infantry brigades filling out the line.  The Prussians have 12 figure battalions.

Both sides aggressively moved to close.  With no modifiers for either side it came down to a straight dice throw for how went first.  The French won and started attacking immediately.  The single cuirassier regiment charged the landwehr in front of them and had the good fortune to have their targets fail to form square.  These were summarily run down and then they bounced off the second line which had formed square.  The French infantry began to maneuver against the larger but less experienced Prussians.

The Brunswickers take a wide flanking maneuver, supported by the Prussian cavalry.  The cuirassiers are routed by flank fire from the squares and then the Prussian hussars routed the French dragoons.  All the French cavalry is gone now.  Fortunately the Brunswickers only had one impulse that hourly round.

As the other two French divisions are locked in combat the third begins systematically clearly the ridge in front of them.  Artillery is deployed to deter the Prussian cavalry and Brunswickers.  In the subsequent ME determination test, the Prussian brigade runs off.

On the left and center both sides deploy into line and start slugging it out.  In the middle the French combine firepower and shock action to disrupt the brigade.

With the Prussian brigade from the French right gone the Prussian cavalry moves over to slow and threaten them.  Abandoned guns litter the field.

The center begins to favor the French.  The crack French battalions have a big advantage in both firefights and shock action against the mostly conscript and landwehr Prussian battalions.

The Brunswickers close in the second hour of combat and threaten to flank the French division.  Strangely, both sides roll poorly and both the Brunswickers and French division have only one impulse each.

To counter the cavalry some French battalions form close column and block the cavalry, while the others combine with the French center division to finish off another Prussian brigade.

The French appear victorious everywhere except the left where they did not press the issue.  Given the ennui that hit the far right they will be able to recover and counter the Brunswick contingent.

The result was not totally surprising.  The French infantry was man for man superior and the guns higher class.  Leaders and cavalry were roughly equal.  The extra maneuver element and bigger battalions were not sufficient to make up for the quality difference and aggressiveness

Training games continue as each side tries to be at their best for the "big game."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Bridge at Zahn

The cocks were crowing, the birds were singing in every tree.  The regulars were trooping the colors following role-call nearby while the Latverian town militia was either still eating breakfast or was trying to clean up the rusted old town cannon.

In the distance towards Litharus a trail of dust materialized into a loose mob of Cossacks cantering towards the bridge.

The town militia quickly formed up to block the bridge and take up firing positions in flanking buildings  Being a border town, the militia of Zahn was a cut above your typical town militia.  The Cossacks fanned out, screening the masses of formed infantry and artillery was now clearly seen advancing?  Neither side fired a shot.  If there is to be war again, will it start here?

Suddenly shots ring out and fire is returned in earnest.  The troops from Litharus begin to form line of battle as still more pour on table.

Many saddles are emptied before the Cossacks adjust their position and the regulars begin to cut swaths through their respective ranks.

Volleys echo as the town militia and regulars fire forward.  The Babruysk Pandours fire from the safety of the flank onto the Latverian line.

Taras Shevenko is not pleased with the losses among his men.  "Cut down for now reason or chance for profit!"  These superb scouts may be missed in the future but for now General Orlov is pleased that they have kept is regulars from taking too much damage.

Finally the Cossacks are allowed to move away from screening the line, the decision helped by one squadron routing away. 

On their first test the Latverian regulars rout back, away from the river.  This leaves just to local town militia and their antiquated cannon to contest the river bridge.  There can be only one outcome now.  Even the arrival of two squadrons of hussars that had been scouting the river in either direction can do little without infantry support.

Although the Jonava Musketeers will rout, it only serves to unmask the fresh battalion behind it, which gets the drop on the militia.  An opening volley delivered at short range eliminates all the men formed up in the streets.  The men in buildings seek to parley as the defiant gunner push their cannon into the river.  Just as well, had they ever rolled double sixes when firing it would have exploded.

After the battle, with the bridge securely in control of General Orlov's men, the grim task of counting the fallen began.  The town militia was disarmed and allowed to return to their homes on parole, though they will be watched.  For each of the fallen a d6 is thrown.  1-3 they are allowed to rejoin the ranks.  4-5 they are severely wounded and out of the campaign or prisoners if they fail to hold the field.  Some of these will die of their wounds sadly.  On a 6 there is nothing to do except as in the words of Max the Magnificent, "go through their pockets for loose change."

Is this a raid, an invasion or a tragic mistake?  Check the newspapers for more news.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Flames of War Tournament

So I finally played in a Flames of War tournament.  At TundraCon I filled in for a round but had other commitments, so when the Battle Badgers announced they were running a 16 player mid-war tournament at Adventure Games in Oshkosh I was excited.  Especially since it gave me a chance to play with my Italians in a situation where they might actually stand a chance.

So I put together my Squadrone Esplorante (Recon squadron) of 1710 points and stumbled on down to Oshkosh.  I say stumbled because I'd been sick the whole week before but finally felt recovered enough for the day.  My list had a bit of this and that.  Armored cars, motorcycle infantry, light tanks, medium tanks, self-propelled guns, a platoon of "Demolishers" (pioneers), portee AA, a pair of 100mm guns, two 88s for tank killing, and sporadic air support.

Round 1 I faced Joe from Madison and his Soviets.  We don't play Soviets much around here so a mass of KV heavy tanks supported by lend-lease armor kind of steam-rollered me.  I think I had my chances, but the dice failed me when I needed them most.

Round 2 against Soviets again, facing Chuck from La Crosse.  I could compete with T-34s and SU-85s and my 88s earned their points, even though one died without firing a shot.  Showing real class, Chuck pointed out a potential game-ending brain fart on my part.  I'd like to chalk it up to fatigue, but regardless the mark of a gentleman by Chuck.  This game the dice failed my opponent and I won.

Round 3 found me on a table of all ruins and rubble facing an American tank company.  While not ideal for a light recon company it worked well as I was the defender and my 88s were in ambush mode.  Once again, my opponent Jack was a pleasure to play with, alleviating my fears of running into a tournament power player.  I stopped playing tournament chess many years ago because I want to game to have fun, not destroy someone's ego.  I only took one picture but it was the game-ender when my Demolishers swarmed the last two American tanks.

A satisfying finish of 2-1 for a first outing.  I accomplished all my tournament goals, played three new opponents, got to run my Italians and sampled the tournament circuit.  Adventure games had a nice package of prizes to choose from and with the 5th drawing I picked up an Irish Guards dice and token tin and another set of 82nd Airborne tokens.

Rick Gearheart as director did another fine job keeping the rounds running on time and keeping it light with banter.  Terrain was nice looking and there was plenty of room.  Highly recommended.