Tuesday, October 2, 2018

BAR Imagi-nation Game

The plan had been to play one of the games generated in our Imagi-nation mini campaign but critical drop-outs called for a change of plan.  But not game.  We still continued with Batailles de l'Ancien Regimes and a small(er) game.

The scenario was loosely based on the historic battle of Mollwitz in 1741 during the First Silesian War.  The table and OB comes from the book and rules that got me hooked on miniature gaming decades ago, The Wargame by Charles Grant, Sr.  However, with our timeframe and lack of helping hands I cut it further in half.  The Rondovians (Prussians) have an advantage in infantry numbers and quality with a sixty man unit of grenadiers, while the Venarians (Austrians) have twice the cavalry.

Movement and firing are card driven with brigade activation for this particular game.  Hits are given out in large numbers but saving throws mitigate the damage.  Sometimes.  To the game!

The Venarian army marching to battle.

Looking down the length of the table, cavalry in the distance.

The Rondovian perspective.

Each side was organized into three brigades so card turning would be equal.  The first three movement cards drawn were red so the Rondovians got/had to commit early. 

Cavalry moves aggressively from the start.

But the Rondovians initiate melee.

Reserve squadrons add weight to the melee.

Unlike the movement, when we got into firing range all the first fires favored the Venarians.  For almost the entire game.  This in spite of the fact I was playing the Venarians.  People have been saying for a long time that I love the game but the cards and dice hate me.  So even though I was running the cavalry I was gratified to see us shooting first.

Both sides have the challenge of forming lines from columns.

When the lines were set, both sides advanced.

Even though the Rondovians had more and heavier artillery ours got into action first and with effect.  Coupled with good vollies and poor saving throws the numeric advantage held by the enemy almost evaporated early.

Despite outnumbering the Rondovians my poor saves kept them
in the game.

The cavalry melees swirled about and one Rondovian squadron was able to charge into the flank of an advancing Venarian unit.  Great saves by the infantry and average saves by the cavalry led to a tied melee and the cavalry bounced back.

In order to get into the line, one reserve formation formed the
rare four-rank line.  Shooting cards continue to favor us.

The Rondovian attack on our left has been thrown back.

Charge and counter charge!  With a flank attack for good measure.

All the Rondovian cavalry is routed or at 25% strength.

The Venarian light cavalry charged into the flank of a possibly over-aggressive Rondovian unit.  I had no expectation of winning, but I had armored cuirassiers waiting for the next round after they were disordered by melee.

The rump of the Rondovian grenadiers look across the field.

"There's still a chance..."

As the center routed away, the chance ended.

We wrapped it at this point.  Had it been a campaign game we'd have continued for the body count but as it was the outcome was clear.  The combination of firing cards and way below average saves early on helped our cause immensely.  What made the game appealing was the disparity in infantry and cavalry set each side with the challenge of playing to their strength and minimizing their weaknesses.  Fun time for the five of us.  Gathered at 12:30, clear result and picked up by 4:00.  Perfect.

Monday, September 24, 2018

March, 1941 at Sea

Using a scenario I shamelessly lifted from The Miniatures Page shared by the Yarkshire Gamer, we played a "what if" scenario that could have happened in March, 1941.  We used Naval Thunder for rules with 1/2400 miniatures (mostly).

Handy-dandy reference chart on an easel for all. 
Historically the "Twins," Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had gotten loose in the convoy lanes between January and March of 1941 in Operation Berlin and encountered a convoy escorted by HMS Malaya.  Admiral Lütjens chose not to attack and just shadowed the convoy to help U-Boats attack. In our game a squall has obscured the details of the convoy escort till 15" shells began to fall around the Scharnhorst. Note that various stand-ins were required, most obvious is HMS Barham for the Malaya.

The forces were as follows: Convoy of 12 merchantmen with four destroyers in close escort. Along with the Barham were two other destroyers. Moving in to take over the escort duties is HMS Repulse with two destroyers. While they were to trade duties the timing is such that they are together. To add to the Twins woes, a hunting group lead by HMS Renown with Ajax, Furious and four destroyers answered the call.

Convoy with Repulse on the right, Barham in the center and
Renown in far corner as we look east. 

Bob (Lütjens) giving me the "are you kidding?" look. 
No two of the British WWI-vintage capital ships would give the Twins much trouble but three is another matter and the Furious has 20 Swordfish torpedo bombers on board. Then there is the luck factor. The Germans were reminded several times that they had the only two German capital ships at the time and preserving them was more important than a convoy or embarrassing the Royal Navy. Add to that the fact that the Barham and Repulse only had a max 44" range against the Twin's 80" and it was very doable.

The first turn Barham hit the Scharnhorst at extreme range while the latter dropped two 11" shells onto a merchantman, reducing it's speed to 1". The Gneisenau hit the Barham several times. The convoy escorting destroyers put the pedal to the metal and started laying smoke as the convoy turned away.

Barham moves to close as the convoy flees under smoke.

Battered Barham shifts fire to Gneisenau and draws even closer.
The Renown, who had historically engaged the Twins the previous April showed that her gunnery hadn't lost anything by landing an extreme range hit that penetrated the Gneisenau's armored deck.  It was the first of many.

All of the engaged ships on both sides had to deal with fire and
flooding at some point in the combat.
Things seemed to be going well for the Germans.  Renown lost one of just three main gun turrets and the Barham lost two.  The Repulse had to decide how to approach the battle and in hindsight had made the wrong turn, not yet engaged.  She had not been modernized yet so her main guns only reached 44" compared to 60" for the Renown and 80" for the Twins.  As the Germans switched on their radar, it reported an incoming airstrike from the Furious which (off table) had launched what was available rather than wait for a max effort.

A formidable looking airstrike wings in, strafing fighters leading.
 Ships within 12" of each other can add their AA suit to the defense but by now the two Germans were well separated and the Gneisenau was alone.  But no problem for hot dice are the best dice and all three flights of Swordfish were neutralized.  Still the damage to the unlucky Gneisenau continued to accumulate and the fires continued to burn.  In Naval Thunder you can have multiple fire or flooding results and while lucky to not lose any main guns, the Gneisenau was unlucky elsewhere.

Barham, hammered from Turn 1 succumbs to the inevitable,
but knowing her convoy will survive.
 By now the convoy had run south for several turns and now turned east again, the escorting destroyers returning to cover against U-Boats that might lurk nearby.  The Repulse was coming around the corner and was almost within range when Lütjens remembered he had the only two capital ships in the current arsenal and began to disengage.  For the Gneisenau it came a bit too late.

The fires aboard the Gneisenau are extinguished by the rush of
water as she sank.
The failure of the damage control parties finally doomed Gneisenau just as escape may have been possible.  For whatever reason the Scharnhorst hadn't drawn the attention of the initially hot shooting British as much and was less than 30% damaged.  She had however lost some speed due to flooding before it was controlled.

As a parting shot, the secondaries and tertiaries sank the Hotspur.

As the Scharnhorst turned away to make best speed away, the British chose not to pursue.  There was still the matter of escorting the vital convoy which was the original mission for Repulse.  The Renown was down to just four main guns and those were outranged by the nine guns still operational on the Scharnhorst and the Admiral Scheer was rumored to be out there somewhere.  The Furious was preparing her remaining operational Swordfish for another strike but it would come near dusk if at all. 

In the final tally the Ajax was down 30%, the Renown was a "mission kill" down 65%, as was Acasta which was down 85%.  The Repulse and her two escorting destroyers were untouched.  One merchantman likely wouldn't make port with her speed reduced to 4 knots, but the other damaged one had gotten off lightly.

Point-wise it was a German tactical victory but strategically was a disaster.  Though Bismark would be operational in two months and the Tirpitz in nine the Kreigsmarine was now reduced to a pair of "pocket battleships" to prosecute the war at sea in the short term.

Still, a fun little game, completed in a couple of hours.  My thanks for a light-hearted and enjoyable session.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dean West Tribute Game

In June the news came out that Dean West had been claimed by cancer.  For many this was a shock since he had seemed so well just two months earlier.  Our game group had enjoyed his rules The Final Argument of Kings for many years and had even had him travel hundreds of miles to game with us.  So it seemed appropriate to commemorate our friend with a tribute game.

For our game we fielded seventy-three French and Austrian battalions, eighteen cavalry regiments and nineteen guns.  French, Swiss, Irish and German battalions were fighting alongside the Hungarian and German battalions in the Austrian ranks.  The Prussian contingent had fifty grenadier, fusilier, musketeer and Frei Korps battalions, with nineteen cavalry regiments and sixteen guns.

It is the fall, so crops are out, but the hedge and wall system makes moving in line across them like broken terrain.  Columns would move freely.  The town was off limits to everyone except those who could operate in open order like light infantry and grenadiers.  On the 9x6' table we could deploy 18" in from the long edge and 12" from the short sides.  The Franco-Austrian alliance chose the far side of the table with the town.

Bob, Andrew and Todd watch the Allies deploy.

Dan and Paul finish the Allies with much still off table.
The Prussians started with six brigades on table and four marked off table.  Most of the cavalry started.  Contrary to the usual wing deployment cavalry and infantry alternated on the front line.  The Prussians were heavily weighted to the right, looking to destroy the French wing before the superiority in numbers could intervene.  The Allies were also weighted on their right but held off the French main body under Soubise, all of 28 battalions.

Starting 36" apart we got in two rounds of grand tactical movement with Browne winning the first and Frederick the second.  For those unfamiliar with the rule, the winning side moves and could continue winning and moving until some formed unit is within 18" of the enemy, who then get a reaction move.  During that time I was pleasantly surprised to find the Franco-Austrian army moving out to meet us.  I had feared we'd have to batter against line after line of defending infantry.

To Dean: a gentleman, a scholar, and our friend.
As soon as grand tactical was completed we paused for a toast to the memory of Dean West.  Pictured from left to right are Michael (myself), Andrew, Jay (seated), Todd P., Paul (seated), Bob, Todd C. (seated), Dan and my wife Peg.  Not a historical gamer but she also counted herself a friend of Dean's.

Now less narration and more just pictures.  In short, a grenadier and two elite musketeer brigades assaulted on the right against mostly average French.  Cavalry on our right was only facing steady infantry so could do little except absorb casualties.  Elite infantry, flanked by lots of heavy cavalry came next with our far left held by Frei Korps and some jagers.

Must attack swiftly before numbers tell.

The Austrians move into a killing cul-de-sac in the center.

The Allies can't get all their troops on the table, much less in play.

Heavy cavalry begins to shift to bolster the failing French left.
The Prussian heavy guns in the center did a great execution, though at one point they were driven from their guns by Austrian heavies, though only one was routed.  Charges abounded by both sides as a see-saw struggle for the center hill ensued and the Austrians sought an advantage on their right.  Many (it seemed) bloody melees were fought as opposed to the usual impact results.

View from the Prussian left with light sniping from the woods.

The Prussians turn the corner on their right.

A fierce struggle for the center hill rages.

The point where we paused for BBQ.
Being Labor Day weekend we fired up two grills and indulged in yummy food and adult beverages, purely for medicinal purposes for the next two hours.  Then back at it for a couple more turns.

A lull on the Prussian left.  The word goes out, "Seydlitz is dead"
and they were filled with a grim resolve.

While chaos reigns in the center.  Ammo chests represent rounds
remaining to an abandoned battery.  

A second grenadier brigade has marched on and prepares to
take charge.

Our forces close on the hill.  It will soon be ours.
We stopped for the night here, having been together about ten hours.  We lost some players for Monday, even though it was a holiday, but the remainders persevered. 

The last Prussian cavalry comes on.

But so does my nemesis with the main French body.

Seven brigades of fresh infantry and four of cavalry arrive.  Too late?
Before we started play both sides had to note where off-table reserves were located.  Both sides loaded up on their right, though the town and woods made the area for the Allies less than they desired.

Most of the playing field with the newly arrived French.

Pressing them against the town.  We have the hill, for the moment.

A brigade of fusiliers and a mixed brigade come on for us.

This reminds me of a movie scene.
It became obvious that the French left had been ordered to die in place so Soubise could establish a new line.  I was happy to accommodate them.

What feels like a tide of white-clad soldiers rolls forward.

The host of French cavalry, much of it dubious, starts a flanking

One final small Prussian brigades double-times it to the center.

Another view of the flanking maneuver.

We wrapped it up about here.  Soubise conceded a "solid Prussian victory, though not decisive."  We were fine with that.  All our goals had been accomplished.  We'd played a special game with our core group and enjoyed a significant social time on top.  I'd like to think Dean would have approved.