Saturday, February 19, 2011

Battle of Yellow Sea Redux

"Smoke sighted, 10 miles.  Orders Admiral Vitgeft?"  "Action stations" came the soft reply.  "We're going through."

With that our refight of the 1905 Battle of Yellow Sea began.  The Imperial Russians had in line ahead, the pre-dreadnoughts Tsesarevich, Retvizian, Poibeda, Peresviet, Sevastopol and Poltava.  The Imperial Japanese Navy line was lead by the Mikasa, followed in close order by the Asahi, Fuji, Shikishima and armored cruisers Adzuma and Kasuga.  Click images to enlarge them.

Russian fleet sailing southeast

Rules are "Rise of the Battleship," part of the Naval Thunder series.  Models are 1/2400, mostly by Viking Forge with one Panzerschiffe model thrown in.  The game system plays quick with more realism than comparable sets and is well supported online.  Naval Thunder.

Both admirals chose to close quickly with little maneuvering.  Realistic shooting ranges are limited by the technology of the period and both sides were anxious to get their copious array of secondary guns into play.  As would be expected, initial shots went wide.

The four Japanese battleships, lead by the Mikasa

As each line made an adjustment in direction to bring more guns into play the Japanese landed the first key hit with a flooding hit on the flagship Tsesarevich.  Meanwhile the Mikasa, a real beast built for the Japanese by England, seemed to shrug off hits in return. 

The chit represents the temporary flooding result.  Shell splashes by Thoroughbred Miniatures

As the two lines began to square off against each other the Retvizian began to absorb penetrating hits, much like the historic action.  Both sides started to take some damage with small fires springing up and being quickly controlled by damage parties.  The flooding result on the Tsesarevich briefly turned into a severe list which impacted her gunnery as well as survivability, but heroic efforts eventually evened her out.  Suddenly a penetrating hit on the Mikasa had an impact that strongly influenced the outcome.  Sporting a small fire she abruptly heeled out of line, turning away from the Russians.  A rudder jam!

The Mikasa turns away, throwing the Japanese line into confusion

As the full weight of the Russian line came into play they had the advantage of six battleships against only three plus two armored cruisers.  Of course the Adzuma's armor was better than two of the Russian battleships, but the big guns were critical.  Also critical was a command failure on the Mikasa which delayed her return to action.  On the Russian side the Retvizian was slowing and the Pobeida was crawling along.  A rudder jam on the Retvizian had the good fortune to jam directly ahead so it had no impact on the game.  Still, the Russian line was forced to break and some ships were briefly masked from firing.

Plunging into the gap came the battleship Asahi which fired torpedoes to port AND starboard.  The well perforated Fuji was blocked from breaking the line but things began to look grim.

Torpedoes away as the Shikishima burns in the distance

Just as Admiral Vitgeft was beginning to congratulate himself on getting most of his fleet away to Vladivostak the Tsesarevich shuddered from a torpedo hit directly astern.  Her speed dropped and the flooding damage taken before now loomed menacingly.  Plus, the Mikasa had corrected her rudder problems and although somewhat distant, was actively pounding away again.

Now all the cumulative damage caught up, first with the Japanese.  The well-holed Fuji went under, followed by the Adzuma which although well armored had been receiving way too many 12" and 6" hits.  At this point it was easy to adjudicate a result as we had run out of time.

The sinking, with more to follow from both sides
Sunk: Asahi, Fuji, Adzuma, Tsesarevich, Retvizian, Pobeida.  Escaping the Sevastopol, Peresviet and Poltava.

If the Mikasa hadn't been so difficult the Russians might have stayed to finish the fight since they were no more than 30% damaged on any ship but survival seemed more important.  Meanwhile the Japanese had lost two precious battleships they could not replace as well as a splendid armored cruiser.  A solid victory for the Russians (by points) that "turned" on the rudder jam early on.

This was a demo game outside of Gnome Games East in Green Bay, WI and we stopped several times for conversation with interested people.  Unfortunately we didn't lure any into the game.  With just two relatively inexperienced players and distractions we completed the game in a little over three and a half hours.  If we had just played straight through I estimate it would have taken an hour off.

For more information on the Russo-Japanese War I heartily endorse the Russo-Japanese War Research Society.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sands of Afrika - WWII Land

Today Bob, Todd and I got together for a short game and play-test of Command Decision: Test of Battle.  I have played and enjoyed the previous three versions of the game and had played ToB in a pair of convention games.  So I finally felt comfortable shelling out the money for the high value bound rule set.  About half of the 216 pages are optional rules, scenarios and data charts for the primary nationalities.  There is a lot of online support at Test of Battle Games ranging from full data charts for all combatants to scenarios to a short "battalion commanders summary."  The author's intent is for a player to run a reinforced battalion at most, though after many years of playing my old group could easily handle a regimental combat team.

Even though the system is an initiative based "I go-you go" game at the platoon level, you still assign orders at the company level for groups.  So what I've found is the limitation for a player is not how many stands he is moving, but how many orders need to be utilized each turn.  Anyway, to the game!
Deutsches Afrika Korps on the move

Each side started with most of a motorized infantry battalion and a company of tanks.  Scale is 1" = 50 yards so most light/medium tank weapons shoot out to 36".  Our playing area was 6x6' with little terrain features.  Since it was Todd and Bob's first game we had no aircraft, off-board artillery or prepared positions.  Figures are 15mm, using for the time being Flames of War bases.  ToB calls for a smaller base though if both are consistently mounted it's not a huge deal.

The British quickly drew first blood when at extreme range, but with a flank shot, they knocked out the German command tank.  Combat and morale are all d10 based and you can sometimes end up rolling quite a few.  The German towed 50L60 anti-tank gun unlimbered on good ground and held up the British for a very long time, eventually taking out a lorrie full of infantry and a Crusader.
Infantry which bailed out stream to the rear past other vehicles

As the British infantry dismounted and started to advance, the Germans scrambled to find a place to get set up.  All the while the ATG continued to plink away, mostly ineffectively, at the British.  The threat here was greater than the execution and British took a methodical approach when they might have swamped the Germans.

The battle swept forward and backward as each side endured temporary morale failures that held up assaults or counter-attacks.  The Germans had a particularly long string of bad dice for all things, though bravely kept their spirits up.

Finally the British elected to force the issue by close-assaulting stationary motorized infantry.  Given the rate of fire for the British (1) and that of the Germans (2+1 for stationary) it should have been a slaughter.  However fate intervened in the form of my mistaken interpretation of the rules and they survived.  What can I say?  It's been two years since I last played.
Close assault while Germans and British tanks burn

The heroic German ATG finally succumbed to a mass of small arms fire and another tank was knocked out by the British 6 pdr. just as the tide seemed to have firmly switched to the Germans.  With each side starting to settle in after losing their aggressive tendencies we called the game.

Reactions were over-all positive, even with my referee flubs so more games will be tried.  Next time we will introduce indirect fire from off-board and hopefully have another player or two. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Protzdorf - The Bloody Field Pt. 2

With the left inactive and the center momentarily stabilized, eyes shifted to the right half of the table as the Austrians stepped off in a bold counter-attack, all the while attempting to redress the desperate situation on the far side of the frozen river.

The Austrians initially maul the Prussians

Despite gallant charges and the valiant defense of a heavy gun by its ever diminishing crew, the situation was rapidly going critical.  The numbers, quality and battlefield variables (card flipping) meant that the Prussians must prevail.  A tip 'o the three cornered hat to Matt for holding out so long. 

A grim sight on the far shore

As Ouromov pulled in troops from the left and organized a counter stroke on the left center, the fates tossed a joker into the fray, followed by his brother.  Armed with with a new smile and confidence the Minsk grenadiers and Jonava musketeers stepped off. 

First the guns, then the infantry!

But alas, judging the time ripe, Frederick called for von Seydlitz and his Kuirassiers.  Doom comes on the point of a sabre.  As the dark mass rolled forward Ouromov called up his heavy cavalry to counter them and urged his infantry to hold once more till they arrived.  As good soldiers, they welcomed their new adversaries.

The Elektrénai regiment receives their guests

Meanwhile, things weren't getting any better on the right as the Prussians both forced the bridge and swung wide to the back table, threatening the allied lines of communication and supply.

In the fight for the redoubt both sides infantry are rapidly losing combat effectiveness.  The toll of a prolonged firefight is devastating and only their veteran (and up) demeanor allows them to remain. 

The Vilnius grenadiers huddle around their flags awaiting the end with Brigadier Georgi Koskov

On the left of center the counter attack over-runs some guns and force back the Prussian Guards.  One battalion of them anyway.  The "wild cards" of battle give us sway and though the Prussians do not break, they are savaged.

Our token success, though the trophies will not see the capital

Massive cavalry melees erupt around the battlefield as armored warriors clash on horseback as they have done for centuries.  Magnificent in their glory, deadly at all times.

Here the Prussian Garde du Corps and Austrian Kuirassiers clash

Finally, even with unbloodied infantry waiting and some cavalry in reserve, General Ouromov had to concede the inevitable and yield the field to Frederick.  The threat from the right was enormous and only a meager handful of rallied troops acted as a momentary impediment in their way.

3rd Cuirassiers take up position to engage as necessary

As the army withdrew, beaten but not broken, General Ouromov remarked to his aide Captain Borzov, "Sergi, make a note.  Next time we bring Taras Shevchenko and his Cossacks to harry the Prussian guns.  Frederick's brummers were too strong to ignore."
In my limited experience playing game with Batailles des Ancien Regimes (BAR) this has to rank as one of, if not the most thrilling games.  While we were at a disadvantage right from the start due to bad planning on my part and an excellent game plan by Jim Purky aka. Frederick the Great, thanks to some inspired dice rolling by my colleagues and some very favorable cards we were able to keep the issue in doubt until the very end.  If any of our cavalry melees at the end had gone our way we might still be fighting.  Salute!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Protzdorf - The Bloody Field Pt. 1

Note: This wargame seems to have attracted a lot of commentary on blogs and other websites.  A testament to the excitement and enjoyment created.  Here I humbly add a view from the trenches.  Click the images to enlarge them.

"My dear Colonel Feyador, this simply won't do!" said General Arkady Grigorovich Ouromov.  "As my engineering officer I would expect you to have accurate information.  This so-called Great Redoubt is only pretty good at best."  Colonel Feyador dug deep, pulled himself to his full height and responded: "My General, we knew that the redoubt was a legacy from wars 100 years ago, but apparently the peasants have been removing soil and timbers over the generations for their own use.  We can repair and strengthen it over the next two days by..."  "Enough!" shouted General Ourovmov.  "We don't have two days or even a day.  That Teutonic martinet Frederick will be here shortly with no doubt the cream of his army.  We shall have to make do with what we have; and pray."
General Ouromov and staff
The field of battle was more than any general would want to defend.  The central arena had the huge and weakened redoubt thrusting far forward with open ground on either side.  The left flank had a wooded ridge line, too steep to traverse except in special places with open ground farther to the left and a road that ominously lead to the rear areas of the army.  A column of light cavalry could quickly race down it and raise havoc in the Russo-Austrian rear. 
Russian left looking towards the center. -- Photo by Brent Olson
The right was cut by a nearly frozen river and woods line which cut line of sight.  If all things had been equal, General Ouromov would have preferred to ignore it, using the river, woods and bridge to channel the Prussians into a killing zone.  But he felt strangely compelled to contest every bit of ground, even if it was just Silesian.
The Russian/Allied right.  Austrians in the foreground, river, bridge and Russians beyond.
As it stood, from left to right the Observation Corps took up positions to fight for the left with the idea of putting the newly raised Pandour battalion along the ridge in the woods to enfilade and discomfort Prussians attacking the left face of the redoubt.  The line brigade, reinforced to five battalions and with two 12pdrs., one 6 pdr. and two battalion guns would hold the redoubt.  The Austrian contingent of two line and one grenadier battalion occupied the open ground on the right face of the redoubt.  Seven squadrons of cuirassiers, four dragoon and four of chevau-legers (elite) took up a central position.  On the right beyond the river was one over strength battalion, three guns and two squadrons each of horse grenadiers and dragoons.
Defense of the "pretty good" redoubt.  Photo by Brent Olson
 The (faulty) belief was that the Prussians would mass their cavalry on one wing, probably our right, and attempt a double envelopment while masking and occupying the attention of the redoubt.  We were sadly wrong and were completely out-foxed by the wily old Frederick.  As the Prussian automatons deployed and began to advance, strong in infantry on both wings and in the center Austrian General (Brent) Olson-Eevabeech asked, "Where are they weak?".  The answer was, nowhere. 

A quick count showed three battalions facing the left with a squadron of Bosniaks, eight battalions in the center, and another four facing the weak right.  While numbers are in question and always subject to inflation by excited aides, these were recorded.  Similarly the Prussians appeared to have two hussar, five dragoon and thirteen cuirassier squadrons arrayed behind the center.  As he looked at his deployment vs. that of Frederick, General Ouromov sighed and knew that the moniker "the Great" was merited.  As some cavalier would say in the future, "The wine had been drawn and must be drunk."


The sides had barely begun to march and death to fly that Ouromov turned to his Aides de Camp: "Captain Borzov, ride with all speed to General Gogol and tell him to suspend his attack with the Observation Corps.  He is to begin to shift forces to the center.  Captain Morzeny, you will tell our gallant comrades on the right that God and country will remember their sacrifice.  Buy us time!  Now go!"  
The Prussians close on all sides as a column of grenadiers hits the point of the redoubt.  Photo by Brent Olson
In an era of linear warfare it took a moment to realize that the grenadiers weren't going to deploy.  "My God they are coming on!  Get the gunners away, alert the Vilnius Grenadiers to prepare to march and let us hope the line stands."  And stand they did through three harrowing rounds of melee.  General Beck-owski is commended for the remarkable fortitude of his lads and excellent dice rolling.  With no decisive result at the end of the long melee both sides recoiled back.  Using a column to assault works is a perfectly legitimate option, we were the victim of habit.

Meanwhile, on the right things were going from bad to worse.  First the lone battalion and four squadrons defending had to contend with this daunting sight.
Grenadiers, fusiliers, musketeers and Jaegers roll forward.
But as they closed the Russian cannons, which hoped to reap a grim price were less than successful.  A desperate situation creates desperate acts leading to cavalry charging earlier than we would prefer.
The horse grenadiers and dragoons launch a desperate attack with some success.
Even with the momentary success enjoyed by the cavalry, things could only have one possible result on our right given the variables.  The cards were particularly unkind and the handsome infantry suffered horribly.
A magnificent battalion stoically awaits it's fate.  Photo by Brent Olson
Meanwhile, on the left the redeployment was underway.  The Pandours took up position to give a galling fire onto the flank of the advancing Prussians while other units began to traverse the slippery slope to join the fight in the center.  Note the open column of divisions per the rules, allowing the battalion to wheel left by stand and quickly reform the line.
In the center things heated up very quickly on the left flank of the redoubt.  Cavalry charged and struck the first line of Prussians in the flank.  More prepared to join in the melee should it continue.
Somehow we failed to rout the Prussian infantry and were in turn routed by the superior Prussian hussars which pursued to the back table dispersing their victims.  They in turn were wiped out by more dragoons.  Leading to the following excited exchange: "General Ouromov, we've destroyed the hussars and captured a Prussian brigadier!"  "Do you know his name" inquired Ouromov.  "A rather cheeky fellow who seems to believe that his capture will be short-lived.  Von Zieten or something like that." 

We will find out about von Zieten's status in Part II, soon to follow.  Thanks for looking.