Thursday, March 24, 2011

Army Reinforcements

Today I want to formally introduce the arrival of three new units to my 18th century collections, though all three have been blooded on the gaming table already with varying degrees of success.  Click to enlarge pictures.

First up are the Royal Marines.  Old Glory 25mm figures with an extra leader figure from the Old Glory European Captains bag.  Their combat debut for me was in the Caribbean game previously posted.  Divided into two elements, one attempted unsuccessfully to storm the pirate stronghold and found themselves drifting in irons a good deal of the rest of the game.  The second and larger group made it to shore safely and attempted to storm the Spanish shore battery.  They were annihilated in the attempt.


Next, representing His Most Catholic Majesty, the King of Spain, we find the Fixed Regiment of Puerto Rico.  A long-standing colonial regiment that historically served with distinction.  In my game however one group routed and never returned from seeing the Commander in Chief catch a mortar bomb in his three-cornered hat, and the other that was engaged fired one volley and ran.  The third group never got into combat.  Perhaps all for the better for their regimental honor.

Finally, we have a Free Men of Color unit based on references to similar units I've seen described.  These men, with their white officer (just being historic here) were the best unit the Spanish fielded in my game.  They traded fire with Highlanders, ran off the Rangers, and were in good order at the end of the game.  I see a bright future for them in my armies.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Caribbean Cruise - Parte Deux

Concerning a morning stroll along the beach.

When last we left the attackers were throwing in their last reserves in a desperate bid to link up with the already landed troops and overwhelm the shore fortification and take the town.  As the boats slide onto the sandy beaches the mortar had one of the few successes enjoyed all day.  A shot deviated from the intended target and landed squarely on the Spanish commander in chief, the Frenchman Compte de Boudoir.  The result was spectacular and decisive.
That's gotta hurt!
 While it threw the Spanish line into temporary confusion, even causing a cavalry unit to momentarily fail morale, the overall effect was mostly favorable.  The Counts energetic nephew Passepartout, took over and used his inspirational rating to good effect for the rest of the battle.

At this point the first of many attempts to storm the fortification occurred.  The survivors of the sunken longboat, with no cannon to man or firearms capable of shooting opted to charge the works.  Incredibly, with a 9 out of 10 chance of passing morale, the defenders fell into disorder.  In a "old timers" lapse, I forgot to roll for stragglers as a result and the gallant Highlanders were crushed.

As reinforcements streamed ashore for the British and scurried over for the Spanish the battle took on a more traditional look.  The outnumbered British light dragoons and Spanish militia cavalry eliminated each other as a fighting force in a huge melee.  The Rangers emerged from cover and began to fusillade with their counter-parts, the local Free Men battalion.
Reinforcements are in distant sight for the Spanish.
 Cornblower, feeling left out made a bid for the town which seemed to only be protected by the portly governor and his lackeys.
Troops in the distant right are routers who never returned.
The Royal Marines, having formed up on the beach made a powerful looking attack on the shore works (remember, it is not nearly as imposing as it looks) but no morale fluke happened this time.  The defending infantry lashed out with volley after volley and per the rules, got to strike first in melee.  The results were then predictable.

Even with arrival of another British ship and more figures headed for shore, the battle outside of town was reaching the crescendo.

Although Cornblower ran down the Governor and "captured" the undefended town, the final insult occurred on the field.  The Free Men battalion had routed off the Rangers and pursued them past the Highland rump battalion.  These then turned and fired into the backs of the Spanish and attempted to charge.  Lo, it was not to be the day for the Crown Forces.  Despite a morale of 9, they managed to roll a 10 and stall out while losing many men as stragglers.

With more Spanish infantry on the way and only the British grenadiers in any sort of order on shore,

the Crown Forces opted to negotiate with the captured Governor for a succession of hostilities and the evacuation of the island.  Stragglers and routers were rounded up, ships patched up (the brig for example had been pounded repeatedly by the pirates as they worked their way against the wind), and a convincing tale written for the benefit of Parliament. 

A day of truly bizarre dice rolls that made each side feel exultant in victory and despairing in defeat.  Several times it seemed one side or another might throw in the towel but it went to the end and virtual last dice throw to determine the victor.  Kudos to the players for accepting the luck of the dice with grace and good humor.

"Stand Your Ground" is a highly morale driven game which has a company and battalion scale for battles.  It works well for French and Indian War through American War of Independence games.  With very minor tweaking it should work for War of 1812 or Napoleonics as well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

November 27, 1940 - somewhere in the Mediterranean

The historic action at Cape Spartivento was the basis of our game Sunday where I introduced new three players to Naval Thunder: Bitter Rivals.  We gathered at 11:30AM and commenced the action.

The British began, from right to left, with the heavy cruiser Berwick and the light cruisers Manchester, Southampton, Newcastle and Sheffield sailing in line abreast.  They were charged with protecting a convoy behind them while awaiting heavy units coming up.  They were faced by the daunting force of six Italian heavy cruisers.  Divided into two squadrons they had in line the Pola, Gorizia, Fiume, Trento, Trieste and Bolzano.  They too had heavy units coming in support, should they need it.  In the interest of mildly role-playing the game, I told the Italian players that they had six of Italy's precious heavy cruisers.  With no more being constructed or possibly replaced as the war continued.   Oh well.

The Italians started out with the advantage of range with their 8" guns over the predominately 6" gunned British, plus having all guns bear while only the forward British guns could fire.  However, as the British rushed to close, so also did the Italians in a bid to run past and get at the convoy.  You can imagine their displeasure and surprise as the battlecruiser Renown appeared behind the cruisers.  Her effect was immediate and violent.
As both sides closed quickly the damage began to rack up at an alarming rate.  First to go was HMS Newcastle who succumbed to too many critical hits on  turn 3(!).

(HMS Trinidad is substituting for Newcastle today.)
On that same turn the Italians received their heavy units, the modern battleship Vittorio Veneto and the remodelled old battleship Giulio Cesare.  The former immediately got the attention of the Renown.
On turn five as the range continued to drop and the light cruisers could shift into rapid fire mode, three cruisers went down: HMS Manchester, the Trieste and the Gorizia.  The Renown was concentrating on hurting the Italian cruisers as much as possible and was quite successful. 

Turn six saw the arrival of the lumbering old battleship HMS Ramilles.  A welcome addition, though her guns had a far shorter reach than other capital ships on the table.  This turn the Southampton and Pola went down in a flurry of fire.  It was getting a lot easier for the five of us to plot our moves and gunnery!
HMS Berwick by this time was in very bad shape so I turned away from the Italian heavies making smoke, while potting away at the Fiume.  With a conspicuous lack of success I might add.  The Fiume was trying to maneuver for a torpedo shot at the Renown while they were engaged with the Italian battleships. 

Alas, the luck of the Fiume could not hold and turn 8 saw her removed from play.  At that time we had sunk all six Italian heavy cruisers while losing the four British light cruisers.  Renown was about 25% damaged and Ramilles had her paint scratched.  Berwick was one big hit away from sinking and the Italian battleships had not even been hit yet.  However, the Italian commander opted to break off rather than engage in a pounding match.  Given the short range of the guns of the Ramilles, the British were happy to see them go. 

Our eight turn game, plus time spent going over the rules (I'd played four games, Todd one and the others none) and post-mortem chit-chat meant we finished in two and a half hours.  Very satisfactory given the experience levels and huge number of critical hits to be resolved.

Naval Thunder continues to impress me as a fairly realistic naval game that plays quickly and has the flavor of naval combat that I desire. 

Caribbean Cruise

The night was dark and moonless as the brig slipped ever closer to the moorings.  The vague outline of the pirate ship's masts and her form, tied to the dock, began to take shape.  But for the odd light showing in the Tower of the Wolf, navigation would have been nigh unto impossible.  Each man aboard, be he marine or sailor, tensed in anticipation of being discovered.  Would it come in the form of a signal rocket, the rattle of musketry, or the roar of a cannon.  Incredibly, no alarm sounded as the brig gently and expertly eased up against the dock.  The lieutenant of marines quickly saw that sleepy figures were stirring on the dock, the ill-disciplined pirate watch had fallen asleep on duty.  "With me men; charrrrr..." as he hooks his foot on a loose line and tumbles into the water.  Splash!

Or at least that's how I rationalize the marines failing to charge home against the totally surprised pirates and to make matters worse, falling into disorder.

The scene as the marines falter and the pirates awaken.
The premise for the action above and to follow is taken from a copy of Miniatures Wargames in the 1990s.  A Spanish possession in the Caribbean is being raided by the British seeking plunder, harm to the Spanish and the elimination of a pirate threat.  All while attempting to conserve the British force for future operations.

The British had sufficient long boats and barges to land most of their force in one wave, plus a shallow draft brig that was allowed to get within 6" of shore and a bomb vessel for bombardment.  Their "army" contained a combined force of Royal Marines, a converged Grenadier unit, Highlanders, colonial Rangers, a light gun with crew, and some light dragoons.  The Spanish forces meanwhile had three units of regular or raw infantry, one of which was detailed to help protect the pirates who were providing a regular stipend to the colonial governor.  Their best infantry was a unit of Free Men of Color who had a motivation to protect their island.  Two cannons, a small group of regular dragoons and some militia light cavalry rounded out the defenders.

The previous day young midshipman Cornblower in a cutter had engaged the pirate ship in direct disobedience of orders.  He had disappeared over the horizon in pursuit and is presumed lost.  The pirate ship meanwhile was so damaged that guns had been placed ashore as her decks were nearly awash.  So much for cutting her out.

The center of the playing area had a five-sided field work with two 12 lb. cannons.  The illustrated model is not nearly as imposing as reality, but was what was available.  Attackers could run over the top without need for ladders.

The substitute fortification on a low rise.
 As it turns out, Cornblower's men had swam ashore as their cutter sank.  Unable to salvage a gun, he had six sailor castings and two gunners, just in case one should be captured.  They had been hiding out in a friendly tavern (English gold spends well too.) and had attempted to signal the fleet thought to be off shore.

Right away we knew it was going to be an odd day because time and again players bucked the odds to either fail highly favorable rolls, or succeed at low chance attempts.  The pendulum swung to and fro freely.

The Crown forces plan was to attack the pirates under cover of darkness while the mortar boat reduced the shore battery to fertilizer.  Then several boats would land where the signal lights had been showing while others rowed up the river past the reduced fortification.  Unfortunately there was no aiming point for the mortar so daylight came with the garrison awake due to the escapade at the pirate dock and ready to make things difficult.
Regular, dragoons and Free Men outside the old school town.
 The rallied marines at the pirate landing attempted to rush the defenders only to find that the cowardly pirates were filled with a deadly resolve (morale rating of 1d10 [min. 3] and a roll of 9) which threw them back onto their brig.  correctly judging this coup de main wasn't going to work they began to work their way out, fighting an unfavorable wind as the pirate cannons began to fire.
Elsewhere the boats started ashore as a lucky shot put men into the drink and the British light gun to the bottom.

Boats are scratch built, as is the mortar boat in the distance.
 On the British left the barges made land without ripping out any bottoms and began to disgorge Rangers and Light Dragoons.  As they did so, Cornblower and his survivors emerged to encourage them.
The mortar boat was not having a good day.  A great many duds were rolled and when shots did land properly they failed to achieve the desired results.  So the shore fortification was very much still in business as the boats who were originally supposed to go up the river started to pull for shore.

Rescuing survivors from the sunken longboat.

Pull men, pull for your lives!
 To be continued.....