Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Nail-biter

Over the years I've been quietly, and sometimes not so quietly critical of Flames of War and the game mechanics.  But I have to confess that last Sunday I had a tense but very fun game that came down to the wire.

Our "Ranger" group was teaching the rules to an interested player but I was paired off for a solo game.  Late war Falschirmjagers against the British rifle company.  1500 points each.  The scenario we rolled for was a Meeting Engagement with Delayed and Scattered Reserves.  As such we each had to choose half our force to be kept off table to be diced for.  I chose to start with a Falschirmjager platoon, a platoon of 12 cm mortars, and a platoon of three Marder tank destroyers.  My opponent Tim opted for two platoons of infantry and a platoon of Vickers machine guns.

The British moved first and made rapid gains, bounding across the table covered by a withering fire from the Vickers, compounded by my wretched saves.  They even managed to bail one of my tissue paper armored Marders.

On turn 3 we began rolling for reserves, needing a "5" or better on a d6.  Tim got none and to my relief I got the platoon of StuG IIIs, right where I needed them.

On Tim's turn he got a Sherman platoon and the random placement put them in a position to threated my weak right flank.  So thinking I had to deal with the threat to my center (objective) I assaulted the British infantry, thinking it would be easy.

Alas, I did little to him and his counter-attack with Gammon bombs in the end destroyed three of four StuGs, though the fourth gamely held on.  So it appeared I was defending the center objective with a half strength platoon of Falschirmjagers and one StuG, while on the right I was facing a platoon of infantry with tank support against two active Marders and some mortars.

Tim got two reserve elements, another infantry platoon and a platoon of heavy mortars.  Though in the wrong corner as far as he was concerned.  They raced forward and the others closed on me.  My 12 cm mortars had done little damage but had managed to pin his Vickers and then the infantry platoon to their front, buying some time.  I then rolled for reserves and got both my remaining.  A HMG platoon in the center and a Falschirmjager platoon on my right.  Exactly where they were needed most.

I concentrated all the firepower I could on the British platoon threatening the center objective and it was here that the dice deserted Tim.  Up till now he was way above average on saves, but now it was just a disaster.  The entire platoon disappeared in the proverbial hail of gunfire.  On the right the newly arrived Falschirmjagers hunkered down in the woods to interpose themselves between the tanks and the objective.

Undocumented by pictures my three Marders (I remounted the one after several tries) and remaining StuG engaged the three Shermans and were victorious.  Indicative of how badly the dice deserted Tim, at one point he missed with four shots needing only a "4" or better on a d6. 

Needless to say, my armor was now able to double time it to the enemy objective and the game ended. 

But one full of drama and swinging fortunes of war.  Requiring no special planning or scenario design the game itself gave us all we needed.  Kudos to Tim for taking in stride the savage swing of luck at the end. 


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Little Green Men....

I've always hated little green men.  Ever since the days of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians I've neither trusted nor liked them.  And I especially don't like them when they are armed with a Baker rifle and can sit outside of musket range and inflict a small but steady drain of casualties.  But I digress.

Spain, 1809 and the British are moving.  Part of an on-going campaign I make the decisions for Marechal Soult outside Oporto.  So Portugal really.  The Iberian Peninsula.  You get the idea. 

The French forces were badly mangled in the last engagement so while one division licks their wounds in Oporto another boldly holds the south side of the river for future operations.  Various light cavalry actively patrol the d'Ouro river to prevent surprises while we hold the ground near to the Arrabida Bridge.

We have 12 battalions, fresh and ready to fight, supported by Vistula Uhlans, Dragoons, Chasseurs and some Cuirassiers.  Ten cannons complete our army.

We are "attacked" by oodles of skirmishers.  We see hardly any formed troops.  Howitzer shells cut huge swaths in our ranks.  Some new units of Portuguese attempt to turn our left flank.  Given the choice of dying slowly in place, retiring or attacking, we naturally attack.  I'll let the pictures tell the story, click to enlarge.  Rules are modified Batailles de l'Ancien Regimes for the Napoleonic era.


In the end the cavalry on both sides was never really engaged except to run down some Portuguese skirmishers, our attack penetrated deep and took some buildings but was stopped, and their attack failed.  Casualties were only 3:2 against us, so..... la victoire?  No worse than a draw.  But a pattern is forming.  Time to start painting some Young Guard battalions and more cannons.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Batailles des Ancien Regimes

The forces of Prussia and Russia (Litharus imagi-nation) squared off to introduce three players to Batailles de l'Ancien Regimes, or B
AR for short.  I have played many games at 10:1 figure ratio and 60 figure battalions, but recently was (re)introduced using smaller units.  Since my table cannot adequately handle such large formations, all our battalions were either 24 or 30 figures.  Cavalry units were 12 figures each.

As an introductory game we each had three brigades of infantry and one of cavalry.  The Russians were line and grenadier infantry with cuirassiers, dragoons and horse grenadiers in support.  The Prussians had line, fusilier, grenadier, frei korps and jagers.  Cuirassiers and hussars were their mounted element and both sides had four light guns.

We rolled off to see who had to place a brigade on the table, one at a time.  In the end both sides put their cavalry on their right, so no cavalry duel was forth-coming.  Initial deployments looked like this.

The Prussian right,

Tight Prussian center brigade.

Looking down the Russian line from right to left.

The Prussians quickly fanned out of their dense formations and formed a double line to face the already deployed Russians.

Almost completed forming line of battle.

The Prussian far left with my new units.

Russian cavalry eyeing targets.

Battle was joined quickly.  A 16" move in line and 40" musket range will do that for you.  The Prussian cavalry attempted to flank the Russian line but had the misfortune to face their grenadier brigade.  Still, getting on their flank should be worth something, right?

Early on, looking at the Prussian lines.

Cavalry maneuvers as Prussian jagers just evade a charge.

In game terms each side got to move a brigade on the flip of a card.  Red for Russian and black for Prussian.  And the critical flip....

The Russian cavalry, after initially pausing, began to move forward which forced the Prussians to deploy forward.  As both moved towards each other the Prussians took the chance to close the range and get the opening volley bonus.  While several Russian cuirassier saddles were emptied, it was fewer than hoped.

Meanwhile on the right the infantry clashed while the Prussian cavalry tested the resolve of the Russian grenadiers.  As the day went on one ever-shrinking Russian grenadier battalion repelled four Prussian attempts, which included armored cuirassiers.

Grenadiers crossed bayonets.....

The Russian cavalry crashed into some Prussian grenadiers....

And the infantry lines hammered at each other.  Some units broke and were rallied, some artillery were run off, and little movement occurred.  A long string of good Prussian saving throws probably saved the center at one point.

Regrettably, with the issue very much in doubt we had to quit.  Being the first time for 75% of the players we weren't as fast as normal.  However all players came out of the experience having enjoyed it and wanting to play more.  Nothing quite matches the visual grandeur of the "big battalion" games but clearly the smaller units work fine for a pleasing and exciting time.