Sunday, March 30, 2014

Duel in the Sun

Our monthly excursion for March to Fire For Effect Games in Oshkosh, WI to demo Flames of War found us instead giving a new army its first blooding.  A brand new German late-war force of 2715 points was looking fer a fight and I had just the hombres to take 'em down.  So we moved the tables around to play on 12x4' and set three objectives on each side of our Encounter scenario.  Mission Special rules were Delayed Reserves, Meeting Engagement and Scattered Reserves.  With half of each force in reserve and not showing up before Turn 3, I chose my 25 pdr. battery of 8 guns, a section of Bofors to protect them, a platoon of armoured infantry, a platoon of Shermans with a Firefly, and a platoon of Achilles.  I knew my erstwhile opponent had Tigers coming and I didn't want to get overwhelmed before I got any reserves.  And of course my priority air support.  Paul chose a panzer MkIVh platoon, a section of 10.5cm field guns, a 2 cm. AA section, and a platoon of panzergrenadiers in halftracks.

British center, looking right

British left, out-gunned

Far right.  Hello.....?

A daring double move has a bad end

Trading losses.

Contemplating his next evil move

Initially things go pretty well for the British, despite not getting air support even rolling seven dice.  The German panzergrenadiers were neutralized, as were the PAK 40s.  Reserves would be showing up soon, do we make a run at an objective?  With the destruction of the last anti-tank gun it seemed worth the risk and the Achilles raced across the table.  Targeting the lone commander of the anti-tank gun platoon I laid a double-wide smoke screen to mask two-thirds of the table.  All that had to happen if they rolled the arrival of reserves was to have them appear anywhere but the right corner.  So of course he rolled reserves and rolled the one place they would matter.  Achilles began to explode under the Tiger guns.

"Looks like the coast is clear"

A one sided duel over an objective
One of the few successful air attacks

Perfect German shooting; three shots, three kills

As the Tigers finished off the Achilles platoon, more delayed reserves continued coming on table for both sides.  Additional MkIV and StuG platoons for the Germans and Shermans, Sextons lots of assorted Bren carriers types.  With the scattered reserves rule in play it was just a matter of getting lucky where things showed up. 

Platoon of MkIVh on the (British) left

There must be a loophole somewhere...

Stalking the Audie Murphy objective

As had happened so often earlier in the war, the 25pdrs. found themselves firing over open sights at the approaching panzers.  Fortunately it they were facing the panzers they could deal with, not the Tigers.  A pair of 6 pound anti-tank guns helped contain this threat.

StuGs rapidly trying to get to the most threatened point

A scout section lurks, awaiting an opening

Another attempt on the left flank

This game was turning into one of the biggest nail-biters we have played with Flames of War.  At some point in the game each side thought they were totally winning, were totally lost, or prayed for a favorable roll of the dice.

Thanks to motivational tests the tide turned.  The Panzer IVs and StuGs ran off after taking serious hits.  The 25pdrs. had taken losses but had contributed to the repulse.  Then, with no planning or coordination, on the left the recon section rushed one objective.  On the right the Bren carriers with the HMG platoon swarmed another objective.  The Tigers, the only functional German armor remaining, couldn't kill enough and the game ended.  Four German platoons eliminated against two British plus the two objectives.  A great game with great sports as the advantage pendulum swung to and fro.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Meet me in the Middle

Sunday two of us met for an Empire Napoleonics game.  The Austrian I Korps under Graf von Belegarde as it appeared at Wagram vs. III Corps under Suchet, magically transported from Spain.  So not "Napoleon's X Legion" as commanded by Davout. 

Twenty-two big Austrian battalions, with 62 guns (18 heavy) and four cavalry regiments matched up against ten Northern Italian battalions (veteran and conscript rated), 17 veteran French battalions, and six battalions of the Vistula Legion.  Fifty-two Class I and II guns with six cavalry regiments rounded out the force.  All the French battalions were nine or ten figure units.

French left, Italians in the foreground

French right with medium and light cav brigades

Austrian left flank

Austrian center looking across the battlefield

At the start both sides were under attack orders.  The French could simply go, given Suchet's fine command rating.  As was typical, he chose to manage the battle and not lead from the front.  Bellegarde's forces were sufficiently lacking in confidence that he had to roll for his maneuver elements and the lead cavalry brigade balked at advancing.  This was the first of many bad dice rolls for my esteemed opponent.

French lights engage the non-moving Austrians

Austrians prolonged to keep guns unlimbered, French advanced

The Austrians won the first tactical initiative and thankfully for me only rolled one battery with three rounds of bombardment fire.  With the guns firmly forward, getting at the infantry was problematic at first.  In the first tactical phase it was clearly demonstrated that the Austrian dice were going to be rolling low as casualties were taken by the French on very low rolls.  Given the presence of the French/Italian medium-heavy brigade, some battalions squared up which passed the initiative.

Over to the French and Severoli began to try to turn the Austrian right.  On another of those low dice rolls, the Archduke Charles Legion battalion routed away.  This allowed the Italians to maneuver forward and threaten to roll up the line when they next got the initiative.

Italians at the end of grand tactical movement

In the center the French battalions threw themselves forward.  They were fortunate not to lose any battalions in the process, but only managed to push back an Austrian battalion from a firefight.  A cavalry scrum on the far right saw the Austrians thrown back in disorder, but no break-through.

Lights clash inconclusively

That was destined to happen in the right-center.  The horse battery assign to Boussard's division moved, unlimbered and fired into the flank of the lead Austria battery.  For the third time today a battalion failed essentially its first morale test and the army paid for it.  Free of artillery, the 24eme Dragoons charged the gap.  One battalion thought to form square but failed.  Another decided to rely on firepower.  In both cases it spelled disaster as the dragoons swept in and routed them.  They then pressed on, hitting another batch of routers in the process and carried up to the second Austrian division.  There they routed another battery and battalion in the process.

In the distance the victorious dragoons with cuirassiers supporting

Coming to a halt at the end of their breakthrough move they were deep in the Austrian position.  More cavalry moved up to support the dragoons, which were blown but victorious.

We then learned that the low dice plaguing the Austrian army were not just limited to shooting and morale.  But also initiative rolls.  So with no owned impulses left and the French in position to exploit all over the board, the game was called.  One owned impulse apiece.  Cruel dice indeed.  Perhaps next time the roles and rolls will be reversed.  Regrettably we didn't have time to reset the table and switch sides.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Battle of Pirna (times three)

Inspired by the dynamic game I played a couple of weeks back, our group took the available forces and with a small twist on the scenario gave the Prussians one more chance to win.  Rules as always are Final Argument of Kings by Dean West (2nd edition in playtest mode), 40:1figure ratio.  Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Forces were 20 battalions of Prussians with a mix of grenadiers, fusiliers, and 1st and 2nd class musketeers.  Two regiments of cuirassiers, four of dragoons and two hussar units along with five medium and one heavy battery.  The Austrians fielded equal numbers of generally lower quality infantry, but four cuirassiers, a dragoon and three hussar regiments.  Or at least that is what the Prussians saw.

During grand-tactical movement Frederick's forces moved forward across the board, with more aggression against the Austrian left.  As soon as contact was made the Austrians got a reaction move and we settled down to combat.

The Prussian heavy cavalry struck immediately against the Austrian lights opposing them.  In one case a melee resulted between a larger Austrian unit and an armored Prussian.  Results were predictable but acceptable for us.  Meanwhile the Austrian infantry had to react to the threat by refusing the flank.

On the Austrian side of the line we pushed on the right with our grenadiers and light cavalry.  All the Austrian cuirassiers were in the center, facing off the Prussian dragoons.  On turn two a cheer went up from the Austrian cavalry working their way around the right flank as a brigade of Saxons appeared from their fortified camp to participate.  (A dice roll determined location and another the timing of their arrival.  We got lucky.)

After the cavalry clash on the Austrian left ended for a time the total initiative seemed to reside with the Austrians.  We got well "stuck in" on the right as the Saxons slowly deployed and the cavalry wondered what was over the hill.  Then the Prussian dragoons struck, catching the Austrian horse somewhat off guard and charging.


A series of swirling duels resulted in the lighter Prussian cavalry typically coming off on top, but were unable to break the Austrian horde.  At one point a huge hole existed between the Austrian wings but fortunately no Prussian infantry immediately exploited it.

Across the line the Prussian infantry began to move forward.  The cavalry had shot their bolt and now became spectators.  The Prussians unleashed their grenadiers which cut down many weakened Austrian battalions but did not break through.  This move was in part brought on by the flanking maneuver.  Faced with attacking or slowly being turned they chose aggression.  Stalled, the Austrian reserves moved to counter-attack.

Looking at the potential ruin of his army, Frederick called back the troops and retired.  The cavalry on both sides had suffered and the Prussian grenadiers were mangled.  So once more in the restart of the Seven Years War Saxony got off to a much better start. 

Thanks Paul, Todd and Dan for an exciting game.