1813 BLOODY BIG BATTLES

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We met at the Club yesterday for another run out with “Bloody Big Battles” and the amendments for the Napoleonic period. The game was set in 1813 with the French on the back foot in Germany. In accordance with agreed strategy, the Allies are avoiding Napoleon and focusing on his Marshals and this time it was Ney’s turn! Ney has been somewhat ‘enthusiastic’ and got himself exposed with the Allies converging. He has the following under his command:

II Corps Marmont
4

4

1

T S

T S

Heavy Foot Battery

 
III Corps Ney
5

4

1

1

T S

T S

Medium Foot Battery

Heavy Foot Battery

10th Div Ledru

11th Div Razout + 25th Div Scheler (Wurt)

IV Corps Eugene
3

4

4

2

T

T S

T S

Medium Foot Batteries

IT Royal Guard Pino

13 Div Delzons

14 Div Broussier

V Corps (Poles) Poniatowski
4

3

1

T S A

T S A

Medium Foot Battery

16th Div Zayonchek

17th Div Kniaziewicz

VIII Corps (Westphalian) Junot
6

1

T S F

Medium Foot Battery

23rd Div Tharreau + 24th Div Ochs
II Cavalry Corps Montbrun
4 H F  
III Cavalry Corps Grouchy
3 Lt F

So, not too bad. Some useful artillery and plenty of Generals (the ones in bold are on table and count)!

On the Allied side, a combined Austrian (under Schwarzenburg) and Russian (under Barclay de Tolly) force is converging, with the following (all Austrians were Passive and all Russian infantry was Stoic); Russians listed first and Austrians second:

I Corps Gorchakov
4

4

1

T S

T S

Light Foot

 
II Corps Wurttemburg
4

4

1

T S

T S

Light Foot

 
III Corps Raevski
4

4

1

V A

T S

Light Foot

Gren Div
V Corps Yermolov
4

4

1

V A

V A

Heavy Foot

Gd Div

Gren Div

I Cavalry Corps Gollitzin
3 V M  
II Cavalry Corps
3 M
I Corps Colloredo
6

6

1

T S

T

Light Foot

 
II Corps Merveldt
6

6

1

T S

T

Light Foot

 
III Corps Gyulai
6

1

T S

Light Foot

 

 

IV Corps Klenau
6

1

T S

Light Foot

 
Austrian Cuirassiers Nostitz
3 V H  
Austrian Cavalry
3 T M

The table was as follows:

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with the French on the side with the 2 roads exiting centrally as shown on the right of the picture immediately above (apologies for some of the photos – a bright day with the shutters on the Hall windows open meant a patchwork of bright and dark areas on the table). The French were on table from the start, the Allies were split into 3 commands and diced with a 5/6 meaning that they were on table at the start, a 3/4 meant they would arrive on Turn 1 and a 1/2 would see them coming on in Turn 2. The game was scheduled to last 8 turns.

The objective was all about the French Army. The Allies aim was to crush it, Ney’s aim was to check the Allied advance to allow him to break clean and withdraw through the night unmolested. As umpire, this is where I fell a little short of the mark. The French CinC got the idea that all he had to do was keep pulling back and get off the table until I pointed out that that would not check the Allies and that they would still be hot on his heels. He took the point well, but I think he might have played things a little differently had he realised quite what he had to do.

Anyway, off we went. The French deployed pretty much across the table, spreading themselves thinly and with no reserve. They also deployed well forward, although I believe this was to force the Allies to deploy early and then slip away. The Allies could come on anywhere along their own table edge and basically up to the half way point on both flanks.

Allied movement dice rolling started badly and stayed that way. All 3 commanders threw consistently poor dice, which was a shame and did mean that the scenario didn’t go as well as hoped. That’s another point for me – the scenario needed to account more for such poor dice rolling. So, start of Turn 1 and not a single Allied soldier on the Table! And the only ones to arrive were one command of Russians over on the far right (I’ll do everything from a French perspective). Even then, they were slow with quite a few units not moving or only getting a half move.

Turn 2 did see the rest of the Allies arrive, but with not much more haste. The Austrians came on centre and centre left but the left hand (from the French side) Corps did very little. Some accurate artillery fire from the French (Marmont and Eugene) silenced the Austrian batteries and disrupted the infantry. Passive and with no General, they really didn’t get across the Start Line all day.

In the centre the Austrians did better, the presence of Schwarzenburg making all the difference. However, their artillery was sent packing by the Polish gunners and the advance was slow and ponderous. An attempt to drive their cavalry into the right flank of Eugene’s Corps was shot to pieces by the Poles (amazing what a double 6 can do!!) and the advancing infantry had to recover from several disrupts before being able to charge the village held by the Poles. However, accurate fire from the village stopped them in their tracks, killed a number of Austrians and disrupted the leading units. At this stage and with night falling, Poniatowski felt he had done enough and ordered the withdrawal. The guns and one division fell back, but the second division was slow (half move) and was vulnerable to being caught.

Over on the right, Ney’s Corps extended from the Poles further right and then Junot’s Westphalians held the extreme right. The Russians moved better (not passive) and managed to get some cavalry around the French flank and across the stream. The French cavalry threw them back, but the infantry following up caught them from 2 sides and shot them to pieces. The Westphalians then bounced the Russian Guards and Russian Cavalry. Trying to pull away, Russian fire gave a halt, disrupted result and so their planned withdrawal stopped, leaving them really quite exposed as night fell. Of course, Ney’s Corps was there to assist…….oh……. no it wasn’t! The left hand Division was gone – shot to pieces – and the right hand Division was in a poor state – low on ammo and disrupted, almost spent and with hordes of Russians closing, I ruled they would not have made it away.

So, the scores on the doors! Marmont, Eugene, half of the Poles and one French cavalry corps would have made good their escape, Ney’s corps and one cavalry corps were lost, the Westphalians had little chance of breaking clear and it was touch and go for the rest of the Poles. About 50% gone. We concluded Ney’s chat with the Emperor would be both interesting and lacking in coffee and biscuits! But we also felt the Allies would be disappointed. So much more should have been possible but they just couldn’t get it together. The story of much of 1813, in reality, and a real tribute to the command and control in BBB, allowing such to be represented so well and so easily.

Another area of post game discussion was the Allied plan. Clearly when you all throw poor dice, then that’s going to be an issue, but the intent had been to hit the French line in several places at the same time. We debated whether this is really an option with troops with such poor maneuverability. We discussed whether the Allies should have simply pushed forward and then, if necessary, paused rather than trying to get everyone from the start line to the objective simultaneously. We also wondered if they should have made more use of march column – that +1 can really make a difference and, on roads, much ground can be covered quite quickly. Yes, there is risk, but the Allies had the numbers to take losses, what they didn’t have was time.

The other subject is one that has been a constant theme for us. The attackers just don’t seem to be able to get their artillery into action. It moves up limbered, is therefore a prime target, gets hit, gets silenced and goes back. Repeat. Repeat. The exception this time was the Russians, whose guns’ approach was better covered by their infantry, which combined with the French redeployments, including of their artillery, to allow Russian guns to get into decent range (12″ and less) and they were the ones that really hurt Ney’s Corps. We continue to debate this issue – I feel that their approach has to be covered – let cavalry or infantry take the heat until the guns are in the right place and deployed. Harsh, but the guns are real killers in the later Napoleonic age and they are needed. I also felt that this deprived the Allies of the chance to disrupt the French infantry and complicate the withdrawal process. Withdrawing in the face of the enemy is hard, doing it under fire even more so. I wonder if the French would have become more fragmented and vulnerable had they been disrupted by artillery fire much earlier?

Anyway, some piccies of the action:

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Monty the Desert Rat.

 

PICKETT’S CHARGE IS LAUNCHED

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Just in case anyone has missed it, today is a momentous day! Reisswitz Press has published its first set of rules: “Pickett’s Charge” by the very well known David Brown. You can pick up pdf and hard copies at:

http://toofatlardies.co.uk/product-category/reisswitz-press/

Happy shopping!

Monty the Desert Rat

 

BBB NAPOLEONICS – RUSSIA 1812

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We met at the Club on Sunday for a Russian v French 1812 Napoleonic game using “Bloody Big Battles” with a few mods to reflect the Napoleonic period. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos at all! Apologies.

Anyway, it was an encounter battle with 5 objectives on the table, victory going to the side that controlled 3 at the end of the 10th turn. Three were villages closer to the Russian side (fewer generals and passive infantry made this necessary for balance). One was on the left, one left centre and one right over on the right wing. There were 2 objectives closer to the French – one on a hill opposite the village on the Russian left and one central in a village. There were several hills and woods around the table.

On Turn 1 both sides’ left flanks arrived. The Russians made all haste for the left flank village whilst the French advanced on the right flank village (all from a Russian perspective). Second Turn and the French centre came on, heading for the centre village. Both left flanks pressed forward and the Russian cavalry moved up onto the objective hill to their front.

Turn 3 – the French right appeared in march column, pressing towards the hill objective. The Russian left flank commander, having roundly berated his colleagues for their lethargy, was relieved to see both centre and right finally arrive. The former moved up towards the centre left village, now held by the Russian left flank, although they were thinly spread across the 2 objectives they had secured. The Russian right advanced on the village but the French had pretty much beaten them to it.

The Russian left flank cavalry corps then secured its place in history! They charged into the head of a French column, sending it reeling back after riding down a regiment. They didn’t stop there and carried on into the supporting artillery, riding down 3 batteries with the remainder escaping by the skin of their teeth. This drama was set to continue over the ensuing turns. The supporting French cavalry countered, but failed to drive the Russians off, and they duly charged another column, riding down 2 regiments. However, their days were numbered. The remaining French had deployed and a maelstrom of fire cut the brave troopers down. Nevertheless, they had stopped an entire French Corps in its tracks and they were to spend the rest of the game recovering from the effects of this gallant charge and played no substantive part in the remainder of the battle.

The centre also turned into a stand off as the Russians struggled to get forward and deploy and the French, content at securing the objective and viewing this sector as one for ‘economy of force’, remained defensively poised to protect their gains. The high point was the Cossacks chasing off a French artillery concentration from a hill to the right of the village objective, supported by a Russian cavalry corps, but the local French cavalry soon saw them off. The purpose of the Russian actions had, however, been achieved. They were covering the move of the Russian reserve, the Guard Corps, over to the right to support their beleaguered colleagues.

The right flank developed into the key contest of the day. By stealing 2 marches on their opponents, the French had closed on the village objective as the Russians arrived. The leading Russian division successfully cleared the village but the French follow on forces arrived in numbers as the Russian advance stagnated. The French deployed a grand battery (some 150 guns) to the left of the village, bringing it under sustained fire, supported by 2 divisions deployed respectively to the front and right flank. French cavalry screened the right flank and kept the Russian cavalry at bay. The Russians struggled to get their own guns into action, losing a heavy battery early on, placing them at a marked disadvantage in firepower terms. More Russian troops moved into the village but the combined firepower of the French over the space of several hours saw Russian units dying to a man. As dusk gathered and with the last Russian units struggling (still) to get into the fight and with the Guard still too far away, the French attacked. A desperate attempt to support the defenders saw Russian cavalry hurling itself at the guns and protecting cavalry, if only to give the defenders some respite, but 2 French divisions (actually, one was Italian) stormed into the village and the battle was won.

So, how did it go? Great! Once again BBB showed just why it is such a superb set of rules. The French General on the right, who delivered victory for the Emperor, had never played BBB before but soon had the basics firmly grasped. The game flowed swiftly, swung both ways with moments of high drama that will go down in Club legend, and consistently delivered realistic results. Friction was very evident, but not overpowering, period tactics were rewarded, the French felt like they were Napoleonic French and the Russians felt like Russians. The few mods we had made all seemed to work well and helped give the flavour of Napoleonic warfare. Great success and we will be back in Russia soon for a refight of Borodino!

 

SHARP PRACTICE AND CARRONADE

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As some of you may well be aware, Sharp Practice 2 is now available at:

http://toofatlardies.co.uk/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=6&zenid=c8e663f6c6c827a117eb0dbba019de84

I will also be at Carronade this Saturday in Falkirk and will be running a short ‘game’ to demonstrate the rules for anyone who is interested and fancies rolling a few dice.

Monty the Desert Rat

SHARP PRACTICE 2 – AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

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TooFatLardies have announced that the much anticipated Sharp Practice 2 is available for pre-order. There are some stunning discounts to be had here and I am extremely excited by this news. My pre-order is in and now it’s just waiting for release on the 23rd. All the info you need is at:

and you can buy them here:

http://toofatlardies.co.uk/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=6

 

Monty the Desert Rat

 

 

“BLOODY BIG BATTLES” – GERMAN COPY BOOK VICTORY

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Yesterday evening saw us gather at Monty HQ for another Franco Prussian War bash using “Bloody Big Battles”. There were 4 of us this time – Steve and myself as usual with me being French and Steve German. I was joined by Jimmy, who had played at the Club, and Steve was joined by his friend, James, up for the weekend. We had the same 3 German Korps as follows, each with a General,

GERMAN ORDER OF BATTLE

SECOND ARMY

II KORPS

3 Div:                           6 S Trnd NG

4 Div:                           6    Trnd NG

2 BLA

III KORPS

9 Bde, 5 Div:                4 Vet NG

10 Bde, 5 Div:              5 S Vet NG

11 Bde, 6 Div:              5 S Vet NG

12 Bde, 6 Div:              4 Vet NG

3 BLA

IV KORPS

13 Bde, 7 Div:              6 S Trnd NG

14 Bde, 7 Div:              5 Trnd NG

15 Bde, 8 Div:              5 Trnd NG

16 Bde, 8 Div:              5 Trnd NG

3 BLA

6TH CAVALRY DIVISION

2 Vet Lt Cav

12th CAVALRY DIVISION

2 Vet Lt Cav

against the same 2 French Corps, also each with a General.

FRENCH ORDER OF BATTLE

IV CORPS

1 Div:                           4 S Trnd LB

2 Div:                           4 S Trnd LB

3 Div:                           4 S Trnd LB

2 RA

1 MG

2 Trnd Lt Cav

VI CORPS

1 Div:                           5 S Trnd LB

2 Div:                           4 Trnd LB

3 Div:                           3 Trnd LB

4 Div:                           4 Trnd LB

2RA

1 MG

2 A Trnd Lt Cav

We also used the same 3 ‘special’ rules:

  1. The Germans had to advance if they rolled 10 or more on the movement dice and were not spent. We actually dispensed with this as the Germans needed no encouragement!
  2. Each German Korps rolled 1D6 at the start and counted as Tactically Inept on a roll of 1 or 2. This resulted in the right and centre Korps both being Tactically Inept!
  3. We gave both French Corps an MG unit but reduced them in effectiveness to reflect the parcelling out of these assets rather than their concentration. We counted them as FP 4/2 rather than 12/6 and they were removed if a Reduced result was scored. I felt this worked well.

The table looked like this – a purely fictitious setup, with the French determined to hold the 2 roads exiting their table edge (right of the top picture) against the German hordes.

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The French deployed as shown below:

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Once again, the French deployed thinly but, crucially in this game, too far back. They should have moved further forward to make sure all the hill crests were in Chassepot range. This was a fatal error.

German tactics were text book and superbly executed. Even though the left hand Korps rolled to be tactically inept, it remained the Main Effort, the Schwerpunkt. The Germans were able to mass 6 units of artillery on the hill, some in the cover of the wood, and they proved devastating. This mass of over 200 guns brought section after section of the French line under fire and simply blew them away, with the infantry following closely and assaulting the tattered remnants. First to fall was the village on the French extreme right flank and then the Germans simply wheeled right and began to roll up the French. The second French Corps, over on the left protecting the second road, had little to do. The Germans never really threatened this road, although their cavalry cut it late in the game. A French attempt to move forward and provoke the Germans failed. The French simply could not move fast enough or in a coordinated manner and the Germans were able to form a solid defensive position. Had the French assaulted, they would have become fixed and too far forward, allowing the German left hook to come in behind them. They therefore pulled back to roughly their starting positions.

Some game shots:

The German advance, showing the attempted French left wing counter move in the last shot:

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The Massed guns:

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French cavalry ride to glory! They got in without taking fire although not a flank attack and, although wiped out, killed a German base!

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German infantry closing in for the kill:

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We brought things to a close after 6 moves with the French right non existent, even their second General had managed to do nothing other than become a speed bump! The left was largely intact and we did consider how things would have played out had we continued. The first conclusion was that the French would not have hung around in the face of the massed guns and the left hook – once the flank was turned, it was time to retreat and conserve the force in being. However, we were not playing a campaign and so on we went. We agreed that the cavalry did not constitute possession of the left hand road – the French would have been able to push at least 2 divisions off down that road. We did debate whether the Germans would have reached the second road with only 4 turns to go and decided it was too close to call.

One other point of note was our abysmal dice throwing, with the French noticeably having the worst of it. Even when the French did mass fire, throwing 3 on 2 dice is not going to do any harm except for the odd German splitting his sides laughing! There must have been half a dozen assaults and I can’t think of the French winning the initial dice roll on any – if they did, it was only one and only by 1. Usually, the process started with a +3 or 4 to the Germans. The Germans did have their poor throws as well but, given the massed firepower (credit to them) they still caused damage.

However, yet another fun and interesting game with all round positive comments on the rules. We were slow, but we are still new and there was a lot of chat going on, so we could have been much quicker than we were. Key points from my perspective:

  1. A fun, challenging and realistic game. This has to be top of my list. Once again BBB delivered for us.
  2. The German assault was textbook – massing their guns, turning a flank and shooting the infantry in. That said, with the movement rolls, this was not as easy as it sounds and credit must be due to the German players for holding it all together.
  3. The game lacked a context – was this ‘do or die’ for the French or not?
  4. The Germans were blessed to have all their combat power available from first thing in the morning and in having a full day to achieve their objectives – I need to challenge them more next time out!
  5. The German assessment of time and space was a close call. By relying on their left hook to roll up the French, they risked not reaching the second road before nightfall and therefore not achieving their victory conditions. They might have destroyed the French but, in scenario terms, it would have been a draw. The key here is to focus in on the objectives and really think through how they can be achieved in the time available.

 

Monty the Desert Rat

 

BLOODY BIG BATTLES – FRENCH GLORY!

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Friday evening saw us gather at the Club as usual, only this time Steve and I were introducing the others to “Bloody Big Battles”. We shifted over to the Franco-Prussian War for this one with the Germans attacked the defending French. We had 3 German Korps as follows, each with a General,

GERMAN ORDER OF BATTLE

II KORPS

3 Div:                           6 S Trnd NG

4 Div:                           6    Trnd NG

2 BLA

III KORPS

9 Bde, 5 Div:                4 Vet NG

10 Bde, 5 Div:              5 S Vet NG

11 Bde, 6 Div:              5 S Vet NG

12 Bde, 6 Div:              4 Vet NG

3 BLA

IV KORPS

13 Bde, 7 Div:              6 S Trnd NG

14 Bde, 7 Div:              5 Trnd NG

15 Bde, 8 Div:              5 Trnd NG

16 Bde, 8 Div:              5 Trnd NG

3 BLA

6TH CAVALRY DIVISION

2 Vet Lt Cav

12th CAVALRY DIVISION

2 Vet Lt Cav

against the following 2 French Corps, also each with a General.

FRENCH ORDER OF BATTLE

IV CORPS

1 Div:                           4 S Trnd LB

2 Div:                           4 S Trnd LB

3 Div:                           4 S Trnd LB

2 RA

1 MG

2 Trnd Lt Cav

VI CORPS

1 Div:                           5 S Trnd LB

2 Div:                           4 Trnd LB

3 Div:                           3 Trnd LB

4 Div:                           4 Trnd LB

2RA

1 MG

2 A Trnd Lt Cav

We had 6 players in total, which gave everyone a corps to command with Steve taking on the role of Commander in Chief and general adviser to the German side.

We also tried 3 ‘special’ rules:

  1. The Germans had to advance if they rolled 10 or more on the movement dice and were not spent. We actually dispensed with this as the Germans needed no encouragement!
  2. Each German Korps rolled 1D6 at the start and counted as Tactically Inept on a roll of 1 or 2. This resulted in the right and centre Korps both being Tactically Inept!
  3. We gave both French Corps an MG unit but reduced them in effectiveness to reflect the parceling out of these assets rather than their concentration. We counted them as FP 4/2 rather than 12/6 and they were removed if a Reduced result was scored. I felt this worked well.

The table looked like this – a purely fictitious setup, with the French determined to hold Frembourg (left side, just before the second wood) against the German hordes.

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The French deployed as shown below:

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A very thin deployment – everything in the shop window with no reserves and so far back any reverse would see us off the table. However, the plan was simple. Force the Germans to advance a long way, hoping they would become disjointed and therefore attack in piecemeal fashion. The second part of the plan was to position ourselves where the field of fire matched the range of the Chassepot and no more – we didn’t want those nasty Krupps to be able to engage us without exposing themselves!

True to form, the Germans pressed ahead across the board but the aspiration that they would arrive in a disjointed manner worked well. The centre Korps closed first, leading with an infantry unit, which was duly shot to pieces by the defending French. At this stage, they were attacking without artillery support and the results were predictable. The supporting German units were also separated and came on individually and so, at no stage, presented the French with too many targets to cope with. When the German artillery finally came into play, it did cause a loss to the French in Frembourg, but went low on ammo as a result and this compromised its utility in the longer term.

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On the French left/German right, things looked a lot less rosy for the French – a whole German Korps coming at one, lone unit with only the Corps Cavalry and one battery of guns in support. Once again, however, the artillery was slow to move forward (the player blaming an unmarked swamp for his poor dice!!) and the infantry came forward in a disjointed manner. The first unit came forward in isolation and was shot to pieces. An attempt by the French cavalry to see off this spent unit resulted in the cavalry being destroyed! The German artillery finally came into play and the 2 supporting units were closing in on the French when night fell – phew!

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Over on the French right/German left, the Germans had more success. Once again, their artillery played little part. The French use of the reverse slope prevented them being engaged and then they became masked by their own infantry closing on the wood between the hill and the centre. This was held by a weak unit and an MG battery but they certainly fought hard! However, this time the German infantry was better coordinated and they came forward in 2 closely supporting waves. The French could hold off one, but not 2. The MGs were silenced and played little further part, the skirmishers were cleared from the front and in went the Germans with the bayonet. The French were repulsed and the Germans took the wood!

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And, at that point, we called it a day. Certainly a French victory, but that was not the point at all. The aim was to introduce the rules and play out a game that would allow us to do that. The lack of German coordination was due entirely to unfamiliarity with the rules and period and the fact that Steve could not be in all places at one time. I suspect the Germans will do better next time! That said, the French plan worked well – the distance the Germans had to move and the use of reverse slopes negated their artillery and broke up their initially tight formations to allow defeat in detail. The ‘special’ rules also worked well, although 2 German Korps being deemed Tactically Inept really hurt the Germans. I was most pleased with the MG rules. They became useful additional firepower but not the dominant force they could have been. They were also quite vulnerable.

Reaction to the rules – universally positive! At no stage did I hear anyone express any doubts about them at all, everyone said they had fun and wanted to play them again and 2 of the new players (50%) declared an intention to buy the rules on the back of just one game. In fact, as we finished, people were putting forward ideas for more games they would like to play with the rules. Several times I heard someone comment on how cleverly the rules handled situations and how easy they were to grasp. Bottom line, big thumbs up and more games are in the offing – just need to get the figures painted!

 

Monty the Desert Rat

 

“BLOODY BIG BATTLES” FIRST TRY!

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BBB OFC

Today saw us give “Bloody Big Battles” their first run out here at Monty HQ. Steve and I decided on a simple ‘training’ scenario to allow us to work through the various aspects of the rules and we therefore sought to ensure that these situations occurred rather than necessarily doing the sound tactical thing!

My apologies as well for the table. We didn’t have figures to use so counters were used instead. They are all about the right size with the big rounds being artillery and the smaller ones the generals. I’m afraid all the terrain wasn’t painted either, but we wanted to give the rules a run out so went with what we had.

Anyway, we set the game in the ACW and I had the Union side with the following:

3 units of 6 bases of trained infantry with muzzle loading rifles.

2 fragile units of 6 bases of raw infantry with muzzle loading rifles.

2 units of rifled artillery.

One general.

The whole rated as passive. Comment: we put all these characteristics in to see how they played out.

Steve took the Confederates with:

2 units of 6 bases of veteran infantry with muzzle loading rifles.

3 units of 6 bases of trained infantry with smooth bore muskets.

1 unit of smooth bore artillery.

Two generals.

And all the infantry were aggressive.

Here are the initial deployments:

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And the Confederate advance:

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The game essentially split into 3 ‘fights’ – on my left I had a trained unit supported by an artillery battery and backed by a raw unit lining the road in front of the woods – Steve advanced a trained unit with a general in range against them. The Confederates pressed forward and we had a succession of rounds of fire, disrupted, recovery and so on but the Confederates closed and drove the Union unit back behind its support. Comment: I never managed to combine the 2 units into an ‘in depth’ formation – a learning point for next time. I should also have made better use of the cover of the woods. Sitting back a little further from the start would have made all the difference.

Steve continued in against the raw unit, even though he was now low on ammo, but the cover of the woods, his low ammo and my 6 to his 1 saw the Confederates repelled and losing a base. The trained unit now recovered and moved forward to take position at the front and, at that point, we concluded that the position had held. What of the artillery, I hear you cry? They were forced back and silenced in the first assault and a succession of poor rolls saw them skulking at the back of the field and taking no further part! Courts Martial are being assembled!

The fight on my left including the crucial dice roll!

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In the centre, Steve led with a veteran unit backed by a trained unit against the village, held by a trained unit. The Confederates never managed to close to assault and, by the end, the Veteran unit was spent and the trained unit had taken the lead, but with little chance of success.

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On my right, most of the action occurred. Again, I had a trained unit supported by artillery and backed by a raw unit. Again, Steve came at them with a veteran supported by a trained with his artillery and a general between his left and his centre. In this case, the combined fire of the artillery and trained unit managed to keep the Confederates at bay. Silencing and reducing his artillery early on (the work of my own guns) made a real difference and Steve held them well back, so they added little firepower. That said, had they pressed forward, there is every chance they would not have made it.

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Clearly Steve played to the aim not to win. We both agreed that he would normally have sought to force me to extend my line, exposing raw units, and then focusing in on them. In that case I would have been much harder pressed. And here we are at the end:

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So, verdict on the rules! What we liked:

  1.   The mechanics are simple – within a couple of turns we had significantly reduced our use of the Quick Reference Sheet and were ticking along quite nicely. This is a key point. As a Club, we only meet twice a month and we do play a wide variety of games, which means rules don’t get the consistent and persistent play necessary to master anything too complex. These fit the bill perfectly with mechanisms that are readily picked up even by a novice.

2.   The game is not simple! The simplicity of the mechanisms hides a great deal – these are subtle and elegant rules. I think the rules are easy to master, the game is not. The complexity has been distilled into these simple mechanisms for our benefit, but it is still very much there and we really began to appreciate just how subtle the rules were as the game went on.

3.   It does allow games to be played out in a reasonable timeframe. How many times have we played games and not reached a conclusion? I dread to think. These rules really do offer the potential for resolution in the space of a typical club evening.

4.   Realism! At the end of the day, however simple, elegant and subtle the rules are, if they don’t give a good representation of the warfare of the period, I am simply not interested. Not so with “Bloody Big Battles”. We felt the battle really played out as we would have expected and gave a good and accurate representation of an ACW battle between the forces we had.

5.   Focus. We were always taught ‘2 up and 2 down’, meaning that, as a commander, you should be looking 2 levels below your own and 2 levels above your own. In many rules that try to represent larger battles, we can find ourselves drifting down into the tactical weeds so beloved of wargamers! Not so. The author has kept his focus with real discipline and these rules really do keep you at the level you are supposed to be at.

6.   The ability through the use of a few ‘attributes’ and the number of generals to create forces with a very different flavour but without over complicating things. A light touch here is good and the attributes are very appropriate to the level of game.

7.   The ability to further tailor forces but within the rules framework. For example, we came up with the idea of the characteristic of ‘Resolute’. It works exactly as Aggressive but only when defending.

House Rules/Amendments. We came up with one we would apply, and it is a pretty standard one for us:

  1. When measuring for generals, you measure from a prominent part of the base not the base edge. A prominent part could be the general’s head, a standard, a piece of scenery on the base. The reason is simple. We quite often tend to make a little more of our general’s bases –aides, HQ flags, broken guns etc etc. This means base sizes are often larger and not standard so this just removes any risk of inadvertent advantage from doing a nice little model. Yes, space is sometimes tight, in that case we just mark where the general is and measure from there.

What we didn’t like:

  1. Steve was a bit miffed when I ‘jinxed’ his dice for a key roll – “anything but a 5 or less!”, but made merry when, in my next movement phase, I failed to roll above 4 in 5 attempts!! You reap what you sow!

But seriously. We didn’t find anything we didn’t like and we will be playing them again soon. I sort of feel I should find something to balance the positives, but I really can’t – honest! I really do feel these rules are excellent and a tremendous amount of work has clearly gone into producing them – thank you, Chris!

 

Monty the Desert Rat

 

BATTLEGROUND 2015

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Last weekend I traveled down to Stockton for my last Show of the year – Battleground. This is a really great Show, extremely well organised by Pendraken Miniatures, even down to bacon butties at 0830!!. It has a very friendly atmosphere and is well laid out with plenty of space to circulate, even around the tabletop sale. There are loads of interesting traders to visit and, although I didn’t get around much, there were quite a few games that caught my eye and that I would have liked to explore further and closer up – better organisation required on my part next year!

As ever, I was there both as Monty and as a Lard Ambassador, in this case showing the upcoming Red Dawn Cold War supplement to TooFatLardies’ excellent Chain of Command rules. The scenario was based on a Soviet air assault on the crossings over the River LEINE, with our particular interest focused on a small bridge on the approach to the river. The Soviets were keen to seize it to ease the advance of their Main Body, the British clearly wanted to prevent that.

Here’s the table, the British to the left as you look at it:

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We managed 2 games and ended up with one win to each side. In the first game, the Soviets made a dash for the bridge, were caught in the open and hit hard. The British managed 4 phases in a row and had effectively dealt with one squad and pinned another on the hill over to their right. All going well! But the Soviets don’t give up easily – the British player brought on a section and rushed for the cover of the hedge to the left of the bridge. Decisions, decisions, do you try and make it in one go or go tactical? The British player opted to go for it with 2 dice and fell short! The Soviet player then let rip with all he had and managed a couple of phases in a row. Here we see the active members of the section after that:

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And those at the back are a different unit! One section wiped out, 2 leaders lost and the Soviets were laying down some serious fire. The British continued to take losses on their left, where they were now outnumbered and finally broke. Round one to the Soviets!

Round 2 saw the same set up. The Soviets again spread themselves across the table with the British focused on the centre. This time we saw little attempt at manoeuvre with both sides seeking cover and trying to win the firefight. The Soviet player was spread and the British were able to focus their fire, causing some significant damage (very good dice rolling) and the Soviets were unlucky in losing leaders quite quickly and they all, except the Platoon Sergeant (!), proved quite popular. Soviet force morale plummeted and, as we approached the end of the Show they were down to 2 with no real prospect of making any progress. Honours even.

And here are some more shots of the action:

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Monty the Desert Rat

A HUNDRED YEARS OF WAR – RED DAWN

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A week ago yesterday I travelled down the road to Falkirk for the ‘Hundred Years of War’ day – an event that is becoming annual and which is designed to promote the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers.

The format for the day is that there are 2 game sessions – one in the morning and one in the afternoon; the idea being that people can get 2 different games in during the day.

In the morning I played in a Pulp game – far from my normal fare but it was an excellent game – well thought out, well run and with interesting challenges. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and, if you’d like to know more about the game, just visit:

www.morvalearth.co.uk

and look up Skull Island.

In the afternoon I was running a game of Red Dawn the upcoming Cold War supplement to TooFatLardies’ excellent Chain of Command rules.

You can see the table here:

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The scenario was that a Soviet Motor Rifle unit had been air assaulted into an HLS some distance off table to the left. Their objective was a bridge off table to the right. The Bridge Guard – a platoon of Territorial Army soldiers and a detachment of Royal Engineers (preparing the bridge for demolition) dispatched 2 sections led by the Platoon Commander to establish a blocking position on the high ground to the left. The Platoon Sergeant remained in command of the bridge with one section and the Royal Engineers. So, the British needed to establish their blocking position, meanwhile one platoon of the Soviet Motor Rifles had been sent ahead to clear the route and try to capture the bridge by coup de main.

The scene was set and the Patrol Phase saw the British with two JOPS in the low, rough ground in the centre and one on their extreme right flank, well advanced. The Soviets were similar, with 2 central just behind the ridge and one well advanced on their right flank. The British centre JOPs;

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The British came on quickly, pushing a section from the right hand JOP up into the woods, aiming for the hill.

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The second section and platoon HQ came on in the centre. The 3 Soviet squads also deployed quickly – two behind the ridge

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and one over on their right.

The British on the right got into a good position on the ridge but the Soviets sent 2 squads that way, aiming to get into close combat and swamp the isolated Brits. The centre British section was moving to assist, but the Soviets closed quickly and attacked. The dice gods were not kind – only one squad made it into close combat, but they threw the Brits off the crest and occupied it themselves. The British Section, however, then responded by opening fire on the reorganising Soviets and did tremendous damage – leaving them suppressed. The other British section arrived and they all went over to the attack. This time, both sections made it into combat against the one remaining Soviet squad, which had moved up to support the suppressed squad. Outnumbered, the Soviets failed to cause much damage and the British not only broke that squad, but killed the platoon commander. Things were not looking good for the Soviets and, at that point, we called it.

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We declared it a British victory – they had men on the ridge, albeit down about ½ a section, but they had their blocking position. The Soviets had lost 2 squads, but the third was moving round the back of the British position and would be able to continue on to close with the bridge. With no radio to talk to company, coordination would be problematic, but we acknowledged the partial Soviet victory as well.

 

Monty the Desert Rat