“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.

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

The French deployed as shown below:

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

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:

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

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HITACHI HDC-1491E

The Massed guns:

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HITACHI HDC-1491E

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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HITACHI HDC-1491E

German infantry closing in for the kill:

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HITACHI HDC-1491E

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HITACHI HDC-1491E

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.

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

The French deployed as shown below:

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

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.

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

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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HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

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HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

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!

HITACHI HDC-1491E

HITACHI HDC-1491E

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