Friday, March 24, 2017

Stonewall in the valley 12 - Banks at Bay at Bartonsville.

After all the marching and counter-marching of the day before, it was clear from the General Officer Commanding himself to the lowliest volunteer, it was clear as the Thursday 23rd dawned drizzly and miserable, that they would be coming very soon under heavy attack.  A spot of rain was not going to stop Jackson's 'foot cavalry'.  Between them, the Major-General and his two Brigade commanders bethought themselves that passive defence would be simply asking for a defeat.  They resolved to strike.

I had to make some kind of change to a straightforward Attacker-Defender action with forces of disparate strengths.  It was high time for something more along the lines of Cedar Mountain (9 August, 1862) or Sabine Crossroads (8 April, 1864) (ironically enough, Banks featured in both those actions... h'mmm...).

First of all, the forces were sorted out, both sides having lost something like 80 figures (2000 men) in the previous actions.
Union army drawn up ready for desperate battle.

Union: Major-General N. P. Banks

Donnelly's Brigade:
     5 Connecticut        20 figures*
     1 Maryland            20 figures*
     46 Pennsylvania    18 figures

* 26 New York had been so reduced by losses, that it had to be disbanded and its remnants redistributed, 3 figures each to Connecticut and Maryland.  As 46 Pa had been detached, that unit received none.

Gordon's Brigade:
     27 Indiana              26 figures
     2 Massachusetts     23 figures
     29 Pennsylvania     24 figures
     3 Wisconsin           22 figures

     1 Maine                  10 figures
     1 Michigan             12 figures

     New York Artillery  4 figures; rifled Parrotts
     Ohio Artillery          4 figures; smoothbore Napoleons.

Total: 183 figures and 2 guns.

Confederate: Major-General T.J. Jackson

Division Jackson:
Winder's (Stonewall) Brigade:

     5 Virginia                  19 figures
     27 Virginia                22 figures
     33 Virginia                21 figures
     Poague's Artillery       3 figures - smoothbores.

Taliaferro's Brigade:
     10 Virginia                 22 figures
     23 Virginia                 18 figures
     37 Virginia                 22 figures
     Cutshaw's Artillery      4 figures, - rifles

Division Ewell:
Trimble's Brigade:

     15 Alabama                22 figures
     21 Georgia                  22 figures
     21 North Carolina       20 figures
     Raines's artillery           3 figures - rifles

Taylor's Brigade:
     1 La Special Battalion 18 figures (Tigers)
     6 Louisiana                  24 figures
     7 Louisiana                  17 figires
     Lusk's Artillery              4 figures - smoothbores

     2 Virginia Cavalry        21 figures (Munford)
     7 Virginia Cavalry        18 figures (Ashby)
     Chew's  Artillery            4 figures - rifles.

Total: 308 figures and 5* guns.
For some reason Chew's flying artillery got left out of the battle; that is to say, I simply forgot about it!)
Map of the battlefield, with Union dispositions and battle plan.  

From the map you may discern how I was going to conduct this action.  Having determined upon 'Strike! before being struck', I fixed upon the Union plan, with the Confederate approach being programmed.  Whilst Donnelly held a defensive position on the east flank, Gordon's whole brigade would make a thrust against the  Confederates as they crossed Opequon Creek through the woods upon Sandy Ridge, and the open valley towards the Shady Elm timber yards. 

If any Rebs tried to cross near Sandy Ridge, they would find the going tough, but if not, they would find their open flanks being assailed from cover.

Divided up into Infantry Brigades and Cavalry regiments, with cannon rolled separately, the Confederates would arrive at any time from Game Turn 1 through to Game Turn 6.  Whenever a battery arrives coincidentally with a brigade, it would be held that that was the battery belonging to it. It would take half a morning (3 hours, from 7 to 10 a.m.) for the Confederates all to arrive on the field. As the first hour of the day will have been spent marching into contact, it would be 10 a.m. before all units would be up.  The Union forces had that time to strike with equal or superior numbers.

As to the point of arrival, the field was divided into rough quarters, with the following additional die rolls:
1. Arrive at the Shady Elm Mill Bridge;
2. Arrive at the Shady Elm Mill Bridge;
3. Arrive in front of the Sandy ridge wooded area;
4. Arrive up the Valley Turnpike towards Bartonsville;
5. Arrive up the Valley Turnpike towards Bartonsville;
6. Arrive east of Bartonsville.

The dice were rolled, with the following results:

Game Turn 1:  Stonewall Brigade plus artillery arrives east of Bartonsville;
Game Turn 2:  Ashby's Cavalry arrives up the Valley Turnpike;
Game Turn 3;  Taylor's Brigade - minus artillery - arrives at the Shady Elm Mill Bridge;
Game Turn 4:  a) Trimble's Brigade arrives in front of the forest, on and between the two spurs south of the creek:
Game Turn 4:  b): Lusk's battery arrives at the Shady Elm Mill Bridge;
Game Turn 5:  Munford's Cavalry arrives up the Valley Turnpike;
Game Turn 6:  Taliaferro's Brigade arrives east of Bartonsville. 

Mid-morning - with action about to be joined between Gordon's Union
Brigade and elements of Taylor's and Trimble's CSA Brigades 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Stonewall In The Valley 11 - Hard Marching.

If Wednesday 21 May 1862 in the Shenandoah Valley was characterised by hard fighting (see here), the following day was one of hard marching - especially for the Army of the Shenandoah.  After the morning's action of the day before, the Union Division of General Nathaniel P. Banks had fallen back upon Middleton, whereat General Jackson turned his attention to developments behind him.  His successful action to clear his lines of communication resulted in the demise of Major-General Shields, and his Division's headlong retreat towards Front Royal.  There, Colonel Knipe separated his own small force from Shields's - now Colonel Erastus B. Tyler's - Division in order to rejoin Banks's command.  All this while, Major-General Fremont was making his best speed towards Strasburg.

Dawn, Thursday, 22 May 1862.  Union moves
and Confederate options.  
So matters stood as as the smoke of battle cleared and Tuesday's sun sank behind the West Virginia mountains.  Now Major-General T.J. Jackson was faced with having to decide what next to do.

This proved an interesting exercise, as I could think of four reasonable options:
1.  Meet Fremont's column somewhere west of Strasburg.
2. March through Strasburg, then switch north to attack Banks at Middletown from the south.
3. March east through Front Royal in pursuit of Tyler and Knipe, the switch north and west to attack  Banks at Middletown from the east.
4.  Pursue Tyler's command through the Manassas Gap.

Of the four, the first and third seemed to me the most likely, but events were to take a rather unexpected turn. 

As Col Knipe led his column through Cedarville, the rumour of the Confederate pursuit drew ever closer.  He was still three hours' march east of Middletown when  action seemed imminent.  The good Colonel refused, however, to be drawn, and chivvied his men onward.  As it transpired no further action developed.

Of course, this was the result of a die roll.  Upon facing the prospect of action, you may recall, before determining whether the Confederates approaching were real or rumour, the Union commander rolled to decide whether to accept or decline action.  That gave him an extra half-day's march, after which, supposing the pursuit was real, he would than be forced to accept action.  In this case, Knipe would successfully have rejoined Banks, though there would have been no prospect of either avoiding action then had Jackson really been pursuing.  But see what happens later in the day.

Moves up to 10 a.m.  The Confederates strike towards
Fremont's Division

As it transpired, the Stonewall had chosen Fremont as his target (also decided by a die roll, after the Knipe decision).  Shortly after midmorning the two columns met on the road west of Strasburg. Hitherto resolute in marching to action, Fremont's boldness suddenly failed him.  At once he ordered a retreat, back towards Watsontown.

(Again determined by die roll.  The eastern Confederate march being rumour, the west march was the real.  But the roll to determine whether the Union commander would accept or decline action once again fell in favour of ... discretion.  Quite a contrast this was to the bellicose behaviour exhibited hitherto!)
Fremont having recoiled hastily, Jackson switches across
towards Middletown where Banks has been rejoined
by Col Knipe's column.

What then for General Jackson? Pursue Fremont and bring on an action near Watsontown? Or switch back through Strasburg and thrust towards Middleton after all? Out comes the die once more and...
Fremont is allowed to escape,  General Banks is the target after all. At 2 p.m. The Union scouts see the Confederates rapidly approaching.  Feeling isolated, with Shields (Tyler) reported to have disappeared beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, and no word from Fremont, General Banks orders a retreat (determined - you guessed it - by another die roll). 

For the third time that day, the dice rolled against accepting action.  By this time Col Knipe had at last reunited with Banks's command.  Earlier in the day he had 'declined' an action that seemed imminent, but this second approach was a whole new circumstance, requiring a whole new decision. Fortunately Knipe still had enough movement allowed to accompany Banks's retreat to Newtown. The Confederates following up would have caught up with Banks's Division at dusk, but the latter were permitted to drop back an extra short distance (one hex) overnight (the early part of the evening).   

Nightfall: General Banks beats a hasty retreat
 past Newtown, but Jackson is in hot pursuit.   The other
Union columns are distant at least a whole day's march.
Nightfall of 22nd May finds the Union columns, owing to their reluctance to try conclusions with the Army of the Valley, widely scattered. The central column, General Banks's battered Division, is about to be forced once more into an unlooked for battle.

Such has been the remarkable and unexpected outcome of the series of 50-50 propositions, with no combat resulting that day.  The morrow will offer something different.  In contact with Banks. there is no question of splitting the Rebel force into 'rumour' and 'reality'.  General N.P. 'Commissary' Banks will have once more to face the reality.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Prototype 'Offset Oblong' Campaign Map

Draft campaign map of the Crusader operation, 1941, on a
single sheet of A4.  Note the oblong cells.
In my last posting I spoke of a campaign map I started to make for a game based upon the Crusader Battles in the Western Desert in November-December 1941.  The two pictures here show how far I got with the thing - including the mistakes and additional notes - even an idea I had at the time of transforming (by eye alone) the oblong cells into hexagons.   

Same map with a 'desert' special effect.  This map was
redrawn, double-sized onto 2 A4 sheets.

The campaign was to be 'bathtubbed' - based on the Command Decision rule set, but further scaled down.  The inspiration for this was the campaign game Barbarossa 25, in which the whole Operation Barbarossa was scaled down by a factor of 25.  This included time and ground scale.  Now, Command Decision already involves a scaling down of 1:5 in vehicles, with a two-figure infantry stand representing roughly 50 men,   So Barbarossa 25 implied a scaling down of 1:125 in vehicles, and each infantry stand represented roughly 1250 men.

This was achieved not by a method that would have looked like Not Quite Mechanised or Megablitz; but by having 1 war games Division standing for 25.  On a hex map of Russia, each cell represented an area 1 km across instead of 25.  The time scale was harder to design, so the designer (Frank Chadwick) settled on 2 days  representing 1 month.  I think I would have made a different time scale, but that's by the by.

My idea I called Crusader 5 - scaling down by a further factor of 5 from the Command Decision rule set. 1 tank would therefore have represented 25, and one rifle stand about 250 men Here are a couple of samples of my projected ORBAT:

15th Panzer Division (General Neumann-Silkow)
      Panzer Regiment  8:
          HQ: 1 cmd (command) PzIVF1, 1 recon (reconnaissance) PzII
          2 Companies each with: 1 cmd PzIIIH, 1 PzIIIH
      Infantry Regiment 15:
          HQ: 1 cmd stand, 1 kubelwagen, 1 staff radio truck, 1 recon m/c (motorcycle) MG stand,                           1x50mm AT (Anti-tank) gun with towing vehicle,
                1x7.5cm infantry gun with kettenkrad tow.
           1 Company, with 1 cmd stand, 3 rifle stands, 1 MMG (Vickers) stand, 1xSdKfz251/10
                3xSdKfz251/1 half tracks.
           1 Company, with 1 cmd stand, 3 rifle stands, 1 MMG stand, 4 trucks
           1 m/c Company, with  1 cmd stand, 1 kubelwagen, 3 m/c stands, 1 MMG m/c stand.
      Artillery Regiment 33:
           HQ: 1 cmd stand, 1 FO (Forward Observer), 1 radio truck, 1 kubelwagen:
           Battery: 1x15cm howitzer, gun crew, 1xSdKfz7 tractor.
           Battery: 1x10.5cm howitzer, gun crew (ds - double sized stand), 1xSdKfz11 tractor.
           2 AT Batteries, each with :  1x50mm PaK38 AT gun, 1 gun crew (self command), 1 truck or                    halftrack
           1 AA Battery with: 1x8.8cm  FlaK, 1 gun crew, 1 SdKfz7 tractor:
           1 AA Battery with: 1xSP 20mm Quad or 37mm AA.
      Aufklaerungs Abteilung (Recon Unit) 33:
           1 cmd SdKfz250/1, 1xSdKfz222 a/c (armoured car), 1xSdKfz231 a/c, 1 m/c stand,
           1 recon infantry stand, 1 SdKfz 250, 1 37mm or 50mm AT gun.
      Engineer Company 33:
           1 cmd engr (engineer stand), 2 engr stands, 3 light trucks.

2nd New Zealand Division (Major-general Freyberg)
       HQ: 1 cmd stand, 1 light truck, 1x2pr p/m (portee mount)(31Bty), 1 Bofors AA ('X'Bty):
       4 and 6 Battalions, with:
            HQ Coy: 1 cmd stand, 1 car, 1 recon bren carrier (carrier), 1 3-inch mortar stand, 1 carrier,
                1 engineer stand, 1 MMG, 1x 2pr portee mount (32/34 Bty), 1 Bofors AA (41 Bty)
            3 Rifle Coys, each with 1 cmd stand, 3 rifle stands.
     5 Battalion, with:  
             HQ Coy: 1 cmd stand, 1 car, 1 recon bren carrier (carrier), 1 3-inch martar stand, 1 carrier,
                1 engineer stand, 2 MMG, 1x 2pr portee mount (33 Bty), 1 Bofors AA (42 Bty)
            4 Rifle Coys, each with 1 cmd stand, 4 rifle stands.
      Field Regiment:
             HQ: 1 cmd stand, 1 FO stand, 2 cars, 1 staff radio truck, 1 survey troop stand.
             3 batteries (4th, 5th and 6th), each with 1x25pr gun/howitzer, 1 Quad tractor, 1 limber, 1 gun                   crew (ds) 
      7 AT Regiment: (31-34 Bty, attached as above).
      14 Light AA Regiment (attached, as above)
      Engineer Company: 1 cmd stand, 3 engr stands, 1 car, 3 light trucks
      Divisional Cavalry:  1xcmd MkVIB light tank, 1 recon MkVIB, 2 recon carriers.
This 'Division' had a transport pool rather than unit-organic transport.  Whether this transport pool was large enough to uplift the whole Division, I'm not sure.  I'd be inclined to limit the pool to something like 20-30 vehicles - enough to carry two of the three rifle battalions, say.

I was going to include an Italian formation in this rather self-indulgent article (probably Ariete Division), but my Italian ORBATS seem to have disappeared.

Unfortunately, at the time this was too ambitious a project for the resources I had available, or was likely to obtain in any reasonable time.  Too bad...

Monday, March 6, 2017

Portable Wargames and Drawing Hexes...

A One-Hour Wargames scenario '#15:Fortified Defence', using
my vaguely late 19th century Imaginations armies.  Because I |
wanted to use one of my Gatling guns, I went for the 'Machine Age' rule set.

After many vicissitudes, my hardback copy of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargames finally landed on my porch - on my birthday too!  I wonder how they arranged that!  Could not have been timed better. You'd think I would have tried out at least one of the games by now - but we'll come to that in another posting.  At any rate, I have been busy buffing up my armies of Ruberia (RED) and Azuria (BLUE), though the latter may well supply the soldiery for another nation - the Settee Empire of Turkowaz (TURQUOISE).  Ruberia at least now has its guns and gatlings painted and based...  Of these, more another time.
Ruberian infantry advance to the attack against heavily
fortified Turkowaz troops.
Discussing grid systems just lately, Mr Cordery has been puzzling over why a field of offset squares 'did not feel right' as a compromise between a field if hexagons (hexes) and a field of squares. Here's link to the article on Wargames Miscellany.

This led to my exercising my own mind about this. I recalled that, way back in 1991, in preparation for a 'Bathtub' 1941 campaign based on Operation 'Crusader', I wanted to make a campaign map. A field of hexes being 'too hard' to make (a chore I had tried once before) I came up with the 'offset square' idea. The project never did get off the ground, though I had made the map and drawn up the ORBAT lists. The thing has lain more than half forgotten somewhere among all my war games jottings ever since.

But one thing I had forgotten and recalled to mind just this morning. I did not 'invent' the field of squares.  Mine was a field of rectangles, with an 'aspect ratio' of about 10:8.66 (or, if you prefer, 11.55:10, or 30:26). There was a reason for this.  I wanted this field to approximate as closely as possible a hex field, such that the physical (as distinct from the notional) distance between the centres of the cells were the same along the 'horizontal line' as along the angled 'lines'.  

I have a feeling that the slight distortion of distances in a field of squares might be the source of Bob's unease. Maybe.

All through last week I was also off and on thinking that the field of offset squares could be transformed into a field of hexes. Well, actually, no. But is took a while for me to figure this out, and the why. It was not until I recalled to mind my oblongs that I worked out how it could be dome. I wish I had figured this out 30 years ago. No doubt there will be readers who know this method of creating hex fields...

 1.  Draw up your field of oblong cells. For the purposes of this article I have made them 50mm by 43mm.
If you are making 100mm wide cells, then the other dimension should also be 'doubled' to 87mm.

I have done this solely with a ball pen and an ancient, badly battered, wooden foot rule. No other tools are required. I also allowed an 7mm margin at the top of the page. The reason for this will be apparent in the next paragraph.
The 'offset rectangles' field.  The red triangle shows how
I wanted this field to work. On a field of squares, the
'angled'  lines would be close to 170mm to the 'horizontal
line's 150mm.
2.  Draw in additional horizontal lines above and below those already laid down at a distance of 7mm either side.  The side of a hexagon that is 50mm between the faces is 29mm to the nearest mm. Subtracting 7mm from the top and from the bottom of 43mm gives us our 29mm hex-side.
The additional horizontal lines drawn in.  You can see now,
possibly, why the top 7mm margin has been left!
I could have drawn in the hexes at once,
but hallucinated a need to mark
intermediate points that I was never
going to use.
 3.  Now you can start drawing in the hexagons as shown in the diagrams below. You will see here that I added in at this point some additional markings. This was simply to confuse myself: they were entirely redundant, unnecessary and a waste of time. Through this cause I managed to get mixed up a couple of times...

4, Having drawn up the hexagons, they can then be inked in. Being lazy, I inked then in freehand, following the lines. Normally, one would have drawn the oblong field and additional lines in pencil that could be erased. But you can see from these pictures there is scarcely any distortion, even on this pretty roughly drawn field.

I took the last two pictures to show how little distortion there is, even viewing the 'angled' lines of hexes.  Something over thirty years ago, for a naval war games project ,I build up a hex field using triangles.  What a chore that was!  I filled two sheets with hexes (you will see them here), and then tossed in the sponge.  A few weeks ago, inspired by the idea of Portable Wargames naval, I finished of 5 further sheets using the 'pin' method of reproducing the hex field.
 But I wish 30 years ago I had figured out the method I have described here!

I'm sorry the ACW 'Stonewall in the Valley' Campaign has stalled.  Too many distractions.  It has not been forgotten, and will resume soon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Grid wargames play test.

Hauptmann Harlequin von Chrome's sketch map from
Chapter 9: 'Double Delaying Action' of his
 Still waiting for my copy of Portable Wargames to turn up - problem with the delivery company, apparently - I thought I'd try out a gridded game adapting the simple One-Hour Wargames WW2 rule set.  Opening the book more or less at random yielded this: Scenario 9: Double Delaying Action.
The battlefield.  the trio of trees by the river mark the location
of a ford.

The table set out yielded an interesting enough terrain.  The yellow hedgehoggy thing in the picture was by way of a weight to keep the polystyrene hill in place.  New Zealand is a damned windy country, let me tell you, especially in summer. The air is rarely still. Fortunately for me the wind today was a mere zephyr,  For the firefighters battling the bushfires south of where I live - the enormous smoke clouds dominating the southern sky wafting off to the east - conditions would have been very unpleasant, with a scorching nor'wester forecast for later in the day.  The power outages later in the day were due to these fires.  They have been going for a couple of days, now. But... to proceed.

Ten units from which the BLUE army was selected
Here are the troops from which the forces were to be selected:

Ten units from which the RED Army was selected.
Blue Army (German):
- 4 Infantry units (each 4 stands, 8 figures);
- 2 Tank units - Jagdpanzer IV/70s classed as 'tanks' (because they were to hand);
- 2 Anti-tank gun units - Marder 38(t).  These I treated 'per spec' in the rules - the same as towed AT guns;
- 2 Mortars - one infantry support 7.5cm gun mounted in an 8-rad armoured car, and one 12cm mortar.  Both were to be treated the same.

Red Army (Russian):
- 4 Infantry units.  They ought to have had 4 stands, not 5, not that it mattered at all:
- 2 Tank units: 1xT34/85, 1xM4 Sherman;
- 2 x120mm mortars
- 2 Anti-tank units, 1x76.2mm and 1x45L66 anti-tank guns.

BLUE (German) army's main thrust: over the ford.
The jagdpanzers are Matchbox, the Marder a recently
bought second-hand Marder 38(t); the Sherman a
'made in China' diecast of indeterminate origin.
This scenario postulated that five miles north of this area, a decisive battle is being fought.  Both commanders here have been ordered to reinforce the main battle, whilst at the same time delay if they can not prevent the enemy reinforcement.  RED (Russia, defending) must break off at least 3 units by move 12 (one each fourth turn), provided that BLUE (German, attacking) fails to gain control of the town (for a future supply base) AND fails to exit at least two units from the north edge of the map.
A single company about to attack the town.  The white dice
(German) and the red (Russian) are strength point markers.

I have an idea that the author, Neil Thomas, mentions somewhere what each unit represents, but I tend to think of them as companies - or company-sized - though they could conceivably represent battalions.   Each and all units have 15 strength points.  I used dice in holders to mark this, with the idea for the infantry units of removing a stand for each 5 strength points lost.  Then I promptly forgot I was going to do this because I was concentrating on remembering the current SP strengths of the vehicle and gun units.  I now think for those that once the first five SPs are lost, of placing two dice down showing 5 and 5 and reduce the SPs from them.

Each side comprised 6 selected from the 10 available units, selected by a die roll.  The Russians rolled a '1' which gave them:
- 3 infantry (Rifle) companies
- 2 mortar companies
- 1 tank company - Shermans
Of these, 1st Rifle Company deployed in the woods, 2nd Rifle Company formed a reserve in rear of the town, which was occupied by 3rd Rifle Company.  The tank company stood midway between wood and town, but somewhat drawn back close by the hill.  The powerful mortar support stood upon the hill itself. The whole formed a line with the flanks thrown a little forward to occupy the wood and town features.

The German main attack
 The Germans rolled a '3' for force selection, which gave them:
- 3 infantry companies
- 2 tank companies (the Jagdpanzer IVs
- 1 Anti-tank company (the Marder)
The General Officer Commanding - General-major Klaus von Klutz - decided that the town was likely to prove too much of an obstacle, and massed the bulk of his force for a major drive over the ford and the Russian right flank.  Just a single infantry company (Nr 1 Coy) would make an attempt upon the town.
Rather an optimistic attempt on the town...

Progress on the western flank...
The Russian chose not to contest the ford crossings, preferring to wait for the Germans to advance onto their guns,  After briefly favouring the forest defenders with machine-gun attention (spiritedly returned with support from the mortars), the heavy assault guns swung off to the northeast to take on the Shermans. By this time the lead German armour had already taken serious losses. The company finally succumbed, having barely advanced beyond the riverbank. By this time, however, it was time for the Russians to draw off one of its units.  One of the mortar companies was the most conveniently placed; it retired without more ado.
The Soviets reinforce the town garrison.
The German company is already badly depleted.
Meanwhile the contest for the town drew quickly to a close.  After the initial exchanges of fire, the Russian commander, possibly unnecessarily, pressed 2nd Rifle company into the town alongside the 3rd.  The unequal firefight - two to one, with the Russians enjoying the cover of the buildings, could end but one way.  First Infantry Company was out of the battle.

The armoured battle...

That still meant that in the sector of their main effort, discounting the mortar supprt, the Germans outnumbered the defenders two to one.  By the time First Assault Gun Company was destroyed, it had inflicted considerable loss upon the Russian armour.  Second Assault Gun Company had already joined the quarrel, and barely two more turns had passed when it reduced last of the Russian tanks to a smoking wreck.
Both sides have lost a tank company.
The 1st Rifle company was equally unable to hold off the German infantry attacks.  Second Infantry Company plunged into the woods on their flank, and levered the Russian back
Russian infantry under 
heavy attack in the woods. The green die must have been
knocked: it ought to have been showing a '2' signifying that
the Russian unit was down to 10SPs

The problem of playing outdoors.  The sunlight in Canterbury
New Zealand is very strong (which is why I always
wear a hat outdoors).
Time was pressing for the Russians, who perforce drew off the remaining mortar company. Having won the battle for the town, Colonel Vladimir Vladimirovitch Vladimirski ordered 3 Company to counterattack to the west, whilst 2 Company took to the road north.  There was plenty of time to draw off the latter, but he would have been better to have kept 3 Company in the town.  It helps to remember what  the victory conditions what your orders are and what needs to be done to carry them out.

All the same, 2 Rifle Company saw off a tentative approach by the Marders, before turning off to retreat northward.  Badly depleted though it was, 3rd Rifle Company were gone by the 12th game turn, fulfilling half of the Russian victory conditions.  It was at this point that I called the game, for it was clear enough that the Germans would exit two units in that time.

The Germans have conquered the west flank, but the
job is but half done.
About to call it a German victory I suddenly realised that the Germans had to have control of the town by the end of move 15 as well.  In the circumstances, that too was achievable, as the Russians had long since abandoned the place.  On the other hand, the last remaining rifle company (the 1st was finally destroyed at Turn 11) was still within a couple of moves' distance from the town also.  As that implied a fight for the place with the Russians having a slight edge, I was forced to award the laurels to the Russians after all.
Second Rifle Company ought to have carried straight on
northwards, instead of diverting onto the hill; and 3rd
Rifle Company should have stayed in the town.  
- One tank and one infantry company destroyed;
- One tank and one infantry company carried on northwards off the map;
- Town contested; therefore not in exclusive German hands.
- One tank and one infantry company destroyed;
- Two mortar and one infantry company drawn off to the north;
- Town still denied German control.
Result: Russian victory, albeit a very tight one.

Move thirteen completed.
 Two moves would not be enough for the Germans to bring off two units off the
northern edge and to take and hold the town.   
The action went by very quickly, with no real hitches.  It is no disparagement to describe the Neil Thomas rule set as being of the 'One Brain Cell' type.  There are good reasons to adopt this approach. For one thing, simplicity makes the game accessible, and is less unrealistic in many of its effects than is too often alleged.

But as designed here, they are very easy to tailor - and I suspect have been designed with that possibility (inter alia) in mind.  It would not take much to build in rules differentiating among the disparate armour and armament of armoured and unarmoured fighting vehicles; of loading infantry on trucks or half-tracks, of bringing in reconnaissance elements etc, and still have a fairly simple game.  Less simple, sure, but by no means complicated.  

Next time:  Stonewall in the Valley continues:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

"Attentive to our duty" - a naval interlude.

Raesharn convoy: Destroyer flotilla (T61-64) leading
and to the flanks, the protected cruiser trailing.  Far off,
almost due west...

In a recent posting in his blog spot, Bob Cordery mentioned the possibility publishing a further volume on Developing the Portable Wargame (working title).  The subject of naval war games was to be included in this volume.

,,, two Kiivar armoured cruisers approach.

This sounded intriguing enough for me to inquire further into this.  In response, Bob kindly sent me a copy of his naval war game rule set as they presently stand.  Well, we had a few goes last night as I gradually sussed how the game worked.  For some reason I thought the gunfire was adjudicated 'per gun', which had two interesting, if amusing, effects.  One: the actions were extremely short.  Two, imagine a nine-gun battleship firing 72 dice at point blank.  Yeah.  Right.

Clearly I needed to reread the rules, but I quite like the 'per gun' notion, if it could be made to work.
The COW report that accompanied the rules mentioned a scenario in which a couple of armoured cruisers attacked a convoy escorted by a protected cruiser and a flotilla of torpedo-boat destroyers. My first pass in fact had two protected cruisers attacking an armoured cruiser and two destroyers protecting a couple of merchant vessels.  Some superb gunnery put the armoured cruiser under, but one of the attacking ships went with it.
Early - possibly too precipitate - reaction by the escort
 After the first passes, I had another at the original scenario.  The opening arrangement was unclear, so I imagined the attackers approaching from the same direction as, but on a converging course with, the convoy.

Battle of Tobacco Roads

Royal Kiivar Navy:  Task Force Admiral Yueh
Armoured Cruiser KNS Termagant (Main Armament 8"; Secondary 4.7")
Armoured Cruiser KNS Virago (Ditto)

Imperial Raesharn Navy: Convoy Captain Suzumaha
Protected Cruiser IRS Mastodon (Main Armament 6"; Secondary 4.7")
Destroyer Flotilla: T61 - Leader, Commander Yamazuki
                              T62, T43, T64 (In this world of Sideon IV, destroyer flotillas comprise 4 vessels)
                              All destroyers armed with 4" guns, and 4 torpedo launchers.
Merchant ships: Allswell, Ben Betterhof, Cudbewuss, Dammital. The first and last of these were small tramp steamers, the other two more sizeable.
Any tricks to get these ancient card stock sheets to lie flat?!
As dawn broke over the gentle swell of the Great Southern Ocean, lookouts upon the Torpedo Boat Destroyer T64 descried off to the west the dark smudge of an approaching pair of ships.  Armoured cruisers, devil a doubt, armed with modern eight-inch guns - heavy metal for the Raesharn escort to take on.  Apprised of the situation, Captain Suzumaha sipped his early morning apple tea, and ordered the escort to intercept the enemy.

A very noticeable swell this morning!
The Raesharn response was probably too precipitate, as a sudden change in course by the Kiivar ships caught the Mastodon isolated from the destroyers, and under fire from both.  Considering the superior range and weight of metal of each of the Kiivar vessels over the single Raesharn cruiser, the latter could have come off much worse that it did.  Taking six hits herself, Mastodon inflicted four on Virago.

IRS Mastodon caught isolated by the two heavier enemy ships.
 Even so, this could not last.  It would be some time before the destroyer flotilla could intervene, in circumstances that might - but for events - have led to Commander Yamazuki's court marshal.  (First move being diced for, Raesharn moved first in the game, but the moment the toss went the other way, that would be the cue for the Kiivar vessels, with two moves in a row, to slip in behind the escort and isolate the solitary big Raesharn ship.  The destroyers were caught too far away and heading in the wrong direction.)

Mastodon flings herself between the raiders and the convoy.
This kind of heroism ends but one way...
Heroically covering the rear of the slowly fleeing merchant ships, once more the overmatched Mastodon came under heavy fire. She scored a few damaging hits upon Termagant but succumbing to a welter of 8-inch shells, went under in a matter of minutes.

Seven hits, on top of the six earlier, and Mastodon goes down.

After this disaster, it seemed that the convoy lay at the mercy of the Kiiver squadron.  But racing back came the destroyers, T62 far ahead of its companions.  
The Raesharn destroyers determine to do or die...
The gunfire from the Raesharn ships was not enough to stop T62 from closing to torpedo range. Three hits into the larboard side were enough to put Virago in a sinking condition.  Down she went. But its success did not save T62.  Reduced to a complete wreck in moments, that destroyer also slipped beneath the waves.
For the moment Termagant can concentrate its gunfire on
the lead M/S.  It was not very effective.

Battle rejoined: the Flotilla leader, T61, thumps two torpedoes
 into Termagant's larboard side - just before several 8-inch shell
hits puts paid to T61.

The demise of T62 was followed quickly after by that of T63, with hardly any further scratched to the paintwork of Termagant. That fast-moving cruiser managed momentarily to keep out of torpedo range of the remaining Raesharn destroyers, but in going after the merchants, allowed the escort vessels to close again. Concentrating the main guns on T61, Termagant trained the secondaries on Allswell. The destroyer also disappeared among several explosions, but the merchant suffered only minor damage (2 hits).   Then two torpedoes slammed beneath the port-side belt armour of Termagant - the vengeance of T61.  There would be no court marshal for Cdr Suzumaha. 

Termagant continued to circle the merchant ships, like a wolf after sheep.  The wheeling ships and the determination of the sole remaining escort, T64, prevented the cruiser concentrating its fire upon any one steamer.  Ben Betterhof was reduced to a wreck, but remained afloat and under power; and a few fires were started aboard Dammital as well.  But the main armament had to be reserved to fend off T64.  That vessel soon joined its companions in Davy Jones's locker, but a final torpedo hit persuaded Termagant to break off the action.
The last destroyer, T64 finally drives off the raider, but not before
taking several fatal hits.
The escort had saved the convoy, but barely, and that at the cost of all five warships.  But the attackers had lost a valuable warship of their own.  It chances were problematical of anyone making the journey to safe harbour.

That was a pretty even and hard fought action, with heavy loss on both sides, but an indeterminate result.  Now, although my navies are more cognate to early WW2, but with fewer 'types' - or different - ships I played this action 'per spec'.  There are some comments I would make at this point.  Bear in mind these are off the top of my head after just one proper 'play test'.
 End of the action.

1.  It is tempting to suggest making the results of torpedo attacks more chancy, but perhaps more lethal when they do strike.  A possibility: 3 dice as now if fired from abeam of the target, 6's to hit, 1D6 damage per hit.  If fired from ahead or astern, 2 dice only with the same probability of hits and damage.  As now, 4 torpedo attacks maximum per destroyer or other torpedo carrying vessel.
2.  What are the practicalities of adding a little more detail in terms of critical hits affecting guns, command, motive power and steering?  It is true that such detail makes for a deal more complicated bookkeeping, but would they add anything to the game?  Would they add anything to the narrative? Something for me to think about.
3.  The concept leads to a very playable game judging by my very brief acquaintance. Can they be modified by a supplement adding aircraft, carriers and submarines?  Or are we looking at a series of separate, or maybe modular, rule sets?
4.  I still like the 'per gun', which seems possibly more appropriate to the 'post-Dreadnaught' era.