Saturday, 19 March 2011

Wargames Weekend: The Photos

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Wargames Weekend: The Relief of Fort Kosheh

The final game of the weekend saw a return to the Sudan with an opportunity for me to use my recent Perry purchases and yet another outing for the Colonial Adventures rules. Lenin took command of the plucky Brits and I commanded the Mahdists.

A detachment from 1st Battalion The Queenʼs Own Cameron Highlanders and the 9th (Soudanese Battalion) supported by an artillery battery have been posted to Fort Kosheh.

The Mahdists have been attacking the fort sporadically for some weeks but their activity has now increased and the fort has come under an major assault. Messages have been dispatched requesting a relieving force, which needs to arrive soon...

Captain Cyril "Barmy" Fotheringay-Phipps, the officer commanding the fort, deployed his forces in defence despite sporadic rifle fire from some buildings overlooking the fort to the rear. The first Mahdist attack came toward the front wall. The egyptian artillery crew struggled to redeploy the gun to face the attack and the highlanders began a steady volume of fire into the approaching mob. The Mahdists took many casualties but came on and reached the wall where they set their ladders and began to climb. Despite his earlier exclamation that they were "all doomed!" Sergeant Jock Frazer steadied his men and ensured continued volleys into the enemy.

However, despite the steady British fire their numbers of wounded was rising and the Mahdists reached the top of the wall where a vicious melee ensued. The Mahdist numbers won out and they took a section of wall. Captain Fotheringay-Phipps kept a cool head and ordered the sudanese defending the other walls to about face and loosed a devastating volley into the Mahdists. This combined the rising casualties from the continuing fire from the tower was too much for the Mahdists who broke and fled.

With the attack repulsed Barmy redeployed his men again; this time to deal with the riflemen on the overlooking buildings. Concentrated British rifle fire combined with the egyptian cannon gradually took its toll and the rifle fire became more sporadic. Counting his losses Barmy was considering his next move when another threat appeared. This time a large mob of Fuzzy Wuzzys emerged from the scrub beyond the town, hell bent on charging the walls of the fort.

Another reshuffling of their steadily diminishing numbers saw the garrison ready to face this latest assault. This time their fire was properly co-ordinated and after a couple of particularly effective volleys the Mahdist attack faltered and they fled.

Meanwhile a relief column from Suakin was approaching commanded by Captain Hildebrand "Tuppy" Glossop with troops from the 1st Berkshires, some more Egyptian troops and a Royal Artillery screw gun.

The column advanced steadily towards the town but as they thought they would reach it unmolested an enormous horde of Mahdists appeared from a wadi to the flank of the leading Egyptians and charged!

The Egyptians hurriedly formed line but could not get off enough fire to stop the charge before it reached them. The Mahdist number soon began to tell and the Egyptians were losing men left, right and centre.

Tuppy kept his head and deployed the Berkshires in a line to the left rear of the Egyptians and poured fire into the Madhists. Eventually the Egyptians could hold no longer and their few remaining men withdrew behind the British line leaving the Berkshires to face the full force of Mahdists. The Berkshires remained steady and continued to fire into the Mahdist horde until it reached their line and a bloody melee began. The superior Mahdist numbers were grinding down the British defence but eventually the British discipline showed through and the attack was broken.

However, it was a much depleted column which arrived to relieve the fort...

Wargames Weekend: The Point, Peleliu 1944

Our penultimate game was yet another outing for Nuts!, this time in the PTO. This game was planned largely to allow us to try out the War Against Japan (WAJ) supplement and get some of Lenin's lovely TAG Japanese and US Marines to the table.

WAJ is really intended for US troops to be player controlled and for the system to run the Japanese but since Lenin is only part way through this project we decided that it would be better if I controlled the Japs. WAJ also uses different reaction tables for the US and Japanese troops which we were hoping would add to the period feel.

I was given a platoon of two rifle squads, an MMG squad and their HQ along with a Type 97 Te-Ke tankette. The infantry were all Rep 4 with Rep 5 officers and NCOs but I had to roll for the tankette crew and got a rather uninspiring Rep 3 for the commander/gunner.

I didn't have high hopes for the tankette as I knew the Japanese tendancy to miniaturisation wasn't idea for armour but even so I was surprised at the thing's size - frankly it looked like it was the right scale. But Lenin assured me that not only was it the right scale the US troops had actually put one onto the read deck of a Sherman at one point! Given that Lenin had asked me whether my Sherman was handy I was a little nervous...

The table was laid out with a beach at the east end, jungle to the west, the rocky point to the south and rough ground to the north, where the US troops were dug in. The centre was pretty open (unfortunately).

I decided to have one section advance from the point across the open ground and the balance of the force advance through the jungle to try to outflank the US troops with the tankette moving along a small path in between the point and the jungle. Given that it was a night attack visibility was limited.

My first squad split into two teams with one advancing with the other covering and things started well. But when we moved within sight of the first US troops a fire fight began. The Japs hit the deck with one man down. As soon as we got the initiative I got the men up, threw some grenades and rushed the US slip trench. Another man went down in the charge but after some bloody hand to hand fighting the trench was taken. It transpired that the US had been hampered as we had encountered their bazooka team and so they were a little undergunned against infantry. Probably a good thing as my men had the squad knee mortar and lunge mine!

The other half of the squad advanced and triggered fire from another US slip trench and again hit the deck. Fortunately the tankette could advance in support but with no MG and a rather poor gunner it turned out to be rather less helpful than I was hoping. Whilst this was going on I had the other squad rush out of the US position they had captured to assault the next in the flank. The combination of more firepower on the US side and more bloody hand to hand meant that, whilst I took the position, that group were decimated.

It turned out that the other US position also contained their officer (who Lenin decided was in the John Wayne mould) who decided to deal with my tankette. He prepared a grenade and charged the tank single handed. Whilst the grenade didn't penetrate the tank crew took fright and withdrew!

Whilst this was going on the remainder of the Japanese force had been making their way through the jungle. When they reached the edge they came under US fire from a couple of positions and were force back briefly. I decided on the same approach and, grenades prepared, threw then and rushed the trenches bayonets fixed.

It was at this point that the Sherman made its appearance! So I had the remainder of the men charge the tank. The melee was terrible with the Japanese officer slashing right and left with his sword and small arms and bayonets being used with bloody efficiency at close range. Finally the Japanese took the main US position on this side.

Things went rather differently with the assault on the tank. The US crew used their hull, turret and hatch machine guns to great effect and cut down many of the Japs including the man with the lunge mine! But a couple still got through, slipping under the machine guns and used their grenades. The US tank commander was killed in the blasts and the tank crew then began sweeping their turret machine gun around to try to deal with the danger clinging to the hull of their tank.

With the Japanese having more than achieved their objective in US troop casualties and having lost a large part of their force we decided to call the game. I have to say that I am now not looking forward to having to face the Japanese when we play the next game in the campaign!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Wargames Weekend: Trouble in Tunisia

For our fourth game we returned to Nuts! but for the war they were originally written for - WW2. In this case a scenario in North Africa using my newly acquired 28mm Artizan figures.

Following the failure of the push towards the important road junction of Pont du Fahs, after the sudden appearance of German tanks, General Maurice Mathenet's Division de Marche du Maroc) have withdrawn into the Eastern Dorsale mountains. You have been ordered to hold your positions there, avoid pitched battles and wage a guerilla war to tie down German resources.

The French unit, from the 3rd Tabor of Lt. Col. Leblanc's 1st Groupe de Tabors Marocains, was given the objective of attacking a DAK supply dump. Lenin took command of the Goumiers and decided to attack at night.

The Goum decided to split their force in two and attack with a section each from two directions, the first from the ridge behind the fuel dump and the second from the south west across some open ground towards the main supply dump.

The attack began well with the DAK sentries happy to remain in their fixed positions and so the Goum were able to sneak up to the wire and cut it without being spotted. Each section then sent a group through the wire covered by another fire group. The group, led by the Lieutenant, nearest the fuel dump nearly tripped over an alarm wire (with the traditional tin cans) but spotted it at the last minute. Whilst the group attacking from the south west swiftly and stealthily approached the first building.

The Lieutenant's group moved down the side of the sandbag wall at the side of the fuel dump, concealed from the DAK sentries in the nearby two storey building but were then in a quandary - to advance further risked being spotted by the Germans and the game would be up but to remain where they were would limit the damage they could achieve.

The other Goum group successfully entered and cleared the ground floor of the first building and decided to ascend to the roof to deal with the two sentries there. Two Goums managed to sneak up the stairs and rush the two sentries but one must have stumbled because in the ensuing melee one sentry was killed but the other bested his Goum. The two remaining men faced each other but the DAK sentry decided he needed to escape to raise the alarm. As he turned, the Goum was on him and it was all over in a few seconds. With the building completely secured the Goums called in their second group. The Lieutenant decided to do the same to chance rushing their DAK sentries.

With the attack advancing well and to plan things were looking good for the French force; however, unbeknownst to them, the DAK Feldwebel had decided that now was a good time to conduct a check on the sentries and the wire. He and another man began moving around the wire just at the time the second south western Goum group was moving through the break in it. The Goums spotted the Germans first but decided just to cover them, hoping to avoid raising the alarm. Unfortunately, the Germans spotted the Goumiers but as they raised their weapons to engage them they came under fire from the French. One DAK solider fell in a hail of automatic weapon fire but the Feldwebel was unscathed and ran back to the safety of the machine gun post guarding the main entrance. The Goums kept the initiative and rushed the guard post but the MG34 team spotted them as they emerged from the dark and opened fire. One Goum was killed but the second hit the deck and returned fire killing the MG gunner and making the loader duck back behind the sandbags. The remaining Goums then rushed forward to the sandbag position. Unfortunately the Feldwebel must have heard them as he readied and dropped a grenade over the top of the sandbags. The grenade exploded taking out several of the Goums but when the MG loader grabbed the MG34 to look over the side he was shot by one of the survivors. The Feldwebel prepared a second grenade but fumbled when throwing it and was forced to dive for cover as it exploded on his side of the sandbags. The Goums seized the opportunity and stormed the position killing the cowering German.

With small arms fire having given the game away the Lieutenant decided now was a good time to deal with the sentries overlooking his position. His men popped up and were spotted by the sentries, who opened fire, but the French won the ensuing firefight.

The firing had alerted the remainder of the German garrison who struggled into their boots and to find their weapons in order to respond. Meanwhile the Goums continued to advance and also to set some of the explosive charges they had brought with them in the fuel dump.

The Germans mustered in the courtyard of the headquarters building and some were sent to the second floor positions to assist with the defence. The first men peered over the parapet to see the French advancing down the road, mostly using the shadows at the base of the building's walls. The Goums who were covering the parapet opened fire but lost the firefight and the remaining DAK soldier readied and dropped a grenade into the midst of the Goum force to devastating effect. With their advance hampered by another German sentry position the Lieutenant's group were trapped under the wall and yet another DAK grenade caused more casualties.

The other Group were fairing a little better having forced the sentry overlooking the main supply dump to keep his head down, they leapt over the packing crates to set their charges.

The rest of the German garrison then began to emerge from the HQ building to go to their ready positions. The first team, whose ready position was the MG34 post, were in for a surprise when they came under machine gun fire as they approached the position but neither were hurt as they took cover behind the wheels and engine block of a parked kubelwagen. They managed to ready some grenades and, in a co-ordinated throw, lobbed them into the MG pit taking out the Goums there.

At this point the remaining Goums withdrew gutted at having to leave their wounded comrades but had the satisfaction of hearing both the fuel and supply dumps go up in a massive explosion.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Wargames Weekend: Quebec 1759

Both Lenin and I have picked up the Black Powder rules and wanted to know whether they were actually any good under the excellent presentation.  So I decided to pull out my 15mm Essex French & Indian Wars figures and developed a scenario based on the Battle of the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec in 1759.  I chose to make the scenario a conjectural one with some additional French turning up on the British flank (which they were concerned about at the time) to avoid it being a bit of a walkover for the British.

Lenin took the role of General Wolfe and I took Montcalm.  We both deployed our forces pretty close to history and then the playtest began.

Pretty much straight away we realised the command and control mechanic could make things pretty difficult if the dice weren't with you.  This wasn't the only area where the dice made a huge difference.

Initially the British brigades advanced in a pretty co-ordinated way with only a minor problem keeping the brigade on the flank in contact; however things were a little more challenging for the French.  With a historical deployment the French had two units in column in the centre of their line and in trying to redeploy to allow them to expand things didn't quite go to plan.
The Chevalier de Levis seemed incapable of getting his brigade to respond to his orders effectively and, as a result, a hole opened up in the French line.  Fortunately the British advance was being held up by the French artillery and both the Louisbourg grenadiers and the Highlanders were taking a bit of a pasting.

The slowing of the British advance allowed the French to redress their line and then  musket fire started to be exchanged.  It was at this stage that the effect of some unlucky dice rolling became quite apparent.  Lenin was spectacularly unlucky with some key throws when Break Tests were needed and some of his units fell apart.

With things beginning to look up for the French the British struggled to reform their line but managed to inflict enough hits on a couple of key French units to require some more Break Tests.  With these tests passed the two French brigade commanders issued Rally to Me orders but in joining the units they exposed themselves to danger.  More musket fire was exchanged and it was at this point that luck deserted the French.  With more Break Tests initiated for the two units with the commanders attached they both failed spectacularly and fled taking the commanders with them.  This put paid to the French advantage and, at this point, it became clear that, with the third British brigade occupied defending the rear of the British line from the newly arrived third French brigade the British didn't have the superiority in numbers to follow up their newly found advantage.  We had also run out of time so we called the game a draw.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Wargames Weekend: A Bridge in Time

Next up we turned to an old favourite - Nuts! by Two Hour Wargames - but this time with a more modern subject, 1986 West Germany, for a conjectural World War 3 scenario.

Elements of the Soviet 103rd Guards Airbourne Division have dropped on the NATO nuclear storage dump at Niedermarsburg, seven days after the commencement of general hostilities. The Soviets have resorted to chemical warfare to restore the impetus of their flagging offensive and wish to eliminate any NATO nuclear response. The British 5th (Volunteer) Battalion of The Queen's Regiment, acting as rear area security for BAOR is rushed to eliminate the threat. On the outskirts of Aro.sen they bump into the first Soviet outpost guarding an important bridge.

Having only a single section and a Saxon APC I was a little wary advancing towards the enemy threat. I dismounted the men and advanced them through a wood to clear the way before bringing the vehicle forward.

We managed to set up the GMPG covering the bridge without the Soviets spotting us and I sent the rifle group to secure the farmhouse to the left of the road. With the other men covering, the Lieutenant and another man rushed across the side road, over the wall into a field and took up a position covering the rear of the farm house from behind the garden wall. The remainder of the group then advanced to their position. Once in place the Lieutenant took the lead again and rushed to the rear of the house with another man and checked whether it appeared occupied. It seemed as if the occupants had left in a hurry but that the place was empty to the team entered and cleared the building. This done they took up positions at the front and rear of the house.

With the farmhouse secured I sent the Corporal and two other men across the main road to clear the barn. Unfortunately their rush across the road was spotted by the bridge guards and they moved to their LMG. My GMPG team opened up on them and the gunner was killed and the loader fell back to the house behind their position.

I thought things were going pretty well and was preparing to advance toward the bridge, so I called the APC forward. It was at this point that we spotted that the Soviets were supported by a BMD-1 which had a clear view of the road.

It was too late to call off the Saxon but fortunately the BMD didn't spot it and I got it into a concealed position behind the barn.

It was at this point things started to come seriously unravelled. One man, trying to get a bead on the BMD from the loft of the barn attracted the attention of another group of Soviet paratroops and came under heavy fire.

The Lieutenant took one man out of the rear of the farmhouse to try to get into a position where the could open up on this new paratroops group but was spotted. Heavy AK74 and coaxial machine gun fire from the BMD saw both the Lieutenant and the the other man killed.

I now found both of my main teams trapped in their respective buildings and the GMPG team unable to get line of sight on any of the enemy. So I tried to get a couple of men out to lay down some covering fire so we could move. Unfortunately both men were spotted and the ensuing fire put both of the out of the fight.

At this point the Corporal thought discretion to be the better part of valour and ordered the remainder of the section to withdraw under the cover of smoke taking the wounded with them.

Wargames Weekend: Breakthrough - Connaught 1599

Time for yet another wargames weekend with Lenin. We have a couple of new rule sets to test out this time so we started off with Tudor Ireland using the To the Banners rules by Stephen Danes. It was also a chance to get my Vendel and Graven Images figures to the table again along with the Warbases movement trays which I picked up to do just this sort of larger game.

The scenario was taken from the rules and involved the English troops advancing up a valley through some woods in an attempt to break through to relieve another English force. The Irish had laid an ambush having blocked the road at the most difficult point for the English to pass.

Things started fairly slowly with the English pike advancing in column up the road flanked on both sides with units of shot. The Irish faced them with four units of Kern with their Gallowglas held in reserve further up the valley.

The English advanced slowly toward the Irish barricade and opened fire on the Irish troops. Eventually the English pike summoned up the courage to charge the Irish who stood their ground. It was not an even match and the pike pushed the kern back again and again until having taken as much punishment as they could they turned and fled. The English pike pushed on into the next unit of Kern with similar results whilst the Gallowglas looked on unable to respond.

With the English pike advancing but their shot stalled at the edge of the wood the pike now came into contact with the lead Gallowglas unit which was a more even match. The charged and the Gallowglas, probably seeking revenge for the Kern, counter charged. A bitter struggle ensued with the units evenly matched. Then suddenly the tables turned and the Gallowglas managed to get the upper hand pushing the pike back until eventually they routed.

With the English pike streaming back through their ranks the English troops were disordered and back to fall back. With the English attack faltering the Irish took to their heels to set up another ambush further along the path of their advance.

After the game we spent a little while reviewing the rules. We liked the innovative approach to the initiative mechanic which provided some real command and control issues for both sides. Although the rules had some significant omissions which did call into question how thoroughly they had been playtested and could have been laid out in a more accessible manner. We plan to give them another go with a more conventional set of forces to see how they perform.