Thursday, 17 January 2019

A Tale of Derring-Do amongst the Bolsheviks

For the second game of the year MNG-r Richard brought along his 28mm Russian Civil War figures and his set of the "Triumph & Tragedy" Pulp Era wargames rules. We were a bit thin on the ground, so he had me running the Reds on my own, and Tim playing the Whites.

This was a scenario based around the supposed escape of the Princess Anastasia following the assassination of the Romanovs. She's holed up in the house with some Red Guards and some Austrian POWs who have switched to the Reds, having mistaken them for Germans. A British secret agent ("Algy") has just landed in a plane, top left, to attempt a rescue. It is early dawn.

Algy and the attractive lady pilot/love interest sneak up to the wall surrounding the house where the supposed Princess is supposedly seeking safety.

Meanwhile Commissar Ivanov (that's me) is arriving to take charge of the situation.

Algy tries to bluff his way into the house, but despite speaking fluent Russian, fails his "Con Artist" roll spectacularly by rolling a 3.

Algy and his friend flee, as the guard snaps off a rifle shot. He misses.

The Austrian artillery crews however have grabbed their side arms and let off a fusillade of shots, wounding the pilot.

Help is arriving. The British Naval Attache arrives in his car, just as some Czech Legion cavalry emerge from the woods.

The Austrians rush Algy's hiding place and try to capture him.

Algy is having none of it, and puts up a stiff resistance. Alas for him, the pilot is killed.

Having seen my armoured car, Tim decided to ram it with his Rolls Royce, but bottled it at the last minute as I peppered it with the two MGs on the Austin-Putilov.

Algy is rescued by the Czechs, but he ends up in a face off against the Austrian's officer.

The Austrians drop back and form as firing line to keep off the cavalry.

It's getting tense, so Richard takes refuge in consulting the rules.

The Austrians are charged down by the Czechs, but elsewhere the house is still secure, and the Rolls Royce and its occupants  have been comprehensively shot up. With the pilot dead, and the Roller in pieces, there's no way for the Whites to escape with the "Princess", even if they could have got her out of the house. A Red win.

This is the first time I've played "Triumph and Tragedy", and it handled most of what we wanted to do okay. I'm never convinced by things like "fast talk" or "con man" rolls, and would rather use something like a matrix game resolution mechanism. In any event, in this type of game the scenario is the key thing, and it would have been a different game with another two players.

Still, we all enjoyed ourselves, and I expect to see these fellows back again on another Tuesday evening.

Monday, 14 January 2019

A Board Game In Spain Again

About six months ago I posted a report of a game I played with my boardgame buddy, Gary, from a Polish company about the battle of the Ebro. The report was favourable, and we both enjoyed it with me sneaking a victory right at the end with the Republicans.

For our monthly game in January I thought we should dig it out again and play the second scenario, which focuses mainly on the fighting around Grandesa. For this game we swapped sides and I took the Nationalists.

The game victory conditions this time are for inflicting step losses on the opponent's counters, or either side can get an "instant victory" by taking two cities in the enemy's controlled areas. Gary had to capture Grandesa and Fayon, and I had to take Cordera and La Fatarella. All except Fayon are in the central part of the battlefield. Fayon is in the North, or left hand end of the board in the photos.

The Northern and Central section with all the objectives. Opening position
The Republicans start with a lot of stuff around their two objectives, or so it seems. The combat mechanism is a bit curious. It has a straight odds comparison, then the terrain and other modifiers then shift the combat odds by a column. Thus a 12 strength points in "field fortifications" (ie dug in) attacked by 60 strength points is initially a 5:1, but you get two shifts for being dug in, so making it 3:1. If you have more tank units you get a shift for each extra unit. Tank units aren't very strong on their own, but combined with infantry and artillery the shifts they bring can create a breakthrough. This encourages combined arms attacks, so a big thumbs up from me.

The map is very terrain heavy, so the defenders are normally getting at least one column shift, and these are cumulative. The CRT also mainly gives retreat results, so destroying enemy units is really hard, and you need to surround targets to destroy them. The terrain slows movement down a lot, so this is hard to do as well. This means a lot of thinking is required. The first turn took over an hour, - although we played all 8 turns in about 5 hours in total. It was tense all the way through.

Gary started with an attack on Fayon. Despite surrounding it the defensive modifiers - and Nationalist defensive air support - bounced him with losses. This came as a shock, and heavily influenced the rest of the game. Essentially I think he decided he couldn't break the position, and so didn't really try again.

In the centre he didn't press in the first move, which enabled me to throw up field defences (the yellow counters under the stacks).

After a bit of fencing around we started to get stuck in on the southern flank. This is a gamble that nearly blew up badly for me. I reckoned neither of us was going to take our objectives anytime soon, so I was looking to inflict step losses to build up a VP buffer. I was a few points ahead, and was going for a surprise hit, by chancing a couple of evenly matched combats. Played in the right order I should have been able to bounce at least one unit and then take losses off him as units would not be able to retreat. What happened was almost the reverse, and I had forgotten to put defensive troops in with my artillery (which is under the HQ unit). Gary would pounce on these next turn, and I nearly lost all of them, but he was unable to get behind me, so I was just bounced 3 hexes across the board.

BTW don't the board and pieces look nice?

In the north Gary has dug in and pulled most of his troops out to reinforce the centre.

In the centre I've tried to break through with an armoured spearhead. All I've done is stick some units in a salient. However, I'm now about 6 VPs to the good, so I can start to think about just defending, and making the Republicans come on to me to even the score up.

In the south I've extricated myself from the mess I was in, and have consolidated my forces, so I can turn Gary's left flank.

I managed to get my troops out of the salient with minimal losses, and then developed an attack on my left centre towards La Faterella. I thought this might panic Gary a bit and draw his forces in so I could break through elsewhere.

I was then able to counter attack out of Fayon at the units Gary had dug in up there to pin me in place. Reinforcements helped and I was able to surround them and put them out of supply (that's what the "1" marker means). I reckoned this was 4 VPs waiting to be plucked if I did it right.

In the central highlands Gary's got a unit round in my rear areas. I think he reckons he can pinch out that stack in the centre left with the tank on the top.

My attack towards La Fatarella fizzles out a bit.

Having suckered Gary in to attack that unit in the mountains I'm able to throw everything else I have at it and surround his HQ unit with its supports.

In the North the Fayon counter attack is completely successful.

And the attack in the highlands is successful too, - killing the HQ unit and supports. I'm now +12 on the VPs with the last turn coming up.

A last ditch Republican attack in the highlands results in us exchanging losses, which suits me fine.

This is the final position. Having got ahead I was able to dig in and force Gary to attack me, which he was reluctant to do with out some certainty of victory.

So I won by a big margin in the end, but the game was tense and on a knife edge for a lot of the time. A bad turn and the thing could have flipped. We both made mistakes - bad mistakes - but I was lucky enough to get away with mine. I think I also developed a strategy earlier in the game, - moving second in each turn can be an advantage, especially early on, if the person with initiative doesn't know how to exploit it (I'm sure I wouldn't have as well).

I think this is winnable for both sides, but it is probably an easier hand for the Nationalists.

I like this game a lot (okay so I've won it twice). There are some slight issues with the rules but it plays well and forces believable tactics that look like what both sides were trying to do. What worked at the time works in the game, and it is quite a head scratcher at times. And it does look nice.

PS The system has a hidden movement mechanism that we didn't use. You have counters to put on top of your stacks to conceal what is there until you attack. It's a neat idea for a future game.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Tartan Terrors

The Marlborough project last year made me think about what else the figures could be used for, and I pretty much thought of the 1715 Jacobite Rising immediately. Cursory research indicated there wasn't much difference in the "uniforms" of both sides in the '15 & the '45, so it seemed a good idea to get in some kilties, and work out a way to have swappable flags (pre & post Union) for my Marlburians*.

The figures I have bought are from Redbox & Strelets. Redbox cover mostly the Loyalists, although you could use some of the figures for both, but don't have anyone in wild Highland charge mode. Strelets appeared to have lots of broadsword waving fanatics, according to Plastic Soldier Review, but were out of production. However, an email to their office in the Ukraine (!) elicited the response that they would be re-issued in December. So, Christmas present sorted.

I'm still working on how to depict my Highland / Rebel units. I've read Stuart Reid's various books and also Duffy's monumental work, so I know I don't want them as full-on rabble, but I don't want them as completely formal as the British. So, ducking the issue, my first unit is made up from Redbox Highland infantry, and represent Loudon's Foot, who fought for the Government in the '45.

The Redbox figures are quite nicely done. Well proportioned, sensible poses (perhaps TOO sensible), decent sculpting. Possibly a bit heavy on the flash. Here's a command type stand.

Painting tartan is horrible, so I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea. MNG-r Will gave me a helpful guide on how to do tartans, which I have followed, and it seems to work okay, if you can tell in the pictures.

Unusually I have mixed poses in the units. This is mostly because I didn't buy masses of boxes to enable me to sort out loads of identical units.

I think they've come up okay, and the stockings and kilts look convincing.

I did these pictures with my new phone, not the SLR. They look okay, I hope.

I've had a couple of abortive starts at the Rebels. Currently my last attempt is soaking in a jam jar with some Dettol household cleanser to enable me to have another go. Ho hum.

*I have sorted this problem, so no need for suggestions, thanks.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Battle of Marathon, 490BC

I slipped in a big AMW refight this weekend to start the New Year. I went for Marathon, as I've been painting a load of hoplites recently.

I tweaked the rules a bit as AMW played straight with Greeks and Persians is pretty futile for the Persians. I upgraded all of the infantry in the centre of the Persian line to Auxiliary infantry in defence, and I also created a "half unit" rule for the Greek centre. The hoplites there are deployed in units of two elements, as Herodotus tells us that the Athenians thinned the centre of the line. Most refights I've seen deal with this by doubling the depth of the wings. That's okay as far as it goes, but isn't what Herodotus tells us happened. By halving the size of the units I hoped to increase the chance of a Persian breakthrough in the centre. I also let the heavy bow armed cavalry move and shoot, as stopping them from doing so is silly. We are also playing the automatic morale roll for single base units as well to reduce zombie melees slowing the game down.

The army sizes were 14 hoplite units for the Athenians, and 16 units for the Persians. The Persians had a couple of cavalry units, two Ionian hoplite units and the rest as heavy archers. Most refights add in a load of light infantry, as per standard army lists, but I decided that as they weren't in the source material they would be a distraction. Phil Sabin uses a similar OOB in "Lost Battles".

The Greeks are to the right, the Persians to the left.

Richard and Will took the Greeks, and I ran the Persians with Tim. Controversially the Greek commanders decided to refuse the centre, and press on the flanks. We rose to the challenge, and advanced our centre. Our wings stayed static, except for the horse which we pushed forwards to engage the enemy with archery. This had mixed results. Tim, at the far end of the board was more successful, mainly as Richard couldn't make a saving roll to save his life.

We're now within bow range all along the line, so we halt and let fly. The results are good for Tim, as Richard is still helping out with a healthy diet of ones.

Gratuitous low level eye candy shot.

Richard angled in one of his flank units to hit the end of our centre block, but the Immortals gave as good as they got.

Morale rolls thinned both of the units in melee. Tim's archery had also knocked a base off ALL of the flanking hoplite units, which is impressive as he should have inflicted a maximum of three per unit, - i.e. one short of removing a base. This damage weakens the hoplites a lot, - reducing their offensive capability, and making them more vulnerable to attack. They're still tough, but this is very positive (my, unphotographed, wing is going less well).

As you can see, from this picture taken from behind the Greeks, apart from the unit facing the cavalry everyone is intact. Some of the units are carrying a hit or two, but obviously those facing my Ionian Hoplites aren't being shot at.

The centre finally engages. We have shot away a base or two, but the left hand end is looking vulnerable.

The left hand end of the Greek centre has broken open (so that rule change worked) and our Immortals are trying to exploit the gaps. On the left end of the picture you can see that Richard turning in his hoplites earlier on has created a two on one attack for us.

Elsewhere out on the left flank we're doing rather well (note this is now "us" not "Tim" as my flank is going badly. Just me stealing some of the glory). The cavalry are gaining the upper hand against their opponents, and the heavy archers are hanging in there and chipping bits off the hoplites.

On my wing my cavalry has been destroyed, although Will has taken a few hits(!) on the hoplite unit that did for them.

Back to the left, where Tim has punched open a big hole.

Shame his general got killed the next turn. There he is, gone.

My wing, meanwhile, is being steadily enveloped and overwhelmed.

Tim has a breakthrough on the left...

...and turns in on the Athenian right.

We stopped at this point. We had broken the Greek centre, and were winning the centre, but my wing had been destroyed. To get a full resolution we need another hour, probably, but we had fought each other to a standstill. That's a really good result for the Persians.

AMW continues to provide us with a good deal of entertainment, but there are issues closing a game out when we use it with lots of units. Still, it did its job kicking off the new year of wargaming with lots of toys on the table, and everyone having a good idea of what was going on.

Here's hoping for lots more in 2019.