Saturday, 10 April 2010

Poor Bloody Ivan

Following on from last Friday's RCW game we decided to keep with the theme for this week's evening game. However as some of us are fans of the RFCM way of doing things we thought we'd dabble our toes in the idea of using PBI for the RCW (hence the title, - "Poor Bloody Ivan" instead of "Poor Bloody Infantry", - my, how we laughed).

PBI attracted us as we quite like the activation process within it and it gives games that can be quite tense. To our minds it has an issue with a pro-German super troop element of the rules and the dominance of armour in what purports to be an infantry company level game. The game itself balances these items through the victory points rules which means that even Volksturm can win against a veteran US Airborne company.

Anyway enough of this. What about PB Ivan and his struggle for freedom against the forces of reaction or socialism depending on whoever swept him up in the draft? The ToE's for the Russian Civil War are not known for their ubiquity and accuracy, especially for the Whites, who ended the war on a make do and mend basis despite supplies from the Western powers. In the Red Army theory tends to triumph over practice as well. As this was our first run through I tried to keep it balanced. I had each side with a four platoon company of 8 rifles stands plus an officer, together with a Company HQ with HMGs (no evidence for this but I thought it might make things interesting). The Whites had a couple of Putilov field guns and the Reds a pair of armoured cars.

The major difference to the standard PBI WW2 company is that there's a lot less firepower at infantry company level. However this shouldn't matter as they all have a bayonet and are highly motivated to fight for Mother Russia or the Workers' Paradise as appropriate.

We had four players, - typical really, you plan for two and get double the numbers - so that enabled us to have some tension between the players on the same side. As I wanted to think about the table top mechanisms and not the pregame I simplified it by using the original AK47 unit arrival system. Rather than play on the rolling open steppe with wide fields of fire I set up a small village as an excuse to use all of my Russian buildings at the same time (with the exception of the railway station as I decided against a railway junction for a change). Together with some wooded squares this gave quite a lot of cover in the middle of the board, but with an open village square to provide some fields of fire.

The Whites set up with a platoon in the village and the Putilov's on the left flank to give as much cover as possible. The Reds got on a platoon and the Company commander, which they put out on their right in order to turn the flank. The HMGs tried to suppress the infantry in the village whilst the infantry charged in on the guns. At this point the first rule query came up. Guns only get Opportunity Fire against vehicles and don't get Here They Come fire at all, so the Reds ran up close in three waves, preparatory to a close assault and the guns were alarmingly ineffective. When the White turn came round the infantry had a whole run of bad activations and the guns simply missed the target (we have boosted the high explosive rules giving artillery an HE effect like a medium mortar, but still all the Reds were unaffected despite being in the open).

This meant the Red infantry could launch a series of close assaults which enabled them to seize the gunnery position. Alas they failed their break test at this point and with the exception of a couple of likely lads who ran into a CHEKA unit disappeared off the table.

Meanwhile in the middle and on the Red right the Reds had managed to get another platoon on and were busy trying to reduce a White section hiding out in a building (now colloquially known as the washer woman's house for no good reason at all). They worked round to three sides of it and wiped them out, fire support from the rest of the platoon not being enough to beat the Reds off. Lack of automated weapons can make it hard when you are outnumbered.

However the Whites had now got on another platoon and the company commander and his HMGs. They moved up swiftly to the merchant's house next to the church in order to dominate the main street which now had the Red armoured cars tentatively driving down it, shadowed by some infantry support.

Both sides were now either side of the main street exchanging rifle and machine gun fire. On the White left a major action had developed round the wood cutter's house and the neighbouring stables and paddock.The Reds seemed to be losing it, and their square was piling up with bodies.

Back in the middle the White's finally managed to engage the armoured cars with their HMGs. A high activation point roll gave them a couple of shots each, and they achieved a couple of hits on both. It got rather tense with the HMG at gun strength 4 against the armoured cars with an armour strength of four. Luckily the Reds stayed in one piece, always by matching the number of hits precisely. Returning fire one of the White HMGs was destroyed although the section managed to hold on.

At this point the Reds gambled by throwing one of their armoured cars down the main street to enfilade the White units anchored on the church. This bold move wrong footed the Whites and decided the battle for the wood cutter's house.

And that was where we ended the game after three hours of close play, with the Reds in the ascendent and the Whites heading for the base line.

Overall a very satisfactory first result. We want to think about the gun issue mentioned earlier and more thought needs to go into what we want out of the armour (with armoured cars treated as mobile pillboxes in the RCW and most infantry having a severe reluctance to close with them we need to think about the armour close assault rules). Elsewhere we used 5 APs for infantry close assaulting and we have to consider if that is right for the period. Then there's the role of the CHEKA and of course what the unit composition should actually look like. The game had a much different feel to normal PBI with more emphasis on getting units into position to assault and less on sheer firepower.

I think we'll be back for more.

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