Saturday, 30 April 2011

What We Did On Our Day Off

Unlike the majority of the population I did not watch the reason for the day off live (except for one brief section, more of which below). Instead four of the local wargaming group turned up for an all day game using my Russian Civil War rules "Return To The River Don".

All things considered we had a jolly good day, but I think I should make some observations first:

1) The rules don't work brilliantly well for a multi-player game where all of the players aren't fully au fait with the system.

2) I need to curb my desire to put as many figures on the table as I can.

3) No matter how you think a game will run, your players will surprise you.

4) The melee rules are rubbish, and I really need to replace them.

5) The morale rules are really harsh on conscripts.

6) The bits of the system I like the most and am most proud of are the bits that really slow it down.

7) My garage can be very cold first thing in the morning.

Any how the scenario was like this. We're late in the Civil War, and the Whites are on the back foot way down in the south. The Reds are pressing them pretty hard, so they've set up a series of blocking positions.

We're in a fairly fertile area with a few scattered farms and the obligatory railway junction. Running down one side is a broad, unfordable river. On the other side is some fairly thick forest.

The Whites have two smallish infantry regiments, one of Officer quality, the other of volunteers. These are supported by an artillery battery, some armoured cars and a cossack regiment. Hopefully the picture of General Kempski inspecting his forces is sufficiently clear.

The Reds have three fairly big infantry regiments, one of which is conscript. They are supported by a top quality Konarmy cavalry regiment, two artillery batteries and some armoured cars, including one of my Garford-Putilovs. This is a photo of the Reds in their "forming up area".

The idea was that the Reds would have the initial advantage and push the Whites back fairly quickly, so that round about the time for lunch it would all look very bleak for them. After lunch reserves in the shape of an armoured train with an infantry regiment on it would turn up to stabilise the front before Red reinforcements in the shape of a motorised Black Sea fleet battalion and some more Konarmy arrived to give us an exciting finale.

Well it didn't really work out like that. The Whites deployed in depth, pushing the cavalry right up to the railway station on their left. I hope that is clear from the picture of Kempski and Agerov deploying their forces. The area this side of the wood and the far side of the river we not part of the battlefield and provided an area for players to put rules and stuff to keep the table clear of clutter.

The Reds planned a push all along the line with one of their regiments assaulting the station are head on, whilst a second regiment performed an internal hook from a central position, supportede by the armoured car unit. On the Red's left the conscripts, supported by the Konarmy and an artillery battery were to push down along the river line, capturing the farm by the river. Closest to the camera is Comrade Wiilanov in a rather fine budnovska.

We got two turns in before lunch (a 2 1/2 hour period) which was less than I expected. In fairness to the game system the players were learning (or re-learning) the rules, some of us hadn't met for a while, so there was a degree of catching up to do as well, and in actual fact units can get quite a lot done in a turn if the activation goes right for them. Any how, we'd got an attritional battle bogging down nicely round the station as you can see.

On the left of the Red position the approach was moving at snail's pace due to some misfortune (which got worse later on as well). The armoured cars of both side puttered around and failed to have much effect.

So we broke for lunch at 1-ish, and removed ourselves to the sun-terrace at the back of Trebian Towers and set ourselves about devouring proper man sized sandwiches and consuming a rather nice bottle of Poilly Fume that President Steele provided. Timing was perfect as we could look through the picture windows into the withdrawing room where Mrs Trebian was watching the day's events in London and so see the Battle of Britain flight approach and fly past over Buck House.

Suitably refreshed it was back to the fray. The White cavalry dismounted fully and decamped into the station, passing up a golden opportunity to charge a mutinous Red regiment that was completely exposed in the open. This wasn't the disaster it could have been as the Reds tied themselves in complete knots and struggled to get to grips with their opponents. They finally managed to launch a close assault on the village opposite the station and evict the cossacks, but it was all grinding exceedingly slowly.

In the middle the armoured cars advanced through artillery fire to exchange MG fire, only for them to break down in increments. On the Red left the conscripts succeeded in drawing 12 successive "can't move" cards (impressive, - that meant drawing either a spade or one of the two jokers 12 times in a row from a standard shuffled deck).

The Konarmy performed an internal flanking manoeuvre and caught the Officer battalion occupying a wood in the flank. It looked all up for the Whites but some spectacularly bad dice rolling by Phil and some average rolling by Chris A meant they were bounced off the position after a couple of rounds of combat. Only the malfunctioning of one of the Whites armoured cars saved them from devastating enfilading fire.

Supported by a dismounted Konarmy unit the conscripts launched an attack on the river village and succeeded in driving the Officer battalion back from their defensive position and wiping out over half of them, more than making up for spending four hours wading through a marsh.

I missed most of the last phases of the action as I was off firing up the barbecue, (so I can't explain why the Commisar base is standing in the river) but once I was out of the way the players took over running the game and it all moved much more quickly.

Luckily for all of us the sun had come out and the terrace was bathed in early evening sunshine as we enjoyed a hearty repast to round the day off.

There's more play in the game, despite taking 6 1/2 hours over it so far, so we may pick it up again.

Thanks go to the Monday Night Group (Phil, Will, Chris's A & K) for making this an enjoyable day and, of course, to Mrs T for being so tolerant as we clump about the house and estate.

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