Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Game in Spain.......

...seems to have slipped from my brain!

After a break of at least 6 months the Monday Night Group went back to the Spanish Civil War this week, to revisit the rules I demonstrated at CoW in June last year. "Send Not To Know" (a.k.a "SNTK") is a set of rules for brigade/divisional level actions using 15mm figures. I'm quite proud of how they work, although their reception at CoW was distinctly underwhelming.

Any how, I haven't done anything SCW related since CoW, so I pulled out the rules and re-read them over the weekend. Whilst I still quite like them I was surprised at how much of the system I'd forgotten and also by the fact that several key points were missing from the rules booklet. Clearly when we were developing them some things were so obvious (eg how many hits to remove a stand) that I didn't need to write them down. Hmm. That's a mistake I've now rectified.

So, for Monday's game a gentle re-introduction with simple troop types, no off table assets and a minimum of tanks and artillery.

The scenario was early in the war. A column of Spanish Foreign Legion, together with some units of Moroccans are heading up the road in trucks towards Madrid, led by an armoured car. The local union-based militia (including one group of anarchists) have set themselves up to ambush the column and hopefully wipe it out. They have coerced some local artillery men to drag along a field gun to support their position. The Fascists were played by Will, the anti-Fascists by Chris K, supported by Phil as it was Chris' first game using the system.

I kicked the game off at the point the ambush is sprung, so the militia went first and managed to hit all of the trucks*, forcing the Legion to de-bus and pinning them as well. They waited for the Moroccans to counter-attack the ambushing troops before launching a close assault by another unit of militia from the other side of the road. This is the situation towards the end of turn 1.

Despite their revolutionary fervour the attacking union militia was unable to press home their advantage and were seen off by the Legionnaires, although with minimal casualties. The Moroccans, however (bottom left of the picture) took the village at the point of the bayonet, driving the militia back across the stream.

The Republican forces then struck a serious blow by manhandling their field gun into position and knocking out the armoured car with their first shot. The Moroccans at the head of the column then veered off to the left to clear out the olive grove of further ambushers.

Inspired by the success of the artillery and noting that the Moroccans were distracted the Anarchist militia decided to launch a frontal assault on the Legionnaires who were still skulking down behind their vehicles.

Alas for the anarchists the Legion managed to sort itself into a firing line, and the militia men were given an object lesson in the effectiveness of modern small arms against targets in the open. First they were pinned down, then wiped out to a man, creating some brave, but ultimately stupid, martyrs for the cause.

Having destroyed these brave men the Legion then developed its advance on the right, fighting up through the  ridge line, forcing the occupying militias back and breaking them. On their left the Moroccans finally fought their way into the olive grove, having been temporarily pinned by an artillery salvo or two, and dealt with the militia in there. However their victory was short lived as a militia unit finally got it right and charged them in the flank. Some suitably heroic die rolling helped them out, and the Moroccans were soon fleeing in disarray.

At this point the Legion mounted up in their trucks and drove off, claiming total victory, and I'm left wondering whether I've got this account of the battle completely right as I didn't take any more photographs and I recall a unit of Moroccans storming the gun position at some point. I think this was the original group from the initial village assault who had gradually moved up from the rear to the front to take over point.

Whatever - everyone claimed to have had an enjoyable evening's gaming, with both sides able to claim some form of success. I, on the other hand, am aware that I need to overhaul some more bits of the rules and clarify how the activation sequence works when units are pinned and also need to think some more about how infantry in trucks works. I also want to fiddle with the artillery effectiveness.

* The eagle eyed amongst you will recognise that the trucks in the picture are actually Russian Gaz trucks from the Peter Pig WW2 range and so are not authentic. In my defence the Gaz is based on a contemporary American vehicle I think, I don't have (not do I intend to buy) a load of Spanish vehicles, and all my other trucks from the RCW & WWI are based on green bases and so don't match.

PS: Got my brother out of hospital today. He's a bit wobbly on his legs and he needs several weeks to recover, but he can walk and it's a relief to all of us seeing him up and about.


  1. Thanks for last night Graham,

    The game felt very Spanish; lots of disdain for modern stuff such as preparatory and supporting fire, a stacatto movement sequence, and it looks good too.

    Good to hear that Richard is up and about too.

    Regards, Chris

  2. I would point out that you can actually do preparatory and supporting fire.....it just takes a bit longer to sort out. The impatience of militias was entirely player induced!

    1. Quite so ... and entirely in the spirit of such a nice game. It would have been rude to just sit and blaze away in a professional manner now wouldn't it? :O)

    2. It was certainly the case than militia units refused to dig in because it was insufficiently manly, but I also think you are allowed to fire your weapons should the opportunity arise.

  3. This is unrelated - but given your interests - wondered if you could shed some light. I received a book from ebay today published by Victor Gollancz in 1944 "The Russian Army, It's men, leaders and it's battles" by Walter Kerr. It reads as a first hand account by Kerr as - I'm guessing - foreign press? Do you know anything about Walter Kerr and any other publications. It's a bit of a period piece but very good on day to day detail - who knew that cabbage soup wasn't - not by far - the nastiest thing the poor comrades had to endure; "kasha" - a barley based hot dish ( gruel?!)sounds awful.

  4. He's a new one to me. I think he's this guy: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/15/nyregion/walter-kerr-91-former-general-manager-of-the-times-s-international-edition.html, and he's not to be confused with another Walter Kerr who was a well known theatre critic (I think).

    From what I can see he's an interesting felow and was an active writer throughout WW2. As foreign correspondnet for the NY Herald Tribune his stuff is probably well worth a read.

  5. Thats very kind of you. Good link - thank you. Although I'm a wargamer I prefer my history to be about everyday life experiences rather than royal courts. The book about the russian army is a slim volume so I'm expecting a quiet evening, a reading lamp and a few glasses of red should get me through it! Thanks again.

  6. The contemporary stuff is often really good for flavour, you just have to be really aware of whether someone has an axe to grind. A US writer, writing in 1944 about the Russians is going to be very pro Uncle Joe, most likely.

    My SCWE book written by the Daily Mail's correspondent of the times is still sitting on my shelf to be read. I'm currently reading a biog of Durriti which is good, but a little "right on" at times.

  7. Quite - quote from page 12 "This may be questioned by some friends of the soviet union, but I want to point out again that stalin is a realist.." etc! One of my favourite - frequently re read - accounts of the build up to WW2 and the first stages is "Countdown to war" by Geoffrey Cox - well worth hunting down. He was a foreign correspondent for fleet street - witnessed the Anschluss,Hitlers arrival in Prague the Russo finnish war and the invasion of France - from which he escaped rather well! He went on to found ITN. Very good feel for the dynamic pace of the time. Right - time to stop hijacking your blog!

  8. Glad yo uenjoyed it. More Monday evening.

  9. Hi

    I'm glad to see that you've dusted off SNTK. I've felt like a bit of a stalker hanging around your blog to see if anything was happening :). From your description, this sounds like the type of game that I'm after (although in 10mm for me :) ).

    You could try some Zvezda Zis trucks as pseudo Spanish vehicles, the Gaz AA was based on a Ford so could probably be used without too many problems. Looking forward to more news on SNTK.



  10. Victor,

    I'll try to find a way of making SNTK available to download from somewhere. Both Bob Cordery & Jim Wallman run free rules sites, so I'll see if I can get them to put a copy up.

    The GAZ trucks as Ford copies are probably the right choice for the Fascists as they bought a lot of stuff from the US and anyone else who would give them credit. The Zis trucks do look good tho' and are cheap and quick to build. Have you looked at Phil Steele's PBEye Candy blog at what he has done with one?


  11. To find a home for SNTK would be wonderful. Unfortunately I must admit to being a rules junkie and I'm always looking for another fix :).

    Yes I have seen Phil Steele's variations on a Zis and I'm extremely jealous. Zvezda does seem to have hit a gold mine here with their 15mm vehicles,20mm figures, and 1/144 and 1/200 aircraft. Nothing that a collector would drool over but they certainly hit the spot for wargamers. I wonder if they thought about this or if it was just serendipitous?

    I've just got a copy of FC Albert - Carros De Combate Y Vehiculos Blindados De La Guerra 1936-1939 and I think some of the slab sided vehicles might come within my modelling skills :).


  12. Victor,

    SNTK will be available to download hopefully by the end of April at the latest.

    Phil's good at all the conversion type stuff. I have a T-26 command tank with washing line aerial on my desk to paint, and the Garford-Putilov's he did for me are superb.

    As for slab sided trucks and armoured cars...much as wargamers love them because they look great I tink they rarely saw any form of combat. They were mainly for driving round city streets as an expression of power and ownership (certainly an element of showing the bourgeoisie what the workers could do). I shudder to think what would happen if you tried to drive one off road, up any form of steep hill or even fire the weapons. I suspect that the armour isn't even bullet proof.


  13. That's good news about SNTK being available for download.

    Yes I know about the deficiencies of the 'armoured' trucks but you do have to admit that they look atmospheric. Maybe you can build in a 'loss' factor for militias and a 'plus' factor for the forces of reaction when a lumbering brute is taken out/broken down :).


  14. The armoured trucks would be best used in skirmish type scenarios with workers militia dealing with groups of bosses' pistoleros or similar.

    In my other set of inter-war rules "Return to the River Don", which are for the RCW armour has a real morale effect. When tanks/armoured cars are moved or are hit you draw a random effect card which can increase the motivation of your side, cause the opponents to take a morale check and so on.

    Perhaps I should get those posted some where as well.