Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Square Bashing - Amiens Scenario

I did some playtesting for Square Bashing mk 1 many years ago when Martin Goddard still went to CoW, and have long found the Great War fascinating. It is the period I have studied the most and wargamed the least. I have some largish Western Front armies and have pushed quite a few ideas around but never quite got it right for me.

Any how, MNG newcomer Harvey has just bought Square Bashing mk 2 and ahead of painting up his toys wanted to give it a go, so off we went, using the scenario from the back of the bookand my vast hordes of Minifigs.

With the centenary coming up the Great War is going to get a lot of coverage and there's going to be a lot of rubbish written about it over the next 5 years, so I thought why not get in early with a blog post?

We had a good turn out, with Phil & Will making up the numbers. Phil & I took the Brits, Will took the Huns as we played the Amiens 1918 scenario from the rules book.

SBMk2 is classic Peter Pig/RFCM rule set, with a pregame sequence and lots of other bits and pieces going on and loads of dice being rolled. The Scenario in the book mercifully saves us from a lot of the pregame nonsense whilst preserving the asset/high command bits and pieces that seem to work quite well. However, even for a defined scenario there's still lots of stuff about moving terrain about and so on. Once we'd done all of the the board looked like this:

This picture is posted post deployment but pre-depletion (ie before the effects of the pre-attack bombardment are determined on the Germans. Once that's done there's a lot less of them left, although most end up as reserves.)

Phil had the two tanks on the left with their supporting infantry, I was to the right, straddling the road.

First up I have to say I am uncomfortable with the field guns being on the table. They make sense in earlier 1914 battles and maybe in other theatres, but not here, I feel. The other criticism is that the square stacking limit is 3 units, and that includes MG companies. That didn't put me in a good frame of mind at the beginning of the game. On the other hand it's one of my favourite armies and it gets rarely used, so that offset the initial irritation.

At the start of move 1 we called for air observation (I have model planes) but it didn't turn up. Nothing for it but to roll forward.

Our standard tactic is to keep pace with the tanks, although Phil felt comfortable with rushing forwards to seize the objective on the left.

On the right the barrage depletion on the Germans left one objective unprotected (it's behind the defence line on the right, - which shouldn't be there). I therefore seized the moment and threw my flank guard forwards at full speed in the hope I might overrun it before Will woke up fully.

Will wasn't able to do much in his first turn, although he did hit my MG companies either side of the road with his artillery. At the start of our next move things started to go off with a bang. We called in a point barrage and were able to pick out the central strong position.

The shells also fell on Will's HQ unit, which took a heavy battering and was forced to retire off the board. This, together with Will's inability to get any MG companies on the board, worked considerably in our favour.

On the left Phil stormed along the "rough hill", out pacing his tank support but enabling him to launch a flank attack on the German position.

He chose not to throw in the units from the front. On balance I think this was a mistake as Will threw some good dice, achieved a draw and so bounced Phil back to his start line.

Meanwhile my tank rolled forward through the rough ground:

Undaunted by the minor set back the previous turn, and shrugging off Will's defensive fire orders were issued to renew the attack on the left, and both Phil & I went in hard:

With our various bonuses we were feeling confident.

Phil stormed into the position from the front, supported on all sides. The Germans were thrown back into the wood in complete disarray. I, in my attack, out scored Will by 4 hits to 1 and so was feeling good about it all. Then Will saved all of his hits and my brave lads were left stalled in front of them.

In the right middle I had succeeded in throwing Will's Boche off objective 2 and so was sitting pretty. The action round objective 1 seems not to have been photographed, but my brave lads were holding on well and giving the Beastly Hun what for.

I was a bit nervous that I had a tank slap bang in front of a field gun at this point.....

On the left my lads had re-grouped and aided by Phil's armour went in again, whilst our second point barrage went in.

This time round Will's saving rolls let him down and he was thoroughly thrashed and driven off the hill. Meanwhile Phil's infantry on the left launched a joint assault onto the Germans skulking in the wood and gave them a jolly-good seeing to. The rest of the chaps were forming up again to drive on over the remaining Germans.

At which point Harvey said it's quarter to eleven, and I think we should stop. We'd been playing for 2 hours and been fully engrossed all of the time. Something in these rules is working right.

So, perhaps I'll get myself a copy. I have my usual concerns about RFCM's recent products, - too many moving parts, not simple or logical regardless of what Martin says, and sometimes innovation for the sake of it. There's also just a tendency to get players to roll dice as the answer to every game problem. However they seem to work and give a good game, - which was what attracted me to AK47 Republic all those years ago.

As part of the post-game chat we ruminated upon the coming centenary. Phil brought my attention to this article written by Jeremy Paxman in the Daily Mail: Paxman on Great War . This is the opening salvo in the war for the history of the Great War, so to speak. The next four or five years will see what actually happened as we now understand it under continued assault by the "everything was awful & we were rubbish" school of thought that has held sway in popular culture since the late 1920s. Hopefully Paxman has shifted the grund rules for the debate, but it is a shame if he gets all the credit fo the work done by Gary Sheffield, Paddy G et al.

I may return to this subject in the future.

Now, back to painting those Sumerians.

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