Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Tewkesbury Talking Points

 After a week or two on other projects we were back to Richard's on-going series of Wars of the Roses battles. This time we had the climactic conclusion to the 1471 campaigns, with the destruction of the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury, hard on the heels of Warwick's defeat at Barnet.

There's a lot of contemporary or near contemporary description of Tewkesbury, but that doesn't make it easy to nail down. In terms of secondary accounts I like Richard Brooks (when have I ever not?), who places the battle lines slightly further north than most. Haigh is okay, the Osprey is nicely illustrated, and Bicheno's "Blood Royal" has an interesting take. I don't have the "Battleground" book, written by the Tewkesbury Battlefield Society bloke, so that's an omission on my part.

It's a shade difficult to tie in all the details, and having the battlefield mostly under a housing estate isn't helpful.

For this game Phil, Will, and I were the Yorkists, and Jon, Ian and Steve the Lancastrians.

Richard gave us the option to come on in march column (we're at the bottom), which we did. In the distance Steve, as Somerset, likewise came on that way, with the intention of turning our flank. We made the mistake of not deploying our artillery immediately, and moved it up. This was pointless, as range on this table made no difference. We should have started firing from the get-go.

My plan, as Edward IV, was to pull the battle over to the right to get a 2:1 with Will (Hastings) on Jon (Devon) whilst Phil (Gloucester) held the left. We'd then roll them up from that side whilst Steve was isolated.

The Lancastrian artillery had a good first couple of turns whilst we were moving and unlimbering, and got four hits on Gloucester. Across the Coln Brook Phil was moving the"200 spears" mounted troop about to confuse Steve.

Will and I deployed either side of the road, as Ian (Wenlock) tucked in behind Jon in the orchard. There was a bit of confusion about the effect of the orchard area (I may not have been paying full attention in the briefing). Jon played a really cunning game in here, shooting and dodging back, making use of the 4" range limit in the terrain piece (that's a trick I played in the Ebresa SCW game, so serves me right!) so we were unable to get our superior archery to bear whilst taking damage. Across the river, Phil is threatening Steve with his pathetically small group of cavalry, which loom much larger in Steve's imagination than they do on the table.

Phil went in with the cavalry as Steve was in march column and inflicted quite a bit of damage. Our artillery was now firing, but its only target was the Lancastrian guns, although it was very effective against them.

Steve changed formation and saw the cavalry off, but they were performing their function of holding him out of the way whilst we dealt with the rest of the army. Gloucester had now deployed into his battle formation, but Ian's troops were hidden in a dip and he couldn't shoot at them.

We were also still having problems getting to grips with Jon.

Ian then emerged and lined up to fight Phil. We turned our artillery to shoot at Steve. We did quite a bit of damage.

It took us a couple of turns but we finally started to push Jon's men back. Steve decided against his sojourn on the other bank and retraced his steps.  It was proving hard to get to grips with Ian.

The pictures run out at this point. I ordered Will to about face and swing round the back of my battle to support Phil in the centre whilst I broke Jon's battle. Having done that I was hoping to about face and catch Ian in the rear, but that took me longer than it took Steve to get across the river, deploy and attack Phil (benefits of being in march column). This dual attack on him broke his battle before I could get in. When we ended Will and I were lining up to take the pair of them on, and we were marginally stronger (I'd taken no damage at all) so I reckon we'd edged the game, but the Lancastrians did better than historically.

Did this tell us anything about Tewkesbury? I'd say that's tough to answer, as so much depends upon the decisions made and interpretation of the terrain. The rules cope with all we did very well, and they do really feel like a WotR battle. From my point of view I would have benefitted from re-reading the rules beforehand and getting in my head the sequencing of the interpenetration rules. The other slight issue is that the exact distances units are apart is important so the foreshortening caused by the camera can be a bit misleading, but Richard was very patient in answering our questions about exactly where we were and what we could do.

Another enjoyable e-vening game.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

For Whom The Dice Rolls, finished!


After months of writing and playtesting, they're finally done! Hard copies are available from Amazon, in most countries, and a pdf is also available on Wargame Vault. The price on both is £14.99.

A description of how the rules work is available by clicking the link over top right, and there's a free downloadable resources pack in the Downloads section with printable markers if you need them, and some scenarios with typical force sizes so you can see what you're getting in to.

What I've tried to design is something that is truly an SCW wargame, and not "WW2 Lite", but is easy to learn and play. The rules boil down to a 2 page QRS at the back of the rules, and that's all you'll need once you've read the rules through. You'll need to keep the main rules handy for the first game or two, in case you need to cross check the fine detail (I've out in an index, too, to help out), but after that, you should find them simple and easy to play. Having said that, I think that the decisions you need to make mean this isn't always any easy game to win.

So, why not give something new a go?

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Guadalajara Revisted, Revisted

I reset the Tuesday night table for Wednesday morning, ready for three new players, a different Richard, Chris A and Phil. I made a slight change to deployment, moving the Asaltos into the objective village, rather than have them come up the road. Richard and Phil took the Italians and Chris the Republicans.

The opening move wasn't quite as aggressive as the previous evening's, but the Italians still went for a determined thrust down the main road. Last night I got the activation for the column incorrect - it used too few commands, enabling a really mad dash - so I corrected that for this game.

An early bombing run turned up. The column decided to reverse out of it all at high speed to avoid casualties. I forgot the air Terror Test, which could have made it worse. I was not having a good day at that point. Umpiring three fairly complicated games in three days was probably a bit much (plus there was a two hour Dominion session by Zoom in the middle of that lot too).

Having dodged the bombers, a motorized battalion sped past some of their delayed colleagues, and debussed by the central olive grove. Nice shot of my "Osh Kosh" rubber trucks.

The IB in the grove moved up and opened fire. It really doesn't pay to get caught in the open, although I allowed the Italians light cover for the trucks.

Then the anti-tank gun destroyed one of the trucks that hadn't debussed, wiping out half a battalion.

Phil decided to take the CV35s off the road and skirt round the other olive grove. I'd also changed the deployment and put the heavy mortars in that far wood. A quick burst of fire, and the tankettes took some damage.

The Asaltos sent forwards their armoured car, which added even more to the misery of the Italians from the lead trucks.

At the end of the first turn, I think, this is where we were. The head of the Italian column has stalled, however, the artillery is coming on the table, which could be used to break the logjam.

Phil decided to turn his tankettes on the IBs in the far olive grove, with the pesky mortars. His MG fire is ineffective, but the IBs pull up their MG companies and inflict some damage.

One of the other motorized battalions gets on the board, and deploys in the grove next to where all the trouble has been going on.

The lead Italian unit has taken so much damage now there is no way back for them. Even if they reorganise on their next activation they cannot absorb the damage inflicted, and they will evaporate. They turn into a sort of zombie unit everyone avoids as a waste of effort to activate or destroy them. The survivors will crawl away at night fall.

At last! Observer in place, the guns open up.

More Italians on the table, and their second battery deploys.

The IBs in the middle of the board have taken some small arms fire.

This photo just shows what happens when the auto focus latches in to the scenery in the foreground.

A motorized battalion pulls up to support the CV35s, and deal with that IB battalion.

In the centre of the board, the IBs are under fire from howitzers and heavy mortars. He moves up a fresh battalion of infantry to deliver the coup de grace.

The barrage was lifted, the Italians went in, and were forced back to their start position, with no one taking any losses. The narrative might be more that they decided not to close after all. Tough for Richard on a 6:2 dice roll against him.

And to add insult etc, along came another strafing run. Luckily for Richard the damage was minimal.

Due to work and family commitments we had to end it there. The Italians were just beginning to make it work, but at a terrible cost. Phil remarked half way through that if you had any sense the moment you discovered you couldn't get off the road, the enemy had air cover and you didn't, and they've also got some good units in ambush positions, you'd probably pull back and give it all some further thought.

That's a fair point, but the fact is that in real life the Italians knew the first two things, and possibly guessed the third, and carried on anyway. Why? Well for starters things had gone so well up to this point, what could possibly go wrong?. The political pressure from Mussolini was so intense, that not to have advanced would have come at a huge personal cost to the commander. No way back, and no way forwards.

I think there's a way to win this for the Italians, but it needs them to probably take their time a bit, and work their artillery forwards up the column, then deploy it and prepare the way. They probably need to get out of the trucks earlier, or cover the dismount with the armour. 

I suppose I could run it again, and maybe get Jon to swap sides to see what he makes of it, but I need to have a think about what else I need to try first.

Guadalajara Revisted

One of the things I have been trying to do is to set up facsimiles* of actual SCW actions, and then running them through the rules mill to see if I get similar outcomes. This meant I was back at Guadalajara, with a similar, but slightly tweaked, set up to the last time I tried it. On the table this time was the actual CTV orbat for the Littorio Division, faced by a cutdown International Brigade.

The aim was to run it twice, once with the Monday Night Group on a Tuesday evening, and then with the Quarterly Shedquarters gathering (known as the 9th November group) shortly afterwards.

The Italians have to drive up the road, and capture the town at the end near the camera. It has been raining, and off road travel is difficult for wheeled transport. The road is wide enough to allow vehicles to pass each other. The column of arrival sequence has been pre-allocated by the umpire, and the Italians start part way up the table. For this game Richard and Ian shared the Fascists. Jon had the Republicans. There are two IB battalions, one in the centre olive grove, and one in the grove farthest from the camera. A crack unit of Asaltos with their Bilbao armoured car is rushing up the road in support on the left..

Here's a look at the Italians in all their off table glory. That's a Lancia armoured car out front as recce. The trucks have playing card tokens from a "Play 5" set, which cross reference with the cards on the units off the table.

Richard decided to just "go for it" and stormed into the village with his recce unit. Jon brewed it with his  concealed field gun.

The rest of the column moved up the table at speed.

After two movement increments his trucks were at the edge of the village, and he had one more activation to disembark.

The Bilbao storms up the road, and hides itself in the olive grove, to shoot at the AA truck on the road.

Jon's heavy mortar battery in the village opens up and hits the tail of the truck convoy.

The Italian artillery (it's on the table, near the other village) tries to target the Bilbao armoured car, but it scoots away to save itself.

The IBs in the central olive grove deliver a round of firing, then execute a bayonet charge. It routs half the "2 spades" battalion.

Then some Republican aircraft turn up and strafe the trucks further back on the road. The aircraft should probably be pointing the other way. Unless they over flew, chose a target then circled round to attack it. 

Yeah. That sounds plausible.

I can't recall who inflicted all that damage on the "Ace of spades" battalion. Could be that field gun that knocked out the recce unit.

From the other side of the table. The IBs charge again, wiping out 2 spades.

Meanwhile the Asaltos have been creeping round the olive grove from the road. They deliver a round of fire (ah! that's where the hits came from) and then overrun the Ace of spades battalion.

Meanwhile, the Asalto's armoured car has gone back up the road, and shot up the AA truck.

Now this is getting messy. The Nationalists call down fire from their howitzers on the IBs that overran the central unit (2 spades).

Then it turns out that previous strafing run was merely reconnaissance. The SB2s arrive, and deliver a heavy payload on the road. The outcome isn't pretty.

The Italian shelling succeeds in destroying one of their own trucks.

The CV35s gang up on the Bilbao, and destroy it.

Then the next truck goes up on the road. Running out of hamster bedding here....

Well, that about wrapped it up. The CTV is completely broken, with pretty much all of their infantry incinerated. They've got their CV35s, an MG battalion and their howitzers (you can see them at the back of the table), but everything else is smoking.

We haven't seen many decisive victories in our evening games, but that was one.

I think that shows FWTDR works just fine for Guadalajara. Okay, so the Italians were a bit gung ho, and perhaps should have shown more caution, but the originals didn't, so that was a good work out. Being tied to the road did for them, once the aircraft showed up.

Just need to reset it for a replay the following day.


* By facsimile I mean a refight, but not an exact one. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Re-running the Rat Run

At Jon's request we had another go at the "Lab Rat" game. He was frustrated that he hadn't been able to solve the problem he had been set. I can understand that, even tho' the scenario was structured to trial specific parts of the rules, it seemed only fair to let him have another try.

The first major change to his plans was to keep his artillery together on the left flank, and group his heavy mortars on his right. This would enable him to pin the defenders in the front of the town, whilst he moved up flanking and assault units. Sound plan.

He put his artillery on a hill, with his observer, and opened up on the front of the town.

 Alas for Jon, I immediately drew an off table support card, and called down several salvoes of heavy artillery fire on his guns, silencing them for a moment and giving my fellows some respite.

This is the first time Jon had seen concentrated heavy artillery zero in effectively on a target in the open. He did not find it an enjoyable experience.

Meanwhile, several International Brigade battalions started to turn my right flank.

On the left, Jon's recce unit started to work its way round to the rear.

As the IBs continued their fairly rapid advance, Jon's guns came back into operation, and pinned my troops in the town.

Again, however, I was able to suppress them with my off table guns.

I also caught a battalion in the open.

When the barrage lifted, Jon's guns had taken quite a bit of damage.

Enough of this fooling about. On rolled the armour, complete with infantry support.

It looked kinda menacing from behind my lines.

And then the bombers arrived.

Some of my troops panicked and fled.

Right into the path of Jon's recce unit that machine gunned them mercilessly. One brave section close assaulted and inflicted serious damage, but died in the attempt.

Jon scented victory, and sent his armour column up the road at full speed. 

My plane-panicked troops took some more damage.

A-ha! Tanks in built up areas! Close assault time. At them with petrol bombs and grenades.

One section is unscathed, one takes two hits and the third is destroyed. I'll take that.

More Republican aircraft inconvenience my defences.

Jon was then able to move some of his troops into the rear of the town.

He also overran half of the forward defences too.

He then moved up a Popular Army battalion, and prepared it for a bayonet charge, lifting the barrage in a timely fashion so I could not reorganise.

It was a fierce encounter, and I was forced out of the town sector...

...and got trapped on the river bank.

More Republicans streamed forwards, and I was pretty much out of options.

More Republicans were turning my right flank, and it was all done.

A much better Republican performance than last time out. Concentrating on pinning from the front and with artillery, the single left flanking tactic turned out to be superior to the double envelopment, as it used fewer command resources to execute.

Despite being caught in the open the Republican infantry was much more effective. The only blemish might be the heavy cost in armoured vehicles, all of which took a beating having out run their infantry supports. Which, I have to say, is pretty authentic.

That played in just under 3 hours and got a clear result, so the tempo looks about right. We're getting much quicker at making decisions, and we're making better decisions too, so pleased all round. 

As I've got the webcam on a long cable and it has a quick release dismount from the tripod I was able to give Jon close ups of the table, so he has some good screen shots. His account of the battle is here: Battle for Ebresa