Thursday, 28 February 2013

Playing away at home

The first away fixture at Shedquarters was put on by Chris K of Not Quite Mechanised who specialises in operational level WW2 games.  NQM is more of a set of umpire guidelines that are included or excluded, promoted or amended as the scenario requires. The whole purpose is to focus on the big picture and refight really big actions in a manageable fashion. NQM to that extent has a lot in common with Tim Gow's Megablitz (although I note at the moment he is blogging about H G Wells-type games).

Anyway, the game was supposed to start on Monday, with a full complement of MNG-ers more or less, but I ended up having to call for a postponement as my mother had to be taken into hospital. We eventually re-convened on Tuesday and were down to me, Chris & Phil.

The evening didn't start auspiciously as the shed blew a fuse (literally) and I had to hunt round for a  13 amp replacement. Eventually took a plug apart to find one.

Chris was soon on site and rearranging the scenery and getting out toy boxes as we headed into the Western Desert to refight Gazala. For those of you not familiar with the battle, here's a map of the layout and plans of both sides.

Chris is a great extemporiser. He produces lovely models when he chooses, but also isn't too fussy at times as to what he uses. He was no longer unloading his boxes of toys then he as asking me for trucks and armoured cars. When Phil arrived he contributed a brigade of Free French, to defend Bir Hakeem. Here's a picture of him trying to work out of he's got all of the bits he should have:

The far end of the table is the north. The various boxes and mine fields are delineated by stretches of barbed wire, previous prepared for my Western Front (as opposed to Western Desert) games. Hence the green bases.

Phil's fine fellows were soon lined up to await their fate. As he was supplying some of the defenders he took command of the British. I therefore took the Italians and Germans.

The first thing I did was bypass the Free French who looked a bit tough and drove the Italian Ariete Division at the more lightly defended position held by an Indian brigade. This was possible only after successful recce rolls to ensure I didn't get lost in the desert. Unlike the Trieste Division....

My tanks were soon on the defences, pummelling the poorly prepared defenders. A succession of lucky dice rolls ensured my success.

My Bersaglieri quickly dismounted and were all over the hapless Indians, driving them off the position and leaving them to flee into the desert. It looked like it was going to be a long evening for the 8th Army.

NQM games never have all the toys on the table at the start, even if they're not reinforcements in the traditional wargaming sense. Chris sort of rolls the bits and pieces out as we go along.

Here he is deploying 15 & 21 Panzer, who have again swept round the French and are soon to be storming up towards the coast, Tobruk, and the British supply dumps.

Next up some of my Italians, -Trieste, I think, - blundered into the central box manned by 50th Div. Or was it Brigade? One or the other. In the picture above they're not out on the board yet, but are in the zone just to the north of the French.

Overwhelming armour and the elan of my troops suppressed the defenders and we stormed over and round the mine field.

You can see my infantry breaking through a slight gap. The red pins indicate damaged stands. Stands can take three red pins, if overloaded they're eliminated. If you reorganise out of harm's way the red pins are halved and turned to black, representing permanent damage.

Across the other side of the table some British armour counter punched against 15 Panzer.

Here they're just coming on to the board. There were a lot more and they forced my chaps back.

However they were just about to over stretch themselves and expose their flanks to 21 Panzer:

You can see my Teutonic heroes lined up south to north in the middle of the table. The counterstrike achieved its aim, but not before a large number of 15 Panzer's armoured fist was smoking.

The picture above shows 21 Panzer wheeling round and the remains of the British breaking through past the wrecked Panzers to seek sanctuary in the deep desert. The picture below shows them being pursued by 21 Panzer, which was great fun but alas had them pointing in the wrong direction.

 At which point we closed the game for this evening. More action next week, - probably on Wednesday.

With a bit of luck Phil will post some pictures of the game over at P B Eye Candy.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

British & Indian Flags from the 1860 War with China

As promised a while back I have drawn up flags for all of my British units for the 1860's China expeditionary force I am painting. Some of the colours are based on actual flags I have seen pictures of, others I have deduced from looking at the regiment's history/museum sites and applying that to the 1844 regulations.

All of the flags are drawn using Serif Drawplus before converting to a jpg. The originals are intended to be 10mm square when attached to the figures, but there's more detail than that so they can be printed out bigger. Even so I didn't put any text on the battle honours scrolls as they get blurry on my printer.

I have experimented with giving the background colours texture but I'm afraid flags don't look like that. Whilst cloth looks crumpled if you throw it on the ground or put it in a frame flags that are hung outside in a breeze do not (just as real clothing doesn't look like the current 28mm three colour shading style portrays it).

You can get quite a way with just taking the regulations. The Queen's colour is the Union flag, with a crown and the regimental number in roman numerals in the centre. I've only done one here, - for the 1st Regiment, as I had a spare standard bearer in my figure order.  Royal & County regiments and others with a designation have the title on a red circular background within the Union wreath, the centre of which has the regimental number in roman numerals. Guards regiments are different, but as I don't have any of those I didn't research them.

Battle honours are only on the Regimental Colour. The Regimental Colour is the colour of the regimental facings, but there's no clear rule for the background for battle honours. It seems they're normally blue or gold.

Some regiments have a regimental symbol on them, - I've included them where I could find positive evidence of their use.

There are two regiments missing from this list. The Ludhiana sikhs and the 60th Rifles. The former because I seem not to have saved the file, and the latter because they didn't carry colours on the battlefield.

1st (Royal) Regiment, Regimental Colour

1st (Royal) Regiment, Queen's Colour

2nd (Queen's) Regiment, Regimental Colour

3rd (East Kents) Regiment "The Buffs", Regimental Colour

31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment, Regimental Colour

44th (East Essex) Regiment, Regimental Colour

67th (South Hampshire) Regiment, Regimental Colour

99th (Lanarkshire) Regiment, Regimental Colour

15th Punjab Native Infantry, Regimental Colour

17th Punjab Native Infantry, Regimental Colour

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Some Rif-related pun

(There must be a pun around wargaming the Rif revolt that I can use for a title, but I can't quite think of it for the moment.)

So this Monday, at short notice but after a long time's consideration we had a go at the Spanish in North Africa. After all once you have started on the Spanish Civil War and have a box load of Spanish Foreign Legion there's sort of an inevitability about the whole idea. Their Rif opponents came from the Ansar in my Sudan collection. There may be some accuracy issues with this, but they're arab-like chaps on foot, horse and camel and if you squint and look at them from a distance they're a pretty good substitute, apart from their lack of modern firearms and heavier weapons.

My knowledge of the Rif revolt goes back to senior school, and my discovery of Abd El Krim in an article in Purnell's History of the 20th Century. This, allied to Matchbox's release of the Renault FT-17 (as used in the Rif Revolt it said on the packet), meant an on-off research relationship encompassing mainly the FFL initially. The SCW work I then did made me realise that the Spanish side of the Rif mountains was more significant, so here we are.

There has also been some discussion on the RFCM group recently about using Square Bashing for the Rif revolt. I've not played the new version but I feel that whilst SB might do for the one or two large set piece actions generally the campaign has little in common with the Western Front of the Great War. So how should we approach the subject?

My default setting for Colonials in the desert is Science v Pluck. The scenario driven action, with umpire moderated natives, works very well and provides the sort of challenges facing Europeans on campaign which are never simply military. Natives can be concealed and emerge at surprising moments and the action can be placed in an overall context which means that players' actions have implications outside the game being played at the time.

SvP covers the Sudan up to the Omdurman period, so the data set in the rules for small arms and machine guns is close enough for the 1920s. The biggest hole on the weaponry side is artillery (well, and tanks of course, but one step at a time I think) however a quick flick through of Douglas Porch’s “Conquest of Morocco” reveals that the French found that the Soixante Quinze could out range the Krupps 77 which was effective up to 2 ½ miles. That’s enough for an evening’s game.

As I said above I ended up doing this at fairly short notice, so I didn’t have much time to work on the rule modifications. However having the netbook in the back pack meant I could write up a scenario on the train home at least.

So here we are, a couple of brave battalions of Legionnaires marching across the North African desert.

They are accompanied by two squadrons of cavalry, and a battery of Krupps. Their camel baggage units come courtesy of my Sudan British. At the moment the guns are being pulled by a horse limber, again from my Sudan boxes. This will later be replaced by a lorry limber provided by Phil from his inter-war Italians.

Their mission is to investigate the reports of insurrection like activity around this village in the interior. The Rif Revolt hasn't broken out properly, so we are in the early stages of the campaign.

The suspected rebel village. Quiet, isn't it?
My two regulars, Will & Phil, split the commands with Will taking the infantry, and Phil taking everything else and overall command. They adopted a simple plan, which involved using the cavalry for scouting before stopping a mile or so from the village and announcing their arrival with a barrage from the field guns. Following this they were to send forward an intelligence officer to talk to the villagers.

One of the good things about SvP is that the entertainment can come from several sources, not just the actual fighting. Since some unpleasantness in an earlier game my players are fastidious in sorting out the column of march, with the implications of what goes where promoting much debate.

As Phil had brought along some aircraft I permitted the Spanish some aerial reconnaissance, flying in on my patent inverted plastic wine glass technique.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Clearly a plane!
 The aeroplane flew a recce pattern, and eschewing the conventional methods of relaying information (dropping a message in a can or landing at an airfield and sending a messenger), boldly determined to land in the desert to pass on the intelligence it had gleaned.

Strangely enough such happenings are not covered in SvP, so I extemporised*.

The plane landed successfully, passed on the information, then before we knew it was back up in the air and away.

The column wended its way into the desert, not trusting entirely to the reports received. One cavalry squadron was sent off to scout the ridge line previously over flown by the aeroplane, with strict orders not to be seen by anything that was there, and to keep its collective heads below the crest line.

This recce revealed a deep wadi just over the ridge line, full of Bedouin camel riders clearly hiding. They didn't react to the cavalry scouts (they were waiting on the dust cloud from the column to get closer), which allowed Will to deploy one of his battalions into line and move towards them to contain any threat.

The line adavances fearlessly across the open desert
Will chose not to skirmish, and advanced shoulder to shoulder in traditional Brits v Fuzzy-Wuzzy style, with the MG company ever ready to deploy and provide cover.

With this flank guard in place the rest of the column moved up, ready to deploy its guns for the warning volley at the village.

Artillery to rear, pulled by Phil's desert lorry limber.
The rest of the column deployed in a slightly looser defence formation, ensuring they had all round cover and commenced to deploy the guns. The remaining cavalry squadron was sent to scout the left rear area to see if any nastiness was brewing there.

The village goes up in smoke

The first salvo was devastatingly effective, and caused a substantial building in the village to explode into its component atoms. from now on I think the Rif considered themselves to be fully notified of the Spanish presence.

At this point the scouting to the rear left proved to have been prudent as a native cavalry force was noted advancing at a fair pace. Not only this, but they had some field guns with them, and soon opened up an unexpected and fairly effective fire.

This fire was obviously a general signal as everything started to converge, and Riffian foot emerged, skirmishing from the village. The Spanish players decided to dispense with the plan to send a messenger under a white flag of truth to the village.

Effective MG fire had dispersed the Bedouin camelry, and as the cavalry started to mill about all guns were turned that way to discourage them and to deal with the (well handled) native guns.

Explosions in the desert as the guns deploy
The Spanish were taking casualties, but they continued to handle their guns well and use their infantry aggressively. This approach saw off the foot from the village, but not before they deployed a machine gun and cut up a few of the Spaniards.

But the writing was on the wall. Superior firepower and European trained troops started to take their toll, and the insurgents melted into the desert.

The follow up advance into the village found nothing but women and children all bewailing how they had been held hostage and their men folk whisked away. The opportunities for reprisals were limited.

The scouting cavalry found the remains of the native guns. Disconcertingly they turned out to be modern quick firing guns, and some of the bodies looked distinctly European.

Food for thought for a future game.

The experiment seemed to go down well with both players, so we will revisit this period once I have done a bit more proper research. SvP works generally for desert actions, as I said above. Future games probably need me to work on the rules, rather than free kriegspieling large chunks of it.

A very satisfactory evening all round.

*Made stuff up as I went along.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Real Life (part 19)

There are times when being a grown up is less enjoyable than it normally is. I have written periodically how being a grown up wargamer is so much fun as you have access not just to the toys, but also all the accoutrements of an adult. Like power tools and an enormous shed. And, mostly, a regular income to pay for the new toys.

Alas with all the of this comes responsibilities, and to be honest, I've almost had enough of being a grown up recently.

My mother, who will be 87 this year, went into hospital with gall stones the weekend before Christmas and has been pretty much in hospital since then. She was initially discharged, and then was taken ill again and had to be treated on a stroke ward. She's quite small and has become increasingly frail. Her desire to be independent and stay in the family home seems to be inversley proportional to her physical well being.

All in all she has been hospital for 6 of the last 8 weeks. She was discharged again last Monday, complete with a re-enablement package (that means care workers coming in three or four times a day to help with getting up & preparing meals). This package hasn't always met with her expectations, - as I remarked last week our game was cut short by some difficulties she was having and she'd only been back home for 12 hours. By Tuesday it was all too much for her and we were looking for space in the care home in our village.

Well, I say "we" but it was Mrs T doing the all work. I was stuck in London, being a grown up.By Wednesday the assessment had been done and we were waiting for a move date and shoving numbers in a spreadsheet to see if the expected fees and existing savings stack up. And hoping we can move my father to the same place.

Since then we've had a lot of calls about the inadequacy of the home re-enablement help and increasing pressure from her to move as soon as possible. Eventually it was decreed it would be this Tuesday.

So the weekend is spent going through the house and working out what she needs ("I must have that chair, - and that, - and one of those" "Mum it's just one room you know"). So we are rooting through the house like everyone's died, looking for things and trying to work out what we're going to do with everything and who in the family needs a dining room suite or that nice bureau we all like, and what about the contents of the freezer, stuffed full as it is with ready meals. Now we're wondering if we should rent it out, either furnished or unfurnished (the house that is, not the freezer. It's big but you couldn't live in it).

All very grown up stuff and not at all enjoyable.We just hope this is the right solution and she'll be happy. After all, there is no alternative as far as we can see. The only silver lining is that we may get some of our free time back and we won't be constantly wondering if she isn't answering the phone because she's taken her hearing aid out (again) or whether she's fallen over. And we'll be able to spend time together because we want to, not because we have to.

Everyone, pretty much, looks up to their parents and as you go through life you wonder how it is that they seem to know what to do about things in general, - whether it is cars, insurance, buying a house and so on. Then you get to the point where they can't help anymore and it is you who is expected to know how all this works. I spend my life in a quasi-legal environment, reading contracts and service proposals. Crumbs, - I've even read and understood rules by Phil Barker and Martin Goddard - but even the "simplified" fact sheets from Age Concern are incomprehensible. I can work out how to shift billions of dollars safely round the world but I haven't a clue as to what happens with attenadance allowances worth £50. Thank goodness for my sister in law who used to work in a local authority social housing department.

All of which is not very much about wargaming, and is overly self centred and self pitying. Probably just better grow up and get on with it.

Friday, 15 February 2013

PBI'm not sure what's going on.....

I have a couple of PBI armies for the Burma campaign, - XIVth Army & Japanese. I have described one game at least we have played with them using the PBI2 mechanisms but without the pregame and reinforcement process. The game played quite well, but I think most people would acknowledge that PBI2 worked best on the Eastern front, and the updated version “Poor Bloody Infantry” was aimed more at Easy Company and Band of Brothers. I periodically think of revisiting the period and working up a proper set of modifications to play in the jungle. Being a perverse individual my bookshelf has more on Burma than any other front from the period. I just love the slouch hats on the XIVth Army and I’m generally speaking a fan of General Slim ahead of most other allied generals.

Anyhow we’d finished the SCW game last week and I’d tidied away so we were looking for a subject for this Monday’s game. Due to some domestic/parental issues I had less time to plan the session than normal and I ended up just putting the terrain on the table quickly and knocking up a couple of army lists. I wanted to do the later period of the campaign when the XIVth Army was on the offensive (I was going to say “British” but my chaps are West Africans & Rajputs…) and Japanese bunkers had to be blown apart at short range by armour.

I had a head full of ideas to modify the rules, starting with the movement. As you pay a higher command point tariff to move out of cover squares in PBI moving on a table covered in jungle is very slow, - unrealistically so. I therefore wanted to put together a matrix that made the higher tariff apply when moving from thicker to lighter or no cover.

Another problem in PBI is that HE and tanks are generally fairly ineffective against infantry compared to, say, a German LMG section. PBI2 has a special rule for blowing up buildings & bunkers with panzerfausts & bazookas which I think describes perfectly what happened when a Grant drove up to a Japanese bunker and let fly with the sponson gun.

That was as far I’d got when Phil turned up. Due to the snow he was the only one who’d made it but he had remembered to bring his set of “Poor Bloody infantry”. Those of you familiar with RFCM rules will know that this is slightly different to the older PBI2. So here we had an extra experimental approach. I was running my army with PBI2 whilst Phil was playing the Japanese with “Poor Bloody Infantry”. In the event of any conflict we’d consider the pros and cons and decide which rule book gave us the better answer. 

It was a typically frustrating and challenging PBI game. Troops refusing to move for no reason at all, the combat system giving truly random results from all points on the bell curve.

As I wanted to play a bunker busting game I decided on the table set up and direction of attack. The objective markers were three bunkers, which the defender got to place in the middle area of the board.

The Japanese had a three platoon infantry company, and a four piece infantry gun section. The XIVth had a two platoon company and a three tank armour section.

Phil started with an infantry platoon and a section of four infantry guns and defended. I had an infantry platoon and an armoured section - two Grants and a Stuart - and attacked.

Phil had set up strongly in the middle of the board, deploying his infantry guns to cover the approaches the armour might take. I had the infantry mostly in jungle, with the armour in the adjacent open squares.

The armour pushed forwards and despite being veteran persistently failed to get enough APs to both move and fire. It also seemed to be unable to acquire a target at half a table's width. This was less of a problem than it might be as the infantry guns whilst being able to acquire the target were unable to penetrate the Grant's awesome armour.

One of the Grants seeks to dominate the centre of the table

The Stuart I deployed in the jungle to support the infantry advance. It pretty much failed to move all game thereafter.

The infantry pushed forwards confidently, although having three activations in a platoon with four sections is a bit frustrating and it took a while to get the infantry mortars in my HQ section into action. Not that they ever really hit anything.

A bird's eye view of the action. The river is dried up and forms partial cover
The infantry pushed on and got up next to the central building and bunker. Some well directed small arms fire thinned the occupants, but I couldn't kill the last man, nor could I must enough APs to close assault the square. Phil hung on by his finger nails, passing break tests and clearing bodies to help with the morale tests. Even a direct hit from a Grant failed to clear the square.

My reserves were being a bit reluctant to get in the game as well, and perhaps I should have put the m on the table at less than half strength. The flamethrower would probably have done for the central bunker with a couple of squirts.

A rather blurry bunker
Phil in the meantime had got an extra platoon on the table and pushed it up aggressively. It took heavy casualties, including losing its commander, but like its colleagues it resolutely refused to break or run away. This, coupled with insufficient APs to launch a close assault kept me pinned back in my half of the board and without any objectives. Add to that Phil's last ditch close assault on one of my Grants that left it a smoking ruin.

Alas a phone call from my Mother cut the game short with a couple of points on the countdown track. We've left the game set up, but I think it is fair to say that even if we play the last turn I'm unlikely to make enough progress in my last turn to take the game away from Phil.

I always enjoy PBI, but also find it frustrating in equal measure. The closed terrain movement modifications worked well and gave the game a more believable narrative than simply relying on the "sneak  move" rule.

Even with all the other things going on hopefully we will revisit the jungle in due course. After all I've got a battery of 25pdrs that I've painted and never used.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Great Battles Vote

The National Army Museum is running an on-line poll to find Britain's Greatest Battle. Interesting question that in many requires further explanation. It made me recall a conversation with my history teacher (shout out to Mr T!) when I was 13 or 14 on the same subject, - what makes a great battle? Great leadership, high body count?

Talking of "Great" doesn't mean most significant or most important. On that subject it is hard not to argue that Hastings is the most important battle in the last 2,000 years of English history, if not British. Still, this poll only covers the last 400 years as it's abgout battles fought by the British Army which in this context traces its lineage back to the New Model Army, so it might be fair enough to leave it out.

Anyhow, they've posted a list of 20 from which to chose. Here's my view on the battles in the list.

Top choice for many as they'll have actually heard of it, and it pitches one of our greatest captains against the mighty Napoleon. Disappointed on a recent check with my office colleagues who thought it either took place in 1796 or 1856, but they'd heard of it none the less.

Let us put on one side for a moment that the battle is actually won by the Prussians you can't deny its historical significance as Napoleon is finally put out of Europe's misery. Given the army he was given, - a rag tag alliance, mostly untested in battle - the battle is a brilliant defensive action where Wellington makes the best of a poor hand. That makes it his crowning achievement and it was recognised at the time as an iconic event. 

Living just up the road from the battle site and also being deeply interested in the ECW this has to feature on my list. Not the tactically most brilliant battle, but for England a battle of great significance under the command of one of our most overlooked commanders. Fought, on the side of Parliament, by a genuine army of the people and representing the overthrow of unelected tyranny. It continues to exercise a hold over us, and a visit to the site makes you wonder at how Englishman could have fought Englishman in such serene surroundings. Might vote for it just to encourage more people to pay attention to the ECW in general. I think that you might consider Worcester, Preston & Dunbar to be equally important as they were essential to the preservation of the Commonwealth.

The defining battle of our fathers' generation. A bold and imaginative concept, planned from the ground up in the finest detail (Mulberry Harbours, PLUTO, swimming tanks) and instrumental in pulling down an evil regime. Without D-Day Europe would have ended up being overrun by the Soviet Union, so you have deliverance from two dictatorships for the price of one.(NB Note I have a family interest in this battle/campaign as my father & one of my uncles took part in it).

Coming at the end of a brilliant strategic manouevre and delivering a decisive victory in military terms over his opponent it showed that John Churchill was one of the leading soldiers of his day. It combines great tactical acumen with some hard fighting where the British forces, together with their allies, put to flight the largest and most highly regarded army of the time. Only battle on this list to have a palace named after it.

The decisive battle of a forgotten campaign, organised by our greatest general of the Second World War. The turning point of the war in Burma it shouldn't be overlooked that this was a triumph for the Indian Army as well. As a combination of organisation, tactical skill and damn hard fighting by the man on the ground this is a tragically overlooked victory. It would be at the top of my list of British Army achievements in WW2. (NB Another battle with a family connection I think as I had an uncle in the XIVth Army).

Rorke's Drift
A great movie, but not a great battle. The number of VCs represent Victorian England's embarrasment at Isandalwana as much as the heroism at Rorke's Drift.

Iconic in popular memory without a doubt. Most families in this country will have been touched by it (my Grandfather was wounded on day 1). Notable as the first real massed, industrial scale, battle organised by the British in history.  As noted by Paddy Griffith in his book on western front battle tactics most accounts of the Somme don't get past the first day. Saw the introduction of the tank and great leaps forwards in tactics, we've ever had as well as the blooding of the first true citizens' army in our history. Lead to a social revolution in the army and political reform at home. Won't win the poll, but its appearance is important as part of the rehabilitation of the British Great War military reputation

Clearly not one for the Scots amongst us, although many probably need reminding that Lowlanders often looked fondly towards England when the Highlander was about. Not the cleverest of battles all round, but one of the few on the list that was a truly decisive campaign winner. I suppose you have to applaud the training and preparation before hand (bayonet the man attacking your neighbour, - requires a lot of trust as well as training). Very important as it saved us finally from the Stuarts ever getting back on the throne who were without doubt the most unmitigated disaster as Royal Dynasty. They must have been bad, - we preferred to hold on to some Germans instead.

Actually, the more I write about it, the higher up my list it goes!

Musa Qala
I sort of understand why this battle is here, - the purpose of the poll is to cover 400 years of British Army history, and this is from our largest, most recent deployment. Having read the account on the website  the heroism of the men involved is incredible, - it is a real soldiers' battle. In that way it bears comparson with the siege of the Lucknow residency in the Indian Mutiny, or Rorke's Drift. But one of our greatest battles?

Clive of India....driving rain and a continent delivered into British hands for nearly 200 years. Given the importance of Indian culture to our way of life it is difficult to fault its inclusion in the list. As with many colonial victories the numbers don't seem to stack up. An army the size of a scout pack defeats an army half the size of Manchester. Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but you have to wonder what was wrong with the opposition some times.

The First World War battle in the east we should focus on rather than Gallipoli.A triumph of manouevre and skill at arms which got us Palestine and the French Syria. It shows British generals in a better light than the popular view obtained from looking at the Western Front and so pretty much ignored entirely in popular culture. For that reason alone we should probably all vote for it.

El Alamein
Monty's finest hour, and our first real victory of the war, although I've always been rather impressed with the Battle of Keren when looking at the desert campaigns. In this list, however, I would place it behind both D-Day and Imphal/Kohima. it would certainly be easier to wargame than the latter. The Legacy section of the NAM page on this battle does refer to the battle cementing Monty's reputation, which leads us to his role in Normandy and Market Garden.

I really can't see why this is on the list, unless it is to bring in the American tourists.

As with Lexington/Concord I can't see why this is here. The ANZACs fought brilliantly and Monash's reputation was on the rise thereafter, but it isn't clear how you would attach great to this battle without following it with the word "disaster". If you wanted to include more than one battle from the First World War you would have been better to have included Cambrai and the last 100 days. 

Imjin River
Oops....Korean war. On very dodgy ground here as my knowledge is entirely based upon watching the M*A*S*H TV series. My checking of the details indicates it was very much a corner of a very big foreign field where our forces fought.I can only assume the battle is here as they've tried to pick one from each major conflict in the period.

Quebec, - not one of the battles I know a lot about. There's been a lot of focus on it at CoW in the last year or so, sessions I have generally missed.  However every schoolboy (well, every schoolboy who is over 50) thrills to the tale of the scaling of the Heights of Abraham and how the rising star of the British Army died in his moment of victory. Epic stuff, and well worth its place on the list as a combination of good generalship and the sterling qualities of the ordinary fighting man.

Wellington's first and greatest offensive battle in the Peninsula. He sees an opportunity, seizes it and pulls the French army to pieces. Doesn't end the Peninsula War, alas, but really enhances Wellington as an all round general. He's also the only general in this list more than once, so he must be good. Never going to outshine Waterloo, however, where he did more with less against the greatest general of the time.

Everything I know about the Sikh wars I know from reading Flashman. The Sikhs were the most formidable army the British faced on the sub continent, if not in their colonial acquisitions full stop. A well conducted campaign, with some striking victories, the main outcome was adding some really good troops to the EIC & British armies. If this is the token 19th century colonial battle in the list it's not a bad choice, although I think that Tel-el-Kebir should give it a run for its money, as should Havelock's battles during the Indian Mutiny.

Balaclava? Balaklava!!!! No matter how you spell it, it hardly ranks up there with military works of genius. Another battle where the sheer grit of the fighting man saves the bacon of badly thought through plans at a senior level. When you compare this action with some of those fought in the Indian Mutiny just a few years' later, - well see my remarks above about Henry Havelock, one of our most unfairly overlooked military leaders.

Goose Green
What was a Lt Col doing in the front line? this is the only battle on the list I remember hearing on the news first hand, and it was the key battle of the Falklands War. It's another great soldiers' battle, where victory came from the sheer grit of the fighting man, rather than any tactical genius. As such it can't really be regarded as Great. 

Anyway, that's my take on it all. Now go and vote at the link below.

Friday, 8 February 2013

When I get my blog-to-book deal.....

...I'm going to have this as the cover.

As Miranda's mother would say "Such fun!" Try this link: Pulp book cover designer

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Return to Shedquarters (2)

Another  Monday Night, so it’s back to the Shed. By virtue of an early start in the morning I left the office dead on 5 and was back in time to do a few adjustments to last week’s finishing position before the chaps turned up.

As you may recall (or can read below in previous posts) we left the game last week following the successful eviction of the Nationalists from their village outposts. I tidied up the rather forlorn Falange unit who were disordered in the open and had a damage marker on every base. The remaining Guardia Civile unit I repositioned in the olive grove. The Republicans were in reasonable shape, but I took advantage of the lull in fighting to reorganise them into their brigades and remove pin markers. I then shuffled them onto a start line for the second objective.

This objective was the crest line village protecting the main supply route to the Nationalists besieging Madrid.
The first arrivals this week were Will, closely followed by Chris K, who gamely took on the defenders despite having read last week’s blog. By the time we’d got him fully up to speed and admired his latest Afrika Korps Panzer Division complete with scratch built tankers and discussed the damp problem with the shed (he’s an engineer, amongst other skills) Phil had arrived and we were off.
The first order of business was the Guardia Civile battalion in the olive grove. By now the players have got the sequence of action sorted. Pour loads of fire in to fix them in position and then put in a strong infantry assault supported by tanks. This is a pretty much certain format unless the infantry armour co-operation breaks down, leaving the infantry stranded in the open whilst the tank commanders sit around and smoke cigarettes and drink coffee. When this happens the defensive fire usually shreds the infantry. This time round Will got it right and the BT5’s stormed on, shepherding the infantry onto the position.

The Civil guard in the Olive Grove await their fate
The way the rules are written infantry advancing with tanks in an adjacent square in the line of fire are protected as all fire has to be directed at the armour. As said above this works fine if they continue to move in a coordinated fashion, otherwise it can all be a bit messy, with infantry shot to bits in the open or tanks running into a defensive position unsupported. On this occasion Will got it right, and evicted the Guardia from their initial position, driving them back further into the olive grove.

Phase two of the olive grove attack.
Pinned Civil Guards attacked by BT5s
The follow up assault broke them, and they fled before the fury of the Anarchists (later reports in the Anarchist press focused on how a whole brigade of Guardia were broken by the fervour of the workers, but enough of that for now).
On the right flank Phil was slightly more circumspect than previously, taking advantage of the full width of the board and moving some units up under cover of the other olive groves. The armour pressed on in the open, followed by their infantry and artillery support.

The result of the artilley fire. Disordered a/cars retiring
Now the Nationalist artillery came into action. Where was their spotter? In the church tower or the windmill? No matter, fire poured down into the plain disrupting the advance. The armoured car recce units never really recovered and languished in the middle of the board.

Phil claims he had a plan which was to fix the defenders from the front then flank them and encircle the position. In the end it worked, but he had a few hiccups on the way. Firstly a diversion. The air support finally came on and bombed the Condor Legion 88s ineffectually. The air rules are not working well and need a good look at.
Due to their reverse slope deployment Phil had some problems getting to grips with the defenders. The defensive artillery fire also broke up his advance so he ended up at one point conducting a frontal assault with an unsupported T26 squadron.

T26 command vehice conversion storms across the ridge line road

They were sent back down the hill in a hail of hand grenades and petrol bombs. However they had done a job of sorts, drawing fire to the front whilst his infantry worked their way round the right flank and Will’s BT5s did the same on the left.

The Reds encircle the village.
 The Condor Legion should probably have bugged out by now.

 The writing was on the wall, pretty much. The Nationalists wheeled up their ATK gun and rolled their field guns into anti-tank positions but they had no answer to the armour. The BT5s rolled round the flank and overran the 88s whilst Phil got himself into position to launch his flank attacks. These fell in a series of waves, each supported by T26s as his luck on the co-ordination rolls returned. The Nationalist infantry put up a gallant fight but were steadily forced back into a pocket surrounded on all sides, disordered, nowhere to go. A notable victory for the Republic.

It's nearly all over. The last ditch defence faces the crushing might of
Soviet supplied armour

All things considered a very satisfactory couple of games, which sets us up for the Nationalist counter attack sometime in the next few weeks. The rules have a few holes but they are performing well in the key places. Firing and close combat are being dealt with quickly and cleanly with plausible unambiguous outcomes that incorporate the morale effect. Movement is working well, with an appropriate level of command dislocation. The sequence that players move is very important, meaning that attacks have to be prioritised to make sure you get done what needs to be done. There is a premium on hitting weakened enemy positions before they recover and shoot back.
It is probably too easy to overrun defensive positions if you have the right support, and I may want to look at the willingness of units to press home close assaults, rather than get involved in fire fights.
Having said that I think I have happy players, and the gridded board is well received as well. A bit more tidying up, then I shall post the rules.