Saturday, 31 December 2016

Back to the Peninsula

It has been over three years since I last ran a Spanish Civil War game, so it was about time I did something to use my recently painted Republican and Nationalist air forces. This meant going back to the table with the "If You Tolerate This" rules.

The inspiration for the game was the Saragossa/Belchite Republican offensive in late summer 1937. In lieu of finding a good map of the Battle of Belchite I set up the table to create the sort of conditions that gave the Republicans problems and also gave them ample opportunity to make the mistakes they made historically.

I seem not to have taken a picture of the general view of the table, - unusual I know, but you'll just have to work with me on this one. The table had a cross roads with a small town occupied by Guardia Civilia and Fascist Militias in the centre of the table with an anti-tank gun in support. To their right was a small pueblo with a couple of battalions of Regular Army in them. On the other flank was an olive grove, similarly occupied, but also with some field guns. In support was three sections of Condor Legion Panzers and a couple of howitzers.

The Republicans had one Division with four International Brigade battalions, one Popular Army Division of similar size and another  mixed Division of Popular Army supported by a couple of workers militia battalions. They had a few T-26 sections  and also a couple of BT-5s as well as quite a few field guns to help out.

Will was the first to arrive and took over the Republicans. I ran the Nationalists to get the game started, and focused on defending the main town. In the initial moves there was a bit of rules checking and re-checking as memory is failing, alas, plus when we last played rules all the players knew them quite well and also understood what I was trying to achieve. Even I'm not sure now, and in any event all of my rule sets are a work in progress.

I did manage to put Will's artillery under bombardment to hamper their effectiveness, but then Phil turned up and took over the Nationalists.

As Will tried to move across the open he took some fire from the town's defenders. He's suffering here from typical Republican problems. His armour is in the wrong place, - it needs to be further forward, shielding his infantry.

However, he is not being distracted by the village on his left, and is also supporting his attack with the BT-5 sections.

Combined tank and artillery fire puts a lot of hits into the edge of the town, occupied by one of the Guardia Civile units and their associated anti-tank gun.

Slightly fewer hits on the Falange unit next to them.

You can see more clearly from this wider shot the overall position. There's lots of fire going in on both sides. From this position a double activation (you get two per unit in a turn if it is the open) enables one of the IB battalions to double forward and close assault the Guardia Civile unit. Alas they do this without armour support.

This doesn't matter, however, as the Guardia Civile panic (i.e. roll about 3 on two dice) despite emerging from the barrage fire fairly unscathed and are evicted from their position and drop back a square and become Pinned in place. The anti-tank gun is overrun and lost. This is the high water mark for the Republicans, much to everyone's surprise (BTW I later realised I worked this melee out wrong, and ignored the supporting effect of the anti-tank gun).

The other Guardia Civile unit pours fire into the newly emplaced IBs, then close assaults them.

Despite only being in makeshift defences due to their recent occupation the IBs repel the GCs and they fall back to their starting position in Disorder.

At last some air support arrives (Will has been trying to get his bomber wing on to no avail since turn one) and a couple of Nationalist FIATs turn up and strafe the BT-5s. Can you guess how effective they were from the dive on the table?

Meanwhile the Condor Legion tanks have motored round the back edge of the town and got hull down in the sunken road, denoted by the hedges. Shame for them they're only armed with HMGs, which mostly bounce off the T-26s.

Over on the Republican left their infantry finally emerge at the edge of the olive grove to be met by heavy fire from the village.

The town is now surrounded by masses of Republican forces who commence a series of futile assaults on the Falange. It is funny how, in some games, a unit just gets lucky and nothing you can do is effective against them. Attacks by IBs or Popular Army, both with and without armour support were all equally repelled, steadily degrading the attacking forces.

Some Republican units had had enough and started to stream to the rear, their spirit broken.

The remaining IB units tried to work round the other side of the town, alas even the initially successful IB unit is unable to force the Falange out, and end up disordered.

The MG fire from the Panzers is also having a serious effect on the other Republican infantry trapped in the open.

The second wave of Nationalise fighter bombers turn up, but are seen off by Republican interceptors.

The final turn of the game saw the Republicans launch an attack on the Nationalist gun lines and capture one of their howitzer batteries. Alas, for them,  it wasn't really enough. The rest of the Republican forces had been worn out by repeated attacks on the centre.

On reflection not a bad recreation of an SCW battle. The Republicans, despite initial successes, stalled as they tried to take on too many objectives. Poor infantry and armour co-operation at the start of the game weakened their strength in advancing and then stubborn Nationalist defences proved impossible to break at an acceptable cost. The Republican aim of breaking through up the main road was a complete failure.

I took a few notes during the game, so the rules will be revised. I have no major project on the go, so revisiting the SCW might be interesting. The air rules are rubbish, too, so I need to work on them.

An interesting end to the year.


  1. (I inadvertently deleted this comment will using moderation on my phone)


    It's good to see your SCW collection in use again ... and your battle report certain had the feel of typical battle from that war.

    All the best,


    1. Bob,

      Felt good to get it out, and your blog on the day by day SCW was one of the reasons. If I make significant changes to the rules I'll be back with it at COW, so I can be programmed against a session you are running, enabling you to miss it again.


  2. Trebian
    Would very much like to see this at COW. SCW is one of my favorites and this write up sounds like a promising representation. If you bring it I promise to point not only with a full arm but possibly two.



    1. I had it at COW in 2012 (so even longer ago than I remembered). The report is here: If I make sufficient improvements to the system over what I had then I will be bringing it along.