Not Quite Madrid - a follow up game

For this Tuesday's game I decided to revisit NQM in the SCW. The rules have settings for different levels of organisation. The last game was played at Corps level. For this game I went down to Divisional. That means each base is a company and, for the SCW, four bases equal one battalion. Due to some confusion on my part - which goes to show what you can miss when you are umpired actively and just enjoy the experience rather than learn the rules - I got the strength points wrong. 

This game was based upon the Nationalist counter attack using a very large Navarrese Brigade under General Bautista, which hit the Republican 10th Division very hard in an attempt to encircle large amounts of the Republican army. The Navarrese "Brigada" was larger than a lot of Divisions, so it was an even fight, more or less, in terms of numbers.

[A quick note here: I based the scenario on George Hill's "Battle for Madrid" and I got some of the details wrong. In addition the deployments of the 10th Division at the time of the attack were not well covered. I didn't allow myself the time to follow up these issues with people who could have put me right on the matter. We live and learn.]

The Nationalists are top right, with a bridgehead across the river. They were commanded by Phil, assisted by Tim. Chris K ran the Republicans. The Nationalist commander has been tasked with capturing three villages, two of which you can see, the third is off bottom right. I'm sure I explained this clearly. Phil did not think so.

In the opening stages both sides' recce jousted in the middle of the table. The Nationalists gained the upper hand. Also, due to their air superiority, they have good intel on enemy locations already. On the other hand the Republicans on the hill top have clear vision across the open countryside.

First attack of the game is on the nearest village to the bridgehead. Nationalist artillery from across the river pound the position ineffectively. Phil goes with using his tanks (captured T-26s) as SPGs. I found this odd, as I thought he knew what I think about effective armour tactics in the SCW and this isn't it. The combat is inconclusive. 

In the background you can see the engineers with the bridging train heading off towards Tim's command on Phil's left.

Second attack was supported by the Condor Legion. It was likewise ineffective. I may have put the wrecked buildings out too early.

Phil decides early on that he wants to change his orders from Franco, and concentrate on the Republicans this side of the other river. He is not happy when I tell him he can't just do what he wants and ignore the Caudillo's instructions. Whilst he is waiting for the bridging unit to come up, Tim attacks the Republican central position anyway, and drives the Republicans out of their front position. (BTW Red markers mean out of ammunition. Green means spotted by the enemy. Yellow is might have been spotted.)

The Republican air force turns up, such as it is, and runs interference on the Condor Legion 109s. This doesn't prevent the Heinkel 111s bombing the village. Chris has stiffened the defences by putting his armour in the village. Phil's armour continues to sit at the back whilst his Moroccans throw themselves at the village unsuccessfully.

The fighting for the central positions was also intense, but Tim can't break into the second line of defences.

By now Franco has okayed the change of direction (dice off versus the umpire to do this), so Tim can throw his full strength at the Nationalist trenches, bringing a couple of battalions round to put pressure on that stubborn second line.

Phil is bringing up more troops to deal with the village. On the far side of the river his MG battalion is being introduced to the action. Chris brings his armour back to shore up his centre ahead of the coming storm. 

Chris launches a counter attack against Tim and drives the Nationalists from the position they had occupied.

Finally Phil gets some serious hits on the troublesome village, and wipes out most of the defenders. He can now divert the Condor Legion into bombing the central hill.

The MG battalion occupies the village (bit of a waste, in my opinion), whilst the Nationalist ME109s sweep the table for targets. The assault on the hill is struggling, despite armour support, but the Moroccans are into the other trench line with a vengeance.

On the other flank Tim counter-counter attacks and retakes the disputed trenches. The Republicans in the woods top right can hear firing but wonder what all the fuss is about, as no one is bothering them.

Chris is withdrawing under serious pressure. I expect he is intending to make a stand in the other village. Tim is grinding his way through the trench line, but I don't think he's going to be in any fit state to take on the third village, his original objective. I think the plan was to push through the position and use the bridge you can see in the top photograph. I believe that was why Franco agreed to a change to his original orders. Hmm....

Tim's onslaught has achieved its aims, and Chris has been bundled out of his positions with heavy casualties. He has no option but to withdraw.

The game ended there, with one village in Nationalist hands, one under imminent threat and one completely oblivious to what was going on. Like the historic counter attack many gains had been made, but not the spectacular victory that would end the war that was expected.

I proved myself to be a bit out of touch with this level of resolution, and I allowed units too many strength points so combats lasted longer than they should.

We had an interesting post game discussion. This is NQM. I have no intention of taking it and re-writing it or modifying it to be one of my sets of rules. I want to play Chris' game, with the addition of specific scenario or period adjustments where needed. What I mustn't do is over complicate it. Some of the discussion was around the role of recce. Chris now sees it, in game context, as something that finds and gets round flanks in order to harass the enemy rear. This has grown out of a change to the way the game is played now compared to how we used to play it 20-30 years ago. Chris said he made changes as wargamers don't like the way it played, because of the need to co-ordinate the various phases of recce/attack/resupply. Actually, I really liked the way the rules worked in those days. I may have been the only one, apart from Chris. On the other hand I welcome the simplification, even though it has levelled the playing field for those who don't like trucks and logistics as much as I do. This meant that recce ended up just being a 1SP light armour unit being chucked into a combat to add to the numbers.

I still think recce should be doing more than that, but I agree that what I've been doing - using it as spotters for artillery - isn't completely correct. As Chris pointed out, spotters are part of regular formations, not recce. My feeling based on this conversation is that units attacking opponents who haven't been recce'd should suffer a 1 armour type shift from Light>Medium>Heavy in the first round of combat. Phil's suggestion was that units that follow a recce unit that has scouted the ground ahead should get an extra square of movement or two. I like that.

Any how, we will see what Chris makes of it all next time we play NQM with him. It will be back on my table for more SCW action over the summer, taking into account anything Chris moves about.


  1. Thanks for the write up, it is interesting to have a different perspective on NQM. Am I right in thinking you've reintroduced disruption from artillery fire? That was also something I liked from the old rules, but it seems to have vanished in later iterations.

    1. Chris has re-introduced the bombardment rules but I forget them for this game. Units under bombardment can't attack. I wonder whether it might be interesting to allow them to attack but to allocate the hits immediately as loss of strength points before the reorg phase.

      I have promised myself that I would run games of NQM for years and I'm pleased I've bitten the bullet and got on with it. It has increased my respect for Chris as an umpire and made it clear that it's more of a system than a set of rules.

    2. In my quick WW2 rules (which owe much to NQM), I let units disorganised by ay artillery both fire and assault, but at much reduced effect, so assaults will usually (but not always) fail and fire is ineffective, but the players get to throw dice. I also treat all artillery barrages as bad going for movement, irrespective or whether it hits anything.

    3. That all sounds good to me. The anecdotal evidence I have for the SCW is that units went to ground very quickly and very early and stayed there. That might change towards the end of the war. I need to look the the Ebro again.


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