Friday, June 2, 2017

Cape St. Ignatz, a naval engagement

Back in town after a long trip to Maine, I decided to have a small naval battle. We used the “It Is Warm Work” rules since they are fairly fast and simple. We haven’t played these since 2014 or so and were a little rusty. Ken took the French squadron and I the British. I had intended to umpire but Rick was late and the other Fencibles are out of town on vacation. My scenario is crude and simple, 5 French ships of line vs. 4 British. The British have crack crews and that is the only advanced rule being used. The wind is the same for both sides and we decided against wind changes for this trial run.

French ships are in italics in this report and the photos.

We advanced towards each other. The French moved first as we got close and I headed downwind to rake the Bete Noire at close range, rolling an impressive array of 1’s and 2’s.
Ken responded by trying to break my line a la Nelson at Trafalgar.

Incontinent managed to damage Couchon Gros but after both ships passed, found herself downwind from the main battle and spent the rest of the game trying to tack back into the fight. The main scrum saw heavy damage on both sides. There were a lot of boarding actions and I will have to re-read that part of the rules again, not sure we did it correctly.
The Bete Noire slowly ground down the crew of the Misanthrope through a series of ties in the boarding fights. Misanthrope eventually cut the grappling hooks loose and sailed off, vainly trying to recapture the lost Disreputable. My camera decide it was time for a break.
We had been playing slowly and all concerned thought it was dinner time, so both squadrons broke off the fight. I figure the Admiralty would not be pleased to have lost one His Majesty’s ships of the line, even if we had captured a wrecked French one in exchange.

Ken (who has actually sailed boats) wondered about the sequential movement. I said we could get rules that had simultaneous movement but expect the game to slow down a lot more. I hope to get some more games of this under our belts in the future and may even find better scenarios.

We have various other things waiting later this month, more Bloody Big Battles games, a trial run of the new edition of Twilight of the Sun-King, etc.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Huzzah, an Old School game

Saturday afternoon I played a Napoleonic game at the Huzzah convention in South Portland Maine. The figures were 25mm Hinton Hunt figures, French and Austrian. I ended up on the Austrian side as the C-in-C. There were three players per side.
The scale was 1 figure = 20 troops, with 24 figure French battalions vs. 36 figure Austrian units. The rules were 70s vintage "Pas de Charge" by George Nafziger. It had all the earmarks of American rules of that era. Simultaneous movement works if all concerned are gentlemen, which fortunately was the case here.The only names I recall are Joe, the game master, Chris, one of the French commanders and Ross who led the Austrian advance guard. My memory isn’t what it used to be.

There were no command and control rules. Instead French units all moved a bit faster than lesser breeds. This didn't affect us Habsburg minions since we were on the defense, tasked with preventing the French from exiting a road on our baseline in the 4 hour window. The Austrians had 3 "brigades", each of 2 battalions, 1 battery and 1 cavalry regiment. The French outnumbered us some. I didn't get a count of their units, perhaps 10 battalion or mores, slightly more cavalry and the as many guns as we had.

Fire was deadly. Small arms and canister fire were resolved by rolling 2D6, multiplying the modified total by the number of figures and dividing by 10 - or was it 100? 10% casualties or more forced a morale check using percentage dice, low numbers needed to pass. Charge procedure: 2D6 to see how well the involved units were up for the fight. Then a fire range check, followed by fire calculation. If the chargers weren't stopped or routed by a fire morale check, roll 2D6 to see the response of each to the continuing charge. Last, roll 2D6 for each side, multiply by figures, divide by 200 to get the number of losses inflicted. Both sides then roll 1D6 each and add losses inflicted to see the outcome of the fight. 

On the first turn our other to brigades marched onto the field. My reserve brigade lined up behind the advance guard, since there wasn’t enough room for all our units to deploy in line.

Two French cavalry units charged our right flank. I feared our infantry would not be able to deploy in time and sent my large reserve cavalry unit in that direction.

One of the French units sent our Uhlans off the table, but the other cavalry unit was decimated by lucky shots from our howitzer battery and then rolled 100 on the morale roll (which rewards low rolls). Our right having survived the immediate crisis, the reserve cavalry went towards the other flank.

Our hussars were routed, mainly due to a dreadful morale roll.

My reserve artillery battery deployed in our center ad was promptly masked by our deploying infantry. In time, the infantry closed up on the center and unmasked the battery. It fired canister into a Legere battalion and helped rout it. The French howitzer battery scored a hit on the crew. I rolled a 94 on the morale test and was surprised when my gunners only had to retreat for 3 turns. I thought they would rout. They still had one turn left to retreat when the game ended.

The reserve cavalry were the victims of lousy dice, worst being the 90+ rolled for their morale. They fled the field. The Advance Guard Grenzers buckled under attack by 3 French columns but nailed the enemy brigade commander before going under.

The artillery battery was attacked by the last standing French battalion on our left. The battery wheeled to face and blew the French unit away. All this while they had 50% losses from the enemy howitzers. No question as to what the most valuable unit in the Austrian army was.
The label below is wrong: this is the Austrian right flank.

It looked quite lovely with well over 200 infantry on each side. We played about 12 turns in under 4 hours. The climactic and complex 4 unit melee on the last turn was on the other flank so I went for a walk at the vendor tables around the room. By the time I returned it had been resolved. The Austrian right flank held and we had kept the French from exiting. Victory was due to the stalwart fighting qualities of our rank and file (the dice) and the brave stand of our advanced guard. I do think "Charge" would have given us a similar result faster. I had a slight headache from the multiplying and dividing. It had me secretly wishing we were playing BBB.

To atone for my end game promenade, I assisted Ross in helping Joe organize his figures to be put away. This is the first game convention I've been to since 1979 or so.

Friday, April 28, 2017

First Bull Run (again)

Thursday evening the Corlears Hook Fencibles played an updated version of our First Bull Run scenario using the Bloody Big Battles rules. Some changes were made to the scenario since last week. We switched sides for this game. Bill and Jay tried to put down the rebellion while Rick and I fought for independence, state’s rights and the peculiar institution. The extra troops in Smith’s large brigade of last game were peeled off and fielded as Kershaw’s small demi-brigade. Confederate units and leaders are in italics in this report and photos.

Things went off quickly as the Union decided to make an end run around Matthews Hill with Porter’s brigade and the artillery.
Burnside and Evans both became spent in a nasty fight.
The rapid Union movement slowed down. Burnside spent a number of turns recovering from the carnage on Matthews Hill.

Things heated up around Henry House Hill.

And then…

Keyes was sent about his business.

Both sides packed troops onto Henry House Hill. The Union had only one objective, the Stone Bridge. They needed two for a tie and three for a win.

The Union was unable to clear Henry House Hill of Confederates. The Union lost again but all agreed that it had been close and if a few things had gone the other way it might have been a tie or even a Union victory. It is balanced in favor of the Confederates but they did win the actual battle.

It took a little under 3 hours for us to play 9 turns. Union losses were 7 infantry stands and 1 run off (of 37). The Confederates lost 7 infantry stands, 1 run off (of 36) and 1 artillery battalion blown up.

 I’ll send the updated scenario to Chris. That will all for a while as my wife and I will be out of town for a bit. I may post some rambling stuff here but no battle reports until June. Adios, amigos.

Friday, April 21, 2017

First Bull Run 1861

Thursday evening the Corlears Hook Fencibles played a scenario of the 1861 battle of First Bull Run using the Bloody Big Battles rules. I recently decided based on further reading that the scenario needed to be updated. It now fits on a 4 X 4 foot table. My crude rendering of the map follows. In the AAR and photos, all Confederate units and leaders are in italics.

Jay and Bill played Johnston and Beauregard respectively, while Rick was McDowell and I Tyler. On the first turn I rolled a six to activate Tyler’s division. The rolls weren’t supposed to start until turn 3 (noon). There’s no excuse since I wrote the scenario. This error was in the Union’s favor. More on that later. The main Union column got into a fight with Evan’s small, isolated brigade.

Schenk’s small brigade sidled up to the Stone Bridge over Bull Run, one of the 5 objectives on the field. Possession of three would grant victory. Cocke didn’t intervene because Keyes was threatening Ball’s Ford, another objective.

Confederate reinforcements began arriving.

Hot Union firing dice decimated Evans’ brigade which was then swept away by Burnside’s bayonet charge.

Burnside rested while Sherman moved up.
Burnside advanced and was disrupted by artillery fire.

On turn 6 the Confederates realized they had forgotten to bring on their previous turn’s reinforcements, Stuart and an artillery battalion. It all arrived this turn along with Early’s and Kirby-Smith’s brigades. A sobering mass of enemy troops appeared behind the Confederate left.

For the moment, the Union held three objectives (Ball’s Ford, Stone Bridge, Henry House Hill). If we kept them we had a victory. The situation at Ball’s Ford deteriorated.

Union fire decimated Bee’s brigade. A charge up the hill did more damage with musket fire but then fell into confusion (assault dice of Union 1, Confederate 6). The battered Rebels just held and threw Porter’s brigade back.
Sherman’s battered brigade fell back. Jackson’s brigade advanced and forced Wilcox to fall back. Henry House Hill was still in Union hands but just barely.
Wilcox rallied and charged, as did Burnside. Heavy fire stopped both charges.
On the final Confederate turn, Jackson defeated Wilcox. Smith whipped and scattered Franklin’s brigade, removing all traces of Union control from Henry House Hill. With only one objective, the Union had lost the game. But insult was added to injury. Early defeated Howard, Stuart’s cavalry charged Porter’s flank, forcing the much larger Union brigade to give ground. They stuck a fork in us. We were done. No photos were taken at the end of the game. In the ensuing rout, the photographer's "whatsit" wagon was overturned.

We played nine turns in two and a half hours. Union losses were 8 infantry bases and 1 ran away (of 37). Confederate losses were 7 bases of infantry and 1 ran away (of 35). Everyone had a good time. All agreed that the Union had a tough but not impossible job in this scenario. The Union attack on Bald Hill was made feasible by some hot firing dice, giving us a really good shot at winning the assault. But our luck gave out. Considering my early error in favor of the Union and the Confederates forgetting to bring on some reinforcements in a timely manner, the odds do seem against the Union. This has me thinking of ways to even the odds a little. I don’t want to add a Union general to the mix since none of the high ranking officers performed better than battalion commanders that day. Perhaps Sherman should get an upgrade since his brigade performed markedly better that day. I’ll think about it over the weekend.

All agreed that we will switch sides and play this again next week. Stay tuned.