Friday, February 22, 2019

Ras el Hanout, The Men Who Would Be Kings

Yesterday evening the Fencibles, reduced by babysitting grand kids, attending openings, and teaching class, tried our hand with Dan Mersey’s colonial skirmish rules “The Men Who Would Be Kings”. I trotted out my long neglected 28mm French Foreign Legion, Senegalese Tirailleurs, Arab tribesmen and pack mules. I selected the last scenario in the book, with an outnumbered force awaiting relief so I could put the mules on the table.

Rick took the Arabs for the first game and I the French. The initial escort for the (immobile) mule train was both units of Senegalese. I rolled up pretty poor stats for leaders, worse for the French. One, the mis-named Tirailleur Lt. Bonchance was a bonehead, an 8. Most were 7’s, with Legion Sous Lt. Margaron a 6. Two of the Arabs were 5’s. Most were 7. They all had names too but since I didn’t play that side I can’t say what most of them did. I do know during the second game Mahmud was killed and Ali’s unit routed.  

A look at the field-craft trait had confused me and I inquired online. Other players said it wasn’t worthwhile as written but they had interesting home rule ideas. I didn’t want to tinker on the very first game so dropped the field-craft trait. That left me with 4 extra points for the Arabs. I didn’t want to use the Old Glory prone figures as they remind me of garden gnomes in robes. The standing figures are excellent. That left us with 5 Arab irregular infantry units. I decided the first Arab unit that fled the field would be reconstituted and return as another unit from the Arab baseline.

From the second turn on, the French roll 2D6 and can bring on a reinforcement of that many points or less. Two Senegalese irregular infantry guarded the mule train. With the two FFL units off-table, I would need to roll an 8+ to bring one on. You can guess what I didn’t roll.

My camera battery was low so I didn’t get any photos until the end of the 3rd turn, when Lt. Bonchance and his unit had already ignominiously headed for the showers. Yellow discs are pin markers.

Lapin put up a mighty fight, routing one enemy unit and pinning others. But his unit finally was pinned and had trouble rallying. Meanwhile I rolled 7 three times in a row for reinforcements.

Emir Rick won the fight 6 to 2. We were both pleased with the rules. We broke for dinner, which was themed with Tajine beef and cous cous, per my wife’s suggestion. She made salad and a dessert. Andrew arrived just in time to dine with us.
After dinner he became Emir Andrew and I reprised my role as the French CO. This time I placed Sergeant Dorfmann’s squad on table as escort and held the rest off table.

On the third turn I rolled an 8 for reinforcements.

The escort was slain to the last man.

Emir Andrew won his fight 4 to 2. We played 11 turns in 65 minutes. Again, all were pleased with the rules and the game. We shall certainly play these again, perhaps with some of the suggested house rules for field-craft.

I also have a mind to use The Men Who (etc.) for a fracas set in France 1871, with elite German infantry and obsolete rifles against Gardes Mobiles with a leavening of depot regulars armed with modern rifles.

The way pinning and rallying works in these rules gives a flow and feeling surprising in such a simple set of rules. Nice work, Dan. My extremely minor beefs (aside from the vague field-craft rule) include units beaten in melee not falling back very far. But that is small potatoes indeed.

 Andrew noted that we don’t have 28mm casualties. Most of our other games feature little tin corpses left behind as stands are removed. I wasn’t up for just tipping them over.

I just purchased a copy of the latest rules from this stable, Rebels and Patriots. These rules are even more streamlined. Hmm.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Gaines Mill, 1862 AAR via BBB

We tested my new scenario for the 1862 battle of Gaines Mill yesterday. A number of Fencibles were under the weather. 3 of us carried on. Bill took the role of Robert E. Lee, I played Porter, V Corps CO and Rick commanded the Union reinforcements; Slocum’s two-unit division and a single unit arriving later that represented French’s and Meagher’s brigades. The rules were Bloody Big Battles, our go-to rules for large and mid-sized 19th Century battles. I asked Bill if he wanted to try out the tactical advantage house rule for the first time. He declined. My game mat was largely based on the map below, which shows troop positions about midway through the battle.
Our opening deployment looked like this.

The 4th turn was a busy one.

We broke for dinner, a sumptuous repast prepared by my wife. Kudos to her.

With no units in a position to counter-attack the troops who defeated Sykes, I broke contact and withdrew as night fell.
The game was a tie, according to the slightly confusing victory conditions I designed. I’m no longer sure what my original intent was. I must clear them up.

We played 7 turns in about 2 and ¾ hours. It would have played faster with 4 people but better that the missing gents rested and recovered from the bug afflicting them. US losses were 7 stands of infantry and a battalion of artillery captured, just about the actual losses. CSA losses were 11 stands of infantry, a bit higher than in the actual battle. The guys enjoyed the game.

I must think about the scenario. It seems too hard for the Confederates. Since two full Union divisions, about half the infantry, were sent to deal with Ewell, this should have rewarded the Confederate player. The actual line was broken about the 4th turn. Bill didn’t get onto the plateau until the 6th turn, despite our misuse of the reserves. I’m not sure how much is the scenario and how much was Bill’s lousy assault dice for the first part of the game. One possibility is to rate all the union infantry save Sykes’ regulars as fragile, though that might unbalance the scenario the other way. It will be a month or so before we return to this.

Next up in a couple weeks, possibly a first game of “The Men Who Would be Kings” with my 28mm French Foreign Legion, Senegalese Tirailleurs and Arabs (a mix of Old Glory and Askari) who have been languishing in their boxes for some years. I recently found my plastic palm trees and assembled some. The rules are rather cinematic. Action! Camera!