Friday, March 29, 2019

Desert Ambush, (Men Who Would Be Kings) AAR

Yesterday evening the Fencibles played several games of “The Men Who Would Be Kings”, henceforth, The Men (etc.). My 28mm French Foreign Legion (FFL), Senegalese Tirailleurs and Arabs were on duty. We played scenario G, it’s awfully quiet out there. This is an ambush scenario and hard for the ambushed side when both sides are armed with rifles.

Bill had the French for the first game, with one squad of FFL (elite, fierce regular infantry, 8 points) and two squads of Senegalese (irregular infantry with modern rifles, 5 points each) for a total of 18 points. Having painted up 4 Askari mules, the French had the mule train too. It could move (not at the double) but not fight. It could give the French points if it survived.

The French were deployed around a small oasis, where they had just broken camp and were getting ready to march away.

The Arabs were Berber tribesmen, 5 bands of irregular infantry (4 with field craft @ 5 points, 1 without @ 4 points) for a total of 24 points. We could deploy adjacent to any or all edges of the table. I deployed 3 bands (2 with field craft) from one long edge while Rick deployed two bands from the opposite side. I now discovered that my camera battery had run down, so no pictures of the first game.

My bands opened fire at long range, scoring hits and pinning a Senegalese squad. Rick had sand dunes between him and the French so he rushed forward. The Senegalese had a lousy rally roll and fled the table without firing a shot, an ominous omen for Bill. The Legion squad lit out for the hills. It became obvious later that Bill believed the Legion could exit the table, whereas the scenario specifies that only attackers can leave the table voluntarily. Still, the Legion squad was escaping from the killing zone around the oasis, followed by the mules.
The remaining Senegalese squad was wiped out near the oasis. One of Rick’s bands managed to move around a dune in time to help put away the few survivors. With 3 points for each enemy unit wiped out/routed we had 6 points already and we could gain 1 point for each attacking unit that faded off the table edge before the end of turn 10, so I began fading away. Rick was out for blood and he pursued the Legion squad with his two bands, also seeking the mule train. What goodies were packed on the beasts?

Bill, upon discovering that he could not flee the table, turned back to engage Rick’s tribesmen. I would have backed into a corner of the table and hoped the tribesmen couldn’t do much damage before the 10th and last turn. But having his Senegalese wiped out had put Bill into a sanguinary mood. The Legion did some damage to Rick’s tribesmen but was rapidly wiped out as their dice went cold. We played 8 turns in 61 minutes. The first turn was long because most of the rules had to be explained. This was the only game that we counted the score. The Berbers had 9 points for French units wiped out, 3 points for units that faded away for a total of 12 points. The French had 2 points because the mules were intact near the edge of the table. The goodies got through.
French losses were 25 killed and wounded, 11 routed. The Berbers lost 4.

Andrew was running late so we decided to play again. The tribesmen were as before, while Bill chose to deploy two Legion squads (16 points) and a squad of Senegalese recruits, green and with antiquated muskets (2 points) for a total of 18. This time I would deploy behind the dunes with two groups while Rick confronted the French over open ground with three groups. My camera battery was charged up.

On the first turn Rick made his only mistake, but it was a bad one. Apparently the blood-lust from the first game was still upon him. With a shout of Allah-hu akbar, he charged on the double at the French. This rush got his warriors into close range of the modern French rifles, and just into range of the antiquated Senegalese muskets. A hail of fire dropped lots of warriors and pinned all three units. I rushed up from behind. Yusuf’s band skirmished into long range and dropped a legionary. The elite unit was not pinned.
Omar’s band got near to the hill shielding the French rear.
The French continued to fire and one of Rick’s bands failed their rally roll badly and fled the table. One of my bands was pinned by Legionary rifle fire.

Omar’s band skirmished onto the hill, dropping a couple Legionaries. They were pinned by heavy return fire and fell back after failing their first rally attempt. They failed the second attempt badly and fled the table. We were down to 3 bands.

The surviving tribesmen were outnumbered and the French kept blasting us, keeping us pinned. All we could do was rally, as our numbers dropped. We threw in the towel, having played 5 turns in 35 minutes.

We broke for dinner and Andrew arrived. He brought some potent beer. I seem to have focused the camera after this but not actually taken any pictures. The beer was good.

Rick and I now took the French while Bill and Andrew donned Berber robes. We had two Legion squads, a squad of Senegalese recruits with muskets and the mule train. Bill fired on us frontally with 3 bands while Andrew snuck up behind with two bands. Sous Lt. Vadim’s Senegalese were hammered from beyond range of their antiquated muskets and driven back to the oasis. Sergeant Schoendoerffer’s Legion squad was wiped out while Sous Lt. Truffaut’s squad was decimated and pinned. We were surrounded with no way out. We threw in the towel after the third turn, some 23 minutes into the game. It seems the ambushed party is in deep trouble in this scenario if the enemy is armed with rifles, even obsolete ones. Of course, this presumes that the ambushing group fires instead of charging. That said, all enjoyed the game and we are considering trying Patriots & Rebels for our next session in two weeks. That is the next set of rules in the Lion Rampant stable.

P&L seems to be a streamlined version of The Men (etc.). There is only one officer per side, so no keeping track of individual officer stats. All actions must be rolled for to activate, no free actions for various types. A major enticement is that I have lots of AWI figures that have not seen the table in years. We can field a number of different forces. For FFL games, we are limited to the small force I have, pretty much what you see here.

We like the rules. My minor quibbles are about the army lists. These are suggestions rather than hard and fast rules, so that can be changed, assuming these things are talked over with your buddies first. I have found the fierce trait for FFL (bonus on melee dice) to be fairly useless. In some 6 games there has not been a single melee, all being decided by rifle fire. Shooting at a pinned unit is like shooting at fish in a barrel. The field craft trait for most of our Berber tribesmen also seems a waste, since no one has gone to ground in a game yet. We are using a house rule (from the internet) that units gone to ground can fire at half effect and can be targeted the next turn as though they are in one level of cover above the terrain they are in.

EDIT: We goofed. Routed/destroyed units should cause pin tests on friends within 12 inches.

We have two other house rules. Units that move on the double are marked with a red disc and cannot do it twice in a row. We also decided that having the whole unit fire when only one figure can bring a rifle to bear is too gamey for us. We count the front rifles that can bear on the target and double that number. This was decided last night after the games.

It might do to say our tribesmen are Rif rebels and count them as veterans rather than field crafty types. We might also drop the fierce trait for the Legion. I might be able to scrape up 3 squads of Legionaries and a Senegalese squad.

One notion is to play Franco-Prussian games set in the Republican phase. The German infantry would be veterans armed with obsolete rifles (needle guns). French depot regulars would be unenthusiastic while Mobiles would be irregular infantry, possibly unenthusiastic. Throw in some cavalry, the odd gun or Mitrailleuse and away we go.

We also have to do some Bloody Big Battles games from time to time too. So many battles, so little time…

Friday, March 8, 2019

Ships of the Desert that Pass... (The Men Who Would Be Kings)

Last night we played scenario A of The Men Who Would be Kings, where two forces pass each other, taking shots as they go. The dice decided I would command the French while Andrew led the Arabs. We added 2 house rules. Units could not move double time twice in a row, so units that moved quickly were marked with a red disc except when we forgot. We also instituted a house rule for field craft that went unused in this game. Finally, we added a unit of mules to the French side that had no combat value and could not double-time, but would count if it exited the far side of the table.

And off we went. Andrew’s Arabs needed to exit the French table edge and we needed to exit from his starting edge. Andrew moved first in each turn.

On turn 11 Ali’s full strength group (first one) exited for 4 points.
Turn 12 Sayid’s 8 strong group exited for 1 point.

Turn 14: off photo to the right Margaron’s full strength Legion squad and Lapin’s full strength Senegalese squad exited for 2 points each. The mules spent much of the last part of the game munching some few blades of grass. I must remember to sacrifice to the dice gods next time.

I counted Andrew’s score as 5 to my 4. He asked if the losses didn’t count. On the very last turn of the game one of his shot up units had routed off the table. That gave me one more point and we tied, 5 to 5.

As for who was shot: the French lost 15 troops, the Arabs lost 14 and had 9 flee the table.

The game took just over 90 minutes to play 15 turns. We each exited two units and one Arab unit routed. Dorfmann’s Legion squad was nearly wiped out, down to 3 men at game end. The game was fun and we both thought we’d play it differently next time. I loaned Andrew my copy of Rebels & Patriots, the next game in this stable. Perhaps we’ll try that sometime. I do have lots of figures for the American Revolution. My collection of French Foreign Legion/etc. is largely limited to what you see here.

And that’s all the gaming reports from us until the end of the month.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Montebello 1859

I will run a game of the 1859 Battle of Montebello on Saturday May 18 from 2 through 6 PM at the Huzzah 2019 Convention in South Portland, MaineHuzzah! The game will be an introduction to the Bloody Big Battles (BBB) rules. BBB is grand tactical and designed to allow battles such as Gravelotte-St. Privat or Gettysburg to be played in an evening. This much smaller battle can usually be played in an hour or two. A player or two per side seems right. The goal is to play at least two games in the available time.

Here’s a picture of a game played last July.
A report of that game can be found here  Montebello AAR

The scenario can be found here:  Scenario

Some folks report problems downloading the scenario, so here it is in jpeg format. I hope that works.

Here is a copy of the scenario map:
And here is the canvas mat that the game will be played on. I think it is done, though I may be compelled to add a few more touches with the brush.
Final iteration of the mat, after applying some paint with a sponge:

Here is a translation of the first line in the Austrian Order of Battle:

4 S       Trnd ML         I/Regt 39 & 39th Jager

4 S: the unit has 4 bases, including one skirmish base. Trnd ML: the troops are trained (instead of Veteran or Raw) and armed with muzzle-loading rifles. That is the info needed for game purposes. I/39 Regt & 39th Jager: historical unit designation, interesting but not required for game play. This unit consists of the 1st battalion of the 39th Infantry regiment and the 39th Jager battalion. (Yes, I can’t figure out how to type umlauts.)

All the infantry in this game is armed with muzzle-loading rifles, so I will omit that from the unit labels. Labels of veteran units will have a red stripe, those of raw units a green stripe and trained units have no stripe. My label for the above unit will be 4 S  I/39, with no stripe (a trained unit). French units will also have colors on the label edge indicating what brigade they are part of.

Since the poorly commanded Austrians have no (effective) generals on the table, they don’t need brigade indicators. Due to terrain, visibility and all ranges are limited to 9 inches, for rifles and artillery alike.

The scenario features two very different armies. The Austrians are all passive, which means units have a 10/36 chance of not moving at all, an 11/36 chance of making half a move and 15/36 chance of a full move. French units have 6/36 chance of not moving, a 9/36 chance of a half move and 21/36 chance of a full move. Being within 6” of a general in their chain of command changes the odds to 3/36, 7/36 and 26/36 respectively. Being in column of march increases the odds of moving, though it is not a great combat formation. The French infantry are also aggressive, which gives them an edge in assaults (cold steel). Some of the Austrians are fragile, which is a deficit in assaults.

The French do best when commanded very aggressively. Every turn that they attempt an assault (even if stopped by fire), the Austrians do not roll for optional reinforcements. Audacity is the French watchword. "De l'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace!" - Danton

The Austrians cannot depend on bold moves. They must shepherd their troops over the bridges and into combat, relying on numbers beat the French. Keep calm and lumber on is the Austrian slogan.

If you want a deeper look at the rules, my 2014 review of the rules is here:  Review