Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Battle of Hal Pictures

Curt forwarded on the pictures from our game this weekend.  Sean has a ton of shots too, but I want to winnow this down to the absolute stunning and weed out the merely fabulous.  

Start of the Game with all units hidden.  Stacey methodically counts noses on the French side.

Yikes!  That's a lot of Frenchies!

The Anglo-Allied position at Hal to start the game.  Our early reinforcement arrive across the river to our left.  Later reinforcements come down the road into Hal (i.e. from the bottom left of the photo).

The Anglo Allied right initially, soon to become our centre as we shift right   Not much terrain to hide behind (the fields are only for show).  No hills and a few woods.

Mid game, Vandamme pushes in the centre, taking a heavy toll from British fire.  I think that Vandamme himself had a couple of brigades shot out from under him.

First corps presses the British right in the morning.  The terrain worked for us here funnelling the attack onto a narrow frontage plugged by Red coats.  The downside is that our backs were up against the table edge which hurt us later on.

Late in the game and the wheels are definitely falling off for the Anglo-Allied army.  Ney arrived and did a reserve move to rapidly deploy to our right.  By this time we had run out of fingers to plug the holes in the dyke.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

AAR Battle at Hal aka That Won't Do Write Me Down A Victory

Well the battle was fought and lost, but perhaps not the campaign.  And I think that we gave a good account of ourselves before being forced from the the field.  A more complete AAR will follow when pics are available and when I am emotionally in a state to make sense of them.

The general situation is outlined below, with the green rectangle outlining the 8' by 4' playing surface.  This is the map Curt provided to all three armies, but as Wellington I had of course better info on the Anglo-Allied Army and my cavalry scouts gave me pretty darn good info on the French army.  I don't think Boney had much info on our positions beyond the map (if any).  There were also Prussian columns somewhere east of the river, but only they and their hairdressers knew for sure.

Oh yes, the Union Jacks show the French objectives.  If they could exit sufficient forces off either exit, they would win and we would lose.  So our backs were up against the wall.

General Situation Before the Battle of Hal
At day break I had the following information:

  • The whole French army (60+ brigade sized units) was in three mostly equal sized columns, at E3, F3 and G2.   The Imperial Guard was in the lead column, and all three columns had infantry, cavalry and artillery.
  • Initially the Anglo-Allied had 1 light cavalry brigade at D2, 16 units in D3 and 6 units at D4.  Our army was almost all infantry units, except as noted.
  • We had another 3 infantry and 7 cavalry units crossing the river from D5 to D4, and 10 units at C5.
  • Intelligence on the Prussian army was limited but messages from the Prussian command the day before had indicated that the would appear at F4 in time to interfere with the third French column.

So this was a big game (250K troops) with shifting odds as the day wore on.  I was facing the following odds

  • about 1:1 based on what was on board initially
  • about 7:4 once the second column arrived, which turned out to be turn 1.
  • 5:4 once the forces crossed the river to Hal, which took most of the morning.
  • about 1:1 if my column from C5 arrived before the third French column, which turned out to be a pipe dream
  • About 2:1 if the third French column arrived without Prussian interference and before my column arrived from C5.  This happened around midday.
  • About 3:2 if the third French column arrived and my last column arrived.  This happened right after the third French column arrived.  At this point the entire French and Anglo-Allied forces would be on table, and we were fighting a bigger fight than Waterloo!
  • About 6:(4+x) once the x units of Prussians arrived and every one else was on board.  This happened late in the day, by which time we had broken  strategically retreated of the north table edge.

It was a long afternoon and the British command (myself, Sean and Jeremy seconded from the Prussians) were in a nail biter.  Basically, I spent the entire day have repeated litters of kittens especially since we essentially had no cover to hide behind, there being no hills and limited woods for cover.

However,  while it was a defeat it was also a banner day for the Thin Red Line who defeated repeated  French infantry attacks and shook off cavalry attacks even while not in square.  One highland brigade in particular fought all day and faced down all challengers.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

100 Days Campaign Using Blucher Updates

Gaming group has been actively playing through the 100 Days Campaign using the excellent Blucher system (thoroughly recommended).  I have been taking on the role of Old Nosey.  Curt from Analogue Hobbies has been umpiring, separating fighting allies, messing up orders and doing a bloody wonderful job.

Things are nicely coming to a head and we look set for an all day all out rumble in the next week- June 19, 1815 game time but June 27th, 2015 real time.  I won't give away much but can supply a few bits of common knowledge.  I haven't given a map but look it up man, you can't spit without finding a map of the campaign on the 200th anniversary!

  • On June 16th the French advanced through Quatre Bras toward Placenoit.  They pushed Anglo-Allied forces aside at Quarter Bras but found a heavy concentration of both allied armies at Placenoit (see AAR).  We fought an inconclusive action late in the day and awoke on the 17th to find that Boney had pulled up stakes and buggered off.
  • A Prussian attempt to follow up the French withdrawal early on the 17th was fended off easily and we lost contact with Boney.
  • However shortly afterwards on the 17th the British cavalry encountered a French force near Nivelles. Our cavalry was moving northeast from Nivelles towards Mt St Jean and the French were moving west from Quatre Bras into Nivelles.  We set the forces out on table and fought a scounting action in which we found the entire Imperial Guard forming the French vanguard (very curious) with further Frenchies beyond.  We then  withdrew northeast having delayed Boney and counted noses. 
  • Later on the 17th, Anglo-Allied cavalry scouted the road from Quatre Bras to Nivelles and found French columns moving westward.  This scouting action and the next were performed using the Blucher campaign mechanism, rather than being on table actions like the prior one at Nivelles
  • Mid afternoon on the 18th an Anglo Allied cavalry brigade encountered a large French column advancing north from Braine-le-Compte towards Hal.  A very spirited scouting action provided us with details of the French force.
  • At day's end on June 18th, French columns arrived opposite Hal and found British forces awaiting them.  
  • Day break on the 19th will bring us the battle of Hal and almost certainly the deciding moments of our campaign.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

WW1 Naval Battle of Zante (Flight of the Goeben)

I attempt to look knowledgeable, but Stacy and Sylvain are not buying it!

This week I ran a WW1 Naval game based on the infamous "Troubridge Decision".  This is a historical almost-was scenario (see the link Pursuit of Goeben and Breslau) based on a squadron of armoured cruisers commanded by Adm Troubridge that could have intercepted the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben early in the days of WW1.  Troubridge lost his bottle over night and shied away from the confrontation based on orders that allowed him to avoid superior forces.  Had he met the Goeben and slowed her down, a lot of recent history would have been altered.  However his squadron would have likely have been sunk in a straight up fight.

The game was fought using my 30 year old 1:3000 scale ships (Navwar mainly and some Skytrex) and the General Quarters 3 WW1 variant Fleet Action Imminent.  This was my first time using FAI although I have run GQ3 games several times.  Overall, I am not sure that the GQ system really fits WW1 as well as it fits WW2.  This may be to my inexperience with certain FAI nuances and differences from GQ3.   I may haul out my home brew faster play WW1 naval rules and do a refight.

The forces were as follows

  • The BC Goeben and her escort LC Breslau were steaming SE at 18kts with orders to escape to Constantinople.  Sylvain took the Goeben and Jeremy the Breslau.  The Goeben had injured boilers and had a maximum speed of 24kts and would be slow in getting above 21 kts.  Note that the Goeben was still the equal in speed to the British CAs and vastly superior in fire power, range and armour.
  • Curt took the role of Troubridge with 4 CAs (Defense, Black Prince, Duke of Edinburgh and Warrior).  I also gave Curt two Beagle class destroyers which with better planning would have been available to Troubridge.  Curt was 20,000 yrs (max visibility) from the Goeben heading SSW and on course to cross her T.
  • Stacy took the role of the pesky Kelly brothers with the LCs Gloucester and Dublin plus two more Beagle class DDs.  Historically Gloucester tailed the Goeben for days until her coal ran low.  Dublin and the DDs nearly intercepted the Goeben on the previous night but just missed.  Overall the two LC captains (the brothers Kelly) were the only British officers to do well during the whole fiasco.  Stacy was 20,000 yrs SW of the Goeben heading E and well out of sight of Troubridge.
  • Wind was light and variable, and a random die roll had it blowing from East to West initially and then SE to NW.
I didn't take notes for a full AAR, but highlights are as follows.
Stacy plots his move.

  • The Goeben kept her speed relatively low (21kts) and got very close to Troubridge in trying to scoot past to the North (to the stern of the British initially).  This was a surprise to me as I expected her to speed up and keep the range long to maximize her advantages.  
  • Smoke badly affected gunfire, as did the concentration of 2 or more CAs firing on one target.  it also hillariously affected German signalling.  The photos show Curt's wonderful smoke markers in play.
  • Stacy's forces were unable to fire being our of effective range for the whole game.  My apologies to Stacy and I am nervously anticipating the role I get assigned in his next scenario.
  • Gunfire was sporadically effective but deadly when it hit.  A single salvo wrecked the Defense, and narrowly avoided achieving the same result on the Duke of Edinburgh instead taking our her searchlights no less than three times.  In return, a few hits from the CAs wrecked the Breslau.  The Goeben also got close enough (6000yds) to let the Duke of Edinburgh take off a stern turret.
  • Curt's two destroyers got in close and Basilisk put a torpedo into the Goeben, thus ensuring a British victory.  The hit reduced her speed and took out the fore turret.  It also significantly reduced her value to German diplomacy.
  • The Germans were often signally directly up or down wind (i.e. into coal smoke).  The best signal was the one delivered to Jeremy advising him to "maneuver from X flank to Y flank" since every third word was lost in translation!
  • The Breslau was dead in the water and struck her flag surrounded by three CAs.  In reality I suspect sea cocks would be opened and the crew to take to the boats.
  • We ended up with Troubridge breaking off having hurt the Goeben and sunk the Breslau.  The Kelly brothers would resume their watch and call in the British BCs to the west and more DDs to finish the job.
  • Lesson  number 1:  the ship with the bigger guns needs to keep the range long.  It takes longer but has far fewer risks.
  • Lesson number 2:  don't let torpedo craft get any where near the big ships.  They can close awfully quickly.
  • Lesson number 3:  I need review the  FAI rules again, as I am sure that I did things incorrectly along the way.  Also we were all caught by surprise by the ineffectiveness of many of the lighter guns.
Photos from Curt's iPhone below.

Troubridge's cruisers and destroyers with Curt's oh-so-cool smoke markers.

Looks like we're in range.  Gone under the tape measure, with Breslau on her port quarter. Not sure if this is the X flank or the X flank.  Models are 1:3000 Navwar and nearly 30 years old.  They stand up reasonably well, but my ship labels did not.  Fine point marker over white out were state of the art in 1986.

Destroyers make their run.  The smoke markers are particularly effective here.

Troubridge's squadron steaming to the right side of the pic.  Warrior followed by Duke of Edinburgh, Black Price and Defense.

A hit!  Too bad our 9.2" guns can't penetrate at any range over 6000 yrs.  Or  too bad we didn't keep the range longer if you're German and it is later in the action.

HMS Warrior takes a pasting from the Goeben's 11" guns!