Saturday, May 05, 2018

"With Pennants Flying" - a review..

DG gave me this (loaned?? I need to check!) years ago and it's been sat on my bedside table ever since..  but this year I took an new year 'intention' to read at least one non-fiction book a month and this is this months...

This is an old book, my edition was printed in 1943 on that slightly thin, and weightless paper the British government bought in under war time rationing...  that in itself adds to the atmosphere!

What we get is a brief history of the Royal Armoured Corps in the war from the start of the war to the date of publication, and given it was published in '43, this covers a quite surprising number of operations and theatres; BEF in France, the retreat to Dunkirk, he then cuts to North Africa for Wavell's campaign against the Italians, the abortive campaigns in Greece and Cyprus, campaigns against the Italians in Eritrea, then Burma, and then back to North Africa for Crusader, Tobruk, and El Alamein..........

He has a flowing style, that puts you in mind of reading one of those Pathe newsreels - he has endless numbers of fascinating personal stories of the officers and men who fought in those fragile machines that the RAC went to war with (except the Matilda II of course, about which he positively glows)  - he also talks to them and gets interesting (fascinating) insights into what it was like to fight in a tank with no real main gun against German Pz3's and 4's...  how good the Matilda II was (albeit slow, and quickly outgunned)...  I particularly liked the coverage of the Wavell campaign...  Reminded me very much of the Alan Moorehead North Africa diaries..

There is undoubtedly (how could there not be, given the publication date?!) an element of propaganda, and that Pathe view I mentioned of "play up, play the game", but even so, as a written history of events at the time, and with his first hand access to combatants, this is very much  recommended!

Steve the Wargamer gives this one 8 out of 10....

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

"One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 15 - "Fortified Defence" - Setup and Game (Redux) - Part 2

....where we left it..  the garrison had fled the barn (six moves of artillery fire, and concerted attack by angry Germans will do that to you.. ) and the Americans are doing OK, they've lost their light infantry, they've also lost one battalion of infantry, two units of infantry are routing, but they still hold the redoubt, and they still have their cavalry... they are 8 moves from victory...

American strategy for this 'half' of the game is "delay, delay, delay", the key to this strategy is the cavalry (to be fair they have precious little else to delay with! )

So - the British have triggered the refit clause in the scenario - all the remaining units are removed, and then their starting OOB is placed at their starting point on the board edge...  onwards and upwards..

Move 7:

Having called refit the British bring on all their units in column (for speed) and march hell for leather for the redoubt...  they leave one battalion of jaegers to secure the barn (it is not outside of the realsm of reason that the routing garrison may not recover...  but unlikely) The Rangers again are sent through the woods (the terrain is perfect for them - they still move at the same rate as the regular infantry in the open, but gain the protection of the cover)

The American morale checks however are disastrous - all fail - but battalions of foot continue routing, and the redoubt reinforcement force rout from table and are removed. The cavalry manoeuvre to the centre of the table and threaten the advancing columns..

Mid move 7 - on the left a battalion of jaegers marches to secure the barn - the other three battalions have come on in column - the gun is limbered...  on the right the Rangers have just entered the wood. Top left the battered garrison from the barn are about to rout again...  top centre just beyond the cavalry the other battalion of foot are about to disappear for good..

Move 8:

The British infantry depoly in to line to face off the American cavalry - at a stroke their forward movement is cut by a third, but the chance of being charged while still in column doesn't bear thinking about... in the woods the Rangers are joined by the other battalion of jaegers.

A quiet move for the Americans - the garrison from the barn fail morale a third time and rout from the table, the cavalry continues to shadow the advance waiting for an opportunity..

Move 9:

The British occupy the barn and continue their advance on all fronts..

End move 9: Starting at the bottom - the jaeger battalion have secured the barn - but with little chance of the Americans taking it will soon vacate so as to add wait to the assault...  Erbprinz and the Brunswickers eyeing the cavalry warily, then in the wood the other jaegers and the Rangers...  the cavalry is keeping plenty of foot between it and those cavalry!

Move 10: The British advance continues - in their heart of hearts they know that there really isn't enough time to pull a miaculous vicotry out of the hat but it doesn't stop them trying...  The Rangers are now within firing range of redoubt..

The American cavalry fire and then withdraw without inflicting casualties.

Move 11:

In the face of continued threats from the cavalry the British artillery is forced to deploy. The cavalry sweep past the Brunswickers and charge but are met by a hail of cannister

In the woods the Rangers attack redoubt but are thrown back bloodied...

About end move 10 I'd say - the jaegers in the wood are about to charge the cavalry (and fail) - the cavalry are about to get there first face full of cannister - the Rangers (top) are about to assault the redoubt - the Brunswickers (corner of the wood) are getting close - Erbprinz (bottom centre) has a way to go....

Move 12:

Just three moves to go - getting close!

Seeing the plight of the artillery, and knowing they need it to batter the redoubt, the jaegers attack from the woods hitting the American cavalry in the flank  - in the ensuing melee the  cavalry stands and then repulses them! (Laurels for this regiment as well I think..)

At the redoubt, they fire on the Brunswickers causing casualties and a morale check..

Time for the British to hit back, but before they do the American cavalry, who have got the bit between their teeth, charges the artillery again... but with the same result - another face full of cannister...!

Move 13:

The British have blown it, but they fight on...

The shock and impact of losing the fight with the cavalry is too much for the jaegers who fail their morale checks and rout..

Elsewhere though the Rangers are clearly made of sterner stuff, recover, gird their loins, and advance upon the redoubt again, similarly the Brunswickers recover but are hit by the redoubt artillery before they can attack.

With untold bravery the American cavalry brings the move to a close by attacking the gun again - and get their 3rd face full of cannister - but job done, the artillery will not play a part in the attack on the redoubt...

Move 14:

The Brunswickers fail their morale, they've been handled badly so not a surprise, and rout. They have managed to cover Erbprinz however, who then charge the redoubt but are repulsed bloodily.

Coming up behind them, the last battalion of jaegers (from the barn) are closing fast

Three loads of cannister finally do for the American cavalry and they rout.

Move 15:

The Brunswickers fail to recover, Erbprinz the same..

On last roll of the die for the British - the Rangers attack from the woods, and the jaegers - still in column - attack frontally...

The jaegers are repulsed bloodily, but the Rangers are at the redoubt. The garrison tests to stand... and ...  passes handsomely   ... well, what did you expect?? No fairy stories in war... the following hand to hand the Rangers are handled very roughly and stream away into the woods....

American (French?) win!

Post match report:

  • Realistically I knew the British didn't have a chance from about move 10, but there was always that tantalising chance they would pull it off that makes a close run game so exciting to play solo
  • I'd definitely go with one unit per fortified "area" it's difficult enough to win this game as it is - two or more units would make it nigh on impossible
  • Been playing the rules for a long time but I continue to tweak and may need to revisit the section for 'outcomes from melee' for those in strong points and fortified positions...  in that first melee when the garrison was forced to retire, I'm not sure they would have done - human nature is to stay where you're safe - I have a proviso that routing units don't leave cover, the same may need to be case for retiring units...

Monday, April 30, 2018

"One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 15 - "Fortified Defence" - Setup and Game (Redux) - Part 1

After the bit of  a damp squib that was the WWII setting for this scenario, I have to admit I felt there was some unfinished business..  it's not specifically clear in the scenario set up, or anywhere in the rules, but I think that the set up for the scenario needs to state specifically that one unit only needs to be in each of the fortified area's..  the scenario is difficult enough as it is, without making it impossible.. 

So it was on a wet, windy and cold Sunday, that when I should have been sailing, I was instead in the loft, and I decided to re-try the scenario but this time set in in the American War of Independence, and this time with the added proviso that only one unit occupies each of the defences.. rules were my tried and trusted Will McNally set.

British were the attackers (they always seemed to be attacking in the war, so it seemed to fit) and forces were diced for on the standard random table, my only change to that being that if either side threw 'two cavalry' one of them should be swapped for infantry (cavalry were typically scarce in the war)..

Table set up..

I threw for the American's first, and deployed them, before then throwing for the British; as a solo game it all helps to 'throw grit in the engine' and give you something to figure and plan around.

Table set up, top view..  Americans deploy left, British enter right..
The Americans rolled four infantry, one light infantry, one cavalry - so one of the infantry units went into each of the two fortified positions (the barn, and the redoubt) - the lights deployed in the wood (the woods were classed as 'dense' terrain), a further infantry battalion deployed by the redoubt as a reserve..  the cavalry and the final infantry battalion deployed as a reserve behind the barn..

American initial dispositions

Having done that I then threw for the British; who rolled four infantry, one unit of lights, and a potential game changer, a unit of artillery - I rolled further for the gun classification and it came up medium...

Move 1: British main attack..  jaeger column flanked by Brunswickers and artillery
I took notes as I played the game - and no spoilers, but unlike the last game it went right to the wire..

Move 1: The game starts with a general advance by the British - my strategy for the British was to take each fortified position in turn. So the primary push first was to take the barn - I had three infantry regiments and the artillery to do this. On the right flank I had the final infantry regiment as "cover", but pushed my lights (the famous Rangers) into the woods where they would face off against their American opposite numbers.. 

On the other flank Erbprinz are my "fire brigade", the Rangers are heading towards the woods

The British artillery open fire for the first time and manage to inflict a morale check on the garrison  without actually causing any casualties. In return the American cavalry and infantry reinforcement behind the barn move forward to assist..

Move 2:

The defences in the barn inflict the first actual casualties of the game on the leading battalion of jaegers. In turn the garrison tests and recovers their morale. The American cavalry then make to charge the British artillery but are held by the musketry of the Brusnwickers.  In the woods the US lights take casualties from the Ranger musketry.

Move 3:

The leading battalion of jaegers rout (failed morale test, but the general advance continues with the second battalion taking over.  In the woods the Rangers charge home brandishing tomahawks and close quarter weapons.. the American lights test as to whether they stand in the face of this horrifying sight and pass! Melee on ..  in the ensuing hand to hand struggle the Americans lose badly and are sent routing from the woods - the Rangers way is clear, or is it?

The second jaeger battalion attacks the barn but is repulsed with heavy losses, and to compound matters the garrison of the barn pass morale checks again, but the American cavalry are not so successful and rout....  one last desperate throw of the dice and the American infantry battalion (barn reinforcement force) charges the jaegers so as to drive them off, but is in turn held by musketry before they can close to bayonet and butt..

Tense stuff!

End Move 3

End move 3 and the American light infantry and cavalry is streaming for the rear..  you can only imagine what is going through the head of the colonel of that line battalion!

Move 4:

The jaeger battalion attacking the barn breaks and runs, happily the other (already routing) jaeger battalion recovers to even the odds..The Brunswicker's and Erbprinz advance on the American (barn reinforcement) infantry, and the Brunswicker's charge.

The American musketry is ineffective and in the face of the charge the American infantry break and rout.. on the face of it things are going well for the British - all the reinforcement units have now been sent packing - just the garrison to winkle out. On the other side of the battlefield however, those American cavalry have slid to a halt and started to re-assemble (morale test passed)

In the meanwhile the garrison of the barn continue to take casualties from the artillery..

Move 5:

...and the British are on a roll..  clearly "enlivened", all morale checks are passed, and the various battalions turn and face the enemy and look menacing..

The Brunswicker's gird up their loins and charge home on the barn.. the garrison fire..  ineffectively! 

The garrison test to stand - initial poor dice are helped out by the fact that they are behind good walls, they stand.. in the ensuring melee both sides fight hard, and end up with a tied result - both sides retire so the barn is unoccupied - briefly!

In the woods the Rangers find their way blocked by a battalion of regulars (the infantry reinforcement from the redoubt) who they proceed to pepper with musket balls...   from distance.. 

In the US turn the garrison reoccupy the barn...  most of the American morale checks are failed, but the highlight of the turn for the Americans is when the the cavalry, who are ready for business again, charge home into the flank of Erbprinz sending them reeling off in rout.

Move 6:

One of the juggling acts for the British in this scenario is when to trigger the "refit" clause.. move 6 is close to half way through the game - the British should have taken the barn by now and be on their way to the redoubt..  they haven't, and aren't, but they still have a fair force left and it would be a shame to waste that, and besides, the barn is there's for the taking...

The Brusnwickers attack again (surely they deserve laurels) but are held - the second (surviving) jaeger battalion covers their flank from any action from the American cavalry. Happily for the British, after their oh so short re-occupation, the garrison finally has enough and runs (failed morale check) - the American cavalry take the 'long view' and retire - the barn is clearly lost, better to conserve their strength..

On the other flank the line infantry still shaken, but return fire on the Rangers before their morale check fails and they break! This time the flank is open to the Rangers...

On that point the British trigger "re-fit" - tune in next time Bat-fans for the concluding half of the game!

Sunday, April 22, 2018


Spotted this yesterday in Tesco's (UK supermarket chain for those not in the know).. slightly bigger than A4 size, comes full of strawberries for £4, eat the strawberries and then use the MDF it is made from for buildings, models, bases, whatever... 

I looked at it and thought, mud wall fortification/village for the Sudan/North Africa..  spray paint it black and then mud wash with lighter shades of brown and sand...  but £4 for that amount of MDF? Bargain...  oh, and you get to eat the strawberries...  nom nom as the young people say..

PS. Have had to remove anonymous posting of comments as I'm being inundated with requests for assistance with their blogs as they like mine so much (and felt the need to comment that on a 8 year old post!) 

PPS. Have added a "contact me" widget should you ever feel the need... 

Monday, April 16, 2018

"One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 15 - "Fortified Defence" - Setup and Game

After a shamefully long hiatus (* .. six weeks!), so it was that the combination of a missed Salute, a rainy Sunday, a missing grandson (he was at his other grand parents before people start worrying) and various female members of the family otherwise occupied finally allowed me to give thought to dragging the loft ladder down for the walk of shame...  I was dreading the sound of the catcalls and derisory whistling from all the little metal men, but as it turned out they were quite pleased to see me...

* to be fair - this is my busiest time of the year as it's launch month for my precious [clicky] and with the winter we'd had I was trying to fit a whole seasons maintenance into three days.. I've just about recovered....

I'd been sat in the smoking chair (in the garage - it's the only place I can have a beer and a cigar and be left alone) and reviewing some of the pictures from the Salute when I was overcome with an urge to push some lead...  a half an hours muse over what period to play and I decided it was more than time for me to drag the WWII North Africa forces out of their storage drawers where they have languished for far too long...

Scenario was easy - I just wanted a nice simple game to while a few rainy hours on a Sunday - One Hour Wargames it was and as I am working my way through the scenario's one by one, this time it was #15 - "Fortified Defence", a scenario, which according to the book is based on Fontenoy... sot he premise is two fortified towns held by one side (I diced and they turned out to be held by Commonwealth forces) are attacked by the second (the Axis, as I fielded Italian armour and infantry). Straight out of "Crusader" or the retreat from "Beda Fomm" during 'Sonnenblum' - I went with the latter, not that it matters, but just because I wanted to give a flavour to the tabletop forces deployed....

Six units aside and after dicing the:
  • Commonwealth force comprised - three infantry, two mortars, and one unit tanks (Cruisers - A9's)
  • Axis force comprised - three infantry (one was Italian), two tanks (Pz III's, and M11/30's), and one anti tank gun
..just for look and feel I tripled all unit sizes as it looked better in the scale I was playing, so rather than one tank representing a unit I used three, etcetc

You have 15 moves to take both towns with the benefit to the attackers being that on any move they can declare "refit" - and all their remaining forces are removed, but they get a complete replacement of all starting forces on the baseline. The defenders get an additional dice of casualties as fortification support (to be honest this is such a tough scenario, I didn't use it)

Rules were straight out of the book - last game we talked about modifying the observation rules, but in this game it's a little tough for the attackers already so I dispensed with the observation test and went with the rules per the book...
Commonwealth deploy first and went as per the following...  in my trusty old Airfix Fort Sahara (doubling as an abandoned Foreign legion outpost), two infantry and a mortar..  in the village, beyond the rough ground, which is impassable to all units other than infantry, I placed the other mortar and the remaining infantry..  I had the Cruisers to act as a mobile reserve.

Mortar nice and safe in the courtyard - with the infantry acting as observers..

Axis enter the table (for the first time)

My plan then was to focus all efforts on the fort, and then swing any remaining troops around to attack the village..  the scenario calls for both to be taken for a win, anything else is a loss, there is no draw..

Start of game and the Axis forces advance and open fire..  but are met with a veritable deluge of shrapnel and explosive.

It was at this time I realised that there was no way the Axis could win this game with the forces at their disposal... through good luck the Commonwealth had rolled for two mortars, with four other units who could spot for them, and a range four times anything else on the table, the units attacking the fort were faced with four dice of casualties every turn - the three from the fort and the mortar in the village..  in return, any attacks on the fort by the Axis were at half points - because of cover...  tough, nay impossible, order...

In the following - more four or five - one Axis infantry lost already, anti tank gun and Italian armour moving on the village..

Feuer! Tirare! Another Axis infantry unit gone...

...three or four moves later and the only Axis force remaining was the German armour, so I fired and declared re-fit as per the scenario - tactics second time round were the same but with the same end result unfortunately.. managed to capture the fort, but with one unit left (the German armour again) on only five points remaining (see following) I called it - there was no way they could take the other village...

Post match analysis:
  • Despite the one sided'ness of it I enjoyed the game - it was good to be pushing lead, and it was nice to have the Desert forces out on the table again...   
  • Rules are simple but give a quick and bloody game - I don't doubt I could tinker with them more, but would the added complexity add to the game? Not sure..
  • If I was to modify anything then the mortars may need looking at - everything else has a max range of 12" they fire at 48"..  so range may need looking at..  spotting is by any friendly unit.. maybe a test to simulate radio difficulties??
  • This scenario more than any other is very dependant on what you roll on the force table..  if either side gets a mortar and the other doesn't times are going to get tough for the side that doesn't...  may be a rule to limit, or ensure each side has one? Or the side that has the mortar is automatically the attacker?
  • I dispensed with the additional firing dice for the fort/village..  the occupiers were already strong enough...
  • Side entertainment while playing was "Sea of Sand" on DVD [clicky] - most apt..