Friday, 21 October 2016

Schlact am Kreuzung Motel (the battle of Crossroads Motel) - an HoW AAR

During our post game chat last week, the topic of 'orders' came up for some reason or other. Normally both sides deploy their forces as they see fit for a scenario and then go on their merry way as the battle unfolds, with each player deciding how best to use his forces to achieve the victory conditions as set out. But what if the High Command dictates the objectives and then leave it to you to achieve them? Also, those objectives may be quite different from what your opponent is trying to achieve. 

So this got me thinking about how we could replicate this on the table? The answer  seemed simply to use some of the programmed orders options from 'Programmed Wargames Scenarios' by C S Grant. It seemed a simple solution and one worth trying out. Dave was game for this and so after a bit of thought, I came up with the following, based upon the 'Crossroads' scenario from the book
Scenario Details
  • Your force is a 'reconnaissaince in strength', tasked with seizing a vital crossroads. You expect some opposition as the enemy also realises the importance of this junction. The urgency to seize and control the vital junction is paramount.
  • You have not had the time to send a recce force forward, but you are broadly aware that the terrain is hilly with some woods and a possible village located near to the junction.
  • Both sides will use markers to hide their initial deployments. Once both sides markers are deployed, then the forces can be revealed only once they become visible to the enemy.
  • Deployment will be via randomly determined roads, with one or more possible entry points. Each side to have a column of march drawn up for each Brigade.
  • Both sides will randomly draw orders that govern their initial objectives and deployment options.
  • Artillery once deployed, may only be manhandled once per game.
  • Both sides may choose their forces from the options as per the scenario book.
So with the scenario sorted, it was a case of choosing the forces and orders to be followed. I was to command the forces of the Empress Diane, whilst Dave to command those of Prince Benny. As Dave arrived late after a busy day, he randomly rolled for his force, whilst I had already chosen mine.

OOB Empress Diane (French)
5 x Battalions Line Infantry (inc one Grenadier Battalion)
1 x Battalion Light Infantry
1 x Regiment Dragoons
2 x Artillery Batteries

The force was split into two Brigades, one of which had a 'Dithering' commander, and two Independent units.

Orders: Deploy rapidly, ignoring the crossroads itself but pushing forces to the North and South to secure the flanks. Use any suitable position to your side of the crossraods to set up artillery and reserve.

OOB Prince Benny, Chemin de Croix (British)
4 x Battalions Line Infantry (inc one Grenadiers Battalion)
2 x Battalions Light Infantry
1 x Regiment Dragoons
1 x Regiment Hussars
1 x Artillery Battery

This force was also split into two Brigades, both of which had 'Dithering' commanders (which somehow seemed appropriate for Prince Benny!) and two Independent units.

Orders: Deploy rapidly, throwing cavalry round the ground to the North and South of the crossroads to take up ositions to dominate the enemy's likely approaches. Set up artillery on the high ground to dominate the crossroads and secure the area with infantry.

So with the forces and commanders sorted, it was a case of rolling for deployment. Those of the Empress Diane would come in from both roads, whilst those of Prince Benny, from one. It was then just a case of deploying our 'hidden' Brigades and then we were ready for the off.

The French were on the Eastern table edge, with the independent units between the two roads. The British were on the Southern of the two Western roads with the Independent units on the Northern road.

Turn 1
Boths sides had some advances onto the table, but half of the British force failed to appear.

The initial advances onto the table.
Some units are revealed as they are in plain view, whilst some are still hidden.

Turn 2
The French deployed quickly as per their orders, whilst those of the British advanced as quickly as possible, but they still had one Brigade off table.

All units have now been seen as so are revealed. The British push tow units of cavalry along the Northern road, whilst the French send their Dragoons towards the Crossroads Motel.
The British are ahead of the French, whose whole move to change formation penalty slows them down somewhat.

Turn 3
The British are certainly in the lead in the race to the crossroads, with their Light Infantry on the edge of the woods. The French maintain a leisurely stroll in comparison.

The British although strung out along the road, are well on their way to achieving their orders.
For the French the Motel seems a long way away.
The second British Brigade plays catch up.

Turn 4
Both sides suffered from poor command rolls and the little firing that there was was completely ineffective.

The British deploy on and around the Crossroads Motel.
The French deploy their artillery to try and disrupt the British...
... but to no avail.

Turn 5
For the thrid Turn in a row, the French right flank fails their command roll! This is the stronger flank with a unit of Grenadiers attached to it, so not ideal that they are halted in the shade of the tree lined avenue. Else where there is a general advance and the French artillery scores their first hit on the British Hussars.

The French do not seem keen to spend the night at the Crossroads Motel (can you blame them?)
Prince Benny seems to be falling asleep in the background as he is tired of waiting for the French to arrive.

Turn 6
At last the French right flank wakes from their siesta and moves off towards the Motel, whilst the British continue to press forward.

The French flanks move slowly forward as the British dominate the centre ground.
The second British Brigade advance in column of march as their artillery is detached to deploy on the hill as per their orders.
The view from the French left flank.

Turn 7
As the Southern flanks close within firing range of each other, the British consolidate around the Crossroads Motel, whilst the French right flank continues to advance slowly.

Both sides close ready for combat...
... but their firing is completely ineffective.
The view from the French right flank towards the Crossraods Motel.

Turn 8
Dave: "There's nothing to worry about on that flank (referring to the French right flank." So the French, somewhat piqued by this, get a double move and advance to the outskirts of the Motel!

Things start to look interesting.
The French completely miss with their shooting, whilst the British force a unit back disordered with theirs.
The French look to be in a good position, with the flank secured as per their orders and the opportunity to possible assault the motel.

Turn 9
A Turn of some small scale movement and once again somewhat poor shooting from the French artillery.

Both sides right flanks look to be in good positions.
The French arrayed against the Motel.

Turn 10
Some chess like moves see each side carefully manoeuvering their troops to try and gain and advantage over the enemy.

This could go either way very, very quickly.
The French try to deploy more effectively against a formidable looking British line.
The French threaten the Motel.

Turn 11
A flurry of activity sees the cavalry charge at each other, whilst the French advance into the Crossroads Motel and shooting breaks out across the Southern flank.

The battle in and around the Motel.
As the cavalry engage in mutually assured destruction, the British gain a slight advantage as they force a French unit back.
The French push into the Motel as well as being in a strong positon on the flank.

At this point time defeated us, so we declared that night had fallen and with the battle nicely and evenly poised, both sides withdrew to defensive positions under the cover of darkness.

Post Game Thoughts
Despite it taking a while for both sides to get to grips with one another, we both agreed it had been a good and challenging game. So how did I think it went overall?:

  • Each side having their own 'orders' worked really well, as neither of us were entirely sure as to what the other was trying to achieve. It certainly added a new dynamic to the game.
  • Having 'hidden units' at the start added a nice amount of fog-of-war and worked really well for this type of scenario.
  • The house rule of allowing deployed artillery only one man handle move per game felt right for the period. It certainly made you think as to were and when to deploy them.  
  • Choosing the forces from the list in the book added another nice twist. To be honest some of them are much weaker compared to others, so a bit of common sense needs to be applied to makes sure that one side is not too stronog compared to the other. 
  • I'm sure I will use this sort of set up in future games, especially for these sort of 'Encounter' battles. I would recommend anyone trying to get hold of a copy of the 'Programmed wargmaes Scenario' book as it is worth every penny.
So despite the game ending in a draw, it has set the next scenario up prefectly. This will be a set piece battle for the Crossroads Motel as the main forces of both sides have caught up with their advanced guards and are now ready to engage one another for this valuable piece of real estate.

And for those that do not recognise the references to the 'Crossroads Motel' during the game, check the following out from what was, to my mind, a truly awful show:
Crossroads Motel protaganists 

Friday, 14 October 2016

The Battle for Minden - an HoW AAR

With Dave having recently finished his SYW French, it was only natural that we would have to give them their debut as soon as possible, and naturally it would have to be against the British! So what sort of scenario to use for this august occasion? Well it had to be Minden really, now didn't it? Now given the time, space and forces at our disposal, we simply used this battle as the basis for a game, namely the layout of the battlefield:

Given the available painted figures, we decided to go with identical forces, with the only difference being in the command ratings of the various Brigade commanders and General, decided by a die roll once deployed as normal for our games. So each side had:

1 x Brigade of Grenadiers (Superior) with artillery support.
2 x Brigades of Line Infantry (Standard) with artillery support.
1 x Independent Cavalry Brigade.

Suprisingly the French  rolled well for their commands, with all of them being 'Dependable', which was echoed by the British, but they ended up with a 'Dashing' General. 
As I was the French, I set out my troops in with the Grenadiers holding the right flank (point of honour) and the cavalry the left, with the rest of the troops in a broad straight line. Dave followed a similar, but mirrored deployment.

Both sides deployed ready for battle.
The view from the French left wing.
Looking along the French battle line.
A similar view of the British.

Turn 1
Things got off to a poor start for the British as their Dragoons failed to move twice, despite having a re-roll courtesy of their 'Dashing' General. However the rest of their units moved as required, whilst the French held their line. As both sides opened up with their artillery, the French were truly shocking (being able to hit a barn door sprang to mind) whilst the British inflicted 4 hits on the French cavalry, forcing them back disordered.

The british get off to a good start, disrupting the French left flank with their artillery fire.

Turn 2
The French advanced whilst the British dressed their lines and then the artillery continued their exchanges of fire. This time the French Grenadiers caused 4 hits on the British cavalry in a tit-for-tat exchange of fire.

The French push forward, trying to anchor their flank on the wood, but take hits in the process.
As the British artillery moves forward, their infantry also takes hits from the French artillery.

Turn 3
The neat battle lines start to fragment under the effects of artillery fire and poor command rolls. One French Line battalion is forced back whilst their cavalry moves into a town in prepration of trying to flank the British Grenadiers. The French suffer as one of their Brigade commanders becomes 'hors de combat' after being hit by a stray cannonball, with a 'chinless wonder' (Dithering) taking his place. Whilst the French General moves over to offer words of encouragement, the British General is happily rallying off hits from his troops due to his commanding presence!

The battlefield fragments.
The French lines are somewhat disjointed.
A view from the French lines towards the well ordered British ones.

Turn 4
In a classic moment, I said words to the effect of: "As he's now a Dithering commander, if he rolls a 1, his Brigade will have to retreat." It will come a no suprise that I then proceeded to roll a 1, causing the Brigade to retreat as 'predicted'. Next time keep my mouth shut!

Elsewhere there was widespread movement and shooting right across the table, with the British broadly on the front foot. 

The French very much on the back foot after their 'Feeble' command roll.
The French artillery is somewhat exposed after their infantry Brigades have fallen back or become disordered.

Turn 5
As the British close, both sides left flanks come under pressure and the battle starts to wheel anti-clockwise around the centre.

The French cavalry in the town are in danger from the British Grenadiers, whilst the French Grenadiers in their turn are pressurising the British left flank.
The British Grenadiers in a threatening position.
The French have been forced back from the woods.
The French Grenadiers face a British Line and Cavalry Brigade, but both a disrupted as a result of artillery and musket fire.

Turn 6
The battle takes on a distinctly English Civil War feel as the line continues to wheel around the centre. As the fighting intensifies, both side lose units, with the French slightly worse off.

A very disjointed looking battlefield.
The French Dragoons take enough hits to force them off the board.
A French Battalion succumbs to the sheer weight of fire thrown against it...

... as does a British one.
The British have been pushed back in the centre and their left flank is now under severe pressure.
However the French left flank is not looking too good either.

Turn 7
As the battle raged on, the French left flank collapsed as a result of the weight of fire from the British Grenadiers. The British were under pressure as well, but the next Turn would be telling as to who might win.

The French left flank disappears.
Despite the British lines largely reforming, the French are not in a good position. 
The French Grenadiers are in danger from the British Dragoons that are on their flank, ready to charge.
The wide open space once occupied by the French left flank.

Turn 8
As the French desperately tried to dress their lines, the British Dragoons charged in and destroyed the French Grenadiers.

The 'End is Nigh'.
The French right flank about to disappear.
The isolated French centre.
The British Grenadiers ready to move against the French now that their flank has gone.

At this point the French, being well and truly beaten, withdrew into Minden to lick their wounds.

Post Game Thoughts
Despite the overwhelming British victory, it was a good game and at one point could have gone the way of the French. Losing out on the Fire Intitiative at crucial times certainly counted against the French. So as always a few thoughts on the game:

  • It was nice to be playing a SYW game after our outings set during the '45. Having Standard and Superior troops made for a nice and refreshing change.
  • The larger units certainly looked good and with their increased frontage, we used the 20mm  ranges etc. This made for quite a bit of movement, more than we've been used to of late, with the longer ranges seeming strange as well.
  • For the first 2 or 3 Turns, we forgot the effect that Generals can have on their Brigade commanders. Lesson hopefully learnt but fortunately it did not have a negative effect upon the game.
  • Using a historical battle as the basis of the game worked well we thought. Even though the forces were much smaller, the terrain worked well and gace some interesting challenges during the game. For example the central wood effectively split the table into two unequal sectors, with neither sector able to support the other. 
  • Both sides manhandled their artillery quite a bit during the game, which seemed a bit too 'Napoleonic' at times. The absence of any hills may have accounted for this or the speedy set up of our forces. It is certainly something to think about for future games and I'm going to read Duffy to see if he has anything to say on the subject. 
  • The Pendraken SYW figures are lovely and if I hadn't already invested in two AWI forces, I would certainly go for these as the colourful nature of the units is very appealing. 
  • Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I should have deployed my Grenadiers on the left wing so that they could have occupied the town and really anchored that wing. The Dragoons would have been much better on the right wing where they had more room to manouevre.
  • Dave deployed his artillery in more effective manner, with two batteries being side-by-side where they could combine their firepower to greater advantage. In contrast mine were too spread out.

So, we are due for another game next week, but I need to look at some of my scenario books or other battles for some inspiration. We may even try some form of hidden deployment to add a bit of 'fog of war' to our games. In the meantime I'm cracking on with my AWI/ImagiNations force so that I hope to be able to field a Battalion in the near future. They are bound to lose due to the curse of the newly painted unit!