Thursday, 17 June 2021

Newbury Again

I set up my Portable Wargame Newbury scenario again last night, using the new initiative/activations system, this time unchanged from the previous game.

Once again I randomised the deployment plans. Parliament (left) went for a front line of alternating foot and horse, with a second line of foot, whilst the Royalists (right) went for a shorter double line, with their foot to the fore and their horse behind, ready to strike out in either direction.

Both sides pushed forward, and reorganised, with neither making any wild advances. In this game there were more units in the enclosures towards Newbury (the far end of the board).

Parliament made the first attacks, with their horse striking at the Royalists on Wash Common. Unlike the previous game the combats were relatively inconclusive to start with.

On their left Parliament quickly gained an advantage, moving horse and dragoons through the enclosures to strike the Royalist right flank.

The raw Royalist foot stationed there quickly ran, but Royalist horse did their best to stabilise the situation. However their raw horse quickly came unstuck trying to take on Parliament's dragoons in the enclosures.

On the Royalist left they were slowly gaining the upper-hand in the cavalry combats. 

In the centre the Royalists attacked Round Hill. The obligatory infantry slog commenced.

Parliament reached their break-point first, but with the hill under their control, and actual unit losses relatively low they easily passed their morale test. They then inflicted enough casualties on the Royalists to force them to their break-point; breaking the unit attacking the hill was key here. With three units lost, and Parliament still seemingly in control of teh centre, the Royalists withdrew.

In fact the Royalist position wasn't a bad one. They still had foot available to take the hill, and had pretty much gained superiority of horse on their left. The situation in the enclosures near Newbury wasn't good, but a concerted strike at Parliament would have probably seen them run. But it wasn't to be.

The new systems worked fine, with both sides generally getting plenty of activations, but both also being starved of them at critical moments. Three random events came up, all for Parliament. They had one turn of increased activation chances (2+ instead of 3+) and two consecutive turns where their commander was indisposed and could neither move nor influence combats.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

First Newbury

I've been testing my new activation system for the ECW Portable Wargame with small games - about six units per side - so I thought that it would be useful to try it with a larger game. To that end I set up my 1st Newbury scenario again. This has ten units per side, so each army gets eleven activation dice to play with.

In addition to the activation system I used my modified combat result roll. I have in fact used them for all of these test games, so thought it best to repost them:

"When rolling for the effects of a hit, an unmodified die roll of 1 means that the unit loses 1SP and must then roll for the effects of a hit again applying the second result as well. This may be an unmodified 1, in which case keep rolling.

When rolling for the effects of a hit, an unmodified die roll of 6 means that the unit must retreat if it is able. You cannot lose an SP instead, unless no retreat is possible."

The first result messes with the steady attrition effect of the Portable Wargame, and allows for sudden collapses. The second means that there's always a chance your opponent will be forced to give ground, making attacks on defended positions more viable.

Anyway, here's the setup. I randomised the troops' starting positions using the diagrams in THIS POST on Portland Little Wars. Royalists are to the right and Parliament is to the left.

The Royalists are slightly stronger in cavalry, and massed most of it on their left.

Parliament's was more evenly distributed.

The Royalist cavalry rushed into the attack as Parliament's army advanced. The combats were bloody.

Parliament took Round Hill, which offers a morale bonus. The Royalist advance was still slow, hampered by poor activation rolls and a cavalry melee that wasn't going their was necessitating the moving of reserve cavalry to that flank.

The cavalry melee at its height. It continued to be savage; there were a lot of  ones rolled for combat outcomes and a lot of rolls of three or less.

The Royalists pushed forward aggressively in the centre as their cavalry began to collapse.

On the other flank, in amongst the enclosures, there was only some minor skirmishing between Parliament's dragoons and some low-quality Royalist horse. It had no real effect on the outcome of the battle.

Parliament defended strongly in the centre, throwing back the Royalists again and again. Casualties were mounting on both sides, but the Royalists had now lost a few horse units.

The Royalist horse finally collapsed, and Parliament's reorganised in order to turn the Royalist left flank. The Royalists were at their breaking point, but passed their morale check.

They threw their foot forward again. In the centre their artillery fired on the foot defending Round Hill, before hurling their infantry in for another attack. This time Parliament was pushed off the objective, and enough casualties were inflicted to take Parliament to their break-point.

Despite their positional advantage, Parliament's forces failed their first morale check, giving the Royalists a nail-bitingly close win.

Parliament's army fell back, damaged, but not excessively so, and with enough cavalry to ensure that the Royalists would be unable to effectively pursue. So whilst the Royalists had won a tactical victory, Parliamentarian army would live to fight another day.

The initiative system worked fine with the larger number of units, although eleven dice is something of a handful (for me, anyway - I only have tiny hands). I was pleased with how it all worked out.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

More Shakos And Bayonets

We had another game of Shakos and Bayonets on Thursday, with more troops and more terrain than the previous game. This time we even had cavalry. Caesar and Theo took the British, whilst Ian and I were French. Gary adjudicated.

These chaps were my responsibility. We played the basic encounter scenario, in a fairly wooded area, which really cut down the lines of fire.

Dashing French cavalry. I sent them off down the road on the hope that in the dense terrain I could jump on the British foot before they had chance to fire.

In fact Caesar moved his infantry out of the way before I got chance to move. A failure in our side's organisation of leaders and troops assigned to them meant that our cavalry wasn't as dynamic and responsive as we'd hoped it would be. Some British cavalry soon faced me down the road.

More French cavalry. This was Ian's. His got shot at and fell back.

On Ian's flank units of foot exchanged volleys across a field. Amazingly the French did OK here, inflicting some real damage on a group of British guard veterans.

Caesar and Theo ponder their best move ...

They let our cavalry act, so I charged. Unfortunately despite our Gallic superiority (and numerical one) the melee was inconclusive and we fell back with roughly equal casualties.

The British line were forming up impressively on their side of the board.

Another French volley caused consternation for teh British. For a moment we thought we'd shot one of their leaders, but it turned out that a sergeant was the man we hit. Curse the rules for transferring leader casualties to a nearby unit ...

Anyway, at that point we called the game. We're still learning, so it was taking us longer to play and run than it should. This isn't a set of rules you can quickly get into your head; there's a lot of factors and numbers to play with, and some mechanisms can be a bit fiddly; a firing unit may have figures with different fire factors based n range and intervening cover, and it all have to be tracked and calculated. None of it is complicated, but it is a little fiddly.

Since I'm writing the history I'm claiming a French victory, since we actually bothered to take one of the four objectives - the British concentrated on marching around and shooting Frenchmen. They would claim that it was an indecisive draw, but then they would, wouldn't they.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

More ECW Portable Wargame Activation

I tried some more experiments with my ECW Portable Wargame activation yesterday. 

In the first game I gave one free activation if the commander was active, plus 1D6 per unit, requiring 3+ to get activations. I set up a scenario where a small Royalist force of two units was defensing a river-crossing, with six Parliamentarian units attacking. At some random point the Royalists would get four units of reinforcements. I thought that would give a nice test of disparate forces, for at least part of the game. Activations still had to be done from either left to right or right to left, with units furthest from the baseline acting if there was more than one unit in the particular file.

Both sides had three regiments of foot, two of horse and one of dragoons, all classed as trained.

Here are the Royalist defenders; a regiment of foot and one of horse.

The advancing Parliamentarians. I randomised each unit's entry point, weighting foot to the centre and horse to the flanks.

Initial attacks on the bridge. I did allow the river to be crossed at any point, but there were movement and combat penalties if it wasn't done at the bridge. You can see some Parliamentarian foot crossing to the right of the picture.

The Royalists moved their horse to block the crossing; a unit crossing the river couldn't shoot, so the foot had a tough fight to make the opposite bank. However their own horse had crossed further downstream.

The Royalist reinforcements arrived. The bridge defenders had held, but with some casualties. However their left flank was in trouble and the Royalists would need to strengthen it quickly.

Parliament's foot pushed across the river, whilst their horse rallied after some setbacks.

The battle continued. On Parliament's right they were across the river, but the bridgehead was under attack. In the centre they were still fighting hard to take the bridge.

The Royalists quickly got the upper-hand, though, and Parliament's casualties caused them to break on the first army morale test.

The activation system worked OK, and seemed to activate enough units to keep the game free-flowing and interesting, whilst still requiring some decisions to be made about where to act. However I found the extra activation for the commander annoying to implement, so came up with a smoother way of doing things for the second game.

The second game was set up like the first, except units could no longer automatically cross the river; they had to expend an activation and try to discover a ford, needing a '1'. If they failed then that section of river couldn't be tested for by either side for the rest of the game.

In terms of activations, I now simply rolled 1 D6 for each unit including the commander. Each dice which rolled 3+ could be assigned to a unit, or given to the commander, allowing him to be moved (at the very start of the turn) or replaced if lost (at the very end of the turn). A lost commander didn't generate a dice though.

Once again the Parliamentarian entry was randomised and they all ended up appearing on their right flank, obviously interested in the small village there.

The pushed their foot forward to the river, whilst the dragoons scouted for fords. The horse was held back as there was little for it to do at this stage, since rough terrain along the river's edge made it a chore to scout.

The dragoons found a ford and started to cross. Meanwhile the foot assaulted the bridge.

However at that moment the Royalist reinforcements arrived, and with great energy (lots of activations) swiftly deployed.

On their right the Royalists dragoons took up the defence of the ford, driving back their Parliamentarian opposite numbers, but finding an advancing foot regiment a tougher foe. In the centre Parliament pushed back the defenders at the bridge and crossed the river.

However at that moment their commander fell, causing them to lose momentum as they replaced him.

The Royalists could have exploited this, but on the next turn their commander fell.

The Royalists rallied faster, and pushed Parliament back to their side of the river.

But Parliament sent in a second wave of troops, including their horse. The Royalist dragoons were routed.

Parliament soon had troops across at both the ford and the bridge. The fighting was fierce, and both sides reached their army breakpoint. Parliament passed their first morale test, but only just - their nominal holding of the objective saved them. The Royalists survived their first test. This was too much for Parliament, who withdrew their forces.

This second game was really close, and quite dramatic with both commanders falling so close together. The activation system worked smoothly and was easy to administer, with the choice of which direction to run the activations in being key on a few turns.

So the current turn sequence, for each side, is:

(i) Roll Random Event
(ii) If the army has reached its breakpoint, test morale.
(iii) Roll 1 activation dice per active unit (including the commander). Each D6 which score 3+ gives an activation.
(iv) If desired, spend an activation to relocate the commander.
(v) Assign activations to units. This is done before any of them act. If you wish to replace a lost commander, keep an activation to one side.
(vi) Activate units, one at a time, either from the left to the right or the right to the left. If more than one unit is in a file, activate those furthest from the baseline first.
(vii) If you kept an activation to one side, replace a lost commander.

I ran the following random event process:

Roll 2D6. If a double is scored, there is a random event. Use the number rolled as First D6. Roll a Second D6 to determine the specific event.

First D6 - 1-3

Second D6
1-3 - Inspired Command - You get activations on a roll of 2+ this turn
4-6 - Poor Command - You only get activations on a roll of 4+ this turn.

First D6 - 4-6

Second D6        
1 - Confusion - The enemy player picks one of your units and resolves an activation for it. If it fights in close combat it does so at -1. The unit does not give this side a D6 for activations and can't be activated again this player turn.

2 - Commander Indisposed - The army's commander does not give the side a D6 this turn, and neither may he be redeployed or replaced if currently lost. He may move if the unit he is attached to moves, but doesn't offer any combat bonuses this player turn.

3 - Panic - The enemy player picks one of your units, which immediately takes a 1SP hit. This cannot cause it to be destroyed, however.

4 - Brilliant Colonel - Pick a unit. That unit may immediately make a free activation. It still generates and activation dice and can activate again in this player turn.

5 - Rally - Pick a unit that has taken one or more hits, and roll 2D6. For each that score 4+, remove one hit.

6 - Inspiring Speech - EITHER Pick a unit. That unit gets a +1 the next time it either shoots or engages in close combat OR if you have to take a morale test this turn, you get a +1

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

B-17 - Winged Avenger

Over the past week I have flown some more missions with my current B-17 bomber, Winged Avenger. When we left it last it had been on four missions but had completely failed to hit a single target. Would this run of bad luck end soon?

Winged Avenger's 5th mission was to the u-boat pens at St Nazaire; a fairly difficult one. The trip out was mostly without incident, but just outside of the fighter cover a Me109 strafed the plane killing the bombardier, Lieut. Floyd. This left the crew unable to complete the mission, so they aborted and turned for home. The fighter cover mostly protected them, although an attack did knock out their radio. Sgt. Holden on the tail-guns picked up another kill - a 109. The plane to 6 Superficial Damage.

Lieut. Shannon was assigned as the plane's new bombardier, and the squadron's next target was an industrial one, Emden. Over the North Sea the plane was attacked by Me109s, one of which knocked out the plane's entire oxygen system. Once again the decision was taken to abort the mission. A group of three FW190s attacked as the aircraft made its way home, but the crew drove them off without taking any further damage. Indeed the superficial damage for this mission was zero, and Lieut. Shannon picked up a 109 kill on his first mission.

The next mission, the plane's seventh, was another long one - the u-boat pens at Kiel. Winged Avenger got halfway to the target when a 109 strafed the plane, knocking out the radio (again), wounding the navigator and seriously wounding the starboard waist gunner. It also damaged the bomb-bay doors. So once again Winged Avenger turned for home, having failed to reach the target.

This trip home was not straightforward, however. Wave after wave of fighters attacked it all of the way, forcing the pilot to evade in order to survive. Despite that the starboard gunner, Sgt. McBride, was killed, and the co-pilot, Capt. James, was seriously wounded. The tail was also badly shot up. Winged Avenger made it home though. Capt. James was invalided home, being replaced by Capt. Dixon, whilst Sgt. Rice took over the starboard waist gun. The plane took 8 Superficial Damage.

After two longish missions (or potential longish missions) the crew were happy to be given something over France - a relatively simple run to Rennes. Or so it seemed. At the end of the fighter-cover zone an attack saw not only the top-turret knocked out, but also the intercom., as well as damage to one of the engines. For the fourth time in a row the decision was taken to abort. Another attack saw the tail-gunner's oxygen hit, forcing the plane to drop altitude. A third attack was an even greater disaster, as a hit on the cockpit saw both the pilot and co-pilot killed. Mst. Sgt. Mahoney, the engineer took over. As he did so and FW190 appeared. It's fire raked the bomber, and hit one of the fuel tanks. Suddenly Winged Avenger became a ball of fire. None of the crew made it out. Before teh explosion winged Avenger had taken 20 points of Superficial Damage. 

So I need a new bomber for missions 18 onwards. And that's the third complete crew I have lost.

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