Friday, 30 January 2015

The Road To Poltava - Part 1

For our club game last night Caesar and I looked at how many One Hour Wargame scenarios we could whip through, in the form of a linear mini-campaign loosely based on that of Poltava and using the GNW version of my square-grid rues 'See The Elephant'.

I used the same campaign structure I used for the Missouri campaign I played out a couple of weeks ago, but with a prettier map. The Swedes had to advance from The Borders to The Heartland to The Gates of Moscow and then win a battle there to take Moscow itself. The Russians had to win three battles in The Borders. If there was no result after five battles then there would be a sudden-death playoff - the Fortified Defence scenario, representing in this case the Battle of Poltava.

The winner of a battle received a reroll token which could be used in subsequent battles. They also got to be the Attacker, which meant that they were allowed to choose which side they were in the next scenario after seeing the tactical situation. The Swedes started as attacker.

Caesar opted to be the Russians, and our first scenario was The Bridghead. One side has a bridgehead over a key river, and must extend and consolidate it. The other rushes troops from all points of the compass to prevent this. I chose to react to the bridgehead, so the Russians started with one unit on table, whilst I started bringing in reinforcements. My cavalry arrived first.

The battle developed as more troops arrived, but some poor initiative rolls meant that the Swedes hung back initially, whilst the Russians were able to push across the river.

The Russians were trapped between two Swedish infantry wings, with their backs against the river.

They held firm, and in the dying turns of the game all I could hope for was a furious attack to contest the bridgehead and force a draw.

The Russians drove me off, to win the first encounter.

Caesar now had the initiative as the Swedes tried to advance into Russia again. The next scenario was Counterattack. Caesar was defensing a small town on a road, whilst trying to take a bridge defended by a single enemy unit. But more Swedes were on the way, and could use the fords on each wing. The objective for both sides was to control both the bridge and the town.

Swedish artillery defended the bridge, and held off the Russian attack until reinforcements arrived.

My attacks on the fords stalled in the teeth of a dogged Russian defence, and the battle became focused on the bridge; with it looking unlikely that I could reach the town in time, I had to concentrate on holding the bridge in order to avoid another defeat. Caesar charged with his cavalry against the wavering artillery defenders.

His cavalry swept the Swedish artillery away, but they were unsupported, and a Swedish cavalry counterattack routed them at the first charge. This left Caesar's centre wide open and changed the game. All of his forces were now pinned at the fords on the flank, and the road to the town was clear. I pushed my cavalry along it to take the second objective, whilst his troops couldn't reach either in time. A last-minute victory for the Swedes saw me advance into the Russian heartland.

At one game each the initiative switched back to me. The next scenario was one of my favourites - An Unfortunate Oversight. I chose to be, once again, the defenders of a river-crossing, whilst Caesar's troop appeared to be attacking it but were, in fact, sneaking around a ford far out on my flank. It was a reverse of the Battle of Holowczyn.

Whilst the Swedes concentrated around the town to the right of the picture, the Russians move across the river to the left.

Artillery dueled across the river.

Both armies slowly formed up. The fighting swung back and forth ...

... but it was the Russians that eventually took and held the hill.

This second Russian victory pushed the Swedes back to the Borders space. 

At that point we decided to call it a night, having played three games in three hours. After all, it will be easy enough to finish the campaign off another evening. We'd played three games in three hours, which was pretty good going. We decided to end there because it was impossible for the fourth game to be decisive - the campaign must either go to the fifth or sixth (and final) battle.

The modified rules held up well. The change such that dice which failed to activate units could be used to rally is especially interesting, forcing decisions as to whether to use units or rest them.

I picked six scenarios from the book to cover the first five games (so even the fifth would be a random pick). Three of them involve river crossings, and all three of them came up.

There were two other games on the go when we we playing all that.Firstly there was a big battle DBA game using the new 3.0 rules. 

And, secondly, a game of BKC, with a modified refight of the Crossing the Narew scenario we played last year

Ralph - with burning tanks.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Programmed Broken Ground

This afternoon I thought I'd run my Russians and Swedes through another of Charles S Grant's programmed Wargames scenarios, so went for the second on - Broken Ground. Once again I opted to play the attackers, and ended up attacking nine Swedish units with twelve Russians.

Because I failed to reconnoiter I had to deploy and decide my plan before I saw the Swedish dispositions. They went for strong flanks and a weak centre, which was not a bad random section for them given that the centre was dominated by a marsh. My job was to clear an area of scattered hills and woods of Swedish units in order to secure a road.

Here's the initial deployment, although the cavalry on my right flank isn't visible. I had a strong infantry force on my left, tasked with clearing the wooded hills opposite them. The infantry on the road was to either attack the centre, with artillery support, or swing over to attack the Swedish left. On my right a few infantry, and my cavalry, were given what I assumed would be the simple task of securing the scattered hills there.

I launched the attack on the right first, sending in cavalry against their Swedish counterparts deployed on the hills.

The Swedes fell back, but I couldn't inflict casualties; they retreated, but kept coming back.

My guns opened up on the Swedish centre, battering the infantry there. My infantry moved up to take the small hill in advance of the main Swedish line.

However despite generally adopting a static defence - their programmed orders - the Swedes counter-attacked with their cavalry, and very much inconvenienced me.

On my left the Russian infantry finally started to move.

A unit finally pushed through to the Swedish centre, but the road junction was covered by infantry and artillery and I couldn't make any headway against them.

Another Swedish cavalry charge broke one of my infantry units.

The left flank continued to move forwards, now supported by some Russian cavalry which had switched flanks owing to an unfortunate series of retreat results.

The Swedes had deployed an infantry unit in reserve, and as the Russian's attack on their left had started to grind down their defences there, had committed it early in the game. It now arrived to support the cavalry, leaving my chances on that flank very slim.

With the attack on the right running out of steam, my only chance of ending the game with any credit rested on my left, so I threw my infantry into the attack.

Fierce fighting saw the Swedes pushed back.

But mounting casualties saw the Russians fall back to regroup.

And a further advance was stymied by yet another Swedish cavalry charge.

At that point I ran out of daylight. On the right I had just about secured the hills there, although the Swedes were still resisting. But in the centre the Swedes still had a strong line, and my attack on their right was still ongoing.

So, on the whole, this was a fairly convincing win for the programmed Swedes.I was stopped by fierce cavalry attacks on both flanks that just wouldn't go away, forcing me to spend more time and effort than I had holding them off.

However it was another win for the CSG scenarios, as the game was great fun to play.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Stalin vs Hitler

I used a number of things as inspiration for my Weird WWII HOTT armies, and one of them was a Russian comic-strip by Alexey Lipatov I came across back in the early days of my surfing the 'net, featuring an epic super-powered battle between Hitler and Stalin.

The pictures themselves were enough to give me the idea of Stalin and Hitler as the actual army generals, and of fielding Hitler as a dark magician, but I'd never read the dialogue, because it was in Russian and my Russian is limited to 'please', 'thank you' and asking for directions.

Time has moved on, and it appears that some years ago people translated the words and re-lettered the comic. Here are the first three panels:

You can read the rest HERE

There's a lot to enjoy in it, but I love the fact that Stalin sounds like Sean Connery.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Mighty Elves Of Mantic

I played three games of HOTT tonight, using my 28mm Morally Ambiguous Mighty Elves of Mantic. These are mostly Spears and Shooters, but in the first game I fielded a Magician as well, and in the other two added a Hero to the mix.

In the first game I played against Geoff's Dark Elves. Geoff looks baffled in this picture.

The battle was a fairly straight head-to-head fight in which by dint of good combat rolls I cut my way through his army to pick up a fairly convincing win.

Geoff swapped to some Nicer Elves, with Warband, Knights and Shooters.

His knights charged my archers. This never goes well in HOTT. Every last Knight was destroyed, and Geoff conceded the game.

Finally I played against John's Riders of Rohan. I did well at the start, almost wiping out his spear-line.

Then my PIPs dried up, and with an exposed flank my line was rolled up as I tried push forward and inflict kills faster than my army was disintegrating. I didn't.

These were my first HOTT games of the year, and first for a couple of months actually.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Little Lesnaya

Some of the scenarios in 'One Hour Wargames' are inspired by actual battles. 'Surprise Attack' is based on Quatre Bras, but after playing it at the weekend with GNW Russians attacking Swedes I then read an account of the 1708 Battle of Lesnaya, and realised that it's a very similar setup. At Lesnaya the Russians, under Tsar Peter, attacked a Swedish force that was escorting a supply train. A small Swedish force held the Russians at first until it was outflanked and pushed back, with the main body of the Swedish army coming up in support and forming a line which just about prevented a total rout.

With the similarity in mind, I rejigged the scenario to make it closer to Lesnaya. I dropped the roads, and changed the marsh in the OHW setup for more woods, which were expanded to the board edge. I flipped the north and south edges. The objective became a village - Lesnaya - on the Swedish baseline (the south). The Swedes were defending, with two units of infantry in a gap between the woods. The rest of their army - two more infantry and two cavalry, would appear later, the infantry from their base edge, and the cavalry  from the east, but south of the woods.

The Russians would appear in three forces, one entering on each of the first three turns. First would be three infantry, appearing in the centre of the northern edge. Two guard infantry units would appear on Turn 2 to the right of the infantry, whilst a single cavalry unit would appear on Turn 3 to the left of the infantry.

Here's the initial setup.

The line infantry forms up for the attack as the guards appear, led by Pete himself (who has no function in the game and is just garnish).

The guards move towards the woods to bypass and outflank the Swedish line, whilst an exchange of musketry breaks out in the centre.

All of the Russian units are now on the move, with cavalry working its was around the Swedish right. But to the right of the picture can be seen more Swedish infantry coming up in support.

The reinforcements form up before Lesnaya.

Peter's guard work their way through the trees.

Under a relentless Russian assault the first Swedish unit breaks.

The Swedish reinforcements move to plug the gap, as the Russian guards form up on their left flank.

A fierce Swedish charge drives the Russian infantry back.

The Swedes are under pressure now, though, with the guards on their left flank, and Russian cavalry on their right.

The Swedes fall back on the village as their own cavalry arrives in support.

Tsar Peter advances the guards.

Swedish infantry flees before them, but a cavalry counter-attack drives off some of Russia's finest troops.

Tsar Peter is forced to ride to safety, pursued by Swedish troopers.

The Swedish cavalry reforms for another attack, but the Russians have a clear run at the village now, with the last of the Swedish infantry having fled in disarray.

The Russians take Lesnaya. Time is running out, and only a single cavalry unit is in a position to prevent a Russian victory.

They charge the village ...

... and fail to drive out the Russians. It was a close battle, but the Russians secured a victory.

On the whole the scenario worked as a stripped-down refight of the battle. I may stagger the arrival of the Russian units just a little - on the day there seems to have been a bit more blundering about in the woods - but otherwise I think it's basically good enough. I shall give it a replay over the weekend sometime.

Oh, setup time was five minutes, and it took just under thirty minutes to play.
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