Sunday, 15 February 2015

Return Of The Sudanese

Just over a year ago I played a game set during the French intervention in Mexico in the 1860s, in which a flying column of Austrian and Sudanese troops attempted to clear Republican guerrillas from part of the railway line from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. You can read about it HERE.

I was reminded of this game the other day when looking at one of the later scenarios in One-Hour Wargames. Defence in Depth has a small, partially irregular, force holding off a larger, more organised opponent in relatively dense terrain.  The larger force has to drive across the board and exit troops off a road in one corner. It struck me that I could easily use the OHW Horse and Musket rules, with my own variations, for the Mexican Adventure, and it would be worth playing it as the the railway scenario to see how it worked out.

Here is the initial setup. On the left is the railway line. In the original scenario this is a road, but I just kept the rules the same. South of the river is a defensive position - a town in the original scenario, but for this I just made it a series of barricades and breastworks; it still provided cover for any unit in it.

The Republicans ended up with two units of guerrillas, one of infantry and some cavalry. The infantry manned the defences, whilst the guerrillas lurked in the woods. The cavalry was held back as a reserve.

Their opponents were a mixed bag. Along the railway line came some Sudanese troops, Austrians and some local Mexican regulars.

Mexican cavalry moved towards the ford on the other flank, supported by a mixed group of Sudanese and Mexican light infantry.

Firing immediately broke out at the barricades, with the Sudanese and allied Mexicans bearing the brunt of it, whilst the Austrians lurked in reserve. Unable to enter the woods they couldn't work around the flank.

The cavalry crossed the river, and headed towards the railway, harried by ineffective fire from the guerrillas in the woods.

However the Republican cavalry charged in to stop them. The OHW Horse and Musket rules limit cavalry vs cavalry fights by having them take half casualties. I wasn't sure about that, and it's dropped in the next set of rules for the Rifle and Sabre era, so I compromised. I had cavalry fight cavalry at 1D6, rather than 1D6+2. Blown cavalry would fight at 1D6-2.

The cavalry melee swung back and forth, but the second attacking unit slipped past, making a run for the railway and the exit point. To win the attackers have to exit at least half of their force off the southern edge via the railway, so getting something off quickly seemed to be a good plan, especially as the cavalry were limited in which enemy units they could engage, most of them being in woods and the barricades.

An overview of the action a few turns in. The firefight continues at the barricades, whilst the cavalry fight it out on the other side of the board. The Sudanese light infantry worked their way past the guerrillas in the woods, firing as they went. For this game I carried on testing my changes to the skirmisher rules, allowing them to shoot if they moved, but only at half range.

The Republican cavalry routed the opposing lancers.

Meanwhile the other attacking cavalry reached the railway, through a hail of ineffective fire from the woods and the barricades.

The Republican regulars in the barricades finally buckled under the attack from the Sudanese and their allies, and routed, leaving the railway clear.

The infantry formed up into column and marched to cross the bridge.

Meanwhile their cavalry exited the board, still under fire. One unit off, two to go.

With a strong infantry force moving down the railway, the Republicans moved to block their advance as best they could. There was no way that the barricades could be reoccupied before the attackers reached them, so a secondary position was established on the railway line by the woods. The guerrillas from the central woods moved across in support. In the midst of all this the Sudanese light infantry also tried to reach the railway ...

... only to be ridden down by the Republican cavalry.

The guerrillas established themselves as the Sudanese crossed the river.

The Sudanese were in a tricky position. They needed to push forward as fast as they could, but that left their flanks exposed to the Republican cavalry. The other infantry couldn't easily move up in support until the Sudanese cleared the bridgehead.

The Sudanese opted to engage the cavalry with fire, hoping to drive it off quickly so that they could continue their advance. The cavalry now had the option of pulling out, which would make it harder for them to return to the fight in time to influence it, or continue to threaten whilst taking casualties. They opted for the latter, melting away as their casualties became too great. But they had delayed the advance for a couple of turns.

The Sudanese pushed down the railway to where the guerrillas were waiting.

The guerrillas in the woods were well--served with cover, but those on the railway were easily outgunned by the regulars facing them, and soon their casualties became too much to bear.

This was the last turn though. The attackers had just enough movement to exit the Sudanese infantry, but not the Austrians following them.

At the end of the game two of the three required attacking units had exited the board. The Republicans had won, with the delay caused by the threat of their cavalry probably being the key.

This was a much more satisfying game than the one I played last year, with much the same feel but running far more smoothly. The fact that the last couple of turns could have seen either side win it was great; it was a very close game indeed.

The skirmisher change worked quite well, allowing them to harass enemy troops quite effectively, and mount a mobile defence. I will probably add in the changes to cavalry vs cavalry combat into my Liberation games. No cavalry went blown during the course of the game, so I couldn't check how that affected things. One adjustment I have made to the blown rule, though, is that it's only made if the cavalry have to fall back. So if they destroy their opponent they carry on fighting at full effect. This gives more incentive for them to be used to decisive attacks, as well as creating a kind of follow-up/pursuit effect.

For those that are interested, the figures, barricades and trees are all from Irregular Miniatures, whilst the railway is from Junior General.

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