Saturday, April 14, 2018

Recent games

Besides prosecuting the Sharp Practice campaign with Vidal, I recently made the trip to the Trenton Gaming Emporium where Michael and I had an enjoyable weekend to ourselves to play a few games.

Rather than a lengthy game report for each, I've added a selection of photos from each (that's an easy excuse for not having the mental capacity to recall all of the in-game events). It might become apparent that the terrain looks remarkably similar in all three games. In fact, we kept the table mostly the same and only swapped out buildings as appropriate.

First up on the Friday evening, we pulled out the Americans and Panzer Grenadiers for some Chain of Command goodness...

A small sleepy French village.

Panzer Grenadiers!

GIs occupy the church.

On Saturday morning, we swapped out the buildings for Michael's new Eastern Front goodies...

A sleepy Russian village...

Soviet infantry begin to occupy the village. 

The little-used Italian infantry clash with their Russian foes. Also seen here is an Italian flamethrower tankette, which performed sterling service in the game.

A Russian T70 races toward the village.

Saturday afternoon we again altered the table for a Sharp Practice game with our ImagiNation forces... this time Gourmandie v KaiserReich...

A sleepy Gourmandie village...

KaiserReich light troops deploy to harass the enemy.

KaiserReich artillery and cavalry look over the village.

Gourmandie grenadiers deploy to defend their homeland.

A column of Gourmandie infantry move toward the redoubt (yes... another set of breastworks... they are fast becoming the bane of my gaming existence). 

KaiserReich infantry slide up to the village, unbeknownst to the defenders.

Gourmandie infantry see off an ill-fated cavalry charge on the redoubt.

KaiserReich infantry enter the village centre and capture the Gourmandie Deployment Point. KaiserReich victory!

Spanish mini-campaign: Turns 3 & 4

After the second battle (link) and the destruction of the bridge by French engineers, I felt that Capitaine Forchette's fortunes were, if not exactly rebounding, at least recovering. The loss of the bridge meant that the British, under Captain Kentmere would need to spend an entire campaign turn (Turn 3) negotiating passage of the river and rebuilding the bridge. The next battle north of the bridge would thus take place in Turn 4. This afforded the French some breathing room during which they could recover most (if not all) of their wounded.

And so, Capitaine Forchette would field four groups of infantry (all somewhat depleted), two groups of skirmishers and a group of engineers. The latter would be of doubtful value, as these would be needed if a battle were to be fought at the next river crossing. This French force was small but, I thought, good enough to inflict some damage on the British. I was under no illusions that I could hold out and win this battle. My hope was to inflict maximum damage and then scurry away north to the next river crossing, where I could delay and harass as I had done in Turn 2. 

The British force had lost one group of infantry but had been bolstered by the addition of the Spanish guerrilleros. An artillery Big Man had also joined Captain Kentmere's command. Vidal rolled up 12 support points and chose to add a light gun and crew and an extra 8-figure group of infantry (effectively replacing the group lost earlier). With only half of Vidal's support points for the battle, I chose 8 inches of breastworks, a secondary deployment point, a physic, and a holy man.

I chose to spend points on the breastworks because I thought they would be a counter to the considerable firepower of the British line infantry (not to mention the damned rifle units!). While it's true that fortifications can mitigate the effect of incoming fire.... it's equally true that they anchor your own forces and make them relatively immobile. In other words, they become sitting ducks!

As Capitaine Forchette was shaking off the morning cob-webs and seeing that his men were prepared for battle, his aide cautiously informed him that an entire group of infantry had, during the night, deserted to the enemy! In the immediate context, this meant the French force, already depleted, would now be down to three under-strength line infantry groups for the upcoming battle. In a broader context, this 6-figure group of French line infantry now permanently joins the British force, albeit with all characteristics removed and designated as Weedy Coves (perhaps a Légion étrangère?). 

Campaign Note: This situation was caused by Vidal's chance card draw and a die roll of 6 (of course)...

Roll 1d6

1: One group of troops deserts to the enemy (roll to see which). On a further roll of 6, an attached Leader will accompany them. They immediately (and permanently) join the enemy basic force as Weedy Coves. All other unit characteristics are removed.

2-3: as 1 above, plus… the remainder of your force sees the defection. Reduce your Force Morale by 2.
4-6: A group of enemy troops have deserted and permanently join your basic force as Weedy Coves. On a further roll of 6, an attached Leader will accompany them. All other unit characteristics are removed. Increase your Force Morale by 1.

Force Morale was rolled for and Forchette's woes continued: British 11 v French 8.... sigh.

Vidal chose the Flank Attack scenario and promptly placed his Primary Deployment Point halfway up the table edge. This is an extremely valuable option and I struggle to imagine a scenario where the attacker would not choose the option of the Flank Attack. For the French, I chose to have the Primary DP fairly central to the village and within easy distance of the breastworks. The secondary DP was placed to allow a rapid deployment to the left flank, if necessary.

In retrospect (the best view, of course), I should have reversed these DP placements. The Primary DP could have been buried further from the British DP and the French secondary DP placed near the breastworks. The same deployments can be made from either. Thus the Primary DP could have been better protected and the option to deploy into or near the breastworks preserved.

With no delay, French voltigeurs deploy into the breastworks. And thus, the slippery slope rears its ugly head! This would not be the last French unit drawn to the breastworks.

Damn!! 95th Rifles deploy in full view of the voltigeurs but out of their musket range. Of course, the French aren't out of range of the infernal rifles!

Guerrilleros deploy in the yard of the central house. They would prove to play little part in the battle besides the not inconsiderable role of looking damned pretty! 

 Before the French could deploy more troops into the breastworks, the British sledgehammer appeared and promptly loosed a volley at the lone voltigeur group. Two kills and a shock... against skirmishers in hard cover! And Sous-Lieutenant Jean-Francois Sébile wounded. French Force Morale dropped by one point to 7. Another Sharp Practice volley, courtesy of two command flags, caused two more kills and forced the voltigeurs to scuttle away to the rear. Were there any blue chips in that bag at all? The only good news was that the British column had masked the potential fire of the British artillery and rifles. This would prove to be of small consolation, however.

Capitaine Forchette finally deploys his three groups with the last voltiguer group as a screen and moves toward the breastworks. The plan here was to have the three infantry groups fan out into line behind the cover of the redoubt and loose a couple of volleys on the British.

A terrain bottleneck that is identified as a potential problem for the enemy can equally be a problem for one's own forces. I had recognized the closeness of the terrain in the village as a potential ally in mitigating some of the awesome firepower of the British infantry. But that would have required me to let them come through the bottleneck instead of me trying to rush through it myself in a foolish attempt to occupy the breastworks.

The British shake out into line to maximize their firepower, present arms and deliver a directed volley. Followed by another Sharp Practice-induced volley. 
Of course they did....

The French column, not even having reached the breastworks and having received two volleys, decides it wasn't liking what it was seeing and began to fall back.

and continued to retreat...

Capitaine Forchette managed to cobble together some semblance of order. The French infantry lined the hedges behind the village, awaiting the British onslaught.

The British Rifles began a sweeping move around the village (at the top of the photo). They would soon be in a position to fire indiscriminately at the remains of the French infantry (off-screen at the bottom right). Also at the top left of this photo can be seen the Légion étrangère.... disloyal bastards, all of 'em! It was at this moment that Forchette saw the futility of continuing and chose to retreat off the table. Thus, the battle, if that is what we could call it, was over.

Post Mortem: We found that, after calculating casualties etc, moving forward the French would be down to one group of line infantry, two groups of voltigeurs, and a group of engineers. The British, on the other hand, retained their extra group of infantry and the gun & crew. The Brits now had more than a 2:1 advantage in manpower (not to mention the differences in armament and troop quality). We decided on the spot that further resistance on the part of the French would be useless. Even with the scanty resources that the French force might acquire in further battles, the games themselves would be too overwhelmingly lop-sided to afford any enjoyment. I don't mind playing out-numbered  Forlorn Hope rear-guard scenarios but here was a situation where I could graciously concede defeat and we could move onto a new iteration of the campaign system. 

So, even though a Major Victory for Perfidious Albion, I had enormous fun in these three campaign battles. Campaigns, as always throw up different challenges versus one-off scenarios. I quite like the in-game interplay between tactical and campaign decisions.

Congratulations to Vidal and his Brits and and thanks to him for hosting the games in the Cambridge Gaming Emporium!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Spanish mini-campaign: Turn 2

After the serious casualties suffered by my French force in Turn 1 of the campaign, I decided that going into Turn 2, I would try to exercise some discretion. Capitaine Forchette's main force was quite depleted and could not hope to stand up to the British in a straightforward attack-defend scenario. Luckily, the second battlefield would see the British trying to negotiate a river crossing.

If the French could destroy the bridge and then cede the field while 50% or more of the British force was still on the wrong side of the river, the Brits would need to spend an entire campaign turn negotiating passage (i.e. repairing the bridge or finding an alternate crossing). Not only would this slow down the overall British advance up the valley, the French would have more opportunities to return more wounded to the force for turn 4.

Capitaine Forchette started with a rather depleted main force...

With 8 support points, the French were able to add an Engineer group (with Level I Big Man) to take on the bridge demolition, and bump up Sergent Denis Cuillère to a Level II Big Man for the battle. The plan was simple... destroy the bridge and scuttle away as quickly as possible (and cause as much damage as possible to the Brits as possible in the meantime).

As with Turn 1, the Chance Card draw for the French was less than advantageous...

"You have identified a spy and he has challenged you to a duel. You fight with -1d6 to your attacks, as you attempt to only wound the spy.  The spy duels with 4d6. He is subdued when reduced to 1d6. If the spy dies, roll on the BTH table as if you’ve lost a Level III leader."

Forchette immediately recognized the futility of such a heroic gesture (not really in his nature anyway) and refused the duel. His men, already holding him in low esteem, witnessed this cowardly (but admittedly pragmatic) act. The French Force Morale dropped by one to eight before the battle had even started. With luck and and solid plan, I hoped this would have little overall effect.

Captain Kentmere's force was little changed from the first battle and to this (after rolling for 16 support points) was joined by a light artillery piece (and Level I Big Man), a Moveable DP, a Marksman (of course), and a Level I Big Man to command the Guerrilleros. The British would start with a Force Morale of 11.

But just as Kentmere was about to have his force make the final approach to the river, a Lady’s maid had arrived and begged him for assistance. The maid's Lady, it seemed, had been captured by brigands (probably a polite euphemism for "the French") and was being held close by. Kentmere was required to attempt to rescue the lady. He would need to find her and escort her off his main table edge. Scanning the table,  it seemed the logical place to look was the small farmstead on the far side of the river. But Kentmere would need to get across the river first!

Vidal decided on an uncomplicated Attack & Defend scenario, which gave the French, as defenders, eight inches of breastworks (because I had added the engineer group to my force). I plopped it down on the only raised ground on the field with a clear field of view over the bridge and its approaches. I judged that with such a small force, I would need it. For the British Primary DP, Vidal chose a position "straight up the gut" in preparation for an assault on the bridge. Otherwise, the river was cross-able but with severe difficulty.

The French immediately deploy to defend the bridge and move to occupy the breastworks on the hill. In response, The redcoat behemoth deploys in column to advance on the bridge with the artillery set to support.

The ever pesky rifles deploy on the British right flank to take on whatever moves into the French breastworks. The French refuse to deploy into the redoubt as a target for the rifles (they've seen the damage that can be wrought by the green devils) and decide instead to wait behind the hill to see how the battle would develop.

The Lady can be seen in the farmyard, beside the French Primary DP. The British commander would need to fight his way across the river to find her.

The French engineers arrive and begin to set the fuse on the gunpowder barrels (note: the bridge should actually be wooden but we use what we have). Side note... I forgot to add the engineer Big Man's chit to the bag for the first couple of French phases...doh! So they arrived a little later than hoped for but... well, better late than never!

But the British are inching closer to the bridge to begin their final assault. This is gonna hurt, especially as the French have only one group guarding the bridge. It would be a race to have the engineers finish their work before the hammer fell. On the approach, the Brits have taken some hits from the French voltigeurs (off-screen to the bottom left).

The 95th Rifles, seeing no targets in the breastworks, have begun to move to the opposite flank to harass the French voltigeurs (the artillery has already been doing this, to little effect). Meanwhile the engineers continue their preparations to blow the bridge.

The bridge blows in the face of the British column (shades of Elliot Gould in A Bridge Too Far, no?). Now it would be a race to see if the French could exit the field before the British could get the majority of their force across the river. This would be made harder by reduced movement rates while in the river and that all formations are broken when making such moves.

The British left stunned by the explosion. This just became far more difficult!

The French begin racing off the field. The voltigeurs have been left behind as  rearguard (off-screen to the bottom right). And it seems the lady has been left behind in their haste.

And the British vainly trying to push across the difficult terrain along the river.

So, in stark contrast to the first battle, the French plan actually went to....ummmm, plan. The bridge has been destroyed and although the British retain the campaign initiative, the next battle north of the river will be in Turn 4 (and not Turn 3). This will give the French an opportunity to get some of their wounded back into the main force. As an added bonus, the engineer group and Big Man will remain with the French main force!

For the British, a bit of a mixed blessing. Although they've taken very light casualties so far, they have been delayed. On the plus side, the Guerillero Big Man has decided that he has nothing better to do and has decided to join the main force permanently. The artillery Big Man also remains with Captain Kentmere's headquarters but the gun and crew have been recalled.

And what of the Lady? The French force had disappeared before the Lady had even regained her hearing after the bridge explosion (in truth, Capitaine Forchette could have dragged her along with his force but in his excitement over the bridge demolition and the subsequent retreat, he totally forgot the Lady's presence). She will remain with Kentmere's force and provide some solace for the wounded.

Spanish mini-campaign: Turn 1

Off we go into the Spanish hinterland...

Turn 1: The British begin their trek northward in pursuit of the retreating French.

Captain Kentmere has decided to execute a Flank Attack in this first encounter of the campaign and rolls for 12 support points. With these he chooses a Spanish Guerrilla skirmish unit with a Level I Big Man, a Marksman, and a Secondary Deployment Point.

British main force (not including support point choices)

Facing the dastardly Brits, Capitaine Forchette (using 50% of the attacker's support points) has been able to bolster his force with a another unit of French line infantry (conscript & volunteer) and Secondary Deployment Point.

French main force (not including support point choices)

Unfortunately for Forchette, his aide had been captured immediately prior to the battle while reconnoitring the enemy positions. Forchette's command range was reduced to 3 inches and command initiative reduced to 1 for the battle (great start to the Chance Cards....merde!). This severe blow before the battle even started meant a serious challenge for the French (not that it isn't always a serious challenge facing the Brits). Capitaine Forchette would need to exercise some fancy Command & Control... not likely with only one command initiative.

To make matters worse, the French started with a Force Morale of 9 and the British with 11!

The British, using the advantages of a Flank Attack scenario, quickly established their Primary Deployment Point at almost the mid-point of the table and immediately bolstered that with a Secondary DP farther into the table. Was there a French plan to counter this? (I'm sure there was... at least that's the story I'm sticking to). I decided that the British would probably use both DPs to make a dash at the French Primary DP (seeing as they weren't really far apart).Thus, an aggressive French opening gambit saw the two voltigeur groups deploy along the ridge overlooking both British DPs. This, I thought, could perhaps draw off some of the British attention away from my Primary DP.

The French volitgeurs took advantage of their longer deployment distance and the bonus for out of Line of Sight. 

Spanish Guerilleros deploy off the British Secondary DP and out of sight of my voltigeurs. Ah, so he was going to try and make a dash at my DP with skirmishers? Or just getting the newly-painted figs on the table so we could go oooh and ahhh? I suspect the latter and they did look lovely (Front Rank figures from the Vidal's patient brush).

Then BOOM! A four-group formation of British lights. Not a lot of subtlety with this sledgehammer. But could I slow it down or distract it?

And the 95th Rifles deploy to take on the French voltigeurs. These would prove to be the bane of the French. They can sit outside smoothbore musket range and still hit on fives and sixes. Yikes!

I decided that the voltigeurs were too exposed on the hilltop, especially given that the British rifles were advancing to get them under fire. So the first step in my plan was almost immediately thwarted. The voltigeurs proceeded to scamper along the ridge line to avoid the rifles' field of fire and perhaps put some fire onto the British line formation. I've learned that with this red behemoth, it's best to get as much firepower onto it as possible and try to whittle it down before it can get close enough to start hurting. Perhaps fittingly, I don't have a photo of the next check to the less-than-masterful French plan. The British rifles continued to advance and were able to pour some long-range fire into the voltigeurs. The choice of a marksman proved quite valuable as he almost immediately took down the commander of the voltigeurs, Lieutenant Gaston Poignard. In an instant, the French lights were rendered leaderless and, for all intents and purposes, quite useless (given that Capitaine Forchette couldn't intervene with his single Command Initiative). 

Seeing the British demonstrating a serious move to take the French DP, Capitaine Forchette decides to try a coup de main and sound the Pas de Charge! Unfortunately, the attack falters and his men don't seem quite as willing as their commander (he isn't particularly well-liked, after all). The charge falls short!
 The result of the ensuing British volley and a subsequent French charge. 
Capitaine Forchette has lost two of his three infantry groups and British have lost one. Time to cede the field!

And thus the first engagement goes to the British, in decisive fashion. Initially, I had hoped to keep the tactical initiative and force Vidal to deploy to counter my moves. This did happen, in fact, as he sent out 95th Rifles to take on my voltigeurs. As Vidal is learning how to use these expensive units effectively, I am struggling to find a way to counter them. In open terrain, they can sit outside the French smoothbore musket range and pick away at whatever they choose. If, in the open terrain, the French choose to force the issue and get closer, the rifles can simply scuttle away. In closer terrain, I think the faster loading time of the smoothbores and their ability to get closer without undue exposure to the superior range of the rifles may help the French lights. Regardless, the deployment of the voltigeurs was not only my first attempt in the battle to show initiative but also the last (not counting the charge of the French column later in the battle.... and that was definitely reactionary).

As for the grand charge at the British line... definitely a mistake (especially given Forchette's reduced command initiative for this battle). I'll just chalk that up to over-enthusiasm.

The French will go into the second battle down 21 men (10 dead and 11 wounded). Most of these were suffered in the final charge. Serves me right for such a foolhardy attempt at glory! Some small consolation is that the extra line infantry group will stay with the main force. But this is definitely small consolation since i lost the equivalent of three groups in dead and wounded. Sigh...

The British will be short a mere handful (four, if I remember correctly) and will retain the initiative. They also retain the Guerrilleros with the main force (but not their commander...hmmm).