Wednesday, January 22, 2020

General d'Armee - Battle for Mont St Jean

Game at Mikes using General d'Armee and scenario from 100 Days 'Battle for Mont St Jean' simulating d'Erlons ill-fated assault at Waterloo.
All figures were Mikes (bar a few French skirmish bases I brought) and he set up the terrain using his excellent mats (I do so covet those !).
We diced for sides with Bryn and Simon controlling the British forces and Billy and I the French with Mike umpiring.
Last time I played GDA was June last year and it showed especially as had not had chance for more than briefest skim over (the chaps had not played for awhile either) and was relying (ha ha ha) on memory of using them.
Still despite not really knowing what we were doing rules-wise it was a good game with poor old d'Erlons force coming a cropper in face of British Infantry (Cavalry not part of this scenario - it would only have been worse) on ridge after plodding across table.
Not performing Charges correctly with regards support units as I forgot (Wargames 101) to physically move them in support of chargers meaning when we went through 'check-list' they were sitting back outside support distance despite having advanced across 4' of table arrayed just so as to take advantage of support rules whilst avoiding Massed Column target.
However I did managed somehow to recall that British foot 'winning' charge phase could counter-attack.
Simon did not use but Bryn did to hurtful effect on Billys units.
With a couple of Brigades Faltered and time moving on we called it a clear British win despite the central British Brigade melting away (2 failed Falter rolls).
The uniqueness of d'Erlons assault formation is maybe (without a specific scenario rule) tad hard for GDA to replicate with its Stop-Go movement system.
In GDB one could simply give all his Brigades Assault Orders from get go but in GDA the system of ADCs and rolling to Activate Brigades every turn makes it hard to keep his units in the rather monolithic massed formation, hard to say definitively on one play of scenario and without fully grasping rules.

I had also forgotten how much I like many aspects of GDA with the excellent Charge and Outcomes tables, straightforward shooting and moves and nice 'Napoleonic' feel to proceedings overall.
The kind of arbitrary ADC/Orders system not my favourite aspect but generally it works in the game.

French advance begins (note 'perfect' deployment re supports/mass !)

British left commanded by Simon (some blokes in white uniforms standing in as Brits)

Bryn on British right as Billys skirmishers appear

Billys Brigades approach (again set up 'perfectly' !)

Billy had a 3rd Infantry Brigade as an on-table reserve but we both totally forgot about it (theme of the night) as it was marked by paper in lieu of figures (damn British ruse !)

Bryn relaxed as his troops 'hug' the reverse slopes with only guns and skirmishers showing

Brigade in British centre was soon to melt way (IIRC after loss of gun battery ?)

Simons Brits doing same Reverse Slope hugging action.

View across Billy and Bryan area of contention with Mikes excellent La Haye Sainte in distance (not actually part of this scenario - a larger version includes farm)

Simon and I discussing the finer points of Deployments and Off Table Reserves (another rule we got wrong as they should have been treated as Reinforcing Brigades). 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Liberty Or Death - first outing in anger

Played Liberty Or Death for first time with my Dad with he as British & Indians and I as Patriots and French using the Full Scenario set up (1775 onward).
I had played a solo game to get mechanics of game into brain, of course it is a COIN game so basic stuff is standard but as always with quirks unique to individual game and new sets of Operations (termed Commands here) and Special Activities.
Main change from other titles is the introduction of dice rolls for 'pitched' Battles (actually representing the outcome of a series of battles in an area) to establish and some political bonuses to winner (Patriots with Washington get more 'renown' benefits if they defeat a British force).
The level of casualties are recorded (the actuall casualties return to Available boxes on a Winter card) as these influence Victory Levels and indeed French Arrival.
There are also named Leaders such as Washington, Howe for each faction with some getting several that can appear on Winter Quarter cards.
Each Leader has an 'ability' such as Washington increasing Political influence after winning a Battle and reducing on losses by 1 if defending, Gage can increase Militia losses after a Skirmish activity and so forth.
Each Faction has a one use only Brilliant Stroke card with French having an additional card to bring them fully into the game, these Trump Event cards and some can Trump each other, these allow 2 Free Limited Actions and a Free Special Activity only caveat is that a Leader must be involved in one of these Actions.
French and Indians both rather different factions not really like those in other games.
French spend 2-3 Years (a year ends with turn of Winter Quarters card) niggling the British by supporting Patriots but with no actual piece in the Colonies, as they build up forces/political will to intervene directly in war.
They have very limited options as regard Commands and Special Activities but can still be thorn on British side by paying to raise Patriot units or Resources.
The Indians are erstwhile British Allies, and I confess was dubious that they were a viable faction in a game about US revolution (not that well read on their 'exploits' or influence on events), but they are actually a well rounded faction in their own right with several very interesting options open to them.
Their Raids (sort of Terrorism in modern COIN scenarios) can effect the key Patriot opposition levels (local population not keen to suffer these raids), and their Warpath special action can hurt the Patriot cause by attrition of their forces.
They can place Villages to aid certain Commands and indeed need to for their Victory Conditions.
I should add Victory Conditions for each Faction are split into 2 a primary and secondary condition which can determine who suffers the Winter card events.
British and Patriots are more recognizable as Government/Coalition types but again with several twists and quirks.
British have a lot of units with both British Regulars and Tory (Royalists) units and some powerful Commands (Muster can see up to 6 British Regular appear in one go and as many Tories as one can pay for or force pool allows !).
Britannia also rules waves (at least until French navy pokes its nose into affairs) with essentially unfettered access to the (mostly) coastal Cities via the Atlantic (kind of works like a Road/Communications network), the later French use of Blockades can disrupt this.
British and French also contest the West Indies from whence French Naval Squadrons sortie and this area is worth 5 Resources so not to be ignored.
Patriots are a mix of a Regular type and Militia (closest faction equivalent I can think of is NVA in Vietnam game) with Continentals equivalent of British Regulars, albeit less numerous, and Militia sort of like Guerrillas who can use Propaganda (again a type of 'Terrorism' effect) to stymie British Support in areas and the wee sods can pop up in Cities and Provinces with their insidious agenda.
Much more to game and its interactions, strategies than this brief outline and single play can convey but like every other COIN game I have tried it is an excellent gaming experience even with two players (would love to get a 4 player session in sometime with at least one title) and indeed solo, in fact I think this game is one of better 2 player COIN game experiences (with obvious exception of Colonial Twilight).
My only gripe with game is that an awful lot of action can occur in Massachusetts area which is very tiny (first time I have had to use on board Command Grouping areas) but that is down to geography/practicality, a less intrusive 'annoyance' is transposing of New York City and Philadelphia into Atlantic Area to give them a playable area but one can tend to forget they are actually adjacent to other regions not just Atlantis wannabes :-)
As to game we managed to play through 3 Winter Quarters cards (I should say these have varying Special Events that can effect one player) years and game ended at end of 1777 with Patriot win, as it seems in this game in two player mode you can win with a single faction Victory Level.
++Edit - nope found rule that like all other COIN games both factions must ‘win’ for a side to auto-win++
Great stuff and next play will no doubt be much different as we both now have at least some idea of strategies and interactions (certainly do not attack Washington if he has a strong army and a Fort as rather tough to defeat and a loss to him has repercussions !) never mind the ever changing mix of cards in deck and order of play.

Set up 1775 start, Stand up counters are Leaders (optional 'flat' counters available)

Later in 1777 French have appeared (white cubes) in New Hampshire. Note 2 Command Group counter in Massachusetts (contained Patriot, British and Indian Pieces

French also in Norfolk which Patriots had stolen from Royalist control

Tory Royalists (Green cubes) have mustered all across the seaboard and adjacent Colonies. Note Casualties box full (on left top) and the adjacent Command Grouping box showing the units of both faction in (yes you guessed it) Massachusetts.

Southern Colonies pretty much neglected by both of us all game

At end a narrow Patriot win but getting 11+ more Opposition than Support on board and having slightly better adjusted number of Forts built than Indian Villages.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Field Of Battle - Battle of Umbuto Gorge (only without the gorge or sharpened guava halves)

Game using Field of Battle 2 (might this be its swansong with version 3 nearing completion ??) at Elimination Club last night, and what a cracking game it twas' !
Some chaps were doing Isandlawhana in 28mm with Black Powder but Billy and I decided to do a Zulu War game in 15mm using FOB in case BP game was oversubscribed.
Billy has Anglo-Zulu troops in 15mm (really nice with excellent basing) and so he provided those and I brought rules, terrain, game mat and a rough scenario.
Terrain was sort of rolling grassland with a Rorkes Drift style Mission Station/Farmstead in middle with a dry riverbed straddling the table.
British (played by Simon and Dave) set up in defence around the Mission Station with Zulus (Billy et moi) attacking.
We essentially used the traditional Zulu 'horns of the buffalo' attack with 2 Horns and a Head with the Loins remaining off-table (had things gone awry for Zulu early on I planned to recycle their destroyed units in the Loins as reserve).
Zulus fielded 40 units of Warriors and 6 Units of Riflemen divided into 5 Impi with D10 Leaders and a D10 General (I made all Leaders in game D10 for simplicity).
British had 2 Battalions Groups of 4 British Infantry with a 7pdr cannon each a third 'Battalion' with 2 Companies of Naval Infantry a Gardaner Machine Gun a unit of Natal Mounted Police and Boer Mounted Horse.
Four additional Boer Mounted were divided into 2 more Command Groups (again all Leaders and General were D10)
Both forces had Average quality decks but I did add in a few period cards (and took the Arty firepower cards from Zulu deck) in form of Sneaky Heathens into British Deck (this proved very useful) along with 2 MG and 1 Breechloader firepower cards whilst Zulus had 2 Fanatic Action 1 extra Melee card 1 less Inf firepower and 1 extra Move 1 Command Group card.
Not much in way of special rules beyond those in FOB except a rule (from a chap Chris Velas on FOB Bakebook site) wherein if British fire rolls even the Zulus are 'Pinned' meaning they must Rally to move a sort of 'Staggered' effect.
This proved a nice addition as Zulus in Mass formations cannot interpenetrate each other.
I made the British mounted troops as sort of Skirmish units for Movement but with minuses when targeted or shooting but being C8 D6 types and using Musket ranges for shooting.
Most Warriors were C10 D6 with a few (5 units) classed as Veterans at C12 D8.
I made Zulu rifle units 'proper' Skirmish types but C8 D4, in hindsight they acted at times a bit too like Voltiguers so may teak in future to just Line type units.
British Foot were potent  C12 D6 with Rifle ranges and both Cannons and MG were C10 D6.
British had a beefed up 30 Army Morale Level and the Zulus 50.
For speed of play we used the 28mm ranges which actually worked well on our 6'x4' set up this gave British rifles a whopping 15" range which they used to good effect.

Game developed as only a Piquet type game does (so much better than a set sequence of play) with Zulus getting initiative and a couple of Move cards which saw the 'Buffalo' advance right into British faces (the British players said it really felt like a wave of Zulus descending on them) with Horns heading to flanks.
British volleys however proved deadly with their Commanders electing several times to fire twice and be unloaded, crossing fingers (and maybe sphincters!) for Infantry reload cards.
They did manage to get 1 reload in their Initiative meaning Zulu waves subjected to 4 Volleys !!
The 'Stagger' rule came into play on a couple of occasions with 2 or 3 Zulu units Pinned and they stayed that way for ages as we failed to pull Leadership cards (a re-shuffle not helping).
This meant Zulus had to spend several Move segments getting around these 'road-blocks'.
Appearance of Sneaky Heathens card assisted greatly.
However sadly for the British they remained unloaded on next a key Initiative won by Zulus who then managed (Fanatic Action helped) to get into contact with their Foot and Even rolls saw several Immediate Melees followed by a Melee card allowing supporting Zulus a second blatter at the British lines.
Lots of Routing Zulu and British units was result with the Mission Station being overrun.
On Horn flanks thew Boer Horse done sterling service holding up the Zulus especially around the dry river bed (some awesome rolls by Dave routed 2 units of Veteran Warriors !!) managing to survive initial contacts and evading.
But eventually both flanks were simply overcome by Zulus and the Horns closed around the stricken defenders with a couple of heroic last stands at the Mission and a knoll to its rear.
Despite this ultimate outcome the game was incredibly close at one point with both sides on zero Morale simultaneously and a real chance of Army Morale Card ending game, but none appeared for either side however phew !!
Overall the Zulus took a lot of casualties (likely more than they would have been prepared to sustain in reality, but we Wargamers are a bloodthirsty lot caring not a jot for the 'lives' of our little tin men !!) and British foot may have been better forming Square in some places but they did come close to a win via their fearsome firing alone.
All in all a great game showcasing for me so much of what makes FOB a proper 'Battle' rule set, and as Dave said the Combat Dice can be very unforgiving, but I like this as it is usually definitive as to who wins or loses and makes actions such as firing and melee decisive (peak effects as original Piquet designer Bob Jones termed it) aiding to fast play.
All in all a great nights gaming in good company, I have no idea how BP went as so engrossed in this one as player/ref (as no-one else has or uses FOB).
By heck I am enjoying being retired !!!

Zulu left Horn advances the unit at front right is 'Pinned' (green marker)

The head approaches Mission Station

Blurry shot of my right Horn flanking river bed

Defenders of Mission Station

A near disaster for one Impi as Commander falls (orange marker) putting rest Out of Command for a loooong time, we thought a Leadership card was never going to appear !

The right Horns begin to close as Boers pushed away

Whilst Head attacks the Mission (note that unit still 'Pinned' block way !)

Mission Station overrun as Horns close in. Last stand of British beside Mission and on hill to its rear, let the disemboweling begin !!!

Some pics taken by another club member

Good view of the Buffalo formation

Billys Horn flanks the Mission on our left

As mine does same on right

Naval Infantry issue fire

Boer Mounted in the thick of it Pinning another Zulu unit

My Horn about to cross dry river bed (1 Move Segment cost)

Fearsome volleys issued all across British lines

Lines wavering and British units becoming isolated and flanked (red disc  markers indicated Leader at risk ie ALL of them !)

Friday, January 17, 2020

Liberty Or Death on the table

Been trying to learn rules to Liberty Or Death (in between minis games) and have had it set up for a while playing slowly through some phases/turns.
Another COIN system game but this time with a non-20th Century setting.

Initially I thought the inclusion of Indians as a faction, in addition to British, Patriots (no bias showing there) and French, was tad odd but they are an interesting 'Ally' to British to play.

Have played through two 'Winter Quarters' cards thus far (Propaganda/Coup equivalents) and French have just entered the war full-time.

Initially the French have to spend time building up their forces/fleets before committing to land war although they can aid the Patriots.

Another enjoyable entry in the COIN realm and nice to have a different historical background.

That just leaves me Pendragon and Falling Skies to get to try to to grips with !!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Bataille Empire - Jaskowo scenario played

Game with Bataille Empire again today with Stephen using the Jaskowo scenario I had already set up table for.
I used Russians (glutten for punishment) attacking the French.
Bataille Empire definitely ticks a lot of 'historical' boxes for us and plays much smoother now as we know the basics (although remembering everything is a task).
But by heck the Russians Musketeers are poor compared to French.
French get +1 or +2 for their Skirmishing ability whilst Russian Musketeers have 0 factor (meaning they cant inflict any Skirmish hits even on a 6 roll unless support fire used) however they also suffer as Poor Shots in Volley fire and in Combat (mitigated by being Tenacious) and French count +1 for better skirmish level, so if support and suchlike are equal (seldom the case) the French usually 1-2 factors better before dice are rolled meaning Russians need to win dice rolls by 2-3 !!
Their Jager and Grenadiers are better but still outclassed by French Legere and really only on parity with French Line.
I actually rolled decent dice today actually outscoring the 'demon' in Shock Combats (no point trying to get into firefight with French) on most occasions but only winning 1 combat taking a village area as I rolled 6 to French 1.
Every other encounter I either lost roll or was 'out-factored'.
Not so sure Russian Musketeers (not Militia) where that outclassed ?
Russians do get Large Artillery units but again the +1 for being large is negated by being -1

Prussians a better bet as they have Skirmish 1 and not poor shots so can at least attempt a firefight with French at near parity.
I get what rules are simulating with poor shooting (ie bad powder/marksmanship etc) but when combined with French 'extras' its a big swing (as with any D6 based rules when a +1 and -1 are BIG factors).
We have both fielded Russians now and find them tough to use effectively and I don't see how to, unless I am missing some 'trick/gimmick' (quite possible !).

Another lesson from today was that Artillery is pretty vulnerable unless in midst of a formation as it needs Supports and Safe Flanks or it dies.
I had a battery that got caught by French Hussars breaking through (after forcing my large Hussars unit to flee) with only 1 flank secured.

++++Don't tell Stephen but I will be using French from now on in BE :-) ++++

The battlefield from Russian perspective (1.6m x 1.2m to suit our 40mm basing = 1UD)

Jager Division attacks

Initial French defenders

Large Russian Hussar unit moves forward (was creamed by French Hussars)

Tried using Attack Orders and Attack Columns

Reserve Divisions clash (this is Russian Division of Musketeer peasants note 1 fleeing)

One Jager has taken town section but rest suffering reverses

Russian Grenadiers on my right (small units) 2 in line 2 in column with 12pdr support

Lots of Disorders and Hits on Russians not so on French the tale of the game