Saturday, 7 April 2018

Houffalize Highway - FoB WWII

More Field of Battle with the WWII version this weekend.
The scenario is taken directly from the old GDW Command Decision 'Bastogne' scenario/campaign book from 1987.

As mentioned previously, Field of Battle WWII is somewhere between tactical and operational level, so CD and 'Great Battles of WWII' scenarios work well. Units are 'companies' so stop worrying about where you're going to place that MG and mortar, and think about multiple battalions attacks and artillery en masse. As with normal FoB, it's card driven but key features include:

  • Nature of close in combat forces you to use combined arms.
  • Elite units (US Paras) are very hard to shift in cover (and can ruin your day if they hit armour without its infantry support).
  • Use artillery wisely.
  • Don't get surrounded in towns (unless your opponent doesn't exploit it sufficiently and blow hell out of you with his supports). 

A very close game, though some nuances of the rules need re-reading. Card draws had a morning, afternoon, night and following morning turn before battle was complete - all in about 4 hours of play.

This level also allows big battles - for example, we could do the First Airborne move into Arnhem in an attempt to capture the bridge, complete with bridge and German units coming onto the board on various move cards, to be modelled - that's with the equivalent of two WWII divisions on an 8'x5' table; not many rulesets allow that, without complete abstraction.

 The 101st Airborne hold a close perimeter around Bastogne on 20th December 1944. The remnants of Team Desobry are in Noville, but pressure is mounting. 2nd Panzer must clear the road junction and move west, while 78th Panzer Grenadier take Foy and move toward Bastogne to the south.

 Elements of 2nd Panzer Division moving to blocking positions at the road junction.

Panther company moving toward Noville...

...while 3rd Panzer Regt tries to move to take the town.

 Sountheast of Noville, and an ambush with what armour and guns the Americans can muster from the remnants of Team Desobry.

 Cobry is taken early, and German position threatens to cut off Noville from the Paratroopers.

German artillery pounds the woods and Noville.

Further west, German armour is held successfully by the Paras and supports.

...while at Noville, Panther vs Sherman is only going to go one way.

Para reinforcements from Longchamps to the west (on the 3rd move card)

3rd Panzer sits for too long idling around Noville, afraid to engage Anti Tank. Everywhere else, the Germans were making gains and wearing down US morale, but they stalled here.

 While other units moved to engage the elite Paras, who took to the cover of the woods.

 Germans move west, and close to Close Assault range...what they need now is a Close Assault card...
...and there we go...

The Paras in the woods prove to be very hard to shift - the Germans making the mistake of leaving their infantry support behind. US artillery begins to make a real difference (in the nick of time).

 Paras prove very hard to shift again.

 Eventually, as German morale begins to reduce significantly due to losses in the woods, 3rd Panzer starts to move.

The US are suffering, but they have dented German morale such that it will only take the next morale card for them to start rolling for withdrawl.

 1st roll is vs a D8...and they don't beat it.

A tense game - and proof again that it works with 20mm scales too, and provides a decent approximation of larger level battles. Great stuff.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

MORE FoB: Montmirail 1814...(un)Lucky Hat vs Dice Demon and Tricky Dicky's Hard Chargin'

Another great FoB game at the Sgt's, where I sadly let the spirit of Napoleon's Old/Mid guard down. Oh well.
Still a fresh system, even after a number of plays - always giving great narrative and new lessons to learn (push those columns through dammit!)...

 I ended up sacrificing too much of our Army morale trying to turn the Russian flank, leaving the glory of my fellow general's cavalry charges (where superior French cavalry dominated the field) an empty vessel, as we had lost the initiative and esprit de corps through a badly timed assault from the Guard.  (You don't get a narrative like that with other rulesets...well, you do, but you have to work at it!)

The centre left. Lots of defending Russians, but superior French guard.

 The French left...accurate Russian artillery...I can take it! (?)

Hmmm...a little stalling of the old Guard in the centre.

 Cavalry starts to mass on the right.

The centre become a meatgrinder for the old Guard.

 Cavalry starts to dominate the right.


 ...left and centre become French holding actions, the Russians starting to push the flank backward.

 The glory was the French cavalry's (and the Russian infantry's)...but by game end and the Army morale roll, the French were handing away morale such that we could never hope to win back the initiative...some lessons to learn.

Another great game, with unpredictable results and a sequence of events that tells a realistic story of events in a battle, and finished in 4 hours. This is wargaming!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

MIght & Reason - Marlburian Action (aka Berwick's St. Patrick's Day Balls)

An excellent game played with Sgt. Steiner today. As always, great hospitality, rules and figures.

Might & Reason is one of Sam Mustafa's earlier sets, but you can already see the nucleus of Maurice and Blucher in some of the rules.

The focus here is on linear Marlburian warfare (with the Sun King expansion - the main game is aimed at 7YW) so the command dice, which allow a focus on activating key forces on the battlefield and thus avoiding staid tactics, really ignite the play - since, as ever, the ability to use them is finite and they have to be carefully managed.

There were a number of times when we were looking for command dice to help activation or a re-roll, and we had simply run out. Experience with the rules might help with rationing these, but I found myself wondering where I might influence the battle most, whilst trying to reason where I could hold back the enemy: a sign of a good ruleset. As with Maurice, you find yourself focusing on key things you want to accomplish, but you can't do everything - but the activation mechanism is very different - perhaps even better, as you're not relying on a card draw.

 A slightly different mindset and dynamic in comparison with Field of Battle too, but very much a 'big battle' set and focused on finding gaps in the line and exploiting them. Off the cuff tactics and attacking style can work in FoB. You have to be very careful with that sort of rash 'flank risking' play style here.

In the event, we found our flanks crumbling, whilst trying to shore up the gaps, and finding weaknesses in the enemy centre.

A lot of caution with these rules, and playing for time, and you do feel like the typical Marlburian commander, waiting for a break almost, whilst ensuring that you keep a reserve.

(I should also point to the fact the the French reserve, in the shape of Rohan's brigade, managed to spend the entire game shuffling from side to side, without ever being committed - they shall now be known as the 'Tallard's Formation Dance Team').

 View from the French lines.

The French right - which would become a hotly contested cavalry action.

Command dice placed to enable smoother activation...ration these! 

The French left - another cavalry action brewing.
 Early French attacks on the right through a bottleneck between town and river, were driven back, with Berwick finding his resolve in later actions.

...while the French left flank took a battering

The centre was being reinforced, and slowly pushing forward, with the reserve wondering what to do with itself.

The musketry phase - batches of 5-6 d6 which is a hallmark of firing in Sam's rules, and feels just right.

Berwick takes charge - personally leading 3 charges, and putting himself in considerable danger. I had to use all of my dice rolling skills to keep him alive ;)    I was mulling over the difference between 'valiant', reckless and just plain stoopid...and he did get called some less than affectionate names a few times for not activating ...ahem...

 Imperial troops moving to reinforce the centre as the French achieve some uncannily accurate small arms fire. Oh, and their artillery isn't half bad either.

Casualties were mounting as the large exchange of musketry and charging in the centre began to take its toll on army morale on both sides.

The French finally make gains in the centre...

...while just about holding their weak left.

Tallard's Formation Dance Team...who succeeded in moving the left...then right...then left again, depending on where the action was hottest, yet ultimately accomplishing bugger all.

 The attack in the centre...finally breaks the Imperial spirit, but it was very much touch and go, and a close run thing. (Truth be told, the Imperial troops should have had an initiative bonus which we missed).

 Berwick manages to secure the French right, enabling the thrust in the centre. Patience...patience...

Good old Berwick...young fella saved the day in the end. (Though I did call him all sorts of names for letting me down a couple of times ...ahem...) It must've raised a cheer back at St. Germain.