Saturday, 22 April 2017

Game 54 - Chatterton's Hill, 1776 (with Maurice)

There's always a need for another game of Sam Mustafa's excellent Maurice - and we especially enjoy it with the American Revolution.

 This game was loosely based on the action at Chatterton's Hill from Steve Jones' excellent Rebellion sourcebook for BP, and yet again highlighted some of the unique advantages with the Maurice system. There can be chaos in terms of what you can do, though the resource management is very much by choice. For example:

  • We had instances here, where on both sides, decisions had to be made with regard to dividing forces, and that meant that the focus had to be placed on one or other flank. In the American case in this scenario, it meant that the commander was stretched, operating on one flank in terms of moving troops to defend against the flank attacked, while also trying to pull reinforcements from the other, while the British player simply pushed the bulk of his force onto the American right, and was able to effectively ignore the left (the 'lethal volley' bonus really helped here in terms of gaining ground on the hill that the Americans held).
  • Though you sometimes don't get the card mix you'd prefer, it's the resource management that is the real crux of Maurice - forcing you to focus on where the action needs to be - but of course, there's always too much to do, and there's always a need to keep forces together - even though you can't - and that's where the mechanisms really work. If you get that wrong, especially as the defender, it has real consequences as the attacker eats into your flank.
  • Still a great game, and must get some Seven Years War 15mm finished in order to do some earlier battles with more cavalry. (The British cavalry didn't even move here- but then, it didn't need to, which is what we read about in historical accounts, as opposed to what happens in some wargame rules. There needs to be something stronger than a simple activation dice roll as with BP).

 The British made their initial crossings from Wolf Hill across the Bronx Rover. The objective was the road behind the ridgeline. That said, I had never seen an attacker capture an objective in Maurice yet, without having their morale level reduced to zero. (Today changed that one...)

  Well ensconced upon Chatterton's Hill, the Americans had a large amount of Levy & Militia, whose lack of 'Lethal Vollies' (in contrast to the British) would have an effect later.

  'Steady Lads. Wait 'til you see the whites of their eyes...' (Actually mate, they're going to do a flanking action...wait for it...)

 Things get interesting now. Using the 'that's not on the map' card, an unplanned for marshy area lies smack bang in the midst of the British advance.

 So the British & Hessians form column and advance around it (rather too quickly as it turned out). The forced flanking action however, should have given the Americans time to move to their right and reinforce. In the event, the presence of British light troops and cavalry on their left flank stopped them, and they did nothing.

  A tense firefight near one of the walled areas near the river, as the Allies cross.

 'Don't worry none Zeke. Every time this here Duc guy is in charge of us Yanks, we always win.'
(Don't speak too soon mate...)

Masses of British and Hessians approach the American right, and there are far too few Continentals to defend.

Two Continental regiments manage to make it to the flank, but are shot away with intense and supported musketry.

 'Need you to move to the other flank boys...!'

 More  American columns move just in time to see militia smashed by elite troops.

 Objectives captured, morale broken. It was over for the Americans before they could get enough Continentals into position.

 'Well maybe I was wrong about this guy Zeke...I think the British are comin' '

 (Remaining unused, the British cavalry successfully guarded the Action Card deck.)

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Le Duc on the Road - Part IV - Enniskillen Castle & Crom Castle

So with school holidays and big kids who prefer to do something more cool, myself and Madame 'Le Duc' returned to a spot where we haven't been for about 20 years - for the military history mind you, not for some vaguely romantic notion *ahem* and all that...

About 20 years ago I did some research in the area related to the then little known Battle of Newtown(butler) in 1689, near Enniskillen. There's a small campaign involving the emerging Enniskillen regiments and Lord Mountcashel and some Jacobite forces, who would become the first of the C17th 'Wild Geese' to fight for France through the 1690s. Good also to see that I got most of my battlefield photographs before they built houses on the site! Anyway, that said, a couple of local Fermanagh attractions are always worth revisiting: the Castle at Enniskillen - also home to the  'Inniskilling' Regimental Museum - and also worth a visit are the remains of the original Crom Castle on the Crom Estate, near Newtownbutler.

 The original 'Water Tower' at Enniskillen Castle - part of the 1600s design, and the newer 19th century barracks.

 A couple of 9 pounders guard the entrance...

 A couple of German guns captured during the Great War, the latter being a 210mm mortar, captured by Lt. J.A.O.Brooke of the Gordon Highlanders on Oct 1914, at Gheluvelt; he was awarded a posthumous V.C. for his actions.

 The Bren gun carrier under cover of the storage room...

A mock up of Cathcart of the Enniskilleners, breaking the ice around the island town in 1689, thus denying Jacobite troops a means of crossing; if memory serves, reputedly one of the authors of one of the primary sources of the time.

 The 'See if you can lift a Matchlock one-handed' exhibit. Ms. Le Duc found it easy. I grimaced horribly...but she uses kettle bells now and then .

 Part of the Waterloo exhibit, with Inniskilling Dragoons and infantry fighting during the period.

The first battalion (ex 27th foot) of the Inniskilling Fusiliers also took part in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

A captured German WWI vintage anti tank gun. Reputedly, the recoil could dislocate your shoulder...

A mock up of action from Garigliano River in Italy in 1944. Action across the Gothic line, with seized German MG by Sgt Andy Anderson, who was awarded the Military Medal. Major John Nixon and Capt Bill Vincent from Killarney (who was a generous benefactor to the museum) also represented.

  A modelled piece in 1/35, showing the actions of the Dragoon Guards in Korea.

A view from outside, showing the relative difficulties in taking the island town in the 1600s.

 A swift journey south then the the Crom Estate - and the ruins of Crom Castle. Under siege twice in 1689, this approach during the second siege, would have been used by Lord Mountcashel's troops the day before the battle at Newtownbutler.

Still a lovely place to visit, and the area is dedicated to tourism, having the advantage of the lakes and the scenery. Beware the Irish weather of course - unless you like rain, but there is the odd decent day when the sun pokes through the clouds :)

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Game 53: C&C Napoleonics - Rolica

We've played other versions of Command & Colours, though hadn't yet tried the (early) Napoleonics versions. Interest in this really stemmed from thoughts of a potential large scale game with non-wargamer types, with figures and my larger hexes - and thus a suitable 'gateway' set of rules, and some of the rules that we've heard about the epic scale version of C&CN (C in C hands out card to flank commander, who acts upon it - but with his own smaller unit decisions etc.) sound excellent for a great day's gaming.

So ultimately then, the game will be used with my 20mm plastic collection, though best to try out the rules with the little blocks first.

Only sticking points were (1) there's a little more complexity, though you quickly get used to it and (2) the rules for squares, where cards are withdrawn from the hand, so as to reduce flexibility - seem fine, but were a little clunky on the day.

That said, it's probably something that becomes second nature during a game. The blocks are great, and very tactile, and the sticker detail is a positive replacement for miniatures. That said, I began to think that life was too short to stick all of those bloody stickers on at the weekend; I don't think I'll be getting too many of the expansions :( . I might be downloading the scenarios and going with miniatures.

So, we tried the first scenario from the main game (Rolica, 1708). As usual, and in line with what we've already seen, some great and tense moments, and all finished quite quickly. A unique system for modelling fog of war, and some of the strategy cards come just at the right moment (or wrong moment, depending on your point of view).

 The setup.

I prefer laying the tiles down, as opposed to the popular...'setting them on edge'. (Makes for better pics too...).

Thrusts on the French and British lefts respectively, would see the development of some flanking actions during the day.

Powerful British presence on the French right.

 French moves on their left.

  A cavalry charge by the British in a frantic attempt to wear down the flank.

The British launched a frontal attack on the French defences, and it almost looked like working...for a time.
By game end, the French have done enough damage in blunting the British attack, such that they have captured enough flags to win. Certainly, a close game, with clear victory conditions, and much room for hacking with miniatures.

I can see the 'epic' version of this working well with non-wargamers (although suspect there might be beer involved too...)

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Game 52 - Crossfire (at last)

So, I bought Crossfire in 1995, and we played it I guess there has been some delay between buying rules and playing them in the past, but this one probably takes the record.

In the intervening years, I've read and understood/misunderstood what they're about, heard great things and heard confusing things, and yet always had that gnawing thought at the back of my head that these rules might just the 'the' WWII and modern rules set that combines (1) ease of understanding with added difficulty to master, (2) that hard to find 'real world tactics work'  ideal and (3) absence of a turn sequence that can be manipulated and turned against the 'spirit' of the game.

So I think we've found it?

' So ...he's going to use his finger to show his opponent where we move to? No measuring tape? It'll never catch on...'

 'The bloody fool isn't even using a rigid turn sequence, PAH!'

I did get quite a jolt when during this game; the Germans had a prospective flanking maneuver across the fields, which could really have given the US Paras some trouble in their rear as they had moved too far forward - and I thought 'that's going to take him a few turns to move those troops around' until it struck me - this is Crossfire, and you CAN'T think in terms of 'bounds' or 'measured movement'. That in itself was enough to convince us that there was greatness at work here. You can't think in 'gamey' terms and time is completely elastic. If that isn't a credit to the rules, then I don't know what is.

There have been hundreds of rulesets produced since. I'm not sure I've seen many which are so far removed from the game-ist norm, and yet so close to the ebb and flow of C20th/21st battle - at least on the tabletop and in our heads. More research into Crossfire required I think...

 US Paras on the start line. One thing which stuck in my head here was the patrolling rules and jump off points from Chain of Command. Would they work here? Perhaps another game worth trying.

 German units move up the road to get a shot at the exposed US flank.

 ...while simultaneously moving to the factory. We had to take the roof off!

The Paras had a hard time getting in, and were pinned for several initiatives in turn.

Taking some chances, they moved into the field, but were pinned down.

The MG gets a lucky shot at some Germans moving through the town in the open.

The US made gains in the centre, gaining access to the factory...eventually.

While a bloody firefight was developing on the US left. This could easily have become a flanking action.

1st Platoon by now, were taking building after building, even firing on the flank attackers up the road.

Leaving only the elements at the farm to deal with.

There was such an ebb and flow in this short battle. I think we saw how flexible and powerful the system really is.

It pays to be careful, and watch for opportunities to exploit - that is the key; and you are always engaged. The sign of a sound and well designed ruleset perhaps.