EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013

Look! An elephant! (with ps)

There were tense moments today as my new Zouaves had their baptism of fire.  

The Zouaves, seeing the elephant in ACW speak. They were pushed back but not routed in their first contact then held on until rescued by the Bangor Rifles, led by the Zouave Bugler.

The occasion was a visit by Lentulus, the rules were Hearts of Tin using ACW factors and the game River Crossing from CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargames (The Green Book), the game illustrated on the cover actually. This is a scenario that I have not played in a long time. After sorting terrain and troop issues I turned my attention to what was required for the attacker to cross the river in boats. I immediately hit two snags, both minor yet important. The first is that while my river is too wide from a table space POV, its still too narrow for a believable boatload of 40mm troops to cross without grounding. The second is that the scenario provides no hints that I could see as to how long the operation should last. The defender's reinforcements  are supposed to arrive 1/4 and 1/2 of the way through the game. 

After a period of internal debate I decided to allow 1 unit per turn to cross over the bridge which has been patched up by engineers. For the defender, I had him roll 2 dice for each of the two reinforcing columns to see on which turn they arrived. With hindsight I think the attacker was able to reinforce his bridgehead a little too easily compared to the defender's build up. Forcing the attacker to seize the road exits or speeding up the defenders troops would have helped balance the scenario or even allowing the defender more infantry and less cavalry. 

Of course more balanced die rolling would have helped things as well, I dodged more than one bullet by dint of good dice throws by my troops or handfuls of 1's from the other side. 

The game on around turn 7. Red's second column is about to deploy. 

The first few turns were spent with Red deploying and rushing forward while Blue rushed infantry over the bridge to hold the town and spread light infantry out to cover the operation assisted by artillery fire from across the river. The first tense moment came as the Dover Fusiliers, deployed as skirmishers, charged the detachment of Zouaves which had just moved into a wood on the left of Blue's line. The fire from the Zouaves failed to halt the charge but their morale held and they merely fell back through the wood until their backs were to the river. The redcoats followed up and a tense second round was fought on the next turn. There was no where to retreat to and a loss would mean destruction. Luckily a tie meant that they could hang on  and winning the initiative despite Red's +1 for the balloon meant that the Bangor Rifles could intervene. It was still close and the redcoats merely fell back but the Zouaves were saved and fought on bravely all game, repulsing attack after attack.

In the center, the Blue Guard crossed over and took up a position just as Red's first reinforcements arrived. Taking advantage of another initiative flip, the Blue Guard advanced and then poured devastating rifle fire into a squadron of the DGBG. Red's skirmishers and artillery were taking a toll of my infantry but the line was in no danger while my artillery and infantry had been doing a remarkable job of whittling down the enemy's cavalry. Things were looking secure until Red's cavalry charged, backed by some infantry. Cavalry charges on infantry are tricky things, in the age of rifles but cavalry is what the scenario gives Red. If the infantry are steady they will shoot down the cavalry but if they fluff and the cavalry hit home, there is no escaping them. No doubt about the steadiness of the Blue Guard and Red's cavalry was mowed down by rifle fire (the +1 for elite was critical) while the 7th Infantry in their 2nd engagement easily held off their attackers. 

My mission was only to establish a bridgehead so I resisted the urge to attack apart from moving up skirmishers to counter Red's other 1/2 battery which had just deployed and was shooting up my line. 

At this  point, Red's 3rd column arrived but a quick survey of the field showed that Red might be able to hold the hill line but there was no longer any real hope of wiping out the bridgehead. The initial numbers including off table troops was 16 Blue vs 14 Red. At this point each side had 10 units on the side of the river where the fighting was but no Blue units were below 1/2 strength although several were close to it. Red on the other hand had 5 units reduced to 1 or 2 figures and heavy losses in 2 other units. Red had 2 more cavalry units to bring on but 4 Blue squadrons were just crossing the river. It was enough.

The end of the day.

Over all I enjoyed the game but my feelings are a bit mixed. I enjoyed Lentullus' company, there were some moments of tension and excitement and winning can be nice but I couldn't help but feel that the scenario offered few choices, especially for the period and that it might not have been the best choice for a once or twice a year encounter. There were a few points where I started worrying that I had taken too many fussy bits out of the rules but I held firm and played them as written and in each case, once I'd unclenched a little, it turned out OK. Then there were the dice. One uses dice to introduce unpredictability but when one side seems to get all the breaks it does make you wonder regardless of which side you are on. Interesting to speculate what might have happened if the Zouaves had broken, the Red cavalry had not been shot up by artillery and long range rifle fire or the 2rd column had arrived earlier.

Then there is the question of how the 40's fit on the table, terrain as well as troops. 
I have no issues with lower level, semi-skirmish games but the slightly higher level which I want to do, in Big Wars/Little Wars style, well they're getting closer but still don't feel quite right. The smaller units help and removing 1/2 the scenery helped but I think I need to work on more abstract terrain with a smaller footprint. In any event, the figures are what I want to paint and I'm satisfied with the rules, nice and simple, so the rest is just fiddling with scenarios and terrain to get just the right feel.

In the mean time I plan to get the 1/72nd ACW out on Saturday for a solo game.

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Post script. Having thought on this, it's the victory conditions that are the problem with this scenario. This is not the only scenario in this book that allow a larger force to win by merely holding its ground. The next time I play it, I will require Blue to capture 2 road exits in order to claim victory. A contained bridgehead will be merely a draw.

6 comments:

  1. Glad to hear that Lentullus made it up for a game. Hope you had a chance to take in some of the great outdoors.

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  2. fun fur as your 'tablecloth' will go a long way towards the IMPACT of visual that the 40mm minis could provide.

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    1. No teddy bears, real or imagined, will be harmed in the making of one of my games.

      Actually, for the glossy toy soldiers I'd be more likely to go for the drawing room carpet and building block house look. For the shaded, model style figures incorporating fur would be a possibiity, esp if I were using unit bases. Single 40's have a high center of gravity and can be unstable on uneven surfaces, especially if in active poses

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  3. So your opponents were ACW and British? I am becoming enamored of this concept. I was looking at the Irregular Miniatures website and thinking of ordering some of the 42mm Franco Prussian war figures.
    I am looking forward to hearing of your 1/72nd ACW battle. We are painting towards that. I have 2 units pretty much done except for painting the bases.

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    1. Bill, strictly speaking these were two fictitious countries, Oberhilse and Faraway but in essence they are largely American & British/Canadian.

      I'm looking forward to seeing your ACW forces in action when it comes. Got 1/2 the table set up today for the acw game.

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