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

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Battle of Lesser Fauntelroy

The revised Tin Army has now had its Baptism by Fire (ok by Dice then).

The scenario chosen was the first scenario in CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargames. It is a fairly straight forward scenario, an assault on a prepared position, and one of the larger ones. I have also played it often enough over the last 35 years, using a wide variety of rules in various periods, that it makes a good benchmark when testing a set of rules.

I set a 15 turn limit on the game.
The game is afoot. 
The Red Queen's army was tasked with holding a position with three vital points, a 4 area town on their right, a small farming community in the centre and a redoubt on the left flank. There are additional fortifications between the two towns but these have no strategic value.  Red's army is composed of 3 cavalry, 4 infantry, 1 light infantry and 2 artillery units. The scenario specifies that there must be a gun (ie 1/2 an artillery unit in The Wargame) in each of the three redoubts.

That stipulation gave me some grief at first since the units I planned to use consisted of a single gun and limber as a unit. At first I doubled the number of artillery units which allowed me to deploy heavy, light and field batteries  but there wasn't really room for them all and in theory put far too many batteries on the table to support a single brigade. It also put the "heavy" batteries starting out far too close to the enemy for early 20th Century artillery.  I then tried removing the limbers and fielding two guns per battery (see first picture) but I rather missed having a role for the limbers I have already done. Then I realised that doubling the guns meant that almost every scenario would require me to pool allied artillery and any of the later scenarios which call for 3 batteries would find my artillery park too small. At last I decided not to muck with the rules which were the way I wanted them and resolved the issue by replacing one normal defending battery with 2 limber-less guns, one in each of 2 redoubts each counting as a single stand unit of artillery not able to be moved during the game. I left the last battery intact  and occupied the last redoubt with a company of infantry with machine gun attached.

I then placed an infantry unit in each town, split into 2 detachments, each occupying one area. I placed the light infantry into detachments in the wood and held the cavalry and remaining infantry in reserve.

The Blue Republic had a substantially larger force to attack with: 3 cavalry, 8 infantry, 1 light infantry and 2 batteries. Their mission was to capture at least two of the key positions. I drew up three battle plans and diced for which one to implement. The chosen plan was  to focus on an assault in the centre by 7 of the 8 infantry companies supported by both batteries. The Light Infantry would advance through the wood to probe the enemy position, occupy the defender's attention and threaten the redoubt if possible. The cavalry supported by a company of infantry were to threaten the large town if the garrison were to be weakened but to be ready to shift to the right to break through once the village in the centre was taken.  

Occasional impatience is an old problem. 
The plan quickly ran into problems. The table was too small and cluttered for the guns to deploy in a safe position and bombard the target while the infantry moved forward. With hindsight, the best option would have been to spend a few turns pounding the objective with artillery before advancing the infantry, actually I think that was the original plan.

After a very short bombardment the infantry rushed forward to launch a direct assault. Unfortunately that tactic required above average luck for them rather than the enemy and the lead company was shot to pieces while supporting companies took heavy losses from Red's artillery and supporting infantry.  Both sides were taking losses though and I rather rashly decided to push the attacking artillery forward to open a line of fire from the flank and pushed forward reserves.

That's when things really went wrong! The advancing artillery was caught limbered, suffered heavy losses and was then threatened by a cavalry charge. In the town the garrison was finally forced to retreat by heavy fire but reserves were at hand and an initiative flip allowed them to reoccupy the lead town sector. In the woods the attack by Blue's Jaegers fared no better and they were soon being chased back through the woods.

The battlelines stabilise.
At last Blue got a break. A chance card (Red Jack) let Blue stop Red's cavalry allowing the guns to retire to a safer location and recover. While the survivors of the initial infantry assault tried to rally back to be replaced by reserves, none were available to back up the artillery so it fell to a unit of lancers to quickly redeploy to the right wing and dismount to protect the guns from the advancing Red light infantry.

In the centre the attack defaulted to a lengthy firefight with numbers balanced against cover.  By the time the surviving Royals were forced to pull back the Kapelle Mounted Rifles were at hand to dismount and take their place. It seemed never ending unlike the rapidly diminishing deck of turn cards.

This would probably would have been a good time to shift the rest of  cavalry to double down on an assault up the right. Instead the Blue commander threw them forward to take out Red's battery and pin their remaining reserves. They can be seen rallying back in the next picture.

Throughout the bulk of the game, Blue's left wing battery had been alternating fire between the small town when there was a clear field of fire, and either the deadly Baluch Rifles machine gun and mountain gun in the  redoubts in the centre or the even more deadly field battery when there wasn't. The mountain gun was soon smashed but the Rifles and battery both managed to hold on.  
The growing gap between centre and right is starting to worry Red's commander and making Blue's commander wish he'd kept the Blue Guards in reserve till now.
 It was do or die time! Too late to shift reserves or rethink anything. Every one forward! The Guard Lancers once again charged forward, this time riding over the weakened battery and pursuing into town panicking the enemy infantry and seizing the Stone House. In the centre the Mounted Rifles had been forced out but again reinforcements had come up, half a unit's worth. A final desperate charge by an under strength company was held and eventually repulsed leaving a single red soldier holding the bloody ground. On the right the Lancers mounted up and did their best but fared no better at assaulting a town than the Dragoons had done.

It was over.  

The final charge of the Guard Lancers. 
So ended a very enjoyable game.  Time wise it took a bit over two hours to play the 15 turns. The end result was a decisive win for the defence but there were so many points at which the balance almost shifted that it felt close right up till near the end. Red did get lucky at times but they made far fewer tactical errors and that seems to have been the deciding factor.  Somehow Red's reserves always seemed to be in the right place at the right time while Blue's were too often blocked or out of place to exploit a success or reverse a failure. Blue also showed a remarkable impatience early on and once faced with the evidence that his plan was obviously faulty, he chose to reinforce failure rather than take the time to reorient his army and implement a new plan.  Not exactly the first General to make that sort of mistake.

Best of all however, the concept and rules were validated. The combat worked as envisaged, units were shot up but only a few units were completely destroyed rather than being rendered combat ineffective and too fragile to risk except in extreme need.  I need to do more editing, ensuring the written word accurately reflects practice and checking spelling and so on as well as adding more explanations but  they are good to go.

In conclusion, it is all lights Green for the  Great Atlantican War to proceed. I can start work on the background story, formalise character and unit names, add some more figures and equipment, especially for Oerberg, get the artillery properly fitted out, add terrain and so on but its a go for this summer and fall.

Over the winter though, there are preparations for Huzzah in May to be done. A 16thC Anglo-French scenario that I will cohost with Rob needs some preparation and testing as does my "walk up and try the Portable Wargame" event. Weather permitting, that latter will begin with a game of the printed version on Monday.

4 comments:

  1. Hurrah for the Red Queen!

    Glad to see you happy with a set of rules Ross. Thought I suspect they'll be changed before too long :)

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    Replies
    1. It might surprise a number of people, they have essentially been been 14 years in the development but the basics keep coming back to this.

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  2. You have given us a great battle report Ross and pictures too. Your enthusiasm and excitement shine through in it. As ever you send us inspired back to our own projects. Glad the rules worked out well too.
    Alan

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