Thursday, October 31, 2013

A not so hasty defence

Monday's game was Hasty Blocking Position from CS Grant's Programmed Wargame Scenarios. The Newport Noodle is months over due and this would have been an ideal candidate but I find I need to write such reports when the game is fresh and my energy high and its even better when I am playing one side. My energy levels have rather low this week and I was testing not only rules but evaluating the over all gaming experience and since I almost never use the programmed instructions, I decided to use them for both sides and act as impartial observer. This did give me a bit of a problem late in the game when I couldn't quite decide who the good guys were or who I wanted to win and if I should "try just a little harder".  I suspect some romantic (aka bleeding heart) journalists will be writing occasional accounts from the other side of the paper this year as the heroic "let us live life in our own way" people of the plains meet the regimented, imperialist, invaders.

A repeat photo but, with the very welcome and recently rare autumn sun streaming in low from the south-west, I had even more trouble than usual getting use-able shots of the opening game. The viewpoint is roughly from the entry point for the Brethren around turn 3.

Translating the army lists was a bit of a problem. I was a bit concerned at equating a unit of 6 Irregular skirmishers with a unit of 12 regulars, especially on an open plain with adequate regular cavalry. To even things up a bit, I made the terrain a little bit more obstructed than the original map suggested and classed all the skirmishers on both sides as sharpshooters with a +1 to their shooting dice. It seems to have worked reasonably but then the attack plan rolled up was probably the best the defender might have hoped for in the situation.

A gratuitous shot of the 4 new cavalry figures.  I still miss my camera.

The Brethren, marching on table at the northern "road" (aka wagon trail) during turn 1, was tasked with holding the pass through the hills to the west. The plan rolled up was to deploy light troops to hold any bits of terrain as an advanced screen while the main body marched directly to take up their positions. 

The Faraway force also arrived on turn 1 at the Northern of the two Eastern roads. A die roll determined that the advanced guard of light cavalry was only 1 move ahead of the main body and a further roll determined that the plan was to throw a screen across the hill line and march around behind it to attack the pass from the South West. Larsen's Lancers were deployed across the road under the fire of enemy sharpshooters in the wood. The  DG's Bodyguard rode up onto the hill, dismounted and returned fire supported by the Horse Artillery rocket battery. The infantry marched on, Victoria Rifles and Naval Brigade rockets at the head. 

An overview of the battle around turn 5.

With neither side meeting the criteria to roll up a reaction to the enemy, the battle proceeded according to the initial plans. The fire from the wood was annoying and by the time the way was clear for the Lancers to pull back they had been nearly destroyed as a fighting unit. With infantry engaged to the fore, both rocket batteries turned on the wood and began rolling 5's and 6's like they were on sale. Eventually the skirmishers were too few to do any good and faded quietly out the back. 

Across the table, by the farm, the Irregulars held their own against the Victoria rifles until numbers told. As they fell back, reinforcements came forward to stabilize the situation. Casualties mounted on both sides causing the Brigadier to join 'A' Coy of the Rifles, only to be shot from his horse, the 1st of 3 Brigadiers to go down.

After lengthy preliminaries, the battle rages as the redcoats deploy and storm the batteries on the heights above the pass. Did I mention I miss my camera?

At length all was set, with rockets streaming overhead (still loaded with 5's and 6's and only the occasional rogue to cause a bit of concern) the first 2 companies of redcoats deployed into line and advanced into a hail of grape and canister backed by sharpshooter fire.  It was a little rough at first but as they lowered their bayonets and charged, a hail of 5's and 6's blew them back off the hill and the Brigadier with them. The Black Fox had joined the fray on the hill but was unscathed. On the right, the Queen's Lancers who had formed the rearguard came forward and charged the Atlantican cavalry. These held for a moment and then scattered to the wind, leaving the Faraway cavalry to send their wounded Brigadier to the rear and ponder the heavy guns being spiked around to bear on them......
The attack on the battery is repulsed and retires in confusion upon its supports.

With so many of the Red Queen's units effectively put out of action, it almost looked like the Fox's men might hold the pass despite the nearly 2:1 odds. A closer look though showed that they had also suffered heavy losses and that the two flanks were wide open. The last 3 Red coated infantry companies  deployed and opened fire with their Enfield rifles, the foot battery also came forward, deployed and  opened fire. Slowly the defending options were fading, a forlorn charge by pikemen was repulsed and the heavy batteries finally silenced. There was no choice left for the Fox but to withdraw his men. But was the Queen's Army in any shape to push through and carry out their mission? Not really. Given time to regroup, tend to the wounded, rally stragglers and rest they could carry on in a day or so, but not today. Reading, and re-reading the victory conditions it looked like a draw, after nearly 5 hours of fighting (real time including disruptions, coffee breaks etc, about 12-ish turns? (lost count) or 3 hours theoretical game time which was probably about the amount of actual gaming). 

The last picture, the game went on for 3, maybe 4, more turns of attrition.

It was an enjoyable game which had me playing "just 1 more turn" when there were other things I was supposed to be doing but still it was one of  those games which would have been more fun with an opponent or at least as player vs programmed enemy. Against a similar enemy, the long approach march and deliberate assault might have been sound but against an army of skirmishers and non-mobile artillery, a quick push straight up the road by cavalry followed by bayonets might well have scattered the opposition before heavy losses were incurred. As it was, the result felt very reasonable for this sort of asymmetric situation. In a long range firefight, the "natives" were able to hold their own and inflict losses and even to throwback a rash bayonet assault up a steep hill, but they couldn't hold any position in the open or resist for long once it came to concentrated close range fighting. If the situations had been reversed, I doubt the "natives" would have had much hope of forcing the pass by nightfall unless they could outwit and out maneuver the enemy or maybe had a large force of shock troops (which they don't, not yet anyway). A reminder that some care needs to be taken in adapting scenarios for "colonial" games.

One thing that I did notice was that this definitely felt more like a "war-game" than a "game". There was a time when "games" did not really interest me, if anything there have been times in my life when I probably "looked down" on such things but increasingly over the last few years, I've been enjoying the game side more and more, especially short, sharp decisive games.  That's neither bad nor good in and of itself but it is something to think about as winter approaches, as is the state of my hobby room but more on these things in a day or so.

Orders of Battle

Brethren of the Coast.
General, 1 x 6 Irregular cavalry with rifles, 1 x 12 Irregular infantry with melee weapons, 5 x 6 Irregular infantry sharp shooters with rifle, 1 heavy battery, 1 ox drawn foot battery.

General. 3 x Brigadiers, 3x6 Regular Cavalry (1 with rifled carbines), 2 x 6 Regular light infantry sharpshooters, 5 x 12 Regular Infantry, 1 Light Rocket Battery, 1 Horse Artillery Rocket Battery, 1 Foot Battery.


  1. Ross, since you are missing your camera so much (and apparently it is lost for good) why not buy a new one? (for example) has a variety of digital cameras for about $80 by Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm . . . (as well as more expensive options) . . . all with free shipping. Thus if you don't have a local store, you can order online.

    I'm sure that other retailers (such as Wal-Mart and Future Shop, for example) have similar options. So why not check out what's available, do some research ala reviews and get something that will fill your particular needs? I'm sure that whatever you get will be many generations improved over your old missing camera.

    Treat yourself to an early Christmas present.

    -- Jeff

    1. Its all about choices in the use of scarce resources. I can usually borrow my wife's camera,.

      Nothing more to add about the rules really other than what's in the last 2 pargaraphs.

  2. By the way, I particularly like that new "mixed blood" cavalryman with the beaver top hat . . . and I'm glad to see that he was still on his horse during that last photo.

    It reads like you had a good game . . . so hopefully you will share your thoughts with us about how the rules worked (or didn't), etc.

    -- Jeff

  3. Nice report Ross, thank you for sharing it.
    Could you please tell me the exact composition of the armies involved?

    1. Cesar, I have just added orders of battle to the post.

    2. Thank you for your answer. Red regular infantry were of 12 men?