Wednesday, October 8, 2014

1914 Opening Shots

 The first solo game of my 1914 Centenary has been fought. Not much of a battle as battles go but a vital skirmish that was well worth fighting.

(Note: I actually wrote up a post yesterday only to have it evaporate before posting @%#@^%#  so this is actually a reprise. )
The 2nd attack of the 1st Battalion 999th Infantry Regiment supported by the regimental Machine Gun company on a town held by 2 companies of the Brooklyn Fusiliers  reinforced by a dismounted squadron of Larsen's Lancers. (The dismounted cavalry are marked by a single foot figure replacing 1 rider, eventually I will need more)
The game was a fictional encounter set in the Race for the Sea phase of the war in October'14. It was designed largely around what was painted and ready to go. 

The rules were the latest enhanced Square Brigadier. For those surprised that I have not already published new drafts while I work on them, I am taking this seriously enough to abandon my usual generic DIY approach and do something that I haven't done for a while, sitting down and writing a longer set of rules that describes how I am actually using the rules specifically for my own armies and games.  They will still be easy to adapt and I'll probably throw in some suggestions in an annex but the focus will be less on adaptability and more on to giving myself a firm basis for what I am doing. It could take a while but I will be posting some discussion of the rules and my choices and should have an interim update of the existing format up on the weekend.

The Germans, having a numerical advantage, were given the role of attacking with 2 battalions of infantry (each of 4 companies plus Commander although one was of mixed Jaeger and Infantry due to the 2nd battalion not being finished) supported by the regimental MG company with 2 machine guns, a battery of field artillery and 2 squadrons of cavalry and an overall HQ. 

The Anglo-Indians of the independent Balimont Brigade consisted of 4 companies, an MG, field gun and 1 cavalry squadron with a combined HQ and Battalion commander. All infantry was entrenched. The larger town was the main objective controlling the line of communications to the main British army while the smaller village is a crossroad leading to expected French reinforcements. (Zouaves to be brought on at GM's whim bringing a change in the nebulous victory conditions).

I decided to stick with generic units to start so no superior firepower for the Brits and no penalty for carbine armed German cavalry. 

The table is laid out in 4" squares with 3 of them representing roughly 1,000 yards giving a battlefield of roughly 6 km by 5 km. This is a bit much for a single battalion although some British battalions at Mons were tasked with defending a similar stretch of canal against larger attacks. A full brigade would have been more comfortable but things were pretty scattered and mixed up during those early months.  

Lastly, I played the British while letting dice choose from several initial German battle plans then bodging it from there as the battle progressed with attempts at impartiality.  
A reprise of yesterday's picture giving an overview of the table. The town at the crossroads is the key position with the road leading off towards the camera being the connection to the main British army. The objective is being held by a machine gun and 2 companies of MacDuff's Rifles supported by B Battery of the Royal Artillery. 

I actually played the game twice. The first time I made several fatal errors. The first was to allow the British companies to split up and cover 2 squares in an effort to cover more ground. The rules weren't set up that way and made these 2 figure platoons ineffective and very vulnerable. At the same time, early in the game I changed my mind on what pinned units could do and started allowing them to fire while pinned. The end result, exacerbated by superb German shooting and wretched British dice, was that the Germans advanced into range, were pinned, and proceeded to shoot the entrenched Brits to pieces almost without loss themselves. I called in the French but then annulled the game and reset, this time playing the rules as scribbled on the note pad rather than with the two off the cuff changes. This is the game seen in the pictures. 

The plan was to pin the main objective with one battalion while taking the village with the other supported by artillery and machine guns. (same plan as the first game). It didn't go so well. The first battalion suffered heavy losses and was  repulsed and the supporting artillery driven off the hill while the 2nd battalion pushed a bit too far forward and started taking losses. A request to withdraw (player morale failure) was refused as the German force was nowhere near its 50% army morale level so the attack was reorganized and pushed back in supported by dismounted cavalry, the remnants of the artillery and the MG's which had been slow to come up.     

The effect of an advance on a machine gun and a company of infantry entrenched in the town may be seen but note that to tip the balance, the 2nd company has had to advance from its trenches which were sited too far away 
This time the British company in the town was forced out by a bayonet assault and the company entrenched in the open was slowly wiped out by concentrated machine gun fire. The cost of this success though, was was heavy. On the German right, the additional companies brought up from support began to make a difference and they began to creep close enough to assault. The last Indian company had to be brought forward and used to flank the attack. This is where the 2nd German cavalry squadron was supposed to be but it had drifted over to the center and had been used to make a dash at the British guns. The remnant rallied back to the center and dismounted again. For a few turns it looked like a final push could do it but command control difficulties and heavy losses, from MG and artillery fire in particular, took their toll. Finally the flanking sepoy company went in with the bayonet and swept away one battered, pinned company and then another and the Germans hit their break point.

On the British left a combination of artillery and machine gun fire, and a flanking counter attack by sepoys has destroyed the German 2nd battalion.  Across the table the German 1st Battalion has taken the village but suffered tremendous casualties and with their supporting artillery and machine guns silenced, the attack is called off.


  1. "No superior firepower for the Brits" - My God Sir, if I had a moustache it would have fallen off!!

    Still the proper historical result in the end thanks to the (British trained) sepoys. Looks like a fun game.

    1. I admit to having felt slightly uneasy at such disloyal leveling of the playing field.

  2. It sounds like a near run thing, which might indicate that without the British superior firepower and inferior carbines you had a well-balanced sort of game.

    1. I think I would have needed another battalion of Germans to balance a firepower bonus.

  3. Looks great, very evocative.

    I'm used to the crowded tabletops of horse & musket and it makes a nice change to see so much space and room for manoeuvre.

    1. It would be easy to justify 4 times the number of units on the western front but I did find examples of this density and it was nice to have room to maneuver even if the generals didn't make much use of it.

  4. Dear Ross,
    Just want to wish you and all of our friends in Canada a Happy Thanksgiving....Enjoy the day. Your game seemed to be a lot of fun and looked very nice. Well done.

  5. Hi Ross,

    The game looks great. I am a regular reader but have only just figured out how to post! Did you table grow? Let me know if you ever want to do a F2F game.

    1. Hi Jeff, I put back a couple of square feet that I had chopped off last year but its still about 1/2 the size of the one we played on last time you were here. Hopefully next year I'll be able to make it to more games and even host a few again.

  6. Enjoyed your report, sorry to hear of technical difficulties. I have just caught up with the push to game WW1, and I have to say it sounds wholly reasonable and achievable. It gives me hope that one day I may achieve the same. ;)