Thursday, May 6, 2021

In Darkest Aithops - The m'Butuland Expedition: Battle of Limpopo Bend

Something of an encounter battle, both sides advance
the m'Butu perhaps more eagerly...

 As the Azeitonian expeditionary force began to leave the jungle along the Limpopo River trail, they entered a region of scrubland as they approached the great bend in the river.  There awaited the m'Butu army.  Given time, Chief Barra Kuta might perhaps have refused battle, though where he could find a favourable battlefield east of Kachinga Town, might have been problematic, to say the least.  For the moment he could at least count on some superiority in mobility, especially in that final tongue of jungle forest that reached, seemingly, for the road.  But where the regular forces of the Azeitonians might have some difficulty negotiating a patch of scrub, the m'Butu's looser formations could pass through with ease.  

(Note: Although scrub patches offered cover for those within and concealment for those behind, the natives could walk though as if they weren't there.  With one exception, the colonists had to take one turn to enter such a patch.  The exception for the Azeitonians was a bunch of bush-fighting volunteers, who, for celerity of movement through hard country were to be the equal of the m'Butu.  I forgot to remind Paul of this - just this moment remembered it in fact - so I don't know whether that Militia group were these fellows or not).

For their part, a m'Butu regiment - amabutho Wa Nnabe - lay in wait within the jungle, ready to leap upon the flank of the column whilst the remainder of the army - the impi ya masoshe - awaited the enemy in the scrub.  
Campaign area.  The red lightning denotes where the battle
takes place, not far from the great river bend that gives
the battle its name.

Taking no chances, the Colonel brought his forces in a solid body, close by the road and the river.  However, one troop of horse - 'A' troop - rode forward of the main column to reconnoitre, and perhaps to spring any ambush.  Sure enough, the m'Butu responded, a band of about 40 warriors charging around a patch of scrub to engage at close quarters.  Though getting the better of the first clash, the cavalry quickly found themselves in trouble.

'A' Troop runs into warriors coming the other way...
Within moments, a second band burst through the scrub to join their comrades.  To the horror of their fellow soldiery, still barely within rifle range, they saw their lone troop surrounded by five times their numbers.  There was no hacking their way out; the troop died where they stood.  But the losses among the m'Butu were severe enough: 5 SP lost to kill off a 4SP stand.
'A' Troop surrounded by 5 times their numbers.
But the m'Butu are taking heavy losses.
It was probably fortunate that, apart from artillery and machinegun fire, the Azeitonian column was unable effectively to come to the rescue of the doomed 'A' Troop.  The leading units met the warriors' attack in a coordinated line. The m'Butu surged forward in a somewhat ragged line to engage the Colonialists in close combat with assegai and short ranged musketry from Wa Tusi.  Although successfully inflicting losses and driving back parts of the Colonists' line. the m'Butu were taking rather heavier punishment.  Barra Kuta himself took a hit bad enough to knock him back (rolling '11' in the effect dice for Army commander with the band that received incoming rifle fire).
'A' Troop finally overrun, as the m'Butu close with 
the colonialist column.
The action spread along the front as more m'Butu surged out of the jungle.  This brought more of the colonists into the fight - not quite the hoped-for effect, as the warriors found it hard to bring numbers against isolated bodies of troops.  Although the m'Butu were exacting a toll of casualties, they were rather getting the worse of it.  Meanwhile, the river boats continued chunking upriver, where their gunfire, aided by the artillery in the road, chased a native band out of a riverside patch of bushes, and cleared the open ground a considerable distance from the trail.  
Coordinating bush fighting ain't easy, even for the locals. 

Early attacks repulsed, the m'Butu pull back...
The main action going against the m'Butu, Chief Barra Kuta, blood streaming from a shoulder wound, called his men to give back.  This was no rout - rather a coiling back to draw the enemy on.  Fading back into the scrub and jungle, the m'Butu successfully placed some distance between themselves and the enemy.
...putting themselves as much as possible out
of rifle range.

The river boats advance...
They were not yet done; of that Col. Relaxado was persuaded.  This was the snake coiling for a strike.  On the other hand, there was nothing to be gained by standing still.  If the expedition was to go ahead, the column must advance.  The gun boat led the transport thrashing upriver behind the m'Butu flank.  Once past the riverside brush, the Solenta transport unloaded its cargo of rifle-armed sailors.  Greatly daring, the nearest m'Butu band charged alone through a hail of machinegun fire and chopped down several seamen before themselves finally being scattered.
The Azeitonian column yet to lurch into motion

Sailors disembark,.  The covering gunboat's machine guns
fail to discourage the m'Butu from attacking
This bold, self sacrificing action served to cover the gradual m'Butu withdrawal on the river flank, but, as the colonists slowly followed up, they merely kept their distance out of rifle range.  
General overview of the battlefield late in the action
As time passed, it became clear to Barra Kuta that his army had maybe one more counter-attack left in it.  As the Azeitonian left drew near to the jungle, where the Chief had placed himself in the position most crucial, several bands charged out of the undergrowth and threw themselves upon the lead element that had strayed perhaps too unwarily, and too close.  Or perhaps The Colonel had cannily hoped to draw the warriors out of hiding.
Final counter-attack of the m'Butu.
However it was, the m'Butu did some damage, and received some themselves - enough for them to call it a day.  Thereafter, the warriors made use of their celerity of movement to distance themselves from pursuit, and draw off from the field.
(Poor photo) the m'Butu withdraw 
alogether form the action.
This action was never going to have any other result but an Azeitonian victory.  They had the numbers; they had the firepower; they had the support weapons.  All the same, the m'Butu had given a good account of themselves.  Of 660 warriors who entered the battle, some 160 were killed and wounded.  The Azeitonians had some 900 or more troops, rifles against the few muskets the M'Butu possessed, artillery, machine guns and a gun-armed riverboat.  All the same, they could congratulate themselves upon a fine start to the campaign - the early victory being easy enough to feel this was a great adventure, and hard-fought enough (100 k + w, and no one would soon forget the fate of 'A' Troop) to bring a thrill of jingoistic pride.

(In game terms, the m'Butu had lost 24SP, a little over their 'exhaustion point', the threshold being reached during the final counter-attack.  Of these 8SP are immediately returned to the army (stragglers, grazed and the like; 8 are returned to the army after 1D6 turns (I call them recruits rather than, say, recovered wounded); 8 are lost permanently.  The latter 16 count as battle casualties; at 1SP representing 10 men - 160 men lost.  The Azeitonians lost 15SP up front, they being split 5, 5 and 5.  Ten SPs lost for the moment, the histories will relate how they lost 100 men in the expedition's first fight).

The early pull back enabled the m'Butu to put a few kilometres distance between themselves and the Azeitonians before halting.  Perhaps this made them complacent.  For their dilatoriness subsequently, they were to be asked a high price to pay.  That is to say, the Black card that terminated the Azeitonian moves proved to a string of one only: the Reds that followed went number, king, number, number, number before the next Black card turned up.  This was a fine portent for the colonists' expedition into m'Butuland; and an ill omen for Barra Kuta's realm...

A word on the figures, terrain and the rule set(s) used.

All the figures in this action, apart from the machine gun and the boats, were from Paul's ('Jacko's') collection - ESCI and HaT.  The boats were my scratch-builds, the transport from the fleet I made originally for American Civil War riverine operations about 25 years ago, and the gunboat specifically for this campaign.  The machine gun aboard O Ra Desvairado was a HaT Gardner gun.  The name of the gunboat, by the way, was a nod to the late George Macdonald Fraser: an incarnation of La Grenouille Frenetique, or, in English, the Frantic Frog, that features in The Pyrates.

The Campaign and Battle rule sets were from Bob Cordery's Portable Colonial Wargame - the latter being The Gatling's Jammed... 

To be continued...

Monday, May 3, 2021

In Darkest Aithiops - The m'Butuland Expedition


Azeitonian expedition advancing
up the GreatgreygreengreasyLimpopo River

Perhaps it was the good Reverend J. Eglington Juggins, DD, as well-meaning amiable fellows  so often are, who was the cause of it all.  At the end of June, 1876, his ministry in the land of the m'Butu came to an end.  Under an honorary escort of m'Butu warriors of the highest rank, he made his way to Vertiginus, the seat of the recently established Azeitonian colony, and, after several weeks' wait, took ship to the Cape, and thence to his home in Ruberia.

During the course of his stay in the Azeitonian town, Rev. Juggins was entertained more than once at the governor's invitation to dinner, where he did much to repay his host's hospitality with accounts of his missionary work with the m'Butu - largely ineffectual - and his impressions of the people and their country.  If his eye-witness account of the disaster along the Limpopo Trail was not so agreeable to Tenente-Coronel Relaxado's ear, his interest was very much piqued by his guest's mention of the semi-mystical Montanhas Diamante - the Diamond Mountains.  Somewhere between 60 and 70 kilometres off, they rose out of the grasslands almost due west of the Colony.

Campaign map of part of the East Coast of 

Following the disaster of the first just one year before, the Colonel had devoted a deal of his time organising a second expedition, this one far batter prepared, partly as an exploratory mission, partly to visit a punitive action against the m'Butu for their attack the previous October that came within an ace of overrunning the satellite town, Oportonovo. The Montanhas Diamante offered a more attractive objective and purpose to the planned emprise than empty vengeance.

Such is the generating circumstance, if we can call it that, of the narrative that will be titled 'In Darkest Aithiops', a project Paul 'Jacko' Jackson and I have been off-and-on developing over the last few months.  I guess it's more Paul's than mine - his was the concept, and, most of the forces involved are his.    The above map is of the theatre of operations, and these are the 'characters' of the story:

  • New Azeitonia - a Europeian colony (vaguely Portuguese) established upon the east coast of Aithiops in 1871, and whose existence has been amiably tolerated by the local indigenes for reasons of economy and status. The Governor from the beginning has been Tenente-Coronel Joao Pablo Relaxado.
  • the m'Butu - an indigenous people whose realm occupies much of the jungle, scrublands and steppe south of the Limpopo River.  Its Chief, Barra Kuta rules with an iron fist.  Although disposed to be friendly towards New Azeitonia, he rather objects to being imposed upon.  The m'Butu settlements are to be found at Barra Kuta's Kraal, the Kachinga market town, Kreepin Kraal, Rutintutin Kraal, and a small, unnamed village in the middle of the coastal jungle.
  • The Touaouin (Twawin) - 'The Forgotten of God' - desert dwellers, fierce, armed to the teeth with rifles, pistols and assorted close-quarter weaponry with which the adjectives 'sharp', 'keen' and 'edged' pointedly call themselves to mind. Nomads of the Great Sa Haroh desert, Oasis Akbar the eastern end of their annual migrations.  Call themselves traders, but rather similar to the Corsairs of Zanzingabar in their approach to commerce. Led by Sheikh El Bazir.
  • Zanzingabar Corsairs - Slave traders, robbers, pirates and all-round bad guys that have been the plague of the Coast for over a century.  Until the arrival of the Azeitonians, the only real naval presence in this part of the world, but still reliant upon wind-driven dhows, feluccas, xebecs and settees.   Established at Zanzingabar and Dar Es Oualdo, governed by Wazir Yezdi.
This campaign is run on the lines of the 'More Trouble in Zubia' described in Bob Cordery's The Portable Colonial Wargame (PCW).  The campaign moves are limited to the trails (in orange on the map), the navigable parts of the GreatgreygreengreasyLimpopo River and its branches, and the Indic ocean for sea-going craft (Azeitonian gunboats and Zanzingabar dhows, etc).  

The moves are determined by the draw of cards, Azeitonia drawing Red, and the denizens of Aithiops drawing Black.  
  1. From a shuffled deck, the cards are drawn one at a time, but continuing until there is a change of colour.  
  2. At that point the side whose colour it was, makes his moves according to the schedule given on pp108-9 of PCW.  
  3. Having finished, he announces all the grid areas in which his forces are located.  The composition of the forces are not stated at this point.
  4. Carry out reconnaisances, if any.
  5. Fight out battles, if any.
  6. Beginning with the card that signalled the change, the cards are drawn for the next player, again until signalled by a change in colour.
  7. Note that this card draw process goes, without replacement, right through to the end of the deck.
The locations of the forces begin as follow:
  • Azeitonia: Vertiginus (2108), Oportonovo (2011)
  • m'Butu: Barra Kuta's Kraal (0313), Kachinga (0709), Kreepin Kraal (1212), Rutintutin Kraal (1712)
  • Touaouin: Oasis Akbar (0202)
  • Corsairs: Dar Es Oualdo (2002), Zanzingabar (2202).

The alert reader will no doubt have observed that the Black movement cards will be distributed rather thinly among the three peoples represented.  The effect will be that one of the three will be getting most of the attention early on, with perhaps the others moving slowly as opportunity indicates.  So far, the m'Butu have been very active, but the Touaouin and Corsairs haven't been completely idle.

Finally, for the purposes of this campaign, a single stand represents a platoon or troop, each strength point (SP) or figure representing 10 men.  Each vessel represents a single vessel.  For the Azeitonians, 3 foot stands is a company, and there being 6 stands each of Regulars and Legionaries, they represent half-battalions of 2 companies each. The cavalry amount to a two-troop squadron; each gun a section or troop of 2 guns.

The Expedition Begins...

Upon the first day of November, 1876, the expedition set out from Vertiginus, leaving behind garrisons at that town and Oportonovo.  The main column took the trail of infamous memory, accompanied by the two vessels alongside upon the Limpopo River. The gunboat O Ra Desvairado, and the transport Solente, between them carried a company of sailors - some 120 officers and men.

Certain navigation problems slowed down the expedition, some 8 kilometres beyond the colonial frontier.  As the trail and waterway parted company from time to time, coordination of  column and flotilla became problematic until they reached the shallow tributary friendly porters identified as Kofi Creek.  It was there that they received the first indications that the m'Butu were nearby, in numbers and in no welcoming mood.

Meanwhile, a distant whisper of drums, less a sound than a quiver in the air, seemed to be coming up from deep within the jungle to the south.  What could that portend?

A rather smaller expedition set out from Oportonovo along the trail leading southwest from that little town.  Penetrating the jungle, they travelled some 4 to 6 kilometres before encountering within a small cleared space a palisaded kraal.  Silence reigned over the place - had it been deserted? Capitao Ferdinand da Gama, commanding this probe, contemplated a reconnaissance. 

In the opening campaign turns, the black cards were far more in evidence than the red.  The odd ace and picture card gave the Touaouin and the Corsairs a chance to set their forces in motion, such that the people of Vertiginus has some reason to apprehend a descent of corsairs from the north along the sea-coast.   But the m'Butu drew most of the benefit, speedily gathering a sizeable force that met the Azeitonian column as it was crossing Kofi Creek.  

The m'Butu reconnaisance was a poor one, but even so the news wasn't good: a column far more powerful than had been anticipated - '22 units' - which seemed to argue a force rather larger than the m'Butu had available.  Perhaps the m'Butu might have attacked whilst the colonials were still astride the stream, but they were too slow to organise (they ran out of black cards).  The Azeitonian counter-reconnaissance was little better than the natives' - but the news - the m'Butu having 66 strength points - was to the colonists most encouraging.  The column at once moved off to attack.

Unable to retreat betimes, the m'Butu resolved to attack in the hope of administering a sharp reminder that they could fight.  

Having left the jungle, now entering the scrublands
The respective forces were:

Azeitonian Limpopo Expedition:
  • Commander: Tenente-Coronel Relaxado, staff etc (Average) = 6SP
  • 6 Regular infantry platoons (stands) (avg) @4SP = 24SP
  • 6 Legionary platoons (avg) @4SP = 24SP
  • 1 platoon-strength Civilian Militia band (poor) = 4SP
  • 2 Regular cavalry troops (avg) @4SP = 8SP*
  • 1 troop field artillery (avg) = 2SP
  • 1 section machine guns (avg) = 2SP
  • Gunboat O Ra Desvairado (avg)  = 6SP/FP , carrying capacity = 4SP
  • Transport Solente (avg) = 4SP/FP, carrying capacity 8SP
  • 3 Platoons of Sailors (avg) @4SP = 12SP
23 Units (counting command), median = 12
92 Strength points, exhaustion point = -31SP 
* The cavalry ought to have been 3SP, but Paul forgot and I didn't notice at first.  Never mind, they have 40-man troops.

m'Butu warriors advancing to attack through 
scrubland and jungle.

The m'Butu:
  • Commander: Chief Barra Kuta (Brilliant) = 6SP
  • 3 musket-armed bands (poor) @ 4SP  = 12SP
  • 12 assegai-armed bands (avg) @ 4SP = 48SP
16 Units, median = 8+1 (brilliant commander) = 9
66 Strength points, exhaustion point = -22SP.
Note: the m'Butu were allowed to move more 
quickly (2 hexes) than the colonists through scrub and jungle. The hexes empty of foliage counted as open.

Battle about to be joined!

Before continuing on to the battle narrative, I should state that there will in future be some small changes in future orders of battle.  
  1. Henceforth all m'Butu stands that have a musket-armed figure will be deemed capable of shooting.  They will count as 'average', but will require a '6' to hit when shooting, rather than the standard 5 or 6.  This is to reflect the paucity of firearms among the indigenous peoples.
  2. The Strength/Flotation points and carrying capacities of the gunboats will be amended more in keeping with the rule set.

To be continued: Battle!

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Return to 'Long Live the Revolution'>

Readers may recall this series that were suspended after December 1999.  I never actually abandoned the thing, but I realised the Second Battle of Khandibar would take some setting up.  Serves me right for adding that complication to Bob Cordery's original concept.  

Here is a link to that last action: 'Return to the Station'

Following the successful recapture of the vital rail nexus at Maibad Station, something of a lull descended over the country, as both sides in the civil war (as it had become) felt the need to draw breath after such a whirlwind campaign so far. The government forces had just barely saved the Nawabate of Tchagai from the Revolution; following a tide of unbroken success, the Baluchistan Armed Revolutionary Front (BARF) were finding the ebb hard to arrest. Much hope they placed upon the arrival in the sea port of Khandibar of a consignment of weaponry from the Confederated Community of Cooperative Peoples (CCCP - KKKH in Cyrillic capitals), the arrival of which was not expected, after the Battle of Maibad Station, for several weeks yet.

18th Siliputti Rifles advancing to battle. In the distance,
22nd Punjanajoodi Infantry. Figures mostly Airfix
with some Matchbox.

As word of this anticipated weapons import gradually trickled through to the Nabob's intelligence network, it became clear that the Revolutionaries simply had to be deprived of the sole sea port in their possession. Major-General Lord Redmond at once led a powerful column south, entrusting the railway station's safety into the hands of the hitherto unfortunate Lt-Col Ebenezer Mugglethwaite, with the newly reconstituted 17th Choklit-Ghandi Battalion, two armoured squadrons and assorted support and LOC troops. Lord Redmond took with him (42 + 6D6 = 68SP):

Government Forces:
  • Lord redmond's staff, with Dingo scout car vehicles = 6SP
  • 18th Siliputti Rifles
    • 3 rifle companies @ 4SP
    • 1 machine gin platoon @ 2SP
    • 1 medium mortar platoon @ 2SP = 16SP
  • 22nd Punjanjoodi Infantry = 16SP
  • 31st Kashinkari Rifles = 16SP
  • 5th Aagravaa Dragoons
    • 2 squadrons, A and C, M4 Shermans @ 3SP = 6SP
  • Bty/ 1st Tchagai Artillery
    • 2 troops, 25pr field guns with Quad prime movers = 8SP
20 Units, median = 10 (Average commander) 
68 Strength Points (good dice roll!), exhaustion point = -23SP

Meanwhile, a certain Major Sher Liwih Khann had been placed by the Revolutionary leadership in command of the BARFist garrison at Khandibar, with strict instructions to hold the place at all costs.  He was to await the arrival of the vital arms convoy already on its way from Archangelsk. This convoy was still days way, if not weeks, somewhere in the Mesogesean Sea, approaching Port Did, and the Taofik Canal. He had to hand (30+3D6 = 43SP):

Revolutionary forces: 
  • Sher Liwik Khann, staff, hangers on, camp followers, assorted bandits and badmashes as well as genuine patriots, jeeps = 6SP
  • 6th BARFist Volunteers 
    • 3 Rifle Companies @ 4SP
    • 1 Mortar Platoon @2SP = 14SP
  • 7th Khandibar Volunteers 
    • 3 Rifle Companies @4SP
    • 1 Mortar Platoon @2SP = 14SP
  • A Sqn/ 2nd 'Tulwar of the Revolution' Armoured Regiment 
    • 1 M3 Stuart light tank =2SP
  • D Sqn/ 2nd 'Tulwar of the Revolution' Armoured
    • 1 M3 Grant Medium Tank (poor) =3SP
  • 2 fixed anti-tank posts with 6pr AT guns @2SP = 4SP 
13 Units, median = 7 (Average commander)
43 Strength Points (another pretty good dice roll), exhaustion point = -15SP

The difference in SP being 25, the Revolutionaries received 13SP in augmentations to their defence, in the form of 2 minefields (@2SP), 3 barbed wire emplacements (@1SP), 4 field works (@1SP) and a fortification (2SP).

Now, before beginning the brief narrative - and in partial explanation why it is so brief - I should mention that, owing to a glitch in my note taking in preparation for this battle owing to an egregious staff error, the armour, detached eastwards along the coast for some reason, was not present on the battlefield as the Government attack began. By the time  I realised my mistake  the armour arrived, it was far too late to affect the outcome of the action. I could, of course, have let it go as though the Revolutionaries had rolled '8' on their 3 dice, instead of 13 - the probability of having done so, coincidentally enough, being precisely the same.

25pr field artillery in action...
The action opened with the rapid advance on foot of the 18th Siliputti and 22nd Punjanjoodi battalions sweeping forward, both with A and C Companies leading, supported by B Company and the mortars and machineguns of HQ Company.  The main immediate objective being the Central massif, C Coy Siliputti came in on the right of  Punjanjoodi, all supported by the 25-pounder gun battery, where Lord Redford had also parked his Brigade HQ, and the Punjanjoodi mortars and machine guns.  

... and on target!  A Coy, 7th Khandibar Volunteers
taking some stick...
The support from the machine guns didn't last long.  The Rebel mortars quickly found their range, and wiped them out in short order, but the attack carried on unabated.  
... and receiving the close attention of C Coy, 18th
Rifles and A Coy, 22nd Infantry...
The two company attack overran the fieldworks on the Massif, and drove the defenders quite off the feature and into plain in front of the town.
Central Massif overrun, Government troops attack 
Revolutionary positions beyond.

Meanwhile, to the west of the central Massif, two companies of Siliputti Infantry stormed the ridge on the other side of the pass.  The pass itself being mined and barbed wired, the approach was somewhat constricted (1 hex only), forcing the attack on a single company frontage.  The first attack was easily repulsed, but when it could be supported by the battalion's mortars, and machine guns from beyond the wire to the left flank, A Coy finally carried the high ground..  B Coy soon joined them there to consolidate the position, before pressing on into the coastal plain. 
The early attack on the western ridge repulsed, A 
and B Coys of 18th Rifles at last capture the heights...

Already the western half of the Revolutionary 
forward defences have been overrun or driven in.
The general picture was now the Rebels having lost the position upon the high ground along the entire left half of their front. So far they had had few opportunities of bringing up supports or to mount a counter-attack. For their part, the 31st Kashinkari Rifles hadn't passed beyond the wadi - then in spate from an overnight deluge. However, the two Sherman squadrons coming up the Maimajikwand road, though hardly engaged, tended to discourage 6th BARFist Volunteers on the right from offering much aid to their colleagues under close assault on the other flank.
The fortification that was home to a 6pr troop
has new occupiers...
A company of Government infantry forced the evacuation of the fortification covering the Maimajikwand pass from close by the town. The Rebels managed to extricate the guns, but then came under fire from the lost redoubt.  The reserve company from BARFist volunteers counter-attacked from the town, but were unable to make progress. Instead, they themselves were driven back into the place.
The belated arrival of Revolutionary armour 
is too late to retrieve their fortunes.
Already it was plain that the sea port could not be saved for the Revolution. Although somewhat depleted, the Siliputti Rifles overran the fieldworks that were home to a fixed troop of 6-pounder anti-tank guns, and pressing into the built up precincts along the coast. To the east, the revolutionary armour arrived too late, and too distant from the decisive sectors to change the course of the battle. A brief exchange as the Government Shermans nosed their way over the less steep slopes and crests of the coastal range led to the loss of a few tanks on both sides.
Revolutionary forces driven right back into the town.
Though facing sturdy and steady resistance, the victorious Government infantry began forcing their way into the town, clearing the railway station and  pushing on to the wharfs along the waterfront. Having reached that point, of a sudden, Revolutionary resistance slackened appreciably, as the local commander ordered the remnants of the garrison to pull out along the east coast road.  
Government attacks continue unabated.  The Rebels
fought gamely until the Government forces reached the 
waterfront docks, whereat the defenders melted 
away into the desert eastwards.  

The sea port captured, Lord Redmond lost no time in installing a garrison organised around 22nd Punjanjoodi Battalion, and set off with the rest of the Brigade, post haste, to rejoin the troops about Maibad Station, thence to resume the advance to Maimajikwand, the capital of the province - the vipers' nest as far as Lord Redmond was concerned - in which the Revolution began.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

New boats...

Gradually Paul 'Jacko' Jackson and I have been developing an 'East African' campaign modeled very loosely upon the Eric Knowles Madasahatta campaign of yore.  A simple map has been drawn up on a hex field, with the idea of using the campaign mechanics outlined in Bob Cordery's Portable Colonial Wargame.  At the moment the powers involved seem to be:

  • Azeitona - a Europeian colonial power (vaguely Portuguese), with a small foothold upon the coast of Aithiops at the mouth of the Greatgreygreengreasylimpopo River, alongside the peaceable indigeous delta dwellers, the D'inka.
  • M'Butu - a militant indigenous people who like having the Azeitonian colony around, but are inclined to stand up for their own sovereignty, and are possibly inclined to claim some suzerainty over the D'inka.
  • 'The Forgotten of God' (P.C. Wren) - a vaguely Touareg, Bedouin, desert dwelling people, pugnacious and armed to the teeth, and whose whole idea of the give and take of  'trade' often amounts to 'you give; we take'.
  • Zanzingabar and Dar Es Oualdo, piratical city states and slave traders bearing a minimum acknowledgment of the fealty and homage they owe to the Turcowaz Sultan.

It seemed to me that the last of these might have some sort of naval presence, hence these vessels I made over the weekend.  The photography that accompanies this posting is from my phone.  Vaguely dhow/ felucca/ polacre/ settee type vessels.  The tiny breechloading cannon is freestanding, if ever they need an armed  vessel.  Eventually at least one more vessel will be added to the Zanzingabar fleet.  According to the PCW system, these vessels will have a carrying capacity of 8 army strength points each (length 10cm, beam 4cm), unless one is a war boat carrying the cannon, which will reduce its carrying capacity to 4SPs. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Catching Up ...

A couple of weeks back, I tried out a scenario based on the Battle of Mimasetogu, 1569, between the forces of the famous Shingen Takeda and those of the Clan Hojo.   Rather than do a full account of this battle, I'll just post some pictures with captions.

Set-up: Clan Takeda (Red) attempting to force the defile between 
wooded mountainous foothill.  Clan Hojo (Blue) wait in ambush.

Early combats don't all go Takeda's way...

...Not even when a general leads a mounted charge
into the flank of a band of ashigaru.

As Clan Hojo's samurai come to the rescue, 
the ashigaru seem to be holding their own

Losses so far, even: 4SP each...

Could Clan Takeda be on the verge of breaking
through on the right...?

Perhaps not, as Hojo Clansmen stream into the fray

Heavy losses - especially among the 'quality'. 
It looks even, here, but Clan Takeda has taken 2 
more ashigaru SPs, from a 3 figure stand with
long spears.

Clan Takeda no nearer a breakthrough 
than at the beginning - not helped by half the army
idly looking on.

Battle ends with a stand-off.  Clan Takeda lost 13SP, 
Clan Hojo 11.  But a victory for Hojo, as they held 
the pass.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Command Decision - Battle of the Bulge action.


The lead German battalion columns: 2nd Panzergrenadier
leading 3rd Panzer

Last Sunday (28 March) Paul ('Jacko') and I played a Command Decision World War Two game - the first either of us have played since early in the 2000s.  Probably its the first CD game we've played together for nigh-on thirty years (where do they all go?!). We both just wanted a blow out with something a little different from what we have been doing recently on the war games front.

The table map taken from the Bastogne 
campaign booklet (GDW)

The scenario comes from the Bastogne campaign module booklet that I bought even before I got the CD rule set. This one, #9 Noville, takes place on December 19, 1944 - the fourth day of the Ardennes Offensive - Hitler's 'last gamble', or one of them. It pits elements of CCB/ 10th US Armoured Division - Team Desobry - against the better part of the whole 2nd Panzer Division. This would be an entirely one-sided battle, were it not for the ground conditions (heavy mud) and weather (beginning at 0500 - night - and a day of intermittent fog). For this I prepared some cards that, move by move, displayed the weather, and hence visibility.

Weather conditions cards for use with this

To quote the booklet:

Situation: Team Desobry of CCB/ 10th Armoured Division, is to hold the road junction at Noville, guarding the northern flank of the Bastogne perimeter. 2nd Panzer Division must break through as quickly as possible, securing the town to protect its supply lines, and press on to the west.

The battle starts at 0500 hours.

Off-Board Support, US: 420th Armoured Field Artillery Battalion (3 M7 SP howitzers)
Off-Board Support, German: None.
Weather: Intermittent Fog.
Ground Condition: Heavy Mud

US positions, early morning darkness, 19 December.

The Americans begin the action with a small battlegroup - Team Desobry - comprising tank and infantry companies from Combat Command B, 10th Armoured Division, together with an assortment of platoon-strength supports, and stragglers from 110th Infantry Regiment (26th infantry Division) and 52nd Armoured Infantry from CCR, 9th Armoured Division, in and around the village of Noville. They could expect a trickle of reinforcements later in the day, a platoon of Hellcats at midmorning with another in the late afternoon, and  in the early afternoon a whole battalion of Parachute infantry from the 506th Airborne Regiment.
View looking east.  Of course, it's being night,
this pic ought to be all-over black.
The German strength - the best part of the whole 2nd Panzer Division - was to build up throughout the morning and early afternoon, beginning with I Bn/ 2nd Panzergrenadier Regiment (motorised) and I Bn (Panthers)/ 3rd Panzer Regiment, minus two of its four companies.  To these, were added:

0700: HQ and IIBn (PzIV) 3rd Panzer Regiment 
Actually, this unit had 2 companies each of PzIV and JgPzIV, one of the former pair being engaged elsewhere.
0900: HQ, Infantry gun and Engineer Coys, plus IIBn/ 2nd Panzergrenadiers (on bicycles)
1100: HQ, 2nd Panzer Division, 38th Panzerjager Abt with 2 StuGIII and 1 PaK40 coys.
1400: HQ, IG and Engr coys plus IBn/ 304th Panzergrenadiers (gepanzert) and a third Panther Coy from I Bn/ 3rd Panzer Regiment.
Even though the panzer and armoured infantry companies were under strength, this was certainly a formidable force that the scratch assortment of Yankees were expected to face!  

I won't go into a lengthy narrative here, mainly as we got only as far as late morning and the imminent arrival of the StuGs and PaK40s.  During the late hours of darkness, the whole column, led by the panzergrenadiers in trucks moved up the road from Bourcy, via Hardigny and Rachamps.  Dismounting just beyond the last village, 1st Company carried on, followed by the 3rd, whilst 2nd Company took the road northwest to approach Vaux village over the wooded hills.  

The Panzer recon platoon accompanied the 1st PzGr Coy up to the crossroads, reaching that point just as dawn broke to a heavy mist or light fog. A M18 Hellcat platoon (C Coy/ 609th Tank Destroyer Bn) close by Noville village facing up the road towards the crossroads, caught the recon panthers in flank at less than 1000 yards, reducing then at once into wreckage. Spotting the Shermans on the hill, the following panthers, with some fine shooting, knocked out two platoons' worth just before the fog thickened and, reducing the visibility to 100 yards, obscured the enemy from view.

An attempt by 1st PzGr Coy to carry the hill was met by a hot fire from beyond that caused heavy casualties. My Command Decision set being the First Edition and lacking the casualty tokens, I have added a set of coloured counters to the mix, green, yellow, red, in turn signifying the number of hits received.  Red places a stand at hazard of elimination at the next hit. So from the picture above, you can see that the three-stand company (1st) has been badly knocked about, whilst 3rd Company to their right has taken by light casualties so far.  Almost out of the picture, 2nd Company has also taken slight losses as they approach the undefended Vaux village.  (Actually, I started with yellow, but, as they were veteran ought to have with green.  The Yanks were mostly veteran also, but the CCR/ 9th Armoured stragglers ought to have been classed as 'green'.  Never mind - it made little odds.)

Upon arrival, rather embarrassingly ahead of the IInd PzGr Battalion, the IInd Panzer Battalion came up the Bourcy-Noville road, pausing before the wooded hill to deploy into the muddy fields beside the road.  In the heavy mud, they were at some risk on bogging, just as the panthers had been earlier (part of 1st Panther Company had indeed stuck fast and the crews were frantically trying to unstick themselves).  However they were reluctant to to press further forward until the IInd PzGr Bn had come up.  At that, one jagdpanzer platoon did bog down, shortly before it came under heavy artillery fire whenever the fog momentarily cleared.

With Vaux in their hands, the Americans forced off the centre hill, and a route westward almost secured, 2nd Panther Company drove onto the hill preparing to engage the enemy beyond.  The lead platoon strayed into bazooka range of the Noville garrison, which at once, with some astonishing shooting put paid to the panthers in moments.  On a D10: 5s required to hit, 3 hits; damage 1D10 against side armout defence of 4: 10, 10, 7 = +6, +6, +3.  Goodbye panther platoon.  Overkill.  
The final act of the day was a brisk tank battle east of Noville. Poking their noses out from beyond the village, the last of the Sherman company took out the second half of the 2nd Panther Company. But retribution was swift. Remobilised from the clinging mud, the 1st Panther Coy had edged closer to Noville. High velocity 7.5cm shells slammed into the American tanks. Now the only really effective anti-tank weapons they had available were on a Hellcat platoon lurking in Cobry, southwest of Noville.

We had to call the action at this point. For the first time in a good while this was played at the club,  and the set-up, action (some 12 turns) and a humungous lunch took us from 11am to a little after 4, when it was time to pack up and go home. This was probably too ambitious a project for the time available (and an 8ft by 6ft table would have been preferable to the 8ft by 4ft we had to make do with), but this was not possible to play at home.

The kit was mine (German) and 'Jacko's' (American); the terrain mostly mine, and thanks to the Woolston Club for the fine 'heavy mud' table mat!

Could the Germans have cleared Noville, and  possibly Cobry, before the 506th Parachute battalion arrived to spoil the party?  I think so.  IInd PzGr Bn and the Panzer battalion was just about set to sweep the wooded hill along the Bourcy road; I PzGr Bn was still a force to be reckoned with in the north, and half the Panther battalion remained a presence in the centre.  Some useful support weapons and combat engineers were also arriving.  Having said that, though, the loss of three panther platoons was not to be sneezed at...