Sunday, June 10, 2018

'Now... that reminds me...'

French approach.  The Dragoons have taken some losses from
guerrilla fire as they passed through the town.  13th Light
undertake to clear the place of insurgents. The weakened
11th Dragoons are further discomfited by the Maria-Luisa Hussars...
A comment upon my recent posting anent the Gatonegro War of Independence put me in mind of amnother wargames battle, fought long ago between armies of disparate training and durability.  The thing was set in Spain, and based upon one of Charles S. Grant's Tabletop Teasers: 'Peninsular Conflict'.  I notice now, looking at the original, that I inverted the whole thing, a little trick my memory sometimes plays with me!

The premise is that poorly trained and led, motivated only by resistance against an occupying power, the Spanish armies were time and again defeated by the French.  Early in the Peninsular War,  smallish French forces  were able to take on and beat much larger Spanish armies.  Such is the myth, anyhow, but a fine instance of that must have been General Joseph Souham's victory over twice his numbers at Vich (Vic) Catalonia early in 1810. Of course, one tends to forget the outcomes of the actions at Baylen, Tamames and Alcaniz...

This scenario had the French responding to rumours of a Spanish force approaching an important town somewhere in northern Spain.  The report read by General Montenez indicated the town itself  - El Viscostello - was a hotbed of guerrilla activity.  Off marched the French general, with his Division, with attached horse and guns. His aim was to capture and seal off the passes through the high ridges west of the town.
Late morning: the action develops.  French ordre mixte clears
the northern ridge and part of the central, but at some cost.
Spanish right hand Brigade counter-attacks...
 His Army comprised:

Army of Catalonia, Momtenez's Division:
GOC General de Division Alexandre Montenez.

13me Legere ..... 27 figures (3 HQ gigures and 24 'shooting' figures)
17me Ligne  ...... 27 figures
30me Ligne ........27 figure
51me Ligne ........27 figures
61me Ligne ........27 figures
11me Dragons ... 12 figures
9me Hussards .... 12 figures
Cannon ...............  8 figures and 2 cannon.

Totals: 167 figures and 2 guns.

Now, this had been somewhat adapted from the Teaser scenario, and took on board the author's suggestion - in view of the heavy defeat of the French in his enactment - the addition of a further unit to the original numbers.

Early afternoon:  French advancing steadily on the right, but
are very lucky to hold on their left when a desperate change by
9th Hussars flings back two Spanish battalions.
 At the time, my friend 'Jacko' was building a Spanish army, in plastics I think, with 18-figure battalions.  This led to a fair bit of calculation and Maffs to arrive at the Army of the Left-Right-Centre led by General Don Diego del Huevos y Bacon as follows:

Early morning: the 13th Light infantry beginning clearing operations. 
Two companies clear the north side fairly quickly, and on the south side,
 the guerrilleros are soon driven into the orange groves.  But the pursuit
among the trees leads to losses heavy enough that 13th Light
 had to give up the chase.  They fall back to the buildings
 lining the main street streets.  Two guerrilla figures remain.

Army of the Left-Right-Centre:
GOC General Don Diego del Huevos y Bacon

1. Navarre infantry  ....... 18 figures
2. Cordoba Infantry ........18 figures
3. Zaragoza Infantry .......18 figures
4. Leon Infantry ..............18 figures
5. Rey Infantry ................18 figures
6. Aragon Infantry ..........18 figures
7. Soria Infantry ..............18 figures
8. Guadualaxara Infantry..18 figures
9. Estremadura Infantry ...18 figures
10. Maria Luisa Hussars ..12 figures
11. Artillery ...................... 8 figures and 2 cannon

Totals: 182 figures plus 2 guns.

In addition to this considerable force, there were in the town a small force of guerrilleros, to the number ten.  The town itself comprised 12 buildings, 6 on the north side of the main street; 6 on the south.  Orange groves fringed the southern outskirts.  The location of each guerrilla fighter was determined by a die throw: odds/evens to determine north/south side; and the pip count determining which building.  The modified picture above and to the right shows the distribution, and the French effort to hunt them down: 3 guerrillas on the north side; 7 on the south.

The qualitative difference between the armies was intended to make up the difference in numerical strength.  The 24 shooting figures of the French battalions was double that of the 16 shooting figures of the Spanish.  The former were more durable into the bargain, being classed as 'Experienced' against the Spanish 'Raw'.  However, the guerrilleros, acting in small independent groups, were not subject to morale checks at all.  Combat between them and their light infantry adversaries was conducted in a different manner - more in the way of a 'skirmish' action among individual figures.  The result was startling, to say the least.  The 13th Light infantry were never to enter the main action this day!

Late afternoon:  A Spanish counter-attack throws the French
briefly onto the defensive, and even recaptures the centre
ridge for a time.  French pressure on both flanks eventually
throws back the Spanish army.  Half an hour before last
 light, the Cocobanana and Saramiles passes are both
in French hands,
Leading the French column, on a dim dawning of 19 February, 1810, the 9th Hussars passed through the town safely enough.  But by the time the leading troopers of the 11th Dragoons passed through,  the insurgents in the town had been alerted and were ready for action.  Pistol, musket and blunderbuss fire erupted from upper windows and balconies, emptying many a saddle.  Carrying on through the town. the Dragoons formed up west of the town.  It was up to the light infantry of the 13th Legere to clear the town.  As the volume of fire indicated that the majority of the insurgents were on the southern side of town, just two companies were detailed to clear the north side; and the remainder of the battalion to deal to the south side. 

As commander of the French, I had hoped that, after clearing the town of insurgents, the light infantry would become available for action in the battle for the ridges.  It was not to be, but the French were victorious - fortunately so - in the tough, hard-fought near-run affair that ensued.

Apart from the map captions, I won't go into the rest of the action: it's ancient history.  But, by a remarkable coincidence, something very similar was to occur during the early months of the Gatonegro War of Independence...

Friday, June 8, 2018


New accommodations for the Army of Ursaminor.
 Not a whale of a lot happening on the war games front chez moi.  One gets these blah phases, especially with the onset of winter, in which the motivation to do much of anything is lacking.  I ought to be doing a heck of a lot more with this blog spot.  It is not as if I haven't things to write or to show.  But I have been doing a bit of painting and a bit of trying to rationalise, sort out and accommodate my inventory of stuff.  One friend has been the beneficiary of a small cull of unpainted plastic Napoleonic and 7YW figures.  Seemed fair: he's sent stuff my way from time to time.
Four horsed regiments; four manufacturers: Italieri carabiniers;
Revell Dragoons, Airfix hussars, ESCI lancers.
 I also found these laminated cardboard drawer file thingies.  A good size and height for my plastic figures.  Pictured is the army I built about 20 years ago for my daughter.  Recent readers might recognise it as the Royalist/Loyalist side in my recent narratives on the Gatonegro War of Independence.
Ursaminor infantry until recently. 4 Line, 1 Grenadier, and
1 Jager battalion.  There's supposed to be an extra Grenadier
battalion HQ in there somewhere...
Several years ago I got hold of a job lot of Airfix French artillery figures, with enough of the included marching infantry to form almost two further battalions.  Then four more arrived to make up the numbers.  For some reason I'd find one lot (the 34) or the other (the 4), never quite remembering whether or not I had the other lot, never quite being able to recall what happened to them, until recently.  That's what happens when you happen to be fossicking around for something and run across what you weren't looking for.

Ursaminor artillery, a militia battalion, and two new Line
battalions plus a new Grenadier Bn HQ.
Finally and at last, I've got them together, with some Airfix AWI British Grenadier figures, to form the 5th and 6th Regiments of the Army of Ursaminor (or the Estrada and Friol Infantry of the Royalist Army in Gatonegro).  It was time to desist with the teddy bear motif (sorry - Ursus Theodorus or displayed), in favour of simpler designs - Azure with two bendlets or for the 5th, and Chequey gules and or for the 6th.  Standing in front of the brown-jacketed militia unit is the HQ for the Guadix Grenadiers (drawn from the grenadier companies of 4th - 6th Regiments).  It took me three goes to get a satisfactory lozengy vert and argent flag for that HQ.
Trying out simpler flag designs ... 
The distinctive blue coats of 5th Regiment were due to most of those figures having been semi-painted when I got them.  The crowns of the shakos having been painted red, they became all red.  And 6th Regiment got grey shakos.  Sixth Regiment also got the 2 extra figures to become a 30-figure, rather than the establishment 28-figure unit.

The whole army (excluding the militia) comprises 225 foot, 60 horse and 18 artillerymen - 303 figures, with 4 cannon.  I'll need to find some suitable Brigade or Division commanders as well.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Bir Hacheim - Memoir 44 scenario playtest.

It was reading Martin Rapier's recent account of a 'Bir Hakeim' action played under the Memoir '44 game system, with add-ons, supplements and adjustments, that inspired this belated, and rather divergent, posting.  As such it was something of an experiment and the article as much a review of the game system and the success (or otherwise) of the modifications Martin had in mind (see here).
Scenario set up.  The dotted bits represent minefields, for
which I used AT obstacles.  Blue arrows are exit points fpr
Axis units breaking through; the grey stars
strong-point objectives.

 Reading this, I wondered just how the scenario would go with the basic Normandy game system - completely unaltered.  Mapping out the scenario from the photographs, I had to guess the number of command cards and 'victory points' for each side.

The Axis went first; both sides got 6 command cards.  The Allies got Victory Points by destroying enemy units.  The Axis get them by {a} destroying Allied units, {b} by occupying strong points held by the 'Free French' near Bir Hacheim' (grey stars) and {c} by exiting units from either of the two exit points marked with blue arrows on the map.

For this action, I used anti-tank obstacles to represent minefields, with no rules adjustment.  All the same, as the action developed, it became clear that the action would concentrate upon the less protected positions outside the fortified perimeter.  Partly this was due to the preponderance of sector orders to the right and centre.  Very few group orders turned up, an observation that Martin Rapier dilated upon.
Rough notion of how events unfolded.  The arrival of 2/3
of the Ariete Division tanks and the 'Armour Assault;
card led to almost the entire Indian Bde being overrun.
For quite a while, it looked as though the Axis were not going to flank the Gazala line at all - through Bir Hacheim, or around it.  Fighting was never more than desultory around the Bir Hacheim 'box' itself - such as there was being as much to turn over the cards as to inflict losses.  The defences were discouraging enough, but none too many sector order cards came up for this part of the field.

Between the ridges, the fighting was a deal more brisk, and the defenders were giving a pretty good account of themselves.  Early on, the Axis paused to bring up the artillery just one hex, to a more effective range of the dug in line.  Even so, the early Stuka raid (Air Strike card) and heavy artillery strike a few turns thereafter (Barrage card) were welcome to the Axis to keep up the pressure in what amounted to a battle of attrition.  A couple of tank units from 'Ariete' Division were called over - to reinforce what had become the main attack, but also to turn over a 'left sector 'Probe' card.

What sealed the deal for the Axis was the arrival of an 'Armour Assault' card, just as the Ariete Division was set to intervene effectively.  With it, the four tank units still available thundered into close assault, effecting a couple of overrun attacks and swept the Allied line - infantry and guns - from right to left.  Only the remnant still occupying the rise on the left flank survived.

Of course, the tank units of the 4th Armoured Brigade counter-attacked, and inflicted some loss.  The left hand unit even reoccupied some positions earlier held by the infantry.  But after their massed attack, the momentum rested with the Axis.  Soon the entire available Allied armour were wrecks littering the darkling desert.  Five Allied units destroyed and one Axis Panzer unit exited, to two Axis units destroyed (though at least a couple of others were down to a single element) it was a great Axis victory; 6-2 based on VPs.

The turning point was certainly sudden, and the Allies didn't get much in the way of group cards to help things along.  Still, for mine, a fascinating exercise, interesting scenario even under the basic Memoir '44 system... and ... a candidate game for The Portable Wargame!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Insurrection - First Battle

Where we left the narrative last time.  The lancers are seeking
out the Insurrectionist right flank.
The first battle of the insurrection in Gatonegro could scarcely have been less sophisticated in its execution, but there was no denying its ferocity. As dawn broke over the dusty, scrubby plain south of Arabispo town, the Royalist lookouts could discern the steady approach of what looked uncommon like an army: uniformed and regimented, and even well enough armed. The insurrections were advancing in line, too, not something might expect of hastily trained troops.  (Fact is, it only crossed my mind later that the insurrectionists might have adopted columnar tactics.  On the other hand, the Yankee revolutionaries were not noted for tactics of that type...)
The view from behind Royalist lines.
The Insurrectionists approached with Buzbar and Carryon brigades side by side. The leading four battalions were arrayed in order, from the right flank, 3rd, 9th, 5th and 10th; the second line comprised 4th and 6th Battalions. Sufficiently well equipped with muskets though they were, they were altogether lacking in horse and guns. Heavily outnumbered as he was, Don Lardo faced the oncoming rebellion with confidence in his well-balanced forces and the training of his troops.
A rather fuzzy pic of the Lancers overrunning the rebel
3rd Battalion.
So confident was he withal, that, retaining his militia to garrison the town, he advanced to meet the enemy. A point to be made here is that for this action I used 'priority' chits, rather than the 'median' system used in the previous action. There being a total of 14 units and command staffs (figures) on the table, the chits were numbered 1 to 14, and each turn shuffled and randomly distributed among the units.  
Carnage of the Insurrectionist right flank - 3rd Battalion
overrun; 9th Cazadores decimated.

4th Battalion await their turn to join
 the fight
This proved rather unfortunate for the Insurrectionists' right flank. The Royalist Lancia d'Esci drawing a high number on the first move swung off slightly towards the open right flank of the enemy line. The following turn, they drew low, and promptly flung themselves upon the line of 3rd Battalion. Had the infantry drawn a low number, no doubt they would have formed square. Whether we put it down to lack of training, lack or awareness or simply surprise - the infantry were completely overwhelmed. The pitiful remnants fled incontinently from the field. Just two lancer figures were lost.
Action on the Insurrectionist right
With their blood up, and encouraged by their victory, the lancers plunged on, their target the reserve 4th Battalion some distance further on.
Action on the Insurrectionist left.
In the meantime, a savage firefight had developed in the centre. On their own, the 4th del Grado Regiment would probably have been outmatched by two Insurrectionist battalions, the firepower even, but numbers favouring the latter. But the Royalists had their artillery, and that made a big difference. They were also helped, as the rebels closed the range, by 5th Insurrectionist Battalion straying within range of some of the Loyalist militia in the town.
The fight was made the bloodier by the eagerness with which 4th del Grado closed the range. Ninth Cazadores soon broke, leaving a good half its numbers strewn about the field. The 5th Fusiliers were left desperately hanging on, until the 6th could intervene. That intervention brought new life into the Insurrectionists' main attack. It proved decisive.
On the extreme left of the Insurrectionist line, 10th Cazadores found themselves in a firefight with a company of loyalist militia, who had barricaded the main street of the town. Getting somewhat the better of this action, the Insurrectionists began to think about a direct assault, to unseat the defenders.
Loyalist militia defending the town.
Events had developed apace on the other wing. Emboldened by their easy victory over 3rd Battalion, the lancers surged on, to sweep into the line of 4th Battalion. Once again it was determined by the priority dice that the infantry would fail to form square betimes. All the same, the sketchily trained infantry gave a creditable account of themselves, and emptied many a saddle in the charge and in the melee.  It was to no avail, though. Having taken much the heavier losses in the melee, 4th Battalion soon followed their comrades of the 3rd from the field.
Both sides nearing the end of their tether - but,
less able to sustain the losses the Royalists
seem to be in worse case.

That victory proved to be the Royalist high point of the action. The collapse followed quickly after. Though 4th del Grado had carved great chunks out of two Insurrectionist battalions, the attack by another - the 6th - was the decisive moment of the battle. Fewer than half its numbers remaining with the colours, the Royalist regulars began to fall back in disorder. His lancers having not more than one charge left in them - if that - and the militia looking a bit battered as well, Don Lardo ordered the retreat to be sounded.   

The Insurrections had won.
4th del Grado Infantry about to collapse and fall back,
taking the rest of the Royalist Army with them.
This was a very quick action - maybe three or four turns, not more. But you will see by the state of the stricken field it was no light affair for the troops involved. Of the Royalist forces, 4th del Grado lost 15 from 28, the lancers 6 from 15 and the militia 5 from 19 - a total of 26 out of 67 figures.
10th Cazadores about to storm the town.  The Loyalist
defenders would quit the place before they came to blows.
Not having the details by individual units, I can only estimate Insurrectionist losses at about 40-odd.  Greater numbers, and hardly surprising given the disparity in combat effectiveness, but heavy as they were they were proportionately less than the Royalists'.  The Insurrectionist Army had been blooded (as well as bloodied), and, having won their victory, gained in confidence.  They began to think of themselves as veterans...

Fairly deliberately unbalanced - certainly asymmetrical - I was surprised in the event just how near a thing this battle turned out to be.  Having said that, I'll probably have just one more action with the Insurrectionists counting as 'militia', after which they will be ungraded to 'line' status, They will also, of course, have acquired some artillery and horsed troops meanwhile... Oh, yes: and numbers...

To be continued...

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Insurrection - opening moves.

Morning of the battle. Royalist flying column arrayed about the
town; the insurrectionists drawn up to attack.
Continuing the theme of the Gatonegro War of Independence, we hark back to the opening moves of the colonists and native rebellion against the oppressive rule of the Reine de Oro. The very name 'de Oro' derived from the vast treasures extorted and looted from the colony; with no appreciable benefit - not even defence against hostile natives (they having been effectively exterminated) - being returned by the 'Mother Country'.
Insurrectionist army: two brigades of 3 battalions. 
No artillery; no cavalry, they are entirely reliant upon
numbers and righteous rage.
The Europeian Imperial Wars of the early 19th Century impacted severely upon the Reine de Oro; that seat of Empire had been forced somewhat to relax its imperial grip, whilst yet increasing its demands upon the wealth of the colony. Grumblings in Gatonegro grew to dissent, then to frank disobedience and finally to outright defiance. The spark was finally touched off at Arabispo, where a wagon convoy had paused whilst carrying treasure to the seaport and capital, Gatorado. The attempt to hinder the convoy's journey in the morning of March 20th descended swiftly into attacks upon the few convoy guards, a massacre of townspeople, and  the discovery that during the fracas,  some enterprising townspeople and visiting peons had made off with a considerable portion of the treasure. Two of the score of wagons had vanished, and the pile of loot had appreciably diminished in at least a couple more.
Royalist regulars.  In monochrome it is less fuzzy that
it was in colour!

Of course, the Gatonegrin  Vice-Regent could not be seen to tolerate such effrontery, and despatched a flying column to clamp his Imperial authority upon the town. Under General Don Lardo Bigboy y Pantalunas, a flying column set out for the week's march to Arabispo.  This column comprised;

Royalist Flying Column

General Officer commanding and Staff: Don Lardo Bigboy y Pantalunas.
4th del Gardo Infantry Regiment (4 officers and 24 men)
1st Lancia d'Esci (3 officers and 12 troopers)
Battery Imperial Artillery (1 x 6pr piece plus 4 of a crew)

On the way, this force picked up and included in its numbers:

1st Gatonegro Loyalist Militia (3 officers and 16 men).

Total, including the commander, 67 figures (at 1:20, call it 1,340 officers and men).  The regulars count as regular except the grenadier company (6 figures) counting as elite.  The Gatonegro loyalists count as 'Militia'.

Loyalist militia stand ready to defend the town.
Unbeknownst to Imperial authority, however, the seeds of insurrection had been sown long before the Arabispo incident. The Deputy-Mayor and Town Treasurer, one Jose de San Bartolomeo, had clandestinely been recruiting and pulling together an enthusiastic, if very amateur and sketchily trained, force of insurrectionists. Meticulous in organisation as he was with the Public Accounts, San Bartolomeo organised his little army into battalions and brigades. Though lacking on horse and guns, the 2000-plus strong force he has recruited he hoped would give a good account of itself, if presented with an opportunity.
Opening moves, with the insurrectionists surging towards the town/
Already they have reason to apprehend the moves of the
Royalist lancers...

This militia might never had been called out, had Don Lardo and his troops behaved with sufficient restraint upon their arrival in the Arabispo district. Launched more than reluctantly from his sybaritic existence in the Capital, Don Lardo was inclined to vent his resentment upon the townsfolk and local peasantry. Already exasperated, the local people grew desperate.  Within the week, San Bartolomeo determined upon calling out his militia to evict Don Lardo and his men from the town.  This militia comprised:

San Bartolomeo Militia (later dubbed 'The Patriot Army')

Commanded by Deputy Mayor Jose de San Bartolomeo
Brigade Henrico (Colonel Henrico Buzbar):
     3rd Fusilier Battalion
     4th Fusilier Battalion
     9th Cazadores Battalion
Brigade Miguel (Brigade-General Jose Miguel Carryon)
     5th Fusilier Battalion
     6th Fusilier Battalion
     10th Cazadores Battalion
(All six battalions comprise 3 officers and 16 men, all counting as 'militia'.  The whole, including generals, 117 figures [say, 2340 all ranks at the 1:20 ratio]).

To be continued:

Friday, April 27, 2018

Ciudad Ministerio de Hacienda - the Battle.

The Patriot Army about to spring their surprise upon the Royalists.

The stage having been set, and the prologue recited (previous posting), it behoves me to make some preliminary remarks about this action, and the troops involved. I also want to talk about 'play balance' in this scenario as adapted for this action.

The five Patriot battalions comprise two 8-figure companies plus 3-figure HQ element, are classed as 'militia' ('poor' in Developing Portable Wargames speak), and get 1 die per 8 figures shooting. The three Royalist Regiments comprise one elite grenadier, and three line infantry companies, with a 4-figure HQ element. Each company received one die shooting.

Two or three moves into the action.  The early exchanges
favour the Patriots.
In effect, that meant the Royalist infantry firepower was 20% greater than the Patriot. But in numbers, (not counting HQ elements)  the Royalists had 10% fewer in the firing line. To test the firepower balance, I conducted a 'paper battle'  as follows. 

Patriot                                                                 Royalist
Reduce Royalists by 1/6 of own strength            Reduce Patriots by 1/5 of own strength

80 - (1/5 of 72) = 80 - 14 = 66                             72 - (1/6 of 80) = 72 - 13 = 59
66 - (1/5 of 59) = 66 - 12 = 54                             59 - (1/6 of 66) = 59 - 11 = 48
54 - (1/5 of 48) = 54 - 10 = 44                             48 - (1/6 of 54) = 48 - 9 = 39
44 - (1/5 of 39) = 44 - 8 =   36                             39 - (1/6 of 44) = 39 - 7 = 32
36 - (1/5 of 32) = 36 - 6 = 30                               32 - (1/6 of 36) = 32 - 6 = 26
At this point both sides (adding in the HQ elements) have been reduced in the same turn. 

The point of this exercise was to demonstrate, in rather heuristic terms, that the infantry of both sides was evenly balanced.

Action becoming general on Jamon y Huevos's front.
The real difference, then, was the extra gun and the small cavalry squadron in the Royalist Army.  I hoped that the Patriots' first move (surprise) and the distribution of the movement 'cards' (actually decided by die roll) would balance those units.  They were as follows

Force                     Number of units      Die Roll 1-2                3-4                5-6
Royalist                 7                                                3                   4                   5

Patriot Main          5                                                2                   3                   4
Patriot Detached   3                                                1                   2                   3

This should confer a considerable advantage to the Patriots if the were lucky on their unit activation rolls.

Patriot flank attack developing slowly, but promisingly.
So what did the Patriots do on their first turn?  Rolled 'one'. Both commands. I'd say you wouldn't read about it, but you're reading about it here. So from Lopez's command, one unit - 10th Cazadores (a rather splendid nomenclature for a militia unit) - lurched out of the wood to the left rear of 1st Avocado  Regiment. Two battalions of the main body surged out of the scrub to the Royalist front.  
Mutual carnage: the Royalist Avocado Infantry, and Patriot
9th and 4th Battalions in a stand-up drag-out firefight.
For their part, the Royalists also rolled a 'one' for their first move. That mattered rather less. Avocado Infantry advanced to meet the enemy to their front, which took it considerably out of the range of 10th Cazadores' muskets. Less its grenadier battalion in the town, the 4th del Gardo Infantry wheeled to face the irruption of Lopez's command.
Things go wrong in Lopez's command (rolling 'low' activation dice.
Although the Patriots got the better of the initial stages of the firefight against 1st Avocado, the superior firepower of the Royalists, supported as they were by the gun battery and eventually the del Gardo grenadiers, soon restored the balance. The major part of the battle comprised the clawing and mauling fight between Avocado and the 4th and 9th Patriot battalions. Meanwhile, 4th del Gardo soon engaged 10th Cazadores before its companion unit, 6th Battalion could intervene effectively.

Somewhat surprisingly, the relatively untrained Patriot infantry stood up to the punishing firefight like veterans, steadfastly refusing to break whilst they had fight still in them. I use the 'old school' 50% rule in which a unit so reduces must withdraw from the fight.  However, tests of morale - I wasn't using a Strength Point system - were frequent events, on both side. Using a system vaguely similar to that of Terrible Swift Sword, low die rolls are what one hopes for here. At one point, having taken more than 40% casualties, 9th Cazadores rolled the '1' it needed to stay in the battle. Taking further losses, the unit routed next turn.  

By that time, the 4th were also near breaking, but their failure of morale led merely to a withdrawal in good order, facing the enemy.  

Fourth del Gardo Infantry was lucky to strike the 10th Cazadores momentarily unsupported. In the interests of getting into action quickly, the 6th Infantry burst straight out of the brushwood without wheeling. Even advancing past the 10th, that placed del Gardo out of arc, with the Avocado infantry far out of range. That might not have been so bad, but the subsequent 'low' activation dice indicated some paralysis in 6th Battalion command. When the shattered remnants of the 10th fled back into the undergrowth, Lopez at once recalled the 6th. Although del Gardo had taken some losses, it was unlikely that the 6th, though fresh, could win unaided a firefight with equal numbers of regulars.
Patriot 10th Battalion crushed before the 6th can help.
The main action was over as well. Little more than half its numbers still in the fight, Avocado Infantry drew back to its original position flanking the ridge beside the town. Ninth Cazadores had routed; nothing more could be demanded of 4th Infantry; which left the relatively fresh 3rd Battalion alone, staring down the levelled barrels of the advancing, hitherto unengaged 2nd Ballesteros Infantry. Lucky to have still a force in being, General Jamon y Huevos called the retreat. On this day at least, the Royalists could wear the laurels.
Close of the action.  Avocado Infantry have pulled out the
fight, but Ballesteros is about to take up the cudgels.  Patriot remnants
in retreat
At the time, this seemed such a one-sided battle (the respective losses were roughly 30-odd Patriot to maybe 16-18 Royalist), I thought I must have got the balance wrong. But the fact was that in no turn did the Patriots manage to roll two 'high dice' for unit activation, but they did roll two 'low-dice', once on the very first turn. That tended towards the Patriots coming into action piecemeal.  Another 'low' roll in Lopez's command left 10th Cazadores unsupported at a crucial moment. Even so, the Royalist were able to bring Ballesteros Infantry into action only as the battle was drawing to a close. The artillery on the Royalist far right never got into the fight at all. I reckon that with better luck on the first turn activation, the Patriots stood a good chance of rolling up the Royalist line.

Next time:  Battle of Arabispo, the opening action of the Gatonegro War of Independence.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Something Revolutionary...

... Or, if you prefer, 'revolting'.  Somewhat inspired - if that is the word I'm groping for, by a range of ideas concerning revolts, rebellion and insurrection  that have appeared in several blogs, I thought I might essay something of the same.  Not wanting to develop whole new armies I can not possibly accommodate, I was going to use my Napoleonics, when it struck me that I had two 'imaginations' Napoleonic-style armies that had been under-employed.

At first I was thinking of Bob Cordery's campaign idea from his Developing the Portable Wargame book.  I might still do that, but another idea presented itself.  A recent blog article referred to a Battlecry scenario based on the ACW Chancellorsville operation of May, 1863.  So, there you have it.

The action comes from the early days of the Gatonegro War of Independence for the Latin American Empire of the Reina de Oro.  The early revolt had not gone well, the Patriot Army of Gatonegro being brought to book holed up behind the Rio Blanco.  Strong as the position was, the Royalist commander, General Orispo, betook himself with half his army in a species of manoeuvre sur les derrieres around the rebel right flank and into their rear.  Had he at once attacked with the enemy so sandwiched, the revolt might well have ended then and there.  Instead, he hesitated, and began rather to hope that the rebel commander, Genl Jamon y Huevos would simply up stakes and retreat.  The Royalists might even catch them on the march.
The Patriot commander had no such idea in mind.  Figuring that 'two can play that game, he left a  single battalion of 3rd Brigade (5th) together with the bulk of his artillery to face the Royalist flanking force, then concentrated about the small town Ciudad Ministerio de Hacienda (which name, by the way, translates, more or less, as Chancellorsville).  Leaving General Don Luis Lolobargia Lopez with the two battalions of 3rd Brigade, Huevos made a flank march of his own, cut the South road and advanced upon the Royalists.  
Made somewhat aware of movement to the south, the Royalists turned to face the threat, unaware that a significant force lay in the brushwood country to the northeast.  As dawn broke over the dusty landscape on 1 May, 1818. The woods around Ciudad de Hacieda woke to the shrieked Rebel battlecries, the rattle of musketry and boom of cannon...
This game is to be played on a free board using my own Corsican Ogre rule set, but with some tweaks for solo play.  The forces are:

 Royalist Army:

General Orlando Orispo (1 figure)
1st (Avocado) Battalion (28 figures)
2nd (Ballesteros) Battalion (28 figures)
4th (del Gardo) Battalion (28 figures - 6 grenadiers plus subaltern detached to garrison the town)
Squadron Lancia d'Esci (7 figures)
2 sections 6pr artillery (2 guns, 8 figures).

Total: 100 figures: 1 General/staff, 84 infantry, 7 cavalry, 8 gunners. 

 Patriot Army:

General Marco Jamon y Huevos (1 figure)
2nd Brigade:
     3rd, 4th Infanteria, 9th Cazadores (each 19 figures)
     section 6pr artillery ( 4 figures and 1 gun)
3rd Brigade: General Don Luis Lolobargia Lopez  (1 figure)
     6th Infanteria, 10th Cazadores (each 19 figures)

Total: 101 figures: 2 Generals/staffs, 95 infantry, 4 gunners.
Though the numbers are equal, the forces are qualitatively very different.  The better trained Royalist regular infantry, though fewer in number, have the greater firepower.  The Patriots, however, get to move first. The move generation system in which the number of units allowed to move is half plus or minus one for each army, will apply separately to the separate Patriot commands.  The Royalist Army counts 3 infantry, the cavalry, the 2 guns and the commander as 7 units, so will move 3,4 or 5 units per turn.  Of the Patriot Army, Huevos will move 2,3 or 4 units, Arieaga will move 1, 2 or 3 units.  This does not apply to shooting, which is automatic for any units with targets in range.
The cannon, gunners and Royalist Infantry are Airfix French all from the artillery set, except the grenadiers which are AWI British Grenadiers.  The Lancers are ESCI (you guessed that, didn't you?), and the Patriot foot are I think Revell. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Suomussalmi - the Battle.

Dawn 11 December 1939.  Finnattacks go in. 
View of Suomussalmi, looking south
As the 163rd (Moscow) Division settled in and around Suomussalmi town for the miserably frozen night of 10-11 December, 1939, they were already aware that the whole operation had run into trouble.  Finnish columns were operating along the north road whence the Russians had come; who knew what lay on the eastern, more direct road to the Soviet frontier.

Even so, they were perhaps surprised by the concentric dawn attacks that at once severed the roads north and east.  One-six-three Rifle Division was cut off, alone, frozen, and under heavy assault.
Situation Map: 11 December 1939

Soviet 759th Rgt under heavy assault.
To begin with, the Finns enjoyed considerable success, knocking holes in the III Battalions of the rifle regiments, and reducing the 163 Recce Unit to a line of smoking vehicles.  Yet the four SP loss inflicted upon the Russians cost the Finns nine.  At this rate it was already problematic whether the attackers had the strength completely to wipe out this Russian Division before any relief arrived.

Soviet 81st Rgt Under attack.  PPP6 has been
forced out of the fight.
More worrying for the attackers was that the middle of the day passed without any further success. The Finns rolled 18 dice for attack, seeking 6s to hit, and scored precisely... squat.  Nothing. Not one hit. The three that could reasonably have been expected, even just two, might have constituted considerable progress. Meanwhile, the Russian defence continued  to erode the Finns' attacking resources.  The PPP6 column drew back up the north road in an exhausted state, as did II/ 27 battalion back across the frozen Haukipera lake southeast of Suomussalmi.
Repulse of II/27 (Finn) Battalion
As the 11 December evening drew in, the Finns managed some further success, but there was no doubt that it had been a day at least as hard for them as it had the Soviets. True, III/ 759 had been broken and destroyed, as had 163rd Recce - 4 SP (strength points) irrecoverably lost. But the cost! The effort had cost 27th Regiment 14 out of 18 SP, and Pravola's column had also been reduced to one-third of its strength.
27th (Finn) Rgt has taken very heavy casualties...
On the other side of the town, the scratch 'militia' columns had as discouraging a measure of success.  They drove III/ 81st Battalion onto the Kiantajarvi lake, but the Soviet battalion was not completely destroyed, and even then its 2SP loss had taken a 5SP toll of the Finns.

... as have the militia columns.
This might have been enough to end the game - the action - right there, but there remained the matter of gathering in stragglers overnight. The Soviets were less fortunate in this regard, as two of their units were a total loss, but III/ 81 were able to recruit some of their lost strength, and were even able to reoccupy the ground lost during the day.  For their part, the Finns were able to regather 11 of the 21SPs lost during the day. The battle could resume.
27th Infantry regathers its strength...
On the 12th, the Pravola column moved over to the small ridge between the Haukipera and the small Kuomosjarvi lakes as a flank guard watching the east road. A partially restored 27th Regiment resumed its attacks along the east road, against II/ 759th Battalion and the Divisional gun line. 
... and go in once more.
The scratch columns also resumed their attacks, enfeebled though they were. Once more III/ 81 was driven onto the lake and destroyed as the PPP6 column followed up.
The militias also resume their assault.
One battalion of 81st Rgt destroyed -
but at a high cost
Right from the beginning of the action, Lt Col Fagernas had led his battalion against II/81 Battalion with scant success, but by the middle of 12 December had reduced the Russians to half strength.  The Finnish columns were themselves down to 60% strength overall.  Still, between them surely II/81 could be brushed aside to permit an attack on the town itself?

General view of the action around
Suomussalmi - looking west.along the
Raate road.
During the early daylight hours of 12 December, 27th regiment enjoyed a rare moment of good fortune. For negligible loss (0SP), III Battalion attacking up the road, and II Bn across the lake smashed II/759th, drove the remnants out of the settlement there, and onto the Kiantasjarvi ice. There the II/759th met its end.  Few stragglers ever saw their homeland again.
The Finns make progress east of the town.
After the considerable success of the morning, once more, the Finns found further progress difficult to achieve.  The exiguous survivors of II/81 Rifle Regiment simply refused to yield ground or to die.  At the end of the day the militia columns had reached almost the end of their tether - just 40% of their strength remaining as night drew in. 

Attempting to follow up their early morning success, 27th Regiment found the Soviet artillery well served and defended with determination. All three battalions took considerable losses even just reducing the batteries. There was no time to overrun the silent guns. The Soviet artillery remained in being overnight, and some batteries were back in action on the 13th.

The Finns reach the Soviet gun line.
That misfortune committed the battered 27th regiment to resume its enfeebled attacks the following day. This time the combined attacks of II and III Battalions sufficed to overrun the Soviet gun line, and I Battalion even contrived to assault Suomussalmi itself and inflict losses upon I/759 Battalion.
The view looking north

General Zelentsov find himself in the front line.  The dissolution
of 183 looks imminent, but the Finns are much weakened.
Greatly daring, the remains of the militia columns north and west of the town also resumed their attacks, but II/81 Battalion was not to be shifted. Exhausted as they now were, the order went out: henceforth, stand on the defensive. At least the Russians were not to be permitted to break out along the north road.
The militias have just about reached the end of their tether.
By this time the 44th Division was approaching up the east road, though still some distance off.  About the middle of the day the lead elements had made contact with Captain Pravola's road block. 

[A couple of remarks are due here.  

First off, historically, the road block of two companies under a Captain Makinen had been drawn from 27th Regiment.  Captain Pravola's column had in fact crossed the Kiantasjarvi lake ice to join the other column attacking the west of the Suomussalmi

The other is the lack of photos of the approaching column of the 44th.  In fact I had taken several, and the 'day' was ending, before I found I had placed them crossing the bridge, that is to say, on the wrong road!  At the end of the 'day' I placed them on the right road and carried on as if nothing had happened  It made no difference to the day's action, but would during the subsequent days.]

Those three Finnish columns had begun with
10SPs at dawn three days back.
Nothing more to be expected from the militias and border troop, the last attacks had perforce to be mounted by 27th Regiment. At the end of the day, I/27 Battalion broke into the town, dispersing the last battalion of 759th Regiment in the process. General Zelentzov suddenly found himself in the front line. 

27th Infantry started with 17 SP
Sitting behind their road block on their little ridge, Capt. Pravola's little command probably felt much as Major-General D.H. Hill did, in an an analogous position on South Mountain, watching the entire Union Army of the Potomac coming straight for him.  They were not going round - not as road bound as they were. As the day ended Pravola was still barely hanging on against the lead two battalions of the 25th Rifle Regiment, 44th Division. Poised for the breakthrough were the rest of the 25th, and the 312th Independent Tank Battalion. Off into the murky eastern distance stretched a long column of Soviet - Ukraine - infantry.
Evening, 13 December.  Soviet 44th Division encounter
the Pravoli road block.  There is no going round it.
Recognising that Pravola was unlikely to hold out indefinitely, Col Makiniemi ordered his III/27 Battalion to form a line north of the small Kuomasjarvi lake beside Pravola's position, and II Battalion to for a backstop on the road, where he joined them with his own Regimental HQ.  I Battalion was left alone  to contain what was left of 163 Division within the burned out precincts of Suomussalmi.  Unable to break out, 163 Division would have to wait for the 44th to break in.
Another historical aside seems to be called for here. It appears that this pretty much followed, though in abbreviated form, the actual events. Unable to destroy 163rd Division, the Finns were reduced to blockading the Russians whilst the main action devolved upon 64th Regiment, and events along the Raate road.
A final assault takes out General Zelentsov's Div HQ

As it transpired, Pravola's little command proved as resilient in defence as the Russian 81st Regiment had shown. II/25th Battalion exhausted itself in fruitless attacks, and I/25th was in little better case.

Pravoli's gallant band repulses the first Soviet attacks.
All the while, the column waited, stalled, upon the road. Snowladen and sodden, the ground would not permit the ski-less Soviet troops stray from the road (see previous posting for the special rules about this), so it was a case of hurry up and wait.
The 44th Div column along the Suomussalmi-Raate road.

At daybreak of the 14th, the attacks resumed. Unable to regain the road, II/25th dissolved and I/25th fell back to reform. III Battalion took up the struggle with tank support The latter at last effecting the breakthrough,  the riflemen were able to follow up and carry the ridge.  Pravola's column was no more.

Collapse of Pravoli's defence.
It was too late now for 44th Division. Since arriving in the area, it had taken more than two days to force the passage between the lakes in the early daylight hours of 15th December.
Arrival of 64th Infantry.
By this time the HQ 9th Infantry Division had taken over conduct of the battle.  The 64th Infantry Regiment had arrived, together with badly needed and much missed artillery.  As the Soviet infantry swept over Pravola's ridge line, the Finns were already close by.
I/64th Infantry vs 312 Tank Battalion 3-nil.

In the middle of the day, the Finnish attacks went in. Coming up the main South-east road, I and II Battalions attacked the heads of the road column before they could follow up the breakthough. [For the first time you will observe the 'priority chits laid down.  Until now, the 163 passive defence, followed by 27th Infantry's abandoning its attacking role, there was no real need for them.  But now both sides are on the move, so prioritising was critical.]

As I Battalion attacked the light tanks, II Battalion join in against I/25 Battalion, already badly mauled in earlier fighting. Meanwhile, III/64th had its objective the column as it passed through the Raate village.  

64th infantry severs the road, and cuts off the head of
the Soviet road column.
Supported as they were by artillery, and the Soviets lacking time for any but the hastiest of devefences ('M' must switch to 'S' before it may dig in for 'D' mode.) The Finns had good reason to be confident of success in their attacks near the lakes.  I/25th were easily overrun. Though 312 Tank Battalion fell back to the road, that unit, too, succumbed to a determined Finnish follow-up.  

Before night fell, I/64th Battalion had severed the road, leaving III/ 25th and I/ 146th Battalions cut off as they were attacking the II/27th Finnish Battalion to the west.  In close attendance, II/64th could help to sustain the blockade.

Meanwhile, the I/64 Battalion attacks, alone and unsupported, met with no substantial success. Striking the rear battalion (III) of 305 Rifle Regiment, I/64 lost 40% of its strength making not the slightest impression.
In Suomussalmi itself, I/27th rather exceeded its orders attacking General Zelentsov's headquarters and supply column (That is to say, I took a chance). The elimination of the 163 Divisional command ensured that 81st Rifle regiment would be going nowhere for the duration.
As the 44th prepared, at daybreak of the 17th, to try and force the passage west, two battalions of the 305th Rifle regiment were detailed to drive off the single Finn battalion menacing Raate. For their part, the Finns went over to a temporary defensive ('S' stance), hoping, if the enemy sufficiently weakened himself, they could resume the attack to create a third road block.
The Soviet attacks were always going to be problematic, with low SPs and no artillery support - the guns still far down the road to the rear (and hence, not yet on the table).
The lead battalion of 146th Rifle Regiment continued trying to batter its way westward.  Here I think the Soviet decision making (i.e. mine) fell a little short.  At least III/25 ought to have regained the road in the behind the 64th Regiment road block, but better yet would have been for the I/146th to lend its weight to the clearance attempt, and bring what was left of III/25 onto the road to confront 27th Regiment.  The chances of success weren't great, but would have been much improved by such a move.
That being as it may, a whole multi-decker sandwich now existed along the Raate-Suomussalmi road, with the Soviets struggling to break through, to the rescue the remnants of 163 Division.
Situation map 17 December. 1939.  

The reason why I/146 Battalion ought to have returned is shown in the picture to the right. Though Soviet losses averaged 50%, I/64 had been knocked about by the attacks and reduced to 60%. Further losses might have made a breakthrough a realistic proposition, bearing in mind that II/64 was close by to take up the cudgels.
As it was, the Soviet strength was ebbing faster than had the Finns' around Suomussalmi. A strong counterattack by II and III/305 Battalions failed by nightfall 17 December to force III/64th back from the Raate road; the remainder of 64th Infantry were not getting out of the Soviets' way any time soon, and two surviving lead battalions of 44th Division were themselves cut off. The besieged remains of 81st Division were as far from rescue as ever.

At this point, I called it. Both sides were pretty much exhausted. On the Finnish side, not much remained of 27th Infantry or the 'militia' and border police columns that had attacked Suomussalmi from the West. Column Pravola had been destroyed. Even 64th Regiment had over the last two days taken serious losses - a good 40% from its infantry strength. 

The Soviets were in even worse case: barely half 81st Regiment survived of the whole 163rd Division; of the 44th Divisional troops that had been able to enter the action, over 50% (16/30SP) had been lost. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, overall Soviet losses in this action did not much exceed the Finns' - 29SP to 27.  The forces engaged had been equal overall, as well.

Having said that, the result still had to be a Finnish victory, if perhaps less overwhelming than it was historically. The 44th Division support elements and ambulances were unlikely ever to get onto the table (though it was not impossible), and a breakthrough was certainly out of court. The Soviets were never going to get more than a draw out of the action: the total loss of 163rd Division, and a very badly battered 44th. More of the 44th would probably have survived than did historically, though it was equally possible that the Finns should manage to recreate the string of 'Motti' that proved so fatal to thousands of Ukraine soldiers.

Still not quite perfect - I actually made a couple of annoying errors in the play - I thought this action went extremely well. It was certainly nowhere near as one-sided as might have been indicated by all the handicaps I placed upon the unlucky Red Army. One unlooked for outcome from thinking about it: a 'stacking' rule that might resolve some of the outstanding issues I have had with my own version(s) of the Megablitz/Hexblitz/NQM game systems.