Monday, June 24, 2019

The Portable Quatre Bras.

The Quatre Bras battlefield, troops laid out, looking north.
I shall be interrupting the Chronicles of Rajistan postings for the moment and introduce the following whilst I still have the table up. This was to be the final - for the time being - of my little series on Bob Cordery's Portable Napoleonic Wargame. It seemed to me that the Battle of Quatre Bras might be a suitable concluding action.
Westward view.  The far 3 rows of hexes have been
Posting at this point is also to excuse my delay in posting the AAR of the action at Hak. I do hope you will find, when it is published, it will have been worth the wait.  I have kind of story-boarded my pictures, with notes, and have simply to flesh out the battle narrative.
View from Allied side to the north.  Perponcher's Dutchmen
in position south of Quatre Bras; The Duke of Wellington,
 with Picton's 5th Division, just arriving from the north. 
For now, I'll just leave the pictures by way of a ... trailer.

To be ... resumed.

Friday, June 21, 2019

From the Chronicles of Rajistan (2)

Genaral Scarlett's Battle Plan.

As the Pardis River oozes its somnolent journey from Sakhdad, it interrupts its southward course with a wide detour to the northeast, past the town of Hak, until it reaches the village of Abu Rummar. Having discovered what might be seen there - not much - the stream resumes its former direction, which it retains with no further interruptions until it reaches the Gulf of Parthia nearly 300 miles to the south. So, in the opposite direction, one might have observed during August and September, 1875, a flow of a different kind: the advance of Major-General Scarlett's column of Ruberian and Rajistan soldiery - horse, foot and guns - its purpose to visit the Empire's wrath upon the perfidious Turkowaz. 

Overview, facing north.

It was upon reaching this Pardis 'dogleg', that Scarlett discovered a Turkowaz army awaiting him, a fortified line facing northeast astride the Pardis River, its flanks protected by impassible marshes. Protecting the Turkowaz far left flank were not only the marshes of Suwara, and a larger one just off the map to its north, but fortified strongpoints to the west of them alongside the Dahra irrigation canal. The treacherous Pardis River being crossable, apart from the at the towns (the hexsides of Hak and Abu Rummar), only at the bridges and at the Dahra Tower, the Ruberian main effort was indicated to cross the canal, carry the Turkowaz field works and redoubt, thence to force the river crossing at Hak itself.
Ruberian Brigade columns on the march.  The two elements
per grid area will be explained in the text.

To this end, 18th 'Poona' Brigade, with the support of 'X' Mountain Artillery and the 5th Hampshire Howitzer Battery, was to attack along the single track railway line.  Although Brigadier Redmayne understood that he might force the bridge crossings if he could; his instructions were to hold the defenders in place, and, if possible, induce the enemy to commit at least part of his reserve to that part of their line.  Sixteenth Brigade was to cross the Dahra Canal east of the Suwara Marsh and assault the enemy line on the west bank side of the Pardis.

Cavalry leading the flanking march.
Intelligence indicating that 38th Turkowaz Division was rather thinly spread on that side of the river, Scarlett was confident of overrunning the position in short order. Of course it would take time for the main effort, to filter the cavalry and 17th Brigade between the marshes, storm the isolated fieldworks and roll up the enemy flanks, but once underway, the advance upon Hak should meet with little obstruction.

The Turkowaz commander, Nasr-ed-Din Pasha, was not for nothing regarded as the Settee's most able soldier.  He was acutely aware of the qualitative inferiority of his cobbled force - cobbled, because time had been too short to bring the regulars all the way to this remote outpost.  Two of his Divisions he placed behind field works to face the initial attacks.  Behind, he kept a large reserve; one of his three Divisions, and his cavalry as well. As it transpired, he was, almost as the battle began, to commit his cavalry to the left flank.

Battle joined: 18th (near bank) and 16th (far bank) Brigades
closing in on the Turkowaz lines.

I shall interrupt the narrative at this point to discuss the rule set I was using.  This was Bob Cordery's '19th Century' set from The Portable Wargame, but with a few small tweaks to accommodate this scenario.

1.  I added a layer of command between GoC and troops, namely the brigade commanders on the Ruberian (RED) side, and the Division commanders on the Turkowaz (BLUE). They seem to want to be there somehow.  These command elements gave the same plus to combat as the army commanders do, but could stand as substantive fighting elements in themselves. However, it being held that the HQ escorts could be only company sized, I gave them just the ONE Strength Point; but made them elite. The idea was to discourage their employment as extra independent fighting elements except in extremis, as one might expect. 

2.  I allowed two elements per grid area for the purposes of movement - effectively columns of manoeuvre. 
  •  In combat, the extra element added no bonus whatever. Under bombardment, however, only the element nearer the enemy took any hit.  If forced to retreat, that element passed 'through' that behind in the same grid area. The reason for my adopting this is that, having placed the Turkowaz mountain artillery in the front line, I discovered just how lethal direct fire could be, especially with their local Divisional commander standing over them.  
  • Provided the two elements remained together in the same grid area, they required just one activation 'point' to move. However, in crossing the canal, only one element could cross from the same grid area in one turn.  
  • I found these ideas helped the action to rattle along in the early stages, but as the battle developed, these columns split into their constituent elements, with consequent decision making required at activation.
    Duel between 18th Brigade and 35th Division.

3. Terrain effects:
  • The rivers were impassible,  except (a) at the bridge near the confluence of the Pardis and its tributary, (b) at the railway bridge, and (c) at any town or Dahra Tower hex-side, it being assumed that there are sufficient river crossings in those places of one sort or another.
  • The marshes are impassible, their reeds and foliage masking line of sight.
  • The reeds and foliage lining the rivers have no significance other than to give the rivers a slightly more 'riverine' appearance.
  • The canal was crossable by horse and foot, including the Gatling guns.  It could not be crossed by field or mountain artillery, except at Abu Rummar and Dahra Tower.
  • The Dahra Canal Redoubt and the nearby fieldwork offer all round defence for their grid areas.
Thirty-seventh Division already being transferred to the
western flank.  The cavalry Brigade is already across
the river.
4.  Combats - Close combat.
Combats in which the opposing elements are in adjacent grid areas are deemed 'close assault' or 'close combat'.  All such combats were treated as automatic, requiring no order (and therefore no activation point allocation), and played out in both players' turns. The fortified side counted the benefit of fortifications in their own as well as in their opponents' turn.

5.  Turn sequence. I used my 'dice method' of determining which side 'went' first in any pair of turns (higher roll went first), and to determine how many 'elements' could be activated [1,2 - (Median - 1); 3,4 - (Median); 5,6 - (Median + 1)]. 
6.  A comment on play balance:
The forces being fairly close to equal in number - the difference being four Ruberian Gatlings and one Turkowaz field artillery plus fortified position - the armies are quite disparate in quality. This seems to have been so historically, at least at the 'First' Battle of Kut in September 1915. I expected that the Turkowaz defensive posture (with a willingness to counter-attack, given the chance) would go a long way towards balance.  We'll see how far this expectation was realised.

Sixth Cavalry Brigade running the gauntlet of fire from
the field works of 151st and 152nd Regiments

For now, this posting being already of sufficient length, I'll resume the battle narrative another time.

To be continued...

Thursday, June 20, 2019

From the Chronicles of Rajistan...

The Turkowaz depredations upon the Ruberian Imperium of Rajistan, in the Sangrian sub-continent, had in recent times become more than could be contained by the overstretched border command of Sir Redfers Carmine, and in consequence more than a mere nuisance. 

'The overbearing Sultan Azraq Arslan must be taught a sharp lesson!' quoth the choleric General and Vice-Regent Sir Grinmore Scarlett, '... and I am the one to administer it, by the Powers!' After several weeks of preparation, General Scarlett assembled a Division sized corps of all arms. With this Expeditionary Division, he undertook to enter Medifluvia, advance up the famous Pardis River, take the fabled city of Sakhdad, strip the place of its wealth and raze it to the ground. By, as he averred, the Powers.

In the natural course of things, the weeks of assembling troops, supplies and associated impedimenta did not go unnoticed in Sakhdad, the seat of the local Medifluvian Governor, the Bey of Bassorah. Clearly, this was going to be far beyond his local levies and few regular forces to cope with. An appeal was despatched betimes to the Sultan in his Settee capital, Ionople. The normally somnolent Sultan, apt to be awakened into action by the threat of violence to his realm, sent his best commander Nasr-ed-Din Pasha, with instructions to pick up such troops as he could along his journey to the distant province, and bring the Ruberians and their Rajistan sepoys to a halt well south of Sakhdad, and to destroy them in the desert.

Nasr-ed-Din managed on the march to gather enough infantry to form three small Divisions, though he could not hide from himself their general lack of training, even such as might have been got on the march. His cavalry were of better mettle, and his artillery good. His best troops, few as they were, were to be found in the personal entourages of his commanders. Arriving at Sakhdad, he continued on south to meet the Frankish foe.
Area of Hak battlefield.  The cartographer has mislabelled the 
River Pardis as 'Tigris'.  The square marked 'D' represented a
small column that General Scarlett decided against sending.

On the Ruberian side, but for delays that added weeks to the operation, the advance had proceeded without trouble, nor any real sign of the enemy. At last the Ruberians reach the point along the River Pardis where the stream made a sharp loop, such that for a few miles along its length one might stand on the west bank and watch the sun set behind the east. Nestled in this loop was the desert market town of Hak.  It was in this area that Nasr-ed-Din had chosen to take his stand (see map).

The Pasha had with him:

Medifluvian Defence Army: General Nasr-ed-Din Pasha (TURQUOISE) 6SP

35th Division: Duya-ed-Din Pasha (and entourage) (1SP - Elite)
     137th Regiment (4SP - Poor {levy})
     138th Regiment (4SP - Poor)
     139th Regiment (4SP - Poor)
     140th Regiment (4SP - Poor)
     35th Mountain Artillery (2SP - Average)

37th Division: Abdul Kerim Emir (1SP - Elite)
     145th Regiment (4SP - Poor)
     146th Regiment (4SP - Poor)
     147th Regiment (4SP - Poor)
     148th Regiment (4SP - Poor)
     37th Field Artillery (2SP- Average)

38th Division: Ali Sait Akbaytogan (1SP - Elite)
     149th Regiment (4SP - Poor)
     150th Regiment (4SP - Poor)
     151st Regiment (4SP - Poor)
     152nd Regiment (4SP - Poor)
     38th Mountain Artillery (2SP - Average)

14th Cavalry Division: Ahmed Fayzi Pasha (1SP - Elite)
     40th Cavalry Regiment  (3SP - Average)
     41st Cavalry Regiment  (3SP - Average)
     42nd Cavalry Regiment (3SP - Average)

13th Field Artillery: (2SP - Average)

24 units; Median 12
75 Strength points; Exhaustion Point -25.

Medifluvian Defence Army

Rajistan Expeditionary Division (RED): Major-General Sir Grinmore Scarlett   6SP

16th 'Poona' Brigade: Brigadier Sir Rubeus Redmayne  (1SP - Elite)
    2nd Dorsets  (4SP - Elite)
    20th Duke of Cambridge's Own (4SP - Average)
    114th Duke of Wellesley's Rifles (4SP - Average)
    117th Madasahatta Infantry (4SP - Average)
    'Poona' Gatling (MG) Company (2SP - Average)

17th 'Ahmednagar' Brigade: Brigadier Sam Vermilion-Jones  (1SP - Elite)
     1st Ox and Bucks (4SP - Elite)
     22nd Punchnjab Infantry (4SP - Average)
     103rd Madasahatta Infantry (4SP - Average)
     119th Myulshu Infantry (4SP - Average)
     'Ahmednagar' Gatling Company (2SP - Average)

18th 'Belgaum' Brigade: Col. Sir Redfers Carmine, Bart. (1SP - Elite)
     2nd Norfolk Infantry (4SP - Elite)
     7th Duke of Norfolk's Own (4SP - Average)
     110th Madasahatta Infantry (4SP - Average)
     120th Rajinbul Infantry (4SP - Average)
     'Belgaum' Gatling Company (2SP - Average)

6th Cavalry Brigade: Brigadier Salmond Lord Garnet (1SP - Elite)
    7th Lancers (3SP - Elite)
    16th Dragoons (3SP - Elite)
    33rd Queen Victoria's Own Light Horse (3SP - Average)
    Gatling Detachment, RHA (2SP - Average)

Division Artillery:
   'X' Mountain Artillery Brigade (2SP - Average)
   1st Rajistan Mountain Artillery (2SP - Average)
   5th Hants Field Howitzer Battery (2SP - Average)

27 Units; 14 Median.
81 Strength Points; Exhaustion point -27SP.

Rajistan Expeditionary Division (RED)

The knowledgeable military historian might observe an uncanny resemblance to the Battle of Kut, an incident during the course of the campaign conducted by a certain Major-General Sir Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend in Mesopotamia, 1915-16. I've had this project in the pipeline for several months, now, and finally got to play it out. I was hoping to involve 'Jacko', using a very slightly adapted Portable Wargames rule set for the 19th Century, from Bob Cordery's first book of the series, but as he was unavailable, played it out solo.

More, later...
To be continued...

Sunday, June 9, 2019

D-Day Celebration...

Over this last weekend, the Christchurch War Games Society - a section of the Woolston Club in Christchurch - staged a war games event to commemorate the D-Day landings in Normandy, 6 June, 1944.  There were two large games, one of the beach landings (SWORD Beach, using 15mm scale figures), the other more 'generic' bocage fighting (28mm figures), though one end of the very long table featured Pegasus Bridge.  There were several displays of uniforms, weapons and models as well.

I didn't participate, myself, not having the appropriate kit (mine being entirely 1:76/1:72).  Here are some pictures I took of the event.
More on Sword Beach


The following pictures are from the Bolt Action game, which featured I think 7 players a side, each commanding elements of separate Divisions. Unfortunately, I didn't take a pic of the whole length of the table. The action was not intended to be historical, with 6th (British) Airborne Division up one end of the table, and 82nd (US) Airborne at the other. The British Airborne faced off against 716 Infantry Division, the US 82nd against 352 Infantry or 17SS Panzergrenadiers (I'm not sure which).

Pegasus Bridge - more of a display piece, with the action
taking place on the opposite (west) bank.

Some really amazing terrain pieces that featured in - well
both games, really.

I think the aircraft were there for display.  The list against the
wall shows at least the German Divisions featured.  PLD
is, of course,  the Panzer Lehr Division.

Here's a link to Craig's Wargaming blog, with a good deal more about the event.