Friday, July 26, 2019

Portable Napoleonic Wargames: Combat Mechanics

A small play test of mechanics.  Both sides rolling '6's'
wasn't much help!
My recent Portable Quatre Bras game, along with the earlier Army (Corps) games (Wavre and Grand Rosiere) have led me to think about ways to obviate combats that (a) guaranteed immunity from harm, and (b) guaranteed susceptibility to harm.  During the course of the Quatre Bras action, the British Guards Division, in column, ran into Foy's Division. 

Foy had the deeper column (3 stands against 2); both could claim a general officer present.  As the combat mechanics stand, there was no way the French could sustain a hit.  As it transpired, the Guards rolled '2' to determined what happened to them; and the French rolled a '1'.

Incident in Quatre Bras action.  French roll of '1' was
still not low enough to register a hit on them.
This seemed to me not an especially desirable outcome.  Why shouldn't the French at least have had some chance of taking a hit?  In the write-ups of those battles, I made certain proposals, but have since decided that they aren't quite satisfactory.  I want to stick as close to the 'spirit' of the original rule set as may be, and felt that my suggestions did that.  But they also seemed rather hard to remember.  So I have had a considerable rethink.

First of all, a reminder of the Portable Napoleonic Wargame Combat Rules.  I'll rearrange the text slightly, but otherwise the meaning is the same.  Close combat is between opposing stands (figure bases) in adjacent grid areas.  Whose turn it is 'initiates the combat' (I infer even if it is an ongoing one).   IThe original rules are in italics, and I have added amendments to these in roman.

Both sides roll a D6 die for their (own) figure base involved in combat and add or subtract any relevant modifiers.

Add 1 to the D6 die roll score for:

  • Each friendly supporting stand in the same grid area as the stand initiating the combat;
  • Each friendly supporting stand in the same grid area as the stand being attacked;
  • If the stand initiating the combat is cavalry attacking infantry or artillery;
  • If a friendly commander or subordinate commander is present in the same grid area as the stand for which the D6 is being rolled;
  • If the stand being rolled for is in contact with the flank or rear of the enemy stand or formation of stands.
Add 2 to the D6 die roll score for:
  • For friendly flanking support stand in the same grid area as the stand initiating combat OR being attack or in contact.
Reduce by 1 the D6 die roll for:
  • Unit is being attacked (or has been contacted) in flank or rear by enemy;
  • Enemy unit or stand is uphill(1) or in cover;
  • For each enemy supporting stand in the same grid area as enemy initiating combat;
  • For each enemy supporting stand in same grid area as enemy being attacked (contacted).
Reduce by 2 the the D6 roll for:
  • Enemy unit is in fortifications (or strongpoints);
  • For enemy flanking supporting stand in same grid area as the stand initiating combat OR being attacked or in contact.
BLUE column vs RED line.  The dark numbers represent
'unsafe' unmodified D6 rolls; the lighter numbers, the 'safe'.
Note 1:  I am disinclined to offer a bonus for being uphill or a penalty for being downhill, whether shooting or in combat.  My own reading seems to indicate that, owing to a tendency, especially among unpractised troops, to firing high, being downhill might actually have been the favourable position, even though at the time it might not have been perceived as such.   That the perception and reality might have been at odds sounds plausible to me, and for that reason am inclined to leave the matter open.

But now we come to the substance of my proposed amendment.  It is this.  When rolling their respective D6s, the players also determine their bonuses (pluses) and penalties (minuses).  The side with the higher 'plus' count adds 1 to his D6 roll, and the player with the higher 'minus' count reduces his D6 roll by 1.  The effect of this is that in no combat is the risk of a hit less than 16%, nor greater than 50% (2).

Note 2: I did consider that the higher minus count reduce his D6 roll by the difference, but for now, prefer the 'gradualist' approach.


1. A single French (BLUE)  stand (figure base) advances 
into contact with a British (RED) stand accompanied by its Division commander (denoted by the flag).  The numbers indicate the D6 scores that will result in a hit being received.

BLUE: D6 score: 2 + 0 (no modifiers) = 2 Hit
RED: D6 score: 1 +1 (GoC Div) = 2 Hit
RED: D6 score: 2 +1 (GoC Div) = 3 Not hit.

 2.  A BLUE column of 2 stands, led by a Division commander, advances into contact with a RED brigade stand also accompanied by its divisional commander.

BLUE: D6 score: 1
Pluses: Goc Div + supporting stand = 2
Minuses: none

RED: D6 score 3
Pluses: GoC Div = 1
Minuses: Enemy supporting stand

BLUE has more 'pluses' so adds 1 to his D6 roll.
RED has more 'minuses' so reduces his D6 roll by 1.

BLUE final score = 1+1=2 Takes a hit (A D6 roll of 2 would have been safe)
RED final score = 3-1=2 Takes a hit (A D6 roll of 4 would have been safe)

3.  A BLUE column of 2 stands, led by a Division commander, advances into contact with a RED Division column also accompanied by a general. 

BLUE: D6 score: 3
RED: D6 score: 1

BLUE pluses: GoC Div + 1 support stand = 2
RED pluses: GoC Div + 2 support stands = 3
RED adds 1 to his D6 score.

BLUE minuses: 3 enemy support stands = 3
RED minuses: 2 enemy support stands = 2
BLUE reduces his D6 score by 1

BLUE final score = 3 - 1 = 2 Takes a hit (A D6 score of 4 would have been safe)
RED final score = 1 + 1 = 2 Takes a hit (A D6 score of 2 would have been safe) 

4.  A BLUE column of 3 stands, led by a Division Commander, advances into contact with a RED line of 2 brigade stands.

BLUE: D6 score: 1
RED: D6 score: 2

BLUE pluses: GoC Div + 2 support stands = 3
RED pluses: 1 flank support stand in hex = 2
BLUE adds 1 to D6 score.

BLUE minuses: 1 enemy flank support = 2
RED minuses: 2 enemy rear support = 2
NO modification to either D6 roll.

BLUE final score: 2 Takes a hit (A D6 roll of 2 would have been safe)
RED final score: 2 Takes a hit (A D6 roll of 3 would have been safe).

Here I'll pause, and add more examples next time.
To be continued...

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Look what arrived...

Just arrived yesterday! (H'mmm.  I took these photos with my
smart phone.  They really don't do their subjects justice.)

Comparison of format size.  All three volumes are
 ... upon my front doorstep yesterday afternoon!  Rather unexpected; I thought it would be another week at least before I could expect to see these items.  But Lulu Enterprises has consistently given me good service.  Here are the two Bob Cordery 'Mini-Campaign' books, Trouble in Zubia, set in a Nile-istic sort of country; and A Winterish War based loosely upon a certain sub-Arctic conflict that began in late 1939.

The first (pleasant) surprise was their format size - very close to A4. The picture here was to compare with the format of The Portable Wargame series.   The hard cover copies I bought weren't cheap - Bob was right about that! The prices, though, seemed to me commensurate with the production quality.  Overall the books look and feel superb.  The pages open reasonably flat without trouble. But then game the second surprise: glossy paper.

One of the battles in the Winterish War.
Now, these books I would class as 'picture story books', in which, though the text carries most of the narrative, by adding a little something to the tale the pictures are a welcome accompaniment.  Together, they tell the story.  Usually, I find the gloss finish somewhat 'distancing', but here that effect is I think mitigated by the colourful and crisp photography.  I have presented an opening at random from both as impressions of how they look.

The Trouble in Zubia book, though nominally  32 pages, numbers the pages 1-24 for the narrative and the brief closing bibliography. But the 8 pages of front matter - Title page, Little Title page, etc, including an Introduction, have their own page numbering in lower case Roman numerals.   The larger A Winterish War follows the same system of pagination.

These are nice books just to have, let alone to read!  I think maybe Bob has discovered a new genre for the coffee table.  I also think either or both would make a fine gift for a young person with an interest in war games or history.

Now, these are narratives rather than 'how to', but with sufficient information in terms of background, geography, forces and characters that one could easily adapt the campaigns according to one's own set up, rules preferences and soldiery.

Overall, I am impressed with the content, presentation and quality of the finished product.  Bob: congratulations!  I'm glad I got these.  I'd recommend them highly to anyone.
Bright and colourful: Trouble in Zubia.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Portable Quatre Bras 2 - Action

We left the battle narrative last time with Bachelu's Division having forced the passage of the Gemioncourt stream; that village under attack by Jerome, the Highlander garrison barely holding, and Kellerman's cuirassiers and Foy's Division assaulting the gun line between Gemioncourt and the Bossu Woods. Meanwhile, reinforcements in the shape of Alten's and Cooke's Guards Divisions were hurrying up from Hautan le Val.  

The already arrived Brunswicker Line Brigade looked set to contest the Quatre Bras crossroads, whilst the Advance Guard penetrated the Bossu Woods to contest Foy's push. On the far eastern flank, a rather desultory cavalry combat ensued, neither side able to achieve decisive results - not even when Lefebvre-Desnouettes's Guard light horse arrived late in the day.
The French push, though here and there checked for a while, proved inexorable.  The Highlanders in Gemioncourt finally succumbed to the pressure. Quatre Bras could not be held, even though Bachelu had at one point to fend off a flank attack whilst closely engaged at that village. Perponcher's guns were finally overrun; and the Brunswicker advance guard were too few to stop Foy's victorious infantry from pushing almost as far as the Hautan le Val road.
The attempted intervention by the Guards Division didn't stop Foy's Division, either - which led to a lengthy reappraisal of the combat system, which I shall shortly discuss.
Driven out of Quatre Bras and the Bossu Woods, and having reach their exhaustion point in terms of SPs lost, the Anglo-Dutch infantry formed a cordon to the north, where they remained until nightfall.  The French has lost barely half the SPs required to reach their exhaustion point. So it was a pretty decisive French victory.
The remaining pictures depict the final moments of the battle as night draws in.

But right now I want to go back to the picture of the Guards Division's battle with Foy. Let's redraw the picture, below. (The die showing '6' seems to be Wellington's SP die somewhat misplaced. Ignore it.) What we are interested in is the blue-red pair showing '1'and '2'. These were combat dice rolled.  By the way, although the fight was taking place with both sides inside the woods, I ignored the modification for cover.  

Let us now examine the results 'as per book'.
French: Roll 1, + 1 (General with) + 2 (supporting ranks) - 1 (enemy supporting column) = 3 - French unscathed.
British Guards: Roll 2, +1 (General with) + 1 (supporting ranks) -2 enemy supporting ranks = 2 - Guards take a hit.

This seemed to me a bit wrong. That the French had an extra rank over the British indicated a 1-pip edge, fair enough.  But this led to a bigger edge. So I retried a system I thought up in the third of the 'Mini-Campaign' series, in which ones own supporting ranks cancelled enemy supports. The results then were:

French: Roll 1, +1 (General with) -1 (enemy supporting rank) +1 (own supporting rank cancels negative from enemy supporting rank) = 2.  French take a hit
British: Roll 2, +1 General with) - 2 (enemy supporting ranks) +1 (Own supporting rank cancels one of the negatives from enemy supporting rank) = 2 Guards take a hit.

Such a solution seems reasonable, but it is not easy to remember how it goes. Perhaps a simpler solution is called for, somewhat suggested by my ignoring cover for this combat. It also requires a less cumbersome amendment to the rule book:

All bonuses for cover, presence of generals, supporting ranks, and such-like are cancelled if the enemy can also claim the same bonus.  In this instance:

French: Roll 1,  +0 (General with, cancelled), +1 (2 supporting ranks, 1 cancelled) = 2
Guards: Roll 2, +0 (General with, cancelled), +0 (1 supporting rank, cancelled) = 2.

We could 'add in' the cover, which would also be cancelled.

On balance, I prefer this system of cancellations. It could be extended, rather than bonuses being cancelled by type, to all bonuses cancelling each other out until one side gets the benefit of the difference.  

Supports to a flank.

In the course of this action, the Anglo-Dutch forces tended to a linear defence approach,  as they could not claim supports from the same grid area. Of course, I could have placed stands side-by-side in the same grid area (they would have fitted), which would have thickened up the line a bit. Even so, there seemed to me that columns had too much of an edge.

I am proposing, quite tentatively at this stage, that

Flank supports in the same grid area.
A1.  Reduce the D6 score of the stand being attacked and/or initiating the attack by 2 for enemy flank support in the same grid area.  
A2. Cancel 1 point of reduction for each enemy supporting stand in the same grid area (whether flank or rear)

Flank supports from other grid areas.
B1.  Reduce the D6 score of the stand initiating the attack only, by 1 for each adjacent enemy-held grid area that is not itself in close combat or contact with other friendly stands. (There has to be a better way of wording this!)
B2.  Same as A1.

Effect of Flank Attacks:
A unit attacked in flank or rear can not claim flank supports, not from within nor from adjacent grid areas.

More on Flank Attacks.

There arose a situation in which Bachelu's Division, attacking Quatre Bras, was itself attacked in flank by 4th Hanoverian Brigade of 5th Division. This didn't seem to faze the French column, much.  

Claiming pluses for general and 2 supporting ranks (+3) they took minuses for opponents in cover (one in village, the other on the edge of a wooded grid area; -1) and being attacked in flank (-1), which still left them with +1 onto the die roll. Only a roll of '1' would have yielded a 'hit'.  The unit in the town (9th Bde) - the main focus of the French column, and their combat of choice - could add for general (when there was one present) +1, but -2 for enemy supports : -1 on the die roll.  Hits on '3' or less.  

Assuming no one was driven away or destroyed in these combats, the flanking unit would be diced for only in its own turn.  It had no general present, and no other bonuses. So it would be facing -2 for its die roll - hits on '4' or less.

Now, neither Anglo-Dutch unit being in contact with any other French unit(s), only Bachelu's Division column in the one grid area, then it seems to me that each could cancel one of the enemy support stand reductions to its own roll, as suggested in the previous section on flank supports.  This would have brought the 9th Bde to 'evens' on the die roll, and the flanking unit to -1. Still favourable to France, but not to the same extent.

Cancel the generals, and all 3 units would have been rolling at -1 on the die rolls - which seems to me a lot more satisfactory a situation.  (Actually, the column could still have counted the general against the flank attack, which could claim none).

Though I shall probably adopt permanently the system I finally proposed in respect of supports in the same grid area (in bold italics above), the suggested system in respect of supports to a flank are at the moment very tentative. We might be forced 'redo' Quatre Bras in order to test them.

I may reprint this half of this posting next time, more to focus on what I've suggested here.  Suffice to say, than even with the 'rub of the green' I felt that the French victory came a bit too easily this time around.

To be ... revisited.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Portable Quatre Bras: 1. Introduction

As foreshadowed, this begins the account of Quatre Bras as fought using Bob Cordery's The Portable Napoleonic Wargame (PNW).  I thought this would form a suitable finale to the series of PNW actions related earlier in this blog, beginning with :

... and continuing over the next five postings with a series of four battles, played as though they were part of a campaign. These began with a brigade level action, then continued on with a divisional level, Army Corps, and finally an Army level game based on Wavre. This Quatre Bras action is a little out of time sequence, but I had for some time been meaning to give it a try.

Initial deployments for the Portable Quatre Bras 
For this action I took as a species of model, the scenario offered in the Col Wilbur E. Gray rule set Age of Eagles. Napoleon's strategy for the Armee du Nord was pretty much the same as he adopted in his first campaign in Italy, nineteen years before. This was to fight for the central position between separate wings of the enemy, then to defeat one wing whilst the other was held up by a small part of his own force.

The Duke of Wellington's over-sensitivity to his western flank led to a wider separation between the Anglo-Dutch and Prussian armies, scattering the former, and might have made Napoleon's strategy even more effective, by inflicting defeats upon the enemy not only in the main engagement at Ligny, but also in the secondary at Quatre Bras. Let's see how it might have gone.

The rules used were Bob Cordery's Portable Napoleonic Wargame set, with a couple of small changes that I discussed in the Wavre game. However, my organisation was more 'per spec' in terms of strength points (SP). As the top layer of command was 'Army' (Wing; 6SP)), the second was Corps (3SP), and the third (Division)  was given just 1SP. This, by the way, was a saving on SP dice!  I left them off, as the command stand survived a hit or it didn't.

Forces engaged:

French Left wing: Marshal Ney 6SP

II Corps: Reille 3SP
     5th Division: Bachelu 1SP
          2nd Light  2SP Elite
          61st Line  2SP Average
          72 & 108th Line 2SP Avg
     6th Division: Jerome Bonaparte 1SP
          1st Light 2SP Elite
          3rd Line 2SP Avg
          1st Line 2SP Avg
          2nd Line 2SP Avg
     9th Division: Foy 1SP
          92nd & 93rd Line 2SP Avg
          4th Line 2SP Avg
          100th Line 2SP Avg
     2nd Light Cavalry Division: Pire 1SP
          1st Chasseur-a-Cheval 2SP Avg
          6th Chasseur 2SP Avg
          5th Lancer 2SP Avg
          6th Lancer 2SP Avg
     Combined divisional artillery: 2SP Avg
     II Corps Artillery Reserve: 2SP Avg
III Cavalry Corps (elements):  General Kellerman the Younger 3SP
     11th Cavalry Division: L'Heritier 1SP
          2nd Dragoon 2SP Avg
          7th Dragoon   2SP Avg
          8th Cuirassier  2SP Elite
          11th Cuirassier 2SP Elite
          Horse Artillery 1SP
Imperial Guard Light Cavalry: Lefebvre-Desnouettes 1SP
          Lancers of the Guard 2SP Elite
          Chasseurs of the Guard 2SP Elite

32 units.
64 Strength points; exhaustion point: -22SP

The French forces begin on table as pictured.

Anglo-Dutch Army: Duke of Wellington 6SP

I Corps: Prince of Orange 3SP
     1st (Guards) Division: Cooke 1SP
          1st (Guards) Brigade 2SP Elite
          2nd (Guards) Brigade 2SP Elite
          Foot Artillery 2SP Avg
     3rd Division: Alten 1SP
          5th Brigade 2SP Avg
          1st (Hanoverian) Brigade 2SP Conscript (*Poor: see note)
          Foot Artillery 2SP Avg
     2nd (Dutch-Belgian) Division Perponcher 1SP
          1st (D-B) Brigade (Bylandt) 2SP Conscript
          2nd (Nassau) Brigade (Saxe-Weimar) 2SP Conscript
          Foot Artillery 2SP Avg
 Reserve Corps (elements): Rowland Hill 3SP
     5th Division: Picton 1SP
          8th (Highland) Brigade 2SP Elite
          9th Brigade 2SP Elite
          4th (Hanoverian) Brigade 2SP Conscript
          Foot Artillery 2SP Avg
Brunswick 'Black' Corps: Duke of Brunswick 3SP
          Light Infantry Brigade: 2SP Conscript
          Line Infantry Brigade: 2SP Conscript
          Light Cavalry Uhlan: 1SP Elite
          Light Cavalry Hussars 2SP Elite
          Brunswick Artillery: 2SP Avg
3rd Dutch-Belgian Light Cavalry: Merlen 1SP
          6th Dutch-Belgian Hussar 2SP
          5th Belgian Light Dragoon 2SP
29 units.
59 Strength Points; exhaustion point: -20SP

* The several units marked as Conscript from Age of Eagles,  I have assumed to be 'Poor' according to the Portable Wargames terminology. Actually, I don't recall in the actual game treating any units as 'Poor'. Nor do I recall making the decision one way or the other, though I do remember thinking about it. This might be one for any who might want to give this PW scenario a crack 'to suck it and see.'

Only Perponcher's 2nd Dutch-Belgian Division begins on table deployed behind the stream passing by Gemioncourt, and at the edge of Bois de Bossu facing Grand Pierrepont.  The rest of the Anglo-Dutch forces arrive from off-table.  I suggest placing them at the beginning of the Turn of arrival on the table edge road hex, prior to dicing for initiative.

Turn 1:
Road H: 3rd Dutch Cavalry Bde
Road W: Duke of Wellington; Picton's 5th Division

Turn 3:
Road W: Duke of Brunswick, Brunswick cavalry and Brunswick Light Infantry

Turn 6: 
Road H: Alten's 3rd Division

Turn 7:

Road H: Cooke's 1st Division

Turn 8:
Road W: Brunswick Line Brigade, and artillery.

Game lasts for 12 turns.

I'll offer only a brief narrative of events in this action.  As I kept the French advance fairly compact, the advance up the road proved straightforward, with Marshal Ney in the middle of his troops, directing operations.  However, the wings weren't always so easy to shift into motion.Despite being only 2 or 3 grid areas distant from Marshal Ney, Foy's Division incurred some delay in delivering his attack into the woods behind Grand Pierrepont, whilst Pire's Light Cavalry's sweep to the right toward the bridge on the Thyle road also floundered occasionally.
The delay there allowed Picton to establish a flank guard in ambush within the wooded tract on the north side of that bridge.

Meanwhile, Perponcher's Division was coming under increasing pressure from whole of the French infantry and most of their artillery. The Nassauer garrison of Gemioncourt was pounded by gunfire out of the place, though the French were unable to enter before the British Highland Brigade seized the place from under their noses. The cuirassiers lost their 8th Regiment attempting to storm the Dutch-Belgian gun line between Gemioncourt and the Bossu Woods; and Foy's Division's progress through the trees, though steady, was taking time. Bachelu's Division bypassed Gemioncourt, splashed across the stream and in short order put Perponcher's left flank to flight. Having placed himself there, the Prince of Orange suddenly found himself alone on the field.  He hastily made off.  

Eventually, Perponcher's entire Division had been destroyed, but for its artillery, still in action. Eight SPs lost to the Allies; the French had lost little more than half so many, though the loss of 8th Cuirassiers' 2SPs was a blow. Gemioncourt had been reoccupied by the Highlanders of Picton's Division. The rest of 5th Division had encountered Pire's light cavalry on the Thyle road. Though the woods favoured the infantry, the French horsemen came rather well out of the encounter. Though driven off themselves, they had induced one of the Allied brigades to fall back, with loss, into Quatre Bras itself. At this time, the Iron Duke himself stood in imminent danger of capture, as Bachelu came bursting over the stream in the wake of the Prince of Orange and the vanishing defenders of the riverbank.

To be continued.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Afterthoughts on Hak-al-Kumara...

The recent action at Hak-al-Kumara, between the RED (Rajistan Expeditionary Division) and TURQUOISE (Turkowaz) brought up a number of thoughts about the rule set I was using, to wit, The Portable Wargame. In recent exchanges, its author, Bob Cordery, has suggested that 'portable' could mean transferable and much as transportable, especially as my own set-up scarcely qualifies for the latter. What I like about the whole concept is its 'accessibility': easy to follow and to absorb; and equally easy to adapt to scenario and situation. Here are some ideas - in no particular order - that occurred to me in this and earlier battles.
A Ruberian gunboat, assembly completed, and awaiting
its paint job.  See Later...

1.  Effect of artillery in direct line-of-sight.  

Early on it became apparent that in certain circumstances, artillery fire can not miss. This is when guns are shooting shooting directly at a target, repeated from the previous turn, with a force commander present. The added bonuses are such as to take even a natural roll of 'one' over the 'five' needed to score a hit.

Not liking the 'gimme' hit, I did consider enacting that a 'natural one' was always a miss, but decided that it were better simply to reduce the bonus for direct fire from +2 to +1. Thus, on p45 of my hardback copy of The Portable Wargame:

     "Increase the D6 die score by 1 if the Artillery unit has a direct line-of-sight to the target grid area."

This will be quite bad enough on the receiving end!

2. Effect of artillery upon grid areas containing more than one unit.

"Any unit or units ... are hit, and a D6 rolled for each..." This I also overrode for the sake of the battle, but this was influenced largely by the direct line-of-sight effect. 

This became a consideration after I added in an extra layer of command (a topic I'll get to later). I felt especially that if hits could be automatic, command stands became much too vulnerable. In the game, I made only the lead element in a stricken grid area liable to take damage.

The jury is still out on this. It makes sense that a denser target is likely to be more vulnerable. That is the trade-off for more celerity in movement, two elements in the same grid area under the same orders require just the one activation 'point'. 

Preferring to retain this feature, I have decided in future actions to revert to the original rule. I think the proposed rule change in the previous paragraph is likely to be sufficient.

The rough design sketch used to guide gunboat construction.

3. Close Combat.

I've never been 100% clear on this, but I have inferred from the PW rule set that all close combats (between forces in adjacent grid areas) are automatic, with the side whose turn it is rolling for each unit in 'close combat' (and the enemy responding).  No orders are required.  By making it thus easier  devote 'activation points' to unengaged or supporting units, 'holding actions' start to make a deal of sense.  Such in many respects became the attacks of 18th and 16th Brigades in that last action, whilst 17th and 6th Cavalry Brigades fetched their flanking hook.

4. Layers of command.

The original Portable Wargame has just the one, overall, commander. When designing the Hak-al-Kumara battle, though, the forces involved seemed to call out for an extra layer of command. It didn't make any difference whether a group of 4 stands was a brigade or a battalion - or even a company - they insisted on their own commanding officers.

So they got them. As brigade command elements, I imagined them as comprising the Brigade command and HQ, with a hand-picked company-sized  escort. I did consider giving them 2 Strength Points (SP), but have begun by giving them just 1SP, but making them 'Elite', and hence harder to 'kill'. 

These command elements offered the same combat bonuses as the Army Commander did.

This does mean that one must think twice about placing a sub-commander with a unit under artillery fire. Such gentry might be best kept slightly back, then join in close combats to lend them extra weight. Or stand with the artillery.

By and large, I found these extra elements seemed to offer something extra to the action overall. I actually envisaged them as fighting elements in their own right (close combat only), but, on reflection there is no need to treat them any differently from the Army Commander.
HMS Shoofly, in Rajistan service.  The Ensign is that of
the Ruberian Royal Navy: The Cross of St George,
with a further Cross of St George in canton.

4. Size of action.

Generally speaking, the size of the action I would have placed at Brigade level, comprising 3 infantry battalions, each comprising 4 companies plus Gatling platoon; one cavalry regiment of 3 squadrons, and 3 gun batteries. The thing could have been conducted that way.

But it shows the flexibility of the system that one could go up a command level. It still  had quite the sense of a Division sized action of the original.

Image result for HMS Firefly Kut
HMS Firefly, Mesopotamia, 1915.

5. Future action.

The Battle of Hak-al-Kumara, intended as a one off, turns out likely to kick off something of a mini-campaign - a sequel, at least. It seems that following his successful check of the Ruberian Expeditionary Division at Hak, Nasr-ed-Din was stripped of his freshest Division, the 37th, detached for service elsewhere. Forced in retreat northwards up the Pardis River, the Turkowaz commander elected to take a stand  at the ancient site of Cpistupon. There, he received reinforcements of two fresh Divisions, 45th and 51st, both of which boasted a company of brand new mitrailleuses

WIP: A couple of pieces of ordnance intended for the
BLUE/TURQUOISE armies.  They were to be mountain guns,
but, having something of the look of mitrailleuses, are to
enter the service of Turcowaz in that role...

General Scarlett followed up in leisurely fashion, somewhat delayed by the late arrival of a gunboat by way of reinforcement.

Having found something about the Battle of Ctesiphon, I discovered the presence there of a couple of gunboats. I thought, then, one at least had to beef up the Ruberian force.  So in the last couple of days, I've made one. This is loosely modelled upon the HMS Firefly gunboat - one of the Fly class of vessels, all which were named for some kind of fly (Firefly, Greenfly, Gadfly etc). None were called Botfly, but, after a bit I decided instead upon HMS Shoofly for this vessel.  HMS Firefly accompanied Major-General Townshend's expedition. My 'model' isn't meant to be hugely accurate - merely to have the 'right' look of the thing. The forward mast I added because it improved this overall appearance, I thought...

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

From the Chronicles of Rajistan (3) - The Battle of Hak-al-Kumara

Opening dispositions, General Scarlett's battle plan (opening phase),
and Nasr-ed-Din's early moves.
In the following after-battle report, the narrative will follow the events of each sector in turn: the attack by 18th Brigade around Sinn Station; that of 16th Brigade between the Pardis River and the great Suwara Marsh; and then the flank march of 17th Brigade and 6th Cavalry Brigade. A brief final paragraph will gather the threads of the report.  The action was in fact to develop in this way, the 18th Brigade, with no obstacles to negotiate to reach the Turkowaz lines, making the first contact. 16th Brigade had to cross the canal to reach the enemy, whilst the remainder of General Scarlett's Division had to filter past the Suwara Marsh, and, under fire from a fortified pair of Turkowaz infantry regiments, ease their way into a position from which to attack.
Attack of 18 Brigade against 35th Division

Eighteenth Brigade vs 35th Division.

Eighteenth Brigade advanced astride the railway line in an extended line of battalions. Second Norfolk, on the right, had their right flank on the riverbank. For their part, the 35th Turkowaz Division facing them occupied field works stretching from the low ridge close by the Pardis River bridge crossing on their left, over a second small hill and past Sinn railway station, to the Umm el Karam Marsh on their right. The Divisional mountain guns were placed in support to their rear. 

Cavalry Brigade's flank march - running the gauntlet of
the Canal fieldworks.

The commander of 35th Division deciding that his artillery would be more effective in the line firing over open sights, he pulled 139th Regiment into local reserve to make way for the guns. This probably was a mistake, as it took time, during which Ruberian field and mountain artillery were playing effectively upon the Turkowaz defenders, the Gatling company had dropped into action within effective range, and the Norfolk Battalion had begun clambering the north slopes of the riverside ridge.
16 Brigade attacks against elements of 38 Division.  
So effective was the fire from rifle, machine gun and artillery that Turkowaz losses were mounting a deal faster than the Ruberian (at one point early on 35th Division had taken 6 Strength Point loss to 18th Brigade's 2SP). All the same, the Norfolks' assault upon the ridge was swiftly rebuffed by the defending 140th Regiment. Although the 140th had themselves taken heavy casualties, their effective rifle fire drove the Norfolks back down the slope and well back into the plain. It was the 110th Madasahatta  Regiment on hand to take up the cudgels in the fight for the ridge. 
2nd Dorsets secure a foothold in the Turkowaz entrenchments...
Although 140th Regiment stood off these new assailants, the latter were able for a considerable time to maintain themselves on the slopes. Meanwhile the 35th Division Mountain guns found themselves under heavy gunfire from two enemy gun batteries, and the deadly machinegun fire from the Gatlings. The earthworks proved scant protection; the Turkowaz guns were silenced after about an hour.  

16 Brigade has already lost its Gatling Company and its
Before Duya-ed-Din could close the gap in the line with 139th Regiment, the 140th now faced a new assailant, the 120th Rajinbul Infantry. The odds were too much. Having faced attacks by three separate Ruberian and Rajistan battalions, with supporting artillery, 140th Regiment at last gave way as 110th Madasahatta surged over their field works. The quickly mounted counterattack by 139th Regiment did, however, check the Rajistanis' further advance. Though the unhinging of the 35th Division's flank might have led to the whole line being rolled up, the Turkowaz infantry simply refused to budge. Losses among 18th Brigade began to mount more rapidly. During the course of the prolonged firefight Turkowaz losses in this sector reached 10SP; the Ruberians' 8SP.
110th and 120th Infantry, 18th Brigade, storming
the bridge ridge.  35th Div losses far heavier than 18th Bde's.
The final defeat of 35th Division coincided with the exhaustion of the Turkowaz Army as a whole. Despite being reduced to a single SP, the depleted 137th Regiment had held on doggedly for several hours (turns) against the 7th Duke of Connaught's Own Raginbul Infantry. Its collapse left both flanks of 35th Division 'in the air'.  At once Duya-ed-Din Pasha led 139th Regiment back across the railway bridge. Itself hardly engaged upon its hill behind Sinn Station, and apparently about to be cut off, the 138th was for a time despaired of by the Pasha. But the slowness with which the Ruberians responded to the victory (the Turkowaz 'won' the initiative roll at this point) allowed them to make off without molestation.  Duya-ed-Din Pasha eventually drew up his attenuated command astride the railway behind the Pardis tributary. Behind him in the town, lay one of the 37th Division regiments, the 146th,  with two field gun battalions between them and Hak-al-Kumara town.
140th Regiment finally routed and scattered and
the bridge ridge carried, but 139th Rgt has restored part of the
35th Div line.

What happened to 16th Brigade?

That formation's troubles began right from the outset.  Formed into columns (designed to activate more units in a turn, at the cost of flexibility and firepower), they took time to cross the canal (I allowed only one unit to cross from each grid area per turn).  Comprising the Dorset Infantry on the right, the Gatling Company in the centre and the Duke of Cambridge's Own Punjinjab on the left, the first line hurried towards the enemy lines, hoping to shorten the range, whilst the remainder of the Brigade struggled across the canal.
Intervention of 40th Sipahi throws the Dorsets out of the
Turkowaz lines.  16 Bde losses severe and mounting.
The Turkowaz line between the Pardis River and Suwara Marsh comprised half the infantry of 38th Division, namely 149th and 150th Regiments. So thin was the line, the local Division commander installed himself there, together with his own battalion of mountain guns. He felt secure in the additional support from the army's field guns behind the Pardis, near the town. Firing over open sights, the mountain guns concentrated upon the Gatling company. The hope that enough might survive to bring them into action were dashed by the accuracy and effectiveness of Turkowaz gunnery. Not only were the Gatlings erased from the 16th Brigade Order of Battle; the Brigade HQ company also came in for a pounding. Sir Rubeus Redmayne was seen to spin on his heel and fall, his left arm shattered. The fainting Brigadier was borne from the field.
Ruberian Cavalry and Royal Horse Gatlings shooting their way
past 151st Rgt fieldworks.  The garrison has already taken heavy
losses for doing little more than to delay the enemy.

The loss of the Gatlings were bad enough, but it was then found that the Brigade's supporting artillery lacked the range to reach the enemy works. The four battalions had perforce to struggle forward in the teeth of accurate gunnery and effective rifle fire (I discovered during this game something that had hitherto escaped my attention: that direct gunfire over open sights with the presence of the formation general to encourage performance, can not miss! Roll 1 + 2 (direct LOS) +1 (fired at the same target as last turn) +1 (friendly commander in same grid area = 5: Artillery fire lands on the target grid area. Although I let that stand, I decided right from the start that only the nearer of  two stands in the target grid area would take the damage.  Even with that unilateral decision, the Turkowaz artillery fire proved pretty effective all day.  Mind you, the Ruberians couldn't complain too much about their own, with three of their first four salvos rolling 6s to hit).

After surrender of 151st Regiment, cavalry move on to deal with
the Canal Redoubt, defended by the 152nd.
The Dorsets even managed to broach the field works hard by the marsh, where, with the assistance of the Punjinjabi infantry they tried to roll up the Turkowaz line. At the same time 103rd  Madasahatta Infantry tried to storm the gun line. Neither the 150th Regiment, nor the gunners, proved willing to budge. It was not long before this affray drew the notice of the Turkowaz cavalry, advancing north up the canal line. The right hand regiment, 40th Sipahi, directed to deal with the situation, flung itself upon the flank of the Dorsets.  Evicted from the Turkowaz works, the Dorsets fell back with loss.  At about this time, 16th Brigade had lost 9SP; their opponents, 4SP at most.
Counter-attack by 42nd Sipahi, support by
rifle fire from the redoubt, destroys 7th Lancers, and damages
16th Cavalry.
Nor was 16th Brigade to enjoy better fortune to come. Unable to drive home their attacks, the Ruberians were fortunate that 114th Wellesley's Rifle Infantry were able for so long to maintain a close quarter fight against the artillery. Gradually, however, the remnants of the Brigade fell back in disorder towards the canal. At the end of the day, they had lost 14SP, having inflicted not more than one-third of that many (I think 4 only; it was the artillery that finally broke 149th Regiment).
16th Brigade attacks become disjointed.  Desperate assault
by 114th WRI keeps Turkowaz mountain artillery busy...

The fight for the redoubts.

The action west of the Suwara marsh took a deal longer to develop than on the other two fronts, but was to be decisive for the outcome of the action.  This was partly due to the length of time for orders to filter through (Early on, priority was given to 18th and 16th Brigades, the cohesiveness of which formations was quickly compromised.  However, the local commanders' eagerness for close assault was due mainly to my treating all close combats as automatic, requiring no orders. Once the left and centre brigades were reasonably closely engaged, then the 6th Cavalry and 17th Brigades could be chivvied along more briskly. The second problem was the difficult defile by which they could be eased past the Suwara Marsh and the even larger one just off the map to the north of it. The method was to race the leading cavalry (7th Lancers) past the rifle fire from the earthworks manned by 151st Regiment, then bring up the Gatlings.  The Lancers did not come off unscathed).

120th Rajinbul Infantry thrown back, the Norfolks, advancing
up the railway, enter the assault.  Under the direct leadership
of Duya-ed-Din Pasha, 139th Infantry prove hard to shift.
It took some time for the Gatlings to get the range; the 7th Lancers took such losses getting by they soon so depleted as barely to maintain their cohesion (reduced to 1SP); and the next cavalry unit had perforce to drop into fire action to clear the 151st from their earth works. This was sufficient to secure the surrender of 151st regiment (SP reduced to 0), whereat the 17th Brigade found the passage a deal easier.
Canal Redoubt still held, help is on its way: 41st and
42nd Sipahi, and, farther off, most of 37th Division.

Although the 152nd Regiment, ensconced within the Canal Redoubt, now drew the entire attention of the 17th Infantry and 6th Cavalry Brigades, they proved stauncher defenders than their comrades of 151st.  Having tasted their metal, the Ruberian horse was inclined to keep their distance. Meanwhile, two Sipahi regiments (41st and 42nd, the 40th being otherwise engaged)) had crossed the canal and were rapidly approaching. Crossing first, the 42nd (3SP) galloped up to be met boldly by what was left of 7th Lancers (1SP). Although inflicting some loss, the Lancers were flung back.  That was the end of 7th Lancers.  Led by Brigadier Lord Garnet, 16th Cavalry surged into action. 42nd Sipahi in their turn made off, putting as much distance as they might between themselves and the Ruberian heavy horse.
The resistance of 35th Division is starting to hurt 18th Brigade.
Losses are becoming serious. In the distance,
 16th Brigade's attack finally repulsed.
Further help was forthcoming for the 152nd from three regiments of 37th Division (145th, 147th and 148th; the 146th having been held back at Umam al Mansur village to provide a local reserve for 35th Division). However, they were destined never to arrive close enough to make a difference.
Pressure mounting against 152nd Regiment.
16th Cavalry braved the flanking rifle fire from the Redoubt to throw back 42nd Sipahi before the 41st and the Turkowaz Cavalry general could get close enough to help. As the 42nd fell back, all the way to the Dahra Ridge, the 41st beat a hasty retreat back across the canal. 
Counter-attacks fail to save the Canal Redoubt, its depleted
garrison slipping out the gate and back towards friendly lines.
Subjected to heavy machinegun and rifle fire, the 152nd Infantry, reduced to half strength, finally abandoned the redoubt, and began to fall back across the plain. The 37th Division commander at once halted his advance, and drew up his three regiments in a line, slightly to the left rear of the trench line between river and marsh, still stoutly held by the right hand half of 38th Division. It was at this point that, on the far right of the Turkowaz line, 35th Division had at last been forced from their entrenchments and across the stream behind it. Nasr-ed-Din realised that further counter-attack was out of the question, but he also refused to abandon the field just yet - not whilst he still held a defensible line.

Collapse of 35th DivisionDuya-ed-Din leads 139th Rgt
across the rail bridge; 138th Regiment attempts to escape
via the same crossing.

The Battle Ends.

Of course, General Scarlett continued to press. His army had had some success on both flanks. His artillery were all now in action against the part of the line still held by 38th Division - under which storm of shrapnel and hot metal chunks 149st Regiment broke to the rear. But it soon became apparent that any further effort would be beyond his own men (Two turns after the Turkowaz Army reached its Exhaustion Point of 25SP lost, the Ruberian lost its 27th, to reach its E.P.)  

The battle was over.
Remnants of 35th Division form a line on the south bank
of the tributary; on the far side of the Pardis, 38th Div
still hold their fortifications in the centre.
As played out, it was certainly a tough engagement, with all manner of vicissitudes and unexpected events to keep my attention riveted. I have not yet played out a battle to the point that both sides reached their exhaustion points, but this was one in which it was clear that although no longer capable of offensive action, the Turkowaz army was still capable of, and in a good enough position for, defence.  The Ruberian army had by the end of the day, still not forced the line of the Pardis with its tributary.
The battered 16th Bde pinned down under fire.
Losses were not shared equally among the formations of either side:

Turkowaz strengths and losses:

  • Army Command 6SP
  • 35th Division 19SP, lost 14
  • 37th Division 19SP, lost 0 (not seriously engaged)
  • 38th Division 19SP, lost 11
  • 14th Sipahi Brigade, 10SP, lost 4
  • Army Artillery, 2SP, lost 0
Totals: 75SP, lost 29.

Ruberian strength and losses:
  • Army Command 6SP, lost 0
  • 16th Brigade, 19SP, lost 14, including Brig Redmayne WIA
  • 17th Brigade, 19SP, lost 0 (something of a surprise, this, as elements did receive fire)
  • 18th Brigade, 19SP, lost 9
  • 6th Cavalry Brigade, 12SP, lost 4
  • Army Artillery 6SP, lost 0
Totals: 81SP, lost 27.

Canal fortifications taken, but Turkowaz form a new line far
to their rear.
From the Turkowaz point of view, I was very pleased at the manner in which a rather tatterdemalion army stood to their work against the qualitatively superior opponent. 35th division had terrible luck to begin with, the two Ruberian artillery brigades against them rolling 3 6's among their first two salvoes each, and effecting SP losses each time. The mistake of placing the 35th Div artillery behind the line to begin with, probably ought to have been left 'as was', rather than trying to correct it. 
Of course, both sides claimed the victory. The Ruberians had driven the enemy out of its fortified positions on both flanks, and had inflicted heavier losses than they had incurred. All the same, Nasr-ed-Din could feel well satisfied that his army had stopped the invaders well short of their objectives, with his army still in being.  
Close of action.  Not much remains of 16th Bde,
but both armies have reached a state of exhaustion.