Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Command Decision - Battle of the Bulge action.


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

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

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

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

Weather conditions cards for use with this

To quote the booklet:

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

The battle starts at 0500 hours.

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

US positions, early morning darkness, 19 December.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The First Blacklands War - Table of links

The First Blacklands War having reached a conclusion, here is a 'Table of Contents' series of links to the thirty-four (!) postings that made up the campaign narrative.  My thanks go to Bob Cordery whose idea this was. 

The first week of the war


Fleet action

First battle

Each successive line is a separate link, the list following the chronological order of their posting.  Just 'left-click' on a line to link to the blog article.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The First Blacklands War - The End


The Storm of Scutari

The besiegers have infiltrated the town,
aided by anti-Imperialist townsmen

General situation in the Blacklands
after five weeks of war.

Having apparently inserted themselves into besieged Scutari through obscure postern gates left open in the southwest quarter of the fortifications, the infiltrating Black Mountaineers thought to have effected a surprise as they advanced along the line of the west wall. In this I allowed the attackers a kind of 'free hit', attacking the defenders in flank, the close proximity of the south wall defenders to be ignored for one turn. All it required was for them to score a '4' upon a D6 to effect a hit, and possibly to eliminate the defender altogether.  
Attacks against the north face of the town

The signal to attack was given by a salvo from the Black Mountains' sole artillery - their mountain guns, proper siege weapons not to be had. It was owing to this lack that the siege, already of two weeks' duration, had been unlikely to end by breaching the walls. Upon the signal the infiltrators began their charge, whilst at the same time, the whole of the remainder of the army, concentrating in the north and east of the town began their storm.

Attacks against the east face.

The first, most easily reached, objectives were the demi-lunes before the walls. The east demi-lune threw back the first attack with loss, but were unable to sustain the second that quickly followed. The northern demilune, subjected to as much gunfire as the Mountaineers could fling at it, also succumbed early on.
Failing to achieve surprise, the infiltrators face a
counterattack by twice their numbers.

Had events within the town fallen out as favourably, no doubt the place would have been overrun and the garrison surrendered in due course. It appears that the hoped for surprise was incomplete - if the whole emprise had not been betrayed, withal - for the infiltrators were met by a surprisingly resolute resistance (they failed to roll the necessary '4'). Unable to push on, they were themselves assailed in flank, and pushed into the unoccupied southwest bastion. There they were to remain bottled up for the duration of the battle.
Infiltrators driven into an unoccupied bastion.

The capture of the demi-lunes had neither of them been achieved without heavy loss, but the attacks continued to be pressed with determination, against both northern bastions.

The East demi-lune is the first to fall, but not 
without cost to the Mountaineers.

..then falls the north demi-lune.

In the face of stiff resistance the Mountaineers pushed their way into the northeast bastion, the defending artillery out, and into the main town.  
The northeast bastion now falls...

Following up, they inflicted some loss upon the gunners and their guns, but were themselves driven in rout from the bastion (the attackers lost their second and remaining SP; the artillery, lacking a retreat, also lost one).
... but the attackers driven out.

The first wave having receded from the contested bastion, the second wave surged in before the guns could be brought in to reoccupy it.  Once again the fighting was fierce and bloody.  The combat dice were the duplicates of the previous (a 5 and a 6 rolled). Both side lost SPs, enough to eliminate the Garrison's artillery, and to halve the attackers' strength. 

The second wave of attackers overrun the bastion 
before the garrison can reoccupy.

As they overran the guns and surged into the town, prospects seemed to be looking bright for the besiegers. The northwest bastion had also fallen, albeit with heavy loss. But along the main north wall itself, the attackers remained held up in the ditch behind the demi-lune. General Bogotan was soon to insert himself into the action there, in the hope that his presence might tip the balance.

The battle for the Northeast sector of the town.  
Meanwhile the Northwest bastion has also fallen.

Nothing loth, the Garrison Commander also thought his august presence might be the thing to sustain a desperate defence. For the moment at least, the Mountaineers seemed on the brink of victory, if they could but press further into the town. The garrison's resistance seemed to be weakening. It had reached its exhaustion point - 6SP lost - but the attackers, with no great superiority in numbers to begin with, were themselves beginning to flag. They had also lost 6SP; just one more, and that would be the end of the attack, unless the garrison surrendered betimes. Three bastions and two demi-lunes having fallen, that seemed by no means improbable.

The commanders join the fight for the north wall.

There was to be no surrender. Exhausted though they were, the garrison brought the close quarter fighting at the southwest bastion to a successful conclusion...

... which is reoccupied by the garrison.

The infiltrators driven out from the southwest bastion...

... just as, aided by the protection of the walls, the on-going close combats to right and left drawing off threats to either flank, and encouraged by their commander, the defenders of the north face of the town threw off their assailants. Lucky to survive, General Bogotan was caught up and carried along in the rout, back to his own lines.  
The defeat of the north wall attack - the '4' is
enough at least to force back the attackers...

The storm has failed. Just barely, but the failure was as complete as it was dire. The Allied plenipotentiaries in Genevra were to be left with nothing more than a tenuous hold upon Vardar province to bring to the council.
... but the 'hit resolution' destroys the attacking unit.
General Bogotan is forced to flee.

The End of the War

In their capitals, Kings and Princes were aghast, the negotiators in Genevra left without any worthwhile leverage, the whole six-week war having achieved nothing towards the territorial aggrandisement of even one of the Allies.  In Ionople, of course, the Sultan would have been cock-a-hoop, had cock-a-hoop-ness been in the style of Sultanry, and the grins of his representatives in Genevra reduced their opposites to incoherent, spluttering rage.  

Much blame was to be heaped upon the General who failed at Scutari.  Despite the insistence of the other potentates, the Black Mountains Prince was rather disinclined even to admonish, let alone cashier or execute his army commander, who might be difficult to replace with one with equal ability.  He knew as none other, that his peremptory order handed his commander a near-impossible task.

Ship carrying Turcowaz plenipotentiaries up the 
Illyrian Sea on the way to Genevra 
(detail from old Diplomacy map)

For his part, the Sultan was inclined to forbearance in the peace negotiations that were to follow. Insisting upon the acceptance of the status quo ante bellum, he permitted himself to be overborne upon the subject of reparations, accepting the barest minimum that, in his view at least, accorded with his honour and dignity as ruler of the Settee Empire. The instructions he had relayed to his Genevra embassy were to demand treble that minimum, but to allow themselves, of course with 'extreme reluctance' to be beaten down to his 'line in the sand.' The World in general agreed that His Imperial Magnificence might justly have stood out for settling upon more than he did.

Even so leniently treated, in the following months the Allies rather chafed under their financial treaty obligations. Persuading themselves they had been harshly and unreasonably treated, they once more began to harbour against the Settee Empire resentments that seemed to justify their casting covetous eyes upon the Imperial provinces. The murmur towards a second attempt against the Settee Empire were not long in being heard once more in the Blacklands' capitals...

To be continued?  Maybe. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

The First Blacklands War - the Final Act...

By the beginning of the fifth week of the war, the four Allies, The Black Mountains, Bejela, Chervenia and Hellenica, were beginning to perceive they had caught a Tartar - very nearly literally. Several defeats, relieved only by the rare victory, had left two of the Allies with nary a foothold in Settee lands, one (Bejela) whose presence was permitted solely by the lack of a Turcowaz army near enough to hand to evict them, and the fourth barely maintaining a siege of a far-flung Imperial provincial capital.  

How might the Allies back gracefully out of the conflict with their honour intact and perhaps some territorial acquisition at least to offer a semblance of success? The more farsighted statesmen of all the belligerents had agreed that talks might lead to some sort of agreement. The Allied plenipotentiaries hoped that verbal shots might supply the deficiencies of artillery and rifles; the Turcowaz, of course, stood upon the integrity of Empire, arguing that the Allies ought to have been satisfied with what they had already won for themselves decades ago.

So the representatives of the warring states forgathered in Genevra, the capital city of neutral Helvetica. For a while it was thought that Lutetia in Azuria would be the venue, but already war clouds were gathering over that city, massing from the direction of Ruberia. For a couple of weeks the talks seemed to be leading to nothing, as the Allied officials saw their position weakening day by day; and the Turcowaz grew more assured of the strength of theirs. Finally, as November entered its second week, the Allies, disappointed at the indecisive outcome of the latest action in North Macedonia, could hope only for the outcome of the unlikely siege of Scutari, near the Illyrian coast.  

Now, before resuming the narrative, permit me to apologize for the poor quality of the set-up. I had to extemporise, the materials I thought I had having been thrown out years ago. The only virtue is that at least the fortification are easy to trace. Least said the better.
A view of Scutari, with the infiltrating unit
at the southwest corner.

Now, the forces involved were very small. I had earlier decided that the garrison of a provincial capital should comprise 16SP, made up of commander, 2 infantry stands and an artillery stand. It so happened that the Black Mountains army besieging the place was little stronger. Given the small numbers, I decided to expand things a little, splitting the stands whilst keeping to the given strength points. So the opposing forces comprised:

Turcowaz Garrison of Scutari:
  • Commander ... (Poor) = 6SP
  • 8 Infantry stands @ 1SP = 8SP
  • 1 Artillery stand = 2SP
10 Units - Median activation 5-1 (Poor Command) = 4
16 SP - Exhaustion Point = 6 SP

Army of the Black Mountains Principality:
  • Commander, General Bogotan (Good) = 6SP
  • 5 Infantry @ 2SP = 10SP
  • 1 Infantry = 1SP*
  • 1 Artillery = 1SP**
  • 1 Transport = 1SP
9 Units - Median activation 5+1 (Good Command) = 6
19 SP - Exhaustion point = 7 SP
* This unit might have had 2 or 3 SP instead.  See later for explanation
** The pictures will show 2SP, but as the Black Mountains artillery never came under fire, it didn't make any difference.
General view of Scutari, with the northern and 
eastern Black Mountains lines of circumvallation.

The siege having made no progress over two weeks a number of the townspeople, longing for the end of Turcowaz rule, contacted the besiegers and agreed to open the gates to the Black Mountains Army. Having entered the town, this desperate band was to attack the garrison from within whilst the main body stormed the walls from without.  

This circumstance was generated by a die roll that determined there would be an 'event', and that the event would, from a range of possibilities (e.g. an attempted sortie, or the garrison seeking terms), be the attempted coup-de-main as so far related. It appears that pressure was placed upon the Prince, who in turn issued a peremptory order to his general to take, carry or storm the town by the middle of November.

How much of General Bogotan's army might be infiltrated into the town. I allowed as many as 3SP, based in a die roll. The roll was a '2', so just 1SP was inserted into the town, ready at once to attack in flank a defending unit.  

Some further points need to be made.
1.  I made one change to the rules concerning communication between squares being solely along the sides, NOT the corners. This concerns the bastions at each corner of the town. The corner at which the bastion adjoined the town (the 'gorge') was treated as if it were a side, not a corner, for movement, and for close assaults. 

2.  Only the town, bastion and demi-lune (ravelin) walls offered cover or protection to the people behind it. When defending the gorge of a bastion, or within the town, there was no cover for either side. The unit within the town begins by attacking a unit in flank, and therefore requiring a 4 to hit.

3.  I had earlier planned on the town itself occupying 4 squares only. I found this altogether impractical, and decided instead upon a nine-square 'footprint'. That permits the addition of demilunes or ravelins in a realistic manner.

The narrative, and the outcome of the Genevra talks will be related next time.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Speaking of gunboats...

Recently I came across some interesting articles concerning riverine operations in New Zealand - especially during the 1860s campaign into the Waikato region.  That region is dominated by the river Waikato, which, issuing from Lake Taupo, emerges into the Tasman Sea south of Auckland.   It is a fairly sizeable river, navigable - give or take the bar at its mouth, a hazardous feature of many New Zealand's west coast rivers - for a considerable distance inland.  

Some links:
Waikato River Gunboats: 'The Ironclads'

Dressing the Lines blog spot.  There's plenty more on New Zealand's colonial wars to be found here.  Including this book review:

Grant Middlemiss, The Waikato River Gunboats, Cambridge, NZ, (2014)

A fine addition to a war games New Zealand wars campaign along the Waikato, or possibly the Whanganui, rivers.  

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

First Blacklands War - Ship Stats

 Following my last posting, with its closing comments on modifying the naval units' Flotation Points values to be based up the weight of the vessels, Bob Cordery reminded me of the system he developed in his Portable Colonial Wargame.  

How could I have forgotten?  I'd used them myself for my HRMS Blunderer and the battle with the ironclads.  So I thought here to recalculate those 'stats' in accordance with his system.  The following is based upon the beam and waterline length of the models, not the originals from which they were modelled.  I also calculated the carrying capacity of the warships and merchant vessels, both.

A reminder:
A Warship's Flotation Points are determined by the expression

FP(WS) = (W x B x C x A)/2  Where;
W = waterline length (I've taken this as overall length, the difference being trivial on my toys)
B = Beam
C = Construction: 0.25 for wooden; 0.5 for iron or steel. 
A = Armour, graded from none (A=1), to light (A=1.25), medium (A=1.5) to heavy (A=2).

As all my vessels for the Blacklands war are held to have iron or steel construction, I've simplified the formula for the warships to:

FP(WS) = (W x B x A)/4.

The formula for the merchant vessels is:

FP(MS) = (W x B x C)/4, which simplifies to (W x B)/8.  As I am classing the armed merchant ship as a warship, its FP will be determined by the 'WS' formula.

I have also calculated the carrying capacity of my warships and merchant vessels.  

Hellenic (Greek):

  • Lemnos: FP = (10 x 4 x 2)/4 = 80/4 => 20
  • Georgios Averof: FP = (10.5 x 3.5 x 2)/4 = 73.5/4 => 18 
  • Hydra: FP = (10 x 3.5 x 1.5)/4 = 52.5/4 => 13
  • Psara: FP = (10 x 3.5 x 1.5)/4 = 52.5/4 => 13
  • Thiros Class Destroyer: FP = (9 x 2 x 1.25)/4 = 22.5/4 => 6

Turcowaz (Turk):

  • Turgut Reis: FP = (10 x 3.5 x 2)/4 = 70/4 => 18
  • Hayreddin Barbarossa: FP = (10 x 3.5 x 2)/4 = 70/4 => 18
  • Masudiye: FP = (10 x 4 x 1.5) = 60/4 => 15
  • Hamidiye: FP = (9 x 3 x 1.5) = 40.5/4 => 10
  • Muavenet Class Destroyer: FP = (7 x 2 x 1.25)/4 = 17.5/4 => 4
Merchant Ships:
  • Armed MS: FP = (8 x 3 x 1)/4 => 6
  • Black: FP = (8.5 x 3.5)/8 = 29.75/8 => 4
  • Blue: FP = (9 x 3)/8 = 27/8 => 3
  • Green: FP = (9.5 x 3.5)/8 = 33.25/8 => 4
Carrying Capacity:
Merchant vessels have double the carrying capacity than do warships of a comparable size.   

CC(WS) = (W x B)/8
CC(MS) = (W x B)/4

Hellenic (Greek): 
  • Lemnos: CC = (10 x 4)/8 = 40/8 => 5
  • Georgios Averof: CC= (10.5 x 3.5)/8 = 36.75/8 => 5
  • Hydra: CC = (10 x 3.5)/8 = 35/8 => 4
  • Psara: CC = 4
  • Thiros Class: CC = (9 x 2)/8 = 18/8 => 2

Turcowaz (Turk):
  • Turgut Reis: CC = (10 x 3.5)/8 = 35/8 => 4
  • Hayreddin Barbarossa: CC = 4
  • Mesudiye: CC = (10 x 4)/8 = 40/8 = 5
  • Hamidiye: CC = ( 9 x 3)/8 = 27/8 = 3
  • Muavenet Class: CC = (7 x 2)/8  = 14/8 => 2

Merchant ships:
  • Armed MS: CC = (8 x 3)/8 => 3 OR (8 x 3)/4 => 6
  • Black: CC = (8.5 x 3.5)/4 = 29.75/4 => 7
  • Blue: CC = (9 x 3)/4 = 27/4 => 7
  • Green: CC = (9.5 x 3.5)/4 = 33.25/4 => 8

According to these numbers, the Hellenic/ Greek fleet is very slightly more powerful than the Turcowaz/ Turkish one. 

River gunboat,  Aithiops Empress: 

Now, how about this work in progress, destined perhaps for activities around Madasahatta, Zanzingabar or the East Aithiopian coasts and rivers?  Bear in mind, this vessel has been constructed to a different scale from the vessels so far discussed.  In 'real life', it would be no larger than the Turcowaz torpedo boat destroyers.

Aithiops Empress:
FP = (10x4x1)/4 = 10 (actually the vessel is 14cm, but as it is supposed to 'fit' a 10cm-wide grid area, it counts as 10cm)
CC = (10x4)/8 = 5.  


Sengoku - 'Thought Points'

When I set up the scenario for the battle described in my previous posting ('Sengoku - A Diversion'), I was inclined to think the balance was in favour of 'Clan Oda'. So the result was unexpected, and even now I think the Ikko-Ikki victory was due largely to a run of luck in the latter stages. Mind you, it is also likely that the rather leisurely early handling of Clan Oda's relief column didn't help their cause!

A few days after this fight, I could not help but set up a straightforward, head-on battle featuring the same armies.

Clan Oda: 

'Red' Army.


'Every colour but Red' Army. 

The observant reader might guess that, apart from the 2-figure command element of daimyo and standard bearer,  the figures represent the strength (points) within each unit. Loss of SP means the loss of a figure, in much the same manner as losses accrue in the Memoir '44 game systems.  
Army board for the RED faction in  Shogun
(Milton Bradley) now called Ikusa. As I was 
using the figure with the hexagonal base, Clan Oda 
the army was.

Shortly after the loss of Castle Dajji, the head of Clan Oda summoned one of his nephews to command a punitive expedition to take and burn the Jodo Shinshu temple that lay in one of the innumerable little valleys on the fringes of Oda lands.  So generally popular was the sect, that such a project could not possibly be kept secret, and so it was that, as Nephew Oda advanced up the valley, he encountered a considerable force of warrior monks, armed peasants and disaffected Ronin stretched right across the valley floor and blocking the way to the temple.

'You shall not pass!'

Now, I really expected that the qualitative superiority of the red army to bash their way through the barrier - or at least, that it had that capability. However, rather than wait around to be hit, the Ikko-Ikki took the fight to their opponents, the first clashes at about the red line on the map. The narrative may be quickly told in the picture captions that follow.

As Clan Oda push forward their flanks to clear the woods,
nothing can restrain the Ikko-Ikki lead lines from
surging forward.

First clash - a unit of ashigaru yari give as 
good as they get against the Diamyo's bodyguard

The first clashes have driven back the Ikko-Ikki with 
loss, except for a determined band of Ronin, in 
close quarter action on their left (grey figures
partially obscured in the distance).
The Daimyo leads another mounted attack against
Ikko-Ikki spearmen.  Again, it seems, religious fervour 
makes up for differentials in martial skill: both 
sides achieve hits...

... and those hits result in 'kills'. 
What happens to the Daimyo? 
That 'six' tells the story!

Now leaderless, the Clan loses much of its 

Ikko-Ikki insurgents continue to press,
though losses are heavy.  In the distance, that ferocious 
band of Ronin, with some ashigaru support  are about to 
break through the Clan's line.

Having reached its exhaustion point, Clan Oda 
begins slowly to withdraw; covered by units 
still in contact with the enemy.

Clan Oda's fighting withdrawal finally discourages  
further pursuit. They break clear, the mission a failure. 

Though a victory for the Ikko-Ikki, it was a costly one - a pyrrhic success, withal. Both sides reached their exhaustion points, some 14SPs lost to Clan Oda, 20SP to Ikko-Ikki. Clan Oda reached its E.P. a few turns sooner that Ikko-Ikki, but, the units  remaining in contact with the enemy (as permitted by the rules) were able to inhibit pursuit and to inflict losses, whilst the rest of the army withdrew. Then those units were able themselves to break off the action and put some distance between themselves and the enemy.

Now to the 'Thought Points'

1.  Commanders.
So far, the Portable Wargames systems have assigned an arbitrary 6SP to commander units.  Having no fighting capacity in themselves, they go to augmenting other units', and to sustaining their army's morale, the loss of the commander taking an army a long way towards its 'exhaustion point'.

This Sengoku rule set assigns 0SP to the commander, his loss diminishing the army's coordination and control, rather than bringing it closer to exhaustion.  I'll come to this further in the section on Unit Activation.  

Although not explicitly stated, there seems to be a suggestion that one might have more than one commander in a given army.  I have used the idea of sub-commanders in many of my past PW actions, of course, assigning 2,3, or 4 SPs to them depending upon the command levels within the armies overall.  These, however were pretty big armies by PW standards!

Sengoku is a little different: the generals very much going towards command and control, rather than 'army morale'. 

2. Unit Activation.
The system used in this rule set is a deal more elaborate than used in most of the other PW rule sets. Now, the initiative roll is the same as that I have used consistently over the last several years. But the unit activation system developed for this rule set is something new - more elaborate. I'll go through it here as it has several features I wish to discuss.

  1. Sum the army's units still in action [I have so far assumed including the general(s) as unit(s) but this might be mistaken].  
  2. Divide by 6 and 'round down' by which I think is meant 'truncate' - take the integer part only of the quotient.  This is the base line number of D6 to be rolled
  3. Add 1 D6 for an extant (sic) general. Now, I am supposing this means 'for each', given the existence of more than one general (e.g. sub-commanders), but stand to be corrected on this.
  4. Roll these D6s, then halve the sum of the pip scores.  Ignore fractions again.
Let us take take the respective armies above:
  1.  Including the commander, Ikko-Ikki comprised 19 units, Clan Oda, 12 units.  
  2.  Divide by 6 and 'round down: Ikko-Ikki -> 3; Clan Oda -> 2
  3.  Add generals: Ikko-Ikki -> 4; Clan Oda -> 3
  4.  Statistical expectation of units activated (halved dice rolls): Ikko-Ikki -> 14/2 -> 7; Clan Oda -> 10.5/2 -> 5
In both cases, most of the time less than half the units will be activated.  In Clan Oda's case, even the loss of just one unit will seriously decrease its overall control: 11/6 -> 1D6; then 7/2 -> 3 - a statistical expectation that just 3 units may be activated out of 11.  

Aside from possibly misinterpreting some aspects, I have a feeling that such a constraint upon control of the army, although going towards 'chance' perhaps, might tend to frustratingly piecemeal battles. If using this system I would suggest (without yet going so far as to recommend):
  1. Ignore generals in the unit count
  2. Round fractions - exact halves being rounded up.  [Or even go 1D6 per 6 units or part thereof might be worth a look].
  3. Loss of units and general(s) still may affect command and control.
How, then, would this look? As it happens, given the armies featured in this article, it would make no difference at all to begin with, but it would mitigate against very early subtractions in command and control as losses mount. Even then, though, I find it hard to get my head around the relative unlikelihood of activating more than half the army at any time; and the huge advantage likely to accrue when it does happen!

3.  Missilery Ranges.
These are very short under this rule set, so short, withal, that close combats simply have to be 'voluntary'. Bow-armed samurai can shoot to 1 grid area range; arquebusiers and cannon to 2 and 3 grid areas, with 1 area being 'short' range. By the way, I notice that the game system assumes a square grid, but I see no reason so far to suppose it to be unsuited to a hex gridded battlefield.

The effect of this is, that units in contact with enemy have to be activated to engage in shooting or hand-to-hand combat. One might conduct a 'holding attack' by marching up to the enemy and standing in front of them, the only combats taking place in one's opponent's turn.  Meanwhile reinforcements are coming up, or one develops some other, potentially decisive, attack. One has to bear in mind that the enemy is under the same constraint. I believe attackers would have to accept heavy losses until the main attack develops decisively.

An interesting effect of the game system is this particular Close Combat D6 modifier: "+2 for Mounted Samurai attacking a Tepo unit." This must be in the Samurai own turn. What happens in the Tepo turn? They are not going to be so silly as to engage in close combat, are they? - even though the Samurai +2 modifier won't apply. The Tepo will shoot, with the Samurai unable to respond until their own turn. For their part the Samurai could choose in their turn to shoot; a fire fight would still be a winning proposition, but the close combat would be a 'winninger' one.  

I have been tempted to add 1 to all the missilery ranges, but before so doing, I guess one has to examine the potential of the existing game mechanics. Methinks there will be a couple more Clan Oda vs Ikko-Ikki actions before the jury comes in.

This is looking like a game set that requires a deal of action in order to get the best out of them, and thence to come at a fair assessment.  Tricky!