Saturday, 26 August 2017

Zorndorf 1758 with Maurice

Zorndorf 1758, when Frederick the Great's Prussians were fought to a standstill by Elizabeth the Great's Russians, is a fascinating battle. Our first game of it using Maurice rules was blogged here: maurice-zorndorf-caesars-court-martial

This time it was Daniel's turn to prepare the scenario. He is shown above briefing John on his duties - John just wandered into the club meet vaguely wondering what was on, and in fact still looks a little dazed...Gary had faithfully recreated the terrain,

dominated by the clumped woods of the Stein Busch in the middle of the field of glory, and channelled by the three swampy ravines, the Zabern-Grund on the Prussian left or Russian Right, Galgern-Grund in the centre, and Langer-Grund out to the east. A channel of clear access was carefully modelled in the Zabern-Grund to replicate the channel that Seydlitz famously was able to lead his cavalry through to fall upon the Russian flank just as they were celebrating victory.

Zabern-Grund in the foreground, then the Galgern-Grund, and at the back, next to some copses, the Langern-Grund.
In the centre, the three wooded patches make up the pivotal Stein Busch
Daniel had carefully calculated the armies and commands for our favourite 18th Century Maurice rules, but for 6 commands, which seemed to be more than the number of available players. As the impact of a virulent flu pandemic steadily decimated the numbers of players who were able to commit, it looked to the handful of us setting up, Daniel, Gary and myself, that 4 players would have to handle 6 commands, as we knew that Alan would be in.

Fortunately he came in accompanied by Satvik, who was a Maurice novice, and so would play on the Prussian side under Alan’s experienced wing. Then John made the mistake of casually turning up to see what was on at the club, and was rapidly informed in stereo by Daniel and myself that he was in the Russian Army now. Probably not the first time wide eyed innocents have wondered how come they’ve suddenly ended up wearing Russian green…

As defenders, the Russians were supposed to set up first, and so we started the painstaking linear deployment process, but the Prussians were eager to start and also started deploying. I was on the left, eastern-most sector of the Russian army, and had kind of assumed that the Zabern-Grund would mark the edge of the battle-field. However my Prussian opposite number Gary was piling huge amounts of infantry and cavalry on the outside flank of this channel,

so I hastily extended my deployment. Instead ! of a comfortable double line of infantry and guns, I was now reduced to a single line,

bolstered by my single elite Grenadier unit as an immediate reserve,

and 2 cavalry regiments out on the extreme flank.

Inadvertently, this also opened up something of a gap between my right and Daniel’s left, towards the centre…still, he who defends everything defends nothing, so it was left hanging – it would be hard for the Prussians to bear down in strength there anyway, channelled as they would be by the Stein-busch

The Prussian first move was led off aggressively by Gary opposite me and Alan in the Prussian centre, Alan immediately defaulting to playing a dirty tricks card on me to throw my carefully spaced alignment out of kilter. Cards are normally played on the opposite player in the respective sector when we play big multi-player games, but apparently there is an unwritten rule that Alan has to play all his cards on me….I must have offended him in a previous life. Still it meant that what could have been a boring few moves just bombarding...

was now spent reordering my now even shorter line, after Alan’s shenanigans meant that Gary had a flanking charge on one of my units and routed it.

On the far flank John and Satvik seemed content simply to exchange long range cannonballs, apparently with no serious effect.

After a few moves of the Prussians steadily advancing in the centre and their right, opposite my sector, Daniel, the Russian centre commander, had what contemporaries called a ‘coup d’oueil’ – a sudden tactical insight.

Owing to Alan’s difficulties wheeling around the wooded Stein Busch, if I were to drop back my line, he would be forced to enter an area where Daniel could come up on him in echelon. I must admit at the time I didn’t grasp what Daniel was trying to explain to me sotto voce, but a quarter of a century of naval training paid off and I just did what I was told!

Sure enough, a couple of moves falling back allowed Daniel’s infantry to envelop the head of Alan’s columns, and a further couple of moves back up meant my infantry was able to support.

However all this marching and counter marching left my three-gun battery idle, and left my cavalry force, still in their original march columns,

dangerously exposed, as well as outnumbered, by the advancing massed Prussian Cuirassiers.

Worst still, after these fearsome gentlemen having moved to within charge range, I had forgotten to move my General back in order to have them reform to receive a massed Cuirassier charge. (I’m not sure what the ideal formation for that eventuality is, but I’m confident anything is better than being in march column!) Fortunately, Gary courteously allowed me to do this out of turn, so my small cavalry brigade (1 elite Kuirassier Regiment, 1 Trained) was as ready as it could be…

Meanwhile back in the centre, Daniel and I were pouring fire into the Prussians, but Alan seemed to be able to rally off disruption points almost as fast as we could inflict them. Over on the far right John and Satvik seemed to have grown bored with fruitless bombardment, 

and almost by mutual arrangement both simultaneously dispensed with the last argument of kings and chose the arme blanche instead, closing with cavalry – with much excitement, charges and whatnot, but, again, apparently little actual result.

On my sector Gary had manoeuvred his infantry very precisely as best he could within the narrow channel between the Zabern-Grund and a small copse and launched his second wave of assaults.

A succession of hard fought volleys and charges saw the Prussians making little headway, so he transferred his attentions to his cavalry out on the far flank…I was not looking forward to! holding off his 4 regiments with my 2! Still, I had been holding onto the all-powerful ‘Stirrups-in’ card for some time. However, so had Gary! However the dice gods were equal in their favours, so that I actually won one combat, and survived the other, Gary having to bounce back.

In my move, rather daringly for me, habitually cautious with cavalry, I charged his defeated regiment at advantage, and saw it off the field. My 2 regiments were only facing 3. A further round of charges saw my trained regiment also sent off in ruin, but it seemed that my lone Kuirassier Regiment was in a position to outflank one of Gary’s Cuirassiers.

I was roundly assured that it was impossible to outflank in Maurice, but Gary was good enough to check and yes, it seemed I was in! Somehow in all the debate and rule checking we got out of sequence, but the outcome was that my gallant Kuirassiers were able to destroy their second regiment in as many moves! Truly now beloved of the Empress!

Looking up from this local excitement to survey the field of glory more generally, it seemed that Alan was running out of battalions to advance into the meatgrinder around the Stein-Busch,

and Gary was similarly out of options. With Prussian army morale slowly but steadily falling into the red, the Prussians conceded. Something of a stalemate, quite a historical outcome, even if the Prussian attempt at Seydlitz’s flank attack came in from the east rather than the west.

Frederick’s main problem in 1758 was the diminishing quality of his infantry, exacerbated by the hard marching which they had done coming up from Moravia. Daniel had replicated the less well trained aspect of the mid-war infantry by denying them ‘Deadly Volleys’. Coupled with the Russian advantage in rallying, and, I have to admit, more than a couple of well timed rallying cards, the Russians were always going to be hard to push off the field.

A well prepared and good looking game, wholly engrossing and definitely giving that big-battle feel!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Beersheba 1917 preps...

The 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba falls on the 31st October this year.

This battle is something of a legend down under. Whilst not exactly the last cavalry charge in history, by a long way when you consider the Russian Civil War, or even the Eastern Front in WW2, it was a remarkable battle...

It was one of the few times a mounted charge was able to overcome dug-in, prepared, and, it has to be said, tough and resolute defenders.

General Allenby's entire Palestine campaign is celebrated as a triumph of shock and manoeuvre over superior numbers, but even by those high standards this action saw a celebrated victory for sheer nerve and dash!

Most remarkably, the diggers of the 4th (Victoria) and 12th (NSW) Light Horse Regiments weren't technically even cavalry, but mounted infantrymen. However, ever resourceful, the diggers simply charged home with their 18 inch bayonets as sabres!

A mate who served in the Royal Australian Regiment tells me that modern historical opinion is that many of the diggers actually dismounted on or just before the objective...

and fought through with their trusty .303 SMLEs, but eyewitness accounts insist that many rode their mounts over and through the trench lines...

Either way it must have presented a daunting spectacle to Johnny Turk, no mean soldier himself!

And they were a modern and well equipped army, and well entrenched in prepared positions. All figures painted by David Clark.

I have to put in a token picture of a gun, otherwise my Gunner mates give me gyp - 1 of the 28 Krupp field guns defending Beersheba.
This project was originally conceived by our mate the late Mark Rowles who sadly passed away a few years ago and is still very much missed. Mark Rowles RIP.

However Doug has since taken up the slack and given it his all, commissioning and putting together an amazing collection of terrain to suitably commemorate this iconic Aussie battle.

The wells, Mosque and building details are from Kobblestone Miniatures, the houses themselves from Knights of Dice, all lovingly assembled by Doug.

I should note that this whole operation is in 28mm, as befits Mark's original concept, as he was always one for doing things in the Grand Manner!

Doug has gone to great lengths to capture those little details and vignettes which make terrain come to life!

All flags shown here were by The Flag Dude.

Yes the Colours of the Australian flag are correct! - at the time blue was the field colour for the national flag only, with red used by State and Territory organisations. Since these regiments were raised by Victoria and New South Wales, they used a red background...

The dice were obtained from another great little Aussie company, Dice of War.

So we look forward to commemorating this amazing action later on in the year . We will be using suitably adapted Bolt Action V2 rules.

And if the photos come out allright, I will be only to happy to blog it for you. Or come along and join in!

Cheers Mates!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Team Yankee - Delaying Attack!

Last night at the Uni I recieved my usual drubbing in a slightly different style - rather than use the mechanism out of Team Yankee - More Missions to arrive at a scenario, we lifted one straight out of the Leopard supplement and followed it slavishly: Delaying Attack, pp.42-3. Clearly these are well thought out scenarios and it makes losing miserably that much more of an interesting evening...

The situation is that Hauptmann Hahn's Panzer Kompanie of Pz Bataillon 23, 2nd Pz Bde, has to buy time  to slow the Soviet advance by counterattacking and holding the Soviets off both objectives - if the Soviets hold any one objective, its game over!

I laid the table out pretty faithfully to the scenario map:

And forces were prepared, again identical to the published scenario, with the exception that BMP2 models had to sub for BMP1s - more about that anon!

So the Soviets get plenty of T-72s and short range AA defence from the Shilkas, and a pretty large infantry contingent, albeit in BMP1s! How much use 2 HINDs would be was my only concern.

As always, the Bundeswehr don't get much kit for their points, but what they have is superb material! And with the small Luchs platoon, the ability to extend their deployment zone with a spearhead move...

And, to be fair - they only got 2 PAH AT helos too - but my Shilka AA range was 32", whereas that of the Gepards was 40" - there would be nowhere on this 6 x 4 table for my HINDs to hide!

We deployed platoon after platoon, Bryan's West Germans leading...

So the Luchs recce platoon opend up his deployment bubble, but had to steer 16" clear of the obstacle in the open, and 8" clear of the one units could be in cover from. So not quite on the objectives, I had a chance to get there first....

I found my deployment space, a 24" diameter from the table corner, fairly constricting, especially for cover for my Shilkas...With Bryan's Gepards well forward, I also kept my HINDs well back until I figured out what to use them for. For the rest, in my BMP2 user naivetee I thought I'd dismount the Motor Rifle lads and use the BMP1 bronegruppa as a ATGW fire base to cover the approaches to the right hand objective...

I shall pass over Bryan's first move in dignified silence, suffice it to say he advanced his small infantry platoon up to contest the centre objective, then proceeded to demolish my Shilka platoon with long range fire from a platoon of Leopards. My comrade political officer started fiddling with his pistol holster in a rather pointed fashion...

Perhaps still in shock, I somehow came to the conclusion that it was best to lance the boil and send the 2 HINDs directly at the Gepards. One managed to survive the wall of incoming FLAK, but failed to hit the Gepards in return...

With my 3 T-72 companies, I sent two right flanking around behind the covered approach towards the nearest objective, and sent the other forward to take cover behind a line of trees and the lone building, hoping to split Bryan's forces...

The Motor Rifles were sent forward up the centre to also assume a position around the neares obstacle.

I achieved the aim of splitting the German forces, as one platoon of Leopards and the Marders moved to engage the tank company in the tree line...

By this point I'd realised that the BMP1s with their Sagger missiles were all but useless in the stand-off role...

So they were sent forward to support the infantry and attempt to rub out the small Bundeswehr infantry platoon - surely they were capable of that at least?

Now came the crux of the battle - according the victory conditions, holding an objective, all I had to do was start my next move continuing the hold it, and it not being contested by the enemy - so just knock out the 2 Leopards in the vicinity of the objective with my 2 T-72 companies on scene...

How hard could it be - 10 T-72s against a pair of Leopards?

Well, 1 was knocked out! And the other bailed out - so if he failed to bail back in, victory was mine, and the Comrade Political Officer could reholster his pistol!

The tank company on the left flank was also having some success, having learnt the hard way that the only way to take out a Leo2 was from the flank!

Back to the main objective- Whilst the bailed out Leo 2 remained so, it had been joined by the company commander - the objective was disputed, so I had not won the game!

No longer distracted by my flanking move, more Leo2s were arriving on scene, and the inexorable arithmetic of NATO ROF 2 vs Soviet ROF 1 led to my force melting away unable to push the big cats away from the objective... 

Very close at one point, but not close enough! Still, taking out 2 mighty Leopards made it easier to bear!