Friday, 26 May 2017

Blucher - French tears of 1814...



Last night at the uni, to get warmed up for our big Waterloo bash on the 18th June, we had a small game of Blucher, the Army level Napoleonic rules from Sam Mustafa, which we helped to play test.



Largely pitting Caesar's Russians against my French...


And a few stray Italians...



My Conscript units were Marie-Louises, which meant that despite a parlous Elan of 5, they also had the Shock attribute...



reflecting their youthful enthusiasm to defend La Patrie – I would exploit this ruthlessly!



My colleague David had the Cavalry Reserve and the smaller infantry corps.



The layout was a nondescript French valley, with a road intersecting a minor river and a small town , with a couple of large woods. Still in Team Yankee mode, I was about to cover half the table with terrain, until quietly but firmly reined in by David, and I think the resulting table provided just enough terrain to be interesting. One result of the valley effect, and the rules of objective placement, is that the 3 objectives had to be placed well into each corner of the table, giving the French, as defenders, a strategic conundrum! We couldn't defend both objectives without leaving ourselves very weak in the centre. We left one objective completely uncovered, as it was somewhat separated from the rest of the table by the river and a couple of bogs...


Alan briefs Caesar on the finer points of French architecture...the Coaltion were very confident throughout...
I had forgotten about Reserve Movement, and the rather ungentlemanly Russians showed no qualms in occupying it in their first move!


In the spirit of 1814, we decided to gamble all on an all-out reckless offensive a l’outrance! Given that Caesar had already captured one objective, the Russians, despite being the attackers, could realistically sit and wait for us to take the attack to them…


Which of course, despite knowing it was folly, we did – well you do attack, don’t you, as French players! Whilst wanting to maximise our young troops’ Shock attribute, of course the Russians all had the Steady attribute, and were possessed of a higher Elan value to boot!



However, owing to some fine heavy artillery volleys, Marmont’ Corps initial wave of attacks went well, driving back a couple of Russian brigades. So far, so good! However, as Marshal Ney observed; You can’t just kill those Russians – you have to push them over as well!


Meanwhile Caesar had been carefully husbanding his heavy cavalry corps across the river and was starting to present a credible threat to the deep French rear.



Marmont’s Corps could no longer simply be content just to push the Russians back, they would have to be destroyed in the hope of breaking Russian army morale value before the centre was ridden down by rampaging Kuirassiers and Cossacks!


However, that traditionally strong arm of the Russian Army, massed artillery...


now weighed in, and a typically Alanesque throw of four sixes from five dice with his opening salvo decimated an entire brigade of Marie Louises, and the French offensive in the center began to falter – it was the French Army morale that was starting to dwindle!


Despair really set in when a Russian pike armed Milita unit captured our Grand Battery – had the Grande Armee really come to this? David attempted to restore the situation with a well-planned but nevertheless desperate massed cavalry charge against prepared Guard Infantry in square.


C’est magnifique, mais c’est ne pas la guerre! The gallant charge ended in a mass of ruined horseflesh, with the stoic Russian Guards suffering but a few casualties…

With dusk deepening, and French Army morale nearing the red line, our brave, tearful young Conscripts ceded the field of honour to the hordes of Muscovy, trudging back to the next desperate battlefield of home…


C'est la guerre! An engrossing and enjoyable game, with 10 moves played in about 2 hours of play - we just love these Blucher rules - but we would say that, wouldn't we!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

LARIAT ADVANCE!


This Sunday, after nearly a year's prep and planning, summed up here; we finally got together at the Uni to stage our Team Yankee LARIAT ADVANCE campaign game! As Soviet commander, you'll forgive me for not taking too many photos once the Red Storm was unleashed!


Somewhat in the manner of a Firestorm game, 4 linked games were played out over two 12 x 6 foot tables, each faithfully recreating adjacent valleys in the Fulda gap. All of the hills you see on these two tables are accurate scale models purpose made by Bryan!


We had 3 players and a commander to a side, which left one table with 2 players each controlling a 100 point formation, and one player on the subsidiary table, also with 100 points. Next year, hopefully with more players, we will have 200 points per side per table!Above, the southern valley from Grusselbach to Hill 629, the subsidiary table; and below the Rasdorf - Eiterfeld axis, the main event for each of the two games.


We started with an overall briefing before starting each game's team briefing: L-R Colin, Soviet, Philip, Daniel, Stephen and Bryan; all NATO players, Reese and Dan, Soviet, along with me.


As well as being the NATO commander, Philip had a role as overall game manager, with god like powers to position and remove objectives, and weather events, to keep the campaign interesting - the only thing I asked for, for a 'historical' outcome, was for the Soviet offensive to still be underway at the start of the second game!


We deliberately used relative scale cut outs blown up from maps to portray built up areas, both to give a sense of place and to give the 'tank car park' moaners something to think on - ground scale people!


For the first game, played up the first 6 foot of table, Hasty Attack, Reese on the right had a Soviet tank force, with orders to advance cautiously through the tracks in the hilly wooded terrain for 3 moves, until the early morning Ground fog (night fighting rules) lifted...



with the US forces having thermal imaging, if we stuck to the wooded hills, no matter how frustrating, the only threat we faced for the first 3 moves was air cover, so we would keep our AD assets well forward. And use plenty of 'Cross Here!' orders!



His comrade Colin, also on Table 1 had a Motor Rifle force, with orders to seize and hold Rasdorf itself, but form Bronegruppas with the empty BMPs lining the forward edge of the woods to dominate the open ground with Spandrel fire. Dan on table 2 was also to maximise covered approaches, but rely entirely on missiles...



and infantry assaults to do the business, once the fog lifted.


Stephen for NATO fielded a US Armoured combat team...



his oppo Daniel having a US Mechanised team. All their teams started the game 'disoriented' (bailed out or pinned, but not for unit morale purposes) from the massive initial Soviet artillery bombardment using Army and Corps level assets...



which lifted just prior to game start. Below: Stephen, Colin and Reese:


On the subsidiary table, Philip supervises Bryan's NATO deployment in 'Dust Up' - NATO Mechanised attempting to hold off Soviet Motor Rifles led by Dan.


All players were asked to bring one or more 100 point forces, already knowing which would be on table and which in reserve. Each commander rolled all the reserve dice, and allocated the reserves from each force to any force he felt was in most need or able to make best use of it!



Given the scope of the game, players were forgiven for representing flights of 4 or 6 aircraft with just 2 models and a dice on the stand representing the phantoms.



Because of the large tables, air assets seemed to last longer than on a standard 6 x 4...



Each commander also had access to a strategic reserve, committment of which in extremis would forfeit any chance of victory for that game, the best outcome possible being a draw. NATO choose a flight of 4 Cobras, and 4 PAHs. For the Warsaw Pact I choose 7 x T-72s - not because they were the most effective option, but because relying on yet more tanks to stave off defeat seemed typically Soviet!



Anyway, I wouldn't need them, would I comrade!


As soon as the last echoes of the thunderous heavy rocket and 203mm gun bombardment died away, dozens of diesel engines cranked up and the Soviets crossed the Inner German Border, nose to tail along the forest tracks, heading for the shell shocked US infantry...


The black makers show that not all of the US armor and artillery crews had managed to reorientate themselves from the destructive whirlwind of blast and shrapnel by move 3...


But the NATO team were confident - so confident their ambush consisted of 4 VADs - our HIND flight just got bumped down the reserve priority list!


Daniel's hard pressed US Mech force, facing the sharp end of Reese's river of T-72s, was grateful for even the assistance of just the solitary M1, the rest of the platoon covering the broad swathe of BMPs lurking in the wooded hills across the valley...


On the Grusselbach table, Bryan's mechanised infantry were also under pressure, from Dan's counter part motor rifles, who were threatening both NATO objectives which Philip had helpfully placed just across the IGB...


However, whilst his reseves were able to turn up in good time to stablise the situation, over on the Rasdorf table, the Soviets were poised for a breakthrough, leading NATO to commit its strategic reserve: the flight of 4 Cobras...


And 4 PAHs.


But anyhow by turn 3 NATO reserves were pouring on, Philip throwing no less than three '6D6's out of three!


All this was blunting Reese's advance just within spitting distance of the objective!


Whilst over on the Grusselbach table Bryan's reserves had also seen off the hide tide of rampaging Motor-Riflemen. So despite all the hard fighting and dogged advance through the challenging hilly terrain, the result of the first game was a draw on both tables!


Time to regroup, brief and set up for the next game! The players would all move around slightly so that as many players as possible got to play on both tables. Once again, using covered lines of approach would be key on table 1, but there were no obvious terrain factors obviating the NATO advantage in firepower on table 2...



So I nominated Reese, as my most experienced and aggressive player, to represent the might Warsaw Pact on the Grusselbach - Hill 629 table.


At this top end of the table the table was far more open - ample room for his Tank formation to manoeuvre, but also plenty of opportunity for NATO to set up kill sacks - it would be a challenging game....Reese would just have to trust to good old fashioned 'shock, fire, and bold manoeuvre' to get up close and personal!


particularly as he was up against the even more experienced Stephen, also with an armored force, augmented by artillery assets, primed with the deadly Copperhead laser guided projectiles!



Reese set up his attack well, with one T-72 company sneaking into the cover of Maesbach to set up a crossfire against the M1 platoon skulking in the trees beneath Hill 629, destroying an M1 early in the piece...


Whilst manoeuvering his other company attempting to make as much use of the limited cover as he could...



- but to no avail, as salvo after salvo of Copperheads relentlessly whittled down his formation to the point where the formation was broken...


Things weren't going much better on the Rasdorf table. Advancing through the forested hills had worked well up to a point, but, having once again committed their strategic reserve, NATO air power was much to the fore, including a somewhat improbable 4 ship RAF Harrier flight, here represented by F111s, in support of an Aussie force. A list containing Aussies and USMC had been discussed, but no mention of them having RAF Harriers, nor tracked Rapiers in support!



Together with massed Milans and Leopards, they made a potent force! I know the British MOD is generous, but I doubt they would have been lending scarce RAF air assets to the US sector at a time like this! It pointed to NATO desperation! Certainly our 4 massed companies of BMP hordes must have looked threatening, but  for our part the objectives appeared layered in NATO armour and infantry...










There was only one thing for it - with a defeat on one table, and NATO now looking at a draw - I decided to also commit our strategic reserve, to at least make a game of it and actually seize an objective - none of which had actually yet been taken! The T-72s were able to surprise, outflank and destroy a platoon of M1s which had been themselves threatening a Soviet objective guarded by a lone BMP, but were ultimately picked off by massed Milan and Leopard fire, still some way from the objective...So another draw on the Rasdorf table!



So overall, Game 1 was drawn on both tables, and Game 2 saw a draw on one table and a
NATO win on the other: 1-0 to NATO!

A terrific game, hard fought, exciting, and excellent company all round - a fitting end to all the preparation and planning.

Looking forward to next year's LARIAT ADVANCE! game already!