Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Blucher Waterloo: The Lasne Defile

On Sunday the Wollongong Wargamers played our annual Waterloo game using Blucher rules - nothing unusual in that...

But this time there was a twist - an alternative history type twist...

Overnight Napoleon has fallen prey to nagging doubts about the Prussians. Supposing they weren’t completely beaten at Ligny. What if Grouchy mucks up their pursuit? At breakfast, listening to Count Drouot’s account of his battlefield recce, and the remarkably defensive ground to be found east at the Lasne defile, Napoleon decides to insure his right flank: Lobau will defend much further to the east to block any Prussians coming west like a cork in a bottle…Who knows, if Grouchy understands his intention and falls on the Prussian rear, the Prussians could be surrounded and crushed once and for all. If that happens Wellington would scuttle away to Brussels and beyond without even having to be seriously engaged…
This scenario assumes that Grouchy obeyed his orders rather than understanding Napoleon’s intent and is thus far away at Wavre.

As the Prussians do turn up in force, and pressure Lobau, D’Erlons I Corps inevitably gets drawn east in support. However Wellington spots this and is relieved to see a chance to link up with the Prussians early, despatching increasing number of his forces to either intercept D’Erlon or support the Prussians directly…

Ground and Daylight. 
The LASNE river is a Minor obstacle. The BOIS DE PARIS is Impassable. 
All heights have a Crest line 2 inches from their edge, and thereafter are flat plateaus. The area around from the edge to the ridge is Difficult Terrain.

Allies start the Game on Move 8. Game ends at move 30 with nightfall.

Victory Conditions and Army Morale.
There are 2 objectives, the LASNE road crossing and the crossroads outside PLANCENOIT. Winner will hold both at game end; or win through attrition:

French Army Morale Break Point is 8; Anglo Allied is 6; Prussian is 8
Prussians IV Corps: Gary and Alan
Anglo-Allied Western Flank: Peter and David
French VI Corps, Young Guard: Caesar
French Cav Corps I and IV;  Guard Cavalry, I Corps: Sparker

Alan, Caesar, Gary, Sparker, David, Peter
What happened:

The French deployed first – Lobau’s VI Corps within the Lasne Defile to the east, the French Cavalry over on the left within 4 BWs of the French table edge.

The Allies then deployed, the Prussians with their complete orbat within 3 BWs of their table edge, the Anglo-Allies just their initial wave of cavalry and horse artillery.

The French then got to make a free Reserve move to react to the advancing allies, which allowed me to move a Heavy Cavalry Corps halfway across the table to confound a Prussian attempt to blitz across south of the Lasne Defile, and thus circumvent Caesar’s strong defences.

The Anglo Allies then got their first move – No. 8.

Both the Prussians and Anglos can on fast and aggressively, and over on my flank opposite Frasnes there were a good deal of cavalry jockeying and charges, with honours just about even.

The Prussians were finding the heights commanding the Lasne river daunting – the initial slope was difficult terrain so they were unable to charge straight across it, but instead would have to face one move of volleying before coming to grips with the defending French infantry brigades on the Plateau.

The horse battery I had sent across with the Heavy Cavalry also found the range very quickly and steadily attrited the Prussian infantry on the left of their line.

On the Western end of the table, the arrival of the Guard Cavalry with 3 very powerful units soon forced the Allied lighter cavalry to fall back with prejudice. 

I probably should have been happy with that but instead took the decision to follow these units up...

 in the hope they would be force to retire off their table edge.

With hindsight, this confined these fine units to a minor role and steady combat degradation in a succession of cavalry engagements with reinforcing units – some of them equally heavy…

Indeed the battle on this side of the table was characterised by successive waves of reinforcements affecting the ebb and flow of the battle. 

When the Young Guard corps arrived, Caesar’s position was looking distinctly shaky, 

with a Prussian Landwehr unit having forced, wait for it...

 a French line unit off the objective – how embarrassment! And this was to become something of a...

Recurring theme...

The Young Guard were duly despatched eastwards, but they would have a lot of ground to cover before they made an impact! 

At this stage we realised the scenario would have been improved by some sort of scenario specific March Order – units outside of 4 BW of the enemy may activate to once again become unrevealed and so can make a Reserve move in the following turn.

At this point D’Erlon’s I Corps had arrived as reinforcements, but their deployment was fouled by a lingering Guard Horse artillery battery which had not been able to be activated off the edge of the table. Nevertheless a heavy battery and horse battery were able to be deployed with clear lines of fire to the Allied cavalry and squares, and the gunners set to their grim task in this target rich environment - no ridge to hide behind over on this flank!

 Over to the east the Prussians had fixed Lobau's Corps...

 and were well set up to push forward...

and their deliberate approach, whilst incurring artillery and musketry casualties...

seemed to be paying off as they steadily pushed back or broke brigade after brigade...

Over on the western flank Wellington was sending Brigade after Brigade down of his ridge...

to match D'Erlon unit for unit...

So that the engagement had become general, and bloody...

Right across the table...

With the inevitable impact upon each Army's morale factor... Finally, the brittle morale of the Armee du Nord fell from 1 to 0 - Caesar and I had one remaining move to crack the Allies morale by breaking just 2 Prussian or 4 Allied units....
But the Black Flags and the Thin Red Line held out! 

Napoleon loses Waterloo! Who'd ha' thunk it!

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Exterminate! Exterminate!
On Thursday the Wollongong Wargamers played their seventh game in our Firestorm Kursk Campaign, this time set on the Northern Front on the 7th July. The German push continues, with the Germans well and truly astride (enmeshed?) in the middle of the Soviet defensive zone, but beginning to run out of momentum…or not?. A small Kampfgruppe has been tasked to capture the tracks towards the eastern flank: Netrubezh Station was nothing more than a few buildings and train sidings and tracks, but if cut would disrupt Soviet communications...  

The campaign so far:

Game #
Date Played
Historical Date

Z1 5 July
Soviets Hold

Z1 5 July
Soviets Hold

Z2 6 July
Soviets Hold
11 July
Z2 6 July
South – Pena R
German breakthrough Soviet 1st Line
5 Sept
Z3 7 July
German breakthrough Soviet 1st Line
19 Sept
Z3 7 July
Sov CA - Germans Hold
31 Oct


14 Nov


12 July
South - Prokhorovka
Soviet CA

The main characteristic of the Northern sector was that the German command did not want to commit too many panzers, aware that the Soviets were massing armour to their north for their own forthcoming offensive. So actions tended to be infantry centric, supported by Tigers, with limited objectives for each offensive pulse.

Accordingly Colin picked the Bridgehead scenario, and together with Bryan laid out an attractive table for us to battle over:

He based his 120 point German force on a Tiger platoon of 2 Tigers and escorting Pz III, a PanzerJager section of 3 x Marders, 2 x Panzer grenadier platoons, and an Assault Pioneer Platoon – the German forces in the Northern Sector generally seemed much more professional in anticipating the needs presented by lavish Soviet minefields and swampy terrain...

 As to picking our Soviet force, I was tired of seeing mounds of burning T-34s and wanted to try out some shiny new KV-1s I had recently picked up at the MOAB bring and buy. 

Whilst they have identical firepower, their frontal armour of 9 might help when facing Tigers! A company of 6 neatly comes in at 60 points, my exact share of our joint force. For his infantry force, Bryan astutely plumped on the Hero Motor Rifle Bn, which allowed him to take a single, but very large, MR company and a rather handy  SMG armed Assault Group of his beloved Cossacks, supported by 3 x 120mm mortars. In ambush was a battery of anti-tank guns, modelled on lend-lease US 57mm/UK 6 Pounders but using Russian ZIS-2 57mm stats.

In accordance with the scenario, we had a very generous 5 minefields to lay, entirely in keeping with the Kursk battlefield, where the Soviets even deployed Army level mobile mine laying units who were quickly able to lay thousands of additional minefields in the path of any German breakthrough. We laid the mines in a near contiguous belt sealing off the left and centre approaches to the bridgehead. We laid the 120mm mortar DF marker on the remaining road junction that wasn’t mined.

My KVs were kept in immediate scattered deep reserve, at 50% of our points, which meant that Bryan was free to deploy all of his infantry formation, which he did, concentrating on a loose knit defense of the overall objective area. Combined with the mines and DF, I have to confess to feeling a little smug at this stage. Then Colin deployed…down both flanks!

He didn't waste much time going into the assault with his infantry from our centre right and with the pioneers sneaking around our extreme right flank, infiltrating in through a big loco shed...The resulting assaults...

Were beaten off by the skin of our teeth - but Colin's infantry and pioneers had been allowed to get way too close to the objectives! I had failed every reinforcement roll so far, but on the third turn my sole reinforcing platoon got to come on automatically and fortuitously the die roll for where it came on put them right behind Colins left most platoon, which had been sneaking up on the left hand objective. Now my natural instinct was to head straight over to say hello to the Tigers, but Colin pointed out that there was no point in mixing it with Tigers if we lost the objective! Reluctantly I headed for the infantry...

And owing to the 4 mgs these beasts carry, and an assualt rating of 3+, pretty much banjaxed the entire mob of Landsers, poor devils!

In the centre it was Bryan's turn to assault, counterattacking with both his Motor Rifles and Cossacks, pretty much destroying another Infantry platoon with the Cossack SMGs...

Colin realised he was running out of options, but still had his all powerful Tiger platoon in hand...

However Colin also had a trick up his sleeve - the Anti Tank Platoon was still held in Ambush, and now seemed the moment to deploy from some cover nicely positioned on the flank of said Tigers...

 And they claimed one Tiger - Game over!  It is beginning to look as if the German offensive has run its course, in the Northern sector at least...In a couple of weeks we will return to the South to see it the 2nd SS Panzer Korps can keep things moving...

Thanks to Colin for another interesting and challenging scenario and to Bryan for helping out with the terrain - and for restraining my wilder impulses!