Monday, May 30, 2011

El Cid at Pine Wood of Tevar (WI 283)

El Cid!
Seriously, I have been remiss for not mentioning this great article by James Morris (another favorite historical wargaming author of mine) from WI 283 (the Gallipoli issue) before now. He and Andy Hawes put on show regarding this 'Forgotten Battle' of the great El Cid at Partizan and the result is we are treated to a visual spectacle to accompany a rather intriguing bit of history and cool scenario. It's a big article - and worth every page.

Check out the WI website here for some great pics. While you are at it, check out Andy Hawes' blog pages on Pine Wood as well here and here. Also here. If you browse Andy's blog, I'm pretty sure you will find some more El Cid army pics, not to mention Late Roman/Arthurians and a Thin Lizzy reference or two. It's always a treat to see what he does.

Monday, May 23, 2011

WI 283: Jacob's Trench Scenario Playtest

WI 283
Well, sometimes it takes awhile to search, copy, and paste. Following is my battle report for the Jacob's Trench scenario from WI's big Gallipoli issue. For you solo gamers out there - this made a good one without having to program responses/initiatives for either side, although I suppose it could be easily done.

Again, I must say that John Bianchi did a great job not only with the narratives, but the games as well.

This one was a nail-biter. I played it solo using Crossfire rules (essentially using sections as platoons, which meant groups of about 4 figures functioned as a unit).

Game Narrative
Symon's lost 1/3 of his force taking the trenches, but reinforced to full strength before Turk counterattack. I held the rest of the ANZACs in reserve to reinforce or counter-attack. Two sections held the dugout while one (with Symons) covered the secondary (unroofed) trench.

The first Turk platoons were incredibly unlucky; one against the the secondary trench took 50% casualties on the approach, giving the defenders a chance to wheel on the platoon attempting to blindside the dugout, pinning them.

With the arrival of the third Turk platoon, the easy times were over and the ANZAC HMGs mowed down the pinned second platoon. The fourth platoon - replacing the second on the dugout blindside - was absolutely cut to pieces. Third platoon (after the secondary trench) got in for close combat, but broke.

Fifth and Sixth platoons came for the secondary trench. The ANZAC HMGs failed to catch them on the approach and the next thing that happened was a drawn-out firefight between in the open trenches - there were pockets of ANZACS between the Turk platoons and a reserve section of ANZACs piled into the mess. The Turk close assaults were rough, but the ANZACS managed to wear them down with defensive fire. The Turks reached the dugout once.

I did not use the 18pdr; the best chance to catch the Turks packed in together was achieved in spades by the two support HMGs.

Some Thoughts
I like the idea of the staggered Turk attacks, which allows the Turk player to decide whether or not to make the most of a worn platoon or withdraw it for a fresh one. There were times where I really had to think about whether I wanted to give up with a depleted force or take a risk on grabbing the advantage elsewhere.

The leadership values are critical. Crossfire allows leaders to confer close combat bonuses and/or rally bonuses. The Turks only got close combat bonuses, while the ANZACs got both. I also borrowed a close combat rule for Russians and Japanese - the Turks ignored pin results when charging into close combat, but suppression killed them.

Great scenario. Probably my favorite of the three. Lots of replay potential and easy to game with a modest collection of figures who can be recycled as needed.

Friday, May 20, 2011

All Quiet on the Gaming Front

The aftermath of a number of time-sensitive projects have left me with little time for the blog recently. I expect to get back on track with another Gallipoli gaming report and some other items next week.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

WI 283: Lone Pine Scenario #1 - Playstest/After Action Report

WI 283 cover
John Bianchi asked me to playtest his Lone Pine scenarios that he planned to use in Wargames Illustrated's Gallipoli issue. Keep in mind we did not have a map at the time but constructed the battlefield using a map we found of Lone Pine online. As it turns out, this is the map source John used and when I got a look at the Lone Pine table created by Grand Manner (a great work of art) in the magazine, its layout appeared much as I expected - however, its beauty surpassed all expectations!

I believe there may have been some changes to the original draft we played. Regardless, if you read (and hopefully play!) the scenario, the playtest might come in handy for what to expect. The first scenario is a brigade-level game - ie. units represented companies. We took some ideas from Too Fat Lardies' If the Lord Should Spare Us and applied them to Memoir '44 game mechanics. All the World War I gaming blogs I made earlier this year/late last year were pretty much based on getting rules in shape for these scenario playtests. So, without further ado...the After Action Report on Lone Pine Scenario #1:

The playtest went well. The ANZACs came close twice to breaking into the second line of trenches, but just couldn't pull it off. Some of it came down to luck, so it seemed pretty balanced to us. Oh - and the game was quite fun!

I did not see a map with the scenario, so we made one based on a historical map of Lone Pine trench networks we found on the Australia War Memorial:

The scale seemed to work well; we pretty much based the game around 40+ yard increments.

Some notes:

The roofed nature of the Turk main trenches made it hard for those troops to provide mutual support for each other, at least from the first line of trenches. This makes for some interesting choices for both sides.

I tried to play the ANZACs according to the plan - first companies bypass first trench line, second companies assault first trench line, third companies provide close support. The Turk player kept a company from each battalion in reserve; good move - once the ANZACs got past, it was hard to chase them and man the line.

HMG and trench mortar support played a big role, as did the occasional off-board bombardment. Turk MGs were nasty and the ANZAC mortar concentrated fire on them fairly often.

Most of the Turk casualties occurred in the fight for the second trench line. Again, due to the nature of their trenches and the time limits of the game, the ANZAC player is encouraged to get on with it and not worry some much about wiping out all the Turks in the front trenches. These two game conditions really make the game.

We liked the dubious nature of the wire. As luck had it, my ANZACs never encountered impediments.

If you include options for tweaking the scenario, consider adding something like this:

"If the Turks consistently win the Lone Pine scenario, reduce the number of HMGs by one or two."

I'm not sure what to do if the ANZACs consistently win (and I don't expect they will), but I'd start by making the wire and dugout roofs a little bit tougher (by no more than +1) - and I think the wire may be more important. I don't think increasing Turkish troop numbers is the real answer; maybe increasing chances to rally or improving morale according to chosen ruleset.

Again, great scenario. Looking forward to the others.