Sunday, April 28, 2013

July 1757 Orders are in, the Campaign for Hanover enters a new phase

Hanoverian Jäger zu Fuss skirmish with a French avant garde at the approaches to Wunsdorf


The French drove ahead aggressively with a variety of small and large columns, attempting to gain towns, territory and threaten major cities.  The Army of Observation assumed a regional defensive posture with many flexible, reinforced brigades.  Some Allied elements were discovered, while others remain hidden in Hanoverian territory. A clash was avoided in Wunsdorf when the Allied Light Brigade successfully withdrew (successful D6) to Hanover with no significant engagement.  August 1757 will undoubtedly prove to be far more entertaining than July.




Saturday, April 27, 2013

And now for something completely different - 1945 Action across the Rhine

Someone lift that bloody stonk!

I went over to long-time friend Dave's house the other evening for a 28mm WWII game. His long-time friend Sean was in town and Dave wanted to put little WWII Game on for Sean prior to him traveling back to the Caucuses. We used the Bolt Action rules, which despite their faults, provided a decent Platoon level skirmish game. Admittedly, we played fast and loose with the rules as I have only had a few BA games under my belt, Dave even less – and Sean none at all. We were able to play in Dave's beautiful new and expansive upper-story "Gentlemen's Parlor" dubbed The Eagles Nest. Besides the figures, paintings and military relics, I believe he has enough tables space for a 6' x 12" game (which could go 6'x18" given a supplemental table). For our game we stuck with a conservative 5' x 5'.
Dave had asked me to come up with a scenario and OOBs, and (despite our collective wealth of historical figures) we simply do not have much in the way of 28mm WWII. As Dave has a Platoon+ of Germans and British Paras, and I an equal number of British infantry and Eastern Irregulars (partisans) I determined to work up a Para-Relief Force link-up scenario. Initially I was looking to Normandy, but then thought of Operation Plunder and Varsity (Rhine Crossing) in March 1945 as something different. Some quick Research and I came up with the 8th Royal Scots link-up with Canadian Paras the day after the airdrop (see map below).  This scenario has desperate Germans remnants set up in the woods and Farm buildings at the western edge of the "Diersfordterwald" while Canadian Paras push through the woods in the northwest and a patrol of the Royal Scots enter form the southwest. Victory would be determined by the Commonwealth troops ability to link-up without taking casualties that would render them combat-ineffective.
The Paras were given a couple Veteran sections with some heavy weapons team (MMG and Medium Mortar) support as were the Royal Scots (MMG and Sniper). In addition, both Commonwealth players had an FO for an artillery Bombardment, and the Scots had two MMG armed Bren Carriers. The Wehrmacht had a two Regular Infantry sections with LMGs, an MMG, a Heavy Mortar and a Quad-20mm FLAK that could be mounted or dismounted. In addition the Germans had two inexperienced Volkssturm rifle squads, a small LMG squad and an Anti-Tanks Rifle (ATR) team. Every German squad was also armed with a Panzerfaust.
Dave took the Germans, Sean the Paras and I took the Scots. Dave asked if the Germans could use hidden /maps set-up, and though neither the scenario, nor BA rules really accounted for that, we agreed it might be interesting and so (excepting the Heavy Mortar and Quad 20mm FLAK) Dave jotted down his squad positions, to be kept hidden until engaged. Sean and I discussed some basic strategy, agreeing to probe the defenses and then link-up along the path of least resistance. With that, The Ball was opened.
Sean's Paras began moving along the northwest woods and hedgerow with a section in front, followed by support weapons and the second section behind. My Scots advanced with one section dismounted advancing through a wheat field, followed by Company leadership and supporting weapons teams. The other section was mounted in the carriers and began to flank to my right – the more open terrain out of LOS of the Quad FLAK. Dave's only initial fire, was a lucky Heavy Mortar direct-lay on my lead troops – handing my No. 1 Section 5 casualties and two pins. Blimey!
Dave and Sean exchanged fire in the north with Sean taking some losses, then shooting up Dave's Mortar crew. Dave fired on my hapless 1st Section with his hidden "Spandaus" sending the unlucky Scots reeling back through the Korn with over 50% loss and three pins total – these particular Jocks were now fairly done-in. Dave also began firing with his Volkssturm ATR at my Carriers as they moved to push the eastern flank - but the inexperienced Volks gunner could not get a hit. At this point Dave asked if his MG troops who had fired at me could conduct hidden movement in the buildings (therefore backing off and remaining hidden as they displaced) and to Sean's regret – I agreed. There are specific building rules in BA – but we typically ignored them for expediency sake. While having so much hidden set-up and movement for the Germans added a bit of realism and Fog-o'-War, it needed to be counter-balanced by non-existent BA rules consideration for things like "Searching Fire" and targeting "likely" locations - these we had not considered, as all of this was done on-the-fly.
Meantime, I managed to knock out the Volkssturm ATR and Sean, "Klatch-BOOM!", got a good PIAT hit on the SDKFZ, destroying it and the re-mounted FLAK. In addition, Sean began to tangle with some Volkssturm squads blocking the woods route. In this encounter, the veteran Paras first shot up then assaulted the inexperienced, armed civvies – but not before taking a few Para casualties themselves. In addition, Dave (via the hidden movement) had displaced his MGs to the northern side of the Farm to take Sean's Paras under marginally effective fire.
I had targeted a "known" German position with artillery, and Sean followed suit. But the fire missions failed to arrive for two turns. When my "Stonk" finally did come in it destroyed and unoccupied out-building that I had thought, through Dave's cunning deception, might have some Panzerfust armed Volkssturm inside - but instead had only a drunken Volks shirker whose hangover was rudely interrupted by a sheaf of 5.5 inch rounds.
At this point, Sean, while blooded, was still proceeding steadily through the Woods towards a link-up with my forces on the northeastern flank. I debussed my No. 2 Section in the southeast field and shot one of my carriers long up the eastern flank, while the other carrier supported with MMG fire. As expected, a flash and smoke shot out of the upper story of the eastern farm building and Dave's Panzerfaust got a solid hit on the thin-skinned carrier (indoor overpressure notwithstanding). The carrier went up in a ball of flame, shaking-up the already battered Scots. However, one carrier, a full squad and all Sots support weapons remained unharmed and so the dour Scots continued their advance.
At this point the evening was late and we determined to call it a night. The "wholly unbiased" assessment of the Scots commander was that albeit thoroughly blooded, the Canadians Paras and Scots would likely link-up on the eastern Flank within a few turns – though not without taking further casualties - significant overall. Therefore, given the Germans' tenacity, and heavy Commonwealth casualties a minor German victory would likely be the result.
A great time was had by all and much good German and Belgian beer was quaffed over a few fine cigars as we pursued the action. Still enjoy the BA mechanisms, though it is not without its quirks. Also, due to the card-like dice activation in BA, when playing a multi-player game with 20+ total elements engaged – you really have to keep thinks cracking to get through the turns. Recommendations for scenario refinements might be to either forgo or fully think through hidden movement and associated rules (if these modifications are allowed) and/or to provide the Scots a prelim bombardment or a Sherman DD tank (the Scots were historically supported by Shermans in this Op.) then give the Germans additional AT (a Panzerschreck or light/med AT Gun). Looking forward to more BA, but can't wait to fight a really big SYW, ACW or Napoleonic game in Dave's game room as those periods can really take advantage of the table-space.
In Memoriam:
As we play these games with our toy soldiers, it is good we occasionally reflect on the actual human cost of these operations. While doing my minimal research for this scenario – I came across the following.
Rest in Peace BRIAN TERENCE PECK. Born the same year as my father (who served in, and survived the Pacific war) but died far too young.
Dave and Sean discuss turn one move under the gaze of Bony

Scots advance

Mortars -  Hit the dirt!

Canadian Paras move our smartly

Paras take out the Mortar Team while Flak crew ducks behind cover

Dave consulting his hidden set-up positions

Scots debussed

Para advance meets Volksstruurm contact in the woods


Destuction of the out-house


Volksstrum Command

Para assault - the end of the Volksstrum

Two great commanders - then there is Dave and Sean :)

Skulking German AT Team

At 'em Jocks!

Klatch-Bang!  Piat hits home


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Something Like Hanover 1757-1758: A Simple Set of Campaign Conventions for Black Powder

Black Powder Campaign System for the Hanover Campaign,  July 1757 – July 1758
The French have crossed the Rhine! This Campaign game roughly simulates the actions of July 1757 – July 1758.  It picks up with the French army under Louis Charles César Le Tellier, duc d'Estrées has consolidates his crossing of the Rhine and advanced into Electorate of Hanover and neighboring German states.   The action picks up with the French having crossed the Rhine and launching their summer offensive to capture Hanover.  This is is followed by a possible pause during the Duke of Cumberland’s virtual capitulation (the Convention of Klosterzeven).  Either way, campaigning picks back up in the winter of 1757-58 as Ferdinand of Brunswick takes command to push the French back across the Rhine and ends with early British intervention on the Continent.

The Campaign Game
Campaign lasts 13 potential Orders Turns from July 1757 – July 1758.  Use the Campaign Map to Move Army’s, Wings, detachments, Columns etc. by Grid.  Elements are determined by Black Powder points system and should attempt to loosely adhere to 1757 French and Allied Orders of Battle.  Objective is to end the Campaign with more Town/City points than opponent while preserving your Army.

Turns            Commanders and Events                     Reinforcements                    CIC Rating
July 1757      d'Estrées (8), Cumberland (7) None                                               Fr 8 Allied 7
Aug 1757      Duc de Richelieu (7) arrives                D3 x 100 French                  Fr 7 Allied 7
Sep 1757      Potential Convention of Klosterzeven - Hanover Falls in Aug      Fr 7 Allied 7
Oct 1757       Potential Convention of Klosterzeven - Hanover Falls in Sep      Fr 7 Allied 7
Nov 1757      Ferdinand of Brunswick (9) arrives                                                 Fr 7 Allied 9   
Dec-Jan 1758 Winter Campaigning Rules Apply        D3 x 100 Allied                Fr 7 Allied 9
Feb 1758      Count de Clermont (8) arrives D3 x 100 Allied/French                     Fr 8 Allied 9
Mar 1758                                                                                                             Fr 8 Allied 9
Apr 1758                                                                                                             Fr 8 Allied 9
May 1758                                                                                                            Fr 8 Allied 9
Jun 1758          British Regulars Arrive                        D3 x 100 Allied               Fr 8 Allied 9
July 1758                                                                                                             Fr 8 Allied 9   

Total French Army points through campaign, Min/Max = 2200/2600
Total Allied Army points through campaign, Min/Max = 2100/2700

Army Organization and initial deployments

Starting Army Campaign Points
French Army 2000                                                      Allied Army of Observation 1800
Town/City Point Ownership (see Map)
French Army 90                                                          Allied Army of Observation 100

Army Orders of Battle
Troop points are converted into Black Powder Armies.  Standard points recommendations apply - players are encouraged to keep to 18th C weapon and troop characteristics.   

Smaller combined Elements are >200 <500 points each and may either be “Flying Columns” or “Detachments/Wings” or "Standard Columns".  Movement for these elements is 5 Grids per turn if a Flying Column (all Cavalry), 4 Grids per turn for Detachments/Wings of  mixed "light" forces and 3 Grids per turn for standard columns with heavier guns and a preponderance of infantry.  Light guns are considered (3-4 Pdrs).   Any of thees independent Elements may have a CIC/Brigade Commanders with any command rating up to 8.     

Main Force elements are >501 <1000 points each, move 3 Grids and are restricted to their historical Command Rating as shown for the Armies above.  Siege Artillery can be purchased as if 24 Pdr,  but designate as Siege Guns – these  restrict an Element’s movement to 1 Grid per Turn.  Regarding terrain, Subtract 1 for crossing Rivers (Blue Lines) or crossing a full Grid of Hills/Woods (lighter Green areas on map).    

Winter movement and combat (December, January) reduce Elements’ Movement by 1 (additional) and has a 1/3 chance (D6 1-3) of being caught in storms/blizzards with  D3 x 25 Points Attrition for those Elements involved (dice per element to determine if caught in a Blizzard).
After determining Army composition by Element, deploy and record forces on the map in the starting area locations (Allied Red and French Blue Zones).  Initial placement within those Zones may be recorded and kept secret unless contact is made, but any movement or fortification by Elements inside or outside the Zones must be announced as Orders per the below.    

Campaign Turn Orders
Orders should generally specify who, what, when, where and why.  Examples: 
“July1757, De Roisy’s Flying Column (600 Points) will make haste to Herford  via Gutersloh and Bienfield in an attempt to seize Bienfeld by Coup de Main if lightly defended. Should De Roisy meet resistance beyond his means (a third more points than his Column) he is to fall back and set up a hasty defense.”
“August 1757, Von Spork (700 Points) will move to Warburg  via Detmold to Garrison the town, immediately begin fortification and defend until relieved”
“November1757, duc d'Estrées Main Force (1000 Points) will advance on Minden  and immediately attack and enemy he encounters in the hopes of seizing Minden."
“April 1758, Krauthammer’s Light Corps (200 Points) will delay back to Berkhof  and attempt to ambush any force proceeding along the main road, without becoming decisively engaged."
Capturing Towns and Cities
An Element must simply pass through an unoccupied Town to capture it and gain the victory points.  As stated below, unoccupied Friendly Cities (Larger Towns on Map) have a nominal garrison of 100 Points, for Skirmish and Siege purposes – if no other enemy is present, these must be defeated through Storm or Siege to capture the City.
Contact and Battle
Battles and Skirmishes potentially occur when enemy elements are in the same Grid.  Common-sense is applied when comparing orders to determine if 1. There is action  2. On what type of Terrain it occurs and under what tactical circumstances. 

Disengaging -  Pre -Battle/Skirmish
In many instances a Force may be given orders to avoid engagement with larger elements or face a force greater than double its size.  In these cases, The Disengaging force must roll D6 = 4+ to disengage/withdraw when.

More Light troops/Cav that Pursuer +1
Disengaging Element is over 50% Light Troops/Cav +1
Disengaging Element is less than/equal to 50% size of Pursuer +1
Disengaging Element has 24 Pdr. Or Siege Artillery -1, If Pursuer has +1
Less Light troops/Cav that Pursuer -1
Pursuer is over 50% Light Troops/Cav -1

If Element successfully disengages/withdrawals - it must retreat to friendly/neutral Grid not occupied by enemy Element.  Pending the conclusion of enemy Campaign movement, multiple withdraw attempts may be required in a Turn.  Failure to successfully withdraw/disengage means either a Battle or Skirmish commences.

Tabletop Battles are fought when both sides agree the forces engaged and potential outcome are worth a Tabletop fight.  Battlefield terrain will either be agreed upon or be rolled randomly from (i.e. Age of Reason Campaign rules) within the following Map categories:  Rural/Agricultural, Town, City/Fort, Low Hills/Forest, and River Crossing.   For deployment purposes – the side entering a Grid first with halt/defend orders may choose their side of the battlefield .  Otherwise if simultaneous entry/meeting engagement – the side with more Cav/Light troops will choose side for deployment.   If unclear – dice for it.
If multiple forces enter the Same Grid, look to Orders, timing and direction. All elements are assumed to move to the sound of the Guns!  There may be opportunities for elements to combine (simultaneous entry) in a Battle – coming from one or Multiple (flanking) directions, and/or for successive Battles (sequential) entry with the same forces in one Campaign turn.  In no case can a combined force have more than 1200 Points of forces in any one Battle, though any amount of points may enter a Grid and battle sequentially.
Three or more elements arriving simultaneously (all enter at same Campaign grid move) in a Grid enter the battlefield from the direction of Campaign travel with D6 turns between them.  So if three units enter a grid, two Blue, one Red - all roll D6.  Low D6 is the base (Turn 1) 2nd and 3rd highest come in their appropriate pips turns after the first.   So Say it is Red from the North rolls 2, Blue South rolls 4 and Red West rolls 6 -  Red comes in Turn 1 from the North, Blue from the South Turn 3 (4-2=2, 1+2=3) and Red West Turn 5 (6-2=4, 1+4=5).
If an element enters one Campaign Grid move (not Campaign Turn) after the others - that Force rolls a D6 and adds the result to the last element's turn of entry.  So in the instance above if Red West was moving 3 Grids and the others only 2 - Red West would come in 6 turns after Blue South - or turn 9 (likely after the action has ended).  If elements enter more than 1 Campaign Grid move apart - they must fight sequential battles.
Disengaging during Battle
In some instances, a Commander may desire to disengage from a Tabletop Battle.  If this is the case, the Disengaging Commander may roll a D6 beginning on turn Five of the battle as follows:  Turn 5 a 6 is required, Turn 6 a 5+, Turn 7 a 4+ etc.   Use applicable modifiers per Pre-Battle/Skirmish Disengagement above.
Skirmishes are lesser off-table actions adjudicated through a few die rolls.  Skirmishes should generally only be fought if the total force points in action are less than 800 points – and at the discretion of both players.  Larger actions should be fought on Tabletop if practicable.  When fighting Skirmishes, simply compare the point values and roll a D6 for attrition/victory.  If one side has an obvious advantage in number, terrain, defenses and/or position – add one or two to their die roll.  Simultaneously resolve and apply Casualties and 

Attrition as follows:
Potential Enemy Casualties Inflicted = ((D3 + Advantage) x Troop Points) / 50

Defending River                                  +1
Defending City (non Siege)                 +2
Outflanked (multiple Elements)           +2
After Potential Casualties are determined, apply Battle Attrition rules (winner/loser) to determine final Point loss. In all cases, unless one side is destroyed, the losing side (based on Point casualties) must withdraw to a friendly Grid. Tie results require a roll-off.
 Cities are automatically fortified, and as previously stated, have a nominal garrison of 100 Points, they may either be captured by Storm or Besieged.  Towns must be Fortified (minimum one Campaign Turn) to merit additional defenses or a Siege. Siege only occurs if the Defender has orders to garrison/defend the City/Town and the Attacker chooses Siege over Storm.   

 Sieges are fought as Skirmishes for each turn of the Siege, except the Attackers Casualty roll gets no Advantage (+1 if he has specific Siege Artillery) and the Defenders Casualty roll only gets a +1 Advantage.  There is now winner unless one side is eliminated.  Only the Attacker may withdraw in a Siege.  Otherwise, Sieges last until the Defenders are destroyed, or the Siege is raised by a relief column.
Battle Attrition
Tabletop Battle Attrition is based on the point value of units the break/flee/are destroyed in the battle.  Simply add the point value of all units and commanders lost then modify per the below:
Army Wins and gains field:  Campaign Army Points lost = Battle/Skirmish Points lost are divided by 2+D6.
Army is defeated and is driven from the Field:  Campaign Army Points lost = Battle/Skirmish Points lost are divided by D3.
In all cases where a unit is captured or obviously utterly destroyed, count all of its Points as lost.
Attrition is then applied to the Element (Garrison, Column, Wing, Main Force etc.) that was in the action and the losing player must fall back to a friendly or neutral grid (except where no friendly or neutral Grids are available and the entire Element surrenders, or in the case of Siege where there is no withdrawal).  If losses create Min/max point issues for an Element, the owning player must move/combine Elements to correct issues in the following Campaign Turn.
French supply must trace to Groningen or Coesfeld. Allied supply must trace to Bremerhaven or Bergen.   Elements extend a one Grid Zone of Control outside their own grid for purposes of interrupting supply (but not blocking withdrawal options per the above).  Elements clearly out of supply loose points based on the follwing:  # Turns Out of Supply x D3 x .05 of Element Strength. Adjudicate supply loss at the end of the Monthly Turn.
Optional Black Powder Rules Modifications
For Tabletop Battles, use the following Black Powder  Rules Modifications:
1.       All ranges and distances are 2/3 of those in the Black powder book  i.e. 12’ becomes 8”

To Clarify Artillery Ranges:

3 Pdr - 4 Pdr = up to 16” (24” in book)
6-8 Pdr = up to 23” (36” in book)
12 Pdr = up to 32” (48” in book)
24 Pdr = up to 40” (48+ in book)

2.  To simulate the 18th C. tendency to defer to battlefield formalities and gentlemanly good manners (and also ensure no dynamic and unrealistic ability for a player to  move multiple bounds and fire without response) - whenever a unit moves and halts within musketry range of an enemy, (in our case 8”) that unit offers first fire to the enemy before firing itself.  However, as in Traversing Fire (p. 52 of the Rule Book) the stationary firer forgoes an opportunity for future Closing Fire and his subsequent Phased fire with that particular unit in that turn.  In either case either or both units may desire to hold fire - for a variety of reasons.
Bon chance und viel Glück  mon ami!


The French Invade - example of action preceeding the first campaign moves.

As the French expand their lodgement across the Rhine, a strong Avant Garde rapidly assaults a battalion of Hanoverian Jägers and light guns delaying in a village.  I believe a rapid withdrawal is in order - sauve qui peut no?

Let's begin with the latest brilliant campaign idea, shall we?

Rather that begin this blog with a dreary account of my miniature gaming and modeling history (that may come later), it is far better to start afresh with the latest campaign endeavor.  A good friend Pete, with whom I have maintained correspondence (despite his long absences and separations in pursuit of wine, women, world culture/religions, and mortal combat with Southwest Asian insurgents) is now somewhat settled  in  lands far to the southwest of the Duchy.  

During the first ten years of our acquaintance, we variously wargamed most every period popular with our sort – including dabbling in the Age of Reason.  More recently, as our eyes and minds grow weaker with age and abuse, we have decided to conduct a long distance build up of 18th Century Armies, in semi-toy soldier style, using home-cast 40mm Prince August figures, supplemented by one-offs and finer quality castings such as Sash and Saber.  Initially this effort provided the forces for my staging of the Great Northern War siege Veprik battle at Southern Front in 2012.  Now, we have decided to move into the Seven years War – but what forces to pursue?

As I already have a fairly robust collection of un-blooded 30mm SYW Austro-Hungarians and Allies (thanks to fellow gaming partner Dave); for this 40mm endeavor I decided to pursue a long standing interest in the French Army of the mid 18th C.  The Francophile direction  mirrored Pete’s interest in constructing an Anglo-German Army.  Initially we planned to meet at a convention and lay down countless ranks of newly painted 40mm Lead, but (given time, distance and busy schedule considerations) I proposed a long distance campaign so we might come to blows sooner.  The concept would be to would make campaign moves vie e-mail, fight tabletop battles virtually using Skype and lesser skirmishes via telephone/e-mail.  The 1757-58 French invasion of (and later expulsion from) Hanover seemed to meet the requirement for a “simple” campaign with a variety of colorful forces that neither one of us were too familiar with.  Simplicity and flexibility where the order of the day, with historical accuracy being a consideration, but certainly not a particularly harsh restraint. 

Therefore, in the initial chapter of this Blog, over the weeks and months to come, I will provide an account of the progress of our force buildup and Hanoverian Campaign.  But fear not dear viewer, as certainly, there will be other related and unrelated posts, as no proper aficionado of fine lead and claret could limit himself to one period or subject.