Sunday, 16 November 2014

Hills in Wargames

This subject has been raised a few times over the past few months.  

If troops “behind the crest” of a hill cannot be fired upon by artillery, but are themselves allowed to fire at close range on attackers climbing the hill, then they create a big problem in a wargame.

This has proved particularly difficult in our PBEM campaign battles.   The two armies are pretty even at the start of each campaign phase.   There are a lot of hills on all of the campaign maps.   Most battles have similar types and number of troops on each side.

Since we reintroduced hidden movement the attackers have a good advantage.   We use a card to indicate the location of each corps.   When they come within 16” of each other they are “spotted” and must replace the card with figures.   The defender has to deploy with one corps per scenery square, but the attacker can concentrate.   Then the attacker can spot using his cavalry, and react to the defenders deployment.  In this way he can concentrate and hope to smash one of the defending corps before the others can react to the attacker.

But hills make this impossible.    The defenders cannot be spotted, but can easily spot the attackers.   The concentrated attackers cannot inflict casualties on the target corps.   In fact the opposite happens.   The defenders are hidden, except for their skirmish line and artillery.  So they can pound the attackers before they reach the crest of the hill.

In a recent game this brought the whole problem into sharp focus.   There were three hills across the width of the table, each with a defending corps.   There were no open flanks.   So we finally had to grasp the nettle and sort out the rules.

Our first solution was to allow artillery to fire on defenders behind the crest, but within musket range of the crest.   So the defenders would not have the advantage of firing on the attackers as they reached the crest.

Our second solution was even better.   Any troops behind the crest of a hill, but within musket range, would have to roll 1D6 when enemy come within sight.   Plus 1 for British or class A.   Minus 1 for class C.   Total of 4,5,6 would be OK.   But 3 would be disordered, 2 would be shaken and 1 would rout.

The second solution, the dice throw, had a greater effect.   Although none actually routed, and only one was shaken, the threat was enough to convince the defender it was better to move to the crest just before the attacker reached musket range.

We fought the game twice.  Once under the old rules, which raised the whole subject.   Then under the amended rules.   The difference was dramatic.   The defender was no longer confident to wait for the attack.   One shaken brigade was sufficient to make him bring forward the remaining infantry and a normal firefight decided the matter.

Not only a good solution from a wargame point of view, but also a model which was quite historical from a tactical point of view.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Unusual Strategic Battle

tactial map showing area of battle 

Our PBEM campaign is designed to provide interesting battles for Jan and I to wargame.

Each phase of the campaign is designed to be similar in scope to the Waterloo campaign.  To this end the tactical map covers an area of just 45 square miles.  This is approximately the area from Charleroi to Brussels.

The map is designed to look like the wargames table, and each square on the map can be reproduced as a 2x2 foot square on the table.

This has resulted in some complaints from campaign players that there is not sufficient space to allow for outflanking movements.   I have always felt that this was unfair, and that a tactical outflanking was possible, though not the grand strategic type of movement often found in more historical campaigns.

So I was very pleased when the campaign called for the battle of Oberstein.   The Russian commander has sent one of his four corps to take the French main supply base, and cut their communications with France.  

The main French army has won three of the four battles in this campaign, and is concentrated around Bad Kreuznach, ready for the final push against the main Russian army at Oppenheim.

The French commander becomes aware of the threat late in the day.   The nearest French corps is the 2nd Young Guard corps.   However they have suffered heavy casualties and were in reserve trying to regroup and reorganise.

the rout of the French Young Guard

Because of the terrain, and their superior numbers, the Russians were able to take control of a ridge overlooking the flank of the French position.   Their longer range artillery routed a French square, and their cavalry and infantry were poised to finish them off.   Two more Russian brigades were in position to storm the town.

The French commander ordered a retreat before he was surrounded and forced to surrender.   This resulted in the loss of the main French supply base, and their main road to France.

The Russian commander was rewarded for his daring flanking movement

Better still, next day the isolated French army would abandon their lines of communication and attack the Russian army at Oppenheim.   But that is a different battle and a different story.

If you would like to read the full battle report you will find it here

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Guard Factor

 Rout of the French Old Guard

One of the first figures I ever bought was a metal French Imperial Guard infantryman.   That was more than 45 years ago, but I can still remember the excitement of picking him out of the wooden tray in the Hinton Hunt shop in some London arcade.

That was before I discovered that for every guardsman there should be about 1,000 line infantry.   I never reached that proportion, but I did buy at lot more line infantry.   That did not stop me increasing my Imperial Guard element.  But the proportion gradually reduced and is now about 1 to 10.

Each time I replaced one manufacturer by another, I also replaced my Imperial Guard.   Hinton Hunt replaced by Minifigs.  They in turn were replaced by Connoisseur and finally Front Rank.  

When 15mm were added to my collection the Imperial Guard were amongst the Minfigs army.   And when they were replaced by AB, part of the purchase included the Imperial Guard.

I even collected a 6mm Heroics and Ros army.   And of course that also included the Imperial Guard

But throughout the 40 odd years my French guardsmen spent most of their life gathering dust on the shelf.   They very rarely made an appearance on the wargames table.  And when they did it was difficult to find a role for them.

The correct role is in reserve.   But I have found that reserves play little part in wargames.   They should, but they don’t.  

When I started my latest campaign I was determined to find a role for them at last.

There are six French armies in the campaign.   Each has four corps.  

In my collection of figures there is one Old Guard corps and one Young Guard corps.
In the campaign the Old Guard forms part of the First French Army.   The Young Guard forms one corps in the other three Armies in France.   They are not included in the two in the Pyrenees.

There are no supermen in my wargame armies.   Both Old and Young guard are slightly better than a line corps, but only slightly.   Their corps commander is Gifted, rather than Average or Poor.  But that is the full extent of their superiority

So I was quite pleased when the Old Guard made a rare appearance on our table last week.   They had the role of attacking a large town, held by a Prussian corps.   The Prussians were the best of the four corps in their army, and were well suited to the task.   In addition they held a strong defensive position, and the French had a very restricted approach area.

And, as luck would have it, the French were not favoured by the dice.

The result was a French defeat.

I must confess that I was quite pleased, as this seemed to confirm that I had got the balance about right between elite and average troops.   Had the dice been a little more generous the French would have won. 

I wonder how many other wargamers get to use their attractive guardsmen.   And more important how they perform when they are placed on the table.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Wargame Building Project

We have a nice church building from Hovels, which would be suitable for Spain, but  it is a little too large for our town section footprint

Jan’s first attempt is quite large, but it needs to be larger than the town houses.   I am trying to persuade her to make another smaller one which I can use as part of a small town.