Monday, 31 December 2012

Footnotes and Final Thoughts


It really needs some dramatic music to go with it but the sentiment does not - all the best for the new year!

Well the Russo Turkish battle has been and gone and raised as many questions as it has answered! The theatre in which the action was set - the Caucasus - is not one I am readily familiar with but I fully intend looking into this region for some other gaming ideas over the course of the new year. Of course the same area also saw much heavy fighting (often against the weather!) during the Great War so the gaming mileage is certainly there. Who knows? Even our old friends Fezia and Rusland may make an appearance over the terrain in due course - especially as the historical Russians were keen on acquiring a decent harbour which means the naval dimension can receive some serious attention.

Mention of terrain reminded me of the battlefield I set up for the Camel's Neck. I used three raised Hexon 6 hex tiles for the plateau - the simply sat on top of the blue tiles I used underneath - and this worked reasonably well although probably not very clearly in the photographs. I am mindful of the fact that I need to add to my Hexon terrain but until the employment situation resolves itself this will have to wait.

The action was a large one to fight and to be honest is probably bigger than I would normally prefer to use. All of the games I have fought using either the Portable Wargame or Memoir of Battle on a 13 x 9 hexed set up seem to work far better using around a dozen or so units a side.

The rules worked really well and having the Russian infantry use a reduced range felt accurate as the Turks had a noticeable advantage in fire power. The ding-dong battle against the trenches on the plateau came about largely because the Russians had to get in close with the bayonet to avoid being outgunned at long range.

Tactically the Turks did what they had to do in that they fought the Russians to a standstill on either flank. Unfortunately, the undamaged Russian reserve proved to be a formation too far as far as the Exhaustion level was concerned for the Turks. Having said that, the Russians were only a couple of casualties away from hitting their own total so it was a close run thing.

I have managed to fight and report 31 games from the man cave of which I am rather pleased as there are 7 more than I originally intended. The block concept has stood me in good stead and is now very much an established part of my wargames armoury but I really want to tackle some models and figures in the new year. At this stage WW2 will be the first target of opportunity as I have models for land, sea and air to tackle but I also fancy taking on something a little more colourful. As usual, I have a number of ideas around what I can do but there is no hurry as I have more than enough to be going on with.

Operation Seeadler will be the main focus for the early part of next year and so watch this space for future developments - and not forgetting Tim Gow's blog Megablitz and More for the tactical side.

It only remains then for me to wish each and everyone of you a very happy, peaceful, prosperous and healthy new year - see you in 2013!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Breaking the Camel's Neck, The Caucasus 1877....Game Number 31, Part 3

The Battle of Deve Boyun (the Camel's Neck), November 4th, 1877 as fought using Bob Cordery's Big Battle Portable Wargame 19th Century rules

The set up of the battle is slightly different to the organisation suggested in the previous post simply because when I had set the troop blocks out certain areas of the battlefield were rather unbalanced and this would have a key impact later in the action. The following is the definitive order of battle and I have taken the opportunity to split the forces into their various commands for exhaustion level purposes.

Russia

Centre

C in C Lt. Gen. Heimann
2 x 4 Infantry (Elite)
4 x 3 Cavalry
2 x 2 Field Artillery

Strength points 25, Exhaustion level 9

Right Flank

Lt. Gen. Tergukassov
6 x 4 Infantry
2 x 2 Field Artillery

Strength points 29, Exhaustion level 9


Left Flank

Lt.Gen. Devel
4 x 4 Infantry
2 x 2 Field Artillery

Strength points 21, Exhaustion level 7

Total Strength points - 75, overall Exhaustion level 25

Turkey

Centre

C in C Muktar Pasha
4 x 4 Infantry
2 x 2 Field Artillery

Strength points 21, Exhaustion level 7

Right Flank

Ismail/Faizi
2 x 4 Infantry

Strength points 9, Exhaustion level 3

Left Flank

Mehmet Pasha
3 x 4 infantry
1 x 2 Field Artillery

Strength points 15, Exhaustion level 5

Total Strength points - 45, overall Exhaustion level 15


The Russian opening positions. From the top of the picture are the two columns of  Lt. Gen Tergukassov - the extreme column under Colonel Prince Amirajibi withe the nearer under Colonel Bronevsky (each of 3 infantry units). The centre, under the command of Lt. Gen. Heimann, consisting of 4 regiments of cossacks and the two grenadier units (the red marker denotes their Elite status) while the left, under Lt. Gen. Devel has two columns each of 2 infantry units - the two nearest the centre under the command of Colonel Avinov whilst the other two are commanded by Colonel Schack.

The two small villages are called Pousi Dara on the left and Gulli on the right.


The Turkish position viewed from behind the Ouzoun-Ahmet plateau. Mehmet Pasha with 3 units of infantry and an artillery unit deployed in the first line of trenches. Muktar Pasha with 3 units of infantry (2 of which are poor quality and are marked with a green block) and an artillery battery behind the trenches astride the Beve Doyun defile. A single infantry unit and an artillery battery are deployed in a forward position so as to enfilade the main Russian assault. On the right the 2 infantry units of Ismail/Faizi are also entrenched.



Turn 1. On the Turkish left their artillery opens fire at the approaching Russian columns with some effect. The Russian artillery is still moving up and so the infantry will have to make do without any support.


Turn 1. On the Turkish right the Russian infantry is also advancing, with the small village of Gulli in their path.


Turn 2. On the Turkish left the Russians come up against the Turkish entrenchments on the plateau. The artillery continues to batter the approaching columns with the battery on the hill being particularly active.


Turn 2. Meanwhile on the right Muktar has reinforced Ismail with a further infantry unit. The Russian columns    flow around the village and prepare to assault the entrenched Turks.


Turn 3. As the battle for the plateau intensifies, the supporting Turkish artillery manages to overshoot the Russian column and hits their own men! Meanwhile, the Russian artillery hurries to join the fight while Lt. Gen. Tergukassov resolves to tackle the thorn in his side and launches an attack against the Turkish hill occupied by the artillery and an infantry unit.


Turn 3. The Russian assault on the Turkish right gathers momentum with their supporting artillery poised to make an impact. So far though, the Turkish infantry are holding their own.


Turn 4. The Russian attack on the plateau is beaten off at last and the assaulting troops form a line along the low foothills. Meanwhile the battle for the small hill gains in ferocity as the Russian artillery makes its prescence felt.


Turn 4. The attack on the Turkish right begins to falter and so the Russians attempt to reorganise on either side of the village.


Turn 5. The battle on the Turkish left settles down to a long range firefight but the Russians now have some artillery support. The battle for the small hill has ended with the artillery being destroyed and a mere quarter of the infantry surviving to fall back to the central position.


Turn 5. As the Russians reorganise around the small village of Gulli their supporting artillery at last deploys to commence bombarding the Turkish trenches.


Turn 6. The battle on the Turkish left continues at long range with the advantage swinging first one way and then the other. In the centre, Muktar Pasha hurriedly redeploys his remaining infantry as the first sight of the approaching Russian Cossacks appears in the distance. With both flanks holding could this target be what Muktar needs to clinch an unlikely victory?


Turn 6. The Russian artillery on the flank hammers the Turkish entrenchments to telling effect whilst the remaining reserves of cavalry and the two grendier units move up to punch a hole through the Ottoman centre.


Turn 7. The fight on the left flank continues at long range with neither side willing, nor able, to force a conclusion. Meanwhile the Russian artillery masses in the centre to support the grenadiers and the advancing cossacks.


Turn 7. The final stages sees the cossacks charging the central Turkish position whilst the artillery continues to batter the Turkish entrenchments. The Turkish casualties have taken the army over it total exhaustion level and so the Russians have prevailed.


The overall battlefield at the end of the action.


The final casualty count. The Russians were hammered on either flank - the casualties were spread evenly across the four columns - with both reaching their exhaustion levels fairly early on. The centre force was barely scratched - total losses: 23. Overall the Turks lost 17 so on balance they bucked the historical result somewhat. 

The battle followed the historical action fairly closely except that the Turks were effectively on their last legs before the cavalry approached. In the actual battle Muktar saw the approaching cavalry operating in very difficult terrain and seeing that his flanks were safe took the decision to inflict a reverse on the horsemen. The Turkish infantry left their trenches, advanced some thousand yards from them and were doing pretty well against the disadvantaged horsemen until they were engaged in either flank by artillery and the previously unobserved grenadier formation. The Turks were then forced back and when the poorer infantry in Ismail's command saw this they broke and fled down the defile.

The Russians pursued as far as possible and Lt.Gen. Heimann had the pleasure of resting that night in Muktar Pasha's tent.

The action proved that attacking entrenched infantry is not for the faint-hearted but any such entrenchments need to be properly manned. It also demonstrated the value of massed artillery as once the Russians were able to deploy their superior numbers the result, although very close, was ultimately never in doubt.

It was also great fun to fight!









Saturday, 29 December 2012

Breaking the Camel's Neck, The Caucasus 1877....Game Number 31, Part 2

I have just returned from a two day family visit up into the wilds of Norfolk, deep in the heart of the Broads. There was absolutley nothing wargaming related to speak of; just good conversation, plenty of of food and drink and seasonal conviviality - which after the last few months of domestic traumas was a great tonic for all of us!


Quintin Barry's superb military history of the war

I was able to think and plan though, and so the next stage in the refight of the Battle of Deve Boyun, the Camel's Neck, is the subject of this post.

I have already decided that the rules I shall be using are Bob Cordery's Big Battle Portable Wargame 19th Century set and as a result of my deliberations of the last couple of days they will be used as they are written. I have a couple of scenario specific instructions needed for the action but these in no way change the rules. The only decidionI needed to make though was how to tackle the thorny question of exhaustion levels. For the Turks this is fairly straightforward but less so for the Russians. The reason for this is because the Russian attacks were made in three waves (four if you count the decisive finale) so I needed a mechanism whereby a specific action caused a reaction - essentially programming the battle but not in such a way that the result would be inevitable. What I have decided to do is to assign exhaustion levels to specific formations - this is how Volley and Bayonet by Frank Chadwick works - and to ensure that the opposition reacts accordingly when such an exhaustion level is reached. Luckily the action is very much an 'attacker-defender' battle so this is not too much of  problem.


The rather useful Osprey title on the war

THE ARMIES

For the most part the units of both sides are fairly anonymous in that we do not have much in the way unit designations but luckily we have plenty of commander's names to add some flavour. We are also fortunate in that we have the overall strengths for both sides which makes the calculation of the two sides a whole lot easier. I have used Quintin Barry's book - War in the East which is fast becoming one of the most valuable books in my collection.

Russia

C in C - Lt. Gen. Heimann
Right Flank - Lt. Gen. Tergukassov
Left Flank - Lt. Gen. Devel

24,000 Infantry
120 guns
5 regiments of Cossacks

Turkey

C in C - Muktar Pasha
Right Flank - Ismail/Faizi
Left Flank - Mehmet Pasha

18,000 Infantry
60 guns

Of the Russian forces the only unit identification I can find is that the Erivan Grenadier regiment was held in reserve and played a decisive role in the battle. These will of course be rated as Elite while the rest of the Russian Army will be Average. I have clased as such as they had been fighting the Turks for some time and had been chasing them for a while so would be seasoned despite the fact that the entire army was woefully understrength andwith many fresh reinforcements.

The Turks are mainly average although I have rated a third of the infantry as poor as the army was a hodge-podge of units, was suffering from indifferent to poor morale, was poorly supplied and was suffering from increasing levels of desertion - particularly among the cavalry.

The final composition of the armies then, was something like this:

Russia

12 x 4 Infantry (10 Average, 2 x Elite) - 6 under  Lt. Gen. Tergukassov, 4 under Lt. Gen. Devel and the 2 Elite Grenadier units in reserve under Lt. Gen Heimann.
4 x 3 Cavalry - in reserve under Lt. Gen. Heimann.
6 x 2 Field Artillery - 2 batteries with each commnader.

Turkey

9 x 4 Infantry (6 Average, 3 Poor) - 4 with Mehmet Pasha, 3 with Muktar Pasha and 2 with Ismail/Faizi - each formation has one Poor unit.
3 x Field Artillery - 1 battery with each commander.

This was fairly straightforward to calculate and the next post will include a formal order of battle with the appropriate exhaustion levels etc. The one point I should make with the infantry is that the Turks were equipped with the superb Peabody Martini - Henry Rifle which outranged the Russians by a fair margin and so I shall give the Russians a maximum infantry firearm range of 2 hexes against the Turkish 3.


Turkish troops in action with the Peabody Martini-Henry rifle.

THE BATTLEFIELD

The battlefield consists primarily of a plateau - Ouzoun-Ahmet - at the head of a narrow valley through which the main road to Erzerum passes. Muktar Pasha was using the previously dug entrenchments on the plateau (on the left of the Turkish position), across the entrance to the valley and on the right flank. It was a strong position but Muktar really had too few men to defend it properly. The plateau will cover roughly two thirds of the Turkish frontage with the road running across the table in a roughly north west to south east direction. Facing the front of the plateau are a couple of small hills and the small village of Tehoban Dagh. The sole purpose of this is to provide an obstacle to the Russian advance as the Turks did not garrison it. In the front of the central position at the head of the valley and to the left is a small hill that the Turks garrisoned with some artillery and an infantry battalion. This position played a vital role in the battle - for each side as it turned out. On the Turkish right flank another small village was just in front of the position called Gulli - again this was not garrisoned by the Turks and was just an obstacle to the Russian advance.

The biggest problem is the ground leading into the defile. Quintin Barry describes the area as being unsuitable for large scale manoueveres with cavalry but does not elaborate on why. Given the rugged and mountainous nature of this part of the world one could speculate that the defile extended out in to the open ground in the front of the plateau and so any mounted formations would find such terrain heavy going. 

The next post in this sequence will feature the battle itself and so all will be revealed in respect of the terrain and how it all hangs together (or falls apart!).

I am really excited about tackling this battle and also the theatre itself has given me many ideas for the future.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Breaking the Camels Neck, The Caucasus 1877....Game Number 31, Part 1


War in the East of the East

When the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 is mentioned it is usual to think about the epic siege of Plevna or the battles in the Shipka Pass - in other words, the European theatre of operations. The war was also fought in the Caucasus and with the perversity for which I am usually renowned for, this is where I have drawn my inspiration for the grand finale of the year. I say perverse intentionally because whilst the European theatre of the war is barely covered in accessible print the Caucasus is even less so - and as a result attracted me like the proverbial moth to a flame!

Quintin Barry's book - War in the East - is a truly magnificant and so my planning for the action has been taken largely from this. I have some material on Ebook which will also provide some additional background although again, most of this is European facing.

The action I have settled on forms a part of the Battle of Deve Boyun (the Camel's Neck of the title) and in mant ways this is typical of the fighting throughout the war. In a nutshell, the Russians are attempting to bounce a previously beaten and hastily scrapped together force of Turkish infantry from an entrenched position. There is a subtle twist in this which I hope will come across in the refight - it will certainly add a degree of novelty to the affair in no uncertain terms.

One of the things that has come across from my study of the Turkish art of war during the period was that they really excelled in fighting from prepared positions. The only downside was that they tended to have a very poor logistical infrastructure which meant that supplies and reinforcements were very slow in reacting to changes of circumstance so being outflanked or forced out of positions by a more mobile enemy was a common occurence. This action will prove both parts of the above statement - the Turkish strength in fighting from defences and their vulnerability when at a strategic or tactical disadvantage.

I shall be fighting the action using Bob Cordery's Big Battle Portable Wargame 19th Century rules - the hexed version. The battlefield will be 13 x 9 hexes and at the moment I am working out what the battlefield should look like based on the description in Quintin Barry's book in the absence of an actual map of the battle itself. Similarly the order of battle will be subject to conjecture - especially as the Turks included numbers of hastily rounded up civilian volunteers.

I am sure that most gamers that have ever been involved in turning a battle into a wargame will know what I am going through at the moment - and I have to say I am really enjoying the process!

The next post in this sequence will detail the forces involved and the terrain that the battle will be fought over - as well as the historical background to the action.

I am looking forward to this and I only hope that the action will live up to expectations.

Monday, 24 December 2012

A Christmas Greeting....


'So Hans, explain the offside rule again....'

The presents are wrapped and under the tree, the fridge is groaning under the weight of sufficient food to survive a minor nuclear holocaust and the drinks selection is more than enough to see me through the next two days is a haze of bemused merriment....;-)

BTW, I have not forgotten about the year end finale - suffice it so say I have been 'Russian' about with matters relating to Turkey - very seasonal really!

Merry Christmas one and all, and all the very best for 2013!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Fighter Sweep, Summer 1940....Game Number 30


The legendary Spitfire....

During the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe often sent across the channel small raiding flights consisting of a single or pair of fighters at low level to shoot up any targets of opportunity in the hope that such nuisance raids would force the RAF to maintain standing patrols or similar with the obvious wearing down of efficiency as a result. Usually the raiders could be in and out very quickly due to preferring to engage targets on or near the coast. By the time the RAF could muster any meaningful response the raiders were usually halfway back across the channel.


....and its equally famous opponent - the Bf 109 E

The following scenario depicts such an action but with the RAF being able to attempt an interception. The two German Bf 109Es and more or less on the deck (level 1 in game turns) and the patrolling Spitfires are above them. The RAF fighters are aware of the approaching raiders (the Observer Corps had fortuitously correctly identified the two planes as hostile and by sheer luck a pair of Spitfies were in the area) but had yet to spot them. The two Germans were mostly concerned with strafing a suitable target and then heading back to France.

The scene was thus set for a classic duel between two of the most iconic fighters of the war years.

RAF

2 x Spitfire Mk.1 - 1 x Veteran (Blue marker), 1 x Poor (Red marker); both planes at level 3

Luftwaffe

2 x Bf 109 E - 1 x Ace (Yellow marker), 1 x Veteran (Green marker); both planes at Level 1

Somewhere over the Kentish countryside, Summer 1940....


The initial dispositions and a raider's eye view of the fast approaching target. Just visible in the top right of the picture are a pair of RAF Spitfires.


Turn 1. The unsuspecting raiders continue on their way as the two Spitfires, having successfully spotted the Germans turn into the attack with a long swooping dive.


Turn 2.'Achtung, Spitfeuer!' The two RAF fighters spring the trap but the Germans have spotted them on the way into a good firing position


Turn 3. With frantic weaving the Germans attempt to out turn the Spitfires - a move completed easily by the Luftwaffe wingman but failed by his illustrious flight leader. In the head on exchange of gunfire the quality of the German Ace shows through as the Spitfire is raked with machine gun bullets and cannon fire - first blood to the Luftwaffe!


Turn 4. With a Spitfire hard on his tail the German Ace continues to attack the frantically dodging enemy aircraft, inflicting sufficient damage to cripple the RAF fighter. The Ace's wingman, seeing his leader in trouble turns as hard as he able to in order to assist.


Turn 5. With the Merlin engine coughing and spluttering whilst belching great plumes of smoke and gouts of flame the battered Spitfire limps away from the action with the enemy wingman lining up on his tail at poiunt blank range! Unfortunately, in his zeal to finish the Spitfire the German has neglected to watch his own tail as the remaining Spitfire lines up on him. The German Ace meanwhile, does exactly the same and so a line ahead of all four aircraft is formed with the crippled RAF fighter in the lead!


Turn 6. The RAF fire first and the novice Spitfire pilot destroys his enemy plane (note the dice roll!) and saves the crippled fight leader! His success was short-lived though as the German Ace calmly blew his opponent into so much metallic confetti (again, note the dice roll!)!


The crippled Spitfire swung away from his would-be tormentor and gratefully headed for home whilst the German Ace, with one eye on his fuel gauge, did likewise. The target had been saved!

Once again I fought the action without using any special abilities and it seemed to work really well. The Spitfires were unlucky with their shooting and the Germans could have been in serious trouble but in the end the quality of the pilots counted. The Poor RAF pilot was flying with a -1 to any shooting dice rolled and so a couple of his shots that would have ordinarily caused damage failed to register. Mind you, he made up for it with a very impressive point blank barrage to down the German in one!

I need to get the pilot quality bonuses finalised but I reckon that his will work really nicely without using any of the game abilities but this may be a step too far for some!

I also need to get the models painted - badly! (by that I mean painted asap not painted badly - you know what I mean!). 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Hurricanes over the Arakan....Game Number 29


A pair of Zeroes looking for trouble....

1942 saw the Japanese chasing the British and Indian army up the full length of Burma - described as the longest retreat of the British Army - and the RAF was heavily involved although both outclassed and outnumbered by the marauding Japanese air force. Number 67 squadron, flying Hurricanes, was fought to a standstill and in fact, was only fully operational for a single month such was the pace of operations.

The following action was fought using Axis and Allies: Angels 20 with my recent amendments to pilot quality and, by way of an experiment, without any of the special abilities described on the aircraft data cards. I also used some experimental rules for spotting as I am of the opinion that many fighter versus fighter engagements came about as the result of one side 'getting the drop' on the opposition - many of the top scoring aces of the war would, in effect, sneak up unseen on the enemy and administer the coup de grace on an unsuspecting target. Spotting then, is of paramount importance for any pilot that wants to live long enough to recount their adventures to their grandchildren (presumably looking up at them with either rapt attention or else mightily bored!).

Spotting Rules

The following are the base scores needed to spot an enemy aircraft:

  • 12 o'clock - 3, 4, 5 or 6
  • 2 and 10 o'clock - 4, 5 or 6
  • 4 and 8 o'clock - 5 or 6
  • 6 o'clock - 6
Ace or Veteran pilots add plus 1 to the roll of a D6, Poor pilots deduct 1. A deduction of 1 is made if the plane being spotted is at a higher level, also if the enemy plane is viewed against the sun.


RAF

4 x Hurricane Mk1 - 1 x Ace (identified by the blue marker on the base) and 3 x Average

Japan

2 x A6M2 'Zeke' - 1 x Veteran (the green paint scheme) and 1 x Average

The scenario pits a flight of four Hurricanes being 'bounced' by a pair of Zeroes somewhere over the Burmese jungle. The RAF fighters are all at level 3 whilst the Zeroes have both the height and positional advantage. Can they make this count?


The initial positions. Note the Hurricanes operating in a quarter line - the Ace is second from the right. The green playing surface is representative of the Burmese jungle  and not because I couldn't be bothered to get the blue Hexon out (that is my story and I am sticking to it!)


Turn 1. The RAF fly serenely onwards, unaware of the approaching Japanese fighters. Although they were attempting to spot all around them the boys in blue did not see anything amiss....


Turn 2. No doubt with cries of  'Tora, tora, tora!' the pair of Zeroes ease their sticks forward and dive down on the unsuspecting fighters. With machine guns chattering and cannons booming the end Hurricane disappears in a ball of fire and the gunshot holes appear all over the Ace pilot's aircraft - the bounce had worked!


Turn 3. I neglected to photograph turn 2 but the Zeroes continued to press their attack, crippling the RAF Ace's plane. For turn three the Ace limps away from the fight whilst two of the Hurricanes are able to turn on the Japanese wingman. Sixteen Browning machine guns open fire and so the Japanese wingman disintegrates. Meanwhile the other Zero exacts a measure of revenge and destroys the second Hurricane. 


Turn 4. Whilst the RAF Ace limps away to safety the remaining Hurricane has his hands full with a Zero all over his tail. The Zero fires and damages the frantically weaving enemy fighter.


Turn 6. The Zero manages to get into an optimum firing position but fails to land a killing shot. The Hurricane though, is badly damaged and unlikely to survive the attention from his tenacious tormentor!

With both remaining Hurricanes belching smoke and flame and exhibiting all the handling characteristics of a house brick, the action ended. Two Hurricanes destroyed, two probably write-offs against a Zero downed.

It was short, sharp and desperate and great fun to play. The spotting and pilot quality rules seemed to work well - even not using any special abilities did not appear to cause too many difficulties. The Hurricanes reacted correctly to the attack and all the aircraft attempted to turn into the enemy. The Japanese made a mistake though in that they were, in effect, on the inside of the Hurricane turn which meant that the outside fighter (the grey Zero) found itself with a pair of rapidly closing enemy fighters with firing positions. The Zero is a supremely agile fighter but cannot afford to take any damage. As the two Hurricanes were up close and personal the likelihood of the Zero emerging unscathed was remote - and this proved to be the case.

Apologies for the missing photo though - I shall put it down to the intensity of the action!


Friday, 21 December 2012

Angels 20 Tweaks Part 2....Special Abilities


Me110 'Zerstorer' tangling with a pair of Hurricanes over the English countryside

Now don't get me wrong. I think that adding special abilities makes for a great 'feel' factor but, and for me it is a very significant but, there does not seem to be any consistency as to how they are applied. The abilities used can be described under the general headings of plane, pilot or tactical. I see these types as follows:

  • Plane - as a rule these are usually attributes specific to the type being represented, for example, the Hurricane (card number 15) has a special ability of Steady Shooter which allows the plane to roll an extra attack dice if it has not carried out any difficult manouveres during the turn. Few would argue that the Hurricane was anything other than a superbly stable gun platform so this would be an ability I would expect all Hurricanes to have. The question of whether or not a poor pilot could make full use of this ability though is another matter.
  • Pilot - there are various abilities that pilots can use including shooting bonuses, manouvere bonuses or special manoveres. As a rule I have no problem with these but again, consistency is an issue. I would prefer to see definitive bonuses based on pilot quality so that as they get better then the potential bonuses follow suit and not quite in such a random fashion.
  • Tactical - these include such glorious things as the 'Defensive Weave', the 'Bounce', 'Boom and Zoom'  and 'Fighter Sweep'. My feeling with these is that they should be used generically rather than assigned to specific types. 
Taking all the above into consideration my plan is rationalise these in some way. This will mean that some may even be ditched and certainly the number applicable to individual cards will change and so new data cards will inevitably be required. I have no problem with doing this - the template should be easy enough to cobble together - and also the refined special abilities table that can be used in conjunction with them.

Again, the core game mechanics work fine - this problem is really one of personal preference as much as anything and also applied to the Axis and Allies: War at Sea game - so this is merely a tinkering whim, but in a good way (I hope)!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Angels 20 Tweaks Part 1....Pilot Quality


Me 109G

Regular readers of the blog will no doubt be aware of my liking for WW2 aerial games. I used to play Air Force and Dauntless an awful lot 'back in the day' and when Axis and Allies: Angels 20 made an appearance (courtesy of Mr. Fox) naturally I was tempted enough to invest in a modest collection - the Battle of Britain being a particular interest of mine.

We have played this game a lot at the club and I have even managed a number of solo games at home but naturally, with familiarity comes the inevitable 'need to tinker'.

Angels 20 is great fun to play as is but there are a number areas that could be tweaked to make it a little more 'wargames-like' rather than 'like a wargame'. The two areas concern pilot quality and special abilities. In the game pilots are rated as poor, average, veteran or ace. They are basic definitions but serve the purpose of differentiating between pilots. The problem at the moment is that aircraft data cards are specific in terms of how good the pilot is which would be fine if they had one for each quality of pilot. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Essentially you are restricted to using pilots based on the cards available.

The quality of air crew for the various combatant nations during WW2 is obviously a major consideration for any aerial game. For example, few would argue that the early war Japanese pilots, with their extensive training pre war, were far better than those largely untrained replacements available in 1945. The quality for them, and also the Germans, fell away dramatically as the war progressed and casualties mounted and were not easily replaced.

Coming back to Air Force, the Expansion set contained a really useful system for rating pilot quality by
nationality and the year of the war being represented. The only problem is that whereas Angels 20 has four ratings - Air Force has 10. What was needed then, was to squeeze the 10 into the 4 - which was surprisingly easy to do. I should point out that the Air Force system is more detailed and runs from pilots rated as -3 Green right up to a potential 240 kill ace. To generate a particular pilot quality players first determine the reference column to use (based on the nationality and year) and then roll 2d6 but counting the scores as two numbers rather than adding the totals together, for example a roll of 6 followed by a 2 would be 62 rather than 8 meaning that with two D6 there are 36 permutations of quality. Fiendishly clever methinks! All I did was to divide the 36 possible permutations into 10 and made use of a D12 to roll for the quality - as every 3 Air Force scores equal 1 Angels 20 D12 score. The range of quality was much more manageable as a result. I realise this seems rather complicated but it is actually pretty simple in use.

The special abilities are a little more involved and will take more work to resolve but the problem is really one of perception. I am not sure about these as although they make for a good game mechanic I am not convinced about their efficiency outside of a one off game. The types of special ability are usually pilot, aircraft or tactical in nature and my feeling is that some of these should be normal rather than special. I also think that some of them are a little gimmicky. I am leaning towards simplifying these and actually ditching some altogether.

Taken together both of these may seem like fairly drastic revisions but the core mechanics of moving and combat are absolutely fine and can be left as they are.

I have completed the first part of this undertaking - the pilot quality - and so the next stage will be to think about the special abilities.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Hidden Units and Fanatical Warriors

Way back in July of this year I fought the first action in the Roghan Valley campaign - my fictional take on the North West Frontier - for which the report can be read here - Striking the Match - The Roghan Valley, 1895. The game was fought using an earlier version of  Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle rules and great fun it was as well!

One of the ideas I experimented with during this action was using hidden units. I handled this very simply by deploying the units on the table with a red counter on them. As long as they stood still and did not do anything the units thus deployed were invisible. In order to 'see' them the opposing force had to 'attack' them in combat and score a hit in order for them to be revealed. No damage was actually inflicted but it was assumed that the would-be ambushees were then startled into revealing their position. Of course should the ambushees charge or commence firing that would also give away their position. This was a very simple but effective mechanic to use and also had the bonus effect of ensuring that it was more difficult to see units the further away they were. I should also point out that I restricted any spotting attempts to infantry or cavalry only. I have not had occasion to use this mechanic for some time (and in truth I had forgotten about it!) but I fully intend to incorporate this in my Memoir of Battle games going forward.

There is no reason why this mechanic could not be employed with Bob Cordery's Memoir of Modern Battle rules either (although I have yet to try this out) - certainly given the use of units hidden with camouflage etc, should be represented in some fashion and so I think this would also work well as a simple solution to the 'empty battlefield' problem.

The other tweak I have been considering is how best to replicate the effect of charging fanatical natives types - Fuzzy Wuzzies, Zulus and Ghazi types. I have dipped into the rules for Command and Colours Ancients for the idea I am going to employ and it goes something like this:

  • Native troops equipped with hand weapons only may move 1 hex and battle or two hexes. They may move two hexes and battle as long as they end their move in contact with an enemy unit.
  • Native units equipped with hand weapons only roll three combat dice at a range of 1 hex.
  • Native units that have not suffered any casualties so far in the game add a further combat dice when in combat. This bonus remains in place until the unit suffers casualties.
  • Native units equipped with hand weapons only must always follow up an enemy unit if they have caused it to fall back.
I am planning on using a combination of these two ideas in my next action which should narrow down the list of possibilities as to what it will be!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Waltzing Matilda, Beersheba, 1917....Game Number 28


The charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba

I mentioned Beersheba in my last post and as is usual with such a throwaway comment (at least it is for me!) it gave me an idea for a game, more specifically, a Portable Wargame. There is a fair amount of material on the net concerning this action and so I won't bore you with a rehash - read the following link for an overview of the events leading up to the action I am about to describe - Beersheba 1917.


Australian Light Horse Trooper at the ready

From the point of view of a game several things need to be borne in mind. To begin with, the area over which the Australians charged was the part of the Turkish defensive position that although entrenched did not feature any barbed wire or other obstacles. The Turkish defences were fairly well set out with interlocking fields of fire and with machine guns as well - including some sighted to fire across the flank of an attacking unit. The Turks had fought the Australian horsemen before but expected then to fight as mounted infantry - which they were - rather than cavalry. In previous engagements the Turks had tended to wait until the Australians were dismounting and would then open fire. Clearly a change of tactics by the Australians would then have the element of surprise. To have any chance of success the mounted infantry would need to charge home, cavalry style, as quickly as possible. As mounted infantry the Australians did not possess swords and so sharpened bayonets were used as a substitute.

At first glance in order for this work as a game the scenario would be expected to be full of special rules due to the unique nature of the undertaking. I originally considered doing this in order to reflect ineffective Turkish fire and Australian dash and √©lan but then had a change of heart and so the game will be fought using the Big Battle Portable Wargame rules for the 19th century as written - and with none of my usual tweaks in evidence. The game will require some thought in respect of the set up though but other than that should be fairly straightforward.

The Turks

1 x Commander (2)
4 x Infantry (3 - usual Turkish understrength units)
3 x Machine Gun (2)

Strength Points 20, Exhaustion Level 7

The Australians

1 x Commander (2)
6 x Cavalry (3)
1 x Field Artillery (2)

Strength Points 22, Exhaustion Level 8

All the troops are classed as average - the Australians as they are being used in an unfamiliar way!


The initial dispositions - the Australians are on the right with their artillery deployed to engage the Turkish hill machine gun position. The Turkish infantry and machine guns are in the entrenchments with a sole infantry unit left behind as a garrison in Beersheba on the left.


The view from behind the Australian position - shades of the Charge of he Light Brigade perhaps?


The Turkish defences on the outskirts of Beersheba - not as daunting as you might think, or are they?


Turn 1. The Australian light horse advance with the supporting artillery engaging the Turks on the hill - and missing!


Turn 2. The Australian artillery plasters the Turkish hill machine gun with shells while the furiously charging light horse reach the trench lines. After a brief hand to hand struggle the Turkish defenders abandon them and fall back on Beersheba!


Turn 3. The artillery completes its work on the hill and the Turkish machine gun is no more. Meanwhile the light horse gamely pursue the Turks but not without losses and the occasional minor tactical withdrawal. The mounted attack is gradually losing cohesion.


Turn 4. The Turks manage to take advantage of the temporarily faltering Australian advance and so they form a line with Beersheba as the anchor in the centre.


Turn 5. The Australian artillery moves up to support the by now reorganised  light horse whilst they push on to engage the Turks both in and around Beersheba.


Turn 6. In a blizzard of close range rifle and machine gun fire and deadly hand to hand combat the Australian attack dashes itself against the outskirts of Beersheba itself and come to a exhausted halt! Meanwhile the Turkish defenders, run ragged by the marauding horsemen, have also seen enough for the day and so both sides with one accord, break off the action.


The final reckoning - Australia 8 and Turkey 7

So what did we learn from this action then? Well, a cavalry attack needs to a) keep moving and b) make full use of the initiative. It was interesting that the Australians did far better on the turns in which they had the initiative simply because when the Turks had it they usually just fell back and shot at the pursuing light horse. The light horse would charge in and have a better chance in the ensuing melee rather than relying on rifle fire.

The artillery did exactly what it was supposed to do but sadly could not keep up with the attack which would have been very helpful to the light horse had such support been available.

The game was really decided on the last turn as the Turks inflicted two casualties on the Australians taking them to their exhaustion level but fortunately for them they were able to inflict casualties on the Ottoman infantry to take them to theirs.

I envisaged this action going one of two ways - either the Australians would blitzkrieg the Turkish position in fairly short order or else those cantankerous horsemen would be shot to pieces by machine gun and rifle fire.

I certainly did not expect the result that I actually got!