Saturday, 31 January 2009

Table Top Battles – The Lauranian Border War (1869) – The Battle of Turga

Scenario

As a result of the incursions by ‘bandits’ along the border between Laurania and its northern neighbour, a group of ‘bandits’ had been captured and imprisoned in Turga by units of the Border Guard. In response to this ‘outrageous’ action (the leader of the ‘bandits’ – Stefan Esterházy – was the son of a senior officer in the northern neighbour’s army) a large force of troops crossed the Lauranian border with the intention of seizing Turga, releasing the captives, and then ‘teaching the Lauranians a lesson’.

The invading force consisted of two battalions of infantry (each four companies strong and with a points value of 3), two companies of light infantry (with a points value of 2 each), and a battery of field artillery (with a points value of 2). They were led by General Tobias Esterházy (rated as ‘Poor’ and therefore with a points value of 1).

The garrison of Turga comprised two companies of Border Guards (rated as light infantry and therefore with a points value of 2). They were, however, to be reinforced by troops that were being sent by rail from Laurania City. These reinforcements were to arrive on two separate trains, each of which carried an infantry battalion (four companies strong and with a points value of 3) and a field artillery battery (with a points value of 2). General Branco, who was to command the Lauranian troops when they came into action, accompanied the first group of reinforcements. General Branco was one of Laurania’s most experienced generals, and was rated ‘Exceptional’ (and therefore had a points value of 3). The first reinforcements were to arrive D6 moves after the start of the battle and the second group were to arrive D6 moves after the first group.

N.B. Trains moved at cavalry movement (i.e. 4 squares per move).

Turn 1

The Lauranians threw a D6 to determine when the first group of reinforcements would arrive. The score was 2. The first group of reinforcements would therefore arrive during Turn 2. They then threw a second D6 to see when the second group of reinforcements would arrive. The score was 5. As a result the second group of reinforcements would arrive during Turn 7.

Both sides then threw a D12 to determine who had the initiative. The invaders gained the initiative and moved first.

The invaders moved down the road from the border towards Turga. The light infantry led the advance along the road and the railway track with the two infantry battalions deployed either side of them in half-battalion columns. General Esterházy followed behind the left-hand company of light infantry; the artillery battery, in turn, followed him.

The company of Lauranian Border Guards that was patrolling the road towards the border fell back to the edge of Turga, whilst those guarding the jail remained at their post.

Turn 2

The invaders again gained the initiative by throwing a higher D12 score and moved and fired first.

The advancing light infantry engaged the company of Border Guards, and their gunfire forced the Border Guards to seek cover in and around the houses on the outskirts of Turga.

In the meantime, a locomotive and wagons was fast approaching the railway station from Laurania City; the first of the Lauranian reinforcements were about to arrive!

Turn 3

The Lauranians gained the initiative by throwing a higher D12 score and moved and fired first.

The train carrying the Lauranian reinforcements finally reached Turga railway station, but the units aboard would not be able to unload until the next turn. In the meantime the two companies of Border Guards held their positions and awaited the invader’s attack.

The invaders continued their advance towards Turga, and the left-hand company of light infantry and the two leading left-hand companies of infantry exchanged gunfire with the Border Guard company that was occupying the houses on the outskirts of Turga. This exchange was ineffective, neither side suffering any significant casualties.

Turn 4

The invaders gained the initiative by throwing a higher D12 score and moved and fired first.

The two leading left-hand units of infantry attempted to flush the Border Guards out of their position but the Border Guards were able to evade their attackers and withdrew to the next line of houses. The remaining units of invaders continued their relentless advance towards the centre of Turga, although the close terrain of houses and woods caused them problems when they tried to maintain their alignment.

The Lauranian reinforcements were unloaded and deployed into the centre of Turga. General Branco realised that the situation fast becoming desperate, and he personally led the artillery battery forward to engage the advancing enemy light infantry. The artillery opened fire on the right-hand company of light infantry … and wiped them out!

Turn 5

The Lauranians gained the initiative by throwing a higher D12 score and moved and fired first.

General Branco realised that by taking the initiative and acting as aggressively as possible he might be able to force the invaders to retreat. He therefore led his troops forward as quickly as possible with the intention of engaging them at close range. The artillery battery fired at the remaining light infantry at point-blank range, and forced them to retreat. The Border Guard company, seeing the General Esterházy was now exposed, opened fire on him … and killed him!

The death of their commander shook the invader’s morale, and they immediately began to withdraw.

Turn 6

The invaders gained the initiative by throwing a higher D12 score and moved and fired first.

The invaders withdrew they way they had come, followed – at a reasonable distance – by the Lauranian infantry battalion and artillery battery. General Branco had no intention engaging the invaders as they still out-numbered his own forces and were more than capable of inflicting considerable casualties on the Lauranian units.

Aftermath

The body of General Esterházy was returned to his country with full military honours. General Branco led the escort himself, and secured the release of the General’s son - Stefan Esterházy – so that he could return home with his father’s body. The remaining ‘bandits’ – who turned out to be a mixture of ex-soldiers, idealistic students, and members of an extreme nationalist party – were all put on trial and given long prison sentences. They were, however, released within weeks as a result of an amnesty granted in celebration of the Lauranian victory at Turga.

Conclusions

I had expected this to be a very intense battle with lots of hand-to-hand fighting in and around Turga. I also expected that the arrival of the two groups of reinforcements would be crucial to the outcome. As it was, the death of General Esterházy was a surprise, and came about when I realised that he had moved into the square next to that occupied by the company of Border Guards. It was too tempting a target not to fire at …and the result was unexpected. Nevertheless, the battle was an enjoyable one to fight, and leaves the way open for further border skirmishes between the two countries at some time in the future.

Notes about the models

The figures are all 15mm Peter Laing figures. The Lauranians are 1870 Prussians and the northern neighbour’s army are 1866 Austro-Hungarians. The roads are strips of masking tape, the ‘sea’ is a piece of blue card cut to the required shape, and the buildings are from a set of wooden toy buildings. The railway track, locomotive, and rolling stock are all from the range of HO9 scale models produced by ROCO.

Nugget 223

I posted the latest issue of THE NUGGET (N223) this morning, and it should be with members by early next week.

The PDF version is now available online via the Wargame Developments website. All members should now have received the password they need to read the PDF, but if they have lost it or cannot remember it they should contact me.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Turga - a quiet town near the Lauranian border

Turga is a large town on the main road and rail link to the border. It has access to the sea, and a small harbour.

As can be seen from this image of the town, a company of Border Guards is guarding the jail where the ‘bandits’ are held, whilst another company patrols the road leading to the border.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Nugget 223

I took the latest issue of THE NUGGET to the printers today and I should be able to pick it up on Friday. With any luck I hope to get it out in the post on Saturday, and it should be with members early next week.

In the meantime I hope to upload the PDF versions of the latest issues of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website on Thursday so that members (including e-members) can read it before the printed version arrives in the post.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Trouble on the Lauranian border

News has just reach Lauranian Army Headquarters that a contingent of our northern neighbour's army has crossed the border, and is making its way towards Turga.

This appears to be the culmination of a series of escalating incidents between our northern neighbour and ourselves. Over the past few weeks there have been several incursions into Lauranian territory by what can best be described as 'bandits'. They have raided local farms, stolen cattle, sheep, and horses, and attempted to cut the railway near the border.

The most recent 'raid' was intercepted by two companies of Border Guards, who were able to surround the 'bandits' and - after a short gun battle - capture them. They were then taken in chains to the jail in Turga to await trial.

It is interesting to note that the leader of the 'bandits' claims to be Stefan Esterházy, a Lieutenant in our northern neighbours army and son of General Tobias Esterházy. General Esterházy is, of course, the commander of the troops our northern neighbour has guarding their side of the border.

Two infantry battalions and two batteries of artillery have been despatched by rail from Laurania City to Turga to support the two companies of Border Guards who are stationed there. It is hoped that this will counter any large-scale incursions across the border.

Long Live Laurania!

Statement issued by
Lauranian Army Headquarters
Laurania City

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Gerard de Gre – A ‘lost’ pioneer?

My request for further information about Gerard de Gre – both on this blog and on THE MINIATURES PAGE – has led to some very interesting facts coming to light.

Mike Elliott was able to send me the text of the article from WARGAMERS NEWSLETTER that accompanied the original image of Professor de Gre playing his wargame; Allen Curtis pointed out that there was a mention of Gerard de Gre in George Gush and Andrew Finch’s book A GUIDE TO WARGAMING; and ‘Cheriton’ sent me the text of an article about Gerard de Gre that was written by Muriel de Gre and which was printed in the May 1965 issue of TABLE TOP TALK.

From this wealth of material – plus a long trawl through my collection of wargames books – I have been able to glean the following information about Gerard de Gre:
  • He was probably the first ‘modern’ hobby wargamer to advocate use of written orders by players – ‘Military Kriegsspiel had from earliest times employed simultaneous movement, thanks to the presence of an umpire, who received both sides’ written orders and worked them out on a map. Some early players in the hobby field no doubt followed suit, but the first suggestion of this in modern times seems to have come from Gerard de Gre of the USA.’ (A GUIDE TO WARGAMING, page 109);
  • He used tiddly-winks to simulate gunfire – ‘One extreme is the physical method, involving such missiles as the dreaded matchstick hurled by Wells’ Britains 4.7 naval gun … or even tiddly-winks as advocated many years ago by Gerard de Gre.’ (A GUIDE TO WARGAMING, page 117);
  • Further mention of this method of simulating gunfire is made in Donald Featherstone’s NAVAL WAR GAMES (pages176 and 177), where an entire set of experimental naval wargames rules devised by Gerard de Gre are included;
  • Gerard de Gre was the driving force behind the creation of the MODEL GENERAL’S CLUB, which he ran (and paid for) almost single-handedly (TABLE TOP TALK, May 1965);
  • Gerard de Gre wargamed with the young Joseph Morschauser, who was a student at the college where de Gre taught (TABLE TOP TALK, May 1965);
  • He – and not Joseph Morschauser – may have been the first wargamer to advocate the use of the ‘unit system’ of mounting several figures on a single base or stand (TABLE TOP TALK, May 1965).
I think that this shows that Professor Gerard de Gre had quite an influence on the development of wargaming in its formative years, and that he – and what he did – should be remembered.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Table Top Battles - Third set of terrain boards finished

I have now finished my third set of terrain boards.

What is interesting about them is that the grid lines that I drew on using a dark green permanent OHP marker pen appear very faint against the Games Workshop/Citadel 'Goblin Green' I used to paint the terrain boards with. This set of terrain boards therefore appear to be much more uniform to look at than the other two sets.

I hope to try them out in the near future; in the meantime I will start to think about building some terrain features that will fit in with my TABLE TOP BATTLES terrain boards.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Table Top Battles - An early edition? - Wargamer identified as Professor Gerard de Gre

Thanks to some excellent research by Mike Elliott, the gentleman in question has been identified as being Professor Gerard de Gre. In his email to me Mike wrote the following:

The photograph appears on page 19 of issue 85 (April 1969) of WARGAMERS
NEWSLETTER.

The caption reads: Prof. Gerard de Gre of Waterloo, war-game hobbyist, checks the range of the French batteries at Chatelet in the simulated battle of Waterloo.

This is followed by an article:

WARGAMER OF THE MONTH – Prof. Gerard de Gre

Prof. Gerard de Gre, a University of Waterloo department head has been a wargamer since the Second World War and finds his hobby completely absorbing.

He credits his instruction in working out tactical problems to his training as a naval officer in the United States Navy, and to LITTLE WARS by H. G. Wells with sparking his interest in wargames as a hobby.

Prof. de Gre now owns more than 5,000 miniature soldiers as well as other battle equipment: ships, planes, Egyptian war elephants used in 1000BC. He has as well a large collection of books on the history of battles, uniforms worn during particular periods of history and many, many books on rules of wargames.

Thus far he has discovered about six other wargamers in his area and spends a couple of evenings a week playing wargames with them. Prof. de Gre maintains the wargame is similar to chess, but in chess the entire game is pure logic, whereas in wargames there is logic plus an element of chance.

Prof. de Gre has miniatures to simulate battles from the time of Cleopatra to the Arab-Israeli war. He says, that if he does have a favourite period, it is probably the late 18th and early 19th century. It was during this period that the highest degree of professionalism was reached.

Recently, Gerard de Gre wrote to the Newsletter: "We have an action group at Waterloo. On Monday this week we re-did the Battle of Waterloo in sixteen moves. Napoleon won only by a small margin, being stopped by Uxbridge and Hill when practically in Waterloo and the road to Brussels. (Four players took part)"
Mike, many thanks for this information. I hope that Professor de Gre is still alive and enjoying his wargaming.

Table Top Battles - An early edition?

Whilst waiting for the final coat of matt varnish to dry on my third set of terrain boards, I spent some time looking through one of the many files of wargames 'clippings' that I have accumulated over the years.

I found one from an old WARGAMES NEWSLETTER about wargaming South American Wars which caught my eye, and I took it out of its protective plastic cover to read. Imagine my surprise when I realised that on the back of the article were several images entitled 'Other People's Wargames No.1', one of which showed a setup that looked remarkably like those illustrated in TABLE TOP BATTLES.

The image (a copy of which is shown below) does not have a caption, so I have no idea who the wargamer is. If anyone out there knows who the wargamer is and when the photograph was taken, I would be grateful if they could share that information with us. In the meantime let us hope that the image is an inspiration to other wargamers to try using a gridded tabletop.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Basking in the tropical heat of South East London ...

Well the engineer came - slightly later than arranged but not by much - and the gas-powered central heating boiler is working. In fact it is working overtime.

To make up for the lack of heating for the last five days I have turned the controls right up and the house is warming up nicely. In a moment I am off to have a long, hot shower, followed by a spell of painting, and then a nice meal.

Life is getting better ...

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

... and then the central heating boiler broke down

Not a lot to report since my last blog entry due to the fact that the gas-fired central heating boiler broke down last Friday night/Saturday morning, since when most of the rooms in the house - including my wargames room - have been very cold and almost unusable. I tried to do some more work on my terrain boards but my hands were too cold to paint so I gave up. We do have some electric fires, but they are in the main living rooms.

The engineer came today to fix the boiler (three hours later than the time set for the appointment but at least he did turn up) but although he has identified the fault he did not have the parts that he needed to fix it. He should be back tomorrow morning ... or Thursday afternoon if the parts are not immediately available.

Let's hope it is not too cold for the next few days ...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Table Top Battles - Third set of terrain boards - slight change of colour

The MDF has proved more difficult to paint that I had first expected. It soaked up the acrylic emulsion paint like a sponge, especially along the edges. However I persisted ... and this morning I thought that I had finished.

Before marking the grid onto the terrain boards I decided to see how some based figures looked against the green colour I had chosen to paint the boards with. This proved to be a very wise move on my part. They looked awful. The green was just too drab, and made the figures look drab.

So what to do?

A quick look around my store of model paint revealed that I had several pots of Games Workshop/Citadel 'Goblin Green'. I have used this colour on figure bases over recent years, and thought that I could use the colour on my terrain boards. So I painted one of them in 'Goblin Green' ... and it looked just fine. I have now painted all of the boards with this colour paint, and although they will need another coat to make sure the original colour does not show through at all, I am now on track to get my final set of terrain boards finished within the next seven days ... I hope!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Table Top Battles - Third set of terrain boards started

I have now begun work on the third set of terrain boards for use with the TABLE TOP BATTLES wargames rules. These will be for land battles in temperate climate, and will be painted in green acrylic emulsion paint (again from Homebase), marked with 5cm x 5cm squares with a permanent OHP marker pen and gloss varnished to protect the playing surface. They will then be given a coat of matt varnish to deaden the gloss.

Unlike the first two sets of terrain boards these will be made from 15mm thick MDF cut into 30cm x 30cm squares. This is because I was unable to obtain any more corner sections of unpainted Jigwar terrain boards. Because thin MDF tends to warp when painted I have decided to use 15mm thick MDF in the hope that they will remain flat after painting. Time will show if I have made the correct decision.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Table Top Battles - Play-test - Land Battles (for mid-20th century warfare on hexes) - Improved images

The images that I originally used to illustrate the play-test were rather too brown when seen onscreen. I have therefore replaced them slightly enhanced versions of the original images.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Table Top Battles - Play-test - Land Battles (for mid-20th century warfare on hexes) - Some thoughts

After I had written up the most recent play-test blog entry I began to think about the scenario, the unit ratings, the results of some of the combat that took place, and the rules. My thoughts are as follows:

  1. The scenario seemed to be quite reasonable although the balance between the two sides gave the Russian attackers a distinct advantage (i.e. a 2:1 superiority in artillery, a 3:1 superiority in infantry, and a 3:1 superiority in points values).
  2. I probably rated the Russian infantry units as being better than they should have been - they should probably have been rated as 'Conscript' (and thus had a points value of 2) and not as 'Regular'. I looked back over the notes of the dice scores and this would have made a difference to the outcomes of several crucial events. It would also have reduced the overall Russian superiority in points values to close to 7:3.
  3. It was too easy for attackers to drive defenders out of defensive positions without having to resort to Hand-to-Hand combat. The Russians did this twice during the play-test and I felt that this was unrealistic.
  4. The side that gains the initiative at the beginning of a turn can sometimes exploit their advantage to an extent that does not always seem to be very historically 'accurate'. I had not noticed this in previous play-tests, and it may be a phenomena that only seems to have an undue influence in mid-20th century battles. I can easily avoid this problem by using the playing card unit activation system used in RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES rather than the D12-based system used in the TABLE TOP BATTLES wargames rules.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Table Top Battles - Play-test - Land Battles (for mid-20th century warfare on hexes)

This play-test was played solo so that I could try out the various adaptations I have made to the TABLE TOP BATTLES wargames rules so that they can be used for mid-20th century warfare with Hexon II hexes. I chose a World War II Eastern Front setting as I already had suitably based figures and vehicles.

Scenario

Elements of a Luftwaffe Feld Divisione had been given the task of defending a small town and road junction that lay between a range of small hills. The junction was important because it served as a major supply route for the German units in the area. The 3 infantry units of the Luftwaffe Feld Divisione were rated as ‘Conscript’ and had a points value of 2, as did the German anti-tank and mountain artillery units. The General commanding the Luftwaffe troops was rated as ‘Average’ and also had a points value of 2.

A Russian offensive had broken through the German front-line, and the objective for part of the advancing Russian forces was the town and road junction. The troops allocated for the task included 9 infantry units (all rated as ‘Regular’ and with a points value of 3), 2 field artillery units and 2 anti-tank artillery units (each with a points value of 2) and an ‘Average’ General (also with a points value of 2). The Russians also had 2 tank units equipped with T34 medium tanks (with a points value of 3) and each carried a ‘Regular’ infantry unit (with a points value of 3). These were to be used to exploit the capture of the town and road junction.

Turn 1

The Russians had the initiative during this turn.

The Russians advanced towards the main German positions. The advance is led by a line of 6 infantry units supported by the field artillery units in the centre and with the flanks guarded by the anti-tank artillery units.

The Germans did not move any of their units.

The leading Russian infantry units on the right opened fire on the nearest German unit. This forced the German unit to withdraw, where it then came under fire from the 2 Russian field artillery units. Their fire was very effective and forced the German unit to withdraw even further away from the main German line of defence.

The German mountain artillery concentrated its fire on the leading Russian infantry unit on the left and destroyed it.

Turn 2

The Germans had the initiative during this turn.

Before the Russians could occupy the empty front-line defences, the German infantry unit occupying the centre of the German defences moved into them. They were – in turn – replaced by the German infantry unit that had been forced to withdraw.

The Russians continued their advance on the German positions and brought forward a further 3 infantry units to support the attack.

Every German unit able to fire engaged the Russian unit closest to them. This proved to be very effective; two Russian infantry units were forced to withdraw and a Russian field artillery unit was destroyed by gunfire from its German opposite number.

The Russian replied with fire from every unit within range of the German unit occupying the foremost German defensive position. This concentration of fire was – for the most part – ineffective but it did manage to force the German unit to withdraw onto the hill behind its original position.

Turn 3

The Russians had the initiative during this turn.

Seizing the opportunity to close with the Germans, all the Russian troops advanced as far forward as was possible.

In response the Germans did not move and prepared to fight to the death.

The Russians again concentrated their fire on the German front-line units, but this time it was far more effective. The German infantry unit that had withdrawn onto the top of the hill behind its previous position was destroyed by artillery fire from the Russian field artillery unit. A second German unit – the one occupying the centre of the German defences – was forced to withdraw to the rearmost outskirts of the town.

In reply the Germans were unable to inflict any serious casualties on the Russians, who were now poised to enter the town.

Turn 4

The Russians had the initiative during this turn.

The inexorable Russian advance continued.

All the Germans could do was to move the infantry unit that had previously withdrawn forward into a wood to the right of the town.

The Russians engaged every German unit within range, with devastating results. The German infantry on the left was wiped out and the German anti-tank artillery unit was destroyed by Russian field artillery fire.

In response the German infantry unit in the wood engaged the Russian infantry unit that was occupying the nearby hill whilst the German mountain artillery unit fired over open sights at the advancing Russians. Unfortunately luck was not with the Germans, whose fire had no effect.

Turn 5

The Germans had the initiative during this turn.

Realising that they were about to be overwhelmed, the German General withdrew his last remaining infantry unit from the wood and into the town in the hope that this would delay the inevitable Russian victory.

The Russian General’s response was predictable – he ordered a full-out advance with the intention of closing on the enemy and destroying them.

The Germans were now fighting for their lives and engaged any Russian units that were within range. The German mountain artillery unit and the infantry unit inflicted no casualties on the Russians but the German General – at the head of his staff and personal bodyguard – repulsed one of the Russian infantry units.

The Russian response was swift and terrible, and no German units survived the combined gunfire of the Russian units that were within range.

Postscript

Once the town and road junction were captured the tank units and their associated infantry units advanced along the road to exploit the breach in the German defences.

Conclusions

The adaptations to the rules seemed to work quite. The play-test took just over two hours including time to do the write-up, and indicated that with a few further adaptations and modifications – possibly to give elite troops an even greater effect and poor quality troops a lesser effect in firefights and Hand-to-Hand combat – it is quite easy use the TABLE TOP BATTLES wargames rules to refight mid-20th century battles on Hexon II hexes.