Friday 31 October 2008

Laurania - My next wargames project

Now that the Summer is well and truly over, I have begun to have a big sort out of various wargame ‘project’ ideas that have been around for a time but which have not come to fruition.

Part of this has taken the form of a sort out in my wargames room (or toy room as my wife likes to call it). During this I found all sorts of bits and bobs that I had forgotten that I had … well not quite so much forgotten as mislaid in the rather confused storage ‘system’ that I use.

Amongst these bits and bobs were some ships that I built some years ago for my 15mm Colonial wargames as well as some pre-painted ‘toy’ biplanes. I began thinking about how I could use them in a game … and then remembered my ideas for a campaign set in Laurania during the 1920s/1930s. Laurania is an imagi-nation created by none other than Sir Winston Churchill. It was the setting for SAVROLA - A TALE OF REVOLUTION IN LAURANIA, his only novel.

Having read the book many times I was able to deduce some facts about the country, and I used these to create a map and a background history up until just after World War I.

I have therefore decided to resurrect this project as a background for more play-tests of my RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES (TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED) rules. They will need to be slightly modified to suit the period, but there will not need to be any substantial re-writes before the play-tests begin ... just a few more bits and pieces to buy, build, and paint!

Long live Laurania!

Thursday 30 October 2008

Nugget 221

I posted the latest issue of THE NUGGET (N221) 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 29 October 2008

Nugget 221

I hope to get the printed version of THE NUGGET (N221) out in the post tomorrow, and it should be with members early next week.

In the meantime I have uploaded the PDF version of the latest issue to the Wargame Developments website so that members (including e-members) can read it before the printed version arrives in the post.

This issue contains the most recent version of the RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES rules as well as Richard Brooks's latest rules (RUGA-RUGA or OUT OF RAPIER) for re-fighting actions in East Africa during World War I.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Redcoats and Natives (Tarred and Featherstoned) - Play-test 2

The second play-test of REDCOATS AND NATIVES followed on from the first. Sheik Mehmet Abdullah’s forces – reinforced by two newly recruited units of Jihadia infantry and an additional field artillery unit equipped with the recently captured Egyptian Krupp artillery (all rated as ‘Average’) – advanced on Mhedemi, a riverside village. Two Egyptian infantry units and an Egyptian machine gun unit garrison the village (all rated as ‘Below average’).

Knowing that the Mahdist forces are advancing, the local Egyptian commander – Asif Ali Bey – ordered the garrison of Mhedemi to evacuate the village, and sent a gunboat (rated as ‘Average’) to pick them up.

Note: The gunboat moved at the same speed as cavalry and carried the equivalent of a breech loading artillery unit. It could be sunk by the equivalent of four substantial hits on artillery by artillery (i.e. the artillery not only had to hit the gunboat but to also score 10, 11, or 12 when 2D6 were thrown to determine the effects of a hit). The gunboat came into sight of the village when it was dealt a red picture card.

Turn 1 began with the Mahdist forces lining the inland escarpment and the Egyptians occupying the defence line around the village of Mhedemi.

The Mahdist artillery fire was devastating. The Egyptian machine gun unit was repeatedly hit and despite being behind cover it was destroyed. In addition two of the Egyptian infantrymen were also killed. At the same time the Mahdist infantry advanced down the escarpment and began to move towards the Egyptian defences.

During turn 2 the Mahdist artillery barrage continued, and a further two Egyptian infantrymen were killed. However the advance of the Mahdist infantry units on the left flank was disrupted by the arrival of the Egyptian gunboat, which opened fire on them. Unfortunately its gunfire had little or no effect, but its arrival gave the Egyptian garrison some hope of rescue.

The next turn saw an assault on both the right and left of the Egyptian defences. Fierce hand-to-hand combat resulted in the destruction of one of the Egyptian infantry units, but at a heavy price for the two newly raised Mahdist Jihadia infantry units. The survivors of the other Egyptian infantry unit fired a volley at the Mahdist infantry that were almost upon them, and then fell back to the riverbank, where the Egyptian gunboat had come alongside. The newly equipped Mahdist artillery unit engaged the Egyptian gunboat, and scored a hit on her. The gunboat returned fire, but missed.

Turn 4 saw the remnants of the Egyptian garrison board the gunboat just before the Mahdists reached the landing stage. The gunboat then cast off – not a moment too soon – and set sail. The Mahdist artillery fired at the retreating Egyptians, but they were soon out of sight, leaving Sheik Mehmet Abdullah’s forces in control of Mhedemi … and with sufficient captured rifles to equip at least one more unit of infantry.

Lessons learned:

The minor change to the rule as to 'who fires first' in a combat worked without a problem, but will probably be changed back to its original form in the next draft. This is a result of the play-test as the revised rules allowed the Mahdists to charge the Egyptian positions without the Egyptians having the opportunity to fire at them as they did so.

The card activation system did produce some interesting results. For example one of the Egyptian infantry units was able to fire at the advancing Mahdists and then withdraw because it was activated by a lower card than that dealt to the Mahdist units. The other Egyptian infantry unit was not as fortunate, and was over-run.

Artillery can be devastating if used en masse, something the Mahdists did not do in reality.

The Close Combat rules produce very bloody results if neither side prevails during the first round. The hand-to-hand fighting during turn 3 resulted in both sides suffering very heavy casualties because the combat went through three rounds before it was resolved.

Gunboats can be used without a major re-write of the rules.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Redcoats and Natives (Tarred and Featherstoned) - Play-test 1

The first play-test of REDCOATS AND NATIVES was set in the Sudan during the period before the Siege of Khartoum, when the Egyptians were still trying to extort taxes from the population and the Mahdi’s power was still on the rise.

A column of Egyptian troops (two infantry units, an artillery unit, and a machine gun unit, all rated as ‘Average’) led by Mustafa Pasha was advancing on the small town of El Mhet. The local sheik had recently received representatives from the Mahdi. They had persuaded him to support the Mahdi, and had sent three units of Jihadia infantry and two artillery units (all rated as ‘Average’) – led by Sheik Mehmet Abdullah – to garrison the town. The sheik had no doubts that when the Egyptians (or ‘Turks’ as he preferred to call them) came to collect more taxes – as come they would – he would ambush them and put them all to the sword.

When news of the Egyptian column’s approach reached El Mhet, Sheik Mehmet Abdullah positioned one of his artillery units in a valley to the left of the Egyptian line of advance. From that location it should be able to enfilade the Egyptian column and prevent it from deploying to its left. He positioned the other artillery unit by the town’s fort, which he had garrisoned with one of his infantry units..

The other two infantry units were hidden from view; one was behind a small range of hills on the left of the approach to the Sudanese town and the other behind the large hill to the right.

The Egyptian column was led by one of the infantry units. Behind the infantry came the artillery unit and the machine gun unit, with the second infantry unit taking up the rear. Because they were not expecting to encounter any Mahdist forces in the area the Egyptians did not deploy any scouts.

During the first two turns the Egyptians advanced unhindered towards the town in column. However, during turn 3 the Egyptian machine gun unit had problems moving forward, and this caused the rearmost infantry unit to move slightly to the right, thus breaking the column. This was compounded at the start of turn 4 when the machine gun unit moved forward so quickly that it ended alongside the artillery unit. Before Mustafa Pasha could sort out the resultant confusion, the hidden Mahdist artillery unit opened fire. The concentration of so many Egyptian troops in so small an area was too tempting a target to ignore … and the effect of the Mahdist artillery fire was devastating. Two infantrymen and one of the machine gun crew were killed and the artillery unit was destroyed. The only bright point for the Egyptians was that their morale was seemingly unaffected.

In reply to this artillery barrage the leading Egyptian infantry unit attempted to deploy to its left, but this then exposed it to cannon fire from the Mahdist artillery unit in the town. Its gunfire was less effective as it only killed a single Egyptian infantryman, but the Egyptian unit’s morale was severely tested by this further loss.

Turn 4 saw the Egyptian machine gun unit unlimber so that it could be deployed to engage the closer of the two Mahdist artillery units whilst the second Egyptian infantry unit changed formation into line and continued its advance. At the same time the other Egyptian infantry unit began firing at the crew of the Mahdist artillery unit, which returned fire, neither unit managing to cause casualties to the other. Seeing the confusion in the Egyptian ranks, the Mahdist infantry unit that has been positioned behind the large hill to the right broke cover and charged towards the full-strength Egyptian infantry unit.

The next turn was crucial for the Egyptians. By the beginning of turn 5 they were already down to 65% of their original strength, and had caused no casualties on the Mahdists. If they suffered another 3 casualties they would be forced to retire. The fall of cards did little to help the situation, as the majority of the lower value cards were dealt to the Mahdists. This allowed them to activate most of their units before the Egyptians could respond.

The Mahdist artillery units both fired at the depleted Egyptian infantry unit, but caused no casualties. The Egyptians returned fire on the nearest enemy artillery unit but was equally unsuccessful. Both the previously concealed Mahdist infantry units were dealt black playing cards, and this enabled them to rush forward and engage both the Egyptian infantry units. The already depleted unit suffered another casualty – and turned and fled, its morale having collapsed. The other Egyptian infantry unit was far steadier, and caused a casualty on its attackers at no cost to themselves. Finally the Egyptian machine gun was brought into action against the nearby Mahdist artillery unit … and killed the Mahdist gun crew.

At this point the Egyptians had lost over 50% of their initial strength either dead or fleeing from the battlefield. The Mahdists had also begun to suffer casualties, and despite their desire to pursue the Egyptians Sheik Mehmet Abdullah prevailed upon his troops to allow the ‘Turks’ to retreat. After all, they had left behind enough modern artillery to equip a new Mahdist artillery unit, and the dead Egyptians’ rifles could be used to rearm all or part of one of the Jihadia infantry units. Furthermore news of the growing power of the forces of the Mahdi would spread throughout the area, and would bring in more recruits.

Lessons learned:

Because the rules are based on RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES (TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED) it was to be expected that they would work. As it was, they worked even better than I had hoped, and although I will have more play-tests I doubt that there will be much need to change the basic mechanisms used in the rules.

Sunday 12 October 2008

Redcoats and Natives (Tarred and Featherstoned) - First draft

The first draft of these rules has now been written and await play-testing.

They are very similar to RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES, but because they deal with an era when there were fewer weapon types, they are shorter and simpler.

I hope to play-test them later this week. In the meantime, to access a copy, go to
RED HEX WARGAMES and follow the simple instructions.

Saturday 11 October 2008

Redcoats and Natives (Tarred and Featherstoned) - First draft

Having developed RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES (TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED) to a state where I am happy playing wargames with them, and, being in need of a bit of a break for World War 2, I have now turned my attention to REDCOATS AND NATIVES – my colonial wargames rules – and given them the same Tarr and Featherstone treatment.

This should not present me with too many problems as REDCOATS AND NATIVES shares a similar ‘architecture’ (i.e. it uses very similar mechanisms) the RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES, and I have learned a lot from developing RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES (TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED).

I hope to get a working draft written today, and be able to begin play-testing sometime next week.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Red Flags and Iron Crosses (Tarred and Featherstoned) - Play-test 5

The fifth play-test was a sequel to the fourth. Having repulsed the German attack, the Russians strengthened their defences knowing that a further German assault was inevitable.

With the exception of the tank unit – which was withdrawn to counter a German attack further along the River Bug – the Russian defenders remained as before. They had, however, strengthened their defences by laying barbed wire entanglements in front of their trenches to channel any attackers into a killing zone.

The German infantry formation that was following behind the Panzer Division knew that they had to eliminate the Russian position in order to secure the area. To this end the German commander allocated two infantry units, two engineer units (each equipped with a flamethrower) and two field artillery units to assault the Russian fortifications. All the German units were rated ‘above average’.

The German commander decided that the assault should be staged over two nights. During the first night the engineers would remove some of the minefields that had been identified whilst the field artillery bombarded the Russian trenches. It was hoped that this would both deplete the number of defenders and stop them from interfering with the engineers. During the second night the infantry and engineers would infiltrate the Russian defences so that they could begin their assault at first light.

During the first night the second turn of German field artillery fire destroyed the Russian anti-tank unit. Despite being in trenches, two Russian infantrymen – one of whom was armed with a light machine gun – were killed during the fourth turn of artillery fire.

Under cover of the artillery bombardment one of the German engineer units managed to clear a Russian minefield, but the operation took far longer than expected and the barbed wire remained uncut. Despite this, the German commander decided to order the assault to go in after the second night of artillery bombardment.

The second night of artillery fire caused further casualties to the Russian defenders. By the second turn a member of the light field artillery unit was dead, and the Russian commander has a narrow escape when an infantryman standing next to him was killed. His luck had, however, run out, and he was killed by the next artillery salvo along with another of the defenders. By the end of the night the Russian defenders had been reduce to almost 50% of their original strength.

During the second night one of the German engineer units managed to cut the barbed wire in front of the Russian trenches despite being fired at several times by the defenders, and at dawn they charged forward, followed by one of the infantry units.

The effect of the flamethrower, coupled with the use of an assault demolition charge and overwhelming firepower was decisive. By the end of the first daylight turn the German were in the Russian trenches, and by turn 3 they had killed off the remaining member of the Russian light field artillery unit – capturing its gun in the process – and another two of the defenders. The cost to the attackers was surprisingly low – one engineer was killed – and by turn 5 the entire left-hand side of the Russian defences was in German hands.

By this time the other German engineer and infantry units had moved forward, and by turn 7 the Russian defenders were under constant fire from the German-occupied trenches. A German artillery spotter was amongst the newly arrive troops, and during turn 8 the German field artillery units began to bombard the remaining Russian defences.

Not wishing to risk losing any more troops, the German commander opted to continue the bombardment until nightfall, when he intended to order the fresher of the two engineer units to mount a nighttime assault on the remaining Russian defenders. However, when they did attack, they found the defences deserted. The remaining Russian defenders had retreated.

Lessons learned:

The new rules worked very well, particularly those relating to the engineering tasks.

This was the first battle where a planned assault had been gamed through, and although it was an interesting intellectual exercise it would not have made a good face-to-face wargame – too much dice throwing (to determine the effect of the nighttime bombardment) and very little action until the actual assault took place. The rules are written for solo as well as face-to-face wargaming, and this proved to be an excellent example of the card activation system at work as it slowed down what the Germans were able to do.

- o 0 o -

The rules are now at a stage where most of the major mechanisms have been play-tested and shown to work. All I need to do now is to paint a lot more figures and to begin fighting bigger battles!

Monday 6 October 2008

Red Flags and Iron Crosses (Tarred and Featherstoned) - New rules added

When I sat down to think about the next play-test of the rules, I realised that I needed to add some additional rules to deal with:
  • The specialist role of engineers on the battlefield (e.g. laying and removing minefields, mounting assaults on prepared positions)
  • The specialist weapons deployed by engineers (e.g. flamethrowers, assault demolition charges like satchel charges and Bangalore torpedoes)
  • Barbed wire
  • Night fighting (particularly the effect of restricted visibility on movement and weapon ranges
I used Lionel Tarr's and Donald Featherstone's rules as a starting point for my additions to the rules as well as information from the British Army Wargame (1956), which is available from John Curry; I hope to play-test this most recent draft of the rules at some point over the next few days.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Nugget 220

I managed to post the latest issue of THE NUGGET (N220) this morning, and it should be with members by early next week.

I also managed to send out reminders to all the members of Wargame Developments who have not yet resubscribed for 2008-2009.

With any luck I should be able to have another play-test of RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES (TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED) tomorrow. I think that the scenario will follow on from the previous one so that I can test out the infantry assault rules and to gauge the effectiveness of a reasonably heavy artillery barrage on fortifications.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Red Flags and Iron Crosses (Tarred and Featherstoned) - Play-test 4

The fourth play-test was a sequel to the third. The victorious Germans spent the night in the newly captured town replenishing their ammunition, refuelling their vehicles, and repairing any defects. They were joined by a new reconnaissance unit (again in a Kubelwagen) before setting off on the next stage of their advance. The Luftwaffe agreed to provide air support, but it was limited to a total of four sorties per day. Playing cards were again used to determine when the aircraft sorties would arrive.

The local Russian commander realised that it was imperative that the German advance be stopped before it reached the nearby crossing point over the River Bug. He ordered troops from his reserve forward to occupy part of the old ‘Stalin Line’ defences. These troops included two infantry units, an anti-tank gun unit, a light field artillery unit, and a tank unit equipped with a T34. With the exception of the tank unit (which was rated as ‘above average’) these were all rated as ‘average’.

The newly arrived German reconnaissance unit left the town and drove down the road towards the old ‘Stalin Line’ … and was immediately fired on by the entrenched Russian light field artillery unit and destroyed! The leading German tank unit was following some way behind, and its commander saw the Kubelwagen explode into flames in the middle of the highway. Luckily the Luftwaffe had been dealt a Spade picture card, and this meant that the advancing Germans enjoyed the support of a Bf109 fighter sweep over the battlefield sometime during the second turn.

As the German tanks advanced in arrowhead formation along the axis of the road, the Bf109 roared overhead and strafed the Russian trenches, killing one Russian infantryman in the process. The Russian light field artillery unit opened fire on the leading German tank and hit it several times, but none of the shells penetrated the tank’s armour.

At the beginning of turn 3 the leading German tank turned off the road to drive around the reconnaissance unit’s burning Kubelwagen, only to go straight into a minefield where its tank blew up. The Russian anti-tank unit then opened fire on the German tank unit that was advancing to the left of the road, but missed. The other German tank unit swung to the right, hoping to avoid further gunfire from the Russian light field artillery unit, whilst one of the motorized infantry units advance up the road and stopped just behind the Kubelwagen.

The German motorized infantry debussed behind the burning Kubelwagen whilst a Stuka attacked the Russian anti-tank unit (the Luftwaffe had been dealt a Spade non-picture card during turn 2). The Stuka’s bombs were, however, ineffective, and the Russian anti-tank unit opened fire on the German tank that had turned away from the road to avoid the minefield on the left-hand side of the road. Its shells missed, as did those fired by the Russian light artillery unit against the German tank that was advancing on the right.

During turn 5 the left-hand German tank unit fired at the Russian anti-tank unit, killing one of its crew. The anti-tank gun replied, but its shells were unable to pierce the German tank’s armour. The Russian light field artillery fired at the other German tank unit, but its shells were as ineffectual as those of the anti-tank gun unit. However, the Russian T34 unit now advanced up the road and opened fire on the same German tank unit, destroying the PzKpfw IV tank with its first round.

Although the German commander had brought up the rest of his motorized infantry and the infantry gun unit, he realised that attacking the Russian position without more infantry and artillery support was going to be very costly in men, material, and – most importantly – time. He therefore withdrew his troops back to the recently captured town to reorganize, intending to find an alternative route forward on the following day. He decided to leave the garrison of this section of the ‘Stalin Line’ to be mopped up by a following infantry formation.

Lessons learned:

The minefield rules worked well, and the presence of minefields on the battlefield channelled the attackers into the killing ground in front of the Russian entrenchments.

Attacks on well dug-in troops can only be conducted after suitable preparation. Mobile troops cannot ‘bounce’ enemy units out of fortified positions; they have to be driven out by infantry assault after their resolve (and numbers) have been reduced by artillery fire and bombing.