Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The portable wargame: Another play-test – ‘Seize and hold!’

For this play-test I wanted to see how the rules would work when the opponents were equally matched … and how the rules relating to road movement would affect the battle. For the purposes of the play-test I selected Units from my 15mm-scale 1866-era Austrian and Prussian armies. Both sides were allocated:
  • Two Units of Light Infantry
  • Six Units of Line Infantry
  • A Field Artillery Unit
  • A Command Unit
Both sides would therefore begin the battle throwing four activation dice each.

Scenario
It has come to the attention of both the Austrian and Prussian Army Commanders that a river crossing has been left unguarded by the opposition, and both Army Commanders have ordered forces to seize and hold the bridge as quickly as possible. They are advancing on the bridge over the river in column-of-march, and will only appear on the battlefield as and when the activation dice allow them to appear.

Each column is marching along the road towards the bridge, and enters the battlefield at the positions indicated on the following photograph of the battlefield:

Each side’s column-of-march is in the following order:
  • Two Light Infantry Units
  • Two Line Infantry Units
  • The Command Unit
  • The Field Artillery Unit
  • Four Line Infantry Units
Turn 1
The Prussian move first and throw four activation dice. These allow them to activate seven Infantry Units and the Command Unit, but as the Units may only entry the battlefield in the order of their column-of-march, only the leading two Infantry Units – the Prussian Light Infantry – appear at the Prussian Entry Point.

The Austrians then throw their four activation dice and can activate six Infantry Units and the Command Unit. Like the Prussians, the Austrians are constrained by the composition of their column-of-march, and only the Austrian Light Infantry enter the battlefield at the Austrian Entry Point.

The Prussian Light Infantry advancing as fast as they can down the road towards the bridge.
Like their Prussian counterparts, the Austrian Light Infantry are moving quickly forwards in order to seize the bridge.
Turn 2
This turn the Austrians move first, and their activation dice allow them to activate six Infantry Units. They therefore move their Light Infantry forward along the road to the bridge, and two Austrian Line Infantry Units enter the battlefield.

The head of the advancing Austrian column is within sight of the bridge.
The Prussian activation dice permit them to activate five Infantry Units and a Cavalry Unit (which they do not have), and they also move their Light Infantry forward so that two of their Line Infantry Units may enter the battlefield.

The leading Prussian Unit can also see their objective.
Turn 3
The Austrians move first again this turn, and their activation dice allow them to activate four Infantry Units and the Command Unit. They therefore move their Light Infantry closer to the bridge – which is now only one grid square away from the leading Austrian Unit – followed by the two Line Infantry Units that entered the battlefield last turn. The Command Unit has also arrived on the battlefield, and may soon be able to influence events as they unfold.

The leading Austrian Light Infantry Unit are now only a short distance from the bridge.
The Prussians respond by activating four Infantry Units (they could also have activated a Cavalry Unit, had they had one), and the Prussian force continues its advance. Its leading Unit is also close to the bridge, but has further to go than the Austrians.

The Prussian column marching parallel to the river. The leading Light Infantry Unit is only a short distance from the river crossing … but can they get there before the Austrians?
Turn 4
At this crucial moment, the Prussians move first. Their activation dice allow them to move two Infantry Units, the Command Unit, and the Field Artillery Unit. They rush the leading Light Infantry Units forward, and the foremost seizes the bridge and engages the leading Austrian Light Infantry Unit in close combat … and destroys it! The Prussian Command Unit and the Field Artillery Unit enter the battlefield.

The leading Prussian Light Infantry Unit seizes the bridge and engages the foremost Austrian Light Infantry Unit in close combat … which it wins!
In response, the Austrians are able to activate three Infantry Units and the Command Unit. They mount an immediate counter-attack, and the remaining Austrian Light Infantry Unit engages the Prussians holding the bridge in close combat. This is a draw, and the Austrians are forced to withdraw.

The Austrian counter-attack!
Turn 5
The Austrians move first, and their activation dice allow them to activate one Infantry Unit, the Command Unit, and the Field Artillery Unit.

The combined small arms fire of the Austrian Light Infantry Unit and one of the Line Infantry Units destroys the Prussian Light Infantry Unit on the bridge …

The Austrians open fire on the Prussians holding the bridge!
… and the remaining Austrian Line Infantry Unit rushes forward across the bridge and engages the remaining Prussian Light Infantry Unit in close combat. Unfortunately, this is a draw, and the Austrians are forced back across the bridge.

The leading Austrian Line Infantry Unit crosses the bridge to engage the Prussians.
The Prussians are able to activate three Infantry Units, the Command Unit, and the Field Artillery Unit. In response to the Austrian attack, the Prussians swing their two Infantry Units off the road towards the river, thus allowing the Command Unit to move forward to support the remaining Prussian Light Infantry Unit, and the Field Artillery Unit to move into range of the Austrian forces near the bridge. They are also able to bring a further Line Infantry Unit on to the battlefield.

The Prussian Line Infantry Units appear to be preparing to cross the river so that they can flank the Austrian position. The Prussian Field Artillery is also well positioned to open fire on the Austrian force next turn.
The Prussian Light Infantry Unit engages the Austrian Line Infantry Unit across the bridge from it with small arms fire, and although they are in cover, the Austrian Line Infantry Unit is destroyed.

The leading Austrian Line Infantry Unit is destroyed by Prussian small arms fire despite being in cover.
Turn 6
The Prussian Field Artillery fires at the grid square occupied by the nearest Austrian Unit – the remaining Austrian Light Infantry Unit – and although its fire is on target, it does no damage to the Austrian Unit.

The Prussian Field Artillery open fire on the Austrians … but has no effect.
The Austrians move first this move, and their activation dice allow them to activate four Infantry units, the Command Unit, and the Field Artillery Unit. The Commander’s first action is to move the remaining Austrian Light Infantry Unit into the built-up area near to the bridge, so that it can open fire on the Prussian Light Infantry Unit across the bridge. This proves to be ineffective, as the Prussians are in cover.

The Austrian Light Infantry fire at the Prussian Light Infantry, but inflict no casualties on them.
The Austrian Command Unit moves back to clear the road to enable the Austrian Field Artillery Unit and a Line Infantry Unit that have just entered the battlefield to move forward along it.

The newly arrived Austrian Field Artillery Unit and Line Infantry Unit march down the road towards the bridge.
The Prussian response is determined by their activation dice throws; they can move four Infantry Units, the Command Unit, and the Field Artillery Unit. The Command Unit moves off the road and into the wooded hill. The two Prussian Line Infantry Units near the river begin to wade across it, whilst the Field Artillery Unit moves along the road towards the bridge. Finally, the newly entered Prussian Line Infantry Unit marches along the road, thus making room for another Prussian Line Infantry Unit to enter the battlefield.

Two Prussian Line Infantry Units begin to wade across the river whilst the Field Artillery – and another two Line Infantry Units – move towards the bridge.
The Prussian Light Infantry open fire on the Austrian Light Infantry at the opposite end of the bridge, but with no effect.

The Prussian Light Infantry fire at the Austrian Light Infantry … but have no effect.
Turn 7
The newly arrived Austrian Field Artillery Unit has no target that it can fire at, unlike the Prussian Field Artillery Unit, which fires at the Austrian Light Infantry Unit. Unfortunately, they miss the target and their shells land harmlessly in an unoccupied grid square.

The Prussian Field Artillery Unit fires at the Austrian Light Infantry Unit near the bridge … and miss!.
The Prussians move first, and their activation dice enable them to move two Line Infantry Units and the Field Artillery Unit. As the two Line Infantry units in the river cannot move this turn as they are wading across the river, the two Prussian Line Infantry units that have only recently entered the battlefield continue their march down the road. The Prussian Field Artillery Unit moves off the road to clear the way for Line Infantry and to position themselves so that they can fire at the Austrians next turn.

The Prussian plan seems to be coming to fruition. The Prussian Light Infantry Unit hold one end of the bridge and two Prussian Line Infantry Units are moving along the road to support them. The Field Artillery Unit is also in a position to give them supporting fire .
The Prussian Light Infantry fire once again at the Austrian Light Infantry at the opposite end of the bridge … and miss yet again!

The Prussian Light Infantry fire again at the Austrian Light Infantry … but are still unable to inflict any casualties on their opponents.
The Austrian response is limited by their activation dice, which only allow them to move the Command Unit and two Infantry Units. (Two of the dice allow Cavalry units to be activated, but the Austrians do not have any).

Realising the threat posed by the Prussian Line Infantry Units that are wading across the river, the foremost Austrian Line Unit moves back on to the road and faces the on-coming Prussians. The newly arrived Austrian Line Unit advances through the grid square occupied by the Austrian Field Artillery Unit into the grid square behind the other Austrian Line Infantry Unit.

The Austrians respond to the growing threat on their left flank.
Whilst this is happening, the Austrian Light Infantry continue the firefight at the bridge with little effect.

The Austrian Light Infantry fire back at the Prussian Light Infantry, but their small arms fire is equally ineffective.
Turn 8
The Austrian Field Artillery Unit still has no target that it can fire at, but the Prussian Field Artillery Unit does, and it fires yet again at the Austrian Light Infantry Unit. This time their shells are on target, and the Austrian Light Infantry Unit is destroyed!

(Note: The destruction of this Unit automatically reduces the number of activation dice the Austrians can throw to three as they have now lost three Units.)

The Prussian Field Artillery fires with deadly effect.
The Prussians move first again this turn. Their activation dice allow them to move five Infantry units and the Command Unit. The Prussian Line Infantry Units who have been wading across the river finally reach the bank and deploy into column facing the Austrians. At the same time, the Prussian Light Infantry Unit cross the bridge and open fire on the leading Austrian Line Infantry Unit … and destroy it.

The Prussian Light Infantry Unit open fire on the leading Austrian Line Infantry Unit and wipes them out.
The remaining two Prussian Line Infantry Units continue their march towards the bridge.

The Prussians are now advancing towards the Austrians on both sides of the river.
At this point the Austrian situation is becoming untenable. Luckily the activation dice allow them to move the remaining Infantry Unit, the Field Artillery Unit, and the Command Unit, and the Austrians begin to withdraw down the road, leaving the bridge in Prussian hands. Having no Cavalry with which to pursue the Austrians, the Prussians begin to consolidate their situation around the bridge in the expectation that their might be an Austrian counter-attack in due course.

Comments
This was a very enjoyable battle that I fought solo over the course of several evenings. The terrain worked well, as did the rules – especially after I realized that the rules regarding crossing rivers needed to be changed so that it took Units three turns to wade from one bank of the river to the other (i.e. one turn to move into the grid square containing the river, one turn in the river, and one turn to move to the grid square beyond the river).

I now feel that the rules are almost at the stage where major changes are no longer required, although there will always be room for further tinkering!

12 comments:

  1. An interesting little engagement. Sounds like a successful test.
    My RCW troops are taking notes!

    -Ross

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  2. Ross Mac,

    It was a bit different from the previous play-test battles, and all the more enjoyable for being so.

    I hope to have another play-test very soon, but in a somewhat later historical setting.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. "I now feel that the rules are almost at the stage where major changes are no longer required, although there will always be room for further tinkering!"

    Leave it alone Cordery - don't pick at it boy!

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  4. Conrad Kinch,

    Not tinker with rules! You must be joking! I never stop!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. A nice little engagement. I like simple rules and not having to pay a fortune for troops or terrain these are the rules for me

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  6. Johntheone,

    Thanks for your kind comments. Small can be better in the right circumstances.

    The latest version of the rules will be available as a free download in the very near future.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Bob,
    I enjoyed the battle report. The game looks really visually appealing, in a stylised, old-school toy soldier way now. The European style scenery and colourful troops work better in this format, in my opinion, than the colonial forces on rather featureless desert terrain.
    I can see a similar setting working really well with Napoleonic or ECW forces - I need to sort out my finances to invest in some 10mm troops in the hear future.

    The nice thing about this game is that the visual effect is well within anyone's reach - just like the games illustrated in the classic old-school books by Featherstone, Grant and Wise - without the need to spend large sums of money or possess super modelling skills. Therefore, it would be an ideal introduction to wargaming for a youngster.
    Arthur

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  8. Arthur1815,

    The stylised terrain does work well, and you are right about the European setting; it looks better than the desert one … at present (I have a plan that I hope will deal with this problem in due course). The only thing that I think could be improved is the difference in colour between the grid squares. If they were two different shades of green or brown, it would enhance the appearance. (This is something for me to think about for the future, perhaps?)

    The low cost factor is also an interesting one. You are right about it being an excellent starting point for someone new to wargaming. I also think that it could be a nice ‘second project’ for more experienced wargamers who want the occasional ‘diversion’ from any longer-term projects that may be working on, but who do not want to spend a lot of extra money. So far, the only things I have bought for this project are the very nice – but as yet unused – wooden chessboard from John Lewis Partnership and the vinyl chessboards. Everything else I have used was stuff – figures, trees, buildings, cork for the hills, masking tape, coloured card, Copydex, and even the ’activation dice’ (the ‘Risk Express’ dice) – that I already owned.

    I am now planning the next play-test. It will be set in a slightly later historical period, and in a somewhat different location. I also intend to published the latest draft of the rules as soon as I can … so watch this space!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Bob,
    You are absolutely right about the colours of the grid squares: at the moment the contrast is too stark, and betrays the chessboard origins.
    I think two - or more? - shades of green would work well for European settings, with grey [tarmac] or brown [earth] roads/tracks. One could always add the odd cornfield [yellow] or ploughed land [brown] squares. For desert or other arid climes, use different shades of brown. We have just removed some vinyl from the kitchen which would be ideal for the latter, but for the fact the 'tile' effect squares are much larger. It would work with either bigger figures or more figures per unit, possibly for a public display game - shall I save an 8 by 8 piece for you?
    I suppose painting the vinyl chessboards would not survive them being rolled up for storage well...
    Arthur

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  10. Arthur1815,

    I am coming round to the view that I might have to make my own ‘chessboard’ at some time in the future. It would be two-sided; one side in shades of brown (for desert regions) and one in shades of green (for areas where there is a more temperate climate). If I do go for this option at some point, I will probably make the dimensions of the grid squares 3-inch by 3-inch (or 75mm by 75mm) so that I can either use larger-scale figures or more smaller-scale figures.

    Your offer of the vinyl is much appreciated, and I think that it would be very suitable for a public display game at some time in the future such as SALUTE 2012 (if Wargame Developments ever gets invited to put a game on again!).

    Your comment about painting the vinyl chessboard has just reminded me that some years ago Games Workshop produced vinyl ‘battle mats’ that were green or brown … and that I have one of each in my wargames/toy room! If I can find them, I might see if it is possible to draw the necessary lines on them using a permanent marker pen. If this is possible, it will solve my problems at a single stroke … and you would have helped me by getting my failing, geriatric memory to work!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. A lovely looking battlefield but I agree with your idea about using two different shades of the squares; this would enhance the appearance enormously.

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  12. Paul,

    The contrast between the colours of the grid squares is a little to great for my liking ... but I can live with it for the time being or until I can find an alternative.

    All the best,

    Bob

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