How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

How Men of Quality Resolve Differences
Pudel and Peper attacks - an ugly but inevitable part of any 17th C. British Civil War, "Oh! The Shame of it All!"

Thursday, March 9, 2023

A Gentleman's War: Gone to Fight the Blues

Gen. Reginald von Frankenfurter supervises the laying of his Krupp gun against the Reds. 
The laying of the gunners must be settled after the battle...

It's been a while since I dusted off and played that military masterpiece by Howard Whitehouse "A Gentleman's War" [ably assisted by Mr. Daniel Foley, Zoltan Korda, C. Aubrey Smith and June Duprez, oh wait...], so it was with zero hesitation that I invited Reg and his force of nicely shiny Blues and Reds [courtesy of Armies in Plastic] out to a game lunch and Pulp Action Library's biggest hit since TV went colorized:

Below, the Venerable General of a thousand tabletop battles and decorations and awards too numerous to count, Gen Reg von Frankenfurter, collects his thoughts before unleashing h**l against his opponent, Gen. Alexander Crumpets, and his Reds.  Units are 7-10 figs in size, 7 each side, composed of four Infantry, one light, one light gun and one cavalry each.
As this was a first game for Blue, we decided on the simplest scenario "Open Battle" which ends when either side has driven half the opposition from the field, preferably before dinner.

Let's see what happened!

To Crumpet's right, Blues began with no unit in the house [hmmm....] a light cavalry and two Infantry towards the center.
The small rise counts as a hill.  The stream counts as rough going as the Soldiers need to polish their shoes after crossing it.

The center is held by that marvelous machine of mayhem, a Krupp light gun with two Infantry to left of it, being led by a Jager [Light] unit that plans to sieze the woods.  The wagon holds comestibles, combustibles, and "medicinal schnapps", so must be protected!

General von Frankenfurter strikes a pose next to his loyal standard bearer, 
Feldwebelanwärter Augustus von Frankfurter, his nephew. 
"Feuer! Feuer! Entfesseln Sie die Holle!" he cries, brandishing his Walther PPK.  
Hmmm... this all seems somewhat familiar...need more woods perhaps?

On the right, Gen Alexander Crumpet successfully masses his strength: four Infantry units and one Light Cavalry. He himself stands behind this key strike force, with his trusty piper, Staff Sergeant Archibald MacGillivray, pipe champion of Clan Chattham [CLICK] and slayer of a thousand eardrums. Holding his trusty revolver by his side, he shouts "Touch not this Cat but with a glove ye Teutonic Rabble!"

Towards the center, that marvelous machine of mayhem known in Blighty as the Whitworth light field gun shelters in defilade, prepared to support the Main Effort to its right.  Behind, the invaluable wagon holds comestibles, combustibles, and "medicinal brandy", not to mention Stumpets and Crumpets, so must be protected!

The field in its entirety.  Most likely Belgium, famous for its central position on the Continent, not to mention 457 kinds of beer and mussels - something to fight for!

View from the other side - Leftenant Abernathy is taking images from hislighter-than-air balloon it seems...Hold cards are three numbers apiece, nothing exciting.

First card cycles. The Prussians probe Red right, which is countered by a rapid advance of the East Stampeding Fusiliers [you can see they are running] towards the house.

Fire is exchanged, with Blue coming off the worst.

With crossfire from the Whitworth and a weak force ahead, Red continues to reinforce the advance with the other company of Fusiliers and the Royal Highland Islays.  "Peat and More Peat!" they shout their battle-cry of victory.
Meanwhile, the Dull Rifles company keeps the jagers busy in the woods.

After a second cycle shortened by the second Joker, a new draw of Hold Cards is made - it seems Mars is favoring Blue somewhat, fickle god he is.

A frontal cavalry charge against the Fusiliers left company atop the rise is seen off with half casualties as they Run Away to fight another day. The probing company of Blue Infantry did a Fall Back and are near 50%.  Red senses victory!

Well into his 3rd card cycle, Gen Crumpet is poised to seize the building as a base of fire to continue the Big Push into the Blue left. Granted, one company of the Fusiliers is at 50%, but they are Brave Lads and Carry On.
As the sun begins westering [a late brunch was had by all] Gen Crumpet unleashes the "Lucky 13th" Kings Own Nobby-knackered Horse upon the rear of the fleeing Lancers!

Unfortunately, they were able to turn around and order themselves quickly. Altho they took the charge at the halt, outnumbered, their pig-stickers apparently made up for it and they were able to drive off the Lucky 13th, Disordered and with quite some losses. This set back was somewhat compensated for by the Fusiliers seizure of the house, which has the Blue left somewhat Flummuxed...or was that Confounded?

Unfortunately, Major Haberdasher on the left has found himself being steadily forced back by the slow but resolute advance of the Prussian right. His Dullard Rifles fled the woods and then the field, allowing the Jagers to seize the wood.
Meanwhile, the Prussian left holds grimly to the ground upon which they stand, despite numerous morale checks caused by significant losses: the cavalry and an infantry at 50%, the other infantry at 33%.

The Islays hold the center, but the Blues have ammassed a Brigade of shooting and a short card cycle, while the one Fusilier company and the Lucky 13th are reduced to a single figure apiece, as is the Whitworth.

With four of his units destroyed, fled or reduced to a figure and not long for the fight, Gen Crumpet graciously concedes victory and invites Gen Frankenfurter to Tea and Strumpets as any Good Gentleman should!

Between lack of urgency, checking the rules and plenty of conversation, the time was coming to a close and the British were getting the worst of it by the end.

Despite a Plan clever enough to be thought of by a Fox that read Clever at Cambridge, poor morale rolls halted the British advance on the right. This was compounded by the British failure to organize a Brigade firing line quickly enough to handle the firepower of the Blue Infantry and Krupp gun.

Most interesting about the game was the card-driven sequence, which admirably kept the game interesting but rewarded thoughtful play.  It is undoubtedly the most unusual and well-developed aspect of these rules, turning it from "just another colorful and fun set of old-school rules" into A Thinking Gentleman's War that is rewarding to get acquainted with and pull out regularly.

As previously commented upon in my Franco-Prussian playtest, the card sequence admirably handles the friction of battle by turning cards from a single deck, sequentially, allowing one Unit to activate on a number and up to four units to "brigade" and activate on a face card - but they all must do the same thing. Generals can have a bit impact by making it easier to Brigade, but you can't activate a force again until your card sequence ends with every unit having activated.  

Thus, it is smart to Brigade as often as possible, perhaps on two "Wings" of a small force, one moving, the other firing. However, when units fail morale, they Run Away and break up the Brigade.  All of this takes care of generalship and tactics quite admirably [with a bunch of other little twists I shan't reveal" making the card sequence worth the price of the rules alone, IMHO.  It would work with most rules and fighting mechanics.

We both enjoyed ourselves, and plan to play "A Gentleman's War" again soon, perhaps with another set of Reg's figures, 28mm Germans and Japanese from 1915, which sound exotic and interesting to me!

The 54's were very much in the spirit of the game and fun to look at. 40s and 28s would also be enjoyable and leave more space on the 6x4 table for bigger units. As the units were identical on both sides, this didn't matter but Medium Armies of 10--13 Units would definitely need an 8' table I'd say.

Until next time, watch your flanks and keep your sherry dry!

Monday, February 20, 2023

Christmastide thru New Year 2023 Gaming

Many blessings this Christmastide!

We had a joyful time at Christmas, and with a budget even more modest than usual we still had many opportunities to enjoy the prosperity with which God has blessed our nation over many years - Praise the Lord! Most importantly, we remembered that most important gift, the coming of Christ Jesus, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, hallelujah

For us, we observe the traditional Christmas of 12 days - Christmastide - and it starts on Christmas Day and runs for 12 days [hence that fun little song...]. We give a bunch of the bigger gifts and the stockings [little gifts] Christmas Day, but you get one gift a day for the other 11 days, usually small but fun things. This works really well, putting less pressure to have all gifts ready for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which is also full of family events.

One of our biggest gifts was our puppy, Laird Montrose Duncan MacGillivray, a ruby red King Charles Cavalier Spaniel.  Here, he is clearly overcome with Christmas festiveness and passed out after missing his afternoon nap!

He has been a very good doggy, and I can definitely recommend the breed. My son correctly observed that one of our old ornaments clearly resembles Monty!

For Christmas loot,  my mom gave me "Undaunted Normandy", which I hadn't heard about but looking at BoardGameGeek it has very high ratings and great reviews, so we will see about playing it soon...

The Nostalgia Trip to 1982 continued with some purchases. Once again, an ornament provides an appropos reminder:
One of my oldest ornaments that has survived the years... Anyhow, I scored a bunch of Traveller 1ed. LBBs in a large purchase...32 altogether for about $5 each.  Couldn't resist saving time and money, so got them all at once from one vendor I bargained with a bit. All are original artifacts from around 1977-1985!
...also, several classic Traveller board games with 14 more books, including all 8 Alien supplements...
...the games look quite old-school, but with the hard science outlook that makes them worth diving into.  Perhaps the gravity tech is a bit optimistic, but they have rules for zero G anyway!

The below game I bought at the dollar store - for $1.25 [inflation...everything's $1.25 in the store now!] as a stocking stuffer, and my daughter has really enjoyed it.

There's a Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofie piece, and they have to go around the board.  Each has some food for the picnic basket [ice cream, hot dogs, Mickey Burgers] and each time you land on a "Who's Hungry?" space you put one in the basket.  First to put all their food in the basket is ready for the picnic and wins. If you land in a mustard space, you slip in it and have to take back one piece of food from the basket.  That's it!
Louisa Jean things slipping in the mustard is hilarious, and isn't very concerned about winning. She enjoys playing it nearly ever day [more than dad] and it's a fun father-daughter pastime. She is learning how to roll the [paper] die and read the numbers. Shoot...I'd have paid as much as $2.50 for it, now that I see it in action.  LOL.

All smiles as she's ready to play in her ballerina outfit.

In the middle of Christmastide, we celebrated the Boar's Head Feast, an annual event thrown by a Roman Catholic friend - does a great job every year!  I stuffed myself on fresh pork bangers and mash, and some port to wash it all down.  It was a feast I did not mind in the least!

Shortly after, I enjoyed a great scenario at "Sound Officer Call!" Steve's house, played with "Live Free or Die" rules, which went quite smoothly except for a couple of questions.

Below, the setup with the Revolutionaries on the left, lead by Gen. Washington Himself, and the Loyal Royals on the right, lead by LTC Charles Mawhood. The scenario had the Brits needing to keep an exit road open to right or left flank [top right, bottom right in photo below] and to inflict more losses on the Revolutionaries than they took.  A tricky scenario as they are quite heavily outnumbered, at least 2:1 or so, altho all Gen Washington's forces are not on the table at battle start - over half are reinforcements.

British at top right face Gen Mercer at top left.  Gen Washington at bottom left with a brigade.

The generals prepare for a tough fight, and are showing their years in the field. Mercer up front, the British in the distance.  The time to strike is now!

Gen Washington and a large brigade of Pennsylvanians prepare to advance and secure the road ahead of them - British reinforcements will come down the road shortly...

A few turns later, The British are standing their ground while the revolutionaries push ahead.

The terrifying spectacle of sloppy drill and ragged uniforms advancing!

No wonder the British reinforcements immediately flee down the road!
A few of the entire battle at mid-point.  What happened to the glorious advance of the continental army? For the conclusion, you should visit the host's blog [HERE].

What are the secret ingredients to my Winter Wassailing Punch?  Revealed below!  Guaranteed to cure aches, pains, heartbreak, cold feet, and creaky backs as long as you sing loudly until pushed along to the next house!

Soon after, we again gathered at Steve's for a playtest and fine-tuning session of a battle he wanted to run at a 'con: Ulianovo, East Front WWII Flames of War. German platoon defends field fortifiactions against a battalion of Russkies, four Companies - zulu, zulu, ZULU! 

Below, a rapid advance by all is very close to assaulting the fortification.  BUT, they must get beyond it and capture the house with the sector CP in it - but which house is the CP???  Time to do a Battalion Recon and find out!

Germans getting thinned by Mortar bombardments...

Ivan secures the right flank!

A squad tries to hold the trench line, but they are almost surrounded!

The German reinforcements arrive - but will they be enough to save the CP? Ivan has already secured the trench and one house!

How does it all end??  Head over to the hosts's post [HERE]!

As Christmastide ended, a question regarding John Edwin "Jack" Scruby's birthday came up.  After some back and forth over at the Tabletop Talk Fb page, I went by my library which has free Ancestry . com membership, and found the likely date.  We'd have to confirm from records, but the guesses were off by a year and October 24th is the day.  I'm looking at a Scruby-minicon event for October, in my mind...
Stay tuned!

As the holiday season ended, and superbowl season entered, I played an enjoyable game of Panzer Korps adapted from the computer game to the tabletop and a game buddy's house.  It was 1941, and the Germans had to break thru the Soviet defenses [band of units down the center, bordered by the two roads diagonally] from the photo left to photo right.

My stalwart defender's of Mother Russia prepare to halt the invaders in the hills and dales, backed up by several artillery batteries.

Farther town the line, to my left flank, the Germans put heavy pressure on our center, mostly by-passing our far left flank which then attacked!
At 1030, the game was called and undecided - while the Germans were breaking through in the boundary between me and the center, there was a pile of Russians headed that way - too bad, was an interesting fight but Wednesday eves are tough to stay out late for almost everyone.

Also amazingly and importantly, the host - from whom I bought my Franco-Prussian War armies - found all the missing horses, and another 34 infantry battalions, a dozen artillery batteries, and several cavalry squadrons!  Will have to get this on the table again very soon.

Well, not a heavy gaming season, but glad to have fit some in what was a busy time.

I hope your holidays and New Year's were a joyful time and that you have made good resolutions regarding gamingfor 2023...I'll post on that another time!

Friday, December 30, 2022

Jumonville Glen: French & Indian War in 54mm

 "Toupees made to order -  Satisfaction Guaranteed!"

The battle of Jomonville Glen, now a park in SW Pennsylvania, is a classic ambush. The real battle appears to have been pretty lop-sided considering the result and casualties, which was the French force taking almost all the casualties and surrendering.  As a military OP, it was very successful, and a first success for a young officer named George Washington, who would go on to be better known in later years.

There's a bunch of articles on it, due to GW's involvement, but beware - some only adhere to the present academic and journalistic standard of our time, which is halfway between gossip and rumor, and Fake News, sprinkled with some facts.  Fortunately, the Wikipedia article surmounts that standard and addresses the particulars pretty well [CLICK]. There is also a good post here - Jumonville Glen Battlefield Post - that has additional information.  Enough said!

As a wargame post, the main concern here is how to game an encounter where one side had total victory.  They key is to recognize that altho that was the historical result it was not a sure thing.  The French could have had better and / or more sentries out, could have scouted better, or taken routine precautions to avoid the disaster that happened.  Presenting the full array of possibilities to both sides and allowing the Wargamer to make his own decisions is the best game plan.

Ergo, we set up the battle per the below diagram, which seemed accurate enough:

From here [CLICK].

Table was about 5 x 10 with the hills camp nestled in the valley between the steep hills and open forest.  The scale was 54mm plastics from Armies in Plastic [CLICK] and the hills were purchased while the trees were a mix of railroad and aquarium pieces, some in 54mm large and others were smaller. The smaller trees were provided by the host and denote scrub and bushes, which count as Area Terrain denoted by the circular dark green felt bits on which they stood - the trees themselves only served as a marker. Robb K provided lovely painted figs and the terrain including tents.  Results are below, with a view from the "North" of the above diagram:
Above, the French defend their camp from a motley collection of frontiersmen sniping from the woods and rocks.

The French set up in the general area of the camp, but had some choices to "weight" the area where they placed them. They also had options to put out sentries who would automatically fire when the enemy became visible. The trade-off was that there was a good chance that the sentries would be overwhelmed and killed, so that had to be taken into account.

The colonist under GW and their Indian Allies under Tanacharison "The Half King" - a ferocious character, it seems [click] - chose to mainly approach from the diagram "Northwest" and "Northeast" corners, using the Indians under Terrible T to close the bag from diagram "South".  This put them in close mutual support, which is a good idea considering that they only outnumber the French by about 52 to 35, and splitting up for an encirclement invites being defeated in detail.  The main problem was that if the entire French force ran against the Indians, they would heavily outnumber them and the Indians were not closely supported.

The rules used were a modified version of Neil Thomas' Skirmish Rules from "Wargaming: An Introduction". These provide simple, effective mechanics as a basic platform for any gunpowder era conflict.  I have also used them for medieval fantasy encounters including Chaos v. Empire and the Lord of the Rings [HERE]. 
EDIT 12DEC2022: As these rules were originally written for British in 1899, I had to modify them and pull them back in time - this AAR then got posted in my "Up the Blue!" blog [CLICK] which is for modern warfare [basically, repeating rifles and beyond]. But it really belongs here, thematically.

I find them pretty smooth but I still streamlined them a bit and wrote up a new set based upon the RAW that decreased the weapons to FIW only, and I eliminated the wounding mechanic - if you hit and target failed to save they took a wound, period.  They took two wounds if their save was a natural '1'. I do like their mechanics for cover and saves also, which make it easy for players to decide on how they are deploying their figures in relation to desired cover - the best way to stay alive!

Another key change was that each side made an Initiative roll, with the winner able to go first. However, as this is a skirmish game, command and control has a lot of friction in real life at this level.  I took this into account by using some interesting dice from another game, that have 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 on the 6-sided cube. 

Each player on the side taking a player "impulse" rolled the die and that was the number of figures they could activate.  On a "0", only a leader could activate [each player only had 1-2 so careful decisions had to be made!] but they could also activate some figures with them using a "Lead" action. The net result is an IGO-UGO turn sequence that varies the number of figs you can activate in any given impulse.  If you roll low and have a bunch of unactivated figs left after your opponent is finished, you can just activate them all.  The tactical tension is that it is usually better to shoot first, and move second!  Ah, decisions...decisions...

As for the battle, after a quick explanation of the rules, the players were off and running!

Diagram East, groups of British colonists pressure the French, who are very thin on the ground. At top center in red, i s a group of about 8 led by GW who have just assaulted a small group of French regulars.

Below, a closeup of GW's successful assault on a couple of Frenchies holding a key wood position on the edge of the camp. At top right is the main part of the French force.

Below, the French are fighting for their camp, which provides some concealment from enemy fire but the tents are not bulletproof. The Indian commander sits at the far end of the table, and a few of his Indians may be seens near him.

Below, another view from the colonist militia positions. GW to top left, French above them. Using Concealment and Cover properly was the key to success.

Way off on diagram South, Terrible T's Indians whooped it up and frightened the Frogs into believing there were many more Redskins about - the occasional shot kept the sentries under pressure for a while, but as an escape route, it was pretty open.

View from Diagram Southeast.  Terrible T has concentrated some of his men who are now enough of a threat to have Jumonville send three more precious regulars to hold them off. They are dreading a close action provoked by the Indians - they have such lovely, long hair!

But eventually Terrible T saw his moment. He managed, with a bit of difficulty, to finally get an overwhelming group of seven Braves to nearly encircle the three Frenchmen. The defensive fire has no effect - jitters?
Two of the French succumb quickly, but the third is much more determined!  He holds off the Indians, including a Green Goblin warrior!

Meanwhile, back at the camp, the French have concentrated a large force of about 14 Soldiers to try and gain local superiority. The bodies of ambushed French lay near the colonist militia who are crowded into a small wood.
But, the force directly led by GW has successfully assaulted and is now into the East side of the camp, slowly confining the French at the top. Indians are visible at the top left of the pic.
Amazingly, the lone Frenchman - clearly a desperate and wily fighter, breaks free from the crowd of Indians and makes a run for it!  However, the Indians were prepared for a runner, and their overwatch element snipes and pins him.

Back at the camp, the French advance and assault the militia hiding in the small woods. The attack doesn't go well, partially because of strong defensive Fire which pins some of the French. They make contact with about 10 French against 6 militia.

In the end, it was not enough to break free. However, the French did better than their real-life counterparts.  If anything, the missed opportunity may have been to take the entire force against the Indians and try to break out in that direction. This would have provoked a running battle but may have resulted in more French escaping the noose. Hard to say, and worth another go!

The rules worked well, with very few questions and only a couple of changes needed for future games. They are a painless set of traditional mechanics that are easy to pick up for any experienced gamer, resulting in the players being able to focus on the battle instead of the rules. Careful playtesting and use of the terrain as visual cues for terrain mechanics also made it run smoothly. As these are not in the rules, I made them up myself and was glad to see them work well.

I can strongly recommend these skirmish rules as a great platform to modify for your own tastes and purposes as all the mechanics are obvious an intuitive. They are not always dynamic as written, but it's easy to make them a bit more exciting with simple changes.