Saturday, 21 February 2015

1859 Squared

Another outing to Italy in the 1850s. For this I'd had a go at converting Neil Thomas's nineteenth century rules to use squares, and it actually proved surprisingly easy. I had to resort to slight Barkerese to handle pivoting and movement penalties for some infantry types, but it was easier to explain than write down. I set it up to use the 12x12 grid I'd originally done for Minischlacht, each square  big enough at 66mm to accommodate one of my 'regiments'. Each square is roughly 400m, although the original rules don't have a stated ground scale. I set the stacking limit at one gun plus one unit of any other type (so two guns or one gun plus one infantry or cavalry unit) which seemed to work OK. Ranges were just one square per 8cm of range, ranges measured orthogonally with one diagonal allowed (thank you Peter Pig).

The generic battlefield modelled as squares, same objectives as last time, two out of the two towns and the big hill.

Bulk of the Austrians, four infantry, two guns and Jagers (iirc the rest were delayed).

The French on a broad front.

Austrians mass in the centre while the French move into position.

Things start to hot up

Brutal slugging match in the centre

Eventually the French press on, only to run into the delayed Austrian reinforcements.

A major engagement develops around the town..

Sadly, typical Austrian die rolling didn't help much.

And the French overran the Austrian flank.

Sadly it was too little, too late and with the French only controlling one town, the Austrians won.
I really like Neil Thomas's Nineteenth Century rules, they are smooth, quick and capture the flavour of the period. Replacing measuring with squares worked extremely well and both speeded up gameplay no end and eliminated all the silliness about measuring and wheeling and flank attacks. I have yet to try them with a historical scenario, but I'm looking at Palestro as although I've had a scenario done for that for (literally) years, I never got around to playing it with Minischlacht. After that, hopefully some Austro-Prussan War games.

Coming to a blog near you soon, if I can get it into the packed club games schedule. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Affair at Halazin

Inspired by an article in the SOTCW Journal, I had a go at converting my  now quite venerable 'Paths of Glory' WW1 rules into hexes. They are essentially Great War Spearhead, but with some ruthless simplifications and an entirely different command system. The use of hexes allowed even greater simplification of movement, spotting etc but introduced some complications around stacking and hit allocation. It did (finally) provide a mechanism by which I could penalise excessive bunching up, simply by giving bonus shots against excessively stacked hexes. This did encourage a more historical dispersion than the Napoleonic formations which are pretty standard in most versions of Spearhead, and it was sooo much easier than messing around measuring distances between bases.

Of course I couldn't resist the temptation to tinker too much and dumped the previous random movement system with a completely new combined movement/morale table similar to that use in Fire & Fury. I suppose I should have playtested that bit somewhat more thoroughly first....

I set this up with the Senussi umpire run as they are fairly static with some pre-programmed activities, so Tim and John took the heroic forces of the Empire. We noted with some amusement that we'd managed to run the game almost exactly on the 99th anniversary of the historical action.

The Affair at Hazalin, Jan 23rd 1916

In late 1915 Grand Sheik Sayyid Ahmad Al Sahrif led the Senussi, with German support (in the person of a Germanised Turkish military advisor, Gaafer), against Italian Libya and British Egypt. As the Senussi invasion gained pace, the British concentrated their local forces at Mersa Matruh, while building up a composite division sized force under the command of Brigadier General Wallace at Alexandria to drive the Senussi out. The Senussi had several regular Muhafiziya battalions supported by artillery, machineguns and several thousand irregular tribesmen.  

The counter offensive started on Christmas Day 1915, and after some skirmishing on 19th January 1916 air recce reported a major concentration of Senussi at Hazalin, 25 miles southwest of Mersa Matruh. Wallace directed his forces to that point.

British Briefing.
The enemy were pushed out of their positions at Gebel Medwa on 25th December, but their resistance was unexpectedly fierce so the advance paused to bring up reinforcements and the enemy then succeeded in breaking contact due to bad weather. Air recce has located the enemy once more.

Break up the enemy, drive them from their trenches, capture and destroy the camp.

Forces, all formations and stands are regular unless otherwise shown

Div HQ, (MG Wallace), field ambulance, ammo trains etc.

Left Column (Brigadier General Tyndale Biscoe)
HQ; 1 x mtd MG section 
A btty, HAC (1 x 13pdr btty)
1 x Sqdn Australian Light Horse (veteran)
3 x Sqdn Royal Bucks Hussars
2 x Sqdn Yeomanry (Green)

Right Column (Lt Col Gordon)
HQ, 1 x MG Pltn 
Notts Btty, RHA (1 x 13pdr btty)
1 x Sqdn Yeomanry (green)
15th Sikhs (4 x Inf Co, veteran)
2nd South African and 1st Bn, New Zealand Rifle Bde (each 4 x Inf Co)

HQ, 1 x MG pltn, 
SA Artillery (1 x btty 18pdr)
1 x Sqdn Yeomanry
1/6th Bn Royal Scots (4 x Inf Co)

Left and right column enter from the east in the centre six hexes (the plateau), left col in the left three and right col in the right three, reserve is in reserve(!)

Col Gordons column appears on the far ridge and the cavalry scouts note some Senussi activity in the nearest trenches.

The infantry companies are quite spread out with cavalry scouts up front.

The cavalry of the left hand column make an appearance as Senussi artillery and machineguns open fire.

A heroic charge shot in by artillery and MG fire clears the central trenches.

On the other flank the cavalry run into withering crossfire and suffer heavy losses.

Senussi reserves move up from behind the ridge to counterattack.

The Senussi infantry are shot down but the cavalry make a desperate charge...

which ends in predictable disaster as they are all pinned or shot down in front of the British positions

Meanwhile the Sikh battalion makes it as far as the Senussi camp and  notes various important looking dignitaries amongst the camp followers. One chap with a big flag sets off to the rear.

The capture of the camp prompts a general rout as casualties reach a critical level and the remaining Senussi units decide to make a run for it. 
Sadly the main Senussi force broke before their 'big surprise' counterattack troops made it on from the south (the bloke with the flag was setting off to get them). The hex based system worked well and we rattled through a division(ish) sized battle in about an hour and a half, which wasn't bad. A few things creaked, the combined movement/morale table was too cumbersome and needs seriously slimming down (although it did produce a sensible looking break point for the Senussi), and in the heat of the moment I completely forgot about the in-hex hit allocation system I'd worked up.

So, not a bad first outing for the revised rules,  but a bit more work needed I feel.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

PSC 15mm Shermans

Just to prove that I don't spend my entire time playing and/or re-writing rules by Neil Thomas, here are a few of my Triples purchases finally painted up. The Memoir 44 Normandy campaign games have rekindled my interest in NWE and I wanted to beef up my holdings of Allied tanks so I picked up a box of the PSC 15mm British Shermans. As with all their offerings these were exquisite models with tons of detail and whole boxfuls of different options. In the end I only made up one Firefly as that is all I need for a full squadron/regiment (depending on game scale) with what I already have, but I kept a spare Firefly turret 'just in case'. My ignorance of Sherman version is boundless, so I made these up to look similar to my Peter Pig ones (with the wide mantlets). No idea if that is right or not, but hey ho, they look alright.

One of the standard 75mm Shermans with turret .50 cal and a commander. I really like the moulded on applique armour.

All five of them, one Firefly and four 75mm with a mix of commanders and turret MGs.

A troop of three, various configurations of track and spare wheels on the front.

Firefly and 75mm,main hull difference from the front is the blanked off FF MG port.

From the rear the huge FF turret counterweight is visible, as are the rear hull differences compared to the standard Sherman.

Side view of the group of three.

Side/rear hull of another 75, this one has a bit more stowage on the rear.
These are great models, although I did  notice that they are slightly smaller than my PP and QRF Shermans (which are both identical in size), so maybe these are actually 1/104th and not 1/100 scale? The same seems to be true comparing my PSC Stug IIIs with my Peter pig ones. At some point I'll measure and see. The models are supplied with a ton of external stowage options - track links, jerry cans, spare wheels, tank commanders etc. Honestly, I think PSC have provided me with enough jerrycans and TCs for an entire division sometimes. I arranged some of these artlessly on the vehicles.

I deliberately painted them fairly plain with no tac markings etc and just the odd air recognition star, and in fact I went back over my other Shermans and painted out the divisional insignia and tac markings as I wanted to keep them as generic as possible. My trusty pot of Humbrol Army Green (old style) has finally run out so I was forced to  figure out how to paint them in khaki drab using Vallejo. In the end I went with Russian Uniform over  black base with a wash of Bronze Green to darken it a bit and I was quite pleased with the results as it is subtly different to OD.

The running gear, lower hull and tracks were very heavily drybrushed in mud and the whole vehicle highlighted in pale tan (Iraqi Sand), and I then just highlighted the tracks in dark steel with a dark brown inkwash. I've pretty much given up painting tracks as a seperate thing, real ones are just covered in mud, so mud seems to be the way to go.