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.

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