Saturday, 25 July 2015

COW 2015 - Sunday

Sunday was a bit quieter than Saturday. Everyone was tired and there was nice Sunday lunch to look forward too. I'd signed up for a couple of sessions though.

Kriegspiel 1914

First up was Kriegspiel 1914, one of Phil Sabins games and the original version is available from the Connections 2014 website:. Kriegsspiel1914 It covered the German August/September offensive into France in 1914. I gather this had manly been played face to face before, but this session was set up as a double blind map Kriegspiel game. Bob had lightly tweaked some aspects of the scenario and rules, including the introduction of a 'probing attack' rule, a sort of recce in force.

The game is very high level indeed, each hex is 100km across, the turns are weeks and the counters represented around six divisions each (the entire BEF and Belgian armies had one counter each). I had signed up to command the French and I was paired up with the mighty duo of Tim Gow and Wayne Thomas , taking the Belgians and BEF respectively.

The game starts with a gaping gap on the Allied left, just the Belgians in Antwerp and the BEF moving up through Ypres, with a French reserve army further back. Although we knew what the German starting forces were, thereafter we wouldn't have a clue what they were up to apart from what we gleaned from battle reports etc. The  movement and combat systems are very simple, but relatively bloody for all involved as all combats generally resulted in losses for both sides. Each 'Army' could take two hits, but only full strength (fresh) armies could attack.

After ruminating over conducting an attack into Alsace, we eventually concluded that we need to throw all our available forces into a forward defence of Antwerp and Le Cateau, an dotherwise conduct a static defence of the Rhien and Meuse. It so restricted the hexes the Germans could attack from, that as long as we kept shovelling reserves into the charnel house of Flanders, the Germans weren't going anywhere. This plan worked spiffingly well, and we carefully constructed a mini-Maginot line of armies, shuffling reserves around the points of greatest threat. Casualties were extremely heavy, far heavier than our replacements could keep up with, and we had to gamble on thinning some parts of the line out. This came a bit stuck late in the game when we lost Sedan, but in the event we had four fresh armies immediately available (many of whom had just left the hex, oops) and wiped the German bridgehead out with a massive counterattack. The game went into extra time, but we threw the wicked Prussians back time and again.

So, a highly satisfactory outing. I gather in the original game the BEF, French and Belgians aren't allowed to talk to each other (not at first anyway). This would most likely have made our defence of Antwerp completely untenable, as without the verbal assurance that the entire French army was on the way, King Albert would have been much  more inclined to retreat, which in turn would have unhinged the front on Flanders.

Looking forward to seeing a published version of this, as I can see it working very well for a number of situations, particularly the Eastern Front in 1914 (although the core rules are available from teh link above).

Brave Admiral Benbow

Another outing from Ian Drury, and another excuse to get the pile of silly hats out. This time fleet actions in the late seventeeth century (I didn't even know we were fighting the French in 1690, but hey ho).

Silly hats galore. The excitement has made the photo blurred.

It is a very cut down naval combat system with individual ships  played on a hex mat, and relatveily generous move rates. The ships have fairly traditional hull box/critical system type step reduction system, but combat is resolved by a single D6 throw for the entire ship. The sailing aspects seemed to be fine, fairly simple to run but with reasonably realistic effects on speed and manouverability. I did like the special treatment of 'crank' ships who tended to drift to leeward with dire consequences for all and sundry.

The rearmost English 'gaggle'. I hesitate to call it a squadron, all very untidy.

The scenario featured the wicked French  landing soldiers in Ireland and trying to drive away the blockading English fleet. The French had the weather gauge, a typical shabby French trick. We had three or four commanders on each side and literally masses of ships. I lost count of them, although I did note one of my ships appeared to have Admiral Benbow aboard.

The huge melee. Nice neat lines of English ships engage raggedy Frenchies.
Despite being at a disadvantage due to the wind, the English formed a very creditable battle line and we engaged the untidy French rabble very smartly at lethally close range. A bit too lethal for poor Admiral Benbow who lost his head to a close range roundshot, and the exchange of fire left a number of English and French ships ablaze and everyone else in the tangle of rigging and hulls nervously awaiting a magazine explosion.

This seemed to run along splendidly, the movement in particular was rapid and decisive, no inching along one hex at a time like Wooden Ships & Iron Men. Combat was a bit slower, but that was inevitable given the number of ships involved, and it is very hard to realistically represent sailing ship era combat without some sort of attritional damage model, which inevitably takes time. A very satisfactory session and many thanks to Ian.

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