Saturday, June 24, 2017

LE TERRIBLE

Shevardino 6pm-8pm
     Lots of action to report in my La Bataille de la Moscowa game. Looks like it's going to come down to the wire. (Incidentally, "Le Terrible" is the nickname of the French 57th Regiment, 5th Division. This name might have two meanings, since they routed earlier in the battle!)

Pic #1: Lads, Follow Me Forward!
1: Lads, Follow Me Forward! Under a hail of canister fire, General Compans leads a regiment of the 5th division up the slopes of Dornino Hill  and evict the Russians at the point of their bayonets. Compans leads by example. If not for his +3 melee modifier, the lads never would have had the courage to close. The yellow arrow shows from where Major General Dimitri Petrovich Neverosky's VIII Corps will avenge their fellows. French 1st and 2nd Divisions prepare to launch their own attacks (blue arrows). (Note the single Russian battalion holds up the advance of the entire 5th Division.)

Pic #2: Saber Dance
2: Saber Dance Our old friend, General Panchulidzev leads his dragoons against the 1st Division's left flank. The Chernigov Dragoons are turned back by desperate canister fire (rolling an 11 on a 4-1 attack). The Kharkov Dragoons, led by the general himself, slices through the French line, spoiling their planned assault. But they take musket fire every step of the way. On the Russian left, Neverosky leads the Simbirsk Infantry back onto Dornino Hill. The French waver and then flee when news of Compans' death spreads through the columns! (Mortal head wound!)

Pic #3: Lancing the Russian Boil
3: Lancing the Russian Boil The General de brigade Alexandre-Louis-Robert comte de Girardin d'Ermenonville leads his 1st Brigade de Cavalerie Legere against Panchulidzev's exhausted horse. The Polish Uhlans catch them in a gully, charging them with lances and forcing their surrender. Meanwhile, Krasinski's Polish infantry brigade finally breaks through the Russian skirmish line. Now leaderless, the 5th Division awaits Compans' replacement, Jean-Louis Romeuf, Marshal Davout's ADC.

Pic #4: Hurrah!
4: Hurrah! The French attack with three divisions. On the left, General Louis Friant's 2nd Division goes up against the elite 2nd Grenadier Division, led by Major General Prince Karl August von Mecklenburg-Schwerin. In the center, General de division Charles-Antoine-Louie-Alexis Morand, comte de l'Empire leads his 1st Division against the Grenadiers extended left. Having assumed command, Romeuf leads the 5th back into the fray. Hurrah!

Pic #5: Desperate and Savage Fighting

5: Desperate and Savage Fighting The French 2nd Division collapses both flanks of the Russian grenadiers but are repulsed with heavy loss in the center. Mecklenburg's reserve battalions await. In the center, the Russian grenadiers grudgingly cede ground. Mixed results for the 5th. Dornino Hill holds for the Russians but a French assault pierces the line. Their impetus takes them right to the threshold of the redoubt itself. Yellow shows the Russian reserve cavalry. Those are cuirassiers at the top of the picture, melee value 44 -- each.

     Six turns left and it's still anybody's ballgame. It looks like the French will get both victory villages (Sheverdino and Dornino) but taking the redoubt ain't going to be easy. Darkness falls at 8pm. Oh, and those thundering hoofbeats you hear reaching a crescendo out of the gloom? The stuff of nightmares, man!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

OF DOUBTS AND REDOUBTS

La Bataille de la Moscowa

Scenario 1: Shevardino, September 5, 1812 - The Opening Act

     I've had a very fruitful week of wargaming here at the HQ.  I've been playing Moscowa every day since the day it arrived last week. I've pretty much learned the La Bataille system at this point, having played through most of the Shevardino scenario, which has included a couple of false starts.
     I made enough mistakes in those playings that I thought it warranted a fresh start. So that's what I'm presenting here, a few turns of my latest Shevardino play-through.
     What I love about this opening scenario is that it's not your typical introductory throw-away or simply a small portion of the main battle that you'll just have to play over again when you start the big show. Instead, this is almost a full-fledged battle of its own, fought historically the night before the Battle of Borodino. The French have some 30,000 men involved here, the Russians maybe a third of that.
      Let's get right to it.

Opening setup.
1: Opening Setup. The dashed red line shows the Russian skirmisher screen, consisting of elements of six Jaeger Regiments. On the right flank, I've put them in a ravine where they will be out of sight of the French. This way, they're sure to get at least a shot on the enemy who won't be able to charge them until they are adjacent.
     The squares show victory locations, the villages of Doronino and Shevardino and the Shevardino redoubt. The blue arrows show where the French will be arriving.


Pic #2. Entre Vous Francois.
2: Entre Vous Francois. The French 5th division of 1 Corps under General de division Jean-Dominique Compans, Comte de l'Empire. Here one regiment deploys to attack Doronino, with two in reserve. A fourth regiment screens their flank. They're waiting on the artillery before launching their assault. The green lines show the Russian cavalry, the 12th and 13th Brigades of the 4th Reserve Cavalry Corps.


Pic #3: First Blood.

  3: First Blood. The French right assaults the village to drive out the Russian skirmishers. Another assault takes place on the left. Red lines show where the French are giving fire. The green show the Russians returning it. The Russian artillery opens up from the redoubt and the little hill in front of it. Yellow shows Russian movement. The French left is "out of command." The Russians take advantage by flanking the position with skirmishers. Compans is busy elsewhere.


Pic #4: Follow the Bouncing Ball.
4: Follow the Bouncing Ball. The Russian artillery makes itself felt. Major General Karl Fedorovich Lowenstern directs fire from the redoubt, scoring a hit on an assaulting French stack. From the forward hillock, a medium range shot strikes its target, then ricochets into the battalion behind it -- another hit!

Pic #5: The Better Part of Valor.
5: The Better Part of Valor. Russian skirmishers "retreat before assault" (yellow dashed lines). The French advance. Doronino is captured, but the advancing battalions in the ravine take fire and are disordered.

Pic #6: No Plan Survives.
6: No Plan Survives. Sensing danger, the disordered French battalion attempts to fall back. In doing so, it takes fire and is routed. Being semi-surrounded by Russian skirmishers, it is forced to rout through its own lines, disordering two stacks on its way. Another falls back successfully (yellow dashed arrow). Major General Ivan Davydovich Panchulidzev ("The I-Man" to his friends) sees his opportunity and orders a charge. (The green rays emanating from the cavalry units define the "charge zone." If you're inside these lines, there's a big target on your chest.)

Pic #7: Chargeski!!
7: Chargeski!! A French good order battalion sees the charge coming and forms square.The I-Man attempts to recall the charge, but the Kharkov Dragoons' blood is up now and cannot be stopped. The other French battalion is in disarray. Knots of men attempt to stand firm against the thundering Chernigov Dragoons but even the bravest of them ultimately turn tail and flee with the rest.

Pic #8: Denied!


8: Denied! One French battalion routs through his own lines, disordering a stack. The Kharkov Dragoons "bounce" off the French square and recoil, exhausted but unscathed (luckily!), while the Chernigov Dragoons regroup behind a line of skirmishers. The entire French left has been put into disarray. A single isolated square remains. Russian skirmishers will now have their way with it. How do you get out of this chicken outfit, anyway?

     Well, that's the game so far. At 20-minute turns, it started at 3pm and goes until 9:40.  It's now 5:00. Two French divisions arrive this turn. Now that Dornino is in French hands, they will do what they can to use it as a springboard for further assaults against the Russian artillery and soon the Shevardino redoubt itself. 
     This is what wargaming is all about, my friends. This is why I do this.
     One parting shot:

     The game is a space hog. Here you see 4 maps on (2)29"x72" tables, a third 29x72 for the organizational displays and charts and a card table for more charts, rulebooks and etc. The Shevardino scenario uses only one of the maps (even though I've set up all four).

Friday, June 9, 2017

MY WARGAMING WEEK

     Hello, and welcome to Wargaming Week, a new feature of this blog (which I just thought of 30 seconds ago) dedicated to sharing our recent gaming adventures.
     Early in the week it was Dead of Winter, an entry in the Great Battles of the American Civil War series from GMT, covering the Battle of Stones River.

The opening setup. The crack of dawn turns out to be the crackling of Confederate musket fire.
     I've attempted to play this one off-and-on since I got it last winter. I've played it enough to know I like it. That is, I like it in theory. I like the scale, the presentation, and the rules are awesome. So what's not to love. To be honest, I don't know exactly. This just does not hold my interest.
     Part of the problem is this opening situation. The "surprise attack" rules are just so contrived. Worse, the various advantages given to the Confederates are strangely layered. One rule appears here, another there and still another there. You suppose you can discern the thought-process at work here. It feels as though the advantages are just heaped one atop the other until the desired effect -- the collapse of the Union right -- is achieved.

Mission Accomplished!
     It's boring because it's so canned and predictable. Look, the Southern boys get four activations -- Fatigue-less no less -- to the Yankees' one. What do you think is going to happen?
     Just as bad is that on this first turn visibility is just two hexes, the Union is under surprise attack, and yet rear portions of the Union position can react with perfect omniscience to the unseen enemy. It's a mediocre effort, as is the game package as a whole. See my Game Ratings page for further info.
     Anyway, this game system deserves better than what it gets from the designer of this module. Life's too short.

It looks good, though!
     Decision Games', Hurtgen: Hell's Forest (since traded away) has the same problem (among many many others). How do you stop the Americans from advancing into Aachen? You simply halve their movement allowances like 3 times, make them "fatigued" on top of it, replace poor German leaders with good ones and allow the makeshift German units total freedom of movement and commitment. Look, designers, if you have to stoop to this level, just start the game on a later turn.
     Better yet, try not to be so damn boring.
     The highlight of the week, though, was my learning games of The Last Blitzkrieg. Maybe I should call this the lowlight of the week. If you've been following along lately, then you already know my thoughts.

The Objective markers are plain white with OB J printed on them. Wow! How exciting! The "Support Dropped" markers have -- you guessed it! -- "Support Dropped" printed on them. At least they are green and gray -- even though the designer says you don't really need them. A lot of stuff you do need is not included.
     To add insult to injury, I bought both this and Baptism by Fire. I traded them both away this week (BBF unpunched and unplayed), along with End of Empire and Beyond the Rhine. Good riddance. I seriously couldn't stand to see this garbage littering my game shelves.
    
To engage in combat, you compare the middle superscript numbers, representing the quality of the unit. Only the arrow units fight. One other unit may "assist." There are only a very few modifiers, so every combat is pretty much like the last. Numbers of men are unimportant (that's why there are no strength numbers on the counters.) 4 fights 3 with an assist from the armor (which confers a +1). Simple, but stupid.
     Let's be honest. To make any Bulge game interesting takes a touch of genius. This one feels like a collection of undeveloped ideas that might or might not make it into the final game. The problem: This IS the final game. Wow!
     Hopefully, this is the last time I'm taking such a bath on bad game purchases. I'm going to be much more careful from now on. So far here's my no-buy list: Richard Berg, Dean Essig, Decision Games. And Compass is on a real short leash. This list alone will save me several hundred a month, probably.
     Another game I really want to learn is Compass Games' On to Paris. I actually had it set up recently only to find that I couldn't read any of it. The text on the player aids is blurry and the print on the counters is too small to see from any reasonable distance. This one will be relegated to Vassal play only, I'm afraid.

Nice looking game.
     It's a very complicated game and I keep putting off learning it. It's hard to invest the kind of time and brainpower for a stand-alone Franco-Prussian War game. If it were part of a series, I'd have an easier time of it. But I don't know what the plans are for this game system.

The counters badly need color-coding to distinguish the various corps and whatnot. I'm not sold on the hexside terrain artwork either.
     Another game I've been playing for the last month or so is Next War: India-Pakistan. This is a marvelous game of near-future warfare. Some people complain about the complexity, but don't listen to them. It's worth the investment. The air war, in particular, is well done.

The only short-coming is a rather small playing area.
     What makes this game seem more complex than it is are the huge number of options available at every turn. For me, I play for an hour or so at a time and then come back to it as it can overload my circuits.

Pakistani armor breaks through the Indian defense on turn 1. An "Initiative Turn" involves several different sorts of movement and combat segments for both sides. It's a very innovative way of showing the massive destructiveness of modern warfare. If you like blowing stuff up, this is your game!
     I'm still learning the game, so I'm starting off without American, Chinese or Russian intervention. Next time, however....

The air game is played out largely on this card. You can also conduct ground strikes from here. I love it!
     Yesterday brought a new baby into my home....La Bataille de la Moscowa from Clash of Arms. To go with it, I also picked up a book on Borodino by some guy I've never heard of, and I downloaded the most recent rules and had them printed and bound at PIP for 25 bucks. They did a magnificent job. 24-hour turn-around, too. America's getting great again!

Moscowa is a 4-mapper, baby. Can't wait to crank er up!
      The rules that come with the game are, apparently, a stream-lined version of the main rules. They're just fine to the play the game with, but I prefer complexity and realism over playability. If you're familiar with Battles from the Age of Reason, then you should be able to dive right in. As soon as I'm done writing this, I'm setting up the pieces for the first battle. (My counter-clippin' finger's gittin' itchy...)
     The coming week will see BAR: Prague again (I hope), Moscowa and maybe some newcomers I plan on picking up in exchange for The Gamers' junk I'm trading away.
     This has been Wargaming Week for June 9, 2017. Good day, and good gaming!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

PRAGUE PASSES THE BAR

 BATTLES FROM THE AGE OF REASON: PRAGUE
     I'm usually a critic of this game system, but this weekend I decided to bite the bullet and just play the game as written right out of the box. I have to admit: I had a good time. I shut down my critical circuitry and re-wired my brain to just have a little fun.
     What do I mean by playing right out of the box? I mean just doing what the rules encourage you to do. So during play you'll see (as in the first picture below) stacks of units running around slamming into things. 100-yard hexes filled to the brim with gleaming bayonets and flashing sabers. It was fun -- just don't look too closely.

16-SP stacks of cavalry. That's 800 troopers jammed into 100 yards of real estate. These are cavalry regiments arrayed in something like 8-deep lines. Here three Prussian stacks charge 2 Austrian.
The result is 2 stacks of routed Austrians and some disordered, but victorious, Prussians
Early battle maneuvering. Prussian columns enter on the roads.
Winterfeldt's grenadiers shift to the left, forcing the Austrians to match them in order to prevent being flanked. The game has these 800-man grenadier battalions aligned shoulder to shoulder in 100-yd hexes, basically in "lines" 5-6 deep. Not since the days of Marlborough have we seen their like. Here the Austrians "extend" 2 battalions to cover 200 yards each. The proper frontage for each is 150 yards. But who's counting?
Tresckow marches toward the Austrian left.
The cavalry battle swirls back and forth. Here Wurttemberg prepares a charge...
...with mixed results.
Prussian reinforcements arrive on the battlefield, left, right and center.
The Prussian left. Winterfeldt's stacks vs. extended Austrian grenadiers.
The Austrians hold their own against Tresckow.
The Austrian right caves. Tresckow is reinforced and the Austrian left is now in trouble too.
Austrian left is reinforced...
...to little avail. Prussians storm the batteries from the rear and the Austrian left begins to crumble.
The Austrian right flank is gone. The cavalry is leaderless (Brown had to flee the onslaught) and the left is shattered. The game is called when the inevitable starts to cast a long shadow over the board. Easy Prussian victory.
Critics of the game often point to the similarity of the vying factions. The unit on the left is Austrian; on the right is a Prussian. The critics might have a point.
     This was a fun game and I'm eager to play again. Next time, I'm going to play the full battle scenario (which allows the player to develop his own attack, instead of using the canned setup). I'll also use my own slew of House Rules, which I will share with you next time. (I'm the Charles S. Roberts award-winning designer of Horse & Musket, so I know what I'm talking about. There! Dean Essig's got nothing on me! All I have to do now is come up with cute nicknames for all my rules...)