Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Firestorm Red Thunder Down Under

This Sunday 6 Aussie Team Yankee tragics gathered at the Hall of Heroes to stage a Firestorm RED THUNDER campaign. Yes, we know the campaign is already finished in Europe, but this is Down Under - we're always last to get the goodies, so we can take our own sweet time in taking part in the campaigns, right?

Players, L-R, were Bryan, Colin (Sov Mech), Daniel (NVA Tank), and Dan (US Armour). Bryan was the TO and planned our day to fit our limited numbers and time - we wanted to play the campaign out in an afternoon. He brought along his ANZAC Armoured Brigade: 

Reese, pictured below suitably armoured:

ran the unforgiving Soviet Tanks - well someone has to!

To provide Red/Blue balance, I left my usual Soviet Tanks behind and ran a Bundeswehr Panzer force - Jeez I might actually win a game!

So we picked 3 scenarios from Quick Missions: Recon in Force, Bypass, then Gauntlet.

My NATO Bundeswehr Pz Div 1 Force - all of 4 MBTs!

We confined ourselves to 60 point forces, no Fast Air or Aviation, and no AD assets. This doesn't represent a lot of teams if you are NATO! But a fair swarm if you are Soviet or the NVA der DDR!

Just a fraction of  Daniel's National Volks Armee! The SAMs are representing Spandrel ATGWs.

Bryan also put a lot of thought into arranging these 4 x 4 tables to represent distinct geographical zones across CENTAG and then NORTHAG. So most southerly, and hard up against the Inner German Border, we had our 'Fulda' table - very hilly and forested:

Then penetrating further into the decadent West, we had a built up prosperous industrial area; Frankfort or Dusseldorf say:

Moving North into the NORTHAG zone, the first table up against the iron curtain was our 'Luneberg' table - flat farmland, but well interspersed with farms and villages:

And our fourth table was further into the West, the NORTHAG backstop, Hanover or Gutersloh - still flat and open, but more built up:

After a quick briefing we started the first round, suitably, Recon in Force! Reese v Dan, Colin v Bryan, and I was up against Daniel - a bit of a grudge match this - Westies against Ossies! And so it proved - I was keen to race to the objective, the autobahn flyover, as attacker,

whilst Daniel knew his only hope of getting anywhere with his venerable T-55s was to get up close and personal and fire flanking shots! The resulting close-in knife fight melee on the bridge was deadly, but Daniel emerged the victor!

However NATO was victorious on the other 2 tables so it was only me that had let the side down! The line was holding for the present across much of the NORTHAG front, but in the CENTAG sector Daniel's East Germans had broken through to Fulda and Kassel!

The second round of games were the Bypass scenario, where you have to get as many of your platoons off the table from an objective. For some reason I'd played this scenario a few times so was reasonably confident, and indeed was able to claim victory by exiting 2 platoons - and making a mess of a Soviet tank company to boot - a NATO victory in NORTHAG!

Further south in the CENTAG AOR however US Armor were being pushed back into the Ruhr by Colin's Soviet mech horde. Fortunately, in the middle, Bryan's Aussies were able to hold the East German and retake the Hildesheim salient. So the front was bending, eastwards in the north, westwards in the South. Going due east to relieve Berlin was a no-brainer for the NATO team, but the Warsaw Pact players argued over going west for the bright lights of Paris, or pushing North to take Dusseldorf and Cologne...

In the third and final round, the scenario was Gauntlet, which I was none to familiar with. I was up against Colin's Soviet Motor Rifle horde - wall to wall BMP2s with Spandrel missiles,

whilst I had only 4 Leopard 2s and 2, yes 2, Milan firing posts that could hope to slow the Russian steamroller! Fortunately a quirk of the scenario meant that Colin was unable to darken the skies with ATGWs in the first turn, having counted as moved, and I was thus able to whizz a surviving Luchs A/C onto the objective in my second turn...

a cheezy win, but one that liberated Potsdam! Onto Berlin?

No - not quite yet! - on other tables once again Daniel's Ossies were doing well, able to manoeuvre skilfully to mass for the...

decisive Schwerpunkt almost at will, overwhelming the handful of US Armor...

The Red Tide of Soviet Armour started by was punching forward well on the approached to Gutersloh...

But were ground down by a dogged defence from the Aussie tankers once confined in the town...

With the UN imposed ceasefire mandated after round 3, the results were NATO 6: Warsaw Pact 3!

It was a great mini-competition and I think we were all impressed with the quick missions scenarios - 3 games in 4 hours, with ample time to yaffle a Hall of Heroes signature Bunker-Buster Burger! A fun-filled Sunday afternoon! 

Thanks to all the players for a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere, to Sara and the Hall of Heroes team for looking after us so well, and above all to Bryan for his good work making it all run so smoothly!

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Zorndorf 1758 with Maurice

Zorndorf 1758, when Frederick the Great's Prussians were fought to a standstill by Elizabeth the Great's Russians, is a fascinating battle. Our first game of it using Maurice rules was blogged here: maurice-zorndorf-caesars-court-martial

This time it was Daniel's turn to prepare the scenario. He is shown above briefing John on his duties - John just wandered into the club meet vaguely wondering what was on, and in fact still looks a little dazed...Gary had faithfully recreated the terrain,

dominated by the clumped woods of the Stein Busch in the middle of the field of glory, and channelled by the three swampy ravines, the Zabern-Grund on the Prussian left or Russian Right, Galgern-Grund in the centre, and Langer-Grund out to the east. A channel of clear access was carefully modelled in the Zabern-Grund to replicate the channel that Seydlitz famously was able to lead his cavalry through to fall upon the Russian flank just as they were celebrating victory.

Zabern-Grund in the foreground, then the Galgern-Grund, and at the back, next to some copses, the Langern-Grund.
In the centre, the three wooded patches make up the pivotal Stein Busch
Daniel had carefully calculated the armies and commands for our favourite 18th Century Maurice rules, but for 6 commands, which seemed to be more than the number of available players. As the impact of a virulent flu pandemic steadily decimated the numbers of players who were able to commit, it looked to the handful of us setting up, Daniel, Gary and myself, that 4 players would have to handle 6 commands, as we knew that Alan would be in.

Fortunately he came in accompanied by Satvik, who was a Maurice novice, and so would play on the Prussian side under Alan’s experienced wing. Then John made the mistake of casually turning up to see what was on at the club, and was rapidly informed in stereo by Daniel and myself that he was in the Russian Army now. Probably not the first time wide eyed innocents have wondered how come they’ve suddenly ended up wearing Russian green…

As defenders, the Russians were supposed to set up first, and so we started the painstaking linear deployment process, but the Prussians were eager to start and also started deploying. I was on the left, eastern-most sector of the Russian army, and had kind of assumed that the Zabern-Grund would mark the edge of the battle-field. However my Prussian opposite number Gary was piling huge amounts of infantry and cavalry on the outside flank of this channel,

so I hastily extended my deployment. Instead ! of a comfortable double line of infantry and guns, I was now reduced to a single line,

bolstered by my single elite Grenadier unit as an immediate reserve,

and 2 cavalry regiments out on the extreme flank.

Inadvertently, this also opened up something of a gap between my right and Daniel’s left, towards the centre…still, he who defends everything defends nothing, so it was left hanging – it would be hard for the Prussians to bear down in strength there anyway, channelled as they would be by the Stein-busch

The Prussian first move was led off aggressively by Gary opposite me and Alan in the Prussian centre, Alan immediately defaulting to playing a dirty tricks card on me to throw my carefully spaced alignment out of kilter. Cards are normally played on the opposite player in the respective sector when we play big multi-player games, but apparently there is an unwritten rule that Alan has to play all his cards on me….I must have offended him in a previous life. Still it meant that what could have been a boring few moves just bombarding...

was now spent reordering my now even shorter line, after Alan’s shenanigans meant that Gary had a flanking charge on one of my units and routed it.

On the far flank John and Satvik seemed content simply to exchange long range cannonballs, apparently with no serious effect.

After a few moves of the Prussians steadily advancing in the centre and their right, opposite my sector, Daniel, the Russian centre commander, had what contemporaries called a ‘coup d’oueil’ – a sudden tactical insight.

Owing to Alan’s difficulties wheeling around the wooded Stein Busch, if I were to drop back my line, he would be forced to enter an area where Daniel could come up on him in echelon. I must admit at the time I didn’t grasp what Daniel was trying to explain to me sotto voce, but a quarter of a century of naval training paid off and I just did what I was told!

Sure enough, a couple of moves falling back allowed Daniel’s infantry to envelop the head of Alan’s columns, and a further couple of moves back up meant my infantry was able to support.

However all this marching and counter marching left my three-gun battery idle, and left my cavalry force, still in their original march columns,

dangerously exposed, as well as outnumbered, by the advancing massed Prussian Cuirassiers.

Worst still, after these fearsome gentlemen having moved to within charge range, I had forgotten to move my General back in order to have them reform to receive a massed Cuirassier charge. (I’m not sure what the ideal formation for that eventuality is, but I’m confident anything is better than being in march column!) Fortunately, Gary courteously allowed me to do this out of turn, so my small cavalry brigade (1 elite Kuirassier Regiment, 1 Trained) was as ready as it could be…

Meanwhile back in the centre, Daniel and I were pouring fire into the Prussians, but Alan seemed to be able to rally off disruption points almost as fast as we could inflict them. Over on the far right John and Satvik seemed to have grown bored with fruitless bombardment, 

and almost by mutual arrangement both simultaneously dispensed with the last argument of kings and chose the arme blanche instead, closing with cavalry – with much excitement, charges and whatnot, but, again, apparently little actual result.

On my sector Gary had manoeuvred his infantry very precisely as best he could within the narrow channel between the Zabern-Grund and a small copse and launched his second wave of assaults.

A succession of hard fought volleys and charges saw the Prussians making little headway, so he transferred his attentions to his cavalry out on the far flank…I was not looking forward to! holding off his 4 regiments with my 2! Still, I had been holding onto the all-powerful ‘Stirrups-in’ card for some time. However, so had Gary! However the dice gods were equal in their favours, so that I actually won one combat, and survived the other, Gary having to bounce back.

In my move, rather daringly for me, habitually cautious with cavalry, I charged his defeated regiment at advantage, and saw it off the field. My 2 regiments were only facing 3. A further round of charges saw my trained regiment also sent off in ruin, but it seemed that my lone Kuirassier Regiment was in a position to outflank one of Gary’s Cuirassiers.

I was roundly assured that it was impossible to outflank in Maurice, but Gary was good enough to check and yes, it seemed I was in! Somehow in all the debate and rule checking we got out of sequence, but the outcome was that my gallant Kuirassiers were able to destroy their second regiment in as many moves! Truly now beloved of the Empress!

Looking up from this local excitement to survey the field of glory more generally, it seemed that Alan was running out of battalions to advance into the meatgrinder around the Stein-Busch,

and Gary was similarly out of options. With Prussian army morale slowly but steadily falling into the red, the Prussians conceded. Something of a stalemate, quite a historical outcome, even if the Prussian attempt at Seydlitz’s flank attack came in from the east rather than the west.

Frederick’s main problem in 1758 was the diminishing quality of his infantry, exacerbated by the hard marching which they had done coming up from Moravia. Daniel had replicated the less well trained aspect of the mid-war infantry by denying them ‘Deadly Volleys’. Coupled with the Russian advantage in rallying, and, I have to admit, more than a couple of well timed rallying cards, the Russians were always going to be hard to push off the field.

A well prepared and good looking game, wholly engrossing and definitely giving that big-battle feel!