Wednesday, 29 August 2018

The Long Road North - Part 4

Sunday and our final game of the weekend. George and I would be travelling back almost 1400 years to the hills and valleys north-east of Bath, for a War & Conquest game of The Battle of Deorham 577AD ... and it was a real belter of a game!

Game 4 - The Battle Deorham 577AD
The Romano-British army (let's call them the good guys ;o)) were comprised of three smaller armies - from Bath, Gloucester and Cirencester - each led by their King.  The Saxons were led by King Ceawilin and the Atheling, Cuthwine.  Naturally, since I live in the South-West, I took command of the Romano-British army trying to preserve the fading light of Rome and hold back the hairy Saxon horde!

Here's the field of battle.  That ridge line would be where my brave men would make their stand.

Here are the two large armies arrayed for battle!  George has done a grand job on these armies, plenty of flags and banners, shield decals, big units... Stunning stuff :o)
Two beautiful armies!
The Saxons
The Romano-British
Glorious isn't it?
The figures are a mix of Footsore and Gripping Beast - more of the former I think.  George and I have very similar views about the quality of troops and levels of equipment for this era - power gamers look elsewhere!  Each of the main characters has a 'commitatus' or' hearthguard' of fairly well equipped, good quality soldiers but the rest of the forces are largely ordinary men (and women, Reg!) with a spear and shield, or sometimes a large shield.

Anyway, with the forces lined up and ready to go we shook hands and set to!  George got the first turn and with a roar his men surged forward.
The Saxons waste no time!
Both sides have cavalry ready to exploit any gaps
The first couple of turns saw the obligatory skirmish line battle.  I'm not sure really how many skirmishers would actually have participated in a battle such as this, but it does add to the flavour!  Plus the minis are nice ;o)

The Saxons drew ever closer and the Romano-British Kings only just held their men on the ridge - especially the Warbands of mercenary Saxons and Welsh, but hold they did!  No amount of taunting or bare arse waving was going to goad my lads into action.  This was key - I knew if my line started to fragment then George's warriors would rip into my flanks.
Steady! Hold!
On the other flank my ranked up bowmen were doing astonishingly well against one of George's warbands.  Again lots of bowmen would not really have been a feature of these armies but as my forces were Romano-British, George had given me a unit of Sagitarrii.

In one of those 'comedy' moments that often happen in a wargame, some of my skirmishers routed past their King, but managed to roll super low for the move ... we imagined them casually sidling past trying to look like they were going back for more arrows rather than just legging it in terror from hordes of hairy Saxons :-D
Shhh! Act casual lads...
Turn three (I think) and the Saxons are within striking distance! An exchange of javelins saw a few men fall, then on they came... but confusion reigned in the Saxon lines.  Two warbands, one Saxon, one Frank, attempt to charge the same Romano-British formation but one failed its Command Roll and ground to a halt.  This meant the Frankish warband would have to face two of mine, including King Farinmail's Commitatus!  Would Bath's finest be able to throw the invaders back down the hill?  If you follow George's blog you'll already know of their chequered reputation :-D
Confusion in the Saxon lines!
Well... Despite their best efforts the men of Bath could not rout the sturdy Franks.  They took heavy casualties but their nerve held and the fight continued.  This allowed George to send in the other units in the following turn.  I couldn't charge downhill as my men were busy fighting the Franks.
Here they come! Steady! Hold!
The Romano-British line heaved and buckled under the terrible impact of the ferocious Saxon charge... but they held!  With their King's shouts of encouragement loud above the din of battle the men of Bath, Cirencester and Gloucester fought bravely all along the line.  The battle ground on with terrible casualties on both sides but the Romano-British gradually forced the Saxons back.  It could not last ... with a shudder the Saxon line broke like a wave.
The Saxons rout!
The men of the west sweep their enemy from the field
What an absolutely gripping and dramatic game!  Lovely terrain, beautiful figures, a splendid opponent - wargaming at it's very best!  Of course I was extra delighted as I took the win ;o)

This battle was the perfect climax to fantastic weekend of great wargaming.  Again huge thanks to George and Evelyn.  Looking forward to the next one :o)

Then came the journey home ... just under 8 hours this time! :-D

Monday, 27 August 2018

The Long Road North - Part 3

The George Washington pub does a fantastic meal, plus the locals are a nice bunch too.  So, suitably fortified, we returned for our third game of Bolt Action.

Game 3 - Assault at Chateau Wartone
This would be a straightforward fight representing the Allied push inland on the 7th June. As George had won game 2 (by a whisker!) he, as the attacker, would have a more flexible deployment.  We also swapped sides for a bit of variety.  I would be leading a large gruppe of Panzergrenadiers whilst George fielded his lovely British force.

The field of battle with our initial deployments.
A Stug and a Churchill play cat and mouse...
Being a huge piece of scenery I don't often get the chateau on the table.  It's okay, but the grounds need a little more "shrubbery" and the chateau is definitely going to get a re-paint - it's way too pink and the painting is a bit shonky in places.
Chateau Wartone :-D
I decided that I would quickly invest the cafe and make it a fortress! Sounds good "in theory" doesn't it?
Hans... mine's a latte
George's enhanced deployment options meant that he could start bring up his reserves in turn 1 whereas I'd have to await turn 2.  So on rumbles his Sherman.

British infantry advance either side of the road under the watchful eye of the Churchill commander.  Both George and I realise the cafe will be a key feature of the battle.
The British advance on the cafe, can they beat the Germans to it?
All four tanks are on the table now so expect a good exchange of whizz-bangs!
All four AFVs battle it out!
The Stug (see below) has manoeuvred around the cafe to put a round in to the Churchill.  It's a hit but those forced workers are making dud shells for the Reich and it bounces off, still it's a pin.  The Panzer and Sherman blast away to no effect.
The Churchill is hit, pinned but otherwise undamaged
It was my turn to whoop with joy as George rolled a 1 for his artillery support.  It landed in a nearby field blasting a small herd of pigs into finely minced lardons.  On target it would have torn my flank to shreds.
Allied artillery goes wide
The action at the cafe is hotting up.  The Germans have taken up residency whilst almost a whole platoon of British infantry converges on its stout walls.
The British quickly bring up more men
Next turn and the first dice out of the bag is a nice shiny black one!  The Stug loads another AP shell and blasts the Churchill... which brews up nicely.  Take that Tommy!
Bang! The Stug despatches the Churchill!
But George wastes no time in settling the score with a fantastic shot from his Sherman which punches a smoking hole right through the Panzer IV's turret.  So it's one all in the tank duel.
Bang! The Sherman despatches the Panzer IV!
With the loss of the Panzer IV I had to concede the left flank.  One squad and a sniper (in the farmhouse) were of little use against the armoured might of George's Sherman.  Plus he had men moving up that flank too.  The battle would be decided around the cafe.
A quiet left flank and a hectic right
Two squads held the cafe, with the CO nearby, plus there was a squad in the fields behind (just out of shot) so in terms of firepower I held the advantage.  But George dropped a mortar shot right on the squad in the fields then his sniper took out the LMG so a few shell-shocked chaps with a heap of pins and just rifles were not going to be much help.  The balance was shifting in George's favour.
Things were hotting up around the cafe!
Back on my left flank I decided that the sniper would harry the advancing British whilst my squad made a Benny Hill style dash along the road.  They'd probably be too late to help at the cafe but it was worth a shot.

I'm not sure what the German is for "Leggit lads" but their NCO is shouting it as loud as he can!  Although they were still too far away to help out their comrades.

To give my troops a better arc of fire against the massing British I moved my men out of the building itself in to the yard with it's solid stone walls, but the additional -1 to hit meant most of my shooting went wide and in return the British poured everything they had in to area.

With time drawing on we called it a day and totted up the order dice. Two for me and five for George, so a solid Allied win.  Their attack had been a success and the road inland lay open.

It was a great finale to a superb series of loosely linked games.  That's all you have to do, I think, in order to add an extra dimension to your games.  You don't need complex campaign rules that track officer's opinions, the state of the men's boots, the weather, etc.  Just find a narrative link and tweak each game based on who won the last.  Obviously an excellent opponent is essential and George provided that most admirably!

The Allied version of events can be found here

Sunday, 26 August 2018

The Long Road North - Part 2

Saturday started with George manning the Post Office whilst I set up the terrain for game 2.  Business in the PO was quite brisk and I enjoyed having a chat with the locals.  At one point George loudly asked me to stop being so friendly with them as they'd only expect it in the future! :-D Later, Evelyn kindly took over from George so that we could set to.

Having held off the attack in game 1 the Germans were alerted and, in the absence of clear orders from OKW, they moved towards the nearby bridge in case the Paras sought to capture it and secure a route inland.  The local German commander had previously received orders to rig the bridge for demolition in case of attack.  So it would be a race... could the Paras de-activate the explosives in time or would Jerry blow them all to pieces?

George's win in game 1 meant that he would have the advantage of an extra MG42 entrenched within 12" of the objective.  The crew had been alerted and dragged from their beds to cover the bridge!

Game 2 - The Bridge at Warton-St-Claire
The bridge had four explosive charges on it, as denoted by the black skull markers.  The Paras needed to get on to the bridge, get in contact with each demolition charge and be issued a Down order (passing an order test) to disarm it. Simples huh? ;o)  At the end of the game any remaining explosives would be triggered and, on a D6 roll of 4+, would explode.  Two successful blasts are required to blow the bridge.  The scenario is inspired by the Bridgehead scenario in Duel in the Sun which I played with Orange Dave some time back during our Sicily/Italy campaign.

Here's the table, mostly George's beautiful countryside with a few of my buildings.
Both sides advance on the bridge
The view along the river
Here, the lead Para section makes a dash for the nearest pack of explosives.  If I can get the first dice out of the bag in turn 2 then it will be an early success for the Allies!  Take that, eh Jerry?!
Run lads!
The rest of the turn was pretty quiet as very few troops were visible and mostly we were manoeuvring for better advantage next turn.

Thankfully the first dice out of the bag was a much needed Allied dice!  Even though the section had no pins they still had to take a command test to defuse the explosives, which they passed in style. So that's one down and three to go.
Well done lads!
George told me that he would be bringing armour to the party, but in keeping with the scenario and background, I just brought a PIAT.
Uh oh! Jerry doesn't play fair and brings in some heavy support!

Uh oh! George rolls more great dice to zero his mortar in on the bridge. Ouch!
The turn concluded with both sides bringing as many troops forwards as possible towards the hotly contested bridge, as can be seen here.
The rush for the bridge
The view from George's side
Turn 3 and the Paras push forward on to the bridge as yet another mortar round lands on target.  But the next section is in contact with the second lot of explosives.  The Germans pour everything they have on to the bridge... both MMGs from the Panzer IV, an MMG from the 250 and the squad LMG plus a heap of rifles.  The Paras take some casualties but the stone bridge provides excellent cover.
Dakka dakka dakka!
Turn 4 and the Paras are looking thin on the ground!  But thankfully this is the turn when I can start rolling for my reserves.  The gradual arrival of more troops makes this a tough game for the Allies as they storm the objective.  George has brought one of his squads forward to contest the bridge but the Red Berets have defused another explosive.
That's another one defused, Sir!
Below, the lead Para stumbles through the smoke to be cut down by a veritable hail of bullets from the German CO and a squad.
More typical George dice rolling ... ;o)
The bridge is more or less clear of Paras at this point as most of my first wave were killed or wounded, but two lots of the explosives had been dealt with.
Germans almost hold the bridge
Now my reserves were about to get in on the action.
Wait ... here come more brave Paras!
Another section goes for the bridge, ably supported by their medic.
Troops mass for a second contest on the bridge
George decided to take the fight to the Paras... his CO bravely leads a section on to the bridge followed closely by the armoured beast.
George makes a grab for the bridge
The next pic actually covers quite a bit of action... George had a sudden rush of blood to the head and ordered his Grenadiers to push the Paras off the bridge at the point of a bayonet!!  The (turbo nutter) Paras were having none of this and tore the Germans to shreds.  I was astonished that George had ordered his regulars to attack ... and delighted with the result.  Also, my light mortar neatly dropped a round into the open topped 251 blowing it to smithereens.  However my brave PIAT team merely annoyed the Panzer commander...and I had intoned the appropiate "boing" as it shot! Humpf!
A lot has happened here!
Now... this is a moment that will live on in gaming infamy.  Gamers will gather, and in hushed tones, discuss this ghastly event... My Para medic had been doing a fine job of patching up my wounded and keeping them in the fight.  So George ordered his sniper to take him out... Bang! Headshot! My medic was dead before he hit the floor.  Oh those dastardly Hun!
What about the Geneva Convention eh Reg?
The closing turn of the game saw George park his tank on the bridge and with that bold move went any chance that the Paras could tackle the last two lots of explosives.

So... it was time to roll for the two remaining demolition charges.  George rolled a dice and it came up a 4 ... BANG!  He rolled the second... it spun... and came up a 5 ... BANG!  With a groan the ancient stones collapsed in to the water.  You can just see my Para CO at the bottom of the pic pointing at the ruined bridge in dismay.
Another fantastic game of Bolt Action with a superb opponent on a beautiful table.  After an exciting battle, it came down to the very last dice roll.  You cannot ask for more from a wargame.

Again, you can find more blatantly biased German propaganda here :-D

With that done we tidied up a bit, prepared for the next game and then headed for the pub!

Saturday, 25 August 2018

The Long Road North - Part 1

Visiting friends for a weekend of wargaming is most definitely one of life's real pleasures!  So with high hopes of a fine time I packed my toys and scenery in to the car and headed North so see top chum George (of fame) for a weekend of Bolt Action and War & Conquest.

In a little over 8 hours I was there.  Yes folks, just 8 hours to do 240 miles on our great British motorway network.  Still, I like to look on the bright side, it did afford me time to admire the fine views of the countryside in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Lancashire, etc.  Not to mention the vibrant urban diversity of places such as Bristol and Birmingham! :-D

Anyway... I was very warmly greeted by George and his lovely missus Evelyn (pronounced Ev-lyn of course!).  I'll start by saying a huge thank you to Evelyn for looking after me so well!  Seemingly endless cups of tea, plenty of cake and a truly superb fruit salad.  Friday evening started with a great meal and George provided a splendid cabaret with his impressions of a man dressed as a lady riding a bicycle ... I was crying with laughter!  Really, you had to be there.  Possibly not quite politically correct, but hey?

Right on to the gaming!

Game 1 - Night-fight at Wartone-sur-mer
This battle, set in the early hours of 6th June 1944, pits a small scattered force of Paras against a German garrison.  It's based on the night-fight scenario in the Battleground Europe book and uses the night fighting rules whereby troops have to make spotting rolls to see the enemy in the dark.  Let's begin by saying George's Germans had been eating *lots* of carrots!
The village sleeps peacefully...
The objective here is for the Paras to secure the caches of supplies dotted around the village, and give Jerry a good thrashing.  The Germans are trying to beat off the Paras and keep their supplies (wine, brandy, cheese, racy pictures of Parisian ladies, etc) safe.

George has very wisely deployed all of his troops in the buildings, so the village is basically a small fortress for my lightly armed force.  Oh for a Sherman!
The Paras head for the objective in the church yard
The Para flame-thrower* sneaks up to the cafe
I'm pretty sure that Paras didn't actually drop in with flame-thrower gear but I had to include one as I know George is such a fan of them ;o)

George continued to have (a) the first dice out of the bag most turns, and (b) made some amazing spotting rolls... these fellas were part Owl or something!
More Paras in the church yard
I had decided that going for all three objectives with my small Para force would be a bridge too far far (you see what I did there? ;o)) so I concentrated on the supplies in the churchyard and the cafe garden.  I only needed two of the three for a win.
The Germans move up to contest the church yard
Jerry is on both floors of the cafe so it's going to be tough to dislodge them.  I had hoped to use the Paras in the church yard as a lure for the chaps downstairs...?  But I do have the flame-thrower... heh heh!
Reinforcements for the assault on the cafe
Below you can see the result of the flamethrower team trying to sneak in to the cafe garage so as to be in range of the main building.  I thought he's got make the spotting roll on a team, then it's -2 for hard cover, -1 for a team, plus Paras are veterans so he'll need 5+ to kill... Oh no! George pulled out his best 'special dice' and shredded my brave lads with some astonishingly good rolls.  Needless to say Hauptmann von Anderson whooped with joy! :-D
More sparkling rolls from the eagle-eyed Germans and their commander... The Germans made a great spotting roll and blasted the small Para section edging along the field boundary ... sigh.
Dakka dakka dakka!
My Paras had taken quite a beating but it was still all to play for as German casualties began to mount.  As the Paras got between the buildings I was able to close down some of the Germans lines of fire.  If my veterans could get to grips with his regulars then it would be a slaughter!
Para's advancing near the barn ... 'ere Sarge, can you smell 'orses ;o)
Hearing German boots on the road, the Paras burst round the corner of the stone barn with Stens at the ready but ... they promptly roll snake-eyes for their spotting roll! Gah!
Get them lads! ... oh ... where are they?
The rest of my photos are sadly a bit blurry, grrr! But suffice to say the game finished with one cache firmly in German hands and the other two contested by both sides. Even with heavy casualties the Paras could just about have taken them in the final turn; it was that close!

A great start to a weekend's gaming! A splendid game with some moments of both drama and comedy. You can see George's take on the game here - beware of biased German propaganda though!

More to follow soon!