Friday 28 October 2016

The Crossroads Motel part 2 - an HoW AAR

As planned, Dave and I were able to meet up for our follow on game based upon last week's scenario. However events on the work front prevented me from doing the pre-game prep that I'd had planned, so instead we pretty much came up with similar opposing forces when we met, with slight differences between the two. From memory the French had slightly more infantry whilst the British stronger on the artillery front.
Scenario details
With both sides having been unable to secure the crossraods last game, this was a fairly standard battle, with both sides lined up and ready for battle as dawn broke.
Random reinforcements
I did however have time to throw in a bit of randomness to the scenario, which took the form of the following:
  • Each side to randomly draw a marker that shows the Turn upon which their reinforcements arrive.
  • Each side to randomly draw three markers from a pile which will show what sort of units these are to be. These to be kept face down until the Turn upon which they are due to arrive, when they can be looked at. The player can then position them upon either of their roads entry points or if an independent unit, any where along their baseline.
To speed things along, both sides deployed 15cm in from their base edges. The French suprisingly rolled for 'Dependable' commanders right across the board, whilst the British were once again saddled with a 'Dithering' commander on their right flank.
Boths sides deployed for action.
Both sides broadly had three Brigades with cavalry support on either flank.

Turn 1
Both sides got off to a good start, with a broad advance and both forces, by-and-large, maintaining a linear front.

The French gain a slight advantage as they edge closer to the crossroads and the motel.
Both sides have a Brigade that fails to advance on their respective right flanks.

Turn 2
A very similar Turn once again as both sides push forward.

The French gain the edge of the town.
The French look to be in a good position.

Turn 3
The British reinforcements arrived this Turn, in the form of 2 x Line Infantry and 1 x Dragoon Cavalry. Both sides shake out into Line and a French 'Admirable' roll sees them move into the town.

A very Linear looking battlefield.
Both sides deploy their Brigades into Line, but with no units in a second line.
The French check into the motel with their baggage.

Turn 4
It was now time for the French to receive their reinforcements, which took the form of 1 x Hussars Cavalry, 1 x Line Infantry and 1 x Light Infantry. As the French left flank advanced, the British pushed forward in the centre whilst the French lined the town. Both sides then opened fore in the centre, causing some hits on the opposition.

The French left flank strung out to try and out flank the British right.
The British line up ready to threaten the French in the town.
The French artillery deployed and already coming under fire.

Turn 5
The French have a Turn of 'va va voom' as their Light Infantry move into the woods and their left flank advances a double move, with their cavalry charging into their British counterparts. The French come of the worst as a unit of Line Infantry is destroyed in the town and the cavalry is defeated by the British.

The French left flank advances agressively to threaten the British right flnak.
Action all across the French left flank.
In the centre the French are under pressure, but still in a good position.
On the right flank, the cavalry admire each others uniforms as the British left flank advances.

Turn 6
With both sides already engaged more or less across the whole front, there was some careful movement by both sides where possible. The French managed to win the Fire Initiative, causing the British to lose two units to their one. However the French Hussars proved to be no match for the British Dragoons.

The battle starts to fragments as both sides take casualties.
Holes start to appear along the French left flank.
The French firmly esconced in the town prove to be a formidable challenge to the British.

Turn 7
As both sides had suffered casualties and fall backs the previous Turn, where possible both tried to dress their ranks.

The battlefiled well and truly fragmented.
The British Dragoons reform to pose a threat to the French rear.
The British right flank slightly refused given the French possibly being in a position to turn it.
The French right flank firmly anchored on the town.
The British centre has more or less broken and the French Light Infantry are ready to exploit the gap.

Once gain time defeated us as the battle was nicely poised. However we both agreed that with the French having lost all of their cavalry units, they would be forced to fall back to protect their lines-of-communication, despite holding the town.

Post Game Thoughts
Despite not being able to finish the game, it was one full of action and as always was enjoyable. So some thoughts on the game:
  • The French cavalry are rubbish. Simples. I should have held them back but rashly charged them in when really I didn't need to. I should have waited until my Infantry had created an opening that they could possibly exploit. Lesson hopefully learnt...
  • The French gaining the town first allowed them to put up a good fight in the centre. With Light Infantry support in the woods this made for a pretty impregnable position.
  • The French had unusually good commanders (all dependable) and managed to get lots of double moves, which put the British on the back foot a bit. They also managed to get the fire intiative in some crucial Turns which certainly made a difference.
  • I liked the way the random reinforcements worked and may use this in future games, but it may need tweaking a bit dependent upon the scenario.

We now have a break for a few weeks due to a variety of reasons, but hopefully when we next meet we can finish of this 'series' of games with a fighting withdrawl by the French. After that I think some Nappies action beckons...

Friday 21 October 2016

Schlact am Kreuzung Motel (the battle of Crossroads Motel) - an HoW AAR

During our post game chat last week, the topic of 'orders' came up for some reason or other. Normally both sides deploy their forces as they see fit for a scenario and then go on their merry way as the battle unfolds, with each player deciding how best to use his forces to achieve the victory conditions as set out. But what if the High Command dictates the objectives and then leave it to you to achieve them? Also, those objectives may be quite different from what your opponent is trying to achieve. 

So this got me thinking about how we could replicate this on the table? The answer  seemed simply to use some of the programmed orders options from 'Programmed Wargames Scenarios' by C S Grant. It seemed a simple solution and one worth trying out. Dave was game for this and so after a bit of thought, I came up with the following, based upon the 'Crossroads' scenario from the book
Scenario Details
  • Your force is a 'reconnaissaince in strength', tasked with seizing a vital crossroads. You expect some opposition as the enemy also realises the importance of this junction. The urgency to seize and control the vital junction is paramount.
  • You have not had the time to send a recce force forward, but you are broadly aware that the terrain is hilly with some woods and a possible village located near to the junction.
  • Both sides will use markers to hide their initial deployments. Once both sides markers are deployed, then the forces can be revealed only once they become visible to the enemy.
  • Deployment will be via randomly determined roads, with one or more possible entry points. Each side to have a column of march drawn up for each Brigade.
  • Both sides will randomly draw orders that govern their initial objectives and deployment options.
  • Artillery once deployed, may only be manhandled once per game.
  • Both sides may choose their forces from the options as per the scenario book.
So with the scenario sorted, it was a case of choosing the forces and orders to be followed. I was to command the forces of the Empress Diane, whilst Dave to command those of Prince Benny. As Dave arrived late after a busy day, he randomly rolled for his force, whilst I had already chosen mine.

OOB Empress Diane (French)
5 x Battalions Line Infantry (inc one Grenadier Battalion)
1 x Battalion Light Infantry
1 x Regiment Dragoons
2 x Artillery Batteries

The force was split into two Brigades, one of which had a 'Dithering' commander, and two Independent units.

Orders: Deploy rapidly, ignoring the crossroads itself but pushing forces to the North and South to secure the flanks. Use any suitable position to your side of the crossraods to set up artillery and reserve.

OOB Prince Benny, Chemin de Croix (British)
4 x Battalions Line Infantry (inc one Grenadiers Battalion)
2 x Battalions Light Infantry
1 x Regiment Dragoons
1 x Regiment Hussars
1 x Artillery Battery

This force was also split into two Brigades, both of which had 'Dithering' commanders (which somehow seemed appropriate for Prince Benny!) and two Independent units.

Orders: Deploy rapidly, throwing cavalry round the ground to the North and South of the crossroads to take up ositions to dominate the enemy's likely approaches. Set up artillery on the high ground to dominate the crossroads and secure the area with infantry.

So with the forces and commanders sorted, it was a case of rolling for deployment. Those of the Empress Diane would come in from both roads, whilst those of Prince Benny, from one. It was then just a case of deploying our 'hidden' Brigades and then we were ready for the off.

The French were on the Eastern table edge, with the independent units between the two roads. The British were on the Southern of the two Western roads with the Independent units on the Northern road.

Turn 1
Boths sides had some advances onto the table, but half of the British force failed to appear.

The initial advances onto the table.
Some units are revealed as they are in plain view, whilst some are still hidden.

Turn 2
The French deployed quickly as per their orders, whilst those of the British advanced as quickly as possible, but they still had one Brigade off table.

All units have now been seen as so are revealed. The British push tow units of cavalry along the Northern road, whilst the French send their Dragoons towards the Crossroads Motel.
The British are ahead of the French, whose whole move to change formation penalty slows them down somewhat.

Turn 3
The British are certainly in the lead in the race to the crossroads, with their Light Infantry on the edge of the woods. The French maintain a leisurely stroll in comparison.

The British although strung out along the road, are well on their way to achieving their orders.
For the French the Motel seems a long way away.
The second British Brigade plays catch up.

Turn 4
Both sides suffered from poor command rolls and the little firing that there was was completely ineffective.

The British deploy on and around the Crossroads Motel.
The French deploy their artillery to try and disrupt the British...
... but to no avail.

Turn 5
For the thrid Turn in a row, the French right flank fails their command roll! This is the stronger flank with a unit of Grenadiers attached to it, so not ideal that they are halted in the shade of the tree lined avenue. Else where there is a general advance and the French artillery scores their first hit on the British Hussars.

The French do not seem keen to spend the night at the Crossroads Motel (can you blame them?)
Prince Benny seems to be falling asleep in the background as he is tired of waiting for the French to arrive.

Turn 6
At last the French right flank wakes from their siesta and moves off towards the Motel, whilst the British continue to press forward.

The French flanks move slowly forward as the British dominate the centre ground.
The second British Brigade advance in column of march as their artillery is detached to deploy on the hill as per their orders.
The view from the French left flank.

Turn 7
As the Southern flanks close within firing range of each other, the British consolidate around the Crossroads Motel, whilst the French right flank continues to advance slowly.

Both sides close ready for combat...
... but their firing is completely ineffective.
The view from the French right flank towards the Crossraods Motel.

Turn 8
Dave: "There's nothing to worry about on that flank (referring to the French right flank." So the French, somewhat piqued by this, get a double move and advance to the outskirts of the Motel!

Things start to look interesting.
The French completely miss with their shooting, whilst the British force a unit back disordered with theirs.
The French look to be in a good position, with the flank secured as per their orders and the opportunity to possible assault the motel.

Turn 9
A Turn of some small scale movement and once again somewhat poor shooting from the French artillery.

Both sides right flanks look to be in good positions.
The French arrayed against the Motel.

Turn 10
Some chess like moves see each side carefully manoeuvering their troops to try and gain and advantage over the enemy.

This could go either way very, very quickly.
The French try to deploy more effectively against a formidable looking British line.
The French threaten the Motel.

Turn 11
A flurry of activity sees the cavalry charge at each other, whilst the French advance into the Crossroads Motel and shooting breaks out across the Southern flank.

The battle in and around the Motel.
As the cavalry engage in mutually assured destruction, the British gain a slight advantage as they force a French unit back.
The French push into the Motel as well as being in a strong positon on the flank.

At this point time defeated us, so we declared that night had fallen and with the battle nicely and evenly poised, both sides withdrew to defensive positions under the cover of darkness.

Post Game Thoughts
Despite it taking a while for both sides to get to grips with one another, we both agreed it had been a good and challenging game. So how did I think it went overall?:

  • Each side having their own 'orders' worked really well, as neither of us were entirely sure as to what the other was trying to achieve. It certainly added a new dynamic to the game.
  • Having 'hidden units' at the start added a nice amount of fog-of-war and worked really well for this type of scenario.
  • The house rule of allowing deployed artillery only one man handle move per game felt right for the period. It certainly made you think as to were and when to deploy them.  
  • Choosing the forces from the list in the book added another nice twist. To be honest some of them are much weaker compared to others, so a bit of common sense needs to be applied to makes sure that one side is not too stronog compared to the other. 
  • I'm sure I will use this sort of set up in future games, especially for these sort of 'Encounter' battles. I would recommend anyone trying to get hold of a copy of the 'Programmed wargmaes Scenario' book as it is worth every penny.
So despite the game ending in a draw, it has set the next scenario up prefectly. This will be a set piece battle for the Crossroads Motel as the main forces of both sides have caught up with their advanced guards and are now ready to engage one another for this valuable piece of real estate.

And for those that do not recognise the references to the 'Crossroads Motel' during the game, check the following out from what was, to my mind, a truly awful show:
Crossroads Motel protaganists