Saturday 28 March 2020

Solo Wargaming and Self-Isolation

Like most, if not all, of the World, we have been affected by the current Covid-19 virus restrictions that have been put in place for entirely sensible reasons. However things ramped up a notch when our son was informed by the NHS that he was one of the estimated 1.5 million people at increased risk from the virus and would have to remain indoors for 12 weeks or more. For the rest of the family we also have to maintain social distancing whilst in the house and minimise outside contact with the society.

Before this things weren't too bad as the weather has been lovely and we've all been able to keep a fairly normal life going on. The social distancing thing has actually had the biggest impact as trying to maintain this in a normal sized house with 4 people is somewhat tricky and a bit of a juggling act to say the least. Still it's something we have to do and are happy to do it to keep him safe.

However this has had an impact on my planned wargaming and painting plans, which have gone out the window. Setting up a game on my 4' x 4' table is not really feasible now, so I will have to focus on my 2' x 2' one, which is not a problem, but more of an opportunity. I'm fortunate in some respects that the rules I use are all solo friendly, so it's more a case of finding the space to safely get a game in that's the issue. For my 2' x 2' table the 'Lion Rampant' stable of games are perfect, as are Bob Cordery's 'The Portable Wargame' and its variants. I have tried BKCII on this size board and was very happy with the results. 

But my interest was piqued recently by the following post on Stu's Dust & Tears Blog. Then I saw on The Wargames Website that the Too Fat Lardies were having a sale and so it seemed an opportune time to buy the Platoon Forward pdf as a little treat to myself. The download came through straight away and I was very impressed by what I read. Broadly speaking it is in 3 sections, with the first and third to do with character generation etc, which I'm not interested in at present. The second section dealing with scenarios and threat generation was my main interest and was very well laid out and presented.

Although aimed at Platoon and Company level action for rules such as Bolt Action, Chain of Command etc, I thought they would work well for BKCII, especially for my small table (I think they could also work for earlier periods with some tweaks, but will only know when I've played some games). I have Bolt Action II but have yet to play it due to lack of painted figures, but might try them using my BKCII bases or shock horror, unpainted lead. The shame of it! Along side this I hope to get some 'The Pikemen's Lament' games in and maybe some games using my wooden blocks. Plenty of ideas but actually finding the time and space to 'safely' game will be the issue.

I hope all of you out there keep safe at this challenging time and luckily we have our wonderful hobby to help us get through this and come out the other side smiling. Enjoy your gaming if you can.

Friday 20 March 2020

Operation Caesar Augustus - The Battle for Ridgeway

With the current advice to self-isolate during the Covid-19 outbreak (I'm in one of the at risk groups, as is our son), my regular gaming with Dave has been put on hold for at least 3 months. Not a problem as most of the rules I now use are perfect for solo wargaming. Thinking about what to game, I fancied some BKC action after all of our BP games of late. My first thought was for some AVBCW action and then I remembered I had started a campaign.

I first started this campaign early last year and the initial AAR can be found here. To be honest I can't remember why I didn't carry on with it, but most likely it was the usual combination of work and family life that meant it simply slipped off the radar. I still had the notes for the next scenario, but frankly the impetus had been lossed and with fresh eyes, tweaked things slightly.

Broadly speaking the Army of the Severn Valley, now having secured a beachead, was planning to break out and push on towards Bristol, supported by 'heavier' forces moving down from Gloucester. In their path were elements of the 5th People's Flying Column, who had taken up defensive positions in the village Ridgeway and were hoping that re-inforcements from Prince Albert's Somerset Light Infantry would be forthcoming.

The AotSV was basically in Battalion strength with armoured support and that of the LAotS a few Company's strong and again with armoured support. I didn't work out points or anything but went with what felt right, which also allowed me to put some favourite toys on the table.

Recently I found this card from a good friend from when I was diagnosed with cancer. It seemed apt for the current situation, given the panic buying that has been going on of late, which frankly has left me despairing of humanities common sense.

Set Up
The AotSV would arrive using mobile deployment and PASLI would arrive from Turn 3, subject to successful command rolls. The 5th PFC was deployed in the village of Ridgeway which is roughly in the centre of the table.

An overview of the table.

The village of Ridgeway.

The 5th PFC Commissar on the road junction with his armoured support (you just have to love French WWI camo schemes).

A view towards the village and the PASLI troops would hopefully arrive along this road.

The Old Gloucester Road, which was important to either side in the defence of Bristol.

A view of the road leading from the beach head, from where the Kingswood Royal Auxilliary Police would arrive.

The Police and their armoured 'Black Marias'.

The British Union of Fascist and the WWI tanks.

The PASLI cavalry and armoured support.

Turn 1
The AotSV moved slowly along the roads towards their objective. The LAotS could hear their approach but had no view of the enemy, so ordered their tanks to move forward to try and gain sight of the enemy.

The end of Turn 1.

The Police advance along the road and across the fields (note that the river is shallow and fordable to infantry. It also marks the ridge from where either side is out of sight unless on the river banks).

The BUF move their armour down the road, flanked by infantry.

The Police armoured cars near the bridge.

The BUF armour. I just love having these toys on the table!

The Char St Chamond moves to try and get in position to shoot at the BUF armour.

Turn 2 
The Police continued their advance and as the armoured cars approached the bridge, they came under fire from an ATG in the village, which failed to score any hits. The advance stalled at this point with an armoured car in plain view of the enemy. The BUD right flank failed it's command roll, but the left flank infantry pushed forward, coming under mortar fire, whilst their armoured support move up the road.

Once again the Police armoured car lead a charmed life as the ATG failed to find its mark. The Char St Chamond advanced to the hedgerow and, with another ATG, managed to suppress the A7V, but it too took hits from Opportunity Fire.

The end of Turn 2.

The Police near the river, unbeknown to the troops in the village.

The view from the ATG postion towards the bridge.

The lucky armoured car.

The BUF advance.

With the A7V suppressed, the MkIV tanks move off the road.

The BUF left flank.

The Char St Chamond with Ft-17 support.

Turn 3 
The Police order their armoured cars forward and once again Opportunity Fire fails to hit them. As the Police infantry reach the river, they open fire on an unsuspecting Ft-17, which they hit, but Opportunity Fire back suppresses their ATR unit. The BUF left flank fails its command this Turn, but the right advances. The BUF tanks continue to move off the road but a MkIV tanks is suppressed by Opportunity Fire.

The PASLI cavalry fail to arrive and the 5th PFC fail to receive any orders. The PASLI armour does arrive but advances rather slowly up the road, not knowing where the gun fire is coming from.

The end of Turn 3.

The rather nice PASLI Inter-War armour arrives.

The BUF advance is very stop-start.

A view from the village towards the BUF force.

The Police armoured cars line the road to the right of the bridge.

The Police infantry reach the river and engage the enemy.

A view from the Police armoured cars towards the village.

Turn 4
Good shooting from the Police saw the Ft-17 suppressed and combined fire into the village saw and MG and Infantry unit suppressed and forced back, opening the way for a possible unopposed advance. The Police armoured cars fired into the village and were shot at by the 5th PFC ATG, but neither side did much damage.

The BUF right flank failed again and as the left flank advanced, supporting mortar fire failed to hit the Char St Chamond. As the BUF armour advanced, Opportunity Fire from the Char St Chamond brewed up a MkIV tank. 

The 5th PFC had little with which to affect the Police infantry on the river bank, so turned their attention to the enemy to the front. Combined fire resulted in a Police armoured car, BUF armoured car and the A7V all brewing up. The 5th PFC Commissar then Blundered, leaving all command units at a -1CV for the rest of this Turn and all of the next! The PASLI cavalry again failed to show and the CO only managed to move his tanks slowly up the road.

The end of Turn 4.

The 5th PFC troops are forced back in the village by weight of fire from the Police.

The PASLI armour trundles on.

The Char St Chamond and ATG see the smoking wrecks in the distance, a consequence of their accurate shooting.

The BUF armour a smoking mess.

The Police armoured car finally succumbs to shooting from the ATG.

The Police push over the river.

Turn 5
The Police really seized the bit between their teeth and, having destroyed the Ft-17, advanced into the building by the chruch and occupied it, thus really threatening the 5th PFC troops in the village. Not to be outdone the BUF move forward and combined shooting sees the loss the the ATG in the church yard. Just as things were beginning to get going for the BUF, their left flank HQ Blundered, leading to the same -1 CV as afflicted the 5th PFC. To add insult to injury, the BUF CO then Blundered leading to a permanent -1 CV for the rest of the game.

The 5th PFC troops made an initiative move out of the church yard to try and consolidate their flank. The Ft-17 traded shots with the Police armoured cars, brweing one up and suppressing another. The Char St Chamond and suppressed the remaining BUF MkIV tank, leaving them somewhat short on the tank front. The Commissar then Blundered again, leading to hits on the MG unit left in the church yard!

The PASLI cavalry finally arrived and managed to reach the edge of the village, thereby helping to stabilise the position. Sadly the CO failed to move the armour forward.

The end of Turn 5.

The cavalry show the tankers how its done by smartly galloping to the rescue of the beleagured 'villagers'. Maybe they'd been watching a Western at the local cinema?

The dashing cavalry. Who said they had no place on the modern battlefield?

The Police in the village threaten the 5th PFC's position.

The Police on the left, the 5th PFC mainly on the right.

The Police view of the village.

The Ft-17 stands defiant against the massed Police armoured car attack.

The BUF tanks continue to burn.

The view from the BUF perspective towards their objective which is still far away.

The BUF left flank reaches the woods.

The French armour like sentinels outside the village of Ridgeway.

End of Game
With the arrival of the PASLI cavalry and the loss of the BUF armour, I called it a day, as it was obvious that, although the Police were in the village, they AotSV could not take their objective. So the AotSV withdrew, but the LAotS still needed to keep a strong presence here, thereby possible leaving other areas less well defended...

Post Game Thoughts
Well I enjoyed that and it flowed rather nicely, for what was in the end quite a quick set up in terms of OOB etc. It was great to be playing BKCII again and having some of my favourite toys on the table. As always a few psot-game thoughts:
  • Before I would use the points system on BKCII when planning a scenario and then tweak things slightly This showed that going with a 'gut feeling' approach can work just as well. After all it's only me playing so it doesn't matter if it doesn't work out as planned. It is only a game.
  • Again I would use the campaign system from BKCI, but over the past year have learnt that going with the narrative works just as well. As I only have to satisfy myself it's fine.
  • For a tweaked scenario from one planned last year, I thought it worked remarkably well. It helps that I know BKCII more or less inside out, which generally makes it easier to come up with games etc. I found this true of Honours of War also. Certainly focussing on core rulesets these days makes this much easier.
  • I love having my WWI and Inter-War tanks on the table. It is not often that you can say and Ft-17 is a tought nut to crack, but when you are an armoured car it is. Also not having uber tanks makes ATR and smaller calibre ATGs fun to use and brings the combat more up close and personal. No long range shooting with an 88 for example.
  • The stars of the show were undoubtable the Police infantry and the Char St Chamond. Normally the former does diddly squat and the latter brews up after a few shots, so it was nice to have them make a big impact.
  • These days I generally go with a CV of 9 for the CO and CVs of 8 for the HQ's. This just makes the game flow more, even with my die rolling, as afterall you don't want your troops doing nothing Turn after Turn, now do you?
With the weather set fair for a good few days, I'm not sure when I'll get my next game. I certainly want to carry on with this campaign and I'm not sure whether to kick in the planned airborne element or have a natural next move on from this game. I'll have a think. Also I mustn't neglect my ImagiNations forces painting, as the lack of a deadline due to 3 months quarantine means lack of focus, which is bad for me. Plenty to think about so until next time...

Saturday 14 March 2020

The Battle for Telegraph Hill

After the last weeks bash centred around the fight for a built up area, this week I thought it would be good to have something different and with more open terrain. Once again 'Scenarios for Wargames' was consulted and I settled upon Scenario 7: Rear Slope. Essentially the attacking force could only see some of the defenders who were deployed on the forward slop, but had no idea of the terrain or other troops on the rear slope. 

Union OOB
8 x Line Infantry
1 x Light Infantry
2 x Mounted Infantry
4 x Artillery

Confederate OOB
5 x Line Infantry
1 x Light Infantry
1 x Mounted Infantry
4 x Artillery

I deployed part of my force as per the scenario, with the main effort by the road, which was the objective. I put a flanking force by the woods and the Northern end of the hill to cover the open flank. The rest of my troops were out of sight and represented by counters.

Dave's plan was as per the picture below:

An overview of the table, with the hill to the right of centre running North - South.

The main Confederate postion that was visible to the Union troops.

The Confederate right flank.

The Union troops about to entire the field of battle.

The view from the Union right flank.

The Union 1st Bde on the right flank, the 2nd Bde in the centre and the 5th Cavalry Bde all rolled 3 moves and advanced to the snake rail fences as ordered. 

The Confederates moved some units out of view of the enemy, but moved their reserve artillery belonging to the 7th Bde onto the hill. The artillery which could fire missed all of their targets. Typical!

The end of Turn 1.

The Union right flank in the corn fields.

The view from the Confederate 5th Bde towards the advancing Union forces.

The 7th Bde artillery moves onto the hill.

The Confederate left flank looking towards the Union 5th Cavalry Bde by the snake rail fencing.

Turn 2
The Union 5th Cavalry Bde failed their order (and would do so for the rest of the battle!), but the 1st Bde & 2nd bde pushed forward, with their shooting Disordering and causing hits on Confederate units on both wings.

In response, the Confederates moved up their Cavalry Bde to support the 7th Bde skirmishers on the right flank as well as bringing on another unit from the 5th Bde on the left flank. The shooting was more effective, with units in the 1st & 2nd Bde's Disordered.

The end of Turn 2.

Another regiment arrives to bolster the Confederate 5th Bde on the left flank.

The 7th Bde's artillery deployed but failed to hit anything.

The Cavalry Bde moves forward to support the 7th Bde's skirmishers.

Turn 3
Both the 1st Bde & 2nd Bde advanced and adopted a wide frontage to maximise their fire power. The Confederate 7th Bde skirmishers dodged an awful lot of incoming fire, but was Disordered, whilst the Confederate 5th Bde had a unit 'Whipped'. 

The Confederates 5th Bde brought up its final reserves to replace the 'Whipped' unit. Across the line the shooting was poor, only Disordering a unit of the Union 2nd Bde and  causing a hit on a unit of the 1st Bde. Really it could have been better...

The end of Turn 3.

The Union 1st Bde pushes on towards the hill, their objective.

The Confederate 5th bde bravely (or stupidly?) pushes a unit forward to meet the enemy.

The ineffective 7th Bde artillery.

The Confederate right flank facing formed troops and somewhat outnumbered.

The Confederate 5th Bde enjoying a 'Mr Whippy' ice cream, out term for 'Whipped' units.

Turn 4
On the union left flank, the 2nd bde pushed forward via passage of lines to keep up the pressure on the Confederate right flank, leading the the 7th Bde skirmishers becoming Shaken. The 1st Bde also pushed forward, with their shooting leading to one of the 5th Bde's artillery becoming 'Whipped' as well as a unit Disordered and the 7th Bde artillery also Disordered.

Under pressure the Confederate right flank moved back to the woods to try and slow the Union advance, trading space for time. The Confederate 5th Bde moved a unit up to the fence line to try and stabilise the line. The shooting was limited due to losses but only managed to Disorder a unit in each of the 1st & 2nd Bde.

The end of Turn 4.

The beleagured 5th Bde on the Confederate left flank.

The 7th Bde artillery in an exposed position but still with a chance to inflict damage on the Union troops.

The Confederate troops face overwhelming odds.

A view down the Union lines.

Turn 5
With minimal movement, the union shooting was once again very effective, leading to the 7th Bde's artillery becoming 'Whipped' along with the last infantry unit of the 5th Bde. So with more units enjoying their '99p Flakes', it was game over for the Confederacy.

The end of Turn 5 and the game.

What's left of the 5th Bde.

The Confederate right flank seperated from it's centre and left flank.

The queue for the ice cream van.

The Union battle line undamaged by Confederate shooting.

Eric Wayne and his 5th Cavalry Bde that (thankfully) moved only once during the game.

Post Game Thoughts
In the end a rather convincing win for the Union and another poor showing by the Confederacy. Why was it so one sided? Some thoughts that might explain why:
  • The Confederate shooting was rubbish. Frankly when they needed to they couldn't hit a barn door! This allowed the Union for the most part advance unmolested and to execute their plan, which they did with admirably.
  • The Union saving rolls were once again excellent, with an awful lots of 5's and 6's being rolled. So when I did hit, it had little or no effect.
  • The Confederate break tests were rubbish, with my rolls generally being no higher than 6, so adding in the deductions for Disorder etc, led to them becoming 'Whipped'.
  • I should have put more troops on the forward slope at the start of the game, to increase my potential firepower. What reserves I had I should have moved up in the first Turn. However that would have taken away the point of the scenario really.
  • Both of us thought that it should have been a tougher task than it was for the Union troops, in what was a sort of Gravelotte St Privat style attack. Sadly the Confederate shooting made it a comparative stroll in the park.
  • Re-reading the rulebook post game, we have been making a few mstakes of late, but nothing that would have affected out recent games. Still we live and learn.
  • We were both surprised at how vulnerable artillery was to shooting, with them automatically failing any Break Tests they were required to make. A bit of an eye opener to be honest.
Despite it being very one sided, we still had fun and had our usual banter and post game chat. It will probably be more ACW for the next game in a week or so, subject to the Covid-19 situation, or we might be able to kick off some ImagiNations gaming, as long as I have enough units painted. So until next time...