Sunday 17 October 2021

Spanish Civil War Campaign - The Falange Attack on III Company, British International Brigade

Another game made it to the table a day or so ago, from the on going Spanish Civil War campaign that I'm running with Norm and Jon. Until a map is 'released' in a day or two, the situation is broadly that the British III Coy has been ordered to perform a delaying action against elements of the Falange Battalion. OOB and orders from both players can be seen below:

British International Brigade III Coy OOB
1 x HQ
3 x Infantry
1 x HQ
1 x Recce Armoured Car

Broadly - I would like my company to occupy the frontage of the woods to the right of the road (only - nothing to the left) …. So that they have an easier / shorter path of escape, which they should do before they get compromised. If possible, can the armoured car deploy out on my right, preferably in cover, so that it can give protection to my path of retreat and then retreat itself once threatened with something that can do it real harm. I think Jonathan will be manoeuvring early to cut my retreat path, likely with mobile forces, so I see this episode as one of potential high risk for my III Coy.

Falange  OOB
1 x CO
'A' Coy
1 x HQ
1 x Recce
3 x Infantry
1 x MG
1 x Pak 35/36 + tow
1 x 75mm Artillery Support Unit + tow
2 x Armoured Trucks
1 x Armoured Car with AT
1 x Schneider Tank
'C' Coy
1 x HQ
3 x Infantry
1 x MG

See image below (note that the III Coy are expected to be deploy in the woods as shown by the hatched oval):

With the orders in, the units were deployed as follows:

An overview of the table.

'C' Coy.

'A' Coy and support.

The armoured car ready to cover the line of retreat.

III Coy at the edge of the woods as ordered.

Let Battle Commence
The photo captions will give an idea of how the game played out.

The end of Turn 1. 'C' Coy moved swiftly forward to try and block the line of retreat for the International Brigade's III Coy. 'A' Coy moved forward, with the armoured trucks reaching their position. 

The III Coy used initiative fire at the trucks, but failed to hit and then promptly failed their command roll.

The flank move by part of 'A' Coy have reached their positions and have spotted the III Coy in the woods.

The rest of 'A' Coy move forward with their support units. The artillery support unit has reached the wall but is yet to unlimber.

The end of Turn 2. 'C' Coy reached the wall and the rocky outcrop and held their positions as ordered. 'A' Coy on the 'left' flank debuss from the armoured trucks and the Pak 35/36 unlimbers and deploys. The rest of 'A' Coy, courtesy of the CO, moved forward and opened fire on the British III Coy. The volume of fire was such that the III Coy lost two platoons and had their MG unit suppressed, but 'A' Coy did take a few hits in return.

With such heavy losses early on, the III Coy began to retreat PDQ, or at least the remaining platoon that could move.

'C' Coy in position.

'A' Coy on the 'left' flank have debussed and unlimbered.

The rest of 'A' Coy and their supporting units pour fire into the III Coy along the wood edge.

Time to exit stage left as it were.

The armoured car ready to provide covering fire as the infantry begin to retreat.

At the start of Turn 3, initiative fire sees the III Coy's MG unit destroyed.

The end of Turn III.

The remaining III Coy platoon retreats but takes some fire from the Pak 35/36, but is not suppressed.

'A' Coy suddenly have no enemy in front of them and then struggle to move forward in pursuit.

The end of Turn 4. The Falange CO blunders, leaving his units stranded and unable to pursue.

As the remaining III Coy platoons continues to retreat, they come under heavy opportunity fire from 'C' Coy and are destroyed.

'A' Coy on the 'left' flank push forward into the wood in pursuit.

End of Game
Suddenly the game was over almost before it had begun. The British international Brigade's armoured car unit moved off to the North West table corner and linked up with a supporting cavalry unit (odd board and relevant for the campaign).

Post Game Thoughts
Well I'm not quite sure what to say really, but I'll try and sum up my thoughts;
  • Both sides had good plans and their deployments were sound. Based upon previous experience with low CV forces (HQ's CV 7 in this game, but the Falange CO CV9), I expected it to be a drawn out affair, with the III Coy slowly making a fighting withdrawal and the Falange struggling to keep up.
  • But 'twas not to be. In one of those unusual events in a game, the Falange CO had a string of successful command rolls (3 including a double 1) and the die rolls were rather good, leading to the III Coy losing two units and the MG becoming suppressed, with their brief opportunity fire failing to suppress any of the enemy. 
  • Normally this sort of fire fight would have been maybe one or two rounds of shooting and that would be it. Maybe a unit on either side would be suppressed and then the III Coy could have retreated. But not so in this game!
  • I know this sort of thing has put gamers of the BKC ruleset, but honestly it's a long time since I've seen anything so effective, outside of British WWII artillery barrages or German Mortars. It's just one of those moments in a game that happen: 'c'est la guerre' I suppose.

So now it is time to update the campaign and pass relevant info on to Jon and Norm, with Norm maybe needing a stiff drink to accompany it after such a devastating turn of events in just one Turn. Hey ho! Hopefully the Die Gods will show their favour to the Republicans in another game...

Until next time stay safe and keep healthy.

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Spanish Civil War Campaign - Attack on C3 Battle

I have been running a Spanish Civil War campaign that kicked off a few weeks ago, ably abetted by Jon Freitag and Norm Smith, who kindly volunteered to take command of the forces involved. Jon  was good enough to take on the role of the Nationalist troops  leaving Norm in charge of the Republicans. My part was to handle campaign movement and then implement their plans when a battle was fought on the games table. But more of that in another post.

Last week  we reached the point that a battle needed to be resolved on the games table. I set the table up, briefed both players and then awaited their orders, which are as follows:

British International Brigade 1st Coy Orders

The black hatched area at the bottom is the deployment zone for the Republican troops. The top left hand line and arrow where the Nationalists will arrive via mobile deployment.

Overall strategy will be to stay out of the way of the opening barrage, then move into defensive positions and once attack looks to be gaining momentum …. Bug out at speed and abandon my superb defensive position! 

1. Do not physically defend the right ridge (right of road)
2. Deploy 1 x 75mm on the road between the ridges with open sights down the road to harass enemy infantry, impeded motorised infantry and destroy vehicles. Retire if compromised.
3. Deploy 81mm mortar on far left of left ridge, just inside the wood line. Attack targets of opportunity or lay smoke if my retreat is looking perilous! It will be the last unit to bug out!
4, Deploy  FOO alone on the RIGHT ridge in cover, but best views. Call fire for maximum damage, so likely at soft targets.
5. EVERYTHING ELSE CO / HQ / 3 x inf / 1 x MG to be placed BEHIND the left ridge (left of road), but more towards its left side and with a shorter distance to retreat off table. I think Jonathan will be pushing here anyway.

Once the initial barrage is over (if there is one), they will rush up the hill to take cover in the woods, they will hold off the enemy as long as possible, but preservation of force is a priority, so as soon as Jonathan gathers momentum and looks like he will steam-roller me, I will abandon the position and retire from the table.

CTV 'Fiamme Negre' Blackshirt Battalion Orders

All very nice and clear and maybe one day my scribbles may evolve to resemble this!

With orders in I then tried to deploy the troops as per their orders. Any mistakes are mine alone and can be attributed to the confusion inherent in such things (well that's my excuse!).

An overview of the table from the Italian positions.

'C' Coy in position.

The Recce unit already forward to pass info back as and when required.

'A' & 'B' Coy ready to move off.

The Republican FAO in position in the woods.

The deployed Republican artillery unit.

The infantry and support units behind the crest of the ridgeline.

The Action
The annotated photos will hopefully give an idea of how the game played out.

The end of Turn 1 and all the Italian troops arrived and advanced rather more quickly than expected, but 'A' Coy on the flank need the CO to get them moving. The British 1st Coy held position and the FAO failed to get through to his off board artillery support. The artillery support unit on the road did open up and hit the Italian Recce unit, but failed to suppress it.

'C' Coy reach the BUA and being to deploy their support weapons.

'A' Coy reach the wall as 'B' Coy advance in the open.

The end of Turn 2. The Italian artillery barrage arrived and bracketed the ridge but failed to cause any hits on the British FAO. 'A' & 'B' Coy managed one move only whilst 'C' Coy failed to move at all.

The British FAO called in his artillery on 'B' Coy who had two infantry and one MG unit suppressed. The infantry still held back and the artillery support unit failed to shoot.

'B' Coy takes a battering. Early on and the Italians are already under pressure, as being in the open is not good.

The end of Turn 3. The Italian Recce got through to 'C' Coy who moved their infantry into the wood and unlimbered their support units. With line-of-sight to the British artillery support unit, the mortar hit and suppressed it. 'B' Coy moved what units it could, whilst 'A' Coy once again needed the CO to intervene to get them moving, but at least they neared the ridgeline.

The British went to move forward and Blundered, but at least it was one move towards the enemy. Not ideal but at least it was movement. The FAO failed his command roll, giving the Italians a reprieve.

'C' Coy make good progress.

'B' Coy are still exposed but 'A' Coy close in on the ridgeline.

The end of Turn 4. 'C' Coy fail their command roll, whilst 'B' Coy made a dash forward, with 'A' Coy once again requiring the CO to help them onto the ridgeline. The FAO had no targets so moved to try and get in a better position.

The British FAO got through this Turn and his artillery led to 'B' Coy losing two infantry units and another being suppressed. The '1st' Coy moved onto the crest of the ridgeline, but had no targets in line-of-sight. The artillery support unit limbered up to pull back behind the ridgeline to be out of sight in the hope that it could unlimber and provide indirect fire support soon. with the Italians closing in the FAO pulled back towards the '1st' Coy's positions.

'B' Coy feel the effects of the artillery strike. Not good. At least 'A' Coy are now on the ridgeline and in the woods.

'1'st' Coy are now in position.

The end of Turn 6 (Turn 5 was failed command rolls across the board!). The Italian FAO with the help of the Recce called in his artillery on the '1st' Coy, leading two infantry and the FAO being suppressed. All the Italian made one move forward. With their FAO and infantry suppressed, the '1st' Coy had no targets and so held position.

'C' Coy move to the edge of the woods and the '1st' Coy are suppressed on the ridgeline.

'A' Coy move along the ridgeline with 'B' Coy in support.

The Italian FAO and Recce in ideal positions to help the attack on the ridgeline.

The end of Turn 7. The Italian FAO and 'C' Coy both fail their command rolls. 'A' & 'B' Coy's however move along and shoot at the British artillery support unit, but fail to suppress it. 

The British HQ Blundered leading to an infantry unit taking 4 hits and becoming suppressed. To add insult to injury the CO failed his command roll! The '1st' Coy were now under pressure and needed to bug out pretty damned quick!

'A' & 'B' Coy's are ready to unhinge the British position.

The view from the under pressure British.

The artillery support unit needs to limber up very quickly if it is to escape.

The end of Turn 8. Once again the Recce and FAO combine to bring in the artillery on the beleaguered British positions, leading to all three infantry units being suppressed, but at least the FAO was OK. 'C' Coy moved to the wood edge and 'A' & 'B' Coy's combined to finish off the artillery support unit before it could limber up.

With defeat imminent, the British began to withdraw, with the MG and Mortar unit managing to escape.

'A' & 'B' Coy's in a great position, forcing the British to exit stage left.

The '1st' Coy struggle to move having just been suppressed.

The destroyed artillery support unit.

The end of Turn 9. With the infantry too close, the Italian FAO holds fire, as once again 'A' & 'B' Coy's combine to destroy and infantry unit. With it being game over, the British managed to finally retreat off table. Victory to the Italians!

The Italians clear the ridgeline.

The British are forced to retreat with their tails between their legs.

The Butcher's Bill
The Italians lost two infantry units, but managed to capture the British artillery support unit at the end of the game. The British only lost one infantry unit but the loss of the artillery unit is quite significant in campaign turns.

Post Game Thoughts
As always a few thoughts on the game itself and maybe on the campaign implications. So in no particular order:
  • Re-reading Norm's deployment orders I'm pretty sure I got the units in the wrong positions, by not reading things carefully enough. However I deployed them in terms of how their positions fitted on the campaign board and their lines of communication etc. Mea culpa on my part if I got it wrong. 
  • The Italians moved much more quickly than in previous games given their low starting CV's. The Italian CO played no small part in this and maybe given a CV boost based upon his performance. 'B' Coy took a battering but this allowed 'A' Coy to move forward unmolested. 'C' Coy didn't have much to do but kept the British alert to the threat from that direction, as they had to cover two approaches to their positions.
  • As always campaigns throw up some nice scenarios such as this one, where it is not your normal game, but is more interesting for it. I was tempted to call the game a Turn or two earlier, but played to the end as any last minute losses, such as the artillery support unit, would have an impact upon the campaign. I'm glad I did.
  • The British just failed to get going really, with poor command rolls right across the board. If the FAO had managed another strike on 'B' Coy, the game and campaign may have taken on a slightly different complexion.
  • The open terrain of the part of Spain makes this tricky for attackers, but equally defenders often have little cover to. So artillery or air strikes can be particularly devastating.
  • Implementing Jon and Norm's orders is fun as I've found in other games where players have provided their lines of attack etc. It's nice to have these different challenges and perspectives to play out and look forward to more of the same.

The campaign has moved on since this game and another one is in the offing, that should be rather interesting. First I need to upload the campaign map so that these battles make sense. I haven't done this so far as to maintain a certain level of 'fog-of-war' for both players, but more on that later.

The Russian Civil War is continuing to pique my interest and is certainly a fascinating conflict to try and game with BKCII. I have some ideas and may try them out soon, but first I need to figure out a small order to Pendraken as well as keep focus on this campaign. But first the weather is glorious here so I'm off for a nice walk to ponder my options on the RCW front! 

So stay safe and keep healthy! Until next time.