Colours 2019 Preview: ACW, Battle of Antietam. 15mm Fire & Fury.

I don’t know, you wait ages for some ACW action then…

A few weeks ago now I had the absolute pleasure of being invited round Andy’s to take part in a playtest of the Antietam game that he and a few of the South London Warlords are putting on at Colours this year. As I was supposed to be playing in Daren’s Kursk game I wouldn’t have been able to join them so jumped at the chance to have a go (even more glad now as we’ve had to call off the Kursk game so I would have missed it at the show!). As any of you might remember from the stunning Plancenoit game Andy put on I was dead keen to check this out, especially as we had been privy to snaps of the build from Andy over a good number of weeks as he made the terrain and it was looking ace.

The rules used for the game will be the new edition of Brigade Fire and Fury, which are great by the way, and the figures come from Andy and Des’ beautiful 15mm collections. I won’t bore you with a detailed AAR as this post is just going to be a feast for the eyes but it was a tough fight and you could see why it was such a bloody one historically. Doug and I, playing the Confederates, were gradually pushed back from the Western Woods and the hill by both weight of numbers and weight of shot (the massed Union guns were brutal!). However this came at a huge price to the attacking Union forces and when we finished the Rebel reinforcements were just arriving to knock them back again. Des was completely made up that his lads had made it to the Sunken Lane despite some accurate and deadly long range artillery fire from my guns but he didn’t manage to break into the position at the first go – again we had to stop just as things had got interesting!

It was a marvellous day’s wargaming and many thanks to Andy and Mrs. T for being such great hosts and Andy, Doug and Des for a great game. I’m sure it is going to be a wow game for all you lucky punters at the show!

All pics are clickable for a better view.

Ream’s Station: 15mm ACW Brigade Fire and Fury @ Martin’s no.2

A few weeks after the last big bash at Martin’s I had the pleasure of being invited round for a one vs one game. The battle was an interesting one with the Union set up in field fortifications having advanced to cut a railroad and awaiting the inevitable counter attack from the Confederates. I took the Union army and it was a really great days wargaming.

Apart from the forces in the field works I had a Brigade of infantry returning to my command and the possibility of some cavalry turning up later if certain things happened. I quickly decided on a nice simple plan. I was going to hold with my infantry and, if Martin did not swing round towards where they were stationed, I was going to move my cavalry on the extreme left of my position out of the works and combined with the Infantry brigade returning towards the same flank use them to try and roll up the Rebs as they attacked.

In the centre Martin chose the direct approach, and he wasn’t mucking about either, launching his troops into a charge without even trying to soften me up with artillery first. This bold style nearly paid off as the initial assault managed to destroy my forward battery and push back one of my brigades, however I did managed to hold the line and Martin’s lads were forced to retreat with both of us suffering quite a lot of casualties. It was taking him longer to get the attack going on the right and I had a chance to whittle the attackers down by fire before they managed to charge home and this attack failed to break into my positions and was repulsed with somewhat heavy losses.

Over on the left my mobile infantry brigade was moving into position to try and catch the assaulting Confederates in the flank when a Rebel Cavalry Brigade appeared behind them. Luckily my own cavalry had cleared the trenches by then and moved out to screen the rear of their footslogging comrades and pretty soon they were heavily engaged with their southern counterparts. I also decided to withdraw the remaining troops from the first line of works to the second so that the fresher brigades could take the brunt of any new attacks.

Martin was reinforced with a fresh Division of infantry and they were soon ready to get stuck in after the survivors of the first assault and their artillery had taken my defenders under fire with both sides dishing out casualties on each other. My outflanking brigade had their attack stymied by Martin redeploying a unit to counter the treat and were also seriously under threat of being hit in the jacksie by the chasing Reb cavalry which had brushed aside my own donkey-wallopers attempts to prevent them doing so.

The new assault from Martin’s good quality and large Brigades crashed into my defences and this time they were able to get a foothold in the position and combined with some deadly artillery fire falling on my supporting and outflanking units this time managed to take the second line of entrenchments, and soon a couple of my brigades were breaking and I decided that the gig was up and conceded the game. I did think after rebuffing the first assault I was in with a chance of winning, especially if my flank attack succeeded but unfortunately this ended up fizzling out and I was unable to hold against the second assault.

Big thanks to Martin for a cracking game as usual, always a pleasure playing against him as he’s a true gent, and I to get to use his lovely collection of figures too!

Game at Martin’s: Battle of Stones River, 15mm ACW BF&F

Back in May myself, Des, Andy, Ian and Doug met at Martin’s for a Brigade Fire and Fury bash in his lovely shed o’war. I must admit I was not familiar with this battle so was looking forward to it once Martin told us which one it was. Apparently he had put this game on at Salute 25 years ago but had not played it since so thought it apt to use as a training game for the new edition of the rules.

Morning cuppas consumed saw us in the shed being briefed on the ensuing battle. I was on the Union side along with Des and Doug, with myself taking Crittenden’s Corp, Des Thomas’ and Doug McCook’s. The traitorous Rebel’s were handled by Ian, Andy and Martin taking control of Polk and Hardee’s Corps. At the start of the battle the Reb’s were all, with the exception of a cavalry brigade, on table with a total of 5 Divisions that controlled 20 Brigades. We had 8 Divisions with 25 Brigades under command at the start of the battle plus a Cavalry brigade with a couple of Brigades off table so forces were quite equal to start off with but tipping towards a Union advantage later in the day.

The Confederates did have one advantage though. Apparently Rosencrans, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, had planned an assault on the extreme right wing of the Confederate positions near the fortified hill, however the Rebs had also planned an attack for an hour earlier and so were going to catch us off guard. This meant that most of our units were locked in place until certain times and Doug’s lads would have to roll to see if they were completely caught with their pants down and sipping their morning coffee or had managed to get into line when they were attacked. Apparently the General in charge of the right wing where the Southern onslaught would fall tried desperately to get Rosencrans to listen when he told him that he believed they were massing for a surprise attack along his front but he chose to ignore him and concentrate on his own plan. So things had the chance of going very wobbly very quickly and Des and Andy telling horror stories of when they had played the scenario before at the WHC didn’t help our initial morale!

With this information in place though we decided that we would carry on with our left wing attack with me committing 2 of my Divisions to it once they were activated whilst my 3rd Division filled in for Des’ one in front of the Rebel trenches in the centre so that he could move it across to assist Doug’s lads in what we were expecting to be a valiant but doomed holding action/phased withdrawal. Andy kicked things off in his usual laid back style smashing into Doug’s boys as they were having their morning coffee, but luckily for us the boys in Blue were quick to get themselves sorted out and they managed to survive the first onslaught quite well. This battle between Doug and Andy’s commands carried on all day see-sawing one way and the other but with Doug having to give ground constantly, albeit whittling down the attacking Confederates all the time.

As soon as his Divisions had been released and I had taken over the trenches in front of the Rebel position in the centre, Des launched himself at Andy’s troops too which managed to stabilise the centre of our line and also managed to blunt an attack from Ian’s troops as well. Again things turned into a right ding-dong battle here too and both sides lost a lot of troops. Our reserves had started to arrive though and we were confident that they could tip the balance and be used to launch a strong counter attack as the Rebs were quite worn out from attacking nearly constantly all day.

Meanwhile whilst all this was happening I had been slowly but surely making my way round the left flank to get ready to assault the Rebels on the hill (I did have a hard time with failed movement rolls and kept going half speed which didn’t help), I also made a bit of a grand battery and started shelling the bejeezus out of Martin’s lads that were dug in facing my lads in the trenches and the plan was to attack him as soon as my flanking force went in and the artillery had softened up the entrenched troops enough.

Unfortunately for me we ran out of time – it was the first real test of the new edition of the rules so time was lost in sorting out queries etc – but all in all it was a great game. The fighting was pretty intense and I loved having an ACW bash again and I must say I liked the new version of the rules. As usual it was a pleasure playing with the chaps and big thanks to Martin and Susan for the lovely lunch too!

Club Night 01/04/19: France ’44, 15mm IABSM/COC

After the last game of IABSM I was moaning about the card activation and how I thought it slowed things down and increased the chance of you sitting there doing nothing for large parts of the game if you were unlucky in the card activations (or if, as happened to me once, someone forgot to add a card into the deck after coming off the blind). Des had a think about it and came up with a very simple but ingenious way of combining the dice activation from CoC with the core rules.

Activation was much the same as in CoC, 5 dice being rolled, but scaled up: 1 activated a team/section, 2 a platoon, 3 a Big Man 1 or 2 (i.e. a JL), 4 a Big Man 3 (a SL), 5 added a pip to a ‘Bonus’ die, and 6’s went to a ‘Tea Break’ dice. Multiple 6’s were treated the same as in CoC so 2 gave you another go (we used our system of decreasing the activation dice by 1 die every time). The ‘Bonus Dice’ was added to until you hit 6 pips (basically a CoC dice) whereupon you could pick a card from the bonus card deck. As soon as the ‘Tea Break’ die hit 6 – which was added to by both sides’ rolls – a Tea Break was called.

As well as the activation system from CoC we were using a similar support points system and so both sides had a core infantry company and a set amount of points that we could spend to beef things up. We would also be using the Force Morale system too with points lost for ‘Bad Things Happening’.

The scenario we would test these out with was nice and straightforward. Andy and I had to take a small village somewhere in the Bocage country. Facing us was the all singing and dancing  ‘Kamp Gruppe Bartram’ led by Daren. We managed to set up a rather spiffing table with the club’s terrain and Des’ lovely ‘Empires at War’ Normandy buildings (the 15mm versions of the ones seen on this blog before). The main picture below shows our view of the battlefield, and we hit upon a nice simple plan. I would take 2 of our platoons of infantry and push through the orchard to the right of the road whilst sending our recce jeep along the right flank whilst Andy would take our Sherman platoon along the left supported by the remaining infantry platoon. The enemy would be pinned in place once discovered then destroyed.

Things started very well with all of us getting into the swing of the new activation system easily enough. We decided to push my attack through first and soon I had 2 platoons in the Orchard and the jeep barrelling around bocage as it headed for the lateral road on the right. Then the shit hit the fan. My lads in the orchard must have been fresh from England as they failed to spot the PanzerGrenadiers that lined the hedge at the far end of the orchard until they opened up a murderous fire on my Napoleonic looking column. Pretty soon I was in all sorts of trouble as the German machine guns chewed through section after section and soon one of my platoons was pretty much out of action. My return fire was not the best but I did manage to cause some casualties assisted by the company mortars but I was forced to pull back out of sight to regroup and re-asses whilst the Germans slipped away to take up new positions in the village.

Just when I thought things were pretty bad they got worse. My recce jeep bumped into something along the road and I actually felt my jaw drop when Daren gleefully put out 2 Tigers – indeed both Daren and Des laughed at my re-action. I did have a go at one of the behemoths with my .30-cal before scooting back desperately trying to get into cover but both efforts were futile and one of the giant beasts pumped a HE shell into the plucky Jeep.

As the right flank was now well and truly shut down we decided that Andy best get forward on the left so he pushed his Shermans forward followed by the infantry. However pretty soon the sharp crack of an 88 signalled the appearance of 2 more Tigers! The American tankers tried valiantly to take on the big cats but pretty soon their Platoon commander and one other tank were burning. There was one small glimmer of hope though as the remaining infantry platoon managed to creep forwards whilst the tank duel was going on and soon a couple of bazooka teams were in position to get a flank shot at one of the Tigers. If they could get a successful shot away we might just be able to overpower the remaining one with the concentrated fire of the surviving tanks. But it wasn’t to be, the GI’s manning the rocket launchers were just too jittery and their missiles either sailed harmlessly past the massive tank or glanced off the thick steel (how they missed is still puzzling me, just how do you miss a Tiger side on?!!). Daren then turned the Tigers turret on the hapless bazooka men who would have been blasted to atoms if they weren’t close assaulted by a fresh platoon of PanzerGrenadiers.

With this further defeat Andy and I decided that enough was enough, most of our infantry was knackered and our tanks had been well and truly assaulted by the Tigers so we decided to concede defeat. Strangely though the surviving tanks disappeared during the retreat, and even stranger when we tried to get them on the radio to ask where they were we received this message back: ‘Woof, woof’. Odd.

Despite the defeat it was a cracking game and we all agreed that the new activation system vastly improved things and even I said I’d love to have another game so hats off to Mr. Darkin for coming up with the rules, we did come up with a few tweaks here and there but nowt too much which shows how well they worked.  Apart from the rules more thanks to Des for putting the game on and for bringing his lovely village set, the figures and models were Daren’s but now in the collection of Andy which is great as we  will still get to play with them as they are crackingly well done.

If you are interested in the new activation rules at all you can find them here – Des has called them: ‘Oh what a total bummer’: https://www.facebook.com/groups/216703912095462/files/

(I think: ‘I aint been CoC’d Mum’ was better but apparently that’s a bit rude?!)

As it was so nice and we didn’t get anywhere near it in the fight here’s some gratuitous shots of the lovely village! (available from here: https://www.empiresatwar.co.uk/15mm-NORMANDY-KITS.html)

 

 

 

 

General de Brigade: Plancenoit, 1815

A couple of Sundays ago I had the absolute pleasure in having been invited round to Andy’s shed of war for a large 15mm Napoleonic game of General de Brigade. To say that I was looking forward to this game from the moment that I received the invite and the date was set for the game is an understatement. I had heard about the quality of the games that he had put on in the past so was chomping at the bit to be involved. I’m extremely glad to say that I was not disappointed in any way, it was a truly fantastic days wargaming.

As soon as I entered the shed that the game was being played in (I reckon these places should have a snappy name as ‘shed’ doesn’t quite cut it really, does it?) I was confronted with a truly great spectacle. Even if I didn’t know what battle was due to be fought I’d have known straight away from the terrain on the table, it could only be Plancenoit. Andy had done a marvellous job in constructing the bespoke terrain for the refight, really bringing to life all the maps of the area that I’ve studied in the past. The thousand or two figures already lined up ready would have given another clue if needed. Honestly I’m afraid my pics do not do the scene justice!

After a bacon roll and a cuppa, supplied by Mrs T. and very much appreciated, Andy got to the briefing and explained the ADC rules that we would be using to us – we were using standard GdB rules but with house rules concerning ADC’s to activate/change orders – and both sides got their heads together to plan the upcoming fight.

I was on the Prussian team with Del and Martin. We would be taking control of Bulow’s IV Corp tasked with taking the village of Plancenoit and we had 20 turns in which to do so. Del wore the C-in-c’s hat and would be responsible for the assault on the village with 15th and 16th Brigades under command. Martin was to take the right flank responsible for defeating the French to our front with the 13th and 14th Brigades.  I was to take the Cavalry reserve, Corp Artillery and Tipplekirch’s Brigade of II Corps when it arrived, my orders being to support Martins assault on Lobau’s line whilst seeing off the French Reserve battery in the centre with our own Reserve artillery to hopefully open a gap in the centre of the French position to be exploited later. The dastardly French were controlled by Andy, Simon and Des who just had to hold on as best they could and prevent us from taking the village. They were in command of Lobau’s VI Corp with some Young and Old Guard types scheduled to turn up some time or other to make things harder for us.

So with plans made, tea and bacon consumed we got at it. The first thing that we noticed as the Prussians was that we would have problems making our numerical superiority work to our advantage as the terrain and troop density meant that we would have to attack in ‘waves’, passing one unit through another. This was certainly the case for Martin and myself as our units were activated to a schedule so we had to get moving with what we had on hand first and then follow up with the rest when it became available, which was actually quite a realistic problem to have and added to the flavour to the game I thought. Anyway Del started by moving forward to the village and started prepping the defenders for the assaults that were about to start and then continue for the rest of the day and Martin launched his lead Brigade towards the line of French on the right flank. I opened the bombardment of the French battery and started off well inflicting losses straight away whilst my huge Landwehr Cavalry Brigade advanced to support Martins lads by covering their open left flank.

The battle soon turned into a proper slogging match with both Martin’s and Del’s Brigades repeatedly coming to grips with the French defenders before narrowly being beaten back. In the fight for the village Del managed to take the church a good few times but was always pushed out immediately by fresh French units or a swift counter attack from a rallied battalion. Much the same was happening in the fight for the rest of the village, as soon as he managed to defeat one battalion another countered his disorganised men and bundled them back. With the cramped frontages available to deploy in he just couldn’t make his superior numbers tell against Simon’s defenders and when Andy’s Guard turned up it made it even harder. This to and fro action went on all day and showed just how hard the fight must have been in reality and followed the pattern in accounts of many village fights I have read from the period.

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Outside the village Martin soon came to grips with Des’ Division guarding the northern part of the line and here too a tough fight broke out. Des was taking advantage of the terrain and had his men behind hedges which was helping in his defence and Martin couldn’t quite get to grips with the French in a co-ordinated manner enough to break them. This was mainly down to the difference in quality of the units I think with some of the Prussian battalions failing to charge home a few times leaving those that did in the lurch somewhat. All was not lost though as the defending French had been steadily losing men and once Martin’s lead Brigade was hors de combat he committed his fresh one.

Meanwhile I had managed to destroy the French Reserve battery in the centre and had advanced my Landwehr cavalry forwards as ordered and pretty soon were confronted with a mass of French Cavalry that had appeared to the rear of Des’ infantry. I knew I didn’t have the qualitative edge but my idea was to tie them up so as to prevent them from attacking Martin’s lads and maybe wear them down before my Regular Brigades could be brought forwards to help finish them off. With the loss of the French Heavy artillery Simon was forced to re-deploy forces from the defence of Plancenoit to cover the gap I had made and managed to seal it off before we could get any forces forward to take advantage, again thwarted by space issues – we just couldn’t move our units quick enough.

After a lovely lunch that battle carried on in much the same vein, Del and Martin bravely grinding forwards but just not breaking through whilst I had been involved in a cavalry scrap and had charged a couple of Des’ battalions with my Landwehr Cavalry (which nearly went my way even though they were in square!) before they broke and the fight was taken over by the Regular brigades. I did manage to get Tipplekirch’s Brigade on the table but the were stuck in a ‘traffic jam’ of units so it took ages to get them forward, some command and control problems didn’t help either! Pretty soon though it just started to feel like that we weren’t just going to do it and when it got to 6pm we called it a day with the French holding all along the line even though they had taken a battering, especially outside the village.

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The main problem we had, we thought, was that we just couldn’t get our units into the fight quick enough. With such a large density of force on such a constricted front all it took was a bit of friction and everything snarled up, not that I’m complaining about it a game without this sort of thing is just too easy I reckon and wargaming is supposed to be a problem solving exercise as well as fun. The battle also showed just how difficult it must have been to take a village in this time, I’m sure Del was knackered by the end of play! There were also those close calls that luck just favoured the enemy and if they had gone the other way might just have led to a different result but c’est la guerre as those Frenchies might say.

Even though we didn’t come away with the win it was a truly great days wargaming and I can’t thank Andy enough for the invite, and big thanks too go to Mrs Thomlinson for the fantastic hospitality and for keeping us fed and watered all day. As I’ve mentioned before the terrain was absolutely superb and the figures we used from the collections of Martin, Andy and Del weren’t too shoddy either. But, as always, the thing that makes these days really great are the chaps that you share them with so many thanks go to Andy, Martin, Del, Simon and Des in playing the game like true gents. Hat doffed all round, and very much looking forward to the next one already!

PS Some more pics taken by Des can be found here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/247145792126789?view=permalink&id=784110201763676