Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Another Black Powder Battle: British vs. Russian in Crimea

Last Sunday I got another Black Powder game in (for two in one month). This time it was British vs. Russians using the Crimean Stats from the Rule book. My friend Mehmet wrote a illustrated battle report which I have uploaded on Google Drive. You can find the shareable link below. All in all a great game that ended in a draw.

Here is a teaser picture.
Russian units march towards the thin red line.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Battle of Gaine's Mill: Board is done?

Well here is the board almost completed. The only thing missing is McGhee hill, and I am not 100% sure about how to represent it. Beyond that the forests, streams, roads etc are there. I also received my order from Pendraken for the union side, so in due time the other thing missing (armies) will show up1

Beyond that, here is a awesome photo from the Karagh Club, when the Lego people came to show their stuff.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Assault at Plevna: Black Powder Report

Good day to all


Last weekend me and Onur had the chance to run a game of our Black Powder Army Lists and Scenarios for the 1877-1878 Russo-Ottoman War. (which you can find on this blog).
We decided to ran the first ahistotrical scenario from the Conflict book (Seems more appropriate than army book), which is Assault on Defensive works. This is based on the battles around Pleven.
The scenario saw a Russian Line Infantry Division assault a section of the Ottoman works around Plevna defended by a Ottoman division size force. (some of the pictures are a courtesy of Onur)

The Forces

The Russian forces were made up of
1 Line Infantry Division of 4 regiments of three battalions each (12 units, 4 brigade commands)
2 Cavalary Half-Regiments (Hussars) (under the direct
6 artillery units representing the 6 batteries that each Russian Line Division had in the war. (organized in one brigade of a large battery).
About 13000 men and 24 guns.

The Ottoman defensive position was made up of three redoubts. Two of them were small, and one of them was large.  The field was dominated by a large ridge on the Ottoman side of the map (towards Plevna), and a smaller ridge (that crated a valley) and a plain with village towards the Russian side of the map. Redoubt A (small) dominated the small ridge and defended the approaches to the large Redoubt B, which was the linchpin of Ottoman Defenses.  Redoubt C guarded the right flank of the  large Redoubt.   

The Ottoman force defending these works was made up of
6 Nizam Battalions
2 Veteran Nizam Battalions
2 Redif battalions
3 Cavalry Half Regiments
4 Artillery batteries.
All of them organized in 5 Brigades.
About  5000-7000 men, and 16-20 guns.

Disposition of Ottoman Defenders.
The scenario is built in such a way that the forward redoubt (A) is the key to the Ottoman Positions. The ridge it holds can mask forces massing for an attack at the center of the Russian position from the large redoubt (B). Thus taking it is a wise move for the Russian if they want to avoid attacking across the open ground on the Right Flank. Onur grasped that and deployed an elite brigade of 2 Nizam and 1 Veteran Nizam units, plus a battery to defend it.

The Left Flank of the Ottoman position and redoubt B was to be held rather thinly by 2 Redif Battalions, a artillery brigade and a cavalry half-regiment.
The center of the Ottoman Position was held by 2 Nizam infantry units, 1 Veteran Unit and 1 battery. It was obvious after the fact that Onur’s intention was to defend the approaches to Redoubt B as opposed the redoubt itself.

The Right flank was defended by 1 Nizam infantry unit, 1 Nizam infantry unit and 1 artillery battery in Redoubt C,  and two cavalry half-regiments in the far end of the flank.

Russian decisions
The Russian units would enter the game with commands, rather than deployed first. As a result the decision of the axis of advance and the disposition of the units to those axis was of paramount importance. It is here that the Russian Commander (me) made mistakes. The decision was to send half the division (2 regiments of 3 battalions each, let us call them 23rd Travlionski, 43rd  Rudckevichi) to assault Redoubt A.  One Infantry regiment (3 battalions , let us call it 30th Suzdal) would deploy in the center, between the forward ridge and the village, with the goal of either occupying the central Ottoman positions or swinging right or left depending on the tactical situation.  

The massed artillery was order to advance to the village, deeply in front of it and engage Redoubt C and the Ottoman center, while the last regiment (3 battalions , let us call it 50th Putinosvski) was tasked with assaulting C. Once Redbouts A and C were taken if unit condition and time permitted it the forces would converge on Redbout B from two different axis and take it. Even if that was not possible, the Ottoman position would be hopelessly compromised.  The two cavalry half-regiments would link the 23rd and 43rd regiments with the 30th.

As it can be cleared the most important task was that of the 23rd and 43rd regiments. Redbout A must fall as quickly as possible for this plan to have any chance of success.

The Russian Arrive

The battle
Since I do not remember the round by round events, I will describe what transcribed in broad strokes. The pictures though are in some chronological order.

The Left Flank: The Redoubt holds!
The Russian forces entered en mass the field in assault columns. The 23rd and 43rd threw themselves at Redbout A, while the 30th advanced towards the Ottoman center. Following the road the 50th advanced up towards the village, while the artillery moved forward as well. The Russian cavalry units advanced to outflank Redoubt A from its right.  Despite desperate charges by the Russian infantry and enfilading fire from the cavalry, the Ottoman units held. While one Nizam unit was broken, the Redoubt broke the 23rd and 43rd Regiments after a sustained set of firefights and hand to hand battles. Attempts by the Ottoman cavalry on the Left flank to drive off the Russian cavalry failed, and cost the Ottomans a cavalry unit.  At the end of the battle Redoubt A was safe from Russian threats.

The Russian general Advance

Striking the Left Flank

Into the meat grinder



The Attack begins to flatter

Russian Cavalry outflanks the Redbout and breaks one Ottoman unit

Last grasps of the Attack

The Center: The 30th becomes bogged. The Russian artillery bombards.
In the center the 30th regiment advanced in stolid lines across open gorund, but ultimately was bogged down by Ottoman fire from Redoubt B and the central Ottoman position. One of its battalions was broken, but the other two stoically stood under fire. The loss of senior officers did not even permit the units to deploy in firing lines. Thankfully the deployment of the Russian artillery alleviated the situation.  The 24 guns first assisted the happy result on the Right flank, and then began a continuous bombardment of the Ottoman center.  That said the 30th was unable to close in for bayonet charges.

Advancing on the Center and Right

Awaiting the Russians
The Center holds

The Right Flank: The 50th succeeds!
On the right flank the 50th regiment conducted an exemplary tactical operation. Deploying its units in firing line it engaged in a firefight the dismounted Ottoman cavalry holding the shelter trenches of the far right flank of the Ottoman line. Once it gained local superiority it requested artillery bombardment of Redoubt C. The 24 guns of the division bombarded mercilessly the small redoubt forcing the defending battery and Nizam units to break. While two of the 3 battalions engaged and broke the remaining Ottoman cavalry, the 3rd battalion took Redoubt C, planning its flag on the ramparts. Massive cheers arose from the Russian units. It then moved to flank the Ottoman Nizam units defending the center. But with the failure of the assault on Redoubt A and the center, there was not much more that could be done. As night came the Russian divisional commander ordered his exhausted forces to retreat to their starting positions.

Attack on C

Disaster on the Left Flank, bogged in the Center, Putting the Pressure on the Right Flank

Ottoman units under pressure 

Taking Redoubt C


Focusing on the center

Russian and Ottoman Dispositions at the end

Ending Score
The Ottomans gained victory points for holding two redoubts (A and B) and for each Russian unit they broke. That gave them 12 points ( 3 points for A, 2 point  for B, and 1 point for 8 units)
The Russians gained victory points for holding one redoubt (C ) and for each Ottoman unit they broke. That gave them 9 victory points (2 or C, and 1 point for 7 units).

We thus called it a Minor Ottoman Victory.

The game went well and lasted about 2 and a half hours.  We both were quite happy with the scenario rules and the army lists. We did forget some of the special rules at the start of the game, with the most crucial being the Ammunition shortages rule for the artillery (We used it from about halfway of the game and to the end). We felt the result was very historical, and that the battle could had gone either way.

The Ottoman Commander (Onur) grasped that a good forward defense was the key to survival. The Russian Commander (me) underestimated the task at hand. He should had deployed 3 regiments (9 units) against Redoubt A or given them artillery support, as the two regiments (6 units) were simply insufficient for the task at hand.  The game was dominated by firefights. It was firing that saved the Ottoman position, and it was good fire tactics that gave the Russians their only success. The Russian decision to mass artillery in one powerful brigade was right. Even though it denied artillery support to some sectors, it provided the Russians with a powerful equalizer for the good Ottoman shooting. It literally blew a hole in the Ottoman positions. Quite naturally assaults over pone ground unsupported by artillery will become bogged down. All in all a great game. We will be trying Big Bloody Battles and Nikopol the next time we play.

Round by Round pictures








Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gaines Mill Ongoing WIP : The board

I went to Greece for the elections, and took the chance to buy some clump foliage to recreate the forests of Gaine's Mill. I still need some to cover all the forested areas, but it looks good I dare say. I like the clump foliage approach to forests that the Altar of Freedom people have proposed, though I decided to glue directly on the filed rather than make them removable. Just a bit more easy this way.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Battler Report and Review: Langesalza 1866 using Big Bloody Battles


Hello to all. I finally sat down to play a solo game of Big Bloody Battles by Chris Pringle. These are rules for large Army or mutli-Army battles but Chris was nice enough to make some training scenarios of smaller battles. So take into consideration that this battle report might not be testing the full potential of the rules. That said I believe his rules can work fine for smaller and faster battles.

I decided to run the Battle of Langesalza scenario (available at the BBB Yahoo Group), using my white coated 1877 Russians as Prussians, and the green coated as Hannoverians.

First let me start with a short discussion of the rules.

The Big Bloody Battles Rules

The rules are only available in hard-copy form. I got mine from Caliver Books. What you get is a tightly written 56 page black an white manuscript. The rules take about 25 pages, with the rest of the book being a set of 8 scenarios for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.

Units are made up of a number of square bases and those bases depending on the scale can represent anything form 500 to 2000 men. Many base together represent brigades or divisions which are your basic unit of maneuver.

The rules are divided into four places. The first part discusses terrain and how it affects movement, fire-fights and assaults. Most of it is straightforward and a good summary table finishes the chapter. The main substance are the Movement, Firefight and Assault Rules.

Movement is fairly simple, but Chris has included command and control friction into it. To move a unit you roll 2d6 on a table, depending on whether it is disrupted or in order, and affected by various modifiers (for example for being close to a commander). Depending on the roll a unit may move half its movement, full its movement, rally broken bases, rally from disruption etc. It may even break from the battle. This simple mechanism creates a good amount of friction representation with little headache. In the Battle Report the East Flank of the Hanoverian suffered from some bad rolls which created traffic jams, which I thought was a no-nonsense way to create such results in the game.

To represent better command and control Chris gives armies who had it more generals on the field than those who did not, which can affect the 2d6 rolls. Once you can move, movement is simple with deductions for moving outside your forward arc, changing formations, and terrain features. Formations are three for cavalry and infantry (in Line, Depth or March Column), and two for artillery (Limbered or Not). Because of the use of 2d6 I never felt that a set of unlucky rolls were ruining my game.

One of the coolest things about this rule-set is how it deals with interpenetration and road movement. Units can interpret other friendly units without a issue, expect if that unit is moving in marching column on a road. Now road marching is very very fast, so you will be using it. But because of this you will get the historically accurate traffic jams. What is more a unit can displace a friendly unit to behind it by simply marching into its position. This is awesome for one tiny reason. It means that you can know relieve front line units without having to do geometric dances. You simply march the fresh units and displace the tired unit behind it. Viola. Reserves down easily!
Yes, you can now do this.

After the discussion of movement (and essentially C&C) the rules move on to the Fire-fight. This again is simple with units totaling firing factors depending on the number of bases a unit can bring to bear. This fire factor depends on the formations of the firing units, the weapons they are using, the range, the status of the firing unit. Each unit can be targeted only once, and each can fire only once, but a single unit can be targeted by multiple ones (which combine their fire factors), and firer can divide its fire among different targets (x number of bases on one unit, y on the other). 

Once you locate the Fire Factor, you go to a table of fire-effects and find the appropriate column. Depending on some situations you may move to the next left (better for the target) or right table (better for the defender). You then roll 2d6 and cross reference it. The higher you roll the better. Every hit will cause the target to be disrupted, some will also cause losses of bases (x number of lost bases depending on unit class-veteran-trained-raw , will make it Spent), and some will Halt the unit (more on this later). Very high rolls (11-12) will really do a number on the enemy but make your units Low on Ammo, which will put a halt on your elan.

You fire twice in each turn. Once as a defender, who can fire at enemy units that moved. This is where the halt result comes into play, as if you get that you can move the enemy unit back along its movement path. After the defender fires the player who moved fires offensive fire.

Generally speaking I liked the firing rules, though in early games you will have to consult the QRS or book all the time, which can be tedious. The key to the firefight is to combine many units against one and decimate it in a flurry of fire. But good defensive positions will make defenders able to survive. Another thing I did not like was the Low Ammo rule. While I loved that fact that your devastating fire is balanced by it, I did not like the effect it had on infantry. The artillery version is straightforward, but the infantry version was a bit hard to keep track off and meant that it is very unlikely that you can get rid of it in the hit of battle. I also do not understand if Disruptions stack, or if you are once disrupted can you get disrupted again ? (for example from firefight and combat)

The final main rule part is the Assault. Once more simple and elegant. You roll a dice for the defender and attacker, subtract the first from the second roll and have a base number. That number is then adjusted to the defenders or attackers advantage depending on the circumstances of the attack (like having more bases in the fight than the other side). Larger numbers are good for the attacked, lower numbers are good for the defender. You compare the final tally to a table which tells you what the results are. These can range from lost bases to disruptions, to nothing.

The final rules section is rules for Night Intervals, which are important for playing 2-3 day battles.

Final Thoughts

Generally I like the rules. Some elements are very straightforward and elegant. That said you do need to go back and forth to the rule-book in your early games, which can eat up time. The Halt results and defensive fire mechanisms alleviate the IGO-UGO character of the game, and are as elegant as they can be, but they will still slow down game a bit. Some elements are easy to forget in early games. Especially ,the fact that units can restore lost bases, the effect of the 3 inch Zones of Control, and Spent conditions. It is a game that needs markers no doubt about it. I also am not fully happy with the Infantry Low Ammo rules though I understand why the author made them. Finally the scenario maps can be a bit challenging to do them justice. But they are manageable.

But despite these issues this is a really really good set of rules I recommend to anyone who games the 19th century. Chris is probably one of the most friendly and helpful authors out-there. There is a huge scenario book out which covers many of the major and minor wars in Europe in the 19th century, and Chris has made a bunch of scenarios available for free on the BBB Yahoo Group. So no excuses! Take command and fight Big Bloody Battles!

Battle Report

Langensalza using BBB (historical battle narrative at Wikipedia Battle of Langensalza

The historical battle

The BBB scenario map

Time it took : 7:00-10:15 in the night (3 hours). This game took more time than either the author or I though it would take. Reasons were the fact that I was new to it and had to consult the rulebook a lot of times, and maybe that it was solo. I think two veteran players will be able to get it through in 1 hour and a half. But new players might want to put 2 hours on the side for it.

Uniforms of the Hanoverian Army of 1866

General Flow of the battle

The Hanoverians falnked the Prussian positions from the east and west, but the Prussians held the Mills and Langazeda almost to the 7th and 8th round. The Prussian artillery was destroyed early on, but once the Hanoverians went into the assault the Hanoverian artillery had no more effect in battle. Prussians had heavy losses losing the Advance Guard (2 btn/Saxe Coburg Gotha Rgt), the 25th Regiment (Main Body), and the Lanwher Reserve, as well as all their artillery. Only the 11th Grenadier Regiment was left on the field, ejected from Langensalza

The Hanoverians lost two artillery units (both to charges) and some skirmish bases, but no major unit. All in all this was a major victory for the Hannoverians as they did not just beat, but routed the Prussian units. But it was not a cakewalk. If the Prussians had fallen back from Mills and Bad earlier , and fortified around Langensalza they probably could had gotten the draw. But they stubbornly held Mills and Bad until it was too late. 

Some Prussians of 1866

Initially cotton puffs were signifying objectives. It took me some time to use them for Disrupted, my dead man counters for BP to signify Spent, SAGA command dice to signify Ammo Shortage, and coins to signify objectives.

Rules I forgot : High Commard Rolls return lost bases to units. 

High scenes: 

Both Hannoverian aritllery units outside the center got taken by charges. 

25th Regiment flags and band playing relieves the Gotha a Mills and Bad and then gets decimated by the combined fire of two hanoverian brigades and two artillery batteries. 

The Landwher holding at bay the 3rd brigade for 4 rounds.

The Hanoverian Garde du Corps and Cruissiers charging and forcing to retire the 11th Gren Regiment

3rd Brigade assault driving through the decimated Goth and 25th regiment units on Turn 8

Eisenach-Mulhausen road between Merxleben and Langesalza became an avenue of death for the Hanoverian 1st and 2nd brigades that charged across it but were always beaten back.
And here are the pictures

The Setup

The Hanoverian Force

The Prussian Force

Initial Setup

Prussian columns marching towards Mills and Bad

West Flank of the Battle field.

Prussians deploying around Langesalza

Hannoverians Deploy to put pressure on Prussian Center

Hannoverians push forward on the West Flank, opposed by the Landwher. That artillery unit will be destroyed by the Landwher.

The Gotha regiment gets a pounding in the firefight at Mills and Bad

Hannoverians push on both flanks. At the center the 25th Regiment moves forward and replaces the Gotha units in the Prussian front line.

Fighting on the Western Flank. 3rd Brigade vs Landwher

The 11th Gren. Regiment moves to contain the East Flank advance of the Hannoverians

Emulating he Landwher it destroys the Hannoverian artillery on that flank.

But is left open to a Hanoverian Calvary and Infantry Brigade

The Landwher and 3rd Brigade go back and forth.

The 25th Regiment is rendered spent by the devastating fire of two Hannoverian Brigades and artillery bases.

Which leads though those units to go Low on Ammo

The general situation mid game.

On the East Flank, the Hannoverian cavalry lunches a charge on the flank of the 11th Gren.

Which forces them back. Meanwhile the Hannoverians assault Mills and Bad at the center.

But are repeatedly driven back by the gallant 25th.

Furious fighting at the bridge

The 11th is steadily driven back in the East Flank

While the Lanwher is broken in hand to hand fighting on the West Flank.

The Hanoverians push on...

Forcing the Prussians to pull back towards Langesalza

The noose around Langesalza closes

The Prussians mount a desprete defense since their route of retreat is cut off by the Hanoverian cavalry

The Hannoverians assault from the East.

And drive the 11th out of the town.

While the 8th launches a furious charge that breaks the Gotha..

and 25th regiments!

Leading to a brilliant Hannoverian victory