Incident on the border: The battle for the bridge

Turn 4
The Maldacian Artillery Batteries were still too far away from the nearest Lauranian Units to open fire on them, but the Lauranian Artillery Battery was able to engage the central column of the Maldacian force. It targeted the hex occupied by the second Infantry Unit in the column. The Lauranians threw a 6, which meant that the Infantry Unit was hit; a further D6 die score of 4 ensured that it was destroyed!

D6 dice were again thrown by both sides to determine who would move first this turn. The Maldacians threw a 4 and the Lauranians threw a 3, and as a result the Maldacians therefore moved first yet again.

The leading Infantry Unit of the central column stormed across the bridge and engaged the Lauranian Border Guards who were protecting it. Both sides threw a D6 die; the Maldacians scored 2 and the Lauranians scored 5. As both Infantry Units had to score 5 or less to destroy the other, both Units were destroyed!

At the same time one of the Maldacian Infantry Units on their left flank reached the river and attempted to wade across it, but they only made it as far as the middle.

The Lauranians reacted to this by moving the Gatling Gun Battery up to the river’s edge, and firing at the Maldacian Infantry unit that was in the river. Both sides threw a D6 die; the Lauranians scored 4 and the Maldacians scored 6. Because the Gatling Gun Battery had to score 6 or less to destroy the Infantry Unit and the Infantry Unit had to score 5 or less to destroy the Gatling Gun Battery, the result was the destruction of the Maldacian Infantry Unit.

In addition to this move, the Lauranian commander moved all of his Infantry Units towards the village but not off the hill, as he felt that this still gave him an advantage.

Turn 5
The Maldacian Artillery Batteries were now able to engage the Lauranian Gatling Gun Battery, and both Maldacian Batteries targeted the hex it was in. The first Battery threw a 1, which meant that its shells had missed the hex; the second D6 die they threw was another 1, which indicated that the shell had gone over its target and hit an empty hex. The second battery then threw a 4, and its shells also missed the target hex. Its second D6 die score of 5 meant that the shells actually landed in the river, and were rather too close to one of their own Infantry Units!

The Lauranian Artillery Battery replied and targeted the hex occupied by the Maldacian commander! Their D6 die score of 2 meant that they missed the target hex, but the second D6 die that they threw was also a 2, so that the Battery’s shells hit the hex occupied by one of the right-hand Maldacian Infantry Units. When the third D6 die was thrown, its score of 2 determined that the Maldacian Infantry unit was destroyed!

D6 dice were thrown yet again by both sides to determine who would move first this turn. The Maldacians threw a 5 and the Lauranians threw a 6, with the result that the Lauranians moved first.

The Lauranian commander now decided to commit his Infantry Battalion to the battle, and it advanced downhill and into the village.

The Maldacians responded by falling back. Their commander realised that in order to fulfil his orders he would have to take further casualties, and as his force had already lost over 40% of its Infantry Units, it was becoming increasingly obvious that success would be bought at too high a price … especially as the two countries were not actually in a state of war! He would make this clear in the secret report he would write to the Minister of War … along with a long memo about the need for more training by the Artillery.

The rules as adapted for use with my Heroscape hexes work well, although I think that Infantry Units should be able to fight each other at slightly longer ranges. I have seen this in adaptations of the ‘Frontier’ wargames rules for both the Napoleonic and American Civil War periods, and this would be a logical next step for me to take in developing my version of the rules.

I do like the Artillery rules, and this play-test showed how well they can work. However, I think that the definition of what is and is not ‘Artillery’ would be necessary if I were to develop the ‘Frontier’ rules for later historical periods. For example, tank guns would not be classed as ‘Artillery’ whereas mortars might be.

It gives me something to think about for the next few weeks … if and when I get the time!

Incident on the border: The early moves

Turn 1
As neither side’s artillery was in range the turn began with both sides throwing a D6 die to determine who moved first. The Maldacians threw a 6 and the Lauranians threw a 3; therefore the Maldacians moved first.

The Maldacian force continued to move forward in their existing formation, with the Artillery Batteries sandwiched between the Infantry Battalion columns.

Other than to advance the Gatling Gun Battery closer to the river so that it was better placed to deny the advancing Maldacians an easy crossing, the Lauranian commander decided to keep his forces where they were. He felt that by remaining on the heights above the village and the bridge over the river, his troops were better placed to fight off any Maldacian attack.

Turn 2
Although both sides were now closer to each other, none of the artillery was in range. The Maldacians threw a 3 and the Lauranians threw a 4 to determine who moved first; on this occasion the Lauranians had the option to move first, but decided that they would remain where they were.

The Maldacians moved forward once again, and did not change formation.

Turn 3
The leading right-hand Unit of the Maldacian Infantry was now in range of the Lauranian Artillery Battery, and the Lauranians opened fire on it. They threw a D6 die to see if they hit the target hex; the score was a 2, so the shell missed the target hex. They threw another D6 die to see where the shell did land, and the score of 1 caused it to land in the hex behind the target hex, which was occupied by another Maldacian Infantry Unit. A further D6 die was then thrown, and the score was 4; the Maldacian Infantry Unit was destroyed!

D6 dice were thrown by both sides to determine who would move first this turn. The Maldacians threw a 6 and the Lauranians threw a 5; the Maldacians therefore moved first again.

Enraged by the loss of one of his Infantry units, the Maldacian commander galloped forward and ordered his two flank columns to change to a more dispersed formation. He also ordered the central to assault and take the bridge over the river and then to seize the village.

Incident on the border: The initial positions

To test whether or not it was possible to adapt Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargame rules so that I could use my Heroscape hexes, I decided to set up a short play-test battle.

The Scenario
As was normal in that part of the World, relations between Laurania and her neighbour, Maldacia, had deteriorated again. The most recent squabble resulted from the arrest of a Maldacian who had bought a defunct mine just over the border in Laurania. He had decided to fly the Maldacian flag above the newly re-painted mine buildings, something that was not allowed under Lauranian law without a permit. The local police tried to persuade him to remove it, but he refused, and in the intervening scuffle one of the policemen was injured. The Maldacian was arrested for assaulting a police officer, and incarcerated in the local jail.

Although the Maldacian miner was released once tempers had cooled down, news had already reached Maldacia and several spontaneous demonstrations were held throughout the country. Some of these demonstrations degenerated into riots where the Lauranian flag was burnt and Lauranians visiting Maldacia were assaulted. When the Lauranians responded with a strong diplomatic note that protested about the attacks on Lauranian citizens and requested compensation for them, the Maldacian Minister of War sent an enciphered message to the commander of the troops stationed near the border with Laurania. This message told him in no uncertain terms to ‘cross the border and give those damn Lauranians a taste of something that they won’t forget in a hurry.’

He responded by rapidly mobilising an Infantry Brigade of three Infantry Battalions and two Artillery Batteries and moving them up to and then over the border. He intended to capture a small village near Castramonta, drive the local inhabitants out, and then burn it to the ground. The village, which was built near to a bridge over one of the fast-flowing mountain rivers, was well known in the region for the anti-Maldacian sentiments of its inhabitants, and the Maldacians hoped that its destruction would send a strong message to all Lauranians not to annoy their northern neighbour.

The Lauranian Secret Service actually managed to decipher the message from the Ministry of War to the commander of the troops stationed near the border with Laurania before it reached its intended recipient, and the Lauranian garrison at Turga – an Infantry Battalion, a Gatling Gun Battery, and an Artillery Battery – was hastily sent along the mountain road towards Castramonta to intercept the Maldacians. It reached the high ground just above the village as the Maldacians began the descent into the river valley. The stage was now set for a battle.

The Initial Positions

The situation at the start of the battle. The Maldacians – whose uniforms a very similar to those worn by the Austro-Hungarian Army – can be seen advancing from the right towards the river and the village in three columns, each made up of an Infantry Battalion. Between each column is an Artillery Battery. The Lauranians – who bear an uncanny resemblance to the Prussians – can be seen occupying the heights on the left of the picture, although the Gatling Gun Battery has been pushed forward to guard the Lauranian right flank. The village is occupied by a Company of Lauranian Border Guards.

Heroscape and Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargames rules

As reasonably regular readers of this blog will know, I own quite a large collection of Heroscape terrain. I bought more than ten RISE OF THE VALKYRIE Heroscape Master sets some time ago when they were being sold off cheaply here in the UK, and since then I have developed several sets of rules that used the hexed terrain that forms the major part of the Master set. I have also painted and flocked a couple of the terrain sets to ‘improve’ the way that they look.

Last night, as I was dozing off to sleep, I was struck by the thought that with a few minor changes to the Artillery Rules I could adapt Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargames rules so that I could use them with my Heroscape terrain. When I woke up this morning I had a working solution in my head and sat down to set it down on paper.

The solution is as follows:

  • After nominating the target hex the artillery is firing at, throw a D6 die.
  • If the score is 5 or 6, any Unit in the target hex is hit and further D6 die is thrown to adjudge the effect:
      Direct artillery fire:
      4 or 6: Destroys a Command stand.
      2, 4, or 6: Destroys any other stand.
      Indirect artillery fire:
      6: Destroys a Command stand.
      4 or 6: Destroys any other stand.
  • If the score is 1, 2, 3, or 4, a further D6 die is thrown to see which hex the artillery fire lands in.

  • If there is a Unit in the hex that the artillery fire lands in that Unit is hit, and the procedure laid down above for adjudging the effect is used.

I hope to try this out mechanism later today … but first I have to take my wife to the dentist for some emergency treatment!

Busy, busy, busy …

I do not seem to have had much time to relax today, and I am definitely feeling as if I have done too much; after all, I am supposed to be on holiday!

My plans to have a quick wargame this morning had to be shelved because I had to do some work on the company accounts before the end of the financial year on 31st July. This involved a visit to the bank, something that always takes longer than expected. Today I got stuck in a queue behind several people who were paying in large amounts of cash on behalf of their companies … and the procedure of checking, re-checking, and then correcting the mistakes that had been made took almost thirty minutes. By the time my simple transactions had taken place, the queue of people waiting to see a cashier went out of the door!

My wife and I then went to see my father-in-law who lives in Herne Bay, Kent. This is a return journey of 115 miles, and the drive usually takes just over an hour each way … but today we had to visit the local cash-and-carry warehouse first to buy him a load of things that he wanted. This added quite a bit of time to our journey as the warehouse is in the opposite direction from the route we take to Herne Bay.

During our journey to Herne Bay we managed to grab some lunch at Chatham, but when we arrived at our destination my father-in-law announced that he had to go to visit a friend who is in hospital in Canterbury. We unloaded all the things we had bought for him, and then had a quick chat before he set off to the hospital.

The drive home was somewhat more fraught than the drive to Herne Bay, as the roads seem to have been invaded by large numbers of foreign lorries and coaches. Rather than being able to drive at a steady 65-70 mph most of the way home, my speed was going up and down like a yo-yo as lorries or coaches pulled out – usually with little or no warning – and overtook each other at slow speed on the two-lane motorway. By the time I got home I was tired and very fed-up, and not in the best of moods.

However, my wife assures me that things will be better tomorrow, so with a bit of luck I might actually manage to fight the wargame that I have promised myself.

Ministry of Space: Science Fiction or Alternative History?

When I was a boy my favourite reading material was THE EAGLE. I particularly liked two things that appeared in this weekly publication – the exploded technical drawings that were on the middle pages … and the latest episode of DAN DARE – PILOT OF THE FUTURE. The latter appealed to me because it portrayed a version of the World that did not seem too remote from the reality of 1950s Britain. In those days the UK had all sorts of missile and rocket projects on the go, and even though many of them did not seem to work very well, they at least gave us the allusion that we were still one of the ‘big boys’ … how wrong we were!

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when I saw a copy of the graphic novel MINISTRY OF SPACE (Titan Books [2004] ISBN: 1 84023 924 7) on the bookshelves of my local bookshop, I bought a copy … and I am very pleased that I did.

The whole style of the book is very reminiscent of the Dan Dare stories, both in the quality of the illustration and the very real ‘feel’ of the incidents and equipment that is portrayed. It is very apparent from the notes written by Warren Ellis – the story’s author – that he drew his inspiration from the Dan Dare stories created by Frank Hampson and his team of writers and illustrators for THE EAGLE. The people who created MINISTRY OF SPACE – Warren Ellis (Writer), Chris Weston (Artist), Laura Martin (Colorist), and Michael Heisler (Letterer) – have done a magnificent job.

But this is no children’s tale. It tells the story of Britain’s space programme – an orbital rocket-plane by 1950, the building of an orbital a space-station from 1953 onwards, a Moon landing in 1956, and colonisation of Mars in 1969 … but it has a very dark side to it as well.

The story is told in two parallel strands; one tells of the development of the Royal Space Force and its success whilst the other tells the story of the man who made it all happen – Sir John Dashwood – and how he financed the whole thing using gold ‘liberated’ from the Germans. But the gold is tainted because it is the proceeds of the Holocaust, and this secret is about to be exposed by the ‘new boys on the block’ – the Americans.

I like this book because it was not just an entertaining ‘read’; it posed a series of morale problems that have more than an element of reality to them. What would have happened if Britain had got hold of all Germany’s rocket scientists in 1945? Would Churchill have agreed to us ‘tainted’ finances to keep the UK as a major World Power if the opportunity had arisen? Would Britain have recovered from her near-bankrupt state and emerged as a economic powerhouse on the back of a successful space programme? Would that success have kept the UK politically and socially stagnant as a result?

I am not sure if this is a science fiction book or an alternative history book. Whichever it is, however, I enjoyed it, and I would certainly recommend it.

After all these years …

For anyone with even a passing interest in the Chaco War – and I certainly have that! – David Zook’s THE CONDUCT OF THE CHACO WAR is the book you simply must read. For years I have been trying to get hold of a copy of my own … and now I have one, courtesy of the Internet!

I found my copy via Amazon, ordered it, and it was delivered whilst I was in Norway. As the book has been out of print for many years, the copy I bought was second-hand, having originally been gifted in 1973 to Seminole Library, Seminole, Florida. It has ‘Withdrawn’ stamped inside the front cover, and they must have sold it on to the bookseller from whom I bought it.

I have yet to begin reading this book. Having looked for a copy for so long, I don’t want to rush the process; I want to savour and enjoy it.

Oh, and if you are wondering what will happen once I have read it … well, I was recently asked if I might write a short book about the Chaco War, and now that I have added this book to my resources, I don’t think that I can refused.