‘Oh we sail the ocean blue …’ : Simple pre-dreadnought naval wargame rules play-tests

I have finally managed to stage a few play-tests of the pre-dreadnought naval wargame rules I intend to use at this year’s Conference of Wargamers (COW2016). Each play-test took the form of a simple scenario that pitched different numbers and types of ships against each other.


Scenario 1: Protect the convoy
In this scenario a single protected cruiser is attacking a small convoy that is being escorted by a pair of destroyers. The cruiser’s task is to destroy as many of the merchant ships as it can; the destroyers’ task is to protect the convoy and – if possible – drive off the attacking cruiser.

Turn 1
The cruiser came into sight of the convoy and the destroyers moved forward to engage the cruiser whilst the convoy turned away.

The cruiser fired at the nearest destroyer, and hit it, causing it to lose 2 flotation points.

Turn 2
The cruiser managed to evade the destroyers, …

… and opened fire on the nearest merchant ship … which it missed! It also engaged the other destroyer with its secondary armament, hitting it once and causing it 1 flotation point of damage.

Both destroyers fired their torpedoes at the cruiser. The torpedoes from the destroyer immediately behind the cruiser missed, but the other destroyer’s torpedoes hit home and inflicted the loss of 2 flotation points of damage on the cruiser.

Turn 3
The cruiser continued to pursue the convoy, and the destroyers attempted to distract it from doing so.

The cruiser fired at and hit the destroyer that was abeam of it with its secondary armament and caused it to lose a further 2 flotation points. At the same time the cruiser fired at one of the merchant ship with its main armament, and hit it.

Turn 4
The destroyers’ tactics seemed to be working, and one of them managed to interpose itself between the cruiser and the convoy.

In the ensuing exchange of gunfire the destroyers failed to hit the cruiser, but the cruiser hit and sank the destroyer that was immediately astern of the convoy.

Turn 5
It now appeared that the cruiser had the convoy at its mercy, …

… and very soon it had hit – and sank – one of the merchant ships.

Turn 6
As the cruiser manoeuvred into a position what it could sink the convoy one by one, the remaining destroyer rushed in …

… and in the exchange of gunfire it was sunk … but not before inflicting sufficient damage on the cruiser to force her to turn away and to leave the convoy to escape.

This was a sharp little action, and proved that destroyers can pose a potent threat to large ships if they are properly handled.


Scenario 2: Hunting a raider
An armoured cruiser has evaded the blockade and has been attacking merchant shipping. Two protect cruisers have tracked her down, and have to sink her or damage her so that she has to surrender or return to port.

Turn 1
The two protected cruisers initially approached in line ahead formation, but on seeing their enemy, they split away from each other in order to force the armoured cruiser to split its fire between two targets.

In fact the armoured cruiser was able to engage one of the protected cruisers at extreme range, but without hitting its target.

Turn 2
With both forces approaching each other at maximum speed, it was not long before all the ships were involved in an artillery engagement.

Whilst the two protected cruisers were unable to do much damage to their armoured opponent (it suffered the loss of 1 flotation point) …

… the latter’s heavy main armament was able to inflict considerable damage on one of the two protected cruisers. (It lost 4 flotation points to one of the enemy ship’s salvos!)

Turn 3
When the damaged protected cruiser moved out of gun range, the armoured cruiser now concentrated its fire on the other protected cruiser …

… and inflicted a similar level of damage (the loss of 4 flotation points) as it had to its other opponent. In return the protected cruiser was able to inflict only minor damage (the loss of 1 flotation point) on the armoured cruiser.

Turn 4
The ships now began to circle each other …

… firing as best they could but inflicting little damage on each other in the process. (The armoured cruiser was hit by a single shell and lost 1 flotation point.)

Turn 5
The armoured cruiser was able to turn inside the turning circle of the nearest protected cruiser, …

… and whilst its main armament engaged the other protected cruiser (with no effect), it was able to fire its bow torpedo tube at the nearest protected cruiser, with quite deadly effect. (The torpedoes caused the loss of 3 flotation points, thus forcing the protect cruiser to withdraw from the battle as best it could.) That protected cruiser’s gun proved to be poorly aimed, and it was unable to inflict any damage of the armoured cruiser.

Turn 6
The armoured cruiser fell upon its damaged enemy and at point-blank range opened fire with all its main and secondary guns.

The result was a foregone conclusion … the protected cruiser was sunk … but not before it had fired its own guns and its port side torpedo tube, all of which caused extensive damage to the armoured cruiser! (The armoured cruiser lost a total of 4 more flotation points, which meant that it was now forced to withdraw from the battle.)

Turn 7
Both cruisers now circled each other warily …

… and the armoured cruiser inflict further damage on the protected cruiser. (It lost 1 more flotation point.)

Turn 8
The protected cruiser now tried to move outside of the range of armoured cruiser’s main armament …

… but it suffered further damage. (It lost yet another flotation point.)

Turn 9
Now that the protected cruiser had moved out of range, the armoured cruiser began to make its way back to its home port. The damage it had suffered would keep it in dockyard hands for some time to come.

The two protected cruisers had achieved their mission … but at a considerable cost!


Scenario 3: Jeune École
A blockading battleship is moving along the enemy coast. A small flotilla of destroyers is sent to intercept it and – if possible – damage or sink it.

Turn 1
The battleship came in sight of a flotilla of enemy destroyers that were in line abreast. Considering such craft as to be mere ‘mosquitoes’ that can be easily swept aside, the battleship’s captain did not change course … and neither did the destroyers!

Whilst the battleship remained on its existing course, the destroyers split into two separate groups.

Turn 2
Whilst one group of the destroyers attempted to approach the battleship from the stern, the other pair approached her from ahead and sailed down either side of her.

The battleship’s response was devastating. Her port secondary armament engaged the enemy destroyer on her port side and inflicted the loss of 4 flotation points.

On her starboard side, the main armament and starboard secondary armament fired at the other destroyer, and also caused her to lose 4 flotation points.

In reply the two destroyers fired back with their puny guns … and the battleship lost 3 flotation points!

Before they sank, the destroyers both fired a torpedo at the battleship. One cause the battleship to lose a further 3 flotation points and the other caused her to lose 1 flotation point.

Turn 3
The remaining destroyers now moved in to mount their attacks on the damaged battleship

The battleship fired her rear turret at the closer of the two destroyers … and missed!

The destroyers then both fired a torpedo at the battleship, and the battleship lost a further 4 flotation points!

Turn 4
By this stage the battleship was badly damaged and needed to break away, but the superior speed of the destroyers allowed them to manoeuvre into a position to mount a further torpedo attack.

Although she was damaged, the battleship was still able to fight, and her guns made short work of the closest destroyer (it suffered the loss of 4 flotation points) and damaged the other, which lost 1 flotation point.

The destroyers were still able to fire their remaining torpedoes, and these slammed into the battleship with devastating effect.

The remaining destroyer stood by to receive any survivors from her sunken sister ships and the battleship. Once they were picked up, she then made her way back to base to make the world aware that the theories of the Jeune École appeared to be valid, and that from now on no unescorted battleship was safe from small, fast, torpedo-armed destroyers that were working as a team.


Note about Scenario 3:
The Jeune École (Literally ‘Young School’) was a strategic naval concept developed during the 19th century and adopted for a time by the French Navy. It advocated the use of small, powerfully equipped vessels (e.g. torpedo boats) to combat a blockading enemy battle fleet along with the use of fast cruisers to attack and sink enemy merchant ships.


Scenario 4: Line of Battle
Two enemy battle squadrons are sailing towards each other. They each comprise two battleships and an armoured cruiser, and the armoured cruisers are leading their respective battle lines.

Turn 1
Initially both sides continued to sail towards each other.

Turn 2
Once the leading ships of the opposing battle line got within range of each other, one began to turn to starboard to cross the enemy line’s ‘T’.

The two leading ships (the armoured cruisers) then fired at each other, and both inflicted some damage on its opponent.

Turn 3
In order to prevent their ‘T’ being crossed, the other battle line also began to turn, but in their case it was to port. Seeing this manoeuvre, the other side’s armoured cruiser also turned to port, again in the hope of crossing the enemy ‘T’. Unfortunately, in doing so it began to move ahead of its slower compatriots.

The armoured cruisers fired at each other, and yet again inflicted damage on each other.

One of the battleships was also able to join in the exchange of gunfire, and promptly hit the enemy’s armoured cruiser.

Turn 4
The two opposing armoured cruisers now turned so that they were sailing on parallel courses. In their wake the battleships began to manoeuvre to follow suit.

The armoured cruisers let rip at each other with their main armaments, …

… their secondary armaments, …

… and then their beam torpedo tubes. Both ships were by now extensively damaged, and it one case  (the armoured cruiser on the left) this caused her to sink almost at once.

Whilst this deadly engagement was under way, the battleships began firing at each other. One side was able to concentrate its fire on the other side’s leading battleship, and heavy damage was inflicted on it. This was not, however, a one-sided exchange, and the the leading battleship on the other side was also badly damaged.

Turn 5
As the badly damaged armoured cruiser began to turn away to seek safety, the two groups of battleships sailed on parallel courses.

Unfortunately one battleship was masked by its sister ship, and as a result it was not able to join in what turned out to be a very one-sided exchange of gunfire. The damage inflicted on its sister ship was so severe that it turned over and sank.

Turn 6
The remaining battleship now began to turn away, not wishing to continue to fight in such an apparently one-sided battle.

As it did so the pair of battleships engaged her and inflicted considerable damage on her … but in a magnificent piece of shooting her rear turret hit the leading enemy battleship with several shells … and the enemy ship exploded and sank!

Both sides now withdrew to lick their wounds and to repair the damage their ships had received.


Comments:
These four play-tests have been extremely helpful and I need to take some time to think about the changes that need to be made in the light of the results. I hope to do that over the next few days.
Advertisements

A diversion

I have a list of things that I should be doing.

I should be play-testing the naval rules for my forthcoming COW session; I should be building some model Torpedo Boat Destroyers for that session; I should be putting my ideas for a hexed-based version of AIRFIX BATTLES down on paper; I should be trimming the laurel hedge at the end of the garden.

I am doing none of these things. Instead I am looking at a tabletop covered in Hexon II hexed terrain and playing a wargame with some of the figures from my collection of re-painted Del Prado Napoleonics.

The reason why is simple; I had the sudden urge to push some shiny toy soldiers about … so I have.

I have even jotted down some very simple rules with which to do it:

TURN SEQUENCE

  • Both side throw a D6 at the beginning of each turn. The side with the highest score moves first that turn.
  • During its part of a turn a side activates each of its units in turn, starting on the left and moving to the right.
  • Activated infantry can do one or more of the following: move, change formation, fire, or assault an enemy unit.
  • Activated cavalry can do one or more of the following: move, change formation, assault an enemy unit.
  • Activated artillery can move or fire.

MOVEMENT

  • Infantry in column can move up to two hexes.
  • Infantry in line can move one hex.
  • Infantry is square cannot move.
  • Cavalry in column can move up to three hexes.
  • Cavalry in line can move up to two hexes unless moving to assault an enemy unit, in which case they can move up to four hexes.
  • Artillery can move one hex but cannot fire during the same turn.
  • Units expend one hex of movement to change formation (i.e. from line to column, column to line, line or column to square, or square to column or line).

FIRING

  • Infantry weapons have a range of 3 hexes; throw 6 x D6 if in line; 3 x D6 if in column or square.
  • Artillery has a range of 6 hexes; throw 4 x D6 per crew figure.
  • If target is in column or square: 1 casualty caused by 4, 5, or 6.
  • If target is in line or is artillery: 1 casualty caused by 5 or 6.
  • Targets in cover reduce D6 scores by one.

ASSAULTS

  • A unit assaulting another must do so by moving into an adjoining hex.
  • Both sides throw D6s to resolve an Assault.
  • Infantry throw 3 x D6.
  • Cavalry throw 4 x D6.
  • Artillery throw 2 x D6.
  • Casualties as per firing.
  • Both sides also total D6 scores; highest total wins the assault and pushed the opposing unit back one hex.

MORALE

  • When a unit is reduced to 50% of its original strength (i.e. infantry have 3 casualties, cavalry have 2 casualties, and artillery has 1 casualty) it throws a D6.
  • If the score is 3, 4, 5, or 6, the unit is unaffected but must take a further morale test when it suffers another casualty; if the score is 1 or 2, the unit must fall back one hex at once and must continue to retreat for the rest of the battle.

RALLYING RETREATING UNITS

  • A general can attempt to rally a retreating unit by being in the same or an adjoining hex.
  • The general throws a D6, and if the score is lower than the unit’s current strength, the unit will rally and stop retreating.

DESTROYED UNITS

  • Infantry units are destroyed when they have suffered 6 casualties.
  • Cavalry units are destroyed when they have suffered 4 casualties.
  • Artillery units are destroyed when they have suffered 2 casualties.
  • When a unit is destroyed it is immediately removed from the battlefield.

THE BATTLE OF NERFBURG HEATH
In the period after the end of the Napoleonic Wars a number of battles were fought between some of the smaller nations to settle boundary disputes. This is one such battle.

The Prussian-sponsored (and uniformed) Principality of Hexland had been allocated the formerly independent Archbishopric of Grosse-Schism under the Treaty of Vienna, but the Archbishop – a well-known cleric with interesting but controversial views about almost everything – objected, and called upon the neighbouring minor states for aid. As a result a small army was assembled on the road between Hexland and Grosse-Schism to ‘persuade’ the ‘invaders’ to depart empty-handed.

The Hexlanders were aware of the presence of the ‘defenders’ of Gross-Schism, and were fully prepared for battle when both sides ‘bumped’ into each other on the flat and almost empty Nerfburg Heath early in the morning. Both sides lined up facing each other, waiting for the other side to make the first move.

The field of battle showing the opening dispositions

The Hexlanders fielded (from top to bottom) the 1st Hexland Hussars, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Hexland Fusiliers, and the 1st Hexland Field Artillery, and they were led by …

… General von Trumpf.

The forces that had come to the aid of the Archbishop of Grosse-Schism included (from top to bottom) the 1st Dutch Carabiniers, the Dutch-Belgian Infantry, the Brunswick Infantry, the Hannover Infantry, and the Guard Horse Artillery, and they were led by …

… General von Klinkerhoff.

Turn 1
The Hexland infantry advanced in column towards the Grosse-Schism army, supported by the Hussars and the artillery.

They were met by a fusillade of musket fire from the the Brunswickers and Dutch-Belgians … and thanks to some very accurate firing, the Guard Artillery destroyed the Hexland Artillery before it could open fire!

The advancing Hexland Hussars proved too tempting a target for the Carabiniers …

… who charged them …

… and forced them to fall back!

Turn 2
The Hexland infantry all moved from column into line and opened fire on the Grosse-Schism troops.

The Hussars now returned the ‘compliment’ they had received at the hands of the opposing cavalry, and shook themselves into line before charging the Carabiniers …

… who they met on equal terms …

… before destroying them!

Whilst the Dutch-Belgians quickly deployed into square to face off any threat from the Hexland Hussars …

… the Brunswick infantry (which had deployed from column into line) fired at the Hexland infantry, and caused them to fall below 50% strength threshold.

The Guard Horse Artillery also fired at the nearest Hexland infantry unit …

… and reduced them to 50% of their original strength.

At this point these two Hexland infantry units began to fall back, and despite the attempts by General von Trumpf to rally them, they began to retreat from the battlefield.

With more than half of his army destroyed or retreating, General von Trumpf had to admit defeat. The Archbishopric of Grosse-Schism was saved … for the moment!

Comments
Although this battle lasted only two turns, a lot happened and it was a very enjoyable diversion. I suspect that the combat results are a bit too ‘bloody’ and may need to be changed in order to produce longer battles, but I think that the basic structure and mechanisms of these very simple rules work.


This was the first time that I have used my (not so) newly-varnished and based Del Prado pre-painted 25/28mm-scale Napoleonic figures on the tabletop … and I am very pleased that I have finally got around to doing so! Thanks to Stuart Asquith and Tim Gow I have quite a few more to varnish and base, but once I have I can now foresee myself using the collection in a campaign or two … or even more!

Airfix Battles: My second play-test

For my second play-test I selected the third scenario/’mission’ from the book. I made this choice because I wanted to see how the rules for armoured vehicles worked.

In this scenario the American forces had:

  • 1 x Sherman M4A2 Tank + 1 Lieutenant
  • 2 x Sherman M4A2 Tanks
  • 1 Infantry Squad + 1 Lieutenant
  • 1 Infantry Squad

The Germans forces included:

  • 1 x Panzer IV Tank + 1 Lieutenant
  • 1 x Tiger Tank
  • 1 Grenadier Squad + 1 Lieutenant
  • 1 Grenadier Squad

Starting Positions
Each side deployed in their respective Deployment Zones.

Turn 1
As both sides have two officers, one of whom can expend two Command Cards, both sides are dealt three Command Cards.

The Germans threw the highest D6 die score and moved first. They were dealt the following Command Cards:

  • ‘Either 1 Infantry Unit that is Dug In may Fire with 1 extra D6 OR 1 Artillery Unit may Fire with 1 extra AT D6.’
  • ‘2 Vehicle Units may Move once each and then Fire once each.’
  • ‘1 Unit may Fire during an enemy Move. This Fire must target the enemy Unit that Moved.’ (Interrupt Command Card)

As the Germans have no Units that meet the criteria of the first of their Command Cards, that was discarded.

Both the Tank Units moved …

… and then fired.

As a result, the leading Sherman M4A2 Tank (+ 1 Lieutenant) Unit was hit and had its armour penetrated twice. Despite this, the Unit passed its Morale Check.

The Americans were dealt the following Command Cards:

  • ‘1 Vehicle Unit may Move once, and then 1 Infantry Unit may Move once then Fire once OR 1 Infantry Unit may Move then Fire with 1 extra AT dice for each AT weapon it carries.’
  • ‘2 Vehicle Units may Move once each and then Fire once each.’
  • ‘Either an Infantry Unit regains up to 2 men OR A Vehicle Unit regains 1 Hit Dice.’ (Interrupt Command Card)

The Americans immediately used the Interrupt Command Card to restore part of the damage already suffered by the Sherman M4A2 Tank, and then moved that Tank Unit and one of the others forward.

They then opened fire on the nearest German Tank Units … and inflicted damage on both! (Neither German Tank Unit failed their Morale Test.)

At this point the Germans played their Interrupt Command Card, and the Tiger Tank Unit fired at the Sherman M4A2 Tank (+ 1 Lieutenant) Unit, and damaged it yet again. Although damaged, the Unit still manage to pass its Morale Check.

The Americans then moved their remaining Tank Unit and left-hand Infantry Unit forward. The latter then fired at the German Panzer IV Tank Unit, but did it no damage.

Turn 2
For a second time the Germans threw the highest D6 die score and moved first. They were dealt the following Command Cards:

  • ‘1 Infantry Unit may Move using 3 times its normal move. If the Unit is targeted by Interrupt Fire or Stay Frosty, it does not receive a Save OR Move 1 Vehicle with +2 and 1 free 90 degree turn.’
  • ‘Either 2 Infantry Units may Fire then Move with +1 OR 2 Vehicle Units may Fire then Move.’
  • ‘Play on a pinned or retreating Unit after resolving any set of Morale Checks for that Unit. Automatically rally the Unit to A-OK.’ (Interrupt Command Card)

The Germans decided to fire with both their Tank Units and then to move them.

The Tiger Tank Unit fell back slightly after having fired at the Sherman M4A2 Tank (+ 1 Lieutenant) Unit …

… which it hit, damaged, and pinned.

The Panzer IV Tank Unit moved forward and turned to engage the left-hand Sherman M4A2 Tank Unit …

… which it also hit and damaged. (The American Tank Unit did not fail its subsequent Morale Check.)

The Germans then moved one of their Grenadier Units forward to support the Tank Units.

(At this point I realised that in error I had moved the German Tank Units and then fired rather than ‘Fire then Move’ as the Command Card stipulated. I decided to leave matters as they were, but to try to pay better attention to what was printed on the Command Cards in future!)

The Americans were dealt the following Command Cards:

  • ‘2 Infantry Units may Fire then Move with +1 OR 2 Vehicle Units may Fire then Move.’
  • ‘2 Vehicle Units may Fire once each.’
  • ‘1 Unit may Move during an enemy Move. The Unit may not declare an Assault.’ (Interrupt Command Card)

The Americans chose to fire with their their left-hand and central Sherman M4A2 Tank Units at the German Panzer IV Tank Unit …

… but neither managed to damage the German Tank Unit.

The Americans then chose to ‘Fire and Move’ with the central and right-hand M4A2 Tank Units at the German Tiger Tank Unit …

… which they both hit. As a result of failing its Morale Check, the Tiger Tank Unit became pinned.

The central and right-hand M4A2 Tank Units then moved forward in order to threaten the very exposed German Grenadier Unit … and in order to occupy the Objective.

As the Interrupt Command Card was unusable, the turn ended.

Turn 3
The Americans threw the highest D6 die score and moved first. They were dealt the following Command Cards:

  • ‘2 Vehicle Units may Fire once each.’
  • ‘1 Unit may Move with +2, and then Fire Once.’
  • ‘1 Unit may Move during an enemy Move, but must end its Move further away from the Unit’s nearest enemy. The Unit may not declare an Assault.’

The central and right-hand M4A2 Tank Units both fired at the Tiger Tank Unit …

… which they hit and destroyed!

The left-hand American Infantry Unit moved forward, and fired at the German Grenadier Unit immediately in front of it.

They inflicted 4 casualties, and the German Units became pinned when it failed its Morale Check.

The Germans were dealt the following Command Cards:

  • ‘2 Vehicles may Fire once each.’
  • ‘1 Infantry Unit that is Dug In or in cover may Fire with 1 extra D6 OR 1 AT Unit may Fire with 1 extra AT dice.’
  • ‘Either 1 Infantry Unit with Rifles may Move then Fire using Rifles. Re-roll once for each miss when firing at a target within 2 squares OR 1 vehicle Unit may Move once and Fire all its weapons once each.’

The German Panzer IV Tank Unit fired at the central M4A2 Tank Unit …

… which it hit and pinned. (The M4A2 Tank Unit failed its Morale Check.)

The unpinned German Grenadier Unit moved into the rough terrain to its right, and fired at the nearby American Infantry Unit …

… on which it inflicted 6 casualties, causing it to be pinned when it failed its Morale Check.

As the remaining Command Card was unusable, the turn ended.

Turn 4
The Germans threw the highest D6 die score and moved first. They were dealt the following Command Cards:

  • ‘1 Infantry Unit may Move using 3 times its normal move. If the Unit is targeted by Interrupt Fire or Stay Frosty, it does not receive a Save OR Move 1 Vehicle with +2 and 1 free 90 degree turn.’
  • ‘1 Infantry Unit may Fire once then Move with +2. Rough Terrain cost 1 to enter OR 1 Vehicle Unit may Move and Assault. It gains +1 to Morale Checks during this Order.’
  • ‘Either an Infantry Unit regains up to 2 men OR A Vehicle Unit regains 1 Hit Dice.’ (Interrupt Command Card)

Knowing that they were losing the battle, but wanting to ensure that they were able to withdraw to fight another day, the Panzer IV Tank Unit turned and moved away from the American Tanks.

The unpinned German Grenadier Unit fired at the nearby American Infantry Unit …

… and wiped it out.

They then withdrew towards their Deployment Zone.

The Americans were then dealt the following Combat Cards:

  • ‘1 Infantry Unit may Move using 3 times its normal move. If the Unit is targeted by Interrupt Fire or Stay Frosty, it does not receive a Save OR Move 1 Vehicle with +2 and 1 free 90 degree turn.’
  • ‘1 Unit may Move with +2 and then Fire once.’
  • ‘1 Unit may Fire during an enemy Move. This Fire must target the enemy Unit that Moved.’ (Interrupt Command Card)

The remaining unpinned M4A2 Tank Unit fired at the withdrawing German Panzer IV Tank Unit … and missed!

At this point the Americans decided not to use any more of their Command Cards, and the turn – and the battle – ended.

The result was a resounding victory for the Americans, who had not only occupied the Objective but also destroyed a Tiger Tank Unit is the process. On the other hand, the Germans had managed to destroy an American Infantry Unit.

Comments

  1. The addition of armoured vehicles adds another dimension to the game, and I found it even more enjoyable that my first play-test.
  2. Once Units get pinned, you have a devil of a job getting them going again.
  3. The Interrupt Command Cards are very useful, but in a solo game only by the side that goes first can use them. I suspect that this is not a problem in a normal face-to-face battle.
  4. I have found these rules simple to learn and use, but the results they produce are quite subtle and not predictable.

Airfix Battles: The first play-test

I had a couple of hours to spare so I thought that I would mount my first play-test of AIRFIX BATTLES. I chose to set up the first scenario (or ‘mission’) in the book.

Both sides comprised two squads of Infantry, some Veterans, and a Captain.

In order to get a better feel for how the game works, I used the solo play option for both sides, using D6 scores to determine which side moved first each turn. (After Turn 2 (see below) I also removed any exclusively Vehicle-related Command Cards from the pack that I used as I thought that including them might slow the game down.) I’m not sure if this was what the designers originally intended, but it enabled me to conduct the play-test as an interested observer, not as a participant.

Starting Positions
Each side deployed in their respective Deployment Zones.

Turn 1
Both sides drew a ‘2 Units may Fire then Move with +1’ Command Card, with the Germans moving first.

The Americans then moved.

Turn 2
The Germans drew a ‘1 Unit may Move with +2 and then Fire once’ Command Card and the Americans drew a ‘2 Vehicle Units may Move once each, and then Fire once each’ Command Card.

As the Germans were the only side with a card that could be used, they chose to move their Veterans and to fire at one of the American Units …

… with quite devastating results. (They caused 3 casualties and the American Unit had to take a Morale Check, which it failed. As a result it was now Pinned.)

Turn 3
The Americans drew a ‘1 Infantry Unit may Move 3 times its normal move’ Command Card and the Germans drew a ‘1 Infantry Unit may Fire once then Move +2’ Command Card.

The unpinned American Infantry Unit charged forward and assaulted the German Infantry Unit occupying a farm.

They were met by defensive fire, which depleted their numbers by 3.

Their assault went in, with the result that the German also lost 3 men.

The Germans then counter-assaulted, and inflicted another 2 casualties on the Americans.

Both sides then undertook a Morale Check … with the result that the German Infantry Unit became Pinned but the Americans were not!

The German Veterans now fired at the already pinned American Infantry Unit …

… and inflicted 3 more casualties on it.

The Veterans then withdrew to support their own pinned Infantry Unit.

The pinned American Unit took a further Morale Check … which it failed. As a result, the Unit withdrew towards its side’s Deployment Zone.

Turn 4
With things seemingly not going very well for the Americans, which side went first this turn was very important. The Germans threw the better D6 die score and went first

The Germans drew a ‘1 Unit may Fire with +1 on each Die Roll when rolling to hit’ Command Card and the Americans drew a ‘1 Infantry Unit with Rifles may Move then Fire using the Rifles. Re-roll once for each miss when firing at a target within 2 squares’ Command Card.

As the Germans had no Units that qualified to use their Command Card (the only Unit that might have been able to use it was Pinned), the Americans were able to use theirs. The American Infantry Unit that had previously assaulted the German Infantry Unit in the farm chose not to move and fired at them …

… and inflicted a further 3 casualties.

The German Infantry Unit then failed its Morale Check and fell back, leaving the farm unoccupied.

Turn 5
The situation on the tabletop had now reached a stage where both sides were roughly equal. They had both had an Infantry Unit fall back, and both still had intact Veterans and Officers. The Americans had suffered a few more casualties than the Germans, but not sufficient to restrict their ability to achieve their objective.

The Germans drew a ‘1 Vehicle Unit may Move once, and then 1 Infantry Unit may Move once then Fire once’ Command Card and the Americans drew a ‘Fire with 1 Infantry Unit. Then 1 different Infantry Unit may Fire and then Move’ Command Card.

As the Germans had no Vehicle Units, they moved their Veteran Unit so that it could fire at the remaining American Infantry Unit.

The effect was devastating, and the American Unit’s sole survivor began to retreat towards his side’s Deployment Zone.

At this point the Germans had achieved their objective and thus won the battle.

Comments

  1. During the set-up stage I did have a few problems trying to work out which figures were which as the images on the counters are quite small. I really wish that I had bought a box each of Airfix’s WW2 German and WW2 US troops before mounting the play-test as I would have had no problems identifying which figures were armed with which weapons. (In fact, it doesn’t really matter what is depicted on each counter as this is not important as far as resolving combat is concerned … but for aesthetic reasons I think I prefer to be able to identify the weapons each figure is armed with.)
  2. I really like the Assault Rules! The fact that the defenders can lay down defensive fire before the Assault takes place at least gives them a chance to stopping it in its tracks. In addition, the ability of defending Units to counter-assault makes the outcome for both sides uncertain until the whole process is finished.
  3. Infantry casualty rates seem to be quite high … but I suppose that they might have been lower in this play-test if I had used the available cover somewhat better and not mounted an assault on such a heavily garrisoned farm.
  4. It was fun to play, even though my method of playing solo might have left something to be desired. The play-test did enable me to use most of the main game mechanisms, which worked extremely well and were quite simple once they had been mastered.

This was my first play-test of the AIRFIX BATTLES rules, and I hope to mount further battles in the near future so that I can see how well they work when Armoured Vehicle and Artillery Units are involved as well.

A Winter-ish War: An untold story

One thing that confused experts and pundits at the time was why the leadership of SPUR did not press home the military advantage that they had after they had broken through the ‘Talenheim Line’. It appeared that they had the Opelandic Armed Force on the run, and could easily have continued their invasion and eventually occupied the entire country. The truth has now emerged … and it goes some way to explaining why Opeland was not subjected to such ignominy.

In the far north of Opeland is the mining town of Samopet. Its iron ore is of the highest quality, and is exported all over the world. Possession of the town and its mines was therefore essential to the continued strength of Opeland’s economy, and it was a prize that was desired by certain members of SPUR’s Supreme Soviet … especially the Head of Border and Internal Security, Deputy Marshal Berrikoff. Whilst the main fighting of the Winter-ish War took place far to the south, a SPUR invasion force attempted to capture Samopet.

The Terrain

The Defenders
The defenders (commanded by Colonel Tor Eriksson) comprised:

  • 3 x Reserve Infantry Units
  • 1 x Reserve Anti-tank Gun Unit
  • 1 x Reserve Light Field Gun Unit

The defenders were all recruited from the area around Samopet, and were well used to working in the very cold temperatures experienced by the region.

The Attackers
The attackers (commanded by DivCom Kustoff) comprised:

  • 6 x Border Rifle Units
  • 1 x Border Tank Unit
  • 1 x Border Anti-tank Gun Unit

The attackers were all drawn from Border and Internal Security detachments, and whilst they were heavily armed, they were trained to defend the nation’s borders and to ensure internal security was rigorously maintained … and not to fight conventional battles.

Turn 1
The SPUR troops advanced through the heavily forested terrain that separated Samopet from the border with SPUR. They had been informed that there were very few Opelandic troops in the area, and those that were there were poor-quality reservists. As a result they had not sent out any reconnaissance parties in the belief that any ambushes would be easily pushed aside.

Turn 2
Oblivious to the possibility of there being any Opelandic troops in the forests, the SPUR troops were forced to form themselves into a single column in order to move through the close terrain.

Turn 3
The unopposed SPUR advance continued …

Turn 4
… until the front half of the column was well and truly in the Opelandic ‘killing ground’.

Turn 5
Suddenly the Opelandic Reserve Anti-tank Gun and Reserve Light Field Artillery Units opened fire …

… with the result that the SPUR Border Tank Unit was hit and reduced to 50% effectiveness …

… and casualties were inflicted on the leading SPUR Border Rifle Unit.

The SPUR Border Tank Unit returned fire … but it missed its intended target.

The SPUR Border Tank Unit was then attacked from the rear by one of the Opelandic Reserve Infantry Units …

… which wiped it out!

Elsewhere another of the Opelandic Reserve Infantry Units attacked a nearby SPUR Border Rifle Unit, …

… inflicting casualties on it and causing it to retreat.

The Opelandic Reserve Infantry Unit was immediately counter-attacked by another of the SPUR Border Rifle Units …

… that came of worse in the fighting and that was also forced to fall back.

The Opelandic Reserve Infantry Unit that had wiped out the SPUR Border Tank Unit was also counter-attacked by a SPUR Border Rifle Unit …

… but the SPUR Border Rifle Unit’s attack failed, it suffered casualties, and then fell back … and was in turn counter-attacked by the third Opelandic Reserve Infantry Unit.

The casualties suffered by the SPUR Border Rifle Unit were such that it felt compelled to flee back towards the border with SPUR.

In a very short spell of intense fighting, the SPUR force had been mauled and rendered unable to continue its offensive. DivCom Kustoff attempted to rally his troops … but failed.

Turn 6
As the SPUR troops retreated, the rearmost ones were attacked by Opelandic Reserve Infantry Units …

… which caused them to divert from their obvious lines of retreat in order to escape from their attackers.

Turn 7
As the SPUR retreat continued, so did the harassing attacks by the Opelandic Reserve Infantry Units …

… which turned the retreat into a full-scale rout.

Samopet was secure and would remain in Opelandic hands … and SPUR’s military leaders had learnt a valuable lesson about fighting in heavily forested terrain.

Aftermath
When news of the debacle reached the ears of Deputy Marshal Berrikoff, he ordered that DivCom Kustoff be arrested, tried on charges of treason against the State … and shot. In addition the Deputy Marshal posted all the Border and Internal Security troops that had returned from Opeland to a labour camp in the Far East for ‘re-education’. By doing this he hoped to avoid incurring the displeasure of the Secretary of the Supreme Soviet … but he was wrong.

Two days after the failed attack on Samopet (and whilst the two countries were in the midst of the armistice negotiations) a meeting of the State Council of the Supreme Soviet was held, at the end of which the Secretary of the Supreme Soviet asked Deputy Marshal Berrikoff for the reasons behind the execution of DivCom Kustoff. Whilst the rest of the meeting sat in silence, Deputy Marshal Berrikoff tried to explain that the now-dead Kustoff had taken unauthorised action when he had mounted the attack on Samopet.

The Secretary of the Supreme Soviet smiled and nodded as he listened to what the Deputy Marshal had to say … and then asked one of his bodyguards to give the Deputy Marshal a pistol. The Secretary then told the Deputy Marshal that he had a choice; either to die by his own hand – in which case his family would be left untouched and even given a pension – or to be taken outside and shot by a firing squad, knowing that his family faced a similar fate within a few days. The Deputy Marshal chose the former course of action … and several days later the SPUR official newspaper announced the death of Deputy Marshal Berrikoff ‘after a short battle with a terminal illness‘.

Note
For the purposes of this battle the Opelanders were allowed to travel unimpeded by the rules governing movement through forested areas. The SPUR Border troops were classed as Militia, and had lower Strength Values and Combat Power as a result.


A Winter-ish War: Day 3: The SPUR attack in the left-hand sector

During the second night of the war, the Opelandic government realised that the situation was very grave. Marshal Talenheim spelt it out in no uncertain words that the main defence line was breached, and that it was only a matter of time before SPUR’s troops would reach Viputa. He advised that approaches be made to SPUR via diplomatic channels with a request for an immediate armistice. In the meantime, he would order what remained of Opeland’s Regular Army to withdraw from the defences of Viputa.

This caused uproar in the Cabinet meeting, and several members called upon the Marshal to resign … but he refused, stating that he had always been of the opinion that Viputa was going to be impossible to defend against SPUR’s Armed Forces. Their overwhelming superiority in numbers and equipment made such a result inevitable, and he saw no reason to needlessly sacrifice Opelandic lives trying to achieve the impossible.

It was finally agreed that the defences protecting Viputa would be manned by Units drawn from the Reserve, and that the request for an armistice would be pursued with alacrity. It was also agreed that the handing over of Viputa to SPUR was preferable to the prospect of trying to fight a protracted war that Opeland would inevitably lose.

The Terrain

The Defenders
The defenders (commanded by Colonel Rolf Andersson) comprised:

  • 3 x Reserve Infantry Units
  • 1 x Reserve Anti-tank Gun Unit
  • 1 x Reserve Light Field Artillery Unit

The Attackers
The attackers (commanded by Admiral Loganoff) comprised:

  • 8 x Naval Infantry Units
  • 1 x Naval Anti-tank Gun Unit
  • 1 x Naval Light Field Artillery Unit
  • Units of the SPUR Northern Fleet

Turn 1
As day dawned, the defenders of Viputa could hear the sound of aircraft engines getting louder and louder, and this presaged the arrival of an attack by two SPUR Air Force Light Bomber Units, escorted by two Fighter Units.

The bombers ignored the Opelandic defences, and dropped their loads on the town of Viputa, setting many buildings on fire.

Meanwhile, out of sight of land, a SPUR Naval task force consisting of the newly-renamed Armoured Artillery Ship (AKA Battleship) Krasny Viputa (Red Viputa) and two landing barges was sailing towards the coast of Opeland.

Turn 2
The SPUR Naval Light Field Artillery Unit and the Opelandic Reserve Light Artillery Unit both fired at each other …

… and both inflicted casualties on the other.

The SPUR Naval Infantry Units edged forward so as to threaten but not actually attack the Opelandic defences.

At sea the SPUR task force turned towards Viputa and Krasny Viputa‘s smoke became visible to the inhabitants of the town.

Turn 3
The artillery exchange between the SPUR Naval Light Field Artillery Unit and the Opelandic Reserve Light Artillery Unit continued …

… but neither side’s fire was on target.

In Viputa the fire spread unchecked, and the whole town seemed to be engulfed in smoke.

At sea, the SPUR task force sailed closer and closer to Viputa …

Turn 4
The artillery duel between the SPUR Naval Light Field Artillery Unit and the Opelandic Reserve Light Artillery Unit continued ineffectively, but out at sea the Krasny Viputa was now clearly visible, as were the two landing barges. The latter had detached themselves from Krasny Viputa, and could be seen to be approaching the coast.

Turn 5
The guns of the Krasny Viputa opened fire on the Opelandic defences …

… with devastating effect!

The SPUR Naval Light Field Artillery and Naval Anti-tank Gun Units also fired at the Opelandic strong point closest to the coast …

… and wiped out its occupants!

The Opelandic Reserve Light Artillery Unit switched targets and fired at one of the oncoming SPUR Naval Infantry Units …

… but failed to inflict any casualties on it.

By this time the resolve of the Opelandic Reserve troops was beginning to waver, and already some Units were considering falling back. Colonel Andersson managed to keep those Units in the front line for the moment, but reported to Marshal Talenheim that the situation was dire, and that retreat was becoming inevitable. In reply Marshal Talenheim asked him to hold on for as long as possible, but that if it became obvious that the SPUR forces were going to prevail, to retreat in order to preserve the lives of his men.

Turn 6
Krasny Viputa fired on the Opelandic defences for a second time …

… and wiped out the Opelandic Reserve Anti-tank Gun Unit …

.. and inflicted casualties on the Opelandic Reserve Infantry Unit occupying the remaining strong point.

Fire from the SPUR Naval Light Field Artillery also targeted the Opelandic Reserve Infantry Unit …

… and caused even more casualties.

Realising that all was lost, Colonel Andersson ordered his remaining Units to retreat.

As they did so the SPUR landing barges arrived, carrying four additional SPUR Naval Infantry Units.

The battle for Viputa was over! SPUR had prevailed!


A Winter-ish War: Day 2: The SPUR attack in the right-hand sector

Overnight the SPUR troops in the right-hand sector had moved into position so that as the sun slowly rose in the east on the second day of the war, they could immediately begin their attack the Opelandic defences.

The Terrain

The Defenders
The defenders (commanded by Brigadier General Stig Larsson) comprised:

  • 3 x Regular Infantry Units
  • 1 x Regular Anti-tank Gun Unit
  • 1 x Regular Field Artillery Unit

The Attackers
The attackers (commanded by DivCom Smirnoff) comprised:

  • 6 x Rifle Units
  • 2 x Tank Units
  • 3 x Heavy Artillery Units

Turn 1
The SPUR attack began with a massive barrage of artillery fire from the SPUR Heavy Artillery Units on the centre of the Opelandic defences …

… and by the two SPUR Tank Units on the foremost – and very exposed – Opelandic Regular Infantry Unit.

The fire from the SPUR Heavy Artillery Units was accurate, and casualties were inflicted on one of the Opelandic Regular Infantry Units that was occupying a strong point.

The SPUR Tank Units were even more successful, and reduced the exposed Opelandic Regular Infantry Unit to 50% of its original strength.

The Opelanders returned fire, and their Regular Anti-Tank Gun Unit …

… hit and damaged the nearest SPUR Tank Unit.

The Opelandic Regular Field Artillery Unit also fired at nearest SPUR Tank Unit …

… but although its fire was on target, it did no damage.

Turn 2
Having learnt from the experiences of DivComs Litvinoff and Davidoff, DivCom Smirnoff was in no hurry to take on the Opelandic defences with an immediate all-out assault. His plan was to bombard and weaken the Opelanders before mounting a major attack … and this is what he proceeded to do.

The SPUR Heavy Artillery Units continued to target the centre of the Opelandic defences …

… whilst one of the SPUR Tank Units continued to engage the foremost Opelandic Regular Infantry Unit.

Although the SPUR Tank Unit’s fire was very effective and inflicted even more casualties on the Opelandic Regular Infantry Unit …

… the SPUR Heavy Artillery Units failed to achieve the same effect on the centre of the Opelandic defences, although some of the fire hit the minefield and cleared part of it as a result.

The Opelandic Regular Anti-Tank Gun Unit engaged the nearest SPUR Tank Unit … and missed … whilst the Opelandic Regular Field Artillery Unit’s fire was on target, but ineffective.

The SPUR Tank Unit that had not fired now advanced and attacked the exposed Opelandic Regular Infantry Unit …

… which it destroyed! The SPUR Tank Unit charged forward so that it could engage the Opelandic Regular Infantry Unit that was occupying one of the two strong points …

… but the Opelanders mounted a counter-attack that drove the SPUR Tank Unit back.

Turn 3
Before the SPUR Heavy Artillery and Tank Units could open fire yet again, the sound of aircraft was heard overhead. This presaged the arrival of two SPUR Air Force Light Bomber Units, escorted by two Fighter Units. They flew over the Opelandic positions, and the Light Bombers dropped their lethal loads …

… and inflicted casualties on both the Opelandic Regular Field Artillery and Regular Anti-tank Gun Units!

The SPUR Heavy Artillery and Tank Units then opened fire. The SPUR Heavy Artillery Units continued to fire at the centre of the Opelandic defences …

… and the Tank Units engaged the Opelandic Regular Infantry Unit in the nearest strong point.

The fire from the Heavy Artillery Units was very effective … and caused terminal casualties upon the Opelandic Regular Anti-tank Gun and Field Artillery Units!

The Opelandic Regular Anti-tank Gun and Field Artillery Units did manage to return fire before they were destroyed … but even where they hit their target, they did no damage.

Brigadier General Larsson now only had the two Opelandic Regular Infantry Unit with which to resist the SPUR invaders …

… and one of these was almost immediately reduced to 50% effectiveness by the fire from the SPUR Tank Units.

DivCom Smirnoff was now confident that he had broken the back of the Opelandic defences, and ordered his Rifle Units to begin to move forward.

Turn 4
The SPUR Heavy Artillery Units continued their bombardment …

… and caused further casualties upon the Opelandic Regular Infantry Unit closest to Lake Vigoda.

DivCom Smirnoff now ordered a general advance across the whole sector. This immediately brought some of the leading SPUR Units into contact with the Opelandic defenders. The leading SPUR Tank Unit attacked the much depleted Opelandic Regular Infantry Unit …

… and destroyed it.

On the other side of the sector, a SPUR Rifle Unit entered the forest and immediately ran into the other Opelandic strong point.

The fighting was intense … but Brigadier General Larsson’s men were unable to withstand the attack and fell back, leaving the final strong point to be occupied by SPUR’s troops.

Turn 5
DivCom Smirnoff was determined to push forward as quickly as he could, and his leading Units set off in pursuit of the retreating Opelanders. Unfortunately the pursuit proved fruitless, and DivCom Smirnoff had to content himself with the knowledge that he had succeeded in his mission to break the Opelandic defences in his sector.