Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The start of The Hundred Days

It wasn't until I began watching Sergei Bondarchuk and Dino De Laurentiis' film WATERLOO on TV last Saturday that I realised that 20th March 1815 was the day that Napoleon returned to Paris after his exile on Elba, thus marking the beginning of the so-called 'Hundred days'.

The film included some wonderful battle scenes, not all of which were particularly accurate but which certainly gave an impression of what a horse-and-musket era battle involving thousands of combatants looked like.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Replacing my old notebook computer

Some years ago we bought a small, cheap notebook computer that we could take on holiday. It has served me well, but it is now beginning to show its age (like me it is getting slow and cannot do as much as it used to!) and we have been looking around for a new notebook computer to replace it. On Sunday morning Sue was looking through the online offers from Lidl and spotted what she thought might be a suitable replacement. It is a Trekstor Surftab® Twin 10.1 2-in-1 Convertible Notebook that was priced at £169.00, and after looking at the specification, we went and bought one.

I know that there will quite a few people out there who will tell me that I should have bought this or that notebook because it is better than the one I have purchased, but for the price and convenience this seems to suit my purposes.

Its specification includes:
  • Processor: Intel® Atom™ x5-Z8350
  • Operating System: Windows® 10 Home
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 64GB internal memory (expandable with an additional 128GB MicroSD memory card)
  • Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics 400
  • Screen: 10.1" 10-point multi-touch with Full HD IPS display
  • Facilities: USB 2.0 port, mini-HDMI, mic, audio jack, WiFi, Bluetooth
  • Cameras: front and rear 2MP
The only thing that it lacks is a port for normal SD cards (each day we are on holiday I back-up the photos we take have taken onto our computer), but as these can be purchased for only a few pounds from a number of retail outlets.

I am now looking forward to setting up our new notebook computer. Experience tells me to leave plenty of time to do so, and to expect things not to go as smoothly as I would like ... but once done, I hope that it will gives us as many years of useful life as its predecessor.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Battle of Cambrai: PDF of the rules is now available

I have converted the text of Martin Rapier's rules and his battle report into PDF format, and they are now available to read and download here.

Infantry from the 16th Infantry Division move forward.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Battle of Cambrai: An Army Level Game for One (or more Players) by Martin Rapier

An Army Level Game for One (or more Players) by Martin Rapier

1. Introduction
Many, many years ago, in an issue of Airfix magazine (or possibly the Airfix annual) I saw a photo of a World War One game where the author had assembled a number of Airfix Mark 1 tanks that were busily advancing on a reproduction of the German trench system around Hamel modelled out of Plasticene of all things. The tanks were supported by British infantry in caps and the Germans all had pointy helmets, (all that was available then) but it was an image which has stayed in mind ever since, and I thought that, one day, I too would put on a game with masses of rhomboid tanks poised to crash through the mud and the blood to the green fields beyond. That day finally came last year when I realised just how many W.W.1 tanks the redoubtable members of Sheffield Wargames Club had between them. Time for a game ...

2. Design Concepts
After reading around the subject, I decided there were a number of elements of the battle I wanted to capture:
  • The sheer mass of armoured vehicles employed (almost 500 in all);
  • The key tactical role the tanks played in the destruction of German wire obstacles in lieu of a long preliminary bombardment;
  • The limited endurance of W.W.1 heavy battle tanks and the limits that posed on their operational significance.
Having decided to put a modicum of complexity into modelling the armoured side of things, then clearly the infantry, artillery etc. were going to have to be heavily abstracted to make a playable game, but these elements needed to be present and have the capability to play a significant role as W.W.1 armoured operations were most definitely a combined arms event. One element I made very abstracted was the creeping barrage, in the end allowing British field guns to fire fairly freely (although only able to hit the first two rows) as it wasn’t worth the extra complexity of specifying barrage or rates of advance etc.

The basic game elements were drawn from my various grid based games (most of which were in turn inspired by Peter Pigs ‘Square Bashing’ and Ian Drury’s ‘Storm of Steel’ and ‘Sands of New Stanhall’. I kicked around some designs for a two or three day battle which would include some of the German counter attacks but in the end decided to concentrate purely on the first day. This in turn meant that all players would play the British, as running the Germans on the wrong end of the initial attack would be a dismal job at best! The game then fell into place fairly rapidly, the mechanisms used in Operation Uranus being obvious candidates, the main things to note being:
  1. Dice rolls are required to enter particular terrain types, this made wire especially a formidable obstacle to infantry and cavalry.
  2. Rolling dice for movement meant vehicle reliability could be simply modelled by making low scores a bad result for tanks (losing vehicles to breakdowns etc).
  3. Whilst infantry, guns and cavalry were modelled as one base = one battalion (or cavalry brigade) and they fought as a single element, the tanks were represented as strength points assigned to each vehicle model so the attritional effects of movement and combat could be modelled without requiring truly immense numbers of toys. The available tank SPs were just distributed over the available tank models and recorded with little dice. The game was designed with twelve tanks in mind, but in the event we managed to assemble no less than eighteen!
  4. Artillery barrages attack everything in the square, this makes the defending artillery pre-registered on no mans land extremely powerful indeed if the attackers try and march through with massed infantry. This in turn means that reaching the enemy gun line is a high priority for the tanks and that infantry attacks against uncut wire are essentially doomed to fail (as there is very little chance of crossing the wire and the defensive artillery will destroy units stuck in no mans land fairly quickly).
  5. Similar command and control limits as in Operation Uranus apply i.e. units can generally only move straight forward once committed to combat.
3. Playsheet
A very simple set of rules, British move and then Germans move. Squares are attacked by ‘assaulting’ them i.e. trying to move into them. Those units which make a successful move roll are shot at by the defenders, the survivors then engage in three rounds of close combat. Stationary units are hit by fire on a 6 but moving targets on a 5 or more, which makes assaults extremely bloody. Only some units have a ranged fire capability, the rest fight by assaulting. Move distances and ranges are in terms of squares, orthogonal only.

Turn Sequence
  • British move, declare assaults.
  • German move, declare assaults.
  • Artillery fire.
  • Ranged fire.
  • Assaults.
  • Rally (4+).

  • * Dice per SP or base, Number after / is defensive fire only.
  • ** 3D6 if Anti-tank gun vs. tanks.
  • *** Pillboxes can only be destroyed by hits from artillery or by assault, all other ‘kills’ just disorganise them.
Move rolls (to enter/cross terrain). Use worst type in square.

  • * lose 1 SP on a '1'.
  • Stacking maximum 6 units per square.
Ranged, Artillery and Defensive fire
  • 1D6 per unit/SP.
  • To hit target: Stationary 6, Moving 5, Moving Cavalry 4.
  • Score = killed/1SP loss for tanks.
  • Heavy Artillery and barrage fire hits all units in a square.
  • Field artillery barrage disorganises if roll one less e.g. 5 disorganised hits on 6 vs. stationary. This is supposed to represent suppression from the creeping barrage.
  • Distribute hits randomly. Disorganised units may not move, conduct ranged fire and in assault shoot once and defend with 1 dice with no fortification benefits. Tanks are never disorganised.
  • Units may rally on 4+.
  • Units which make a successful move roll enter the square.
  • Defender fires twice using assault rating (unless disorganised).
  • Then fight three rounds using assault rating, 6 to kill.
  • Defender gets one extra dice for wire and one for trenches/cover (not pillboxes).
  • Attacker pushes out defender by rolling 6+, adding surplus troop bases, tanks and defenders in fortifications count double.
  • Guns and pillboxes are captured if the defender is pushed out, assaulting infantry are disorganised if they win.
4. Game Notes
  • 6 x 4 squares battle area, along with a further row of squares for no mans land and another row further back for reserves etc. No mans land is at the top of the battlefield (not shown) with a further line of squares behind that. The Germans have continuous lines of trenches across the first, second and fourth rows, the first two lines being covered by wire as well. The gun line is the third row. Each square represents approximately 2,000m, Cambrai itself is off the table at the bottom of the map.
  • The game lasts 8 turns (hours).
  • Defensive artillery may be surprised on the first turn if the British choose not to fire a preparatory bombardment. They open fire and are spotted but their fire has no effect on a 3+, roll for each target square.
  • The British have four turns of field gun barrage (two shots each) per division and 25 rounds of heavy gun ammo (maximum six shots per turn). One round of preparatory bombardment may be allowed (does not disorganise targets). If the guns move they lose all their dumped ammo and are only allowed one conventional ranged shot per turn. Field guns only support their own division.
  • British will need to allocate corps and divisional frontages, which may not overlap for infantry divisions, although a reserve division can overlap one front line division. No movement outside divisional areas. The cavalry boundaries can be allocated when they are committed. Once committed to NO MANS LAND units move straight forward, although tanks may deviate within the Corps zone to avoid obstacles.
German Forces
    2 x Infantry Divisions with 9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar and 3 x Field Guns each
The Hindenburg line has 6 x pillboxes, 3 further pillboxes in outpost and reserve lines. One gun is an Anti-tank gun (positioned in Bourlon Wood).

For each division the commitment of forces to each line is:
  • Outpost line: 2 x Infantry, 1 x pillbox.
  • Main Battle Line (HKL): 5 x Infantry, 3 x pillbox, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar.
  • Gun line: 3 x gun.
  • Reserves: 2 x Infantry.
Only deploy defending units when the British try to enter the square or are adjacent on high ground (Welsh Ridge, Bourlon Ridge).

British Forces
    III Corps
      62nd Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
      51st (Highland) Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
      20th Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
      12th Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
    IV Corps
      36th Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
      56th Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
    Cavalry Corps
      5th Cavalry Division (3 x Cavalry).
      2nd Cavalry Division (3 x Cavalry).
      1st Cavalry Division (3 x Cavalry).
    Tank Corps with 380 Mark IV tanks and 96 support tanks. Approximately 1SP per 6 tanks so around 70 SP distributed over the available models, maybe more if feeling generous.
5. Player Briefings
Battle of Cambrai, 20th November 1917
British Briefing
General Scheme
General Sir Julian Byng’s plan for an offensive by his Army has been accepted by GHQ. We will make a surprise attack in the region of Cambrai using massed tanks supported by predicted artillery fire and no major preliminary bombardment. When a breakthrough has been achieved the Cavalry Corps can exploit the situation and advance on Douai and Valenciennes. Given the limited resources available following our great victory at the Third Battle of Ypres, the progress of the operation will be reviewed after 24 hours.

  • Break through the Hindenburg Line defences on a frontage of at least 10,000 yards.
  • Take the dominating Bourlon Wood/Noyelles position.
  • Pass the Cavalry Corps through to capture Cambrai and exploit.
Enemy Forces
The enemy is believed to have some six divisions in the area, but only two manning the immediate defences. It is likely that large enemy reinforcements will arrive after 48 hours, however most enemy units are exhausted after the Battle of Ypres.

The Hindenburg Line consists of the three main defensive belts; an outpost line some 2,000m deep; the main battle zone also some 2,000m deep and fronted by a 14' wide anti-tank ditch and a further reserve line 6,000m to 8,000m into the enemy position.

Each defensive zone is fronted by major wire entanglements, contains numerous dug in positions and bunkers and is reinforced with concreted machine gun posts (the so-called 'pill boxes'). The bulk of the enemy troops and fortifications are likely to be concentrated in the main battle zone, with counter attack forces in the third line.

The enemy field artillery is mostly located behind the main battle zone and will lay down a curtain of defensive fire once our attack has commenced. The enemy gun line is out of barrage range of our field artillery, but the heavy artillery is within easy counter battery range.

Friendly Forces
    III Corps
      62nd Infantry Division
      51st (Highland) Infantry Division
      20th Infantry Division
      12th Infantry Division
    IV Corps
      36th Infantry Division
      56th Infantry Division
    Cavalry Corps
      5th Cavalry Division
      2nd Cavalry Division
      1st Cavalry Division
Each division has 100 field guns with sufficient ammunition for four hours barrage fire each. If they move this ammunition will be left behind and they will be reduced to their ready supply.

300 Heavy guns (six brigades) with sufficient ammunition for a total 25 concentrations between them. These guns are immobile.

Tank Corps, three tank brigades with 380 Mark IV heavy battle tanks and a further 96 support tanks of various marks.

Special Order to Tank Commanders
  1. Tomorrow the Tank Corps will have the chance for which it has been waiting for many months – to operate on good going in the van of the battle.
  2. All that hard work and ingenuity can achieve has been done in the way of preparation.
  3. It remains for unit commanders and tank crews to complete the work by judgement and pluck in the battle itself.
  4. In the light of past experience I leave the good name of the Corps with great confidence in their hands.
  5. I propose leading the attack in the centre division.
Hugh Elles B.G
Commanding Tank Corps

6. The Game
Tim Gow, Sharon Langdridge and John Armatys turned up for this one, which worked out at a rather handy two divisions each for them to command. The addition of Tim’s extra tanks (the paint seeming suspiciously wet) meant we could field no less than eighteen Mark IV type tanks in a surprising variety of colour schemes and markings, all very realistic no doubt. This meant each division could be assigned three tank models to produce a nice even distribution across the front, all very historical, and a necessity given the victory conditions of 10,000m wide break through. The 20mm troops were deployed in the south, and the 15mm troops in the north as being further away they naturally looked smaller.

The progress of the game was recorded for posterity by the miracle of digital camera technology, and we managed to record the situation at the start of the game and at the end of each turn. As might be expected, the massed armour rolled over the Germans, although the game was not without its distinctly sticky moments. The photographic evidence reveals rather poignantly the ever diminishing number of operational tanks in the front line and the increasingly ragged progress once the main Hindenburg defences were reached, a couple of pillboxes in the centre proving extremely tough nuts to crack.

Highlights of the game:
  1. The sheer spectacle of the table groaning under masses and masses of tanks, supported by an impressive number of infantry (some 54 bases of infantry alone, excluding artillery and support weapons).
  2. The glee with which the assembled tank commanders rolled over the German outpost line
  3. The consternation when they hit the Hindenburg Line proper!
  4. A lone German artillery battalion holding Bourlon Wood for hour after hour, fronted by blazing Mark IVs, all very historical.
  5. The death ride of the 51st Highland Division as they launched wave after wave of infantry assaults across the St Quentin Canal, only to be mowed down a brigade at a time by the defending artillery (who eventually succumbed to massed mortar and Vickers machine gun fire).
  6. The triumphant march of the Cavalry who trotted through the middle of the raging battle and off to glory without a scratch.
I was very pleased with the way the game went, and the players were all delighted to have given the Hun a good kicking, although it was by no means a walkover – some divisions had lost all their infantry and few tank units had more than one or two SP left. The only thing which really concerned me was that the combination of benefits they got which made the defenders extremely tough indeed and even during the game I dropped the additional dice they were supposed to have in close combat. If running it again I’ll probably revise that area somewhat.

7. Conclusions
Apart from a couple of minor tweaks, this game seems to work well. It is perhaps a bit depressing that I seem to have to write a set of rules for every single game I do, perhaps one day I’ll crack the secret of writing a more general purpose set. I’ll be bringing this to COW2003, and I hope anyone with even a passing interest in W.W.1 can come and give it a go. Contributions of even more tanks will be welcome!

Friday, 16 March 2018

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 16th – 18th March 1938

Barcelona was subjected to round-the-clock bombing by Italian aircraft based on Majorca.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Operation Uranus: PDF of the rules is now available

I have converted the text of Martin Rapier's rules and his battle report into PDF format, and they are now available to read and download here.

Martin has kindly given his permission to also publish his Cambrai rules on my blog, and I hope to do that in the next few days. These were a development of his Operation Uranus rules and involved two German Infantry Divisions vs. British forces amounting to six Infantry Divisions, three Cavalry Divisions, six Heavy Artillery Brigades, and three Tank Brigades.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Internet woes

For the past three days our Internet connection has been very erratic, hence my somewhat curtailed blogging.

What started as an intermittent fault became a total loss of service. Even when this was supposedly fixed, the connection remained unreliable, and by this morning I had given up counting the number of times I had reset the modem/router and input the network password on my computer, our iPads and iPhones, and our Amazon Firestick.

Hopefully the connection will have settled down overnight, and there will be no more problems.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Miniature Wargames Issue 420

The latest issue of Miniature Wargames arrived on Saturday, and I have just finished reading it.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Send three and fourpence: Ruritanian Holiday – A tale of three games by Conrad Kinch, with photographs by the author and John Treadaway
  • Hell by daylight: 20th Century skirmish rules: Part 3 by Jim Webster
  • Pyrenees: July 1813: A conundrum to contemplate by Jon Sutherland, with photographs by Diane Sutherland
  • A Call to Arms: A scenario and other add-ons for Outremer: Faith and Blood by Jamie Gordon
  • Darker Horizons
    • Fantasy Facts
    • Look out Jason: The evolution of a participation game by Peter Merritt
  • The Victorio Campaign: 1870-1886: Part Two: Navajo and Pueblo: Mexicans and Texas Ranger by Robert Watt, with photographs by the author and Kevin Dallimore
  • Recce
  • Dusty Tracks: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Show Report: Vapnartak by John Treadaway
  • Club Directory
So what did I particularly enjoy in this issue?

The stand-out article for me was Conrad Kinch's Send three and fourpence: Ruritanian Holiday ... and not just because he used my PORTABLE WARGAME rules! I have been a sucker for Anthony Hope's Ruritanian stories ever since I saw the 1937 version of the film PRISONER OF ZENDA on our old black and white TV, and any wargame that has Ruritania as its setting is always going to get my vote. In addition to this, the article was illustrated with photographs of some of Julian Spilsbury's collection of wonderfully painted, semi-flat figures, which are so evocative of the toy soldiers that were on sale when the books were written and set.

On a personal note, a very favourable review of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA appeared in the Recce section of this issue, but it is too early to see if it has stimulate any additional sales.

This issue was accompanied by a copy of the SALUTE 2018 wargames show guide ...

... which I also read with considerable interest as I hope to go again this year.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Operation Uranus: An Army Level Game for One (or more Players) by Martin Rapier

An Army Level Game for One (or more Players) by Martin Rapier

Operation Uranus: Romanian briefing

To: Gen. Lascar, Commander 14th Vanatori Division, 3rd. Army, Seramifovitch 05.00 on 19th November 1942

There are strong indications that the enemy is preparing to attack. You must hold your positions at all costs for the honour of the Romanian Army, in particular you must delay or damage any enemy motorised formations to enable armoured reserves to move up and deal with them.

14th Vanatori Division
1 x Divisional headquarters
6 x Infantry battalions (3 Regiments)
1 x Infantry battalion (Jäger)
1 x Cavalry battalion (Reconnaissance)
1 x Engineer battalion
1 x 47mm Anti-tank gun (Anti-tank battalion)
1 x 120mm mortar (Mortar companies)
2 x 100mm howitzers (Artillery regiments)
2 x 75mm gun (Artillery regiments)
6 x barbed wire entrenchments
4 x minefields
25 x dummy counters
Units are deployed (as inverted counters) in rows B to E.

Operation Uranus: Russian Briefing

From: General Zhukov, Stavka representative to the Southern Front, Seramifovitch, 13.00 on 19th November 1942
To: General Bagramyan, 5th. Tank Army

The 5th Guards Tank Army will spearhead our thrust south to seize Kalach and surround the Nazis in Stalingrad. Use your attached Rifle Divisions to enable 3rd Tank Corps to pass through the lines of the Romanian Hitlerite running dogs to your front. The armour must be got through the lines in the maximum possible strength before nightfall.

124th Guards Rifle Division
1 x Divisional headquarters
9 x Rifle battalions
1 x SMG battalion
1 x Anti-tank Gun
1 x 120mm Mortar
1 x Engineer battalion
2 x 76mm guns
1 x 122mm gun
16th Rifle Division
1 x Divisional headquarters
9 x Rifle battalions
1 x Anti-tank Gun
1 x 120mm Mortar
1 x Engineer battalion
2 x 76mm guns
3rd Tank Corps
1 x Corps headquarters
3 x Tank brigades (2 x T-34, 1 x Motor Rifle battalion each)
1 x Motor Rifle brigade (3 x Motor Rifle battalions)
1 x Motorised SMG battalion
1 x Motorised Engineer battalion
1 x Armoured Reconnaissance battalion
1 x Guards Mortar battalion (Katayushas)
Plus air/artillery support as detailed in the rules.

Victory Levels: Based on number of Tank Corps units exited by the end of the day.
Note: the maximum victory level is only attainable if the entire tank corps leaves the table intact.
17: Order of Lenin all around. The Fascists in Stalingrad will be utterly annihilated as the mighty 3rd Tank Corps sweeps aside all opposition
15 to 16: Your mission has been achieved, and it is likely the enemy in Stalingrad will be surrounded by our powerful armoured forces.
13 to 14: 3rd Tank Corps has penetrated the enemy line, but will have a stiff fight to defeat the enemy armoured reserves and complete the breakthrough. Strict adherence to Stalinist principles will be necessary in future to avoid disgrace.
Less than 13: The crippled 3rd Tank Corps is highly unlikely to defeat 1st Romanian Armoured Division, and the success of our offensive now hangs by a thread. Report to Moscow immediately for reassignment to a Peoples’ Mine Clearing battalion.

Operation Uranus: Rules
  • Each stand is a battalion.
  • Turns are approximately three hours (6 tums in a day).
  • Each square is about 2km.
  • The battle lasts a single day.
  • The battlefield is four zones wide by six zones deep.
  • The defender deploys counters face down in his area (rows B, C, D, E).
  • The Russians do reconnaissance (roll 206 for row/column, pick two counters three times).
  • Russians plan and fire bombardment: they have 16 points to fire initially (maximum 2 per zone), plus a further 8 on call (maximum 4 per turn).
  • Place fire points and plot four Target Registration Points (TRP) for on call fire. Roll D6 for each counter in a square per fire point, kill on 6.
  • Infantry/artillery move 1 zone.
  • Motorised move 2 zones (3 if not into combat).
  • Romanians may move D6 mobile units (half D6 if HQ destroyed).
  • Maximum of 6 units per zone at any time.
  • Artillery fire: allocate and resolve support points vs. squares (only vs. TRPs) ... Note: this hits everyone! Resolve as initial barrage (roll per unit in target area, 6 kills). This includes airstrikes generated by random events.
  • Support fire (mortars l square, artillery/rockets 2 squares) may be into friendly squares. Romanians fire first, unmasked batteries cannot be targeted in the turn they are revealed. Fire once, 6 kills.
  • Close Combat (in same zone): Fight three rounds, rolls of 6 kill. Defender fires first on first round. All roll 1D6 except:
    • Engineer/SMG Infantry: 2D6 vs. soft, but die first.
    • Anti-tank: 2D6 vs. armoured, no effect vs. Infantry.
    • Tanks: 2D6.
    • Artillery: 2D6.
  • Each barbed wire gives one defender an extra D6, each minefield gives one defender an extra 2D6. Undefended wire does not impede movement in any way. Undefended minefields kill one unit on a 6, may be cleared by engineers spending a turn in zone. Units may not withdraw from close combat except in direction they came – defenders allowed 1 free shot with 1 unit.
  • Terrain has no effect, it just looks pretty at this scale (it is the rolling Steppe after all!).
Command and Control
  • In real life Red Army attacks were carefully orchestrated.
  • Each rifle division must have a divisional sector, and its forces must be divided into echelons (1st and 2nd).
  • The 1st echelon components are allocated an axis in the divisional sector and must move forwards along it (it may halt).
  • Divisional units may move around freely in the divisional sector.
  • The 2nd echelon is held off table and may be committed to an axis in the divisional sector only on the say so of the C-in-C.
  • Units may not move off their axis (line of squares) at any time.
  • The Tank Corps may be held in reserve and allocated a divisional sector and brigade axes when it is committed. All calls for support fire are also routed via Army HQ, against the TRPs.

Random events (D6 +1 per turn elapsed). Roll at the start of each turn:
    1 to 4: Thick fog, artillery and support fire may only be directed against squares adjacent to friendly units. Event is cancelled whenever 5+ rolled.
    5: Russian Air Strike. One support point available against any square.
    6: Romanian Air Strike. One support point available against any square.
    7: Extra Ammo. Add one support point to pool of available Russian points.
    8+: No effect

    The Game
    An enthusiastic crowd of Russians was assembled: 16th Rifle (Daniel), 124th Guards (Steve Bridden), 3rd Tank (John Armatys), all under the watchful eye of Comrade General Nick Mitchell and Commissar Tim Gow.

    The Russians deployed as shown on the plan.

    Basically the 124th Guards was attacking on a narrow (1 zone) front, whilst 16th Rifle had three zones to cover. The Tank Corps was kept in third echelon reserve so its divisional sector and brigade axes could be determined once the initial attacks had gone in. The Romanians deployed as piles of inverted counters, although in fact it was a very conventional defence – four battalions in column E with wire/mines, mortars and two reserve battalions in column D, divisional artillery and a few more obstacles in row C, and divisional reserves (cavalry, engineers, Jäger battalion, anti-tank and Divisional HQ) in column B.

    General Mitchell rolled the three recon attempts, two of which either missed the table altogether or landed on empty squares. The final one turned up a mortar battalion in D2. The Russians plotted four target registration points for their on-call artillery, mainly along the 124th Guards axis, and allocated their 16 point barrage in quite a deep fire plan, again favouring the Guards. The barrage was resolved and numerous counters removed, the Hill in E4 was completely cleared, much to the Guards delight, and one hidden loss the Russians were not aware of was the Romanian divisional HQ. Only two of four Romanian front line battalions survived the barrage, and of them, only one (in E1) had any fortifications left intact.

    The Red horde rolled forward, and General Mitchell proceeded to stick pins in his map and shout down the telephone. As might be expected, 16th Rifle ran into opposition along its entire front, the regiment from F1 eventually totally destroying itself in fruitless attacks on the surviving Romanian battalion hiding behind its minefield. Progress further south was better, although again it was 16th Rifle which ran into most opposition, and lacking sufficient concentration of force along its attack axes, suffered brutally, its attack eventually petering out as indicated on the following map.

    The lack of opposition to the Guards prompted the Tank Corps to move into 2nd echelon reserve on turn 2, and then to enter the table on turn three, most of its brigades routed along row 4, while one Motor Rifle brigade moved along row 3. Unfortunately, Corps Commander Armatys had been ordered to 'follow the Guards infantry closely', and like a good Marxist-Leninist, that is exactly what he did – the loaded tanks, trucks and batteries of Katyushas bumping slowly over the Steppe, following the plodding infantry in front.

    By the fifth turn, the 124th had actually reached column A, but General Mitchell's map pins were not indicating any armoured breakthrough, so Commissar Gow came to investigate. He found the Tank Corps motoring slowly along behind the infantry. A certain amount of political reorientation took place, and by shifting infantry units back and forth, it was found to be possible to move the vast bulk of the Tank Corps up at a more rapid rate. Despite firing 3 ammo loads at B3 (on top of an unfortunate regiment of the 16th Rifle), all of which missed (raising shouts of sabotage) in an effort to clear the way, the last Romanian reserve, their Anti-tank battalion, slipped into A4 on the last turn. This prevented the Tank Corps from simply driving off the table, and although the T-34s crunched the Romanian 47mms under their tracks easily, as night fell the Tank Corps was still on the field and not motoring off lo its destiny at Kalach.

    Fortunately, there was still at least one defended minefield left for the Division and Army commanders to clear in their new assignment to a Shtraf battalion ...

    So not a good day for the Red Army. although the Romanians were largely obliterated, significant portions were still holding out at nightfall, and had delayed the Russian Tank Corps significantly. Interestingly one of the operational problems Red Army commanders strove to resolve (with increasing success) was at what point to commit their Army and Front level deep operational manoeuvre groups. Too soon and they would get chewed up in breakthrough fighting, too late and the enemy would have time to bring up reserves. In this case, time to revisit those Pu-36 Field Regulations I think!

    While these rules are incredibly simple, they do actually work, even for a large battle like the one described above – mainly through the uncertainty the attacker faces, and they work even better with a proper command structure superimposed. I hope to use them for other set piece modern battles, although probably at the lower company base scale.

    Saturday, 10 March 2018

    La Ultima Cruzada: Paperback and eBook editions ... are now available

    As I intimated in a recent blog entry, over recent weeks I have been thinking about releasing both paperback and eBook editions of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA.

    The work required to do this took somewhat more time and effort than I had expected, but that task is now over and both editions are now available. They can currently be purchased from for £14.99 (paperback) and £4.99 (eBook), but should be available from Amazon etc., within the next fortnight or so.