Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire Peninsular War, but with the odd foray into ancient, medieval and WW2 battles.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Battle of Sempach 1386: A DBA Re-Fight

Inspired by Wally Hearl's article in Miniature Wargames 14 about the Battle of Semlach, I had a go at re-creating it in miniature using the DBA rules. 




It is quite an interesting battle, pitching the infantry-based Swiss force against a more typical Imperial Austrian force; most unusually, it was a genuine encounter battle, with both armies deploying and fighing off the line of march.

The article doesn't provide a map, so I scoured the internet for something appropriate.  This one was the best:

From this interesting site. It had to be supplemented with some aerial reconnaissance from Google.


For the orders of battle, I used the DBA lists, with one important modification:

Austrians (Medieval German IV/13b):
3 x Knights (3Kn), 2 x Blades (Dismounted Knights) (4Bd), 1 x Crossbowmen (4Cb), 2 x Militia Spearmen (Sp), 2 x Mercenaries (4Bd), 2 x Archers (Ps)

Swiss (Early Swiss IV/41):
9 x Halberdiers (4Bd), 3 x Crossbowmen (Ps)

Those familiar with the lists will note the changes to the Austrian list.  There isn't usually an option to use dismounted knights, but this is reportedly what was done at Sempach.  The article's author seemed to indicate that the intention was to use the dismounted knights as pikemen (!) but Blades is the usual choice for dismounted knights.  However, Spearmen might have also been a good choice.

The engagement involved both sides' vanguards clashing before the respective main bodies arrived.  To simulate this, all troops were considered to start off-table and had to be moved using PIPs onto the road.  For the first four turns only the vanguards could be used, as follows:

Austrians: 2 x Dismounted Knights (4Bd), 2 x Archers (Ps)
Swiss: 1 x Crossbowmen (Ps), 3 x Halberdiers (4Bd)

The Battle:

The view on the road to Sempach from Hildisrieden.  The Swiss approach from Sempach, the Austrians from Hildisrieden.

a different angle

The Swiss, handicapped by low PIP rolls, are still in column on the road as the Austrian archers approach.

Another angle

The Swiss halberdiers deploy, preparing to charge.  The Austrian dismounted knights approach

The Austrian skirmishers delay the Swiss advance

Austrian crossbowmen flee from the blades of the advancing Swiss...

The Austrian knights engage the flank of the Swiss first line; the Swiss main body is just coming up

A close-up of the clash of lines

Surprisingly, the Halberdiers win and push forward

But the Austrian knights are able to turn the tables and destroy the purusing Halberdiers

The dismounted Austrian knights push forward (top left); Duke Leopold himself leads his knights into the charge (bottom-centre)

The Austrian knights crush the Swiss, whilst the second line engages the dismounted knights

The leading knights move up to support their dismounted brethren; more knights engage the remnants of the Swiss first line, supported by some Austrian skirmishing crossbowmen

The knights crush the remainder of the Halberdiers in the Swiss vanguard...

The Swiss second line in a large clash - Swiss skirmishers are now working along the edge of the forest...

Duke Leopold leads his knights to victory once again!  The Swiss army collapses...

A closer view of the hero of the hour, leading his knights to victory!

Game Notes:

A complete reversal of the historical outcome, in which the Swiss main body was able to flank and destroy the Austrian vanguard and its supporting knights, with Leopold falling in the midst of his men!  The keys to the Austrian victory here were:

Very poor initial PIP rolls on the Swiss side - they were never able to control the pace of the battle
The flanking Swiss halberdiers in the first line advancing after forcing a recoil into a more difficult situation where they were outflanked on both sides and destroyed
As the line wasn't properly formed, there were continuously flanks left for the mounted knights to exploit.
The quick kill ability of the knights against blades (blades without bow support are a much better proposition for mounted knights).

I do wonder if the game might play very differently using Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval rules, with their emphasis on attrition.  This might give less force to the impetus-based quick kills of the Austrian mounted knights.

The game was interesting and exciting, and took little time to set up and play.  The board was 3'x2'.  Again, I used my 6mm Baccus Wars of the Roses figures as suitable proxies for both sides.

Lacquered Combat: Attack on the Emden 04 Sep 39

For my next game of Lacquered Coffins, I wrote a small air-sea scenario based on the first such attacks of World War 2 in the West.  The details are taken from an excellent book, Christopher Shores' Fledgling Eagles, which deals with all of the air fighting over the North Sea, France and Norway before the actual invasion of France in May 1940.












I actually wrote 3 scenarios, from which I selected the second for this game - but I present all of them here.




04 September 1939

Scenario 01:

Time: 1755
Mission: Blenheim bombers of 110 Sqn are to attack the German cruiser Admiral Scheer.

Forces:

British: 5 x Blenheim IV bombers (led by Flt Lt Doran)

Germans: 1 x Cruiser; shore-based AA, (1 x Do18 Flying Boat – optional)

The British set up at the far end of the table, at any permissible speed and altitude (historically I think it would be SPD 4, ALT 1).  The German cruiser (the Admiral Scheer) is set up at the near end of the table.  After the British leave the table on the near side, they then fly back up the table at the same point they left (this simulates the AA fire suffered leaving the target).  The German cruiser counts as heavily-defended by AA.  The table edge marks the port defences (i.e. measure AA range from the table edge, this counts as medium-defended)

Optional Rules:  The British bombs were very unreliable in this attack.  Roll a D6 for every bomb 1-3 indicates that the bomb failed to function correctly, 4-6 indicates that the bomb explodes as it should.


 As soon as all the British bombers have left the table, set up another table with the surviving bombers on the near side, then the German flying boat (SPD 2, ALT 1) on the far side.  The German flying boat escapes if it reaches the near side.

 
Scenario 02:

Time: 1800
Mission: Blenheim bombers of 107 Sqn are to attack the German light cruiser Emden.

Forces:

British: 5 x Blenheim IV bombers (led by Flt Lt Barton)

Germans: 1 x Lt. Cruiser; shore-based AA; 2 x Bf109E;

The British set up at the far end of the table, at any permissible SPD and ALT (see comment in scenario 01).  The German cruiser is set up at the near end of the table.  After the British leave the table on the near side, they then fly back up the table at the same point they left (this simulates the AA fire suffered leaving the target).  The German cruiser counts as heavily-defended by AA.  The table edge marks the port defences (i.e. measure AA range from the table edge, this counts as medium-defended)As soon as the British bombers are set-up to leave the target, place the two Bf109E at any desired altitude and speed at any corner of the table.

n.b.  The Bf109Es should have LMGs rather than MGs.

Optional Rules:  The British bombs were very unreliable in this attack.  Roll a D6 for every bomb 1-3 indicates that the bomb failed to function correctly, 4-6 indicates that the bomb explodes as it should.


Scenario 03:

Time: 1805
Mission: Wellington bombers of 9 Sqn are to attack the German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

Forces:

British: 3 x Wellington I bombers (led by Sqn Ldr Lamb)

Germans: 2 x Battle Cruisers; shore-based AA; 2 x Bf109E

The British set up at the far end of the table, at any permissible SPD and ALT.  The German cruiser is set up at the near end of the table.  After the British leave the table on the near side, they then fly back up the table at the same point they left (this simulates the AA fire suffered leaving the target).  The German battlee cruisers count as heavily-defended by AA.  The table edge marks the port defences (i.e. measure AA range from the table edge, this counts as medium-defended)  As soon as the British bombers are set-up to leave the target on the return trip, place the two Bf109E at any desired altitude and speed at any corner of the table.

Optional Rules:  The British bombs were very unreliable in this attack.  Roll a D6 for every bomb 1-3 indicates that the bomb failed to function correctly, 4-6 indicates that the bomb explodes as it should.

The Game:

Flt Lt WF Barton in Blenheim IV N6184 leads the 107 Sqn formation.

The German Light Cruiser Emden

Just to show the distance

The British light bombers have adopted a line astern formation ready to attack.  The pilot of the second aircraft has already been injured by flak.

Bombs away!  All the British aircraft survive, although the third and fifth aircraft have been damaged now by flak.

Emden blows up in a very satisfying fashion! (but see game notes)

As outlined in the scenario rules, the British bombers then flew back across the table in the following turn.  They return at the place and in the same formation as they left (in this case linear); they shook back out into a V formation, but two Emils from II/JG77 are moving in to intercept

In short order, the Germans shoot down two bombers!

The Germans move towards the remaining Blenheims...

But lucky defensive fire puts the two Emils into the sea!  The remaining Blenheims (one with a wounded Pilot, the remaining two with damage) retreat.

 Game Notes:

The real Emden
 A good fun, quick game.  Lacquered combat is very easy to play!  It is like a Neil Thomas set of rules: it is the distilled essence of the various complicated games made into a very simple, impressionistic game, which, broadly speaking, gets to the same place with some obvious shortcuts, but much less faff...

However, I do think there is a specific problem with damage calibration: the game is just too deadly I think, weapons are just a little too effective.  I need to play about with this some more, but my impression is that effective damage was more random than this and hits harder to obtain.  After my first game, I changed the order of fire, so I do bombers' defensive fire before the attacking fighter.  This did make a difference here, probably another Blenheim would have been shot down and one of the Emils would have survived.  I am thinking of introducing a house rule so that any aircraft with only a single damage point remaining must break off its attacks and return home and is only permitted to attack fighters from this point (to allow a damaged fighter to defend itself).  I think that this might create a more realistic level of commitment from the fighter pilots.  To be fair, I haven't been using the points system given in the game: perhaps that would encourage more caution.

I didn't use the bombing optional rule I suggested, but I did roll it out, just to see what would have happened.  Pleasingly, this would have given a result more close to that historically achieved (although in real life one of the damaged aircraft actually crashed into the Emden, which caused rather more damage than the bombs did (which missed by 12 yards).  Incidentally, in the real attack four of the aircraft were destroyed, the remaining aircraft lost touch with its formation and returned home without attacking.  There is an argument for increasing the level of the land-based flak defences to heavy to reflect the inferno that the unfortunate 107 Sqn flew into.


II/JG 77 gained the first Luftwaffe victories in the West on this day (1 Blenheim, 2 Wellingtons):



Aircraft are from Tumbling Dice, the mat is a fleece cloth from Boyes (£1.99).  The blue is more Carribean than North Sea, mind...

Friday, 7 April 2017

Nuts! 18 Platoon Campaign - Scenario 01: Mount Pinçon

I have been toying with the idea of doing a campaign based on the book "18 Platoon" by Sydney Jary.  It is a memoir of his experiences as the platoon commander of 18 Platoon, 4th Somerset Light Infantry from Normandy 1944 to Germany 1945.




 As Nuts! has recently been working quite well for me, I have written and played the scenario to fit in with these rules, but they should be easily adaptable to other systems.



Jary's first action was part of Operation Bluecoat. After a bloody failed daylight attack, a couple of companies of 4/Somerset Light Infantry successfully infiltrated onto the summit, after which the Germans retreated.  18 Platoon suffered a single casualty, as fire went through one of the attacking companies into it in its reserve position.  The next morning, it led the advance down the opposite slope and was then ordered to take the next ridge from any enemy opposition...

The Forces:

Jary says that there were only 12 men in the platoon for the Mount Pinçon battle.  It is unclear if he includes himself, or if he includes the casualty from the first part of the operation.  Thus there are a couple of options in the order of battle:


18 Platoon:

2 Lt Jary (Rep 4): Armed with a US large calibre pistol
Sgt Kingston (Rep 6): SMG or rifle
Cpl Proctor (Rep 5): SMG or rifle
9 - 11 Riflemen: generate as normal

Arm them with 0 - 3 Brens, 0 - 1 2" mortar and the remainder with rifles.

Reinforcements:  any AFVs generated are Bren Gun carriers.

Investment Level: 4 (relatively strong)

The Germans:

Investment level 2 (quite weak)


Special Events:
The first civilian generated will be a single female (Rep 2).  She must accompany the soldiers who first encounters her unless she can be taken to the (cleared) farmhouse.
In the random events table, replace the following numbers:
1 - All Germans within LOS surrender
4 - The British Coy Commander (Rep 2, medium calibre pistol)  turns up.  He will go straight to Jary and make his life a misery for D6 turns (unable to move when active, temporarily reduce Rep to 3).  He will then move to cover and fall asleep!
5 - Artillery strike (the Germans had pre-planned defensive 50mm mortar fire).

Objective:
Exit the table off the opposite edge (as per option two in the "Attack" mission). 

The Game:

View of the battlefield: bocage, with a large central orchard and a farmhouse in the centre


A slightly more elevated view, so you can see the end of the table (the objective)

18 Pl advance in two sections each in single file

18 Pl takes up defensive positions at the edge of the orchard, preparing to advance
 
A Panzershreck team stumbles into the edge of the British position: after a brief exchange of fire, the lead German falls, wounded; the other German (with the Panzershreck cowers behind the trees)



Sgt Kingston throws in a grenade, it doesn't cause any damage but the German keeps his head firmly down
hjjj

A British soldier advances and knocks out the Panzershreck man
hjjjjh

The Bren gun team establish a position in cover; then a German LMG team is sighted.  The German LMG team fire first but don't cause any casualties; when the British gun team are encouraged back into the fight by Sgt Kingston and Lt Jary, the German MG42 gunner is killed.  The number two runs for it and escapes

A closer in view of the fighting!

The German soldier makes his escape!

The British advance cautiously, but encounter no further opposition

Another view

The Brits found a civilian girl and take her to safety in the farmhouse (not shown - I have no 15mm civilian figures!) then adopt a defensive position (roof removed to show positions)

The British Pl form up along the final hedgerow, next to the road

Objective achieved!
Game Notes:

Hopefully this simple scenario may be of use to other Nuts! players.  It is simple and winnable, so it may one for the beginner rather than the grognard!  On the other hand, the beauty of Nuts! is that you never quite know what is going to happen next!
As a tactical note, cautious advances with lots of snap ambushes, taking care to create arcs of fire where the enemy can't simply retreat out of sight and into cover/safety are really useful in this game.  Try and have at least one good soldier in any group to increase the chances of getting that all-important first shot in, and have leaders ready to encourage support weapons.
Incidentally, although this mission went well (helped by the German LMG team missing, although it wasn't an easy shot) it didn't have as good a result as in real life, where the Germans encountered quickly surrendered - although 18 Pl was then hit by accurate mortar fire and could easily have lost some more.
Rules are Nuts! Final Edition, figures are a mixture of Plastic Soldier Company, Battlefront and Peter Pig, the farmhouse (sorry it is unpainted! but I think it looks quite nice anyway) is from John Banks.