Tuesday 28 April 2015

Balkan Wars: Battle of Kirkkilise (1912)

Despite my longstanding interest in the Balkans, I never seriously studied the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 before. Now, thanks largely to the encouragement of Leadhead, Ph.D., I have spent some $$$ and expanded my library, resulting in my first Balkan Wars BBB scenario, for the battle of Kirkkilise.


The Balkan Wars were a prelude to WWI, featuring some massive battles complete with machineguns, destructive artillery, trenches and barbed wire. Kirkkilise saw about 150,000 Turks defeated by 200,000 Bulgarians over the course of 3 days, on a 60km front.

We fought this using the WWI rule modifications we're testing for Bloody Big Battles (BBB). They definitely created a different feel. The firepower makes players very reluctant to move troops unless they have to, and really punishes attacks that are not well organised and in sufficient force.

In the historical battle, the Bulgarians had the advantage of both quantity and quality of troops. The scenario represents this accurately, and for the Turkish player, it becomes a question of whether he can delay the Bulgarians and prevent them taking enough objectives to claim victory. As it turned out in our game, the Turks were unsuccessful, and by the end their army was (fairly historically) mostly put to flight.

Overall a most satisfactory evening. The rules mods still need tweaking, of course, but are clearly going in the right direction, and make for quite different tactical challenges and an interesting game.

The rules mods and scenario can be found in the files of the BBB Yahoo group.
The scenario is also in Flickr here, here and here, plus a couple of pics of the game.

As I happened to be on the Bulgarian side, that's another one in the 'Win' column for the year.

Games played to conclusion - 17. (not counting ones I referee)
Won - 9.
Drawn - 3.
Lost - 5.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

BBB-fest #3: Balaclava, Noisseville, and Le Cateau!

This is getting out of hand! Ten eager players signed up for last night, so we decided to run three BBB games. It's great that the gang is thriving, but the downside is that I can't really keep up with everything that goes on. I haven't had full reports from the boys yet, so I'll start with just brief comments on the two games I wasn't involved in, and then give a full account of the very tense and exciting one I played myself.


Balaclava (1854): this was a first playtest of a newly drafted scenario for this famous Crimean War action. Apparently the Light Brigade declined to charge on this occasion. Although the game ended up as a draw, the Russian players felt that they had been extremely fortunate, and that it is skewed against the Russians. I'll get more detailed comments from them to revise and improve it. (Scenario is in the files of the BBB Yahoo group if you want to see it.)

Noisseville (1870): this is a large Franco-Prussian War battle, in which Bazaine made a very tentative attempt to break out of besieged Metz. Looking at the balance of forces, it is hard to see how he could have failed, and indeed in last night's game the French managed to smash a fairly emphatic hole in the thin German cordon. Again this was a first outing for a draft scenario that may need some tweaking and recalibration, though all the players seemed to enjoy it, perhaps because both sides have to maneuver a lot so it is a very dynamic game. (3-page scenario in Flickr here, here and here.)

Le Cateau (1914): second test of this scenario and of the draft BBB rule modifications for WWI. (3-page scenario here, here and here; rule mods in the BBB Yahoo group files.) This was a truly rollicking game. The first day went reasonably historically, with my BEF Tommies frantically backpedalling and keeping the pursuing Germans at bay with the occasional rearguard skirmish until they reached the trench line of Caudry-Le Cateau.

Day two was a sort of left-right flipped version of history. In the actual battle, the Germans eventually worked around the British right flank and rolled up the line from the Le Cateau end. Our game went a little differently, because the random advance of the Germans off-table on the West edge significantly outstripped those beyond the East edge. This meant that Marwitz's cavalry and the 7. Reserve Division were able to march on and join IV.AK in enveloping my 4th Division in Caudry. Meanwhile my own cavalry were unable to assist the 4th, being anchored to my baseline to screen and prevent further Germans arriving on my left.

This meant the 4th took a pounding. I launched the neighbouring 5th and 3rd Divisions out of their own defensive positions and counterattacked westwards, to try to take some heat off the 4th. Unfortunately this just resulted in heavy British casualties, and failed to save the 4th, who were destroyed as a fighting formation on the last turn.

This gave Bruce one objective, enough to prevent a British victory. At the same time, he had hurled his reserve directly at Le Cateau, which was now held by one of Haig's divisions. They managed to defy British defensive fire and close to assault. All now came down to one last roll of the dice, with the British enjoying just a -1 advantage for their cover. The Germans bounced off; the line held; final score, a draw.

The battle was a very mobile one because of the situation, which always helps to make for an enjoyable game. It also seemed to capture the flavour of the combat: initial German advances to contact were often costly for them, but then once they had their guns set up and were able to assault with proper artillery support, the weight of fire told. So far so good, as far as the WWI mods are concerned. We'll give them another test soon with a Balkan Wars battle, Kirkkilise (1912).

My running score for the year to date:

Games played to conclusion - 16. (not counting ones I referee)
Won - 8.
Drawn - 3.
Lost - 5.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Battle of Maida (1806), a Napoleonic BBB game

The Corlears Hook Fencibles have been experimenting with using the Bloody Big Battles rules for Napoleonics. Vincent Tsao's latest excellent photo-report is on TMP here.

Having fought a number of battles with BBB myself that were either actual Napoleonic or using Napoleonic weapons and tactics, I know that BBB works just fine for Napoleonics, but it's good to see it being independently confirmed.


Star Trek, Quatre Bras and Totalize!

An excellent and eclectic weekend's games demand to be recorded. After some looseners round the campfire in Scott's backyard, Saturday night's entertainment was a bout of Star Trek: Attack Wing. Our five Federation vessels took on Charlie's two Klingon ships and their two powerful Romulan allies. The allies started divided and we were able to defeat them in detail with the loss of just a single small Federation craft. Only one Romulan escaped - enough for the Klingons to consider themselves betrayed.


Sunday was given over to serious historical gaming. We fought Quatre Bras using rules developed by Mark Fastoso, of Fireball Forward fame (and ColonialCampaigns, and some outstanding Check Your Six! scenario books, etc). As the Duke of Wellington, I donned a poncho and a Russian fur hat and had the honour to serve His Royal Highness Prince Sean of Orange. Our plan entailed posting two brigades in the Bois de Bossu, while the third together with our artillery held the vital hinge of our position, the hamlet of Quatre Bras itself. Our French opponents opted for speed over firepower, and expended their efforts in pushing troops as far and as fast as possible to outflank QB and gain ground before our reinforcements could assist. This meant their artillery was neglected and did not get into action until too late to matter. There was a critical moment when one British line battalion was assailed by two French columns. We played our cards right and the French routed. After that, the inexorable flow of Allied arrivals turned the tide, and the final score was an emphatic thumping for Marshal Ney.


After the rest of the guys went home, Scott and I then pushed around some 3mm scale Picoarmor, kicking around ideas for a WWII ruleset that would enable entire operations such as Totalize, Crusader to be fought out on 6'x4' in a fun way and in a reasonable amount of time. We made real progress and the game is taking shape.

With my victories in Star Trek and Quatre Bras, my winning percentage for the year has improved. Score now:

Games played to conclusion - 15. (not counting ones I referee)
Won - 8.
Drawn - 2.
Lost - 5.