Tuesday 24 May 2016

The First Polish-Sikh-American-Civil War

Not really, it's just that I've managed to fit in 3 different games in a week, from 3 different wars.

First we had a WWII game set in Poland 1939. This was a re-run of the Bzura Breakout semi-historical game we tried back in November. It's a game with no front lines and action all over the pitch, and we had six players, and we were experimenting with new rules. So it was all a bit shambolic really! But good fun nonetheless, and as far as the rules experiment went, a success. More of that anon, no doubt.

A highlight of the evening was actually after the game, when we were chatting in the village hall kitchen and a large rodent raced between our feet and disappeared under the cooker. Apparently the hall has a bit of a rodent problem and will be closed for a few days while it is dealt with. If rodents are unwelcome I will have to reschedule the WWII 1945 'what-if' scenario I was thinking of, pitting elements of 7th Armoured Division against a Pzkpfw VIII ...

I bought this magnificent kit, available from here,
as a present for my mate Steve

Sorry about that. Serious head on again. For the past couple of years Dr Mark Smith has been educating me about battles in India: Mudki, Ferozeshah and the like. On Thursday he cast me as Sir Harry Smith, facing him and Maurice as the Sikh commanders at Aliwal (1846) in the First Anglo-Sikh War. For once I had read a little about the battle before reading Mark's scenario briefing. His scenario seemed to capture the shape of the battle really well. Essentially the Brits have to beat the Sikh army by carrying a fortified position. Spice is added by both sides looking to threaten the enemy's line of communications while protecting their own. Thus there are decisions to make about how many troops to commit to the main fight in the centre, and which to divert to the more speculative action on either flank.

For the Brits the prospect of assaulting uphill against superior numbers of Sikhs entrenched with plenty of cannon looks pretty daunting. However, a third of Sir Harry's army is actual British troops of very high quality, and another large proportion is plucky Gurkhas who are almost as good, while the Sikh army's best troops are in reserve and the trenches are manned by some rather poor rubbish. So I was able to carry the works, not without loss and inconvenience, but with enough vim and momentum to smash back the better troops in the second line as well, and storm up into Bhundri. Meanwhile my audacious cavalry had seized the Sikh camp and fended off an attempt to retake it, while my gun line and a couple of spare units were just enough to deter a Sikh foray against my own supply line.

This was a really fascinating and tremendously tense and exciting game. The contrast between the two armies gives it real character. The scenario illuminates the history, as I really could see why Sir Harry attacked as he did, but at the same time it leaves enough options for both sides so that you are not channelled and forced simply to repeat history. The play balance was excellent. Although I came out with a win, I definitely felt fortunate to do so, and it could easily have gone the other way with just a couple of dice landing differently. A triumph for Mark's scenario design!

Third of the trio was last night's Regimental Fire & Fury American Civil War game laid on by Dave T. This was a six-player game. Basically it was a generic divisional-sized line-out, each of us commanding a small brigade. The clever spin was that Dave added a couple of layers of extra interest. After we'd deployed our troops, he then gave each side a randomly selected secret objective. For further spice, each player got given a secret personal objective.

The way the army objectives worked out was that our Confederate opponents were short of supplies and bent on looting as many as possible of the farms and villages dotted around the table, while on the Union side we were charged with clearing a route along one of the two roads running across the table. We mostly achieved this, while the Rebs had very little success at looting, so it was a Union win.

At the personal level, I was a gloryhound seeking promotion, so whatever the army objective was, I was supposed to ensure my regiments were the ones to take it. When we had to pack up, I was poised to launch my men at the last section of road to be cleared, but didn't quite have time to do so. Dave W on my left just wanted to get to his family's farm, and again, didn't quite manage it. On my right, I'm not sure what Bruce's personal objective was, but he achieved it so was declared the winner.

This was a jolly romp. The addition of the secret objectives made the tactical decisions a lot more interesting than if it had just been a conventional kill-'em-all punch-up. It's a scenario that was quick to set up and can be played again multiple times, and the interaction of the different objectives would make it fresh and different each time.

Let's call the ACW battle a draw (I was on the winning side but didn't win personally), and Aliwal was a win. My tally for the year:

Played: 17
Won: 8
Drawn: 4
Lost: 5