Tuesday 25 February 2020

BBB - 'an awesome asymmetrical ruleset that rewards tactical nous'

The New Year seems to have brought in a wave of new recruits joining the 'Bloody Big Battles!' group on groups.io (now well over 800 members). This is a very good-natured and helpful crowd. A new member asked some questions this week and was greeted by such nice and enthusiastic replies that I felt they deserved to be shared more widely. I present a couple of them here, therefore, to be added to the BBBBlog's accumulated reviews of BBB.

Nathan on groups.io:

'BBB is great. It's not a competition "two equal armies on a regulation size green felt" game, instead it's an awesome asymmetrical set that rewards tactical nous and where victory goes to he who does better than their real life counterpart under table conditions that reflect reality. Cracking set :) '

Dave Cooke on groups.io:

'I’m also a rookie at BBB. I played my third game yesterday. Each game has been very enjoyable and against different opponents each time. All three opponents have asked to play again, so I’ve organised a game for two of them next Saturday. One of them is sending off for 1866 Austrian troops!

The rules are straightforward and once you’ve played a game you’ll not need to refer to them very often. Yesterday I didn’t open the rulebook at all during the game and just referred to the QRS – a very good one is available on the website. They really give a feel for the period and once a game is over I feel like I’ve fought a Franco-Prussian War battle, not part of one or a large skirmish, a full on battle.'

(These remarks posted here with the kind permission of their authors, Dave and Nathan. I don't believe we've ever met.)

Tuesday 18 February 2020

Raid on Suez (1915)

I only get to see my mate Anton about twice a year. When we do meet up, it is usually to fight one of the outstanding Boer War scenarios he's been very gradually compiling. With Anton, it's definitely a case of quality rather than quantity.

Since the New Year, though, he's had an uncharacteristic flurry of activity and bombarded me with several scenarios from diverse corners of history. There is another Boer War scenario in his ready-for-testing queue (Diamond Hill), but the one that took to the table this week was some early WWI action: the Ottoman raid on Suez in 1915.

 A lot of desert to cross! Ottomans arrive from the right,
approaching the Suez Canal left of picture.
(6mm figures from Irregular Miniatures - WWII Italians proxying for the Turks;
WWI Brits painted as Balkan Wars Greeks return to Imperial service.)

The history: an Ottoman force of some 13,000 men marched from Beersheba to the Suez Canal - about 150 miles. The Canal was guarded by 30,000 or so British Empire troops, so there was never any question of the Ottomans holding what they took. The aim was presumably more to stir up revolt against the British in Egypt. Still, with the advantage of choosing their point of attack, even though their approach march was detected, the Ottomans were able to achieve sufficient brief local superiority to get a few hundred men across. However, when Imperial reinforcements came up, the feeble Ottoman toeholds were soon eliminated. The raiders retired having suffered heavy losses.

Our game of it surprised everyone. Garry and Bruce arrived first, read the scenario, and decided the Turks had no chance so they'd play the British. David B and Dave W then turned up and fatalistically accepted their role as the doomed Ottomans. The first couple of turns confirmed everyone's prejudices as the Turks and their Arab irregulars struggled across the open ground being mown down by the intense fire from entrenched Indian troops with magazine rifles, artillery and gunboats.

Yet as the Turks doggedly pressed closer to the trenches and brought their own artillery into play, they began suppressing enough of the British fire to make it less lethal. Eventually the Ottomans managed to storm not one but two of the four British outposts on the east bank of the Canal. British reinforcements arrived: Rajputs, Australians and a couple more gunboats. The northern Ottoman force (mostly Arabs) was virtually wiped out, but its artillery deterred the Aussies from retaking Ismailia Ferry Post. In the south, the Ottoman 10th Division in the second wave had established a foothold across the Canal and could not be prized loose.

This was a remarkable turnaround in fortunes, and a result which had seemed extremely unlikely for most of the game. Hard to say whether it was down to dice or tactics (I was only watching the northern half of the table), but it was certainly entertaining. This scenario will be rolled out again, for sure.

Scenario is in the files of the BBB group on groups.io for anyone interested.