Monday 11 March 2024

BBB = busy, busy, busy!

It's been a wonderfully busy few weeks in BBB world. Lots to tell you about, so this post will try to summarize it all briefly. In short: the Bash Day convention in May; forthcoming BBB scenario books; and recent games set in diverse conflicts ranging from Egypt in 1801 via Spain in 1813, the American Civil War, WWI in Africa, to WWII in East Africa - all using BBB!

Bash Day is approaching!

The next Bloody Big Battles convention, Bash Day V, will be held on Sunday 19 May at Battlefield Hobbies, Daventry. See full details in the previous BBBBlog post here.

New BBB scenario books

The next BBB scenario book will be "Napoleon's Bloody Big Battles!" (NBBB). See here for the table of contents. NBBB is with the publisher now. Can't tell you a publication date but hopefully soon.

In an advanced stage of playtesting is "Bloody Big Battles in Africa!" (BBBA). A nice companion to Mark Smith's excellent "Bloody Big Battles in India!" (BBBI), this will be a collaboration between Mark and Anton van Dellen. About half of it will be Anton's fine scenarios for the 2nd Boer War; the French campaign in Egypt (1798-1801) will also feature; the rest will be assorted major colonial battles in Africa such as Omdurman, Khartoum, Adowa, etc.

Further down the track: probably a Napoleonic volume of Peninsular War scenarios; then a magnum opus of American Civil War battles.

The rest of this post is five very brief summaries of recent games.

Alexandria (Egypt 1801)

One of Mark's scenarios for the Africa collection. (See "Colin the Wargamer" blog for nice full reports of the two preceding battles, Aboukir and Mandara.)

French assault columns march on from bottom of pic. British march columns are arriving from top of pic to form a line between the Roman ruins (centre left) along the central ridge to the redoubts on the Alexandria canal. British warships will sail the sea top left while their gunboats ply the bay top right.

This produced an absolute ding-dong scrap. The French converged on the centre/right of the British line at the righthand end of the ridge and made a big dent in it. The British second line arrived, hurled our impudent columns back, then pressed its advantage. The British right marched across to attack our left flank as well. Despite heavy losses, the French veterans rallied to the assault once more, their cavalry to the fore. French left and British right fought themselves to mutual exhaustion. In the centre, a last desperate charge forced the British defenders off the vital high ground and they could not muster the strength to contest it. All jolly exciting!

The best reason for doing the French campaign in Egypt: camels! The French dromedary corps, which spent the game skirmishing in the dry lakebed on the right to threaten the supplies in the British camp.

Vitoria (1813)

This clash, the biggest battle of the Peninsular War, is a tricky battle to design a scenario for. I wrote one for Sam Mustafa's Grande Armée rules about 20 years ago and it wasn't a great success. The problem was I made it too easy for the French to concentrate against the separate Allied columns and defeat them in detail. Mark's BBB scenario doesn't make that mistake and produced a tense and close game.

I had command of Hill's column, seen here arriving from the southwest. Gazan's men await around Subijana, astride the road that is the French axis of retreat.

More British arrive on the left of Hill's vanguard. The other major British columns arrive beyond the top left corner of pic. It took us a long time for those to force their way across the river and menace the French line of retreat. Hill's force did largely destroy the French rearguard in front of it, but we weren't quite able to defeat the French quickly enough to claim a victory in game terms. Splendid good fun regardless of the result.

Champion Hill (1863)

The largest battle of Grant's Vicksburg campaign in the American Civil War. His victory here resulted in Pemberton's Confederate Army of Mississippi being bottled up in Vicksburg, where it surrendered a couple of months later.

Another of Crispin's growing collection of custom battlemats, making it super-easy to roll out a game at the club on a Monday night. The game started with Rebs trying to hold Champion Hill (top left) to cover the main road that runs to bottom edge of pic. White counters indicate objective locations (the hill, the bridge, the road exit). More Rebs screen the other road exit lower right; more Union come on from top edge to drive the Confederates back. In our game, the Union took the hill and the bridge but could not get any troops off at either road exit. However, the Confederates suffered so many casualties in preventing the Union pursuit that it was a Union victory.

Otavi (1915)

Anton treated us to something very different - a Bloody Small Battle, still using BBB (with minor mods), set in German Southwest Africa (modern-day Namibia) in WWI. Perhaps 3,000 German Schutztruppen were attempting to fend off or, failing that, evade considerably more South African troops (mainly mounted infantry).

An austere, arid battlefield, looking north. Ignore the troops on the left - these have just got out of the box and are not yet deployed. Half the South African forces arrive from the bottom edge. The rest arrive in two flanking columns from the top corners halfway through the game. The Germans start with a third of their force in a screening position at Otavi (centre left), the rest around Tsumeh (top centre).

This was an unusual game in that the defender had three distinctly different ways to try to win the game. One was by holding Otavi. (This was important because the South Africans had marched a long way from any other source of water. If they failed to capture it by end of Turn 4, a significant part of their force would have to turn back.) Another was by holding Tsumeh. (They could entrench there and hope to hold on against South Africans at the end of long supply lines.) A third was by escaping off the top edge (an option they could not resort to until the last two turns of the game when they realised they risked being trapped).

We effectively played this two and a half times. First game was a really close draw. SA tried an enveloping move, infantry taking Otavi while cavalry raced up the right to attack Tsumeh. The Germans fed a unit forward to reinforce Otavi, which proved enough to prevent it falling until T5. The thus reduced SA just about managed to wipe out the Germans at the end but could not quite take the last objective in time to win.

Second game, the Germans got crushed. SA concentrated on Otavi from the start and rolled lethal dice. Germans in Tsumeh then opted to bolt off the north edge but were stymied by dire movement dice. Easy SA win.

Third game, we just experimented with how it would go if the Germans simply committed to escape from the start (albeit still not allowed to leave before T7). The arrival of the flanking columns still made it really difficult and they didn't quite get enough troops off to claim a German win.

Really interesting scenario geometry which posed tricky problems for both sides and could be replayed again and again and turn out in multiple different ways. Anton really has a gift for scenario design.

Gallabat-Metemma (1940)

Crispin's turn to get creative and write an unusual scenario for us. This time it was set in East Africa in WWII. Historically, a tiny Italian incursion from Eritrea into the Sudan provoked a counterattack by a mostly Indian brigade under the man who would later become famous as commander of the 'Forgotten Fourteenth' Army in Burma: Bill Slim.

View from behind my command: the 10th Baluchi battalion (the three companies lower left of pic). Top left is the town of Metemma, with Gallabat village and fort next to it across the river that is the border between Eritrea and Sudan. Difficult country to manoeuvre across, with big patches of boulder-strewn elephant grass in between the steep hills. Disturbed patches of pinkish soil centre of pic betray the presence of an Italian minefield. Three Italian battalions have yet to be deployed in the fort and BUAs. 3rd Bn Royal Garwhal Rifles is astride the road, followed by our mighty armoured fist (a dozen A9s and Mk VIs), covered by 28 FRRA's 18-pdrs. A third battalion (1st Essex) will arrive from the lower right, as will the 4.5" howitzers of 7/66 RA.

Crispin had been inspired by a magazine article to create these armies and terrain specially. He obviously had to come up with a couple of rule mods to accommodate tanks, minefields and bombers (both sides launched air strikes). These worked fine and most of the tanks were taken out by mines and boulders in a very historical manner. Our attack with three battalions against an equal-sized force that was dug-in had as tough a job as you'd expect. Our artillery advantage and superior quality helped to even things. We managed to get into Gallabat village. Given more time, we might have defeated the Italians, but when the turn limit ran out we had not taken enough objectives to avoid defeat in game terms.

It was an entertaining game that did a good job of recreating the action and had a distinctive flavour. Rule mods and victory conditions will no doubt be tweaked but were pretty close for a first playtest. This and the four very different games above demonstrate how a single ruleset can serve to recreate a huge range of wars and give us a different flavour of fun every week - no wonder BBB has established itself as our regular fare for the last 15 years!


  1. A real pot pourri of game there Chris:)! Look forward to some of those books being published in due course too.

    1. Cheers, Steve! It will be back to Franco-Prussian on Monday. Yes, can't wait to see NBBB published!

  2. Very interested in NBBB. We've made our own version of BBB for Napoleonics in my gaming group, so it'll be great to see an official version.

    1. Thanks, Dave. Hopefully it won't disappoint!


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