Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Corps du Vin in Action

War of the Austrian Succession game (will write up as more Memoirs soon ) played this week,   but a friend took this photo which (1) makes my army look good and (2) captures my master stroke - my cavalry charge from the rear - so I just had to put it up :)

Brigade Alsace advances, opening a gap for the Heavy cavalry brigade to charge from behind them. Cavalry Regiments Bourgogne, Royal Rousillon, Fleury, Gendarmes d'Anjou and the Oberrheinische Kreiseskadron all charge

Monday, 17 June 2013

Saxe-Märchen's first action.

It all happened very quickly.....One minute the Saxe-Märchen troops in the Reichs Brigade of the Corps du Vin were making sport with the farm girls on the Hesse-Somethings' borders, they next they were being ordered to move at the double ...the Sarkozy Hussars had spotted something big fording the river between the village river crossings they were watching, and had galloped back to raise the alarm.

The two Saxe-Märchen regiments gathered and made for the village of H.....dorf, where the Brigade command was billeted with the guns and the cavalry, and where they were to be joined by the other two battalions in their brigade, the KreisRegiment Mosel and the Swiss Batalion Valais, also force marching from their billet villages . No sooner had they arrived, however, than a large force of enemy cavalry was seen moving rapidly across the plain in their direction, with light infantry close behind. Clearly this was an attempt to seize the village, no doubt to then move some much larger force through it.

(A bit of history, if you read the blog, you will see that the Corps du Vin is part of Soubise's French and Imperial army, and is watching out for the Disappearing Prussians and covering Soubise's left flank. And on the far left flank of the Corps is the Reichs Brigade of the Corps, strung out over a number of river crossing villages in the French occupied lands, watching the comings and goings along the Riverfor what they could see in the Various Hesse-Hatlands).

The two attached cavalry units, the Saxe-Märchen Leib-Dragoons and the Sarkozy Hussars, as well as the light troops of the Arqubusiers de Bergerac continuously patrolled the areas between the villages and had been skirmishing for months as part of the Petit Guerre.

The dry season had come long this year, and somehow an enemy force had forded the lowered river levels in the early morning between two of the villages. The hussars who spotted this force saw it was far bigger than the usual raider force, at least two brigades in size, and raised the alarm up and down the river.

So here it was...action at last. The Comte de Syrah, OC of the Brigade, placed his telescope to his eye, watching from the top floor of his HQ, an inn on the village outskirts.

The Reichs Brigade formed up between the village on their right flank, with their guns in the village, and a wood on their left flank, with the Arquebusiers holding it. Owing to staggered arrival times, the inexperienced Saxe-Märchen battalions were in the front line, while the experienced Swiss and the inexperienced Mosel were in the rear line. To give the infantry time to form up, the cavalry moved forward but were instantly charged by 4 regiments of red coated and blue coated enemy cavalry.

"Who the hell are those?" asked the Comte, The answer was they were a lot heavier than the Reichs cavalry and smashed through the Sarkozy Hussars, also forcing back the Leib Dragoons. A sharp salvo from the brigade guns persuaded them to retire fortunately - however, as they retired, formed infantry behind the skirmishers could be seen coming up.

"Now or Never" yelled the Comte, and ordered the Mosel to swing out into gap left by the cavalry, and the signalled for Duke Leopold to let the whole brigade rush forward so the enemy cavalry could not reform. Leopold gulped, crossed himself, clenched his bowels and ordered the advance. The Sarkozy Hussars were completely shattered, but the Leib Dragoons were rallied by the Graf von Malthus and swung around onto the left flank, round the woods the Arquebusiers were holding. Pays to know your ground (and throw a 3 x move in Black Powder) thought the Graf

The Saxe-Märchen contingent's first action. Regiments  Wahlheim. (blue Saxe-Märchen flag) and KreisRegiment Mosel (yellow Kreis flag, near) are charged by enemy cavalry. On the far flank enemy infantry in white coats are menaced by regiment Driebrucken.(yellow Saxe-Märchen flag, far distance), the Saxe-Märchen Leib Dragoons and the Arquebuiers de Bergerac (out of picture). Duke Leoppold is bravely holding the far rear (left of picture)

The Saxe-Märchen and Mosel units' first volleys crashed out, with impeccable drill - discomfiting the enemy cavalry. Clearly the rookies had learned something in all this long time marching up and down the River, thought the Comte. Then the enemy infantry moved up, but were also caught by a crashing volley from the Saxe-Märchen Driebrucken regiment, throwing them into disorder.

The enemy cavalry then charged, but the Mosel and Wahlheim regiments somehow held their nerve and two more volleys were given in perfect sequence, disordering the enemy cavalry so they did not press the attack. When the Saxe-Märchen Leib Dragoons appeared on the other flank the enemy infantry started to fall back, screened by their cavalry and lights.

With the Sarkozy Hussars still re-forming and the enemy cavalry still outnumbering the Saxe-Märchen Leib Dragoons 4 - 1, and with everyone nursing casualties, the Reich forces let them go, except for the Leib Dragoons and Arqubusiers de Bergerac keeping in contact with them and nipping at their heels as the re-crossed the river.

Back at the HQ, Young Werther had been given the task of finding out who exactly it was they had faced. He was riflling through the Observer's Book of Army Regiments and eventually worked out what he thought it was - "Saxon foot, Brunswicker and Prussian cavalry I think, Sir" he blurted enthusiastically.

"That must be a part of a Prussian army", mused the Comte de Syrah, realising that like his force, it was probaby an allied contingent, but of the Prussians. "It's a probing force, I'll bet they were trying to seize bridgeheads for a main force crossing - and I'l bet those Prussian cavalry were there to keep the others in line!".

"Send riders to the Corps HQ and tell that old windbag Pinotage (The honourable Duc de Pinotage, Lieutenant General of France, OC Corps du Vin - Ed) what we saw - the Prussians may make other sorties too!.Werther - you go - grab some of those miserable Hussars and set off at full gallop - oh, and tell him your Saxe-Märchen forces acquitted themselves very well - even Leopold kept his pants dry!"

"Yes Sir!" said Werther, and bounded down the stairs......

(Black Powder rules, Saxe-Märchen forces counted as inexperienced so we had to dice for them in first contact - they all came out very well!)


Sunday, 9 June 2013

Breaking Out is hard to do

The Red army has surrounded a small pocket of Franco-Greek forces near Kherson, and the Greeks are attempting to break out. A probe attack by a company platoon of the 5/42 Evzones was launched early in the morning, after a pre-arranged barrage by Allied artillery in Kherson. The Greeks beliebved that there was a weak point on the North road where two large woods interected the lines of Red dugouts and spanish rider barked wire lines. They believed they could get into the woods and break out that way.

Red Lines, showing the 2 woods the Greeks decided to assault, the plan was to focus on the closer one, break in and then break out (red arrows)

As dawn approached, the Greeks filtered quietly through the trees towards the objectives. The Evzones were reinforced by 2 French FT-17 tanks and also brought up one of their Mountain Guns for close support. They decied to assault the rightmost wood en masse, while sending a diversionary force against the other of the 2 tanks, hoping the Reds would think there was a mass of infantry behind them, and mis-allocate any reserves

The barrage started, the tanks gunned their engines, and the infantry started rushing forward, acros teh open ground, one platoon behind the next. The Reds were shaken from the barrage and initially there was very little shooting from their lines, but the Red forward commander guessed correctly what was happening and rushed a squad to a large house just ahead of their lines so they could enfilade the Greeks as they broke out the trees. The Greeks had to divert one of their own squads from the assault to cover this off.

The Greek infantry attack in 2 waves, concentrating on the rightmost flank.

On the other flank the tanks advanced slowly. Initially they were pestered by snipers in a house in front of the Red lines but the 2 tanks raked it with MG fire and the mountain gun put a few rounds in, and it what was left of the house was then all quiet.The tanks trundled on at their magnificent 4 mph maximum speed.

Greeks forces were now starting to get close to the Red lines, but now the Reds had thrown off their shock and started shoting back, taking casualties off the Greeks. At this point it also became clear that a large barn and sandbag wall to the right of the Greek position was becoming a major problem. A squad of Greek Evzones moved up to the spanish riders barbed wire and started shooting at these troops, trying to get them to keep their heads down. The Greeks had Chauchat LMGs whrereas the Reds did not, and this helped them keep a suppressing fire. The Greek captain then signalled the mountain guns to place a salvo on the house, which they did, and that stunned the Reds shooting from it.

Red troops man the sandbag walls by the barn, shortly before the Greeks dropped a mountain-gun salvo onto it

A Red forward party of snipers, egged on by a Komissar, then moved into some shellholes in front of Red lines to enfilde the Greeks, and killed the Greek Captain!. The Greek lines wavered, but then a squad of Evzones charged the snipers, and took them out with cold steel They in turn were then pinned by fire from the Russian lines, but they had stopped the enfilading fire and the first Greek squads gained the woods.

On the other flank, the FT-17s were drawing closer to Red lines, and a Red field gun that had been brought up opened up on them, missing them narrowly. The close support Greek mountain gun shifted fire to silence the Red gun, but it was well hidden in some woods and remained a major threat. The tanks raked the position, trying to suppress the gun, but it would only be a matter of time before it started to knock the tanks out. The Reds also at this point decided to commit their reserves to stop the infantry attack, confident that the tank breakthrough was less likely, but the ruse had worked quite well, giving teh Greeks valuable time - the Reds would be attacking a wood that the Greeks were now moving into.

Red field gun starts to shoot at French tanks over open sights

At this point a noise grew louder, and  overhead a Geek Navy DH.4 was seen. The Greek AO had called it to take out a redoubt on the Greek infantry's left hand flank, but the Greeks in the shellholes were keeping that position's heads down. The semaphores waved desperately from the ground. The DH.4's observer picked up the change, banked and made towards the Russian gun firing at the tanks. A Red MG started to fire desperately into the sky but it was to no avail, the DH.4 made a strafing pass, banked, and then came back, and dropped its load on the position. There was silence from the gun after that.

Greek Naval DH.4 makes low pass over Red positions before bombing the Gun and trenches

And then, just as the Greeks were starting to enter the woods, we ran out of time. It was pack up time. The result was in the balance. Could the Greeks have reinforced the wood in time? Would the Russian reinforcements get there in force first? In counting up the casualties it transpired that the Greek initial barrage had been fairly effective, so Red casualties had also been high and forces were evenly matched still, and the Greeks were more concentrated, but we judged that the loss of the Greek Captain meant the Greeks probably wouldn't have been quite co-ordinated enough to hold the wood and reinforce it fast enough against the oncoming Red wave. The Reds breathed a huge sigh of relief as the Greeks withdrew.

Battle using Bolt Action, the WW2 rules even have the FT-17 tank in it! Sadly we ran out of time just before the real decisive action. I'm very proud of my DH.4, I still need to put the blue centre spots on the Greek roundels but it acquitted itself very well in its first ever sortie. (Its a 1/48 scale Roden kit, and its a bugger to assemble the wings!!)

More Red propaganda and puictures over here from Komissar Janos

Friday, 7 June 2013

Action at Kherson

We resume our Odessa Files mini-campaign with Bolt Action rules used for WW1. In the scenario, a platoon of the Greek 5/42 Evzones is holding a hamlet on the Kherson approach road, which a Red reinforced company with armoured cars and heavy weapons is hoping to overrun in a short, sharp attack. There are French of variable quality in reserve, who may or may not come to the Greeks' aid (depending on dice).

The sleepy hamlet, Greek Evzones are billeted in the houses on the far side of the left-right road in the centre

The Reds decided to attack in two platoon columns with supporrting machine guns along the 2 roads (running bottom right to top left, picture above)) with an armoured car leading each column, while a third platoon and field guns were to be in reserve, to be thrown in where a breakthrough was made.

Red column moves rapidly along the road, led by an armoured car. Field guns start to move into position

Unfortunately for the Bolsheviks, the Greek vedettes were alert and saw one of the columns very early, and promptly loosed off mortar rounds at pre-prepared targets, destroying a Red squad in the right-hand column at the crossroads on the Red table entrance. The Greeks also rapidly sited their machine gun and loosed off a burst, catching another squad in the Red left hand column that had moved away from the shelter of the armoured car.

The Bolsheviks, realising they were rumbled, then rushed forward as fast at they could to the give the Greeks the minimum opportunity to shoot them. The armored cars rumbled forward, trying to suppress Greek shooting positions. 

It soon became clear to the Reds that the Greek troops in the big house in the centre of the table were a major problem, so they tried to rush it with 3 squads from their left column and reserves, while their armoured cars, a machine gun and more of the reserve line moved up and raked the house. Greek casualties were high, but the Greek platoon's commander kept spirits up (at sabre point at times) and they just held out, but it was desperate times and they were still in dire straits.

Red troops, egged on by their Komissar, charge the Greek house (far distance)

 On the Red right, the column got over the shock of the mortar fire and moved forward as fast as it could, and mortar fire effectiveness reduced. They also got their gun unlimbered and began to shell the Greeks sheltering in and around a small house on this far flank. The Red armoured car pushed forward and got onto the flank of the Greek position, its machine gun enfilading them and causing them to keep their heads down and suppressed their fire while the Red artillery opened up.

Meanwhile, in the centre, a first Red assault on the centre house had only just been beaten off by the Greek 3rd squad coming up from its rear/left flank  position and shooting down the attackers, but that left the Greek right flank open, and the Red left column, seeing this, started to swing troops around this flank where they could get into the Greek rear while they massed their reserves for another assault on the house.

With their Kommissar waving the Red flag, the Reds charged again, and reached the house, and vicious hand to hand combat and point blank shooting ensued. But the Greeks got lucky - amidst this turmoil, the Greek Lieutenant coolly took aim with his pistol, and shot the Kommissar dead (seriously lucky dice!). With this, one of the Russian squads turned tail and fled. The Greeks were saved again. But more Red reserves were now in position, their machine guns were chattering and casualties were still mounting in the pinned Greek position. On the Red right the Greeks were barely holding on, and the Red left their squads were steadily penetrating forward to get around into the Greek rear.

Things were looking very tight.....but then, with Greek flag flying, Evzones were running out the woods in the Greek rear towards the centre building, and a fusillade of shots crashed into the massing Red forces. The Greek captain was leading his small HQ squad, and a squad of newly arrived French troops forward, and their shooting drove off the Reds. Greek casualties around the house had been  high, but the Reds were now much higher. The frontal assault had failed, the Kommissar was dead - but what about the flank attacks - could the Reds still take the village from the flanks?

Greek flag flying, Evzones and French poilu pour fire into Red forces attacking the beleagured Greeks in the village centre house 

The Reds had by now wiped out the last of the Greek resistance to their right column, and were getting ready to advance onto the Greek centre. The Reds were also increasingly probing behind the Greek positions on their left, forcing the Greek mortar crew to retire to safety.

At this point though, the Greeks had another huge stroke of luck - the fates decreed that not only would a second French squad come to their aid, but that it would be a squad of the formidable Legion Etrangere. These moved rapidly to counter the probing Red troops, and made short work of those Reds, and then silenced one of the Red machine guns

 The Legion to the rescue. The Red left hand column has been beaten to a halt.

At this point the rules stoped the game on bound 6 Reds decided to make a strategic withddrawal, as their victorious right hand column had still taken major casualties and was now facing the fresh French Poilu, their main central assault had been beaten back with losses, while their depleted reserves and right column was now caught between Greeks in the centre house, and a rapidly advancing Legion. The Russian commander ordered the armoured cars to make a rapid forward foray to sow discord into the Alled rear and spoil any pursuit, vowing "I'll be back!".

I'll be Back! The Red commander calls off the attack - for now

Before anyone writes to complain about the Legion, Poilu and Evzones in the same village, I must explain that we were interested in trying out the Bolt Action WW2 rules for the Russian Civil War, so we also wanted to test out all the various troops' grades. The Reds had c 50% more troops but they were rated raw (though enthusiastic), led by passionate Officers and Commissars and backed up by trained heavy weapons units. The French poilu were average but unenthusiastic (which is why the Greek captain led them into the fray!), the Evzones were tough veterans, and the Legion was, well, the Legion. 

The game was fast paced, the rules worked well, and we got a believable result in an evening. A Red "human wave" assault very, very nearly worked, as if they had taken teh central house the Greeks would have been broken. The Greeks in the central house passing a key morale test, the Kommissar being shot, and half the raw troops in the assault force running away, was what this game pivoted on. By the time the Reds had massed again, the Greeks in the house had rallied themselves and French troops were arriving. Strong houses defended by good troops and a heavy machine gun are a tough thing to take!

Bolt Action uses dice rather than the Mud & Blood cards, they have fewer options on a dice than cards and you can choose which unit to activate, rather than M&B which designates many activations so it is a bit more predictable than Mud & Blood (good) but you don't get the amazing "fog of war plus serendipity" effect that makes M&B such fun (bad ). We've played a few more Bolt Action games since,  which I'll write up when I have time.

The Red's propaganda battle reoprt is over here, with loads more pictures - but in Hungarian :-)