Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Commands & Colors Ancients - 2nd Beneventum

Well, it took me a while to be convinced by the hype (basically, until I played a game, at which point I wondered why I'd been so stubborn before...)
It took longer for my shiny 2nd edition copy to arrive, but it did eventually. Stickers stuck, I opened the scenario book to a middle page and chose the first scenario I saw - 2nd Beneventum.

Strangely, there doesn't seem to be a BGG session report on this battle, perhaps because until recently only the pre-pubbers have had access to it, but there's no excuse now.
This is basically an infantry battle across a featureless plain, with a river on one side (the Roman left) to squeeze everyone in a bit more. The Romans get mostly medium infantry, with a smattering of warriors and heavies; the Carthaginians get a mix of medium, warrior, and heavy. There's not a lot of cavalry - the Romans get one unit of medium, the Carthaginians two units of light and an elephant - and they're all on the flank furthest from the river. Plenty of auxilii and skirmishers, of course.

Here's the setup from the Roman point of view.

And from above, to get that linear battle feel :)

Opening Phase
Both sides chose to open the battle on the flanks, the Romans from the hand of fate rather than choice. The Carthaginians had decidedly the better of the opening; on their left the combination of cavalry and elephants succeeded in inflicting casualties. On their right, an infantry charge smashed a Roman warrior unit (four casualties in one four dice roll).
But one of the things I like about this game is the way it can change...

Turn 2 from the Roman side:

The Romans launched a strong infantry counterattack on the right; at heavy cost to themselves, warrior infantry succeeded in forcing the elephants to retreat (trampling over some Carthaginian cavalry on the way), and a full blooded cavalry charge not only finished the elephants off but also carried on to destroy one of the Carthaginian light cavalry units.
The Carthaginians kept pushing on their right flank, bringing Hanno and his heavy infantry into play and pushing back the Roman auxilia unit.

Still, at this point in the battle (4 turns in), Roman losses were heavy: 12 infantry and 1 cavalry block. Carthaginian losses? 1 infantry, four cavalry, and 2 elephant blocks.

Turn 4:

The Lines Clash
A short pause ensued as both sides looked to draw breath and reposition their units. The Carthaginians were first to attack again, once more with Hanno leading the way on the right. The fury of their assault forced the Roman infantry back in some disarray. Gracchus was not perturbed, however, seeing that the Carthaginian line was short. Rallying his troops, he promised freedom to all if victory was achieved. Heartened, his men rushed back into the fray with redoubled vigour, crushing two full strength Carthaginian infantry units and leaving Hanno isolated on his flank.
Still, Gracchus' move had drawn his strength away from the centre, and the Carthaginians moved forward. A band of warriors broke through the remaining infantry around Gracchus himself, and he was only able to escape by riding full tilt towards the rear with his bodyguard.

The Final Moments
At this point, the fighting by the river descended into a chaotic melee. Hanno and his men were finally slain, though not before they took many Romans with them. The bulk of the infantry on the other side never got into combat, and Mago fell back from the battlefield in good order with most of the remaining infantry. Gracchus' leadership won the day, but at great cost.

The end:

Final tally
Roman losses: 28 infantry & 1 cavalry (4 units destroyed)
Carthaginian losses: 20 infantry, 4 cavalry, 2 elephants & 1 leader (6 units destroyed)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Streets of Stalingrad

For some reason, I've returned to this one. So prettily presented, but my previous experience was of an old-fashioned and not terribly exciting rules set. Of course, the situation is hardly thrilling - grinding slugfest in horrible terrain.

Anyway, I've set up the smallest scenario of the lot - the Siege of Spartakovka. And here it is. More if I can ever get through a whole turn, but the objective here is to look again at the system rather than the situation.

Spartakovka setup

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Afrika - a withdrawal and a surprise

End of the German player turn of January 1942. With the loss of Bardia and its supply dump, I decide to pull the Axis forces back so that the supply lines are less extended. Still, the New Zealanders were looking very exposed last turn, and duly got thumped, losing three steps in the combat phase. An Italian attack on the Tobruk perimeter succeeded in breaching the fortified line, and I decided to give Tobruk itself a go with the Ariete's two medium tank brigades. Lo and behold, the trusty Ariete boys roll a 12, and Tobruk falls. If they can hold on, the Axis supply situation will improve dramatically.

Afrika - a break out

Position at the end of the December 1941 turn. The CW efforts to get back to safety were rather successful, thanks to some good overruns of the positions around Fort Capuzzo. But most significant is that the French have captured Bardia. I'd taken a unit out of Bardia as a calculated risk the previous turn, thinking that the likelihood of any unit being able to crack the positions around Capuzzo were low. Big mistake. The most forward Axis supply dump is now Bir el Gubi.

Afrika - a bad day for the South Africans

Rommel survives the all-important withdrawal roll; having him return to Germany at this point would put the Afrika Korps in a fine mess. The above photo shows the start of his efforts to turn the tables, with the movement phase completed. The Ariete's armoured elements overran the South African infantry screen just east of their position with ease (I seem to roll well when they attack), while the infantry elements pushed north to set up an attack on the 7th Armoured.
Rommel's efforts to attack westward from Gambut failed to dislodge the 22nd Armoured Brigade, supported by Guards infantry and artillery. 21st Panzer concentrated and prepared to launch a set-piece attack on the New Zealanders at Sidi Azeiz. However, most alarming to the Commonwealth command was the movement of a kampfgruppe with elements of 15 Panzer, which took advantage of the gap in CW lines at Libyan Omar to capture the supply dump just south (and again, a South African infantry regiment was on the receiving end).

And here is the situation at the end of the German player turn. The attack on 7th Armoured succeeded in inflicting heavy casualties as they retreated southeast into the pocket. However, not everything went well for Rommel; the New Zealanders comfortably held off the attack by 21 Panzer, and after another indecisive effort to clear the 22nd Armoured Bde, Rommel pulled away from Gambut and moved to strengthen the southern edge of the pocket.

A large part of the Commonwealth's strength is now pocketed southeast of Tobruk, but the pocket is loose. Of greater concern to Rommel is his supply situation; while there are sufficient supplies to continue fighting for a few turns, it's being consumed faster than his trucks can bring it forward.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

And here's the position at the end of the turn. Mixed fortunes. The attack on the southern box failed completely, which is rather unfortunate since some panzer forces can now use that avenue to hit the CW flank at Libyan Omar. The New Zealanders, with their armour support, comfortably overran the two recon battalions and then destroyed the third recon bn (from 90 Light) in the combat phase.
7th Armoured took two phases to kill the Brescia division and break the ring around Tobruk, and they lost a step in the process.

Time for the German counterattack.

Afrika - Crusader

Here's the situation as the Commonwealth forces are about to launch Op Crusader. I've already moved up some infantry forces (4th Indian with a load of artillery support) to clear the southermost Axis box, held by a regiment of panzergrenadiers.
The Ariete division to the west will be screened by a weak force of infantry. The two main striking forces will be 7th Armoured (tasked to assist the Tobruk breakout and cut off the German mobile forces in the east, and the New Zealand division, supported by 1st Army Tank Bde (aimed at the road crossing the escarpments, currently where the two pz division recon battalions are). Another force will move to the hex east of Sidi Rezegh, where they will attempt to block Rommel in.

This is a fairly risky plan, not least because my armoured forces could be cut off in their turn when Rommel counterattacks. We'll see.