Saturday, April 30, 2022

Battle of Las Guasimas

Battle of Las Guasimas

Having taken up a short residence at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas this past week, no gaming or painting activities were seen on the hobby front.  I did manage to put together a Spanish-American War scenario and Rules of Engagement for an upcoming game while away.  Amazing how much work can actually get accomplished on the plane and sitting poolside.

Anyway, a QRS is finished for Tuesday's remote group game and a scenario laid out.  Still time to make a few adjustments to the QRS if needed before Game Day.

Las Guasimas Battle Briefing

The action at Las Guasimas was the first substantial land encounter between the US and Spain at the start of the war. After landing at Siborney, “Fighting Joe” Wheeler (an ex-Confederate cavalry commander), the senior American officer on the ground received reports from local Cuban rebels of the Spanish dispositions around Siborney. On the 23rd, Cuban forces had contacted the Spanish around Las Guasimas but were driven back. The Cubans reported that the enemy was digging in field guns on the heights.

Wheeler, ordered not to bring on an engagement with the enemy until the Siborney landings were completed and the Cubans were in position to assist, decided to launch a reconnaissance in force on the 24th regardless. With the Cubans in a flanking position, the attack was planned to push down the road toward Santiago de Cuba and drive the Spanish from the field.

To accomplish this task, Wheeler’s 2nd Brigade of the Cavalry Division would strike out toward Las Guasimas. Young’s brigade would attack up the Siborney-Santiago Road toward Las Guasimas Creek and pin the Spanish in place against the foothills. Wood’s 1st US Volunteer Cavalry would march up the trail along the saddle and flank the enemy from the west. The Cubans, on Young’s right, would turn the enemy’s left. With both flanks in jeopardy, this maneuver was expected to dislodge the Spanish from the foothills and force a retreat back to Santiago.

The Spanish commander at Sevilla, General Rubin, was tasked with conducting a fighting withdrawal back to Santiago. Rubin’s main objective was to buy enough time to allow the evacuation of a hospital train traveling on the road back to Santiago. He could not risk having the hospital train fall into American hands. To this end, trenches had been dug across the trail near the junction with the Siborney-Santiago Road and rifle pits had been dug on the high ground escarpment overlooking the main road. Spanish forces may deploy anywhere behind the yellow line on game map.

On the morning of the 24th, Wheeler set elements of his division into motion. With reports of activity on the foothills, Wheeler was unsure if the activity was from the Cubans who were expected from that direction or the enemy. Young positioned a gun on a hillock to the southwest and directed the firing of the piece at the hill in the distance to confirm. When these ranging shots were answered by 75mm Krupp Mountain guns, the action was on. Unfortunately for Wheeler, there were no Cubans on his right.

Order of Battle

Game Table
Victory Conditions
It takes 10 turns for the hospital train to exit the table on the road to Santiago. Spanish units begin unspotted.

American player has Initiative on Turn 1.
  • Major Spanish Victory: Hold the field for 10 Turns and control the crossroads while not losing more units than the Americans.
  • Minor Spanish Victory: Hold the field for 10 turns while not losing more units than the Americans.
  • Draw: Spanish hold the field for 10 turns.
  • Minor American Victory: Occupy western Siborney-Santiago Road exit at the end of Turn 10 while not losing more units than the Spanish.
  • Major American Victory: Occupy western Siborney-Santiago Road exit at the end of Turn 10 while inflicting 2:1 losses or better on the Spanish.
There are a few details left out of briefing to be shared with the commanders prior to game time.

Back to the week in Las Vegas...

The trip to Las Vegas was the first air travel undertaken in more than two years for me.  To enjoy sunny skies, the heat of 85-90F temperatures, good food and a concert, Nancy and I jetted off to stake out a short, four-day stay in Sin City.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, this week also coincided with the annual NFL Draft.  Who knew that the football draft was such a HUGE event?  We did not, for sure.  A few blocks of Las Vegas Boulevard (The Strip) were even closed down for the festivities.
The Venetian
Pedestrians walking Las Vegas Boulevard
With a resort named the "Venetian" one might expect a Venice themed complex.  One would not be wrong.  Walking around this faux Venice for four days reminded us how much we enjoyed the real Venice.  Having visited Venice on two of our three Italy trips (2009 and 2016), it may be time to start thinking of a return visit.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

On The Table Today is...

the action at Las Guasimas in Cuba 1898.  Yes, we see Teddy Roosevelt in action with his Rough Riders.

Having fought Mollwitz twice, it was time to clear the table and consider a new topic for a game or two.  Mollwitz replays may not be finished just yet but time to move it along.

Not having seen the Spanish-American War collection out for a game in more years than I can honestly recall (I suppose I could look it up!), I figured an outing was long overdue.  That, and the action could fit onto a 6'x'6 table space which seems to be about the one-stop, coverage limit for two stationary webcams with one placed behind each army's baseline.  Any wider than six feet and the cameras occasionally require a pan left or right to take in the entire battlefield or the two cameras need to be positioned at table corners. 
My interpretation of Las Guasimas battlefield

I have yet to select the rules of engagement but likely with proceed with some of my own doing.  That way, I have a better chance of remembering the rules in the heat of a multiplayer, remote battle.  Rules will be worked on this week before presenting the game at the weekly Tuesday game.  Osprey's The Men Who Would Be Kings ruleset is under consideration too, but I may want a bit more flavor and less buckets of dice.  More scenario details to follow before the Tuesday game.

Hopefully, the group will enjoy a change of pace from the regular fare.  The Spanish-American War may not be a period readily gamed by English gamers.  We will see.

While not much painting has been happening on the Home Front, I did manage to push out a unit of 15mm Samurai bowmen.  Figures are Museum Miniatures. 

Several units are making their way through the painting queue but not much to show yet.  Soon, I think.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

A River Runs Through It

An early spring and good cycling weather saw me out on the bike in late March for a week of good roadwork.  That week was a false start to spring.  Seemingly plunged back into winter with many mornings seeing snow on the ground, strong winds, and frigid temperatures, the bike was configured back onto the indoor trainer for more than a month. 

Finally, the winds calmed, the rain stopped, and the temperatures are beginning to rise.  Unhitching the bike off the trainer, giving it a quick clean and check, I headed outdoors for the first time in a month.  Saturday's route would take me about 15 miles to the north and back through downtown Spokane for a thirty mile out and back.

Approaching Spokane from the west.
Spokane developed upon both banks of the Spokane (Sp’q’n’i in Salish) River centered upon a series of waterfalls as the river drops into the Spokane River Gorge.

As today's route brings me back into down from the west, I stop to take a few photos as I follow the river back into town.  Spring runoff always offers up enjoyable photo ops.  I reach the Lower Falls first.  Viewed from above on the bike path, the Lower Falls may look unimpressive.  That perception changes when the viewing angle switches to the Monroe Street Bridge. 

Lower Falls
with Monroe Street Dam in background.
Lower Falls viewed from Monroe Street Bridge.
(photo taken in February 2022)
Continuing upriver, I reach the Upper Falls.  The Upper Falls are bifurcated by an island as the river carves its way through the gorge.  Spectacular viewing especially in early spring when the torrent of water creates a spray that can soak pedestrians standing on the foot bridge above.  

Upper Falls from North footbridge looking west.
Upper Falls from North footbridge looking east.
Upper Falls from South footbridge looking east.
Finally, the waters calm as I reach Riverfront Park.  For those unaware, Spokane was the site of the 1974 World's Fair and marked my first visit to my Fair City.

Clock Tower in Riverfront Park.
From Riverfront Park, I turn south and make the 600 foot climb up the South Hill to return home.

Sunday looks equally promising and I expect to strike out on the bike again this afternoon following a scheduled remote game with Matt.  A return to our long-running AWI campaign sees another skirmish today.  Today's clash sees a skirmish at Drake's Farm.  Matt suggests this may be a tough one for the Americans.  Aren't they all?

Skirmish at Drake's Farm
Oh.  The solid painting session I anticipated in the last post, never materialized.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Back to Ancient Sumeria

After a steady diet of gaming and painting SYW units over the last thirty days, the workbench finally sees an additional Sumerian battle cart move out.  One more of these large, weighty beasts is slowly working its way through the production line to bring the total battle cart count up to five. After that, I dig into The Lead Pile to rediscover the three more that I believe are stashed away somewhere.  Figures are 28mm Newline Designs.

Having four gaming sessions last week, I figured I could use a slight break on the gaming front.

This week saw one game with the regular Tuesday gaming group.  On Sunday, Matt hosts another contest in our long-running AWI Rebels & Patriots campaign.  

Tuesday's action saw a return to the Russian Civil War in a playtest as Graham works on developing his new rules.  The scenario featured a meeting engagement between two mainly cavalry forces.  As White CiC, I led an unruly lot.  Getting subordinates to carry out orders was almost by chance.  The game ended in a near MAD outcome.  Few were left standing.

RCW cavalry action
For today, I expect a solid painting session sandwiched between other tasks. On the workbench are more SYW French and Sumerians. Let's see how those plans work out.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Mollwitz, A Near Run Thing

Romer's cavalry wing

Hot on the heels of the 10 April remote battle recounted in Mollwitz, A Battle Report, the table was reset and my Austrian opponent replaced.  Rather than having Chris at the helm of the Austrian Army, David (Not by Appointment) would pick up the reins in an 11 April contest. 

Would Chris' decisive Austrian victory on the field of Mollwitz represent a harbinger of things to come or was Chris' victory a fluke?  Is an Austrian victory at Mollwitz a repeatable event or a singular outcome?  We would put both of hypotheses to the test.

As a reminder, the armies were deployed as in the photo below:

Initial deployments
With a reminder of troop attributes and victory conditions, the two armies poised for battle step off in their attempt to secure a victory.
View of battle from the south

Overhead view of battlefield from Prussian line. 
Prussian lines
Prussian lines
At the sound of the cannon, both armies lurch into motion.  With great briskness, Austrian cavalry enjoy double moves across the battlefield.  While Romer advances smartly upon the Austrian left, Berlichingen in command of the Austrian right cavalry wing crosses the stream and engages the Prussian left cavalry wing.  The Prussian infantry in the center advances toward the enemy and Mollwitz at a measured pace.  Neither dithering Prussian cavalry commander moves.  
Early maneuvers
Prussian emerge from the woods
Unable to respond in a timely fashion, enemy cavalry are upon the Prussian hussars.  Outnumbered in both quantity and quality, the hussars are sent packing back toward the village. 
Prussian hussars are driven off.
This early success prompts Berlichingen to spur his horsemen on.  They collide with the rest of the Prussian left wing.  The Left Wing is overwhelmed but not without loss to Berlichingen's command.
Collision on the Prussian left
while the Prussian infantry march slowly forward.
On the Prussian right, Romer and his large cavalry wing crashes into Schulenburg's cavalry wing.  Again, outclassed in all ways, Schulenburg and his Prussian horsemen are driven back in great disarray.
Cavalries collide!
Schulenburg is driven back.
Not aware of the Austrian cavalry success on the wings and seeing Prussian infantry bear down, Neipperg orders his infantry to retrograde back.  Forward and back.  At least they are getting some exercise before the fight!
Neipperg orders infantry back to Mollwitz

where they await the Prussians.
Situation as Prussian cavalry wings reel back.
Having dispatched the Prussian left wing, Berlichingen crosses the stream to make his way toward the Prussian soft underbelly.  In the far distance, he sees Prussian cavalry being driven back by Romer.  The battle looks well in hand!  Frederick disagrees!  The battle looks lost and he abandons his army.  Schwerin takes over in command.
Berlichingen crosses back over the stream.
Schulenburg narrowly escapes capture.
Perhaps the battle is not yet lost?

As the Austrian cavalry wings meet with encouraging success, the real strength of the Prussian army marches on.  The objective?  Mollwitz and the destruction of the Austrian infantry.  Firefights erupt as the distance between the two forces decreases.  
The Prussians close upon Mollwitz.
Long-range firefight develops.
As the distance closes, casualties mount.  Neipperg orders Harrach to skirt the village and try to get onto the Prussian flank.  The poorly trained Austrian infantry positioned in front of Mollwitz are being battered.  They begin to waver and retire.
Harrach attempts to outflank the Prussians at Mollwitz.
Prussian grenadiers storm Mollwitz.
Fighting at Mollwitz.
Seeing the Austrians being shoved out of Mollwitz, Schwerin redoubles his efforts to take the village and destroy the white coated infantry.  Austrian regiments are fleeing the battlefield by the handfuls.  Mollwitz is within grasp. 
Prussians converge upon Mollwitz.
While success looks assured at Molllwitz, the concern that Schwerin faces is that his army is nearing a breaking point.  With Prussian cavalry having abandoned the field, only token resistance faces the Austrian cavalry as they turn back to the battlefield.

The race to win the battle is on.  Can Neipperg mop up the units lingering in the Prussian rear while inflicting enough damage upon the Prussian infantry at Mollwitz before the defenders are overwhelmed?
Austrians cling to Mollwitz.
Romer threatens Prussian guns
Berlichingen threatens Prussian guns.
The answer is yes!

While David may look more relieved (in the screenshot below) than joyous, both Prussian guns are lost and another Prussian infantry regiment is scattered in the attack upon Mollwitz.   
David and his Austrians are victorious!
The Austrians just cling onto Mollwitz long enough to see the Prussian army break and claim a close victory.

As David, said, "it was a near run thing."

Another fun and exciting contest on the fields of Mollwitz.  Again, the strategy boils down to whether the Austrian cavalry can defeat the Prussian cavalry before the Prussian infantry can reach Mollwitz.  For the second game in a row, the Austrian army does just that.

Thanks, David!  

Oh, David proved that Chris' earlier victory was no fluke.