Thursday, August 31, 2023

A Tale of Two Armies

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the time for glorious charges; it was the time for inglorious repulses.  It was the time for encouraging advances; it was a time for discouraging retreats.  It was the time to move against the enemy; it was the time to be moved against.  It was the time for the favor of the Dice Gods; it was the time for the Dice Gods to look away.  In short, it was a very dynamic game.

My apologies to Dickens for paraphrasing his powerful opening lines to A Tale of Two Cities.

With the brief teaser in the previous post, five players joined in for the first running of the Ilipa scenario using Basic Impetvs (BI) on a grid.  Of the five players, only Mark has taken command of troops on the BI table.  Chris has played a version set in Feudal Japan but the Two Dave's and Tony were new to the experience.  Given that, Wednesday's game would serve as a rough boot camp where players have an opportunity to experience the rules and learn to move and fight their armies.  Perhaps have a little fun in the process.

The two armies were arrayed as shown in the diagram below.  For the Carthaginians, Mark commanded the center.  Tony commanded the right wing. David B (Carthaginian Dave) took up command of the left wing.  For the Romans, David C (Roman Dave) commanded Scipio's right legion.  Chris commanded Marcius' left legion.  The two shared command of the Spanish in the center.

Battle Deployment with player commands

For battle plans, Hasdrubal was set to hold the wings while the heavy infantry in the center drove in the Roman center.  Scipio planned to drive in both Carthaginian wings before turning the weight of the legions toward Hasdrubal, himself.

Which plan would prevail?  

Carthaginian Battle Plan
Roman Battle Plan

Hasdrubal's Heavy Infantry
Scipio's Heavy Infantry
Marcius' Heavy Infantry

Let's find out!

The battle opens with Hasdrubal seizing the initiative.  Tony advances smartly with the right wing.  In initial skirmishes, one Velites is destroyed.  Opposing cavalry clash.  Each army sees horsemen break for the rear.  As Chris moves up his legion, some are disordered from missile fire.  Roman Dave probes against the Carthaginian left sending Numidian cavalry scurrying to the rear.   

Tony attacks on the Carthaginian right.
The battle lines close.
Fighting picks up on the Carthaginian right. 

Probe against Carthaginian left.
Then all Hell breaks loose!

Cavalry clashes on the Carthaginian right see Numidians turn and flee.  Romans are in hot pursuit.  As Chris' legions move forward, they come under missile fire.  The legionnaires are disordered.  Still, they close with the enemy to their front.  The remaining Velites bring the elephant under fire.  Spooked, the elephant rampages back through its lines.  Luckily, the elephant has a gap in which to pass!  That gap in the Carthaginian line is only momentary.  The Spanish are driven back at the hands of the lefthand Roman heavy infantry.
Numidian cavalry turns and flees.
Chris' legion goes into action!
The Roman heavy infantry, victorious, follow-up their success.  The unlucky Spanish are caught a second time.  Both they and the supporting skirmishers are driven back again. The Roman pursuit takes them into contact with the rampaging elephant.  Presumably shocked by coming face to rear of the rampaging elephant, the Romans waver and then retreat!

Then Chris' righthand heavy infantry goes in against the enemy.  They are repulsed!  Given no quarter, the Spanish quickly launch counterattacks.  Chris' righthand heavies are sent off to the rear in retreat while the lefthand heavies are hit in the rear by Carthaginian spear.  These poor Romans are cut down where they stand.  Few escape.  Triumph is short-lived for these Carthaginian spearmen, though.  Still disordered from their efforts, the spearmen are overcome when counter attacked by Triarii.
Lefthand Roman heavies carve through the enemy line
but retreat at the sight of the elephant's behind!
Chris' Legion is hit hard!
One Roman breaks while another falls under the spear.
Half of one legion, dead on the field.
Spearmen head for the rear after clashing with Triarii.
Returning to the Carthaginian left, after softening up Roman cavalry with skirmisher fire, Spanish cavalry charge in.  The enemy horsemen are sent to the rear but the Spanish choose not to follow up.  Wasting no time, the remaining Roman cavalry moves up in an effort to turn the enemy flank.  The Spanish horsemen fall back to prevent this attempt.  The Roman center advances to cover the defeat of the Roman left.
Spanish cavalry charges in!
The enemy flees in the face of the charge.
The Roman center moves up.
Spanish cavalry falls back.
In a similar attempt to outflank the enemy line, Roman cavalry, having driven off the Numidians, turn toward the elephant.  Disordered, the Roman cavalry recoils from the sight.  Slowly, the elephant turns about and sends the cavalry off.  Take that!
Seeing the Elephant!
Roman cavalry is seen off.
With the Roman left in tatters and the Roman right stalled, Mark's dense infantry block in the center of the Carthaginian line advances.  In a series of hand-to-hand combats all across the center, the Romans are pushed back.  The Roman center is broken.  Seeing that his left and center are gone, Scipio withdraws.
Carthaginian center readies itself for action.
Roman center breaks apart.
The fighting is hard.
The fighting is desperate.
The fighting is unrelenting.
No quarter is given.
Until the battle is over.
Victory to Hasdrubal and the Carthaginian commanders!  Great job to Mark, Tony, and Carthaginian Dave.  My condolences to the Romans, Chris and Roman Dave.

As a first contact with the rules and the period for most, I call the game a success.  Of course, players will have their own evaluation!  As a learning exercise, I reckon the players picked up how to maneuver and fight with their armies and experienced some of the subtleties of the rules.  Game lasted about four hours.

Overall, play seemed to favor the Carthaginians as their battle plan was carried out more successfully.  The Carthaginian wings prevented much progress from the legions.  The Romans never it made it to the point of defeating a wing and turning in toward the enemy center.  With the legions either stalled or ripped apart, the Carthaginian center was able to advance and tear up the Roman center.

Afterwards, Chris coined a new term in that the Romans received a Hasdrubbing!  I must remember that one!

Great game!  Thank you all!  Hope you enjoyed the clash as much as I.  With luck, you will want to return for more.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

On the Table Today is...

the Battle of Ilipa in 206BCE.

Having seen Hood's Attack run its course through six games, time to turn the page and clear the deck for something new.  A change of period is in order.  Given that Ilipa is on the Society of Ancients' Battle Day slate next year, why not get an early start?  Why not, indeed!

Up for action Wednesday is a remote game refighting this famous battle between Scipio and Hasdrubal.  Five players have raised their hands to take a command.  Rules will be Basic Impetvs played on a hex grid.  Figures are 28mm.  Army deployments based upon the Commands & Colors Scenario.

Last time some of the armies were out for battle was to restage the Battle of Telamon back in November of 2022.  This may be the first time my elephants have seen battle.  Actually, this battle must be the elephants' first appearance on the table since the QRS needed to be amended to include all of the elephant-specific rules.

Should be fun.

On the order front, a large box arrived onto my doorstep from Eureka Miniatures (Australia) today.  The box weighed-in at 7.25 lbs.  While I usually wait for the December sale, I put in my annual resupply a few months early this year and ordered direct from Nic in Australia.  What did I restock this time?  Almost all seven pounds of lead are 18mm SYW cavalry.  That is a lot of cavalry!  Yes, I have big plans. 

Recent order from Eureka Miniatures

Saturday, August 26, 2023

With Six You Get Closure

Having five playings of the Hood's Attack scenario under my belt and seeing a number of players cycle through the game, time for me to step into the command ring.  Witnessing different plans at work with different playing styles and varying degrees of success, I had an idea on how to tackle the challenges of each army.  In this contest, Peter (Grid based wargaming) chose to play the defending Federals.  I would command Hood's Confederate Division.

If you have been following this series of five games, you may be familiar with the situation.  Peter chose to only receive the OB for his own army.  The composition of the Rebels would be mostly unknown unless he has been following the prior battle reports.  My assumption was that Peter would have given some of the reports a cursory read, at least.  As a refresher, the combatants are positioned as shown on the map below:
Initial deployments
The Confederate Plan
Given their qualitative advantage, past games demonstrate that the Confederates do better when a more aggressive plan of attack is put into motion.  One additional advantage I held was that I was familiar with Federal troop dispositions.  Still, even with an aggressive Rebel attack plan, the Federals can throw a spanner into the works with careful play.
Hood's plan of attack.
The Confederate plan was essentially to split the Federal position by demonstrating against the two flanks while hitting General Ward with Benning and Robinson's Brigades, and elements of Law's Brigade in an attack against the Federal center.  Yes, the attack must carry through Devil's Den and onto Houck's Ridge but Hood could pick the timing and location.  To win this battle, Hood must take Little Round Top, Houck's Ridge and reach Millerstown Road or break three of the four Federal brigades.
View from the southwest behind Rebel positions.
Let's see how the battle unfolded.
Arrows in photos denote:
    White = Move
    Red = Melee
    Yellow = Retreat

The Battle
Holding initiative on the first turn, Hood chooses to activate Robinson whose command is split between Big Round Top and Rose's Woods.  Peter placed much of his Federal army onto reserve giving him flexibility to respond to Rebel moves.  Robinson is positioned with the Texans on Big Round Top leaving 3AR and 1TX out of command, far away.  Robinson's goals are twofold.  One goal is to bring his whole brigade within command and the other is to strike toward Houck's Ridge to isolate Federal positions on the heights. The battle begins with Robinson leading an attack down into Plum Run hitting the 4ME in the valley below.  Despite overwhelming odds, the Mainers repulse the Texans with heavy casualties.  What should have been an easy start was not!

Robinson's other two regiments cross Rose's Run and press on into Rose's Woods.  Seeing Rebels emerge from the woods, de Trobriand releases Winslow's guns and the 3/5MI from reserve.  Both quickly advance to contest the ground.  Facing musketry and canister, the Texans and Arkansans suffer mightily.  Seeing the carnage to his front, de Trobriand orders two regiments to attack the wavering Rebels in the woods.  The Rebels are flushed out and scatter.  In a matter of minutes, Robinson's Brigade suffers setbacks everywhere.  Only the Arkansans at the foot of Houck's Ridge remain.  This may be a short fight!
The Texans attack and are repulsed!
De Trobriand brings up reserves to bolster the line
 as Rebels emerge from Rose's Woods.
Texans skedaddle as they are overwhelmed.
De Trobriand advances into the woods.
Seeing Robinson's attacks stopped, Benning goes in against Devil's Den leading two of his Georgian regiments.  Held only by several scores of US Sharpshooters, the Devil's Den defenders are vastly outnumbered.  Surprisingly, Benning and his Georgians are thrown back across Rose's Run.  This is turning out to be a tougher nut to crack than expected!  Anderson is called upon to advance his brigade against the Federal right.   
Benning attacks Devil's Den and fails.
Anderson begins crossing Rose's Run.
Back at Houck's Ridge, Robinson's Arkansans are all that remain to threaten the enemy and their attack has stalled.  Stopped under the guns on Houck's Ridge, the 3AR suffers a blast of canister from Federal guns above.  Before the Arkansans can recover from the shock, Ward leads a charge down from the heights at the head of the 124NY.  The Arkansans crumble under the weight of the attack.  They scatter.  In action only 30 minutes, Robinson's Brigade is broken.   
A whiff of canister
and a charge sees the 3AR off.
With Robinson wrecked and Benning stalled, Gen. Law stirs to life on Big Round Top.  The 48AL along Plum Run advances to push the wavering 4ME back up the valley.  To counter this move, Ward releases a regiment from reserve to join the Mainers.  Seeing the 4ME reinforced, the Alabamans settle into a firefight.  They do no noticeable damage.

Seeing efforts stymied almost everywhere, Law orders an attack against Vincent on Little Round Top.  Vincent's Brigade lines the high ground with the 83PA positioned on the saddle between the two hills.  Law leads two Alabama regiments in attacks across the saddle and into the Pennsylvanians.  The 83rd is driven back into the woods with heavy casualties.  The Alabamans suffer as well.  Fighting is fierce and both Law and Vincent go down as casualties.
Alabamans thwarted along Plum Run.
Vincent positioned on Little Round Top.
Law drives the Federals back
but he and Vincent fall in battle.
Back on the Rebel left, Anderson moves up to clear Rose's Woods of the enemy.  Winslow, ever active in this fight, brings his guns up to support the infantry.  At close range, the guns belch canister into Anderson's Georgians.  While two of Anderson's regiment are mired in fighting in the woods, the 8th and 9th Georgia cross the open ground to challenge the defenders on Stony Hill.
Anderson moves up into Rose's Woods
only to face artillery and musketry at close range.
Georgians move up to take Stony Hill.
Battle overview
While Anderson's attack is stalled in the woods, Benning rallies his brigade of Georgians and goes on the offensive once again.  This second effort pays off and the sharpshooters are driven from Devil's Den.  As the 20GA takes Devil's Den, Benning, himself, leads an attack up Houck's Ridge.  In savage fighting, Benning's 15GA is repulsed and Benning falls.  The enemy fares no better.  Ward goes down at the head of 20IN.  The Indianans melt away.  Smith's guns stand firm. 
Benning attacks Houck's Ridge.
Devil's Den falls to the Georgians!
When the smoke clears only Federal guns
 remain on Houck's Ridge.
Before Rebel gains can be secured, 86NY is released from reserve and moves up to support the guns.  Dropping down off the ridge, the 99PA sweeps around to threaten the Devil's Den position.
Federals reinforce Houck's Ridge.
Returning to Anderson's activities, with Federals pinned on Stony Hill, Anderson assaults the 17ME in the wheatfield.  Anderson sends in two regiments against one.  The Mainers are destroyed but Anderson falls.  Anderson’s lead regiment wheels about to threaten the rear of the 3/5MI.  De Trobriand's Brigade breaks.  The 3/5MI and Smith's guns turnabout to address the threat to their rear.  As the guns wheel, Smith is presented with a flanking shot on the 8GA.  Hit in the flank from artillery, the Georgians disappear.  Anderson's Brigade reaches its breaking point. 
Anderson attacks into the Wheatfield.
The 17ME is destroyed.
Canister in the flank!
On the Federal left at Little Round Top, word arrives that Weed's Brigade and Hazlett's guns have reached the battlefield.  With help on the way, Vincent leads a counterattack down off Little Round Top and strikes Law's Alabamans in force.  The Rebels are driven back but casualties are heavy on both sides.  Over-extended, the 44NY finds itself hemmed in by the enemy.  In minutes, the New Yorkers are sent packing.  The loss of the New Yorkers is enough to break Vincent's Brigade.
Counterattack on Little Round Top!
As Weed's boys scale Little Round Top, Ward's Brigade on Houck's Ridge teeters on the brink of destruction.  If the Rebels can destroy one more regiment from Ward before Weed comes into play fully, the battle can be won.  The 4ME holding on to its position across Plum Run throughout the battle finally succumbs to a successful attack by the 48AL.  The Mainers scatter and Ward's Brigade is done for.  The battle is over.  Victory to Hood and his Confederate Division! 
Weed comes up but it is too little too late.
Whew!  That was really a hard fight.  A fight that saw heavy casualties and most of the brigadiers from both sides dead on the field.  Three of the four Federal brigades were broken against two of four Rebel brigades broken.  Seeing three broken brigades is enough to call for a withdrawal.  The Federal left is not saved on this day.

The game took about 3-1/2 hours to fight to conclusion.  Afterwards, Peter said the game felt like an arm-wrestling match as the lines bent back and forth.  There was much punch and counterpunch as the two armies jockeyed for supremacy.

Early on, the Federals had the upper hand and turned the Rebels attacks back all along the battle line with judicious use of reserves.  The Confederates finally found their footing and struck back to turn the table on the Federal Army.  Although the result was a Rebel victory, the outcome was in doubt until the very end.

With six replays of this scenario, time to close the book on this action for now.  What conclusions can be made from these six battles and how did the rules fare?  I save that discussion for another time. 

Great game!  Thank you, Peter!