Thursday, 23 August 2018

"A River Runs Through It' Britcon 2018 Batrep

This batrep covers the first game of the day on the Saturday. I was drawn against Jez, the eventual event winner, and my mission was simple, get to the ford and hold the ford

Thirsty Work

   Lt Dumas gazed down towards the winding river at the bottom of the valley. As he had been informed by Capitaine D'Astardly  for the space of half a mile, the river, exiting a narrow ravine, widened and slowed in its flow. Here there was a ford, the only one for about 10 miles as the river soon entered a rocky defile. General Massena wanted the ford secured against a reported Spanish column that was approaching. This order had filtered down until Capitaine D'Astardly and his force had been dispatched to secure the ford and to deny it to the Spaniards. 
   D'Astardly had sent Dumas and his men ahead to scout out the ford as he hard marched his men towards the valley in the Dragoons wake. Dumas had dismounted his horse behind the crest where he had halted his men and handed his bridle and helmet to one of his dragoons and gestured Sgt Planchet to accompany him.  Getting down on his hands and knees, he had scrambled  forward, Planchet following in similar manner, to the crest of the hill overlooking the small valkey. Stopping behind a large rock, Dumas took a small telescope from his coat tail pocket and scanned the area around and beyond the ford and noted with some satisfaction that the ford was devoid of human presence.
    "We have made good time, sergeant; send a couple of men back to Capitaine D'Astardly and inform him we appear to have stolen a march on the Spaniards" 

    Down by the ford, carefully screened by a thick horn bush, Lieutenant Pedro Quixote was also looking through an equally small telescope. Alerted by one of his ragged scouts, a man with superb eyesight the young officer noted, Quixote trained his telescope on the large rock on the crest, half a mile from where the track entered the valley, and watched as the head of a man peered around it. "The French" he muttered. Then speaking more audibly "No one is to move, the French are on the hills" his men, a small detachment  of scouts sent ahead to carry out a reconnaissance on the ford muttered their acknowledgement. Here, they knew, they were safe from prying eyes. 
    Having reached the ford at mid morning, Quixote had sent back a runner to inform Major Don Esposita that all was clear. He had then led his men into the shade of a small copse of trees on the far bank and waited the arrival of the major and the rest of their force. And now the French had arrived and they were stuck on the far bank with no sign yet of Don Esposita.  

Quixote's men occupy the copse on the far bank as the Spaniards arrive
    Lifting his water bottle to his lips, D'Astardly drained it. The long, forced march had been hard indeed, especially for his green troops. The news that the ford was unoccupied had lifted their spirits and the thirsty men had picked up the pace with the thought of cool, refreshing waters in the valley.          Cresting the hill, they had started descending the hill pell mell, the river slow moving, sparkling waters drawing them on. 
     At the bottom of the hill, D'Astardly and Sgt Mouttley, the company's senior
sergeant, and the rest of the NCOs had had a time of it getting the men back into some semblance of order. Ahead of them, the dragoons had fanned out along the bottom of the small valley, screening the column and its gun.
   With the men once more in column, D'Astardly had resumed the march towards the ford when he noticed  one of the dragoons galloping towards them and beyond him, on the far side of the valley, a cloud of dust had risen. "Capitaine, it is the Spanish!!" called the dragoon as he neared the column. "Thank you, Jordan; return to Lt Dumas; Column will form line!!" he cried. This caused much confusion and once more D'Astardly, Sgt Mouttley and the company NCOs were busy getting the column into a line. With the ford so close and the Spaniards closing, D'Astardly had decided to get the men into a firing line now rather than attempt the manouvre so close to the enemy. Drawing his sword, D'Astardly took a deep breath and  shouted "Company will advance in line; by the centre, ADVANCE!" and the company started towards the river bank and the approaching enemy, the company NCOs chivvying the men to speed up or slow down but always to maintain the line.

D'Astardly's men reach the river bank
As the Spanish line reaches the ford, Quixote's men
 reveal their position and open fire on the French troops
Realising the threat the scouts offer, Lt Mercier attempts to bring his gun into action against them. In so doing they draw much the scouts fire which whittles te gun crew down and leaves Mercier wounded. A blow to the French forces
Attempting to inflict maximum damage on the Spanish troops across the river, D'Astardly 

leads his men forward to improve their chances of hitting the enemy with their musketry. 
Wishful thinking it turns out.

Dumas decides that his men can do nothing whilst mounted so, ordering them to dismount, he takes his men forward to bolster the French flank which is taking many casualties from the scouts by the copse. By this time, even the pioneers have been thrown into the line to add their fire

The Spanish line extends all along the river bank. to their rear, left, their cannon plays havoc with the French line and D'Astardy sends Sgt Mouttley with half the men in an attempt to out flank the gun but this proves a thankless task and the men suffer greatly from the cannon fire

The young French conscripts have taken a beating and are relieved when
 D'Astardly begins to withdraw them from the river bank

Their numbers depleted, D'Astardly makes the best of a bad situation and, using his dragoons as a mobile screen, withdraws his men from contact. The Spaniards, glad to have won, are to focused on relieving their thirsts to follow up and D'Astardly's men make good their escape 
Carrying it's wounded, the battered column made it's weary way back up the hill, enveloped by dust and agonised by thirst. D'Astardly stood by the side of the track, watching the youngster marching past, heads down and shoulders bent. They looked beaten but they didn't appreciate how lucky they were, how could they. Against the British they would now all be prisoners or worse, dead. A British commander would have flung his men across the ford as soon as the French started to withdraw and pinned them against and destroyed them at the foot of the hill. The Spanish however, stopped and drank water and celebrated their "victory" and in some ways that was worse. As he and his men withdrew, they could hear the Spaniards cheering and shouting, shots volleying into the air in jubilation. Bah! he thought, his men had not fought so badly, they would improve...indeed they must if  France was to lead those ignorant beasts, the Spanish, into a better future....

Well that was a short, sharp and rather bruising lesson for the French and me. With his skirmishers in the copse in the first turn, they proved to be a very formidable thorn in the French side, and were crucial to the Spaniards success.

Thanks to Jez for such an educational encounter. I might have come a distant second in that encounter but, crucially, my guys got some more narrative background and I couldn't ask for more than least that's what I'm telling myself.

pip pip,
the General

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The Battle of Carenvan; A Bolt Action batrep

Welcome To Carenvan

Can you ever get enough of wargaming in Normandy 1944? Apparently not. My chum Richie, freshly returned from a family holiday in Normandy was gagging to play yet more games set there. And who was I to say no? With some new terrain and a desire to get my Fallschirmjager onto the table after too long a hiatus we rattled together a scenario, agreed a points limit and went to it with a will.

The Scenario: Set in the town of Carenvan, in the US sector of the landings, a force of 82nd Airborne with an attached Sherman and a squad of Rangers are advancing to take the town. Scouts have reported the town deserted by the locals and free of Krauts so their commander, Leutenant Richard "Dick" Moncher is rushing his men forward to take advantage of this state of affairs.
Unbeknownst to Lt Moncher a kampfgruppe from 6. Fallschirmjager Regiment were advancing on Carenvan from the south,  and things were about to get interesting

the Norman town of Carenvan prior to the battle
    The big motorcycle combo roared up the road to the wood and halted by the first of the vehicles parked under it's leafy protection. By the first of the vehicles, Lt Gunter Huhrt watched as the driver and passengers dismounted then cuffed to driver around the head "Stelleman, you big idiot, stop driving so fast; all that dust will have the Jabos on us!" The big Para who had driven the bike snapped to attention "Sorry Herr Leutnant, but we were in a hurry, Herr Leutnant; Amis, Herr Leunant, in the town, Her Leutnant!" 
     "Alright, alright  Stelleman, calm down and give me the details" replied Huhrt.
The Para relaxed, grinned and resumed his report "We drove up to the town as ordered and saw no  one, not even a Frenchman. The local unit has also gone; scampered off to the rear, I reckon, anyway, seeing as the town as empty we drove on up the road a bit and that's where we spotted the Amis". 
"How many?" retortted Huhrt
      The big Para paused and gazed upwards as he started calculating the enemy strength mentally "About a platoon, Herr Leutnant" interrupted the pillion passenger, a young Gefrieter "A platoon plus a tank; one of those Tommy Cookers from North Africa" 
     "Was that all, Schnieder? No more than one tank?" said Huhrt
This time it was Gefrieter Schnieder's turn to pause. "Yes, Herr Leutnant, we saw just the one; we could see a good stretch of the road, sir" he added 
      Huhrt considered this "Stelleman, run back along the column and fetch me all the squad commanders and also the commanders of that recce halftrack, the Marder and the Flakvierling, oh and Oberfeldwebel Shnabel too, of course." A gruff voice replied from behind Huhrt "I'm here, sir". 
Turning  Huhrt saw Oberfeldwebel Shnabel, commander of the second platoon of his kampfgruppe "Good, Herr Oberfeldwebel; you've heard the news?" Shnabel nodded as Huhrt drew out a map  from his mapcase. "Okay Gerieter Schnieder, just where were these Amis" 

The Fallschirmjager advance cautiously into the town. The recce
half track moves up the road behind the town hall
...whilst the Marder and flakvierling cover the
town square

..and Leutnant Huhrt, with 5 platoon move up to the edge of the town square

   "Sir! Sir! Krauts!" whispered Pfc Lamarr,. "What's that. Lamarr?" shouted Lt Moncher in response "Why the hell are you whispering, Lamarr,, when there's a bloody tank in front of us?"
    "KRAUTS SIR!" shouted Pfc Lamarr, pointing towards the far side of the town square. Moncher looked to where Pfc Lamarr was pointing as an automatic machine gun opened up beyond the big building on the squares edge.

   " Holy crap!" muttered Moncher. Around him the troopers from the 82nd had gone to ground and were staring to return fire on the Germans; Germans they could evidently see and that he couldn't. What he could see he didn't like. Across the square, besides the Krauts firing and dashing from cover to cover, he could see a truck bristling with flak guns and a self propelled gun, probably a tank destroyer judging from the thinness of it's barrel. "Holy crap" he muttered again then bracing himself he got up and ran to his left where 3rd squad had where crouched by a shed in a garden. "What've we got, Sgt Crosby?" 
   "Square heads dead ahead, sir. We reckon a squad and a light mortar" replied Sgt Crosby, shouting over the sound of a nearby explosion. 
     Moncher looked around and considered for a couple of minutes, oblivious to the sound of battle around him before turning to the squad sergeant "I want you to keep your men here, Sgt Crosby, and keep the Krauts busy. Send a runner to Sgt Hope; he should be the other side of this house, and tell him to take his squad into that farm and flank around the Krauts. got that?

The 82nd arrive in town...
Sgt Hope's squad head off on their flanking move...
...while Sgt Crosby's squad keep the Germans occupied
'''and the rest of Moncher's force, including a
 light howitzer, deploys for battle

      The Marder rumbled slowly over the cobbles . "Keep close to the wall, Bentner...closer..closer...halt!. As the tank destroyer jerked to a halt, Unterfeldwebel Dietrich, commanding the tank destroyer spotted the Sherman lumbering around the corner. "Target left! panzer!" "Target left!" responded the gunner and started turning the Marder's gun towards the left. "On!" he shouted as the Sherman's bulk filed his gunsight. "Load!" shouted Dietrich and the loader slammed the armour piercing round into the gun's breech and closed it. There was hardly a gap between the loader's cry of "LOADED!" and Dietrich's barked "FIRE!" and the gun recoiling as the shot sped towards the Sherman, missing it by a hair's breadth but missing it nonetheless. As the loader automatically started to reload the Sherman's gun fired. The American tank's response was even less accurate than the Germans. And so the not so deadly duel began.


"FIRE!! could you miss?"

"FIRE!! You missed, you bum!!" Reload!!"

The 250/9 fires on the Americans, drowning out the sound of the incoming barrage

    "Gefrieter Winkel, follow us over the wall" shouted Hurht, as a Fallshirmjager trooper passed a panzerschreck over the wall to his comrade in the mayor's office yard. "Jawohl, Herr Leutnant!" replied the young NCO as Hurth and his runner scaed the wall. Behind the waiting squad, the recce half tracked opened up on some unseen Americans and the noise of the firing drowned out the sound of the incoming howitzer shell that landed in the midst of the squad. Winkel was sent sprawling, his ears ringing and the taste of blood in his mouth. As he dragged himself to his knees another shell landed amongst the dazed paratroopers, scattering deadly, red hot shrapnel into the defenceless men...   

"On target; fire for effect!"

in the grounds of the mayor's office, the Fallchirmjager advance

..whilst the US paratroopers advance is stalled by the fire from the 250/9

    Oberfeldwebel Shnabel shouteed up the flak vierling commander "Weber, bring your truck; we have work for  you!". Unteroffizier Weber ordered the gun secured and  ordered the driver to follow the Oberfeldwebel. The Opel Blitz drove along slowly, the crew ducking to avoid the branes of a tree by the road. it stopped as the oberfeldwenbel raised his hand. He moved toward the truck bed and pointed to a small white house That garden is full of Amis, weber, I want you to keep their heads down while we get close" "Jawohl, Herr Feldwebel!' replied Weber and turned to his crew "Achtung! Target!"

 The Flak vierling engages Sgt Crosby's squad

    Shnabel moved at the crouch towards the nearby Fallshirmjager squad just as the first mortar round landed amongst them. He threw himself to the ground, cursing himself for leaving his helmet in the truck that had brought them to Carenvan. As he lay there, he heard the flak veirling's firing stutter to a halt to be replaced by the sounds of automatic fire....

    Sgt Hope peered through the small gap in the farmyard wall. The camouflaged truck trundled towards them then stopped. Behind it's cab he could see the four barrels of the anti aircraft platform swing towards Sgt Crosby's position and start firing.
"Okay guys, the other side of this wall is lousy with Krauts. There's a big truck with an anti aircraft gun o the back firing at our guys. When we go over the wall, we give that everything we've got; understood?" The Paratroopers nodded and prepared to climb the wall....

In a hail of bullets the flak vierling is hit

    The first that Unteroffizier Weber knew of the Americans in his flank was as bullets tore into his side; it was also his last thought. Around him the crew were cut down amidst a hail of bullets. Smoke began to pour from the Blitz's engine and fuel tank as the gun slowly pivoted on its mounting, it's crew dead or dying at their posts. 

Lt  Huhrt pushes his last remaining squad forward to the wall  and, alert to the enemy tank, orders the Panzershrek team of Gefrieter Karl Gustav and Jaeger Willi Hitt to deal with the armoured threat...

The pair bravely dash into the street ignoring the small arms fire criss-crossing the square....

...where Jaeger Willi Hitt takes careful aim

...squeezes the trigger and hits the enemy tank which signally fails to live up to it's name Tommy Cooker. Instead the Sherman is immobilised and the crew frantically get it to respond  
The US bazooka team try their luck against the 250/9 but eventually loose out

Sgt Crosby's squad move forward to support Sgt Hope who, after dealing with the Opel Blitz, wipes out the pinned Fallschirmjager squad. 

Oberfeldwebel Shnabel and the MC Combo pull back, firing as they go, attempting to stem the Americans advance. With the deadly weakening of the German right flank, Leutnant Hurth orders a a tactical withdrawl, husbanding his forces for the counter attack

     In the cover of a house on the outskirts of Carenvan, Huhrt and Shnabel began re-organising their men. Summoning Gefrieter Schneider Huhrt said "Take Stelleman and get back to Battalion HQ. Tell Major Von Derring that we have met with a strong force of American paratroopers with armoured support. They currently hold the northern part of the town. We have suffered 25% casualties and will need more men and armour to shift them from the town....and more ammo"
Schneider repeated the message and turned to go. "And for God's sake, Schnieder, don't let that idiot Stelleman go too fast; too much dust and you'll have those Jabos on your tail!!"

That was a corker. I don't often run Veterans of any description but the chance of a mini campaign with my Fallschirmjager is too good to pass up. I had some very, very poor dice rolls including hitting one of Richie's squads with six hits and killing only one guy!! My dice tower almost took flight!! 

That being said, both Richie's tank and my Marder couldn't hit for toffee; it was almost unbelievable....except I know we have had a similar situation a few times before.

Richie also brought an air observer who was both bad and good, hs first attck coming in on is own guys. But he was such a rubbish pilot he couldn't destroy a Sherman when he had the chance. He did, on his second appearance (or maybe it was a more experienced pilot) finish of one of my squads and put more pins on my Marder, making it difficult to get them to do anything, never mind hit and damage anything.

Richie's 82nd skillfully handled the Fallschirmjaegr on the right flank. The flakvierling is, like all softskins, very fragile and his squad jumping iver the wall and getting the drop on it and. afterwards, the pinned squad, was impressive.
The flakvierling was okay but again my dice rolls were regrettably bad but I was just glad that I got it on the table cos it looked nice (it's with small crumbs of comfort like these that I feed my bruised spirit and convince myself to carry on, dear reader....though I have had about a large loaful of such crumbs to date...just as well I like bread, eh! )

Overall though, it was a very satisfying spectacle and I am, as ever. looking forward to the next one.

time for a swift snifter before my bridge four,
pip pip,
The General 

Friday, 17 August 2018

Sharp's the word and swift's the action; Britcon 2018 Batreps

Last weekend saw a whole horde of gamers descend upon the University of Manchester's Barnes Wallis Building to partake in Britcon 2018, a tournament themed weekend covering many different game systems. Somehow Dave Hunter had persuaded the organisers to allow him to run an event there. And what an event it was, a Damned Serious Business indeed, so thanks are due to him and also two other chaps, Tim Porter and Steve Charlton, who Dave reckons should be regarded as the Marshal Berthier of the British Historical Games Society, at least when it comes to Sharp Practice.
What follows are the action from the perspective of my own forces, the core of which come fro the 30eme Leger and as I have covered them in a previous post I will skip straight to the action

A Bloody Nose for Dumas
Capitaine Richard D'Astardly looked at the skinny, ungainly looking young sous-lieutenant marching along beside the equally young infantry men. The skinny, young officer was Sous-Lieutenant Charles-Augustine Carrion de Notte, D'Astardly's dead sister's son and D'Astardly's constant worry. Since the lad had joined the army, D'Astardly had managed to get him posted to his own company and many a palm he had had to grease to accomplish that feat. This act had sprang from a concern for the orphaned teenager and now D'Astardly was coming to regret his decision. Not that the lad was useless, not completely, but he was a bit of a dreamer and had a tendency to attach himself to women  much to readily and they, in return, appeared to love the youngster in return. D'Astardly couldn't figure it out but they seemed to be drawn to his skinny, down cheeked nephew likes bees to honey and the men, also part fascinated but mostly jealous of the lad's easy and regular conquests, had nicknamed him "Cherubino". No, his concern was the battalion had been sent to Spain where there was much hard fighting taking place and he was concerned that his good intentions would get his nephew killed. It nagged him but there it was. what could he do|?

Pushing his filial concerns to the back of his mind, he turned once more to the task in hand; the Regimental Commander, Colonel Monterracy had sent three detachments from the regiment to forage for food and fodder for the column. The colonel had attached some dragoons and, wonder of wonders, a light gun, to D'Astardly's force. Not your usual detachment for collecting forage but this was Spain and it was wise to to prepare for anything when foraging here.

Ahead of the detachment D'Astardly has spied a large farmhouse that looked fairly intact and, more importantly, prosperous; rich pickings perhaps. 

As they neared the farm D'Astardly's stopped to peer at it through his small telescope and pondered; something wasn't right. He wiped the dusty lenses and peered once more. What were those people at the farm up too? They were moving around naturally enough, going about the usual business of farmers but still, something didn't feel right. Then it came to him. "Cherub...Lieutenant Notte, fetch me Lt Dumas. Sergeant Mouttley, get the men into column!" "Oui, mon capitaine"replied the skinny officer as he ran of towards the dragoons on the column's right flank. 

Lieutenant Dumas rode up the capitaine who was busy scanning the farm and the area around it. "Capitaine?" said the young officer, a tall, well built negro, related to General Dumas it was rumoured, a tough, strict disciplinarian though somewhat lacking in experience. "Lieutenant Dumas, it appears we are expected" said D'Astardly, gesturing towards the farm. Dumas squinted towards the farm "It looks quiet enough to me, sir. A few peasants, no more" "Precisely" responded D'Astardly "how many Spanish peasants have you seen in this part of Spain, Dumas; live ones I mean?" Dumas considered "Apart from in the city, none, mon capitaine". "Exactly, they flee at the first sight of us, taking to the hills with their women, children and guns. So why have they not fled this time? Something is up, Dumas, and I expect trouble. Keep your men on the right flank where there is good ground for you to manouvre. The Voltiguers will screen us and we shall advance with caution. Listen for my commands, Dumas" Dumas nodded then gasped, pointing towards the farm "Look, mon capitaine" Beyond and to the right of the farm a ragged line of Spanish infantry had appeared and, beyond them, a cloud of dust had risen, the dust raised by the cavalry men in it's midst   

Forewarned by D'Astardly's suspicions, the column, screened by the Voltiguers, advances on the farm

The Dragoons and the Spanish irregulars clash. The Fragoons
outmatch the Spanish and send them scurry back to their own lines

D'Astardly gives young Cherubino his first proper command, placing him in charge of the Voltiguers. And he doesn't bugger it up

Lt Mercier and his gunners begin to play long bowls with
 the Spanish holed up in the farm

Caught in the open, the dragoons come under a lot of fire and Dumas and
 his horse are both hit. Dumas is left lying on the field of battle

The Spanish maintain their hold on the farm and their line is well anchored too it. Realising that his conscripts won't be able to break them D'Astardly calls of the
foraging mission and pulls his men back. 
Thus ended our warm up game on Friday evening. Lt Dumas ended up being hit 4 times which was the main cause of the French morale being driven down. Nevertheless it was great fun and only a shortage of time caused us to finish at the point we did. Thanks to my opponent Stuart (sorry, I didn't get your surname Stuart ) for being such s good opponent.
More Britcon musings to follow,
Pip pip

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