Background image is Les Dernières Cartouches (The Last Cartridges) by Alphonse de Neuville

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A New Project at the Cardboard Caserne: the 1777 Campaign

Continental infantryman by Don Troiani
My friends know there is nothing more beloved at the Cardboard Caserne than a New Project. Projects are wonderful things, because they involve planning and organizing and researching and more planning and often buying new books, games, figures, or other project-related materials.

Too often, though, my projects, greeted with wild enthusiam at the beginning, end up being pursued with all the vigour of Col. Blimp after his after-dinner brandy and cigar. So I've enlisted Mr Invisible on this endeavour, certain that his rectitude, clean living, and terrier-like determination will carry us through to actually Getting Things Done.

I've been very impressed with the work of carojon at JJ's Wargames on his Peninsular War scenarios and background. For several years now he has been chronicling his development and testing of a series of scenarios, set in the Spanish Peninsula of the Napoleonic Wars, for use with the Carnage & Glory wargame rules. He has described the battles of Rolica, Vimeiro, Corruna, Oporto, and Talavera. Along the way he's built new wargames units to fill out his orders of battle, showcasing many of them with unit histories, photographs, and other illustrations. It's been a stellar display of research, painting, and scenario design.

Brunswick jaeger by Don Troiani
And imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? So Mr Invisible and I are embarking on Project 1777, an effort to recreate the battles of Sir William Howe's Philadelphia Campaign of 1777 during the American Revolution. It offers lots of scope for battles large and small, including as it does the largest battle of the Revolution after Long Island (Brandywine) as well as several smaller engagements. We'll start with Howe's attempts to draw the American army out of it's cantonments in the Watchung Mountains and then follow his progress south, maybe covering Brandywine in several segments, as we try to build up our forces for that mighty clash of over 30,000 men.

First up: the battle of Bound Brook, a "what if" assuming that Cornwallis' attack on Lincoln's outpost force was not quite as much a surprise as it was historically. Washington had a spy network in New York that might have learned of the attack, or at least observed its departure from the British camps: what if he had sent Greene marching to Lincoln's support sooner?

The inaugural post will have a brief review of where the war stood in the spring of 1777, describe the historic engagement (a rather ignominious affair for the Americans), and our adaptation of events. Future posts will describe some of the forces involved, how we design the scenario, and our attempts to play-test it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Starting Off the New Year with a Bang!: Ukraine '43

Well, that was vastly frustrating. I'd written up a long, detailed post on the playing that my friend Mr Invisible and I had started recently of GMT's Ukraine '43. Than I mis-keyed and deleted the whole damn thing.


We took advantage of a brief lull in his work-related travel schedule to get a coupel of games in. I've mentioned our playing of Rebel Raiders. The second GMT title we broke out was Ukraine '43. I'd owned the first edition for some time without playing it; he had recently gotten the second edition, so that was the one we set up.

Having set up and played through the opening of sister-game Normandy '44, I had some familiarity with some of the concepts common to these games: multiple flavours of movement (normal, extended, Tactical, Strategic), ZOC bonds, combat shifts, disruption, determined defense... But there is something new in each of these titles, always something that makes the specific campaign different (plus Mr Simonitch keeps refining the system).

Our set up. (Morning coffee giving way to afternoon beer.)
Having read a lot of the comments on BGG, I was expecting to have a very bloody game on my hands as the Soviet player. Perhaps I was merely too cautious, but I never had huge Red Army dead piles. But I also didn't see the huge breakthroughs that I've seen described. The Germans in the hills east of Stalino were too tough for serious attacks given what I had there, though a better setup once I sussed the game better might have helped. North of Stalino the river line was like adamant--no way I was going to penetrate that! I finally got some traction through the woods and rivers east of Kharkov after several turns, but only after pulling off most of my mechanized troops from the fronts south of there.

The Soviet steamroller lumbers into action.
I did manage to create some holes in the German line north and west of Kharkov, seizing a couple of VP in the process. But he was able to pull his own mech forces north and, with the aid of the horrifying Gross Deutschland mechanized division, he was putting together a defense that stood a good chance to contain my forces unless I came up with some magic.

Killing units is remarkably hard in this game. Time and again, I was able to surround units, either partly or fully, only to see them hang on stubbornly against my attacks until their friends were able to break through to them. Even boxing a unit up with ZOC bonds wasn't enough to cut it off and destroy it utterly in most cases. With armour shifts and more airpower and elite force bonuses, he broke though time and time again and pulled his metaphorical chestnuts out of the figurative fire.

We played only the first three (or was it four?) turns of the scenario's seven before we had to call it a day. But I do look forward to a rematch and to playing more of the related games from Mr Simonitch's stable.

Zhukov begins making holes, but too few and too small.