Bag the Staaken

Friday evening found a group of us gathered in Robin’s new games room with plans to dominate the air over the Western Front during the Great War. In all we would play three multiplayer Wings of War games with all set in the period 1917 to 1918.

It’s impossible to provide a clear overview of the encounters as they can at best be described as free wheeling seat of your pants encounters, especially those involving fighters. During the course of the evenings Spads, Triplanes, Albatross, SE5 and others weaved, climbed and dived across the table.

One particular interesting game was that involving a four engined Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI. It was the first time most of us had seen the model and after discussion decided that the Staaken would undertake a bombing mission and intercepted by six fighters over London.

Only 18 of these monsters were built during the war. Wikipedia states that the Staaken Squadron on the Western Front had an average of five R.VI’s available for missions and conducted 11 raids on Great Britain between September 28, 1917, and May 20, 1918, dropping 27,190 kg (27 long tons; 30 short tons) of bombs in 30 sorties. Flying at night the aircraft flew individually to their targets on moonlit nights, requesting directional bearings by radio after takeoff, then using the River Thames as a navigational landmark. Missions on the 340-mile (550 km) round trip lasted seven hours. None were apparently lost in combat over Great Britain but two crashed returning to base in the dark.

Armed with one forward firing machine gun and four rear firing machine guns we all tried to engage the beast from the front. However, once past it gaining the front was slow work and instead a gaggle of aircraft soon formed biting at its rear as it slowly manoeuvred for its bombing run on Buckingham Palace.

Above the Staaken being pursued by Allied aircraft.

While German propaganda would declare the palace was bombed successfully in fact only one bomb fell any where near the palace and that fell harmlessly in the palace gardens. The Staaken of course failed to make it home, finally succumbing to the constant fire of the pursuing fighters, resulting in a victory for the Allies.

A first rate series of games which was ideal on a cold winter’s evening.

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The Glorious First of June

It’s been a just over a month since I have posted here, where the time has gone I’m not entirely sure. However, yesterday it was the 1st of June and realising that our regular Friday evening gaming slot fell on this date we thought a it appropriate that we mark the famous naval battle the “Glorious First of June” with a Sails of Glory encounter.

Below, “Lorde Howe’s Action, or The Glorious First of June” by Philip James de Loutherbourg.

Unlike the actual battle our game would involve only a few ships of the line, which of course it in no way came close to representing the battle. Despite that, it provided an entertaining evening with a nautical theme which involved four players.

The British squadron comprised in order HMS Defence, HMS Spaitiate, HMS Bellona and finally HMS Royal George. The first three were Third Rates while the Royal George was of course a First Rate. The French squadron was similar, though a the first ship in the squadron was Argonauta, a Spanish vessel which had recently joined the squadron. She was a late replacement as the one of the French commanders had left his French ships in port (at home). Argonauta was followed by Doguay-Trouin, Le Swiftsure and finally the 118 gun flag Montagne.

Both squadrons held a generally southerly converging course with the wind blowing from the north. The British came from the west and the Franco-Spanish from the east. On these courses the advanced ships of both squadrons would come into range first and only later would the First Rates come into range.

Aware of this the captain of HMS Royal George, William Domett, determined to act and close the range with speed. The Royal George turned first east before she was hauled back onto the general heading. This closed the range but left her further separated from the squadron and somewhat isolated. Soon the HMS Royal George, with 100 guns, was exchanging broadsides with both Le Swiftsure (74 guns) and the Montagne (118 guns). Royal George was heavily damaged in the first exchanges suffering damage to her hull and a fire which was to cause significant damage. Her crews were focussed on pumping, undertaking repairs and of course fighting a raging fire. Her captain therefore ordered her to increase the range and hopefully regain the squadron.

Above, the French on the left and British on the right. The Royal George has begun to close the range but is not yet in range.

Simultaneously the Captain of the Spanish ship Argonauta executed a series of turns in an attempt to cut the British line. The Spanish captain however miscalculated and soon the Argonauta, followed by the Doguay-Trouin, we’re heading directly into the British line. Aboard HMS Defence Captain James Gambier had ordered double shot to be loaded and as the Argonauta came into range she was hit by fire from both HMS Defence and HMS Spartiate.

Above, the Argonauta closes the range while the British ships prepare to fire. Here, the British ships are just out of double shot range. HMS Defence and HMS Spartiate are on the right.

In just a few minutes Argonauta, that once fine Spanish vessel, had suffered the loss of two masts and her crew would be overwhelmed by fires while she took on water below decks due to a hull breach. The Spanish captain’s efforts were not totally fruitless as she would deliver a full broadside into HMS Bellona.

Above, the British unleash their broadsides on the luckless Argonauta. The British ships from the right foreground are HMS Bellona, HMS Spartiate with HMS Defence in the right distance. The Argonauta, in the centre, is followed by Doguay-Trouin.

Captain Gambier now bought his two ships south of the Argonauta and, having reloaded, continued to fire at the Spaniard until she was finally overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, the battle at the rear of the squadrons was reaching a climax. The Royal George had manoeuvred to increase the range but her movements were insufficient. Captain of the Montagne, Rear-Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse, watched from the bridge as Montagne, Doguay-Trouin and Le Swiftsure delivered broadsides into the Royal George at extreme range.

Above, HMS Royal George is in the right foreground while the French ships are on the left with Montagne on the extreme left and only just in range.

The Royal George was in an impossible position while under fire by three ships. Her crew, who had only just bought the fires under control, watched as two masts crashed down and her remaining sails were riddled with holes. She was dead in the water. If that wasn’t enough another fire broke out. Faced with a disastrous situation HMS Royal George struck her colours.

Yet despite the turn of events the French squadron was itself in trouble. The loss of the Argonauta caused a lack of room to manoeuvre. Le Swiftsure and Montagne reduced sail, having previously increased sail to catch the Royal George, in a desperate attempt to avoid a collision with Doguay-Trouin. Alas it was not to be. As the French squadron attempted to reorganise itself the remaining ships of the British squadron, less the Royal George, broke off the action and fell back to the main fleet.

That is of course where we ended our game. An enjoyable nautical evening and a great way to mark the date of this famous battle.

Air Defence Suppression in Modern Spearhead

Friday evening found a couple of us setting up another Modern Spearhead game, yet again set in 1982. We use the Scenario Generation System to develop the context of our games and this uses various lists in the different scenarios that are generated. For my part I had spent a couple of hours coming up with a list that would enable me to use my West Germans. I have a tendency to use tanks that aren’t particularly powerful. However, I wanted to use something different this time to counter the T-80s my opponent has been using of late.

Having not used Leopard 2s for several years I focussed my efforts on the Defend List which had some of these beasts. Of course I didn’t spend as much time on an Attack List and then found the West Germans were conducting a hasty attack. My three West German battalions, from a Panzer Grenadier Brigade, would be facing a Soviet Naval Infantry Regiment – that had no tanks!

Now, I won’t give a blow by blow of the game. However, one aspect that was absolutely fascinating was the various initiatives used by the Soviets to suppress the German air defences. Critical if the Soviets were counter the Leopards. If you are interested I have placed a short article on my Modern Spearhead site. It looks at fixed wing air support and air defence suppression in general and the how it played out last night. You can find it here.

Advance on Baudenbach

With one of the local Moderns players finally free of work commitments we took the opportunity to deploy our Cold War forces for another encounter last night.

Typically with games generated by the Scenario System we find attackers when selecting an attack scenario for a Hasty Attack over a Deliberate Attack. In part this is due to the additional planning required when preparing a Deliberate Attack. Last night however Andrew, commanding his Soviets, selected a Deliberate Attack. Now, I wasn’t keen to attempt another Spoiling Attack, with less than desirable results previously. In addition I believed the terrain favoured defence. Therefore, I focussed on preparing the French forces for the inevitable artillery barrage and focussed reconnaissance which was certain to occur as the Soviet attack began.

The resulting game was fascinating. Concentrated the Soviets, in reinforced regimental strength, moved forward with massed artillery fires aimed at neutralising forward French positions. Then as the French were overwhelmed the the Soviet commander planned for his artillery to switch to secondary objectives. Fortunately, not everything went to plan for the Soviet commander. French forces meanwhile tried to reposition themselves in an effort to restore balance, again with mixed results.

A short report of the engagement near Baudenbach, fought using Modern Spearhead and our 6mm miniatures, can be found here.

Cold War Musings

Over the last few months I’ve managed a reasonable number of WWII Spearhead games but last night we deployed our forces for a Modern Spearhead game set in Cold War Europe during 1982. The scenario developed using the Scenario Generation System found my French facing a front line reinforced Soviet Tank Regiment conducted a hasty attack.

Unfortunately, with a late start and some of the nuisances of the rules needing to be confirmed, the game wasn’t fully resolved by our usual finish time. In fact as the victory conditions went it was a draw, though clearly the Soviets were clearly in the strongest position, if behind on their timings. Despite the lack of time the game highlighted many deficiencies in my force structure and the application of this force to the tactical situation.

One local describes Spearhead, and Modern Spearhead as having multiple layers. If you like you have a tactical situation which is be modified by different layers of weapon systems each shaping and impacting the other. So electronic warfare, counter battery, air strikes and air defence all combine to impact the tactical situation at the sharp end.

Certainly last night was a fascinating game and the following day I’m still processing what worked and what didn’t. How my opponents force composition impacted mine and how the battlefield was shaped by counter battery, electronic warfare and artillery fires. All lessons to be learnt if you like. I’ve posted a few of my post game contemplations on my Modern Spearhead blog here.