Counter-Attack Near Metz

It seems we are in “Spearhead mode” at the moment. Taking advantage of a long weekend Jim and I deployed two 1944 formations for a World War II Spearhead game. The scenario found a elements of 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division undertaking a hasty attack on a defending regiment drawn from the 5th American Infantry Division.

The game highlighted many of the aspects of a well balanced scenario. The Americans were reasonably well supported but stretched in defence. A number of gaps in the American dispositions existed and with good planning could be exploited. There was room for concentration of effort with multiple battalions and supporting weapons working together.  However, the friction of battle could result in delays which needed to be avoided if the momentum of attack is to be maintained.

Indeed, in our battle the German plan got underway on time and excellent initial progress was made. First objectives were seized and follow on attacks began. However, some of the subsequent attacks took longer than planned resulting in other battalions becoming overcommitted. Now blocking troops and local counter-attacks caused problems for the German commander as the battle swung against the Germans.

A report of our engagement “Götz von Berlichingen – Advance!” can be found here.

Unleashing the Soviets

It has been far too long since I’ve played a Modern Spearhead game so it was good to place the models on the table and refresh myself with the rules last night. There is no doubt the rules are more complex than Spearhead, due to the more complex battlefield. However, this complexity provides many layers of depth as players shape the battlefield.

In our game for example the British player, having organised his forces for a hasty attack on Soviet defenders, conducted a series of electronic warfare attacks that located various SAM systems so they could be progressively neutralised for upcoming air attacks. Counter-battery assets were focussed on the detection and rapid destruction of Soviet artillery assets reducing their impact on the limited British ground forces.

Soviet assets, limited due to heavy casualties and dispersed due to tactical requirements, needed to be protected for maximum benefit in critical phases of the battle. Consideration needed to be given to likely enemy routes of advance and supporting defensive positions adopted to maximise firepower. Reserves, even when limited, need to formed and maintained to ensure an ability to react to a flexible enemy.

You can read a little about our most recent game involving the defence of Neuwallwitz on my Modern Spearhead blog.

Stand by Larboard Battery!

“We’ll take him first! Stand by Larboard battery!” Captain Herrick noted Soames hurrying down his lines of guns as the gun captains crouched like athletes behind each breech, trigger lines taught as they peered through the open ports for a first sight of the Spanish Argonauta.

After a very busy week it was pleasing to finally be able to deploy some models on the table and last night it was a multiplayer Sails of Glory encounter. We opted for four ships per side with each player commanding two vessels. The French fleet comprised comprised the 1st Rater Commerce de Marseille and was supported by two French 3rd Raters the Aquilion and Le Berwick and reinforced by the Spanish Argonauta. On a converging course was the British fleet which comprised HMS Victory and supported by three 3rd Raters, HMS Imperteaux, HMS Spariate, HMS Bellona. Two of the British ships, Bellona and Imperteaux were classed as having “Well Trained Gunners” special rule.

Each squadron sailed in line astern the British due south while the French south west on a course which potentially had the led ships intercepting if each squadron held their bearing and speed. Further, both admirals determined retain their 1st Raters at the rear of the line. Soon the British squadron broke formation with HMS Spariate and HMS Bellona attempting to manoeuvre to a position that would cross the French line while HMS Imperteaux and HMS Victory would travel behind the stern of the French ships. However, the French ships had a faster turn of speed, due to their attitude. As a result who would cross the T first was in doubt for some time!

Above, the French squadron in line astern led by Aquilion.

However, we will look at the engagement against the rear of the French squadron first. As the British ships turned from their southerly bearing to an easterly bearing HMS Victory was masked by HMS Imperteaux. As a result Le Berwick and HMS Imperteaux alone exchanged broadsides, which was soon followed by another exchange by HMS Imperteaux and Commerce de Marseille. It was here that the well trained gunners of HMS Imperteaux delivering two broadsides in quick succession. At this point the ships of the rear section were travelling on divergent bearings and would therefore soon be out of range. However, HMS Victory was able to deliver one broadside, her only one, at long range. As a result Commerce de Marseille suffered a leak and broken mast, a result which kept her damage parties busy for some time and prevented her engaging the other British ships.

Below, HMS Imperteaux is engaged by Le Berwick and Commerce de Marseille. HMS Victory is on the left rear.

Above, HMS Imperteaux is engaged by Le Berwick and Commerce de Marseille. HMS Victory is on the left rear. Below, another view now including Argonauta.

Meanwhile the action at elsewhere had been dramatic. Aquilion and the Spanish Argonauta were set on a converged course with HMS Bellona and HMS Spariate. As you will recall who would cross the T of the other was in doubt for some time and the ships exchanged broadsides as they approached. Below, HMS Bellona moves to cut the T of the French squadron.

However, at the last moment and under full sail, HMS Bellona crossed in front of Aquilion and Argonauta. It was at this point both British ships unleashed devastating broadsides on Argonauta who suffered a series of leaks and lost three masts in a single turn. Crippled she was forced to strike her colours almost immediately.

The action now became a confusing melee between Aquilion and the two British ships HMS Bellona and HMS Spariate to which Le Berwick soon joined. Broadside and musket fire enveloped the vessels for some time. In due course casualties aMong the crew of HMS Spariate became crippling. Indeed, HMS Spariate struggled to manoeuvre the crew losses were so great. However the French Aquilion to was in trouble. Wit’s fires and leaks soon out of control another proud French ship was lost.

Now having lost two ships the French Admiral decided to disengage. The British it was true had had some considerable success, howe ver the French were resolved to bringing the enemy to battle again soon.

Envious of Glory

It’s been a while since I have posted here as I’ve been somewhat distracted getting a Macedonian and Punic Wars underway. You can find more on the Empire Campaign here if you are interested. In between playing rather a lot of Ancients games I’ve managed a few Renaissance encounters as well as a couple of Napoleonic battles using Volley & Bayonet. Clearly too much time playing games to post here, a real problem I’m sure. Tonight however, we managed a short Napoleonic naval game using Sails of Glory, it was long overdue.

I won’t try and write a detailed report but instead provide a couple of photos. Our game involved the British 1st Raters HMS Britannia and HMS Royal George engaged against the French Orient and Montagne, also 1st Raters.

Above, HMS Britannia follows the Royal George around. Both ships carry around 100 guns and have a respectable speed. In the distance the French Orient and Montagne can be seen. Below, another view now of the French squadron with the Orient in the foreground. Both French ships are from the Ocean class and carry around 120 guns. These vessels are difficult to manoeuvre, even compared to 3rd Raters.

The French vessels managed to secure an early concentrated firing position enabling a couple of solid broadsides where they gained a slight advantage before both squadrons passed each other. Now each squadron manoeuvred for the advantageous position.

The French ships managed to secure a position slightly upwind of the British squadron. Which found the French ships concentrating their fire again. At the end of this second determined exchange the British squadron broke off with the Royal George heavily damaged.

A very enjoyable evening illustrating the playability and challenges of Sails of Glory.

BBDBA Comparisons

Last night we managed another Big Battle DBA game. As I mentioned previously I was particularly interested as it came just two days after a 300 point game of DBMM creating an opportunity to compare the two rule sets. In addition, as we used similar armies, both based on Hellenic Successor states, comparing the two games was even easier.

As to the specific armies, for this latest encounter I deployed a Lysimachid Successor army while my opponent deployed Graeco-Indians. Both armies of course had a core of phalangites and similar mix of supporting troops to our MM game. That said there were some differences as the DBMM lists allow more army composition while DBA armies are generally more restrictive.


For BBDBA we used a table that was 1.2m wide by 0.6m in depth, which was of a similar width, though narrower, to that we used for DBMM. The most obvious difference was the deployment width of our troops. My phalanx for example while being only five stands wide in MM, though four deep, was now nine stands wide but only two deep. It’s worth noting that the figure scale had changed. While DBMM has a nominal troop scale of 250 men per stand DBA suggests a scale of around 500-600 men per stand. As a result my pike phalanx alone had grown from 5000 men to around 10,000 men. Now to the battle…

The Lysimachus was determined to be the invader, and invading Bactria. We used a slightly modified deployment system with the players recording the relationship of commands to each other after camps were placed but before any troops were placed. The armies deployed symmetrically with heavy foot in the centre and cavalry on each wing, but the Bactrians maintained an advantage in cavalry and elephants, the Lysimachid in heavy foot.

The battle started with the Bactrians, not surprisingly, sweeping forward against the Lysimachid right flank with their Iranian lancers destroying all before them. However, before they could exploit the success the centre and other wings were engaged.

On the Lysimachid left the advancing Thracians and Greek hoplites overcome the Bactrian foot and mounted breaking the Bactrian right flank. A factor here was the smaller Bactrian wing and the higher PIP allocation to the Lysimachid left flank.

Meanwhile the clash continued in the centre. Here, Graeco-Bactrian elephants caused much disorder to friends and foe alike while phalangites pressed forward, each army ebbing and flowing. It was in the centre that the second Graeco-Bactrian general fell, a casualty to the Lysimachid silver shields who surged forward. Yet it was too much, while both armies were nearing exhaustion the Lysimachid centre finally buckled. With it the Lysimachid army broke.

So how did the two games compare. DBMM, without doubt has much greater detail, but this detail comes at a cost of increased complexity. I feel the same aspects are modelled adequtely in DBA. Let’s consider some examples. The Graeco-Bactrian thureophoroi were still superior in combat to the Thracian auxilia and the Bactrian horse still outnumbered the Lysimachids with deadly results. Psiloi played an important part in front of the main phalanx. They disrupted enemy main line or attempted to counter elephants. Yet, they eventually retired through the lines as the phalangites pressed their attacks, just as in DBMM. Then there is the phalangites who swirled back and forth for some time each gaining an advantage, but nothing massive, with the possible exception of the loss of a Graeco-Bactrian general and on the flank of the Lysimachid phalanx which was eventually turned. As casualties mounted command break and demoralisation set in, just as with DBMM. As commands broke commanders struggled to find troops to exploiting success.

From my perspective it was an outstanding game. From turn one I was on the edge of my seat. Clearly out deployed, my army seemed doomed but the game evened out and soon the Graeco-Bactrian commander, who had victory in his grasp one moment was starting to consider defeat as a real possibility.

DBMM has some real strengths, certainly it has significant detail which can be ideal for players seeking this. I will occasionally play DBMM, but the rules are more complex. In contrast the larger DBA 3.0 games capture enough extra challenges and provide further visual spectacle for those players seeking that. I think BBDBA will work well in historical settings which is my main interest, but less well in a competition.

I don’t see BBDBA replacing standard DBA which remains my preferred Ancients game. However, I can see it supplementing it. Of course your requirements or preferences may be different. Either way, we are spoilt for choice.