Tuesday, February 24, 2015

AVBCW - Clash at Honington

I ran my first Chain of Command game for AVBCW over the last two days. The scenario was #2: The Probe. In this case the Anglican League from Thetford decided to take the war to the fascists of the BUF lurking in and around Bury St. Edmunds. The venue for the probing attack was the half-completed aerodrome at Honington, situated roughly halfway between the two towns.
Disclaimer: This is an alternate history scenario set in the 1930s'. It's not intended to espouse or otherwise support any political faction mentioned here.  
The Leaders:
BUF Platoon Leader Albert Huggins. A Grammar school graduate he entered the civil service with St. Edmundsbury borough council where he held a minor managerial position with the Highways Dept. He joined the BUF two years ago, and rose in the ranks through sheer devotion to the cause. A "bantam cock" of a man, cheerful in outlook, he's hoping to ‘stick it to the Bolshies and anyone else who gets in the way of Progress.’ Currently he's trying to grow a mustache like the Great Leader, Sir Oswald Mosely.

Anglican League Lt. Oliver Southgate. Another Grammar school chap he went on to study at Cambridge. After graduating he took a teaching position with a minor public school in Suffolk. Here he helped run the school OTC, in spite of being a bantamweight, and proved reasonably competent. A ‘Muscular Protestant’ in the Victorian mold, his brains and leavening of military experience gained him command of an Anglican League platoon. Happy in outlook, he's convinced of the righteousness of the Cause.

* * *
The pre-game set-up showed the League to have the higher force morale at 10 to the BUF's 8, so the League were the aggressors in this game. All units were considered Green at the start, with four command dice each. A roll on the support die gave Table 4 for the League, with the BUF having to take support from Table 2. The League selected a Vickers HMG to help shoot the infantry into the attack, and Local Knowledge to allowing them to reduce any terrain disadvantages. The BUF elected to rate as 'Bully Boys' (aggressive troops) and decided to upgrade one of their sections to Regular status. Both sides had a standard bearer free and gratis - this is AVBCW, after all! All figures are 10mm by Pendraken Miniatures. The scenery is scratch-built.

The table set up took in the end of the RAF Honington runway-to-be. The ground has been ploughed here to get rid of any tree roots etc. and counted as Rough ground. A solitary hangar and two workman's huts formed the only structures.
North is at the top of the photo. The patrol markers are all locked down in their final places. BUF jump-off points will be placed two behind the hedge at the edge of the field, and one behind the thicket next the runway. The League advanced quite aggressively, but their jump-off points are further back than they'd like. One is located behind the thicket at the end of the runway, the others lie directly behind this in the small wood, behind the hangar, and behind the workman's hut with the telegraph pole.
So to the kick-off. Led by Lt. Oliver Southgate the League did well on their two first dice rolls, retaining the initiative and deploying all three sections and the Vickers team. The main thrust was to be directed at the hedgerow in order to capture two of the BUF's three jump-off points. The Vickers team took post in the workman's hut in the fond belief it would give them cover.
The wheels promptly fell off the League's wagon when the BUF under Platoon Leader Albert Huggins gained initiative and deployed their Regular section behind the hedgerow. Although they lacked LMGs, rifle fire alone was enough to drive the lead League section to earth with woeful casualties. Matters would've been worse had the lead sections not been advancing tactically. They suffered fewer casualties through using all available cover, but it also meant they couldn't return fire...
With the BUF retaining the initiative they deployed a second section and the platoon's senior leader. At this point the League regained initiative and poured a hefty dose of Vickers gunfire onto the Regulars, causing them heavy damage in spite of the cover from the hedge. The HMG in turn suffered a man killed by another green section deployed by the thicket (just out of sight to the top of the photo). Southgate took the Tactical stance off the supporting section and moved it up to take the pressure off what was left of the pinned-down lead section. Matters began to go downhill for Huggins and the BUF from here.
To the left and out of the photo Lt. Southgate took his remaining section and deployed into the hangar. Using a wide gap in the hedge the supporting section rushed into the field and deployed in line facing the BUF. What was left of the Regular BUF section found itself pinned by sheer volume of fire.
At this point Platoon Leader Huggins ordered his Green section to charge and scatter the infiltrating Leaguers. The dice gods were not kind: Their attempt fell short.

The BUF had by now accumulated six Chain of Command points, and used them to relocate the compost-heap Jump-off point away from the encroaching League. Huggins decided discretion was the better part of valour and headed for the remaining Green section near the thicket. Unfortunately for him he and the standard bearer found themselves in direct line of fire from the League section deployed in the hangar. And fire they did - with nine rifles and a Lewis gun. Huggins and the standard bearer had charmed lives, surviving this barrage with only a light wound apiece. At this point the game was effectively over. The BUF survivors retreated before any further nastiness could be unleashed on them.
* * *
So, to the post-game tracking for campaign purposes. The BUF suffered a loss and withdrew from the field. The Tribune commanding the Bury St. Edmunds Cohort is displeased with Huggins (-1 on CO's opinion) but not to the point where he'll withdraw support assets. As for the men, they're decidedly unhappy with the result. They lost more dead than the League plus the NCO and remnants of the Regular section are missing, presumed captured (they're not; they got dispersed and escaped - they'll show up the game after next). The BUF platoon will roll Force Morale at -1 in the next encounter. In spite of this, Huggins' outlook remains cheerful. He's of the opinion he and his men have been blooded, have learned from their mistakes, and will do better next time.

As for the Anglican League, they suffered casualties but held the ground. Lt. Southgate made mistakes but rectified them in the end. His Colonel is pleased with him and the result (+2 on CO's opinion). The men feel differently. Even though they retained the ground and recovered casualties, the losses suffered had a depressing effect on morale. Obviously this war won't be a cakewalk! Morale now stands at -2 - not enough to trip a negative effect, but Southgate will have to be more careful next time. His own outlook has shifted to Affable.
* * *
Post-game thoughts. On the whole I like the Chain of Command rules. they flow easily, and give a nice dose of friction to combat. Although I ran the game solo, the end result was far from predictable. This game was a learning curve, with infantry-only forces to get used to the rules. Next time I'll play the follow-up scenario, Attack on the Outposts.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Fixing the terrain for AVBCW

Map courtesy of Google.

Maps are wonderful things! Every one offers some potential to set a game in or to fight a campaign over. In this instance I started looking over the area around Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk in order to find some VBCW reason for a punch-up between the nasty fascists of the BUF and anyone they didn't like, e.g everybody who isn't BUF. Looking at the map turned up a gem of a raison d'ĂȘtre - RAF Honington.

Situated almost exactly halfway between the towns of Thetford, Norfolk, and Bury St. Edmunds, construction of the airfield began in 1935 and finished in May 1937. In the VBCW world the uncertainty generated by the constitutional crisis led to the building program progressing by fits and starts. By the time everything blew up and people took to arms RAF Honington wasn't even half finished - yet it still has potential. Its presence makes it a desirable possession for any major faction. At worst it should be denied to others.

I'll be using Chain of Command rules by Too Fat Lardies. The CofC At the Sharp End campaign supplement has the ladder feature for structuring games, which runs the gamut from No Mans' Land through Outposts, Main Defences, Retreat, Pursuit, and Objective. Depending on who wins a particular game, the action moves up or down a rung in the ladder, taking the fight into the court of the losing side.

In the above instance I plan to have outposts belonging to the Thetford Anglican League and the Bury St. Edmunds BUF cohort on or around the incomplete aerodrome (to use the then-term) at Honington, and west across Culver Heath to Thetford Forest Park. The airfield marks No Mans' Land, with the Outpost lines in the farms and small villages further back. The Main Defences of both sides lie in the villages a few miles beyond the outskirts of their respective towns. The Retreat and Pursuit phases will follow the line of the A134, an old Roman road, to the Objective, the towns themselves.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

I Couldn't Resist - 2

My sweet lady wife would tell me I'm not this bad when it comes to gaming!

* * * *
I've just finished the first draft of a new murder-mystery novel, writing which took up most of my time these last few weeks. Now I have a bit of free time I'm clearing my gaming table ready for a trial run of Chain of Command. I'll be using my VBCW 10mm collection in an area about three square feet to see how they play. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Book Booty

Our local library is holding one of its periodic book sales, with hardback books going for as little as $1. I found and grabbed these this morning. 

Citadel was the last big operation the German army mounted on the Eastern Front in an attempt to roll back the Red tide. The 2nd SS fought in most major campaigns in WW2 including Normandy and NW Europe. The only quibble I've found so far in the Citadel book is the photo caption mislabeling of a Pz IV H as a Tiger I. On the whole, they look like good reads. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Jump-off points

The Too Fat Lardies' Chain of Command rules uses jump-off points from which gamers deploy their troops on the tabletop. It's an excellent idea which speeds up game play. Typically the JOPs are represented by small items of scenery. I made some in N-scale for my VBCW gaming, but I think they can also be used for NW Europe. 

We have, from left to right, two shattered tree trunks, a scarecrow, a roadside Calvary (for those areas controlled by the Anglican League!) a rocky outcrop, disused well (for a unit's version of Private Pike to fall into), a fallen tree, and a compost pile complete with pitchfork. I might add a few items of a more urban nature later.   


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