Saturday Late Afternoon/Evening: Vimy Ridge
The big event…. Well… MY big event…
(if you start getting bored, just scroll down and read “the Highlights” section or just look at the pictures!)
First a few very important thank-yous… thanks to Bob (again) for organizing this excellent convention, the fantastic players; Don, Dave, John, and Chris, Will for helping me run the game, Gary and John Bertolini for helping with the play-testing, Darrin for helping me make the wire and finally my intensely patient and understanding (not to mention ravishingly beautiful)wife Amanda who has put up with 6 months of me staying up way too late reading and modeling and moulding and casting and painting and building, etc, etc, etc. for this event (It’s all over now, I’ll start coming to bed a bit earlier… well… until I start on my game for Fallcon…)
This was part one in a five-part, ten-year project to play the Canadian Corps assault on Vimy Ridge on the 7 April 1917. The plan is for the 100th anniversary to play the entire Canadian Corps assault. To break this down into nice manageable chunks the plan is to make the terrain and figures for each division’s part of the attack every couple years. This year (for the 90th anniversary) I did the Fourth Division’s.
The journey of the last six month’s or so had been chronicled elsewhere on this blog; form the initial ramblings , to a series of updates (One and Two), to posts on making the terrain and barbed wire (parts one and two), to the final play-tests (first play-test and second play-test). Along the way I dropped a number of ideas in favour of streamlining and making the game play a bit quicker (the random event cards based on actual events).
What follows are some notes I made on the scenario before the game and then a report on the actual game.
The playing area/terrain is made up of four 2’x2’ terrain boards.
All forces, German and Canadian, are rated as Tactical 4, Morale 4.
4th Canadian Division:
11th Canadian Infantry Brigade:
54th Battalion - Kootenays
75th Battalion - Toronto
87th Battalion – Canadian Grenadier Guards, Montreal
102nd Battalion – North British Columbia
12th Canadian Infantry Brigade:
38th Battalion - Ottawa
72nd Battalion – Seaforth Highlanders of Canada
73rd Battalion – Royal Highland Regiment of Canada
78th Battalion – Winnipeg Grenadiers
85th Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders
Each of the regular Canadian infantry battalions will have 13 figures, the 85th will have only 12.
Groupe Vimy (southern half of the table)
261st Reserve Infantry Regiment,
Groupe Souchez (northern half of the table)
11th Bavarian Infantry Regiment, 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Division
The first battalion of each regiment will occupy the front German trench line and consist of 8-10 figures, The second battalion of each regiment will occupy the second trench line and have 12 figures, the third battalion of each will be in reserve and have 13 figures.
The Canadians are attacking with two brigades; the 11th and 12th. Each is attacking on a 2’ frontage, which is conveniently defined by the break in the terrain boards.
The Brigade’s front is further divided in two battalion frontages of 12” each. On each of these Battalion frontages there will be a lead/assault/first-wave battalion. This battalion has orders to ADVANCE as per the rules in the main rulebook for a set-piece attack scenario. Their objective is the Black Line (the German second trench line). So they will (attempt to) advance as a battalion, without stopping, until they reach said trench line. Obviously they might be slowed by close combats. They may, as per the rules, HALT when they receive their first morale failure marker. Once they have taken their objective they will consolidate and HOLD the black line.
Following each assault battalion is a second-wave battalion. They will take their place in the front line at the beginning of turn two and may leave the trench on the following turn. Their orders are to FOLLOW (at least 1” behind!) the assault battalions and PASS THROUGH once the assault battalions have either taken their black line objective or have been halted due to morale. Once they pass through they will ADVANCE to their Red Line objective (off the far end of the table!)
An additional battalion (the 85th- Nova Scotia Highlanders- a pioneer battalion) will be available in reserve. Once a battalion has received two morale failure markers or has been wiped out due to casualties the 85th may be requested to reinforce that battalion frontage. Ultimately it will be the Divisional Commander’s decision where the 85th will be committed however. Once the Divisional Commander has committed it, it must be rolled for as regular reserves before the movement step of each turn (under the tactical value, so 1-3). On the turn that it arrives it will be placed in the Canadian front line that turn and may move out of the trenches on the following turn. Their orders will be as per the second-wave battalions.
The Germans have two regiments defending this area. The regiments, however, are not only from different divisions but different Gruppe/Corps. As mentioned above the first battalion of each regiment will occupy the front German trench line and consist of 8-10 figures ( I used 8 in this game, next time I’ll try 10), the second battalion of each regiment will occupy the second trench line and have 12 figures, the third battalion of each will be in reserve and have 13 figures.
The first and second battalion’s orders are to HOLD. They will not attempt to fall back unless they receive two morale failure markers.
The third battalion will be in reserve. The Germans may dice for the arrival of their reserve battalions starting on turn three. They will arrive on a 1-3 (less than their tactical rating). They will move on from the table edge. Their orders are to counter-attack. They will ADVANCE to the German’s second line. Once this line has been retaken they have the option to hold there or to continue to the front line or even into the Canadian’s front line.
These are some notes on changes I made to the Contemptible Little Armies rule and Game Turn Sequence:
Until it is actually important who goes first (ie when units get within range to engage in close combat) all movement can be carried out simultaneously to speed things up.
Any units wishing (or forced by morale failure markers) to disengage from close combat will move before all other units go.
Everyone moves at a rate of d6” per turn – everything is bad going! (Oh, except HMGs… they go d6-2)
Units that moved may not fire (this is usually and individual figure thing doing it by units is quicker and easier to keep track of).
The area covered by the creeping barrage will be marked by explosion markers.
No one may shoot into, out of, or through the barrage area.
The Barrage moves at the beginning of the shooting step. Roll for each battalions frontage: d6; 1-5 it moves 3” on a 6 it moves d6” (On the first turn the barrage in front of the 87th would lift so as not to destroy the front line trench as historically directed by the commander of the 87th. On turn two it would return in line with the barrage next to it.)
The Barrage then takes effect. Anything within the barrage zone dices;
Trenches and bunkers are destroyed on a 6 (though bunkers get a 4+ saving roll). Anyone in a trench that is destroyed is simply placed on top of the collapsed trench marker and will be diced for as if they were in the open,
Infantry, guns, etc. in trenches are destroyed on a 6.
Infantry, guns, etc. in the open are destroyed on a 5 or 6.
The rest of the shooting phase carries on as per normal.
As per normal rules (with the exception noted under movement about disengaging).
As per normal rules.
As soon as I was finished Bob’s game I hung around the table where I was going to set up (despite the fact that it was done a bit before the end of the time-slot and I had nearly an hour and a half before the game was to start. Jonathan was still tearing down his John Carter of Mars game. As soon as he we finished I started to set up the terrain and marshal the troops (and chat with and answer questions of all the people wandering by…).
Next I set up the Germans in their start positions along with the MG-bunkers.
Then I set up the explosion markers that marked out the area affected by the creeping barrage.
Once everyone showed up the first thing we had to do was determine which players were playing which Canadian Battalions and briefly explain rules.
Don Wagner played the 102nd and 54th and was designated the 11th Brigade’s commander – incase it ever mattered..), Dave Coltman played the 87thand 75th, John Burt played the 38th and 78th and was designated the Divisional Commander and Chris van Tighem played the two highland battalions; the 72nd and 73rd, and was designated the 12th Brigade’s commander. Mr. Will Bailie helped out as an assistant umpire and ran the Germans from the 11th Bavarian Infantry Regiment opposite the 12th Brigade, which allowed me to concentrate on the 11th Brigades front and the 261st Reserve Infantry Regiment opposing them.
The Canadians could use up to 5 of them. Mines could only be detonated in the German forward trench line. Obviously none could be blown in the line opposite the 87th – for the same reasons the barrage would lift over the front line trench mentioned earlier. The mines created a 4” wide crater that was impassible for the rest of the game – any Germans that were in the trench where the mine went off were removed as a casualties. Any wire stand contacted by the mine was also destroyed. After this was explained they determined locations and blew them up – Ka-BOOM! One on each brigades front.
The pre-game barrage took effect in it’s initial location, morale checks for casualties caused by mines and/or pre-game barrage were taken and then regular play began with the Canadians moving out of their trenches!
As expected, on the first turn, the MG bunker and German infantry in the trench opposite the 87th cut a swathe out of the battalion (just as they did historically). By the second turn the 87th was under half strength.
I can’t really give you much of a play-by-play because it’s really mostly a blur. So the rest of this is mostly some highlights and pictures.
(this is were the report of things going on during the game really begins…)
The Canadians won. We played the game in a little over two hours and it was clearly all over. It wasn’t a cakewalk or anything, but they had a much better time of it than in either of the play-tests (well, except for Dave on the 87th‘s front, but we knew they were doomed from the get-go).
According to the Victory Conditions Don, John and Chris all chalked up four points each; “Stunning Victories”, three trenches taken, no losses and units exited off the table. VCs all around for those guys. I gave all three the bonus point for having marched troops off the table, as there was NOTHING standing in their way when we called it. There wasn’t a single German figure on the 12th Brigades half of the table! Only six figures (below half strength) of the German reserve battalion, on the 10th brigades front, remained in the German third line trench and they were about to be over-run by the full strength 85th battalion that had just crested the hill.
Dave eked out a draw. He took two trench-lines but then the 75th broke before the Germans in the third trench-line. Both of his initial battalions were essentially wiped out only a single figure remained from the 87th – he had made it back to the Canadian front lines (with his two morale failure markers in tow). Dave had been given the 85th as well. They had followed up behind the 75th, however, rather than on Dave’s initial frontage to avoid the MG bunker that had menaced the 87th and 75th. Had we played a few more turns they surely would have shifted the remaining Germans from the hill, which would have upgraded him to a major victory; surely worth a MC (or MM, whichever one they gave to officers…)
The Division as a whole also scared a “Stunning Victory” with around 18 Victory Points (with only 13 being required for “stunning”)!
Like I said, however, it wasn’t a cakewalk. There was a significant cost to this victory however. As I also mentioned the 75th was wiped out and the 87th suffered 92% casualties (12 out of 13 figures lost!). I can’t remember how many were left in the 102nd or 54th (actually I couldn’t remember any of them but John and Chris did and supplied me with the relevant statistics).
John’s 38th battalion kept up close to the creeping barrage and made their black line objective with the loss of only two figures. The Winnipeg Grenadiers that followed them and pressed on into the counter attack by the 3rd battalion of the 11th Bavarians suffered 6 (46%losses). Most of those were from one of the MG bunkers that started firing on them as they left the trenches. It was the same bunker that had wiped out the 87th. By the time they were through and the barrage had cleared away so the gunners in the bunker could fire on the 12th brigade the 38th had already passed by.
Chris’ highlanders did a bit worse. The 72nd (R.H.R.) made their black line objective with only half their initial fighting strength, but still in good spirits. The Seaforths bore the runt of the German reserve battalions counter attack and were down to 4 or 5 figures (about 70% casualties) and teetering on the brink of collapse (two morale failure markers). The brigadier would have gotten up there eventually and sorted them out… maybe I shouldn’t have given Chris the bonus point for exiting the table as they would have had to wait for him to get up there and really had barely the strength to hold on to the third line trench against any further counter-attacks that might come their way.
Of the three German MG-bunkers; the one atop Hill 145 was destroyed by the creeping barrage –which helped out the 11th Brigades advance significantly. The other two were bypassed and “bombed” by infantrymen. A daring lad from the 38th took out the bunker that had given Dave such a hard time. Chris’ Seaforths took out the last one.
One thing that certainly helped the 12th Brigades advance was that the creeping barrage had caused enough casualties that by the time it had passed the battalion holding the second line had two morale failure markers. Once they were contacted in close combat the whole she-bang (or … what was left of them surrendered en masse).
Here’s the pictures (Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version):
All of the terrain, wire, ruined buildings, bunkers, etc were made for scratch by myself. All of the figures (with the exception of the two Canadian Staff officers and two Canadian MG teams, which are from Renegade Miniatures but painted by me) were modeled, moulded, cast and painted by myself! How’s that for DIY!?
That’s me in the SD cap setting up stuff and probably nattering to Wil about all the changes I’d mad to the core rules. He took them all in stride and did a fantastic job of keeping things on track and running his half of the table.
The Canadians at zero-hour as the first shells of the barrage came whizzing in.
I think we’re working out the effects of said initial barrage here. From the left that’s Wil’s shoulder and face, me, Don, Dave (seated and looking away) and John.
A Billy Bishop’s-eye-view of the whole division’s front on the hill at zero hour.
Dave; starting to move his guys up.
The Canadians, beginning their advance, can just be made out through the barrage!
All the players moving their assault battalions up on the first turn (from the left); Don, Dave, John, Chris, and Will (looking to see what Brent is up to at the Aeronef table…)
The Canadians surge forward. It looks like the jocks on the right (of the picture) are already in contact with Germans in the trenches.
Seaforths, on the left, start moving up with a machine-gun battery
This view is from the north west corner up toward the top of hill 145. There’s the machine-gun battery again in the bottom left of the picture. The bulk of the troops in foreground are going to be the Winnipeg Grenadiers. The bunker is the one that shot up the 87th, and others. Further on are the 75th rying to bypass the bunker and the shattered remains of the 87th – the fellow throwing the grenade is one of two left at this point. He would also become a casualty as he retired towards the Canadian lines, before the bunker was taken out by the 38th.
This is the third battalion of the 261st Reserve Infantry Regiment. They made it into the reserve trenches just before the Canadians came over the top of the hill to their right are the 75th and to the left are the 54th. From a mix of fire, on their way in, and close combat casualties the 261st would break the 75th but at a severe cost. The 54th also caused the 261st on their way by and captured the regiments staff officer!
I think this is the 85th moving up on the 11th Brigades front. The thing that looks like a cookie in the center of the picture is a mine crater marker…
In the center of this picture is the Black Line – the German’s second trench line. Men from the 73rd and 38th can be seen occupying it, and the Seaforths are bypassing them and making for their Red Line objective – the far end of the table. Up on the hill beyond the 75th can just be made out as they move in to assault the III/261st.
The confrontation between the counter-attacking III/11th Bavarians and the leap-frogging battalions of the 12th Brigade. The Seaforths ended up with about 5 guys left and two morale failure markers and so were forced to retire. The 78th then moved in and scattered the remaining Germans
The 75th, again, preparing to attack the men of the 261st regiment that had taken position in the German reserve trench.
The 12th Brigade’s area cleared of Germans. Hmmmm… I count about 10 jocks there in the background…. Maybe they were casualties that hadn’t yet been removed…?
The shattered remains of the III/261st in their reserve trench. On the left is the 54th bypassing them and cresting the hill is the fresh 85th battalion. The German staff officer at this point has been captured.
Men from the Kootenays, the 54th battalion, press forward through a communication trench heading for the base of the ridge, their Red Line objective.
There’s the highlanders without kilts, the 85th battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) about to cross the top of Hill 145.
The captured German staff officer. The six remaining members of III/261st Reserve infantry battalion. It looks like one of the Kootenays has been left behind to make sure they don’t try moving up the trench. In the background is the 12th brigade consolidating their gains.
WOOF! I’m TIRED! It was a long weekend; 12+ hours of driving and as many hours of gaming and a couple of late nights getting these reports ready…. I hope you enjoy them; I had fun writing them.
If you made it this far please feel free to leave a comment below. This project isn’t over so I would appreciate any ideas, feedback or other constructive criticism – especially from any of those who actually played in the event. Thanks, tim.