Great War Commander
Same scenario as last night, different set of rules. The rules I used were a modified version of Blitzkreig Commander
Changes to the Rules
The rules, being written for WW2, needed some changes. Comparing the World Wars I’d say the main difference, from a command and control point of view was the lack of radios in the Great War. The challenge for great war commanders (…and gamers), therefore, is how to disperse your troops enough to not get slaughtered by modern artillery and machine-guns, but keep them close enough to exercise some control over them and keep them moving forward.
To simulate this I decided to reduce the range of command – say -1 per 10cm instead of 20 – and limit the number of units that can be included in a order to a formation perhaps by range? Like units within 10cm of each other (not a chain of units within 10cm of the next one in line, I mean the maximum distance between the furthest units in the formation be no more than 10cm apart)
I was kind of torn on how many HQs to use. In the sample forces given in the BKC rule book, it seems stands are platoons and there is generally an HQ for each battalion of 12 to 20 stands… With the scale I’m playing at everything shifts up a notch I have brigades of 16 stands – it would make sense that I have an HQ for the brigade then. Some how that seems like it will be difficult to keep things moving – even at the start when no body’s even under fire! (Especially with the changes to the Command rules). If I did one HQ per battalion that would be a LOT of HQs to work your way through in a single turn.
Of course, thinking back to Bob Barnetsons’s Germantown 1777 game at Mayday (which used similar rules), the two formations I controlled had about four infantry – plus a couple attached elements a gun or stand of dragoons? Then again I think the Americans had formations or brigades of four 4-stand battalions under single HQs…. I wish I could find that scenario…
So I decided I’d start out with just one HQ per Brigade… if it didn’t work out at all I could always start over with HQs per battalion.
I thought about maybe introducing a modifier where attacking units get a +1 on their first command roll if all units in the formation are being given an order to advance and they haven’t received fire in the previous turn….? Then decided to leave it out for this first game just to see how things turned out…
Just as yesterday (So a lot of the pictures will look quite similar if you’ve read the previous report) – the Last Hundred Days- the German Army is a general withdrawal. Scout-Cyclists advancing ahead of the Canadian Corps have found a Regiment of Germans preparing a hasty position in front of the town of Brassiere. Again the 11th and 12th Brigades of the 4th Division have been called upon to clear the way!
The assault was hastily planned and executed. There wasn’t time to bring up artillery to support the attack – no off-table artillery.
Canadians – 11th and 12th Canadian Infantry Brigades
1 CO (CV 9)
2 Heavy Trench Mortars
(move: - attacks: 4/200 hits: 4 save: -)
(move: 10 attacks: 3/50 hits: 5 save: -)
2 Brigades each with:
16 Infantry Stands
(move: 10 attacks: 3/30 hits: 6 save: -)
Germans – a single regiment
1 CO (CV 8)
1 HQ (CV 7)
12 Infantry stands (move: 10 attacks: 3/30 hits: 4 save: -)
1 Trench Mortar Battery
(move: - attacks: 4/200 hits: 4 save: -)
1 Machine-Gun Company (move: 10 attacks: 3/50 hits: 5 save: -)
I gave the German infantry reduced hits to make them a bit more brittle. This is very late in the war, they’re under strength and they’re just not interested in sticking around.
Identical to yesterdays battle…. More or less… The two Canadian Machine-gun companies were attached to infantry battalions (one within each brigade) for the advance. The two Canadian Trench Mortar Batteries were grouped together near the rear – the Divisional Commander stayed with them to direct fire.
Taking it easy, playing it safe. I issued one set of movement orders to each battalion in each brigade. With the tight restrictions on the command and control distances I kept each battalion in a fairly tight little box – so they’d all be within 10cm of each other – and I tried to keep the whole brigade in a tight little box around the Brigadier – so someone in the unit would be within 10cm of him…. Technically I guess I was cheating – or added a further modification without mentioning it in the rules amendments above – as the distance modifier is generally based on the furthest unit in the formation being ordered. I ended up saying as long as the formation was within 10 cm of each other, and at least one unit within the formation was within 10 cm of the brigadier, I didn’t use any negative modifiers for distance… going to have to rethink that…
The Trench mortars also began firing in support of the attack. They caused some light casualties among one of the entrenched German companies. (1 hit, no suppression).
The German trench mortar opened up in response and caught some of the Jocks from the 73rd (Royal Highland Regiment of Canada) out in the open. Some casualties were sustained and one company went to ground (1 hit, suppressed).
The two lead battalions of the 12th Brigade (73rd and 38th) forged ahead, less the jocks on the ground. The follow on battalions were feeling a bit reluctant and were confused about timings and so the sat where they were (failed command roll on the third unit).
Three of the battalions of the 11th Brigade carried on but the 75th, perhaps confused about why the follow on battalions of the 12th Brigade just to their right weren’t moving, likewise halted for a bit.
The trench mortars again caused light casualties among the entrenched Germans. (1 hit, no suppression).
The German trench mortar battery and machine-gun company both tore into a company from the 38th (Ottawa) battalion. (4 hits, suppressed). At this point I realized I had been used to taking it easy with the moving of troops I forgot that I COULD (if I wanted to) order consecutive orders to the same units…. So the MG finished off the lead company of the 38th while the Trench mortar shifted to fire on a second company in the battalion.
The confusion about timings and axis of advance spread throughout the 12th brigade causing all units to grind to a halt.
The situation on the 11th Brigades front wasn’t much better. The “Old Man” must have left his CP to personally go and kick the 75th’s ass into gear, as they got moving! …But nobody else did…
The Canadian Trench Mortars decided to engage in some counter-battery fire and fired on their German opposites. The first salvo caused the Jerries to run and dive for cover (1 hit, suppressed). The second salvo must have hit the ammo pile (6 hits!) as there was a thunderous series of explosions and the German guns were silenced.
No targets within view/range so everyone hung tight.
The confusion among the 12th brigade was cleared up and everyone advanced at a steady, unrushed (slow!) pace.
Chaos reigned among the 11th Brigade as everyone remained gone to ground.
The Trench mortars rained shells down on the Germans in the trenches causing yet more light casualties among the infantry companies as well as the MGs (1 hit each, no suppression). Then the mortars fell suddenly silent as the gunners looked around at each other and had a strange urge to pick up their rifles, fix bayonets and charge the enemy… (Command Blunder #6 – Let’s Get ‘Em! – immobile trench mortars…? I don’t think so).
Again, waiting to “see the whites in their eyes…”.
The silence was unnerving. Everyone stopped to listen. The Jocks of the 73rd thought they heard something and tore off in the general direction of Germany… but everyone else sat.
It occurred to me that maybe I should be doubling the distances for everything with this scale of figures. Or even using inches instead of centimeters… maybe multiply all distances by 1.5? …More things to think about. This approach was going way too slowly.
I had another idea at this point and implemented it right away. There should be a +1 CV modifier for the attacker if all units in a formation are being ordered to advance directly towards their objective or along their proscribed axis of advance.
This didn’t help the 11th Brigade, as the first command roll I made was a blunder! Crossfire! Having sat on the ground for so long they forgot where the enemy was and mistook the lads in the 87th (Grenadier Guards of Montreal) for the Boche! The casualties from the “friendly fire” incident so rattled the battalion that three companies started digging their own graves (3 units hit, 2 suppressed!).
The trench mortars continued to menace the Germans in the trenches but not enough to make them break, or even keep their heads down (hits again, no suppression).
The German machine-guns spotted the gunners of the 12th Canadian Machine-Gun company struggling forward under their heavy loads and started sending rounds their way. Men were hit, others went to ground (hit and suppressed). The Germans kept up the pressure and the Canadians decided to vacate and fall back and very nearly dropped their equipment and called it a day (fallback 9cm!).
Well the bonus for moving towards the objective helped out as the whole of the 12th brigade started creeping forward again – well, except for the machine-gunners who were busy regrouping and rallying.
It doesn’t help if you commander is befuddled and indecisive and uninspiring. The 11th Brigade’s commander only managed to convince one of his battalions to get moving. I don’t remember which one. I’m pretty darn sure it wasn’t the Grenadier Guards!
The trench mortars were busy stacking shells and replenishing their stocks this turn.
Well all that furious movement on the Canadian bound brought troops to within initiative range (“whites in their eyes range”). And the Germans let them have it! The companies of the German 1st Battalion in the woods north of the town and across the river fired on the jocks of the 73rd as they appeared through the woods on the opposite side of the river. Two companies took some casualties (hit and suppressed). The one on the right took further casualties when a third German company got in on the action and the jocks bolted back into the woods colliding with one of their following companies (suppressing a third company in the battalion…).
Companies of the German 2nd Battalion, in the trenches before the town, fired on a company from the 38th likewise causing casualties and forcing it to fall back into the following companies position causing chaos and confusion (hit, suppressed, hit again, fell back into another company causing it to be suppressed as well).
The Regimental commander, posted with the 1st Battalion (north of river), was a ruthless commander and took full advantage of his position and the initial confusion among the approaching Canadians. Two companies directed their firing on the leading company of jocks that, thought they had gone to ground, were still holding their positions at the edge of the woods just across the river. The violence and volume of fire proved to be too much for them and they too fell back into the company following them causing further chaos and confusion (all four of the 73rd’s companies are now suppressed). The other two companies in the German battalion fired into the flank of a company from the 38th causing severe casualties (5 hits). The relentless fire from the Germans cut the company to pieces (second successful fire order finished it off).
The Brigade Commander (who came up to oversee things personally), positioned in the town near the 2nd Battalion, the Machine-Guns (and the charred remains of the trench mortar battery….) likewise directed fire from the MGs and an infantry company at the 38th. When the dust settled the 38th Battalion found itself at company strength.
I was having so much fun – or otherwise concentrated on the game – I realized I hadn’t been taking pictures…
(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)
This is the general state of affairs at the end of the sixth turn. German 1st Battalion is in the woods in the center- bottom of the picture. The 2nd battalion is above and to the left, in front of the town, along with the machine-guns and the Brigade commander (CO). The German 3rd Battalion in the woods just left of center and the top of the picture, still waiting patiently for something to shoot at. The stand that’s looking all alone in the center of the picture is the remains of the Canadian 38th Battalion. In the top right is the 11th Brigade and below them, in the bottom right is the 12th Brigade.
The 12th Brigade. In the woods at the top-center are the four suppressed companies of the 73rd Battalion. Behind them, approaching the wood is the 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada). In the bottom right the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers) are watching the 38th Battalion get torn to shreds in the open field beyond the hedgerow the 78th is deployed behind. The 12th Machine-gun Company can be seen regrouping and getting ready for another crack at it!
The 11th Brigade. In the immediate foreground is the 75th (Mississauga) Battalion. Ahead of them, off to the left, is the 87th Battalion (Grenadier Guards of Montreal). In the top right is the 102nd and 54th battalions stumbling over each other as the ry to ake their way out of the assembly area.
There’s that lone remaining company of the 38th again.
The men of the 12th Brigade started feeling a bit of a sense of urgency. The 78th made two bounds forward catching up with the faltering 38th, as did the 12th CMGC. The 72nd also raged forward tripping on the heals of the still confused 73rd battalion.
The 11th Brigade however spent another turn wondering when their brigadier would get his plan together and start issuing some orders for the attack.
The Divisional Commander started getting a handle on this directing mortar fire thing. Two quick salvoes destroyed a German company in the trenches before the town and sent the battered survivors scurrying towards the rear.
The German 1st Battalion resumed firing on the Royal Highlanders, who looked like they might be getting ready for another push, causing a few casualties among both of the lead companies, sending one back to ground. The German commanders seemed just as indecisive as their Canadian opposites (well at least their opposite in the 11th Brigade) and issued no orders to their troops this turn.
The 73rd, having an unsuppressed company up front in the initiative phase actually began returning fire at the Germans across the river. They caused some considerable casualties and made the Germans hide behind trees (2 hits and suppressed!). Orders then came down for the jocks to deploy in an extended line at the edge of the woods along the river and thus the two rear companies moved up around the flanks of the lead companies.
(as I did this I realized that, if deployed in a line the two outer stands are actually more than 10cm apart – even tough the entire battalion was essentially in base-to-base contact - and technically couldn’t both be included in any formation orders… I think I will have to multiply all ranges by 1.5 for figures of this scale…. But for now I decided I should carry on with things as they were).
The Winnipeg Grenadiers (78th) overtook the 38th’s position this turn and pushed on towards the town.
The MGs set up and started firing into the woods to support the Highlanders attack on the 1st Battalion.
On the 11th Brigades front the 102nd battalion moved out of the woods. That’s it.
The Divisional commander started directing mortar fire towards the Germans in the woods. The signature one-two punch of the trench mortars spelled the end of another German company. Seeing no more targets from his vantage point he shifted the mortars fire back at the entrenched Germans in front of the town. (Though he rolled a deuce and thus got to throw 16 dice at those entrenched German… I only managed to score one hit …)
On their own initiative the 1st battalion shot up the highlanders but failed to suppress them. The 2nd Battalion pinned down the 78th in the open field to their front. The MG further caused casualties and distress among the 78th forcing one company to fall back into another.
The Regimental commander directed more fire against the jocks causing further casualties – but simply could not get them to go back to ground (5 hits, no suppressions!)
The Brigade commander directed fire from the MGs and a company from the 2nd Battalion, very nearly breaking one of their companies (5 hits). But they couldn’t sustain the fire and finish them off.
On their own initiative all four companies of the 73rd Battalion now fired on the Germans in the woods across the river (causing hits and suppressions). The Brigadier ordered the MGs up to fire in support of the highlanders. They did so and forced one of the German companies to fall back into the woods.
Two battalions of the 11th Brigades front started to creep forward again.
The Trench Mortars continued their relentless bombardment of the Germans in the trenches and forced another company to call it a day…
Fire from the 2nd battalion and the MGs caused havoc and severe casualties among the 78th and the 38th throughout the turn. The 38th were by now so diminished they ceased to be any sort of effective fighting force. Any survivors with the will to carry on simple joined up with platoons and companies of the 78th.
The 38th are gone and the 78th are now in the thick of it! The 11th Brigade continues to creep forward ever so slowly…
The 11th Brigade going nowhere fast.
The 12th Brigade. The 78th are on the right pushing forward into withering fire from the German trench line. On the left are the two battalions of highlanders; the 73rd engaged in a vicious firefight with the German 1st Battalion across the river – which is not down to about half strength.
All four companies of the 73rd fire in turn on the remaining German visible to most of them – and closest for all of them (as the other company had been forced to retire into the woods). The call to cease fire made it’s way down the line and when the highlanders rifles fell silent the only sound that came from the other side of the river was the cries of the wounded and whimpers of the broken.
For some reason I decided to star with the 11th Brigade this turn. Deuce – WHOOOSH the 75th raged forward. Another Deuce (!) – the 87th charged across the fields towards the German trenches. The 102nd also surged forward before the Brigadier snapped his pencil and could write no more orders for this turn.
The Mortars hand to replenish ammo stocks and stack shells again this turn apparently.
The last company of the 1st Battalion realized they could see one of the Highlanders Company’s positions and interrupted the silence with a smattering of small arms fire. (hit on 73rd).
The German 2nd Battalion found the fields to their front a target rich environment. Small arms fire tore through the 78th (1 hit and suppression) and the 87th (2 units hit once each, one suppressed). The MGs also caused some disruption somewhere (1 hit).
The German 3rd Battalion also had something to shoot at finally. One lead company started taking fire and casualties, then took some more and fell back in confusion into the company behind it.
The regimental commander urged the remaining company of the 1st battalion to keep firing (another hit on the 73rd, still no suppression). The brigade commander was a little more successful in his direction of fire. By the end of the turn the 11th Canadian Machine-gun company was gone and the 87th counted one less company among their nominal roll.
Companies from the 73rd and 102nd returned fire into the respective woods to their fronts. The 12th Brigade commander urged the 78th Battalion forward and directed fire from the 12th CMGC into the woods in an attempt to silence the German resistance within once and for all…
All four battalions of the 11th Brigade crept forward.
Having replenished their stocks of ammunition the Trench Mortar Batteries unleashed a punishing bombardment on the remaining German company in trenches north of the road dividing the battalion. When the dust settled the German company ceased to be. The Divisional Commander then moved his CP as he could no longer see any enemy to direct fire against from his previous position.
The remaining company north of the river exchanges fire with a company of highlanders and the machine-guns.
The 78th and 87th Battalions taking fire from the entrenched Germans before the village. By the end of this turn the 87th would be at 50% of it’s original number. Most companies would be pinned down in the fields and unable to move.
The 102nd exchanging fire with the 3rd Battalion in the woods south of the town.
Two of the 78th’s companies were able to bring fire own on the machine guns causing some disruption and casualties (the first unit caused two hits and suppression… What luck! l should have charged with the second at that point but for some reason didn’t they fired and caused two more hits…!).
The 75th moved up ready to come to support the 87th’s assault on the trenches.
During the orders phase for the 12th brigade I had one company of the 78th that was skulking in the rear move around the flank to hopefully move through the unoccupied trenches and start to wheel the whole battalion up the line. I had the two other companies that weren’t suppressed fire (the ones that had such great luck in the initiative phase – shooting up the German MGs). Hoping for lightening to strike again – on eight dice between them you’d think I’d get the ONE six I needed to finish off the German MG. No such luck. I got a temporary reprieve from the machine-guns’ fire while it spent a turn recovering from suppression, then they were back at their cruel business.
The Divisional commander could see the German MGs now too. He tired to call in mortar fire on their position but the orders did not get through as he was too far away. (another change to the Blitzkrieg Commander rules I didn’t mention – there not being radios available here I decided to drop the exception from the distance modifier to command values for indirect fire units. If I had been clever from the get-go I would have set up the two trench mortars at the edge of the table straddling the road and then sent the Divisional Commander up the road wherever he liked as I kept the exemption for units along roads….).
Same old story; everyone was firing at and suppressing Canadian units to their fronts. Except the company from the first battalion. They fired into the flank of the newly moved up company of the 78th twice and set them to flight (2 hits and suppressed during initiative fire, then 3 more hits during ordered fire, fall back 12cm… gone!).
Unsuppressed Canadian companies continued to exchange fire with Germans to their front an their own initiative.
Both Brigadiers went for tea.
The Divisional commanders orders to fire on the MGs finally got through but it was too late, they had recovered from their shock and while the shells raining in caused casualties it wasn’t the proverbial straw that it could have been the turn before…
More of the same. Though some impressive coordinated initiative fire from the 3rd Battalion finished off a company of the 102nd.
The Brigadier actually rolled a command blunder while trying to order the MGs (Let’s Get ‘Em!). The machine-gunners briefly tried to fix bayonets to their maxims before deciding the idea was rubbish and stayed right where they were in their safe little dugout!
Two companies of the Winnipeg Grenadiers decided they’d had enough of this being shot at in the field crap and charged the MGs one company took some casualties on the way in, but the other charged in the flank.
There was some other initiative fire, same old thing. The 72nd started to move out from behind the wood they’d been parked behind for half the game waiting to support an assault by the 73rd that never happened. The 11th Brigade, typically, did sweet F-A.
Close Combat! Winkled the MG out of the trenches (just barely) and pursued. Finished them off in the second round… oh dear… now that I’m thinking about it, I may not have included the hits taken from fire on the way in for the first phase results…. Oh well… MGs taken out – VCs to be awarded.
Hit and suppressed just about everything out there that they could. The Company that lead the charge into the MG position was finished off by small arms fire (guess those VCs will be posthumous). A company from the Grenadier Guards was also rendered useless by severe casualties.
Inspired by their success with the MGs and concerned about what will become of them if they continued to just sit there out in the open the company from the 78th charged in again rolling up the trench line catching the Germans in the flank. Another joined in but took casualties as it charged in from the front. They were repulsed after being unable to cause any appreciable casualties in the close assault.
12th Brigades attached MGs caused a couple hits on the company in the woods north of town. The trench mortars then fired on the position and finished them off. This brought the Germans to their breakpoint.
The 11th Brigade did nothing (other than a smattering of ineffective initiative fire and recovering from suppression caused last turn). As usual.
Passed their break test.
Suppressed five Canadian companies. Finished off one of the 102nd Battalion.
The shattered remains of the Grenadier Guards – at about the strength of a single company decided to give one more run at the trenches. They were bloodily repulsed.
Guess what the 11th brigade did.
The Seaforths got moving again, on the 12th Brigade’s front.
Passed their break check.
German fire continued to suppress Canadian companies to their front. The survivors of the Grenadier Guards last assault were dispersed with fire from the trenches as they fled.
The 11th Brigade Commander had another one of his burst of tactical insight and frantic order writing. A deuce sent the 75th rushing to the front. The 54th also broke out of the woods to bolster the faltering 102nd. Things were starting to look bad for he Germans. That’s probably why they finally broke at the beginning of their turn…
On the right are the four fresh companies of the 75th Battalion, joining the two companies of the 78th still fighting with the Germans in the trench. Off to the left is the Seaforths moving up to support the final push.
The 73rd finally moved out of the woods, across the river and into the wood opposite to sweep the area for German stragglers and pockets of resistance.
This game took a lot longer than last nights. Well over twice as long. I did spend a lot of time taking notes, however, and time looking up rules – because I’m not totally down with these yet. (Also I had to feed my dog and the neighbor’s cat, and my sister stopped by to borrow my post-hole auger…).
While it still needs some tinkering. I think this worked much better than the modified versions of CLA I’ve been trying out for the last nights. While certainly quick the CLA games just simplified a lot of things just a bit too much for me.
I really do prefer using the multi-based figures for this scale of action I will definitely be permanently rebasing all my western front figures (after Fallcon, as I will be needing some of them for the CLA game I will be running there… ). While I might just rebase all of my back of beyond stuff at some point – for use with this or some similar rule set – I won’t do it for Fallcon as I just don’t think the stands thing works for CLA – and it is CLA I promised I’d run and that people have signed up for…
Now to convince John to use 60x40mm bases for all his Great Warr stuff.
The breakdown of casualties and their causes are as follows:
The Germans lost 6 infantry companies as well as their supporting machine-guns and trench mortars. Of these 5 infantry and the trench mortars were done in by the pair of Canadian trench mortar batteries. A marked difference from CLA. Not unrealistic either; Artillery was the big killer of the Great War. The other infantry company was lost to small arms fire and the MG was taken out in close combat.
The Canadians lost 12 Rifle companies and a machine-gun company. 3 Rifle companies and the Canadian machine-guns were taken out by the German machinegun. The balance, 9 rifle companies, was taken out by small arms fire. The German trench mortar battery was taken out on the third turn after only two turns of firing. Had it lasted longer I think it would have factored more prominently into the butchers bill.
More on further tweaks to the Great War Commander rules later. I have to get to bed.