Sunday, August 12, 2007

Blood in the Mud

In an effort to streamline/simplify/clean-up my CLA games I decided to try out a little solo Contemptible Little Armies game this evening with my figures all temporarily attached to multi-figure bases. These were mounted three figures to a base and four bases equaled one battalion. To make up CLA units there would have to be more than one battalion in a “unit”.

Making the attack were two brigades of the Fourth Canadian Division. Each Brigade had four battalions so I split each brigade into two CLA “units” (these would be first and second waves).

The Germans had a brigade defending this section of the line. The German brigade had two regiments of three battalions each. Some of these I wanted to keep in reserve so that presented a bit of a challenge. I decided that each regiment would have a single battalion holing the line with two battalions in reserve. In CLA terms the two pairs of battalions in reserve would each be “units” and the two battalions holding the trench – despite being from different regiments – made up a third “unit”.

The primary Canadian objective was the German second line. If this could be taken the follow on wave would push through and try to make in off the table.

I decided not to occupy a German front trench with infantry – or even put out a trench there at all – the German front line was made up of two pillboxes with MGs. The second like had the on-table unit of Germans and a third pillbox/MG. I also gave the Germans a pair of trench mortars. I also gave the Germans 6 stands of wire. These were set up in their front lines on the flanks to try and funnel any attack into the killing zones of the bunkers.

The Canadians would also have a pair of trench mortars firing in support throughout the game and a pair of MGs moving up with the infantry. For a pre-game bombardment I gave the Canadians Three heavy batteries firing Heavy HE (three turns of firing) and two batteries firing HE (also three turns of firing).

I had been thinking this could nominally be one of the attacks at Paschendale, and thus in mud, but as I started out the first turn and looked at the table I realized if I sent them across the table as though it was bad going (1d6”) turn it would take forever and they wouldn’t have a chance… Also at Paschendale I seem to recall the artillery bombardment was considerably less awesome than that used at Vimy, hence no creeping barrage of epic proportions.

(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

Initial set up as seen from the German side

Same thing from the opposite side of the table.

The Game

Pre-Game Bombardment – The Canadians fired for three turn one battery of heavy HE on each of the bunkers and one HE on each of the groups of wire. This netted on bunker taken out (the forward one on the 12th Bdes front) and one stand or wire (also on the 12th Bdes front).

Turn One

The first wave of the 12th Brigade, perhaps inspired by the bunkers on their front being shattered into piles of rubble and the wire entanglements being shredded, got off to a quick start charging ahead 11”! The 11th Brigade was a little more apprehensive and only crawled forward 2”!

At the start of the shooting phase the MG on the 11th Brigade’s front tore into the lead battalions reducing them to half strength as the nipped up “over the top” (hits on four of the five potential targets)! This caused their first morale failure. The 72nd battalion, in the 12th Brigade also took some losses (1 stand) from the MG bunker in the second line.

The Canadian trench mortars started firing on the bunkers – I had hoped these would have been taken out by the preliminary barrage and the trench mortars could concentrate on taking out any remaining wire – no such luck. The mortars hit, as they did for many turns, but the pillboxes passed their saves.

Turn Two

The 12th Brigade, pooped from their initial dash slowed up a bit (4” this turn), and the 11th Brigade’s men started to feel a bit more of a sense of urgency and sped up a bit (7”). That MG on their front, however, took out another two stands reducing both battalions to one company. The Brigade staff officer had rushed forward to rally the troops and spur them on, successfully removing that first morale failure token, only to have it replaced in the morale phase…

Turn Three

The 12th Brigades first wave started picking up speed again but their gains brought them into range of the German’s trench Mortars which caused some casualties among the 78th Battalion (1 stand).

The 11th Brigade had to use all of the 3” it diced for movement to dress up it’s ranks; those two lonely companies out there wanted to see if there was anyone left… It was all for naught as the MG took out another stand – leaving a single companies worth of men from the 75th Battalion the only troops still moving forward from the first wave.

The second waves of the Canadian brigades kicked off this turn. The 12th brigades second wave shot out of the trenches with nearly the same vigour as the first wave. The 11th Brigades second wave, like the first, was a bit more apprehensive (3”!). this was just enough to get a stand or two close enough to be targeted along with the first wave and the 102nd Battalion lost about a companies worth of men.

Turn Four

The first of the German reserve troops showed up this turn, the balance of the regiment on the 12th Brigades front. I made the communication trenches they were moving up through “bad-going”, so they only went 5”.

The first wave of the 12th Brigade wasn’t having so hot of a time either. The 72nd Battlion was finished off losing 2 stands to trench mortar fire and one stand to rifle fire from the trenches. This caused two morale failures and the rest of the 78th battalion went to ground! The Brigade’s staff officer was, unfortunately still way back behind the second wave! He had seen the first wave tear off with such vigor, initially, he didn’t bother going along; figuring they’d need no urging on.

The 12th Battalion nearing the German trenches. The stands with the orange dice are the ones that were taken out this turn. The Canadian stand on the extreme right is actually in short range of the Germans in the trench to their front.

Same thing, from behind.

The stand with the red token off to the right there… that’s the remaining stand from the first wave on the 11th Brigade’s front. A single companies worth of men from the 75th. They crawled forward more or less unnoticed by the MG in the pillbox which was busy mowing down the approaching second wave (3 stands! – causing one morale failure).

Turn Five

The remaining company from the “Jolly 75th” diced enough to get right up to the bunker. If they survived they could try and take it out with bombs the next turn, if they didn’t, well it’d buy the second wave a turn to get their boys moving up. The assaulting company was cut to pieces and the second wave squandered their reprieve from the MG’s bullets crawling forward only 2”! (GAH!!!)

The other German reserve unit arrived. Both move forward at a crawl.

The Jocks from the 73rd in 12th Brigades second wave pushing forward. On of these stands was lost to the German trench mortars this turn. The remaining stands of the first wave exchanged small arms fire with the Germans in the trench to their front neither causing any appreciable damage.

Turn Six

The second wave of the 12th Brigade pushes through the gap in the wire and dodges around the ruined pillbox. Though under fire from the MG in the second line, both trench mortars and rifle fire the brigade suffered not losses this turn.

The 11th brigade lost another stand to the MG. It was the last, however, as the 11th Trench Mortar battery finally took out that damned pillbox! The second wave troops failed a morale check though and gained a second failure token.

Turn Seven

Nothing much of interest – German reserves still shuffling forward into the trenches. 11th brigade had to sit still due to morale and tried to rally, which they did. The 12th brigades first wave continued to exchange inconclusive small arms fire with the germans in the trench to their front while the second wave continued to slog ahead under fire losing another stand to small arms fire.

Turn Eight

The brigadier finally got up to the remains of the 78th and kindly asked them to continue their advance, and they agreed to do so on the next turn.

The second wave of the 12th lost three stands this turn, two to the MG and one to small arms fire – this finished off the 73rd. No more jocks on the field…

The 11th brigade (all three stands of ‘em) resumed their advance out of range of everyone.

Turn Nine.

The 78th diced average (7”) but it was enough to get one of their stands into the trenches and into close combat with the Germans. The 38th (the remaining battalion in the “second wave” – which was now quite inter-mingled with the first) diced big (12”) and all three of it’s stands got into the thick of it. Both battalions lost one stand this turn; one to small arms, one in close combat. The 78th failed one morale check due to their loss, giving them a second one again….

The 11th brigade slowly crawled forward again – but they did manage to remove their remaining morale failure token.

The 12th Trench Mortar Battery took out the last Pillbox – and a stand of infantry that was standing too close!

Turn Ten

The German reserves were really starting to fill out the trenches now. It was looking rather daunting.

The 38th spent the turn rallying, while the 78th pushed their way up the trench taking out another rstand of Germans in close combat.

The 11th Brigade, having now, finally, moved into range of the rifles of the Germans in the second line trenches, promptly lost one stand. They now have approximately one company worth of troops from each of the 87th and 54th battalions.

The 11th MG Company set up it’s guns this turn to help support the 11th brigades impending assault on the trenches… yeah… the two of them versus the 10 stands of Germans in the trench to their front…. That’s going to work out well…

Turn Eleven

The 78th consolidated its position in the German trench. The 38th tried to push it’s way further up the line but was held up.

The 11th Brigade lost another stand to fire from the trench mortar fire.

The 11th Canadian Machine-Gun Company began to pour bullets down on the German trenches to try and “soften up the position” and actually took out one stand of Germans.

Turn Twelve

The last company of the 11th Brigade moved in to assault the German trench line and were taken out by withering small arms fire.

The 38th spent another turn in inconclusive close combat with the Germans in the trenches.

I diced out a couple more turns to see where the close combat in the trenches would go. The 38th got lucky and took out two more German stands before I decided to have the Germans move out of the trenches to flank them and bring a pile of more stands into contact. It didn’t last long after that.

The MGs fired on the trenches until they were taken out by the trench mortars…


Well it did play a lot quicker. The things that slowed it down was the fact that I was very tired and was having trouble remembering how bunkers and wire and mortars and such worked – not having used any in games for months.

I think the Germans had way too much stuff. If they’d had only two more battalions in reserve (rather than four) that might have given the Canadians a fighting chance. Might!

MGs are pretty devastating. Two probably would have been sufficient to make this a challenging scenario. Perhaps at this scale, units being brigades or regiments, they may need to be toned down a touch – range and number of stands they can potentially target in a turn both lowered.

I totally ignore stuff like LMGs at this scale. Never really played with them much anyway, so I don’t miss them.

I know most people think the rules a bit too “bloody”. Entire brigades being wiped out and not cracking… I tend to think of those stands lost as not all being “casualties”. I think of them simply as being rendered “combat ineffective”. The stands represent somewhere between 100-150 men each one removed means a dozen or so have been killed outright, and that many again have probably been mortally wounded. Half have probably been wounded in varying degrees from severe or crippling wounds to blighties to mere scratches that seem a good enough reason to sit down and not continue. The rest have just taken cover from the fire and hunkered down in shell holes on their own or with their wounded or broken comrades to wait for nightfall when they’ll try to make their way back to their own line to see how things turned out. Not everyone waits until the morale of the entire battalion or brigade is broken to (represented by that third morale failure token…) call it a day. Loads will give up along the way while the majority of the unit carries on. The count as losses during the advance, but at the end of the day, they’re still there and at morning muster the next day they’re back on strength.

I do think something needs to change organizationally. Half-brigade and partial-regiment “units” seems screwy. Either they need to be full brigades or regiments, or the maneuver element has to be battalions. If it’s battalions that means I either need to paint up a pile of more guys and double the size of the battalions so I can have eight stands… or… change the rules so that one can have units of only four stands…

Units with only four stands, however, might cause even more trouble with the morale system. With four stands a test would be taken for EVERY casualty caused. If all were failed then when the third stand was lost the fourth would break and run. If ANY of them were not failed the unit would never break it would fight to the last man.

This could possible be resolved by making a single failed morale have the effects of two tokens in the regular rules (no moving forward, break if contacted in close combat) and having units break when they receive a second token.

What to do next?

I’d kind of like to try out the scenario again. Maybe with less German reserves and/or more artillery for the Canadians… and maybe drop one of the German MGs(?) or lower their effectiveness.

I’d also like to try the same scenario out with a modified version of Blitzkrieg/Cold War Commander (“Great War Commander”) to see how that might turn out.

I’d also like to play it against another player, or run the game for two players, to see how fast it goes and how they like it.

1 comment:

  1. That looks pretty fun! We'll definitely have to play that one in a couple weeks when I'm done this class. As long as I get to be the Canadians!