Saturday, 26 May 2018

Callejon de la Laja, Mexico 1865 using Bloody Big Battles

As well as the French and the Mexicans, the French Intervention in Mexico also saw Austrians, Belgians and Sudanese fighting alongside the French.
A Sudanese company patrolling the railway

The Austrian Legion was there because of Maximilian, the Austrian Arch-Duke. The Belgian Legion was there because King Leopold of Belgium was Maxilian's father-in-law through the latter's marriage to Princess Charlotte of Belgium.

The Sudanese,the Ottoman Auxiliary Battalion , were there because the French borrowed them from the Viceroy of Egypt. There is an excellent book, A Black Corps d'Elite, covering this battalion during and after the war.
The Austrian  column moving north

Although there was an actual battle at Callejon de la Laja, this scenario is a mash-up of several small historical encounters between Imperial Mexicans and Republican Mexicans. It is one of the many excellent scenarios in Tim Tilson's Maximilian in Mexico scenario book.
Top left is the Austrian column. Across the river a Republican Company defends a barricade. Somewhere in the jungle several irregular bands of Republican infantry are ready to spring their ambush

This scenario has an Austrian column returning home after a successful raid combined with a Sudanese force patrolling a railroad. Both being ambushed by a Republican Mexican force.

Imperial Mexicans
Commandant Marechal 1Ldr
3 x Austrian Legion Infantry Companies6TrnML
1 x Imperial Mexican Cavalry Troop 4TrnCavAggressive
1 x Imperial Mexican Artillery piece 1TrnRA
Lieutenant Sulayman1Ldr
2 x Sudanese Infantry Companies6VetML
Republican Mexicans
Colonel Garcia 1Ldr
2 x Regular Infantry Companies6TrnML
4 x Irregular Infantry Bands6 5STrnNGFragile / Ragged Volley / Woodsmen

A Sudanese Company patrol the northern end of the railway
Republican Irregulars spring their ambush
A couple of devastating volleys and Lieutenant Sulayman and his Sudanese get overrun
The Republicans control the northern end of the railway
At the southern end of the track Colonel Garcia leads his Republican Regulars against the Sudanese
The evenly matched struggle continues for several turns
Although the Sudanese are veterans the firefights and assaults wear them down leaving the Republicans in control of the entire railway line
Commandant Marechal and his Austrian column head home.
However 2 Republican Irregular bands have other ideas and spring their ambush
An Austrian company forms a rearguard against the ambushers
Meanwhile the column crosses the river to assault the Republicans
Outnumbered and with Commandant Marechal dead the Austrian  rearguard supported by cavalry gets overrun.
Supported by canister range artillery the Austrians charge the Republican barriacade
Storming the barricade opens the road home for the surviving Austrians but as the sun sets (Turn 10) they have run out of time

Therefore a major victory to the Republicans as they control the railway and have stopped any of the Austrian units from leaving the table.

This is a very tough scenario for the Austrian / Sudanese force to win as they have to survive ambushes, cross a river one unit at a time and assault defences. however it is a really good scenario with few troops and lots going on. It was very entertaining to play for all concerned.

with hindsight I think I made the Republican Irregular Infantry Bands too powerful arming them with NG as this caused a lot of casualties at close range

The Woodsman attribute is Ignores difficult terrain movement penalty and counts as skirmisher when in cover.

The Austrian and Republican figures are 15mm Freikorps and the Sudanese are 15mm Peter Pig.

The rules were the excellent Bloody Big Battles








Tuesday, 8 May 2018

French-Mexican War - Camerone and Puebla

The week commencing 30th April has anniversaries for two of the better known actions of the 2nd French-Mexican war, the French Intervention in Mexico or the Maximilian Adventure - whatever you want to call it.

The 30th April is the anniversary of  Camerone / Camaron where a small company of the French Foreign Legion held off a large republican Mexican force for several hours before being overwhelmed.

The 5th May is the anniversary of the battle of Puebla where a Republican Mexican army repulsed a French army and stopped it's advance on Mexico city.

To commemorate these actions we refought both using Bloody big Battles. Although this ruleset is designed for very large battles where 1 base = 1000+ men, it also works very well at lower scales: Camerone at 1 base  = 3 men and Puebla at 1 base  = 120 men. Having good scenarios helps.
The attack on the hacienda at Camerone by dismounted Republican cavalry

The Camerone scenario was taken from Tim Tilson's Maximilian in Mexico scenario book. This is geared towards The Sword and the Flame  ruleset but translates easily to BBB
The assault on the eastern gates

There were a few changes to the standard BBB rules

  • Units could not combine their firing 
  • Leaders only affect units they are attached to
  • The Foreign Legion is Elite - ie never goes spent

The Republicans storm the eastern wall

As always the Foreign Legion were overwhelmed but due to the Victory Points they won 39 to 38.

The smiley face markers are yellow for disordered, green for low on ammo and red for spent.

For Puebla we used Vincent's BBB order of battle and scenario rules with some changes but opted for the map in Tilson's book which is a lot simpler to set up.

The changes to the OOB and scenario rules were

  • Only the 2 Zouave units are Aggressive
  • Mexican units only count Fragile for Movement but NOT for combat
  • Drop the number of artillery pieces on both sides from 6 to 3
  • Artillery going low on ammo remains low for the remainder of the game
Puebla is on the right. On the ridge Fort Loreto is middle bottom and Fort Guadelupe is middle top . La Ladrillera is top left. The church in Puebla and the 2 forts are objectives as is the French supply wagon which is about 5 foot to the left of this picture.


The French assault begins with a 3 foot trek to the forts. The village of La Ladrillera is about to get the undivided attention of the French artillery.
Fort Loreto's garrison, the Reforma Morelia Battalion, await the invaders.
Fort  Guadelupe's defenders, the unreformed Morelia Battalion, watch the French nervously
The defenders of La Ladrillera proved to be a thorn in the French flank
The main French assault column advance, two battalions of the 2nd Zouaves and a battalion  of Naval infantry. In the background is their commander, Major-General Charles de Lorencz
The French forces deploy to assault Fort Guadalupe
The French reserves follow up, two battalions of the 99th Line, Chasseurs a Pied, Chasseurs de Vincennes and a battalion of Colonial Marines
The Zouaves prepare to attack the covered road between the forts held by the San Luis Rifles
However only 1 battalion goes in as the other is halted by fire from Fort Guadalupe.
The Zouaves push the San Luis Rifles back from the covered road.
The Zouaves attempt to push on towards Puebla but are thrown back by the San Luis Rifles
Meanwhile the French reserves have come up to assault Fort Guadalupe where the defenders are low on ammo.
On the final turn the French storm and capture Fort Guadalupe

A tally of the objectives - Puebla and Fort Loreto are still in Mexican hands while the French hold Fort Guadalupe and their supply wagon. Therefore a draw.

With only 8 game turns this is a difficult one for the French as they start over 36" away from the nearest fort. The next time we play this I will add in some roads to make initial moves quicker.

The Mexican force at La Ladrillera tied up several French units that could have been useful in the attack on the forts. 

The Artillery low on ammo scenario rule was a pain as all 3 French guns fired together and rolled an 11. Ok so they killed a base defending La Ladrillera but essentially that was it for the guns for the remainder of the game

Two enjoyable games from one of my favourite periods using an excellent set of rules that can be tinkered with to get reasonably historical results.

Thanks to Vincent for the Puebla scenario

Tim Tilson's Maximilian in Mexico is well worth getting for the Camerone scenario and others.

The figures are all 15mm Freikorps and the buildings are by Musket Miniatures and Peter Pig.


Friday, 10 November 2017

Omdurman using Bloody Big Battles

We have been going through a bit of a Bloody Big Battles (BBB) Colonial phase playing El Teb, Adowa twice and now Omdurman. The Omdurman scenario can be downloaded from the BBB Yahoo Group

The scenario is an interesting take on Omdurman as it deals with the aftermath of the Mahdist assault. To quote the scenario

While the initial phase of the assault on the Anglo-Egyptian encampment was a disaster for the Mahdists, in order to gain a complete victory Kitchener needed to clear the way to Omdurman and Khartoum. To ensure a secure supply line, this meant defeating the Khalifa’s field army and securing the road from Omdurman to the north.
Looking  north - the objectives are circled in white

There are 5 objectives spread along the entire 6 foot length of the table which the Anglo-Egyptian force must capture in order to win. To draw the Mahdists must hold 1 objective. A Mahdist victory is achieved if they hold 2 objectives of which one must be within 14" of the Nile.
Start of the battle. The Anglo-Egyptians mainly start in El Egeiga. The Mahdists aim to capture the 2 southern objectives

Therefore the Anglo-Egyptian forces must go on the offensive immediately. That's a bit different from the usual standing behind the Zariba and mealie bags and shooting anything that comes within range.
The main Mahdist force heads south to take the two objectives
A single Ansar unit under Ali wad Helu loiters near one of the northern objectives
The Anglo-Egyptian force waits for a plan 
One of the 2 gunboats patrolling the Nile - this one is by Peter Pig - lovely
While the Mahdists seize their two objectives the Anglo-Egyptians finally decide to advance
The Anglo-Egyptians continue their advance
The Anglo-Egyptian centre
The Egyptian Camel Corps and cavalry stand idly by on the northern flank
To the south the British engage the Mahdists and go low on ammo
In the centre the Egyptian line cracks as a Mahdist force storms through the line
A general view of the battlefield from the south - not looking good for the Anglo-Egyptians
The Mahdists being to overwhelm the British on the southern flank
The final positions with the Anglo-Egyptians falling back on their original positions with no hope of even getting a draw!

Therefore an overwhelming, "questions in the House", major victory to the Mahdists. 

The Anglo-Egyptians were sadly lacking in aggression - not even bothering to take unprotected objectives with their cavalry.  However they were under the impression that there was an Ansar unit waiting in ambush, their firing was relatively ineffective and usually being down in melee factors did not help.

The melee factors usually favour the native troops quite drastically. Typically there are 6 Native bases vs 4 European bases so that's 3:2 Numerical  advantage (+1), the Natives are Aggressive (+1) and usually in Depth (+1) so that's a +3 advantage in combat. There is no point in the Europeans being in depth as they need the firepower to either stop or disrupt the natives.

We were using the colonial variant which allows native infantry to move at 15" and only halts units when they lose a base from firing. Both have a major impact on the game as the native troops can zoom around the board and are hard to stop when charging.

We did however enjoy the game and feel that BBB works very well for Colonials. The scenario is excellent as forces the Anglo-Egyptians to come out and fight. In my opinion it has the feel of a mini-campaign rather than a single battle as the Anglo-Egyptians have to send forces off in all directions to capture the objectives. 

I'm looking forward to playing this one again.

Thanks to Rob Smith & Dave Bennett for putting the scenario together

Thanks to Steve for putting on the game with his collection of 15mm troops. He is in the process of re-basing some of the Mahdist troops as they are all on double size bases.

Steve and Shaun played the Anglo-Egyptians and Rodge, Stewart & myself gloried in being the Ansar.