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.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Dabormida's Brigade at Adowa using Bloody Big Battles

One of our favourite Colonial games is a scenario from Mark Fastoso's Ethiopian Colonial Campaigns  - Dabormida's Brigade (Adowa).
This covers the Abyssinian attack on the Italian right flank at the battle of Adwa (or Adowa) on 1st March 1896. It boils down to a scattered Italian force attempting to stop a very large Abyssian army from tearing down the table trying to capture objectives by a certain turn.

Important Note
None of us have any Italians or Abyssinians for this period. However  Steve has a lovely 15mm collection for the Sudan so we proxy the figures. So do not be surprised if you should see kilted Italians. If you do not like proxies then pretend it's the Sudan

Although the scenario is written for The Sword and Flame we have used it with Battles For Empire. This proved to be a struggle for the Abyssinian who rarely got half down the table before we had to call it a day.

This time round we used Bloody Big Battles (BBB). We had tried the BBB scenario El Teb but had mixed feelings about it. It was fast but I think the scenario needs looking at.

Abyssinian Forces
3 Commanders
5 x Waruari 6 Trained, Spears,Aggressive
2 x Byet Lyjog 6 Veteran, Spears,Aggressive
2 x Neftenya 6 Trained, Muzzle-loading Rifles,Aggressive
2 x Snyder-yaji 6 Trained, Early Breechloaders,Aggressive
3 x Oromo Horse 6 Trained Cavalry,Aggressive
2 x Artillery pieces 1 Smoothbore Artillery

Italian Forces
2 Commanders
3 x Italian Infantry Companies 4 Trained, Late Breeechloaders
4 x Askari Infantry Companies 4 Trained, Late Breeechloaders
2 x Artillery Batteries 1 Breech Loading Artillery
1 x Machine Gun Battery 1 Machine Gun

The Battlefield looking east

The Objectives
Victory Points (VP) are awarded to the Abyssinians on the turn they capture an objective

The Abyssinians need 3 VP to win

The Spur: Turns 1-3 2 VP otherwise 1 VP
The Well: Turns 1-6 2 VP otherwise 1 VP
The Pass: Any Turn 1 VP

The start of the battle
The Setup

Abyssinians set up along the western edge

2 Askari companies are on the Spur
1 Askari company is behind the Spur
1 Askari company is on the hill across the stream
2 Italian companies and the 2 Artillery pieces are at the Well
1 Italian company and the Machine Gun are at the Pass

The game lasts 8 turns with the Abyssinians going first.

The Spur defended by 2 Askari companies
The Abyssinians immediately attack the Spur
An Askari square - disrupted (Yellow) and low on ammo (Green)
The other Askari square about to get overrun
The Abyssinians break both squares and capture the Spur on Turn 2 - 2 VPs
The Italians defend the Well

The Italians should have destroyed the Spearmen. Let's do the Firepoints
1 BLA at 3" = 9 FP and 1 BLA at 3" but it pivoted so 4.5 FP equals 13.5 FP rounded up to 16 FP
So 6 or more on 2 dice to kill at least 1 base and push the Spearmen back
And it's a ... 5 which disorders the Spears but under the BBB Colonial variant doesn't halt them

The ensuing melee saw both guns lose a life - they only have 2 - and retire 9". The Infantry company next to them fared no better and was forced to retire. 

The Well is lost on turn 4 - giving the Abyssinians 2 more VP - making a total of 4 VP

The Machine gun gets into position to defend the pass. The the distance an Askari company is both to get pounced on by some Oromo Horse.
A general view of the battlefield halfway through the game - looks like an historical outcome to me
On the left an Italian company covers the retreat of the last surviving Askari company from the Spur.
Yes I know the Italians are wearing kilts - it's all the rage on the Milan catwalks.
The view from the Pass - probably the safest place to be.
The kilted Italians continue to head south leaving the Askari to form a square against the hordes.
Unsurprisingly the square becomes the centre of attention - it looks baaad.
The brave Askari square repulses the attack losing a base in the process. To be classed as Square it must have a minimum of 3 bases. 
End of Turn 6 and as the Abyssinians close in for the kill the Italians concede the game.

I would like to say it was a close run thing but it wasn't - it was a shambles for the Italians mainly due to appalling shooting dice. It was also a historical result so I can not complain.

Thanks to Steve for putting on the game. He and Mark played the Abyssinians whilst Stephan and I played the Italians.

We are giving it an other run out next week - mainly to see if I can roll higher than 5

There are several more scenarios in the book which look as though they will convert to BBB. I can highly recommend these scenario books covering Ethiopia, the Sudan, Mexico and China. 

BBB comes up trumps again and works well for the Colonial period as it does for most periods