Wednesday, January 23, 2019

France 1939

Session Six

A huge naval battle develops in the Tyrrhenian Sea, but it is the beginning of the end for the Italian Navy (as the AI just doesn't know when to give up).

Yugoslavia claims Bulgaria.  WTF?

The invasion of Sardinia is progressing well, although it was risky moving troops from North Africa there, they eventually made it through the raging seas.

The extension of the Alpine Forts is now complete.  Possibly just in time as the Italians were starting to wear down the defending forces (that luckily include a lot of Commonwealth divisions as well as French).

The extension of the Maginot Line now commences.

Naval losses for the French have been 24 destroyers, 2 light cruisers, 4 heavy cruisers and 21 submarines.  The loss of Axis naval power however has been just about absolute.

The Italians keep on attacking in the alps.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is signed.  Oh dear.

24 March and the bad news keeps coming with the surrender of China to Japan.

The extension of the Maginot line is complete and focus now switches to unifying the Government with the catch cry of "defensive stratagems" (it must sound better in French).

Germany issues an ultimatum to Poland over Danzig.  Poland refuses.

Germany declares war on Belgium.  However the Belgians, with a much smaller frontier than Germany's other victims, is prepared, and quickly backed up by Allied forces.

Hungary starts to justify war goals against us.  Another WTF moment.

Zog submits to Italy.

7 April 1939 and Germany declares war on Poland.

3 May 1939 Poland surrenders (they just weren't ready and had a very long border to protect).

22 May 1939 The USSR occupies eastern Poland.

27 May 1939 Romania cedes Bessarabia to the USSR.

The method to Hungarian madness is revealed as they demand southern Slovakia from Germany and Germany agrees.

Germany and Italy announce closer ties.

The UK invade Sicily.

In July 1939 Germany states an interest in Scandinavia and invade Denmark and declare war on Norway.  Fresh naval battles erupt in the Eastern North Sea.  Denmark is overrun, but Norway is protected (three French divisions arrive, but it is more likely the loss of Axis shipping that stops any invasion).

Iceland takes control after the fall of Denmark.

The UK conquer Sicily and start to fight into the toe of Italy.  The Italians have been slow to reinforce this front, being still stuck in the Alps.  So far they have lost a million men...

10 August 1939 and Finland accepts Soviet Demands.

We start Army Reform (which will cancel our overly defensive spirit and start to give us options).

8 September and Yugoslavia declares war on Bulgaria.

Some Artillery for my US Forces

It's not all playing computer games...

M3 75mm GMC

The packs on the side are added.

And there is an extra crew member left out

And that transfer on the front was a bugger.

A bit blurry

And then I realised I hadn't finished brushing off the flock...

But I am happy with these the two M2A1 105mm howitzers.

Altogether destined for Tunisia.
The halftrack has a coat of "matt varnish", 
the guns do not.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

France 1938 - War

Session Five

It seems we are playing the game in "historical mode".  Not sure what this will mean as we prepare for the Munich Conference.

Our navies put to sea and I courageously put French submarines in the Baltic, as well as along the Atlantic Coast and English Channel and throughout the Mediterranean.  Troops are also rushed to the frontier with Germany in a show of strength that will hopefully persuade them that we mean business.

September 1938 and Hungry renounces the Treaty of Trianon.  Not a good sign.

At the Munich Conference, England refuses to back down - no Sudetenland for Germany!

The Sudeten Crisis ensues.  It is time to make a stand.

Oh dear, Germany declares war on Czechoslovakia.  France gets a call to arms form the UK and we are at war.

I'm surprised by a sortie by the German navy and lose my subs in the Baltic and in the Eastern North Sea.  The British fleet sails to attack.

Czechoslovakia surrenders on 27 September.  Our invasion of Germany captured two areas of their Westwall.  A major naval battle develops in the Eastern North Sea.

We desperately start research improved fighting capabilities.

Good news is that we are stopping a lot of the German convoys in the Bay of Biscay.

9 October we call off our offensive.  The experience has given France the ability to perform a modest redesign of the French armoured division and we can now add some motorised infantry to what otherwise was a pure tank force.

The British fleet is in trouble extracting itself from the Eastern North Sea.  This naval battle is still continuing in late October.

Italian volunteers are spotted on the Western Front.

We research encryption and decryption.  Success continues against German convoys in the Bay of Biscay and off the Iberian Coast.

German claims Memel.  We start building alpine forts.

25 November Germany declares war on Luxembourg and calls on Italy as its ally.  We rush troops into Luxembourg just in time to save it.  Germany os now looking at Belgium, but its war declaration will take time.  We desperately need to extend the Maginot Line, but can't do that until the Alpine Forts are finished.

We advance into Sardinia and start to overrun Italian North Africa.  Numerous naval battles breakout in the Mediterranean.  But it is the mass assaults on the Italian border that are the immediate concern - the Alpine Forts are not yet complete...

Saturday, January 19, 2019

France 1937

Session Three

France joins the Allies!

National Focus is now Defensive,  permission has been given to the UK to position troops in France and there is now a good contingent of Commonwealth divisions on the Belgium border.

Research continues on improved construction which will help with fort construction (also a National Focus).

Japan declares war on China which raises world tension to 12%.

A good development is that we are now starting to research the 1936 Fighter.  Better still is that the strikes are over.

Research starts on Radio Detection as the first new division is deployed (to training command).

National Focus is trying to strengthen Government (the poor standing means we are unable to do diplomacy effectively or improve things by bringing talent into the Government).

Research is now starting on air doctrines.

With the improvement in production, training is now restarted to get some army experience.  The experience gained allows regular divisions to be upgraded to include engineer companies (but this has a bad impact on equipment and so was a valuable lesson in the need to build up stockpiles of kit).

Then we decided to focus on a Nuclear Effort.  Why not???  (Well, the reason is that it will open up another research slot).

Italy announces a claim on Yugoslavia.  We start building forts on the Italian border (and Luxembourg border).

Session Four

It is now 1938.

Yugoslavia asks for our help (and the UK's) in building up their airforce.  We agree.

Research starts on Computing Machines (some new fangled gizmo, can't see much demand for such things, but the scientists say they need them).

That Mr Hitler announces Anschluss!  That's against the Versailles Treaty.  Not happy.

The Indian National Congress win the elections.

It is announced that France is pursuing Nuclear technology.

With our increased research capability we start researching dive bombing, radar and Battlefleet Concentration.

National Focus is now Levee en Masse and that will improve our production of infantry equipment (much needed as many of our troops still don't have their full complement of weapons).

More Infantry Divisions are being created, but we have only made four so far, however we are now training three at a time.

Yugoslavia holds a fighter plane competition and we win.  A great demonstration of the skill of French industry and design.  We make a sale thereby showing our commitment to the free world.

The Spanish Civil War ends with the Treaty of Barcelona.  We now have fascists on three borders.

The Focus is now on Grand Battery, but for some reason, our Political Power, which had long been zero, is now going negative.

The Fourth International occurs.  Will there be any more?

Hitler demands the Sudetenland.  Do we go to war for Czechoslovakia?

That will be the question to be answered in our next session.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Two Kills

It's been a while, but last night I proved I had not lost any of my dazzling WOG skills.

My plane is the red and white tipped Phoenix.
Stephen B is in the Bumble Bee,
while Stephen N has one of the British Fighters,
Simon the other one.

 I get caught in a crossfire.
Both sides had been diving and climbing,
but I had just climbed back into the British sights.

 Lots of lead headed my way,
but I'm more worried about his propellers chopping up my wings!

 I get away, but I'm on fire.

 But I do not run away!

 First kill.
Took out Simon with one very lucky shot.
Till then he only had one point of damage.

 Then I line up on Stephen N's plane.
I'd already done some previous damage,
could I do any more?

There might have only been four hits on the remaining British plane, but they all hurt.
My plane had taken ten hits, four from the fire, but I was still flying.
The Bumblebee had hardly a scratch.

Hearts of Iron IV - France 1936

Apart from miniature wargames and board games I also play a few computer games.  One is the old massive online RPG Everquest (now on its 24th expansion, not that I am using the last four or five), but of more immediate interest is Hearts of Iron IV.  Ten years ago I played Hearts of Iron II and enjoyed it.  So, when my friend Bruce suggested we team up and play the new version I thought why not.  Many hours later...

We had a practice run through as Italy/Germany which ended up in a Fascist takeover of the world.  At times we were battling the Internet/computer or the game's interface more than the actual countries we were at war with.  The thing that left me feeling a bit discouraged was that it left no trace.  So for our next game I will try and do a few blog posts and see how that helps.

Bruce is going United Kingdom and I am going France.  Starting 1 January 1936 on the "elite" level.

Here we go...

First National Focus is Government Reform, we badly need it.  Research is commenced on Electronic Mechanical Computing, Basic Machine Tools and Construction.  These should all help build the industrial base of France.

Looking at the army, I disband six cavalry divisions and the same number of colonial divisions.  The aim is to recoup equipment and manpower of which France is woefully short.  I create three theatres of operation: Indo China, North Africa and Europe.  One Army is created in each of the first two and half a dozen in France: the north (Nord), Maginot Line, Italy (Sud), Reserve (the majority of the motorised and tank divisions), Spain and Training.  Shuffling units between these is an ongoing exercise with the weak Colonial Divisions ultimately going to the Maginot Line.

Production is so low that resources are not a problem, although I start trading oil with the Dutch East Indies and the UK, although the UK ultimately proves to be an unreliable supplier (I can't compete on trade influence with its colonies).

As National Focus is switched to Metropolitan France, a civil war is narrowly avoided when going to war over the Rhineland is seriously contemplated.

Research starts on Mechanical Computing and National Focus moves to Industrial Expansion.

It is May 1936.

Second Session

Research commences on Dispersed Industry and the National Focus switches to Military Factories as Spain erupts in a Civil War.  We watch, Germany and Italy participate.  Then there is the Olympics.  Ho hum.

As we start to research Radios, strikes break out.  A deal is attempted.  Factory output drops by 30%, but at least there are new factories about to come online.

The standard divisions in Indo China are swapped for two colonial divisions from North Africa.  North Africa also sends a colonial division to hold Corsica.  Previously an armoured and a motorised division were sent to North Africa and there has been a concentration of forces in Tunisia.

More effort goes into researching research.  The strike breaking deal is also maintained (the Matignon Agreement).

Throughout 1936 there has been a slow build up of civilian factories that will help build up the rest of France - investing for the future.  In 1937 military factories will start being built.  There is still a major shortage of infantry weapons and tanks.  I would dearly like to be building aircraft as well, but there is zero capacity.  At least the existing air force is significant (if dated).  The Navy is looking good.

As the year finishes we go with the Status Quo (as long as it's not "down, down").  Research is now on Improved Machine Tools, further Dispersed Industry and finally something at the sharp end: Engineer Company.

1937 sees France decide to Go With Britain.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Auerstadt 6x4

After the preparation comes the real thing.  Last Saturday at the NWS club's games day I umpired Auerstadt, using the scenario from the booklet that came with the first edition of Napoleon's Battles, but cut down to fit on a 6x4 table. 

The area in the red box represents the area I went with as it included all the villages and effectively just delayed entry by one turn for each side (assuming they were moving at the speed of the slowest unit in the formation).  I left the morale changes as per the scenario and thought everything would be fine...

Mark B took command of the French command, Stephen N took on the role of Brunswick with direct command of the Prussian Third Division and Blucher's cavalry Reserve.  Mark of the ANF took control of the remaining Prussian forces as they arrived.

I left the order of battle as is, although my research showed that for the Prussians it could be updated or at least an option provided.  Part of the problem with depicting Prussian army organisation of this period (1806) within Napoleon's Battles is that they were still using an 18th Century system of Lines and free attachments of regiments to commanders, including on the very day of battle.  This means that available Prussian OOB information is a bit confusing.

The stream was fordable with no additional penalties, however given the NB movement penalty modifier requiring the depth of the unit to be considered, it would mean crossing in march column, particularly for artillery, would be particularly slow.  Given march columns include wagons etc this is possibly reasonable and that troops, not able to cross at a bridge, should come out of march column, but then they might have command problems (given that being in march column has the benefit of putting them in command).  Such are the problems affecting the Prussians.

For this game I took the photos after each sides' movement phase, but before combat.

 08:30 and the Prussians have moved first.

 The French sit tight in Hassenhausen.

As they were out of command, and even though Gudin passed, this meant only a half move. That is not enough to allow French line infantry a formation change, but I have a house rule that says it can be undertaken, but results in disorder (hence the far right unit being in disordered square).

 09:00 and the Prussian Second Division arrives.
Meanwhile Blucher pushes forward against the French right.

 Davout arrives along with his Corps' cavalry.

 09:30 and more Prussians arrive.

 Blucher just can't quite get into contact, yet...

 Friant's Division had been held off table and could therefore come on deployed during the 9:30 turn.
I was not too happy about the edge of the table challenge.
What would the dice gods think?

In checking the rules I now find I had made a mistake and for the French to come of deployed and spread out takes two moves, not one as I mistakenly ruled.  Bum!

As it was the French failed to score any hits on the Prussian cavalry which promptly charged

 In goes Blucher, should be a walk over.

 Meanwhile 10:00 sees the Prussians deploying ready to attack Hassenhausen.

 In a skilful use of a free roll chit, the French snatch victory from the Prussians.
Blucher fallsback, but has plenty more cavalry to attack with.

 Friant's Division surges forward.

 10:30 and Blucher attacks again, 
buying time for the remaining Prussians to surround Hassenhausen.

 Friant beats of Blucher, but is now stuck in square.
Gudin finds a unit to throw at the Prussians .

 11:00 and what was looking like the start of a successful Prussian envelopment 
has now been pushed back, however they are still able to mount an attack on Hassenhausen.

 The French hold Hassenhausen and try and exploit their advantage on their left flank.
Morand's Division has now arrived (and again I made the deployment error).

 11:30 and Blucher waits for  opportunities while another attack goes in against Hassenhausen.

 Morand's Division is now in action, perhaps a turn before it should be.  So it goes.

 12:00 and the French still hold Hassenhaussen 
(and therefore have avoid any negative morale impacts, not that it would have mattered).

 The French attack, but are surprised by Prussian hussars.

 12:30 Prussian Grenadiers now assault Hassenhausen.
Blucher has retired severely bloodied.
The rest of the Prussians are finding the battlefield congested,
and know this will only get worse.

 The French counterattack the Prussian grenadiers who have been able to get into Hassenhausen
(And yes I know they are not actually in Prussian grenadier uniforms, best I could do).

Note:Brunswick is in the thick of the fighting, but despite of his age penalty (increased risk of becoming a casualty 50% rather than standard 30%) he defies history and remains unhurt and mostly in command.  Not once, but twice!

 13:00 and the Prussians keep arriving.
(Here we see a unit of Old Glory SYW cavalry painted up as Napoleonic Spanish cavalry in their bright yellow uniforms representing some 1806 Prussian heavy cavalry.  It works for me.)

With Hassenhausen secure the French press on.
The Prussians are feeling fatigued.  Will their artillery save the day? 

 13:30 and the Prussians look stuck.
At this stage they have permanently lost three units 
with more routed on table that they hope to recover.
(I use the optional 4th Edition self rally/command rules - it helps).

 The French attack to the left of Hassenhausen has carried them well into the Prussian lines.

 14:00 and the Prussians start another offensive, just as bad news starts to arrive from Jena.
(This has the effect of lowering the Prussian morale).

 Prussian losses are mounting (now standing at four permanent).

 14:30 and the news from Jena gets worse.
The news from Auertadt is no better.

The attacks by the Prussian guards are driven off (the Guard being represented by some Russian grenadiers), but worse the French have started mopping up Prussian routed units and those close to dispersing, taking the permanent losses to six.  Come 15:00 this is fatal and the Prussian morale is irretrievably broken.

  Was für ein Horror!    

(All the more so as I have wasted time trying to get that last statement centred.  Grrr)

Perhaps not perfect, but a remarkably close historical result.  I was very pleased.  I had always thought this would be a real test to recreate using Napoleon's Battles and even though I had the scenario from the beginning, never thought to give it a try.  It probably would have stayed that way if I had not participated in the ANF's refight of the battle using their preferred (and modified) Shako rules.

Clearly I will have to arrange another game and make sure the French take two turns if they wish to deploy before marching on.  Perhaps I could also use the force march rule for the Prussians (as it was they had still not all arrived).  A bit more research on the terrain and the Prussian OOB wouldn't go astray either.

I have the F. Loraine Petre book on the 1806 campaign as well as the beautiful F.-G. Hourtoulle book and the amazing Pascal Bessonnet's Tactical Studies 1806, plus a pdf of a Thesis covering the battle by James Hallmark and some other sundry material.