Sunday, June 19, 2011

'Food for Powder' Scenario: 'Ney on Ice' Part I

I hosted a Napoleonics game for the guys this past weekend that was another one of my hypothetical 'what-if' scenarios - as JohnB was kind enough to bring down his beautiful Russian collection from Saskatoon, this game was set in Poland around Christmas 1806.  

First, the 'true-to-history' bit:  
October 1806 had seen the French crush the Prussian army at the twin battles of Jena-Auerstaedt and by December Napoleon his Grande Armee was encamped in Poland, preparing to bring the Russians at bay in the upcoming spring campaign.

Wanting to catch the French unprepared while they were scattered in their cantonments, the Russians decided to initiate a surprise winter offensive. Nonetheless, by pure coincidence, at that same time Marshal Ney unilaterally decided to move his corps forward into a better foraging area. So the two forces began to move very near to one another, close to the Baltic coast.

In London, with the defeat of the Prussians and the subsequent advance of the French army into the Baltic region, the British were becoming very concerned that Denmark, with its significant navy, was at risk of being annexed by France or worse, would be convinced into a French alliance. Accordingly, discussions had been going on between Britain and Denmark with the British 'offering' to quarantine the Danish navy until the end of hostilities with Napoleon. Not surprisingly the Danes were not interested. 

Now, my hypothetical premise (i.e. 'made-up tosh'):

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Modern Spearhead: Yom Kippur War on the Golan Heights

Syrian T55s at the 1973 'Purple Line' along the Golan Heights.
Greg and I had a couple great games playing 'Modern Spearhead' last weekend. The scenario was set during the opening days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War on the Golan Heights, with an Iraqi T55 tank brigade attempting to force its way past an Israeli defensive line armed with modified Super Shermans. Greg took the Israelis and I commanded the Iraqis.  

Shot-up T55s on the main road to the Israeli positions.
The Israelis were set up on a ridge in hull-down positions while the Iraqis entered on the board with 3 tank battalions. The Israelis were rock-hard but heavily outnumbered while the Iraqis were relatively green but had mass in their favour. 

Iraqi tanks cresting the final hills and seeing the Israeli Shermans in the valley.
Spearhead has a great mechanic that compels players to draw their orders on a map which has to be strictly adhered to. Orders can be changed but the speed and effectiveness of any adjustments are determined by an abstraction of doctrine, morale and training. I knew the Iraqis would be fairly inflexible in their command & control so I knew my initial orders had to be fairly simple and straightforward. I decided to assault with two tank battalions, one over the central hill and the other along the highway, while shielding the third in a valley as a breakthrough unit.

As I advanced Greg pounded my formations pretty darn hard but they managed to 'hold their bottle' and ground forward. Greg decided to stay in his original positions in order to dish-out some more pain. As suspected, I took another turn of accurate tank fire but my T55s finally reached a good range-band for their main guns and so I opened fire. The limitations of the Sherman's armour began to tell as platoon after platoon was silenced from the weight of fire.  In the end the Israelis were compelled to withdraw the remnants of their force as the Iraqis drove forward with their fresh battalion. By the scenario's parameters it turned out to be a solid Iraqi victory.

Many, many tanks burning after the final exchange of fire...
Greg and I chatted about the game, coming to the conclusion that the critical decision was probably him staying in place too long instead of 'shooting and scooting'. We decided to have another go at the scenario with the Israelis using several fallback positions so they would not be so easily overrun and so they could use their superior long range armament. For simplicity sake I kept to my original plan and again attacked with two battalions while keeping one in reserve. This time it was a very close game as the Israelis made the Iraqi armour pay for each position. I managed to get away with some critical morale rolls while Greg's luck dimmed during a few crunch moments of tank-to-tank direct fire. The climax came when the Israelis fell back into the last valley with the pursuing Iraqis hot on their heels. The final exchange of fire saw the last of the Shermans destroyed while the crippled force of T55s managed to creep off the field to a marginal victory. 
The final (fiery) position of the Israeli command.
Spearhead is a such a great system and it was a pleasure getting to play with Greg's beautiful collection of miniatures and terrain. I'm actually tempted to paint up a small force for myself as I think the guys back home would enjoy the period and the change of pace.