I am bit behind on my bloggs to say the least but last November we were all looking forward to re-fighting Chickamauga in the War Room on Sunday so we decided the Friday before to put an ACW game to refresh everyone's memories of the Fire & Fury rules. We used the Orbats from Second Bull run but not the terrain or historical deployment.
We were treated to Phil’s latest addition to his Napoleonic armies – his Italian Army which has been a labour of love over the last few months and like his Neapolitans were a very colourful army. We used Phil’s version of Shako which are heavily modified along with some new cavalry rules by Noel. The Scenario was for a small British army to defend against a far superior Italian army. The Italians outnumbered the British infantry over two to one although the British had a superior number of cavalry and was of a better quality. The Brits had 2 brigades of Infantry and 3 brigades of cavalry.
The Italian Infantry advanced forward to engage the British whilst the British cavalry ever keen to gallop into anything advanced on both flanks. The Dragoons to the left and Household cavalry to the right. Rob was assured by Phil that the Household cavalry would be like a hot knife through butter against the Italian Dragoons…Artillery fire was lively as the two infantry bodies advanced to engage causing casualties and ‘staggers’. Skirmishers were soon in action. The British riflemen dispatching an artillery battery with several luck rolls but gradually overwhelmed by the more numerous Italian skirmishers. On the flanks the British Dragoons engaged with their opposite numbers despite being of superior quality made hard work of dispatching their opponents thanks to supporting fire from artillery. The Household cavalry went on a wide flanking move which tied down their opposite number.
The Italian infantry advanced taking out the British artillery and at the same time brought on their remaining infantry and cavalry brigade on a flanking march on the British left. This caught the British Dragoons in a blown state which required Noel to send the British light cavalry to stabilise their flank. At long last on the British flank the ‘hot knife’ of the household cavalry engaged their counterparts. One combat was drawn for 3 consecutive fights – the same dice being thrown by Rob and Richard to everyone amusement. The rest of the combats were more like a very blunt cold knife and frozen butter… To make matters worse the Household cavalry failed their brigade test! It was looking grim for the Brits.
However the Italian infantry, despite a few early successes including pushing back a Guards battalion, were being held and counter charged in the centre. They were losing to superior fire power and were being pushed back. The British Dragoons reformed and held up the Italian flank attack allowing the British Light cavalry to switch wings and charge into a fresh Italian Infantry brigade threatening to envelope the British right flank. Some fortuitous dice rolling saw half this Italian brigade disappear under their charge. The remnants of the Household brigade also redeemed themselves by charging the Italian dragoons again and with some lucky dice rolls swept away most of the brigade. This led to a number of Brigade tests for the Italians which resulted in their entire line being pulled after suffering over 50% losses. Time brought the game to a head with the British still in possession of their ridge with all of their battalions (although many were badly battered) and with superior force of cavalry. A great game and a pleasure to play with one of the more colourful armies from the period
After 7 game turns (including 2 turns of poor weather) the RAF had suffered large infrastructure loses. The Luftwaffe had reached all of their targets and had successfully bombed more than 50% of them, shooting down 28 squadrons to the loss of 22 of their own squadrons. The RAF prayers were answered on Monday 19th August (turn 8) the weather was poor and remained so for 5 days! The RAF could recover lost infrastructure and planes – the dice gods were still not favourable still but this respite kept them in the game.
By Turn 17 the poorer RAF fighters (Defiants, Gloucesters and Blenheims) were withdrawn from service – but were replaced by Spitfires and Hurricanes much to the relief of the stretched RAF commanders. A day of poor weather gave both sides a chance to reflect on progress. On turn 19 (Friday 30th August) there was great flying weather. The Luftwaffe continued their onslaught reaching all of their targets again bar one for the next 4 turns, although their successful bombing percentage dropped to 25%. Both sides were losing around 8-10 squadrons per turn in the dog fighting.
Bu the 3rd September both sides were running out of steam and for the first time the Luftwaffe were not putting up 6 flights. They were running out of Bombers but the RAF were stretched to breaking point too. By turn 28 (8th September) the Luftwaffe were down to sending over only 3 flights but were still reaching their targets. The RAF although now were gaining points more rapidly, being awarded points for each Luftwaffe non mission, they were not gaining them fast enough to overtake the huge points haul the Germans had gained early in the campaign.
With the weather in the last week being quite wet we finally got to the last turn 35 (15th September). The Luftwaffe were down to their two operational bombers. The RAF had regained all of their infrastructure and were recovering their fighter strength. The final tally was as follows; Luftwaffe; 346 points, RAF; 261 points. The Luftwaffe successfully reached their targets 104 times and failed on 27 times (a number of which were caused due to lack of flights being put up). The Luftwaffe had 61 successful bombing missions and failed on 70 occasions (again a number due to lack of flights). The RAF lost 120 squadrons (43 Spitfire, 73 Hurricane, 1 defiant, 2 Blenheim and 1 Gloucester). The Luftwaffe lost 94 Squadrons (19 He111, 17 JU88, 13 Do17, 7 JU87, 9 Me110 and 29 Me109).
The players were exhausted but all felt it was a great game and looked forward to playing it again. There are a few tweaks to be made to the rules when we fight again at some time in the future.
Each turn represented a day in the campaign and the ‘action’ part of the turn was divided into 6 phases. The starting point of the game on turn 1 was Monday 12th August – the day before Eagle Day and finished on turn 35 – Sunday 15th September. On the first phase any flight could move 2 squares to start (one square for gaining height) with and 3 squares thereafter. Bombers could operate for 6 phases and fighters for 3 phases or if engaged in combat. Both the Luftwaffe and RAF could avoid combat if desired to save their fighters.
The Luftwaffe lunched their raids for the first few turns and had to focus on radar stations. The RAF deciding which of their flights they would launch and vector in on the incoming raiders. The flights for both sides were represented by wooden blocks with flags bearing a cross or roundel on the RAF operational map. Unless the Luftwaffe flight crossed over a square that had more than 50% land the RAF were not able to determine its composition. The German commanders fed in their Stukas early knowing that at some time in the actual battle they were withdrawn and after a few turns successfully bombed 7 out of the nine radar stations. On each bombing run the bombers threw dice equivalent to their bombing factor; seeking roundels for hits, blanks were misses but crosses were AA hits and negated a successful bombing roundel.
Phil in charge of dice rolling for the Luftwaffe, proved lethal in nearly all of his dog fights - I actually can’t recall a poor set of dice rolls. The RAF on the other hand found their dice doing the opposite of what they wanted. Both sides used special dice from the board game. The Luftwaffe used black dice which had 3 roundels, 2 blanks and a German cross on them with the white RAF dice substituted roundels for crosses. In combat roundels for Germans and crosses for the Brits caused hits and their own symbol were self-inflicted hits (only one counted per combat to represent mechanical failure, collisions etc). The RAF were losing the aerial combats and the Luftwaffe were taking apart their valuable radar infrastructure.
To compound matters further on their recovery rolls rather than getting roundels (what they needed to recover planes and infrastructure) they were getting all crosses which they did not get in their dog fights. German intelligence picked this up after hearing Dowding (Noel) utter expletives that grew louder as the dice rolled. This intelligence was masked on Sunday by Park (Jonathan) who brought along a music system that played music of the period – a clever tactical move on behalf of the RAF.
With radar down the RAF had real problem intercepting the Luftwaffe in the first phase leaving targets on the South coast very vulnerable to early raids. Also if caught over their airfields in phase 1 they fought at a disadvantage not getting enough lift to fight the raiders. After a few days of radar bashing the Luftwaffe were turning their attentions to the RAF airfields. It was looking rather grim for the RAF who were praying for rain so they could lick their wounds and recover infrastructure and planes without interference.
This game originally started out as a boardgame The Battle of Britain by TSR. It was converted onto a miniatures game by one our long standing club members Dave. He created the fantastic maps and painted many of the 1:300 scale model aircraft. We have played the game several times at the club and it has been a great success. Unfortunately for Dave but fortunately for me he no longer had space for the game on a recent house move and I was very eager to acquire it from him.
The War room was divided up into 3 sections (using washing line and sheets) to create an operations area for the RAF and an operations area for the Luftwaffe. In the centre was the battle map. The battle map was a 5’ x 5’ map showing Northern France and a large part of the UK on which were models of the principal targets of the Luftwaffe, Radar stations (converted model railway electrical pylons), Airfields (Mix of Monopoly houses, balsa wood and clay) and Cities (Monopoly houses). The RAF operation room had a replica battle map covered by a sheet of Perspex and an intelligence map to keep on top of their losses. . Their forces were divided into the 3 sector groups (10,11 and 12) each with their own flights. The Luftwaffe operation area had 2 smaller maps one for their movement and one to keep track of their bombing results. The Luftwaffe forces were divided into two Luftflotte (Air fleets) (2 and 3).
Teams were decided by pulling out folded paper from a hat with either a roundel or cross on it. Lined up for the Luftwaffe were Phil (Hermann Goering – I think more Adolf Galland as the game progressed), Brian (Hugo Sperrle) and Alan (Albert Kesselring – “Smiling Albert”) who lived up to his namesake by laughing/smiling throughout the game. The RAF was led by Noel (Hugh Dowding) and supported by Jonathan (Keith Park - Sector 11), Patrick (CJ Quintin Brand - sector 10) Richard (Friday) and Dave (Sunday) (Trafford Leigh Mallory - sector 12). The game was divided into various phases. The first phase was reconnaissance / mission planning / flight organisation, second phases was movement / dogfighting / bombing with the final phase was recovery. Each side has some Ace and Commander cards which they could use for re-rolling combat dice in the case of the Aces and recovering lost squadrons in the case of their commander’s cards.
Germans undertook reconnaissance flights (apart from turn 1) on targets they had hit to see if they were still damaged and selected a targets for each of their flights. Their targets were often restricted to match the orders of the real campaign. To start with they were focused on the radar stations, progressing to airfields, airfields and cities and finally on London and cities. As the game developed later they were unable to select certain targets to follow historical orders such as Goering’s insistence that they were on longer to bomb radar stations as they could not be destroyed.
Each side put together their flights at the start of the turn. The RAF had 10 flights to prepare each of 2 squadrons (chosen from either Spitfires, Hurricanes, Defiants, Gloucesters, or Bleinheims). Spitfires would prioritise fighters as targets and Hurricanes would target bombers. The Luftwaffe had 6 flights each of 4 squadrons. They had to include at least one bomber squadron per flight choosing from Me109, Me110, JU87, Do17, JU88 and He111. The configuration of the Luftwaffe flights were selected to match the missions they been assigned. Flights were put together for both sides based on the number of cards they had for each type of plane and also the models that were provided, which restricted both sides choice at times.