Tuesday, February 6, 2018

GWSH2 - Caucasus Counter-Attack

After playing some great board games in early January: Raiders of the North Sea, Kemet, Merchants & Marauders, Formula De, and 878 Vikings pimped out with 28mm figures, it was time to get back to the miniatures!

It took me a long time to setup this terrain, so you are likely to see it a couple more times.

This week's game...

When will blood cease to flow in the mountains?
when sugar-canes grow in the snows.

Caucasus Counter-Attack

Scenario Background

The premise of this ahistorical battle is based on the reality on the ground in the Caucasus in early 1915. The Turks just finished their disastrous Caucasus campaign in December of 1914, and this is part of the wave of Russian counter-attacks following those dark days.

We have the Russian VI Army Corp (2 divisions, 7 regiments) attacking the Turkish X Army Corp (two divisions, 6 regiments). The Turkish regiments are about 2/3 or less the size of the Russian regiments and the Russians have more artillery.

This will be our first Defender vs Attacker GWSH2 scenario.

Rules, Players, and Miniatures

Rules: Great War Spearhead II by Shawn Taylor
Figures: 15mm Collection (Eric's), Mini-figs and Irregulars.
Players: Brian, Phil, Mike, Wes, and Charles (I'm umpire)


Here are a couple photos of the terrain and the map given to the players to plan their respective attack and defense. The terrain looks much more hilly in person, as my hills are under the terrain mat.

The Plans!

GWSH2 has players give orders by drawing on the maps. Here are both side's plans for the battle.

Russian Plan

Russians kept 2 Regiments (one from each division) in reserve off-table and brought the Field Gun brigade on during turn 2 to give room for maneuver.

Turkish Plan

Turks kept one regiment off board. They would have received VP if they didn't have to bring them in.

The Battle

View from the Turkish positions.

Using the village for cover

Far right Turkish flank, 92nd Regiment

Turkish MG takes cover in the snow covered woods


Hard work for the Russians

The East Siberian Rifle Regiments are going to clear the town.

Russian left flank assaulting the Dragon's Spine.

Overview, as Russian casualties mount in the center.

The blue markers indicate Stationary Fire. We just pick them up when we are done firing the unit.

The Dragon's Spine has become a graveyard of Russian men.

Russian Brigaded 76.2mm Field Guns start to impact the Turkish positions.

All the black splotches are destroyed companies!

Finally, the Russians have inflicted some casualties on the Turkish center.

7th East Siberian Rifle Regiment has done grim work, and paid a very heavy price to clear the village.

Here are some of the late game shelling I was able to do against the Turkish positions.

Because of time, we had to call the game. GWSH2 requires map planning before the game begins which tends to slow the start of the actual battle. The map planning is a critical and fun part of the game, however I think we lose 30 minutes doing so.

After Thoughts

We enjoyed ourselves again with GWSH2, and will start adding our own tweaks to the game.
1. Attached  support weapons (MGs) will need to be touch a combat company in order to fire through it. We found that, per the rules, letting them fire through any fighting company (not support unit) in the command was too flexible and looked weird.
2. Attached artillery must have a clear line of site (can't fire through fighting companies) in order to fire.

I plan on doing Belleau Wood in May (100 year anniversary), but may get another GWSH2 game in before that.

The week after this game I used the terrain for the same scenario, but 120 years earlier with the Potemkin Russians attacking the Ottoman defender.

A couple photos of that Russian victory!


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

GWSH2 - Russians vs Germans 1914 Encounter Battle

I've had the Great War Spearhead II rules for several years now along with all the nice scenario books and I decided to try to run a game and see if our group likes these rules enough to keep using them. I haven't broken out my WWI figures in a while, so I thought I would give this a go.

The rules are well researched and I like how that the maneuver element is the regiment and each stand is a company. The companies can maneuver freely within range of the Regimental HQ once the enemy is encountered and fog of war is simulated via written (drawn actually) orders, spotting rules, target priority, and order change difficulty.

Phil and Jan will be the Russians while EC and EB will command the Germans. Roughly 1 division per side in this meeting engagement. This is loosely based on the RACE TO THE SEA scenario in the GWSH2 rules. All artillery will be on-board with one "brigaded" regiment for each side, while the rest of the batteries will be directly attached to the regiments and will fire over open sights.

Victory points were awarded for control of each village in the middle (Bossau and Soldau) and per enemy regiment broken. I'm going to look at adopting some victory conditions from the GWSH2 Scenario designer for our next game.

German Order of Battle

6th Bavarian Division

44th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 12 companies, 1 MG

45th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 12 companies, 1 MG

66th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 12 companies, 1 MG

67th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 12 companies, 1 MG

3 x 76mm Field Gun Regiments (3) + 1 FO: qqqqqqqq

Russian Order of Battle

32nd Division

8th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 16 companies, 4 MG

9th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 16 companies, 3 MG

108th Regiment (Green): 1 RHQ, 16 companies, 4 MG

110th Regiment (Green): 1 RHQ, 16 companies, 4 MG

Cavalry Brigade (Regulars): 1 BHQ, 8 Squadrons, 1 Cav MG, 1 Field Gun

2 x 76mm Field Gun Regiments (3) + 1 FO: qqqqqq

Map and Overhead Photo

I was originally hoping to just snap a photo and print it out for the map orders, but you can't see the hills in the photos on my new Cigar Box plush terrain mats. So, I drew out the map after I had setup the table. Players will draw arrows on the maps to indicate their plan of attack and defense. I think this makes you feel more like a general than a regiment command, and I think that is great.

The Plans



The Battle

What is interesting in GWSH2, is that your regiments move on orders so there is little in the way of thinking that has to go along with their movement until contact is made with the enemy. Most of the real brain burn is in the initial orders.

A wider view of the initial movement

Below the Russian cavalry attempts to flank the Germans in Soldau.

This is nice shot of the 108th Russian infantry regiment storming across the hill and through the woods during their assault on Soldau. This would prove very costly for this GREEN regiment.

The forces clash!

My German Brigaded 77mm field gun batteries started hammering the Russian 8th and 9th regiments where their battle orders intersected. The first bombardment was not that effective, but the 2nd and 3rd were telling.

Meanwhile the Russians bomb the 44th German Regiment in the open and have great success at destroying the German infantry, much to my chagrin.

View from the Russian side as the 9th heads towards Bossau

The 110th Russian regiment begins to move to their left to protect the flank after the 108th regiment was broken.

Massed pile of Russian casualties in front of Soldau.

At this point the Russians were unlikely to win as both villages (+2 vp each) and 1 Russian regiment (+1 VP) was broken, and no German regiments had cracked yet. We called it an evening and discussed the game and rules.

German Casualties (7)
3 companies, 44th Regiment (attacking Soldau)
0 companies, 45th Regiment (defending the woodline)
2 companies, 66th Regiment (holding Bossau)
2 companies, 67th Regiment (holding the right flank of the 66th Regiment.

Russian Casualties (22)
1 company, 9th Regiment (attacking Bossau)
6 companies, 8th Regiment (attacking Bossau)
10 companies, 108th Regiment (attacking Soldau, failed the 50% check)
2 companies, 110th Regiment (in support on the ridge)
3 squadrons, cavalry Brigade (51st\52nd Dragoons)

After Thoughts
This was our second playtest of GWSH2, with different players in each game. Same scenario. Here are my reflections on the rules, both pros and cons. I've enjoyed the rules enough to continue my game play and scenario testing.

Pros of GWSH2:
  • Fantastic support group on the GWSH2 Yahoo Group. Shawn and Robert seem to always be around to answer questions.
  • Each stand being a company or squadron, while the maneuver element is a regiment\brigade really hits the sweet spot for this period of warfare. Companies can move without taking the whole battalion with them.
  • Simple rules, but making the plan (orders) is the real kicker here.
  • Rules have very few modifiers, which I like, but I'm not used to. I guess they picked out the modifiers that they believed really mattered on this scale.
  • Drawn orders on a map force you to plan more than most wargame rules, as you don't have the flexibility to change your orders easily. You need to hold reserves.
  • I feel like a general rather than a colonel in this game, which I find refreshing.
  • Four (and many more in the works) Scenario books available on Lulu.com. I recommend full color printing or the full color PDF, as the black and white maps are hard to read when a lot of terrain is on table. 

Cons of GWSH2:
  • Having to hand draw a map for a game that doesn't have the same terrain as a published scenario. This can take time and you have to get it reasonably accurate or the orders will suffer.
  • Having played Piquet for decades, there doesn't seem to be a huge amount of drama generated by this set of rules. Following the orders, react when you meet the enemy, and fight when in contact. You can't get a real jump on the enemy as you know how far they will move each turn, you just don't know exactly where they are going. Still, definitely fun.
  • So far I don't have a lot of nationalistic flavor for each army in 1914, but as a general, not a battalion commanders I suppose that this can be overlooked. Time will tell.
  • Since break point checks are at 33% (Green), 50%, and 66% then larger units can take more casualties before they take a break test. Hence Germans will test sooner against Russians (if they are both rated as regulars) due to the unit sizes. (14 vs 20 stands). This keeps the game simple though.
Look for my next playtest with the Turks defending against Russian counter-attacks in the Caucasus mountains in December 1914. Since this will be an Attack-Defense scenario this will give a set of different challenges. (Snow, Mountains, etc). The true test will be if I can break out my late war armies for trench assaults and see how that works. I have Austrian, Russians, Germans, and USA armies, while Brian has late war British and French (and some Italians too).